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Posted: Monday December 8, 2008 12:20PM; Updated: Monday December 8, 2008 3:40PM
Paul Forrester Paul Forrester >
INSIDE THE NBA

Five players seizing their chance (cont.)

Scout's take

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As the losses pile up again for the Timberwolves (who fired coach Randy Wittman on Monday), an NBA scout assesses the offensive game of one the team's bright spots, Al Jefferson, who is averaging 21.7 points and 10.1 rebounds.

"He's got a number of moves: a good jump hook, a nice turnaround shot and he can drop step. And he's a good positional player. He gets great position for his post-ups and he's hard to get off his spots or make uncomfortable. And they pass the ball to him.

"That's a big thing with young post players; if they get the ball, they are going to continue to work. If they don't touch the ball, a lot of them will say, 'I'm not going to work as hard every time.' After all, it's physically draining with all that pushing and shoving with all those big guys.

"The Timberwolves feed him all the time, which is where they get a lot of their turnovers. But it gives him a chance to get in rhythm. And now he can extend his range to the free throw line and beyond, and he's shooting them confidently. If that's consistent for him, he's going to be more of a beast than he already is."

They said it

• "I have virtually no interest in the slam-dunk contest or any of those other foolish contests. I like it when he dunks in games, but the rest of that stuff's a sideshow."
-- Magic coach Stan Van Gundy speaks bluntly to reporters about the possibility that Dwight Howard might not defend his dunk title during All-Star weekend.

• "I think, um ... I think, um ... For us to really be good, we have to buy into it. ... I think when we came in this year we bought into it. Sometimes we've run into teams who exploit what we're doing."
-- Rudy Gay dances around a question from the Memphis Commercial Appeal about whether the Grizzlies' Marc Iavaroni is a good coach.

• "It was like being at a club and being with the baddest chick in there. Then you turn your head and she's gone. It's like, 'Dang, I should have had that!' "
-- Channing Frye describes to the Oregonian the feeling of blowing a 17-point lead in a loss to the Celtics last season.

• "Right now, we're in a dark place."
-- Steve Nash sums up the state of the Suns after their 112-97 loss at Dallas last Thursday.

Required reading

Salt Lake Tribune: After crunching some numbers, Ross Siler calculates what the average NBA player makes per minute: $3,487. We'll just let that sink in for a minute.

Ball Don't Lie: Fun interview with one of the more underappreciated stars, Indiana's Danny Granger, who tells Nick Friedell about his love of the movie Armageddon and banana pudding.

San Antonio Express-News: A handful of players explain why they have turned to blogging, and Bryan Chu postulates on some of the implications for the athletes, the media and the fans.

Bulls.com: Sam Smith has the story of how Michael Jordan almost left the Bulls to play for the Knicks.

Houston Chronicle: We don't know if this is cruel or funny or just plain accurate -- a Tracy McGrady injury tracker smack in the middle of the Chronicle's Rockets page. Scroll about halfway down for the details.

3 points

1. Maybe it's the jitters of playing actual games or the luxury of being part of a deep team. Regardless, Greg Oden seems more tentative than authoritative early in his NBA career. That's why he can be bullied by smaller power forwards or miss two-handed dunks. Time will undoubtedly polish Oden's repertoire and teach him how to better leverage his size. Until he learns to impose his will, however, Oden will leave Blazers fans, and all of us, wanting.

2. Bryan Colangelo deserves some credit for keeping Sam Mitchell around as coach as long as he did despite the fact he didn't hire him. But firing Mitchell at this time and replacing him with the untested Jay Triano screams of nervousness. With 2008-09 slipping away under a coach who isn't the most easy to play for, the Raptors can't afford to waste a season if they hope to keep Chris Bosh when he becomes a free agent in 2010.

3. The NBA should take note of the Plaxico Burress debacle. While the NFL likely won't miss a beat in popularity because of the incident, the NBA may not be as fortunate in a similar situation. And with swaths of empty seats littering the NBA landscape, the league cannot afford more PR black eyes, no matter the veracity of the allegations.

 
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