Thursday, September 19, 2013
First Cup: Thursday
By Nick Borges
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: Kevin Love is due in town on Friday, Nikola Pekovic is expected to arrive over the weekend. Rick Adelman will arrive next week and Shved, Barea and almost everyone else other than Rubio will be here as well. Saunders praised Shved’s Eurobasket play for a Russian team that got knocked out early. “He played really good,” he said. “What I liked about him is he kept his composure. He was their best player.” He said the same about Barea, whose Puerto Rico team lost to Mexico in the FIBA Americas final. “He had a great tournament. If they had won it, he’d probably be the Player of the Tournament. He looks like he as lost a little weight, playing as much as he has. He just looked in great shape.” Likewise, Saunders said rookie Shabazz Muhammad has lost weight since the Vegas Summer League in July and said it’s the best shape he’s seen him in all year. For what it’s worth, he also said Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng have “made a lot of progress” since summer. They’ve been working out daily with new player development coach Bobby Jackson. Saunders didn’t go to Slovenia for Eurobasket, but scout Zarko Durisic has been there and just got back a few days ago. Look for player liaison Calvin Booth to join assistant coach Jack Sikma in working with the big men during the preseason. There’s still a chance the Wolves could add a player to their training camp roster. Discussions with agents continue.
- Staff of the Chicago Sun-Times: It has been 508 days — give or take a few hours — since Derrick Rose last played in a regulation NBA game. But when asked by a reporter in Manila, Philippines, the other day if he would play for the U.S. team in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain, the rehabbing and well-rested Bulls guard responded that he would like to. “If they select me on the team, it will be an honor,” Rose was quoted by ABS-CBNNews.com. “I definitely will be on the team if [coach Mike Krzyzewski] wants me.” The FIBA tournament begins in 345 days.
- Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: Gregg Popovich is hoping for something else, and it's that the rebooting of NBA basketball will reboot his brain. No matter what he does, he can't get Game 6 out of his head. Even blows to the head haven't helped. When “Jesse” James Leija puts the Spurs through boxing workouts — and he did again Wednesday — he sometimes puts gloves on Popovich. Leija wears mitts and tells Popovich to hit them. When Popovich drops his hands, Leija slaps Popovich in the face. Popovich tries to hit Leija back and never comes close. “It drives me crazy,” Popovich said, laughing. And when asked if something as aggressive as boxing is a way to release anxiety held over from the 2013 NBA Finals, Popovich doesn't pull punches. “Nothing is a release,” he said. Game 7 is a fog to him. “Was there one?” he asked. Game 6 is another matter. Popovich doesn't second-guess himself. The same coach who often preaches that the game is simple doesn't regret benching his best defender and rebounder when the Spurs needed defense and rebounding. He needed to defend the 3-point line, and other Spurs are better at that than Tim Duncan. This also is how the Spurs played these end-of-game situations about 20 times last season. Still, because it was Duncan, and because Duncan had done so much to get in position to win another title, does Popovich ever wish he'd given Duncan a chance to defend the lead he had helped build?
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: The Washington Wizards spent an entire offseason upgrading and increasing their depth with perimeter talent but remained thin and relatively inexperienced in the front court, with the exception of starters Emeka Okafor and Nene. But with training camp set to start Sept. 28, the Wizards’ most vulnerable area is now much weaker after the team announced Wednesday that Okafor and reserve forward Chris Singleton would both miss significant time because of injuries. Okafor will be out indefinitely after an MRI revealed a herniated disk in his neck, and the team announced that Singleton is expected to miss six to eight weeks after having surgery to repair a broken bone in his left foot. Singleton sustained his injury during a voluntary workout on Tuesday at Verizon Center. Okafor said he began experiencing discomfort in his neck while playing pickup basketball in New York but didn’t believe it was anything more than “stiffness.” … With Okafor down, the Wizards will likely have to move Nene to center and pair him with either Kevin Seraphin, Jan Vesely or veteran Al Harrington. Seraphin was the primary backup to both Okafor and Nene last season and declined playing for the French national team to train primarily in Washington this summer. … Singleton’s injury also came at an inopportune time as he enters a critical season as it relates to his future with the organization. The 6-foot-8 Singleton was already in a difficult position; he was attempting to earn a spot in Coach Randy Wittman’s regular rotation while convincing the Wizards to pick up his option worth about $2.5 million for the 2014-15 season.
- Clay Fowler of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin: Violet Palmer was out of her comfort zone Tuesday afternoon. Being showered with praise and surrounded by well-wishers is, well, the exact opposite of what she’s used to. It won’t be long before the NBA’s only female referee returns to hulking players barking in her face, coaches questioning her every move and thousands of fans raining jeers upon her nightly, but for one day the Cal Poly Pomona graduate was one of 48 former NCAA Division II athletes across the country awarded a spot on its tribute team. “This is so strange,” Palmer quipped. “I’m not used to all this good love. I’m waiting for somebody to boo me.” While Palmer was a student at Cal Poly Pomona from 1982 to 1986, the cheering was abundant. She was a point guard on two national championship teams long before becoming the first female official to reach the highest competitive tier in a major U.S. professional sport. Despite the verbal abuse synonamous with the job on the court, Palmer has become a celebrated figure off of it. The 49-year-old is now a 15-year veteran with NBA Finals experience who also shoulders the responsibility of overseeing college officials for the Pac-12 and West Coast Conferences.
- Michael Pointer of The Indianapolis Star: Indiana Pacers All-Star forward Paul George said today the team’s fans don’t need to worry about him going anywhere. Indianapolis is his professional home and he plans to be here for a long time. “(A long-term contract) is going to get done,” George told The Indianapolis Star. “There will be a deal signed and sealed on the table before the season. We’re (George and Pacers management) on the same page.” George is entering the final year of his contract and the odds seemed long that he would leave Indiana even before Wednesday’s comments. The Pacers would have the right to match any offer he received next summer and have indicated they would do just that. … “No,” George said when asked if there was any chance he would leave the Pacers. “Honestly, I love it here. I want to be here. It’s a great place. There are no distractions. I can stay focused. It’s all about basketball here. I can stay focused and do my job.”
- Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News: Harrison Barnes and all of the Warriors players have something to prove this season: That they can not only repeat last season's trip to the second round of the postseason, but that they can expand on it. And Iguodala is naturally the guy who is supposed to trigger that improvement. The way to push it all forward is if Barnes and others go as hard as possible in these workouts, and if Iguodala pushes it, too. Of course, Iguodala is a different player from Barnes -- they're versatile in different ways. And there's a strong chance that they could find themselves on the floor together for long periods this season, with Barnes shifting over to the power-forward spot or with Iguodala playing one of the two guard positions. In fact, Iguodala said he is already focusing on facilitating the offense, figuring out where the Warriors' top scorers want the ball and when they want it. By the way, Iguodala, Thompson and Barnes all playing together -- with Bogut defending the paint -- would be the Warriors' most dangerous defensive unit, no question. They're going at each other now to sharpen themselves for the nights when they'll be up against Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Tony Parker and all the other top players. It's how an up-and-coming team keeps going up, keeps itself on edge, and storms into training camp at the highest speed possible.
- Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: In July, the Spurs signed a free-agent forward named Jeff Pendergraph to a two-year contract. No player by that name will ever appear in a Spurs uniform. Last month, Pendergraph walked into a courthouse in downtown Phoenix, his wife Raneem and newborn daughter Naomi in tow. He walked out with a new name — Jeff Ayres. Ayres is the family name of his biological father, James. It replaces the surname of a stepfather who hasn't been in the picture since the player formerly known as Jeff Pendergraph was in high school. For the 26-year-old veteran of three NBA seasons, the journey from Pendergraph to Ayres was in some ways as simple as filling out a thick stack of paperwork and filing it with an Arizona judge. It also was a complicated decision with a complex back story, one that tests the traditional definitions of blood and family. “I didn't know who my dad was until I was a senior in high school,” Jeff Ayres said Wednesday, during a break from pickup games at the Spurs' practice gym. … Jeff and James Ayres have a relationship now. They are bonded by a last name, related both legally and biologically. The two won't be attending any father-son picnics anytime soon, but it's a start. They exchange text messages weekly. And last month, when the player still known as Pendergraph arrived at that Phoenix courthouse to rename himself, James Ayres drove from California to accompany him. So, what's in a name? A new Spurs forward named Jeff Ayres thinks he knows. “It's nothing personal,” he said. “It's just family.”
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Chandler Parsons might be entrenched as the Rockets’ small forward, fashion model and up-and-coming celebrity, but the position gets complicated behind him. Actually, even Parsons’ role will be interesting with the addition of Dwight Howard placing even more emphasis on Parsons’ catch-and-shoot 3-point touch. The greater questions will be determining who can best take on Carlos Delfino’s vital and underrated role as a shooter behind Parsons and as a three that can slide over to be a floor-spacing four. Francisco Garcia is coming off a strong playoff series, but is not an option as a four and could be picking up playing time as a guard, anyway. Omri Casspi might be the best bet for the Delfino role, but will have to find at least the shooting touch he showed as a rookie. Ronnie Brewer is a strong defender, but also has to show he can knock down shots to grab one of the final roster spots. There is a sense that the Rockets are too high on rookie Robert Covington to let him go, even if he might not be ready yet in a win-now season. With five small forwards heading to camp, there will be a battle for playing time and the final roster spot. Yet, while all that plays out at the position, the most important key could be whether Parsons continues his development enough to go from star on the pages of “Seventeen” to “Sports Illustrated.”
- Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: Tristan Thompson didn't set out to make NBA history this summer. "History in the making? No, no, no,'' the Cavaliers' personable third-year power forward said, laughing. It just worked out that way. When Thompson decided to switch his shooting hand from his left to his right, becoming what is believed to be the first player in NBA history to change his dominant hand in the middle of his career, he thought it was just another step in improving his game. … After working with former Cavs coach John Lucas, and then shooting coach Dave Love, Thompson has come to believe that perhaps he was right-handed all along. "I wouldn't say it's easy, but I think the transition is going more smoothly than one might assume, which probably means I was always right-handed and just never knew, probably because I lived in Canada,'' he said, which isn't quite as crazy as it sounds. "I started playing basketball at such a late age,'' said Thompson, who didn't take basketball seriously until he was 12 or 13. "In America, you start playing when you're 5 years old.'' He reasons that had he started playing five or six years earlier, he likely would have been encouraged to try shooting with his right hand sooner.
- John Reid of The Times-Picayune: Though his contract is resolved, Brian Roberts is bracing for a more intense battle in training camp, which begins Oct. 1. He could be in a fight for playing time with Austin Rivers at backup point guard. Though Rivers played significant minutes at shooting guard last season, starter Eric Gordon and newly acquired Tyreke Evans could get the majority of playing time at the position. The Pelicans made Evans their top target in free agency because of his versatility. He can play point guard, shooting guard and small forward. "They have a lot of versatility at the guard position and they can go some different ways,'' Roberts said. "It depends on what (coach) Monty (Williams) wants. I’m just going to be ready for whatever he asks me to do.'' Roberts is hoping to evolve as a better overall player, especially defensively. Roberts has participated extensively in the Pelicans' volunteer workouts to prepare for training camp.
- Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News: The Lakers haven’t exactly upgraded their talent. But they’ve made a push to upgrade their uniforms. The Lakers released a video Wednesday on their Instagram account of Kobe Bryant wearing the team’s black alternative uniform, something the team will showcase this season for an unspecified amount of select game. The black uniform, dubbed “Hollywood Nights” features a black jersey and the Lakers’ traditional purple and gold as trimming. “This has been a few years in the process of introducing a black Lakers uniform,” Lakers president Jeanie Buss said on the team’s Web site. “In no way are we ever going to replace the purple and gold traditional uniform that has seen so many championships won. But I think the gold is going to pop out in a black uniform. Having the purple letters says it all. It’s all Lakers.” The Lakers will also wear white short-sleeve jerseys at select games during the 2013-14 season, including the team’s Christmas Day game at Staples Center against the Miami Heat.