First Cup: Friday

September, 28, 2012
9/28/12
9:13
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • John Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer: During the team’s search for a new general manager, there was much talk of adding a guy experienced steeped in applying analytics (think baseball’s Billy Beane and “Moneyball”) to the front office. However, we now know, with the hiring of Tony DiLeo the Sixers still value the tried-and-true talent evaluator to handle the day-to-day operations of their front office. This is not to sell the analytic’s role short, not at all. When DiLeo had the second of two interviews for the position with team owner Josh Harris, Harris made it abundantly clear that the front office would incorporate and place significant emphasis on hiring someone to ascribe value to draft picks, free agents and anything else player related that goes beyond pure talent evaluation. … DiLeo says that throughout the league there are teams who use analytics to a very high degree (he pointed to Houston and Oklahoma City as the top proponents) and some who use it to a much lesser degree. While DiLeo did not give a time frame for bringing in this person, it is clear that the team is focused on making this happen much sooner rather than later.
  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: How much will Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili maintain? As the wise philosopher Charles Barkley once noted, Father Time is undefeated. If so, Duncan and Ginobili have at least taken the old man to overtime. Duncan continues to defy age and logic, averaging virtually the same numbers per 36 minutes last season as he did 15 years ago during his rookie campaign. At least one measure also indicates he was the league’s most impactful defensive player. Ginobili broke down (again), but he had one of the better seasons of his career – albeit an extremely short one – and looked fantastic in the Olympics. In short, both remain among the best players in the league. But there has to be more than a little apprehension at relying so heavily on two players in the latter half of their 30s.
  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: Spoelstra believes the chattering classes are making too much of the “small-ball” tendencies that appeared to transform the Heat’s 2012 postseason, arguing that the path to “positionless” actually started much earlier, and that “we still feel we’re a power-paint team,”just one that does it with perimeter players driving and posting up. Still, even if he hadn’t set out to coin a catchphrase or launch a league trend, the reality is that he identified something that he should be eager to expand and exploit this season. He had already come to the conclusion, after the Dallas debacle and during the lockout, that “to truly unlock the strengths of our team, we would have to get out of the conventional boxes that people like to describe positions and teams.” Then Chris Bosh’s playoff absence forced him to improvise. And when Bosh returned, Spoelstra put him at center and stuck with spindly Shane Battier on a front line with LeBron James. The coach has since been fitted for a ring. Now the question is whether he’ll stick with it, after the “pace-and-space” strategy he took into the 2011-12 season quickly petered out.
  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman Wednesday's news conference unexpectedly welcomed Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" while introducing the lighter side of Thunder general manager Sam Presti. The habitually tight-lipped Presti spent 15 minutes of his hour-long interview session freely sharing his thoughts on music, movies, television, Jay-Z, James Brown, Woody Guthrie, plus Bob Dylan's recent performance at the Zoo Amphitheater. It all began harmlessly enough when Presti was asked what he did during the offseason to "decompress" after OKC advanced to last season's NBA Finals and lost 4-1 to the Miami Heat. "I like music documentaries," Presti began. "For those of you who haven't seen the new George Harrison documentary, it's fascinating. It's a long watch, but well worth it." An accomplished drummer, Presti produced three music CDs where all proceeds benefitted the Extra Ordinary Needs Fund at Children's Hospital in Boston, which is where Presti attended Emerson College.
  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: The endorsements of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo carry the ultimate clout. Ray Allen may have grown disillusioned with the system and joined Miami over the summer, but Rivers’ player buy-in rate rarely suffers from a defector. That’s why Rivers, at 50, will open his ninth Celtics training camp today with some of the most impressive roster additions in the league. Beyond the preeminent issue of money and the chance to win a title, a lot of factors go into drawing a free agent including teammates and the climate of a city, to name two. Indeed, the Celtics have lost out on the latter account before. But coaching can also be an important lure. “When Doc calls you answer,” said Jason Terry, a former Sixth Man of the Year (2009) who didn’t need much enticement to leave Dallas. Granted, the cap-conscious Mavericks didn’t try very hard to retain Terry. But once his phone lit up early on the morning of July 1 thanks to an immediate call from Rivers at the start of free agency, the veteran guard found it difficult to listen to anyone else.
  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: One of the questions on my list was how would the team replace Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams, two regular starters? Larry Drew wouldn’t tip his hand this early about their replacements just yet. Oh, he has an idea but will let training camp play out. “It’s an open competition,” Drew told the AJC. “I would be lying if I said I didn’t have an idea but part of this whole process is looking at different combinations and a lot of our camp is going to be about that. Just to get a real feel for the 10-11 new faces that we have coming in here. I don’t want to pigeon hole and say this is who is going to be the starter. I don’t want to do that. I want to go out and starting next Tuesday, I want guys to go out and know that they have an opportunity, particularly if they show they are capable of being a starter and if their play speaks in volume, I’m certainly going to have to consider that. With all the new faces, we are going to have to go out and see what we have.”
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: The Wizards brought back Wittman in June because of his ability to connect to his players. He urged them to believe in their talents and held them accountable for lackluster efforts. Now that Wittman has had a full offseason to prepare and has hired two of his own assistants in Don Newman and Jerry Sichting, the challenge for him is establishing his own style while incorporating new pieces. Wittman plans to win by running and defending, but he will also need to find a way for the team to score consistently. For all of the moves they made, Beal was the only player acquired to provide scoring. They will likely take a scoring-by-committee approach, but there is still plenty of pressure on Wall, Crawford and Nene to carry the offense when it gets stagnant. With seven players in their rookie or sophomore campaigns last season, Wittman had a pliable group to work with and they were willing to follow orders, especially when there weren’t any opposing agendas in play. Those players are back with more experience this season, but the minutes they received last season, some by default, are not guaranteed now that Wittman will have more seasoned options at his disposal.
  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: With so many new faces in camp, not many are expecting the Dallas Mavericks to win the Southwest Division title this season, let alone the NBA title for the second time in three seasons. But that has in no way dampened coach Rick Carlisle's infectious enthusiasm. "I don't care about the prognosticators or pundits or whatever," Carlisle said. "The important thing is that we come in Day One and we do the right things over time to get better and put ourselves in a position to be a contending team. That's what it's about." The Mavericks will host their annual Media Day at 1 p.m. today at American Airlines Center.
  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: Upon Villanueva's invitation to work out with him, he suggested I bring a photographer and videographer to document the experience. For me, that should have been the first warning sign. I jumped at the chance to give readers a firsthand account of how Villanueva was readying himself for the season, bypassing a key factor or two: One was the fact my dentist told me "no physical activity" until further notice after an errant (and accidental) elbow on the basketball court knocked out a front tooth and slightly damaged another in July, meaning it had been nearly 60 days since I had done anything athletic. But, seeing as how Villanueva said the workout would only go for about an hour on an early Tuesday morning, I couldn't get myself in that much trouble, right? Wrong. Very wrong. As I sat 25 minutes after the workout, contemplating how my life got to this point, with my stomach feeling like I had just attended my first frat party as a college freshman, holding my head because last night's pizza (mistake No. 2, according to Pistons strength and conditioning coach Arnie Kander) came up and a worker was spraying down the concrete with a water hose where I … "went," Irish's voice rang in my head from when I started the workout: "Everybody throws up the first time."
  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: Back running on his surgically repaired knee for the third week now, injured Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio stopped long enough Thursday at Target Center to show off three scars that stripe his left leg and said he could play his next NBA game by December, nine months after he tore two ligaments there. "I don't know, they say December, but it could be January," he said. "I don't want to say a time because I don't want to rush it. I want to be ready when I am ready." Rubio returned to Vail, Colo., three weeks ago for another checkup with his surgeon and was given approval to begin running again in three- minute segments alternated with walking. He plans one more trip there to see knee specialist Dr. Richard Steadman. "But it's just to shake the hand with the doctor when I'm ready, when I'm ready to roll," he said.
  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: New Orleans Hornets forward Anthony Davis clowned with his Olympic gold medal for the local media Thursday afternoon, offering his audience the opportunity to wear the prize while saying the experience of playing with NBA superstars on an international stage provided him invaluable knowledge entering into his rookie season. "I learned from guys who've been in this league for a long time," Davis said, "superstars in this league teaching me a lot of things about the game, about professionalism. It was a great experience." Despite spending nearly two months living and training with the game's elite, however, the 19-year-old Davis said he didn't yet feel as though he was an NBA player. “I haven't played an NBA game yet," Davis said, conceding he didn't feel as though he was a rising college sophomore, either. "I just feel like a guy who's just playing basketball right now. After I play an NBA game, I'll be able to consider myself an NBA player."
  • Tom Sorensen of The Charlotte Observer: I had forgotten about Tyrus Thomas. At 6-foot-10, he weighed about 175 pounds last season. I’m being sarcastic. If I don’t announce that, some of you will write me and say: “You idiot! He weighed 180!” Thomas lacked energy last season and his game is fueled by energy. He’ll never be the prototype post-up power forward. He doesn’t have to be. When he’s right, he runs, blocks shots and finds easy baskets. He imposes. He disrupts. If Thomas, who usually plays at 225 pounds, is his old self, the Bobcats have a power forward. Another player who looks good is 7-0 Desagana Diop. When I say he looks good, I mean he’s lost a lot of weight. It’s as if he and Thomas made a trade. Diop no longer is 350 pounds or 330 or whatever he played at last season. He’s less than 300. He can run down court without pausing to rest.
  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: Meet Bob Hyde. As the Jazz have constantly shopped, evaluated and traded million-dollar pieces the last two seasons, overhauling their roster in the attempt to remain competitive in the ever-changing Western Conference, Hyde’s been at the center of it all. He doesn’t initiate the first move. He doesn’t call the final shot. He’s rarely ever seen and almost never quoted. But Hyde is O’Connor’s right-hand man. He’s the Jazz’s salary-cap guru, chief financial officer and Moneyball-believer rolled into one. And while Hyde swears his job and name don’t merit mention, he’s quietly become the most interesting — and at times the most important — person on the Millers’ payroll. "Bob was critical in my process to make my decision," said Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey, referring to an August move that saw him trade San Antonio for Salt Lake City. "He’s obviously held in very high regard by the Miller family and by Randy and Kevin, [who are] all unanimous in giving Bob a lot of credit on where the LHM corporation is and keying all the strong fundamentals behind the Jazz. He’s already been someone that I’ve leaned on as a resource and a mentor."
  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: According to multiple team sources, the club is committed to retaining Curry long term; the question is for how much. Discussions were promising before Curry's camp suspended negotiations until after the preseason games. The expectation is that Curry will sign a contract extension by the Oct. 31 deadline. But do the Warriors keep Bogut, who will be up for an extension after this season? Is rookie Harrison Barnes the small forward of the future? Is Klay Thompson good enough to be the starting shooting guard on a contender? Which of the Warriors' young players should be traded or kept? “These players can stay as long as they want if we win," Bob Myers said through a smile. "But if we don't win ... maybe things do get turned over." None of the pertinent questions for Myers can be answered now. So he speaks in generalities and avoids grandiose statements. It seems his demeanor is rubbing off on the organization, as even the preacher himself, coach Mark Jackson, felt no urge to make playoff predictions again.

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