First Cup: Wednesday
November, 6, 2013
By Nick Borges
- Bruce Arthur of the National Post: There’s a cameraman who has been filming NBA games on the baseline in Toronto for years, and somewhere in all those endless games he noticed something about LeBron James. When he came down court, his eyes were wide open and they ricocheted like pinballs, darting back and forth, decoding. “It’s like his eyes were running,” the cameraman says. “I never noticed it with anybody else. Just him.” The Miami Heat rolled into Toronto on Tuesday night as the two-time defending champions, and LeBron rolled in as a singular player. He has won four of the last five MVP awards, and reached three straight NBA Finals. He has finally said he’s trying for greatest player ever. He’s trying to decode something bigger, now. “One of the unique qualities about him is that drive, is that fear of failure, that push to make himself uncomfortable to get to a different level,” says Miami’s coach, Eric Spoelstra.
- Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star: Look around the league and terms like “hybrid,” “spread four” and “stretch four” have taken over the NBA lexicon. From Portland to Miami, small frontlines – or better yet, power forwards who play out on the perimeter like a small – are not only trendy but also successful. Detroit and Indiana, however, play as throwbacks with traditional big or physical frontcourts. Though Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks will not hesitate to go small to end the game and bench either 6-foot-11 Andre Drummond or similarly sized Greg Monroe, he still views the big-man lineup as a sustainable model in today’s NBA. “We’re trying utilize our bigs and I think if you utilize those guys, it pays dividends,” Cheeks said. “At the end of the game, you’re going to have to make a decision because most teams do not have both bigs. (So) we try to utilize our bigs in the early part and latter part of the game.” Vogel agrees – the dinosaur isn’t quite dead. “If you have the ability to shoot the basketball, mid range from your power forwards or to the 3-point line, I think the bigger, the better,” Vogel said. “That’s what I think. That’s how we can succeed.”
- Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle refused to get involved in a war of words with Los Angeles Lakers center Chris Kaman on Tuesday. But Kaman didn’t sound too pleased playing under Carlisle last season, and sounded like he’s having a wonderful time playing under Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni. “It’s a different coaching style,” Kaman told reporters. “Coach Carlisle is uptight and kind of plays games with people a little bit here and there, but coach D’Antoni is more relaxed and more go-with-the-flow kind of thing. “He lets the guys play and get a feel and he’ll let you make mistakes and still play. That’s the kind of basketball that players like to play. You can’t micromanage every tight little situation and pull guys in and out, in and out — it just doesn’t work that way.” Carlisle couldn’t help but laugh off Kaman’s “uptight” remark. “Unless you hear the quotes it’s hard for me to comment on it,” Carlisle said. “It didn’t work out well here for Chris and I take my share of the responsibility for it.”
- Nakia Hogan of The Times-Picayune: The New Orleans Pelicans are aware of one of the biggest sports stories currently making national headlines. But Pelicans center and co-captain Jason Smith doubts anything like the firestorm hazing/bullying situation that has engulfed the NFL's Miami Dolphins franchise would happen with the Pelicans. Aside from some occasional friendly jokes the Pelicans are relatively low key, Smith said. Just last week aboard the team's plane on Halloween, the Pelicans gave observers a look inside their rookie hazing when veteran guard Eric Gordon tweeted out a photo of rookie center Jeff Whitey dressed as a penguin and with forward Ryan Anderson hugging him and smiling. The caption read "Rookie Hazing." "We just have a great group of guys," Smith said before Tuesday night's 104-98 loss to the Phoenix Suns. "We stay close. We may joke here and there but we always want to keep it as a basketball mindset."
- Andrew Albert of the Philadelphia Daily News: Instead of taking time after yesterday's practice to rest, or play video games, as many 22-year-olds do, Michael Carter-Williams spent time talking to athletes at Imhotep Charter School in North Philadelphia about the importance of an education. His message was simple: "It is really important to stay on top of your education." "To finish out school and get your degree and diploma is really important," he said. "Life is real tough without it. It is an accomplishment that you should never forget in your life, and never take for granted, because that, you can have forever. You can't have too many things forever." The rookie out of Syracuse said that he had the drive not only to excel on the hardwood, but to excel in the classroom. He took it to heart and worked hard in school. Despite playing only 2 years under Jim Boeheim at Syracuse, Carter-Williams needs only 1 more year of classes to graduate with a bachelor's degree.
- Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Hawks general manager Danny Ferry was troubled after point guard Jeff Teague was injured tripping over a baseline attendant during the first quarter of Tuesday’s game. Teague suffered a left ankle sprain and briefly left for the locker room to be re-taped. He returned in the second quarter. Ferry was visibly upset after the incident and followed Teague into the locker room. “The courts can be obstacle courses because of the cameramen and team staff parked around its perimeter,” Ferry said. “It’s not safe. The league should address the issue more and I am hopeful they will in the near future. Until then teams need to do a better job enforcing the current standards. Player safety always has to be a huge priority.” Teague said following the game he wasn’t sure who he tripped over.
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Tuesday, Kemba Walker was back at the Garden and he might as well have been wearing a Huskies uniform all over again. He took apart the New York Knicks in about a zillion pick-and-rolls for a 102-97 Charlotte Bobcats victory. Walker finished with 25 points, six assists, five rebounds and a very sore left shoulder. He left the game after colliding with burly Knicks forward Metta World Peace. After X-rays were negative on a fracture, he came right back in during the third quarter. This is the guy coach Steve Clifford was talking about pregame when asked the biggest thing he has discovered in his first few weeks as an NBA head coach: “Every day I’m around him, I’m more convinced he’ll be the leader of a really good (NBA) team,” Clifford predicted.
- Justin Tasch of the New York Daily News: The Knicks City Dancers might want to come up with a new name for themselves, since they haven’t been doing much dancing lately. In fact, Tuesday night at the Garden during the Knicks’ loss to the Bobcats, the Dancers who normally perform several times a game during halftime and timeouts did not perform one single routine and were nowhere to be found at halftime. The only dancing done on the night was in the crowd with 10:30 left in the fourth when the video board displayed a Dance Cam showing fans showing off their moves in the crowd. The Daily News reported in Tuesday’s editions that the benching of the dance team came on orders from unhappy Garden chairman James Dolan, although no one seems to know why.
- Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: One of the Bulls' biggest problems during their 1-2 start is letting points slip away at the 3-point line. The difference couldn't be any more glaring. Through Monday's game, the Bulls ranked 29th in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage at .232, ahead of Oklahoma City's .221. On the other side, the Bulls also placed 29th in opponents' 3-point percentage at .470, ahead of only Denver. So with opponents making 6 more 3-point baskets per game than the Bulls, they essentially have an 18-point deficit to make up. Needless to say, long-range shooting has become a huge short-term problem. ... Blame for the poor outside shooting is widespread. Luol Deng, who shot well in preseason, has gone 1-for-12 from long range. Derrick Rose is 4-for-5, Jimmy Butler 2-for-9. Mike Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich are both 3-for-9, so they're officially the most accurate marksmen on the team.
- Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post: There was a time when the prospect of starting power forward Kenneth Faried and center JaVale McGee was avoided like the plague. That was last year. Given the limited offensive skill set of each player, Karl pretty much rolled his eyes at the prospect of starting the duo together in any situation that wasn't dictated by necessity. Now, Shaw is taking the plunge. He started both Tuesday night against the Spurs, and will do so — health permitting — from now on. Asked if he thought he was taking a risk playing developing offensive players at the same time, Shaw said: "That's always a concern, but I think with Kenneth's energy ... obviously it worked for them last year in spite of some of the disadvantages that you may have out there. They are accustomed to playing together."
- Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune: Meanwhile, ESPN's Marc Stein, who reported last month that Hayward and the Jazz were close to getting a deal done (although apparently not that close), threw out some predictions today, including one about how much Hayward will cost the Jazz come summertime. Stein also predicts that Jazz coach Ty Corbin will be fired this season and replaced by longtime Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. These are Stein's "fearless" predictions, so some of them are obviously way out there. I, for one, would be extremely surprised if the Jazz fired Corbin this year. The coach is without a deal at the end of this season, so it's possible that this is his last year. But the Jazz put Corbin in a tough situation, going all in on developing its young core, and they know that.
- Michael Hunt of the Journal Sentinel: The Bucks do not require Larry Sanders to be a major scorer, but they expect him to be on the floor for more than 17.3 minutes a game, the team's third-lowest average among those who have played. And they most certainly expect him to be the energy guy who became a fan favorite for precisely that reason. "He's just got to get back to doing what got him this recognition," Drew said. "It all starts with energy. Playing hard, rebounding, running the floor, setting screens, doing all those energy things. "He'll be able to score a little bit. But it all starts with energy and him being smart when he's on the floor and not taking cheap fouls, which does us no good. He's got to get back to where his intensity is at a high level." Drew's previous experience with Sanders came through film study and whenever the Bucks played the Atlanta Hawks last season. Drew said he has yet to see that Sanders.
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Thunder forward Kevin Durant will be featured on an upcoming episode of CBS' “60 Minutes.” Sportscaster James Brown traveled to Oklahoma City with a camera crew this week to conduct sit-down interviews with Durant and, Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook and Thunder coach Scott Brooks. The crew is scheduled to return on Nov. 18 and 19 to interview other Thunder employees. The piece is scheduled to air in early December. According to a team spokesman, the program is putting together a feature about Durant's personality on and off the court.
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Two years ago, P.J. Tucker and Brian Roberts were in Bamberg, Germany, with Tucker coming off the bench for a Brose Baskets team that included former German League MVP Casey Jacobsen and was led in scoring by Marcus Slaughter. On Wednesday night, Tucker and Roberts each played 30 or more minutes against each other. No player goes unseen by scouts on this planet.