The Fundamentals

» December 30, 2009 11:07 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Brian Windhorst of The Cleveland Plain Dealer:  “This has been such a gnarly three months for Delonte West and there’s probably more turbulence ahead. But he’s slowly turned the corner a bit over the last few weeks and it has been huge for the Cavs. It helps that LeBron has been playing MVP level again. Mo Williams has been playing All-Star level again. And Shaquille O’Neal has been impacting games like the Cavs felt he could. Even Zydrunas Ilgauskas is on a tear. But the emergence of West has been equal to all those ingredients in why the team has won 10 of 11 games (six on the road). Tuesday’s game was classic Delonte, too. He made about five huge hustle/strength/quickness plays in the fourth quarter alone. Perhaps none bigger than when he got the steal and dunk with 4:22 left that pretty much broke the Hawks’ will. How do I know it broke their will? Because West got a technical for what he said to Josh Smith after the dunk and Joe Johnson whiffed on the free throw when the Hawks already hadn’t scored for seven minutes.”

Chris Tomasson of FanHouse:  “For nearly nine minutes, Atlanta had not scored a single point in the fourth quarter Tuesday night against Cleveland. Dusty pages were being turned back in the NBA record book. Has a team in league history ever not scored in a quarter? Nope. Two teams once scored just two points in a quarter. And Cavaliers coach Mike Brown was a San Antonio assistant in 2002-03 when the Spurs held Denver to three points in the first, still a record for that quarter. ‘It was like, ‘I don’t want to be in the record book if we don’t score,” said Atlanta center Al Horford. Fortunately for Horford and his teammates, the Hawks were spared NBA infamy when forward Josh Smith threw down a dunk with 3:12 left in the game. But the damage had been done. The Hawks, who were hoping to prove Tuesday in what coach Mike Woodson called a ‘measuring-stick’ game that they’re somewhat in Cleveland’s league, trailed just 75-74 entering the quarter. But after their Gobi Desert-like drought, they were down 85-74 before Smith’s bucket, and went on to lose 95-84 at Philips Arena. The Hawks missed their first 10 shots of the quarter.”

Elliot Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News:  “Lakers small forward Ron Artest still can’t remember the exact details about his Christmas night tumble that resulted in a concussion and stitches in his elbow, which forced him to sit out his third consecutive game Tuesday night. One minute, Artest said he remembered coming home from Staples Center with his hands full of Christmas presents. The next minute, he was inside his home and his wife was standing above him and asking him, ‘Are you all right?’ Artest said he believes he must have tripped on the stairs leading to his front door, but he doesn’t remember falling. He couldn’t say whether he fell forward or backward, and he doesn’t recall whether he made it inside on his own or whether he had help. ‘My wife said I was asleep for two or three minutes,’ Artest said in his first public comments since he was injured. ‘It took an hour to get my senses back. I didn’t feel it (falling). That’s the scary part. I’m still woozy at times.’”

Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register:  “Really, the awkwardness from Artest on Tuesday night in front of reporters – aside from him perhaps being a little off from the concussion, prompting Bryant to say: ‘He didn’t look like himself’ – stemmed from Artest being uncomfortable with how few great quotes he could offer if he didn’t remember anything good. At one point he tried to be definitive when asked about how he cut his left elbow, answering: ‘Trying to brace the fall.’ Then he paused, and his tone weakened. ‘I guess it was trying to brace. I can’t even remember.’ The reason the story changed originally from him tripping over a box to carrying a box was because of misinformation provided by Artest’s agent, who was never sure about it. Beyond that, it’s not hard to visualize Artest falling down steps when you think about how often he hits the deck trying to convert those awkward driving layups. But believe it or not, the true bottom line is that the concussion is increasingly the worrisome injury of this era. Brain trauma is indisputably serious stuff, as is the common memory loss that accompanies it.”

Josh Robbins and Matt Humphrey of the Orlando Sentinel:  “The Orlando Magic knew they had acquired a tough player when they signed SF Matt Barnes in July. But perhaps team officials didn’t realize just how tough Barnes is until recently. Barnes is playing despite a couple of painful injuries to his left hand. Barnes said he has torn ligaments in both the palm and top of his hand near his middle finger and ring finger. In addition, Barnes also dislocated his hand’s pinkie recently. ‘Rebounding the ball, touching the ball, trying to strike the ball — it’s all painful,’ Barnes said. ‘It just knocks the wind out of you.’ Barnes said the damage won’t worsen if he continues to play and that rest, not surgery, will heal the injuries. But as he noted, there’s no time to rest. The only good news for Barnes is that he’s right-handed, so the injuries don’t affect his shooting. It’s common to see Barnes leave RDV Sportsplex after practices and Amway Arena after games with his hand wrapped in ice. ‘The thing I really like with him is I just think that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win games,’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ‘A lot of guys will say that that’s what they’re about. But I think with him that’s really all that it’s about with him. He just wants to help you win.’”

Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald:  “Kevin Garnett has been one of Rajon Rondo’s biggest supporters, but his respect for the Celtics point guard managed to grow Monday night. A night after missing two free throws in a tie game in Los Angeles against the Clippers with 1.5 seconds left and watching Baron Davis hit the game-winning shot over him on the other end, Rondo had 30 points and 15 assists in Monday night’s fall to the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif. Rondo made 11-of-18 shots from the floor and 7-of-9 from the line. Garnett liked the way Rondo got back on the horse. ‘Things happen to us that you turn and you ask yourself, ‘Why me?’ ‘ Garnett said as the Celtics had yesterday off in preparation for tonight’s road trip finale against the Phoenix Suns. ‘I told him when he went to the line (Monday), I smacked him and I said, ‘Yeah, redemption. Payback.’ I just kept filling him with that. It either makes you or breaks you, man. You can’t break this kid. This kid is made of carbon, man. Everybody knows what carbon is. You know that it’s damn near invincible. It’s just more than a pleasure to be his teammate.’”

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:  “The passes come zipping from every direction, and in every way imaginable. No look. Behind-the-back. Over-the-shoulder. In traffic. With English. If there’s one thing DeJuan Blair has learned early in his rookie season with the Spurs, it’s that when Manu Ginobili is directing a fast break, expect the unexpected. ‘He can throw it off his back, hit it off his foot,’ Blair said. ‘He can do anything. He’s amazing.’ In the Spurs’ 117-99 trouncing of Minnesota on Tuesday night, Ginobili did everything but sell popcorn. In what coach Gregg Popovich called one of his Argentine guard’s best all-around games, Ginobili had 14 points, nine rebounds, 10 assists and three steals, narrowly missing the first triple-double of his career. Improbably, his overstuffed stat sheet didn’t do justice to the havoc he wreaked on the Timberwolves. With Ginobili in the lead, tossing the ball around the AT&T Center like a live grenade, the Spurs enjoyed a season-high 29 fast-break points en route to their ninth win in 11 games.”

Dave D’Alessandro of The Star-Ledger:  “The last anyone saw Brook Lopez Monday night, he was slipping through the back door of the locker room without a word, wearing a button-down print shirt and his 2-29 scowl. Nobody thought much of it. In this game, you get genuinely intimidating scowls (Kevin Garnett), narrow-eyed scowls (Kobe Bryant), wide-eyed scowls (Tim Duncan), bemused scowls (Dwight Howard), maniacal scowls (Kenyon Martin), and hammy Hollywood scowls (Anderson Varejao). All consider it an essential part of their equipment. But since he is not exactly a young man of genuinely intemperate disposition, Lopez must work on maintaining The Scowl, and the edge that comes with it. Because the Nets center left after that pounding against Oklahoma City at Izod Center that night, and somewhere along those 10 miles from East Rutherford to Edgewater, he misplaced his foul mood. ‘The fact is, when he gets home, you don’t see the losses affect him — honestly,’ said Chris Lopez, his brother, mentor, and housemate. ‘It’s not like he’s a kettle that’s about to blow. On the court, sometimes the frustration is evident. But it’s not a problem. He stays even-keeled. And I know there isn’t any repressed anger about it.’ Maybe that’s good, maybe that’s bad.”

Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News:  “Brand was quick to point out how much the addition of Allen Iverson has benefited him and other inside players, noting that defenses pay so much attention to Iverson, it opens things up for other players. Iverson, in his first game back from a four-game absence with a bum left knee, was everything this team needs him to be – an offensive threat but one that is under control. It is a different Iverson, obviously, from the player he was when he played here before. Maybe it’s because of the ailments that have limited his play, or maybe he’s just become a more mature player, knowing that his role on this team isn’t to be the 25-point-a-game player who has to have the ball in his hands most of the time. ‘That’s what I hope to do for these guys, to just give them that added confidence and believe that we can win basketball games regardless of the situation,’ he said after the Portland win. ‘I’ve been through a lot of wars in my career, and I’ve won a lot of games. Just to share the experiences that I’ve had with them and just try to stay as positive as I can with these guys and keep them positive. With a young team, a lot of times when things are not going right, people start pointing fingers and turn a positive thing into some negative thing not going right. I’m just going to be that voice to make sure that it doesn’t go downhill.’”

Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com:  “Rick Carlisle didn’t like the phrasing of a question about how things have changed in his second season at the helm of the Dallas Mavericks. ‘I don’t like the word ‘comfortable,’‘ Carlisle said. ‘You don’t want to be comfortable. If you’re comfortable, then complacency and things like that can creep in. I think you’ve got to maintain a healthy uncomfortableness every day. You’ve got to have the right kind of mindset to come in every day and try to get better. It’s tough when you’re in a stretch when you’re winning some days, but with a veteran team, we’ve got to challenge ourselves to do that.’ Maintaining that ‘healthy uncomfortableness’ can be tough on a coach’s toes. Jason Terry said the biggest difference in Carlisle this season is that he kicks more tables. Greaseboards and laundry bins have also felt the wrath of Carlisle’s foot when he felt he needed to be a bit more demonstrative to get his point across. ‘This year, he’s getting a lot more comfortable and he’s kicking things,’ Terry said, perhaps using a poor choice of words. ‘He’s got a little bit of Avery in him.’”

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:  “If his basketball management career doesn’t pan out, Gar Forman at least proved Tuesday night he could enter politics. Refusing to produce the vote of confidence that isn’t coming for Vinny Del Negro, Forman nevertheless placated those clamoring for Bulls management to break its silence regarding the embattled coach. Speaking before the Bulls’ 104-95 victory over the Pacers at the United Center, Forman said the entire organization is disappointed in the team’s 12-17 record. ‘Vinny is our coach,’ the Bulls’ general manager said. ‘As a management team, we are exploring all options to get better. We expect our coaches to work every day to get this team better. I met with the team and we expect the players to work every day to get better.’ Asked in which area he’d specifically like to see Del Negro improve, Forman demurred. ‘I don’t know if you pin it on one guy,’ Forman said. ‘As a whole, we want to continue to get better defensively. We want to be an up-tempo team that takes advantage of our athleticism.’ Asked if he could commit to Del Negro coaching the remainder of the season, Forman basically declined to comment while commenting.”

Howard Beck of The New York Times:  “Michael Jordan did not own the N.B.A. over the past 10 years, as he did in the 1990s. But he haunted it, from near and far, in uniform and from the golf course. Whether he was making an ill-fated comeback as a player or making ill-fated moves as a team executive in Washington and in Charlotte, Jordan still ruled from a distance in the decade that spanned 2000 to 2009. Commentators groped to identify his heir. Every great player was compared to him. Every championship team tried to replicate the dominance of Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. The closest facsimile — the Los Angeles Lakers of the early 2000s — won three straight titles with Jordan’s old coach (Phil Jackson) and even some of his old teammates (Ron Harper, Horace Grant). Jordan retired from the Bulls in 1998, but his shadow stuck around for another 12 years. As Jordan said at his Hall of Fame induction in September: ‘You guys have a heavy burden. I wouldn’t want to be you guys if I had to.’ He was speaking to his children, but he could have just as well been addressing Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill, Allen Iverson and an entire generation of stars who tried to emulate Jordan’s moves, his dominance, his swagger and his corporate prowess.”

(Photo by Joe Murphy NBAE/Getty Images)


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