Stephens Haynes of Newsday: The timing couldn't have been scripted better in a sitcom. As Raymond Felton discussed Paul Pierce's inflammatory comments about the heightened rivalry between the Knicks and Nets, a young boy, as if on cue, walked by him wearing -- what else? -- a Paul Pierce jersey. Felton laughed ... then sounded off in round 2 of the verbal sparring match. "Paul Pierce said the Nets are gonna take over the city," the Knicks point guard said with a smirk Sunday. "It's hard for you to take over the city when we've got 'New York' on our chest and you've got 'Brooklyn' on yours. It's been this way since long before he started playing." Felton fanned a flame initially sparked by Pierce last week when the new Net told Complex magazine that he hates the Knicks "with a passion" and wanted to "start the beef." … Felton said the trash talk is "all in fun." He took a jab at the Nets last week in Slam magazine, suggesting the expectations for them should be tempered because "they're not going to have the youth that they had last year."
Brian Manzullo of the Detroit Free Press: Detroit Pistons big man Andre Drummond shot 37.1 percent from the free throw line last year. But don’t expect the center to significantly change up his strategy as he enters his second year. ESPN writer Ethan Sherwood Strauss pleaded with Drummond last Friday to start shooting free throws under-handed like Hall of Famer Rick Barry did in the 1970s. “If your free throw shooting doesn't improve like Joe Dumars hopes it will, please consider shooting them underhand. Of all the players who have been in this position, you’re uniquely suited to the dramatic style change,” Strauss wrote. He later said: “You’re unique, funny, and increasingly popular among fans, who see you as an antidote to the buttoned-down athlete cliché. If you adopt something as retro-cool as the underhand free throw, fans will love you for it. Make it your signature.” This prompted Drummond to respond Saturday afternoon on Twitter: “Let me make this clear.... I’m not shooting free throws underhand.. #Relax”
Jeff Caplan of NBA.com: Sports, science and technology are converging at an all-time pace and eight NBA teams are experimenting with a new device designed to optimize and personalize training regiments, thus the ability to maximize performance and reduce injury. The San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks,Houston Rockets and New York Knicks, plus four other teams that have chosen to keep their identities secret, have invested in these complex GPS tracking devices created by the Australian company Catapult Sports, the self-professed leader in “athlete analytics.” “We just want to be able to get smarter about our players and how to train them and how to put them in a position to succeed,” said Mavs owner Mark Cuban. “So that’s just one component of a lot of different things that we’re doing.” The device, called OptimEye, is roughly the size of an oldfangled beeper and athletes wear it inside their jerseys on the upper back between the shoulder blades. The device records literally every movement the player makes, accurately measuring exertions such as distance, velocity, changes of direction, acceleration, deceleration, jumps, heart rate and more. … Cuban said he’s considering using it during the NBA’s preseason in October. He said he has not yet been advised against it by the league.
Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: Sad note for talk-show hosts: Mike D'Antoni isn't turning up his car radio to hear you and your faithful listeners destroy him. "Hell, no," D'Antoni said on a sunny Manhattan Beach afternoon, plenty of time before rush-hour shows typically unleash another round of venom aimed at the Lakers' coach. These are trying times to be a Lakers fan in Los Angeles, the playoffs hardly a guarantee next season as the Clippers continue their assumed ascension past the 16-time NBA champions. Naturally, many of the verbal arrows get fired at the affable D'Antoni in comments at the end of online stories, letters to the editor and the above-mentioned airwaves. No, the specter of Phil Jackson never quite left the Lakers. "I think anybody that comes in here the next 10, 15 years, it's going to be that way," D'Antoni said. "I don't think there is any doubt that he was so good and so large and he's still sitting out there. Had that bothered me, I shouldn't have taken the job because you know it's going to be there. I wasn't stupid enough to think that, 'Oh, they won't remember him.' Sure they will. It doesn't really affect what we do day-to-day and how we approach the game."
Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune: The signing of center Nikola Pekovic to a five-year, $60 million Timberwolves contract is a reminder that Kevin McHale’s legacy as the team’s general manager is still playing out. In January 2006, McHale sent Wally Szczerbiak, Michael Olowokandi, Dwayne Jones and a future first-round draft pick to Boston for Ricky Davis, Marcus Banks, Justin Reed and Mark Blount along with Boston’s 2006 second-round draft pick and the Miami Heat’s 2008 second-round pick, which Boston had acquired in an earlier trade. In 2008 McHale used that second-round pick from Boston, via Miami, to select Pekovic 31st overall. The Star Tribune reported on that draft night that McHale and the Wolves received offers of cash or protected future first-round picks as teams tried to get the obtain that selection. Everyone knew Pekovic was a lottery-type talent but he had contract issues in Europe that were going to be tough to resolve. He lasted until the second round to avoid the rookie contract scale.
Michael Pointer of The Indianapolis Star: Paul George and his representatives did not want to discuss it on Thursday, perhaps understandable in such a public forum. But unless something catastrophic happens, there’s no way he’s leaving the Pacers anytime soon. First, people seem to be forgetting he will be a restricted free agent. The Pacers can match any offer and there’s no way they are going to let one of the 10 or 15 best players in the NBA walk, even in a sign-and-trade. He’s only 23 and his best basketball is ahead of him. The only way that might change is, heaven forbid, George suffers a serious injury this season. And two, George understands what he has in Indianapolis. He realizes he could be the next Reggie Miller in terms of leaving a legacy here. Heck, he would leave an even greater legacy if he was the man to lead the Pacers to a NBA title or two. Getting involved with Riley is one way of showing he wants to play a larger role in the community. I’ve learned anything is possible in 20-plus years of covering sports, but the idea of him leaving Indiana makes no sense at this point. At all.
Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Eric Bledsoe has keys to the Parker High School gym in Birmingham, Ala. When he is not working on his leadership by bossing around his little brother at home, he said he spends part of each day working out alone at the gym. “Work,” Bledsoe said of how he has spent his time since the trade. “I’m trying to get better, even better than I did last year. Coming off the bench, I did a lot. I’m trying to increase that 10 times more. Just coming in and having a big impact in the game. “I just try to go as hard as I would in a real game. So when a real game comes, it makes it 10 times easier. I try to do intense everything. Shooting, I try to give 110 percent. Dribbling the basketball. Thinking the game. I just try to do it 110 percent so when the game comes it’s a lot easier.” Bledsoe said James’ comment was an honor that made him want to work harder. An honor missing from that Parker High gym might be doing the same. Bledsoe’s high school jersey has yet to be retired. “Not yet,” he said. Bledsoe, who returned to Phoenix to be part of the uniform unveiling Thursday night, plans to come back to the Valley for good one or two weeks before players are required to report on Sept. 30.
Tom Moore of phillyBurbs.com: Evan Turner knows expectations are low for the 2013-14 76ers. Turner understands that ESPN.com picked the Sixers to finish with a 20-62 record and last in the Eastern Conference. He’s heard the talk about losing being best for the franchise’s future because they could get a top draft pick next June. During an interview at his Evan Turner Basketball ProCamp on Saturday at New Hope-Solebury High School, Turner said he doesn’t subscribe to that point of view. And, based on his Friday night telephone conversation with new coach Brett Brown, Brown doesn’t, either. “I told him, ‘Everybody wants to be in tank mode and thinks we’re going to lose. I intend on trying to win as much as possible because losing’s too easy,’ ” Turner said. “He said, ‘Well, they got the wrong coach if we’re going to go out and lose on purpose. We want to compete and get better.’ ”
Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: The Oklahoma City Thunder, many have decided, has taken a step back. The Western Conference, according to some, has caught up. A relatively quiet summer by the Thunder has led many to come to these conclusions. Oklahoma City let sixth man Kevin Martin walk in free agency and didn't splurge on any splashy free agent signings to replace him. The Thunder also selected four largely unknown commodities in the NBA draft, none of whom figure to be rotational players next season. But don't be surprised if the prevailing perception falls short of reality when the games begin. Lost in this summer's extolling of other teams' activity is this simple but significant truth: most every Western Conference playoff contender that added a major player lost a major player. … History has proved that playoff success generally takes time and trust, chemistry and continuity. The Thunder, more than any other team outside of San Antonio, has those things.
Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The results are in. The departure of Josh Smith will have the biggest impact on the Hawks next season, according to the respondents of the poll I posted earlier this week of this blog. It was a narrow victory. The departure of Smith, who left via free agency for the Pistons in a four-year, $54 million deal, earned 34 percent of the vote. The hire of Mike Budenholzer as head coach earned 33 percent of the vote. Those two choices accounted for two-thirds of the vote. … It is interesting to note that the loss of Smith received far more votes than the signing of his replacement Millsap. … My vote would have gone to the hire of Budenholzer. To me, that will have the biggest impact of how the Hawks fare next season in terms of the offensive and defensive schemes the team will employ, how he will utilize the roster that he had a role in assembling and how he responds to his opportunity and learning curve as a head coach after serving as a long-time assistant.
John Reid of The Times-Picayune: Michael Stanfield, the Pelicans' senior vice president of sales, said the franchise has already sold more than 11,000 season-ticket packages in advance of the regular-season opener Oct. 30 against the Indiana Pacers at the New Orleans Arena. The franchise's sales record for season tickets came in 2008-09 when it sold 11,800 the season after the team won a franchise-record 56 games and clinched its first Southwest Division title. But Stanfield predicts by October, the Pelicans will have 12,000 season-ticket holders. Stanfield said all of the new lodge box suites in the lower bowl at the Arena have been sold. The Pelicans also have more than 1,000 group sales commitments after having only 500 last season. … With a potential lineup that includes forward Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Evans and Holiday, the Pelicans are expected to improve significantly after finishing 27-55 last season and missing the playoffs the past two seasons.
Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: Greg Oden's agent, Mike Conley Jr., said the parties involved changed their mind and decided that Oden would sign a one-year deal with the Heat, without a second-year player option as originally planned. Conley said that helps Oden (because of a league ruling involving injury contingency language in his contract) and helps the Heat because Miami would not be burdened with his contract in 2014-15 --- and potentially $3 million in luxury tax payments -- if he suffers another major injury this season.
Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: Anthony Bennett is part of the Canadian Basketball program along with Celtics rookie Kelly Olynyk, Thompson, and potential 2014 first overall pick Andrew Wiggins. Team Canada could be a threat to medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics and potentially challenge the USA in 2020. “I just feel seeing a couple of Canadian guys, Tristan and Cory [Joseph] get drafted, everybody started taking it serious,” Bennett said. “A lot of other guys are going to prep school, just getting prepared for college, and it’s a great thing.”
Tom Couzens of The Sacramento Bee: Living in the Sacramento region, we've grown accustomed to the world of politics – especially the sometimes dirty politics surrounding campaign contributions and political action committees. Still, we were shocked – to put it mildly – about Friday's revelations that Chris Hansen was the mystery donor behind the signature-gathering effort to force a vote on the use of public funds for a new Kings arena. Yes, that Chris Hansen, the man who secretly made a deal with the Maloofs to buy the Kings with the intention of moving them to Seattle. Yes, that Chris Hansen, who in defeat congratulated Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and "Sacramento's dedicated fan base" and later said during a radio interview he regretted trying to lure the Kings to Seattle. Five weeks after the NBA board of governors nixed his plan to buy the Kings, Hansen contributed $100,000 on June 21 to the petition drive to put the arena funding plan on the ballot next June. Even in Sacramento, that's outrageous. … Hansen comes off as a rich, spoiled kid who isn't used to losing and doesn't know how to handle rejection. It's time for Hansen to grow up – and stay away.