Wednesday, September 30, 2009
First Cup: Wednesday
- Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "After missing 43 games last season -- including all of the playoffs -- with various ankle ailments, the prescription for Manu Ginobili's offseason included rest, rest and more rest. The one non-negotiable rule: No picking up a basketball. 'I guess they didn't trust my judgment,' Ginobili said. Ginobili arrived at training camp completely healed of the stress fracture in his right distal fibula that ended his season on April 5, and had transformed one of the league's most feared postseason performers into a helpless spectator for the Spurs' first-round playoff ouster against Dallas. Of all the additions the team made during the offseason, and there were many, the one they might be most excited about is a healthy Manu Ginobili. The Spurs were 36-12 with him in the lineup last season. They were 23-20 without him, including five playoff games. 'Hopefully, Manu will just be Manu,' Tony Parker said. The last time Ginobili took an entire Argentine winter off -- in 2007 -- he responded with the best season of his NBA career."
- Ramona Shelburne of the Los Angeles Daily News: "One thing about Tuesday's annual Lakers media day was downright shocking. As reporters, camera crews, radio producers and assorted other random people with handheld cameras positioned themselves to speak with the newest Laker -- Ron Artest -- and the newest Kardashian -- Lamar Odom -- the reigning Finals MVP walked onto the court with hardly anybody noticing. That would be Kobe Bryant, in case you've been too distracted watching the live feed of Odom's Sunday nuptials on TMZ's Web site. Two years ago, his entrance to the Lakers' practice facility meant the End of Days had been averted, with reporters stationed in the parking lot jotting down his exact arrival time after he spent the summer asking to play on Pluto. Last season, his was the only voice that carried much weight after the franchise recovered from a humiliating loss to the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. But this time around, Bryant looked like an extra on the set just trying to earn his SAG card. 'I love it,' he joked. 'It's cool and smooth.' Bryant, asked if he was grateful to Odom and Artest for taking the spotlight off of him, smiled and said, "I'll be thanking them all season long." He meant it as a joke, but no one will be laughing if any of the new, let's call it 'exposure,' becomes a distraction for the Lakers on the court."
- Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "So much for taking it easy on his stitched-up fingers. Hawks forward Josh Smith was on the floor for all but the scrimmage portion of Tuesday's first training-camp practice. He did this after saying Monday that he would 'probably stay out of the mix' to keep the stitches between the index and middle fingers on his left hand out of harm's way. 'I've got a pad on there, and my fingers are separated with tape to keep it all safe and secure,' Smith said. 'I did some conditioning on the treadmill while they did the five-minute [scrimmage] drill, but other than that, I feel great. My body is in great shape, and nobody needs to be worried about anything. This was just a minor setback.' Smith gashed his hand two weeks ago during a pickup game at the Hawks' practice facility and needed seven stitches to close the cut."
- Mike Jones of The Washington Times: "The day before the Washington Wizards began their first training camp under Flip Saunders, Caron Butler said he was anxious to see how things would unfold. He never expected what awaited the Wizards at their team dinner Monday night. Saunders, a part-time magician, brought in John-Ivan Palmer, who calls himself 'The Fastest and Funniest Hypnotist,' to provide entertainment and a little team building. Palmer, upon whom Saunders called a few times during his days with the Minnesota Timberwolves, had several players join him on stage. He successfully hypnotized Nick Young, Mike James and Gilbert Arenas but couldn't quite get DeShawn Stevenson or Butler to fall under his spell. At one point, whenever the lights went off, Young galloped around the room on a balloon as if it were a horse. James couldn't remember his last name and barked like a dog every time he heard the word 'defeat.' Arenas couldn't open his hand and moved like he was using a hula hoop."
- Kate Fagan of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "When last season ended for the 76ers, it did so with inner turmoil that included players' claims of mismanagement. A month later, the team had a new head coach: Eddie Jordan. Yesterday at St. Joseph's University -- home of the Sixers' training camp -- Jordan began installing his standards for discipline, efficiency, and execution. 'He's very strict on things,' guard Lou Williams said. 'One of the main things, he stopped the drill and we had to tuck our shirts in, and I think that's the first time we've had a coach that's been so set in his ways. And I think the type of team that we are, we're going to need that. We're going to need our coach to be our leader, and it's going to have to transfer to the guys on the court.' The Sixers practiced twice yesterday. The morning session went three hours, and Jordan focused on defense. The night practice was dedicated to the Princeton offense, Jordan's pass-and-cut system."
- John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Despite having offers elsewhere for more money and years, Jannero Pargo didn't hesitate to accept when the Bulls called over the summer and offered a one-year, $2 million deal. 'It's my city. I'm from here and I'm familiar with the organization,' he said. 'But most of all, I thought it was an opportunity for me to come in and help a team be a little more successful than it was last year. Things are moving in the right direction and I want to be a part of it.' Pargo, who played at Robeson, spent two-plus seasons with the Bulls from 2004 to 2006. Although he was always caught in a numbers game in a crowded backcourt then, Pargo was a valuable backup because he had the ability to come in and provide consistent scoring without consistent playing time. 'That's one of the pluses I bring to a team, just being ready at all times; not playing a game or two and being ready that third game when called upon,' he said."
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal: "Veteran guard Allen Iverson appeared to enjoy his new surroundings. The 34-year-old in his 14th season sang whenever there were stops in the action, yet went through every drill with high energy or in game mode. 'I still hate (training camp),' Iverson said, laughing. 'But if you can get through training camp, it makes it easier to get through the season. ... It's different because I'm the oldest one in here. I feel like one of the coaches.' The Grizzlies' first scrimmage during the morning session had Ive
rson working with the second unit. Gay, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo and Marc Gasol made up the first team. Hollins cautioned not to read too much into early lineup combinations. He told the team that the players who started last season begin camp in starting roles."
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "When asked if Kevin McHale's approach with him in particular benefitted him last season or if it was too conservative, Kevin Love answered simply, 'Too conservative.' He also admitted he reported to his first training camp a year ago this week in no shape for such a long professional season. 'Absolutely not,' Love said. 'I'm 20 pounds less coming into camp than I was last year. It took me a month and a half, two months to get into shape last season. Coming into training camp in shape this year really is going to help me in the long run.' Wolves new basketball boss David Kahn calls Love 'remarkably sleeker.' New coach Kurt Rambis terms Love's physical condition 'OK' and 'good enough' for what Rambis will expect from him on a team instructed to run, run, run this season."
- Howard Beck of The New York Times: "Danilo Gallinari's scouting report came to life Tuesday night, with dunks, deft passes and fluid moves. From the sideline, Mike D'Antoni could only smile and try not to get carried away. It was just one training-camp scrimmage, the Knicks' first of 2009. But watching a healthy, energetic Gallinari run the floor and make plays underlined what D'Antoni, the Knicks' coach, has been saying all along: the kid can play. 'I'm excited,' D'Antoni said. 'I'll try to tone it down. But you see that he knows how to play.' The superlatives and expectations keep growing for Gallinari, the sixth overall pick in the 2008 draft. He showed no signs of discomfort in Tuesday's two practices, or any indication that he had undergone minor back surgery five months ago. He did, however, show off his full range of skills while playing with the first unit in the evening scrimmage."
- Al Iannazzone of The Record: "The Nets opened training camp Tuesday not worried about who they lost or who might be coming next season but how they can make something of the 2009-10 campaign. To a man, the Nets talked about proving wrong the critics who picked them to be awful, and doing it with defense. It was so stressed that when coach Lawrence Frank was asked when he would put some new offensive plays in he replied, 'We're not doing offense.' So many things have to go right for the Nets to have an unexpectedly successful season, and everything starts with point guard Devin Harris. Vince Carter's trade to Orlando in June means the Nets are Harris' team. 'I like the sound of it,' Harris said after the first practice. 'You put your mark on it, your personality on it. It's not so much talking about it or voicing it but leading by example.' Who would fill the leadership void was of major concern but Harris, 26, seems ready to take the next step in his NBA development."
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Raja Bell said the core group all being together this preseason should instill some continuity the team lacked. Bell agrees with Mohammed that there's enough talent to reach the playoffs. But he acknowledges the margin for error is small because of the absence of a superstar. 'If you have a Kobe Bryant or a LeBron James, you can get away with a little less continuity,' Bell said. 'When you have a team of guys who are all good players, but no guy who is going to the free-throw line 27 times a night, you have to play together. That's going to be the beauty of us all being in the same training camp (following a season of roster churn). And Larry Brown is the perfect guy to navigate us through those waters early.' "
- Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: "The ice man cometh to Cajun country. And it was a good thing. After a first-day workout that lasted a little more than 3 1/2 hours, the Hornets' training and equipment staff was busy distributing more than 40 ice bags to the 17 players in training camp. 'More than a normal day,' equipment manager David Jovanovic said of the total number of swelling-reducing packs used Tuesday. All-Star forward David West sat on the sideline of Louisiana-Lafayette's Moncla Indoor Practice Facility with a bag on his back, one on each knee, and one on his left hamstring. All-Star guard Chris Paul had both knees iced. Rookie No. 1 draft pick Darren Collison walked around with ice attached to the back of each calf. Forward Julian Wright had his knees and calves iced down. 'As advertised,' Collison said of his first day in an NBA camp. 'We were cramping a little bit, but it's something you just have to push through.' "
- Michael Grange of the Globe and Mail: "Jay Triano has instituted a policy of no phones or computers for those watching practice, a ban that extends to team president Bryan Colangelo, who admitted that he was going through withdrawal after going nearly two hours without using his Blackberry. Colangelo said he's allowed to check his messages, but if he needs to respond to one, he has to leave the gym. The idea is that time in the gym should be spent on basketball; if other business needs to be done, it's less distracting if it's taken care of elsewhere, Colangelo said."
- Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "In the backdrop of the possibility of George Karl getting a contract extension with the Denver Nuggets this season is a milestone that would make it all worth the hassle. 1,000 wins. Friends and family have already broached the subject of Karl staying in the NBA at least until the mark is reached. 'There's some summer talk every once in a while about winning 1,000 that my kids have kind of joked with and some of my friends feel it would be a great mark,' Karl said. 'It means I'm an old (guy) that's coached a lot of games and have had some good teams.' "
- Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "If he is at all concerned about the reception that awaits him at EnergySolutions Arena, Carlos Boozer wasn't letting on Tuesday, just two days before the Jazz will host Denver in their preseason opener. 'I haven't thought about it at all, to be honest,' Boozer said. 'I'm looking forward to playing, looking forward to proving a lot to everybody, to myself, and getting back to being an All-Star player.' Back for a sixth season in Utah, Boozer will be making his first appearance Thursday before Jazz fans since conducting a series of offseason interviews in which he pushed for a trade, even naming Chicago and Miami as preferred destinations. With the Jazz having opted to bring him back, Boozer was asked if he thought fans eventually would be supportive. 'Honestly, I don't know,' he said. 'I hope they support me. I hope the fans support me. I love our fans. I hope they know that I'm happy to be here, love being here. I'm going to bust my tail for them and give them everything I've got and prove everything on the court.' "
- Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "For those who thought the Dwyane Wade Show reached its climax last season, it's safe to say they will be pleasantly surprised. It hardly is a stretch to consider that Wade will be better than last year. In his seventh year, Bryant's scoring average jumped almost five points to 30 a game. Wade is entering his seventh season. Want to compare ages instead of experience? Fine. When Bryant was 27, he had his best statistical season, averaging a ridiculous 35.4 points. Wade begins this season at age 27. 'This is the prime of his career,' Spoelstra said. 'He's  years old and he'll never have times like this again when he gets older. This is what players want to play at, when they have the experience but also the athleticism and quickness. I think he can play at this level for another four, five, six years.' Now that makes sense."