A look around the league and the Web that covers it. It's also important to note that the rotation order and starting nods aren't always listed in order of importance. That's for you, dear reader, to figure out.
C: Orange County Register. Kevin Ding, who called out Dwight Howard's largely uninspired play just after Christmas, revisits the topic in a scathing postmortem following the center's inglorious performance on Monday night — both on the court in L.A.'s 12-point loss to the Chicago Bulls and off it in his griping for shots. Money quote: "But Howard hasn't been that good — and hasn't updated his self-image to reflect the current state of his game or figure out how to help the team win."
(Another Laker piece worth the time, from NBA.com's John Schuhmann: For all the talk about how Howard and Pau Gasol can't play together, the numbers say it might just be that the two frontcourt stars can't play together the way Mike D'Antoni is playing them. Hmm. That sounds familiar.)
PF: Roundball Mining Company. Last year, George Karl and the Denver Nuggets made quite a bit of hay in crunch-time by running out an offense-first, playmaking-heavy lineup anchored by the backcourt duo of Ty Lawson and Andre Miller. He continues to favor that pairing late in games, even though it drives some Nuggets fans batty. Jeremy Wagner digs into the team's lineup data — most commonly used five-man units, most beneficial three-man groups, etc. — in search of evidence as to whether or not Denver is playing better this season with its two triggermen sharing the floor.
SF: Portland Roundball Society. Halfway through the regular season, the Portland Trail Blazers are one game under .500 and one game out of the eighth and final playoff seed in the Western Conference; this is not something we expected. Still, though, Sean Highkin doesn't have high hopes for the team's bid for a playoff berth: "[...] the fact that three of the Blazers’ five starters are averaging at least 38 minutes per game is going to catch up to them, be it in the form of an injury or just general burnout. And when it does, things will get ugly, because they have arguably the worst bench in the NBA."
SG: SLC Dunk. Over the course of his seven years in the NBA, Utah Jazz forward Paul Millsap has continually evolved and built up his game — and now, according to Amar at SLC Dunk, while Millsap might not quite be Dirk Nowitzki or Kevin Love, the numbers say he's become "a legit stretch four."
PG: SLAM. Adam Fleischer offers a bit of a history lesson on Fernando Martin, "a man to whom many owed much" as the first Spanish-born player ever to set foot on an NBA court, and yet one about whom many still know very little.
6th: Raptors Republic. Through the first 27 games of the regular season, DeMar DeRozan was averaging 18 points and five rebounds per game on 45 percent shooting and a 31.3 percent mark from 3-point range — not exactly marksman status, but significantly better than what he'd produced in the past, and the kind of improvement that helped make the Toronto Raptors' early-season decision to extend his contract seem a bit more reasonable. Over the past month, though, the swingman's down to 40 percent from the floor and just 11 percent from 3, an offensive slide that's been mirrored by declining performance on the defensive end. What gives? Blake Murphy takes a closer look.
7th: Wiz of Awes. Last week, Grantland's Zach Lowe requested a "Kevin Seraphin French-language decision tree, where every path ends in 'shoot.'" Well, this isn't in French, but it does detail the thought process that goes into the Washington Wizards big man's offensive output. (I particularly enjoyed "Open for Dunk? Turnaround Hook Shot.")
8th: Hot Hot Hoops and Heat Check. A handful of members of the Miami Heat — including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Mike Miller, new hire Chris Andersen, James Jones and even team president Pat Riley — showed off their pipes at Shane Battier's fundraising South Beach Battioke event on Monday night. Click through if you dig making your ears bleed.
9th: Waiting for Next Year. A bit tardy to the party here, as this went up late last week, but this is a nice breakdown of why Cleveland Cavaliers rookie center Tyler Zeller (and a score of other players, especially young ones) often has a hard time on the defensive glass.
10th: New York Daily News. New York Knicks fans at Madison Square Garden like to make fun of Brooklyn Nets forward Kris Humphries. Apparently, J.R. Smith does, too. This would definitely have been a way sicker burn had J.R. not gone 7 for 19 and missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds of a loss that saw Humphries kick in a double-double in 27 minutes off the Brooklyn bench.
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