Monday, September 17, 2012
First Cup: Monday
By Nick Borges
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Dwight Howard's chief rival over the years had little concern when he heard his old foe was changing teams and coming to the Western Conference. “I just said it's time to go to work,” Thunder center Kendrick Perkins said about Howard joining the Lakers. “I knew the hype was going to be over there on that end and all that. But I'm glad the attention is off us because we're the type that likes to put our hard hats on and do stuff and keep it under the radar. And at the end of the day, when you look at the box score, Oklahoma won. That's the way we like to keep it.” Not only is Perkins unfazed, but he also echoed several of his Thunder teammates who already have refuted the notion that the Lakers are now the team to beat in the West. “We are the Western Conference champs,” Perkins said. “So at the end of the day, we're not chasing nobody except for the ring. We're chasing Miami to get a championship. It's no guarantee who is going to be where. But we earned the Western champs so we're not chasing the Lakers, we're chasing a championship and that's what it's about.”
- New York Post Staff: Jeremy Lin is returning to his roots. Sort of. The former Knicks point guard, who controversially was allowed to go to the Rockets in July by James Dolan, asked new teammate Chandler Parsons if he could crash on his couch “until my furniture comes in.” Parsons posted a picture of the text message inquiry on Twitter. Lin, of course, became a star with the Knicks over the winter, putting together one of the best months ever by a previously anonymous player. The epitome of his sudden success became the fact that he was sleeping on his brother’s couch in Manhattan during the start of the wild stretch because he wasn’t sure if he would even stick with the Knicks. ... Parsons clearly disagrees with the critics who say Lin has let the three-year, $25.1 million deal go to his head. “Glad all that @NBA money didn't change him @JLin7,” he tweeted.
- Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: After considering retirement during the NBA Finals and then contemplating back surgery at the completion of the Heat's championship run, Mike Miller is up and running and looking forward to the Sept. 29 start of training camp at AmericanAirlines Arena. ... Instead of gaining a $2.9 million injury exception for a replacement player, the Heat apparently will have the real thing, with Miller hoping to pick up where he left off, which just happened to be with seven 3-pointers in the Game 5 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder that gave the Heat their second championship. The first step toward a return came in July, when the Heat bypassed the opportunity to utilize their amnesty exception on Miller and instead banked it for future use. Such a release would have allowed the Heat to avoid the $5.8 million luxury-tax payment now due on Miller's 2012-13 salary. From there, rigorous rehab in place of expected back surgery has delivered the 12-year-veteran to the precipice of a camp some thought the 32-year-old never would make, with Miller in contact with Miami neurosurgeon Dr. Barth Green throughout the process. "I basically looked at my options and back surgery, with Dr. Green pretty confident that we could get it to where I need to be without it. So we're slowly but surely getting there," he said.
- Nate Taylor of The New York Times: Woodson and Olajuwon were teammates with the Rockets from 1988 to 1990. Woodson, a veteran at the time, helped the younger Olajuwon mature. Even then, Olajuwon could tell Woodson was interested in coaching once his playing career was over. The two formed a bond, and Olajuwon has watched Woodson become a respected coach in the league. ... Over dinner, Woodson told Olajuwon about his plans for the season and how he wanted the Knicks’ offense to focus on getting the ball inside. Woodson also saw Stoudemire’s improvement under Olajuwon. He then asked Olajuwon if he would be interested in teaching Anthony, Chandler and others. ... Olajuwon said he was willing to give the Knicks feedback during the season. He expects the Knicks to progress under Woodson and contend in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks will be on Olajuwon’s TV a lot.
- Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: Former congressman Harold Ford Jr. has agreed to become a member of Robert Pera's Memphis Grizzlies ownership group. Less than two weeks after Pera added some star power in the person of homegrown pop star and actor Justin Timberlake, he's come to an agreement with the former five-term congressman from Memphis. "I'm honored to be a part of Robert's ownership group," said Ford, who did not specify what percentage of the team he will own. "He's a genuine guy and a great guy." Ford said he met Pera through mutual friends more than a year ago, before Pera began his pursuit of the Grizzlies. When Pera reached an agreement with Michael Heisley to buy the franchise, Ford said he had the same concerns as everyone else. "I still have a home in Memphis; I didn't want to see the team leave," he said.
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: After more than 30 years in and around the NBA, Kevin McHale soon will do something he has never done. For the first time as an NBA coach, he will run a typical monthlong NBA training camp. His first regular season as Rockets coach began with a rocky post-lockout rush to the regular season. His seasons coaching at Minnesota brought him out of the front office to take over in midseason and allowed him no chance to run a camp. Finally, he will take a nearly entirely rebuilt and spectacularly inexperienced roster and have a chance to mold it. It will not be easy. He won’t meet with the resistance that challenged him last season. He also won’t have the certainty that comes with veterans. He will have the time he did not last season, but he will have so much to accomplish, no amount of time likely would be enough. For now, roughly two weeks before his first true training camp as an NBA coach, normalcy will have to do. “It’s much more comfortable just knowing that we’re here, planning with the coaches, having players coming in and out, being able to talk to them about what we’re envisioning,” McHale, 54, said. “We’re just getting a comfort level with each other as opposed to having the lockout lifted, two days and then getting started.”
- John Rohde of The Oklahoman: OKC acquired Thabeet as a free agent with little financial risk. The Thunder signed him to a deal that guarantees him $1.2 million this season. After that, it's non-guaranteed at $1.2 million in 2013-14 and $1.25 million in 2014-15. ... Thabeet has been working out at the Thunder practice facility throughout the summer and occasionally has gone through drills with fellow centers Cole Aldrich and offseason signee Daniel Orton, a former Bishop McGuinness High School standout. OKC starting center Kendrick Perkins has spent time at the practice facility, rehabbing offseason surgeries to his groin and left wrist. Perkins said the groin is “fine.” The wrist is still healing and just began the final month of an anticipated three-month rehab process. Though there is no official depth chart at center, the logical pecking order is Perkins-Aldrich-Thabeet-Orton. There was a void at the No. 2 spot when OKC chose not to re-sign free agent veteran Nazr Mohammed this summer. With Perkins still on the mend for several more weeks, the Thunder's seven-game preseason schedule figures to serve as a proving ground for Aldrich, Thabeet and Orton
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: The best news regarding Tony Allen these days is that he's back on the basketball court while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. The Grizzlies' stalwart on defense underwent a minor procedure during the offseason to repair cartilage in his left knee. Allen has been in town working out in FedExForum and declared that he'll be ready when training camp opens Oct. 2. "I'm definitely getting myself back to being that thirsty dog," Allen said. "I don't want to rush it. But I'll be back for the first game, Oct. 31, against the (Los Angeles) Clippers. I guarantee that." General manager Chris Wallace pointed out that Allen's health has been a key to his success with the Griz over the past two seasons.
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Many of you have expressed curiosity about Charlotte Bobcats rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's health, after he sat out all but one summer-league game in Las Vegas with a sore knee. If Saturday is any indication, he's just fine. After initially indicating he would not play in Kentucky's charity game (it's still unclear why he said that to Kentucky media), Kidd-Gilchrist was pretty impressive Saturday: 32 points on 15-of-32 shooting from the field. A game-high five rebounds. His only hiccup Saturday was outside shooting range, a known flaw before the Bobcats drafted him second overall in June. Kidd-Gilchrist missed all four of his shots from 3-point range (though he made some 2-point jump shots).
- Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press: Kyle Singler was practicing with his new Pistons teammates recently. He came down on a fast break and made a perfect pass leading to a dunk. That's Singler. He's smart, and he'll make the right plays as a rookie this season with four years of experience at Duke and a year in Spain. Even though the small forward position is crowded with Tayshaun Prince and Corey Maggette, it'll be hard to keep Singler on the bench because of his ability to hit threes and his basketball IQ. "He makes us more athletic," Pistons big man Greg Monroe said. "He's a smart player." Singler said: "I'm here getting to know my teammates." He laughed when it was mentioned that the last small forward the Pistons drafted was Grant Hill.
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: Steve Hess' plan is to out-altitude the altitude. "If you want to overload the system, to take advantage of altitude, train slightly higher," said Hess, the Nuggets' longtime strength and conditioning coach. "Tax the system." During the summer, Hess takes the Nuggets to Red Rocks, the amphitheater in Morrison, which is nearly 1,000 feet higher than mile-high Denver. He has put Nuggets such as Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee, Corey Brewer and Jordan Hamilton through rigorous workouts there. ... During the season, the altitude can be as tough on an NBA player as it is to score on Andre Iguodala. Opposing players occasionally mention the altitude effect in the early stages of a game. ... The Nuggets led the NBA in scoring last season, averaging 104.1 points per game. They ranked second in average points in the first quarter at home (27.6), compared with 11th in first- quarter average points on the road (24.5). In other words, the Nuggets try to bury opponents at the Pepsi Center before opponents get accustomed to the altitude later in the game.
- Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune: Utah acquired Mo Williams and Marvin Williams via trades, signed veteran free agent Randy Foye, re-signed Jeremy Evans, signed second-round draft pick Kevin Murphy and picked up options on Jamaal Tinsley and DeMarre Carroll. In the front office, Kevin O’Connor remains the executive vice president of basketball operations but, after 13 years, he handed over his general manager duties to Dennis Lindsey in August. Days later, ex-director of player development Mike Sanders and former D-League coach Brad Jones joined Corbin’s staff as assistants, after longtime Jazz employee Scott Layden left. What does it all mean? Nobody knows until Corbin completes his first 82-game regular season as coach and holdovers like Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks continue to develop and blend with the newcomers. For now, however, Lindsey and Corbin are satisfied Utah is well-positioned for another run to the playoffs, which would be its second straight, sixth in seven seasons and 26th in the last 30.