The Fundamentals

» January 4, 2010 10:52 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times:  “A person close to Arenas who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to disrupt a relationship said Arenas used practical jokes to combat insecurity. Arenas used what he considered slights — he was lightly recruited by college coaches before accepting a scholarship to Arizona and was drafted in the second round — as motivation toward his development into an All-Star. He pleaded no contest to misdemeanor weapons and vehicle charges in 2003 after being charged with carrying a .40-caliber handgun and driving without a license during a traffic stop in California. ‘If someone should have bad things to say about him, I’m the jilted agent,’ said Dan Fegan, Arenas’s former agent. ‘He’s immature. He’s always been quirky. Everyone knows he’s a practical joker. But if he gets into an argument, he’ll probably joke about it. And it’s probably the result of a practical joke gone awry.’”

Jason Jones  of the Sacramento Bee:  “Three consecutive losses and a 14-19 record aside, the Kings know they are in a much better place than they were this time last season. Credit has been given to many and praise heaped upon management, coaching and the addition of three rookies who have put new life into the franchise. Meanwhile, Jason Thompson toils with little acclaim. And that’s fine with him. The second-year forward finds he is an expected source of stability this season. He’s the only King to have started all 33 games. His scoring and rebounding are up from last season. Kings coach Paul Westphal continues to expand Thompson’s role as a facilitator in the offense. But as the national media begins to take notice of the Kings again, much of the attention is on Westphal’s leadership – or the play of rookies Tyreke Evans and Omri Casspi. Even Westphal acknowledged Thompson is ‘getting a little left out of the discussion’ while averaging 14.8 points. Thompson’s 9.2 rebounds per game are 17th in the NBA. He averages 3.5 offensive rebounds, sixth in the league.”

Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun Sentinel:  “Wade has 20 turnovers over the past three games. The Heat knows the problem is because Wade has received the ball in the post more in recent games. ‘I’ve had a chance to see what I’m doing wrong and my turnovers will go back down,’ Wade said. Wade, who averages 3.44 turnovers entering Monday’s game against Atlanta at AmericanAirlines Arena, has always ranked among the league leaders in the stat. In two of the past three seasons, he’s averaged more than four turnovers a game. At one point this season, he lowered that number to 3 before his recent struggles. After watching film, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the issue is teams are constantly doubling Wade in the post.  ‘It’s a little bit of everything,’ Spoelstra said. ‘…Teams are doubling him there. We just need to work on, one, making fundamental plays in the post but also recognizing it and getting into our spacing earlier. We just need to recognize these situations as we’re getting [the ball] down there more often.’  The biggest adjustment for Wade will be making safer passes out of the double teams.”

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:  “The Rockets have players who can get their shots, with Landry and Aaron Brooks often scoring well late in games. But the next step Adelman wants to see is Brooks add more playmaking.  ‘Aaron is the guy who has the most ability that we have,’ Adelman said. ‘He’s so quick and fast, if he gets a step on somebody, he’s going to get to the basket. There are two areas he has to get better at. One is the little pull-up jumper, which he can make. He doesn’t look for it enough. The other is he’s a scorer first. He’s thinking about his shot. Eventually, he’s got to learn how to find our big guys at the basket when they all converge on him. He doesn’t have great size, (but) there are a lot of guys who don’t have great size who have the ability to find people when they get to the basket.  Unfortunately, for Aaron right now, it’s 100 miles per hour or nothing. When he gets around the guy, sometimes you need to slow down and let the defense commit. That opens up the alleys for you. He still hasn’t quite got to that point, but he has the most ability and most potential of all our guys.’”

Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star:  “His normally picture-perfect jump shot is coming up short. His drives to the basket are ending with a missed layup or the ball landing out of bounds after his shot is blocked due to a lack of elevation. This is not the same Mike Dunleavy who averaged a career-high 19.1 points two years ago. What you see is a player who is admittedly uncomfortable and trying to feel his way out after playing a total of 36 games in the past two seasons because of a knee problem. ‘I think it’s a combination of things,’ Dunleavy said after practice Friday. ‘I’m hardheaded and I tend to think it’s not my knee or my legs and things like that. Other people who have watched me and seen me on a daily basis say it is. Maybe that has something to do with it and certainly playing with a new group of guys, I haven’t played much with anybody out there.’ Dunleavy is battling through one of the worst shooting slumps of his eight-year career.”

Nick Friedell of   “Derrick Rose has the types of skills that bring video games to life. He has the ability to leave opponents’ heads spinning with the type of quick cuts he makes. He has proven that over and over during the Bulls recent four-game winning streak. The second-year point guard is averaging 25 points a game over his past seven games and is playing like the player everyone in Chicago grew to love last season when he earned the Rookie of the Year Award. ‘That turbo button is a little bit different in the last six, seven games than it was early in the season,’ Bulls center Joakim Noah said of Rose. ‘He’s been playing at a really, really high level so that definitely gives a boost to our team when D Rose is playing like that.’ Rose has made a point of getting to the foul line the past few weeks. Now that he’s back to full strength, he appears much more confident driving to the basket.”

Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post:  “With Madoff gall, the Nuggets made off with 15 steals Saturday at Utah, and they entered this week with 8.7 swipes per game, third best in the NBA. ‘It’s a philosophy,’ Nuggets coach George Karl said. ‘We’re a team that’s more aggressive on the ball, trying to trap a little more. I like pressuring on the ball, trying to force mistakes. I always felt the best offense is getting fouled or a turnover defense.’ Even more impressive in the Utah game was that two of Denver’s top thieves, Chauncey Billups (1.2) and Carmelo Anthony (1.2) didn’t play. Who leads Denver in steals? It’s none other than Nene, the big man with 1.6 per game. His average leads all NBA centers, and Nene is second in an impressive category —the combination of total assists, steals and blocked shots — trailing only Orlando’s Dwight Howard.”

Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:  “Derrick Rose joined a not-so-exclusive club when his Chicago Bulls defeated the Orlando Magic 101-93 on Saturday night. He’s just the latest in a string of point guards who have had big games against the Magic in recent weeks. Taken by itself, Rose’s 30-point, seven-assist performance might not be a cause for concern. After all, Rose won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award after last season, and he’s considered the cornerstone of the Bulls franchise. But Utah’s Deron Williams, Boston’s Rajon Rondo and Minnesota’s Jonny Flynn also posted strong numbers against Orlando, averaging 19.3 points and 7.7 assists combined. Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings and Houston’s Aaron Brooks also had nice scoring nights, though they weren’t particularly efficient. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy acknowledged that Rose played a ‘tremendous’ game, but Van Gundy sees an unwelcome pattern developing. ‘That’s another area we’ve got to clear up: Virtually every night it’s the point guard who’s the leading scorer,’ Van Gundy said.”

Ken Sugiuraof The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:  “As of late, the Hawks would make for a good hockey team. If their games lasted three periods, they would be in great shape. Fourth quarters, though, have been their undoing. Poor play at the finish has had a direct role in their five losses over the past seven games, including the past three. They’ve been outscored in the fourth quarter in all five of the losses, to Chicago, Denver, Cleveland (twice) and New York. In three of the games, the opponent trailed after three quarters. Each loss is distinct, but a glaring commonality is the disruption of the offensive play that had served them well through three quarters. The offense grows stagnant and relies on one-on-one play, foregoing the free-flowing unselfishness that characterized the first three quarters. The numbers reflect it.”

Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal:  “Thanks to the offseason acquisition of Randolph and center Marc Gasol’s emergence, Memphis has done most of its damage inside the paint. The Griz lead the NBA in points in the paint (52.6 per game) and have scored 50-plus points from inside 21 times. Their commitment to playing inside-out basketball leads to overall offensive efficiency and greatly compensates for the Griz ranking 29th in the league in 3-pointers (3.5 per game). ‘People who said we couldn’t play together don’t know what kind of person I am,’ forward Rudy Gay said. ‘They don’t know Juice (Mayo) or Z-Bo (Randolph). We’ve been deferring to each other all year. We know we all need each other, and Marc’s stepped up to give us another option. As long as we’re moving the ball around, we’re virtually unstoppable.’ Gay’s words have merit. The Griz don’t produce eye-popping assist totals, but their ball movement often produces wide-open shots, point-blank attempts or earns trips to the free throw line.”

Dave D’Alessandro of The Star-Ledger:  “It is a facile observation that the Nets are a team with a good talent level and little clue as to how to use it. That’s not an indictment of the coaching staff or the players’ collective basketball IQ. That’s simply the elephant in the room when a team of kids happens to be 3-30. But one of the emerging problems is their lack of an identity at the offensive end, particularly since point guard Devin Harris has returned from injury and Kiki Vandeweghe has taken over as head coach. On a morning when his coaches spent an entire shootaround putting in new options off three different sets (thumb, fist, and zipper, if you must know), Harris said, ‘I’m trying to utilize everything we have. I could come out and shoot 26 or 27 times a night, but that’s not in the best interests of us winning. I’m still trying to feel it out, and find a consistent (formula) that works for everybody.’ So on some nights, they are a high volume pick-and-roll team. On others — when they defend well and aren’t taking the ball out of their own net — they are a running team. And no matter what they are running, they claim the offense is predicated on finding Brook Lopez in the paint, even though he has averaged fewer shots (11.6) than any other Nets starter over the last seven games.”

Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman:  “The ‘Baby Bulls,’ which Chicago’s riveting young roster came to be known as, were expected to someday do big things. That day never came, and Chicago ultimately began running circles around itself over the last decade, hiring and firing coaches and bringing in and shipping out prized pieces. Chicago’s course now seems to serve as the chief cautionary case for the Thunder, which faces the Bulls at 7 tonight inside the United Center. The Bulls, despite defying their 1.7 percent 2008 NBA Draft Lottery odds and landing No. 1 overall pick Derrick Rose, are once again stuck in mediocrity. Chicago enters tonight’s game 14-17 and is reportedly on the verge of firing coach Vinny Del Negro after just 1 1/2 seasons. Del Negro already is the eighth coach the franchise has had since 2000. But the Bulls’ issues have run deeper than poor coaching. Since Michael Jordan left town, Chicago has confronted everything from contract disputes to cancer players to chemistry problems.”

Mike McGraw of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald:  “The free-agent chase is looming for the Bulls next summer, but there is no reason for fans to get too worked up about whether a chaotic coaching situation will scare away their top targets. Or if the Bulls need to win more games than Miami or New York. When it comes down to it, the city itself figures to be the decisive factor if any of the premier free agents consider joining the Bulls. A few years ago, whenever the Atlanta Hawks tipped off at Philips Arena, visitors could count the small clusters of fans in the seats and wonder how the team managed to stay in business. I asked Hawks star Joe Johnson, one of the 2010 free agents, if Atlanta’s homecourt advantage has gotten any better as the team improved. He didn’t try very hard to sugarcoat the answer. ‘Don’t get me wrong, it’s the home team and I enjoy playing there and I enjoy when the fans do come out,’ Johnson said. ‘But by no stretch of the imagination have we got one of the best home crowds. We don’t. I can’t really even say it’s getting there. In the playoffs, yeah, they’re there. Throughout the regular season, it’s not much of a big difference from what it was. It’s different, but it’s not that big of a difference than what is was when I first got there.’ That comment alone doesn’t mean anything, but it shows that players do appreciate fan support. The Bulls have a remarkably loyal following, having led the NBA in attendance the last decade despite making the playoffs just four out of 10 years.”

(Photo by Ned Dishman NBAE/Getty Images)

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