TrueHoop: Detroit Pistons

Lotto teams making splash in free agency

July, 12, 2013
By John McTigue
ESPN Stats & Information
As the Houston Rockets and other playoff teams look to improve this offseason, there are teams just looking to get back into the playoff fold.

Below is a statistical look at some of the biggest moves made by those teams.

Key Addition: Josh Smith
Last Playoff Appearance: 2008-09

Smith has been a known commodity on defense in his career, but the success of his offensive game has depended on shot selection.

Win shares estimates the number of wins a player contributed to a team based off statistical performance, and can be divided into offensive and defensive win shares.

Since 2006-07, he ranks fifth in defensive win shares, trailing three MVPs and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard.

But which Smith will the Pistons get offensively?

In the 2009-10 season, Smith set career highs in field goal percentage (50.5) and offensive win shares (4.2). Smith attempted only seven 3-pointers that season, and as a result his average shot was a career-low 6.8 feet from the basket.

Since what was arguably his best offensive season, Smith has shot 46.7 percent from the field, averaging 2.1 3-pointers per game. His average shot has come 11.7 feet from the basket, and he has a combined 3.5 offensive win shares, including a minus-0.3 rating last season.

The Pistons averaged the second-most points in the paint last season (46.5 PPG) and could be a force inside with Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.

Key Addition: Al Jefferson
Last Playoff Appearance: 2009-10 (only appearance in franchise history)

With the acquisition of Jefferson, the Bobcats will have a major low post scorer for the first time in franchise history.

In 2008-09, Boris Diaw averaged 15.1 points per game while starting 55 games for the Bobcats at power forward. That’s the highest scoring average for a Bobcats power forward or center in franchise history.

Since leaving the Celtics in 2007, Al Jefferson has averaged 19.3 points per game, never dipping below 17.1 for a full season.

Jefferson does most of his damage inside as he was one of 13 NBA players last season to average at least 10 points in the paint per game.

The Bobcats averaged 38.6 points in the paint per game last season (24th in the NBA), with 6-foot-1 point guard Kemba Walker leading the team (6.6 paint PPG).

Key Addition: Tyreke Evans
Last Playoff Appearance: 2010-11

Evans lost favor in Sacramento after winning the Rookie of the Year award in 2009-10, but he shot a career-high 47.8 percent last season and has the ability to score inside.

Since entering the NBA, Dwyane Wade is the only guard to average more points per game inside the paint than Evans, whose 9.8 points per game in the paint ranks 13th among all NBA players over that time.

If the Pelicans choose to hang onto Eric Gordon and bring Evans off the bench, he’ll help boost a bench unit that averaged only 10.7 points inside the paint last season (23rd) despite logging the eighth-most minutes.

The Andre Drummond experience

January, 26, 2013
Haberstroh By Tom Haberstroh
Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images
Ladies and gentlemen of Miami, meet Mr. Andre Drummond.

MIAMI – The first time I saw Andre Drummond in person, I did a double take.

Before a meaningless preseason game in October at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, the Detroit Pistons were gliding through their layup lines, warming up before a matchup against the defending champion Miami Heat.

It’s no stretch to say that Drummond dwarfed everyone in the building. He is listed at 6-foot-10 and 270 pounds, but the scary thing is that he’s probably not fully formed yet; he’s 19 years old. You couldn’t help but be struck by his enormity. He has tree trunks for legs, but when you witness him in layup lines, you immediately notice that he’s almost impossibly light on his toes.

To prove it, Drummond did something that made the Miami crowd recoil in shock.

The 270-pounder barreled toward the rim after a dribble from the left sideline, catapulted off the ground, swung the ball between his legs from one hand to the other and slammed the ball through the rim so hard that you could feel the rumble across Biscayne Bay.

The size of Kendrick Perkins. Between the legs. With ease.

That’s when I knew Drummond was special, and I wasn’t alone. It was about that time in preseason that Pistons head coach Lawrence Frank fully grasped what kind of talent Drummond could be in the NBA.

“In preseason, he opened our eyes a little bit, because he didn’t necessarily show that in Summer League,” Frank said on Friday. “He had some ‘wow’ moments over the summer, but he didn’t sustain anything. It was really in training camp when you really saw it.”

A back injury kept the man they call “The Big Penguin” mostly grounded until preseason rolled around. But it’s safe to say nothing’s holding him back now. Picked ninth in the 2012 draft, Drummond leads all rookies with a 23.0 player efficiency rating, averaging 7.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks -- all in just 20 minutes per game. He’s a per-minute marvel among stat-heads, and a daily fixture on highlight reels.

On Friday night in his return to Miami, you saw Drummond’s promise early in the fourth quarter. He stripped the ball from Dwyane Wade, not once but twice. On back-to-back possessions. And then, he dribbled the length of the floor the other way for the finish on each occasion.

After the second pick-pocket, Drummond actually Euro-stepped around Ray Allen for the layup. Yes, seconds after stripping Wade, the nearly 300-pounder used Wade’s own signature scoring move on a fastbreak.

And it worked. Well, kind of. The way that particular play ended encapsulates the Andre Drummond experience. It didn’t end in a layup or a thunderous dunk, but a trip to the free throw line after Wade mauled him from behind.

The charity stripe is the one place on the court where Drummond looks human. After the pair of spectacular efforts, Drummond missed both of the ensuing free throws, dropping his free-throw percentage to a dreadful 40.9 percent on the season.

Steal, dunk, steal, missed freebies. It always seems to be three steps forward, one giant step back for Drummond. At age 19, that’s all you can really ask for.

“He guarded Wade as well as anyone,” Frank said after the game. “And I’m not saying that jokingly.”

There were plenty of ups for Drummond on Friday. He filled every category in the box score again, finishing with six points on three dunks, seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks in 25 minutes. And if foolish plays were a statistic, he’d have a few of those as well.

But even now, he’s catching opposing veterans by surprise. At one point, Shane Battier thought he was LeBron James for a moment and curiously tried to dunk on Drummond on the baseline. It didn’t end well. Drummond met Battier at the rim and the rookie palmed the ball with his right hand in midair, ripping it down without using his off hand.

In a moment, Drummond made Battier look like 44, not 34.

“Yeah, I was surprised, I was like, ‘Oh, he looks like he’s gonna try to dunk it!’” Drummond said at his locker after the game. “I just jumped and got a hand on it.”

Of course, it wasn’t all “oohs” and “ahhs” for Drummond against the Heat. There were times when he tried to dribble around his defender and found nothing but trouble. Some missed rotations. But with a talent like that, you take the good with the bad.

“Andre had some good things he did,” Frank said. “And some things obviously that, you know, we’ll keep working on with him.”

The Pistons are still experimenting with Drummond. And it might dictate their playoff hopes. Now 16-27, they stand three and a half games outside the eighth seed, behind the reeling Boston Celtics. Drummond’s development next to fellow talented big man Greg Monroe, who registered 31 points and 12 rebounds on Friday, remains one of the biggest wild cards in the league.

While Frank recognizes the duo's potential, he’s fully aware that they need to endure the inevitable growing pains. On the season, the Drummond-Monroe tandem has seen the court an average of 6.5 minutes per game, but that’s up to 8.5 minutes in the month of January heading into Friday’s game. And it’s getting positive results. In the 85 minutes this month with those two on the floor, the Pistons have outscored opponents by 23 points. So far, so good.

But in a league that increasingly embraces small-ball, Frank has a dilemma on his hands. On Friday, he called it “a game of chicken.” Should he play Drummond-Monroe together and risk getting beat by quicker players? The Pistons played the Heat even point-for-point when the two played together, but lost by 15 in the few minutes that Charlie Villanueva, not Monroe, played alongside Drummond.

“He’s still learning, and he’s going to be in a bunch of situations, like all our players, but for him it’s all new,” Frank said. “There are going to be times that because of a lack of experience, not for a lack of effort, but for a lack of experience ... and then it’s really about finding out the best combinations that he can play with, and that we can be most effective with. And that’s what we’re still exploring.”

All in all, Frank says he couldn’t be happier with Drummond’s progression as a rookie. But don’t expect Frank to give him the starting gig anytime soon. Little steps.

“I’ll tell you what, (Drummond) went from a guy who didn’t understand screening at all, to now becoming arguably our best screener,” Frank said. “You see the progress made and you love his effort, his spirit, his makeup. If he continues to maintain that type of approach, then he has really good things in front of him.”

You won’t find Drummond campaigning for a starting gig.

"Lawrence knows what he’s doing,” Drummond said. “He knows when to put me into the game to get the best out of me. So however many minutes he plays me, he knows he’ll get 100 percent.”

Based on age and draft position, Drummond may be the most impressive rookie of his class. At 19, the double takes seem to have only just begun.

Pistons, Bucks achieve perfection

January, 13, 2012
By ESPN Stats & Information
A perfect game is a rarity in baseball, but the kind that took place in the NBA on Thursday night is even more unusual.

The Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks combined to shoot 41-for-41 from the free throw line in Milwaukee’s 102-93 victory on Thursday night. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the best display of free-throw shooting in NBA history.

The previous mark was held by the Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors, who were a combined 16-for-16 from the line on Dec. 22, 2000. That’s the only other game in the shot clock era in which both teams went the entire night without missing a free throw.

Two other performances come close. On April 4, 1997, the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns were a combined 36-for-37. Nearly six years later, on April 5, 2003, the Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves were a combined 43-for-44.

In both instances, it was a Suns miss that prevented perfection.

Coincidentally, the Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers had 41 free-throw attempts on Thursday as well. But they failed at achieving perfection by a wide margin, combining to miss 14 attempts.

Between them, the Pistons and Bucks were shooting 76 percent from the free-throw line this season, so a game with 41 free-throw attempts figured to have around 31 makes and 10 misses. But on this night, they would be much better.
Greg Monroe
The Bucks' two best free throw shooters, Stephen Jackson and Jon Leuer, who entered 41-for-48 from the foul line, combined to go 8-for-8. The Pistons got an 8-for-8 from Greg Monroe, who entered the day shooting 77 percent. They also got a 7-for-7 from Rodney Stuckey, who is now 30-for-34 on free-throw attempts this season.

Monroe had a fantastic all-around game. He finished with 32 points and 16 rebounds, the third Pistons player to hit both of those plateaus in a game in the past 25 seasons , joining Grant Hill and Dennis Rodman, who each did so twice (alas, neither was perfect from the foul line in those games).

For the Bucks, it was their best free-throw shooting game since going 28-for-28 in a 103-94 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 12, 2000.

The 24-for-24 for the Pistons was the best by any team in the NBA this season, the best by any team since the Minnesota Timberwolves were 25-for-25 in a 104-92 win over the New Orleans Hornets on Feb. 7, 2011.

According to Elias, the last time the Pistons made that many free throws without a miss in a game was March 12, 1985, when they went 24-for-24 in a 111-110 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

That night, they lost to a rookie named Michael Jordan, who made four late free throws of his own to seal a 32-point effort and a win for his team.

The last team to lose a game in which it shot 24-for-24 or better from the free-throw line was the Dallas Mavericks, who went 29-for-29 in a 110-98 loss to the Washington Wizards on Nov. 26, 2007.

The Pistons were well short of the NBA record for the most makes by a team in a game without a miss. That mark of 39 was set by the Utah Jazz against the Portland Trail Blazers, Dec. 7, 1982.

Howard not so perfect, but sets record in win
Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard wasn't anything close to perfect on Thursday, but he set an NBA mark nonetheless.

Howard broke the record for free-throw attempts in a game with 39 in Orlando's 117-109 win over the Golden State Warriors. Howard broke the mark of 34 that stood for nearly 50 years, set by Wilt Chamberlain against the Hawks on Feb. 22, 1962.

Howard's 18 misses are the most by any player, not named Chamberlain, in NBA history.

Perhaps we can expect a big scoring day from Howard in the future. Less than two weeks after Chamberlain set that free throw attempts record, he set another record, one that hasn't been touched. On March 2, 1962, he scored 100 points in a win over the New York Knicks.

For now, Howard will have to settle for what he did on Thursday: becoming the only active player with a 40-point/20-rebound game.

Thursday Bullets

December, 30, 2010

Celtics feel pain of Garnett loss

December, 30, 2010
By ESPN Stats & Info
For the second time in a week, one of the best teams in the NBA lost an elite player to injury. The impact of the absence of both Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett was immediate.

For the Mavericks, it came with a home loss to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night. In the case of the Boston Celtics, it came in the form of a 104-92 loss to the Detroit Pistons a day later.

Kevin Garnett
Data from the Elias Sports Bureau shows that the Celtics typically outscore opponents by 14.9 points-per-48 minutes when Garnett has been on the floor this season, and outscored by 3.6 points when he has been out of the game. The difference (18.5 points-per-game better) ranks third among NBA players, trailing only Nowitzki and Steve Nash.

They got burned for 104 points by a hot-shooting Pistons team, one that sizzled from 3-point range for the second straight game. The Pistons followed up an 11-for-19 3-point shooting effort in their last game against the Bobcats by making 10-of-15 3-pointers against the Celtics.

A check of showed it to be the third time in the last 25 years (and the first time since 2008) that the Pistons had consecutive games in which they made at least 10 3-pointers AND shot 55 percent or better from 3-point range.

Elsewhere, while the Celtics had a rare bad night, the Los Angeles Lakers had a rare (relatively speaking) good one, snapping their three-game losing streak with a 103-88 road win over the New Orleans Hornets. The Lakers shot only 29 percent from 3-point range, but made up for that by making 68 percent of their two-point attempts.

The Lakers have played it to an extreme over the last two games. Tuesday night, they shot a season-low 35.4 percent against the San Antonio Spurs. Their 58.6 percent Wednesday was a season high.

Our nightly look at the most interesting plus-minus numbers also provided a couple of interesting takes from Wednesday’s games.

Miami Heat forward, Chris Bosh, who entered the night leading the NBA in plus-minus, was minus-16 in a 125-119 win over the Houston Rockets. In fact, when Bosh, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade were on the floor together, the Rockets outscored the Heat, 80-78.

It was a historic win for the Heat. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, they became the first team in NBA history to go 10-0 on the road in a calendar month.

Tyreke Evans was minus-8, but was plus-3 when it counted, sinking his first career NBA buzzer beater, a shot from beyond halfcourt that gave the Sacramento Kings a 100-98 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

It was the eighth NBA buzzer-beater this season, the first for the Kings since Kevin Martin hit one to beat the Seattle SuperSonics on January 27, 2008.

And Denver Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups may have had the best game of the night by someone other than Wade, going 6-for-6 from 3-point range, and finishing with 36 points in a 119-113 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

But the Nuggets were outscored by two points when Billups was on the floor. In contrast, J.R. Smith was just 4-for-16 from the field, but Denver outscored Minnesota by 21 points in his 30 minutes of play.

Tuesday Bullets

December, 28, 2010
Mason By Beckley Mason
  • A moment of silence please, for the death of my favorite NBA Twitter handle.
  • Jared Wade is at the controls over at The Point Forward, where he's done a lot of statistical legwork to figure out what makes a player MVP-worthy. His conclusion: "By examining past winners, we get a snapshot of the typical MVP: a 27-year-old, healthy big man who leads his team to 60 wins while scoring 25 points (on 51 percent shooting), grabbing 13 boards and handing out five assists per game. We are looking at Charles Barkley on the Suns, basically."
  • Pistons to MacGrady: "Tracy, this is awkward. It's not that we didn't think you'd be good, it's just that we never thought anyone would want to buy your jersey."
  • This physics-defying freethrow attempt made me think of The Sixth Man. Beware the ghost of Antoine Tyler!
  • Sebastian Pruiti shows us the effect of good coaching versus bad coaching can have when it comes to getting clean looks.
  • I'm almost positive this is legitimate. An English translation of Knicks forward Timofey Mozgov's lengthy, revealing blog post which originally appeared in Russian here. Quoth Mozgov on his recent Did Not Play, Coach's Decisions: "You should agree with me that panic is a bad advisor; it’s hard to work productively when it’s there. But I’m not complacent either. So, I’ll repeat myself: I’m not ashamed."
  • Ever wonder what The View would look like with younger hosts who only discussed sports? If so, I direct you to KFrye and Friends, a new sports talk show hosted by Channing Frye's Emmy Award-winning mom, Karen. I'm not sure how large the audience will be, but I'm interested to see women talking about sports (video) in a way that seems intended for a primarily female audience. If it works, KFrye could really be on to something.
  • For Atlanta fans, this ain't good.
  • This is what they're saying about the Knicks' stud rookie Landry Fields over at DraftExpress: "Considering where he started and where he is now, Fields' case might be the most unlikely we've seen in the seven NBA drafts we've covered." Read up to find out why Fields has been one of David Thorpe's top rookies all year.
  • LeBron's contraction remarks have once again stoked the flames of his most passionate detractors. The guys at Nets Are Scorching roast James in this half-serious, half-hilarious debate to determine what the correct reason to hate LeBron is.
  • After three exceedingly frustrating years, Nick Young is putting it together. But Kyle Weidie of Truth About It notes that while he's playing more efficiently and intelligently than ever, he's still a historically awful passer.
  • The No Look Pass takes a shot at ranking the five most lopsided trades of the last 15 years.
  • You may hate the Heat, but there is simply too much stellar writing and analysis on the Heat Index to let that keep you from reading. Today: Tom Haberstroh explains how the Heat's newly methodical execution on both ends is slow cooking the competition; Kevin Arnovitz provides five insights into the rematch of 2010's most entertaining game; and Mike Wallace explains that part of why Chris Bosh has been so magnificently effective for the last month is because he's finally got his legs under him.
  • Jeremy Schmidt may be on to something. If Jason Collins is killing you on the glass, you're doing it wrong.
  • Because the Spurs are running so much, and Tim Duncan's statistics are down, you may not have noticed that he's still playing a vital role in the Spurs revamped offense.
  • Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph of the Memphis Grizzlies have some thoughts on contraction, and the fact that Memphis would be one of the more obvious targets should the NBA actually decide to eliminate a couple teams. I'll say this about the matter: if it happens it will be because of a dilution in league-wide revenue, not talent.

Magic act getting better by the game

December, 28, 2010
By ESPN Stats & Info
It took a little while to get going, but the additions of Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson are now having the impact the Orlando Magic desired. The New Jersey Nets aren’t the best litmus test, but the Magic beat them handily on the road last night, 104-88, as the trio combined for 43 points.

Hedo Turkoglu has been impressive in this three-game run. He netted 20 more points on Monday, the third straight game in which he shot 50 percent or better from the field. Turkoglu was 3-for-15 in his first two games back with the Magic.

It also seems like guard J.J. Redick is comfortable with the team’s new additions. He scored 15 points Monday, his fourth straight game scoring in double figures.

This was the second straight game in which Redick did something significant. On Christmas Day, he hit a key shot on a rare isolation play in the final minute of the Magic’s rally against the Boston Celtics. In this game he was a team-best plus-23. Redick was aggressive early, going 3-for-6 from 3-point range in the first half. His 10 shots in the first two quarters were a team high. Redick had only attempted 10 or more shots in a game, seven times prior to Monday.

Elsewhere, with Dirk Nowitzki suffering a second-quarter knee injury, Shawn Marion stepped up scoring-wise for the Dallas Mavericks in their 103-93 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Marion was 10-for-29 in his previous three games, but 10-for-15 in this one.

That should help Marion, who entered shooting 43.9 percent from the field in December, avoid his worst shooting in a calendar month since he shot 43.4 percent in April, 2005 (minimum five games played). The Mavericks have won all seven games this season in which Marion scored at least 15 points.

Dallas became just the fifth team since the ABA-NBA merger to win 11 of its first 12 road games. Seven of their 11 road wins have been against teams with a winning record. The 2009-10 Celtics were the last team to start a season by winning 11 of its first 12 on the road. Prior to that, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last team to do so was the 1993-94 Houston Rockets.

Lastly, we have the statistical oddity of the night: Jason Maxiell played five minutes and 53 seconds in the Detroit Pistons 105-100 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats. In that time, the Pistons were outscored by 19 points.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Maxiell’s minus-19 is the worst plus-minus for any NBA player who played six minutes or fewer in a game this season, surpassing the minus-18 posted by Philadelphia 76ers center Spencer Hawes in a 123-116 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on November 5.

Knicks bench sparks record from downtown

November, 5, 2010
By ESPN Stats & Info
The New York Knicks victory over the Chicago Bulls was noteworthy for a number of reasons. The Knicks bench continued its remarkable production in the early going, while for the Bulls Derrick Rose continued his transformation into a legitimate superstar.

The win for the Knicks was their first at the United Center since New Year’s Day of 2008. Entering Thursday’s contest, the Knicks had a 6-27 record at the United Center, including a 6-24 regular-season mark and three losses without a win in the postseason. The 27 combined regular and postseason losses are the most by any visiting team at the United Center. But on Thursday, they won largely because of Toney Douglas’ spark off the bench.

Douglas posted a career-high 30 points off the bench, which is not typical for him personally but very typical for the Knicks bench as a whole this season. It was the third 30-point game off the bench in the NBA this season, joining Ben Gordon of the Detroit Pistons and Louis Williams of the Philadelphia 76ers. Douglas made his living beyond the arc, hitting five of nine shots. The team as a whole hit 66.7 percent of their three-point field goal attempts in Thursday’s game, the highest percentage in franchise history with a minimum of 20 attempts, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

While Douglas was the hero tonight, Wilson Chandler has been the primary asset off the bench. In the NBA as a whole, Chandler ranks first in field goal attempts (17.8), 2nd in points per game (18.3) and 3rd in rebounds per game (8.8) off the bench this season. The Knicks are the only current team with two different players to have a 20-point game off bench and their three total 20-point games off bench is the most in league.

Derrick Rose
The Bulls might have taken a home loss, but they received another spectacular performance from Derrick Rose. Rose continued his evolution into a superstar, contributing 24 points and a career-high 14 assists. He is just the third Bulls player to reach those numbers in the last 20 seasons, joining two recognizable names, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Through four games this season, Rose is averaging 26.8 PPG and 10.0 APG, compared to 20.8 PPG and 6.0 APG in 2009-10.

First Cup: Thursday

October, 15, 2009
  • Frank Dell'Apa of The Boston Globe: "Kevin Garnett passed the alley-oop test in the Celtics' 106-90 exhibition win over Toronto last night. Garnett converted two dunks off lobs from Rajon Rondo, the first time they have combined on the play since Garnett was injured last February. 'That was nice,' coach Doc Rivers said. 'Unexpected, actually, because Kevin got kneed in the calf in the first half, so I didn't think he was running well. And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, he becomes the old Kevin. That's the only thing, really, that you can see that he hasn't done. And to see that, that's really big.' Garnett, who had 16 points and six rebounds in 22:42 of playing time."
  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Allen Iverson joined the Memphis Grizzlies for $3 million late in the off-season, amidst plenty of media speculation and hoopla. Now the 34-year-old Iverson already is out of the Memphis lineup for an extended time due to a partial tear in his left hamstring. In a much quieter off-season transaction in National Basketball Association circles, forward Hakim Warrick signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Milwaukee Bucks, after the Grizzlies withdrew their qualifying offer to the former Syracuse star. Warrick's signing could be a steal for the Bucks, if he can continue the steady play he has produced over the first five exhibition games. He leads the team in scoring (17.8 points per game) and rebounding (6.8) and is shooting 59% from the field and 77% at the foul line, while taking a team-high 44 free-throw attempts. ... So it was a bit of a jolt when the Grizzlies let him become an unrestricted free agent. 'Just being in this profession, you always want to have something to prove, no matter what,' Warrick said. 'You look at the greatest, Michael Jordan. He always had something to prove, and he was the best player that walked the face of the earth. 'I definitely want to go out there and show that it was a mistake and I'm a really good player.' "
  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "One of the knocks on Kwame Brown has been his inconsistent hands -- frequently in the past he would fumble passes out of bounds or lose the basketball when going up for shots around defenders. But that hasn't been the case so far. I asked Brown if he is doing anything different. Is he using Stickum? Using contacts now? Using Velcro gloves? The secret is not so drastic. Brown said he's just concentrating on slowing down and making sure the ball is secured before starting his move. Really? That's it? But it does make some sense. Former Pistons coach Michael Curry used to tell the media all the time last season that Brown was fine whenever he would just slow down. Further reminders from Kuester has continued the reclamation project. And while Brown may never reach the heights his draft status says he should, Kuester thinks Brown can still have a huge impact in this league -- proving our skepticism dead wrong."
  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "George Karl hasn't seen much to write home about from his team during preseason games, but he's got plenty to smile about anyway. We're talkin' about practice. This team is taking the every day sessions with a professional approach Karl has never seen from a Nuggets squad during his tenure. And that has him practically giddy about the possibilities ahead. ... Karl said Carmelo Anthony has been particularly solid with his leadership in October. Anthony also scored 45 points in the Nuggets' last exhibition game -- a win over Indiana in Beijing. 'I think Melo is growing into that role, more so by his approach and his actions more than just his words,' Karl said. 'And the culture. Our culture of who we pick up and who we trade for, I think we're a little more aware of guys that like to be in the gym.' "
  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "Blake Griffin sent a second message, inquiring about DaJuan Blair's arrival time. This time the response left Griffin totally perplexed. 'He let me know he wasn't coming to New York at all,' said Griffin, the Clippers rookie and 2008-09 College Player of the Year who was the No. 1 overall selection of the draft. 'That confused me and surprised me.' In fact, Blair wasn't in the 'green room' at Madison Square Garden, awaiting an expected curtain call to pose with commissioner David Stern after being announced as a first-round pick. That was because the league had determined it wasn't likely that Blair would be taken in the first round, which turned out to be the case. Instead, the Spurs made him the 37th overall pick. Blair has vowed to make the 29 teams that passed on him regret the decision. Griffin believes he will make good on his promise. 'It doesn't matter that he didn't go (in the first round),' Griffin said. 'He got drafted where he was meant to be, and I know he's going to make the best of it.' The two power forwards became good friends at summer basketball. On Wednesday night, they went head-to-head at the AT&T Center in a preseason game. Griffin had 23 points and seven rebounds. Blair turned in his second double-double, with 11 points and 12 rebounds in Los Angeles' 93-90 victory."
  • John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "The word 'potential' is a dangerous adjective in sports when applied to a young player. Sometimes it means that player is a future star; other times it's simply a euphemism for ''hasn't accomplished anything yet.'' With that caveat, I must say I love the potential of the Bulls' young frontcourt players, particularly Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and James Johnson. All three, especially the rookies, surely will have moments when they struggle this season, but each will produce many more positive than negative moments."
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "I have to say I was flabbergasted by the amount the NBA fined coach Larry Brown and the Charlotte Bobcats Wednesday. The league is charging Brown and the franchise $60,000 each for Brown's behavior in Atlanta on Monday and for what the league perceives as Brown criticizing the referees after the game. I was there in Atlanta on Monday night and again Tuesday after practice when Brown first talked publicly about his ejection. I was within feet of Brown on both occasions and certainly within earshot of what the principals said. It's true that Brown 'verbally abused' (the league's term) the refs, getting himself ejected in the third quarter of the preseason loss to the Hawks. It's also true that Brown refused to leave the court in a timely manner. That accounted for the first $35,000 of Brown's fine. But to say Brown criticized the officials after the fact is at best an overreaction to what happened. And at worst, an injustice."
  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: "Stephen Jackson initially expressed disappointme
    nt at the coaching staff for keeping him in the game and not backing him when replacement referees whistled him for five fouls and a technical in the first quarter. Wednesday, Jackson also elaborated on his beef with Lakers guard Kobe Bryant. The two were locked in a heated matchup that got Jackson the five fouls and his blood boiling, which led to his two-game suspension. 'I'm not a fan of Kobe,' Jackson said. 'I'm not somebody who looks up to him. I'm a grown man myself. So when I go out there and play the game, I play the game. I feel like I'm just as good as him. I might not get the publicity or notoriety he gets, but I feel like I can play with anybody in the NBA any given night.' Bryant reportedly called Jackson 'young fella' during the game, and Jackson complained of Bryant throwing elbows. Jackson perhaps expected his teammates to mix it up with Bryant in his defense. Their failure to do so might have played a part in Jackson relinquishing his team captaincy Tuesday."
  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "Ron Artest speaks his mind on just about any topic, and this afternoon was no different when he was asked about Golden State guard-forward Stephen Jackson. Jackson and Artest were with the Indiana Pacers when the infamous 'Palace Brawl' took place in 2004. Artest stood by his former teammate when asked about Jackson's recent demeanor, which included a two-game suspension on top of a demand to be traded. 'The greatest did it before -- Kobe, the greatest to ever play the game -- and he won a championship after that' demand, Artest said. 'He wanted to win. He didn't want out; he wanted to win. Stephen Jackson probably isn't as talented as the greatest, but he has got as much heart.' "
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Marcin Gortat certainly is backing up his claim that he's one of the league's best centers. If he were unhappy about the Magic matching Dallas' offer, he hasn't showed it in his play. He averaging 8.0 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in 22.8 minutes per game. He is the only Magic player to appear in all five preseason games."
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel: "A team-wide session on Ustream led to an awkward moment for forward Michael Beasley, as the Miami Heat prepared for Wednesday night's 96-91 exhibition loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at the BOK Center. Following up on a session initially put together by Heat guard Dwyane Wade, Beasley found himself responding Tuesday night to a posted comment relating to his substance-abuse issues this summer. As he read the comment on the live video feed, teammates Daequan Cook and Mario Chalmers, who were in his room participating in the live Internet stream at the time, grew quiet. In response to a snarky comment of knowing how to hide his stash, Beasley playfully responded about how true that was. Comments from those viewing the stream followed ripping the initial commenter about trying to lure Beasley into such a response. Before Wednesday's game, when asked if he would have been better off simply avoiding a reply, the second-year forward acknowledged with a smile, 'you're right.' "

Wednesday Mini-Bullets

October, 14, 2009

First Cup: Tuesday

October, 13, 2009
  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "Coach Mike D'Antoni, ever the nonconformist, is eliminating the morning shootaround for all home games this season, starting with Tuesday's exhibition against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Knicks instead will gather for an afternoon meeting and walk-through at Madison Square Garden. The change saves everyone from having to commute twice in a day, first to the team's Westchester training center (for the shootaround), then to Midtown (for the game). It also gives players a little more time to shake off the cobwebs. So rather than roust themselves for a groggy gathering at 10 a.m., the Knicks will have the morning to themselves. They must report to the Garden by 3:30 p.m. ... The morning shootaround is a time-honored N.B.A. tradition. It serves a dual function: to prepare for the game and to give party-minded players an incentive to get to bed early. Whether it works is a matter of some debate. The routine can actually be draining. Many N.B.A. players take afternoon naps to recover from the shootaround."
  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "Never let it be said Kevin Garnett doesn't take requests. A day after his coach noted an aspect of his game that's been missing, KG made like a DJ and spun the tune. 'I think he's getting stronger and stronger,' said Doc Rivers. 'The only thing left is today he caught a lob and dunked. An amazing dunk. Everybody was like, oh, we haven't seen that. I made the comment yesterday that the only part lacking is that he's not as explosive yet. When he did it, he yelled out, 'Oh, I can do it.' So that was good to see.' The rejuvenated Celtic was ready when asked about it later. 'I think Doc's been waiting for me to grow wings and fly,' he said. 'I'm telling him just be patient. The wings are coming. They're coming.' That Garnett's humor is back also is a good sign things are all right with his surgically repaired right knee."
  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "A little more than two weeks into his first NBA training camp, rookie forward DeJuan Blair says his knees are feeling just fine, thank you. Blair arrived from the University of Pittsburgh devoid of an anterior cruciate ligament in either knee. Though the condition was never an issue for Blair in college, the Spurs' medical staff has been compulsive about monitoring him after practices and games. 'The training staff is doing an excellent job of keeping my knees in shape and strengthened,' Blair said. 'I just need to keep (being) me, and not worry about my knees. They're going to be as healthy as possible.' ... Ehen Blair takes the floor for his fourth preseason game Wednesday against the Clippers, he is likely to see time against the most ballyhooed rookie in the NBA. Blair says he is looking forward to the potential matchup with Blake Griffin, the former Oklahoma All-American. Not because Griffin was the top pick in the June draft in which Blair fell to 37th, but because it gives the two a chance to rekindle a friendship spawned during the draft process. 'I can't wait to see him,' Blair said. 'I haven't seen him since the draft. I talked to him in the summer and told him congratulations. He's a good person, and I hope everything works out for him.' "
  • Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle:"The Stephen Jackson supernova is merely the latest example of what is now the only Warriors story in the world, namely: Something Goes Wrong - Is This the Final Straw That Convinces Chris Cohan to Sell the Team? And again, we say, "It ain't got nothin' to do with it." Cohan will sell when his price, already judged exorbitant by Larry Ellison, whose wallet could eat Cohan's entire house, is met. Or when the Internal Revenue Service decides to bring the noise to his ongoing tax issues. Are there people who would love to buy the team and move it, maybe to San Jose, maybe to San Francisco? Yes, and there have been - but Cohan isn't what real-estate people call a motivated seller, even with all the horrific embarrassments he has instigated and allowed instigated in his name. Apparently, the man simply cannot be shamed."
  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "Not much new in Lamar Odom's life, other than a reality-TV star wife, a $33-million contract extension and daily games of hide-and-seek with the ever-present paparazzi. A year ago, Odom was angry when Coach Phil Jackson said the Lakers forward would be a backup instead of a starter. That's the least of his concerns now. He still has reserve status, but no longer single status after marrying Khloe Kardashian about two weeks ago, a move that shifted him from the inside pages of sports magazines to the covers of supermarket tabloids across the country. It also made nights on the town a little less, uh, private. Even if it's just Odom and his wife, it can feel like a table for eight with the phalanx of photographers zooming in on them in restaurants, clubs and the like. Because of Kardashian's popularity among gossip groupies, Odom is tracked pretty much everywhere he goes. 'It's part of what they do. It's part of the world,' he said of the paparazzi. 'Once I'm in the house and a comfortable place, they can't come on private property. If we're in a restaurant and they want to sit there and take pictures, it doesn't matter.' Doesn't matter?"
  • Mike Jones of The Washington Times: "In their first three preseason games, the Washington Wizards have provided a glimpse of what can be expected in the coming season should they remain healthy. The team has scored plenty of points behind Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, averaging 103 points in its three outings. Coach Flip Saunders also has several different lineups and rotations at his disposal with four different shooting guard candidates and a versatile bench. That doesn't mean, however, the Wizards are ready for the regular season. Gilbert Arenas has displayed flashes of greatness with explosive third quarters (24 points and eight assists) in back-to-back outings. But he also has shown rust (12 turnovers this preseason, a 1-for-5 shooting performance in the opener). Saunders has encouraged Arenas to play with his old aggression, but the guard appears to be feeling his way along as he learns a new offense. And his teammates -- outside of holdovers Jamison, Butler and center Brendan Haywood -- are working to adjust not only to the returning floor general but also to their roles on a revamped team."
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Australia slept in. Being that showdowns are not what they used to be, this one did not stir the imagination of a nation the way meetings of the Rockets and Bucks did not very long ago. Then, Yao Ming played Yi Jianlian for the first time in an NBA game, and every network in China with the option, showed the game live. The audience was believed to be the largest ever for an NBA game. When Rockets rookie center David Andersen met Andrew Bogut at To
    yota Center on Monday, they figured the audience in Australia for the first NBA meeting of the Australian centers probably consisted of Andersen's three brothers, assuming they could find a website streaming the game. ... 'It won't be anything like that,' Bogut said. 'We only have three million people in our country. Probably one or two (are interested). Basketball is not huge in Australia, probably scraping in the top eight, top 10 sports. Maybe during the season, if we both have pretty decent records more people will take notice. At the moment, compared to China, maybe five percent will watch.' "
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "In the Thunder's 110-105 overtime win over Phoenix, the second-year point guard displayed to his home fans the continued development he's shown throughout this preseason. Russell Westbrook scored 10 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and dished nine assists in 26 minutes. He again played with confidence and control, showing complete command of the offense and newfound patience that he lacked last season. Westbrook made five of eight shots, turned the ball over just three times and came away with two steals. 'It is the preseason, but that's all we have to judge Russell Westbrook on right now,' said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. 'We still have some work to do, but with Russell, like I've said many times before, he's only 20 years old and for the next 10 years you're going to see a lot of improvement.' "
  • Kate Fagan of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "After yesterday's practice, 76ers coach Eddie Jordan said he asked Thaddeus Young how he felt about New York City. Young responded that all cities are 'about the same to me.' 'Really? New York isn't more special?' 'Not really, they're all about the same to me,' Young repeated. Recounting the story, Jordan laughed. 'So, yeah ... he's low-maintenance,' Jordan said. 'I don't worry about Thad.' ... Young, in his third NBA season, is averaging 9.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. Last season, he averaged 15.3 points per game. Still, Young seems about as low-maintenance on the court as he is off of it: snagging offensive boards, scoring in transition, picking up buckets on broken-down plays. 'I'm pretty good right now,' said Young, the team's starting small forward. 'I'm just going out there and trying to do the things I've been doing - rebounding, playing defense, getting steals. Doing the little things. My offense is going to come; I'm not worried about that too much.' "
  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: "Al Jefferson's Subway diet in the offseason -- which helped him lose 31 pounds -- has given him a quicker first step at the power forward position and turned him into a role model for people with weight-loss issues. Jefferson, 24, attracted interest from the local American Heart Association, which is partnering with the five-year veteran for a six-week program known as 'Get Healthy With Big Al.' Jefferson helps kick off the program, aimed at school kids in the Twin Cities, with an appearance today at Andersen Elementary School in South Minneapolis. The program stirs memories for Jefferson, who called himself a 'chubby kid' while growing up in Prentiss, Miss. 'You have to deal with people teasing you,' Jefferson said. 'Hopefully, I can inspire and motivate kids who might be overweight and let them know they can do what I did. It's hard for kids. You want to eat everything ... all the sweets you can eat and everything else.' Jefferson weighed 293 pounds when his season ended in February because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. A few days after surgery, he began his diet of ham or turkey sandwiches from Subway -- complete with lettuce, tomatoes and other vegetables. For dinner, he had salads and soups. Convinced he needed to lose weight to help rehabilitate his knee, Jefferson stuck with the diet after a 'tough first couple of weeks.' He reported to the Wolves' training camp weighing 262 pounds."
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Memphis Grizzlies Coach Lionel Hollins intimated that the replacement referees favored Magic center Dwight Howard when the opening whistles blew. Rookie Grizzlies center Hasheem Thabeet, 7 feet 3, picked up two quick fouls in the first few minutes, wrapping his arms around Howard in an attempt to stop him on the first play. 'Dwight Howard's a great player and Thabeet didn't get a fair share of the calls right from the start of the game,' Hollins said. 'It's not Dwight Howard against Thabeet --- it's us against the Orlando Magic.' Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy didn't see it that way after the Magic improved their preseason record to 4-0 by beating the Grizzlies 102-83 Monday night at FedEx Forum. 'That's absurd. I thought from the first play, all Thabeet did was try to grab him. It was obvious. Of course, I'm going to see it differently than Lionel,' Van Gundy said. Howard, who usually doesn't think he ever gets a break from the officials, said incredulously, 'Are you kidding? Somebody said I was getting calls?' "
  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: "Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and a 'prestigious group of Sacramento business leaders' will announce today at Arco Arena a plan to sell out the first two Kings home games this season. Kings co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof, Kings president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie, Westphal and members of the business group will be at the news conference. Attendance continued to decline at Arco last season as losses piled up. The Kings had only three sellouts last season."
  • A. Sherrod Blakely of "Will Bynum was a freshman at Arizona when Gilbert Arenas, just a few months into his NBA career with the Golden State Warriors, returned to campus. Arenas talked of the challenges he faced as a second-round pick trying to crack the rotation as a rookie with the Warriors. 'I saw the frustration in his eyes when he was talking to me,' Bynum said. 'He was telling me how hard he was working and how (not playing) just fueled him. I had kind of a similar path.' The paths of these kindred spirits crossed again this summer during workouts in Chicago with basketball strength and conditioning guru Tim Grover. 'I learned so much from (Arenas),' Bynum said. 'We talked about the game and how we could challenge ourselves in workouts everyday, trying to get better at every aspect of the game.' "
  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: "Some teams look good on paper. The Bulls sound as though things are shaping up for a strong season. Since training camp began, players have been emphasizing how well they've gotten along. No doubt, the locker room is louder and livelier than it's been in the past. Excessive laughter could be heard in the hallways even after a mundane Monday practice at the Berto Center. 'The practices are fun,' Joakim Noah said. 'We're having a great time together.' Maybe that's a good sign. The Detroit Pistons, which played for the conference championship six straight years from 2003-08, are probably the best recent example of a team that got along well and carried a strong chemistry onto the court. Vetera
    n guard Lindsey Hunter played on championship teams with the Pistons and Lakers. He's seen what works and gave the current Bulls a strong review. 'It's like family and that's how you want it,' Hunter said. 'It's hard to get that, too, by the way. It's really hard to get.' "
  • Bob Wolfley of the Journal Sentinel: "You could say Marvin Fishman helped shape the way Milwaukee defines itself as a city. His role in bringing the Bucks to Milwaukee and later donating art to museums in Wisconsin from his impressive collection were part of his legacy, part of the diverse ways Fishman influenced the culture of Milwaukee. Fishman died on Friday. He was 84. Anyone who encountered Fishman over the years and talked to him at any length knew him to be smart, tough and funny. But above all else, he really loved talking about the Milwaukee Bucks. He particularly loved talking about the Bucks in the early years. That made sense because Fishman was a major reason the National Basketball Association ended up in Milwaukee."

Late Friday Mini-Bullets

October, 9, 2009
  • Shocking bit of news: Wayne Winston, the Indiana University professor I have quoted extensively in the last couple of weeks, and has been Mark Cuban's statistical consultant for the last nine years, just told me that his contract with the Mavericks has not been renewed. He assures me it's not related to his spilling the beans to TrueHoop. Winston has a professor job, and a book that just came out, and says he has not yet put much thought into whether or not he'll pursue work with other teams.
  • It's probably time to stop thinking as players from the EuroLeague as raw projects, compared to, say, NCAA players. Consider the resume of young King Omri Casspi: He scored nine points in 18 minutes a game in the Euroleague, shooting 52% from the floor. Do those numbers mean anything? It's easy to make a case that his competition -- all grown men -- was better than an NCAA title team. In his final game of the season he shared the court with Carlos Arroyo, Dee Brown, Daniel Santiago, Juan Carlos Navarro, (current Buck) Ersan Ilyasova, Fran Vasquez, and (current Rocket) David Andersen among others.
  • 20 points, 11 rebounds, eight blocks ... meet the new Roy Hibbert! (He's a Pacer, in case you didn't know.) His college coach is not surprised.
  • Since Bill Davidson's death, the ownership picture of the Pistons has been a little unclear. The insight: Per Davidson's will, the team is being run by a committee featuring his widow, the president of Palace Sports and Entertainment, and some other unknown people. So, is that clear?
  • If you're mad that you can't watch your team on TV this preseason, talk to Dwight Jaynes: "I cannot believe the sense of entitlement among today's sports fans. Sorry, kiddos, but right here you're going to have to hear an old guy give you one of those 'back in my day' talks. You see, when I was growing up, you got one Game of the Week in baseball (and it was usually the Yankees). One (if you were lucky) pro basketball game of the week, maybe a Notre Dame football game on Saturday -- you've probably heard all about it. And for most of the life of the Portland Trail Blazers the philosophy was that you didn't give your games away on television. At most, there were 20 televised games a season. That was it. But this season every single regular-season Trail Blazer game will be on television. Now some people without Comcast won't get all those games, but the fact is, a majority of the people in this market will be able to see every game. To a guy like me, that's pretty incredible. And I guess it makes people moaning about no telecasts of exhibition games seem kind of petty. I mean, really? Really? When every single REAL game is available to you? Sorry, but I just can't muster up much of a sense of injustice over this one. Be patient. You're going to see plenty of games."

Thursday Bullets

October, 8, 2009
  • A prediction this year's champion will come from the East, where David Berri's numbers say Orlando, Boston and Cleveland are far ahead of the rest of the conference.
  • They asked all the Blazers which NBA players they respect the most. Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan tie for first with three votes each
  • Chris Douglas-Roberts has the messiest locker of all Nets, and he doesn't like getting taped up for games, because the tape hurts the skin on the bottom of his feet. Also, word that Douglas-Roberts and Courtney Lee are locked into a "nasty" battle for playing time.
  • The Madrid team's whole starting front line is injured for their exhibition against the Jazz this afternoon. Madrid's new coach, Ettore Messina, blogs about the slow work of integrating many new players.  On, he also writes about a player who won't be playing for Madrid: "As we agreed terms with [Pablo] Prigioni, a possibility to talk to Ricky Rubio came up. So, good offers were made both to Joventut Badalona and the player himself. After a week of thinking, Ricky decided that he wanted to spend the following two years (before leaving for the NBA) in Barcelona, close to his family and friends. At that point there was no way persuading him to come to Madrid. Though, obviously, we still wish him good luck." Worth noting that Messina has the impression Rubio will come to the NBA in two years -- even though it would make financial sense to wait for three.
  • Antawn Jamison doing yoga.
  • Sergio Rodriguez, for a moment, forgot which team he was on.
  • I have a pet theory that long players who can hit open jumpers, pass and play D all over the court are super valuable to any team. Suns rookie Earl Clark could be one of those guys
  • Weird thing: Dennis Rodman is one of the best players in NBA history, thanks to the fact that nobody has really ever rebounded like he did. That's what makes him great. Yet it's clearly not what people most loved about him. Here's how I know that: I just spent 20 minutes trying to find a really good highlight reel of his rebounding prowess. I thought it would be something we could all learn from, especially about recognizing and pursuing rebounds out of your area. And there are a zillion highlight reels of the guy. But as far as I can tell just about all of them are mostly dunks, fights, blocks, 3-pointers and clowning. It feels a little like we love those elements of basketball so much that even when we're celebrating a great rebounder, we won't actually do so with, you know, rebounds.
  • It's getting to be just about time for Julian Wright to show what he can do. How did the young Hornet fare in a preseason game against the Hawks? Bret LaGree of Hoopinion was there: "Julian Wright has a great (I fear it may be an innate) ability to overcomplicate a situation, to try to squeeze three moves into a play where only one is necessary but that wasn't in evidence tonight. At the start of the game, he and Morris Peterson would spot up outside the arc, leaving the paint (extended) to Paul and West, maybe Sean Marks if he set a ball-screen for Paul. Wright would cut to the basket if his man helped defensively. The three he missed was in rhythm and as good a look from that range as he's likely to have. The 16' jumper he made on the baseline in third quarter looked very instinctual. He was far superior to the Hawks 2nd/3rd string in the fourth quarter."
  • The assertion that if roles were reversed -- Will Bynum has been a first-round pick, and Rodney Stuckey had been undrafted -- Bynum would be the Pistons' starter.
  • "More Than a Game" -- the LeBron James documentary -- is said to rank up there in the sports documentary world with the Muhammad Ali story "When We Were Kings." High praise, indeed.
  • "We Believe" proved to be a bad tagline for the Clippers.
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "The officiating by the replacements was so atrocious that fill-in official Robbie Robinson could become the first referee to ever be fired twice by the NBA."
  • Clark Matthews, writing for Daily Thunder, on the cheap seats in Oklahoma City: "Do we have to keep calling the third tier 'Loud City?' I know the Hornet marketing team, which did an excellent job selling the sport to this market, came up with the idea, and a lot of people have embraced this, but I've sat up there a lot. It isn't loud and it's not a city."
  • Pacer rookie A.J. Price wore the wrong gear to practice and couldn't be in the team photo. Travis Diener, writing on the Indianapolis Star's website: "Those darn rookies. You've got to hold their hands through everything."

First Cup: Thursday

October, 8, 2009
  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Brandon Jennings admitted he was in awe playing at the Palace on Wednesday night. But that feeling quickly faded for the Milwaukee Bucks' rookie point guard, as he was tossed into the fray for 27 minutes in the team's second pre-season game. Jennings faced a tough task trying to guard Detroit's Will Bynum, and the Pistons backcourt dominated in a 113-104 victory over the Bucks at the Palace of Auburn Hills. But the 20-year-old Jennings also showed some progress with a team-high 18 points, six assists and six steals, despite five turnovers. 'I was out there playing a lot and I was a little fatigued,' said Jennings. 'I just had to play through it and keep playing. I'm not going to lie; I was a little nervous today, playing in the Palace and Detroit basketball. A lot of players came through here, guys like Isiah Thomas. I felt I just had to come out here and run the team and focus on the defensive end.' "
  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "There is a tendency around the Trail Blazers to be careful about what is said about Greg Oden. Nobody wants to apply pressure on the 21-year-old center. Nobody wants to raise expectations any higher than they already are for the former No. 1 pick. But on Wednesday, after the Blazers second preseason game this season, nobody needed to say anything about Oden. The play of the new-look center is speaking volumes. With a lighter frame, and a brighter outlook, Oden continued his resurgent comeback campaign with 20 points and 12 rebounds during the Blazers' 89-86 win over Sacramento at Arco Arena."
  • Terry Foster of The Detroit News: "The real treat was Will Bynum (23 points, six assists), who runs the point better than anyone for the Pistons and that includes Stuckey -- the man they want to run it. Bynum is not an elite point guard, but he gives the Pistons exactly what they want. He is an unselfish player who can get into the lane and make good decisions."
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "The Orlando Magic did not draft a shooting guard and sign another two-guard like they did the season before. No, this season the Magic just made a trade to acquire an eight-time all-star who plays shooting guard ( Vince Carter). Welcome to J.J. Redick's world. At least he can keep his sense of humor. 'Hey, I'm still here,' Redick laughed before the Magic's ragged 90-86 preseason win against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night at Amway Arena. While the Magic keep putting other two-guards between Redick and more playing time, he actually has closed in on defying doubters after three seasons."
  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "The NBA is a watered-down product. The salary cap slowly has whittled benches across the league down to faceless entities, punchless sparring partners in practice and fill-ins who hope not to undo the work of their betters at gametime. But the Celtics went into last night's preseason opener against the Rockets with a modern-day anomaly. The reserves have dished out as much as they have absorbed during the first part of training camp. The second unit of Rasheed Wallace, Marquis Daniels, Glen Davis, Eddie House and Brian Scalabrine beat the starters in a scrimmage last Saturday in Newport, R.I., and figure to win a lot more. 'It's crazy,' Kendrick Perkins said of the burgeoning rivalry between the starters and reserves. 'They make us work every practice. We have no slack on the backup side, so every practice is really like a game. They're good. They have a lot of shooters. They have Eddie House, he's 10 years (in the league), Rasheed 15, Marquis seven, Baby three, Tony six, so they have a lot of experienced guys on their team.' "
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Nick Young entered this season determined that his name would not be preceded by the word 'backup,' stating before training camp that he hated sitting on the bench and was going after the starting job. That was a bold declaration coming from Young, who carried a happy-go-lucky demeanor his first two seasons in Washington. It also followed a summer in which the Wizards improved their back court with the additions of Mike Miller and Randy Foye, and DeShawn Stevenson returned from a back injury. Young feels that he squandered an opportunity last season, when injuries provided an opening for playing time that he was unable to fully take advantage of. He didn't believe he had any more time to waste. 'I always wanted to be a great player. This is the year to get it rolling,' Young said after scoring 11 points with four rebounds during the Wizards' 101-92 win against Memphis. 'It's my third year. It's time for me to grow up and get my name out there. This is the game I love and I just want to get better every year. I didn't want to be forgotten.' "
  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: "Brian Cardinal has a receding hairline that makes him look more suited for a 50-and-over league. He admits he is not good enough to be a starting power forward in the NBA, yet he is approaching his 10th season in the league. Cardinal has been a backup with each of his five NBA teams, including the Wolves last season. He has never averaged more than 9.6 points in a season, but his value is measured more in work ethic and a lead-by-example attitude. 'I can't dunk on anybody, but the game is far bigger than being the greatest athlete or having a muscled-up body,' Cardinal said. 'It's about playing smart and doing the right things. That's why I've been fortunate to play this long.' Even if Cardinal makes the Wolves' final roster, he knows most of the playing time at power forward will be divided between Al Jefferson and Kevin Love. Jefferson was a freshman in high school when Cardinal was drafted by Detroit in the second round of the 2000 NBA draft. Love had yet to reach high school."
  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: "One of the coaches stood in the locker room late Tuesday night, marveling about DeJuan Blair. Then he paused and changed direction. 'I love Ian Mahinmi,' he said, 'but ...' The coach roots for Mahinmi, as does everyone in the Spurs organization. Mahinmi has done everything the Spurs have asked. Still, on this night, the coach couldn't help but see the contrast. Blair turned 20 in April, and this is the first time he's ever lived more than a block from home. And yet: He showed more basketball instincts in his first NBA game than Mahinmi had in four years. It's October, and there are no guarantees Blair will be getting minutes in November. Still, his undeniable skill was on display. Blair had 19 rebounds in the first 22 minutes of his pro life, and this is something that works in any arena in any city."
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston
    "We just watched 75 fouls and 102 free throws in one basketball game. OK, it's preseason. If you pay full price to watch these games, you're not too picky, anyway. But just as the teams learn all that must be corrected in time for the season, so must the league. 'Replacement refs' should become a euphemism for 'preseason refs.' The league cannot go through real games like this."
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "The Suns' annual propensity for giving up second-chance points undermines the defense and slows the pace. The task becomes tougher with Shaquille O'Neal gone and Robin Lopez out six to eight weeks. The Suns were 30-12 when they outrebounded their opponents last season and 12-24 when they did not. Outrebounding foes more often is misleading because, as the NBA's top shooting team, the Suns had fewer misses for teams to rebound. The Suns were 22nd in defensive rebounding percentage and gave up the fourth most offensive rebounds. 'It's a pretty heavy task of us, knowing we're a small team, but we should be able to do it,' Stoudemire said. 'For the most part, we have to rebound as a team. We also have good defensive guards. Grant (Hill) is a great rebounder for his position. Even Steve (Nash) gets in there and mixes it up. The big thing is us big guys have to grab those big boards.' "
  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: "A new team and fittingly a new locker-room. Well, not really new, just dressed up. Immediately upon entering the Raptors' inner sanctum, and before you even get to the actual dressing room, the first thing you see is a tight, enlarged photo of the Raptors' hands coming together in a pre-game huddle that will be repeated every time they take the floor. It's one of those shots that catches the eye because it's a little different but it's the message it sends -- togetherness -- that is the real point. On the opposite wall is the word Raptors spelled out with the initial letters in the words Respect, Accountable, Proud, Together We Shall Prevail, Organized, Responsible, Standards, all things the team is expecting their players to be. Venture further in and more words to live by adorn yet another wall. This one reads: Do the right thing. Do it the right way. Do it that way all the time. The room itself where the players lockers are remain unchanged -- other than the nine new name plates above those lockers. At least Rasho Nesterovic got his old locker back."
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "His memories of Nov. 29, 2008, are vivid. It was a Saturday night. Newly named interim coach Scott Brooks had just told him he would be starting his first career game, against the Memphis Grizzlies. And that's when the knots started forming in the pit of his stomach. 'Oh it's a whole lot different,' Russell Westbrook said of his nerves just before the Thunder opened its preseason schedule. 'I'm so chill now. I'm so calm and cool.' Westbrook then went out and proved it, backing up his claim with a near perfect floor game in the Thunder's 99-91 loss. His final stat line -- five points, 10 assists, four rebounds -- wasn't jaw-dropping. But considering he turned the ball over only twice, took just four shot attempts and could have had 15 assists had his teammates knocked down a few more shots, Wednesday's opener was about as good as it gets."
  • Ron Green Jr. of The Charlotte Observer: "Charlotte Bobcats rookie Gerald Henderson was on the court in Cleveland Tuesday night in the first semi-official minute of his NBA career when he found himself with the ball. Henderson, the former Duke All-American, came off a screen and turned the corner, the basket in his sights. From the corner of his eye, he saw Shaquille O'Neal coming his way. Even rookies know certain things. 'I was, like, this isn't going to be good,' Henderson said. O'Neal swallowed Henderson's dunk, fouling the rookie hard in the process. Henderson made one of two free throws, and the first of what will likely be several professional baptisms had occurred. 'It was one of those welcome to the NBA moments,' he said."
  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "The team won't admit it publicly, but any way it's viewed, the Cavs are short a point guard. Add the continuing uncertainty surrounding Delonte West and it is only clearer. At the moment, it may not be a fatal flaw. If everything goes to plan, it may not even matter. But if there is one sure thing, it is that things rarely go to plan -- as West is currently proving. West began a second leave this season Wednesday, this one excused, to handle personal matters. He had not played in either the open scrimmage or first preseason game. There's no denying that is worrying. 'We're concerned about the state of Delonte because we want him here,' LeBron James said. 'You want your full team to see what your full potential is, but at the same time we're going to give him time.' James didn't say he was concerned about the point guard situation, but deep down he and his teammates must be to some degree."
  • Tribune newspapers: "If this had happened a month ago, the San Francisco Chronicle and city officials would have joined the list of parties skewered in Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame induction speech. The newspaper published photos Tuesday of Jordan smoking a cigar during a practice round at Harding Park, despite the city's ban on smoking on public golf courses. City officials asked the PGA Tour to remind Jordan he can't smoke while being an honorary assistant at the Presidents Cup. 'It was sort of a gentle nudge reminding them that smoking is illegal and that we would appreciate their support,' Recreation and Park general manager Phil Ginsburg told the Chronicle. As for enforcing the $100 fine on Jordan? Matt Dorsey, the spokesman for City Atty. Dennis Herrera, remains unsure how that will play out. Said Dorsey: 'But don't expect me to ask him for it.' During a Q&A on Monday, Jordan said, 'I'm not even supposed to be smoking, but this was a practice round and no one said anything.' Jordan still had his cigar Wednesday. He simply chewed on it without lighting up."