First Cup: Thursday

  • Tom Moore of phillyBurbs.com: Team president Rod Thorn on Wednesday denied a report by Fox 29 sports anchor Howard Eskin that “the Lakers may have given the 76ers damaged goods” in star center Andrew Bynum. Bynum, acquired in an August trade, is sitting out the first three weeks of training camp/the preseason to rest his knees and allow a bone bruise in his left knee to improve. “The injury is what it is — a bruised knee,” said Thorn via email. “It takes time to heal. He obviously had knee surgery previously.” … Eskin also said he “is getting the sense there is a more serious injury with Andrew Bynum’s knee than the Sixers are telling us.” Bynum, an eighth-year pro, has missed 130 of a possible 394 games over the past five seasons.

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Whether Dirk Nowitzki will have to sit an inordinate amount of time again this season in order to get the situation stable has yet to be determined. Nowitzki said he might even consider undergoing minor arthroscopic surgery to alleviate the situation. "I think last year I dealt with it and we did some treatment twice, and after that the swelling didn't come back for the rest of the season," Nowitzki said. "I'm hoping the same for this year. Just the body has got to get used to all the running and jumping again, and hopefully it'll respond here in the next week or so and then I'll play throughout the whole season. But we kind of have to wait [and see] how it's going to respond next week." The Mavs, of course, are holding out hope that Nowitzki's injury is no more serious than it was last year when he bounced back to earn his 11th consecutive All-Star Game appearance after a sluggish start.

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: New Timberwolves guard Brandon Roy returned to real NBA play Wednesday night after a year away with a preseason- opening performance that predictably was both out of step and perfectly in tune. He didn't expect anything else in the Wolves' 84-70 victory over Indiana at the Fargodome, really. Roy hadn't played an NBA game since the 2011 playoffs, when he unknowingly bade farewell in his second-to-last game before a year's retirement with that unforgettable 24-point performance against Dallas during a first-round series. … Roy was slow to find it Wednesday night, then discovered something of his former All-Star self just after halftime by scoring eight third-quarter points, including his team's first six coming out of intermission. In all, he played nearly 24 minutes -- exactly half the game coach Rick Adelman predicted his starters might play -- while sitting out the entire fourth quarter. "I think it takes time sometimes," Roy said afterward. "I felt good. I was excited. This was my first game since Game 6 of the Dallas series over a year ago, and it was good just to get out there again."

  • Janis Carr of The Orange County Register: Looking around the locker room now, Kobe Bryant can laugh about the days when his teammates included Smush Paker, Chris Mihm and Kwame Brown. Despite the number of seasons and NBA championships that have gone by, Bryant still bristles when he thinks of the 2005-06 season. “I almost won an MVP with Smush Parker and Kwame Brown on my team,” Bryant said before Wednesday’s 93-75 exhibition loss to Portland. “I was shooting 45 times a game. What was I supposed to do? Pass it to Chris Mihm or Kwame Brown.” Bryant was referring to 2005-06 when the Lakers’ roster included Brian Cook, Stanislav Medvedenko, Devean George and Parker, Mihm and Brown. Bryant continued, taking aim at his favorite whipping boy, Parker, calling him “the worst. He shouldn’t have been in the NBA but we were too cheap to pay for a point guard. So we let him walk on.” Guess Bryant has a long memory.

  • Al Iannazzone of Newsday: J.R. Smith had it in his mind that he would be the Knicks' starting shooting guard this season. So Mike Woodson's decision that Smith would remain a sixth man didn't go over well. "I think disappointed is an understatement," Smith said after practice yesterday. "My whole process of getting better this summer and everything I went through was to be in that starting role. It was great to be able to have put all that work in and understand what I can do and my body can withhold without starting. I think it just makes our bench even stronger." Smith was hit with a double dose of bad news. His brother Chris, who is trying to make the Knicks, will undergo surgery on his left patella tendon Thursday and will miss 3-6 months. Chris Smith signed a non-guaranteed deal. It's unclear if the Knicks will cut him, but if they do, they will have to pay him in full. J.R. said "it hurts" to see his brother have to go through this when he was "trying to prove" himself. Chris Smith will train and rehab at the Knicks' facility. "My job as a brother and as a teammate is to keep pushing him and make sure he gets better," J.R. said.

  • Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: A two-day back-and-forth between Williams and Mark Cuban, crossing oceans and continents, ended Wednesday on the Nets practice court. “Don’t even ask me about Mark Cuban,” Williams said. “I’m not gonna answer any questions about the Dallas Mavericks or Mark Cuban for the rest of the year. Even when we go play Dallas or they come here, I’m not answering questions about the Dallas Mavericks.” On Tuesday, Cuban told reporters at the Mavs’ scrimmage in Spain that Williams “threw his front office under the bus” by saying Cuban’s absence at their free agent meeting solidified his decision to re-sign with the Nets.

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Rashard Lewis has a problem, something he didn't have to worry about much during his two seasons with the Washington Wizards. The wide-open 3-point shot. The everyone-is-paying-attention-to-LeBron-Wade-Bosh shot. The shot that players work on endlessly in practice yet come to loathe in games. "Got to get used to it," the veteran forward said as the Miami Heat continued training camp, "because that's the hardest shot in basketball. I may have to hold it for a couple of seconds, so I can get somebody closing out to me." To a degree, it sounds preposterous, that in a league loaded with length, athleticism, speed, that an outside shooter would prefer defensive company before launching. Yet it practically is a universal truth, one the Heat's shooters will have to deal with while LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are attracting attention elsewhere.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Jameer Nelson has said he wanted Stan Van Gundy to remain as the Magic's coach, and he credits Van Gundy for helping him develop as a player. But, at the same time, Nelson sounds excited about Jacque Vaughn. Vaughn will give Nelson freedom to run the offense. Although it's dangerous to draw too many conclusions from a preseason opener, Nelson noted that Vaughn didn't call a single play in last Sunday's exhibition in Mexico City. "Things were different, and a lot of times for me, different is good," Nelson said. "I've learned a lot from the people in the past. But everything in basketball and in life is a steppingstone, and I'll use what I learned to my ability. I can tell that Jacque trusts me. "I'm not saying that Stan didn't trust me, just that these coaches manage the game different."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: The Nuggets remain intent working out a contract extension with Ty Lawson, who has until the end of preseason to sign, or become a restricted free agent next summer. Lawson has new representation — agent Happy Walters, who also represents Denver's Corey Brewer. It's possible the contract, a five-year extension, could be worth about $65 million, based on minimum criteria in the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement. Last season the 5-foot-11 guard averaged 16.4 points and 6.6 assists while leading the Nuggets to key victories in their seven-game, first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers. "I went through the same exact process, except I didn't take the deal," said Lawson's new teammate, Andre Iguodala, whom the Nuggets acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers this summer. "It's worked for some guys, but hasn't for others as far as being able to use your leverage.”

  • Bill Oram of The Salt Lake Tribune: This year, Burks is serious, and his teammates treat him that way. A talented lottery pick, the former University of Colorado star is battling for minutes with a slew of guards, including Randy Foye and Gordon Hayward. "He’s one of the best guards at his position in his class for a reason," point guard Earl Watson said. "He’s not afraid of any competition." Coach Tyrone Corbin has given Burks opportunities at point guard early in the preseason, saying that both he and Foye may be thrust into that position depending on injuries or size mismatches. … It’s big talk about a player who after offseason acquisitions at the wing positions seemed destined to slide down the Jazz’s bench. However, Corbin said Burks will take on an increased role this year — somehow.

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: Jeremy Tyler said he wouldn't advise children to follow in the path that he trailblazed, and given a second chance, he would certainly think twice about his decision to forgo his senior year of high school to play overseas. But Tyler has no regrets about signing with the Israeli team, Maccabi Haifa. It's his story, and it's a story that ultimately enabled him to fulfill his dream of playing in the NBA. The Warriors' power forward will get a chance to prove to Maccabi Haifa on Thursday night that he isn't the same person who had on-court shoving matches, was called lazy, out of shape and soft, and ended up quitting with five weeks remaining in the 2009-10 season. "This game means a lot to me. It really means a lot," Tyler said. "I had some rough, hard times over there, and now it's time to put it to the test and see if it was worth it."

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: Zydrunas Ilgauskas was terrified. He was 15 in January, 1991, when his father woke him up in the middle of the night to tell him the Russians had invaded their hometown of Vilnius, Lithuania. With air-raid sirens and car horns blaring, the family gathered around the television to watch the news. There were soldiers and tanks everywhere. One of the armored vehicles even ran over a young girl. … The former Cavaliers center who is now a special assistant to GM Chris Grant was talking about the invasion that is featured in a new film opening at the Cedar Lee Theatres on Friday, "The Other Dream Team" -- about the 1992 Lithuanian basketball team that competed in the Olympics for the first time and beat the Russians for the bronze medal -- just a year and a half after that invasion. Though the movie title makes reference to the U.S. 1992 Dream Team featuring NBA stars Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, there is no comparison between what that team meant to Americans and what "the other dream team" meant to Lithuanians. "Those guys were our heroes," said Ilgauskas, who has a small part in the film.

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: Damian Lillard shook off a ho-hum first half and flashed every bit of his across-the-board potential, leading the Blazers to a 93-75 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in their exhibition opener at Citizens Business Bank Arena. “That’s why he’s going to be one of the favorites for Rookie of the Year,” Batum said of Lillard. “He ran the show. He put is all in good spots ... he got the ball to lots of guys and he took good shots. He did it all.” The dynamic rookie from Weber State, whom the Blazers drafted with the No. 6 overall pick of the NBA Draft, shook off some nerves during his first test against NBA talent. But once he found what coach Terry Stotts called his “sea legs,” Lillard was efficient and sometimes dazzling. He finished with 14 points, seven assists and five rebounds and committed just two turnovers, while making 6 of 11 shots in more than 23 minutes.

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: It wasn’t hard for Jonas Valanciunas to find the words in his second language for what the chance to finally play in an NBA game — even a relatively meaningless pre-season game — means to him. “My dream come true.” … It wasn’t an extensive performance — coach Dwane Casey held him to just 13 minutes as the Raptors lost 101-99 to the Pistons before a crowd that didn’t top 4,000 — but it was a watershed moment for the 20-year-old Lithuanian. “I don’t know how to explain it,” the fifth overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft said after going through Toronto’s morning shootaround at the Palace of Auburn Hills. “I feel great, feel great, I feel ready. I know I’m not going to get a lot of minutes today, I still need to learn all the things but at least I get a chance to step up on the court.”

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: The preseason is all about testing things out and showing off what you worked on over the summer. Kings center DeMarcus Cousins started out showing off his shooting range – his three-point shooting range. Cousins made one of his three three-point attempts in the Kings' 102-96 preseason win over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night at Power Balance Pavilion. While many were curious as to how Tyreke Evans would look shooting from beyond the arc, most weren't expecting Cousins also firing from there. "Coach wants me to shoot the three ball, so I'm still trying to find my spots and where to do it," Cousins said of Keith Smart. "That's what this time is for, trying to find it."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: The Rockets had no complaints. They did enough things well to believe progress had been made. The starters played well. Rookie forward Terrence Jones backed up his strong camp with an even stronger first game. They even held on in the final minutes to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder — with three starters sitting out but their stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, typically sensational — to open the preseason with a 107-105 win. Jeremy Lin, however, expects more. He said before the game there would be nights like this, “when I play elite point guards and I don’t do that well and they do great.” But Rockets coach Kevin McHale said that it was not that bad at all. Westbrook looked pretty much the way he did in Game 4 of the NBA Finals against the Heat as the Thunder welcomed Lin back to the court in his first game action since March by going at Lin with their Ferrari of a point guard.

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: The education of rookie guard Nando De Colo continued Wednesday at the AT&T Center, where he needed instructions on how to properly check himself into an NBA game. (Hint – you must notify game officials first.) It was one of the few slip-ups on an otherwise memorable night for the newest Spur, whose 20-footer with 0.6 seconds left on a play drawn up by countryman Tony Parker — and we use that term extremely loosely — gave his team a 101-99 victory over the visiting Atlanta Hawks. Excluding the magnitude of the shot, circumventing overtime in a meaningless preseason game, it might not even have been De Colo’s most impressive play. That status could be reserved for any number of the nine assists he recorded on a series of flavorful behind-the-(insert appendage of your choice here) passes. We’re trying really hard to lay off the hyperbole considering his playing time is probably going to range somewhere between scant and nonexistent once the real games begin. But the kid refuses to cooperate.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Making his first ever start at center, Cole Aldrich made an immediate impact when he prevailed at center court, stealing the jump ball from the fingertips of Houston center Omer Asik, a taller, more athletic and more experienced big man. Baby steps, people. By the looks of it, you'll need that slow and steady approach when evaluating Aldrich, the third-year center who'll now be thrust into a backup role behind Kendrick Perkins. Just 28 seconds later, for example, Aldrich was whistled for the first of his five fouls while trying to supply the one thing he's responsible for but clearly still far from proficient in — post defense. And so it could go with Aldrich. … Hasheem Thabeet, who is projected to be the third-string center, scored 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting with three rebounds and one blocked before fouling out after 14 minutes. “I knew both would play hard,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Every time Andre Drummond dunked Wednesday night, one could sense Pistons fans were becoming more encouraged about the prospects for the future. The 101-99 victory over Toronto at the Palace to open the exhibition season was only a side note to folks catching their first glimpse of Drummond as a Piston. And with a following lay-up that provided the winning bucket and a 100-99 lead with 35 seconds left, Drummond showed how he just might be ready to contribute when the games start counting Halloween night. The play capped a 12-point, seven-rebound, two-block night, but Drummond admitted to nerves.