Monday, October 15, 2012
First Cup: Monday
By Nick Borges
- Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald: Kobe Bryant is still king in China and Yao Ming is the game’s legendary forefather in this up-and-coming country, but LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat have carved out names for themselves here. The Heat represented the NBA as its defending champion during the league’s China Games, splitting a pair of preseason contests with the Los Angeles Clippers in Beijing and Shanghai. On Sunday in Shanghai, the Heat lost to the Clippers 99-89 at Mercedes-Benz Arena before boarding a plane for the long trip back to Miami. “I think it has been a good week for us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It has been a week where we have spent an inordinate amount of time together. We were able to take every bus ride together, eat virtually every meal together and experience some cultural activities together.”
- Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: Former Cavaliers coach Mike Fratello says Cavs fans might have a skewed view of NBA rookies after watching the development of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Fratello said Cavs fans might be rushing to criticize rookie guard Dion Waiters because they have gotten used to near perfection from their high-profile rookies and forget just how long the adjustment from college to the pros can take. Waiters, the No. 4 pick in the most recent draft, was shooting just 30.8 percent after his first two games before putting up 18 points, including 4-of-4 from 3-point range, in a victory over the Chicago Bulls on Friday. That quieted some of the harping by fans, who were stunned by the pick on draft night and then discouraged when Waiters showed up for summer league out of shape because of some injuries. Waiters made his first start in Saturday's loss to Washington, but he made just 2 of 9 shots for four points, prompting another round of criticism by observers.
- John N. Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer: When the 76ers decided to promote good soldier Tony DiLeo to the general manager's post after what on the surface appeared to be an exemplary performance in helping to rebuild the Sixers on the fly, some thought it wasn't sexy enough. They wanted the newest thing - the analytic - that guy who would go all Billy Beane on the organization, pop some numbers into equations that only a small minority of basketball people believe in, and spit out a world champion. This is apparently the plan in Houston, where general manager Daryl Morey - widely regarded as the Dalai Lama of hoops analytics - continues to orchestrate what looks like an unchecked tail-chasing mission that has been going on ever since he was named general manager there five years ago. Morey, who inherited a 52-win team in 2007, is the poster boy for reasons not to position an analytic as the basketball-operations rubber stamp, and further proof that the Sixers, still looking to add an analytic in a significantly smaller role, made the right decision in hiring DiLeo rather than the next would-be boy genius. Under Morey, the Rockets have won just one playoff series and finished out of the playoffs three years running. But the moves he made this summer - from gutting his roster in the failed hope of landing Dwight Howard to the drafting of Royce White with one of the three first- round picks - are legitimate reasons to doubt whether the MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management is properly equipped to be a top-tier NBA decision-maker.
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Surrounded by players so young that the “Hello Kitty” backpacks seem more appropriate than a rookie hazing and the entire locker room would seem suitable for a tree house, the Rockets salved the growing pains. The Spurs gave them a one-quarter taste of the wisdom of experience, toying with the Rockets until Tony Parker and Tim Duncan put their feet up for the rest of the afternoon to watch the rest of the Spurs’ easy 115-107 win. For the Rockets, it was the sort of initiation they can expect, but also determined that they need. Thank you sir, may I have another. “We got exposed,” Rockets guard Jeremy Lin said. “That’s kind of a model for what we eventually want to become, what they have going on over there. “You have to have these kind of games to learn and grow and get better.”
- Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: Jason Terry is one of the few players in the NBA almost uniquely qualified to come off the bench. He won an NBA championship in 2011 and was voted Sixth Man of the Year in 2008-09. But even though the Celtics have Courtney Lee ready to step into the starting shooting guard role, Terry has been put on alert by coach Doc Rivers that the job may he his for a while as the club waits for Avery Bradley to return from shoulder surgery. “He said, ‘Until Avery gets healthy, just keep an open mind. We may need you to do it,’ ” Terry said. “He said, ‘We’re just going to continue to search and find the right combination and mix of guys.’ I told him, ‘Whatever you want to do.’ ” Most every player enjoys the prestige that comes with being an NBA starter, but Terry genuinely embraces being a reserve — even if it means he doesn’t get to be introduced with the starters and have a spotlight follow him out in a darkened arena. Then again, Terry embraces most everything about basketball with the exception of pulled hamstrings.
- Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: It won’t be long before the Mavericks know whether Dirk Nowitzki’s treatment regimen is working. Nowitzki played in the “Mavstoberfest” scrimmage Saturday evening at American Airlines Center after going through a practice session beforehand. It was the second consecutive day he participated in the team’s workout since getting his right knee drained of fluid. He wasn’t exactly a speedster on the court. Rookie Jae Crowder blew by him once when Nowitzki was trying to play defense, and the 11-time All-Star didn’t do much offensively. But he was running and cutting on his knee, which might be a good sign. But it might not.
- Nate Taylor of The New York Times: When the Knicks went into the locker room at halftime, Woodson felt good about his team’s performance. But then his assistant coaches told him he had not played Copeland, one of the few players trying to earn a spot on the 15-man roster. Woodson adjusted, and Copeland entered the game late in the third quarter, making an immediate impact and leading a group of reserves to a 98-95 comeback victory in overtime. In 19 minutes, Copeland scored 21 points and had four rebounds. Copeland’s performance was the first standout game from any of the six players the Knicks invited to training camp. The team has 13 players with guaranteed contracts, leaving available two spots. … If he does make the roster, the Knicks might need Copeland to play early in the season. The team is already dealing with injuries to Marcus Camby (strained left calf) and Amar’e Stoudemire (bruised left knee). Rasheed Wallace, another forward, is getting in shape and has not yet scrimmaged with the team. After Saturday’s win, Copeland could smile in the locker room. He knew he had played well. But he also knew his opportunity almost never came. “It was fun to get out there,” he said. “I thank Coach for getting me in the game.”
- Zach Braziller of the New York Post: Andray Blatche doesn’t want to talk about his roller-coaster past with the Wizards, but he isn’t forgetting it either. The Nets reserve forward, in fact, is using it as motivation. The 6-foot-11 Syracuse product chose to wear No. 0 after signing with Brooklyn, a reminder of the amount of support he felt he had after the Wizards used the amnesty clause to rid themselves of the remainder of his three-year, $23 million contact. “Everybody thought I was going to be out of the league,” Blatche said. “Zero reminds me I didn’t have any support system outside of my immediate family, nobody who thought I was going to bounce back and get on another team.”
- Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: Antawn Jamison needed a job last summer. The Lakers needed to fill a vacancy for a veteran backup forward. So, it seemed natural the Lakers would sign Jamison to a one-season, $1.3 million contract. But there was another reason Jamison decided to give the Lakers a try, and it wasn't only because he's in search of his first championship ring after 14 seasons. "He was one of the reasons I wanted to come here," Jamison said. "He" was not superstar guard Kobe Bryant, although it could have been just as easily the reason Jamison signed. Nor was it future Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash. Nor was it center Dwight Howard. Nor was it Pau Gasol. Nor was it Metta World Peace. No, Jamison referred to Lakers coach Mike Brown. "To me, it was a no-brainer," Jamison said of signing with the Lakers. Jamison played for Brown for part of the 2009-10 season, Brown's last with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Brown was fired after the LeBron James-led Cavaliers won 61 games during the regular season but failed to win an NBA title.
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: The Grizzlies' 110-102 preseason victory over the Atlanta Hawks in FedExForum on Sunday evening turned out to be an extension of their practices over the past week. This clearly isn't a team waiting until the latter moments of the exhibition schedule to tune up for when games begin to count in the standings. The Griz used a tight rotation and churned out an acceptable amount of intensity and execution with plenty of drilling from coach Lionel Hollins. "Coach always says 'In order to get to places we haven't been, we've got to do stuff we haven't done,' " said Griz point guard Mike Conley.
- Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News:The Jazz are deep. So deep that some players may have a hard time matching their minutes of a year ago. Second-year guard Alec Burks was the sixth reserve put in Saturday's game and played just eight minutes. … Derrick Favors is still a bit of an enigma. He struggles with his shooting — he was 0-for-5 against Oklahoma City and 2 for 6 against the Lakers and he also missed four free throws in the two games. But he also blocked seven shots in the two games and can be a force on the boards. … Enes Kanter is the real deal. No, he's not an all-star or anything, but the guy has improved immensely over last year, enough that he should be seeing increased minutes every time he plays.
- Adrian Dater of The Denver Post: If Corey Brewer is going to average 20 points a game, as he has through the preseason so far, then we can probably just pencil in the Nuggets for the NBA Finals right now. History shows there will be a regression to the mean for Brewer's career scoring number, however, which is 8.9 entering his sixth NBA season. Then again, who knows? Maybe Brewer is just unpredictable enough to have a breakout scoring season. Granted, the games are not counting yet, but Brewer is off to a great start, with 40 points through two Nuggets victories. Unpredictable — that's a word Nuggets coach George Karl did not use to describe Brewer on Sunday morning. Well, he sort of did. "He's a player I think both coaches are sometimes scared of. Sometime he's crazy, sometimes a little too crazy," Karl said. "He's a difficult and really interesting player."
- Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: Indiana Pacers rookie Miles Plumlee's mind races when he's on the court. Where should he be defensively? Is he taking the right shot on offense? The constant overthinking has affected Plumlee's play. He has looked solid at times and struggled moments later. There's no magic pill to slow the action for Plumlee other than gaining experience, says coach Frank Vogel. "There's nothing I can do to help that," Vogel said. "The more he's out there, the more he'll get comfortable with it. It's just going to take reps and time." Plumlee, the No. 26 pick in the draft last summer, is averaging 6.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in 17 minutes a game in the preseason.
- Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: Sports Illustrated tabbed Drummond as one of the rookies who would struggle early in the transition to the NBA by two of its four panelists, but judging by his first glimpses, he's done anything but. He followed up his 12-point, six-rebound, two-block and two-steal performance in the exhibition opener with a better one against Milwaukee on Saturday. Nineteen points, 10 rebounds (seven offensive) and two blocks only tell part of the story. While most of the frontcourt had difficulty with the Bucks' athleticism, Drummond didn't have any issues. … The Pistons knew they were getting a great talent in Drummond, but they didn't expect him to be this far along this soon, especially on the defensive end. He's grasping the concepts and minutia of defensive positioning extremely well, so assuming he stays at this pace, he could be a valuable contributor sooner rather than later.
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: Rick Adelman so far has alternated playing Derrick Williams at power forward one night, at small forward the next. So it's probably a good thing that Williams, after losing nearly 20 pounds this summer so he could better play small forward, has moderated his weight somewhere suitable between the two positions. He played last season in the 240s, approached 230 this summer and now is in the high 230s. "I'm pretty satisfied where I'm at," he said. "Not too light, not 230 or 225 where I can't post up, and not 245 or 250. Where I'm at now is probably perfect for me."
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Add the resident owner of enormous and exotic snakes to the Washington Wizards’ list of big men seemingly snakebitten by injuries and illness this preseason. Kevin Seraphin, a collector of the slithery reptiles — including one creatively named, “Snakey” — will miss the Wizards’ next game on Monday against the Brooklyn Nets, and possibly more, after straining his right calf in the first quarter of the team’s 99-95 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Wizards do not have a timetable for his return and plan to monitor the injury. Seraphin grabbed a rebound and attempted to cut left, but immediately felt a sharp pain in his right calf, which he explained, “was just like, plack!” And as the 6-foot-9 center hobbled off the court, Coach Randy Wittman said he thought to himself, “Not another one.”