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First Cup: Friday

12/23/2011
  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: The Chuck Hayes' situation cost the Kings organization an estimated $1 million, but what price life? Geoff Petrie and Hayes are expected to provide details about recent developments later today, but even before hearing both parties' accounts about the veteran forward/center's medical results, brief retirement and second opinion from cardiologists at the Cleveland Clinic, my initial reaction is that the Kings acted prudently.

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: During his Thursday state-of-the-Heat media session, Miami Heat owner Micky Arison said he plans to move forward with his handshake, year-to-year working arrangement with Heat President Pat Riley, who has been with the team since 1995. "There's this dynamic in basketball and sports that everybody's got to have a contract, and yet, in my other businesses, people have been with us 25, 30 years and never even thought about a contract because of a comfort level with the company or with the management," said Arison, chairman of Carnival Corp. "It took a while for Pat to get comfortable with that concept, but I think he is now."

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: Greg Miller made a tough phone call Thursday — one that was part business, part personal. Considering the importance of the news he had to break and the sincerity of an accompanying message he hoped to relay,the Jazz CEO wanted to make it himself. Mehmet Okur was on the answering end of the call. The business part: The seven-year Jazz center was dealt to the New Jersey Nets in exchange for a valuable trade exception — the key to the deal for Utah — and the team's 2015 second-round draft pick. The personal part: Miller thanked Okur — fondly called "Memo" and / or "Money" in these parts — for his dedicated play and effort and because he'd "given everything he had" to the Jazz since 2004. Miller expressed gratitude that Okur, who worked hard to rehab his injured back and surgically repaired Achilles tendon to 100 percent strength, "played hurt when a lot of guys would not have." Miller also told Okur that the Jazz "appreciate everything he did." They hope he remembers how important he was to the success of the franchise family.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Dwight Howard and co-captain Jameer Nelson want more freedom to police teammates during games, and Howard also wants Van Gundy to be less negative. Van Gundy insists he would "love" that. "Our job is to lead the guys on the court," Howard said Thursday, referring to himself and Nelson. "We both have our ways that we lead the team, and they follow. The main thing is that people have to see that me and Stan are on the same page and we're not bumping heads. Then everything else will fall in line." This is not Howard's first attempt to quell what he perceives as Van Gundy's negativity, and Van Gundy has attempted to make changes before. In November 2009, Howard and Van Gundy had a similar meeting. In Nov. 2010, General Manager Otis Smith asked Van Gundy to harp less on players. What is different now is that Howard's request to be traded hangs over the franchise.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Samuel Dalembert had every reason to believe the Rockets would be right for him, because it was so evident he would be right for them and their readily apparent needs. They needed a veteran center with abilities to protect the rim, rebound and block shots, maybe finish inside and knock down the occasional shot outside, all talents that have long described Dalembert. But it took more than that to convince him he wanted to join the Rockets. He arrived in Houston on Thursday citing everything from the franchise’s center legacy to the advice of Yao Ming, from his friendship with former teammate and new Rockets player development coach Greg Buckner to the chance to work with coach Kevin McHale. “It’s just sometimes you talk to people in the organization and get a feel for it,” Dalembert, 30, said. “I had players I played with in Philly, Greg Buckner. I had an old-school guy actually on the staff who went to Seton Hall (director of scouting Arturas Karnisovas) like myself. It just feels like a family place."

  • Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times: And, in recent weeks, Stephen Jackson quietly let it be known that he wasn't thrilled with his contract and was contemplating approaching Bucks management about it. But Jackson, whom the Bucks are hoping will be a key cog in their quest to return to the NBA playoffs, said he's putting his contract extension request on hold. "I'm going to go ahead and let it die down," Jackson said. "Right now, I know it's not the time to talk about contracts or anything like that. It's about focusing on getting to the playoffs." Jackson said the primary reason for delaying his contact request was not to create any team problems. Jackson has repeatedly stated since his arrival in Milwaukee that the Bucks are a legitimate playoff team, touting the talents of veteran center Andrew Bogut and young point guard Brandon Jennings. "I don't want it to be a distraction to the team," Jackson said, referring to an extension. "We have a great team. We have a chance to do something great." Jackson, 33, will be paid $9.2 million this season and $10 million next season. He told The Journal Times he wants a two- to three-year extension.

  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: David Kahn appears more refreshed as this season approaches. On Thursday, he discussed a variety of topics, including his contract situation with team owner Glen Taylor. Pioneer Press: Are you entering the final year of your contract? Kahn: The deal is not up. There are some options coming up that the team holds on my contract. My main concern right now is doing the best job I can for this franchise on a day-to-day basis and for the future. PP: What part of the criticism you've heard or read has bothered you the most? Kahn: It's upsetting to hear or see opinions that are based on fiction. Everybody is entitled to their opinion, but one would hope that the facts would lead to the opinion instead of fiction leading to the opinion. PP: Before last season you wrote an open letter to Wolves fans asking for their patience. Do you plan to write a letter before Monday's opener against Oklahoma City? Kahn: I'm not doing it this year and I haven't been asked. I was asked to do it last year by our business people. If I had been asked to do it again, I would have...but I don't think it's necessary this year.

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: Indiana Pacers power forward David West has heard what Boston Celtics guard Ray Allen said about him. Allen told ESPN.com earlier this week that he was "shocked" West passed up an opportunity to play for the Celtics to sign with the Pacers. "He doesn't know me personally," West said. "We have a business associate that we share, but what they're dealing with over there is a lot deeper than David West." West signed a two-year, $20 million contract with the Pacers instead of taking a three-year deal with Boston. ... West, who is coming off knee surgery, repeatedly said during his introductory news conference last week and on Thursday that he signed with the Pacers because they're a young team with a bright future. "Everybody who knows me, knows I'm a thoughtful person," West said. "I don't rush to judgment. ... This was a well-thought-out decision on my part. There's a reason why I'm in Indiana and not anywhere else."

  • A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com: It goes without saying that not having Paul Pierce (right heel) in the lineup impacts the Boston Celtics' offense in a negative way. Nowhere is his absence more noticeable than in the C's lack of 3-point attempts. While the two-game preseason schedule is a small sample, it's a stat that's hard to ignore. After taking nearly 14 a game last season, the C's launched just seven in each of their preseason games against the Raptors. Celtics coach Doc Rivers isn't surprised to see that number significantly trimmed with Pierce not playing in either game.

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: It started with a flippant remark from Amar’e Stoudemire about going hunting in South Florida. “We’re hunting D-Wade and LeBron,” the Knicks’ forward joked to rookie teammate Josh Harrellson. The response from the prey came quickly via Twitter, with Dwyane Wade telling Stoudemire to call him because “I got those ‘hunting’ tips for you.” The exchange hardly rates as classic trash talk but it does say something about the overall confidence of the Knicks that they are at least talking about themselves in the same breath with the defending Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat. Of course, the players are merely taking their cue from their coach, who last week went on two local radio stations and said that the Knicks were good enough to compete for a title.

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: Just like they did when they said his game was too soft, resulting in biting nicknames like LaMarsha. Like they did when they said he was overpaid after he signed his $62.5 million contract, casting him as a content check-casher. Like they did when they said Kevin Love was more deserving of an All-Star appearance. Like they did when they said Andrea Bargnani should be drafted No. 1 overall in front of him. It is how the mind of this 26-year-old works. He uses slights -- real or perceived -- to motivate himself. It has been an effective tool for the 6-foot-11 Aldridge, who has blended his unique skill set of speed, length and shooting touch with power and determination to become the Blazers' franchise player and one of the best power forwards in the NBA. But as he embarks on this newest era in Blazers history -- one in which the unquestioned best player is no longer named Brandon Roy, Zach Randolph or Rasheed Wallace -- Aldridge is far from content. Far from thinking he has made it. "I still have to prove a lot of people wrong," Aldridge said. "I still haven't been an All-Star. I still haven't led this team to the second round of the playoffs. People still doubt that I'm a go-to player. This is the first year, starting from Day 1, that I'm "The Man," so people are writing us off because Brandon retired. There's a lot that motivates me."

  • Jason Reid of The Washington Post: Whenever I speak with John Wall, I leave our conversations convinced that he means what he says about the franchise. He’s really all about getting the Wizards out of the NBA draft lottery and back into the playoffs. That’s clearly his focus. “It’s a building process,” Wall said. “You’ve got to understand that.” Wall is smart. He’s also highly competitive. He possesses the drive and work ethic any team would want in its most talented player. That’s why the Wizards face such a team-building challenge. Wall is pushing himself to be considered among the best who have ever played his position. He needs the Wizards to cooperate.

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: The NBA lockout didn't curtail Tom Thibodeau's championship preparation. The Bulls coach sat at dinner one November night alongside Jerry and Michael Reinsdorf, listening to Tony La Russa talk about winning another World Series with the Cardinals. The dinner came about out of the longstanding friendship between the Reinsdorf family and La Russa. Thibodeau used the opportunity as a time to learn. "He's obviously been a great (manager) for a very long time," Thibodeau said. "I just listened, asked him about leadership, about how he was able to sustain success for such a long period of time. "The thing you take away from it is how he just kept grinding all those years. Some people as they go along, maybe they let up a little bit. He certainly never did. His career speaks for itself. Just listening to him talk was fascinating."

  • John N. Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Every team that Jason Kidd has been to, I feel like they've been pretty good," Holiday says. "I remember when he played us in Philly, and he had a triple-double." Holiday is referring to a March loss to the eventual world champion Dallas Mavericks. "He didn't have any points in the first half," the 6-foot-4, 180-pound Holiday says of Kidd. "He had, like, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in the first half, and then he got his points. "For me, as a point guard, you have to construct everything. If you make everybody happy, you are going to be happy. As a point guard, you don't really have to score. The only time you have to score is when you have to score." Holiday continues. "Let's say we come down, and we miss six straight baskets, and we have to score. We need a basket. I'm going to call my play. I'm going to run something for me that I know I score on 90 percent of the time." For Holiday, it is a delicate balance being the point guard for this team.

  • Cathal Kelly of the Toronto Star: The Toronto Raptors are not starting a basketball season next week. They’re in the first stage of a four-month sports psychology experiment. The path of least resistance for this or any other bad club is to lie — to suggest that by some strange math, a short sprint of a season, a young squad and a non-existent bench might add up to more than the sum of its parts. We’re ballparking the sum somewhere around the bottom five in the NBA. Nobody would believe them if they said it, but we’re remarkably tolerant of “I invented the Internet” type pronouncements from sports executives and politicians. We enjoy being misled by them, if only because it intensifies the sweet pain of our resentment later. The Raptors have broken that cycle. From the outset, they’ve told us the truth and now must trust that the fan base is mature enough to handle it. ... “To put ourselves in the position to hit the ground running the following season, that will be deemed a success,” GM Bryan Colangelo said of the season. No weasel words in those answers. Colangelo has not actually said, “We will suck,” but if he were by nature a coarser man, he might.

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: This time last year, Antawn Jamison was pouting. He was miffed that Cavaliers coach Byron Scott was starting J.J. Hickson at power forward. Jamison was coming off the bench, missing a lot of shots and was mad at the world. Scott eventually remedied the problem by moving the since-departed Hickson to center. The Cavs took care of the issue in the offseason by sending Hickson to Sacramento in exchange for small forward Omri Casspi and a conditional first-round pick. All is right with Jamison's world. Even though he's in the last year of a $15 million contract, his head is on straight. He said he hopes to play several more years in the NBA. "I would be better prepared mentally to handle that situation (now)," he said. "To be honest, I didn't see it happening (last year), but it did, and there was never an explanation about it. But I didn't have to have one. There was a decision made and they wanted to go that route. It made me a little tougher mentally."

  • Tom Reed of The Plain Dealer: A freezer burn suffered during the NBA lockout helped cost guard Manny Harris a roster spot. The Cavaliers released Harris and guard Kenny Hayes on Thursday, leaving the roster at 15 players. That means camp invitee Mychel Thompson will make the club assuming the Cavaliers don't claim another player off waivers. The decision to keep Thompson over Harris comes as a mild surprise, but the Michigan product never practiced in the preseason because of an injury to his right foot. In late November, he suffered the freezer burn in a cooling chamber at the Nike facility in Oregon. The chamber is designed to help speed the recovery of injuries. Because of the lockout Harris could not be treated by team doctors. A Detroit physician prescribed an ointment or cream for the burn, but coach Byron Scott knew Harris wouldn't be able to participate in camp once he saw the injury.

  • Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle: The Warriors still play defense like amateurs. The basketball team has a lot of time to improve, but upper-level management hopelessly flubbed the fundamentals in its response to the sexual-harassment lawsuit filed Wednesday against the club and guard Monta Ellis. The statement issued by Warriors President Rick Welts included a blooper-reel reference to the team knowing of a "consensual relationship" between Ellis and the woman who sued, former community-relations director Erika Ross Smith. To achieve this type of sloppiness on the court, new head coach Mark Jackson would have to teach his players to guard shooters with their hands down. Warriors management did not reply to a request to clarify the meaning of "consensual relationship." Was it sexual? Was it textual? Smith's lawyer says she offered benign answers to allegedly obscene messages from Ellis. Can hitting a "reply" button be construed as consenting to the tone of an exchange? The bigger question is what the Warriors hoped to accomplish by using the words "consensual relationship" and describing what they did to end it.

  • Terry Foster of The Detroit News: Pistons mascot Hooper looks a little trimmer. And the Spare Tires … they're packed away. Those are just a couple of changes fans will see at The Palace when the Pistons open against the Cavaliers on Tuesday. Pistons officials have made $9 million in cosmetic changes to The Palace, most of which fans won't see, as they transition to the new thinking of owner Tom Gores and his team. The theme seems to be newer and hipper, in hopes to luring a sluggish fan base blasé about the upcoming season. "(Winning) will happen again," said Dennis Mannion, CEO of Palace Sports & Entertainment. "We will be among the best in the NBA again. Right now, until that happens, it is about focus with ownership and players."