Thursday, October 24, 2013
First Cup: Thursday
By Nick Borges
- Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: Encouraging first game for Greg Oden on Wednesday in New Orleans: a dunk after he got good position in the post (his only shot), two rebounds, a blocked shot and another altered shot, in 3:59, all in the second quarter. He also had two fouls. Oden was paired with Chris Bosh and the two of them forced a turnover on one sequence. He set good screens. He ran the court generally well for someone who hasn’t played in, well, four years. He clearly was a presence in the paint defensively, though he was stuck with the disadvantage of defending guards a couple of times. (Eric Gordon easily drove past him, though Gordon would do that with a lot of centers). “I’m happy I’m able to walk off the court and play another day,” Oden told Sun Sports’ Jason Jackson afterward. “I’m happy my first shot was a dunk and I made it. I’ve got a long way to go… It’s been three long years.” Before Oden entered late in the second quarter, Erik Spoelstra had stuck largely to his NBA Finals rotation. ... Spoelstra was non-committal when asked if Beasley will be in the rotation, saying only: “He's been diligent with his work and his focus." Beasley said his concern isn’t making the rotation but “to make it to tomorrow. I feel as nervous and anxious” as when camp started.
- Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Rajon Rondo watched last night’s 107-97 Celtics exhibition win over a Brooklyn scrub team with the same calm the rehabbing point guard has brought to every other game this fall. That’s because while Rondo won’t get specific about a timetable, he acknowledged last night that the next step in his recovery from ACL surgery — contact — may not be far off. “I’m getting fitted for my first brace, and I don’t think contact will be too far from there,” the Celtics point guard said. “I just have to get cleared by my doctors. I know it’s getting stronger each week. When I’m able to jump off my right leg and dunk, that’s probably when I’ll be ready to play. “Feeling great, working out every day. I’m doing more as far as compound workouts. I’m doing one workout a day, so I’m doing more as far as working on my leg. It’s getting better each day.” Rondo reiterated that when he comes back, he doesn’t want restrictions — on his minutes or otherwise.
- Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: You can’t overstate or overanalyze Deron Williams’ health, even in the preseason, because he has attributed nearly everything that has gone wrong during his Nets tenure to some ailment. That’s why he needs to rest. It’s as good for his confidence as it is for his body. Williams, who sprained his ankle nearly two months ago, doesn’t need another excuse. King and Prokhorov have weeded out the rest. In Jason Kidd, Williams has a coach with the clout and respect to issue a challenge. Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo, understanding they were disposable because of their expiring contracts, mostly pussyfooted around the expectations of the point guard. Kidd has set the bar. “D-Will has to stay hungry,” Kidd said Wednesday. “We’ve raised the bar for him to get into that conversation of being one of the top point guards in the league. The good ones, the great ones, they love that challenge.” It’s easy to forget Williams was once considered the best point guard in the NBA, voted by the league’s GMs ahead of Chris Paul in 2010. We saw glimpses after the trade in 2011, and that’s not enough. We saw it again on Wednesday, when Williams and Jason Terry nailed 10 consecutive 3-pointers during a drill. By the final shot, Williams didn’t even look at the basket as he rose for the jumper. ... Before any shooting streaks and triple-doubles, Williams needs to get on the court. The Nets did their part. Williams has to become their $100 million star.
- Marc Berman of the New York Post: Knicks coach Mike Woodson said point guard Chris Smith is “still in the mix” for a roster spot, noting for the first time the coach’s relationship with J.R. is a factor in the franchise potentially wanting to further develop the younger Smith. For his part, Chris Smith, who played at Louisville before tearing up his knee at training camp last October, said if he is kept on the 15-man roster, he likely will spend much of the season with the Knicks’ D-League affiliate in Erie, Pa. ... “He’s still in the mix,’’ Woodson said. “That’s something else we have to sit and talk about [Thursday] in terms of the direction we want to go.’’ Woodson regards J.R. Smith as the son he has never had and owner James Dolan loves him too. Chris Smith’s chances, meanwhile, also increased when rookie C.J. Leslie struggled this preseason. Combo guard Tour’e Murry has outplayed Smith in preseason but a source indicated his status should not be affected by Smith’s. Woodson said J.R.’s presence carries a lot of weight as to whether the Knicks keep his brother. “Sure, it does,” Woodson said. ... Chris Smith has a unique element to his non-guaranteed deal. If he’s on the roster opening night, the deal is fully guaranteed.
- John Reid of The Times-Picayune: In their first game at the renovated New Orleans Arena Wednesday night, the New Orleans Pelicans found out what it’s like to face an elite franchise like the two-time defending champion Miami Heat. When the fourth quarter came, the Heat turned it up a notch and the Pelicans couldn't keep up. The Heat took advantage of a 24-4 fourth quarter run to beat the Pelicans, 108-95, in front of 17,123. It was the Pelicans' first loss in seven preseason games. The Pelicans had played their first six preseason games on the road, including an Oct. 13 game against the Atlanta Hawks in Biloxi, Miss., because of renovations to the Arena. ... "It's a great teaching tape for us as we grow as a team,'' Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. "We've been preaching the value of the basketball and we saw when you play against the best team in the NBA, you can't have the kind of mistakes we had with the ball. When you turn the ball over 20-plus times and you only get 66 shots, it's tough to beat a team like that."
- Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News: Dirk Nowitzki’s shot 7 of 17 from the field against Atlanta on Wednesday night in Dallas’ next-to-last preseason game. The regular-season opener is a week from tonight against these same Hawks. So, as he usually does, Holger Geschwindner, Dirk Nowitzki’s longtime mentor and friend, will help Dirk’s final push to prepare for the season. “I feel good (physically), ready,” Nowitzki said. “Didn’t have my shooting touch much today. Fortunately, Holger is coming tomorrow. Unfortunately, that means there’s going to be some late nights in here.” It certainly beats this time a year ago, when Nowitzki’s right knee kept swelling and he mulled whether to have arthroscopic surgery. Eventually, he opted for surgery, pushing his season debut into late December. So how long will Geschwindner stay? “Unfortunately, probably a little over two weeks,” Nowitzki said.
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: The Grizzlies’ starting front line of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph combined to score 10 points, shoot 3 of 14 and grab eight rebounds in 50 minutes. They also had five turnovers — four of which came from Gasol. “This is not us,” Randolph said. “We’ve got to learn from this. We’ve got to go back to the drawing board.”
- Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Brandon Jennings hasn’t had much to say — it’s tough to talk when your mouth is immobilized. That’s what the Pistons’ public relations staff has reminded media members who have requested to interview Jennings, who returned to the practice facility this week after a brief absence because of an impacted wisdom tooth and hairline fracture of the jaw. He hasn’t returned to full practices yet, but his light work and good spirits appear to be good signs that he will be able to return quickly when he is re-evaluated in two weeks. Jennings might play by Nov. 5 against Indiana. “He’s been a part of everything with the exception of running,” coach Maurice Cheeks said Wednesday.
- Andrew Gilstrap of ArizonaSports.com: The Phoenix Suns are currently in talks with newly acquired guard Eric Bledsoe on a long-term contract extension. If the two sides can't reach a deal by the end of the month, the 23-year-old combo guard would become a restricted free agent at the end of the season. The Suns are in an interesting spot because they've only seen the Kentucky product in training camp and a few preseason games, and it's still uncertain that he will become the star many project him to be. Nonetheless, general manager Ryan McDonough, while on Arizona Sports 620's Burns & Gambo show Wednesday, agreed that Bledsoe does figure into the team's long-term plans. McDonough said contract talks with the fourth-year player have gone "pretty well" to this point. "If we're not able to work out a deal (by Oct. 31), we would start next summer with Eric as a restricted free agent, but obviously we're hoping to get something done before that," the general manager said.
- Don Walker of the Journal Sentinel: NBA Commissioner David Stern said Wednesday that a progress report on a proposed new, multipurpose arena in Milwaukee was "relatively upbeat." Asked at a news conference in New York about the arena situation in Milwaukee, Stern said NBA staff and team owners got an update on the "various architects, financial planners, committees, taxing authority, a variety of things that have to be considered as it moves forward to see whether there is a viable building deal to construct a building in Milwaukee." The report was delivered by Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl and Ron Walter, executive vice president, business administration. Neither were immediately available for comment. Stern described the report as "relatively upbeat," but added, "we'll see how that develops because the Bucks still have four years after this one on their lease."
- Michael Kaskey-Blomain of The Philadelphia Inquirer: Accepting his own, potentially diminished role within the league’s altering landscape was something that Iverson was unwilling or unable to do. His statistics, as well as his legacy in the league, suffered because of it. The longevity of players like Carter and Duncan, along with their willingness to step aside in favor of others, has helped cement them in the annals of the NBA, while Iverson remains scrutinized and labeled “selfish” for doing much the opposite. A player of Iverson’s immense talents doesn’t deserve to retire without a team. Such players aren’t supposed to spend the twilight of their career searching for a home. Should an NBA team have taken another shot at A.I. over the past three-plus seasons? Probably, but in the end, Iverson didn’t adapt. If he had, maybe he would still be an important part of Developing Detroit. Or maybe, he could be providing some offensive firepower off the bench for the Western Conference-contending Memphis Grizzlies. Hell, maybe he would still be suiting up for the Sixers. ... Despite the prolific and inspiring play, when looking back on Iverson’s legacy and supporting statistics, it is difficult not to shake your head and, think to yourself, “This could have been better.”