Monday, September 9, 2013
First Cup: Monday
By Nick Borges
- Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: There hasn’t been a single team in NBA history impacted in any significant way by their 15th man, and the 2013-14 Spurs won’t be the first. That much is clear from the collection of has-beens, are-nots and never-weres with whom they’ve been connected in recent weeks about possibly filling their final roster spot — Josh Childress, Mickael Pietrus, Sebastian Telfair, Sam Young, even the seemingly-retired Mike Bibby. Just because there has been apparent contact doesn’t mean anything will come of it. Witness the epic duel between Eddy Curry and Josh Powell during last year’s training camp, with the Spurs passing on both to maintain the roster flexibility that allowed them to take a flyer on Australian big man Aron Baynes. Even if the Spurs do look elsewhere, the names illustrate the few weak spots on a roster that was otherwise strong enough to push defending champion Miami to the absolute limit in last season’s Finals. They boil down to two clear roles: Reserve small forward, to scavenge for whatever crumbs Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green don’t hoard; and back-up point guard, a spot the Spurs have yet to secure despite having three already — Cory Joseph, Nando De Colo and Patty Mills.
- Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: A league that only now appears to be getting serious about performance-enhancing drugs is about to make a move to statistics on steroids. The question is whether we are about to enter the era of too much information. With the NBA announcing Thursday that it has expanded its partnership to install SportVU Player Tracking technology in every NBA arena, the league not only will be able to track points, rebounds and assists, but also how the ball is moving, how players are moving, and, as the NBA announced, "a continuous stream of innovative statistics based around speed, distance, player separation, and ball possession for detailed and targeted analysis of players and teams." We could bemoan sports turning into math, but there also is an appreciation that simplicity will remain in place, as well. The ultimate truth will remain scoring more points than your opponent. In announcing the expansion to league-wide coverage with the fullcourt motion-capture technology, NBA Executive Vice President of Operations and Technology Steve Hellmuth said, "We are a league driven by data." And that's the rub. If any NBA executive truly views the game that way, then the game is becoming less of a game.
- Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: Ryan McDonough had waited years for the opportunity to run his own team, build a roster, and determine the fate of an organization. The Phoenix Suns have allowed the former Celtics executive to do that, and then some. The Suns didn’t have a coach when McDonough was hired as general manager, and had a roster in need of demolition. In four short months, McDonough has completely restructured the team, dumping unwanted players such as troublesome Michael Beasley and dealing away veteran Luis Scola, who didn’t have a long-term role. Like his former employer, Danny Ainge, McDonough is working to replace old with young and stockpile draft picks and salary-cap space for future gain. The Suns are a lottery-bound team this season but there is renewed hope. “Walking in there, the main thing I wanted to do is upgrade the talent,” said McDonough, who moved or released five of the team’s top nine scorers from last season. “And do it in a fashion that was sustainable for the long term. I didn’t want to try to take any shortcuts or try any quick fixes.” With the moves McDonough executed, the Suns potentially have five first-round picks over the next two seasons in addition to the presence of budding point guard Eric Bledsoe (whom the Celtics wanted in any deal with the Clippers involving Kevin Garnett), rookie center Alex Len, and potential standout Archie Goodwin.
- Leonard Greene of the New York Post: You might have thought from the sweat that poured through his crisp blue shirt Sunday that Bernard King had just stepped off the court after a grueling playoff game. But the perspiration that stained his collar was just testimony of how humbled King was by being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Such humility is inspiring, particularly when it comes from someone so deserving. … “Bernard King is the only guy that ever scared the hell out of me,” Dominique Wilkins said. Behind the menacing smile was a player with a determination as strong as his post-up game. That was evident in every quick-release shot and punishing fast-break finish. But the highlights that best sum up King’s career have nothing to do with scoring. In the first, King is writhing in pain, pounding the floor after tearing his ACL on a defensive play. In the second, he’s strapped to a machine rehabbing the right knee as part of his improbable comeback. And, in the third, he is sitting next to Patrick Ewing at the NBA All Star Game hearing his name called on the public address system. The comeback was complete.
- Curtis Harris for The Indianapolis Star: Roger Brown became a Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer on Sunday, with another Hall of Famer telling people what the former Indiana Pacers superstar in the old ABA meant to the franchise. “People say that I put the Indiana Pacers on the map,” Reggie Miller said. “No, it all started with Roger Brown.” Brown, who died in 1997, was presented by Miller and Hall of Famer Mel Daniels, a teammate of Brown’s. Brown’s daughter, Gayle Brown Mayes, called it “a really special day” but “bittersweet” because of her father’s absence. During the induction, Mayes was on the stage with Brown’s son, Roger Jr., plus Miller and Daniels. Brown Jr. spoke on behalf of the family in a video played at the induction. He thanked Miller and Daniels, saying, “There is nothing more bestowing than having two Pacers legends usher in a fellow Pacer legend through the doors of the Hall of Fame.”
- Ben Standig of CSN Washington: Don't look now, but Jan Vesely may have found his confidence. So far in Eurobasket 2013, the Wizards' forward certainly has found his game. Plying for the Czech Republic along with Washington's 2012 second-round pick Tomas Satoransky, Vesely leads the entire tournament in rebounding (11.3) and is tied fourth in scoring (18.5). For some context regarding the talent on hand for the tournament in Slovenia, the scorer Vesely is tied with is San Antonio Spurs star and French guard Tony Parker. … What any of this means regarding the team's upcoming decision about Vesely's contract for the 2014-15 is intriguing. With Okafor and Trevor Ariza coming off the books, with Bradley Beal and Otto Porter on their rookie contracts, Washington should have solid cap space next summer. Picking up Vesely's $4.2 million option eats into some of the space. As the No. 6 overall pick in 2011, the Wizards certainly want Vesely to succeed. The franchise is also thinking playoffs which makes it harder for on-the-job training (it was even during last year's 29-win season). Even amid his NBA struggles, Vesely's flashed solid on-court instincts as a passer and as a high-riser in the open court. No player floundered more last season with John Wall sidelined. So far in Eurobasket, Vesely's performance is that of someone the team would love playing alongside the highly paid point guard.
- Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: NBAers Cory Joseph, Andrew Nicholson and Tristan Thompson again led the way. Joseph had 19 points, Nicholson had 17 and Thompson had 10 rebounds to go with eight points. Canada’s outside shooting vanished again (16.7%) as a lack of scoring and depth again came back to bite a team that played solid defensively. “The biggest fear was that scoring was going to be an issue for us,” Triano admitted. “Everybody can say: ‘You have four NBA guys, but our four NBA guys average 25 points combined (in the NBA). It’s not like they’re going to double that or triple that when you play international games.” Though Canada Basketball will try to organize exhibition games next summer, barring an unlikely wild-card berth, the team won’t play its next meaningful contest until Aug. 1, 2015, when qualifying begins for the Rio Olympics. Triano isn’t expecting anybody to bail after this letdown in Venezuela. “We need to get these guys together and play as many games as possible,” he said. “I stay in touch with these guys all year all the time anyway and will now even moreseo because of the relationship we’ve all built over the last 40 days of being together. From the passion and the way these guys care, I don’t think there will ever be a recruiting period. These guys have bought in. They want to do this.” They just couldn’t. Yet.
- Brendan Savage of MLive.com: Detroit Pistons forward Luigi Datome scored 19 points Sunday to help Italy remain unbeaten in the European Basketball Championship with an 81-72 victory over Greece. Datome, the reigning Italian League MVP who signed with the Pistons as a free agent, sank 8 of 16 shots – including three 3-pointers – and also grabbed four rebounds as Italy improved to 4-0. He made a pair of 3-pointers during a 19-6 run that broke the game open. "It's nice we beat Greece, but we know we haven't won anything yet," Datome said in a story on EuroBasket2013.org. "We just want to compete with other teams like until now." Italy is the only unbeaten team in the 24-team tournament.