Friday, November 2, 2012
First Cup: Friday
By Nick Borges
- Tom Moore of phillyBurbs.com: Tony DiLeo clarified that the Sixers can offer injured center Andrew Bynum, who has yet to practice with the team, a two-year contract extension with 4.5 percent annual increases (roughly $36 million) at any time, thanks to the extend-and-trade provision in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). On Feb. 10, which is the six-month anniversary of the Aug. 10 deal that brought Bynum to the Sixers, Bynum can sign a three-year extension with 4.5 percent increases (about $55 million). Bynum would become eligible for a five-year contract with 7.5 percent increases (more than $100 million) after July 1, when he’d become an unrestricted free agent. The Sixers would be able to give Bynum more years and a higher annual salary than any other team at that time.
- Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: It's always amazed me how the Magic are negatively perceived even by some in their own fan base. After corresponding with many fans in recent days, you'd think the Magic were the NBA's version of the Cubs. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Do you know who has the longest active playoff streak in the NBA's Eastern Conference? The Magic, that's who. Since the DeVos family purchased the team two decades ago, do you know which team in the Eastern Conference is tied for first in highest winning percentage? The Magic, that's who. And in those two decades, do you know who has the Eastern Conference's second-most playoff appearances? The Magic, that's who. The point is this: Magic fans have had it pretty good over the years compared to also-ran franchises around the league. The Magic have been to 14 playoffs in the last 19 years. Compare that to Wizards (five) or the Warriors (two).
- Eric Koreen of the National Post: About five hours before the deadline to extend the contract of fourth-year players passed on Wednesday night, the Toronto Raptors agreed to terms with DeMar DeRozan on a four-year deal that will be worth at least US$38-million. A failure to complete the deal would have made DeRozan a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Of all the deals that were completed before the deadline, this was the one that generated the most criticism. On Thursday, a day after the Raptors lost their season opener to the Indiana Pacers, Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo met with the media to discuss the deal: What was the rationale for the deal? “I would say, first of all, DeMar is a young talent. He is a hard worker. He’s been developing and progressing to a level that we felt [that] he is an asset. We wanted to retain the asset. This is mostly about asset retention. Yes, it does lock in an asset [at a fixed price] moving forward. As far as some of the talk or discussion that we’ve lost some of our flexibility: we really haven’t, in our opinion. This is somewhat of a cap-neutral deal because going forward, had we issued a qualifying offer or dealt with that next summer in terms of going into restricted free agency, you basically have a situation where there is a cap hold.
- Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: The Spurs did not earn a trip to the NBA Finals on Thursday, even as Tony Parker gave his teammates a reason to celebrate as if they had. The next game on the schedule is Saturday against Utah, not Game 1 against Miami. It would be a reach to call what happened in the Spurs’ thrilling 86-84 victory over Oklahoma City — with Parker spoiling the Thunder’s season-opener with a buzzer-beating rosary — a matter of payback for their Western Conference finals ouster last June. It wasn’t revenge, but it still was sweet. “The stakes weren’t as high,” Spurs guard Danny Green said. “But it was a tight, grind-it-out game. It seemed like we were right back where we were in June.”
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Scott Brooks said something after the game that will define this Thunder season. It had nothing to do with James Harden, or Kevin Martin, or anything related to what might have been lost by the departure of one or gained by the arrival of the other. “No matter who we throw out there…one of the first things that we always do is just play hard,” he said. “By playing hard, it puts you in a position to win.” Close followers of the Thunder know that’s a typical Brooks statement. Half the game, or so it seems in Brooks’ mind, is about playing with passion. But in the aftermath of this shakeup, one that could shape the Thunder’s season and paint the Western Conference picture, it’s time we take heed to those words by Brooks rather than writing them off as more coach speak. The Thunder, no matter the lineup and no matter the opponent, is going to battle until the end. That showed in this season opener on the road in one of the league’s toughest venues, and it will show against the Lakers and whoever else supposedly surpassed the Thunder following last week’s trade. And that’s what’s going to keep OKC in the championship hunt this year.
- Tom D'Angelo of the Palm Beach Post: The Miami Heat expect an emotional crowd looking for an escape Friday night when they face the Knicks in New York in the city’s biggest public event since Hurricane Sandy devastated the Northeast. The NBA postponed Thursday night’s game between the Knicks and Nets, which would have been the first game played in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. A league spokesperson said it was determined that playing the 8 p.m. game Friday at Madison Square Garden would not be a burden on the city, the players or the fans. “We think this is a good sign that New York City’s on its way back,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It’s been a tragic storm that’s affected so many millions of people that we’ll try to help in a way to bring back some normalcy.”
- Al Iannazzone of Newsday: The Knicks' season opener scheduled for Thursday night in Brooklyn was postponed and has been rescheduled for Monday, Nov. 26. That makes Friday night's game against the defending champion Heat the Knicks' 2012-13 debut. Those fans who are able to attend probably will chant things at James and try to will the Knicks to a victory. It could be therapeutic for some, but Knicks starting swingman Ronnie Brewer put this latest edition of Knicks-Heat in perspective. "It's just a game," Brewer said. "A game was supposed to be played [Thursday night] at the Barclays Center. There's people without electricity, people without homes, people who lost loved ones. So I still think our heart goes out to them. "We've got to focus on the task at hand. Hopefully, this game can uplift some people and give some people in New York something to cheer about. After that game, it goes back to real life. There's still people in New York struggling and still need some relief. I think that's important."
- Barry Horn and Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News: On Mavs future plans: Grant: “I hope it’s going to be to entertain potential deals for Dirk before the trade deadline either this year or next year. He’s got value, and this team is going to have to restart its clock when it comes to being a contending team because they are going to be stuck in the 40-42 win category year in and year out.” Horn: “They are not going to trade Dirk. Dirk is a lifer here. He’s part of the fabric of this franchise. I really think that as long as he doesn’t want to leave, he will not be leaving.”
- Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: Kobe Bryant's right foot was too sore to practice Thursday. His mouth, on the other hand, was in rare form. And once he opened it after the Lakers' early afternoon workout, pretty much everyone expressing a beef with his team's uninspired 0-2 start was ordered to put a sock in it. Meanwhile, anyone worried the Lakers - most notably new point guard Steve Nash and Dwight Howard - are being stifled by Mike Brown's newly installed and terribly complicated Princeton offense needs to chill out, according to Bryant. "Shut up," a bemused Bryant demanded. "Have patience. Let us do our job." He was just getting started. "I just, I don't understand," Bryant said. "The city here, for me, not trying to bite my tongue and not calling them dumb, which I kind of just did, but they've seen us win multiple championships here playing in an offense that was tough to learn. They know how that stuff works. So for them to be so stupid now and say, `Let Steve dribble the ball around and create opportunities for everybody. Let Dwight (Howard) post up. Or let me iso.' I won't say idiotic, but it's close." Yeah, um, good luck with all that, Kobe.
- Dan Woike of The Orange County Register: The Lakers aren't the favorite topic of conversation for Clippers players and coaches. Since the beginning of training camp, reporters have peppered players such as DeAndre Jordan with questions about "the other team," and while no one avoids it, Jordan admits he'd rather talk about something else. "It is annoying. They're not the only team in the West. They're not the only team in the NBA," Jordan said. "It gets boring after awhile." While talking about the Lakers might be boring for Jordan, playing the Lakers, particularly with Dwight Howard at center, won't be. Despite the Lakers' 0-2 start, no one is taking Friday's "road" game lightly. "This is a great way to start the season, to play competitive games whether at home or on the road," former Laker Lamar Odom said.
- Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle: Daryl Morey and I have talked about many NBA players over the years. Whenever Morey explained to me why his secretive statistical data — while maintaining all of the secrets, mind you — led the Rockets general manager to believe what he believed, I always came away with this thought: “The man knows more than I know.” Sometimes his numbers validated my eyesight and gut; sometimes they didn’t. That’s not to say Morey is always right. Player evaluation is an inexact science with too many variables for only numbers to tell the story. … Morey’s breakdown of top players can be fascinating. You might be able to give five reasons LeBron James is the best player in the game. Morey can give you dozens. One day, James Harden’s name came up in conversation. Rarely has Morey raved so much about a player. This was before Harden was on the market, before Oklahoma City had even considered trading the 23-year-old guard, and before the bearded one’s all-everything debut as a Rocket, when he scored 37 points and added 12 assists, six rebounds and four steals in Wednesday’s 105-96 win over Detroit.
- Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: Rajon Rondo didn’t like that he was called for a flagrant foul on Dwyane Wade in the final minute of Tuesday’s loss in Miami. So yesterday, after Wade had called it a “punk play,” Rondo took another shot, perhaps trying to get his money’s worth. “I don’t think it was a hard foul,” the Celtic point guard said after a two-hour practice. “You know, he sold it a little bit, and that’s basketball. They were up, he drove to the hole and I didn’t want to give up a layup. Simple as that. “I didn’t yank him down . . . or dirty plays that you’ve seen him play in the past. So it’s what it is.” Doc Rivers said he’d only accept Wade’s punk play description if the same was applied to the 2011 playoff sequence where Wade took down Rondo, who suffered a dislocated elbow.
- Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: Translation: The Cavaliers chapter of his career remains closed. Unfortunately for Boozer, the feeling still isn’t mutual. Cleveland is a sports city that doesn’t forgive or forget. And while Boozer could never surpass former Browns owner Art Modell, James and former Broncos quarterback John Elway in the top three of the most despised sports figures in that city’s history, he definitely is in the top 10. After that ’04 season, the Cavs thought they had an understanding with Boozer on a six-year, $39 million deal if they’ let him out of his current contract. They did, and the Jazz swooped in with a six-year, $70 million offer that Cleveland could not match. Boozer always maintained that there was no commitment made to the Cavs, but in the Cleveland court of public opinion, he was found guilty. James never delivered a title, then left two years ago. It’s not a topic Boozer wants to discuss. And the thing is, Boozer still is probably the second-most hated player on the Un-Like-a-Bulls. … Boozer and Noah can insist that they’ve moved on all they want, but Cleveland hasn’t. “That story is over,’’ Boozer said, “ask me another question.’’
- Elaine Walker of The Miami Herald: Warren Buffett isn’t the only high-profile executive James counts as a friend. You’ll find him in the company of people as diverse as Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer, Hollywood producer Tom Werner, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and music mogul Jay-Z. It was actually James who introduced Heat owner and Carnival Chief Executive Micky Arison to Ballmer. At an investment conference a few years ago attended by chief executives from some of the largest Fortune 500 companies, Buffett says his friend James could more than hold his own. “People were more interested in meeting him than in meeting me,” Buffett said. “He doesn’t need me to introduce him, that’s for sure.” Coming off the best season of his career, James needs no introduction to corporate America. The NBA’s most valuable player had his pick of endorsement offers and business opportunities as the Heat sets out to defend its championship. The first new deal puts James as a brand ambassador for Samsung’s new cellphone, the Galaxy Note II. Ads featuring James launched during the Heat’s opener this week.
- Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Josh Smith admits the chip is still squarely on his shoulder – even as he piles up statistics few in NBA history have amassed. If he remains healthy for his ninth season Smith will become the 24th player in league history to reach 10,000 points, 5,000 rebounds, 2,000 assists and 1,000 blocks. There are only eight players to do it with one team. Smith has career totals of 9,044 points (needs 956), 4,768 rebounds (needs 232), 1,849 assists (needs 151) and 1,304 blocks. If he puts up his career averages this season, he will reach the points milestone in 53 games, the rebounds in 29 games and the assists in 50 games. “I’ve definitely accomplished a lot of things that a lot of people didn’t think I would accomplish but I’ve always believed in myself,” said Smith, who insists he doesn’t pay attention to statistics. “I’m definitely confident. I’m a confident person and I have a hard work ethic.”
- Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: D.J. Augustin, who started almost half of the 282 games he played with the Bobcats, talks like a person who doesn't miss the organization. "The whole time I was with the Bobcats I never knew where I stood," he said. "I never felt like I was secure here. That's just how I felt. They didn't talk to me about anything. I guess that's how they do things." Charlotte renounced Augustin's rights over the summer, making him an unrestricted free agent. The Pacers quickly snatched him up by signing him to a one-year deal. "It wasn't frustrating cause I knew I could play this game and I knew I would be with some team," Augustin said. "The fact was I was here for four years and the communication on what my role would be with the team was never set in stone."
- Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: Kyrie Irving is back as Uncle Drew. This time, he’s bringing a couple of old friends with him. Irving filmed the second installment of the hit PepsiMax series in early September in Los Angeles, although some parts were also filmed in Lakewood. Pepsi signed on Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love and NBA legend Bill Russell for the sequel. In the film series, Irving disguises himself as an old man and hobbles onto the basketball courts, then shows up the young guys he’s playing against with dazzling moves and long-distance shots. Love plays Uncle Drew’s old teammate, Uncle Wes, and Russell plays himself. Russell encourages Drew to go find Wes and “put the team back together again.” There is a striking resemblance to Uncle Drew and Russell — after Irving sits through four hours of makeup.
- Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: The Kings still don't have anyone on the roster with conventional playmaking skills, but it was surprising to see Isaiah Thomas in the starting lineup instead of veteran Aaron Brooks for Wednesday's season opener. Everybody loves Isaiah, but Brooks is bigger, faster, more experienced, and as he demonstrated in the second-half rally, a better decision-maker. Just a guess here, but it won't be long before Brooks shares the backcourt with Tyreke Evans.
- Paul Coro The Arizona Republic: An eight-point game for Michael Beasley has rarely been a cause for alarm. He scored eight or fewer points in 20 games for Minnesota last season, when he never posted consecutive 20-point games. This knee-jerk concern after the Suns’ season-opening loss to Golden State comes because there is a greater responsibility for him to be a go-to scorer for Phoenix. It comes because the Suns needed P.J. Tucker defensively at a position that saw Beasley missing defensive assignments early in the game. It is only one game. It was far from a defining moment but more of an introduction to the inconsistency that has defined him. It was not the impression he wanted to make on Planet Orange. “No, it’s not but I’ll be here for a long time,” Beasley said. “Get used to me.”
- Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer: Michael Jordan addressed the Bobcat players Monday to make sure they knew he endorsed new coach Mike Dunlap’s methods, including the three-hour-plus practices that Dunlap has been prone to holding (one even stretched to four hours). Jordan said he knew some players had been grumbling about the extra work – he didn’t name names – and wanted to set them straight. “This is what championship teams do,” Jordan said he told the squad, adding that those practices reminded him of his own time in the league. “If we did it in Chicago and we became a championship team, why wouldn’t we want to do that here? If you turn your nose up to it, then maybe you need to look in the mirror and see that you’re a part of the problem.” Jordan said he was particularly happy with Dunlap’s emphasis on fundamentals, such as: “Boxing out. Making good passes. Utilizing each other’s talents. Understanding basic basketball….. One of the reasons I felt compelled to speak to the team was, ‘Look, I endorse what Coach is talking about.’ “