Wednesday, August 31, 2011
First Cup: Wednesday
- Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News: "Late Monday morning, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tweeted that he was going to appear Monday night on 'Piers Morgan Tonight' to 'raise some hell on politics, the economy and whatever he throws my way.' Instead, Cuban raised a little bit of hell, but mostly he smiled and answered softball questions and was a picture of contentment and relaxation in his first extended national TV interview since the Mavericks' NBA championship victory parade in June. ... On at least two occasions, Morgan hinted that perhaps Cuban should consider running for President, adding that many Americans would support him. 'Are you kidding me?' laughed Cuban, adding that the thought has 'never even crossed my mind.' "
- Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Interviewed on CNN's 'Piers Morgan Tonight,' choosing his words carefully amid the NBA lockout, Cuban offered his view on how the Mavericks took this past June's NBA Finals in six games, after falling behind 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. 'I'll tell you the interesting thing,' Cuban said, 'after Game 3 of the Miami series, our guys said, 'They aren't making any adjustments. We got 'em.' And so the confidence was through the roof.' ... Cuban also addressed the significance of exacting revenge against the Heat, albeit against the revised cast of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. He had mocked the Heat's chances of succeeding with such a combination during the 2010 free-agency period. 'The playoffs run 57 days,' he said. 'For me, it was 56 days, 23 hours and lots of minutes of pure anxiety. I really didn't start to enjoy it until there were about 30 seconds left in the game . . . and it finally dawned on me that we had finally beaten the Evil Empire and all those doubts.' "
- Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: "After seeing his first game action of the summer, Carmelo Anthony declared himself 100 percent healthy. 'I'm back like I never missed a game,' he said last night. The Knicks star was plagued by chronic bursitis in his right elbow throughout last season, which kept him from playing in a game all summer, outside of some workouts in Los Angeles and New York. But he looked to be in midseason form last night, scoring 36 points and, with some help from Chris Paul and LeBron James, leading his Baltimore-based Melo League to a 149-141 win over Washington D.C.'s Goodwin League at Morgan State University. 'This is my first time coming out and actually playing [this summer],' Anthony said. 'I wanted to bring LeBron out here to actually enjoy the atmosphere ... there's nothing like it.' Despite the NBA lockout, Anthony said it was important to him to get his teammates together sometime before the season is scheduled to begin. 'Probably by early October, we'll start getting guys together,' Anthony said. 'I'll make it my duty to get guys together, whether it's in New York or L.A. ... me, coming in at a half a season, or toward the end of the season, I think it's for me to [make that happen].' "
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "About an hour before the most star-studded summer league game tipped off at Morgan State’s Hill Field House, I spotted Goodman League commissioner and master of ceremony for the night, Miles Rawls, and asked him about when his team going to have a rematch against the Drew League in Los Angeles. Rawls again mentioned that they are looking at getting together on Sept. 25, but added that the Drew League is still trying to get Kobe Bryant involved in some way. 'K.D. wants Kobe doesn’t he,' I asked Rawls, since District native Kevin Durant had already told Brandon Jennings the night before on Twitter that he wanted to see Bryant playing for the Drew League the next time the teams square off. Rawls nodded and said, 'You know K.D. ain’t ducking nobody.' Rawls words would prove to be on point later in the evening, as the late-arriving Durant eagerly accepted the challenge of being the lone all-star for the Goodman League against the all-star trio of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul that led the Melo League. ... Durant lost the game, but continued to add to his burgeoning street ball reputation, after earlier scoring 66 points at Rucker Park, then having 44 in the Goodman League’s win over the Drew League on Aug. 20. His cross-country exploits have caught the attention of players all over the league. 'Durant’s gone on a rampage this summer,' Anthony said. 'I told him to ‘Slow down.’ Because every other night I see him in a different city playing. But that’s just the love of the game that he’s got, and I respect that. I’m glad he actually showed up and played in this game, too.' "
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "One of the stranger chapters in Orlando Magic history is about to end. Gilbert Arenas says he’s shutting down his controversial Twitter account for good. Try to take a look at the @agentzeroshow Twitter feed, and you’ll find nothing. Not only has he deleted every one of the tweets he posted over the last several months, but he’s also deleted the account altogether. He’s said he’ll be done on Twitter by Sept. 1, and it looks like he’s already finished. Over the last few days, he’s said his goodbyes, then deleted them. ... The account is empty now. Some of his tweets have been saved, either in articles that have been written or in search-engine archives. And those tweets lead to perhaps the most interesting question of all. Who, exactly, is Gilbert Arenas?"
- Janis Carr of The Orange County Register: "Brandon Jennings apparently isn’t finished dismissing Kobe Bryant. And he doesn’t know when to quit, either. First he posted a photo of himself on Twitter wearing a promotional t-shirt that read: 'NOBODY LIKES A SNAKE' (a jab at Bryant’s “Black Mamba” nickname. Jennings then tweeted about Bryant’s performance in a Drew League game: 'Kobe drop 45pts with the game winner. Yea where he at next I’m playing I need THAT! Lol.' Now, he said Bryant shouldn’t be able to play in the Drew League because he wasn’t born in Southern California. Forget the five NBA championships Bryant has helped bring to Los Angeles. Birth certificates count, not resumes, according to Jennings."
- Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "Five thousand miles from Route 2, David Stern and his NBA lieutenants will sit today across a table from Billy Hunter, Derek Fisher and other representatives of the NBA players’ union and scowl as the NBA lockout approaches its third month. Ventura doesn’t understand how owners who offered big contracts they now contend have ruined their business can expect the players to save them from themselves. But nobody at the FIBA Americas pre-Olympic tournament cares much about the gloomy doings in New York. This tournament is about the love of the game, and it is about national pride, as is the Eurobasket tournament in Lithuania, where Tony Parker will begin play in a few days. There are business issues that must be resolved in New York. But when you see the passion with which Ginobili and his teammates represent the host country, you wonder how anyone can be as committed to taking meaningful basketball away from the basketball-loving world as some of the league’s owners now seem."
- Dave Krieger of The Denver Post: "Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri would be in his native Africa this time of year anyway. He always is. But the NBA lockout has increased the visibility of basketball's global development, not least because international leagues are peeling off American players fearful there won't be a 2011-12 NBA season. ... Africa is perhaps the game's last great untapped resource. It has exported some notable stars, including Hakeem Olajuwon?, Dikembe Mutombo? and Luol Deng?, but from a continent of 1 billion people, the basketball exports to date are a drop in the ocean. 'Being from here, you see the huge potential,' Ujiri, a native of Nigeria, said this week by phone from Madagascar, site of the African Basketball Championship. 'We lack coaching, we lack infrastructure and we lack a little bit organization. But we're working hard with the national federations and FIBA (the International Basketball Federation) and the NBA to bring everything together and develop the young kids.' Thursday through Sunday, Ujiri will co-direct the annual Basketball Without Borders camp for 60 elite players ages 16-18 from all over the continent. This year, it's in Johannesburg, South Africa. ... 'This is my continent, where I come from,' Ujiri said. 'Coming back and interacting with people, you want to see how much progress has been made. It is an exciting time for me. There's a lot of raw potential and it's how much we guide these kids, it's how hard they work and what path they take. I love the potential of developing basketball in Africa.' "
- Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times: "Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman were among a small army of NBA players who arrived in Lithuania this week for the 24-team European Basketball Championship, with no apparent need to hurry back. The NBA lockout is about to enter a third month and neither side has budged. That means the Lakers' Gasol, the Clippers' Kaman, et al., could be playing in Europe and other far-flung places next week . . . next month . . . next year. 'It's not something that's super exciting to think about,' Kaman said in a telephone interview as the 7-footer made his final preparations for Germany's opener Wednesday against Israel. 'It's good we're holding our ground and trying to get the best deal possible, but it's also not good because it hurts the product.' ... If the NBA lockout drags on, Kaman could try to sign a contract with a European team. But he's reluctant to make that move. 'I think that's a tough situation to put another team in,' Kaman said,'to say, 'Oh, I'm going to play with you and then leave halfway through the year' ' if the NBA lockout ends. Gasol appears far less resistant. He has said he would prefer to play in Spain but has not ruled out China. His ideal destination remains Staples Center."
- Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: "Jonas Valanciunas toyed with the under-19 competition, leading that tournament in most categories, set a record for points by a Lithuanian player in his senior team debut this summer and had 13 points and 16 rebounds against imposing Russians Andrei Kirilenko and Timofey Mozgov last week. While he will avoid a rematch with Russia until later in the tournament, he will see star NBA big men Pau and Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka when facing Spain. Also in his group will be Turkey, which boasts Omer Asik, regarded as one of the NBA's premier defensive centres after just one season, as well as Enes Kanter, who has bested him before and was drafted two spots ahead of Valanciunas back in June. Should Lithuania advance, meetings with future teammate Andrea Bargnani (who surprisingly has grabbed 40 rebounds over his past three games for Italy), or Joakim Noah (France), Dirk Nowitzki or Chris Kaman (Germany) could be in the cards later. Lithuania has lost centre Darjus Lavrinovic to injury, so Valanciunas, once considered 50/50 to even make the squad given his youth, will likely see heavy minutes. How he fares against top flight veteran competition will go a long way towards figuring out how soon he will be able to make an impact at the NBA level."
- Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "John Calipari, as American as they get, a college coach grounded in one of the more storied programs in the University of Kentucky, is the head coach and next to him on the bench is white-haired icon Del Harris, whose coaching career has truly spanned the globe. Calipari, Harris and the Dominicans cruised to a 90-60 victory over Cuba to open the 10-country tournament on Tuesday and the new coaching staff may be just the thing the team needs to get over a major hurdle. Two years, the Dominican Republic suffered a cruel blow to its chances of finally making it to the global stage, beaten by Canada in what amounted to a one-game playoff to miss a berth at the world championships by one spot. Now the team, led by NBAers Charlie Villanueva, Al Horford and Francisco Garcia, would seem to have the calm leadership it perhaps lacked at that world qualification event. It certainly has some solid international experience in Harris, an iconic international figure."
- Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: "After watching Brazil’s opening 92-83 victory over Venezuela, I can understand why Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford are so intrigued with the skills of Tiago Splitter. Playing on a depleted Brazilian team missing Nene and Anderson Varejao, the Brazilian team leaned on Splitter. And he delivered down the stretch with 17 points and 11 rebounds to lead Brazil to a tougher-than-expected triumph in their first game in the FIBA Americas tournament. Splitter showed the confidence that made him one of the top international players in the world before his arrival to the NBA. He’ll need to continue that strong play to keep his team’s hopes of earning one of the two spots in the Olympics next year. Memphis guard Greivis Vasquez was the best player on the court, running the Venezuela defense with precision and finishing with 26 points and seven assists."
- Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: "This is the time of year when Stephen Curry usually ramps up his workout schedule to prepare for training camp. With no end in sight to the NBA lockout, however, the Warriors' point guard is ramping up his schedule in other ways. Curry got married last month and returned from a 10-day honeymoon in Bora Bora just in time to start three courses at Davidson College that will leave only a thesis paper between him and a degree in sociology. He'll play in a golf pro-am before the culminating event of the FedEx Cup playoffs next month in Atlanta, host a charity golf tournament in San Francisco a week later and coordinate a players-only basketball training camp somewhere in between. 'I'm used to kicking it into high gear with workouts and focus on the season,' Curry said by phone Tuesday. 'I'm being optimistic about the season and hoping for the best, but you have to prepare for the lockout continuing, too.' "
- Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "Tayshaun Prince, 31, had arguably one of the finest seasons of his nine-year NBA career in 2010-11. He was consistent from Day 1. He averaged 14.1 points per game, and it's hard to recall games in which he didn't contribute. But for the first time since he was drafted out of Kentucky in 2002, Prince will hit the open market whenever the NBA opens for business. First the Pistons will deal with restricted free agents Rodney Stuckey and Jonas Jerebko, so it's unknown whether the team will be able to afford Prince under the new collective bargaining agreement. Even if the Pistons are able to afford him, a Prince deal would hinder the team's ability to improve the roster. It's also uncertain whether Prince wants to spend his remaining years in the NBA as part of a rebuilding project."
- Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "Byron Scott, who took part in the Cavs' charity outing last Tuesday at Firestone Country Club, has played more golf this summer than he ever has, thanks to the NBA lockout wiping out workouts and the summer league. He's down to a 6 handicap, 'but if this lockout continues too much longer, I'll be down to a 2,' he said, laughing. He has spent most of the summer in California, playing two or three times a week on courses such as Trump National, Monarch Beach and Dana Point. He belongs to the Marbella Golf and Country Club in San Juan Capistrano, the Chateau Estates in New Orleans and Oak Tree National in Oklahoma City -- all previous stops in his coaching career. He even was part of a group that was going to buy a course in New Jersey, another coaching stop, before he had second thoughts and pulled out. ... Former Lakers teammate James Worthy is responsible for getting Scott interested in the game. One year when the Lakers faced the Suns in the playoffs, Worthy got on the bus heading to practice in his golf gear, explaining to baffled teammates that he'd already played 18 holes near the team hotel in Phoenix. Scott thought Worthy was crazy, but was persuaded to give the game a try. 'I thought, 'How hard can it be?' ' Scott said, laughing. 'You hit a little white ball. It can't be that bad. Eighteen years later, I'm hooked.' "