First Cup: Monday
October, 1, 2012
By Nick Borges
- Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: Before last season, Chris Bosh made a prediction he didn’t characterize as overly bold. He said there was no reason he couldn’t average double-digit rebounds. Then he dipped to 7.9, his lowest average since his rookie season. This time around? “I was talking too much last year,” Bosh said Sunday. “Every time I set a goal, I never made it.” Keeping any goals to himself? “I don’t even want to set private statistics,” Bosh said. “I thought about it for a minute. I didn’t even get off the clouds. I was shooting for the stars, I didn’t even get off the ground. Because we have so many good rebounders here. And the way we play defense, I’m still learning. So, I’ll get better. You know what, if I average double-digit rebounds, that will be great.”
- Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times: The team’s signature under Thibodeau has been defense, effort and unselfishness, which must continue if these Bulls are to fulfill their potential. The problem is, before he can establish expectations or growl, “Do your job,” introductions will be in order. Players can’t play well together until they get to know each other and each other’s games, which is priority No. 1. …In a way, Thibodeau is preparing his team for two seasons --- one without Rose and one when Rose returns, which only increases the degree of difficulty. Continuity was a big reason for optimism heading into last season’s abbreviated training camp. No more. If Thibodeau hopes to duplicate the chemistry that helped him become the fastest NBA coach to win 100 games, he’s going to have to produce it from scratch.
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Now, with the Thunder kicking off the 2012-13 season with media day on Monday, we've reached crunch time on Harden's contract negotiations. The two sides have just 30 days to reach a deal. But as the clock continues to tick, it's starting to look like Harden is destined to become a restricted free agent and let the open market determine his value. The sensational sixth man who once sounded so sure he would sacrifice something to stay with the team that drafted him now appears ready to ride out this stalemate. If he does, that could effectively spell the end of Harden's time in OKC. Harden is believed to be seeking a max contract, and it's common knowledge that he would be all but guaranteed to receive one from another team next summer. But it's also been well-documented how the Thunder can't venture into that territory, which means if this deadline comes and goes, Harden will soon be headed elsewhere unless he has a massive change of heart. A lot can happen in 30 days. Will Harden take less money? Sounds simple, right? But when you look at the Thunder’s track record, you’ll find that it’s not just talk.
- Dan Duggan of the Boston Herald: First, Kevin Garnett said he didn’t have Ray Allen’s phone number anymore. Then Jason Terry said, “Who?” when asked about Allen. Yesterday, Rondo was the latest to dismiss his former teammate, refusing to mention his name. “A lot of people don’t know that Courtney, I think, was second behind No. 20 (Allen) last year in 3-point field goal percentage,” Rondo said. For the record, Allen finished fourth (45.3 percent) and Lee was 22nd (40.1) in 3-point shooting.
- Marc Berman of the New York Post: They are the NBA’s lone club with five players at least 35 years old, including imminent signee Rasheed Wallace, 38, who is coming out of retirement. The last time five players 35-and-over suited up for a team was 2000-01 (the Trail Blazers and Raptors), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Knicks will also boast the oldest rookie in NBA history, backup point guard Pablo Prigioni, 35, and the oldest player in the league in Kurt Thomas, 40. Yeah, the Knicks are really old, but they could be really good. General manager Glen Grunwald has assembled this ancient group for one purpose — to beat the Heat in the playoffs and win the Knicks’ first NBA crown since 1973. There is no future beyond this season. Every summer move was made with this season’s championship goal in mind, and that’s why Jeremy Lin, 24, now calls Houston home and Raymond Felton is in his second Garden stint as starting point guard.
- Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: Can Kyrie Irving stay healthy? Shortly after Irving, the reigning Rookie of the Year, fractured his hand in Las Vegas in July, executives from around the league began questioning his durability. “Doesn’t look like he can stay healthy,” one general manager said during summer-league games. “I’d be concerned if I were them.” The Cavs don’t seem too worried about Irving’s injury history, but it’s worth noting he has only played in 60 percent of his team’s games (62 out of 103) the past two seasons. He missed 15 games last season, mostly related to a concussion and a shoulder injury. Add that to his toe injury at Duke and the fractured wrist in July, and it’s quite an extensive medical chart for a 20-year-old kid. Irving has already proven he is one of the best point guards in the league, and an All-Star appearance this season isn’t out of the question. Perhaps it should even be expected … if he can stay healthy.
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: John Wall’s injury perhaps gives Steven Gray a better chance of making the team on a partially guaranteed deal through the first month of the season. The Wizards will probably look to sign another point guard, primarily for depth, during the grueling practice schedule ahead. Some available free agents include Jannero Pargo, Earl Boykins and Lester Hudson, but they could also wait and see which players get cut from other rosters in the next few weeks. “We’ll look around see who’s available and who’s out there. If the right player becomes available we would consider somebody else, but we feel good about the players that we currently have on the roster,” Ernie Grunfeld said. “We have a deeper roster right now and we have a lot of players at a lot of positions. This isn’t about one player taking for John. It’s going to be a whole team effort.”
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: Q: You'll likely start Ty Lawson at point guard, Iguodala at shooting guard, Gallinari at small forward and Kenneth Faried at power forward. What about center? George Karl: Training camp is going to tell me who plays. My idea right now is Mozgov would start with Faried and JaVale would stay with (reserve point guard) Andre Miller. But again, I don't (care) about starting lineups, and you guys are already stirring the pot. It's all about how many minutes you play, who you play with, how well you play and how we play (when you're on the court). Kosta Koufos is in the mix, too. Let's make sure you understand that. In the last 15-20 games of the season, when Timo got hurt, Kosta not only played well but good enough to get us to the playoffs.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: New coaching staff. New general manager. Twelve new players. No wonder the Orlando Magic face their most critical, most intriguing October in years. The new-look Magic will convene for the first time Monday, when organization holds its annual media day. Training camp will begin Tuesday morning, as Jacque Vaughn and his five assistant coaches run the first practice of their Magic tenure. On Sunday afternoon in Mexico City, the team will start its schedule of eight preseason exhibitions. … Vaughn already has spoken one-on-one with each player, but the upcoming days will give the entire roster a better sense of what he wants in practices and games. Those who know Vaughn well think he will be detail-oriented, and Vaughn has said he will project a "calm" demeanor. But since this is his first head-coaching job, it will be interesting to see how his coaching style coalesces.
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Lionel Hollins and his staff have been preparing for the start of training camp over the past month. Expectations are that Hollins will lead the Griz to a third straight playoff appearance with a chance to contend for the Western Conference. Still, Hollins, the franchise's all-time winningest coach, enters training camp in the final year of his contract. There have been limited discussions about a contract extension. Griz owner Michael Heisley is in the process of selling the team to Robert Pera — a process that is expected to reach a conclusion this month. Hollins deflected any notion that there is added pressure in this situation. "I expect to have a deal before the season is over," Hollins said. "For sure."
- Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: The most anticipated 76ers preseason in about a decade will start Tuesday when the team takes the court at Saint Joseph's with dominant center Andrew Bynum and proven outside marksmen Dorell Wright, Nick Young and Jason Richardson - all acquired in the offseason - to complement returning youngsters Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner and a slew of big men with varying abilities. Three of the Sixers' top five scorers are now playing elsewhere. The much-awaited trade of enigmatic swingman Andre Iguodala to Denver helped bring Bynum from Los Angeles, while the team also decided to part with Elton Brand (amnestied and now with Dallas) and Lou Williams (who signed with Atlanta as a free agent). Coach Doug Collins has to be feeling like an artist with a clump of clay in front of him, trying to figure out how he is going to mold the team he has been given for his third season.
- Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: Nando de Colo, the Spurs’ latest international import, is fluent in three languages: his native French, Spanish and English. He fully admits there are still gaps in his grasp of the last of these. For instance, when Gregg Popovich compliments de Colo as “a poor man’s Danny Ainge,” the 25-year-old guard’s new coach might as well be speaking Swahili. “In France, it’s difficult to follow the NBA,” de Colo said with a shrug. “So I didn’t see a lot of games growing up.” For de Colo, the crash course in NBA 101 starts now. When the Spurs open training camp Tuesday, de Colo will be the new kid on the block, the most notable addition on a team otherwise content to double down on last season’s Western Conference finals appearance.
- Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Just two days into training camp and two centers for the Dallas Mavericks have already sustained injuries. One day after Chris Kaman suffered a sprained lower back on the opening day, Brandan Wright strained his quad during Sunday's practice at American Airlines Center. Mavs officials believe the injuries are minor, but aren't sure how long either player will be forced into limited duty before returning to the court. "Brandan Wright got a little quad strain today, but it's not considered serious," coach Rick Carlisle said. "We'll evaluate him and he'll be day-to-day." … Asked about his latest injury, Kaman said: "I'm doing good. Progressing slowly each day." Carlisle didn't sound overly concerned about the injury. "He's doing better," Carlisle said. "I don't have a timetable for when he's going to be back practicing, but he's moving around and he's making progress."
- Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: Can Nicolas Batum take the next step? Fans have been hearing about Batum's "potential" ever since he arrived from France four seasons ago and surprisingly landed a starting job as a rookie. But the 6-8 small forward no longer can use “potential” as a crutch. After a public and sometimes acrimonious free agent negotiation process last summer, the $45 million man has to bear the weight of expectations for the first time in his career. Batum averaged 13.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists last season. Those numbers aren’t good enough for a player in Batum’s new tax bracket. The promising news is that those scoring and rebounding numbers are career highs, and Batum has increased his scoring in each of his first four seasons in the NBA. He could be poised for a breakout. … Batum has some fence mending to do this season as Blazers fans no doubt will remember how he lavished praise on Timberwolves’ players and coaches and stated that his first wish was to play with the Blazers’ Northwest Division rivals. But nothing silences criticism like outstanding basketball. And if Batum can take that next step on the court, his missteps off it will be forgiven.
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: The photo line at Suns media day Monday will be a little longer and the traveling party departing tonight for training camp in La Jolla, Calif., became a little larger. Once relatively settled with 13 guaranteed contracts, the Suns likely will stage a battle for another roster spot in light of the expectation that Channing Frye’s enlarged heart will sideline him for the season. The Suns have invited NBA veteran power forward/center Solomon Jones, power forward/center Luke Zeller, swingman Othyus Jeffers and point guard Diante Garrett to training camp, which opens Tuesday with the first of four consecutive two-a-day sessions at UC-San Diego. … The Suns have the roster minimum of 13 players under contract but Frye’s loss likely will lead to an addition, although the Suns are permitted to carry up to 15 players on their regular-season roster. Jones and Zeller seem like the most probable candidates as big men with different styles.
- Dan Woike of The Orange County Register: When Lamar Odom looks at Blake Griffin's future, he sees great players from the past. After Sunday's practice at the team's facility, Odom didn't blink in comparing Griffin's game to a pair of the NBA's all-time best: Karl Malone and Charles Barkley. Like those players, Odom said, Griffin is a force at the rim, using athleticism and physicality. And like those players, Griffin will eventually have to play more from the perimeter. "It just takes time," Odom said. "He's great at being an athlete. But he understands the game and understands what he needs to do. He'll be a hall of famer."