TrueHoop: 2008 Draft

Another available young big man

November, 26, 2010
11/26/10
3:23
AM ET
Stein By Marc Stein
ESPN.com
Archive
Recent Weekend Dimes have listed Sacramento's Jason Thompson and Chicago's James Johnson as young power forwards who've been made available via trade by the teams that made them recent first-round picks.

Another name to add to that group, according to NBA front-office sources, is Golden State's Brandan Wright, who simply hasn't been able to produce (or stay healthy) consistently for the Warriors despite his intriguing length and athleticism.

The Warriors selected the slender 6-10 power forward with the eighth overall pick in 2007 and have an undeniable need at the moment for dependable players off the bench. Frontcourt, backcourt, you name it.

But Wright only made it onto the floor for 77 games in his first three seasons thanks largely to a run of shoulder injuries and hasn't been able to catch up. Not even with David Lee (elbow), Louis Amundson (finger) and prized rookie Ekpe Udoh (wrist) all dealing with their own health woes.

It's likewise no secret that Amundson and Udoh are locks, albeit not quite at Lee 's level, to receive rotation priority from coach Keith Smart over Wright when everyone's healthy.

Suspect as a rebounder because of his build and still trying to develop more variety offensively to complement his undeniable shot-blocking ability, Wright will be a restricted free agent at season's end if he’s not moved by the Warriors first. There aren't any strong signals that anything’s imminent, but this much we know: The 23-year-old belongs with Dan Gadzuric and Vladimir Radmanovic on list of Golden State "gettables."
By Chris Sheridan

Yes, he really said he has a Plan Z.

And the president of the New York Knicks said a bunch of other stuff in a radio interview on ESPN 1050 Radio in New York that you can listen to by clicking over to the Knicks blog on the ESPNNewYork site, where I have both linked to it and picked out some of the better nuggets for your reading pleasure.

Among the items the Knicks president discussed was what he had seen and heard at the NBA's pre-draft camp in Chicago last week as he and coach Mike D'Antoni scouted prospects in anticipation of selecting 38th and 39th in the June 24 draft. (FYI: The 38th pick, since 2003, has produced Steve Blake, Royal Ivey, Travis Diener, Kosta Perovic, Kyrylo Fesenko, Kyle Weaver, and Jon Brockman. The 39th picks in those same years were a bit more of a motley crew: Slavko Vranes, Chris Duhon, Von Wafer, David Noel, Stanko Barac, Sonny Weems and Jonas Jerebko.)

"I'm optimistic we can be helped," Walsh said, noting that he drafted Antonio Davis and Kenny Williams with back-to-back picks at No. 45 and 46 back in 1990. "In regard to this draft, I think what I'm hearing out there, and it's probably true, is that between 20 and 40 there are 40 players that everyone likes," Walsh said. "Between 20 and 40 you can't really tell who's going where, but there are 40 players. So we've got to keep working it to see who's going when to see who's going to be available to us."

Upon review, the Sun is a star

May, 26, 2010
5/26/10
3:31
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
Goran Dragic
Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images
This season has wholly reversed Goran Dragic's reputation as a wasted 2008 pick.

I was lucky enough to have a great seat for Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals in Phoenix, which inspired, believe it or not, a poem honoring a backup point guard.

In the late hours of the war room,
Griffin working phones
,
A payment to the Alamo,
The Suns would be your home.

Handle, shooting, poise …
There was no rookie magic,
We quickly picked it all apart,
Your last name looks like “Tragic.”

A fraud, a waste, a bust,
Even Suns fans did that talkin’.
What insult could cut deeper
Than calling a Slovenian “Slovakian?”

But now we’re in the playoffs.
It’s two-thousand and ten.
The Spurs brushed you aside that June,
This May -- you did it to them.

Muscle for a rebound.
Fight like hell through screens,
They drafted you for defense.
Somewhere Steve Kerr beams.

Tenacious on the dribble,
Defenders spun around.
It’s new: The Suns can build a lead
While Nash is lying down.

3s, assists and free throws.
Once more to the lane!
If the Suns can shock the world
Goran Dragic is the name.

The Future of the Knicks

October, 31, 2009
10/31/09
10:50
PM ET
By Chad Ford

Knicks GM Donnie Walsh said something to me this summer that I haven't been able to get out of my head.

Walsh said that the future of the Knicks lies with Danilo Gallinari ... not a certain free-agent-to-be superstar in Cleveland that Walsh can't talk about.

From Walsh's perspective having the cap room to lure a free agent wasn't going to be enough to lure a top talent to New York. Nor was having the most player-friendly coach in the league, Mike D'Antoni.

The best players in the league want to play with other great players, Walsh reasoned. The Knicks need at least one other potential superstar on their roster to help convince a top-tier free agent that New York has a shot at winning in the future.

With the cap expected to drop considerably next season, Walsh's dreams of adding two stud free agents has become a fantasy. Unless the Knicks can move Eddy Curry or Jared Jeffries for an expiring contract this season, they just won't have the money to pay two elite free agents.

So given the Knicks' general lack of talent, who is the other potential superstar that could lure a free agent to New York? Walsh said, matter-of-factly, Gallinari.

Gallinari spent most of his rookie season resting a bad back and Walsh was ripped for passing on Eric Gordon and Brook Lopez for Gallinari.

But Walsh felt like Gallinari was a special player -- another sweet-shooting European forward a la Dirk Nowitzki. If Gallinari could show his potential this season, Walsh reasoned, he has enough star potential to lure an elite free agent this summer.

Three games into the season, Gallanari is making Walsh look like a prophet. He's averaging 22.7 ppg. He's already drained 18 threes and is shooting 50 percent from behind the arc. He's actually a decent defender. Not bad for a 21- year-old kid basically in his rookie season. While three games doesn't make a season, Walsh has to be pleased with what he's seeing. If Gallanari can keep it up, the Knicks may have an important key to winning the free agent sweepstakes this summer.

Not Smelling Like a Rose

May, 28, 2009
5/28/09
11:04
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Remember back when Derrick Rose was in high school, and there were all those articles about how Derrick was so lucky to have his brothers keeping him away from all the scum of recruiting?

Now it's time to start asking how well that worked out.

Of course, you have probably seen the reports about how Memphis is being investigated for this and that. Derrick Rose's brother Reggie's name is coming up a lot. ESPN.com News Services:

Another violation alleged by the NCAA was that a person, according to sources Rose's brother, Reggie, was permitted to travel on the team plane at no cost on two different occasions. The value of the trips was $1,125. The same person was allowed to stay in the team hotel at no cost on five different occasions for a value of $1,135.

"We sell seats all of the time," Johnson said of the team plane. "Anybody is eligible to go. We don't say, 'You can't go because of this or that.' If they pay, they'll go. We'll continue to do that. The way finances are, that's one of the big things on a charter, you have to do things that will help your team. Tiger fans get to go on the charters [if they pay]."

In basketball circles, while Derrick was at Memphis, Reggie was a mystery. He split time between Memphis and Chicago. He jetted around. But he didn't have any obvious means of support.

Dan Wolken of the Memphis Commercial Appeal asked Reggie Rose about it at the time. This is how he responded:

"I've got an AAU foundation out of Chicago through Nike, and I'm a director, and I work with inner-city youth in Chicago," he said. "I'm employed by Nike through AAU basketball. Then I've got a nonprofit organization that helps out kids from the Englewood community."

Wait, did Reggie Rose misunderstand that question? He was asked how he makes money, not how he gives it away. Aren't non-profits for giving goods and services away?

I know some people who work in the non-profit world. Money is tight all around! It's something people tend to do as a sinkhole of money -- not as a source. Reggie Rose tells us he's integral to not one, but two, non-profits.

This is a fascinating answer, in this day and age. I have mentioned more than once on TrueHoop that basketball sources are buzzing about the increased use of non-profits as ways to solve the age-old problem of needing to funnel money to recruits who are supposed to be amateurs. That was a factor in the O.J. Mayo case, and word is non-profits are popping up more regularly around young prospects.

(And let me add here, that I don't much care about someone like Derrick, or even Reggie, Rose making some money. In my perfect world, elite players like Rose would realize the value of their work in above-board fashion -- instead of navigating the underworld of amateur basketball. What concerns me are the people paying. Who are they? What do they want? Why are they so unwilling to let players act freely? When cash is king in steering players to this or that college, agent, sponsor or something else, then we as fans are investing our energy and passion into an endeavor that is not what it purports to be. I'm in the business of understanding what it really is.)

You hate to second-guess somebody's community work, though. So I tried like crazy to find records of Reggie Rose's non-profit. Non-profits are required to file various papers, which are searchable online. Searching every way I know how, I could not find any Chicago-area non-profit with Reggie Rose's name on it. (I also talked to Wolken, who tells me he did the same thing, with the same result.) I found various things with names and missions that theoretically could have been his foundation. But not with Reggie Rose's name.

And here's another weird thing: If you're running a non-profit, and you're close to super-famous Derrick Rose, then you have one thing going for you: The media is all over Derrick Rose, and the media can help you spread the word and raise money. And it's a good cause! You're helping kids! This foundation could even boost Derrick's profile in the eyes of NBA teams and potential corporate sponsors. Wouldn't you be singing the story of the non-profit into every microphone that strayed near you? Where are the photos from this non-profits events?

I also searched for times Reggie Rose mentioned his non-profit to the media. The only one I could find was in response to Wolken's question about how Rose supported himself. 

Help me out here. Help Reggie Rose out. Fill in the gaps. There must be a non-profit or two out there which were the source of Rose's income. Let's find them. Maybe you can search better than I can.

There are two main resources I know about for searching non-profit records: The Foundation Center and Guidestar.

Can you find anything?

And if we can find records of a non-profit, then we can get into the really interesting question of finding out whose money was supporting that foundation.

If you follow basketball closely, then you have probably heard or read a hundred stories about this or that guy doing this or that corrupt thing to recruit this or that player.

But a year later, the details are all pretty hazy, right?

Louis Johnson's (remember him?) account of Valentine's Day 2007, as reported by Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson and Jason Cole, is likely to buck the trend:

Sometime between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., [Rodney] Guillory and [Louis] Johnson headed toward Beverly Hills to meet with Floyd. During the drive, Johnson listened as Guillory and Floyd exchanged several cell phone calls as [USC Coach Tim] Floyd explained where the meeting would take place.

Upon arriving in Beverly Hills, Guillory pulled up to a stretch of cafes in the downtown shopping district, where Floyd was waiting on the sidewalk. Because there were no parking spaces, Guillory asked Johnson to circle the block in the SUV until Guillory was ready to be picked up. Johnson exited the passenger side of the vehicle, at which point Johnson saw Floyd and the two exchanged greetings. Johnson then got into the driver's seat and proceeded to circle the block while Guillory and Floyd met.

After approximately 15 minutes, Johnson saw Guillory waiting on the curb in front of the stretch of cafes and pulled over to pick him up. Once Guillory was inside the vehicle, he produced a white envelope with cash inside. Guillory told Johnson that Floyd had given him "a grand," and Johnson was able to view $100 bills inside the envelope. He said he believed there appeared to be "substantially" more than $1,000, although he did not count the bills.

First things first: You have to allow for the possibility that it's all made up. It's the uncorroborated tale of an accused man. But as Robinson and Cole diligently explain, Johnson's lawyers are adamant that this is the same tale Johnson told federal investigators, and he could be charged with a crime for lying to them.

This is the kind of sexy account that will get people's attention: Big-name coach, Beverly Hills cafe, and an envelope of cash destined for Vegas.

It's better than ready for TV: I suspect some version of this has been made for TV a dozen times.

There's a ton of cash in recruiting basketball players. Sneaker money, agent money, booster money, fraudulent charities, siblings and parents of players getting jobs they wouldn't normally get, AAU coaches driving very nice cars ... Such things have been reported a zillion times, and you'd have to assume that the vast majority of such cases never make it to the public. Put it all together and the amount of money involved would make an envelope with some weekend mad money seem trivial to meaningless.

But mark my words: It could take years, but this is the anecdote that will touch off the most meaningful changes in a long time. This story is hard to forget.

And whether or not this one incident really matters, what it really makes me think is: Why, again, would it be so terrible for someone like O.J. Mayo to earn a living wage for the work he does in the entertainment industry that stars programs like USC basketball? By hiding his value as a star basketball player, aren't you almost guaranteeing you'll create underground ways for the market to realize that value? Wouldn't it be better if that person was the player who does the work, instead of some runner savvy in the ways of the basketball underworld?

First Cup: Thursday

April, 2, 2009
4/02/09
8:09
AM ET
  • Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post: "We see all-court brilliance like this every 25 years or so, when a player is extraordinary in basketball's primary skills: scoring, rebounding and passing. Only Oscar Robertson, in 1962, has averaged double digits in those three categories over an entire season. Only Magic Johnson, in 1982, has come truly close since. It has been such an unreachable mark, like hitting .400 for an entire season or scoring 100 points in a single game, that it's now presumed to be unthinkable that a player would average a triple-double over a full NBA season. ... There's one supreme expert on the topic of the triple-double, and it's Robertson, who said in a conversation on the topic yesterday: 'Oh, I think LeBron has a real chance to do it. He'd have to play more minutes, though. I think I played 44 minutes a game that year, and LeBron is playing, what, 36, 37 minutes [actually 38] a game this year?' ... Told Robertson believes he has a shot, LeBron told me last night during a conversation for ABC that will air Sunday afternoon, 'I understand that records are made to be broken but . . .' His voice trailed off. LeBron shook his head. He can't see it, can't see anybody averaging a triple-double and clearly sees Robertson as what he was, a basketball god. ... When I asked Robertson about LeBron's greatest obstacle to triple-doubledom he said: 'Rebounding. That's going to be more difficult simply because he's not under the basket very much.' He knows it's going to be difficult, but Robertson repeated that he believes LeBron has a chance."
  • A. Sherrod Blakely of Booth Newspapers: "Pistons coach Michael Curry said he is giving some thought to keeping Kwame Brown in the startng lineup and having Rasheed Wallace come off the bench. 'Kwame is doing a great job,' Curry said. 'He's getting rebounds, which is good. But he also takes up a lot of space that's allowing other guys to come in and get rebounds.' In Detroit's past nine games -- all starts for Brown -- the Pistons have outrebounded their opponents by an average of 3.9 rebounds per game. ... As far as Wallace coming off the bench, Curry said 'We'll see. I like Sheed coming off the bench (Tuesday at Cleveland). I think it helps that unit, especially when we're small with Will (Bynum) and Allen (Iverson). When you have those two out there and you're small in the backcourt, you need someone like Sheed, possibly Max (Jason Maxiell) with his activity out there, with him.'"
  • David Whitley of the Orlando Sentinel: "It's hard to rip a team that had won six in a row. But if you witnessed most of those games, you saw the April Fool's special coming. The Magic dilly-dally along for 42 minutes, then hit the gas for the final six. That may work against the Knicks and the Nets, but it sure won't cut it against the Celtics or Cavs. It didn't even work against the Raptors, who shrewdly drew up a defense that left Lewis 'too wide open' on that final shot. Maybe Orlando should have re-signed Penny. He couldn't have done much worse against Jose Calderon than anybody the Magic threw out there. ... 'Hopefully this is a wake-up call,' Stan Van Gundy said. 'It's all about preparing yourself for life after April 19, or whenever the last game of the regular season is,' Anthony Johnson said. It's actually April 15, Tax Day. The Holy Grail is there for the taking. If the Magic can't grasp it by then, nobody will be in a joking mood."
  • Chris Tomasson of INDenverTimes: "Not that Carmelo Anthony ever has been in a Game 7, but he figures this is a game to roll out all the clichés. 'It's like a championship type of game,' said the Nuggets forward. 'Like a Game 7 game. So we're looking forward to that.' Anthony is referring to Thursday night's Northwest Division battle with Utah at the Pepsi Center, a game that has loomed big for a while but now appears much bigger for the Jazz than for the Nuggets. ... 'It's monumental,' Utah forward Carlos Boozer said of what Thursday's game means after what happened Tuesday. 'We'll get our minds right, learn from some of the mistakes we made (at Portland), get our minds right for Denver.'"
  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "Zydrunas Ilgauskas made a surprise visit to Parkside Intermediate School in Westlake on Wednesday, trading a youngster an autographed basketball for the ball he scored the 10,000th point of his career with last Saturday at The Q. After the victory over Atlanta, the ball was thrown into the stands, where it was caught by a boy who was just thrilled it landed in his lap -- and didn't realize its significance. A report in Mike McIntyre's Tipoff column in Monday's Plain Dealer indicated Ilgauskas was interested in finding the ball. The boy's mother contacted the Cavs and the exchange was arranged, although Ilgauskas said he also would have been fine with the youngster keeping the ball."
  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "He's a leading candidate for NBA Rookie of the Year. Everyone from LeBron James to Chris Paul has praised his play. Everyone from Doc Rivers to Phil Jackson has lauded his demeanor. So, Derrick Rose, how would you grade your rookie season? 'I'd probably go with a B or B-minus,' Rose says -- without a smile. 'We haven't won enough and I've committed too many turnovers.' Ah, yes, those pesky 2.5 turnovers per game. Those are what stand out to Rose beyond his 16.6 points, 6.2 assists and 47 percent shooting. Rose's humility has been well documented, leading to some hilarious understatements. Perhaps one favorite was Rose's recent answer when asked if he thinks he should win Rookie of the Year: 'Only if we make the playoffs because I've just played OK.'"
  • Don Seeholzer of The Pioneer Press: "For all the benefits of experience, youth does have its advantages. Take Kevin Love. At a time of the season when many of his veteran teammates are limping around with injuries, the Timberwolves' rookie forward appears to be getting stronger. Love's 23 points and 12 rebounds in Tuesday night's loss to Dallas gave him double-doubles in back-to-back games and five of the past nine. One of just two Wolves players, with forward Ryan Gomes, to have played in all 75 games this season, Love said he actually feels pretty fresh. 'I was feeling good in warm-ups tonight,' he said Tuesday. 'I got a good warm-up in, got a little bit hot and just came out and hit my first jump shot. I feel great.' With a rookie-high 25 double-doubles on the season, Love could get some votes for the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, although Chicago's Derrick Rose is the favorite."
  • Bill Bradley of the Sacramento Bee: "After watching the Kings retire the numbers of Chris Webber a
    nd Vlade Divac the past few weeks, it's apparent they need to honor one more individual: former coach Rick Adelman. Now with the Houston Rockets, Adelman coached the Kings during those Webber/Divac years that brought the spotlight to Sacramento. In eight seasons, he helped meld a roster with a deft touch. He won at least 50 games for five consecutive seasons. And in his last few seasons, he kept winning despite an aging lineup that was piling up injuries. This honor probably will not happen as long as the Maloofs own the team. It was well documented that they didn't feel welcomed by Adelman and felt estranged when they let his contract expire in 2006."
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "Only now is Shaun Livingston, the 23-year-old point guard, anywhere close to again doing the things that once came naturally. And it's the Thunder that's given Livingston the chance to prove he still can do those things in the NBA after signing the former No. 4 overall pick in 2004 to a two-year contract on Tuesday. 'You do a lot of soul-searching in two years not being able to play,' said Livingston. There were times during Livingston's three healthy seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers that he admittedly took nights off. Relied on God-given ability. 'When you're talented like that and you kind of got the world right next to you almost, it's easy to kind of overlook it,' Livingston said. ... 'The biggest thing is I'm showing flashes,' Livingston said. 'It's going to be a process. I don't think (the knee) is going to be 100 percent until possibly next season. But for me to show flashes, that's big for me, because it shows what I can do if it gets stronger and better in due time.'"
  • Amy Shipley of The Washington Post: "Alonzo Mourning said NBA players should prepare to accept less money during the next round of collective bargaining, which is expected to begin before the expiration of the current deal in December 2010. NBA owners have an option to extend the contract through the 2011-12 season, but they are not expected to do so. If tough times continue, 'you gotta cut salaries,' Mourning said. 'You do. You have to cut salaries. ... It's going to be interesting how [NBA Players Association chief] Billy Hunter handles that whole situation because I think it's going to be a pretty interesting fight in the next round.' Added Mourning: 'We have to be treated fairly, but at the same time, we have to prepare for reality. Reality is making the proper adjustments based on the economy.'"
  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "Minutes before the start of Wednesday's McDonald's All-American Game, Tim Hardaway sat a couple rows up in the BankUnited Center and couldn't fully understand what he had seen the last couple of weeks. Two weekends ago, sparse crowds showed up at AmericanAirlines Arena to watch the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Wednesday, high school basketball's most high-profile game was in town and it couldn't fill a 7,000-seat arena. 'I still can't figure it out,' said Hardaway, who's from hoops-happy Chicago, where a decent junior varsity game can draw more than the 5,981 who came to the BankUnited Center on Wednesday. 'I just don't know.' It is rather perplexing why South Florida hasn't become more of a basketball area. But perhaps even more mystifying is why, with all the great athletes that come out of Dade and Broward counties, there aren't more high-quality basketball players being developed."
  • Jerry Crowe of the Los Angeles Times: "Part of the attraction of feasting at Big Nate's Barbeque is that, if your timing is right, you might just run into Big Nate himself. Or you might not. Owner and NBA legend Nate Thurmond regularly spends four days a week at his restaurant in San Francisco's working-class South of Market neighborhood, but mostly he keeps out of sight. 'I have a thing about having a business where people come to see you,' the Hall of Famer tells a visitor to his office/storage room above the eatery. 'They come one time, waste your time, so to speak, and then they're gone. But if they come in for the food, they don't need to see me -- and they'll come back.' It's a plan that seems to work because Big Nate's has been in business for nearly 20 years, serving up ribs once described by the San Francisco Chronicle as 'wonderfully tender and not too fatty' and chicken that's 'even better -- moist and smoky.' Says Thurmond, who owned a more upscale soul food restaurant before opening Big Nate's in 1990, 'I've got a good product, bottom line. It's not about, come here and see Nate.'"

Just Bite the Apple

December, 8, 2008
12/08/08
5:35
PM ET

You know when people talk about rookies learning the league? Getting their routines down? 

I assume when he's 30, Derrick Rose won't roll around in bed with a knife. But right now, he's 20, and he has a knife wound.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reports:

Rose missed Monday's practice after he needed 10 stitches to close a gash suffered when he said he rolled onto a knife while eating an apple in bed.

"It was a silly incident," Rose said. "I was cutting up some food and I laid on a knife getting lazy in bed. I went to go get a bottle of water, came back, forgot the knife was there, then sat down and sliced my arm.

"I panicked when it first happened and called my trainer. It was painful but I should be alright."

Athletic trainer Fred Tedeschi drove Rose to Highland Park Hospital shortly after 8 a.m., where doctors closed the wound.

"It was a large wound, but they healed it up," Rose said. "I'm good. I could've practiced today, but they told me to wait until tomorrow. Most likely, I'm going to play." 

Every season has its story.

Last year, there was Kevin Garnett's trade, and Kobe Bryant's will, driving a resurgence of one of basketball's great rivalries. Other years have witnessed the rise of Michael Jordan, or the fall of Magic Johnson.

Bigwigs, coaches, players, experts, insiders ... we asked all kinds of people to stare into the crystal ball, and here are their best guesses at the story lines that will drive this NBA season.

On the cusp of the 2008-2009 season, what will be this year's great story?

David Stern, NBA Commissioner

1. The resurgence of the Eastern Conference
2. The young talent of Portland
3. The return of Andrew Bynum
4. What do Artest and Scola (off of an impressive Olympic showing) do for Houston?

Adam Silver, Deputy NBA Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer

President Obama will install a basketball court in the White House (replacing Nixon's bowling alley, Carter's tennis court, Clinton's running track and Bush's baseball diamond) and basketball will supplant ping pong as the global sport of diplomacy. 

Mark Cuban Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks Owner

Will the NBA proactively promote itself and its teams to take marketshare away from other entertainment options?

When the economy slows, and competitors have issues, that's the time to double down and take marketshare.

David Thorpe David Thorpe, ESPN NBA Analyst

"Who's the best player in the world" used to come down to a candidate or two. Now, I can think of five to seven with a claim. This season we may get clarity on that. And, I wonder if teams will "dump salary" due to scary economic conditions. If they do, which big spenders will become instant contenders? L.A. and Boston proved last year it can happen.

Craig Smith Craig Smith, Minnesota Timberwolf

I think the trade of Artest to Houston was as big as any of last season's moves, so it'll be interesting to see if that makes things even more competitive at the top of the West. Maybe this will be the move that finally gets Houston (and T-Mac) past the First Round.

Keith Smart, Golden State Warriors Assistant Coach

One of the biggest stories of this season is going to be off the court, and that is how will the recent economic woes carry over into the NBA this season? What about season ticket holders? Those who come to a few games a year? What about corporate sponsors? There are so many people affected by this issue, and our league is not immune from any of it.

Stephen Jackson Stephen Jackson, Golden State Warrior

There'll be big talk in Houston, because Tracy McGrady has had his injuries and everyone knows about his trouble in the playoffs. There will be some clash in people's minds when he and Ron Artest work well together. And the Warriors -- we'll be there at the top of the West even without Monta Ellis for the first part of the season, and people are going to be talking about that.

Justin Wolfers Justin Wolfers, Economist

In four words: the Portland Trail Blazers. After going .500 in an Oden-less season, the Trail Blazers have a lot to look forward to in 2008-09. Alongside 7-foot Greg Oden at center, Portland will have the ability to overpower their opponents with 7-foot-1 Przybilla, 6-foot-11 Aldridge, and 6-foot-11 Frye. This combination should drastically improve Portland's defense, which ranked 21st in blocks per game and 25th in rebounds per game in 2007-08. Likewise, Portland's offense will be one to be reckoned with as Roy, Outlaw, Webster, and Aldridge (the four Trail Blazers that averaged double-digits points last season) will see more open shots with the inside-outside offense that will result from Oden drawing double-teams down low.

Jonathan Givony Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress

The big story of the 2008-2009 season will be a new focus on what's going on in European basketball, both on and off the court. Can an inexperienced teenaged American point guard like Brandon Jennings dislodge the NCAA's monopoly on domestic talent development? Will Josh Childress justify his unprecedented salary in Greece, and will his experience there be positive enough for other important NBA players to want to follow him? Will the Russian ogliarchs be able to afford the insane amount of money they spent to lure free agents from the NBA, especially in the wake of the global financial crisis and the newly weakened Euro? What happens when the results don't go the way the owners want? Will they keep writing checks?

Andy Ferguson and Ricardo Viramontes Andy Ferguson and Ricardo Viramontes, Wieden+Kennedy Creatives
  • Following a Celtics 11-0 run against the Bobcats, Kevin Garnett screams so loudly and intensely that he bursts an eardrum and loses 40% of his hearing.
  • Forty-six games into the season, people officially run out of different ways to speculate about Greg Oden looking older than his age and agree to stop talking about it. Or, Greg Oden finds a small child living in his growth plate.
  • Kobe battle-raps Shaq during halftime of NBA All-Star game. And wins! After L.A. sweeps Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs, Kobe leads off his post-game press conference by saying, "Somebody ask Shaq how that tastes."
  • Four members of the Phoenix Suns starting lineup qualify for USGA Senior Tour.
  • In true
    M.J. fashion, LeBron retires from basketball and signs a two-year contract with the N.Y. Yankees.
  • A svelte Eddy Curry stars in a series of commercials for the Mike D'Antoni Miracle Weight Loss Diet Plan.
  • The Oklahoma City Thunder reveals that its logo was actually designed by a second grader. While viewed as irresponsible, even the harshest critics are forced to admit that it's pretty good ... for a second grader.
  • Mark Cuban shocks the NBA community by not doing anything.
  • At the end of the season, Michael Beasley asks for a trade because he's "not used to staying somewhere for more than a year."
  • Dennis Rodman accuses Stephon Marbury of trying to "out-crazy" him.
David Berri David Berri, Economist, Author, Statistics Expert

The Boston Celtics are expected to make the Finals, likely against the Lakers. I think the Lakers with Andrew Bynum, though, are likely to prove better. This means that Phil Jackson is likely to win his 10th title against Red Auerbach's Celtics. To make it even more interesting, if the Lakers win the title in four or five games -- and the Lakers have home-court advantage -- Jackson will get his tenth title in Boston. Given the age of the players on the Lakers, this could be the beginning of another Jackson-led dynasty. In fact, this could be the beginning of Jackson's fourth three-peat (or first four-peat). If this is the beginning of another Laker dynasty, then Kobe Bryant is going to become part of the conversation when people discuss the greatest players ever. In my view, the numbers don't support Kobe being part of that conversation. But if he is part of another three titles, that is where he will be.

Sam Mitchell Sam Mitchell, Toronto Raptors Coach

Can anyone in the East possibly knock off the Boston Celtics?

They still have the Big Three all-stars who dominated the conference last season.

Jeffrey Ma Jeffrey Ma, Statistical Expert and Founder of Citizen Sports

Two stories will emerge out of the Northwest this season. Kevin Love, a native of Oregon, will be the Rookie of the Year and will draw comparisons to a young Elton Brand (although no one ever makes cross-racial comparisons). He will show relentlessness on the boards and a soft touch from the perimeter. The other story from the northwest will be the Portland Trail Blazers emerging as the most improved team in the NBA and advancing past the first round of the playoffs. With a strong nucleus of Roy, Aldridge and Oden the team will surprise many teams that don't come to play.

Dave Zirin Dave Zirin, Author and Journalist

The story that people see but dare not articulate about is how the economy will affect the NBA. On Monday, Stern announced that the NBA offices would be laying off 9% of their work force. He cited the crisis as the fundamental reason but the problem will run much deeper than that. To paraphrase the expression about Michigan, if the bottom line in sports catches a cold, Stern-World will get hit with influenza. First and foremost, the NBA, with its high level of casual fans, is very susceptible to fluctuations in the economy. Second, the NBA doesn't have the diverse revenue streams of baseball or certainly football. Not even close. The absence of personal cable television contracts or massive network agreements means that the NBA has always been more reliant on ticket sales and merchandise to fill its coffers. Its non-guaranteed revenue is tied to the disposable income of the typical fan. It will be interesting to see how this affects free agent positioning, the attractiveness of Europe, and the beginnings of serious saber rattling in advance of the next collective bargaining agreement. 

 
 
Photos courtesy of those pictured, except the following, all via Getty Images: David Stern photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE, Adam Silver photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE, Mark Cuban photo by Noel Vasquez, Craig Smith photo by David Sherman/NBAE, Keith Smart photo by Thearon Henderson, Stephen Jackson photo by Layne Murdoch, Sam Mitchell photo by Glenn James/NBAE.

Monday Bullets

October, 13, 2008
10/13/08
2:01
PM ET
  • Beno Udrih makes Kobe Bryant fall over, which gets him almost enough good karma to overcome the play later in the game when he gave the Lakers a layup while taking some time to yell at Jason Thompson.
  • Layoffs at the NBA.
  • Links to some of the best sports journalism ever. One of my favorite stories ever is John McPhee's Playboy article about Wimbeldon, called Centre Court. You still can't read it online, but at least this tells you where to buy the book. (Via Kottke)
  • On Mike D'Antoni, the Knicks, and defense. Knickerblogger: "I'd be a bit surprised to see the Knicks end the season above the median in defensive efficiency. Duhon's addition will certainly help but really, unless Mardy Collins buys a jump shot from somewhere, no single defender on this roster is the equal of Marion, Raja Bell, (a motivated) Amare, and perhaps not even an ancient Grant Hill from D'Antoni's Phoenix teams. One of the things I'm most ambivalent about with D'Antoni is his almost Isiah-like penchant for delusion. I like that he sticks up for his guys, but I worry a bit about how much of his own BS he buys sometimes. I also worry a bit about his sensitivity to criticism in a season that isn't likely to go all that well."
  • The Brook Lopez personnel file.
  • Grant Hill to ESPN's Marc Stein: "'You know what?' Hill said. 'Guys wanted this. Guys, I think, got to a point where they wanted to play defense, we wanted to get better in that area. So the time was right for a coach to come in and try to make change. Everybody's on board. Sometimes, when you're a 50-win team and you've had success, you're not going to buy in. But everybody's buying in, trying to get better. ... Guys are starting to believe, believe in [Porter], believe in each other. The things that we're working on are certainly an adjustment, but we've already seen in less than two weeks the things that we worked on [during a week of practices in Tucson] are playing out now. We just went to Utah. ... I know it's a preseason game, but we saw some good things defensively, good things in the half court, things that we never did before. You start to say, 'Wow, this actually may work.'"
  • Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune: "The big story from the Jazz's perspective was Andrei Kirilenko's play off the bench. Even with Carlos Boozer back, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan opted to start C.J. Miles and have Kirilenko serve as the team's sixth man. I wouldn't read too much into plus/minus in the preseason, when the lineups on the floor are unconventional to say the least, but Kirilenko's numbers were darn impressive. The Jazz outscored Portland 52-39 in the 24:31 Kirilenko played Sunday. They were especially strong when it came to closing out quarters. The Jazz outscored Portland 10-6 to end the first after Kirilenko checked in with 4:34 left and 10-2 in the third quarter after Kirilenko checked in with 1:52 remaining. Kirilenko was all the difference in the first quarter -- he factored into all five of the Jazz's scoring possessions -- and came along for the ride in the third -- when Kyle Korver's three-pointer and Deron Williams three-point play drove the Jazz. The biggest thing that can be said about Kirilenko was he even made Kyrylo Fesenko look good. Fesenko and Kirilenko have lockers next to each other and Kirilenko made a point of looking for Fesenko whenever he drove the lane. Fesenko had a 10-point, 10-rebound performance, which Sloan said afterward was the game of his life. Another interesting thing was how much Kirilenko's postgame comments suggested that he was truly thinking about the game as he sat on the bench. Kirilenko said he wanted to spark the Jazz in the first quarter by getting inside and trying to throw some quick passes around the basket. He also talked to Brevin Knight about taking advantage of the Blazers' overplaying defense and got two backdoor alley-oop dunks. There's still four preseason games left, but I think Kirilenko is destined to start the season as the Jazz's sixth man."
  • Mascots eating cheerleaders.
  • Sebastian Telfair may be suspended now for something that happened ages ago.
  • David Stern says he expects there will be some regular season NBA games in London in the next few years.
  • The Sun Sentinel's Ira Winderman: "Another uneven display by Mario Chalmers. Uh, no, he's not starting on opening night."
  • Thinking about Elgin Baylor's chances of winning a lawsuit against the Clippers.
  • Having Ron Artest as a teammate can make you a little plucky, apparently. Tracy McGrady is one of several players who gets a little chippy in a Rockets/Celtics pre-season game.
  • Eddie Jones, who once said he'd sooner retire than play for a bad team, is now a Pacer.
  • More bad financial news for the Thunder's deepest-pocketed owner.
  • Stephon Marbury, working hard.
  • UPDATE: Video evidence that the Denver Nuggets do, in fact, practice playing defense. Also, at the end of the video, watch Allen Iverson struggle to keep his shorts from falling down.
  • UPDATE: Arguably the best player in the WNBA, Lauren Jackson, says she will take off WNBA seasons in Olympic years to better prepare with the Australian national team.

Thursday Bullets

October, 9, 2008
10/09/08
1:37
PM ET
  • What's better than a maximum contract? A max-plus contract. Welcome to the world of up-front cash, adjustments for future increases in the salary cap, and trade kickers.
  • It's not like everything is perfect in Europe. One of the greatest coaches not in the NBA, CSKA's Ettore Messina, weighs in on many troubles in European basketball, from his disappointment in the Italian National team, the lack of a system to develop young players, political infighting, and economic instability.
  • Marvin Williams wants you to know that if you have not seen Mario West play in a real game, then you have been missing out. He's a high-energy terror.
  • Did you see that in his first ever game under Mike D'Antoni, Zach Randolph had five assists? (The Knicks as a team matched their assist high from last season.) That number leapt off the page to me. I thought it might be a career high (in fact, I am wrong ... he has had as many as eight, and even had six once last season). Those five assists helped him get on the right side of the assist/turnover ratio. Last night he had five assists compared to four turnovers, whereas on his career he has 734 assists compared to 1,002 turnovers. If he can get his assists up, and his turnovers down, he becomes a vastly more valuable player.
  • Gilbert Arenas talking to SLAM's Myles Brown: "I've got an invention. I'll let your hear it, but if you make money you've gotta hit me off. SLAM: I got you. It's called the Cool Aid (note: I couldn't tell if he said Cool Aid or Cool Wave. Either way, copyright pending...) It's like the microwave, but the Cool Aid. So for instance you can put a warm soda in the machine and boom, it's cold. Most people, "Oh no, you call that the freezer, but nah, the freezer takes two minutes. Just like you've got the oven and the microwave, you've got the freezer and the Cool Aid. SLAM: But what else would you want to make cool besides soda? Gil: Anything. Like if your ice cream is melting, boom, put it in. Beep!"
  • Trainer Brian McCormick: "The reason to draft or recruit 'potential' is to develop the potential. However, college coaches do not have enough time to work with players to really develop players to maximize their potential. Players develop because college programs take weight lifting far more seriously than high school programs, but technical skills like shooting rarely develop in college. For a player to develop greatly, he must take the initiative and work out diligently on his own, which is why a college or NBA team must assess psychological and mental characteristics as much as physical characteristics, because ultimately the player's competitiveness, desire and work ethic will determine his development and success as much as his physical gifts."
  • Benjamin Golliver of BlazersEdge with a funny cheap shot at Warrior guard Marcus Williams, who was famously convicted of stealing laptops at UConn: "According to the Warriors Media Guide, Richard Hendrix's 3 favorite items are his Bible, his laptop and his phone. Funny thing about that: Marcus Williams also listed Richard Hendrix's laptop as one of his 3 favorite things." It's gallows humor, really. Blazer fans are just bitter that the list of players recovering from injuries -- Brandon Roy, Steve Blake, Greg Oden, Channing Frye -- now includes Rudy Fernandez (sprained ankle) and Martell Webster (stress fracture in foot).
  • If you want to fake a famous NBA moment in your commercial, do so knowing you will incur the wrath of The Painted Area. Yes, this rule applies even if Julius Erving is in the commercial.
  • Chris Herrington of the Memphis Flyer, after watching the Grizzlies vs. Wizards: "According to a team source I talked to after the draft, and also reported in the Commercial Appeal, the Grizzlies had a draft-day deal in place that would have sent Javaris Crittenton to the Washington Wizards for their first-round draft pick (#18 - where the Grizzlies were set to take Courtney Lee). The deal was contingent on certain players being off the board when the Wizards picked. When Nevada seven-footer JaVale McGee was still available, the Wizards declined the deal. McGee looked raw in his pre-draft workout with the Grizzlies, but boy did he look good tonight. McGee came off the bench to score 20 points on 8-12 shooting, grab 8 rebounds, and block three shots. Despite banking in a straightaway jumper, McGee didn't show a lot of skill, but he showed tremendous athleticism for his size and impressive assertiveness for a rookie. He ran the floor, got up above the rim, and dunked with flair."
  • Andrew Bynum lost his spot in the starting lineup for a game. When he eventually checked in, the PA blared that "Welcome Back" theme from Welome Back Kotter.
  • Andrew Vanacore of the New Orleans Times-Picayune quotes Hornets owner George Shinn on the mood among players after Katrina: "Our athletes did not want to come back. They did not want to come back to New Orleans because of everything they read: It's not safe, the educational system is bad. There's potholes. I'm mean, there's potholes everywhere! I had players coming to me and saying 'Mr. Shinn, I don't want to go back to New Orleans.' I said, 'Well, would you like to be traded?'"(Via Ken Berger)
  • Nothing wrong with watching some Darryl Dawkins highlights. That second time he shatters the backboard -- think about the impact on your hands. That's using your hand in a high-speed attack on metal, and winning. (Via Ball in Europe)
  • Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic: "When it was observed that [Steve Nash] almost seemed more comfortable running the half-court sets instead of deciding when he could run a transition game, Nash said, 'It's almost like, 'Are we allowed to do this, Dad?'"
  • You know those fans who scream at players all game long? Mario Latilleon is proud to be one, and writes about it for 3 Shades of Blue: "I spent most of the first quarter calling DeShawn Stevenson "Soulja Boy" everytime he was within earshot. When Stevenson got a rebound or played defense, I kept at it with the Soulja Boy chants. When the Grizzlies shot free throws, I really
    got at it: not only would I scream Soulja Boy, I would stand and hop back doing the superman move from the song/dance. With three or four minutes left in the 1st quarter, it finally seemed like I got DeShawn Stevenson's attention. On the bench, Deshawn Stevenson started yelling something at me; unfortunately I could not hear what he was saying. Eton Thomas, sitting next to Stevenson was yelling at me too, but I really could not make out what they were saying. Within a minute of them yelling at me, a Damon Stoudamire look-a-like doing security for the Wizards came over with an police officer and asked me to stop heckling Stevenson. Since I was wearing a Damon Stoudamire jersey at the time, I thought he would give me a little more love. ... When the game was over, the Wizards left the bench and were walking across the court fifteen feet away from me. While I was looking at my cell phone responding to a text, I saw a hand towel flying towards me out of the side of eye. The towel was soaked in ice cold water. I did not see which Wizard was the thrower, but I originally thought it was Caron Butler because I noticed he was grinning at me. Sneaking around Butler with Roger McDowell like stealth was Soulja Boy himself; Deshawn Stevenson. The most telling fact of the wet towel was the hit was below my calf on my leg. With a shot like that, Stevenson had to be the thrower. Soulja Boy not only no Lebron James, he's no Big Shot Bob either."
  • Some good insight into Lawrence Frank.
  • UPDATE: You ever go to the gym and hop on some bike, or treadmill, or elliptical machine or something? I'm not crazy about those machines, but I use them, and when I do I tend to look around the room and think: All this energy we're putting into these machines ... couldn't it be used for something? Couldn't a room full of people on bicycles create some electricity or heat that could be put to use? Here's a little gym that's doing just that. And a follow-up idea: If the power is out in your house in the dead of winter, wouldn't it be cool to have a bike or treadmill in the basement that you could run on to generate a little power for a heater?

First Cup: Thursday

October, 9, 2008
10/09/08
9:47
AM ET
  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Time: "Assistant coach Kurt Rambis said Odom's game was 'fair to middling, maybe poor,' and that Odom 'didn't seem focused out there.' Jackson took it a step further. 'I just got through telling him that this is really basketball now,' Jackson said Wednesday. 'He looks like he's either curling or doing some other kind of sport. He's not playing basketball. The first shot he took was a three-pointer in the middle of the third quarter? That was pretty interesting.' Jackson was non-committal when asked whether Odom would continue handling the ball."
  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "Daniel Gibson's father, Byron, is a close friend to Cavs assistant general manager Lance Blanks. It was Gibson's father who negotiated the sharp-shooting guard's five-year, $21 million deal. It was announced on July 16, and it didn't take long for agents around the country to voice their displeasure with the contract. Agents thought the Cavs took advantage of the father-and-son duo at the negotiating table. Many thought Gibson could have gotten more money had he been represented by a savvy, veteran agent. Gibson was a restricted free agent and there was little -- if any -- talking done with other teams. The Cavs bristle at such talk. They felt Gibson signed a fair deal. He will earn $3.7 million this season. The fifth year of the contract -- worth $4.8 million in 2012-13 -- is only half-guaranteed. 'The deal I got was good, fair,' Gibson said. 'An agent might have gotten the same thing, possibly more.' Gibson, 22, said getting absolute top dollar right now was not important. 'In the end, it wasn't about the money,' he said. 'At this point in my career, I wanted to set the table. In the future, I want to set the table for my family. Right now, it's a matter of how much I love the game. I would play the game for free.'" TrueHoop First Cup
  • Geoff Calkins of the Memphis Commercial Appeal: "Was Rome built in a day? Were the World Champion Boston Celtics built in a single offseason? Er, wait. Don't answer that last one. But why not be optimistic? You can look at FedExForum as 15/16ths empty if you like. I choose to see it as is 1/16th filled. It was stunning, though, to see just how empty -- I mean, partially filled -- the place was, even given the understanding that the entire metro area has either given up on or become alienated from the Grizzlies. Yes, it was an exhibition game. Yes, it conflicted with Yom Kippur. You still don't expect to walk into an NBA arena 10 minutes before the opening tip to find hundreds of people in the lower bowl."
  • Rob Parker of The Detroit News: "On the surface, the Pistons look like the same old, same old. There was no blockbuster trade, no free-agent signing in that got fans pumped about the upcoming season. But when you take a closer look, the Pistons have something new that they didn't have last season. Enter Rodney Stuckey. Before you say Stuckey was here last season -- which he was -- this Stuckey wasn't. This Stuckey is expected to have a much bigger role than last season when he came off the bench to usually spell either Chauncey Billups or Richard Hamilton. This Stuckey, 22, will now get nearly equal minutes as the two starters. Last season, Billups averaged 32 and Hamilton 33. Stuckey played 19 minutes a game."
  • Mike McGraw of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald: "Asked if the rumors were true that he consumed little else but Gummi bears last year as a college student, Bulls rookie Derrick Rose admitted he had a weakness not only for Gummi bears but all candy. 'At Halloween, I'd take all my nieces' and nephews' candy,' he said. 'It hit me right when training camp started, I started to know I have to change things like eating, resting. Really, the game is a mental game. I had to get my IQ a little higher.'"
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "No one asks Yao Ming if center is the position that will make-or-break the season. 'Weak link' does not come up when Tracy McGrady is asked about the shooting guards. Rafer Alston hears it all the time. Aaron Brooks is asked loaded questions about whether he is 'ready.' For point guards with the Rockets, it's part of the job, as much as bringing the ball up or getting it to the stars at other positions. It is a point neither contests, with the assumption the Rockets can go only as far as their point guards allow an accepted part of their lives."
  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "Barely a week into his first Spurs training camp, point guard George Hill has already accomplished something no rookie should be able to. He's made a veteran All-Star jealous. 'Pop is not screaming at him the way he screamed at me,' Tony Parker said, recalling his own hellish start as an 18-year-old point guard prodigy under coach Gregg Popovich. 'I always tell George he's so lucky. He doesn't have to go through near what I had to go through.' Parker has a theory as to his coach's newfound sense of Zen-like patience. 'I think Pop is getting soft,' Parker said with a grin."
  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani believes that fellow countryman Danilo Gallinari compares favorably to Hedo Turkoglu, the Magic's versatile power forward who can also play shooting guard. 'He can do everything,' said Bargnani, the Raptors' former No. 1 pick. 'In Italy he always played small forward. I think he can play big forward.' Gallinari, the Knicks' first-round pick, remains sidelined with a sore back. 'It's too bad that (Danilo) is not ready,' said Maurizio Gherardini, the Raptors' VP of Basketball Operations who is also from Italy. 'He needs the preseason to get another taste of the league after playing just one game in the summer league. But I saw the warmup today. He looked pretty good. He's got everything -- talent, size -- to be a great addition to this team.'"
  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "A little more than a week after Carmelo Anthony proclaimed to be a changed player -- a new-and-improved version ready to truly make the team his -- there is tangible evidence he is headed in the right direction. His teammates say Anthony has been more vocal in practice, particularly in directing defensive traffic. He's encouraged players and has been an active participant in running, not something many star players are concerned with. 'I've seen some of it,' guard Anthony Carter said. 'Just like right now, he was running, trying to push everybody. He's trying to tell people where to go, and how to rotate and things like that.'"
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "It took more than three years and four visits to Phoenix, but the boos for Hawks guard Joe Johnson were barely audible Wednesday night."
  • Sam Amick of the Sacramento Bee: "It wasn't that [Spencer Hawes] missed 7 of 9 shots from the field, but the way his identity crisis continued as he settled for perimeter looks (eight of his attempts came from 12 feet and beyond) and appeared timid to enter the paint. It wasn't just that he was pushed around by Greg Oden, whose 285-pound frame trumps Hawes' by 40 pounds, it was the haphazard defensive positioning that led to three quick fouls and no signs of improvement on that end. With Brad Miller facing a five-game suspension to start the regular season and Hawes scheduled to take his place, the learning-curve cushion of last season no longer exists. A day after the exhibition opener, Hawes' discombobulated play left his coach and teammates searching for answers."
  • Mike Sherman of The Oklahoman: "Remember all the folks who told us Oklahoma City was delusional to think it was getting an NBA team? Remember those who laughed when we thought the Hornets might stay? Remember when we were told that Mr. Microsoft, Mr. Coffee and Slade Gorton and all those superior intellects, millionaires and 'revealing emails' were going to force Clay Bennett's group to sell the team? None of that, none of those people, mattered on Wednesday night when Oklahoma City's -- that's right, OKLAHOMA CITY'S -- NBA team made its debut in Billings, Mont. The Oklahoma City Thunder might not be scheduling any ring ceremonies or NBA championship parades in this decade. But this preseason game was no small thing. It marked the first time a major league team that belongs to and in this city -- and this city alone -- ever took the court."
  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "Until J.J. Redick actually does something notable in a real NBA game (not the 12 points he scored in that laughable 118-80 exhibition victory Wednesday against the Charlotte Bobcats), you will not see his name or his face anywhere near this column. I just can't take it anymore. Every time I open up the sports section, every time I turn on a sports radio show, every time I click onto a Magic message board, all you see or hear is J.J., J.J., J.J.. I called up Sentinel Magic writer Brian Schmitz's blog Wednesday at OrlandoSentinel.com and three of the four most recent posts were about J.J. For crying out loud, look at all the pictures of J.J. around this column. Even our photographer Gary Green is infatuated with the guy. The only way J.J. could possibly get more publicity is if he were having an affair with Sarah Palin."
  • Frank Dell'Apa of The Boston Globe: "Darius Miles was 3 for 3 from the field for 6 points in a 16-minute stint in his first game since April 2006 with Portland. Miles missed the last two seasons after microfracture surgery on his right knee. 'I couldn't sleep last night, I was so nervous,' Miles said. "I'm not an option on this team, I'm just a role player. But that's fine with me. I love the way this team plays defense. This was my first time going five, six days in a row [in practice] in two years. I knew once I got past that Sunday practice, I'd have a day off. I've had no pain, no nothing. It's just been discomfort.'"

Wednesday Bullets

October, 8, 2008
10/08/08
1:10
PM ET
  • You ever feel like ditching your humdrum life to see if you can catch on with a semi-pro team in the Czech Republic? This guy did it, and wrote a book about it.
  • For years, the question has been: How can you keep Rasheed Wallace from mixing it up with the referees? The answer might be in a curry-flavored candy bar.
  • About the 0:44 mark of this video, you'll hear a guy say "OWWWW .... yeeee ha ha ha" in a way that seems to encompass how most of Portland is feeling about Rudy Fernandez right now.  Sergio Rodriguez and Rudy Fernandez have a history together (here it is in video) and it shows. And Dave from BlazersEdge on Greg Oden: "I assume that the minute he stepped on the court everybody saw the difference between Greg Oden and not just everybody else in the game, but pretty much everybody else on the planet. I mean, 'RAAAAAWWWR! GREG SMASH NOW!' What? Huh? Say, you're pretty hu& 'YOU MOVE NOW! GREG DUNK BIG!' Oh sorry ... I was standing in your way there. My mistake. (I don't mean to convey any limited conversational skills on Greg's part ... there just aren't polite words and whole sentences for what he does out there. It's primal.) His offense obviously needs some work, but then again what's wrong with a back-down dribble, a spin, or an offensive rebound and then a monster slam? Sounds good to me. The commentators hit it on the head when they said even with Greg's limited repertoire so far you'll pretty much have to double team him just to keep him from taking whatever he wants. That's going to be a huge key to Portland's offense (and a good reason for those distance shooters to hit). You see already how he can catch the ball softly and pass. Start drooling. Once he gets a little jump hook going you can say bye-bye to your defensive plans. In the meantime he needs to take a page out of Shaq's book and simply run down the court and take position about three feet from the hoop on offense. No fancy moves necessary. Catch, pivot, slam, hear the crowd roar (or complain, depending on the venue)."
  • ESPN's John Hollinger has predicted the Lakers will 57 games. David Berri of the Wages of Wins says that number is "almost certainly" too low.
  • Best name in basketball, and it's not close: Steeve Ho You Fat. He's playing in France. Part of my brain refuses to belive this is real. But it appears it is.
  • Losing P-I-G to Dominique Wilkins. But if it had been a competition to set the best pick, 'Nique would have been chopped liver to "Nick the Pick."
  • Dan Labbe of Cleveland.com says Anderson Varejao is one of those energy players whose contributions really don't show up in the box score (I'm hoping that one day soon we'll figure out some stats where his contributions really do show up reliably. That's the kind of stuff stat geeks are working on these days.): "Andy's not about numbers. In fact, last season when he seemed to focus more on scoring and putting up numbers, he had a poor season. Fans and media alike cringed when he tried to put the ball on the floor or shoot a 15-foot jump shot. But at the same time, it was Varejao who was vital to the Cavs dragging Detroit to seven games in 2006 and beating them in 2007. And his defense on Kevin Garnett in last season's playoffs was, at times, outstanding. Andy's also the player that, at least before his holdout and injured ankle, played important fourth quarter minutes for Mike Brown when he would give LeBron James the ball late in games and spread the floor with shooters. What makes Andy so valuable is that he is, in essence, an energy player. And he's good at it. His best offensive skills are putbacks and pick-and-rolls with James that seem as uncoordinated as they are effective, complete with flopping hair and arms flailing and often resulting in a basket or a foul. When he goes against emotional bigs like Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace he gets under their skin. He flops, gets a call and smiles all the way down the floor as if he knows he just duped the officials. He's the type of player that makes opponents more and more angry the longer they go against him because he's not better than them but by playing cheap - flopping, swinging elbows, inciting the crowd - he's getting the better of them - and loving it. Not just anyone can do that. It takes a certain temperament and level of self-control. And on top of that, he's only 26. This will be his fourth season and he definitely can get better. He's changing his shooting form and working on his offensive game. When he was given the opportunity to start in place of Zydrunas Ilgauskas back in 2007 for a few nights, he excelled on the glass."
  • Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune with a funny note from the Laker/Jazz preseason game: "[Kobe] Bryant and Pau Gasol called out to the press table asking where Kyrylo Fesenko was from and then whether he played for the Ukrainian national team." I can only imagine it's a good sign for your career if Kobe Bryant wants a brochure on you.
  • Zack from 3 Shades of Blue on the Grizzlies first preseason game: "Watching warmups closely, Rudy [Gay] has this sense about him. This is his team. He is the leader, the star player. Unlike before, where there was guys like Miller or Damon or Pau that played that role, Rudy is now the guy. Us Griz fans take that for granted I think. But just think back to him falling asleep on the bench during the NCAA tourney and it really is a remarkable transformation. Rudy is one of ~30 Franchise Players in the NBA. Even in warmups, he knows it and is embracing the role. ... [Hamed] Haddadi on the other hand was bad. Not surprising though. Griz fans shouldn't expect much contribution from the Iranian rookie this year. ... O.J Mayo looked mediocre. Wasn't involved in the offense much. Sweet stroke on his mid range jumper. Showed flashes, but Iavaroni and the Griz have to get the ball out of Conley and Lowry's hands and into Mayo's. Wasn't quite there on defense either and it got him into foul trouble."
  • Hardwood Paroxysm on Adam Morrison: "... facial hair should never be the most important thing about a player."

First Cup: Monday

October, 6, 2008
10/06/08
9:40
AM ET
  • Mike McGraw of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald: "General manager John Paxson has said he will not use a strategy of creating cap room in 2010. That sounds like a smart decision, since the Bulls demonstrated in 2000 what can happen when a team puts all its eggs into the free-agent basket. A 15-67 season, to be specific. Of course, Ben Gordon will make his own choice next summer. If he doesn't stay with the Bulls, cap-room creation could become an attractive backup plan. Which brings us back to the tantalizing dream of securing a homegrown backcourt featuring Rose and Wade in 2010."
  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "It seems every step Michael Beasley has taken since he left Kansas State has been televised in some fashion. You saw him buying a suit and preparing for the ESPYs and practicing with his old high school coach and experiencing each second of draft night. Sunday's events were slightly more significance in Beasley's NBA growth. But this evolution wasn't televised. So unless you were among the pockets of fans inside AmericanAirlines Arena on Sunday night, you missed Beasley's first true taste of NBA basketball. It tastes like freedom." TrueHoop First Cup
  • Scott Howard-Cooper of the Sacramento Bee: "Question: How will Jason Williams be remembered, now that he's announced his retirement? Geoff Petrie: 'He really has a little bit of a unique place in history of the NBA, I think, in the sense that his rookie year and into his second year, he kind of came out of nowhere at a time when the league was coming out of the lockout and sort of struggling with its style of play and just trying to regain some of the footing it had lost at that time. And here was this kid that had these incredible dribbling and passing skills and sort of pedal-to-the-metal attitude about the game. He just caught the imagination of the entire country, along with the rest of our team. It really helped the NBA. It really helped this franchise, along with a lot of other terrific players too. He became the darling of ESPN highlights just about every night. I've told this to other people: there was a time there, probably for about a year or so, other than Michael Jordan, he was the most popular basketball player in America because of this flamboyant style he had.'"
  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Marquis Daniels might be the biggest surprise of camp so far. Daniels is finally healthy, he's quicker and he's shooting the 3-point shot with a lot of confidence. He'll be in the mix for significant playing time at the swingman position."
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "It's a good thing D.J. Augustin has to wear that grammar-school backpack (yes, it's hazing) because that's the only way you'd tell he's a rookie. Augustin is remarkably efficient for a point guard yet to play even an exhibition in the NBA."
  • Alan Hahn of Newsday: "If you're looking for more evidence that the Knicks have become far more media-friendly under Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni, tune in to NBAtv today at 11 a.m. to catch a live broadcast of the team's practice at the MSG Training Center. NBAtv does this regularly with teams but never asked the Knicks in the past."
  • Bryan Chu of the San Antonio Express-News: "Players like Devin Green, who have had a sniff at the NBA level, can't help but compare the lifestyle away from the pros: Playing in front of sold-out crowds instead of a scattered fan base. Private planes and catered food versus crack-of-dawn flights with two or three layovers and eating at Subway and Denny's. Spurs forward Anthony Tolliver, 23, who played for the D-League's Iowa Energy last season, points out the $115 per diem in the NBA versus $25 in the D-league. Living arrangements are a huge difference. 'Super 8 versus the Omni that's all I gotta say,' said Spurs guard Desmon Farmer, 26, who added back when he played for the D-League's Tulsa 66ers, players had their stuff broken into all the time. Added Tolliver: 'We're spoiled. You walk into hotels and you think, 'Man, this is unnecessary.' One difference I did find is the cheaper hotels have free Internet. The more expensive hotels charge, which makes no sense.'"
  • Steve Campbell of the Houston Chronicle: "Face it: Rafer Alston isn't merely the Rockets' starting point guard again this season. He's here to stay. Don't be fooled just because Alston's contract with the Rockets runs only through the 2009-10 season. When there is famine and pestilence, when locusts cut a swath across the land, Alston will still be wearing his No. 12 jersey. When the meek have inherited the Earth, they will watch with raised eyebrows as Alston does the Skip To My Lou up the court. When cockroaches have emerged as the planet's master species, Alston will still be hoisting up 3-point shots with the same old corkscrew motion."
  • Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal: "He arrives early and stays late. His competitive spirit never needs booster cables. O.J. Mayo is making a smooth transition so far. 'He's shown everything he's shown before,' Griz head coach Marc Iavaroni said, referring to Mayo's offseason work. 'He's a tremendous competitor. He pays a lot of attention to defense. He's got a balanced game. He's learning that he can be an assassin in this league.' That Mayo isn't trying to do too much is perhaps his best characteristic. He's delivered the wow factor at times with spectacular plays in practice, but Mayo seems to focus more on asking questions, learning and blending into a framework established by returnees Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry and Mike Conley."
  • Chris Tomasson of the Rocky Mountain News: "Few players in NBA history have made as much as Juwan Howard. With most of it coming from a $105 million contract Howard played under from 1996-2003, he has pulled down more than $140 million in his career. But Howard, 35, still wants to play. So here he is sweating it out in Nuggets camp on a nonguaranteed deal that would net him $1.26 million more if he can last the season. 'It goes to show you how much passion I have about basketball,' said Howard."
  • Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Hawks coach Mike Woodson won't apologize for his Al Davis approach to preseason basketball. When asked what his approach to the Hawks' eight-game exhibition slate would be, Woodson borrowed one of the longtime Oakland Raiders boss's most famous slogans. 'Just win, baby,' Woodson said with a smile Sunday. 'It's time to play, man. Some people view preseason games as something to get players in shape and get ready for the season. To me, it's huge in terms of using that time to bond and get used to doing things in a winning way. I don't think you can do it any other way. You have to play to win.'"
  • Matt Steinmetz of The Examiner: "Stephen Jackson's upper teeth are now all veneers, and you can tell he's feeling pretty good about his new look. 'I'm ready for GQ,' he said. Turns out that during the infamous incident involving gunplay a few years back in Indianapolis, Jackson suffered what he termed 'a jacked-up mouth.' In other words, not only did Jackson end up getting run over by a car, his face took a beating, too. 'My mouth was all jacked-up,' Jackson said. 'I had six teeth broken. I had to have plastic surgery. On my lips, in my mouth, my teeth, all with no anesthesia. (Former Pacers coach) Rick Carlisle was holding my one hand and my wife was holding the other. When they stuck that needle in my lip, I looked like the Nutty Professor.'"

Thursday Bullets

September, 25, 2008
9/25/08
1:06
PM ET
  • The first Josh Childress highlights from Europe, from an exhibition game in which he scored 14 points. Olympiacos won. One block-run-dunk play was really special.
  • Amare Stoudemire reportedly might be resting his ankle a little.
  • Jared Reiner will be in the Sixers' camp, trying to make the NBA. He has long been one of the best bloggers of all basketball players, and writes about it for DraftExpress. He's especially looking forward to playing with one guy: "Reggie Evans played with me at Iowa, so I know first-hand that the word Reggie-ness should be added to the dictionary for the way he plays. In my opinion he doesn't play dirty, he just plays a bit harder and grittier and more pain-inflicting than most. I remember him ruining, for lack of a better word, all of our scrimmages and practices back at Iowa with Reggie-ness. It sounds crazy, but I am actually looking forward to playing with him again. Sure, he loves pranks and making people look and feel foolish, but he has this drive that, in my opinion, fuels competitiveness."
  • The people at Massmatics have a nice little (PG-13) tale insults, put-downs, insecurity, and being young and making friends on the basketball court. It starts like this: "I remember when I met my buddy Mike for the first time. It was summer and I was eleven. Me, my ma, and my sister had moved to an apartment across the street from the middle school. We had lived in a house before but now we lived in this apartment. I could see the outdoor basketball courts from my room. It was late, like ten thirty or something, and Mike was shooting all by himself. The lights from the softball field, where the bar leagues played, illuminated the courts. I wanted to play him one on one. I grabbed a basketball from the floor. I had like fifteen. I would go up to the courts and steal basketballs while the older kids played full court. I don't know why I did it. I couldn't help myself. As soon as I had my hands on a basketball I had to take it home. I made sure I found one with enough air and finally decided to take a black one that I am pretty sure somebody had gotten from Pizza Hut. It had a lot of air in it and I liked to dribble so that was best. I headed over to the court. My ma was asleep. I locked the door behind me, and ran across the street."
  • Nets players have started calling Lawrence Frank "The Little Engine That Could."
  • There's a lot of video out there of people playing basketball at work. Learn from my mistake: If you're the new guy in the office, don't break the high-end Nerf hoop your bosses love. They will tease you about many years after you have stopped working there. 
  • Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers talk to the media about the incident at the Rookie Transition Program. Asked if he hid when security came in, Michael Beasley actually responds "I don't know." Beasley has signed a deal with adidas, and his camp is saying that he has always loved adidas, despite all the photos of him in Nike.
  • T-shirt for sale: "My favorite two teams are Portland ... and whoever's kicking L.A.'s ass!" (This comes on the heels of word that the Blazer fan vs. Laker fan wars have heated up again.)
  • You don't have to have terrible contracts to have a high payroll on a mediocre team. In fact, you can have a number of good contracts, and few unlucky situations. 
  • Mark Madsen really wants you to see this video from the archives about Chris Paul. It might make you cry.
  • Speculation, from Charlotte, that the Bobcats might really be able to get Carl Landry. I suspect Houston will match. You don't let a good second-year big man -- one who was a key part of a playoff run as a rookie -- walk because you don't want to pay him $3 million a year. From Charlotte's end, this is a perfect example of the kind of stuff you get to do when you're under the cap. Sometimes teams like that can nab a guy.
  • Mike D'Antoni says the most surprising player so far has been Jared Jeffries.
  • Wendell Maxey Jr.: "I couldn't believe my eyes. It all happened so fast. Travis Outlaw took about five to six steps backwards, ran forwards and jumped in the air. Over a dude. No basketball. No hoop. Just an NBA player jumping over a dude. The dude had to be about 6-2&.just a guess&.but an accurate guess. But still, Travis got up there real quick, glided through the air and stuck the landing. He left the dude in awe. That made two of us." (Via BlazersEdge)
  • Iranian center Hamed Haddadi may have immigration delays that will keep him from the opening of training camp in Memphis. By the way, to me "Haddadi" is clearly one of the best names anywhere. Who's your Haddadi?
  • Checking in with Shawn Kemp, who has kind of been playing in Italy. (And word his almost-Italian career could be on the rocks.)
  • Mark Cuban's blog as odd predictor of John McCain's campaign
  • David Berri of the Wages of Wins on Jason Kidd in Dallas: "What does efficiency differential tell us about the Kidd acquisition? At the time of the trade Dallas had a differential of 4.3. When the season ended, the team's differential stood at
    4.9. For a team to increase its differential from 4.3 to 4.9 in just 29 games, that team would have to post a mark of 6.0 in the final games of the campaign. In other words, the Mavericks clearly improved after Kidd came to town."
  • Does the Oklahoma City Thunder have any current rivalries? They seem to think so.
  • Caltech -- the team of smart kids who lost so much somebody made a documentary about it -- has a new head coach, and he has a blog.
  • Channing Frye vs. electioneering at the polls.

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