The Fundamentals

» December 29, 2009 12:34 PM | By Brandon Hoffman

Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register:  “If Lakers fans need an immediate way to forget about losing to LeBron and being stunned by the Suns, here are three words to make eyes bulge with brand-new, far deeper panic: Bynum. Knee. Problem. In this case, the revelation that Andrew Bynum has been dealing with another problem in his right knee isn’t all bad. It offers further explanation for the dramatic decline in his recent play, and the issue toward the top of his kneecap felt better to him Monday night after he did the right thing and sought treatment for the discomfort. It was no coincidence that he showed some of his early season bounce in an outstanding first quarter in Phoenix – getting five rebounds in the first five minutes and scoring nine points in the first nine minutes. On one play, despite Amar’e Stoudemire having inside position, Bynum simply went up and over him to pull out an offensive rebound before Stoudemire had to foul him. Bynum also said he is past the two-week-old upper respiratory problem that Phil Jackson has been throwing out publicly as an excuse for Bynum’s sluggish efforts. Yet when it comes to Bynum’s tenuous health, the reddest flags all fly out of those two knees that cost him so much of the past two seasons. Bynum’s knock-kneed frame is predisposed to certain knee injuries, the Lakers know well by now – and they always worry.”

Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune:  “Funny what some success will do for a man’s faith, his hope, his trust. And his mood. The Timberwolves’ consecutive victories for the first time this season — and four victories in their past seven games — appear to have star center Al Jefferson believing again. In his team, his coach and in Kurt Rambis’ complex offensive system that Jefferson admits he doubted not that long ago. ‘Oh, there have been times,’ Jefferson said. ‘I’m not going to lie. There have been times in October and November when I was like, ‘Why the hell are we running this offense?’ But Coach said something to us that made a lot of sense. Coach said people doubted Phil Jackson with the triangle [offense] and they won three championships in a row [two separate times in Chicago] with it. There have been times I was like, ‘This is not going to work.’ But now, I’m eating my words because it is working for us.’”

Eddie Sefko of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:  “Erick Dampier will never be confused with Hakeem Olajuwon for his hands or his footwork. But he’s showing this year that, when the ball is delivered on time and on target, he can finish the play with points. ‘A lot of times, an opponent will overlook Damp,’ Kidd said. ‘My job is to get him the ball and make the game easy. He’s doing the hard part — catching it and putting it in the basket. When he plays like he has been, we’re a different team.’ The 6-foot-11 center has responded by averaging 8.5 points and 9.8 rebounds this season. This season, the Mavericks have figured out that utilizing Dampier on the offensive end has its advantages. ‘In order to make this team better, we all have to sacrifice things,’ he said. ‘We have good enough shooters. But we needed some interior passing when guys drive to the basket. It’s the little things, like that, that are going to make us better.’”

Jody Genessy of the Deseret News:  “It’s not an official stat. But if the NBA kept track of stitch count, Paul Millsap would certainly be among the league leaders. He got four above his right eyebrow after getting smacked against Detroit last month. Another 10 were required above his upper lip after he got elbowed in the kisser last week in Miami. Some of Millsap’s statistics have dipped a bit this post-contract year, such as his staggering amount of double-doubles, his rebounding rampages and assists. But Millsap’s mug is off to one heck of a start when it comes to stitches received. ‘Just getting there, trying to fight with those guys down low, I mean, sometimes you take hits like that,’ Millsap said. ‘Another day in the office. You get used to it after a while.’”

Chris Perkins of the Miami Herald:  “In the previous couple seasons you could always find Heat guard Dwyane Wade’s name among the league leaders in turnovers per game, often no lower than No. 3. But this season you have to go to No. 16 to find him. At 3.0 turnovers per game, Wade has lowered his total from previous seasons — 3.44 last season, and 4.24 and 4.39, respectively, in his injury-shortened seasons of 2006-07 and 2007-08. ‘It’s a commitment he’s actually started since last year,’ coach Erik Spoelstra said of Wade’s turnover reduction. Midway through last season, Wade, a six-time All-Star, began to make fewer fancy passes and an increased number of chest and bounce passes. As a result, last year was the first time Wade had a 2-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, finishing at 2.18-1 (589 assists, 272 turnovers).”

Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer:  “Last season the All-Star Williams was a disappointment during the Cavs’ playoff run and especially in the Eastern finals. He played too fast, too tight and it showed about every night. He knows he will not be able to absolve himself for those few weeks until later this season, but he’s off to a great start. As the Cavs have piled up a bunch of great wins early, Williams has been a big part. Last week in Los Angeles, Williams had a team-high 28 points with five rebounds and six assists. Before that in Phoenix, when the Cavs ended the Suns’ 19-game home win streak, Williams had 24 points with six rebounds and six assists. He outplayed Steve Nash in both wins over the Suns this season. Against the Dallas Mavericks in a big home win earlier in the season, Williams has 25 points including 7-of-7 on 3-pointers. In a tight win over a quality Utah Jazz team in November, Williams had 21 points. On the big road sweep of Orlando and Miami, Williams was fantastic, scoring 28 points against the Magic and 25 the next night in South Florida. The victories came against the best teams the league has to offer at the moment. There’s other factors, especially LeBron James, but there is no coincidence. When Williams plays well, the Cavs usually win and right now he’s playing very well in the big games.”

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express News:  “For Parker and Ginobili, basketball has become the ultimate mind game. Parker, the point guard, is wading through the process of learning his new teammates while still looking for his own shots. ‘Some games, I’m trying to pass, and the coaches say, ‘No, no, you have to be aggressive,’‘ said Parker, who finds himself in a lineup with three new starters this season. ‘It goes back like I’m a rookie. ‘Pass, no shoot, no pass, no shoot.’‘ At times, that balancing act has made Parker, a three-time All-Star, a bit tentative. Heading into tonight’s game against Minnesota, against whom he scored 55 points in a game last season, Parker is averaging 16.6 points — down from a career-high and team-leading 22.1 last season. He is also averaging a career-high 3.1 turnovers. ‘It’s like he’s just starting out again,’ Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. ‘Every time he looks up, there are new people on the court, and he’s trying to figure out what to do with them. He’s got a lot to manage.’ If Parker has felt like a rookie at times, Ginobili has often felt like a guy picking up a ball for the first time in his life.”

Ken Sugiura  of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:  “Starting Tuesday night with the front of a back-to-back with Cleveland, the Hawks can measure their growth and assess the investments made in offseason acquisitions Smith, guard Jamal Crawford and center Jason Collins. ‘It’s going to be good,’ guard Mike Bibby said. ‘We’re going to be able to tell where we stand.’ The Hawks play the Central Division-leading Cavaliers on Tuesday at Philips Arena, then again Wednesday in Cleveland. Before January ends, the Hawks will twice play Boston and Orlando on back-to-back nights. The first Boston-Orlando set will be followed by another Celtics game two days later. Through the end of January, 12 of the Hawks’ next 17 games are against teams that were above .500 before Monday’s games. While 10 of the games are at Philips, seven of the 12 against the over-.500 teams are on the road. At 21-8, the Hawks have the fifth-best record in the league and have won eight of their last 10. Said forward Josh Smith, ‘It’s probably going to be the toughest month I’ve ever faced as an NBA player.’”

Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: “The Suns have a hard time stopping a fast break after making a turnover. They just shake their heads when a 20-foot jumper over an extended arm sinks through the net. Both situations are understandable. But what they can’t excuse is playing the type of help defense that doesn’t live up to the term. The defensive slip since November’s hot start largely has come on the back end of the defense. Sometimes the help is late. Sometimes the help is unnecessary and creates an easy basket. It often has been an accumulation of errors that have hurt the Suns’ defense. They are capable, and that was evident in the first half of Monday night’s game when they forced the Lakers to miss 22 of their first 30 shots. ‘We’ve got to get back to being a little more aggressive in our rotation and our weak-side help,’ Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. ‘We seemed to be about a half-step late in that, and we’ve got to get back to when we were pretty good at that when we came out of training camp. We’ve got to get back to protecting the basket, because our rotations are there. We also have to be smart in our rotations. We lost some of that, too. We have to make them make the extra pass. We’ve got to be in a rotation position where we’re making them make an extra pass and it’s not a scoring pass.’ Gentry and guard Steve Nash used the same word for what the Suns need – grit.”

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:  “It was heading to this sort of end eventually, thought it seemed more likely to reach this point when McGrady became a free agent after this season. But it had become clear for some time that McGrady’s Rockets run would end without the success that once seemed so certain. Even without Monday’s agreement, the Rockets would have moved on and he would, too, and their time together would have ended with far less grandeur than they had both thought when he came to town. He and Yao Ming were to lead the Rockets back to greatness. And there have been some fun moments along the way. In the end, however, McGrady’s time with the Rockets will be largely be remembered for unfulfilled promise, with his finest moments (and some were spectacular) only serving to remind of what could have been. ‘He was a great player,’ Adelman said on Saturday. And for all the ferocity of his detractors, he was in many ways great. He just always seemed capable of being greater, of having more in that remarkable package of talent and athletic gifts than he entirely realized.”

(Photo by Noah Graham NBAE/Getty Images)

2 Responses to “The Fundamentals”

  1. Basketballogy Says:

    Yes, Bynum’s play has declined, but as they showed on air during the Lakers recent victory against Golden State, Pau Gasol’s performance has declined as well over the same period.

    I wonder if it is related to the fact that Kobe’s shot attempts and points scored are up as well over the same period. Either Kobe is taking on more because the bigs are less effective, or the the bigs aren’t getting the ball and a chance to be effective because Kobe and the guards are hogging the ball a bit more.

    Whether it is the chicken or the egg that came first, it would be REALLY nice to see Bynum give up his “home run trot” when going end to end and show more effort.

  2. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    FB&G examined Bynum’s slump earlier this week:

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