First Cup: Wednesday
September, 19, 2012
By Nick Borges
- Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: This is going to make you LOL, but you're never going to believe who are among the NBA's unlikeliest BFFs. No, not David Stern and Mark Cuban. Or LeBron James and Dan Gilbert. Or even "Basketball Wives" and self-respect. Brace yourselves, Orlando. The greatest player in Magic history and the greatest coach in Magic history have kissed, made up and joined the Mutual Admiration Society. Stan Van Gundy and Dwight Howard, it seems, have renewed their vows. They have publicly gone on record and said they really do like each other. Their Facebook relationship status has changed from "Divorced" to "It's complicated." ... It just goes to show, once again, that the only thing important in sports is winning. Really, isn't it true that the relationship problem between Dwight and Stan stemmed from performance, not personality? If the Magic had still been a championship-contending team over the last two seasons, Dwight and Stan would likely both still be with the organization. But when the team digressed, their relationship deteriorated. Now that they have been apart for a few months maybe there is an appreciation for what they meant to each other.
- Dan Bickley of The Arizona Republic: Neither Grant Hill nor the Suns wish to elaborate on his departure. Vitriol serves no one's interests, and Babby envisions Hill rejoining the Suns' front office when he's done playing, stating, "I look forward to the day that we'll be working together again, if he wants to do that." Still, this is a shame. Who would've better mentored Michael Beasley? Who would've been a better leader on a team that doesn't really have one at the moment? The answer: No one. Alas, Hill is moving on. He's participating in the Jerry Colangelo Basketball Hall of Fame Golf Classic Thursday at the Wigwam Resort, and then he'll head back to his apartment in Los Angeles, where he's now expected to help beat the Suns, and beat their former point guard.
- Jeff Miller of The Orange County Register: Nice guy, this Scott Brooks. Great guy, actually. He's just not someone who makes our job any easier. He's certainly no Mark Cuban. Last week, the Dallas Mavericks owner reminded everyone that the Lakers once added Gary Payton and Karl Malone to Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal and won absolutely nothing. ... Brooks, meanwhile, praised Nash — "one of the smartest point guards ever" — used the word great in talking about Mike Brown and gushed over Bryant's competitiveness. If we had closed our eyes and pictured him having an absurd beard, Brooks could have been Vic "The Brick" Jacobs. His comments on Bryant, however, are worth repeating. He coached Kobe in last season's All-Star Game. Perhaps you remember that event, recall how Bryant played through a few obstacles, most notably whiplash, a concussion and a fractured face. "He broke his nose," Brooks said. "After the game, his nose is bleeding. They're working on it. He can barely stand up. I'm like, 'It's an All-Star Game. Sit the game out, bud.' I'm glad he played because I wanted to win the game, also." Though respectful of them, Brooks clearly doesn't fear the Lakers like the rest of us believe he should. Apparently that's what happens when you're good enough to run away from or simply leap over the rest of the Western Conference.
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: It turns out Jeremy Lin is a shot-blocker, too. No matter how often he was asked, and he was asked repeatedly, Jeremy Lin swatted back every attempt to describe him as the face of the Rockets’ franchise. The television commercials — and the crowd of media gathered to mark the occasion of Lin’s first Toyota Center workout since he signed with the Rockets in July — might argue otherwise. For now, Lin clearly was like so many others still marveling at how far he had come so quickly. “Every once in a while I’ll take a look back and just be like, ‘I can’t believe this is happening,’ ” Lin said. “I had one of those moments this morning, just sitting in the training room with the big Houston Rockets logo. I was appreciating the fact I get to wake up and play basketball for a living. Those are things I try to remind myself of every day.” Determined not to let success change him, Lin spent his first night back in town sleeping on teammate Chandler Parsons’ couch, rating it just a touch behind his brother’s and well ahead of former Knicks teammate Landry Fields’.
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Brian Cook, a 6-foot-9 veteran big man, signed a non-guaranteed, training camp deal on Tuesday with the Wizards, his agent, Mark Bartelstein said. Cook received interest from “three or four other teams,” Bartlestein said, “but he really felt good about the way things finished up with the Wizards. He really enjoyed playing for [Coach Randy Wittman] and with the guys on the team and they kind of expressed the same thing to him. And as we were looking at different things, he wanted to go back. He had a comfort level. He’s back and hopefully, it will work out great.” The Wizards will enter training camp with 18 players and one roster spot up for grabs – if the team elects to enter the season with the maximum 15 players. Cook, big men Shavlik Randolph and Earl Barron, and point guard Steven Gray all signed training camp deals and Shelvin Mack has a partially guaranteed-contract but the remaining players are all signed to guaranteed deals. Cook averaged 3.1 points and 2.5 rebounds in 16 games with the Wizards.
- Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Hawks re-signed restricted free agent Ivan Johnson Tuesday. The Hawks extended Johnson a qualifying offer this summer to retain salary-matching rights if he had signed an offer sheet with another team. Under NBA rules, Johnson’s offer was for one year and worth about $966,000 guaranteed. The offer, unless extended, would have expired on Oct. 1. Last season, as a rookie, Johnson averaged 6.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 16.7 minutes in 56 games off the bench. The forward led the Hawks with a .513 field goal percentage. ... Johnson was a surprise addition to Atlanta’s roster last season after a strong training camp.He had his career derailed by a wayward college career and anger-management issues, including a ban from the Korean Basketball League.
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Rewind one year and plenty was different for the Milwaukee Bucks. The lockout was dragging on and Ersan Ilyasova was playing for a professional club team in Istanbul. Tobias Harris was just 19 years old and had yet to play a minute in an NBA game. And John Henson and Doron Lamb were preparing for their collegiate seasons with North Carolina and Kentucky, respectively. On Tuesday those four players were on the practice floor at the Cousins Center, working together as Bucks teammates to get ready for the approaching NBA season. Ilyasova, who signed a four-year, $32 million contract during the off-season and is one of the young leaders for the franchise, can appreciate the new situation. ... In addition to Ilyasova, Harris, Henson and Lamb, Przybilla and 6-foot-11 forward Larry Sanders took part in Tuesday's workout. Unsigned players on the floor included former Boston Celtics guard Marquis Daniels, Rasual Butler, Rodney Carney, Orien Greene and former Wisconsin star Alando Tucker.
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: The Wolves still have one roster space to fill with training camp less than two weeks away, if Conroy, a former D-League guard signed to a partially-guaranteed contract, makes the team. They remain in contact with the agents for unrestricted free agents Anthony Tolliver and Hassan Whiteside, among others. Greek team Panathinaikos has pursued Tolliver, who is seeking more than the league-minimum salary the Wolves currently can only offer him. Tolliver said he has no plans to play in Greece, but said it is an option as he continues to talk with a handful of NBA teams. Tolliver has spent much of the summer in Minnesota and has been working out regularly at Target Center, where he now is accustomed to seeing Roy wear a Wolves jersey. "The first day seeing him down here was weird," Tolliver said. "It's one of those things. It's the NBA, guys changing teams every year. You just kind of get used to it. It's normal. He's a Wolf now."
- Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Given the recent lukewarm performances of Mavericks first-round draft picks (Dominique Jones, Roddy Beaubois), it’s fair to wonder how much Cunningham can contribute in his rookie season. Drafted 24th, the 6-4 guard injured his hamstring during pre-draft workouts. He went with the Mavericks to the Las Vegas summer league but did not play. That doesn’t mean he didn’t pick up a few things. “Everybody was competing because there are limited spots [in training camp],” he said. “And I could tell that the game was much more physical and fast-paced.” Cunningham will start camp as a backup at both shooting guard and point guard. Time will tell where he might get the bulk of his playing time. He’ll be competing with Beaubois, Delonte West and Vince Carter behind starters Mayo and Collison. For now, Cunningham is simply happy to be preparing for camp with no physical limitations. “This is the first injury I’ve ever had in my life that kept me out for any time,” he said. “So I didn’t want to take any chances and rush it back."
- John Reid of The Times-Picayune: Although the workouts were volunteer, New Orleans Hornets rookie Anthony Davis got a chance to work against San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan while a majority of his New Orleans’ teammates met their objective to build chemistry last week. Unable to use their practice facility at the Alario Center because it was used as a Hurricane Isaac food stamp card distribution site, Hornets players paid their own lodging expenses and airfare to San Antonio to use the Spurs’ practice facility. Players went through volunteer pickup games and conditioning drills that went unsupervised by coaches because they are not allowed to put players through organized offseason workouts. Among some of the Hornets players taking advantage of the work in Texas besides Davis, the No. 1 overall pick in June's draft, were rookie guard Austin Rivers, center Robin Lopez, forward Ryan Anderson, forward Hakim Warrick, forward Jason Smith, point guard Greivis Vasquez, rookie forward Darius Miller and shooting guard Xavier Henry.
- Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: Paul Lukas, the master of all things uniform-related in professional sports, tweeted earlier today that the Spurs will unveil a new set of alternate uniforms to be worn in their home opener against Oklahoma City on Nov. 1. As the good folks at Project Spurs, who whipped up the initial report, pointed out, the Spurs have had some experience with alternate uniforms in the past. Both the good, such as their Dallas Chaparrals throwbacks, and the bad that were those horrible silver togs that made the Spurs look like walking old-school TV dinners. At least their black-and-silver color scheme gives them a great starting point. My personal hope is something 70s oriented, with matching polyester leisure suits for Pop and the coaching staff.
- John N. Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer: If the 76ers don't sell one more season-ticket package between now and Sept. 28 - the day that single-game tickets go on sale - they still will have sold more tickets for the 2012-13 season than they did last season, according to the team's ownership group. "It's been an incredible offseason for us, right on the heels of a great season," said minority owner Adam Arron, the team's chief executive officer. Arron said the Sixers have more than doubled the sales of full season-ticket packages from 3,300 last season to 7,000. He said sales of 10-game ticket packages have more than quadrupled for the Sixers, who begin the regular season on Oct. 31 with a home game against the Denver Nuggets.
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Nearly 1 million more television households in the Carolinas will have access to Charlotte Bobcats broadcasts this season. Jeff Genthner, who heads SportSouth, the regional Fox sports network that televises Bobcats games, told the Observer Tuesday that potential viewers will increase to over 2.8 million households, up from 1.87 million last season. Some Bobcats fans – as nearby as Rock Hill or Lake Norman – didn’t always have television access to the games. SportSouth expects television providers to pay a surcharge to carry Bobcats games, and some refuse to do so.