The Fundamentals

» January 5, 2010 12:05 PM | By Brandon Hoffman

Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: “At age 33, Tim Duncan leads Popovich’s team in scoring (20.0 points per game), rebounding (10.2) and blocked shots (1.8). Admitting he’d had occasional off-season doubt about Duncan ’s ability to return to the sort of nightly dominance that twice made him the Most Valuable Player, Popovich sounded relieved. ‘I hoped I would (see him back at that level),’ he said, ‘and I have. ‘He’s just been fantastic. He was really wise this summer and took care of himself and was careful with his workouts and didn’t overdo it. He’s reaping the benefits and has been our most consistent player and continues to be the foundation of what we do.’ Duncan chuckled at Popovich’s doubts that he could get back to MVP level. ‘I didn’t know I left this

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level,’ he said. ‘Did I?’”

Sam Amick of the Sacramento Bee: “The season-long NBA awards watch can typically change as quickly as an end-to-end LeBron James sprint, but the Rookie of the Year race isn’t looking that way at the moment. By most accounts, Kings rookie guard Tyreke Evans is way ahead of the pack. And considering Monday’s announcement, he’s clearly in a class all his own in the Western Conference. Evans won the Western Conference Rookie of the Month award for the second time in as many tries, while Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings was a repeat winner in the Eastern Conference as well. Evans averaged 22.1 points (47.6 percent shooting), 5.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.62 steals and 35.5 minutes per game in December. He is averaging 20.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists on the season, putting him just a shade away from the elite class of 20-5-5 rookies that only includes Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson and James.”

Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: “Brandon Jennings is averaging 2.84 turnovers while dishing out 6.0 assists per game, the best assist total among National Basketball Association rookies. But Skiles also wants the 6-foot-1 Jennings to keep pushing the pace and attacking Bucks opponents. ‘Especially for a rookie point guard, he’s not a high turnover player,’ Skiles said after the Bucks’ practice session Monday. ‘That’s going to bode well for him as his career goes on. ‘It’s good he’s risk averse, but we need him to stay aggressive. I want him to be aggressive on everything he’s doing, make his decisions on the fly rather than pre-determining, ‘I’m going to come off here and pass it back to a big man. I don’t think he does too much of that. You’d rather have that happening than a guy that’s totally out of control out there that you’re just trying to calm him down all the time.’”

Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: “Stephen Jackson is a character. But he also has character. He and, to a lesser extent, Flip Murray have added swagger to the Bobcats. That’s an ingredient they very much needed. To me, swagger is a way of saying, ‘Don’t mess with me. I can back it up.’ That’s different from

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bravado, which is pretentious – faux confidence. Think of it this way: Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith is a pain in the butt. The Panthers put up with his volatility and his diva act because he backs it up on the field. Jackson loses his temper on the court and gets distracted by referees, but the utter calm with which he made those two free throws Sunday showed he can back it up. I can’t think of anything the Bobcats needed more than that kind of closer.”

Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: “With the Warriors in desperate need of some help for Ellis, Maggette has elevated his game to a new level. He has scored at least 20 points in nine of his last 10 games. After getting booed by home fans for taking long jumpers early in the season, Maggette has been determined to pound into the paint. ‘What can I tell you? He’s playing at a high level,’ coach Don Nelson said. ‘He has been quite an anchor.’ Maggette’s new strategy leaves the 30-year-old looking like half mummy and half igloo after games. He does postgame interviews with his legs in buckets of cold water, with ice tightly strapped to his shoulders and around his hamstrings and while massaging his surgically repaired wrist. ‘I’m just trying to keep my body going,’ Maggette said. ‘Ice is the best remedy, and prayer keeps it together. God knows I hurt, but coach is calling on me to do things and I’ve got to do them for my team.’”

Dave D’Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: “Courtney Lee is trying to get his inner voice to shut up. He knows exactly what the numbers say. Nobody shooting 19 percent from downtown over the last month can ignore it. Nobody who’s at .395 for the season can act like nothing’s wrong. ‘But it’s numbers,’ the Nets’ shooting guard said after another post-practice shooting session Monday. ‘I’m not going to worry about it. The whole month, I think, has been more productive for me. I feel it — I’m trying to impact the game in a number of ways, and I’ll just try to carry it out on the road now.’ That’s the other thing. The Nets end their seven-game homestand Tuesday night against Milwaukee, and Lee is starting to find a comfort zone at home, where he averages a respectable 14.3 points on .430 shooting. The road, however, is another matter: Those numbers fall to 9.1 and .354 away from home. And the Nets will spend most of the next month (11 of 17 games) on the road.”

Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: “Hamstrings have become a major issue for the 29-year-old Gasol, who just signed a three-year, $57-million extension that would keep him under contract through 2013-14. ‘I don’t know what we can do,’ Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. ‘He never felt any unusual sensations or regulation in his running [before Sunday's game]. Warmed up and stretched the normal way he does. It was just something very unusual. We’ll have to do much more intensive research on this now. It’s not related to exercise or an activity that creates this.’ Gasol was not available to reporters Monday, and Jackson was coy when asked how Gasol was injured. ‘It happened before the game in a very unusual way and I’ll let Pau explain that to you when you see him,’ Jackson said. ‘You have to ask him. He told me the story, so I’m just expecting him to tell you.’”

Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Stan Van Gundy has done plenty to coax a consistently high energy level out of Orlando Magic’s starting unit. He’s put Matt Barnes onto the starting five. He’s examined how certain combinations of players work together. He’s looked at X’s and O’s. ‘Other than Matt, we need much better energy out of our starting unit, not just at the start of games but throughout the game,’ Van Gundy said after practice Monday at Conseco Fieldhouse. ‘It’s almost like they’re waiting for the game to slow down, and there’s no reason for that. We’ve sort of fallen into some bad habits there. We’ve fallen into some habits of only playing certain minutes of the game.’ […] Van Gundy spent part of Sunday studying how different combinations of players performed over the last 12 games. To do that, he studied the players’ plus/minus statistics — the scoreboard differential while those players were in the game. In other words, if Barnes entered a tied game and left with Orlando leading by four points, his plus/minus rating for that span would be +4.”

Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune: “Seemingly on track three weeks ago after back-to-back wins over Orlando and the Los Angeles Lakers, the Jazz have instead turned into a train wreck. New Orleans’ journeyman Devin Brown engineered Utah’s latest crash-and-burn — a shocking 91-87 loss Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena that continued a lottery-like stretch for the Jazz. They have lost three straight games. They have lost three out of four at home. They have lost seven of 11 games since beating Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on Dec. 12. If the playoff started today, the Jazz would not qualify. ‘We have to regroup somehow,’ Deron Williams said. ‘… I didn’t expect to be in this position this late in the season. I thought we’d be playing our best basketball come this time, not regressing.’ Thirty-four games into the season, Utah is two games over .500 and ninth in the West.”

Eddie Sefko of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “The Mavericks had a flashback, and not the kind they like. But as bad memories sometimes do, it might have therapeutic value. When they went to Los Angeles and were blitzed by the Lakers on Sunday night, it was a slap to the side of the head to remind them what they’re trying to accomplish this season. In short, when they ditch their defense, they can f ‘When we tend to not make shots, we used to not play any defense, either,’ Jason Kidd said. ‘And that’s what happened again [against the Lakers]. We stopped playing defense. We got to get back to doing it the right way.’”

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle
: “When it comes to describing what they have done poorly, the Rockets have become remarkably adept. But when invited to reveal what they do well, they bomb. They had their chance. They were heading to Los Angeles to face the Lakers, having split their two meetings with the reigning NBA champions. The Lakers’ win came by a point in overtime. Last postseason, the Rockets were the only team to take the Lakers to seven games after splitting four games following the season-ending injury to Yao Ming with Tracy McGrady out. Few teams could match that sort of relative success against the Lakers, but when it comes to explaining why, the Rockets were strategically reticent or spectacularly clueless.”

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