Monday, October 8, 2012
First Cup: Monday
By Nick Borges
- John N. Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer: The Sixers I’ve talked to are firmly in their teammate’s camp. This includes Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Dorell Wright and Jason Richardson (who has played with Howard). One of them even went as far to say that Andrew Bynum, who will be their first option rather than the third, as he was in Los Angeles, could average 25 points this season. The good thing about this is that, as far as the Sixers are concerned, what’s being said by others outside of their locker room hasn’t altered their opinion about their teammate, which should help them this season. It’s sort of like a placebo effect, which is exactly what the Sixers want. It’s about building confidence and developing chemistry. … Speaking of Bynum, he looks to be in great condition. He’s trim. He’s engaging his teammates and coaches. And if they were playing games right now, Bynum would be out there.
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: After Pekovic came back from summer a few pounds lighter and most noticeably leaner, down from 12-plus percent body fat to 8 percent. "I feel good, I feel stronger and everything," he said. "Most important for me is I can run more. That's something I can do. If I can run more, I can stay longer in the game." Staying in the game was an issue his rookie season two years ago, but not because of his conditioning. Big and bruising, he had trouble learning what NBA referees considered a foul, and NBA referees probably took their time learning about him. Playing time also became an issue late in last year's breakthrough season because of bone spurs on his ankles that first pained and then sidelined him. Now the bone spurs are gone, shaved off during a May surgery, and Pekovic is entering his third NBA season -- a contract season for him -- wiser and noticeably leaner after a second season in which he contended for the league's Most Improved Player award.
- Al Iannazzone of Newsday: Amar'e Stoudemire can't wait to set up in the post, take an entry pass from Raymond Felton and show some of the moves he learned from Hakeem Olajuwon over the summer. Stoudemire spent two weeks at Olajuwon's Houston ranch, learning from the man of 1,000 post moves. He admits he's a work in progress, so no one should expect "The STAT Shake" right away. But if he can become a legitimate post player, it could lead to Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony coexisting successfully. "I think it's going to benefit my career," Stoudemire said after Sunday's practice. "It's going to allow me to develop, become more of a complete player. Something I've always been striving for as a player is to have an all-around complete game. I think it's going to add to my offensive skill."
- Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: This isn’t New Jersey anymore. The Nets might actually have a home-court advantage. Brooklyn practiced at the Barclays Center for the first time Sunday and raved about the team’s new digs, giving a thumbs-up to just about everything while taking thinly veiled shots at their last home in Newark. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” Kris Humphries said about the $1 billion arena. “Everything is so much bigger and nicer than what we’re used to.” The Nets finished an abysmal 9-24 at home last season — the worst record in the league next to the inept Bobcats — and often used the Prudential Center as a crutch. Players, led by Deron Williams, complained about everything from the temperature of the arena, to the shooting sight lines, to the tendency of the crowd to root for the away team.
- Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: “I think it’s our best shot,” Rajon Rondo said. “Not to discredit the 2008 (championship) team that we had, but if this team buys into the system and listens to (coach) Doc (Rivers), the sky is the limit. The championship could be ours. Not a lot of teams can say they can compete for a championship each year, and definitely this year with the talent we have, that’s our one goal.” The omens are certainly there. The Celtics trained in Rome prior to the 2007-08 season, and the love is still there. According to NBA estimates, approximately 400,000 fans attended an NBA Cares event held on Piazza del Duomo during the last two days. Yesterday’s game was sold out despite one of the biggest soccer games of the year for the Milanese — a match between cross-city rivals A.C. Milan and Inter Milan. Italy seems to love the Celtics.
- Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: How many different ways can Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau be asked about life without Derrick Rose? If one week of training camp is any indication, Thibodeau is sure going to find out. ‘Obviously, Derrick is a great player, but this is not a new thing for us — he missed half the season [last year],’’ Thibodeau said Sunday. ‘‘We found a way to do it last year, and I expect us to find a way to do it this year. This is about the players we have available. They’re more than capable. Rip [Hamilton] has been a big shot-maker his whole career, Carlos [Boozer] has been a big shot-maker his whole career, Luol [Deng] has hit some big shots for us, so we have several guys that are capable.’’ For now, capable will have to do. With the Bulls’ first practice this afternoon at the United Center — a dress rehearsal for the first preseason game Tuesday night — Thibodeau feels he has the pulse of some elements of his team, but there are many unanswered questions.
- John Reid of The Times-Picayune: In July, Brian Roberts' stellar play on the New Orleans Hornets' summer league team earned him a roster spot for training camp. In Sunday's preseason opener in Mexico City against the Orlando Magic, Roberts showed why he might be worth keeping around for the entire season. Roberts, a backup point guard, sparked the Hornets by scoring 12 of his game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Hornets to an 85-80 come-from-behind victory against the Magic.
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: Maybe the Magic and Jameer Nelson found something they didn’t have last season: a legitimate back-up point guard. E’Twaun Moore scored a team-high 16 points and added seven assists in the club’s 85-80 preseason opening loss to the New Orleans Hornets in Mexico City on Sunday. Moore played 27 minutes in relieving Nelson, who started the game and finished with six points and six rebounds. … Now 30 and with a history of injuries, Nelson could use an able back-up during the marathon season. At 6-3, Moore, who played 38 games with the Boston Celtics last season, also gives the Magic the size they have been lacking at the position.
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: New Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap spent a lot of time in the second half going small, with a backcourt of Kemba Walker and Ben Gordon, and either Gerald Henderson or Reggie Williams at small forward. Part of that was the Wizards’ lack of size, due to several injuries. But Dunlap wants to play that way in stretches, to get his best shooters on the court together. The open question is how effectively 6-7 rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would be matching up with NBA power forwards. Kidd-Gilchrist at power forward would allow for a scrambling, pressing unit, with Byron Mullens or Bismack Biyombo as the center.
- Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: For those who think Steve Nash's mind and creativity will be muted with the Lakers, consider that Mike Brown said before the game that Nash can determine whatever he wants to run every time down the floor by where he goes and where he moves the ball. (For sure, though, the opposing defense will dictate to Nash — which is sort of the point of what Brown is promoting to his players as "a stress-free offense" dependent on proper reading and reacting.) "Hopefully by December or January," Brown said, "it will look very, very pretty." You'd better believe Nash is on a crusade for that — and it to be very, very effective.
- Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: The Juwan Howard pregame sighting in Heat warm-ups was interesting. For now, the Heat say he merely is "helping out," but administrative assistants rarely go through pregame workouts as Howard did prior to Sunday's game.
- Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Chuck Hayes remembers the last time he dunked in an NBA game. It was Dec. 2010. "Against Coach (Keith) Smart's team, the Warriors," Hayes said. "It was a tip dunk." Well Hayes pulled the feat off again during the Kings' training camp at the Olympic Training Center. Smart liked seeing that from Hayes, who played below expectations last season, his first with the Kings. Hayes was dogged by a shoulder injury and preseason concerns about a heart abnormality in his physical. To return in better shape, Hayes tried different activities (Bikram hot yoga, bike riding, tennis, swimming) before returning to the court. Hayes said he's continuing to work to get be in optimal shape for the season. "I think Chuck has put the work in and now he's in better shape," Smart said. "He had a dunk the other night so he's moving up."
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: So there's this player. He's only 23 years old, a lanky, leaping 6-foot-11 pogo stick who can seemingly touch this high ceiling everyone talks about him having the potential to reach. Then there's this player who has been on four NBA teams since 2008, arguably a vagabond bust, cursed by his potential. Well, it's the same dude. Anthony Randolph is a Nugget now. The team took a gamble on the big man this summer, hoping he's more potential than unfulfilled potential. And in the Nuggets' preseason opener Saturday night in Las Vegas, Randolph had the team's best plus-minus rating (plus-11) against the Clippers and finished with eight points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots in 18 minutes. Randolph showed, at least for one night, that he can make an above-the-rim impact.
- Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: On his way out of town after last season, Omri Casspi made it a point to tell both Cavaliers General Manager Chris Grant and coach Byron Scott that it was the first time he actually learned the game of basketball. It was a stunning confession from a third-year NBA player, but Casspi explained there wasn’t much structure when he played overseas. Apparently there wasn’t any structure with the Sacramento Kings, either, with whom Casspi played his first two years in the league. … Casspi conceded at the end of the season that he didn’t play the way he wanted. Now that a new year has started, he doesn’t want to dwell on the past. … He has already started cleaning himself off. He appeared rejuvenated through the first week of camp and scored nine points in the Wine and Gold scrimmage Saturday.
- Marcus Thompson of The Oakland Tribune: 35-0 run. Since 2000, the longest regular-season run came Dec. 6, 2009. Cleveland ran off 29 straight against the Milwaukee Bucks. “I remember that,” Andrew Bogut said. “That’s when they had Shaq.” Jefferson, bringing veteran perspective to the mix, accurately pointed out a 35-0 run against the Lakers’ reserves in the preseason doesn’t matter. He cited the second-half defensive intensity as the real positive of the night. Jackson, though, was pretty impressed with the Warriors’ jaw-dropping run. “I don’t care who’s on the floor,” he said, “that’s awfully impressive.”
- Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: There is no question about the talent Real Madrid brings and the test it will provide the Raptors, who will be playing their first game at full speed against a quality opponent. Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Rodriguez are NBA veterans, Sergio Llull is the best point guard in the Spanish league, Chicago Bulls draft pick Nikola Mirotic is thought by some scouts to be the best young big man in Europe and Lithuanian power forward Martynas Pocius is tremendously skilled. Toss in the fact that Real Madrid has already gone through training camp and a Spanish pre-season Cup competition that they won, and it’s beyond doubt the Raptors will be in tough to win. But does it matter? The pressure on NBA teams to dominate teams from Europe in the pre-season has surely dissipated. “It’s been like that for a lot of years but sometimes you lose, sometimes you win,” said Raptors guard Jose Calderon, a willing host to the four or five Spanish national team teammates at a Sunday dinner. “I’d love to have a game maybe in April when every team is in the same position if someone wants to really see what is the level of every league.”