Print and Go Back ESPN.com: TrueHoop [Print without images]

Tuesday, August 19, 2014
First Cup: Tuesday

By Nick Borges

Fred Kerber of the New York Post: Carmelo Anthony already has claimed Knicks fans should not expect a championship this season. But the playoffs are another matter. In fact, Anthony on Monday asserted his belief the Knicks “absolutely” will be back in the playoffs after missing out last season. “Yeah, I think so for sure. Absolutely,” an impressively slimmed-down Anthony said of the Knicks’ playoff chances before entering a Midtown gym for a late morning-to-early afternoon workout with a group of NBA players. Anthony snuffed an attempt to establish any goals for the revamped Knicks, who will enter their first full season under team president Phil Jackson and new coach Derek Fisher. “I can’t wait to get started,” said Anthony, who missed the playoffs for the first time in his career when the Knicks stumbled to a 37-45 record last season. “No goals. Not setting any goals, but I just can’t wait to get it back on.” And Anthony showed some of that desire Monday in the closed, high-caliber workout with assorted NBA players.

A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com: Greg Monroe signing a qualifying offer with the Pistons creates realistic hope that next summer, Boston will at the very least be on his short list of teams to consider considering their need and the fact they will have significant salary cap space. The appeal for both the player (Monroe) and the franchise is undeniable. ... Even with all the additions Boston made this summer, which includes 7-foot Tyler Zeller, the Celtics still could use a big man such as Monroe. He immediately becomes their most polished center offensively, which would open up more driving lanes for Boston's bevy of perimeter players. In terms of how he would fit in to the Celtics culture, that would be the least of Boston's concerns. And remember, his agent is David Falk, who already has a trio of clients (Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and Evan Turner) on the Celtics roster. That in itself won't get a deal done, but there is a tremendous amount of respect between Falk and the Celtics, which has a way of making negotiations go a lot smoother.

Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: During an hourlong event that featured appearances by Coach Doc Rivers, eight Clippers players and even Mayor Eric Garcetti, Steve Ballmer stole the show with a boldness that included everything from a guaranteed victory to a gratuitous shot at the Lakers. In referring to the team's opening-night game Oct. 30 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that was transplanted from
his beloved Seattle, he shouted, "I'm going to love beating the old Seattle basketball team, get our first win in the first game of the year." ... In all, it was perhaps the most bizarre yet appropriate introduction for an owner in this town's history. The players seated on the stage, including stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, looked as bemused as inspired. The post-rally buzz from Lakers fans was typically negative, with Ballmer's rant being compared to those of the late Chris Farley's Matt Foley character from "Saturday Night Live." Certainly, at times Ballmer came across as awkward and overbearing. Indeed, it felt strange to welcome the new owner of a championship-type professional basketball team with a high school pep rally. But of all the things that might have been lacking Monday, one thing existed in abundance. It was unabashed Clippers pride. For the first time, it seemed as if the Clippers were embraced not as the second team in town, but as the only team in town. There was enough pride that they filled up the lower bowl end zone on a Monday in the middle of August — "It was awesome, I was shocked, I really was," said Rivers. "In the middle of the summer, no basketball going on?"

Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: Bruno Caboclo still has that beaming smile, those shockingly long arms and more long-term promise than all but a handful of teenage basketball prodigies. His English is coming along slowly but surely, and his summer of development both personally and professionally is going according to script. He’s been in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Vancouver working on his game and his body. His footwork is better, his shot more consistent. He is stronger and quicker. Those are all good things for the 18-year-old Raptors prospect, and those close to the team are quite confident in his long-term future. He does not, however, yet have the one thing he needs more than anything else: The experience of being beaten on and beaten up by NBA players on a regular basis. Until that happens, the teenage Brazilian will remain little more than a long-term project. ... Caboclo will head to Los Angeles for some workouts next week and is scheduled back in Toronto for good right after. He knows how far he has to go, but he also knows how far he’s come. “I’m more comfortable, yes. Shooting, I am more fast, more strong, just better everywhere,” he said. “I am learning the game, the language — it’s coming a little bit, that’s all.”

Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: If Anthony Bennett is worried about a move to a new address expected to come as early as Saturday, he is doing a good job of hiding it. “I’m just a young man just ready to work,” Bennett said at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre on Monday, where he is serving as a guest at the four-day Americas Team Camp. Wherever I end up, doesn’t really matter to me. I just want to play the game of basketball.” He will not get the chance to atone for a rough rookie season in Cleveland. The Toronto-born and raised (with some time in Brampton as well more recently), 2013 No. 1 overall pick is expected to be shipped from the Cavaliers to Minnesota, along with 2014 No. 1 Andrew Wiggins, of Vaughan in the near future. Some reports have Bennett being redirected to Philadelphia in the deal, though nothing is certain at this point. ... Bennett insists that he has tuned all of the chatter out. “Not distracting at all, just still focused on what I have to do, just working hard, keep my body healthy, just watching what I eat,” Bennett said repeatedly, in a bit of a mantra on Monday. Last summer I couldn’t really do anything, just was pretty much out from the jump. This summer I was back on track right after the season, just watching everything I do, watching what I eat, just making sure everything is right for Summer League. I’m continuing more so I can be ready for the season.”

Brendan Savage of MLive.com: The Detroit Pistons have officially signed free agents Cartier Martin and Aaron Gray, the club announced Monday. MLive reported in July that the pair would be joining the Pistons. Martin, a 6-foot-7 forward, signed a two-year deal worth $2.4 million. During six NBA seasons, he has played for Charlotte, Golden State, Washington, Atlanta and Chicago. The Pistons are hoping he can help provide them with the type of outside shooting they've been lacking the last several seasons. ... Gray, a 7-foot, 270-pound center, signed a one-year deal worth $1.27 million with a player option for a second season.

Dwight Jaynes of CSNNW.com: I'm not picking on the Portland Trail Blazers here at all, because they are far from the only NBA team to do this kind of thing over the last several seasons. In fact, Maccabi Haifa plays three other NBA teams on its North American tour this season. All I'm saying is this: Why would you play this team? ... Portland General Manager Neil Olshey put it in perspective: "Maccabi Haifa is a top international team and we're looking forward to a competitive preseason game with them," he said. "This matchup gives our fans the unique opportunity to experience international basketball, and friendly exhibitions like this go a long way in further advancing the game globally." A league source put it similarly for me: "The NBA is very committed to advancing the game globally," he said. "Teams are asked periodically to play games like this in order to aid that cause." The way I look at it is that if your team is asked to help advance the game globally, this is a whole lot better than having to fly halfway around the world to play somebody.

Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: On the surface, they couldn’t be any more different: Matt Bonner, a flannel-wearing, Indie-rock loving white man from New Hampshire, and Kawhi Leonard, a cornrow-favoring, Air Jordan-sporting African-American from the Los Angeles area. Yet at their core they share a similar value set, particularly as it relates to cars. Bonner is legendarily thrifty. Despite more than $27 million in career earnings, his current ride is a Chevy Impala, the replacement for his beloved Pontiac Grand Prix that was totaled in an accident. “The leg room is far superior, which is basically No. 1,” Bonner explained. “And it still gets 29 MPGs, which is pretty good for a mid-size model.” Leonard has the same kind of mentality with his rides. He does own a Porsche — but only because of peer pressure from his family and friends. Given his druthers, he prefers tooling around in the same silver Chevy Malibu he drove in college, well before he put himself in line for a massive contract after his bravura performance in the Spurs’ championship victory over Miami. “It’s paid off,” Leonard told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I don’t have a car note on it. It’s good on gas. It’s a good commuter car if you don’t want to drive your luxury car.”

Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Two years ago, the Suns produced a fun video that featured Tom Chambers crashing a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame golf tournament in Litchfield Park to pitch his candidacy. Chambers wore a T-shirt with the back reading "T.C. FOR H.O.F." and the front featuring a photo of his 1989 knee-in-face dunk over Mark Jackson. ... Chambers made light of the notion and still thinks his chances are slim but he at least has a distinction now. When Mitch Richmond was inducted into the Hall of Fame this month, Chambers moved to first on a certain Hall of Fame list. Chambers scored more points in the NBA than any Hall of Fame-eligible player who has not been inducted. Now that all of Golden State's "Run TMC" is in, "Dunk TC" has entertained the idea. "These guys are all my era and did similar things," Chambers said of Richmond, Chris Mullin and Tim Hardaway. "Have I thought about it? Yes. Do I expect it? No. I really don't." Chambers ranks 38th on the NBA career scoring list with 20,049 points, making him the only 20,000-point scorer who is not in the Hall of Fame besides active and ineligible players. Richmond went in with 20,797 but he had more All-Star appearances (six to Chambers' four) and All-NBA selections (five to Chambers' two).