Monday, September 19, 2011
First Cup: Monday
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "If at any point over the past three seasons you've doubted the Thunder's chemistry and camaraderie, the events of last week should destroy all remaining disbelief. Despite the NBA lockout threatening to postpone the regularly-scheduled start of training camp, 10 of the Thunder's projected 15-man roster got together for what became a voluntary minicamp. It happened two weeks before camp is scheduled to start. It took place in Austin, Texas on the campus of the University of Texas. It lasted four days. Without a single coach, front-office or support staff member permitted to be in attendance because of lockout rules, two-thirds of the roster traveled to Texas to play pickup and, as the Thunder is fond of saying, ‘Get better every day.' No other team has shown that level of commitment this summer. ... This, more than anything, is why folks near and far love the Thunder. This, more than anything, is why the Thunder is creeping closer to a championship."
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Marc Gasol will be a restricted free agent whenever the NBA and its players' union agree to a new collective bargaining agreement. He wants to remain a Grizzly so much that you just might see the giant Spaniard strolling around town by the end of this month or early October. 'I grew up in Memphis. I feel like it's my home,' Gasol said in a telephone interview before amassing 11 points, six rebounds and two blocks during Spain's 98-85 title win in Kaunas, Lithuania. 'They always say it's a business and there are bad sides to the business. We have to wait until it plays out. But I'm looking forward to something good happening.' The Griz will have the right to match any offers for Gasol -- a rule that is expected to roll over into the new CBA. Both sides proclaimed solidarity at the end of last week but didn't announce plans to continue negotiations. Gasol said his first order of business will be to reconnect with his American colleagues now that he's fulfilled his national team duties. He's regularly talked or exchanged texts with O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley, Tony Allen and Zach Randolph."
- K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Joakim Noah and the French national team's storybook run to the EuroBasket championship didn't end in storybook fashion Sunday, with the Bulls' center fouling out late in Spain's gold-medal-winning 98-85 victory. However, Noah, who finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, applauded fans as he walked to the bench with 3 minutes, 11 seconds left, a nod to the passionate fans who attended the games in Lithuania along with France's strong run. France earned an automatic berth in the 2012 London Olympics by virtue of advancing to the championship game. ... Noah will join Bulls teammates Luol Deng and likely Derrick Rose in London. Deng's British team bowed out early in EuroBasket, however, as the host country, it received an automatic berth. Rose is a virtual lock to play for Team USA next summer in London."
- Christopher Johnson Special to Washington Times: "While American basketball addicts are growing anxious over the NBA lockout, fans in that other hotbed of basketball — Lithuania — are in hoop heaven as they host some of the best players and action in the world at Eurobasket 2011. Joakim Noah, the French center who led the Chicago Bulls deep into the playoffs last season, calls EuroBasket 'an NBA playoff environment. It’s very similar in terms of energy.' That’s not only because of NBA Finals MVPs Dirk Nowitzki and Tony Parker playing for Germany and France. Noah, a dual citizen of France and the U.S. who was born in New York City, said that basketball might be bigger in Lithuania than even back in America. 'Lithuania’s population is probably smaller than the state of Indiana, but you see the love and passion they have for the game here,' he said after France beat Greece on Thursday to advance to the semifinals. 'Even the girl on the cover of the Lithuanian Playboy magazine has a basketball in her hand.' Many American fans have never heard of EuroBasket. But an increasing number of U.S.-based players and basketball officials, who are watching the games on ESPN3.com, are realizing that some of the most dramatic and hard-fought action is happening across the Atlantic."
- Michael Rand of the Star Tribune: "Timberwolves boss David Kahn, as many of you know, used to write about the NBA as a sports writer and columnist for the Oregonian in Portland. This news became infinitely more interesting last week, when it was announced the Wolves had hired Rick Adelman -- a former Trail Blazers head coach who crossed paths with Kahn more than two decades ago when both were in those old roles. The curiosity factor went up another notch when Yahoo.com, citing unnamed sources, indicated Adelman 'couldn't stand [Kahn] then,' and essentially still doesn't care for him. ... In short: The evidence suggests that while Kahn hammered the Portland decisionmakers, he was almost exclusively positive in his coverage of Adelman. All we have are the words in front of us, indelible and a part of history in a way we might never expect."
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Rashard Lewis is unfairly being portrayed as the poster boy of the lockout, the symbol of a broken financial system. ... 'You can't blame the players. If anything, we don't negotiate the deal. We've got agents that negotiate the deals with the team. Y'all need to go talk to the teams and the agents.' Never has one guy been so right about what has gone so wrong. The Magic did overpay him to the tune of $118 million over six seasons – no question – and Lewis graciously accepted. But apparently we've all forgotten just when owners started losing their minds. In the maddening summer of '96, the cruel summer in which the Magic lost Shaq, the Miami Heat offered Juwan Howard an outrageous seven-year, $101 million contract — then the richest in NBA history. The deal was voided by the NBA because the Heat violated salary-cap rules (long story). But Howard still became the league's first $100-million man, re-signing with the Washington Wizards for a mind-numbing $105 million over seven seasons."
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "John Wall will return to Las Vegas for the second week of the so-called 'lockout league,' where he has been playing with teammates Rashard Lewis, Jordan Crawford, Shelvin Mack, Larry Owens and JaVale McGee. He chose to play with Impact instead of joining teammate Andray Blatche for the lightly attended workouts in Clarksville. He still thinks it’s possible to have larger team workouts, but preferably in Los Angeles over Washington. 'I think it’s better to do it L.A., where everybody is at,' said Wall, who trains at the Impact facility in Reseda, Calif., with Crawford and Nick Young. 'Most of us are based in L.A. So I think it’d be great to go out there.' Wall was back in Washington this weekend for the charity game, but he also was continuing his extended 21st birthday celebration as he threw a party at Love the Club with R&B singer Chris Brown. He has already had birthday bashes in Raleigh, Atlanta, New York and Miami, but felt he had to have another in the city he represents in the NBA. 'I’m trying to enjoy myself. You only turn 21 once,' said Wall, who earned the right to legally drink on Sept. 6. 'It’s no other place to give back to than D.C. That’s where I’m playing now and want to finish my career. I love playing here, the fans support us. I’m coming out to have a big party.' "
- Staff of the Detroit Free Press: "Pistons forward Austin Daye is making news in Las Vegas for more than his scoring binge during the first week of the Impact Sports competitive training series. Daye and Pacers forward Dahntay Jones apparently engaged in the 'best trash-talk exchange of the week,' according to Ben Golliver of CBS Sports. It happened Thursday after Daye was arguing a call during a free-throw attempt. Jones told Daye he was 'soft' and should stop arguing. Daye didn't like the comment and raised his arms to make a gesture to the media, seated beyond the basket. 'You've got the worst game in here, ask any of them,' Daye told Jones twice, according to CBS Sports. Jones mocked Daye's arm motions, then mimicked his aggravated tone. The game resumed shortly thereafter. Several media members have reported seeing a confidence and swagger in Daye's game in Las Vegas. He's averaging 28.8 points through four games, and his team is 4-0. Daye has scored 20 points only twice in 141 career NBA games."
- Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: "It’s been a difficult post-college road for the 2005 North Carolina NCAA title team. Raymond Felton is on his fourth team in six years. Sean May is out of the league after recurring knee problems and issues with conditioning. Jawad Williams is a journeyman, and Marvin Williams, who was taken second overall before Chris Paul and Deron Williams, has yet to reach his potential. As for Rashad McCants, he joins May as a flameout who couldn’t follow college success with consistency in the NBA. McCants was selected 14th overall by Minnesota and spent 3 1/2 bizarre seasons there, playing in the final two years of the Kevin Garnett era and then appearing to flourish the year following Garnett’s trade to Boston, averaging 14.9 points in 27 minutes per game. ... There was a perception that McCants was a me-first player, difficult to coach and aloof with teammates. He signed with the Rockets before the 2009-10 season but an abdomen injury caused the contract to be voided. And he was supposed to play for the Cavaliers’ summer league team last year but pulled out at the last minute. Now McCants is a forgotten man, considered an afterthought because of his lack of development and an unsavory reputation. He turns 27 next Sunday and is unquestionably talented enough to make a roster, but the question is whether the desire remains and teams will overlook his past miscues. 'Basketball was an opportunity, a means to an end after college, and I planned not to solely depend on basketball, so the lockout doesn’t affect me - I have been locked out two years,’ said McCants, who said he owns successful businesses. 'I have been blackballed for two years, so these guys are making a big thing out of the lockout. They don’t know what locked out is.’ "
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Former Rockets guard and longtime NBA coach John Lucas III is organizing a series of games in October and November featuring NBA stars in conjunction with his John Lucas Basketball Resources training camps should the NBA work stoppage continue into the scheduled start of the season. Though many arrangements have not been finalized, Lucas said he has already received commitments for some games from NBA players including stars Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin. Rockets players Terrence Williams and Jonny Flynn and Houston-based players DeAndre Jordan, John Lucas II, T.J. Ford and Damon Jones have also committed to the participate along with Baron Davis, Thaddeus Young, Derrick Williams, Tristan Thompson and Corey Joseph. Games will be held on eight-consecutive Sundays at Delmar Fieldhouse. Lucas estimates that tickets will cost an average of roughly $20 with proceeds to benefit HISD programs, local basketball charities and the John Lucas Foundation aftercare program."
- Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Jerry Sloan, who turns 70 in March, doesn’t know what his future holds. As has been the case since he stepped away from the Jazz, he shies away from questions about a possible return to NBA coaching. 'I don’t think you can ever say, ‘No,’?' he said. 'But I’m not agonizing over it, that’s for sure. I think I’ll always be able to find something to do.' Tammy Sloan isn’t so sure. 'I just don’t see him staying retired,' she said. 'I just can’t see that happening.' And she’s not the only one. Danny Brown thinks Sloan could get the NBA itch again once all his affairs are in order. 'If the right deal came along, maybe. He might do it again,' said Brown. 'But right now he just wants to get everything gone [from the farm] and make life easier for himself and everybody else.' In fact, several NBA teams called Sloan this summer to gauge his interest in a return to coaching. Teams with job openings — all now filled — included Golden State, Minnesota, Indiana, Detroit, Toronto, Houston and the L.A. Lakers. Sloan would not confirm discussions with any team, saying, 'It’s still nice to get up in the morning and know I don’t have to do anything.' On the other hand, Sloan cherishes memories of the people side of the sport that has been at the center of his life. 'The camaraderie we had with the players and coaches all those years was special and now, all of a sudden, it stops,' he said. 'There’s a void there, no question about that. But do I miss it that much? I’d say, ‘Not really.’ But we’ll see.' "