First Cup: Friday

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "It is hugely significant that Chris Bosh will make his pre-season debut for the Raptors in Minneapolis on Friday night, but another development at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday was just as welcomed by the team's brass. As Bosh went through some post-up drills with assistant coach Marc Iavaroni at one end of the practice court, Hedo Turkoglu was involved in some full-speed shooting drills at the other. And getting the high-priced free agent into action with his new teammates is of paramount importance to the Raptors. 'I'm feeling much better physically and mentally, too,' Turkoglu said after his workout. 'Hopefully next week, I'll start practising with the team and hopefully get into game shape and try to be 100 per cent on opening night.' Bothered by sore knees and a body worn down by a busy summer, the 30-year-old Turkoglu hasn't done anything of substance so far in training camp."

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "One of Mickael Pietrus' best dunks from last season lives on in an Internet video clip and in the pain he still feels in his right wrist. The highlight-reel play occurred last December against the Detroit Pistons. Pietrus dribbled across the lane, elevated off his right foot and slammed the ball home left-handed. 'Check it out on YouTube!' Pietrus said recently, grinning. 'It was nice.' Nice, yes. But costly, too. Pietrus collided with Detroit's Jason Maxiell and tumbled to the floor, bracing himself with his right hand. Pietrus fractured his shooting wrist. The wrist still hurts, though you wouldn't know it by how he's performed this preseason. Pietrus is excelling despite the pain, just as he did in last year's playoffs. 'He's shot the ball really well in training camp, so whatever the problem is, he should leave it exactly the way it is,' joked Orlando Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy."

  • Kate Fagan of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Yesterday at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, the Sixers practiced for about two hours: On multiple occasions, Dalembert dished to cutters for quick hoops. Such a display was a 180-degree turn from last season's struggles, when Dalembert requested a trade and spent much of the season frustrated with his role and playing time. 'I love Sam,' Eddie Jordan said. 'I love what Sam is doing for us. I love his approach, I love his attitude, I love his enthusiasm. ... Sometimes I have to tell him, 'Look for your shot, look for your shot.' And he's a willing passer out of the post.' This praise could come across as hollow as a basketball, but all on-court evidence supports Jordan's assertions: Dalembert's midrange shot has been consistent, as has his unselfishness in the post. 'Sam is an emotional guy and he knows this coaching group has his back,' said point guard Lou Williams. 'He's happy. Sam is happy. He's joking with guys again, he's talking; he's back to his normal self. We're going to need him to be that way.' Jordan said Dalembert has the second-best shot on the team, behind forward Jason Kapono, who is one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "In case you haven't noticed, Brendan Haywood has been around a while. 'Everybody is gone except me,' said Haywood, who is entering his ninth season with the Washington Wizards. 'It is weird, when I tell somebody I've been in the league, coming up on nine years, they say, 'How many teams?' I say, 'Just D.C.' They say, 'Wow, that's crazy.' Because normally you get through free agency or trade, people leave their cities, but I've always been here. It's been fun and I hope I can end my career here.' Haywood is one of just 10 active players in the NBA to spend at least eight seasons with one team. He is the only player on the Wizards roster whom President Ernie Grunfeld wasn't responsible for bringing to town. (Michael Jordan acquired him from Orlando in August 2001 after Haywood was drafted by Cleveland and traded to the Magic on draft night.) And now, Haywood is in the last year of a five-year, $25 million extension and fully plans to enter free agency for the first time next summer."

  • John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Fans don't get a chance to see a coach work with players in practice, so I can understand why most Bulls fans had a negative opinion of Vinny Del Negro. All they saw were the games and there were too many mistakes to have any other opinion. I know it's just the preseason, but I've noticed a change in Del Negro so far. The year of experience seems to have made a big difference. He's more confident and isn't as defensive. He's been very organized and the team got a lot accomplished in the first two weeks of camp. Barring any major injuries over the next three weeks, the Bulls should be prepared for a fast start in the regular season. Although the ultimate test of Del Negro's improvement will come when he's involved in a tight game in the regular season, I think Bulls fans will be pleasantly surprised this season. I'm not saying Del Negro will be the second coming of Phil Jackson, but he knows the game, has a sound philosophy and I believe he will be a good NBA coach."

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: "It's not as though Hornets rookie point guard Darren Collison is normally quiet and soft-spoken when he's on the basketball court. Nonetheless, New Orleans Coach Byron Scott has been telling Collison, the team's first-round draft choice, he has to be more assertive when running the show. Problem is, while Collison was a starter in college at UCLA and ran the Bruins' offense, he never got much chance to talk. 'That's what the coaches are telling me,' he said Thursday night, after he made his NBA debut in the Hornets' 108-101 preseason loss against the Charlotte Bobcats. 'Make sure I call the plays out. Just make sure I do little things like that. At UCLA, I never called any plays out. We just called one play the whole time. As a point guard, it's something that has to be natural. But it's something I'll get accustomed to.' "

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "Omri Casspi had three tough days and what he thought were three legitimate reasons to be in a funk. He thought the coach was down on him. He thought his fans in Israel were disappointed. He thought the glut of Kings small forwards foreshadowed a season of down time, depriving him of an opportunity to establish himself in the league. He was wrong about everything except the glut of small forwards. The rookie must fight through the crowd to earn playing time, but he already projects as an intriguing, energetic wild card. He runs. He shoots. He dunks. He dives on the floor. He plays fast and physical, and wants to play faster. And unofficially, and only because the exhibition season doesn't count, he already h
    as become the first Israeli to rouse an NBA crowd in the closing minutes of a home-court debut ? which he did during the Kings' loss to Portland on Wednesday night at Arco Arena. The ebb and flow of his rookie season thus far suggests that this is a good week. So Casspi, 21, should breathe a little. You know, chill. Resume the search for quality hummus. Enjoy."

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: "While the Celtics' focus in training camp has been Kevin Garnett's rehabilitation from knee surgery, Ray Allen's decline in the postseason was a cause for concern. He shot 48 percent during the regular season, his best clip since 2000-01, but with no Garnett in the playoffs, opposing defenses focused on Allen, whose shooting dipped to 40 percent, 35 percent from the 3-point line. Fatigue may have been a factor, especially with Allen approaching his 34th birthday, and the guard also said he was nursing a sore hamstring during the postseason that was diagnosed as a sore lower back. So that's why he was running sprints after practice as if he were still in high school. Shirtless, Allen ran with fluidity and precision, determined to tire himself out. 'I think about field goal percentage, I think about 3-point field goal percentage and all those things are directly related to what kind of condition I am in,' said Allen. 'I did do a lot more this summer. I never really eat too bad but a lot things, you know you go to barbecues and eat more hot dogs and cheeseburgers on the grill, I cut that back a little earlier. It was just one of those things that felt necessary.' "

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Chuck Hayes gets it. The idea that he is - at a stocky 6-6 with few offensive skills - a starting center in the NBA, inspires the same reaction from him that he imagines others have at the sight of him in such an exalted position. 'I laugh,' he said. 'It's funny. We have the shortest point guard (Aaron Brooks) and the shortest center. But we find ways to make it happen.' The Rockets used to have the tallest center, adding to the sight gag. With Yao Ming out, they have gone from a 7-6 wealth of offensive skills and celebrity, a former first pick of the draft and seven-time All-Star, to Hayes, a relative unknown who is a foot shorter, was undrafted and worked his way back to the Rockets through the D-League. It is little wonder Hayes is amused by such a turn of events, with another reminder likely tonight in a matchup with Orlando's gifted young giant, Dwight Howard. The Rockets, however, have found that at a time things could fall apart, they need him to he hold them together. 'He's really important to have on the floor for us,' Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. 'I'm pretty sure he's going to be on the floor a lot because he's our best defender. There is nobody on our team close to him as far as defending inside.' "

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "Back when he was in the Eastern Conference, Richard Jefferson used to look forward to a game against the Spurs the way a child looks forward to a visit to the dentist. The only upside was that he had to do it only twice a year. 'They were a team that, if they weren't scoring, neither were you,' Jefferson said. 'They were consistently one of the best defensive teams in the league.' If coach Gregg Popovich gets his wish, the Spurs will soon get back to playing the kind of defense Jefferson used to know and loathe. After a decade of standard-setting when it came to the art of suffocating other teams, the Spurs slipped from "elite” to 'just pretty good' last season. They finished ninth in field-goal percentage defense at 45.3 percent, the team's lowest rank and highest number in a dozen full seasons under Popovich. For a while, the Spurs were floundering along in the low 20s, a ranking that rendered Popovich practically apoplectic. ... Popovich has spent much of his time on the pulpit this preseason preaching the need for his team to return to the glory days. 'We tried to institute some new things the past couple of years, and they didn't really work out,' Popovich said. 'So we're going back to the good old days when we tried to lead the league defensively.' "

  • Mike Baldwin of The Oklahoman: "After facing him in a playoff series, Pat Riley said, 'If he gets much better, he's going to be one of the better players in this league.' And Jason Kidd called him the best big man he had ever played with. In 2006, that was the trajectory of Nenad Krstic's career. But a serious knee injury three days before Christmas altered his future, a major reason the 7-foot center from Serbia is now on the Thunder's roster. 'People in Oklahoma City probably don't know how highly thought of he was around the league,' said one Eastern Conference scout. 'He was starting to really take off. If he can be that player again, he would be a steal for them.' The looming question, the scout said, is whether Krstic can return to the form that impressed Riley, Kidd and Jefferson."

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "Marcus Landry paid his own way to New York just for a tryout. As if answering a want-ad in the newspaper, he arrived without a place to stay and without much of a shot of making the Knicks. 'I don't like to think of myself as a longshot,' Landry says. 'I'll let the coaches decide that.' Undrafted, undersized but mostly undeterred, Landry is becoming the feel-good story of training camp. The 6-foot-7 rookie out of Wisconsin is making a strong push for a roster spot, having survived the first round of cuts while impressing Mike D'Antoni and Donnie Walsh with his work ethic and toughness. 'That's the kind of player we need,' Walsh said. It's been an eventful three weeks for Landry. The Knicks thought so little of him that they didn't provide a ride from the airport or pay for his $80-a-night hotel room. But after a solid training camp and in subsequent practices, let's just say Landry's accommodations have been upgraded. 'I just come out here every day, work hard and leave it up to Coach D'Antoni and Mr. Walsh to decide,' Landry said. 'We'll see what happens.' "

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "Shaquille O'Neal raised a few eyebrows after practice Thursday by declaring this Cavaliers team 'the best team I've ever played on. On paper, anyway.' Some might take the 1999-2000 NBA champion Lakers with Bryant, Glen Rice, Robert Horry, Ron Harper, A.C. Green and Derek Fisher, or the 2003-04 Lakers who finished 56-26 with Bryant, Karl Malone and Gary Payton. When skeptical reporters questioned O'Neal about the comment, he said: 'I've always begged management to get me the power forward I've needed and the shooters I've needed. Here you've got a guy that's been starting 10 or 11 years [Zydrunas Ilgauskas] that's backing me up, you've got Varejao who's one of the top forwards in the league and you've got D-Block [Jackson] coming off the bench. We have a lot of great shooters, so on paper, I'd say yes.' When told of the c
    omment, coach Mike Brown smiled and said: 'When the big fella talks, you've got to listen. If he says that, it's something that has to be heard.' "

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "One thing is indisputable: D.J. Augustin is back to full health. An abdominal strain robbed Augustin of his explosion and change-of-direction the second half of last season. But Thursday he drove his way to 18 free throws, making 16, in the Charlotte Bobcats' 108-101 preseason victory over the New Orleans Hornets at Greensboro Coliseum. Augustin, a second-year point guard, finished with 22 points and the Bobcats totaled 58 free-throw attempts."

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "The facility might not be entirely cooperative, but tonight could still shape up to be Fabulous. The Lakers return to the Forum in Inglewood for an exhibition game against Golden State, a blast from the past in a season that holds a promising future. The Lakers haven't played there since leaving for Staples Center in 1999, but owner Jerry Buss has wanted to return to the Forum for years. Now seemed like a good time, the franchise's 50th year in Los Angeles. ... The Lakers had to transport their basketball court from Staples Center to the Forum. There's no longer a scoreboard, so they will hang two large LED screens over the court. They will also bring their lighting trusses, basketball hoops and scorer's table from Staples Center. In fact, leaving no chance for faulty locker-room plumbing, the Lakers don't plan to shower at the Forum after the game. Players will take a team bus bound for the training facility in El Segundo, where hot water is guaranteed to await them. It might seem like a lot of extra work for an exhibition game, but, well, this is the former site of six Lakers championship teams."