Wednesday, October 3, 2012
First Cup: Wednesday
By Nick Borges
- Marc Berman of the New York Post: Rasheed Wallace is already behind the 8-ball, and coach Mike Woodson sounded frustrated. Wallace missed the Knicks’ first practice — a three-hour workout heavy on conditioning — because his contract is not finalized. Agent Bill Strickland told The Post he’s still hammering out the final “minor details” of Wallace’s pact, and “I fully expect and anticipate Rasheed will be with the Knicks this season and it should be very soon.’’ When the media was let into the gym 2 ˝ hours into practice, Wallace, 38, wasn’t on the court. Sources said he was in the locker room, presumably working out. It’s unclear if he participated in some of the conditioning drills earlier.
- Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: Deron Williams was a reluctant, frustrated leader in the worst of times last season — and he revealed Tuesday that complacency and clowning in the Nets locker room only exacerbated matters. As losses piled up and morale deteriorated, the point guard lost his temper and positive body language — notching his first and second career ejections, along with career worsts in turnovers and shooting percentage. The locker room often became a comedy club after bad defeats, sometimes with Williams as the ringleader of the jokes, sometimes with him sitting in front of his locker in seething silence. But the blasé attitude went out the door with the majority of the roster, according to Williams, who said he is leading a more motivated and capable group.
- Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times: Kobe Bryant was a showstopper Tuesday, bringing the Lakers' first practice to a momentary standstill when he dunked over Chris Douglas-Roberts. Yep, his knee is doing just fine. Bryant may not be as spry as he was even a few years ago, but his once balky right knee is not putting a drag on his capacity for plays that trigger loud whoops from teammates. He revealed after practice that his summer schedule had not included a stop in Dusseldorf, Germany, for a procedure on his knee similar to the one he had last year. "A little busy," Bryant said, alluding to the Olympic gold medal he won with the U.S. national team. Did Bryant, who turned 34 in August, anticipate needing a follow-up procedure on the knee? "You mean like I'll fly to Germany during the season?" Bryant asked. Or maybe the doctor could come to you? "No," Bryant said. "I think I'll be fine."
- Richardson of the Pioneer Press: Perhaps in defiance, or maybe just to prove he does care about his craft, a leaner and more aggressive Derrick Williams made a strong statement himself Tuesday, Oct. 2, on the first day of the Wolves' training camp at Minnesota State Mankato. "He had his best day of practice he's ever had here," Wolves assistant coach Bill Bayno said of Williams. "All the things we had to stay on him about last year, we didn't have to do that today. He had that look in his eyes that said 'I'm not here to just play ball.... I'm here to compete and get things done.' " Williams met Kahn's offseason challenge head on and seemed to turn heads in the process. Coaches and teammates noticed how the 6-foot-8 Williams, looking faster and stronger after a dedicated offseason conditioning program, was more active at both ends of the court in scrimmages and drills.
- Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Of all of the nations the NBA is sending teams to this fall, including China, Spain and Germany, none is closer to an international cauldron than Turkey. In the opposite corner of the country, the Turkish government is taking in refugees from the civil war in Syria. But the Celtics briefed on safety by NBA security after checking into the team hotel yesterday afternoon, have not been overwhelmed by what is, indeed, a beefed-up security effort. “I am aware of it, but not much,” coach Doc Rivers said after last night’s practice. “I have blind trust, sometimes probably foolishly, but I do. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t safe. No. 1 the NBA is smarter than that. You can’t walk anywhere without walking into a black suit — security. And that’s great. I travel a lot, too. So I don’t give it much thought. I’m sure (the players) will still enjoy it, and I’m sure I will.”
- Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald: Heat star Dwyane Wade will not be wearing Jordan Brand shoes this season. Wade’s three-year contract with the brand expired in September and, instead of renewing his endorsement deal with the company, Wade has parted ways with Michael Jordan’s branch of Nike. Wade is expected to announce a new deal with Chinese shoe company Li-Ning in the coming days, possibly when the Heat travels to China next week for two games against the Los Angeles Clippers. “I really can’t comment on my new deal yet,” Wade said. “But what I can say is that I did mutually part ways with the Jordan umbrella, with Jordan and Converse, but we have parted ways and I’ll be moving on.”
- John Rohde of The Oklahoman: Rumors of Russell Westbrook switching shoe brands this offseason appear to be false. Many reports claimed last month the Thunder's two-time All-Star had left Nike and signed with adidas. Adidas Philippines uploaded a picture via Instagram of Westbrook wearing their brand, which was accompanied with the caption “Boom!” and the hashtag #russellwestbrook. Adidas USA never confirmed the validity of the picture, and the Instagram link has since been deleted. Westbrook wore the Nike Air Jordan I model at Thunder media day Monday. No way would Westbrook wear Nike on the biggest photo op day of the season had he already signed a new deal with adidas. Nike officials have yet to confirm Westbrook as a client, however.
- Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: The new Magic marketing mantra for this season is, "We Will." As in, "We Will ... hopefully lose enough games to get into the lottery and acquire a good draft pick." Or, at least, that's what many of us cynics believe. There is a common perception out there that the rebuilding Magic have developed some sort of elaborate and devious plan to tank as many games as possible and get into the lottery. If legendary Al Davis were the owner of the Magic, his motto would be: "Just lose, baby!" If the iconic Vince Lombardi were coaching the Magic, he'd give his players a fiery pre-game pep talk and end it with: "Losing isn't everything; it's the only thing!" If the transcendent Grantland Rice were covering the Magic, he'd write in his sports column: "It's not whether you win or lose, it's just whether you lose!" … Of course, no organization would ever publicly admit that losing games is the goal because it goes against every tenet and truism we've ever been taught about sports. We all know that winning is the great American virtue and losing is the great American sin. But why is it a sin to lose now if it helps you win later?
- Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: For the time being, Anderson Varejao is with the Cavaliers. The forward/center has two years remaining on his contract after this season. The 30-year-old probably has three or four good years left, but the Cavs are at least two or three years from being a very good team. That's why several sources believe Varejao will be dealt at the trade deadline. "I'm still here," he said at Cavs media day on Monday at Cleveland Clinic Courts. "I can't control that. If they trade me, they trade me. I'm happy in Cleveland. I love the city and I love the fans." … If the Cavs are able to acquire a first-round pick for him, in addition to a young prospect, they might pull the trigger.
- Paola Boivin of The Arizona Republic: The Suns need to make a statement. Not with empty promises or fancy marketing campaigns but with a move that screams, "We have a plan!" They need to give Alvin Gentry an extension. Training camp opened Tuesday, and the mood of Suns fans can be best described as skeptical with a hint of curiosity. They have accepted life without Steve Nash. They understand the team is in rebuilding mode. They want to care but remain mystified by the low-profile, unconventional management figures calling the shots. Showing a commitment to Gentry, who is in the final year of his deal, would be not only the right choice but the right message. "It's not an issue for this season," Suns owner Robert Sarver said Tuesday. "I don't think it's an issue with Alvin, and it's not an issue for us. I've worked with Alvin for the last eight years. I think he's treated the organization fairly, and I think we've treated him fairly."
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Center Marc Gasol returned to Memphis more than a week ago and participated in voluntary pickup games with his teammates. Anyone who believes he's looking to take time off during training camp because of his participation with Spain in the London Olympics should think again. "I couldn't wait (to return to Memphis),"Gasol said. "I was sitting in my home in Barcelona wanting for this day to come. I wanted to come over and be with the guys." Hollins said he hasn't seen any indication that Gasol needs to rest during camp. There aren't any plans to monitor Gasol's activity based on his activity over the past year.
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: One glance around the practice floor was all it took. The biggest change for the Milwaukee Bucks on Day 1 of training camp was a sizable one. The Bucks actually had seven players measuring 6-foot-10 and taller, including true centers Samuel Dalembert and Joel Przybilla. The 6-11 Dalembert will not play the same way Andrew Bogut did at the Bucks' center position. But the 11th-year pro from Haiti will defend and provide a shot-blocking presence in the paint. "We really focused on making everybody understand their role defensively," Dalembert said after the team's first practice session on Tuesday morning at the Cousins Center. "Be accountable."
- Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: Oh, great. Rap music at practice? Please, tell me no. That’s one of Dwane Casey’s ideas and while you have to give him credit for being NBA-innovative, I’m sure hoping he sticks to his original plan and only allows it during stretching or the early part of practice, when the grunts are either sitting in the hall waiting or driving to some arena. The idea comes from a visit he made for a couple days to the Seattle Seahawks training camp, kind of a professional development outing for him at his summer place. … Not sure precisely how workable it is but any coach willing to give it a shot seems to be pretty open to change. “I want to be innovative and try new things, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” Casey also came away impressed with how an NFL staff handles its duties on a daily basis, saying they are way ahead of the curve compared to any other North American pro sports coach.
- Mike Tokito of The Oregonian: Along with the many new faces and new workout uniforms that marked the Trail Blazers’ opening practice of the 2012-13 season Tuesday, there was also a notable new sound. “DINNNNNGGGGGG!” It was a bell, installed by new coach Terry Stotts, which players got to ring if they made 20 three-pointers in 25 attempts. “The good news is, we’ve actually heard the bell ring a couple of times,” said Neil Olshey, who took in his first official practice as Portland’s general manager. “When you’re a team that’s predicated on shooting, it’s a good idea to actually make shots.” But on a day when only five of the 18 dressed players had been with the Blazers when training camp started last season, there was a very familiar franchise face in the practice facility. Paul Allen, the team’s owner since 1988, made a rare opening-practice appearance, something no one could miss.
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: Remember Danilo Gallinari in Game 7 against the Lakers? Neither do we. He was out there, though, logging 26 forgettable minutes in the Nuggets' season-ending, first-round loss to Los Angeles. In the days after his 1-for-9 showing, Gallo was visually emotional because of the game, speaking candidly about his motivation for the summer. And now, summer's over, and Gallinari is back in Nuggets camp, refreshed and refocused, healthy and hungry. "I think I can improve some stats and definitely I want to improve my 3-point percentage," the starting small forward said Tuesday after the Nuggets' first workout of training camp. "I've been working a lot on my shot."
- Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: DeMarcus Cousins showed up in the best shape of his NBA career. It's a good thing, too, because Kings coach Keith Smart is setting the bar even higher for the third-year center. Smart is focusing on defense for this training camp and is asking Cousins to take a bigger role in leading the Kings from the bottom of the league in points allowed and field-goal percentage allowed. “One thing I've already put to him is, 'You should be honorable-mention All-Defense this year,' " Smart said. " 'If you put your mind to it, you should be honorable-mention All-Defense.' " The last player to earn any All-Defense distinction from Sacramento was Ron Artest, who was named to the first team after the 2005-06 season.
- Tom Sorensen of The Charlotte Observer: Biyombo is from Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and played in Yemen and Spain before coming to Charlotte. Some believe he is older than 20. They apparently think that the more time zones he has lived in the more likely the numbers on his birth certificate are to change. Those rumors began before Charlotte selected him with the seventh pick in the 2011 draft. The only evidence I’ve found that Biyombo might be older than 20 is this: “I’m not a big fan of fast food,” he says. Last season was his first in the U.S. The biggest change, he said, was the food. How do you know what you’ll like? You eat it. He experimented with all kinds of cuisine. Then he discovered steak and chicken. The experiment ended.
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: While most of the Rockets began training camp on Tuesday, an unmistakable shadow was cast by a player who was not there. Rookie forward Royce White did not attend media day on Monday and did not travel with the Rockets to McAllen for the start of two-a-day practices because of what the team termed “a personnel matter.” The Rockets would not elaborate. Asked when he expected White to join the team, coach Kevin McHale said, “I have no idea.” … The Rockets were clearly displeased to have one of their rookies choose not to attend training camp. Asked if White’s absence should be considered excused, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey paused for 10 seconds and said, “I think no comment.”
- Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: When, on the cusp of free agency last May, Duncan christened himself a “Spur for life,” it was a heartening moment to fans who hoped he might end his Hall of Fame career in the place it began. The sentiment turned out to be devastating to any chance Duncan had of playing hardball with Spurs management at the negotiating table. “I’m an awful negotiator,” Duncan said, chuckling. “My agent was mad at me the whole time.” … By accepting a three-year, $30 million deal to return to the Spurs, Duncan put his money where his mouth was. Last season, Duncan earned $21.15 million, making him one of the NBA’s highest-paid players. This year, he will take home $9.6 million, a 54 percent pay cut that ranks below such not-so-luminaries as Corey Maggette, DeAndre Jordan and Hedo Turkoglu on the league’s salary list.