Wednesday, September 26, 2012
First Cup: Wednesday
By Nick Borges
- Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Josh Smith is entering the final year of his current contract with the Hawks but it is “unlikely” that he will be re-signed before the end of the upcoming season. The forward is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Don’t panic yet Hawks fans. Under the rules of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, it could be advantageous for Smith, and to some degree the Hawks, to wait on a new contract. In simplest terms, if Smith re-signs with the Hawks before June 30, the extension can be for only a maximum of three years. If he waits until after his contract expires, he can re-sign for up to five years. According to Hawks general manager Danny Ferry, Smith and his agents have said he would like to remain in Atlanta.
- Craig Stouffer of the Washington Examiner: Wizards center/power forward Nene won't be fully ready to go when training camp opens next week at George Mason University as he continues to battle with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said all of his players are back in Washington during his preseason news conference on Tuesday. But the Brazilian veteran and centerpiece of last season's crucial trade deadline swap with Denver will have to play catch-up during the monthlong preseason. "We're going to be very cautious," Grunfeld said. ... Nene's limitations will open the door for Emeka Okafor to contribute right away at center and power forward following his arrival from New Orleans, along with Trevor Ariza, in a trade that sent Rashard Lewis to the Hornets.
- Tom Moore of phillyBurbs.com: Dorell Wright has spent two weeks playing pickup basketball with new 76ers’ teammates like Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes. While growing familiar with those guys on the court, the former Golden State Warrior has been especially impressed with young players Holiday and Turner, saying Tuesday that he “can tell they’re hungry and ready to win. They want to take their game to the next level.” But the guy Wright, a slender 6-foot-9 forward, is most looking forward to playing alongside is center Andrew Bynum. “He’s going to need two defenders to stop him,” Wright told reporters. “I would say he’s the best big man in the NBA right now, hands down.” Asked if he’s saying that Bynum is better than Dwight Howard because Bynum is his teammate, Wright replied, “No way. I’ll say that any day because he can put his back to the basket and (score and demand) a double team each and every time. And he makes free throws. He’s younger, too. I think it’s your all-around game when you’re a big man.”
- Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: Starting power forward: With Chris Bosh expecting to remain at center, the options are natural small forward Shane Battier, who handled the job for most of the final three rounds of the playoffs; Rashard Lewis, looking to resuscitate his career; and Udonis Haslem. Using Battier or Lewis with the other starters would spread the floor; Haslem would provide more rebounding. Battier and Lewis aren’t big rebounders -– the 6-10 Lewis has, at times during his career, ranked among the lowest rebound-per-minute starter for a player of his size -– but LeBron James’ work on the boards could compensate for that. The question is whether Battier, at 225 pounds, can sustain a full season at power forward.
- Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: And the starting lineup for your 2012-13 Trail Blazers is: Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and J.J. Hickson. Well, maybe. When the Blazers open training camp one week from today at the practice facility in Tualatin, that's the lineup new coach Terry Stotts will debut. The 29 days that follow will determine whether it sticks when the Blazers open the season on Halloween against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Rose Garden. ... Stotts says he will open training camp with Hickson at center, in part, because of his history with the team. "J.J. is the incumbent," Stotts said. "I'm not saying he's going to be the starting center opening night. We'll have to see how training camp goes, see how the preseason goes, and then we'll make that determination. Meyers (Leonard) has played very well (this summer). But it's just like politics: J.J. has been here, he's the returner, so going into it he has the advantage."
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Marquis Daniels made a strong impression in his workouts with the Milwaukee Bucks last week and the veteran guard signed a one-year deal with the team Tuesday. The 31-year-old Daniels played the last three seasons with the Boston Celtics and appeared in 15 playoff games last season. The 6-foot-6 guard, who went undrafted in 2003 after a four-year career at Auburn, also has played for the Dallas Mavericks and Indiana Pacers. The Bucks filled their 15th and final roster spot although they still are expected to sign some players to non-guaranteed contracts for training camp, which opens Tuesday. They were seeking some size and experience to provide depth for a backcourt that features 6-1 Brandon Jennings and 6-3 Monta Ellis. Daniels signed for the veteran minimum salary of $1.2 million for players with nine years of service in the league.
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: Three months ago, Timberwolves forward Kevin Love publicly challenged his organization to make the kind of personnel moves that will persuade him, Ricky Rubio and others to remain in Minnesota in 2015 and beyond. On Tuesday, he showed off his Olympic gold medal at a summer-ending Target Center news conference and declared himself pleased with management's moves that included adding veteran Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko, Lou Amundson as well as Greg Stiemsma and Alexey Shved while letting Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph, Darko Milicic and others go. "There's definitely a different feel going into the locker room, definitely a different feel just being down there playing with those guys," said Love, who arrived back in the Twin Cities from Southern California late last week. "I'm really excited, I'm really excited about this team. ... I think we've definitely added value to this team. I think the locker room is going to be great. I think the players we have on this team can make an immediate impact." Love will report for Monday's media day and Tuesday's training-camp start in Mankato. He's also unapologetic for suggesting during the London Olympics that the Wolves will make the playoffs.
- Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Doc Rivers won’t treat Darko Milicic like a former No. 2 pick. “I don’t know (what to expect),” he said. “I like a lot that he has size. What we want Darko to do is fit a role for us, and not push all of these expectations on him that he’s had all of his career. His first concern should be our team, instead of trying to establish himself. It’s the second pick in the draft thing. I think that hurt him over his career. We’ll find out. I’ll tell you if that’s true in January. I hope it’s true.” If the Celtics do indeed strike gold here, then Milicic’s age will be a bonus. He played his first NBA game at 18, and is still a rather tender 27. The Celtics will be his sixth NBA team.
- Howard Beck of The New York Times: The new roster is undeniably pricey: At $83.5 million, the Nets have the league’s second-highest payroll, behind the Los Angeles Lakers ($99.9 million) and just ahead of the Heat ($82.6 million). They perhaps overpaid to keep Wallace (four years, $40 million), Lopez (four years, $60.8 million) and Humphries (two years, $24 million). They took on the final four years and $89 million of Johnson’s deal, which was already considered the worst in the league. But the acquisitions of Johnson and Wallace persuaded Williams to stay — an end that justified the expensive means. It helped to have an owner who is undaunted by the N.B.A. luxury tax. It is the talent, not the payroll, that matters most now. Yet there is undeniable risk, too. Williams and Johnson could fail to click. Wallace, whose production ebbed last season, could be on the decline. Lopez could remain a one-dimensional scorer. Whatever the strengths, faults and quirks of this roster, the Nets may be locked into it for the next four years. “But you’re never locked in,” King said. “You can always make maneuvers to position yourself.” These are the new Nets: expensive, untested, captivating and possibly good. The championship talk seems fanciful. But they can afford to dream big.
- Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: Danny Granger, the team’s leading scorer the past five seasons, will be limited some at the start of training camp after an issue with his left knee, which happened while working out in Los Angeles late in the summer, caused him to get an injection in it. Granger’s at the fieldhouse working out with the rest of his teammates daily, but the Pacers, who don’t believe it’s a major issue, plan to take it easy with him early on and allow him to use the preseason to work on his conditioning. Granger’s expected to play in some of the preseason games. I ran into forward David West in the building and immediately noticed that he spent a lot of time in the offseason toning up his upper body. It helps that he was able to work on his entire body during the summer instead of just focusing on rehabilitating his surgically repaired knee like in the summer of 2011. After spending most of last season getting comfortable with his new teammates and having to find a rhythm again, West ended the season as the most consistent Pacer. I wouldn’t be shocked if he carries that over to this season, too.
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: With the training camp roster set — guard Courtney Fortson was released, with guards Kyle Fogg and Demetri McCamey added with non-guaranteed contracts — the Rockets’ 20 players possess an average of two NBA seasons of experience. That fact provided the Rockets with their marketing slogan for the season: “A new age.” But while the marketing department might be embracing the changes in the roster, bringing rookies Royce White and Donatas Motiejunas to the logo-unveiling event Tuesday, Morey seemed willing to accept that the unpredictability that comes with a roster of prospects also offers the potential to work out eventually. If you’re a championship contender, you want to feel like you know what is going to happen,” Morey said. “If you are a team trying to get back to that status, you want a lot of unknowns, a lot of guys with talent. The worst thing to be is to very consistently win 35 games. We won’t do that. Our goal is to get into playoff contention. How that will happen will be hard to know. It will be who steps up from this group.
- Joe Flint of the Los Angeles Times: For the Lakers, teaming up with Time Warner Cable is about getting more offense. The cable giant is poised to spend many millions on more programming and promotion devoted to the National Basketball Assn. team than previous rights holders Fox Sports West and KCAL-TV. But Time Warner Cable's play is strictly a defensive move. Tired of paying big bucks for sports networks, the cable company decided to start its own and cut out the middle man. On Oct. 1, it is launching the English-language SportsNet and the Spanish-language Deportes — with the Lakers as their marquee asset. ... For Time Warner Cable, this is no small bet. Although neither the company nor the Lakers would comment on the terms of their 20-year rights deal, industry insiders estimate the value at $3 billion. Time Warner Cable spent an additional $55 million for rights to the Galaxy soccer team for 10 years, and more than $30 million building a facility with three studios in El Segundo to house the networks.
- Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: He may only be a rookie, but Bernard James knows a snazzy NBA locker room when he sees it. And the Dallas Mavericks’ center put his team’s locker room among the best the NBA has to offer. “This is actually one of the better designed locker rooms that I’ve been in,’’ James said. “I worked out for 14 teams (prior to the June 28 NBA Draft), so I got to see 14 of them. “I like this setup more than all the other ones that I’ve seen.’’ A PlayStation 3 and flat-screen TV are among the amenities in each of the Mavs players’ locker. The overall locker room also is very spacious.
- Tony Bizjak and Dale Kasler of The Sacramento Bee: They've alienated elected officials, many of their fans and some of their sponsors. Yet the Sacramento Kings remain a powerful brand in this community – and a compelling draw for corporations and advertisers. The team today will announce a partial lineup of corporate partners for 2012-13, including new sponsors Nokia Siemens and Wal-Mart, and a returning former sponsor, Verizon Wireless. For Nokia Siemens, the deal is the first with a professional American sports team, Kings officials said. The list represents "more sponsorship commitments than at any point during the Kings' 27-year tenure in Northern California," the team said. ... Experts said the lineup shows the continued popularity of sports teams, including the Kings. This remains true even after the team's owners infuriated many in the community by walking away from a deal for a new downtown arena and have allowed rumors to flourish about possible moves to Seattle or Virginia Beach, Va.