Tuesday, September 29, 2009
First Cup: Tuesday
- Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: "Any hopes the Warriors might have had for a drama-free start to the season were put to rest at Monday's media day. Stephen Jackson stuck by his comments about no longer wanting to play for the Warriors, a statement he first made this summer at a block party in New York. Minutes later, Monta Ellis said he doesn't think he and rookie point guard Stephen Curry can play together in the backcourt, despite coach Don Nelson saying he would give that combination a long, hard look. So much for peace and harmony. ... Monday's events have created a buzz heading into training camp, which begins today. What happens when Nelson pairs Curry and Ellis in the backcourt? Will the Warriors appease Jackson and ship him? Perhaps more important, what happens if they don't. Andris Biedrins can't remember the last time all was right in the Warriors world. 'I don't know. That's a good question. I have to think about it,' Biedrins said. 'It is like it is. We just have to concentrate on playing basketball.' "
- Cam Inman of The Oakland Tribune: "Monta and Stephen Jackson spoke Monday like two spoiled brats trying to run the Warriors franchise. Or trying to run away from it. Ellis brazenly said he can't coexist in the same backcourt with newly drafted point guard Stephen Curry. Minutes earlier, Jackson didn't back down from a recent trade request and proceeded to rip the franchise's direction. His ego also ran the fast break: 'I'm made for the playoffs and championships. That's what I play for. I'm Big Shot Jack.' Both players are out of line. They may be speaking the truth, but these so-called 'big shots' came off so selfish that it paints another dark cloud over a futile franchise. Welcome to the Warriors, Stephen Curry. Attending the Raiders' disastrous loss Sunday was Curry's perfect warm-up for the tangled web awaiting him with the Warriors."
- Sekou Smith The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "While realistic external expectations for the Hawks this season fall something short of a championship -- the defending champion Lakers retain that distinction with training camps kicking off around the league Tuesday -- they are higher than they've been in years. After years as a NBA afterthought, the Hawks are firmly entrenched as a playoff contender. All five starters and eight of the top nine players return from last season's Eastern Conference semifinals team, a group that piled up 47 wins en route to the franchise's best regular and postseason in over a decade."
- Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "The Nuggets will be without one of their best players, J.R. Smith, for their first seven games. But the more they see of Arron Afflalo, the better they feel about making it through the opening stretch without Smith. Afflalo was one of the team's brightest stars in September workouts and has kept the momentum going through the first three days of training camp. The Nuggets traded with the Detroit Pistons to acquire the 6-foot-5, 215-pound swingman in July. 'He's been tremendous,' Nuggets coach George Karl said. 'As soon as summer league was over, he was maybe the first guy back in town. He's been in the gym many, many hours already. The coaching staff loves him. Hopefully, the fans will love him too.' The Nuggets went after Afflalo after last year's starting shooting guard, Dahntay Jones, signed with the Indiana Pacers. Afflalo is likely to take over the same starting role Jones had, at least until Smith returns."
- Scott Cacciola of The Commercial Appeal: "Allen Iverson showed up 20 minutes early for Grizzlies Media Day and strolled through the grand lobby at FedExForum with his business manager and right-hand man, Gary Moore. The place was empty, but the hallways that led to the court were blocked by locked gates. Moore got on his cell phone. 'Where are we supposed to go?' he asked. 'Is there an elevator?' And so the learning process begins for the new-look Grizzlies, who got poked and prodded by reporters and photographers before boarding a bus bound for Birmingham on Monday afternoon. Training camp starts today, which Iverson and his teammates expect to be all about business under coach Lionel Hollins. But there also seems to be some playfulness at work with this team, which hopes to find the right chemistry over the next few weeks."
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Timberwolves rookie point guard Jonny Flynn hasn't played a preseason game yet, let alone a regular season game. But already teammate Al Jefferson is smitten. 'Oh, man, I'm just going to say that kid's special,' Jefferson said when asked about Flynn at the team's traditional media day Monday. 'I don't want to hype him up right now, but I'm so happy that I got a chance to play with him. Just playing 5-on-5 with him these past two weeks, that kid's special. The way he sees the floor. I think he's got a chance to be just as good as Chris Paul. That's just my opinion. I know that's saying a lot. But I really believe that.' Chris Paul? The Hornets guard who was the NBA's Rookie of the Year in 2006 and the MVP runner-up to Kobe Bryant in 2008? Oh, is that all? 'That means a lot coming from a guy like that,' Flynn said when told about Jefferson's comments."
- Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News: "People might think the Pistons are rebuilding but don't tell that to Richard Hamilton or Tayshaun Prince. The two veterans are direct links to the Pistons' six consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference finals (and one NBA title) this decade. ... 'I don't look at it as rebuilding,' Hamilton said. 'We want to win and we want to win now. I don't think Ben (Wallace) came back here for a rebuilding time. He feels we have an opportunity to do something special. We have a great group of guys but we have to learn.' Said Prince: 'People think it is a rebuilding year, but this is an opportunity to show last year wasn't the real Detroit Pistons. It's been a great organization since I've been here and what you saw last year was unacceptable from all aspects.' "
- A. Sherrod Blakely of Booth Newspapers: "Charlie Villanueva was a top-10 pick coming out of the University of Connecticut in 2005, and has averaged double figures scoring every season with limited playing time. Despite those lofty on-the-court accomplishments, it's Villanueva's postings on social networking site Twitter thhat have made him one of the league's more popular players. 'Twitter is all fun and games,' said Villanueva, who as of Monday evening had more than 59,000 people following him on twitter.com. 'It's a way to stay connected with the fans. The fans deserve that, and I have a good time doing it.' However, professional leagues have been cracking down of late on exactly when players can use social networking sites such
as twitter.com. The NFL has established rules for use of the social networking site, and the NBA is reportedly set to announce its own rules on social networking sites this week. 'That's the Villanueva rule,' quipped Villanueva, who garnered national attention last season in Milwaukee when he used the social networking site during halftime of a game."
- Tom Enlund of the Journal Sentinel: "Ever wonder what it's like to be the starting point guard on a National Basketball Association team only to have your team draft another point guard in the first round of the college draft? Just ask veteran Luke Ridnour of the Milwaukee Bucks. Ridnour started in 50 of the 72 games in which he played for the Bucks last season but he was hampered by injuries and the Bucks decided to bolster the point guard spot by taking Brandon Jennings with the 10th pick of last June's draft. Such is life in the NBA said Ridnour who is entering his seventh season in the league. 'That's just the NBA,' said Ridnour at the team's media day on Monday. 'That's what happens. I'm excited to be able to help him get better in any way I can and push him. The biggest thing for all of us is to make the team better. That's what we have to focus on instead of individually. We all have to play individually but it's about the team. It's something that you just look at as something to make our team better and whatever you can do, you do.' "
- Mike Jones of The Washington Times: "DeShawn Stevenson is again sporting his beard, but vows to 'keep it clean for the Wizards.' He had a close cut, but had a rat-tail. He also is sporting new ink. On his right temple, along his hairline is etched LONDYN, his 1-year-old son's name. On his left cheek bone is inked the Pitsburgh Pirate's 'P', 'for the Pittsburgh, that's my favorite team. Barry Bonds, when he first started.' The thing about the P is, however, that it's backwards and looks more like a 9. DeShawn tried to explain, 'No, if you're standing where Dom's standing and looking at me, it looks like a P.' Dominic McGuire was standing directly in front of him about 10 yards away, but it still looked like a 9. I think DeShawn meant to say, 'when I look in the mirror it looks like a P.' The final new tat is a crack on the left side of Stevenson's forehead. He said it's because 'I don't crack. I feel like people always try to break me, but I don't crack. So, I put that there.' "
- Howard Beck of The New York Times: "Eddy Curry's torso is tapered, but his broad shoulders still bulge and twitch with the muscle memory of old burdens. He has spent months shedding pounds and sorrow, but that is only a modest beginning. Curry arrived four years ago as the Knicks' greatest hope, a powerful, agile young center with vast potential. He begins training camp Tuesday as a reclamation project, attempting to restart a career derailed by injuries, ambivalence and personal heartbreak. 'My life is still a work in progress,' Curry said Monday when the Knicks gathered for their annual media day. 'But it's nothing like it was. I'm happy right now.' For the first time in years, Curry will take the basketball court with a healthy, well-conditioned body and a relatively clear psyche."
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "A club that will resemble a traveling all-star show now with Vince Carter on board already has heard the team slogan for this season -- and it embraces no egos: Grab A Handle. That's Orlando Magic General Manager Otis Smith's catch-phrase. And it's no coincidence the slogan came about with the arrival of Carter, who has more all-star nominations (eight) than Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson combined. 'We're not asking any one guy to carry any part of the whole load. We're asking everybody to grab a handle,' Smith said. 'Just grab a handle. Because trying to win a title is a grind.' The Magic, who open training camp today at RDV Sportsplex, had their surprising title-run stopped in the Finals in June by the Los Angeles Lakers. Orlando replaced fan favorite Hedo Turkoglu with Carter in hopes he can return to his adoptive hometown -- he grew up in Daytona Beach -- and lead a championship parade down Orange Avenue."
- Chris Perkins of the South Florida Sun Sentinel: "Heat center Jermaine O'Neal won't be accompanied by his 'best friend' when the team opens training camp Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena. Consider that a good thing. It turns out O'Neal's 'best friend' is a portable ice machine. It was his constant companion for three years because O'Neal's injured left knee would swell so much and so often he needed a constant source of ice to treat the ailment. That shouldn't be the case this season, his 14th in the NBA. 'I'm 100 percent (healthy),' O'Neal said at Monday's Media Day. 'The knee isn't giving me any problems.' If that's true it could be a comeback season for O'Neal, who will earn $23 million this year, the final year of his contract. And if O'Neal has a comeback season there's a good chance the Heat equals or improves last year's 43-39 record and first-round playoff appearance. 'If I had any summer to get back,' O'Neal said, 'this was my summer.' "
- Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "Rasheed Wallace, among other things, annually leads the NBA in terms of interactions with referees. He won't exactly miss them when replacement referees start calling games during the preseason -- at least not yet. 'Of course, I know that they're going to come in all happy-go-lucky - oh, I gave Rasheed Wallace a tech tonight, ha, ha, ha, ha. I could care less about that,' he said. 'I know there's going to be a lot of stupid star calls like there was with the old refs. I don't think there's going to be too much change.' "
- Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: "One day before the start of training camp, Kevin Martin remained consistent. He won't call the Kings 'his' team, even if his big contract and status as leading scorer would indicate otherwise. And even if you think he'd feel threatened, Martin is still giddy about playing with rookie Tyreke Evans, the fourth overall pick in the June draft. Martin texted the Kings' decision makers the morning of the draft to let them know he wanted Evans, even if some think the former Memphis star is better suited to play Martin's spot at shooting guard. 'A lot of people say he's not a true point, but that doesn't matter,' Martin said at Kings media day Monday. 'The last five years I've been playing with guys who were actually point guards who think they're '2' guards.' Martin scrimmaged twice with Evans during voluntary workouts. He sees value in Evans' talents on both ends of the floor."
- Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times: "Chris Kaman was musing about how odd it was that Clippers rookie Blake Griffin doesn't necessaril
y have to be The Man. At least not immediately. 'It's crazy you say that, right? But we won 19 games [last season] and you would think he'd have to come here and have to be 'The Man,' ' Kaman said Monday. 'And he doesn't. That sounds crazy to me. How can we have the struggle we had last year and have someone come in who is the first pick, and is who he is and not have to be The Man? 'It's almost disgusting to think about.' Griffin, the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft in June and the new face of the Clippers' franchise, will have no shortage of willing mentors this season, including the longest-tenured Clipper, Kaman, the ageless Marcus Camby and others. At least at first, Griffin will be coming off the bench, said Clippers General Manager and Coach Mike Dunleavy. Of course, that could change within days."
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Some Suns found Terry Porter hard to follow as their coach and Shaquille O'Neal difficult to have around as a teammate last season. Both are gone, moved out by the Suns' volition. Happiness moved into the vacancy. Removed from the dread of being labeled underachievers and playing an unfamiliar style, the Suns' spirits took off Monday with their charter flight to San Diego for the start of a six-day training camp Tuesday. ... 'Joyous,' Suns guard Steve Nash said to a question about how he felt. The inquiry was meant to probe his health but his emotional response is indicative of the team's lighter air. 'It's got to be better,' Nash said of the atmosphere after a season of unrest, meetings, self-pity and disappointment. 'We have to have a better vision from the outset. When you're not clear on who you are, it's hard to have a great chemistry. Last year, we had a lot of uncertainty. This year, we're going to be much clearer on who we are and how we have to play and that's going to allow us to build a chemistry and belief in one another. When guys aren't sure if they're in the same movie, it's hard for it to be a successful one.' "
- John Brennan of The Record: "The New Jersey Nets made a big splash last week with the announcement of Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov's intention to buy controlling interest in the franchise. But in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing released late Friday afternoon, the news was much grimmer: Revenue from Nets ticket sales declined by nearly one-third last season. The filing -- detailing the bottom line of Nets Sports and Entertainment LLC -- demonstrated that while announced Nets attendance figures were similar in 2007-08 and 2008-09, the ticket sale revenue nosedived to $25.9 million from $37.4 million. ... The Nets balanced most of the ticket revenue decline with cuts in player salaries, marketing and other expenses -- but still finished with an operating loss of $68.6 million in 2008-09. In a statement, Nets Chief Executive Brett Yormark pointed to the Nets' residence in 28-year-old Izod Center -- one of the NBA's oldest facilities."