Points in the Paint

» December 30, 2009 5:29 PM | By Brandon Hoffman
  • Ziller adds some much needed clarity to the Player of the Decade debate:  “The amazing thing about Duncan is the breadth of his talent. He is reputed as the era’s best defender, and this is absolutely spot-on — Duncan ranks 26th all-time in block rate (the percentage of opponent shots blocked), sixth all-time in defensive rebound rate and second all-time in individual defensive rating (behind, um, Elmore Smith). That individual defensive excellence has translated to team success, with the Spurs having finished no lower than fifth in defensive rating every season this decade; before last season, San Antonio had finished top three every year.” Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant have been dominant, but no player in the post-Jordan era compares to Tim Duncan. Duncan’s offensive and defensive excellence set a standard beyond reach of his rivals.
  • CBS Sports’ Ken Berger on the lack of attendance at Philips Arena this season:  “The Hawks continue to thrive with the fifth best record in the league behind the Big 4 (Lakers, Celtics, Cavs, and Magic), and the city of Atlanta barely notices. Philips Arena remains half-full on most nights; for the Memphis game on Dec. 16, the actual attendance figure was under 10,000, according to a source. So I wonder, as I have on several occasions, what would’ve happened if Philips Arena had been built in the Atlanta suburbs instead of downtown. Atlanta is a sprawling, suburb-dominated city where folks who don’t have to venture downtown have been conditioned against doing so. Traffic is abysmal, public transportation is insufficient, and the last thing people want to do on their average weeknight is sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-285 to see the Hawks play. (Especially after spending a good part of their day in traffic while commuting to and from work.) Would the team draw better if the arena had been built in the suburbs, a la the Palace of Auburn Hills? It turns out, this discussion was had years ago before Philips was built. The Hawks paid $250,000 to a consulting firm to study the best place to put the arena. The recommendation was to build it on the city’s perimeter. Ted Turner, who owned the Hawks then, said thanks for the recommendation, and then decided to build downtown, next to the old Omni. Thus, the fate of a second-class NBA franchise was sealed.”
  • John DeShazier of The Times-Picayune:  “Through 29 games, only two absolutes can be said of New Orleans’ NBA franchise based on the standings and on its level of play: It can’t win on the road, and it isn’t going to the playoffs. Obviously, neither of those proclamations was one we expected to be able make about the Hornets this season. A team with two All-Stars, Chris Paul and David West, should be able to win away from the New Orleans Arena and it should be among the top eight teams in the Western Conference. Those don’t seem to be absurd requests. But here we are, 35 percent of the season complete, the Hornets holding a 13-16 record and not having been a .500 team since the second game of the season.”
  • Bob Finnan of the News-Herald:  “Never before in his career has Shaquille O’Neal been such a non-factor offensively. He’s averaging just 8.4 field-goal attempts a game. His 10.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 51 percent shooting from the field are career lows. But you’re not going to hear any complaints from the aging superstar. ‘Nobody wants to see a 37-, 38-year-old man take 20 or 30 shots,’ he said. ‘LeBron (James) is going to take most of the shots. I accept that role. If I was 27 or 28, I’d probably have a problem with that. That’s how it is now. He’s the man. He’s going to take most of the shots.’ Just because his attempts are way down, it doesn’t mean he’s playing poorly. That’s anything but the case. ‘I still think he’s a dominant force for us,’ Cavs coach Mike Brown said. ‘It shows up in a lot of different ways.’”
  • Cue Hollinger (Insider):  “But it’s not just Shaq. The Cavs’ frontcourt is a four-man meat grinder that also includes 6-foot-11 Anderson Varejao, 7-3 Zydrunas Ilgauskas and 6-9 J.J. Hickson. Throw in a small forward who’s bigger than most centers, and the Cavs pound opponents like few others. We saw Cleveland’s muscle bend the Lakers (and their fans) completely out of shape on Christmas, and we saw the same thing as the Hawks melted down offensively in the fourth quarter Tuesday night. Just ask Josh Smith, who flung his headband in anger after taking a shot from Varejao under the boards.”
  • Art Garcia of NBA.com:  “Speaking of those Grizzlies, Zach Randolph is quietly putting together another bang-up season. And judging by the squeaks from the turnstiles at FedEx Forum, it’s really quiet. Memphis’ starting power forward should be in the All-Star discussion averaging 20 points (16th in the league) and 11.4 boards (fifth). He leads in offensive rebounding, with a career-high 4.8. ‘I’m just being aggressive,’ Randolph said, ‘Being aggressive on the offensive end. Being aggressive rebounding, trying to get offensive rebounds. Just the little stuff.’ Little stuff that adds up. The burly left-hander totaled 65 points and 42 rebounds from Dec. 20-22, becoming the first NBA player to reach those levels over a two-game stretch since Hall-of-Fame center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar amassed 67 points and 46 rebounds from Feb. 1-3, 1978.”
  • Britt Robson on Al Jefferson and the triangle offense:  “One major difference between this season and the previous two is Jefferson’s lack of ball dominance with Rambis as coach. As a player, McHale used to revel in taking opponents into what he called ‘the torture chamber,’ using his seemingly endless array of moves to frustrate defenders in the low post. His sets were designed to allow Jefferson similar time and freedom to operate. But the ball and player movement is much more constant under Rambis’ triangle system, and passes to open teammates in response to double-teams is demanded. But the first few months under the new regime were a sobering trial. Bent on maximizing space under the salary cap, president of basketball operations David Kahn pared the roster down to a handful of holdovers. Then the learning — and unlearning — began in earnest. ‘When we first started training camp, Al was running to the left block every time,’ says forward Ryan Gomes, who came over with Jefferson from Boston in the Garnett trade. ‘He was accustomed to thinking, ‘This is the block I like and I showed everyone I can score here.’ But coach was telling him to run to the middle of the floor and then find the ball. This year we have other options. That’s good because last year the double-team was coming even before Al got the ball.’”

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