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First Cup: Wednesday

10/20/2009
  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: "We've talked a lot this summer about the organization's failure to get things done. But on Tuesday, as you looked at the team's cozy schedule and realized that Brandon Roy and the team were on the same page when it came to his contract negotiations, you couldn't help but feel optimistic. A source close to the Roy negotiations told me on Tuesday that the two-time All-Star was eager to get the deal done. And that the Blazers were also on board, and wanting to make the deal official. By 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday the sides had a verbal agreement. And the fingers of Blazers fans that were running down the schedule earlier in the day, suddenly started skipping. The Blazers aren't perfect. They have a question at small forward. Nobody knows who the starting center will be. There's still some strife in the front office, now and then. But they have a favorable schedule, and a star on board, and suddenly, this is an organization providing us something special today. Hope is a powerful thing."

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "NBA players usually slow down during the offseason. Dwight Howard, on the other hand, is living a whirlwind. Over the last seven weeks, the Orlando Magic's all-star center has visited Vancouver, B.C., for an EA Sports function. He has traveled to Hollywood to prepare for a cameo in the upcoming film Valentine's Day, which features Julia Roberts, Jessica Alba and Jamie Foxx. He's even pitched a reality show called Dwight Across America. 'I've been all around the country, but it's been fun,' Howard said Tuesday during a break from his basketball camp at UCF. 'This is one of the best summers I've had in my whole entire life.' And there is more travel to come, including a trip to China for adidas and a trip to Africa for the program Basketball without Borders. Howard just wants to clear up one thing: Despite all the fun he's been having, he said he's focusing on his game. Two training specialists -- Bryan Meyer and Korey McCray -- have accompanied the 23-year-old superstar as he has crisscrossed North America. Meyer, a trainer who works at RDV Sportsplex, helps Howard with strength and conditioning. McCray, who played point guard at Mercer University, assists Howard with his free-throw shooting and moves on the court."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "Nuggets guard J.R. Smith shut down his Twitter page on Tuesday in the midst of controversy. His last message to fans before it was closed late Tuesday afternoon read: 'ok people i love all of my fans im sorry but this will be my last tweet you know why but it is what it is love all an tke Care.' Smith's tweets raised questions after several were written in a manner commonly associated with the Bloods street gang. Smith tried to correct the issue in a tweet late Monday night, but ultimately decided to close the account."

  • Chris Perkins of the Palm Beach Post: "Although the Heat failed to sign free agent Lamar Odom, team president Pat Riley said Tuesday that Miami has the talent and financial flexibility to become a title contender in the near future. 'We set the table and everything is on the table, and we're just waiting for the waiter to come with the menu,' he said. Riley said the Heat wouldn't be pressured into making costly moves to keep up with 'teams above us that have gotten a little bit better.' He also said that although the team made no big trades this summer, it could do so during the season or next summer. ... Riley said there are no immediate plans to talk again with former Indiana guard Jamaal Tinsley or former Detroit guard Allen Iverson. Tinsley was to visit Miami but that meeting was canceled. If something developed with Tinsley or Iverson, Riley said, the Heat would offer no more than a one-year contract. Riley said the Heat has no interest now in former Heat guard Jason Williams. 'It's not about being frugal,' Riley said, 'it's about being very systematic with the plan.' "

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: "Sam Smith, as reputable as any NBA writer the last 20 years, reported a couple of weeks ago on some whispers around the league that Kevin Durant eventually could be a better ballplayer than LeBron James. Interesting theory. I don't know if I buy it, but it sure is fun to think about. Durant is a wondrous talent; a 6-foot-10 shooting whiz who also can run and jump and do all kinds of things in the open court. Truth is, Durant ranks with LeBron and Kevin Garnett (when healthy) and Dirk Nowitzki as the NBA's most unique players. There's really no one else in the league like any of them. But the NBA's television networks don't buy the Durant-might-pass-LeBron idea. If TNT or ESPN/ABC believed that Durant was the second coming of King James, your Oklahoma City Thunder would not have just one measly national telecast this coming season."

  • Mike Jones of The Washington Times: "The first stop on the Washington Wizards' redemption tour will be in Dallas. The NBA released its 2009-10 schedule Tuesday, with the Wizards opening the season Oct. 27 at the Mavericks and then visiting the Hawks before making their home debut against the Nets on Oct. 31. The early portion of the Wizards' schedule features two games against LeBron James, Shaquille O'Neal and the Cavaliers. Washington travels to Cleveland for its fourth game Nov. 3, then hosts the Cavaliers on Nov. 18. That should provide a challenge for the Wizards, who are seeking to rebound from an injury-riddled 19-63 season that included Gilbert Arenas missing most of the year and coach Eddie Jordan getting fired after a 1-10 start. With Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison all healthy, the Wizards are aiming to return to the ranks of the Easter Conference's elite under new coach Flip Saunders."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Some of you are wondering where the R-E-S-P-E-C-T is for the Pacers after looking at the 2009-10 schedule. The Pacers will play on national television just once next season - at Washington on April 14 on ESPN. That's what happens when you miss the playoffs three straight years. Look at it this way, the Pacers will have one more game on national television than they did last season. Unlike last season when the first part of their schedule was loaded with playoff teams, the Pacers will have an opportunity to get off to a good start. Ten of their first 16 games are against teams that missed the playoffs last season."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "With Yao Ming's injury and extensive surgery, the Rockets did not lack for challenges before the schedule's release. The presumed change in their prospects was clear in the television schedules released on Tuesday, with no Rockets games scheduled for national broadcasts on ABC/ESPN or TNT, making the Rockets just one of f
    ive teams that did not appear on the national television schedules. If the Rockets do enjoy a challenge, as Morey suggested, they won't have to wait long to find one, with four of their first five games coming against playoff teams and the fifth in the second half of a back-to-back."

  • Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Everything has happened the way Hawks coach Mike Woodson expected, even if it hasn't happened as quickly as he planned. The early struggles were followed by moderate success, then a breakthrough effort to make the playoffs two seasons ago and then a full-blown assault on the Eastern Conference standings last season, resulting in a trip to the second round of the playoffs. Tuesday afternoon ushered in the next phase for Woodson -- validation. The Hawks have seven nationally televised games on their regular-season schedule this season, five more than in Woodson's first five years combined and equal to the amount the franchise has had the past 11 seasons. 'This is a testament to our players and the work they've put in,' said Woodson, who is heading into his sixth season on the job. 'When you turn things around and stick to your plan, good things happen. I think we're seeing the rewards of all our hard work.' "

  • Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News: "Newcomers Shawn Marion, Drew Gooden and Tim Thomas may well help Dallas avoid a repeat of last season's 2-7 start, but the schedule-makers loaded the Mavericks with 20 back-to-back situations, four more than last year. And if network and cable TV executives are impressed with the Mavericks' off-season moves to date, it isn't reflected in the schedule. Dallas is slated for 13 national TV appearances, down from 23 two seasons ago and 21 last year. After making five ABC appearances in each of the last two seasons, the Mavericks aren't scheduled to air on the network at all this year. Where the regular season is concerned, it appears the Dallas-Fort Worth area will get the bulk of its national TV exposure during All-Star weekend, which culminates with the 59th NBA All-Star Game on Valentine's Day at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. Of course, the NBA schedule always evens out. Between four-game road trips in November and December and a five-gamer in January, the Mavericks will play eight of their 14 December games at home. And 12 of Dallas' 22 games in March and April are at home, culminating with the regular-season finale against rival San Antonio at the AAC."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Hakim Warrick never dreamed he would be wearing a Milwaukee Bucks uniform. But the 27-year-old forward believes he landed in the right place after signing a one-year deal worth more than $3 million. After four years in Memphis, the 6-foot-9 Warrick is eager to seize his new opportunity in a dramatically reshaped Bucks frontcourt. 'I'm real excited,' Warrick said Tuesday. 'I think it's a young, athletic team, and coming back to the east is a big thing for me.' ... 'It was real tough,' Warrick said of making a final decision. 'I had a chance to play with two of the greatest players to play the game (LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal in Cleveland). And at the other end was my hometown team. But I think it came down to the style they want to play, and the opportunity was best in Milwaukee."

  • Chris Young of the Toronto Star: "DeMar DeRozan, are you ready for your close-up? When the Raptors meet in October to begin prepping for their season, no question outside of the ubiquitous Chris Bosh variety will be as pertinent to this team's fortunes out of the gate. If DeRozan can step right in at age 20 and replace the departed Anthony Parker at shooting guard, the effect could be electrifying. Parker was a solid but unspectacular presence. DeRozan, a 6-foot-7 high-flyer from Southern Cal, is the kind of athletic, above-the-rim project that hasn't been brought in around here since the 1998 draft and Vince Carter. ... At midsummer, there is one hole remaining, at backup small forward. The remainder of the Raptors' question marks are pretty much lower case. Andrea Bargnani needs to adjust to more minutes and a starting centre role, even if it will be of the face-the-basket variety of big-man approaches to which he's most suited. Newcomers Jarrett Jack, Antoine Wright and Reggie Evans are an upgrade to the bench, returning some of the spine and grittiness that departed along with Jorge Garbajosa last year. The outlook at this early point could best be described as cautiously optimistic: better than last year, it would surely seem, with depth and toughness having been addressed. But ready to mix with the top half of the conference? No one's going that far."

  • John Brennan of The Record: "The Nets' longstanding effort to move to Brooklyn ran into another potential legal hurdle on Tuesday, as a group opposed to the Atlantic Yards arena and housing project announced it has filed papers seeking to have the 'blighted' designation of the area invalidated. The Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn group asked the New York Court of Appeals to review whether a state agency has demonstrated so much 'bias and corruption' that its description of the proposed Barclays Center arena site cannot be accepted. The appeals court -- New York's highest court -- agreed in June to consider overturning a ruling allowing eminent domain to be used at the 22-acre site. 'This is a completely different violation of the law,' said Develop Don't Destroy spokesman Daniel Goldstein, who owns a condominium within the project's footprint. Nets officials have indicated that bonds backing most of the $850 million in construction costs of Barclays Center must be sold by the end of the year, with a groundbreaking required within the same time frame."