Tuesday, October 8, 2013
First Cup: Tuesday
By Nick Borges
- Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer: The 76ers should seek out Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant following Tuesday’s preseason game at Manchester Arena. The NBA all-star can tell his opponents about spending his rookie season on a team in tank mode. The Thunder were the Seattle SuperSonics before relocating to Oklahoma in 2008. The team reshuffled the roster heading into its final season in Seattle. The Sonics selected Kevin Durant out of Texas with the second overall pick in the 2007 draft. “It was tough for me especially coming in as a young player,” Durant said of his rookie season. “I thought I was going to play with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis when they were all-star every year.” … “Every game it was tough knowing that it was going to be hard for us to win,” Durant said. “But what we did was come in and work hard every day, and know that it was going to be a process and maybe a tough year.” The Sonics lost their first eight games and went 3-14 through the first month of the 2007-08 season. They finished with the second worst record (20-62) behind the Miami Heat (15-67). “You just have to keep pushing through it,” said Durant, giving advice to the Sixers.
- Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman: Four hundred of the top front office minds in major sports will gather in London on Wednesday afternoon for the annual Leaders in Performance summit. It's a closed-door, invitation-only event that features a strong representation from those who operate high-level soccer clubs in the English Premier League. But among the keynote speakers is Thunder general manager Sam Presti, who was recently asked to give a 45-minute presentation. It's a unique opportunity for Presti and another example of the expanding global brand of Oklahoma City's only professional team.
- Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: Forman and Thibodeau haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on personnel moves, which has been well documented, but John Paxson takes exception to the idea that it’s a feud heading toward a boiling point. ‘‘We’re so far past that,’’ he said. ‘‘To continue to try and keep it going, I don’t know what the agenda is. That’s one thing that we all talked about, really from the beginning of this year: No one has any agenda here. ‘‘If you’re really going to say something like that, then go on the record, be a man, put your name out there. Don’t hide behind that stuff. But from our perspective, from our seat, we’re doing great. The relationship is healthy. We all want the same thing, and that’s to be as good as we possibly can out there on the floor.’’ Chicago saw what a truly unhealthy relationship between a GM and coach/manager looks like when the White Sox’ Ken Williams and Ozzie Guillen captured headlines a few years ago. Paxson snickered at the idea of the Bulls being anywhere near that. ‘‘I don’t think there’s any doubt that it’s been blown way out of proportion,’’ he said.
- Roderick Boone of Newsday: Although they'll be without All-Star point guard Deron Williams, who will sit this one out along with Terry, the game against the Wizards at the Verizon Center will serve as their first true look at a starting lineup that includes Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez. This also will be coach Jason Kidd's first real opportunity to test his floor combinations and work on his in-game strategy. "It's going to be great to get on the court and see what we've learned over this week or so," Johnson said, "and see what we can implement in a game setting and how good we can mesh together in the first game." Lopez is curious to see how the Nets fare without Williams. "Absolutely, absolutely," he said. "I think it'll be interesting to play without D-Will. He's definitely our leader out there, our point guard. But it'll be special if we can go out there and play well without him because I think that's just how much more we'll improve when he comes back." Andrei Kirilenko isn't anticipating a completely smooth ride, given that this is their first act together. It's all about exercising patience.
- Marc Berman of the New York Post: “The chip is still there,’’ said Raymond Felton, who got outplayed by Indiana’s George Hill. “It’s a bitter taste in my mouth the way the season ended last year. The chip is still there. If anything, it’s another chip. It’s now on the other shoulder. I’m still coming out with the same attitude, still with a lot to prove.’’ Indeed, Felton does have more to prove. While he has said since July he will become a bigger leader off the court this season, Felton also must prove he can excel in a traditional backcourt on the hardwood — with a shooting guard. Felton also must handle quicker point guards on defense better than he did in 2012-13. Though coach Mike Woodson is yet to formally name his starting lineup for Wednesday’s preseason opener in Providence against the Celtics, he is expected to go with a Felton-Iman Shumpert backcourt if the Georgia Tech product’s right shoulder feels OK.
- Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe: Brad Stevens arrived at TD Garden around 2:30 p.m. Monday, five hours prior to the scheduled tipoff for the Celtics’ preseason game against Toronto. Then on the night of his NBA debut, Stevens, the league’s youngest coach (36) and the new leader of its most championship-rich franchise, walked onto the empty arena's fabled parquet and took a look around. “I had to see where my seat was,” he said. He didn’t make the moment out to be anything mystical or magical, and he apologized that it wasn’t something more special. He was simply looking for his seat, he said. Stevens is, in fact, quite the early bird: when he coached at Butler, he often arrived at Hinkle Fieldhouse at 7 or 8 a.m. on game days and he would stay there until tipoff. “It’s kind of nice to get here by yourself and close that door and go to work,” he said. But, as per usual, Stevens, formerly the star coach a Butler, said he didn’t have any nerves before the game that he was just eager to see how his team would compete and how possible lineup combinations would perform.
- Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: Third-year guard Klay Thompson said it doesn't matter to him if he comes off the bench or not. His play so far this preseason supports that as he's been the Warriors' most productive player. "I'm trying to get Sixth Man of the Year," Thompson joked. But if Monday's exhibition game against the Sacramento Kings is any indication, Thompson's days as a reserve might be short lived. After posting a team-high 26 points against the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, Thompson was arguably Golden State's best player Monday in what was a relatively ugly showing by the home team at Oracle Arena. Thompson twice led the Warriors on deficit-erasing runs in a 94-81 victory. He finished with 17 points on 8-for-17 shooting. Thompson was so effective that coach Mark Jackson had him back in the starting lineup to open the second half. Thompson's activity and energy on offense is so evident that his teammates are looking for him consistently. He had a team-high 14 shots through the first 30 minutes Monday, including a left-handed scoop layup for a three-point play followed by a breakaway dunk that put Golden State up 55-52 with just over six minutes left in the third. "Klay is going to always do what he does best," Andre Iguodala said. "And that's shoot the ball pretty well. ... I told Klay that when he's in the game with me, he's going to get a lot of looks so he's gotta be ready to shoot the ball. And he is." Conversely, second-year forward Harrison Barnes struggled again on offense. He missed his first four shots and turned it over once in his first 5:51 of action. He didn't return.
- Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams says he has retired as Anthony Davis' on and off-court protector. From now on, Williams said, Davis will be on his own, expected to carry a huge burden this year for the Pelicans. Williams says he has encouraged Davis to take an active role in the Pelicans' offense this season, and the second-year pro had shown in the team's first two exhibition games that he has taken Williams' mandate to heart. After scoring 21 points on 9 of 16 field-goal shooting in Saturday night's win over the Houston Rockets, Davis followed that up with 25 points on 11 of 19 shooting in the 94-92 win over the Dallas Mavericks. He was assertive on both ends of the floor. It's plain to see that Davis is assuming the role of team leader.
- Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Miami Heat guard Norris Cole will leave the speculation to the media. His only focus is on becoming a better player as he enters his third NBA season. The chatter about him possibly being on the trading block is secondary. "I can't control that," Cole said. "The only thing I can do is control what I can control and that's to make sure I'm in the best shape, make sure I'm ready to perform and make sure when I get out there I show what I can do. Anything else, I can't control that so I don't worry my mind about that." Cole said he heard of the recent Fox Sports report the Heat may have dangled his name in trade offers. He will leave those decisions to management, but remains comfortable in Miami. "I'm comfortable with the guys, with the coaching staff, with the team," Cole said. "This is all I know. I'm blessed to be in this position." Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he expects Cole to continue his steady ascent since being acquired on a draft-day trade in 2011.
- Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: Cavaliers shooting guard Dion Waiters has an aversion to scales. He won’t go near them. Even when the Cavs’ athletic trainers insist the players weigh-in, he tries to skirt past the issue. “I hate stepping on a scale,” he said. “It plays mind games with you. I don’t even step on it. As long as I look good and feel good, I’m fine.” Suffice to say, he looks good. “It’s evident by the skin-tight shirts he walks around in when he (talks to) the media,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. When Waiters showed up in Cleveland last year after being the No. 4 pick in the 2012 draft, his weight was an issue. He devoted much of his summer into getting into the best shape of his career. The Cavs, who host Milwaukee in their first preseason at 7 p.m. Tuesday, still list Waiters at 6-foot-4, 221 pounds. “If the note says everybody weigh in, I walk by it,” Waiters said. “I try to sneak by it. I don’t like it. It’s my worst enemy sometimes. Sometimes it will say a particular number, then the next day you’ll be like, ‘What the ... ?’ Nobody will be harder on yourself than you are.” He’s happy to report he’s in tip-top shape.
- Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: The notion of a true back-up point guard is something of a misnomer with the Spurs, especially now that they’ve added a second combo guard in Marco Belinelli to initiate the offense alongside Manu Ginobili. But even if it’s not done in traditional fashion, the need to spell Parker has never been more important as he eases into the season after a grueling EuroBasket tournament with France. Joseph spent his summer playing competitively as well. And just as Parker credits his stints with Les Blues for aiding his NBA development, Joseph hopes his time with Canada at the FIBA Americas competition will pay similar dividends. “Obviously playing throughout the summer, that always helps,” said Joseph, the 29th pick of the 2011 draft. “Being able to lead the team gave me a lot of confidence. Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to show what I’ve been working on.” Joseph cited his 3-point shooting, specifically from the corners, as a primary focus. But it didn’t make much impact in the Americas, where Joseph’s percentage over eight games (28.6) was identical to his performance in 28 appearances with the Spurs last season. He otherwise thrived, finishing fifth in the tournament in scoring (16.1 points) and third in assists (4.4) while shooting 55.9 percent on 2s. Barring the same latitude to shoot to his heart’s content, it was similar to the role Patty Mills serves with Australia as his team’s focal point. With De Colo lacking the physicality Popovich covets, the fight for Parker’s scraps will almost certainly come down to those two. Mills isn’t much of a scrapper, either. But as his startling offseason body makeover shows, he’s prepared to give Joseph all the competition he can handle.
- Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com: A replacement for the Chalupa has been secured. The Portland Trail Blazers have struck a five-year partnership deal with McDonald's, which will provide the team's latest in-game free food promotion, a league source relayed to CSNNW.com. The source who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the fact that the team has yet to make an announcement, informed CSNNW.com that when the Trail Blazers reach 100 points at the Moda Center, fans in attendance will be treated to a coupon for a free McDonald's Sausage Egg McMuffin effective Nov. 2, the day of the 2013-14 home opener against the San Antonio Spurs. In early September Taco Bell and the Trail Blazers ended a 14-year relationship that featured free Chalupa coupons handed out when the Trail Blazers would score 100 points at home. The addition of McDonald's further enhances what Trail Blazers President Chris McGowan has been able to accomplish in regards to fans hospitality and their dining experience. Last month local culinary greats such as Bunk Sandwiches, Fire on the Mountain, Killer Burger and Sizzle Pie restaurants were added to the Moda Center's game-night experience.