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Friday Bullets

By Henry Abbott

  • NBA tickets sales in a bad economy. It looks pretty bad. The number that stands out to me in Ken Berger's CBS Sportsline report is this one: "League-wide, average paid attendance through Nov. 29 was 13,187." NBA arenas hold a lot more people than that, you know? Read the whole report, though. It's a mixed picture.

  • Basketbawful on Chauncey Billups in the Nuggets' road loss: "Mr. Big Shot actually could have tied it with a layup at the buzzer, but he was mugging too much for the refs' attention. And he knows it."

  • George Karl tells The New York Times' Jonathan Abrams about coaching Allen Iverson: "The one thing that Coach Brown told me before I met with A.I. was be up front with him, be direct with him and usually when you are, he’ll talk with you. He’s got a good basketball brain. He knows basketball, he understands basketball and I think that’s kind of the way we operated with him."

  • Bulls by the Horns: "Although [Vinny] Del Negro hasn’t exactly set the coaching world on fire -- and some of the rookie coaching mistakes he made last season were both obvious and embarrassing -- here’s a question worth asking: Are these Bulls really underachieving? Think about it. Even on paper, this wasn’t going to be a great team. In a best-case scenario, the Bulls had aspirations of above-averageness. The general consensus was Chicago could win 40-ish games and maybe compete for an 'upper-lower seed' in the East (say fifth or sixth). But even so, it was well-known that the Bulls had to 1) adjust to life without Ben Gordon and therefore develop a new team identity, 2) work Luol Deng back into the mix, 3) deal any injuries that popped up (such as the ones suffered by Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich and Tyrus Thomas, plus the lingering aches and pains of Jannero Pargo), and 4) contend with a rather brutal schedule that was front-loaded with road games and includes a league-high 22 sets of back-to-backs. Considering all that, it’s actually understandable the Bulls are struggling in the early going."

  • If you don't have a good sense of humor, of if you work in Nets PR, just don't even click this Kiki Vandeweghe link.

  • With Will Bynum out, Chucky Atkins is huge for the Pistons. Somewhere the Timberwolves -- who waived Atkins in September -- squirm a little.

  • John Krolik of Cavs the Blog with a moment of stand-up comedy: "Shaq says that LeBron could coach in the NBA right now. (Don’t actually believe this, but joke…too…easy…must…make…) He was mum when asked if Mike Brown could coach in the NBA right now."

  • The Wizards made a huge run, and almost stole the game from the Celtics, when Paul Pierce sat with foul trouble. Of course, he finished with just four fouls -- so why not just let him play and, you know, win the game?

  • In researching a book, Penn State associate professor, Sean Griffin, has been asking the FBI and all kinds of people how hard they looked into Tim Donaghy's claims. He says the answer is not all that much, as Donaghy wasn't much of a concern to an FBI unit focused on the Gambino crime family. The agent leading the investigation, Phil Scala, says as much in the foreword to Donaghy's book. Griffin has a fascinating blog going about Donaghy.

  • Getting to the line is huge for the Nets.

  • Age vs. Shaquille O'Neal, in numbers.

  • The five best five-player units in basketball so far this season. One of the five is all Clippers.

  • John Hollinger (Insider) on how the Blazers' defense has improved, while the team's record has gone south: "Last season the Blazers won by taking shots. Lots of them. Because of a slightly below-average turnover rate and a league-leading offensive rebound rate, Portland launched more shots per 100 possessions (100.1) than any other team in the league ("shots" being defined as field goal attempts plus 0.44 times free throw attempts). The Blazers were relatively accurate, too, ranking eighth in true shooting percentage, but the real story of their season was one of quantity rather than quality. This season? Portland's accuracy hasn't changed at all; the Blazers' true shooting percentage is nine points ahead of the league average, just like it was a year ago. The problem is that they're generating fewer attempts. Portland takes 96.7 shots per 100 possessions, barely beating the league average of 96.3. More than three shot attempts per game have simply vanished into the ether. The causes are that the Blazers' turnovers have increased, while their offensive rebounding has declined in roughly equal proportion."

  • Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune: "Pick against the Jazz on TNT at your own peril. They are now 3-0 in the nationally televised Thursday games this season."