First Cup: Monday

  • Kevin Clark for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Shaun Livingston's NBA career nearly ended when he tore the ACL, PCL and MCL in his left knee in a gruesome post-layup fall in February of 2007. After his first exhibition season since the injury, Livingston says he's encouraged, but parts of his game will still be absent when his first season with the Heat begins Wednesday. Slowly, he is inching toward the athleticism that made him the fourth overall draft pick by the Clippers in 2004. 'I don't have the same explosive ability I had before, where I could just get to the rim and finish,' Livingston said. '[Improving] that jumping is where it's at for me right now, jumping, elevating, being able to rise over. Layups will be the biggest work-in-progress. One-leg jumps, one-leg dunks, to the rim, that is the stuff I had before, and I've got to take my time getting it back.'"

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "The Lakers' game Tuesday against Portland is more than a season opener. It's a career opener for Greg Oden, the oft-touted Trail Blazers center who sat out last season because of microfracture knee surgery three months after being the top pick in the NBA draft. The young, rapidly improving Blazers will be a test for the Lakers, with Oden and Andrew Bynum acting as a microcosm. Bynum, however, didn't see it as boiling down to one-on-one. 'Everybody keeps saying that, but they have a really talented team,' he said. 'It's definitely going to be more than just me versus Oden out there. It's definitely going to be a fun game, and I'm looking forward to it.'"TrueHoop First Cup

  • Matt Steinmetz of The Examiner: "The Warriors missed the playoffs for 12 consecutive years. The Warriors broke through to the NBA postseason in Chris Mullin's third year as executive vice president of basketball operations. Last year, the Warriors missed the playoffs. This year, the playoffs are a longshot. The point is, if the Warriors are starting another non-playoff run here, Mullin will be the one who comes out looking best. Why? Because what most people will remember, and it doesn't matter about the particulars, is this: Before Mullin: Warriors awful. With Mullin: Warriors good. After Mullin: Warriors awful."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf stopped by practice, and Vinny Del Negro said that's not by accident. 'I want him around more,' Del Negro said. 'He's been whatever we need and is always available. I know the players like it as well.' A long-standing perception exists that Reinsdorf is less visible with the Bulls than the White Sox, but Del Negro disputed that. 'He's been incredibly supportive in the things I've wanted to do in terms of changing some of the facilities and player movement,' Del Negro said. 'He's been doing it a long time. He knows the ropes pretty well.'"

  • Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News: The 76ers will have 11 men in uniform, one under the NBA limit, for Wednesday night's regular-season opener against the Toronto Raptors. That is because guard Royal Ivey is ineligible for the first two games, completing a three-game suspension incurred late last season with the Bucks from an on-court incident with Chicago Bulls center Aaron Gray. By league rule, Ivey must be included on the 12-man active roster for those two games, even though he cannot play."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "Carmelo Anthony, who is suspended for the first two games of the regular season, hasn't decided if he'll travel with the team for its season opener at Utah on Wednesday, but coach George Karl thinks his presence with the team should be a no-brainer. 'That's what I expect right now,' Karl said. 'My feeling is he should probably be with the team.' Anthony said he may just watch the game from his couch. 'I haven't decided yet,' Anthony said. 'It's going to be hard going there and not playing. They know they have my support, though. Nobody has talked to me yet. We still have (a couple days) to decide.'"

  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: "Chris Bosh, according to Sam Mitchell, has reached Kevin Garnett status in the Raptors head coach's book and anyone who has spent any time with Mitchell knows how highly he thinks of the former Timberwolves centre who took the Boston Celtics from worst to NBA champs last season. '(Bosh's) practices now are unbelievable,' Mitchell gushed. 'In the past, Chris would come in and, not go through the motions, but do just enough. Now, every possession, every play is 100% all out.' So? Big deal. He's a good practice player. How does that put him in Garnett territory? 'I used to tell him all the time: The difference between Kevin Garnett and 98% of the rest of the league is that Kevin plays like he practises,' Mitchell said. 'Chris is getting that. I think that light came on. If you want to be better than just an all-star and take this team to another level, you have to be more like that and he has done that.'"

  • Geoff Lepper of 48minutes.net: "Anthony Randolph may have stood alongside the Warriors' four other rookies Sunday as they delivered an off-key, warbling rendition of Stevie Wonder's arrangement of 'Happy Birthday' to guard Monta Ellis, who just turned 23 years old. But that was about the only time Randolph resembled a rookie during Golden State's annual open practice. Randolph started early during the scrimmage session by dunking with relish over veteran Al Harrington. Later, he threatened to deliver a knee to Harrington's sternum while swooping in for a layup. Finally, he shot a withering look to second-year guard Marco Belinelli when the Italian and he got tangled up filling the same lane on a fast break. So much for rookies not making an impression."

  • Brian Hendrickson of The Columbian: "This fall was supposed to be a transition period for Rudy Fernandez. But the Portland Trail Blazers rookie at times has looked like he has been playing NBA ball all along. The seven-year veteran of the Spanish ACB League filled up his stat line throughout the preseason, throwing down electrifying lob dunks, assisting on a pass through an opponent's legs, and scoring in a variety of ways. He has also demonstrated an exceptional understanding of the game, a dynamic range of skills and an ability to inject instant energy into the offense. But when he explains the quick adjustment to his new teammates and league, Fernandez makes the move sound fundamental. 'Basketball is basketball, Europe or in USA,' he explained."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "The problem with guaranteed contracts is they're so, well, guaranteed. Pithy as that sounds, it sums up the Ch
    arlotte Bobcats' immediate roster challenge. ... If you're waiting for the Bobcats to spend like the Lakers or the Knicks, you're living in some alternative dimension. Despite those circumstances, they loaded up on guarantees, whether through re-signings (Emeka Okafor, Gerald Wallace and Matt Carroll) or trades (Jason Richardson and Nazr Mohammed). Each of those decisions could be justified individually. But as a group, they leave little margin for error. Now they've hired a Hall of Fame coach who's never shy about asking to have input on the roster. If you're 68 and you've won a title in the NBA and the NCAA, you've earned that input. Tight as money is for this NBA team, there's got to be room to fill some of Larry Brown's prescriptions."

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "The Spurs are too old to win another NBA championship. They have stood still for too long, graying, while the rest of the Western Conference has caught up to them. Their best days are behind them. New York Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni has heard the prophecies about the decline of the Spurs' era of NBA dominance. He buys absolutely none of them. 'There are 29 other teams that would like to have their downside,' said D'Antoni, whose summer ritual in five seasons as coach of the Phoenix Suns included a nearly annual de-pantsing at the hands of the Spurs. 'That's what happens in sports. Everyone is really too quick to jump off the bandwagon.' As the curtain raises on a new season this week, the Spurs are set to take their second shot at their fifth NBA title. It seems silly to write them off."

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: "With a season-ticket base of more than 10,000 and a sold-out lower bowl of the New Orleans Arena, the Hornets have been a model of success this offseason. As a result, the worldwide economic downturn is not expected to keep Hornets owner George Shinn from meeting his financial bottom line this season. The Hornets, who begin the season Wednesday night at Golden State, have not reported any significant cancellations of season tickets or sponsorships because of the struggling economy. 'This coming season, I believe, is going to be our best ever and not just from the standpoint of wins and losses, but from the standpoint of how the community has been involved,' Shinn said. 'It has been crazy good.'"