Monday, August 20, 2012
First Cup: Monday
By Nick Borges
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Andray Blatche remains unemployed more than a month after the Wizards used the amnesty provision to end a seven-year relationship with him. Blatche apologized to fans for his effort on the way out the door, understanding that he was largely responsible for the circumstances that led to his ouster. But in an interview with the Syracuse Post-Standard, Blatche said he was “kind of upset” with how his last days with the Wizards played out — most notably, the team listing his initial absence in Nene’s debut against New Jersey as “NWT-Conditioning.” Blatche said he agreed that the injuries that contributed to his disappointing final campaign were a direct result to arriving in training camp out of shape after the lockout. But he didn’t appreciate how the organization dealt with the situation.
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Brandon Jennings has a critical point to prove. He's heard the whispers that a high-scoring but smallish backcourt tandem - Jennings and Monta Ellis - can only lead the Milwaukee Bucks to ruin. And he begs to differ. "I really want it to work just personally, because everybody is doubting it," Jennings said. "With everybody doubting it, I think it's important that me and him, we just work together to show everybody it can work. "Everybody knows we both can score like crazy. But I think everybody thinks we can't win together. That's going to be one of our biggest challenges. I'm up for it and I know he is."
- Carol Biliczky of the Akron Beacon-Journal: LeBron James touted education, not sports, as he made his first local appearance since the Olympics at the Akron Aeros minor league baseball game on Sunday. Only a couple of fans yelled “traitor” as the former Cleveland Cavalier unveiled the second class of Akron third-graders to be part of his family’s Wheels for Education nonprofit. The children received bikes, helmets and school uniforms at the Time to Promise kickoff event. “These kids mean a lot to me,” James told the appreciative but sparse crowd at Canal Park as rain occasionally fell. “I’m glad I’m in a position to be able to help them.” Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic also unveiled the newest honor to Akron’s most famous resident — blue and white signs that will be posted at nine major entrances to Akron that proclaim the city his home. “For my money, he’s the greatest Akronite because he cares about Akron,” Plusquellic said.
- Paola Boivin of The Arizona Republic: News that Serge Ibaka reached agreement on a four-year contract with Oklahoma City should catch the attention of Suns fans. The amount of the deal, $48 million, will make it trickier for the Thunder to secure James Harden, who could command a maximum contract as a restricted free agent after the 2012-13 season. That could open the door for the Suns, who have maintained $15 million in cap space for next summer's free-agency period and who have expressed interest in Harden behind the scenes. Much will hinge on what becomes important to Harden. No one could fault him for chasing the money if a max deal (roughly $60 million over four years) is offered. But would the appeal of sticking it out with his Thunder teammates make him willing to stay for say, $52 million? Harden's mom lives in the Valley and the player has said he still has great affection for the area. Stay tuned.
- John Rohde of The Oklahoman: The Oklahoman's John Rohde caught up with Thunder star Kevin Durant before Sunday's Thunderstruck premiere. Do you like acting? "It was a little different. Once they called action, you tried to be locked in on your role. It was difficult at first, but just like anything when you first start you go through some bumps and bruises. After a while I kind of got adjusted." Have you seen the finished product? "Not yet. I'm looking forward to seeing it today. It should be cool." ... Did Kobe Bryant or LeBron James give you grief about being in a movie? "Not really. They asked me about it once or twice. I just told them I was in one and they said, 'OK.' Hopefully, they'll take their kids to see it and hopefully they enjoy it.
- John Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer: The Sixers' newfound versatility is going to allow them at times to go small with, say, Holiday, Richardson, Nick Young, and Dorrell Wright on the floor as part of a lineup of shooters. When this happens, it's going to be incumbent of Turner to understand it's being done because the Sixers have depth to create matchup havoc now, not for any personal reasons. From all indications, Turner is working very hard on his game this offseason. Who knows? While it wasn't apparent last season, maybe this is the year in which the Sixers begin to reap the benefits of the shooting instruction Turner received from Philadelphia University Hall of Fame coach Herb Magee. Marked improvement by Turner, especially if it were to occur this season, Turner's third, would prove to be incalculably beneficial to the Sixers. But don't expect him to get the teacher's pet attention he has seen in the past. The Sixers' goals moving forward are a little bit too big for that.
- John Canzano of The Oregonian: Long before Terry Stotts interviewed for the Blazers coaching position, and long before he even knew he was a candidate, he made a promise to his mother, Jayne Phelps. She loves to ride bikes. She loves her son. His father, Frank, a high school and college basketball coach, passed away in 2000. Mom requested her son's presence this summer for a bicycle-ride adventure, and when your mother does that, new job or not, you get on the bicycle and go. Mother and son mounted their bicycles in Halifax, Nova Scotia. They'll ride for six straight days. Some days 20 miles, other days 60 miles. They'll cover 241 miles and an ascent of nearly 5,700 feet. And if you're a Blazers fan trying to wrap your head around what kind of coach Stotts is going to be, start right here. Stotts' mother turned 76 recently. She celebrated this by riding her bicycle 76 miles. Said Jayne: "I've been riding my bicycle my whole life; I was prepared for it." I told an NBA executive on Saturday that this is what the rest of the Western Conference is now up against when facing the Blazers, and he said: "76 miles?!? You go girl! Good for her!" I say slap it on the cover of the media guide. Either that or let's call it the "Rise with Mama Jayne" era of Blazers basketball. Point is, she's a spitfire. She's in amazing shape, too. And even as Stotts is probably riding his bicycle thinking about training camp and moving into the Tualatin practice facility, the fact that he's on a bicycle in Nova Scotia, hanging with his mother, tells you a lot about him.
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: JaVale McGee said he works out with Olajuwon about 2½ hours each day. The goal, said Nuggets executive Masai Ujiri, who like Olajuwon is from Nigeria, "is he gets to work with someone who was not only a legend in the NBA, but who can also help him become the ultimate professional and ultimate player." McGee spent much of his workout time with Stoudemire too. The duo would meticulously watch Olajuwon unleash a post move and then "do it ourselves in sets of five until we perfect the move." "It's just (amazing) how precise he is with everything he does," McGee said. "It definitely is about gaining confidence, being comfortable with the ball, knowing exactly what to do — and knowing what move to do when your first move is stopped."
- John Reid of The Times-Picayune: With New Orleans Hornets rookie forward Anthony Davis set to make his debut this upcoming season and the average age of their core players only 24 years old, the team appears to have taken the appropriate steps this summer to achieve long-term sustainability. Several former NBA players, who were in New Orleans this past weekend for the National Basketball Retired Players Association’s conference, said they believe the Hornets could become the next emerging team in the Western Conference because of their young talent. "The direction the Hornets are in right now is really positive,” former Utah Jazz forward Stephen Howard said. “I think General Manager Dell Demps has done a tremendous job trying to build them into a team that will contend day in and day out.”
- Marcus Thompson III of The Oakland Tribune: Warriors center Andrew Bogut said his surgically repaired left ankle will be ready for the Oct. 31 season opener at Phoenix. But he acknowledged that may mean sacrificing some of training camp, or even some preseason games. “It’s about being smart with my ankle,” Bogut said via a conference call with local media. “There’s no point in trying to get ready for October 1st, when another week could significantly help. I’m trying to get ready for camp, but my main goal is for the first game of the season to be 110 percent.” Bogut said based on the timeline given by the surgeons, he might be a bit ahead of schedule. He has already been shooting and lifting weights. He was recently cleared to start light jogging on the treadmill.
- Earl Bloom of The Orange County Register: Perhaps the Clippers don't need a general manager after all. Or maybe Neil Olshey's successor already is on the premises. The Clippers have been one of the NBA's most active teams this summer, bringing in a half-dozen veteran players — headed by Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill and Lamar Odom — while re-signing Chauncey Billups, and getting Blake Griffin's signature on a max extension that could keep him a Clipper through 2017-18. Coach Vinny Del Negro, team president Andy Roeser and director of player personnel Gary Sacks have handled basketball operations since Olshey defected to the Portland Trail Blazers in early June. At that time, the opinion here, and elsewhere, was that Olshey's Northwest passage could be a serious blow to the Clippers' momentum gained from a second-round playoff advance. Since then, though, they've done nothing but move forward.
- Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Two Pistons excelled last week during qualifying games for the 2013 FIBA Eurobasket tournament. Center Slava Kravtsov was dominant with 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting and six blocked shots as the host Ukraine held off Hungary, 77-71, during the first day of the tournament at Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. The Ukraine won its second game of qualifying -- a 61-57 victory over Austria on Saturday. Kravtsov scored two points, but he grabbed five rebounds and had three blocked shots. The Ukraine plays in Group C and its next game is Tuesday against Croatia. The Pistons signed Kravtsov, 24, in July to a three-year deal and expect him to provide shot-blocking and rebounding. Pistons veteran Jonas Jerebko erupted for 26 points, but Sweden fell to host Bulgaria, 78-73, in Group B. Sweden plays Tuesday against Azerbaijan. Thirty-one countries are split into six groups. The top two teams from each group and the top four third-place teams advance.