Monday, October 5, 2009
First Cup: Monday
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Perhaps the setting was fitting, a reminder of how far Tracy McGrady must go. But for the first time since microfracture surgery last spring, McGrady, 30, practiced with the Rockets on Sunday. He went through a few stints of the scrimmage, moving well and without pain in a small, but significant step in his comeback. His first participation in training camp did not alter his schedule. General manager Daryl Morey said it was 'part of the process.' The Rockets expect McGrady to be out at least until an MRI scheduled for Nov. 23. Still, he played and all reports were that he played well. 'He looked good, real good,' forward Trevor Ariza said. 'He was real poised, real confident. He may be a ways away, but I think he looked good.' McGrady was less enthusiastic. He had been going through occasional five-on-five workouts in Chicago, though the Rockets were more encouraged by his energy and intensity Sunday than in those workouts. But McGrady seemed to have the steps to be taken, rather than made, in mind. 'It's another steppingstone toward making progress and trying to get back on the basketball court,' he said. 'I'm feeling pretty good. We just have to take our time on it. We'll see how I feel tomorrow and talk about it with the trainers and see what they want me to do. This is what I expected, to take caution, come out one step at a time and gradually ease my way back in to it. This is the first time I went up and down with the team. I still have a lot of work to do.' "
- Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: "The Warriors, I'm told, were really close to officially picking up Brandan Wright's option. They were definitely going to do it, but were waiting as a matter of safe practice. But once he came into camp looking good, it was a no-brainer. Now, not so sure. Of course, this is the very reason they waited, for the just in case, I think. Do you pick up his option? If Wright misses six months, he won't return until March. And even then, he won't be 100 percent. He will certainly be out of shape and rusty. So you can count this season as a wash. Which means, you are going into 2010-11 with the same questions/concerns about Wright that exist this season, and that's assuming that shoulder is ever right again. Do you pick him up for 2010-11 under these circumstances and hope he recovers fully? Or do you cut your losses now and pick up the extra cap space next summer?"
- Drew Sharpe of the Detroit Free Press: "Allen Iverson should shut up and move on with his life. But he just can't. He threw another dagger into Michael Curry's already decomposed coaching carcass, telling ESPN that the former Pistons coach lied to him about never having to come off the bench. Iverson referred to his one year in Detroit as 'the worst year of his life.' Can someone give the poor man a Kleenex? It's nonsense like this that kills the NBA's reputation, furthering the perception that its stars are little more than whiny, self-absorbed millionaires with little regard for the concept of team."
- Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "The pressure he faces is unlike that of the typical NBA player, and for the first time, Yi Jianlian seems ready to acknowledge that. Because you wondered: Does he feel it at all? An inane premise, as it turns out. Anyone whose every move is followed by 1.3 billion countrymen and a few dozen people in New Jersey knows he's under the microscope this season, even if you're the great stoic. So one week into camp, it's time to find out how he is handling the pressure of his job, because that is precisely what everyone in the organization has feared since his disappearing act over the last month last season. 'Try to be different from last year,' the Nets forward said Sunday, when asked what he wants out of his third NBA season. 'Show everybody that I'm better from last season. That I've changed.' Everyone changes, and in his case, it can only be for the better. But sometimes circumstances don't change. He still has a bull's-eye on his back -- a broader one now, since the injured Yao Ming isn't going to get much media attention while he spends the next 12 months in the whirlpool or on the treadmill. 'Probably more focus on me, a lot more this year,' Yi agreed. 'To me, I'm going to try to put myself in the game and control what I can control. It will be there. I know that.' "
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Jonny Flynn estimates he and Brandon Jennings -- the first ballyhooed prep star to bypass college ball to play in Europe for a year -- participated in 'eight or nine' pre-draft workout together, including one at Target Center that convinced new Wolves boss David Kahn to choose Flynn with the sixth pick. Jennings went to the Bucks at No. 10. 'It seemed like he was everywhere,' Flynn said. 'I couldn't shake him. Everywhere I was at, he was there.' The two began their pro careers Sunday night inside Bresnan Arena, where Flynn started for a Wolves team that built early leads of 10-2 and 14-3 and never trailed on a night when they attempted 56 free throws and made 50. ... 'Overall, I give myself a good grade,' said Flynn, who also had seven assists and three turnovers. 'With Al Jefferson and Kevin Love out there, there's a lot of room for a guy like me to get to the basket.' "
- Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "Teammates and coaches have praised Andre Miller for his superb passing ability, on-court leadership and veteran savvy. Early indications suggest that he is going to be an asset for this team, if not a force that helps propel the Blazers to a playoff run. But as positive as the on-court reports have been, Miller's off-the-court demeanor has raised an equal number of eyebrows. After a frosty media day introduction, Miller has gone out of his way to make it clear that he is in Portland to work, not to build relationships. 'I come to practice and go home,' Miller said. 'I practice and put in the time, talk to guys during practice and keep going. If it was college, then maybe that would be different. But this is a professional environment … a business. That's just how I get down.' ... An immeasurable part of the Blazers' rebirth the past two seasons has centered on the remarkable chemistry among the players. From group dinners and movie outings on the road to that New Year's Eve celebration on the team plane two seasons ago, the Blazers have thrived, in part, because of their tight bond. In light of that, it seems only fair to wonder what impact Miller's indifference to making friends and building off-court relationships will have on his new organization. 'You have to be you, whatever that is,' McMillan said. 'Be real. And guys will go with that. Andre is going to be real and that's all we can ask. Our chemistry is going to be fine. On the floor he's done what he's needed to do. Off the floor, he's done what he needed to do. You haven't heard of any issues with him. So are you in there hanging out? Do you go to dinne
r? We don't know. But I think he's going to be fine.' "
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Vince Carter has experienced just about everything during his 11 previous NBA seasons, but tonight's exhibition opener against the Dallas Mavericks will provide a career-first: his debut with the Orlando Magic. Carter acknowledged that this preseason will be more important than others because the Magic will try to develop chemistry with a bunch of new players who are expected to play key roles. 'Each game, I think, is important for us and this team,' Carter said. 'Yeah, it's your first game and the excitement's there, but I think for us, it's getting our new team and our guys established and understanding what he [Coach Stan Van Gundy] wants.' Oh, Carter noted there's one other benefit to facing another team. 'I'm tired of Dwight [Howard] elbowing me in the cheek on screens,' Carter said, smiling."
- Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "Basketball fate has a sense of humor. How else can you figure the Orlando Magic stealing two players from the Mavericks this summer, then getting teed up as the first preseason opponent tonight at American Airlines Center? Actually, 'stealing' is a little strong. But the Magic definitely prevented the Mavericks from getting center Marcin Gortat, a primary free-agent target. And they signed Brandon Bass away from the Mavericks. Tonight, both will be at AAC as members of the Magic. 'Brandon is a good friend, a family friend, but Kris Humphries is definitely filling in thus far,' Jason Terry said. 'And you know what? Brandon owes me some money, and I think he did just get paid, so hopefully I can collect.' Bass indeed parlayed his two seasons in Dallas into a four-year contract with the Magic worth $18 million. He returns tonight with a reasonable shot to start at power forward."
- Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "Though Ray Allen may not spend time 'worrying' about his future, he does have a clear goal in mind. He wants to stay a Celtic. He wants to remain a part of the Boston and New England community. 'Definitely that would be the ideal situation for me,' Allen said. 'I know what it's like to live in two other NBA cities (Seattle and Milwaukee). I don't want to know what it's like to live in any more. Obviously it would be my preference to finish my career here as a Celtic. Hopefully we raise one or two more banners in my time. Three, if possible. I would love it. That would be great.' So would be, for Allen, taking up residence with other local icons. 'Boston is a great sports town,' he said. 'It's a town that forever you're imprinted on the lives of the people. To be able to still do things in the community once you've finished playing is great. Tedy Bruschi won't have any problem doing that. I see Cam Neely and I've played golf with him a couple of times. He still has a presence in the Boston area. You know, it's wonderful to be able to raise your kids up in an environment where you still have an impact philanthropically.' "
- Mike Jones of The Washington Times: "Younger players like Andray Blatche and Nick Young, who admittedly are more visual learners and had trouble remembering the plays the last few seasons, have picked up Saunders' system with more ease thanks to the iPod Touch devices featuring Flip Saunders' entire 750-page playbook and video clips of how each play should be run. The Wizards feel more united thanks to the off-court activities, and the unconventional teaching methods have made practices fly by. 'He keeps it fresh, keeps it fun, always has you expecting something different,' Caron Butler said. 'It's the same thing, getting your reps in, but [the methods are] always something different, so it keeps it fun.' Keeping things fresh and unpredictable is exactly what Saunders had in mind, but the unconventional approach is nothing new for him. The tools (like the iPods) may be a pioneering wave of the future. But going back to his days as basketball coach at Minneapolis Junior College at the dawn of his coaching career, Saunders has tried to find unique ways to prepare his players."
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Counterintuitive as this sounds, Charlotte Bobcats forward Alexis Ajinca should start worrying when the coach stops yelling at him. That's not much consolation when Larry Brown is on you more than any teammate. Still, the attention Ajinca is getting in this training camp reflects his potential and the minutes available at power forward. He can either embrace that or shrivel under it. 'When coaches don't correct you, then they've probably forgotten about you,' Brown said of all the yelling he's done with Ajinca. 'There's a difference between coaching and criticism,' Brown continued. 'I wouldn't want to play for coaches criticizing all the time. But I also wouldn't want to play for coaches who aren't teaching.' "
- Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "Christian Eyenga, who was the Cavs' first-round draft pick last June, made a name for himself in Spain over the weekend. The Congo native won the Spanish (ACB) League dunk contest Saturday night. His signature moment was throwing down a slam while grabbing a small teddy bear off the rim with his mouth. The 6-foot-5 Eyenga signed a three-year contract with DKV Joventut, Ricky Rubio's old team, in July but has an opt-out to come to the Cavs next year."
- Marlon W. Morgan of The Commercial Appeal: "As the Grizzlies head into their ninth season in Memphis, their marketing campaign centers around building unity between the team and community. During the last three seasons, the Grizzlies have been punchlines throughout the NBA while enduring seasons of 24 victories or less. But a youth movement that has seen players like Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo and Marc Gasol develop, combined with the acquisitions of power forward Zach Randolph and perennial All-Star guard Allen Iverson, has the city abuzz. The team said season ticket renewals are up 15 percent over last year, while new season tickets sales are 150 percent above last season."