Monday, October 12, 2009
First Cup: Monday
- Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "If anyone thought him guilty of unearned hubris, he followed by punctuating his performance with a basket that provided the Spurs their margin of victory in a 95-93 win. His game-winning layin, off a nice feed from Malik Hairston, gave him his 27th and 28th points of the game. By the time he headed to the locker room to receive a dose of instant humility, delivered by coach Gregg Popovich, DeJuan Blair had scored 15 of the Spurs' 33 fourth-quarter points, all in the final six-and-a-half minutes. Sunday's fourth-quarter explosion produced the second set of eye-popping statistics of the 6-foot-7, 265-pound post man's preseason. In the first preseason game, against the Rockets, he scored 16 points and grabbed 19 rebounds. Drafted in the second round because the Spurs believed him a legitimate NBA rebounder, Blair got a none-too-subtle reminder from Popovich that rebounding must remain his forte. 'He had a tough night,' Popovich said, straight-faced. 'He only had one defensive rebound.' Then, Popovich failed to suppress a grin as he told reporters from Florida, 'He's really going to enjoy reading that in the San Antonio paper.' "
- Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "Of all the key acquisitions the Dallas Mavericks made over the summer, Kris Humphries' arrival barely caused a ripple. Yet less than two weeks into training camp, he's provided some of the biggest tidal waves, not to mention one of the biggest dunks. The 6-8 forward has been the surprise of training camp. Apparently, he shocked Memphis' Zach Randolph, too. Humphries blew past the Grizzlies' forward twice for drives to the basket, including a thunderous two-handed throw-down that lit up the crowd and was the memorable play of the Mavericks' 114-107 win Sunday night at American Airlines Center. It's becoming routine to see Humphries making quality contributions. He had 16 points and nine rebounds (five offensive) in 21 minutes against Memphis. 'He's been very consistent,' coach Rick Carlisle said. 'He's got an all-around game and he's physical. He's been playing well since we got him in the trade. ... Look, there's still a long way to go, but he's making a strong case that he's deserving consideration for some playing time.' "
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has said Trevor Ariza does not have to become a star scorer for the acquisition to work for the Rockets, insisting Ariza's all-around production with the Lakers would be enough for the Rockets. But he and coach Rick Adelman believe Ariza is capable of more, faith that convinced Ariza to sign a five-year, $34 million contract with the Rockets. 'He's got to just play,' Adelman said. 'He's got to keep playing and trying things, can't be hesitant. As he gets hesitant, he gets around his guy and gets off-balance, rather than just be aggressive. He has to be aggressive and we'll take it from there. I thought he passed up a couple early. He's got to keep taking them. With new responsibilities, this is just part of it. You've got to keep doing it or you're not going to learn how to be aggressive, how to be a guy that attacks the other team. It's not unusual to be the way it is right now.' Adelman said he would look to put Ariza. a 6-8 swingman, in positions to do what he does best, but for now, heading into tonight's game against Milwaukee at Toyota Center, he wants to give him room to explore the scoring chances available to him. Ariza said he was 'never a volume shooter,' even in high school. But the transition could be as much about dealing with new responsibilities and expectations."
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Might the Wolves' notable new coaching staff be tougher than the team? 'Well,' forward Al Jefferson said with a pregnant pause, 'they think they are.' Their new head coach won six NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers as a player and assistant coach. But in a youtube.com world, Kurt Rambis just might be best remembered for those industrial-strength eyeglasses from long ago and for rising ready to fight after he was clobbered by Kevin McHale in a 1984 NBA Finals game. Rambis' search for candidates with championship pedigrees as well as both head-coaching experience and aspirations produced a staff that includes Bill Laimbeer, the most insufferable member from the Detroit Pistons' 'Bad Boys' teams of the late 1980s and early 1990s, two-time NBA All-Star guard and former Sacramento head coach Reggie Theus and Dave Wohl, an assistant coach on those 1980s Lakers teams and former New Jersey head coach. 'If the players ask about situations, these guys have actually, physically gone through it,' Rambis said. 'They've lived through losing environments, they've lived through winning environments. With all our years in the league, we've probably experienced everything and anything that all of these players are going to go through. That experience is going to be invaluable.' "
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "The Timberwolves haven't reached the postseason in the four years since firing Saunders; last season, the Pistons traded away Chauncey Billups, won just 39 games and lost in the first round. Saunders said the time away made him more secure and committed to his philosophies. 'When you don't reach a goal or don't finish it, it's a disappointment,' Saunders said of his time in Detroit. 'But I do think you feel that you're there and you averaged winning 60 games a year, I think you're doing something right.' Throughout his coaching career, Saunders has usually been asked to revitalize a flailing organization, as the case is now with the Wizards. But in Detroit, Saunders had replaced Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, who had guided the Pistons to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances and an NBA title in 2004. Saunders tweaked some things offensively and let his core group of Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace use some the defensive schemes that were successful under previous regimes. But near the end of his time in Detroit, many of his players tuned him out. Asked if he would've done anything differently in his three years in Detroit, Saunders said 'not at all.' He said his teams fell victim to some unfortunate circumstances."
- Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: "Rookies chosen with the No. 16 and 27 picks in the NBA draft usually generate low - to no - expectations upon arrival. So it's been a little surprising to see James Johnson and Taj Gibson jump into the spotlight early in the Bulls' preseason games. Johnson's game is difficult to define, but his lively athleticism and varied skills have been intriguing. After a rough opening game against Indiana, the 6-foot-9 forward from Wake Forest averaged 16 points and 7.5 rebounds, plus 5 turnovers, in his next two. Gibson has been logging significant minutes while Tyrus Thomas is out with a bruised hip, and has averaged 13.7 points. Gibson, a 6-9 power forward from USC, i
s an older rookie who plays like a steady veteran, biding his time and knocking down midrange jumpers when the chance arrives."
- Barbara Barker of Newsday: "Google Darko Milicic and the words 'draft bust' and you launch a never-ending Internet debate on where his selection by the Pistons with the No. 2 pick in the 2003 NBA draft ranks among the league's all-time worst picks. The 7-foot Serbian hasn't exactly had the kind of career that anyone expected when Joe Dumars picked him over Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. This goes a long way toward explaining why there was little fanfare when the Knicks traded Quentin Richardson to obtain him from Memphis this summer. Yet a couple weeks into training camp, and it's looking like that trade could pan into a fairly savvy move. Milicic has played for a variety of coaches in Detroit, Orlando and Memphis. His best season was in 2006-07 when he averaged 8.0 points and 5.5 rebounds. This marks the first time, however, that Milicic has played in a system that fits him as well as Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo one."
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "To the average fan, a basketball game is a circus. Ten showmen swoosh up and down the court, a whirlwind of entertainment, from long-range shots to high-flying dunks. To Dean Oliver, basketball is a math equation. In his eyes, games are a series of possessions, and the simple way to win this game is to maximize your possessions and minimize your opponent's possessions. Asked if fans are looking at the wrong stats, Oliver said, 'To some degree, yeah.' The best-selling book 'Moneyball,' about the forward-thinking Oakland Athletics' front office, preached the benefits of on-base and slugging percentages over batting average and home runs, statistics most fans have been told for decades are the standards of offense. In basketball, Oliver has "the four factors" he regards as the holy grail -- turnovers per possession, offensive rebounding percentage, free throws made per field goals attempted and effective field-goal percentage (which gives 50 percent more credit to 3-point shots than normal field-goal percentage). 'If you can control those four things -- offensively and defensively -- you win,' he said."
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Amare Stoudemire worked hard to get in shape this summer after two eye surgeries but needs this preseason to find his old self. Alvin Gentry gave Stoudemire more time (29 minutes) Saturday to help get there. 'Amare's going to get better,' Gentry said. 'He's just not physically where he's going to be. I like the effort he's playing with. I think he's playing harder than he's played the last five years that I've been here. ... He just can't quite complete certain plays.' Stoudemire made four jumpers and a follow to get 13 points and five rebounds. He has not been able to get to the rim off drives or rolls. 'I need to just get comfortable again,' Stoudemire said. 'I'm still not all the way there yet as far as my rhythm.' "
- Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "In what's amounting to a nice dose of tough love from his coaching staff, DeRozan is finding himself in and out of games quicker that you can say "blown assignment" through four exhibitions so far. A handful of times in Toronto's 100-93 win over the Washington Wizards at the Air Canada Centre Sunday afternoon, the 20-year-old prodigy found himself walking to the bench for a quick tutorial from the coaching staff. Never mind that he scored a team-high 19 points and had a couple of highlight reel-worthy forays to the rim, the game was more about teaching lessons than piling up numbers. 'I had to take him out three or four times just to talk to him and it wasn't about getting a breath,' coach Jay Triano said after Toronto ran its pre-season record to 2-2 before a sparse crowd of 11,936. 'He's still making mistakes. ... If Hedo (Turkoglu) and Antoine Wright and Sonny Weems (all injured and unavailable) are here, maybe I take DeMar out and I'd punish him by sitting him down. The way we did it today, I took him out and we corrected it. The good thing about him is he's a great learner.' "
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Pound for pound, Marcus Williams might be the hardest working player on the Grizzlies' roster. That's because every pound counts for the 6-3 point guard. Williams, who signed as a free agent in the offseason, is contractually required to weigh 207 pounds with 10-percent body fat this season. He said the team checks those measurements weekly, and the results have financial considerations. Griz general manager Chris Wallace and coach Lionel Hollins insisted on the clause because of the conditioning and weight issues that plagued Williams early in his career. 'I've made it every week so far,' Williams said. 'It's just about managing your weight and putting in the work. That's what Mr. Wallace wants me to do. That's what Coach wants me to do. I feel better. My body feels better being lighter. So I think it's working out.' "
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "First-round picks in the NBA just aren't as valuable as some of you treat them. I'm not talking ALL first-round picks. Michael Jordan should feel significant regret for using top-three picks on Kwame Brown (with Washington) and Adam Morrison (with Charlotte). My point is some of us treat all first-rounders as game-changers, and that's just not consistent with reality. At least seven of the 30 first-round picks in 2006 didn't reach the summer when teams would have to decide whether to tender qualifying offers to make them restricted free agents. If roughly one out of three first-rounders were ousted that quickly, then maybe the draft isn't all it's cracked up to be. Watching the Bobcats this preseason, I've been marginally more impressed by second-rounder Derrick Brown than lottery pick Gerald Henderson. That doesn't mean Henderson is a bust and Brown is a coup. And if Ajinca doesn't work out, I still think it was a good call to trade into the 20th spot. It's rare that you have a chance that late in a draft to explore a big man's possibilities."
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Nobody has to remind Magic SG Vince Carter that his shooting percentage is unacceptable. 'I criticize myself for my shooting more than anybody does,' Carter said after Sunday's practice. 'I'm trying to take a different approach and not worry so much about it. I know it will come.' After three preseason games, Carter is shooting a chilly 35.4 percent from the field and is even colder from 3-point land at 17.4 percent. The eight-time all-star knows how to get easier baskets. He acknowledged that Coach Stan Van Gundy 'wants me to be more aggressive and get to the paint.' "