By Rob Mahoney
• Kate Fagan of ESPN W penned an outstanding feature on Natalie Nakase, a former walk-on for the UCLA women's basketball team with a dream of coaching in the NBA. Teams around the league may be reticent to broach the barriers that have boxed out women from coaching gigs in the NBA thus far, but the next decade or so will test this informal gender exclusion like never before. Nakase is hardly alone, though through Fagan's storytelling, we learn that she's certainly remarkable.
• TrueHoop is taking a long look at the place of performance enhancing drugs in the NBA, despite years of public guffawing over the possibility. Henry Abbott's introductory installment -- centered around a candid comment made by a strength coach at IMG Academy -- is well worth your time.
• An examination of Norris Cole's game through the eyes of Dan Craig, the Miami Heat's video coordinator/player development coach. This is a fantastic look into how player development types assess their players on a micro level, and more importantly, what they do with those players to curb bad habits and encourage good ones.
• There was a time when not rain, nor sleet, nor hail, nor quadruple teams could make Al Jefferson pass the ball out of the block; years of isolation scoring in Minnesota hard-wired Jefferson as a one-on-whatever offensive player. But as Jefferson told Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com, those days are now behind him, thanks in no small part to Jerry Sloan:
"Actually, the flex has really helped my game over the last two-and-a-half years," Jefferson said prior to the game. "It's really helped me out big time. In Minnesota, it was all about fighting my way on the block. Throw the ball inside. Try to score against double-teams. With the flex cuts, it makes my job a lot easier. If I set good picks and get my teammates open, I bounce off that and now I'm the one getting the layup."
• Jeremy Conlin of HoopSpeak dove into the unique statistical profiles of a handful of players, including DeMarcus Cousins:
Last season, Cousins sported a PER of 21.7, good for 19th in the league. What’s unusual about this, however, is that he went about achieving that score in an unusual way. Most players atop the PER leaderboard did so through high volume scoring with good efficiency (like LeBron, Durant, Love, Howard, Dirk, etc), others did so by combining average scoring efficiency with a great all-around game (like Kobe, Wade, Rose, Westbrook, Griffin, etc). What makes Cousins unusual is that his scoring efficiency was well below league average, clocking in at just 49.9% True Shooting. His PER was buoyed by his great offensive rebounding numbers (3rd in the league in ORB%) and good scoring volume due to high usage, but finishing with a PER that high despite poor scoring efficiency is pretty rare -- it’s only been done 10 times since the 1972-1973 season.
• Troubling news: Josh Harrellson has yet to bust out his trademarke jorts on South Beach.
• Toronto Raptors rookie Jonas Valanciunas hasn't yet played a regular-season game, but he may already be one of the most likable players in the entire league. In his conversations with Holly MacKenzie for her terrific piece on Valanciunas for Ball Don't Lie, he somehow comes across as both carefree and deeply dedicated, self-aware and incredibly focused.