Thursday Bullets

By Henry Abbott

  • Yao Ming quoted by Cal Fussman in Esquire: "I haven't done much trash-talking. But last year, I did complain about a call. Nobody could believe it. So I said, 'I've spent a lot on English lessons. I want to get my money's worth.' The official was laughing. My American strength coach says he liked me better before I could talk English. ... Our honeymoon was in Europe. One stop was Venice. Cost fifty dollars for a ride in the gondola. There was also the romantic package. Three hundred dollars. That gets a bottle of red wine and a man playing music. But I don't really drink red wine. And you can hear the music coming from the other boats. So the fifty-dollar package seemed like the way to go."

  • Chronicling a tremendous stretch of Laker defense that held the Jazz on an eight-point fourth quarter. Needless to say, that kind of defense means a lot in picking your 2010 champs.

  • Matt McHale of By the Horns: "Vinny [Del Negro] might be feeling pretty chill -- or so he claims -- but it’s become pretty obvious that losing has gotten to the players. You can see it in their eyes, in the way their shoulders slump after a missed shot or turnover. Basketball, especially on the professional level, is a game of split seconds. In most cases, players have a split second to get their shot off or make the right pass, a split second to make the defensive move that will prevent an easy bucket. Well, the Bulls are losing those split seconds to doubt and depression. A big part of winning is believing you can win. I didn’t see a lot of faith in the eyes of the Bulls last night."

  • A Facebook movement for Sonic fans.

  • David Thorpe's sophomore rankings (Insider) are topped by Brook Lopez, but two of the strongest players in that class, and two of the best young rebounders in NBA history, are in the Honorable Mention category because of injuries: "Greg Oden, Blazers: Oden's game was really starting to get going and he was starting to generate some All-Star buzz. His rebound rate was better than every center in the NBA, save one guy: his teammate, Joel Przybilla. Unfortunately his season is now over after undergoing surgery for another knee injury. Kevin Love, Timberwolves Look for Love in this report at the end of the month. He's been doing everything for the Wolves, who have been more competitive since he returned from injury. He's even making 3s, which is a huge weapon for a team nearly devoid of deep threats. He's 5-for-8 so far, after making just 2-of-19 last season."

  • The Gerald Wallace-for-All-Star blog-based campaign.

  • Toronto's defense is a performance enhancing drug.

  • A lot of the talk about anabolic steriods recently has centered on the idea that they may not, in fact, be bad for you. Mark Cuban has famously said if that's demonstrated to be true, why not let people use them? It's tough to research how safe they are -- they're illegal without a prescription, so people aren't so eager to come forward to be studied. But some new research finds a high rate of kidney trouble in bodybuilders who have used steroids. Katie Thomas of The New York Times writes: "All 10 men in the case series, published in November by the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, showed damage to the filters of the kidney. Nine had an irreversible disease known as focal segmental glomerulosclerosis ... even though the men in the study did not have other apparent risk factors. Their disease was worse than in obese patients with a higher body-mass index, suggesting that steroids -- combined with the other practices -- might be harming the kidneys. Among the study’s most persuasive details is the story of a man, 30 years old at the time, who damaged his kidneys after more than a decade of bodybuilding. The patient’s condition improved after he stopped using the drugs, discontinued his regimen and lost 80 pounds. But it worsened after the man, who became depressed, returned to bodybuilding and steroids."

  • On Basketball Prospectus, Anthony Macri dissects Minnesota's use of the triangle: So where are the Wolves falling short? Three major areas: fast-break and secondary-break actions, lack of precision in their offensive execution and a failure to embrace what triangle innovator Tex Winter would call the “ping” pass. The Wolves are built with some contradictory pieces. Flynn, Gomes, and Brewer are guys who excel in transition. Jefferson is better as a half-court scorer, and while Love is great at initiating the break, he too is most effective in a set offense. Nonetheless, Minnesota has looked the most comfortable out in space on the fast break—likely because the ball spends so much time in speedster Flynn’s hands. While the Wolves already spend some time in secondary-break actions, this could be a much larger piece of their offensive attack strategy. Using either Love or Jefferson in trail-screen actions at the top of the key (similar to what the Lakers do when Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum is the last man down the floor) would be helpful. Though Minnesota looks moderately comfortable running the read-and-react triangle, players are not always purposeful in their cuts and seem to rush through the options. Watch the next time they run a man off the elbow for a handoff—that player goes past and just floats to the next option. If the Wolves instead took their time and explored each cut and exploited each movement, they would find there are a lot of points waiting to be discovered.

  • Flash owner Brandt Andersen talks to Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm about Fake Jordan-gate: "Obviously, we do not want the team to be viewed as 'bush league.' However, we are a minor league team and we are going to do fun and crazy things to promote our games. This latest promotion didn't go as we had hoped, but we won't stop promoting. Our mascot lived on a billboard for seven days this summer and we are trying to give everyone in Utah County a T-shirt. This was poorly executed and I am sorry to the fans that were offended. We will be more careful next time. ... This is a tough time for sports. Both minor and major league sports have taken a hit. We are trying to keep people entertained by having fun. This one failed. Others will work. I believe the key to getting people to keep coming back is not just great basketball but entertainment. We are an entertainment company. If people are entertained and can step away from the everyday cares they will come out to the games. If not, they will go elsewhere."

  • Kevin Pritchard says that despite all the injuries, he won't mortgage the Blazers' future just to win a bit more this season. In other words, there is no fire sale on Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, Andre Miller and the like.

  • Shane Battier, no longer killing it, according to plus/minus.

  • Steve Weinman of D-League Digest: "During one of the several well-contested games in the NBA D-League this past weekend, one individual who led his team in scoring fouled out in the final minute of a two-possession game. Suffice it to say the player in question was in the midst of a fine performance and had upwards of 20 points on the night. What matters is this: Upon said player’s departure, one of the game’s broadcasters lamented, 'Don’t you have to know that the [insert number here]-point scorer has five fouls, and maybe give him a little leeway on the hand-check?' Um, no. Please halt. Cease and desist. Stop this line of conduct."

  • Rob Mahoney of the Two Man Game: "Honestly, I have absolutely no clue what transpired at a Dallas Denny’s at 3 A.M., and unless you’re Tim Thomas, a Denny’s employee, Roger Emrich, or Damien Pettie, you don’t either. Maybe Thomas is as innocent as Emrich’s account reveals, or maybe he’s not. But until the puzzle pieces fall into place, can we for one second assume that Tim Thomas isn’t at the bottom of everything? Thomas has pissed off his fair share of coaches, he’s alienated himself from teammates and fan bases, and he’s earned a pretty penny with marginal production to show for it. All of that said, Thomas doesn’t have a history of legal troubles."

  • A great anecdote about coaching a JV team, and why you should fear the Spurs.

  • A rating system by which Ty Lawson is playing better than any other rookie point guard.