• The full-court outlet pass -- as best utilized by Minnesota's Kevin Love and Corey Brewer -- isn't just a highlight waiting to happen, but a weapon of demoralization. Steve McPherson unpacks all that the outlet means for the Wolves over at TrueHoop, including welcome insight on the act from the principals themselves:
Love concurs: “You kind of have to know the time and place in the game: If the other team has gone on a run or maybe you’re down, or maybe you’re making a run of your own. It can affect the game in a lot of negative and a lot of positive ways. You just have to be a smart player and I pride myself on having a high basketball IQ, but at the same time you have to have some sort of imagination to throw that pass.”
It’s a gamble that doesn’t always pay off but the outlet -- like a dunk or an alley-oop -- has the power to galvanize a team, to sow doubt in an opponent.
“When we get an outlet pass, everybody gets excited,” Brewer said. “It’s an easy bucket, so your team gets fired up. And the other team, they get down. They’re like, ‘How did you let that happen?’ Coach starts getting on them, now they have to worry about it. We’re all amped.”
• A jaw-dropping stat courtesy of Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal: Over 60 percent of Andrea Bargnani's missed jumpers result in a made basket for the Knicks' opponent. The league average allowance, by comparison, is just a shade under 46 percent.
• The overwrought "PLAYER X RETURNS" video is apparently in vogue.
• Rajon Rondo isn't just back on the practice court, but is organizing full-court, post-practice, five-on-five scrimmaging.
• Tom Ziller of SB Nation sums up Charlotte's defensive resurgence as simply and succinctly as one can:
Steve Clifford of the Bobcats is the surprise coach of the year, though perhaps Charlotte's defensive rebirth isn't a total shock to those closest to the coach. Charlotte had the league's worst defense in the NBA last season under rookie head coach Mike Dunlap. Clifford has the Bobcats at No. 4 in the NBA. The team's major additions were Al Jefferson (known as a walking minus sign on defense) and Cody Zeller (a rookie coming off of the bench). Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been battling injuries. Josh McRoberts is Big Al's running mate up front! Nothing makes sense. So we credit Clifford, because we're out of plausible answers.
• Neil Paine (formerly of Sports-Reference.com) and Ben Morris (of Skeptical Sports) will be integral members of Nate Silver's rebooted FiveThirtyEight blog. A hearty congrats to them both, and a reminder to all interested in intelligent sports coverage to keep posted.
• San Antonio teased out a night of fun, engaging basketball without Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, or Manu Ginobili in the lineup on Thursday, in part because the Spurs are no strangers to such planned absences. That cast of role players and reserves tends to do unreasonably well under the circumstances, and deserves a proper nickname. "Half-Spurs" is as good as any.
• Robin Lopez keeps it real: “Brook and I don’t discuss hairstyles, Chris."Evan Turner his defense oy