TrueHoop: Sacramento Kings
November, 26, 2013
By Henry Abbott
Amin Elhassan has ideas about how the Bulls might be able to acquire a stopgap replacement for Derrick Rose, like Isaiah Thomas or Goran Dragic. But with a great draft looming, is winning now even good strategy?
- It's 363 pages on my Kindle and chock full of all kinds of hoop goodness: It's the 2013-14 Hardwood Paroxysm Season Preview, in e-book form, for only $1.99. You get fancy charts, team previews, fan fiction and illustrations, including what appears to be the cover of Grand Theft Auto: Rip City Edition.
- Zach Lowe of Grantland on the Jazz extending big-man-of-the-future Derrick Favors, and the wisdom and limited downside of planning ahead: " If it's right, Utah will have saved itself some valuable cap space by acting early, just as Philadelphia (Jrue Holiday, now gone) and especially Golden State (Stephen Curry) did a year ago by acting in advance of restricted free agency. There are at least eight teams with the potential for max-level cap room next summer, and though a few are already crowded on the front line (Detroit, perhaps Orlando), there are at least a couple that would have loomed as potentially aggressive suitors for Favors."
- There's a fair amount of debate inside the Wizards' locker room over who's a better poster boy for Kellogg's -- Trevor Booker, who has "at least 12 boxes of cereal" in his pantry right now, or Chris Singleton, who starts his morning with "Dexter and Fruit Loops." Also receiving votes: Ariza, Trevor.
- There may not be a lot of height in Bhutan, but there are a ton of basketball enthusiasts in the Buddhist kingdom, including Queen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck, who has a regular women's pickup game. According to the New York Times' Garndiner Harris, "The royal set shot is as sweet as honeyed ghee, and the royal dribble as poised as a monk in meditation." (H/T Jacob Greenberg)
- In the Philippines they hoop in flip-flops. The Trique Indians of Oaxaca don't even bother. A team of boys from the southwestern Mexico state won a youth basketball tournament in Argentina playing barefoot.
- There are at least two teams in the league that run what they actually call, "a Maggette play," whereby a strong, agile slasher who can drill free throws will curl up from the corner, get the ball on the move and barrel towards the rim. Corey Maggette recently retired and Aaron McGuire used the opportunity at Gothic Ginobili to pay homage to the NBA Journeyman.
- If the Philadelphia 76ers were a player, they'd be Brian Roberts.
- And if every Los Angeles Clipper was a Ramones song, it would look like this.
- Point guard battle in Sacramento: Isaiah Thomas vs. Greivis Vasquez. Who ya got?
- I love a site that goes to the trouble of inserting the diaeresis above the 'O' in Ömer Asik's name. Forrest Walker of Red94 does Turkish right, and also ponders what kind of production the Rockets need from the 4 spot this season alongside Dwight Howard.
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Reggie Jackson is expected to serve as the emergency starter in Westbrook's absence, as he did in the Thunder's final nine playoff games following Westbrook's injury. Beyond that, though, the Thunder's first month and a half has suddenly become one big mystery. Is Jackson, who as of Tuesday morning still was projected to be the team's sixth man, now ready for a starring role? Can Kevin Durant effectively carry the load with defenses loaded up and locked in on him? How much does Derek Fisher, now 39, have left in the tank to offer as the presumable backup point guard? How good is Jeremy Lamb? Does Brooks have a backup plan? The Thunder's early-season success hinges largely on how these questions are answered. But the organization, from Thunder general manager Sam Presti to Brooks to Durant, pointed to last year's postseason as a steppingstone that prepared the Thunder for this situation and now stands as a source of confidence.
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: With the news that Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook would miss the first four to six weeks of the regular season because of a second knee surgery, the Rockets looked ahead to his return, rather than the play in which he was injured. Westbrook went out in Game 2 of the Rockets’ playoff series against Oklahoma City when Rockets guard Patrick Beverley collided with him while attempting a steal as Westbrook was calling time out. That inspired an angry on-court reaction from Westbrook and a backlash from Oklahoma City fans that escalated to death threats. “He’s a great athlete,” Beverley said. “I know he has the best doctors. I think he’s going to be fine. Our focus is on this upcoming season and for us to get better as a team.”
- Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: If this were football or baseball, there would be some debate about which is the player to beat for the title, "Greatest of All Time." In basketball, there's not. LeBron James clearly has his sights set on the guy locked in perpetual flight on the east side of the United Center. "I feel like I have the potential to continue to get better and to maximize my time while I play this game of basketball," James added. "I want to be the greatest." James is no dummy. He knows there's a long way to go before surpassing Michael Jordan. Winning championships was a necessary step and he's done that. I've always claimed there's no point trying to compare James and Jordan, because they are different players. Jordan was an alpha dog scorer who always had the ball in his hands with the game on the line. Kobe Bryant is a better comparison for Jordan. Bryant gave it a good shot, but he's not going to surpass MJ as the greatest of all time. James is a stellar distributor who probably compares better to Scottie Pippen in style of play. Of course, James has gone way beyond Pippen's offensive capabilities. Instead of praising James for being a brilliant team player, he gets criticized for not being Jordan. But with these comments, James has invited those comparisons himself.
- Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times: If Kobe Bryant can win a sixth title, he'll match Michael Jordan's count. While the debate of who is the best player of all time is quite subjective, it's fun to mull over. Jordan added a little fuel to the fire with his comments promoting the NBA 2K14 video game, according to the Associated Press. How would Jordan fare playing one-on-one against players like Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Julius Erving, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Bryant? "I don't think I would lose," said Jordan, "other than to Kobe Bryant because he steals all my moves." Bryant gave a quick response on Twitter. Domino effect. I stole some of his..this generation stole some of mine #thecycle
- Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: It was iconic. And then it was gone. Now, apparently,LeBron James is about to again take a powder. Hidden as a hashtag on an Instagram post referencing his placement on the cover of the just released edition of theNBA 2K14 video game came this early Wednesday morning: #PowderTossComingBackToAnArenaNearYou Given up amid his turn for the serious as part of his successful bids for NBA championships the past two seasons, James can be seen on the 2K14 cover displaying the powder toss, as seen in the Instagram he sent out. … In the absence of the real thing, teammates Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Mike Miller andJames Jones last season emulated James' iconic chalk toss in a pregame ritual, as James already was awaiting the pregame toss at center court. The NBA last season instituted a time limit on pregame rituals, forcing Heat guard Dwyane Wade to somewhat speed up his fullcourt fan salute, with the penalty otherwise a delay-of-game warning (the second and each subsequent of which is accompanied by a technical foul). Now, LeBron will find himself, and his powder, on the pregame clock.
- Marc Berman of the New York Post: Carmelo Anthony privately pined for a secondary scorer in the offseason. And so far, after the first practice of training camp, Anthony is talking like he has got one in the Knicks’ key offseason acquisition, Andrea Bargnani. Anthony even said he would be willing to slide over from power forward to small forward to make room in the starting lineup for the 6-foot-11 Italian. Anthony also tried taking the pressure off Bargnani, who became the scapegoat in Toronto after failing to become an All-Star after being No. 1 overall pick in 2006. “There ain’t no pressure on him,” Anthony said of Bargnani handling the move to New York. “You come in and do what you got to do and play ball. All the pressure’s on me. It should be easy for him. It should be an easy transition for him, adjusting. Just do it the right way, it should be easy for him.’’ Bargnani played just 66 of a possible 152 regular-season games the past two seasons for the Raptors, because of various injuries, prompting the June 29 trade. Bargnani said no matter what Anthony says, there always is pressure as a Knick.
- Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post: Forget 57 regular-season wins for the Nuggets. That's not going to happen. But here is the real goal for the local NBA team: No more wimpy basketball. The Nuggets have a new way to play. "Smashmouth basketball," new Denver coach Brian Shaw said. I asked Shaw to define his terms. What qualifies as smashmouth basketball? "Smashmouth means that you are literally going to get your mouth smashed if you're going against us for a rebound or a loose ball," Shaw said. "We want to have a nasty disposition, both offensively and defensively." Shaw is not a smarter coach than his predecessor, George Karl. But here's betting Shaw will be a tougher coach than Karl. Karl beat cancer. Twice. So props to him for a huge personal victory. In Denver, however, Karl's teams looked for a soft spot to land in the playoffs, and set up excuses to all but guarantee an early exit from the postseason would happen. … The Nuggets of Karl were soft. The Indiana Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies are hard. If you can't win with the talent of LeBron James, you had better be mean. Welcome to smashmouth basketball.
- Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: Monty Williams said Tuesday he has been thinking about distribution of playing time for this group since it was assembled this summer, but seems set on having Evans, Ryan Anderson and Jason Smith come off the bench with the second platoon, leaving open the point guard spot for either Austin Rivers or Brian Roberts. "I think it will become more clear as we see certain guys on the floor in practice and how they jell," said Williams. Rivers said he's not fearful about his place in the rotation, nor the amount of minutes he'll play. "You look at our team, and don't take my word for it, but I think Tyreke is going to come off the bench and I think I'm going to come off the bench," he said. "Depending on how Eric feels, I could be starting at the two. I could be starting at the two, or coming off the bench with Ryan Anderson and Tyreke. That's not a bad second group. I'm not really worried about my minutes. Me and Jrue were talking about this at dinner. Our second group is just as good as our first group." It's evident that whatever discomfort Rivers might have experienced in June has dissipated, as has any uncertainty about his place on the court. "I love my coach. I love the coaches, the new facility, new name, new team," he said.
- Tom Moore of The Intelligencer: Royce White knows he’s not physically where he wants or needs to be. But after not playing in any NBA games during his rookie year with the Rockets, at least partially due to an anxiety disorder and fear of flying, White is grateful to just be setting picks and finding open teammates at 76ers camp. “At the same time last year, I wasn’t even in training camp,” White said. “So this is a big improvement from eight, nine months ago. I’m just happy to be here right now, happy my body’s holding up.” White doesn’t know what his role with the Sixers will be. He ran with the second team during Monday’s scrimmage. But he plans to fly to Northern Spain with his Sixers teammates Thursday in preparation for Sunday’s preseason game against Bilbao. For him, that’s a start. “To me, the most important thing is making it to the first preseason game and being here for the team,” he said. Sixers coach Brett Brown has been encouraged by what he’s seen from White through four days of camp.
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: If third-year center Bismack Biyombo feels threatened by the Charlotte Bobcats adding big men Al Jefferson and Cody Zeller, you wouldn’t know it from his approach. Biyombo started 80 of 82 games last season, averaging 4.8 points and 7.2 rebounds. After the season, the Bobcats used the fourth pick on Zeller and signed Jefferson to a 3-year, $40.5 million contract. Biyombo likely isn’t starting this season, but he doesn’t see himself as extraneous. “My job is the same as it was last year – be a defender, protect the paint, rebound, block shots. Nothing is going to change,” he said after the first practice of training camp at UNC Asheville. The Bobcats drafted Biyombo seventh overall in 2011. He’s a long athlete and tough guy, but he arrived in Charlotte from the Spanish League with minimal offensive skill. That hasn’t changed much. New coach Steve Clifford has told Biyombo not to fret about what he can’t yet do.
- Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Jimmer Fredette would have to fend off rookie Ray McCallum just to be the third point guard behind Isaiah Thomas and Greivis Vasquez. Things aren't easier for Fredette at shooting guard by Marcus Thornton and Ben McLemore. There are possible three-guard lineups but it won't be easy cracking the rotation, regardless. What would help Fredette would be having a defined role. "We didn't know what the rotation was (last season)," Fredette said. "Guys didn't know if they were going to play one game and not the next so you just had to try to stay ready and prepare as much as you can. It's hard for players to be able to do that but you're professionals so that's what you have to do. Hopefully this year we'll have more of a set rotation so we'll know when we're going to play and who we're going to play with."
- Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: The immediate inclination is to compare Vitor Faverani to Fab Melo. Both are from Brazil and are within an inch or two height-wise, and, hey, those are some simple dots to connect even for a sportswriter. But after a brief look at this year’s model and several conversations with Celtics types at the first day of training camp, the notion was rejected. With authority. The two are said to be miles apart at this stage. “Vitor’s a player,” we were advised. “Fab’s a project.” The Celts gave up on Melo after just one year. While there may have been some salary cap concerns in his trade to Memphis, they would have held onto him if they thought he could be what they hoped. Same for the Grizzlies, who released Melo. He’s now in camp with Dallas. And while Melo reigned mainly in D-League Maine last season, Faverani could easily make his way into the Celtics rotation right away. Teams have a way of finding a place for people who shoot well and like to hit people.
- Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: Tap. Tap. Tap. It was a little after midnight when the knock on the hotel door arrived. Nicolas Batum was tired. He was frustrated. He was anxious. And he was just about ready to call it a night. But it was the evening before the European Championship title game and it was a curious time for a visit, so Batum swung open the door to see who was standing outside his room in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Staring back at him was Tony Parker, his teammate on the French national team and one of the NBA's premier point guards. Batum's friend wanted to chat. "I had messed up in the semifinals — had a baaaad game — and he came to me before the final," Batum said, recalling the unexpected face-to-face. "He said, 'Tomorrow's game is going to be your game. We need you. If we're going to win, you've got to lead us.' When a guy like that comes to you, before the biggest game of your life, and says 'you have to show the way, you have to be the man,' it gives you a lot of confidence." It was the latest in a long line of mentoring moments by Parker, and it was perhaps the most meaningful. A day later Batum answered the challenge, recording a team-high 17 points, six rebounds and two steals — while playing tenacious defense — as France beat Lithuania 80-66 to claim its first major championship
- Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Samuel Dalembert hopes to do this season for the Dallas Mavericks what Tyson Chandler was able to accomplish during the 2010-11 campaign. Chandler joined the Mavericks on July 13, 2010, via a trade with the Charlotte Bobcats. The fiery, athletic center came to Dallas as a wounded warrior, having navigated his way through a series of injuries and saddled with lingering questions about his health. However, Chandler used his hustle, grit and determination to change the Mavericks’ culture with his tenacious defense and ability to protect the rim. His contributions were extremely instrumental in the Mavs winning the 2011 NBA championship. Fast forward to Dalembert, who left the Milwaukee Bucks via free agency over the summer. While surveying the NBA landscape, he knew the Mavericks would become a perfect fit for his style of play. In essence, Dalembert (6-foot-11, 250 pounds) realized he was the right player to fill the role Chandler once occupied. “I just looked at things from last year, and this team just needed one more ingredient,” the 32-year old Dalembert said after Tuesday’s first practice of training camp. “We can score — scoring is no issue for us. “It’s just the defense and giving up second-chance opportunities.” Small forward Shawn Marion welcomes a player such as Dalembert, who can protect the rim. … Power forward Dirk Nowitzki also sees value in the Mavericks signing Dalembert to a two-year, $7.5 million contract in July.
- Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: Power forward Tristan Thompson acknowledges that there's no blueprint for switching his dominant hand from left to right in the middle of his career. He even joked about learning more about who he is. "I'm 22,'' he said during media day on Monday. "I'm trying to figure it out.'' He said he actually is ambidextrous, writing, eating and golfing left-handed while bowling, and now shooting, right-handed. Why did he ever think he was a left-handed player? "Because I wrote with my left hand, and I thought if you write with your left hand, you've got to shoot with your left hand.''
- Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: Rudy Gay had off-season PRK laser eye surgery, and while it was only a 10-minute procedure, it was a big deal for Gay who sees clearly now. He just doesn’t know how long it has been since his vision went. “I don’t know at all,” he said when asked what his vision was corrected from. “I just know I could barely get my license, so it was pretty bad and I didn’t know it. Obviously I feel a lot better going into the season a little bit more confident.” … For now Gay is downplaying the eye procedure and how it has changed things for him. His fear is that people are going to automatically credit a 10-minute surgery for the improved shooting he fully expects fans will be witness to this season. Gay says he worked too damn hard in the off-season on his shooting for that to be the case. He says that on a light day he was putting up 300 shots but said it was an everyday thing for him. “I worked a lot,” he said. “Every day I was committed to becoming a better shooter.” Casey is of the firm belief that eye surgery is only going to be part of the reason Gay comes back and improves on the .416 shooting percentage he had a year ago, down from .455 the previous year.
- Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: Kendall Marshall will tell you that there is “no question” in his mind that he can succeed in the NBA. He’s got about one month to convince the Suns, who selected him with the 13th pick of the 2012 NBA draft. And Marshall has no time to waste, beginning at training camp, which opened Tuesday in Flagstaff, and during the club’s seven-game preseason schedule, which begins against Maccabi Haifa on Monday night at US Airways Center. Lance Blanks, the general manager who drafted Marshall, is gone. There also is a new coaching staff. And there is a Suns roster loaded with point guards and “combo” guards — players who can play off the ball or in a playmaking role. For Marshall, the witching hour falls on Halloween. That’s the NBA deadline for teams to exercise a team option in rookie salary-scale contracts for players drafted in the first round the previous year. First-round picks get a four-year deal, but only the first two years are guaranteed. So, teams must decide before a player’s second regular season begins whether to guarantee a third year. If the Suns don’t see enough from Marshall in the next month, they aren’t likely to exercise the option.
- Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: As with almost every element of the "LeBron Watch," it's all about reading the signs. So in advance of LeBron unveiling his limited-edition watch for Audemars Piguet on Friday night, there was this from an interview with Women's Wear Daily, regarding his potential 2014 free-agency plans and where he eventually would look to settle down in retirement: "I miss the slower pace back home but have grown used to my new city's little perks like fresh fish and sweet fruit. It will definitely be someplace warm. I don't want to go back to cold winters." LeBron, an Akron native, of course, has been linked to a possible return to Cleveland next summer, as well as a potential move to the Los Angeles Lakers.
- Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: No, Dwyane Wade assured, his testy Twitter exchange with Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant was not a joke, not a publicity ploy for Gatorade (for whom they previously filmed a commercial) or any other product. But Wade is ready to diffuse the situation. Asked Thursday night if Durant’s comment that James Harden should replace Wade on Sports Illustrated’s list of the Top 10 players was uncalled for, Wade said: “Everyone has an opinion. We’re in an age now where everyone uses their opinion. That was it. He had an opinion. I had a response.” Asked if their exchange was a joke, he smiled and said, “No.”
- Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: For the first time in 14 years, when the Lakers open training camp Saturday they will be taking the floor in the middle of a Dodgers town. The domination of buzz that began with the Kobe Bryant era in 1996 has at least temporarily ended this fall as the Lakers find themselves surrounded in dysfunction, confusion and blue. Giant gold jerseys bearing No. 24 are being replaced by oversized blue shirts bearing No. 66. Lakers flags are being pulled out of car windows to make room for Dodgers flags. Worry about Steve Nash's legs have been muted over concern for Andre Ethier's shins. Bryant took a self-publicized high dive, yet more people were talking about the Dodgers going swimming. This columnist will not repeat the assumptions that led to the long-ago mistake of calling this a UCLA football town. The Lakers-Dodgers climate change could end by next summer, when the Lakers will have the money and space to bringLeBron James to town. But since the death of Jerry Buss, the Lakers have no longer been the Lakers, so who knows what happens next? Meanwhile, with the best and richest lineup in baseball and the money to keep it going, the Dodgers have again become the Dodgers, a team that owned this city even through the Showtime era, a group that has the economic stability to own it again.
- Nate Taylor and Harvey Araton of The New York Times: The decision to replace Grunwald, 55, with Mills may be an effort by the Knicks to position themselves for the pursuit of stars. Dolan may have concluded that Mills, who also worked a number of years for the N.B.A. in addition to his decade with the Knicks, and who got to know a significant number of agents and top players as he vied in recent months for the union job, will be a good person to lead the team’s free-agent efforts. Those efforts could include finding a way to shed the final part of Amar’e Stoudemire’s contract after this season to create cap maneuverability and possibly even make another run at LeBron James when he becomes eligible for free agency next summer. Mills could also lead an effort to lure another star player to the Knicks after this season, in part to persuade Carmelo Anthony to stay in New York. Anthony can opt out of his contract next summer. It seems possible that the Knicks, feeling the pressure of a much more visible and competitive Nets team nearby in Brooklyn, have concluded that their team needs a more accessible public face and that Mills would do well in that role.
- Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: While speaking with league sources about the four-year contract extension DeMarcus Cousins has agreed to with the Kings in principle, I learned another interesting bit of information: NBA Commissioner David Stern plans to attend the Kings home/season opener Oct. 30 at Sleep Train Arena. I am assuming Stern will be in Miami the previous night for the championship ring ceremony at the Heat-Bulls game, and then just hop onto his private jet for the 3,000-mile flight to California. No one should be surprised. Keeping the Kings in Sacramento has been on Stern's 'to do" list for at least a decade. And, obviously, his relationship with Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, and former Golden State Warriors minority owner Vivek Ranadive - who had been itching to become a majority partner - facilitated the sale of the team and the proposed downtown arena. After this ordeal, there is no way the Commissioner, who retires Feb. 1, misses out on the emotional opening night celebration.
- Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: And as Bulls fans know all too well after the last three seasons, LeBron James’ rule has not been good for them. The Miami Heat forward is responsible for two of the Bulls’ last three playoff runs ending earlier than they hoped. In the bigger picture, James’ last six years stack up very closely to Jordan’s best seven-year stretch, before his first retirement. From 1986 to 1993, Jordan averaged 33.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game, while James averaged 28.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists from 2007 to 2013. Both are known for elite defense, but James has shown to be more versatile, guarding any spot on the floor. While their mind-sets on offense are completely different — James is more facilitator, Jordan was more assassin — they’ll be tied even more closely together if James and the Heat win a third consecutive NBA title this season, when James will still be 29. The Bulls’ mission is to stop that from happening. … It’ll be a great one if they can stay healthy, starting with Rose. While the Indiana Pacers also are expected by some to be the Heat’s primary obstacle in the Eastern Conference, the Pacers don’t have Rose. The problem is the Bulls might not have him, either — at least the Rose they had before he tore his left anterior cruciate ligament. But if the one-time MVP is anywhere close to what he was during the 2010-11 season — with an improved jump shot from all the rehab time — the Pacers will be the third wheel. Will it be enough to end James’ run at history? The Bulls start training camp Friday, and they know kings don’t abdicate their thrones easily.
- Bill Oram of The Salt Lake Tribune: When the regular season opens Oct. 30 against Oklahoma City, Kanter will likely step into a starting role, signaling a brand new era of Jazz basketball. The team watched seven players exit in free agency, allowing Kanter, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks and Trey Burke to all step into marquee roles. … The Jazz offseason was strategically quiet, with the Jazz adding players who would not get in the way of plans to turn the team over to a young core that includes Kanter. "That’s what the fans have been waiting for," Kanter said, "so that’s why I was like, ‘I cannot do crazy stuff and crazy tweets.’ " However, Jazz officials know they can’t ask for too much too quickly from their young stars, and with that, Kanter can’t leave the behavior that made him a fan favorite entirely behind. After the kids had filed out of the gym Thursday, he interrupted his declaration of maturity to make a quiet confession. "I still watch SpongeBob," he said.
- Tom Layman of the Boston Herald: In the wake of Danny Ainge’s comments that Rajon Rondo may not be back until December, new Celtics coach Brad Stevens thinks he has an in-house candidate to fill the star point guard’s shoes. Stevens said Avery Bradley may indeed see the bulk of the point guard duties until Rondo finds his way back from offseason knee surgery. “I don’t think there is any doubt that Avery has elite ability in a lot of ways as a point guard,” Stevens said at TD Garden yesterday morning, where he was a guest at the breakfast to promote November’s Coaches vs. Cancer college basketball tripleheader. “He’s an elite defender at the position. He’s an elite athlete at the point guard position. I think he’s a guy that’s gotten better. I think he’s a guy with more confidence, and I think he’s excited about the challenge if Rajon is out.” Bradley played well in flashes last season, but he also looked miscast as a point guard in Doc Rivers’ system. There is no denying Bradley’s acumen on the defensive side of the ball. The trick will be for him to find the abilities to facilitate the offense and produce some scoring — traits that weren’t consistently on display last year.
- John Canzano of The Oregonian: Monday marks another Trail Blazers media day. The NBA players will take promotional photographs, and perform those video vignettes you see at the home arena during timeouts. For a decade I've watched the players suit up and sit around like a friend on New Year's Eve, vowing, "This year, I'm serious; I'm going on a diet." The thing turns into a massive Eyeroll Festival. It's time for that to change. On Monday, nobody wants to hear the Blazers make the same tired promises. No talking about how much better the locker room feels, how they'll "try to compete for the playoffs" or "We're going to really push tempo this season." LaMarcus Aldridge said on media day in 2012, "I think it's a whole new feeling this year, which is good. Kind of like a new start after last season." If he trots that trite stuff out as an opening statement on Monday someone should poke him in the eye. If he declares the outlook for the 2013-14 Blazers -- as he did last September -- is, "as long as we get better every night... we should be good," he should face a firing line of year-old Chalupas. If coach Terry Stotts says, "We're looking to compete for a playoff spot. I don't know why anyone would say otherwise," he should have to take a lap around the arena. Enough with the meaningless talk. If the Blazers want to make Monday count, what we need to hear is that they will make the playoffs this season. Yes, I'd like a guarantee. Bet you would, too. Because as long as the organization is asking fans to invest their disposable income and emotion in this franchise, the least that a playoff-worthy roster can do is vow that, "It's playoffs or bust."
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: The Magic will be ultra-cautious as they bring Glen Davis back from his most recent foot surgery — making sure he doesn't do too much, too soon — and he will miss training camp, perhaps the entire preseason and maybe the beginning of the regular season. But Davis remains the Magic's best low-post defender. Once he's fully healthy, I envision him returning to his starting role, although Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson and Jason Maxiell could push him for minutes at the 4. Offensively, Davis is at his best when he's on the move and driving to the hoop. He has a tendency to fall in love with his midrange jumper. Davis could draw interest from other teams as the NBA trade deadline approaches on Feb. 20.
- Michael Pointer of The Indianapolis Star: What position does the now very rich Paul George play? George signed a five-year contract extension worth more than $90 million this week and his versatility is one of his best traits. Coach Frank Vogel can use him at shooting guard, small forward and even power forward, and have him to defend the opposing team’s top player, no matter where he plays. There’s a good chance you will see him at all three spots this season.
- Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: Brandon Jennings sat on the outside looking in during this summer’s free-agency frenzy, arriving in Detroit in a three-year deal via sign-and-trade. The Pistons believe he’ll return to his prep school mode of being a distributor first, rather than primarily looking for his own offense, as he’s done during his first four years in the NBA. Jennings represents an upgrade over Brandon Knight in terms of point guard aptitude, but he must be willing to buy into the system and set up his teammates. Rumors of the Pistons pursuing Boston point guard Rajon Rondo won’t amount to anything anytime soon. Jennings can quiet them with steady play.
- Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer: Brett Brown's message for Evan Turner: Don't read media reports. "And I hope he's not caring about what goes on Twitter," the new 76ers coach said. Brown wants the Sixers' second overall draft pick in 2010 to get into a gym and rediscover a passion for the game. He said the key would be to go back to his time as a youth when he really enjoyed playing basketball. "Now that sounds a lot easier than it is to achieve," Brown said. "But it starts with the knowledge that you are putting in the time. You get a new toy to play with. And you are being allowed with that in a new place in the house. You need to help him find ways to really find a way to love." Turner appeared frustrated while playing under coach Doug Collins the last three seasons. The 6-foot-7 guard/forward also has been inconsistent since coming out of Ohio State as a junior. Turner averaged a career-best 13.3 points last season and was the only Sixer to start all 82 games. But for every solid performance, he had two or three horrible nights.
- Nakia Hogan of The Times-Picayune: Pelicans forward Jason Smith, who played for the 76ers during Jrue Holiday's rookie season in 2009-10, was effusive in his praise of their new point guard. "He's great," Smith said. "I got to play with him one year in Philadelphia. I have been praising him since Day 1. He is the most underrated point guard out there. That's a testament to how hard he works and the kind of guy he is on and off the court. … But Holiday isn't expected to be a savior for a New Orleans franchise that has combined to win just 48 games the past two seasons. He is, however, expected to be a key ingredient to an organization that has been rebranded and its roster overhauled. "Hopefully it's to be the vessel of the coach on the court," Holiday said of his role. … "We have guys like Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Tyreke (Evans), even Eric Gordon, so I just have to get them the ball where it needs to be. I'll have to even penetrate at times, maybe get a shot and make something happen. But for the most part, I don't think it will be directly focused around me." With that nucleus, Holiday believes the Pelicans won't have any trouble winning much more than they have in the past.
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: The Rockets, CEO Tad Brown said, will sell out every home game this season. For the Rockets in the Toyota Center era, that is a huge proclamation. “We’re further ahead in our sales process at this time than we ever have been,” Brown said heading into the start of team workouts Saturday. “The season-ticket base is up 34 percent. We are close to being sold out of season tickets. And we are pretty confident with the excitement that this team has already created in the market that we’ll be sold out of every game.” The Rockets have sold out every home game in just four seasons of their history, none since moving into Toyota Center in 2003. Beginning in 1994-95, the second championship season, they had a streak of 176 consecutive sellouts, including 149 consecutive regular-season games. The Rockets sold out 20 home games last season, including 10 of the final 15, but sales took off with the July signing of Dwight Howard.
- Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: The Cavaliers are attempting to strengthen their bond with their season-ticket holders. Last season, the Cavs launched Wine & Gold United, a year-round, season ticket-based membership program. They promised their members unprecedented and unique access. On Thursday, they provided a perk to their members and tried to deliver on that commitment. After getting league approval, they announced they would print the name of each Wine & Gold United member on the Quicken Loans Arena floor, starting with the 2013-14 season. Each account holder’s name will be displayed in the Cavs’ “All For One, One For All” gold-lettered decal. It will be positioned opposite the team benches. Throughout the season, members will have an opportunity to see their names on the court.
September, 25, 2013
- Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: The only real issue heading into camp is the Granger Question. Or Questions.Is he healthy? When will his game fully return? Will he start or come off the bench? How will Bird handle the fact that Granger is in the final year of his contract? The answers, in Cliffs Notes form, are 1) He’s getting there; 2) Eventually, although he’s a notoriously slow starter even when fully healthy; 3) He probably will start and 4) Stay tuned because this is going to get interesting. Bird made no bones about it: He likes his team best with Granger starting and Lance Stephenson leading the second unit as a point guard. “That’s what I prefer,” Bird said. “I’ve always respected Danny’s game. Like everybody else, I see his good and his bad, but I think the good outweighs the bad by a large margin. I like his toughness. And I’ve always said you never lose your position through injury; somebody’s got to beat him out. Now, if Lance comes in and he’s a better player, that’s (coach Frank Vogel’s) decision. But I think we’re a different type of team when he starts. ... I think Danny and Paul (George, who signed a long-term extension Tuesday) are interchangeable. This makes us a better all around team. We’ll score more points with Danny and it’ll take pressure off the bench.”
- Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: The basketball world is coming to Toronto in early 2016. Multiple sources told the Toronto Sun Tuesday that the Raptors are on the verge of landing the 2016 NBA all-star weekend. An official announcement is expected within a week that will reveal further details of how one of the sport’s biggest weekends will tie into Toronto’s 20th-anniversary season. Tim Leiweke, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president and CEO, made it clear upon taking over the company that landing the prestigious event was one of his early goals. “Clearly the 2016 all-star game is a flag in the sand that we planted with the NBA. It is a must-have in my opinion and it will be the centrepiece of how we rebrand this,” Leiweke said in May. He also has said that Raptors fans “deserve a little bit of positive news.”
- Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman: Kevin Durant made the media rounds at ESPN today, joining SportsCenter in the morning and other appearances throughout the day. But his most interesting interview came on ESPN22s SportsNation show, where hosts Max Kellerman and former NFL defensive lineman Marcellus Wiley asked him interesting questions on a variety of topics. You’re known for having a lot of tattoos, but business tattoos on the torso and the back, but none on the arms. What’s up with that? Kevin Durant: “Nothing. I’m eventually going to get some on my arms. Having tattoos on your arms, does that make you a worse person? I don’t know, I guess. There’s nothing against getting them on my arms, I eventually will. But I guess it’s hardest to get them on your torso and back, they hurt the most, so I had to get them out the way.” … You picked up more technicals than ever before last year. What was going on? Kevin Durant: “Nothing. I was just getting upset a little more at stuff. But there’s nothing different for me, I’m sure I’m going to get more techs, maybe not as many as last year, but I’m sure I’m going to get some techs this year at some point. That doesn’t define who I am as a person. I’m just a feisty basketball player who enjoys competing at the highest level. Sometimes thing don’t go your way and I reacted more than I should have. I apologize to anyone who I offended by my techs, but I’m sure I’ll get a few more.
- Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: Heat players have shown no sign of complacency off two championships. Wade indicated he was working out until 1:30 a.m. Monday night, Norris Cole has been shooting jumpers late into the night and Chris Bosh has been working hard on his game in California. A bunch of others, including Michael Beasley, have been doing on-court work at AmericanAirlines Arena. And Greg Oden, continuing to progress from his history of knee programs, has been doing work both on court and in the weight room. ### Add veteran NBA swingman Roger Mason Jr. to the list of players auditioning for the Heat. Mason, who's workout out for Miami this week, averaged 5.3 points in 69 games for New Orleans last season and shot 41.5 percent on three-pointers. Swingman Von Wafer was invited back to Miami for a second week of workouts but has been unable because of an injury.
- Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: A national sports blog that shall remain nameless cited Tony Parker’s recent declaration of fatigue following EuroBasket 2013 as Reason A why Spurs coach Gregg Popovich isn’t enamored with his players spending their summers balling for their native countries. … But the passage, coming on the heels of reports that Spurs general manager R.C. Buford implored Parker to watch his minutes during the tournament, implied that Popovich and Co. take an adversarial stance to international competition. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, Popovich sounded less a high-powered basketball coach than a beaming father in his reaction to France’s historic triumph.I told him two things. First, I’m incredibly happy for you because it puts you on another level. To help your country win is more special than you. Now have a special place in the history of French sports. Secondly, I told him how proud I was of his development. … Despite the image he presents as the snarling, sarcastic curmudgeon from hell — much of which is grounded in reality — Popovich is also a renaissance man with interests ranging far beyond the basketball court. Be it good conversation over a vintage bottle of wine or helping his assistants develop into head coaches, he’s all about the experience. So how in good conscience could he deny his players, particularly one he’s spent as many years grooming as Parker, the opportunity to realize a lifetime achievement? Despite the inherent risks involved, that’s something Popovich simply won’t do. Contrast that with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, whose opposes international play in large part because the NBA doesn’t make any money off it. Who would you rather play for?
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: A low-post scorer like Al Jefferson can make Kemba Walker’s job so much easier. Higgins detailed Tuesday how central Walker was to successfully recruiting Jefferson, who signed a three-year, $40.5 million contract in July. At Walker’s exit meeting last season with Higgins and general manager Rich Cho, Walker was asked what upcoming free agent might be most helpful. Walker pulled out his phone, called up a list of those players, and said Jefferson was clearly his top choice. So Higgins reminded Walker that he and Jefferson share an agent, Jeff Schwartz, so it was Walker’s job to start the sales pitch, months before Jefferson officially became a free agent July 1. Walker went to work, scheduling a meal with Jefferson in New York City to express what a good fit this could be. The Bobcats followed up on that effort by immediately making a pitch at midnight the first day of free-agency. Jefferson flew into Charlotte for a visit, expressed his desire to sign here and the deal was done. What are the Bobcats getting from the largest free agent signing in franchise history? “Al addresses so many needs for us,’’ Higgins said, a week out from the start of training camp at UNC Asheville Oct. 1. “Once we decided to amnesty Tyrus Thomas, ownership gave us the green light to find a difference-maker. He is a difference-maker.”
- Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Perhaps the only sense of normalcy in Jared Sullinger’s life right now is basketball, one reason the Celtics’ workout facility in Waltham has become something of a refuge for the second-year forward. Though Sullinger may still be prosecuted for domestic abuse stemming from a Sept. 3 incident involving his longtime girlfriend, the Celtics have no intention of distancing themselves, according to Danny Ainge. “He’s a good Celtic, and he’s a guy we have big hopes for,” the Celtics president of basketball operations said before yesterday’s annual charity golf tournament at Wollaston Golf Club. “He hasn’t done anything that we think is so wrong he shouldn’t be part of our team today.” Though the girlfriend, who has moved to Ohio, reportedly does not want to pursue charges, the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office may forge ahead. “The outcome is looking good, but we can’t talk about that,” said Ainge. “It hasn’t reached a conclusion. Jared has been in training camp every day working out. He’s taking care of everything in the exact right way that he should, and I think Jared is a good kid. This was a distraction, but I don’t think it will be a distraction now because he knows the story, and some day you guys will, but because of the legal proceedings it can’t be publicized. He can’t talk about it.”
- Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press: Back from a brief vacation in his home state of Louisiana, Detroit Pistons big man Greg Monroe was working with his teammates today, in preparation for training camp next week. Having worked out with U.S. Olympic basketball hopefuls during the summer, Monroe should be ready for a big season at both power forward and center under first-year coach Maurice Cheeks. “We’ve had discussions about me playing both positions,’’ Monroe said. As far as his stint at the Olympic camp, Monroe said: “I felt great at the trials. It allowed me to gain some confidence and get some good run. I don’t even want to say quality — it exceeds quality playing against the guys of that caliber. I got insight from NBA coaches, college coaches, (Mike Krzyzewski), one of the greatest coaches ever. I got a lot of midsummer insight that you wouldn’t get over a normal summer.’’ Surrounded by great players, Monroe and Pistons teammate Andre Drummond were able to glean things from the U.S. staff and players.
- Marcos Breton of The Sacramento Bee: As publicity stunts go, this one achieved maximum impact: Shaquille O’Neal blew into town as the unlikeliest of new Kings owners – a jaw dropper since O’Neal was the rival player most responsible for preventing a Kings championship a decade ago. He also infamously coined the phrase “Sacramento Queens” to mock the local team. But on Tuesday, O’Neal had attracted one of the best attended news conferences in recent memory and hoisted the first lady of California over his head. Yeah, strange bedfellows. I was still shaking my head from the Shaq show at the Kings practice facility Tuesday when suddenly there it was on Twitter. A shot showed O’Neal lifting Anne Gust Brown – the brilliant and powerful wife of Gov. Jerry Brown – like a paperweight over his head at a power dinner hosted by the new Kings owners at Zocalo in midtown. O’Neal had a huge smile on his face in the photo. The first lady? Uh, well, you couldn’t see her face. … We saw a whole new side of the first lady while Shaq and the Kings seem to have matters well in hand. On Tuesday, they gave a sneak peek of their vision of the new arena – “an indoor/outdoor” building billed as a dynamic public space instead of a big box taking up blocks of prime real estate. If it works, you’ll be able to make all your arena transactions – food, drink, foam fingers – with your smartphone. Ranadive said the Kings’ first game will be broadcast live in India, where he was born and one of the biggest untapped foreign markets for the NBA. “We want to rejuvenate Sacramento,” said O’Neal as Ranadive beamed. They seemed unstoppable.
- Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: Stephen Curry took a cue from a players-only meeting when the majority of the Warriors arrived back in the Bay Area right after Labor Day and wrote a win-total goal on the board in the practice-facility locker room. Though he wouldn't divulge the precise number at the time, he did say that it started with a five - as in, at least 50 wins. But the exactitude of the players' consensus objective no longer seems to matter. Head coach Mark Jackson erased it. "I was wondering who put it up there," Jackson said to a gaggle of reporters Tuesday. "If you put that up there, that's a target. I don't want any limits. Anything could happen. That could be a great number, or that could be putting a ceiling on us." … Jackson wouldn't guesstimate the Warriors' win total for 2013-14, saying only that "I want to be a very good basketball team with a chance to win the whole thing." But he consistently talked about the importance of players who were lost, like Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry, and stressed the significance of the chemistry in last season's locker room.
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Grant Hill had a myriad of options for life after basketball. There was speculation — and some mutual interest — for him to join the Suns’ front office and there were chances to get away from basketball with his involvement in politics, art, business, filmmaking and fatherhood. Hill is staying in the game, even after retiring in June from playing it. Hill, 40, will be the co-host of the resuscited NBA Inside Stuff, the popular half-hour sports and entertainment show that aired from 1990 to 2005, while also serving as an analyst for TNT and NBATV. Yes, that makes him the new Ahmad Rashad. But rather than Julie Moran, Willow Bay or Summer Sanders, Hill’s co-host will be Atlanta morning radio sports talk show host Kristen Ledlow for 26 weekly episodes during the season and special editions. The all-access show will start airing Saturday, Nov. 2, at 9 a.m. Arizona time on NBATV. The notion that Hill, a Phoenix Sun from 2007 to 2012, would join the broadcast side after an 18-year career seemed like a safe bet. He has the gift of gab, populartity, respect and a close friendship with Scooter Vertino, the NBA Digital vice president of content who previously produced NBA on TNT.
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentine:l Milwaukee Bucks center Larry Sanders loves a good piece of art. Now he will get to play on one. The Bucks unveiled the Robert Indiana-inspired design for their new BMO Harris Bradley Center court at a festive event held Tuesday night at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Sanders and teammate John Henson did the honors of unveiling the look as Bucks fans, team employees and community members waited for the big moment. After the speeches, including one by former Bucks radio and TV announcer Eddie Doucette, fans had a chance to pose for pictures with Sanders in front of the floor model. "It looks really fierce," said Sanders, who loves to design skateboards and is a strong supporter of the local arts scene. "It has a sharp edge to it. Also it looks kind of simple, like we're here to do our job. We're here for business. "And it's green; it's not too colorful. It's not too distracting. I think it's awesome." The original MECCA floor which the Bucks played on at the Arena in the late 1970s and 1980s was more colorful. But this court has the M design (in hand-stained hard maple) running through it and has a few subtle touches, including the 1971 NBA championship trophy pictured in the center of one sideline.
- Mitch Abramson of the New York Daily News: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 66, made no mystery of his desire to replace recently fired Ben Howland at UCLA, carrying out a media campaign to rally support. He was passed over for former Indiana star and veteran coach Steve Alford. When the Bucks filled their coaching vacancy with Larry Drew, it seemed to signal the end of Abdul-Jabbar’s coaching hopes. “It didn’t work out and that’s the way it goes,” Abdul-Jabbar said on Tuesday, speaking before an appearance at the Barnes & Noble on Fifth Avenue and 47th St. Wednesday. The NBA’s all-time leading scorer was there to promote his latest book, “Sasquatch in the Paint,” loosely based on his upbringing in Manhattan. “I’m not going to ram my head against the wall. It’s time to move on. I’m not actively pursuing that,” Abdul-Jabbar said of looking for future coaching jobs. “Writing has been a nice thing for me. I’ve been pursuing that more so than anything else.” He’s worked as a special assistant for the Lakers for the past six seasons, but will not be back this season, according to a Lakers spokesperson. Despite his inability to secure another desirable NBA job - he’s also toiled with the Los Angeles Clippers and Seattle Supersonics - Abdul-Jabbar harbors no animosity toward a player like Jason Kidd, who was hired as Brooklyn Nets head coach shortly after his retirement. “That’s great for Jason,” he said. “I don’t exactly know how that situation evolved but obviously they thought he had some talent, so I’m happy for him, but I couldn’t explain to you what it’s all about. It’s impossible.”
- Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: They love him in L.A., Orlando, New York, Miami, Central America, Europe, India. Don't forget India, especially now. But will they love him in Sacramento? Better yet, will they forgive him in Sacramento? Based on the results of an informal poll – a very limited sample size of six or seven Kingscentric folks contacted Monday – Shaq, who will be re-introduced this morning at the practice facility, is facing a hung jury in the court of public opinion. One segment of Kings fans is delighted with his arrival and all his oversized baggage. While his specific role and sphere of influence have yet to be defined, who knows what Shaq can do for you? … Well, here he comes. To those eagerly awaiting his arrival, hoping that celebrity and credibility are contagious, remember: He's a load. Stay ready. My advice to the anti-Shaq contingent would be this: Take this for what it is. Entertainment, until we hear otherwise.
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Perfect strangers today will be teammates tomorrow. That sums up the situation facing the Milwaukee Bucks as they enter training camp next week. A hectic summer of change has resulted in 11 new players on the Bucks roster, although veterans Zaza Pachulia, Luke Ridnour and Carlos Delfino are starting second stints in Milwaukee. But only four holdovers from last season's squad remain: starting power forward Ersan Ilyasova, starting center Larry Sanders, second-year power forward John Henson and backup big man Ekpe Udoh. And a new coaching staff led by Larry Drew will direct the Bucks after a five-year term for Scott Skiles and Jim Boylan, who finished last season as interim coach. "We have a short period of time to put a lot of things in," Drew said Monday before participating in the Bucks' annual golf outing at Westmoor Country Club. "There's going to be a lot of teaching that takes place. We'll have seven days of practice before we play our first exhibition game (Oct. 8 at Cleveland). "We're going to have to use every second of training camp as best we can." The 26-year-old Ilyasova now has the longest tenure on the Bucks roster as he opens his sixth season with the team.
- Michael Pointer of The Indianapolis Star: Larry Bird joked that working on Paul George’s impending contract would keep him inside on a beautiful fall afternoon. “That’s why I’m not playing golf today,” Bird said during an appearance before the Pacers Foundation golf outing at Brickyard Crossing on Monday. “I’m going back to the office to work on it.” … On Monday, George said he and the team were on the “same page,” but nothing had been finalized. “I would hope,” George said when asked if the deal will be finished before training camp starts Saturday. “But whatever happens, happens. Right now, it’s about to be the start of the year. All the guys are here. We’re all fired up and ready to go. That’s where my focus is.” The question isn’t so much when a deal will be reached. Even if talks unexpectedly fall through, the Pacers would be able to make George a restricted free agent and match any deal he is offered next summer.
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Russell Westbrook isn't making any promises about when he'll be back on the basketball court. But the All-Star point guard does offer something of a guarantee for whenever that day might be. “I'm going to come back and be better,” Westbrook said matter-of-factly Monday, with the same unshakable swagger he's always shown. As excitement builds over Saturday's start to training camp, Westbrook is eagerly anticipating his long-awaited return from the knee injury that cut short his 2013 postseason. Westbrook has not yet been cleared to resume full basketball activities, and neither him nor team officials are providing a timetable for when that final obstacle will be overcome. … For now, Westbrook sounds confident about all the questions he'll undoubtedly face in his return. When asked about regaining his rhythm after such a long layoff (he was injured April 24), Westbrook said bouncing back from this setback is no different from any other.
- Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: The start of Spurs training camp is little more than a week away, and Tony Parker is feeling the impact of dedicating much of his summer to Team France at EuroBasket 2013. It worked out historically well for Parker, who helped Les Blues finally win the major championship that had eluded them for so long, usually in painful fashion. But he’s now paying the price, admitting he was “very tired” after following up the Spurs’ run to the Finals with another one for his native country. Despite his current fatigue, and what could very well shape up to be another long, grueling playoff campaign with the Spurs, Parker disputed an earlier report, attributed to his father, that he had decided to skip next summer’s FIBA Basketball World Cup. Parker’s father had asserted that his son would then complete his international career with EuroBasket 2015 — yes, for some reason they hold the tournament every two years instead of the standard four for most other major international competitions — and the 2016 Olympics. Parker, however, said he’ll wait and see how he feels next summer before making any decision in regards to the Worlds. “To be honest, I do not know yet,” he was quoted by the French press.
- Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: Andrew Bynum still hasn’t been cleared for contact and, therefore, isn’t likely to be ready when the Cavaliers open training camp next week, but that hasn’t soured coach Mike Brown’s opinion of him. Brown still believes Bynum can be one of the best centers — ever. “He could very easily be the best center in the game,” Brown said. “Not only the game today, but he’s skilled enough and has the rest of the tools to be one of the best ever.” Bynum is now running on treadmills, but has not resumed contact drills on the court, Brown said Monday at the team’s charity golf outing at Firestone Country Club. There is still no timetable for Bynum’s return, and no one in the organization is pressing him after his lengthy history of knee troubles. “I’m not in any rush to get him back,” Brown said. “Obviously it’d be great if he’s here for opening day and practicing. If he’s not, I’m more than OK with it. We have a lot of guys capable of stepping up and playing or practicing until he is ready to go.”
- Marc Berman of the New York Post: Will Amar’e Stoudemire participate fully in training camp? Doesn’t sound like it, according to Raymond Felton. Felton believes Stoudemire will be held out of much of the preseason in order to have him ready for the regular season and preserve his knees. Felton said Stoudemire is only starting to run during informal workouts and isn’t scrimmaging with the team. The Knicks’ training camp officially opens Monday. “He started running today,’’ Felton said at an Under Armour appearance. “He’s not playing. We’ll sit him out as long as we can. He’s getting shots up. We don’t need him to go hard now. Training camp isn’t that big for us. It’s more for the young guys.’’ Will Stoudemire play in preseason? “I’m not really sure,’’ Felton said.
- Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: The Heat, looking to fill out a training camp roster, signed undrafted 6-2 rookie point guard Larry Drew III, who averaged 7.5 points and 7.3 assists and shot 44.6 percent for UCLA last season and 43.3 percent on threes. The son of the Milwaukee Bucks and former Atlanta Hawks coach, Drew impressed the Heat during workouts earlier this month. Drew, who started his college career at North Carolina and then transferred, broke Pooh Richardson's UCLA single-season assists record last season and was named first-team All Pac-12. The Heat has 13 players signed to guaranteed contracts and five to non-guaranteed deals (centers Jarvis Varnado and Justin Hamilton, forwards Michael Beasley and Eric Griffin, Drew). The Heat has told agents it might not keep the maximum 15 players, so it's highly questionable whether any of the fringe roster contenders will make it, Beasley notwithstanding.
- Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Q. One of the most interesting parts of this offseason was all the other big men that were brought in - obviously, Paul (Millsap) but also Elton (Brand), Pero (Antic) and Gustavo (Ayon). How do you see that working out? Are there minutes for everybody? Al Horford. “It’s going to be interesting. It’s really up for grabs these minutes. I think that Danny and coach Bud definitely know more than I do about some of these players and they see the potential in them. At this point, they need to blend in and fit in with us. We can’t forget about Mike Scott. He is the one who has made the most improvement that I have seen. By far he is in better shape than anyone. He is doing great. He is going to be somebody that people are going to sleep on but he’s going to be really good. He is looking great. He is in great shape. It’s about building a bond and a trust with these new bigs. We are going to have to do it by committee. There is no way around it.”
- Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: For the Pistons organization, it was one of five “Come Together” events they’ve initiated in Detroit and the surrounding areas, which included a back-to-school drive at another Detroit school, a blood drive in Auburn Hills and a “Walk for Autism Speaks” which was held in Rochester Hills over the past two weeks. They donated computers and refurbished a library for the students, but the simple act of running through the halls and giving high-fives to every student, as Smith and rookies Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tony Mitchell and Peyton Siva did, will likely be the lasting memory from that day in September. “It means a lot,” Smith said. “To be a blessing to other people who are less fortunate are always a bonus. Putting a smile on kids’ faces, adults, change their lives, that’s the biggest thing about being a professional athlete.” For Smith, it was another pseudo-introduction to his newest adopted home after spending virtually all of his life in Atlanta, save for his senior season in high school, when he transferred to prep powerhouse Oak Hill Academy in Virginia before being drafted by his hometown Hawks in 2004. “It’s definitely a new experience, a new change,” said Smith, who spent his first nine seasons as a Hawk before signing a $54 million deal to become a Pistons this past July. “Being in Atlanta for 27 years of my life, getting acclimated to my surroundings, it’s fun.”
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: With less than two weeks to go before camp opens Oct. 1, the Magic and veteran small forward Hedo Turkoglu have yet to agree on a buyout. Turkoglu has $12 million left on the final year of his contract, but only half of it is guaranteed.
- Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: A relaxed and engaging Dwyane Wade spoke on a few issues on an appearance a little while ago on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on NBC. Some highlights: On Game 6 of the Finals: "We were only down five with 20 seconds left. That’s what we do. We practice that all day." On free agency next summer: “There’s a lot of media probably watching this in Miami, so I can’t give them nothing.” (Wade said earlier this summer that he wants to stay with the Heat beyond next summer and is optimistic the Big Three will stay together.) On the possibility of a three-peat: “We hope. We're trying to get like the Lakers and Bulls. It’s going to be tough." On LeBron James’ wedding last weekend: “It’s a beautiful, beautiful wedding. Without giving away details, we had an unebelievable time. And I can’t tell you guys nothing else.” He said no phones were allowed and “no phones nowadays is unbelievable. You go nowhere without your phones.”
- Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News: Kobe Bryant continued rehabbing his surgically repaired left Achilles tendon, the latest work involving running at 75 percent of his body weight on a treadmill. Lakers athletic trainer Gary Vitti thinks Bryant remains a “few weeks away” before advancing to full-weight bearing running, though he added “there’s no projected date” on whether Bryant could play in the Lakers’ season opener Oct. 29 against the Clippers. It’s safe to pencil Bryant out for part of training camp, beginning Sept. 28, though it’s unclear if he could catch the tail end of the Lakers’ eight exhibition games through Oct. 25. It all fits the Lakers’ conservative approach in ensuring Bryant only returns from an injury he suffered April 12 once he fully heals. “He’s doing well and has had no setbacks,” Vitti said Thursday at his trainer’s office at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “He’ll be ready when he’s ready. Nobody has a crystal ball on this thing.” Beyond improving his Achilles tendon, the Lakers training staff also wants Bryant to strengthen his legs, knee, back and core. They hope this approach will ensure Bryant closely replicates last season’s output, when he averaged 27.3 points on 46.3 percent shooting, six assists and 5.6 rebounds before the Lakers lost in a first-round sweep to the San Antonio Spurs without him.
- Al Iannazzone of Newsday: Deron Williams' right foot was in a walking boot, forcing him to miss out on playing in his charity dodge ball tournament Thursday. But he said it won't keep him from going all out in training camp or playing in the Nets' regular-season opener. "Basically, this is just preventative,'' Williams said. "They have me in it now so I don't have to worry about it when the season starts. "It's frustrating because I want to be hooping with the guys right now. I want to play in this. It's frustrating. I have to deal with [the media] speculating. It is what it is. As long as I'm ready for October, that's all that matters to me. But I'll be ready for it.'' Williams suffered a sprained right ankle and a bone bruise about 2½ weeks ago while working out. He said he worked out the following day and continued working out on it, but when he told Nets trainer Tim Walsh he had some pain in his ankle, Walsh sent Williams for an MRI. Williams, who was hampered by ankle injuries last season, said he will undergo another MRI next week, but he doesn't expect to be in the boot much longer. The Nets start training camp Oct. 1 at Duke University and open the season Oct. 30 against Cleveland. "If it's up to me, I'd be walking around right now,'' he said. "I could walk fine. It doesn't hurt. It's just protecting me from myself, I guess.'' When asked if he thinks he'll go full during training camp, Williams said, "That's my plan.''
- Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "I'm ready to get to work,'' Anderson Varejao told The Plain Dealer on Thursday afternoon. "I'm excited and I'm ready for the season. I can't wait." No wonder. Varejao missed the last 56 games of the season after a quad injury and then a blood clot. It was his third straight season cut short by injury, coming on the heels of a fractured right wrist that limited him to 25 games in 2011-12 and a right ankle/foot injury that ended the 2010-11 campaign at 31 games. "My goal this season is just to stay healthy,'' he said. "Everything else will come.'' Varejao spent most of the summer rehabilitating his quad in Brazil and working to strengthen his leg. He has only recently started playing pick-up games and, though his quad feels good, he estimates he's at about 70 percent heading into the start of training camp. … Varejao has heard all the speculation about a healthy Bynum -- still no guarantee -- forcing him out of the starting lineup and the two splitting time at center in an effort to reduce the wear and tear on both, but right now that's the least of his problems. "To me, it doesn't matter, as long as I'm important for the team,'' Varejao said. "That's the bottom line. I don't care. I'm going to work the same way, doing what do what I have to do to help the team. Whatever Mike Brown wants to do, it's his decision and I'm here to help.''
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: The idea of putting Omer Asik and Dwight Howard together in the frontcourt will offer an interesting training camp diversion, but not much of an option for significant playing time, much less the starting lineup. The Rockets did not get the league’s top center to make him a power forward and don’t want to turn one of their outstanding defensive centers into a liability defending the 3-point arc. Instead, they will likely choose between last season’s holdovers. Greg Smith started late in the season, but Terrence Jones might have the edge after strong showings late last season and in summer league. Donatas Motiejunas, who was the starter after the trades of Patrick Patterson and Marcus Morris, added some much-needed bulk, but his low-post skills might make him better suited to coming off the bench when Howard is not on the low blocks. Robert Covington, a tweener forward, could serve as a stretch four, though Jones and Motiejunas could shoot well enough for that. If all else fails, the Rockets could go back to Smith inside, but if they are going to play two centers together again, they do have two others to consider.
- Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: To hear journeyman guard Marco Belinelli tell it, he had no shortage of suitors when he hit the open market this summer. Only one could offer the combination of contract security, pedigree and championship aspirations as the Spurs, making it an easy decision for the Italian to accept their two-year offer. … Belinelli wouldn’t bite when asked about how he’ll be able to improve on the departed Gary Neal, whose slot in the rotation he’ll essentially be filling. He did say cite running the pick and roll, along with scoring and defense, as his main areas of expertise. That bolsters the notion that Belinelli was swapped out for the more one-dimensional Neal to add another competent ballhandler behind Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. It doesn’t appear to be a particularly impressive signing in light of his modest shooting percentage (41.8 percent career) and Player Efficiency Rating (11.6, 3.4 below average). But his with his adequate skills in multiple areas — Belinelli’s career 3-point percentage is almost identical to Neal’s — this could be one of those those pick-ups that pay subtle dividends.
- John Reid of The Times-Picayune: When the New Orleans Pelicans open training camp on Oct. 1, veteran forward Jason Smith expects to be playing without any limitations despite requiring surgery last season to repair a torn labrum. Though Smith, 7 feet, 240 pounds, has been held out of contact work during volunteer workouts this month to avoid any setbacks in his recovery, he is expected to be cleared in time for camp. ``It’s all fixed; all better,’’ Smith said. ``It’s just knowing that it is better, and I’ve got to go out there and trust it. I think that’s going to be the big test going through training camp.’’ There probably wasn’t a player on New Orleans’ roster last season that played through more injuries than Smith. He played with a torn labrum for almost three months before he re-injured his right shoulder during a February game against the Brooklyn Nets.
- J. Michael of CSN Washington: It has been a while since Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell has been back on the basketball court of his alma mater. And it's been quite a while since the team has been in this city, too. Led by Cassell, who played at Dunbar Senior High School in the late '80s, the Wizards held a basketball clinic for students Thursday. Bradley Beal, Garrett Temple and Bullets alumni Mike Riordan and Larry Stewart were among others in attendance. The Wizards begin training camp Sept. 28. They will play a preseason game Oct. 17 vs. the New York Nicks at Baltimore Arena. "I haven't been here in a long time. We used to call this place the Eastside Garden. It's changed. The banners are still the same," said Cassell, who graduated from Dunbar in 1988 before going on to a 15-year career as an NBA player. "This opportunity came up to me about coming back to my alma mater, why not?”
- Marcos Breton of The Sacramento Bee: I honestly don’t care if Seattle ever gets an NBA team. But I do hope Hansen is forever frustrated in his bid to be an NBA boss for the smarmy stunt he pulled in Sacramento. Here is a guy who opposes a public vote on the arena he wants to build in Seattle, but essentially finances one in Sacramento – all because he got his fancy pants in a bunch at being passed over for the Kings. The signatures his money bought – around 18,000 of them – are now apparently in the hands of locals who want an arena vote. Without them, the locals have around 3,000 signatures, maybe a little more, but nowhere near the 22,000 they need to qualify an arena vote for the June ballot. That’s why arena opponents made a gleeful announcement Tuesday that they had landed Hansen’s mother lode of signatures. They’re in business. And that announcement was followed by more Hansen buffoonery. In his public statement on the issue Tuesday, Hansen starts by saying he “inadvertently” funded the arena referendum effort. Then he said he decided to contribute to the effort before the NBA made its decision to keep the Kings in Sacramento. How can you “inadvertently” fund an effort you consciously decided to fund?
- Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News: James Worthy has one concern about Kobe Bryant, and it has nothing to do with whether he will recover from a torn left Achilles tendon. Worthy, who won three NBA titles with the Lakers during the Showtime Era and is an analyst for Time Warner Cable SportsNet, openly wondered if Bryant will adjust his aggressiveness out of health and personnel concerns. “One of the biggest challenges for Kobe this year is, can he step back?” Worthy said. “He’s been in the league for 17 years, has a lot of miles on the body and has had a lot of injuries. Can he find a game that will allow other guys to flourish?” Bryant has steadily progressed on his injured left Achilles tendon, but has yet to resume basketball-related activities.
- Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: Kobe Bryant continues to move forward in his rehabilitation from a torn Achilles' tendon, though theLakers are unwilling to put an updated timetable on his exact return. "He's progressing well and has met all the targets and milestones of his rehab, and we expect him to make a full recovery," Lakers spokesman John Black told The Times on Monday. "One of the key issues is to make sure he builds up strength and endurance not only in his Achilles but also in his legs, knees, back and core." Bryant's initial timetable called for at least six to nine months of recovery after he was injured April 12 against Golden State. The more optimistic part would put him in play for two Lakers exhibition games in China next month, though Bryant is expected to miss the Lakers' entire eight-game preseason schedule that ends Oct. 25. The Lakers begin the regular season Oct. 29 against the Clippers. It is unknown if Bryant will be back in time. "We're going to avoid giving a target return date until he's doing full weight-bearing running and on-court basketball activities, at the earliest," Black said.
- Howard Beck of The New York Times: Ten months from now, Anthony will probably opt out of his Knicks contract, sign a five-year deal for $129 million and happily resume his role as the basketball prince of Broadway. Anthony loves New York, and New York loves Anthony, playoff failures notwithstanding. He has every reason to stay: the money, the market, the chance to be the savior who ends the Knicks’ 40-year championship drought. It was only two and a half years ago that Anthony forced the Denver Nuggets to send him here. It seems unlikely he would leave so soon. But a lot can change in 10 months, and the specter of Anthony’s free agency will shadow the Knicks all season, just as the threat of his departure loomed over the Nuggets three years ago. … New York is still New York. But there is another city that can offer heady doses of fame, fortune and brand promotion, and it happens to be home to the N.B.A.’s most glamorous franchise. The Los Angeles Lakers will have millions in salary-cap room next summer, and a powerful recruiter in Kobe Bryant, one of Anthony’s closest friends. Per N.B.A. rules, the Lakers could offer Anthony only $96 million over four years. But they can offer something the Knicks cannot: a tradition of success, a knack for acquiring and building around superstars, and a habit of staging parades in June. Maybe Anthony isn’t going anywhere, as he asserted last week. But verbal commitments and loyalty are malleable concepts in professional sports. Nothing means anything until the contract is signed.
- Fred Kerber of the New York Post: From Russia with … nothing shady. That was the finding of a “thorough” NBA investigation into the Nets’ summer signing of free agent forward Andrei Kirilenko, multiple league sources told The Post. The league, after getting complaints from at least one other team that suggested improper agreements, examined the signing and found nothing against the rules. Kirilenko, who made roughly $10 million in Minnesota last season, opted out of the final year of his Timberwolves’ deal and took the Nets’ $3.1 mini-midlevel exception. In doing so, he triggered a wave of anger and suspicion. Rivals owners and executives intimated under-the-table deals existed between Kirilenko and Russian countryman Mikhail Prokhorov, the Nets’ billionaire owner. At least one owner – possibly more – complained to the league. “When there is a formal complaint, the league will look into it,” said one league official who spoke in generalities and refused comment on the Kirilenko issue.
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: The closest Goran Dragic gets to NBA help is Rasho Nesterovic serving as a mentor in the program. Beno Udrih is not playing. Dragic’s brother, Zoran, was a Houston summer-league player last year. Spain, second only to the U.S. in world basketball, threw Rubio, Sergio Rodriguez, Sergio Llull and Rudy Fernandez at Dragic in waves to wear him down. Slovenia won 78-69, with 18 points and seven rebounds from Dragic. “Every punch they threw at him, he had a counterpunch,” Chris Thomas said. “We’ve had stretches where he’s put the entire team on his back and carried us, especially offensively. “We look to him a lot for those bailout shots at the end of the shot clock or where we just have to get something going. We throw the ball to him and expect him to create. The ball just finds its way to him.” As Slovenia’s tempo increased in recent games, so did Dragic’s scoring. His temperament has been different, too. The cordial 27-year-old who once lacked confidence became surly in a pre-tournament exhibition when he was ejected for shoving a Turkish guard for some post-whistle contact. “I don’t know if it’s the pride of putting on a jersey with your home country on it or if he’s turning the corner as far as being that feisty, gritty, gutsy guy that I know he is now, but hopefully he’ll bring it back to Phoenix with him,” Thomas said.
- Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: But Jose Calderon is willing to try. And while he joins the Mavericks as a B-lister who has been functional but not dynamic throughout his career, he’s a point guard in the same mold as Nash and Kidd – one who has the ability to lead the league in assists and who can make a shot when defenses disregard him. And he brings a wealth of knowledge, both at the NBA and international level, while also being still in his prime. He will turn 32 later this month. … What Calderon does best is take care of business – and the basketball. While he’s probably a little more conservative when he’s running the point than Nash or Kidd, Calderon had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.11 last season. Only Chris Paul at 4.26 had a better average and no other player in the league was better than Jason Kidd’s 3.28 assists per turnover. Calderon’s average last season was right on his career norm of 4.13 assists per turnover. … Anyway, it’s clear that there are numbers to support the Mavericks’ hope that Calderon will be the sort of stabilizing influence they want at the point. He’s almost always at the top of the league in assist-to-turnover ratio. Most importantly, he’s going to have to show that he can run a quality team that is adamant about getting back in the playoffs, something the Mavericks missed last season for the first time since 2000. It’s worth noting that Calderon has only one playoff start in his career and his teams have missed the postseason the last five years.
- Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: It is highly unlikely that center Greg Oden or forward Michael Beasley will be central to the cause, and moderately unlikely that either will play even a peripheral part. Still, there is intrigue in their additions, especially at the cost – a combined $1.9 million for the 2013-14 season, with only Oden’s deal even guaranteed. There is intrigue because of what they were (first team collegiate All-Americans) and what they were supposed to become (with Oden picked No. 1 overall in 2007 and Beasley chosen No. 2 overall in 2008). There is intrigue because of the way each has fallen short, the oft-injured Oden through much less fault of his own. The masses love a comeback story, and many will find their updates more interesting, especially in the preseason, than anything that James, Wade and Bosh do. There are many questions, none with entirely knowable answers. Still, if Riley can take a shot on these two guys, certainly we can take a shot at some predictions. What are the chances that both make the team? Good. In Oden’s case, it’s nearly a guarantee, unless he gets so frustrated with his rehabilitation that he calls it off himself. Miami is committed to the long game with him and, even if he doesn’t show early progress, he will get one of 15 spots. Beasley will be on the court from the start, barring complications from his legal issues, and his skills are sufficient to earn him a slot over someone like Jarvis Varnado.
- J. Michael of CSN Washington: The Wizards made its off-season, front-office reshuffling official Monday with the key move being the promotion of Tommy Sheppard to senior vice president of basketball operations. Sheppard already was a vice president of operations along with Milt Newton, who recently left the Wizards to become general manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Newton was over personnel. … Sheppard's responsibilities have expanded to include salary cap management, draft preparation, college and pro talent evaluation, statistical analysis and recruitment of free agents and handling day-to-day basketball operations. The other promotions: Ed Tapscott to vice president of player programs; Pat Sullivan to assistant coach; Brett Greenberg to director of basketball analytics/salary cap management; Bryan Oringher to video coordinator; and Ryan Richman to assistant video coordinator. The latter two are in their first seasons with the organization.
- Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: No one knows if the introduction would have eventually happened. But it was Mark Aguirre who introduced Mark Cuban to Ross Perot Jr., thus leading to the ownership change of the Dallas Mavericks. That meeting occurred in the latter half of 1999. By Jan. 4, 2000, Perot’s sale of the Mavericks to Cuban for $285 million was finalized. … What made Aguirre even think Cuban would be interested in purchasing the Mavericks? Before winning NBA titles with Detroit in 1989 and ’90, Aguirre was a three-time All-Star with the Mavericks from 1981 until being traded to the Pistons on Feb. 15, 1989. He had witnessed Cuban’s enthusiasm for the Mavericks since Cuban had season tickets near courtside at Reunion Arena and was always one to voice his opinion. “When somebody is that enthusiastic and you see them night in and night out, you can’t help but remember them,” said Aguirre. “So I knew him.” When asked about the importance of Aguirre’s introduction to him buying the Mavericks, Cuban said: “It was everything.”
- Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: When the news broke that the Pelicans had signed a free-agent guard, it seemed as though it was the last position New Orleans needed to bolster. The Pelicans had acquired Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans earlier in the summer, to go along with a trio of returning guards in Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers and Brian Roberts. But Morrow's career statistics would indicate his long-range shooting accuracy would be a perfect backcourt complement to the frontcourt deep threat of Ryan Anderson, giving the Pelicans a potentially dynamic off-the-bench duo that could either stretch a lead or provide the firepower to play catch-up. Morrow, a career 45 percent shooter (.424 from beyond the 3-point line) has also played some small forward, an area in which the Pelicans can desperately use an offensive upgrade.
- Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: Partly because of the intense interest – for obvious reasons – in the Kings' regular-season opener Oct. 30 against the Denver Nuggets at Sleep Train Arena, the team and KXTV Ch. 10 came up with a unique format for the 2013-14 tipoff: a commercial-free telecast. The opener is the first of 11 games Ch. 10 will telecast this season. Comcast SportsNet remains the Kings' primary broadcasting partner and will televise 70 games, with ESPN taking the remaining game – Nov. 15 against the Detroit Pistons at Sleep Train Arena. "Opening night is going to be such a celebration, a new chapter in the journey," Kings president Chris Granger said. "It's going to be a sellout, so we have been thinking about ways to include more people. This (commercial-free telecast) seemed like a way to do that, and fortunately, News10 was more than willing to partner with us."
- Dan Nakaso of The Oakland Tribune: Even before the basketball season begins, the Golden State Warriors are winning -- off the court. The team already has sold more than 14,000 season tickets, a franchise record, and will set another franchise record with 17 appearances in nationally televised games. And in guard Stephen Curry, they have one of the league's most marketable stars, one who stokes the team's fervent fan base and gives the Warriors a great shot of winning on the court as well. "The Warriors may be young and up-and-coming, but they've already proven that they can perform in the playoffs," said Amy Brooks, a former Stanford guard who now serves as senior vice president for marketing and business operations for the NBA. "The Warriors have historically had a very loyal and passionate fan base. Their recent success has just driven this to a higher level."
September, 11, 2013
- K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: The agent for Luol Deng said Tuesday that the two-time All-Star forward would “certainly visit free agency” next summer after being informed by Bulls management that contract extension talks will be tabled until after the 2013-14 season. “Luol has taken the position that he will definitely go through the free-agent process,” said Herb Rudoy, Deng's Chicago-based agent. CSNChicago.com reported early Tuesday that Deng’s contract extension talks had stalled. They never really began, two sources said, with the sides only talking in generalities and never even exchanging financial parameters. Rudoy said Tuesday that general manager Gar Forman informed him last week that no further talks will take place this offseason or during training camp. Forman declined to comment. The general manager said consistently over the summer that the Bulls would like to keep Deng long term. Forman also indicated this summer that an extension for Deng this offseason would be unlikely. … Currently, there are no indications the Bulls plan to deal Deng. But with Mike Dunleavy signed through next season and the emergence of Jimmy Butler, that stance could change closer to February’s trade deadline.
- Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: NBA training camps will begin in three weeks, so it isn’t a surprise to see a lot of activity in the Pistons practice facility, especially with the many new faces who’ll suit up this coming season. New addition Josh Smith was in attendance, along with the three selections from this past June’s draft, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tony Mitchell and Peyton Siva. Incumbent guard Rodney Stuckey went through one-on-one drills with Caldwell-Pope and Siva, as Kyle Singler worked on his spot shooting with assistant coach John Loyer on the other end of the floor. But the man who’s been organizing and trying to galvanize the team with summer activities is the Pistons’ youngest member, and perhaps the most important: 20-year-old, second-year center Andre Drummond. “I think this season will be different for us. I think guys see it,” Drummond said. “We added a lot of pieces and a lot of guys are amped and ready to go, as soon as possible.”
- Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: His expression was straight forward. His wording precise. His point emphatic. Warriors budding star Harrison Barnes said he isn't concerned about whether he starts. He isn't even consumed by being on the court at the end of games. "Winning the game matters more to me," Barnes said. Barnes, who started all 93 games he played last season including playoffs, is the center of a major question as the Warriors close in on training camp at the end of this month. With the acquisition of swingman Andre Iguodala, Golden State now has six players with starting credentials, meaning someone has to come off the bench. Barnes, after his workout at the team facility on Tuesday, didn't mince his words and gave no breath to controversy. He doesn't care. Whatever Mark Jackson decides, he's game. "I can imagine much worse problems," Barnes said. "I feel confident about this team and where we can go. Regardless if I'm starting or coming off the bench, I think we have a chance to make a serious playoff push."
- Al Iannazzone of Newsday: Carmelo Anthony believes the Knicks and much-improved Brooklyn Nets will become "the best rivalry in basketball" and they will be competing for fans as well. The Brooklyn-born Anthony is a fan of the moves the Nets made this offseason, which should help their Q-rating in New York and in the borough he was born in. "We all know from the Jackie Robinson days, that was the last time we actually had something to believe in," Anthony said at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit. "Now, with the young kids that are coming up these days, that's their team. They grow up under the Brooklyn Nets and that's their team. It's going to be a funny thing to see the kids growing up there, how they convert from Knicks fans to Nets fans. The household might be Knicks fans and the kids might be Nets fans, so it's a rivalry everywhere, in the households, on the basketball courts, in the streets, in the boroughs. It's everywhere, and it makes it fun for the game." Anthony led the Knicks to 54 wins and the Atlantic Division title last season. But they lost their top leaders in the locker room, Jason Kidd and Rasheed Wallace, and have other concerns, including Anthony's potentially troublesome shoulder, Amar'e Stoudemire's knees and J.R. Smith, who was suspended five games for violating the league's anti-drug policy.
- Brian Steinberg of Variety: Showtime is developing a one-hour scripted series that takes a peek behind the scenes of a professional basketball team, with NBA coaching great Phil Jackson and current Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis on board as exec producers. The series will focus on the family that owns the team, according to details provided by the CBS Corp. pay-cable service. ... Jeanie Buss, the senior vice president of the Los Angeles Lakers and Linda Rambis will executive produce via production company Street Reason Entertainment. Rambis is married to the Lakers coach. Brett Tomberlin of IDW and Ubiquity Studios will also executive produce, with Brian Gilbert and Andrew Trapani of Nine/8 Entertainment. In an interview, Buss said her experiences working with the Lakers as well as managing events, would inform the stories told in the potential series. “We’ve seen so much, the things that go on behind the scenes,” she said. “We go to events and people ask us a lot of questions about what they don’t see. They know the game. They see the game, but they don’t really know what leads up to getting the team on the court.” Most people “don’t know what makes a championship season or what it’s like to go through a losing season.”
- Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press: Wolves coach Rick Adelman has been meeting with his staff in Portland this week, and talked by telephone with president of basketball operations Flip Saunders for an hour Monday night. "He's excited about everything we're doing right now," Saunders said. "I'm very confident that Rick is going to be back." Adelman missed a few weeks last season to be with his wife, Mary Kay, who was experiencing seizures.
- Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: The Mavericks’ pursuit of finding big-man help on the cheap has led them to Fab Melo, a first-round draft pick of Boston’s in 2012. Melo was taken 22nd and spent most of last season in the NBA Development League. He led the D-League at 3.1 blocks per game, and also averaged 9.8 points and 6 rebounds in 33 games. He played just six games for the Celtics, amassing only 36 total minutes played. President Donnie Nelson confirmed that Melo, a Syracuse product, had agreed to attend training camp, which opens Sept. 30. Melo clearly was a disappointment to the Celtics, who traded him to Memphis in the summer. The Grizzlies quickly waived the 7-foot, 255-pounder. The Mavericks remain thin in the front court. Samuel Dalembert will be the penciled-in starter when training camp opens, but behind him, they have only DeJuan Blair and Brandan Wright.
- Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: Consider: Emeka Okafor, David Andersen, D.J. Mbenga, Aaron Gray, Gustavo Ayon, Chris Kaman, Darryl Watkins, Robin Lopez. Since Monty Williams arrived in New Orleans in 2010, the center position on his teams hasn't been manned by players for whom opponents needed to game-plan, rather a somewhat itinerant collection of big bodies who were proficient at some aspect of the game but lacking well-rounded serviceability. With the NBA marginalizing the center position – last year the league henceforth eliminated the "center" designation on the All-Star ballot because there has been some difficulty distinguishing a true center worthy of consideration – the spot once occupied by the game's legends has deteriorated into blurred mediocrity. … With forward/backup center Jason Smith coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, the Pelicans needed an extra body inside and signed two-year veteran Greg Stiemsma to a free-agent deal this summer, apparently hoping that a player with just 22 NBA starts in his career can possibly step into a full-time starting role. The bar Stiemsma must clear, mind you, hasn't been set that high. And as Stiemsma met the New Orleans media for the first time on Tuesday, along with fellow free-agent acquisition guard Anthony Morrow, the 6-foot-11, 260-pound post man walked a delicate line avoiding the temptation to burden himself with inflated expectations.
- Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: The Miami Heat on Tuesday announced the signing of two players who ultimately could turn into short-term rentals. Center Justin Hamilton and power forward Eric Griffin, whose additions previously had been confirmed, became the 15th and 16th players under contract to the Heat in advance of the Oct. 1 start of training camp at AmericanAirlines Arena. With 13 other players already under guaranteed contract, and with the Heat potentially to carry as few as 13 this season due to their position against the onerous luxury tax, Hamilton, Griffin and center Jarvis Varnado, the other player on the current roster without a guaranteed contract, face long roster odds. By signing with the Heat, Hamilton, acquired out of LSU in the second-round of the 2012 NBA Draft, and Griffin, who went undrafted out of Campbell University in 2012, become eligible to be sent to the Heat's NBA Development League team, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, should they be cut at the end of training camp.
- Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: There is a history here, a Warriors-centric history with the potential for a terribly awkward dynamic: Ranadive is a former Warriors minority owner. Mullin is a former Warriors executive vice president. D'Alessandro is a former Warriors assistant general manager who was hired by Mullin, his fellow St. John's alum and friend for about 25 years. That theory about three people in the bed? Too many chefs in the kitchen? Three being a crowd? I don't think so. I think this works. In this ongoing Kings craziness – a good craziness – square pegs fit in round holes. Mullin is a gentleman and D'Alessandro is a scholar, and in today's NBA, their skill sets are complementary. D'Alessandro is an attorney, a well-regarded front-office executive and a former player agent. Mullin is a basketball legend who can gain access to any gym in the world and has been itching for another front-office position. … Asked if he intended to maintain a high profile or more of a behind-the-scenes presence, Mullin nodded and smiled. "Whatever Vivek wants," he said, "but you can't have too many voices."
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Last year, the Suns became one of 15 NBA teams to embrace the analytics era by investing in SportVu Player Tracking technology to acquire a higher level of player performance analysis. Good for them. This year, the NBA reached a multi-year agreement with STATS Inc., which owns the SportVU technology, to put six cameras in every arena and become the first American pro league to quantify and analyze each in-game player movement. Good for you. The Suns were commended for getting out in front of the analytics wave, but the movement has gone mainstream. The Suns kept all the data gathered last year to themselves, but this league move is the best thing for hoop junkies since NBA League Pass. The NBA already headed this way by adding advanced stats to nba.com last year. Now, they will post unprecedented data from SportVu on its site (wonder how many points per touch Eric Bledsoe is getting?) and for use in broadcasts (“Eddie, Marcin Gortat has run the equivalent of a 5K tonight”). The Suns do not lose out because they shelled out about $100,000 for it last year, and the NBA is footing the bill for the other teams this year.
- Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Shane Battier isn't sure he's the retiring type, but considering the Miami Heat forward turned 35 Monday, he appreciates the end could be near. … Monday, before a motivational appearance with the students at St. Mark's Episcopal School, he said with his three-year contract expiring at season's end, it only makes sense to take stock. "I'm realistic to where I am at this point in my life," he said, after playing most of last season as a reserve and seeing limited action for an extended stretch of the playoffs. "I'd like to finish my contract strong with the Miami Heat, and then we'll see where we go." Battier, though, said there would not be any sort of retirement tour, with possibilities still remaining in 2014 free agency. "This door is always open," he said. "This is not a farewell tour, no. But if it is, it is. And I'll enjoy this year and try to make the most of it."
- Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman: Recently, Olajuwon spoke of both occurrences in an interview with Nike Kicks, lauding Kobe, LeBron and a few other stars who flew out to Houston for dedicated workout sessions with him. It’s in the embedded video at the bottom of this post, starting at around 5:40, and includes some interesting anecdotal quotes from Olajuwon. But toward the end of the interview, he was also asked which players, of those who haven’t trained with him yet, would benefit most from his tutelage. His answer: Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant. Why Durant? “(He’s) very skilled, but doesn’t take advantage of his height in the post,” Olajuwon said. “He’s much taller than most of the guys who guard him. He’s got all the outside game, but now he needs to take them in the post. In other words, there’s something for everybody.” Overall, Durant’s actually been pretty efficient with his back to the basket, scoring 1.04 points per post-up last season (stat via mysynergysports.com), seventh highest in the NBA. But it still feels like an underutilized part of his game, particularly (as Olajuwon said) when he has smaller players defending him. Only 10.4 percent of his offensive moves were out of the post last season. Will he do it more in the future? We’ll see. Will he work with Olajuwon to improve? Couldn’t hurt. But it’s not exactly the most pressing issue facing the 24-year-old or his team.
- Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News: There are some things Kobe Bryant can’t do. He may be fluent in English, Italian and Spanish, but Bryant noticeably struggles saying his name in Mandarin. Bryant can do everything with a basketball, except spinning one. That’s because of the fractured index finger he suffered three years ago, an injury that still hasn’t fully healed. It might be surprising to see Bryant struggle with something after mostly seeing him dominate on the court. But it’s also insightful to see him at his most vulnerable. Bryant hardly frets much about his struggles speaking Mandarin, and steal tries to speak with great enthusiasm. When the CCTV host Sa Beining asks Bryant to spin a basketball, the Lakers star didn’t seem bashful one bit in admitting he can’t do it. To which Beining offered a rightfully collective shrug. “You guys probably think Kobe can do everything, but even Kobe is human,” Beining said in Mandarin. “But so what? He’s still Kobe. Not being able to spin the ball doesn’t make him a less effective basketball player. Kobe Bryant has an indomitable spirit.”
- J. Michael of CSN Washington: Will Nene be eased back into the picture or will he be pushed full-speed ahead? The 7-footer spent the summer rehabilitating from various injuries, both shoulders, both knees and his left foot, as he split his off-season between homes in Denver and Brazil. In April, I asked Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld the same question about easing back Nene and he said that they'd consider it. Wittman: "He got in town Aug. 30. He's been on the floor. He feels good. He's had a whole summer where he didn't have to worry about the pounding and the stuff he did last summer having the injuries he did and having to play on the (Brazil) national team and never gave his body a chance to recover. He's feeling good. He looks good. I'm pretty pleased with that. I anticipate him being ready to go. When did we play our last game? Five months ago? He's done a lot of good work this summer, not only from a rest standpoint but from physical therapy. He's built his strength back up. I anticipate we'll head into the season with no restrictions." Of course, the Wizards' medical staff will be consulted on these matters but it's a good sign if Nene passes the eye test with Wittman.
- John Ried of The Times-Picayune: Pelicans veteran forward/center Jason Smith said last week that he doesn't feel pain in his surgically repaired right shoulder that forced him to miss the final 24 games last season. But he still hasn't been cleared to participate in contact work yet during volunteer workouts. Smith is hoping to be cleared just before the Pelicans open training camp. “That's best guess right now because you never know if things will flare up when you hit somebody,'' Smith said. “You put in the time to rest and recover and you put in the work to strengthened it and get back in shape. That's all I can do right now is try to get in the best shape that I can.'' Smith suffered a torn labrum during a Dec. 12 game last season against the Oklahoma City Thunder when he blocked an attempted dunk by forward Kevin Durant.
- Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: As I wrote last week, David Lighty and Eric Dawson will be non-roster training camp invites. Andonis Thomas is likely to be another invite, although nothing is official at this point. Thomas has been working out in Atlanta this offseason. He was part of the Hawks summer league roster. The 6-foot-7 small forward, an undrafted free agent out of Memphis, appeared in three summer league games. He averaged 1.3 points and 0.3 rebounds in 9.7 minutes. The Hawks have 14 players on their current roster with Lighty and Dawson coming to training camp. The Hawks will most likely add two more players and as many as four come the start of camp. Another guard and small forward could be added. I expect the Hawks to keep just 14 on the roster for the regular season. General manager Danny Ferry likes to have the flexibility of the additional roster spot. The status of Lou Williams, rehabbing from a torn ACL, is still a factor in determining the roster.
- Staff of the Pioneer Press: The Minnesota Timberwolves made official Monday the promotion of David Adelman to assistant coach and the hiring of Bobby Jackson to replace Adelman as player development coach. The son of Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman had served in the player development role for two seasons. Jackson, a former University of Minnesota standout, was an assistant coach with the Sacramento Kings the last two seasons. "David is a bright young coach and has demonstrated the past two years that he is ready to take on additional responsibilities," Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said in a statement. "In Bobby Jackson, we are bringing a Minnesota basketball icon back to our state. Bobby has the respect of players around our league and did a great job working with the young Kings players this past season. Both Rick Adelman and I are very familiar with Bobby and are excited to have him on our coaching staff."
- Bernie Augustine of the New York Daily News: Before Kent Bazemore was “Bazemoring” on the sidelines of Warriors playoff games — and in the latest version of NBA 2K14 — he was packing his bags and getting ready to play basketball professionally in the Ukraine. How quickly things can change. “I would have been living a totally different life, having a totally different experience,” he said recently. … “It takes a strong type of individual to not play but still have that type of enthusiasm,” former Warriors guard Jarret Jack said last season. “He does what he can to contribute to the team, and it’s appreciated.” Soon his celebrations became YouTube fixtures, fodder for blog posts, and features in highlight-reel shows. “It’s definitely spontaneous. I can’t even remember the first pose — the three fingers in the air — I can’t even tell you when I did it, where I did it or how it came to me. It’s just something I started doing and people ran with it,” he said, adding that he doesn’t have names for his signature moves. … “The NBA 2K franchise is all about authenticity, and we strive to include details that accurately represent all aspects of the game,” Rob Jones, NBA 2K’s producer, said. “Our goal is to make the NBA 2K14 experience as close to real life as possible, and Bazemore brings unique moves both on and off the court that serve to amplify the experience for players.” There was so much hype about Bazemore’s inclusion in the game, that his celebrations were featured in the trailer for the game, which will be released on October 1.
- Ryan Lillis of The Sacramento Bee: For weeks, Chris Hansen has been vilified by Sacramento Kings fans for financing a signature-gathering campaign to force a public vote on the city’s arena subsidy. Now the man who tried to buy the Kings and move them to Seattle is trying to make amends. On the same day Hansen and two political operatives agreed to pay a $50,000 fine to state election officials for failing to properly report the source of funding behind the ballot measure effort, Hansen announced Monday that he would “take steps to prevent” the signatures his money financed from being used. In a statement released on his website, Hansen also said a Los Angeles law firm funneled his money to the signature campaign “without my knowledge or consent.” That firm, Loeb & Loeb, paid a Tulare-based company $80,000 in June to dispatch campaign workers in Sacramento to collect petitions, according to state election regulators.
- Lynn Thompson of The Seattle Times: The State Court of Appeals today rejected a challenge to the Sodo arena brought by Longshore workers. The court upheld a trial court decision from February that found that the agreement between the city of Seattle, King County and Chris Hansen to build a new $490 million arena did not violate state environmental laws. “The memorandum does not predetermine where an arena will be built or even that an arena will be built at all,” the Division One Appeals Court three-justice panel wrote in its opinion. “Whether the city and county will agree to Hansen’s proposal is a decision expressly reserved until after environmental review is complete. Because there has not yet been a government ‘action’ as that term is defined by SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act), the courts are not a forum for the union’s opposition to Hansen’s proposal.”
- Brad Rock of the Deseret News: In the early 1970s, downtown Salt Lake was a rough place to be — downtown meaning the paint. That’s where Zelmo Beaty set up shop. The former Utah Stars center considered it his property, on both ends of the court. A good rule of thumb: Crowd him at your own risk. “If you started to encroach into some of his territory in the paint — which he considered all his territory — you might get an elbow,” former Dallas Chaparrals and Utah Stars coach Tom Nissalke said. Beaty, who passed away Aug. 27, played until he was 35, averaging 11.3 points and 9.7 rebounds in his final season, despite having had numerous knee surgeries. He worked in four markets, but especially during the four years he was in Utah, everything was Big Z’s space. He not only owned the paint, but the city and state, too. He led the Stars to the 1971 ABA championship. After jumping from the NBA to the league with the colorful basketball, he was an immediate hit. He was intimidating, effective, dedicated and best of all he had an unforgettable name.
- Bob Wofley of the Journal Sentinel: Caron Butler’s introduction as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks Thursday at Racine Park High School was a press conference wrapped in a family reunion inside a high school pep rally. Butler, 33, warned those gathered in the fieldhouse where he played for a year that there might be some water works to go with his words. He made good on his prediction. “I’m a little emotional definitely,” Butler said. “Y’all see me crying at press conferences and at other things all the time – draft night – but it’s a different emotion now because this is a dream come true. This is something that I always dreamed about, thought about. I never thought it would happen. So it’s special. Thank you.” The enthusiastic audience of Park high school students and staff in attendance applauded Butler’s heartfelt comments, like this one, when some words quivered and he teared up. Butler was joined at the press table by coach Larry Drew and general manager John Hammond. Bucks owner Herb Kohl also was in attendance. Hammond said he had Butler penciled in as the Bucks’ starting small forward.
- Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: Gar Forman isn’t into playing -favorites. Sure, the Bulls’ general manager is eager to see what Derrick Rose 2.0 looks like when the MVP point guard takes the court in full five-on-five scrimmages in less than a month, but it’s about the big picture for Forman on what could be a make-or-break season for his current roster. … As Boozer also knows that this group has a shelf life that is on the brink of running out. Deng is a free agent after this season, while Boozer is a prime candidate to be amnestied. It’s basically now or never for the core in the 2013-14 season. But it will all start with Rose. Like he promised at the end of the season, he doesn’t play pick-up games in the summer, and that didn’t change this offseason. So Rose’s first real test will be Oct. 5, in a preseason game in Indiana. “He hasn’t been playing in games [this summer], but that’s not unusual for a lot of players,’’ Forman said. “He’s done his work and has put the time in on making himself better.’’ Now it’s about seeing what Rose will look like post-knee rehab. Less than a month away and counting.
- Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: It perhaps took some time, but Stephen Curry seems comfortable in his role as the man. He's long since been anointed by Warriors management. And his playoff performances pushed him up a tier on the star hierarchy. But now his teammates, the youngsters and the newcomers, are looking to him for guidance. His coaches are expecting him to be a vocal leader. The fan base is banking on him carrying the franchise to heights it hasn't sniffed in decades. And the fifth-year guard seems to be embracing it all matter-of-factly. "I'm 25. Still young. But I know the drill. I know the expectations," Curry said in a chat with local media after working out at the team facility Thursday. "For me to have the same coaching staff, the same leadership, for three straight years is big. ... We have the stability for us to make that move (to another level), and I hope to lead that charge." Certainly, Curry's not alone in leading the locker room. David Lee and center Andrew Bogut share the leadership load, and Andre Iguodala figures to eventually emerge as a leader. But not even Curry's reputed humility can help him escape the pedestal on which he is now perched.
- Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com: Even after spending $117 million in free agency in July and August, Minnesota Timberwolves president of operations Flip Saunders will have another sizable monetary decision to make. Before his third year begins -- Oct. 31 is the deadline -- the Wolves need to figure out if they will pay forward Derrick Williams $6.3 million for the 2014-15 season. In a phone conversation earlier this week spanning a few topics, Wolves owner Glen Taylor acknowledged the team isn't quite sure what to do. "We'll evaluate his summer program, and how he looks coming into camp (which starts Oct. 1)," Taylor said. "I heard he is looking good." Exercising Williams' fourth-year option is potentially enough to carry the Wolves over the luxury tax and not allow them to sign a free agent for the mid-level exception, according to Grantland.com's Zach Lowe. Williams is working out in Los Angeles with trainer Gunnar Peterson, who said recently via email that Williams is stronger and more balanced than a year ago.
- Howard Beck of The New York Times: The league on Thursday announced plans to install sophisticated tracking cameras, known as the SportVu system, in every arena for the coming season, creating an unprecedented treasure trove of data about virtually every wrinkle of the game. SportVu, developed by Stats LLC, records data points for all 10 players, the three referees and the ball, every 30th of a second, measuring speed, distance, player separation and ball possession. Every step, every dribble, every pass, every shot, every rebound — really, every movement — will be recorded, coded and categorized. … The N.B.A. is the first major professional sports league in the United States to fully adopt the SportVu system. It will have other implications for the league, far beyond the playbook and the box score. Not everyone might welcome the change. General managers will surely exploit the more sophisticated statistics when negotiating contracts with player agents. Not all assists, points and rebounds are created equal — and teams will soon be able to demonstrate that vividly. Referees are also tracked by SportVu, which means the league will have yet another tool to analyze every call, non-call and missed call as it ranks its officials. Those rankings help determine which referees are chosen for playoff assignments and the finals.
- Steve Serby of the New York Post: Former Knick Bernard King took a timeout for some Q&A with Steve Serby before King’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction this weekend. Q: What are you most proud of? A: I’m most proud of the fact my wife and I raised a wonderful daughter. That’s what life is all about. In terms of basketball legacy, we could always point to back-to-back 50-point games, the 42 I averaged in the Piston playoff series, or the great year in ’84-85, or the 60 points (Christmas Eve against Nets). What stands out in my mind was what I was able to do at a time when players were not coming back from ACL injuries. I had my entire knee reconstructed. I was told I would never play again. I told myself, “I’m from Brooklyn. I’m from Fort Greene. I grew up on the toughest playgrounds in the world. In one of the toughest neighborhoods in the country, and I made it all the way to the NBA, and I rose to the top of my profession at that time. You don’t know my heart. If I could do that, this is nothing!” I set about the task of working to make it back at a level I could be satisfied with. I did that. To do that for five hours a day, six days a week for two straight years, and not once wavering, always having faith. … I did it. I became an All-Star again, and that was my goal.
- Staff of The Sacramento Bee: Chris Mullin, 50, a former front-office executive with the Golden State Warriors, will have a variety of basketball operations responsibilities, including advising Ranadive and general manager Pete D'Alessandro on player transactions and scouting. "I couldn't be more excited about joining the Kings and playing a part in making this team a winner again," Mullin said in a statement released by the Kings on Thursday. "I'm especially grateful for the unique opportunity to work in close proximity with a world-class ownership group led by Vivek Ranadive and the talented group of individuals assembled in our front office."
- Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News: In a move that could bolster their perimeter defense and add competition in training camp, the Lakers signed free-agent guard Xavier Henry on Thursday to give them 14 players on the roster. Terms of the deal weren’t immediately available. But considering the Lakers’ desire to keep cap flexibility for the 2014 offseason, it’s likely Henry’s contract consists of a one-year deal at the veteran’s minimum. It’s also unclear if his contract is guaranteed. The Lakers recently added small forward Shawne Williams and Elias Harris to partially guaranteed deals. The Lakers are expected to sign second-round draft pick Ryan Kelly, though he’s still rehabbing from foot surgery in April. NBA teams can field a maximum of 15 players on their roster. … The Lakers plan to have anywhere between 18-20 players to fill out their training camp roster, including Marcus Landry, who led the Lakers’ Summer League team in scoring. It’s likely Henry, Kelly, Williams, Landry and Harris will compete for roster spots since the Lakers will keep anywhere between 13-15 players.
- Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: Two NBA sources have confirmed that Steve Hetzel, former Cavaliers video coordinator, will be hired to coach the Cavs' owned-and-operated NBA Development League team, the Canton Charge. The hire was first reported by the News-Herald. Hetzel, a 2005 graduate of Michigan State where he served as a student manager for the men's basketball team, was named the Cavs' video coordinator in July, 2006. He stayed until 2009, when he left to join former Cavs assistant John Kuester's staff with the Detroit Pistons. After Kuester was fired, Hetzel remained with Lawrence Frank for two seasons. Hetzel replaces D-League coach of the year Alex Jensen, who left the Charge to join Tyrone Corbin's staff in Utah.
- Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: France atoned for its opening loss to Germany, riding five double-figure scorers to a resounding 88-65 victory over lowly Great Britain on the second day of play at EuroBasket 2013. Nicolas Batum led all scorers with 17 points and Tony Parker added 16 at Les Bleus improved to 1-1 in Group A. The game, as expected, was never close. France led by double-figures after one quarter, and put Great Britain away for good with a 26-11 outburst in the third quarter. France, which also got 11 points from Nando De Colo and four from Boris Diaw, will play group bottom-dweller Israel on Friday. Also at EuroBasket, Italy improved to 2-0 in Group D with a 90-75 spanking of Turkey. Spurs reserve Marco Belinelli had 17 points for the Italians, who will Finland on Saturday. Across the Atlantic at the FIBA Americas championship, Canada destroyed Mexico 89-67 behind another strong performance from Cory Joseph. The young point guard registered 21 points, eight rebounds and six assists — his fourth game of the tournament with at least 17 points, eight boards and four assists.
September, 5, 2013
By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
Statistics show LeBron James, Isaiah Thomas and Tony Parker are among the best.
Is being good at the layup as simple as getting to the rim? There’s rarely a distinction made between a player’s ability to get in layup range versus his ability to actually sink it. Perhaps that’s because “a layup” is also a metaphor for something easy, like a “gimme” putt in golf.
Whoever popularized the metaphor probably never tried to score over NBA giants, I’d hazard.
The layup also gets no respect because it doesn’t demand respect. Unlike the dunk, the layup fails to seize an arena’s attention with a sudden lightning bolt at the hoop. Instead, it takes an indirect route off the backboard before meandering along the rim, waffling on whether to finally be a basket already.
Incredible dunks look super intentional, as though a player’s life depended on forcing the ball through the rim at that moment. Incredible layups look accidental, as though a fouled Dwyane Wade thought “Why not?” while flinging the ball in the backboard’s general direction.
So the layup commutes between “you’re open and should always make it” and “you weren’t looking at the rim, that was total luck.” It’s hard to get recognition for being good at something when both the routine and the spectacular are so easily dismissed.
Well, no one is dismissing the mighty layup in these parts. The shortest bank shot is indeed a skill -- and an important one. Here are some players who, according to Basketball-Reference.com, have mastered the ancient art, along with some guys who could stand to do better.
Made 70 percent of layups, attempted 357
When LeBron stole Game 1 from Indiana with an off-hand layup, there was far less marveling at his steely reserve than there was criticism of Frank Vogel for letting it happen.
An open layup is a high percentage shot for anyone, but it says something that LeBron is comfortable with his off hand in a high-pressure moment like that. His ambidexterity is the foundation of his short-range arsenal.
Not only is LeBron better at getting to the rim than everyone else but he might be more accurate once there than everyone else, as well. Last season, LeBron shot 70 percent on layups. He attempted at least 200 layups more than anyone with a better layup conversion rate.
The aforementioned ambidexterity allows LeBron to explore any angle at any time. A favorite tactic of his is to shield the defender with his back while banking a no-look lefty. It’s a bit like a reverse lay-in that doesn’t finish on the other side of the hoop.
Made 67 percent of layups, attempted 151
Pound-for-pound (Copyright: Allen Iverson) the best layupper around. At a tiny 5-9 in socks, Thomas shouldn’t be able to hit 67.1 percent on these shots. He has had a lifetime of practice against taller players, though.
Thomas hasn’t mastered any one thing in particular. He just has the full layup repertoire. He’ll switch hands when it suits him. He’ll loft it high off the glass like Steve Nash. He’ll shield off contact with his back while scooping the ball forward. He has the up-and-under down.
Seriously, watch this guy at the rim. Better yet, record this guy at the rim, pause right before the layup happens and appreciate how impossible the feat looks. Water can’t find a way through cracks the way a Thomas layup can.
Made 67 percent of layups, attempted 331
This is the defining Parker trait and always has been. There’s also a striking quirk to his game. Although Parker can use his left hand if the situation requires, he prefers to use his right, even on the left side of the backboard. I’d say the signature Tony layup is a right-handed scoop on the left side of the rim. That is, if the signature Tony layup isn’t an overhand try in which he’s leaning backward on an invisible recliner.
Made 70 percent of layups, attempted 156
Look, I’d be lying if I said I could fully explain Thornton’s layup skill, but he’s been great two years running (69.3 percent on layups last season). He isn’t especially fluid with his moves, but he’s good with either hand. Thornton also doesn’t force anything around the rim. Most of his lay-ins come off assists.
Made 50 percent of layups, attempted 281
Kevin Costner’s “back, and to the left” line creeps into my head whenever Jennings drives. Detroit’s new starting point guard has a tendency to lean backward off balance while flinging lefty prayers. Hopefully Jennings learned something from former teammate Beno Udrih, who shoots contested layups quite well.
Made 50 percent of layups, attempted 335
He’s even worse at contested layups when you consider how often he’s rebounding his misses for easy putbacks. But those putbacks might answer the question of why Anthony is so mediocre near the basket. Melo loves chasing his own shot, and the first try might be a careless prelude to the chase. He’s also not especially adept at using his left hand and thus forces a lot of action with his right.
Made 50 percent of layups, attempted 245
He’s the right-handed Jennings, although there’s more hope for Waiters going forward, I’d say. He’s stronger than Jennings (eventually my “Strongta Ellis” nickname will get off the ground, I just know it), taller than Jennings and younger than Jennings. I’m banking (OK, I’ll stop) on an improved Waiters near the rim.
Made 49 percent of layups, attempted 290
Sessions was among the worst perimeter player on layups last season, but he hasn’t been this bad in the past. Last season could be a fluke -- or the result of a once-quick point guard slowing down. I’ve noticed he tends to go right when the path is blocked off.
Made 48 percent of layups, attempted 145
I stayed away from listing big men because so many of their “layups” are really post moves or strained putbacks, but Asik deserves a mention. He converted 94.6 percent of his dunks, nearly 47 better than he managed on layups. From 3-10 feet, he shot 27.4 percent.
Few players better demonstrate the difference between grip and other kinds of fine motor skills. Asik is good at dunking; he has no issue putting his clamps on the rock and tomahawking it through the hoop. Once his hands try a more delicate layup, though, the ball flies off the window as if Asik’s playing handball.
Made 45 percent of layups, attempted 164
I don’t want to judge too harshly, as Rubio was coming back from an ACL tear. This is his second season of poor finishing, though (48.4 percent on layups in his rookie year). It’s curious that Rubio struggles like this because he’s so well coordinated and so well aware of angles when it comes to passing. Perhaps the problem is his running balance. On drives, Rubio often staggers as if he’s in an invisible potato sack race.
IN THE MIDDLE
Made 58 percent of layups, attempted 478
Westbrook might be the player whose facility at making layups simply means he gets to the rim a bunch. That’s not entirely fair, though, because Westbrook can and does finish with either hand.
You just wouldn’t expect the dynamic point guard to be a whole 12 percent worse on layups than LeBron, given Westbrook’s elite speed and hops. It appears, from the video clips, as if Westbrook flies into the lane with more desire than strategy, willing the ball toward what might be the hoop. That’s nitpicking because, even if Westbrook is only OK at converting layup attempts, it matters more that he is creating so many of them.
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: In mid-May, Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby and newly hired General Manager Ryan McDonough met with Michael Beasley to lay out expectations for the summer. Beasley could not last three months before he let the Suns down again. His on-court regression might have been enough to cut ties but an early August arrest for marijuana possession in his car was intolerable. Faced with owing him $9 million of guaranteed contract, the Suns escaped the failed Beasley experiment with a buyout Tuesday that emphasizes a character standard which was overlooked last year and saves the club $2 million in salary and even more in cap hits for the next two years. Babby negotiated to reduce Beasley’s salary for this season from $6 milliion to $4.67 million and next season’s guaranteed $3 million of a $6 million salary to $2.33 million. Using the waive-and-spread provision of the collective bargaining agreement, the Suns will spread that $2.33 million in payment and cap hits over the years to $778,000 annually. The buyout, along with the ability to spread next year’s salary, creates $1.4 million in cap space this year (now about $6.7 million of total space) and $2.2 million more of cap space next year.
- Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: So long Michael Beasley, at least until your next court appearance. The Suns got it right Tuesday, announcing that they have waived Beasley after negotiating a buyout of what remains on his contract. Heck, they even managed to save themselves a couple of million and gave themselves some salary cap relief. But even if it had cost them every penny of the $9 million in guaranteed money they still owed Beasley, it would have been worth it to get rid of him. The Suns had to clean up the mess made by former general manager Lance Blanks, with approval of team president Lon Babby and owner Robert Sarver, after Beasley was arrested in Scottsdale for possession and where he still has a sexual assault investigation hanging over him. The Suns, after a disastrous couple of seasons, finally have begun to rebuild goodwill with their constituents. The last thing they needed on a roster full of young players and with a new head coach is a guy like Beasley.
- Adam Green ArizonaSports.com: The Suns threw down their bet, and the dice came up snake eyes. They lost, plain and simple, and now they will look to move on from one of the worst mistakes the franchise has ever made. Yet, it was the right move to take a chance last summer, just as it is the right call to end the relationship now, even though it will cost the team $7 million over the next few years to not have him around. Signing Beasley gave the Suns a shot at landing a star player at a time when, quite frankly, they had little ability to do so. Years of choosing mediocrity over bottoming out led to middling first-round draft picks, and refusing to part with aging veterans while they could have brought back more in return left them with little in the way of young talent to build around. Sure, the Suns had cap space, but they were not going to lure a big-time star to the desert last summer and were still a season away from landing the first top-five pick since 1987. They were in position to take a flyer on a player who, remember, was just a few seasons removed from being the second-overall pick in the NBA Draft. Had Beasley been able to turn his life around, the Suns very well could have landed an All-Star-caliber player at a time when they badly needed one. Of course, Beasley was unable to change, and now his once-promising career is on the ropes.
- Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: America is addicted to sports, bringing with it the obsessive need to dissect even the most insignificant morsels of these silly games that command so much of our attention. (Of which this post, and web site, are but a tiny piece.) Those who exist under that white-hot glare experience the full spectrum of human judgments, not least of which is blame. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich experienced this during the Finals as he rarely, if ever, has during his Hall-of-Fame career. The details are permanently etched in Spurs lore: Spurs up five, less than half a minute remaining in Game 6, Popovich sits defensive anchor Tim Duncan for not one but two crucial possessions. Miami grabs an offensive rebound, and hits 3-pointers, on both to force overtime. The Heat win the game, and then the series two days later. A Google search for “Game 6 Gregg Popovich’s fault” on Tuesday got 408,000 results. The general consensus among the critics: How could you possibly take Duncan, one of the best rebounders and defenders in the game, off the court for such a critical possession? Then, after that didn’t work, how could you possibly do it again? Or as one poster at Pounding the Rock put it, Popovich overthought it so much that he underthought it. This line of thinking ignores two critical factors: 1. The Spurs had tremendous success subbing Duncan out for more mobile defenders on late defensive stands — typically Boris Diaw — throughout the season. 2. The odds of everything breaking the way it did down the stretch were so minute that the biggest factor, by a gigantic margin, was dumb luck.
- Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: Heat star LeBron James is executive producer of a planned new hour-half sitcom on Starz tentatively led Survivor's Remorse. Set in north Philadelphia, it's about two men from the streets who achieve fame, one in the NBA, the other not, and how they deal with family, friends and changing attitudes about them. LeBron will not star in the show but clearly the premise is autobiographical. "I think the main thing for me is, making it out of a place where you're not supposed to. You're supposed to be a statistic and end up like the rest of the people in the inner city," James said. "When you make it out, everyone expects ... they automatically think that they made it out and it's very tough for a young African-American 18-year-old kid to now hold the responsibility of a whole city, of a whole community. I can relate to that."
- Page Six of the New York Post: Jay Z is selling his minority ownership in the Brookyn Nets to coach Jason Kidd, sources exclusively tell Page Six. We’re told Kidd will take over Jay’s .067 percent (1/15th of a percent) stake in the team for about $500,000. The move comes as Jay was forced to sell his Nets shares over a conflict of interest after he started a sports agency, Roc Nation, signing clients including Yankee Robinson Cano and Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant. A source told us, “Other owners want to give Jason a part ownership of the team, and urged Jay to sell his shares to him.”
- Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: Rookie Ben McLemore must be a little prescient. A short while ago on Twitter, he alerted Kings fans that he was changing his jersey from No.16 to No.17 "for a good reason." Like the fact the organization plans to retire Peja Stojakovic's No.16 jersey in the near future? No confirmation yet - and nothing is imminent - but that's very likely the plan. Meantime, McLemore will stick with No.16 at least for the upcoming season. "We have considered retiring Peja's number," said team president Chris Granger, "and he certainly deserves that honor. (But) at this time, that's all I will say."
- Ben Standig of CSN Washington: In a world in which the Wizards don't draft Otto Porter, Glen Rice Jr. or any wing player but instead selected an interior option (thus eliminating the need for Al Harrington), Rip Hamilton could have filled the veteran-scorer-off-the-bench-that-backs-up-Bradley Beal role. One issue with Hamilton is that his game has always required him running off constant picks to get open. When he was arguably the NBA's top mid-range shooter, cool, but that's far too big of a scheme tweak to make for a limited role player even if he can still score.
- Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: Player development is the name of the game for the youthful Cavaliers. A league source said Steve Hetzel has accepted the job as head coach of the Canton Charge of the National Basketball Development League. He will replace former Charge coach Alex Jensen, who left after two seasons to become a developmental coach on Tyrone Corbin's staff with the Jazz. The Cavs are still reportedly working on contract details. They've put a strong emphasis on player development on the Cavs with so many young, emerging players. They have eight players on their roster 25 or younger, including rookies Anthony Bennett, Sergey Karasev and Carrick Felix. Phil Handy and Vitaly Potapenko make up the development staff on Mike Brown's staff. However, that's also Hetzel's strong suit.
- Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com: Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has promoted assistant coach Adrian Griffin to lead assistant, a league source conveyed to CSNNW.com. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because an announcement on the promotion has yet to be made. Griffin's advancement comes a little over two months since Chicago elected not to retain longtime lead assistant Ron Adams in late June. Adams has since joined the Boston Celtics' coaching staff.
- Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: As much as their constellation of NBA stars, France’s EuroBasket reputation is one of heartbreak and disappointment. Blowing a fourth-quarter lead against Greece in the 2005 semifinals. Doing the same thing against Russia in 2007. Destroyed by Spain in the 2009 quarterfinals. Rolled again by the Spanish in the 2011 finals. Including those defeats, France has never won the European title in 37 appearances dating back to 1935. Despite that history, and the absence of Bulls center Joakim Noah, Les Bleus enter this year’s tournament, which starts today in Slovenia, as one of the favorites to challenge arch-rival Spain. British gambling house Ladbrokes puts France’s odds at 7-2, the same as Greece and only slightly worse than Spain at 2-1. Much like his team back stateside in San Antonio, the French go largely as Spurs All-Star Tony Parker goes. The veteran point guard has endured a pair of scares with minor knee injuries, but he’s shaken them off to enjoy a solid exhibition run-up that included yet another loss to Spain. He’s joined by fellow Spurs Boris Diaw and Nando De Colo, which are pretty much the only three reasons the vast majority of Spurs fans will pay much, if any, attention to Europe’s biennial championship. (Unless, of course, you’re dying to get an early look at Marco Belinelli with Italy.)
- Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: Canada hasn’t been rolling like this since Steve Nash was a young pup. The senior men’s hoops squad picked up its third win in four games at the FIBA Americas tournament Tuesday with a blowout 93-67 win over Uruguay. Canada clinched second place in its pool at 3-1 (though one win will not be carried forward because it came against a team that has been eliminated) with its second convincing win in four contests and heads forward in great shape. Four of the eight remaining teams will be knocked out, while the other four will advance both to the semi-finals and to next year’s FIBA World Cup in Spain. The game was a challenge for both teams, since it was supposed to start eight hours earlier. However, the lights went out in Venezuela, forcing the long delay. … Canada will open the knockout round against Mexico, also 2-1, faces host Venezuela a day later, the Dominican Republic Friday and Argentina on Saturday to close the grueling stretch.
- Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: As a kid, C.J. Miles was not allowed to listen to rap music. His father, Calvin Andre Miles Sr., is a preacher (C.J. stands for Calvin Jr.) and the only music he allowed in the house was gospel, Al Green, and Michael Jackson. So what does he think about his son releasing a collection of his own rap songs on Twitter? "My dad was actually the person that encouraged me to do it,'' Miles said in a telephone interview ahead of the release. "He always told me since I was a kid that he felt like it was a big thing that I was drawn to. He always encouraged me to do it. He'll call me some days and say, 'Hey, boy, are you still rapping?''' The answer to that question is an emphatic yes. But Miles wants to make it clear that his music does not detract from his basketball. "My first love is still basketball,'' said the Cavs 26-year-old swingman, who averaged 11.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 65 games last season, his first in Cleveland. "That's still what I'm the most passionate about, what I spend the most time on. When I have free time, I have these other outlets and interests.'' Miles has been involved with music his whole life. He and his parents, three siblings and even his grandmother all sang in the church choir. The first instrument Miles learned to play was the drums, which drove his parents nuts until the drum set mysteriously was ''lost'' in a move. "I figured it out when I was older,'' Miles said, laughing.
September, 3, 2013
By Henry Abbott
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Competitors doing everything they can to win make sports great.
It's a wonderful time for the NBA, with young stars all over the league, an impressive collection of contenders and fascinating storylines from coast to coast. The one real downer, however, is that the game-changing talent of the 2014 draft is expected to inspire any number of teams to lose as many games as possible this season, in the name of the best possible draft pick. In the first post of a series, ESPN.com's HoopIdea explores tanking and its effect on the NBA.
Here’s a nice HD YouTube video, cued up to the moment when the world’s finest sprinters are lining up for a big race.
Eight of the best athletes the world has ever known, shaking muscles loose and then crouching into the starting blocks, poised to explode. They spend years getting to this level -- running fast defines these competitors. Yet they do their best at it only a few seconds a year.
This is that time.
It's fun to watch, even though the commentary is in German and it's a sport hurting for both celebrity power and highlight-worthy artistry. In fact, it's surely the simplest sport: It starts here and ends right over there. No turning. Not even really any pacing. Eight athletes in a row, each bound and determined to run faster.
We appreciate this on a deep level. "Wanna race?" is an ancient question almost every human has asked or answered. This trips a trigger. The rare delight of sports, in these complicated times, is to see eight crystal-clear agendas, so nakedly, completely and devotedly all in.
That’s competition, and that's part of us.
Screwing up a beautiful thing
Now imagine this. You’re the runner in Lane 4, hands placed carefully, heart racing, waiting for the starter. Three sprinting wizards to your left, four to your right. Everyone has had this date circled on the calendar all year. You’ve got glory to earn and a family to feed.
And you know there’s:
- $100,000 for first place
- $50,000 for second place
- And … $100,000 for last place
Takes a lot of the fun out of the race, doesn't it? Knowing the competition’s big prizes are not just for winning, but for winning or losing.
A little weird, eh?
Of course, that's not what happens in track. But, oddly, it is roughly what really happens in the NBA.
Picture 30 teams trying to win
This season, one NBA team will work incredibly hard, make one smart decision after another, please the basketball gods and enjoy an NBA title in June.
Another team will turn the ball over a ton, play the wrong players and endure heart-wrenching injuries as the basketball gods look the other way. That team will trick the rulebook into an incredibly high pick in the draft of a lifetime with a good shot at a player who will change things for that team for a decade or more.
It's tough to say which team wins the bigger prize.
In other words: Every team would do its darnedest to give fans what they want -- real long-term strategy and real all-in nightly competition -- if the league would take its thumb off the scale. Thirty general managers are hard-wired to pull their hair out to win now and forever just like those sprinters -- if only the NBA didn't muck things up by giving a whole lot of those competitive people strong arguments to cut their competitive juices with the tonic water of tanking.
It's not that the league is forcing teams to lose. And rest assured we still get amazing competition. But the NBA is needlessly confusing things. You know what exits stage left when the priorities get cloudy? The beauty of clear priorities.
Give the big prize to the runner in last place, and it's just too much to expect everyone's best race after race, year after year. The race gets a little less fun to watch.
Maybe it’s not the biggest deal in the world. Maybe the sport can thrive despite this -- clearly it has.
And let's be clear: What I'm not alleging is that coaches or players are throwing games. I'm not even chapped at the owners or GMs who pursue losses by deciding to cut costs, keep bad coaches around, trump up injuries, trade away efficient players, play inferior players or save cap space for another day. They all should do what they think is in the long-term best interests of their teams -- I can't really call the Spurs idiots for the pathetic show they put on to get the draft pick that became Tim Duncan. Everyone should pursue wins, and more or less I believe everyone does. This isn't an ethical issue.
What's messed up is that the league has confused matters. When this season is over and teams like the 76ers, Suns, Kings, Magic, Bobcats, Celtics and Jazz have miserable records, did we learn those teams are dumb, or smart?
Losing badly in the NBA is no condemnation of the team. Which is a profound condemnation of the league. Whoever dreamed up that prize scheme simply got it wrong. It’s a strategy where you can more or less count on some competitors dogging it every time out. In casual conversation, I've heard NBA GMs mocking front offices in places like Houston and Milwaukee for "foolishly" trying to win season after season. It's all backward.
You want to see the most intense competition? You want every game to matter? You want maximum excitement? Well, duh. Stop rewarding failure. Stop creating the problem.
It casts a shadow over the NBA schedule. Maybe a third of the games feature at least one team that no doubt has players and coaches who are dying to win, but who have been intentionally handicapped by front offices that value losses. I don’t know who’ll win that Grizzlies versus Sixers contest, but I know the Grizzlies -- all of them, from the point guard to the president -- want to.
Meanwhile, we could, quite simply, with a wave of the hand from the NBA Board of Governors, have a league where all 1,230 games feature two organizations with all the naked competitive ambition of the sprinters in that video.
That’s what we’re exploring.
Why can’t we have that?
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: It is September, the last month of Michael Beasley’s Suns career. Since his Aug. 6 arrest in Scottsdale on suspicion of marijuana possession, Beasley has not been as noticeable in the Valley as he was prior to it when he was working out at US Airways Center and spotted playing at a Phoenix YMCA. On Sunday, Beasley was playing basketball back home in Maryland. He participated in the Goodman League Roundball Classic in Hyattsville, Md., at DeMatha Catholic, a basketball-rich school that is not one of the six high schools he attended. Kevin Durant, Victor Oladipo, Greg Monroe and Thomas Robinson also participated in the game. Beasley led his team, opposite Durant, with 31 points for a 116-116 tie. The Beasley highlight package in this video is a reminder of how Suns people talked about how great he looked in pickup games at UCLA last summer. If you last past that portion of the video, you will see Durant go through the legs and behind the back to stagger Beasley at 1:43.
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: DeAndre Liggins isn't the first player in Thunder history to be arrested. But his booking certainly is the most disturbing. And now it will serve as a case study. Put the Thunder to the test. For an organization that has always prided itself on being a pillar in the community and having a roster full of upstanding citizens, the team must now decide what to do with what could be its first felony offense if Liggins is convicted. The decision might be an easy one. Liggins is entering his second season with the team, third in the NBA. He was hard worker and a hustler but still a bit player in his first run with the Thunder, appearing in 39 games and playing a total of 290 minutes. Later this month, he was expected to enter training camp fighting for the 15th and final roster spot. Already shaping up to be stiff following the draft night additions of Andre Roberson and Steven Adams, the competition for that final spot now includes free agent signee Ryan Gomes and the expected signing of combo guard Diante Garrett. Liggins, on this team, is practically expendable.
- Chris Haynes of CNNW.com: Portland Trail Blazers All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge participated in Jamal Crawford's Pro-AM championship game at Seattle Pacific University Saturday afternoon. After Aldridge helped his former Trail Blazer teammate in Crawford win his first Pro-AM title since heading this event several years ago, the All-Star sat down with CSNNW.com to discuss a few topics centered around his eventful summer. … Q: Okay. Let's get into it. There was a report that you believed Portland was “too small” and “too boring” of a city. What's your response to that? LA: “Nah, that's not true. I'm a quiet person that keeps to himself, really. Portland doesn't bother me. I don't have an issue with the city of Portland. I've been there my whole career. I like the smallness of it and the passionate fans. That's not true at all.” … Q: Has your representation attempted to get you moved? LA: “Agents talk. I don't know what goes on there. I just worry about playing basketball.” Q: CSNNW.com reported that if moves weren't made to your liking, you would prefer to be moved. Was that accurate? LA: “Yeah, but I don't have to worry about that because we've added some good pieces this summer and I'm looking forward to working with them.”
- Marc Berman of the New York Post: J.R. Smith guaranteed Saturday the Knicks will bring home a championship and claimed the Nets are “still not good.” During a question-and-answer session with kid golfers at Chelsea Piers, Smith was asked how sure he was of the Knicks ending their title drought this season. “I’m 100 percent sure,” the swingman said. Smith was then asked why he joined the Knicks over the Nets when he came back from China in February 2012. “The Nets weren’t good,’’ Smith said. “Now they’re still not good.’ There has been much hype this offseason lavished on the Nets after their bold trade with the Celtics to acquire Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, who has been the most outspoken promoter of Brooklyn’s chances in the Eastern Conference. … When asked by The Post why he is so confident, Smith said, “I feel comfortable. People ruled us out last year early, too. We added some great pieces. Unfortunately, we got rid of some good pieces. But we added Andrea [Bargnani], Beno [Udrih], Metta [World Peace]. We have to consistently play like we did the first 20 games last year the whole season. We can’t have a middle-of-season lapse. We have to consistently play the same way.”
- Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: Q: So what is your approach? Do you have a two-year plan? A five-year plan? Obviously, one of the goals is to better manage the salary cap and become major players in free agency.” Mike Malone: This is going to be a process. We have to change the culture, establish an identity, and while we'll try to win every night, we don't want to skip steps. We don't want short-term success. I'm not sure what year we get into our new arena, but by that year, we want to be a playoff team, and not to just be competing in the playoffs. We've talked about that. We know we have to have patience to do it right. Are our young guys getting better? Are we defending? Gang- rebounding? Running with discipline? The only thing I promised Vivek is that we will no longer be the worst defensive team in the league. So if we do that and change our culture, that will result in more wins and a better product. Q: The phrase "change the culture" has become such a cliché. What does it even mean? Mike Malone: “It is a cliché. What I mean is that when you want to change culture, you change people. When the players come back in September, they're going to get a sense that things are different when they're around our staff. They can see how hard we work, how committed we are. I'm running sprints last week with DeMarcus Cousins and Travis Outlaw, and they said, "Coach, we've never had a guy run sprints with us."
- Tom Moore of phillyBurbs.com: Having only 11 guaranteed contracts totaling $43.6 million, and as few as four players with guaranteed money beyond this year, which could result in more than $30 million in cap space next summer, “we’ve got a lot to do,” Hinkie said. “You blink it’s halfway through the afternoon and you forgot to eat lunch,” Hinkie said during a 15-minute telephone conversation Friday. Still, Hinkie said, “So far, we’ve had a blast. It’s been a lot of fun. He’s been a real breath of fresh air.” Hinkie said Brown, who was introduced Aug. 14, has been in contact with every Sixers player to give an idea what is expected of them. Hinkie refuted a popular perception that he would like to trade a veteran (likely Thaddeus Young, who is set to make $9.2 million in 2014-15) to create even more cap space after the Sixers should have two lottery picks as high as Nos. 1 and 6 in the draft. “We have the most cap space (next summer) in the league right now,” Hinkie said. “I wouldn’t say we necessarily have a need for a whole lot more. We have a lot to work with.” … As for the embattled White, Hinkie answered a question about White’s possible role on the team generically and never mentioned White by name.
- John Reid of The Times-Picayune: With expectations to emerge as one of the New Orleans Pelicans’ top players this upcoming season, swingman Tyreke Evans is not going to wait until training camp opens next month to start building chemistry with his new teammates. He’s already getting a head start in the process, taking part in the team’s volunteer workouts for the past two weeks. With raised expectations because of an improved lineup, 10 of the 15 players’ on the Pelicans' roster have been working out, doing conditioning work, lifting weights and taking part in pickup basketball games at the Alario Center. Next week, the Pelicans are expected to shift their basketball work to the Saints complex in Metairie when their new 55,000 square foot practice facility is expected to be completed. On Thursday, the Pelicans' workout group included forwards Anthony Davis, Jason Smith, Arinze Onuaku, Darius Miller and Lance Thomas, guards Austin Rivers, Brian Roberts, rookie center Jeff Withey and Evans.
- K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Less than one month before training camp opens on one of the most anticipated seasons since the dynasty ended, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau made good on his vow to visit Derrick Rose's offseason base outside Los Angeles to witness Rose's workouts. Rose, who is set to attend training camp in late September after missing last season following knee surgery, is set to travel to Asia Sept. 4-16 for his second shoe promotional tour this offseason. Before then, he is working out with personal trainer Rob McClanaghan and other NBA players, including Jimmy Butler earlier this week. Thibodeau traveled west Wednesday to check in on Rose, who is sporting increased range on his jumper and a left-handed floater that he has worked on extensively this offseason.
- Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: In a competition with Charlie Villanueva for most despised member of the roster among the fan base. He (Rodney Stuckey) has teased with flashes of standout ability for six seasons, but is coming off his worse season as he butted heads with former coach Lawrence Frank — an issue Stuckey has had in the past. Entering a contract year, so the end of his Pistons tenure is probably near. Reportedly offered to the Raptors (along with Villanueva) for Rudy Gay…. Even with the roster upgrades, Stuckey is still one of the most talented guys wearing a Pistons uniform and new coach Mo Cheeks mentioned Stuckey by name at his introductory news conference. He is in the mix to start at shooting guard in the season opener, but his expiring deal does have trade value.
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: The Magic are working on a buyout agreement with Hedo Turkoglu, plan on giving second-round pick Romero Osby a chance to make the team and likely will invite as many as four more players to their training camp, according to a source close to the club. As expected, Turkoglu and the team have been trying to arrange a buyout with the 13-year veteran small forward. He does not figure into the team's rebuilding plans at age 34. Only half of his $12 million salary for next season — the last year of his contract — is guaranteed. If the Magic and Turkoglu can reach an arrangement, Turk will be waived. He then can become a free agent, eligible to negotiate with any other NBA team or play overseas. There are reports that Turkoglu has an offer with a team in his native Turkey if he decides not to stay in the NBA or is unable to sign a deal.