First Cup: Tuesday

  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: "Linas Kleiza never comes right out and says he was unhappy in Denver, but that is the impression he leaves in a 15-minute interview at the Polat Renaissance Hotel here in Istanbul. It is the hotel of choice for 14 of the 16 teams that qualified for the knockout portion of the tournament. Only the American and Turkish teams are not housed here. 'I just felt it was a good move by me to improve my career and improve as a player,' Kleiza said of the move to Greece. 'I had a big role on a very big team, a very good team. That kind of helped improve all my skills and allow me to show what I wasn’t able to do in Denver. In Denver I was a role player and I did it pretty good,' he said of his spot on the roster backing up superstar Carmelo Anthony. 'But coming back here and showing I could do a lot more things I’m not just that player that I was in Denver. That’s why I want to go back to Toronto and prove myself all over again. Show people that I was a better player than I was in Denver.' Here in Turkey with a young Lithuanian team, Kleiza has the role Anthony had back in Denver. First option, the go-to guy on the team and the player everyone looks to for leadership. He has not disappointed leading this young squad to wins over Spain and France already and into the round of 16. His one year with Olympiakos was a perfect training group for that."

  • David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune: "The biggest name on this roster belongs to Kevin Durant, who along with Derrick Rose represents the athleticism a team lacking a 7-footer will need to create full-court pressure and transition baskets. If you really want to put a spring in the step of a group that's already lightning quick, mention the fact that James and Kobe Bryant didn't make the trip. 'The people over here call us the 'B Team,' and there are people back in the U.S. who don't want us to win it too, so we go out there and feed off that,' Rose said. Returning home with a gold medal would only increase Rose's appetite for greatness when he exchanges his No. 6 USA jersey for his familiar No. 1. 'I was just asking Lamar (Odom) how it was, playing in a championship game, and he was saying it's totally different, so that'd be a good experience,' Rose said. 'Plus, it'd be my first championship on the NBA level.' The team he plans to lead back into NBA championship contention never drifts far from Rose's thoughts. He loves coach Tom Thibodeau's style and praised a Bulls front office that 'got basketball players who don't care about anything but winning.' That's as close as Rose will come to suggesting, 'Who needs LeBron?' The point is, Rose likes the mix of players the Bulls signed while understanding the focus on the ones they didn't. And he can't wait to get back to Chicago to show everybody how he spent his summer. 'Not being able to see my family hurts, and I'm missing them right now,' Rose said. 'I've been gone so long my mom learned to text.' Loosen up those thumbs, Brenda Rose. By Sunday night, your son could be an American hero."

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "The Timberwolves have not one, but two representatives on Team USA at the FIBA WorldChampionships in Turkey, where the Americans opened medal play on Monday with a 121-66 victory over Angola. Wolves assistant general manager Tony Ronzone, a longtime European scout who has been on Team USA's staff since 2007, talked with Star Tribune writer Jerry Zgoda the other day about Kevin Love's progress with the American team and other matters: Q: Have you had any spare time to discover unknown 7-footers in some far-flung Turkish destination? A: I have had a chance to discover some players who we'll have the staff definitely watch this season. In this type of work, you meet people, make relationships and you find new players. That's what happened with Mehmet Okur: You fly into Istanbul, take a couple ships and there he is, a 6-11 kid who can shoot the ball. We were fortunate enough in Detroit to get him in the second round. It'd be nice to find another Mehmet Okur here. Q: What do you know about Kevin Love now that you didn't know six weeks ago? A: I know that he's very coachable, that he's determined to win. I knew he could rebound, but the guy gets every darn rebound. Chauncey Billups asked the other day, 'Is he going to let anybody else get a rebound?' If we can somehow win the gold medal here, that winning is contagious. This whole process will help his career."

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "Part of the duties of Raptors head coach and U.S. assistant Jay Triano is to prepare the report on various opponents the Americans face here and he’s been paying particularly close attention to the plays the other countries run. 'I get to see a wide variety of coaches and their different plays and philosophy on why they do certain things,' Triano said. 'I have plays that we will run next season that I picked up from the other teams here.' Getting some new sets to run is just one of the byproducts of Triano’s tenure with the American team, a promotion he received from USAB, the sport’s governing body in the United States, just before the worlds began. After spending two summers as a coach of the select team that works out against the senior men, Triano was given an assistant coaching role here when New York Knicks coach Mike D’Antonio had to pass on the event to deal with a bad back. The Raptors head coach has been with the Americans through the pre-tournament exhibition schedule of games in New York, Madrid and Athens and here in Turkey until the end of the weekend. He calls it a tremendous learning experience. 'It’s an incredible basketball experience with the best coaches, teams and players in the world,' said the 51-year-old. 'I pinch myself sometimes because if I wasn’t here it would be a huge opportunity to gain experience lost.' "

  • Pete Thamel of The New York Times: "David Blatt’s success with Dynamo St. Petersburg ultimately led to his becoming the coach of the Russian national team. Born in Louisville, Ky., raised outside of Boston, educated at Princeton and now a resident of Israel, Blatt has a full appreciation of his atypical path. 'My story is amazing,' Blatt said in typically blunt fashion. 'An American Jewish Israeli who coaches Russia. When I think about it, I’m amazed by it.' Nearly four decades after the United States lost to the Soviet Union at the Munich Olympics in one of the most controversial games in basketball history, much has changed. Blatt joked that he grew up 'scared of the big, bad Russians,' but with the United States expected to play Russia in the knockout round of the world championships here on Thursday, his presence on the sideline provides one of the most glaring pieces of evidence that the sporting world’s version of the cold war has thawed. 'It’s a good story,' Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball’s chairman, said, 'because he’s an outstanding coach and has had a lot of success in Europe.' Using principles of the Princeton offense that he learned under the former coach Pete Carril, Blatt has put together one of the most impressive résumés in Europe."

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "One way to annoy NBA players is to talk to them about defensive 'stoppers.' So many times I’ve heard guys, especially guards and wings, scoff at the notion. There is no such thing, they say, because there are too many good offensive players and the hand-check rules make it nearly impossible to stop those kind of guys straight up. Point taken, and Larry Drew said it’s one he recognizes. That’s why he said he there will be times when switching and other help-type schemes will be necessary. ... Drew said he doesn’t want that to go so far with tricking up the D that players use it as a crutch. You could see that happen with the Hawks last season. Players became so reliant on the switches that they tended to relax in anticipation of screens. Why fight through picks to stay with your man when he can be always be passed off to a teammate? 'I know exactly what you mean,' Drew said. 'You are not the first person I’ve heard say that. Different coaches have different philosophies on how they do things.' The switching defense has its advantages. It can be effective against pick-and-rolls. It helped the Hawks cover up some of their limitations (even if it also could create other problems). But I think there is no question that using switches so liberally blunted Atlanta’s defensive aggressiveness."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Brandon Jennings, Andrew Bogut and most of the other Milwaukee Bucks players will be returning Tuesday as informal workouts begin at the Cousins Center training facility, with the start of training camp about three weeks away. But a few players already have been working out, including rookie forward Larry Sanders and second-year forward Jon Brockman. They have been putting in time with coaches Kelvin Sampson, Bill Peterson and Adrian Griffin. 'I definitely want to get some conditioning in,' Sanders said after a recent workout. 'I don't want to use training camp to get in shape. And it's good just to get settled here in Milwaukee.' The 6-foot-11 Sanders made a solid showing in the Las Vegas summer league as he averaged 14 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.2 blocks in five games with the Bucks squad. Sanders perfectly fit the profile of a young, athletic big man the Bucks needed. Milwaukee addressed the need by selecting Sanders with the 15th overall pick in the June draft and later bolstered the front court by trading for small forward Corey Maggette and signing veteran free agent power forward Drew Gooden, who finished last season with the Los Angeles Clippers. 'We're versatile up front,' Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. 'It will be interesting to see how it plays out. I knew we had to get bigger, longer and right now I feel we were able to do so. We'll see who fits in where.' "

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: "With three weeks remaining until training camp opens, New Orleans Hornets Coach Monty Williams said he’s done talking about it. He is ready to roll out the balls and put his players through his new system for the first time as a head coach. Williams, who was hired in June to replace Jeff Bower, said he has spoken frequently with all of the current Hornets’ players either by phone, text messages or sit-downs over lunch or dinner this summer to discuss plans, expectations or to address any concerns. 'I feel like I’ve been on the campaign trail, ' Williams said. 'I’m done talking about what we’re going to do. Now we’ve got to go out and do it.’ Williams said he plans for the Hornets to be an up-tempo team behind All-Star point guard Chris Paul, but his emphasis will be toward becoming a better defensive team."

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: "Coming together will be necessary for the Jazz to have any chance at defending their Northwest Division championship and making a run in the playoffs after the offseason changes. Since being ousted from the playoffs by the Los Angeles Lakers in May, Utah lost Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Wesley Matthews and added Al Jefferson, Raja Bell and Gordon Hayward, with more to come. C.J. Miles said the returning players look forward to getting to know the new additions. 'Everybody's excited. It feels good. Change is always exciting,' Miles said. 'Not to say we wanted to change, but at the same time when it happens you embrace it. We've got good players.' How good they can become will in part depend on how well they get that chemistry going over the next month and a half before the 2010-11 regular-season opener in Denver on Oct. 27. The Jazz's first preseason game is at home vs. Matthews' Portland Trail Blazers exactly a month from today."

  • Gregg Krupa of The Detroit News: "Sitting across the court from Jack Nicholson at the Staples Center as the Lakers won their 17th title in June was someone just as well known as the actor to practitioners of high finance. Tom Gores -- slightly unshaven, sideburns full, flowing black hair over the collar, shirt unopened two buttons down from the neck -- had just appeared on the cover of Mergers & Acquisitions magazine as its 'Pro of the Year' in a report that reflected on the billionaire's nearly uncanny ability to find value where others fear to tread. Sports fans in southeastern Michigan may be about to become a lot more familiar with Gores. As a prospective owner of the Pistons, he would bring notable business acumen, deep pockets, a bit of glitz and glamour, a love of the game and deep roots in Michigan to the front office of the rebuilding winner of three NBA titles. According to sources close to the search for a new owner, Gores; the Ilitch family; George Postolos, a former executive with the Rockets who assembles groups interested in buying NBA franchises; and an unidentified group of investors from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, are all in the hunt for the Pistons."

  • Marcos Breton of The Sacramento Bee: "If Sacramento wants to keep the Kings and remain in the business of big-time sports, it needs to grow up. The capital city has wasted enough time in denial about how pro sports really work. Sacramento has spent the last decade in a fruitless attempt to build an arena with both hands tied behind its back. Which is to say, Sacramento keeps thinking it can build an arena without public subsidies. It's not going to happen, folks. Even the 'privately financed' AT&T Park had a major public investment from San Francisco. Yet Sacramento gets twisted in knots over the price of doing business with sports owners. We think we're getting bilked by the Kings when, in fact, the Kings are a model franchise when compared to other teams in America's major sports leagues. So it's time to decide. Does Sacramento really want the Kings? I do. The team brings a lot to the region. It is a rallying point for people from Stockton to the Oregon border. ... Do we want the Kings or not? If the answer is yes, even deeper financial ties to the team, a public subsidy of some kind, will be key to an arena deal. If the answer is no, bye-bye Kings."