TrueHoop: Memphis Grizzlies
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The Lakers have a chance to move as high as the 7 seed, or miss the playoffs completely.
Wednesday is the final day of the NBA regular season, and there’s no shortage of reasons to tune in. There are still playoff spots to be clinched, seeds to be determined and individual honors to be claimed.
Wild West Playoff Picture
Here’s how much we know for sure in the Western Conference entering Wednesday. The Oklahoma City Thunder are the 1 seed, and the San Antonio Spurs are No. 2. That’s it.
The Denver Nuggets have the inside track for the 3 seed. They’ll lock it down with a home win over the Phoenix Suns, or if the Los Angeles Clippers lose what could be the Kings’ final game in Sacramento. If Denver loses and the Clippers win, the Clippers take the third slot.
The worst the Nuggets or Clippers could do is the 4 seed and a First Round matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies, but who hosts the first game of that series is still to be decided.
If Memphis, currently with the same record as the Clippers, ends with a better record, it will have home-court advantage of the series, despite being seeded lower.
From six on down, it gets even more convoluted. If the Houston Rockets beat the Los Angeles Lakers (10:30 ET, ESPN) and the Golden State Warriors lose to the Portland Trail Blazers, the Rockets knock the Warriors out of the 6 seed.
The Warriors can’t fall any lower than seventh, but Houston could potentially fall as low as eighth. If the Lakers beat the Rockets, the Lakers take the 7 seed, knocking Houston to eighth.
If the Lakers lose to the Rockets, it opens the window for the Utah Jazz to get the final playoff spot with a win over the Grizzlies (8 ET, ESPN).
East is Much Simpler
If the Western Conference scenarios were too confusing, you might like the Eastern Conference much better.
Six of the eight playoff seeds are already locked in. The Chicago Bulls hold the 5 seed, and will hold onto it with either a home win over the Washington Wizards, or an Atlanta Hawks road loss to the New York Knicks.
Of course, with the 5 seed comes a potential Conference Semifinals matchup with the Miami Heat.
Individual Honors on the Line
The biggest head-to-head battle Wednesday night seemed to be Kevin Durant chasing Carmelo Anthony for the scoring title, but news that Durant will not play means that Anthony becomes the second Knicks player to win a scoring title, joining Bernard King.
Curry is averaging 3.5 3-pointers this season, meaning the odds are in his favor to break the record.
With Durant not playing, it also means Trail Blazers rookie Damian Lillard will likely lead the NBA in total minutes. He’d be just the third rookie in NBA history to lead the league in minutes played. The other two are Wilt Chamberlain (in 1959-60) and Elvin Hayes (1968-69).
Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty ImagesAre the Grizzlies considering moving Rudy Gay?
RENO, Nev. -- The Memphis Grizzlies have not made an iron-clad decision about trading swingman Rudy Gay before the league's Feb. 21 buzzer for deals, according to NBA front-office sources.
The Grizzlies might trade him. But they might not.
The Toronto Raptors, by contrast, have definitively decided to make a real run at Gay.
The Raptors might not be able to swing a deal for him. But they'd love to.
Sources told ESPN.com this week that the Raptors -- who tried to make a play for Gay before the 2012 NBA draft -- remain seriously "interested" in the Grizzlies' leading scorer and are trying to assemble trade packages to bring the 26-year-old to Toronto after preliminary talks with Memphis.
Among the trade chips that the Raptors are believed to be dangling, in addition to draft considerations, are veteran point guard Jose Calderon (who has an expiring contract worth $10.6 million) and young big man Ed Davis.
Grantland's Zach Lowe reported last week that the Grizzlies had begun the process of letting various teams know that Gay would be available in the right deal before the annual February trade deadline. Sources consulted in Reno during the NBA's annual D-League Showcase have described the bulk of those discussions to date to be exploratory in nature, but Toronto, as part of that process, has let it be known to the Grizzlies that its desire to acquire Gay has not waned.
It was widely assumed around the league coming into the season that the Grizzlies' new ownership group, headed by majority owner Robert Pera and CEO Jason Levien, would look into moving Gay to lessen Memphis' luxury-tax obligations after this season and coming seasons.
But the Grizzlies, with their three top players finally all healthy and playing in unison after two player runs impacted by health matters, got off to a rousing 14-3 start and, despite fading slightly to 22-10, are generally regarded as a team capable of winning the ever-competitive Western Conference.
That has led some rival teams to project that the Grizzlies, as one GM in Reno put in Tuesday, could "wait until the summer" before deciding whether they're indeed prepared to break up the Zach Randolph-Marc Gasol-Gay trio.
Yahoo! Sports reported Tuesday that the Phoenix Suns, like the Raptors, have let the Grizzlies know that they are prepared to trade for Gay by packaging swingman Jared Dudley with future first-round picks. The Memphis Commercial Appeal subsequently reported that the Sacramento Kings are also among the teams to engage the Grizzlies in preliminary Gay talks, with CBSSports.com and the Contra Costa Times reporting that similar discussions between Memphis and Golden State quickly ended when it became apparent that the Warriors would have to include the contract of Richard Jefferson to make the salary-cap math work.
The Raptors, meanwhile, tried to trade for Gay six months ago, offering up various packages headlined by the No. 8 pick in the draft (eventually used on Terrence Ross) and Calderon. The Grizzlies, still owned by Michael Heisley at the time, passed.
Word is that the Grizzlies' new regime is adamant that it won't merely try to dump salary by dealing Gay in-season if it severely weakens their team in the process. Gay, averaging a team-high 17.8 points per game but shooting a career-low 40.8 percent from the floor, is earning $16.4 million in 2012-13 and is scheduled to earn $17.8 million and $19.3 million in the following two seasons.
Said another GM: "I think keeping Gay is still on the table for them, too."
This doesn’t mean Anthony is just posting up on the low block, especially now that he’s often being guarded by power forwards. He is using a variety of post-up moves on different parts of the court to get his points.
CARMELO’S POST-UP MOVES
The Memphis Grizzlies are the only team to beat the New York Knicks this season, largely because they successfully defended Anthony in the post. They held him to just 1-for-5 shooting with two turnovers on post-up plays.
How did they stop him?
In the first quarter, Anthony posted up on the left elbow and drove left to the basket. Once he put the ball on the ground, help defense came and he missed a contested layup.
In the third quarter he posted up, again from the left elbow. Help defense came once he dribbled, and this time Anthony kicked it out to the perimeter.
Twice in the fourth quarter, he posted up on the right block. In both instances, a double team came after he began dribbling. On the first play, the Grizzlies forced a turnover. On the second play, they forced him to pass the ball out to the perimeter.
What’s the best way for teams to defend Carmelo in the post?
• Force him to back down his defender. With his back to the basket, Carmelo is shooting 6-for-15 this season.
• Once he starts backing down his defender, it may be wise to bring a hard double team. When Anthony has been double-teamed with his back to the basket, he has passed the ball on nine of 12 plays. All of those nine passes have been kick-outs to the perimeter. In fact, Anthony hasn’t passed the ball once to a cutter with his back to the basket this season.
• Once he faces up, Carmelo will almost always either take a one-dribble jumper or drive all the way to the basket. On one-dribble jumpers, he’s shooting 4-of-8 and has been fouled twice.
• If Carmelo faces up, don’t let him drive to the basket without help defense. This season when Anthony faces up and drives without help defense, he’s 5-for-8, and all three of his misses came in the Knicks’ opening game against the Miami Heat.
• After his first dribble, send a hard double team. Anthony has faced a hard double team only twice this season when he faces up and drives to the basket. On those two plays, he has a missed shot and a turnover.
The Clippers had other ideas.
Down 95-71 with 7:54 left, Reggie Evans made a layup that ignited a 28-3 run en route to the Clippers historic comeback win.
FROM ELIAS: The win tied the shot-clock era playoff record for the largest deficit overcome at the end of the third quarter.
The comeback marked the 15th time this season the Clippers won a game when trailing by 10 or more points, most in NBA (regular & postseason).
But this wasn’t just any comeback, so how did they do it?
The Clippers actually had more turnovers in the fourth quarter (seven), but they led to only two Grizzlies points.
Conversely, all five of the Grizzlies' turnovers led to Clippers points (10).
The Clippers also made eight more field goals including four more three-pointers plus grabbed 13 more rebounds than the Grizzlies. Evans had eight rebounds in the quarter, twice as many as the entire Grizzlies team.
The Grizzlies did their part too going almost nine minutes without a made field goal between 9:13 and 00:28.
They missed 12 straight shots and the only point scored over this stretch was a Mike Conley made free throw.
Game Two is Wednesday back in Memphis where the Grizzlies will have to regroup.
They have lost four of their last five playoff games, but if we learned one thing from Sunday’s action, it’s that ANYTHING can happen in the playoffs.
Statistical support for this story from NBA.com.
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The last four years he has coached, Mike Brown's teams have led the league.
Basketball geekery has delved into crunch time in various ways.
- First there was individual field goal percentage. That's where we learned that the players we thought owned crunch time (for instance Kobe Bryant and Chauncey Billups) actually miss a lot.
- A year ago, we added something new, looking at team offenses. That's a more important measure, assuming you value wins more than highlights. Who cares who gets the bucket, so long as they're on your team? That's where we learned that most teams were about the same, with some exceptions, including Chris Paul's Hornets, which were amazing.
But all that is only part of the picture. Because as much as we love clutch buckets, clutch wins also have a ton to do with defense. If you're going to point to any team as elite in the clutch, that must be included, and now it is.
As John Hollinger has explained, a lot of what teams do in crunch time is likely random. Looking at tiny parts of games creates some wacky results without a lot of predictive value ... anyone who says they know a team will do well in crunch time is likely fibbing. All teams do both well and poorly at different times. But defense may be a bit of an exception. Teams do seem to play defense with a certain consistency late in games.
Using NBA.com data from the last five years (current as of today), from games within five points in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, Trevor Ebaugh of ESPN Stats & Info. dug in and created this pretty Tableau table:
Some of what we noticed:
- The Cavaliers of LeBron James and Mike Brown were unreal in crunch time, leading the league by a hefty margin for three straight years, with the best performances of any teams in the record. It's easy to see that LeBron James matters here -- once he left for Miami the Cavaliers’ plus/minus plummeted. The Cavs averaged plus-113 with James during those three seasons, and plus one in the two seasons since. Meanwhile, before James, the Heat weren't good in crunch time, but have since become very solid.
- Mike Brown emerges as an interesting character in crunch time. With James in Cleveland three straight years, and now in Los Angeles after a year off, his teams led the league by this metric every year he has coached in the last half-decade. In this period, neither team has been as good with other coaches, either.
- The Lakers have by far the best crunch time plus/minus this season (plus-79, the Pacers are second at plus-65). Pau Gasol (plus-78) has been their biggest individual star, followed closely by Andrew Bynum (plus-74). Kobe Bryant ranks third at plus-58. The Lakers achieved this number with the NBA's second-best clutch offense (behind the Magic) and the eighth-best defense.
- Three teams have shone for five straight years: The Lakers, Celtics and Magic. The Nuggets are flirting with joining that club, too.
- Superstars matter. Or, at least some do. LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul almost always end the season positive in this regard -- the only exceptions are Paul and Nowitzki this year, which could still change. Other big names, like Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade have had more mixed results.
- Good teams in general do well in crunch time. The top six teams in crunch time plus/minus this season have already locked up playoff spots, for instance (Lakers, Pacers, Hawks, Magic, Spurs and Bulls). But it's hardly a perfect correlation. In fact, surely a lot of what we're seeing in this chart appears to be simple randomness. The Pacers, terrible for a long time, are suddenly leaders. The Kings are excellent crunch time defenders this season. The Hawks are a solid team that is way better than solid late in games. And plenty of good teams -- the Sixers, the Knicks -- are pretty bad with the game on the line.
- Over the past half-decade, just two teams, the Knicks and Timberwolves, haven't had a single season in positive territory.
- The top ten late-game offensive teams this season are the Magic, Lakers, Grizzlies, Bulls, Hawks, Pacers, Rockets, Thunder, Spurs and Knicks.
- The Pacers are by far this season's best defensive team late in close games. They are followed by the Hawks, Kings (!), Spurs, Heat, Magic, Bulls, Lakers, Thunder and Clippers.
- The Dallas Mavericks have been very good for the last five years, but also have had the biggest drop-off in crunch time performance, from a league-leading plus-117 last season to an anemic minus-16 this season.
- The Hawks have been good in crunch time for four straight years.
- The Spurs and Thunder have been up and down.
- The Houston Rockets (plus-31) and Memphis Grizzlies (plus-28) are the best crunch time teams this season that have yet to lock up a playoff spot. The Los Angeles Clippers (minus-9) are the only playoff team with a negative clutch plus/minus.
Mostly, this feels like it's the tip of the iceberg. There's a lot more to learn about all this, and one of the big questions on the horizon is something Bill James has wrestled with in baseball for quite some time: Is there such a thing as clutch time performers? Are there really players or teams who do better with the game on the line?
That's still not something we know. What we do know is that a lot of what we thought we knew was wrong.
Prior to Sunday, we hadn't seen a player score as many as 39 points in a Game 7 since since LeBron James scored 45 and Paul Pierce scored 41 when the Boston Celtics beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Durant's performance is all the more impressive when you consider he was held to just 11 points in Game 6, the fewest he'd scored in any game in more than two years. Critics slammed Durant for settling for jumpshots in Game 6 after he finished with no field goal attempts inside 10 feet. On Sunday, Durant attacked the basket from start to finish, attempting 10 field goals from inside 10 feet.
Perhaps the only player to have a better day than Durant on Sunday was Russell Westbrook, who posted 14 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds. He became the sixth different player to reach those totals in a playoff game in the last 20 seasons, joining Jason Kidd (three times), Rajon Rondo (three times), Magic Johnson (twice), Chris Paul (twice) and Michael Jordan (once).
Westbrook's triple-double was just the fifth in a Game 7 in NBA history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, and the first since Scottie Pippen recorded 17 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds vs the New York Knicks in the 1992 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Players with a triple-double in a Game 7 are now 4-1 in those games, with their only loss coming when Jerry West's monster effort wasn't enough to get the Los Angeles Lakers by the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals.
The Thunder will face the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals after the Mavericks wrapped up a sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers one week ago. Elias tells us that a team coming off a four-game sweep has faced a team coming off of a seven-game series 12 times in NBA history. The more-rested team has won that series in nine of the previous 12 occasions.
When James spoke well of contraction--and yes, that’s what he did, despite contraction retractions--he posited a better, cleaner, less diluted league. This logic was easy to puncture. The NBA is more talented than ever before, losses are a zero sum game. To my mind, his statements were misguided. As an aside, I found the impassioned “How dare he job the union like that!” exclamations to be overheated "Decision" aftershocks. Billy Hunter will live.
(Hypothetical David Stern: I’m happy to announce that NBA players will be making minimum wage as a result of LeBron’s off-hand remarks to a reporter! Bwahaha!)
Lost in the haze of the James kerfuffle was that contraction isn’t about players or teams: It’s about cities. Some cities--especially smaller Southern cities--flag in NBA support. There's a reason why the annually awful Golden State Warriors are never threatened with contraction, while the sword of Damocles perpetually hangs above the Grizzlies, Bobcats, and recently NBA-purchased Hornets.
What I want to know is, does this matter to you as a fan? Do you care if certain regions are lukewarm for pro basketball, or if the NBA bleeds money maintaining a product in smaller markets?
I personally love supportive small markets like Portland and Phoenix. Keep them at all costs, it's fun to cheer a dogged underdog. And I'd take once-supportive Sacramento under my wing, had I the power to shield. But I don't want my favorite sport to languish, unloved, before empty arenas. Televised apathy saps energy from the viewing experience, and it makes little sense to force a product on an unreceptive customer.
It was easy to attack LeBron’s points about league quality but difficult to address the issue he ignored. Is the NBA better for eliminating the teams that drag apathetic followings?
- 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.
- 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.' "
Some jerk beat Chris Bosh to registering the domain www.chrisbosh.com. So Bosh went after the cybersquatter. All sorts of legal wrangling later, Bosh has won damages, his domain ... and a zillion other domains the same guy had been squatting.
There are nearly 800 names in the list, and Bosh and his internet consultant, Hadi Teherany of Max Deal, say they'll return them all to their rightful owners for free.
Which means a good chunk of the basketball world will be owing Bosh a favor. The list is thick with basketball players in the NBA, overseas, college and high school. There are also some football players, political sites, Britney Spears' child, singers, a site or two that sound raunchy, and the Mexican wrestler "El Octagon."
Just a few of the many NBA names on the list:
(Also on the list is AaronAfflalo.com, even though that Denver player spells his first name "Arron.") The vast list of names also includes instructions for athletes and celebrities to get their names back from Bosh, if they wish. Paging El Octagon ...
- Scott Cacciola of The Commercial-Appeal: "Allen Iverson's abilities are a gift, which even he recognizes. In the same way that musical prodigies can just pick up an instrument and create a song, so too can Iverson grab a basketball -- without hours of practice -- and control a game. He always has been at his best when he improvises. He would clash with his high school football and basketball coaches for missing practices, but they knew he would excel when it mattered. It was impossible to bench him. ... Iverson, no longer a brash rookie, said he has grown to understand the importance of taking care of his body, acknowledging that his long wait for a contract this summer meant sacrificing some of his preparation. Then again, he has coped with injuries before. He missed 34 games during the 2003-04 season because of problems with his right knee -- 'Shaq kneed me in my thigh,' he said -- and his right shoulder. He missed 17 games toward the end of last season with the Detroit Pistons because of a balky back, though he also was upset about his role with the team. He sees his latest challenge as a temporary setback. He is unwilling to concede anything to age. In his mind, it is a fluke."
- Sam Amick of The Sacramento Bee: "Most of this season was taken from Francisco Garcia when the exercise ball on which he lay while lifting two 90-pound dumbbells exploded. The accident, Garcia said, is as surreal now as it was when it happened. 'Just a regular day, lifting weights,' he said. 'I was out there, on the PhysioBall. We've got an understanding that the exercise was good. We'd been doing that, and it exploded on me. ? I didn't have time to react or anything. It's crazy, man. I keep reflecting in my head. It's crazy.' Garcia said he hopes to travel occasionally with the team and maintain a strong connection. 'I want to be here as much as I can, be on the road as much as I can,' he said. 'I just want to be there with them, as a teammate, as a friend, as a leader. I think they really need me out there, even if I'm not playing.' "
- Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: "Stephen Jackson renounced his team captaincy Tuesday. Captain Jack is now Captive Jack. Jackson has been stewing for weeks, making it clear and public that he wants the Warriors to trade him. Nice strategy, by the way: Clamor to be traded, thereby drastically decreasing your trade value. He returned to the Warriors on Tuesday after a two-game team suspension, meeting with coach Don Nelson and general manager Larry Riley before practice. When Nelson talked to a large group of media in the early afternoon, he was happy. 'The prodigal son has returned,' said a smiling Nelson. 'It's good to have Jack back.' Nelson also said, 'He's going to be the same guy.' But when it was Jackson's turn with the media, he seemed like a very different guy, not the positive and good-humored captain many of us have grown to know and like. To say Jackson seemed bitter Tuesday is to say that the day seemed a bit moist. I'm checking with sources to see if Jackson and Nelson attended the same meeting."
- Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "From a distance, Murphy comes across as a free-spirited prankster. It turns out that's not the case. 'Murph plays the Jersey goofball a lot, but he certainly knows what's going on, so we give him a hard time,' said Pacers swingman Mike Dunleavy, who has been Murphy's teammate for seven years. 'He knows all the things that are at stake.' Murphy regained his old form last season when he averaged 14.3 points and a career-high 11.8 rebounds. He's the only player in NBA history to finish in the top five in rebounding (second) and 3-point percentage (third) in the same season. He also had 48 double-doubles, a franchise record. Murphy averaged a double-double in three of the first five years of his career. 'He's always been a terrific rebounder,' Dunleavy said. 'He sort of went back to where he was in previous years and just seemed more focused and had it all together, and when he does that he's a pretty good player.' "
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Gilbert Arenas came back from the shower, put on his backpack and lowered his head. He was ready for the Q&Arenas. Here is the full transcript. Enjoy. Q: Do you have any comment on the fine you received today? Arenas: 'Nope.' Q: Do you think the game tonight was a sign of progress? Arenas: 'Yeah, both teams played hard.' Q: How are you feeling out there on the court? Arenas: 'I feel fine.' Q: What are your thoughts on Will Bynum? Arenas: 'He's coming along well.' Q: Anything else about tonight's game? Arenas: 'No.' Q: Do you feel good about the way things are going right now, feel good about the way you are playing, feel comfortable about the new coaching staff? Arenas: 'Yep.' Q: What can you say about Flip and how is he different than what you've experienced here before? Arenas: 'He's just bringing something different than the last coach.' Q: What in particular is he bringing that's different? Arenas: (Six second pause) 'What was the question again?' Q: What are your impressions of Flip? What has he brought to this team so far? Arenas: 'It's too early to tell. Maybe next month, I'll have a better answer for you' Q: Do you have anything to say about the fine today? Arenas: 'Nope.' Q: No comment? Arenas: 'Nope' The end."
- Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "Kings forward Francisco Garcia suffered an injury when an inflatable exercise ball exploded. Garcia reportedly was lying on his back across a 'physio ball' while lifting dumbbells. When the ball exploded, the player fell backwards, fracturing the radius in his right wrist. He also suffered ligament damage. Garcia is expected to miss four months of play after surgery to repair the injuries. On Monday, the Kings sent a warning to the other 29 NBA teams advising them about the incident. Spurs strength and conditioning coach Mike Brungardt said the team has used exercise balls -- large, inflated balls on which players balance while doing assorted exercises -- for many years. 'We check them several times each season, and we've never had a problem,' Brungardt said. 'We'll continue to use them, but we immediately eliminated their use in some exercises after we got the report from the Kings.' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he could not recall a Spurs player being injured during any sort of off-court workout. 'No,' he said, 'but it made us all think. We all have all these different contraptions we're using. Odd things can happen.' "
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "A significant decision awaits the Milwaukee Bucks by the end of the month, and it's not an easy one. Bucks general manager John Hammond faces an Oct. 31 deadline to decide whether to renew the first option year on forward Joe Alexander's cont
ract. Alexander would be owed $2.76 million next season if the Bucks pick up the first of two option years on his rookie-scale contract. Complicating the choice is the disappointing performance turned in by Alexander during his rookie year in 2008-'09 and the injuries that plagued him in training camp a year ago and again during the current preseason. Alexander worked hard during the off-season at the Bucks' training facility and performed well in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, but on the first day of training camp, he was standing on the sideline due to a strained right hamstring. The 6-foot-8 Alexander has not been able to practice yet or play in the Bucks' first five exhibition games, a huge setback for a player trying to gain coach Scott Skiles' confidence and battle for time at the small forward position. Hammond declined to comment Tuesday on the Bucks' intentions."
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Jonny Flynn hasn't played a real NBA game yet, but already Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis knows his rookie point guard can run successfully the two-man pick-and-roll play at the sport's highest level anytime and anywhere he so chooses. That's why he's not letting Flynn do it. At least not yet anyway. Rambis wants Flynn to concentrate on skills he hasn't mastered -- and those his team needs most -- in a preseason that's two games old. 'He's learning the importance of the point guard in this league,' Rambis said. 'I need him to orchestrate the offense and get his teammates involved. They're counting on him.' Oh, is that all? At the age of 20? At a position Rambis calls the most difficult to learn in the NBA?"
- Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Five years into his NBA career, Marvin Williams has more than established himself in the league. The proof can be found in his numbers. For his career Williams has averaged 12.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and started in 209 of the 284 games he's played since being selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2005 draft. For all that, both Williams and Hawks coach Mike Woodson are convinced that there's much more the starting small forward can do. 'Marvin's come in every year since his rookie year in great shape and he's really been consistent,' Woodson said. 'But he's the one guy over the next two years that I think can really make the jump to become more of an elite scorer, mostly because he can put the ball on the floor and draw fouls. He added the 3-point shot to his game last season and I think that pushed his game to another level. Now, he has to take another step.' Does that mean folks can expect to see a more aggressive and determined Williams this season? 'I think so,' Williams said. 'I've never been one to try and do too much. I've always felt like I know my role and I try to play the best I can. At the same time, I think this preseason I've tried to be more aggressive. And it's worked out.' "
- Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: "As the old saying goes, there is no 'I' in team. But there is a 'me,' and Sixers forward Elton Brand has had to concentrate on the selfish part of the game a little more than usual this preseason. Besides having to absorb the new offensive and defensive schemes that have been brought in by coach Eddie Jordan, Brand has had to make sure his surgically repaired shoulder and Achilles' tendon are ready to endure what he hopes to be an 82-game regular season. He also has had to find out whether he still has what it takes to be the 20-point, 10-rebound-a-night player he has been throughout his career. Sometimes that might take away from what Jordan is trying to accomplish. But for now, the coach is OK with it. 'I like that he's aggressive,' Jordan said of the player the Sixers signed in the summer of 2008 to a 5-year, $80 million contract. 'He's putting the shoulder down, he's really looking to be assertive in the paint area.' Then came the caveat. 'I want him to execute a little better, as far as spacing for his teammates, his cutting for his teammates, not for himself,' Jordan said."
- Frank Dell'Apa of The Boston Globe: "Rasheed Wallace, who had 20 points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes, defended his prediction the Celtics are capable of winning 72 games. 'When you play with a high caliber team, whose goals are higher than other teams in the NBA, when you play with teams that want that hardware, then, yes, those records can be broken,' he said. 'But I think we can get that 72. If we overcome injuries, I think we can get it. Just imagine if guys didn't get hurt [last season], they definitely could have gotten it. That's what we're shooting for this year.' "
- Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: "And now for your actual 2009-2010 Raptors. Halfway through the pre-season, the Raptors are poised for the first time to play a game with all five of their projected starters in the lineup. Hedo Turkoglu joins the recently returned Chris Bosh to the lineup giving coach Jay Triano his first look at a starting five that also includes Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani and, for now, DeMar DeRozan. And it all goes down in Hartford with the Boston Celtics providing the opposition. Triano will waste no time in getting Turkoglu involved. 'Does he deserve to start because of the amount he has practised? No,' said Triano answering his own question. 'But we only have four more pre-season games and I need to put him on the floor with guys he is going to play with for the majority of the time. I'm planning on starting him with Jose, Chris, Andrea and probably DeMar.' "
- Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel: "Mario Chalmers' scholarship ended Sunday. Suddenly, for the first time since Chalmers was named last season's Miami Heat opening-night starter, there is legitimate competition at point guard with the signing of free agent Carlos Arroyo. Until the Heat made the move for the eighth-year veteran, Chalmers' competition had been limited over the past year to the likes of Chris Quinn, Marcus Banks, Shaun Livingston, Luther Head and current camp longshot John Lucas III. But now there is a veteran in the mix who has started 113 NBA games, one who has served as an understudy to the likes of John Stockton, Mark Jackson and Chauncey Billups. 'I think he's landslide better than everybody,' Heat forward Michael Beasley said of Chalmers' previous competition. Beasley, in fact, said it is apparent that the signing of Arroyo has motivated Chalmers, who made the surprise jump to starter after being taken in the second round of the 2008 draft. 'I think he's taking this move and really getting competitive with it,' Beasley said of his closest friend on the team. 'Everybody knows Carlos is a great player, a vet, a scorer with court vision. He can do it all. And 'Rio now got somebody not only to go head-to-head with, but somebody to look up to, somebody to learn off of.' "
- Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times: "When so little went right -- as it did for the Clippers and their fans last season -- the temptat
ion is to go overboard when there are the slightest signs of promise. The incumbent Chris Kaman, veteran of those flickers, urged caution after back-to-back exhibition wins and a fresh air of hope in Clippers' training camp. It took one word to get that thought across: Fresno. 'Don't read into it so much,' Kaman said Tuesday after practice. 'It's basketball. See how it goes. It happened last year. We beat the Lakers in the preseason up in Fresno.' In fact, it was Oct. 9 of last year when the Clippers crushed the Lakers in Fresno, 107-80, in their exhibition opener. And you know the injury-marred rest of the story."
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown says the NBA game is flawed in ways that transcend whether replacement referees are making the calls. Brown will be relieved when this labor dispute is resolved and the veteran officials return. But he's seen a pattern the past few years -- too many whistles, too many contrived rules -- that rob basketball of its natural flow. 'Until we figure out a way to get more shots and have more of a flow up-and-down the court -- which is the beauty of the game -- it's gonna be tough' to entertain fans, Brown said. So if Brown were basketball czar, what would he do? 1) Standardize rules worldwide for the NBA, college and international games. 2) Move the NBA 3-point line in slightly. 3) Permit teams to play any defense they choose without violating some anti-zone rule. Brown believes those changes would both allow and compel teams to run more and shoot more, and that's what the game needs."
- Steve Politi of The Star-Ledger: "Bruce Ratner may have recruited Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov to bail him out financially, but money is not the only obstacle. You can only wonder how foreign it must seem to Prokhorov, coming from a country where the government gets what it wants, to see how one man can become a thorn to this massive project. The case is a long shot. 'The eminent domain issue is going to be very tough for them to win,' said William Ward, a Florham Park-based attorney who handles cases related to property seizure. 'The problem they have in my perspective is that the politicians are lined up against them.' Ward, who was once the lawyer for the Meadowlands sports complex, sees another legal victory for Ratner. But Goldstein and his allies, the underdogs from the start, still have hope that the Court of Appeals will see this deal for what it is -- the government taking property to line the pockets of a developer. 'The idea that the government would force me to sell to Forest City Ratner because this is some great public benefit offends me,' Goldstein said. 'It is not. If it were a benefit, I would not be doing this. I would have left.' Had he left, the Nets would have left New Jersey already, too. They are still here in part because one man dug in and decided to play some defense. Wednesday, he takes one final shot."
- 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 MLive.com: "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."
- 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.' "
- Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer: "It's still hard to believe, Shaquille O'Neal in a Cavaliers uniform. Then there's LeBron James, the league's Most Valuable Player -- and he's yet to celebrate his 25th birthday. And there's Mo Williams, an All-Star guard. Anthony Parker and Anderson Varejao, two respected role players who'd start for most teams. That was Tuesday's starting five: Parker, Williams, O'Neal, Varejao and James. As for Delonte West, he remains a question mark because of his emotional and legal issues. Obviously, with West, the Cavs are a stronger team. But even minus their starting guard, they are still loaded with talent. You could see it Tuesday night in the preseason opener, a 92-87 victory over Charlotte at Quicken Loans Arena."
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "He sat in his corner locker room stall, headphones blaring the sounds of Jay-Z and Notorious B.I.G., as he got himself prepared for his first preseason game in almost two years. As much as Washington Wizards fans have waited for Gilbert Arenas to return to the basketball court, the delay from the game he loves has been much more arduous and painful for Arenas. From a very brief flirtation with retirement this January, to pushing himself in the weight room for countless hours this summer with renowned trainer Tim Grover, Arenas has worked diligently to get back to play again on his surgically repaired left knee. Having already retired his Agent Zero and Hibachi personas last week, the three-time all-star hit the court against the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, simply to resume the career of Gilbert Arenas, the facilitator. Arenas had five points and 10 assists in 24 minutes in the Wizards' 101-92 victory and looked remarkably agile after three surgeries on his left knee limited him to just 15 regular season games the past two seasons."
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "There were plenty of signs of how the Rockets want to play, starting with those 15 first-quarter fast break points. The point guards and power forwards look like the strength of the team, which is not much of a surprise when there aren't any shooting guards and centers (well, almost) on the team. More than all that, though, Chase Budinger just kept doing what he has been doing, holding his own in the battle of the 'how did he get into the second round' draft picks."
- Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "DeJuan Blair was a smash in his preseason debut, scoring a team-leading 16 points and grabbing 19 rebounds in 22 minutes. 'I did what they asked me to, and that's rebound,' Blair said. 'Everything else came off of that.' Only Gregg Popovich could keep Blair, a second-round pick out Pittsburgh, from becoming the first Spurs player to grab 20 boards in the preseason since Will Perdue in 1996. He sat Blair for most of the fourth quarter, choosing to look at other players. After the game, Popovich pronounced himself pleased with Blair's first-game performance. Before it, the coach had cautioned about expecting too much, too soon from the 6-foot-7 rookie. 'I don't want to denigrate anything he's done in the past, and I don't want to over-emphasize anything he's doing well,' Popovich said. 'I just don't know exactly where to put him yet, as far as what kind of impact he might make.' "
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "David Kahn credits an epiphany for setting his franchise on a determined player-development course that brought former Timberwolves guard Chris Carr to practice Tuesday for an audition. Kahn's revelation last summer was that the Wolves can become league leaders in making their own players better. They already have interviewed several candidates for a sixth assistant coaching position, devoted solely to working with players on their skills. Former Timberwolves players Darrick Martin and Tony Campbell came to town before the team left for training camp in Mankato. Carr arrived Tuesday after a short crosstown trip from Hopkins, where he operates a basketball training academy for schoolchildren of all ages. The hire is another step in Kahn's effort to remake a franchise that hasn't made the playoffs since 2004."
- Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News: "Backing down simply isn't acceptable in the NBA. A young player must establish himself from the start, basically in each and every game. Reptuations are earned quickly, and unflattering ones don't go away easily. Weakness is noticed in this league, maybe more than any other sports league. Weaknesses will be exploited. It's early in the Pistons' season, but it's already apparent that no NBA bully is taking the lunch money of rookies Austin Daye, DaJuan Summers and Jonas Jerebko. Those were the indications from last week's training camp, and fortified Monday in the exhibition opener against the Miami Heat. 'These guys are fearless in the way they play the game,' coach John Kuester said. 'They play the game the right way.' "
- Tom Enlund of the Journal Sentinel: "New coach? New system? That's certainly nothing new for forward Hakim Warrick of the Milwaukee Bucks. After experiencing a revolving door on the coach's office during the first four years of his NBA career in Memphis, Warrick signed with coach Scott Skiles' Bucks as a free agent in July. Warrick is now playing under the fifth coach - or sixth, depending on how you count - since he entered the league in 2005. So it's easy to understand why the 6-foot-9 Warrick is looking for a bit of coaching stability. Warrick, in fact, had to stop and think for a moment when asked how many coaches he had played for in Memphis. 'I started with (Mike) Fratello, then we had (Tony) Barone, and then (Marc) Iavaroni ... and if you wanted (to count him), we had Johnny Davis for a game or two. And Lionel (Hollins). So that would be five in four years.' Hollins started last season as an assistant to Skiles but took the Grizzlies' coaching job in January."
- Dan Tomasino of the New York Post: "Jordan Hill is a quiet guy, but the amount of noise he makes on the court this season is of utmost importance to the Knicks' future. The first-round draft pick must prove he was worthy of such a high selection (No. 8 overall) to keep fans from losing faith in the drafting prowess of team president Donnie Walsh and coach Mike D'Antoni. And he must show he is a building block of a championship-caliber team in order to lure LeBron James to New York. The Knicks gambled on drafting Hill, a 6-foot-10 power forward, despite the presence of David Lee at the position and the team's obvious need for a point guard. In fact, Hill was drafted ahead of talented point guard Brandon Jennings, who greatly impressed scouts and executives with his Summer League performance. The Knicks selected Hill because they believe he has Amare Stoudemire-like ability. That'
s the kind of player who would be a great complement for James, should the Knicks sign the superstar free-agent-to-be next summer. If Hill fails, The LeBron Plan could fail with him because Lee and Nate Robinson are on one-year contracts and Danilo Gallinari, 2008's lottery pick, so far has been a bust. The Knicks need to show James that they have some pieces in place and they aren't the toxic club they were made out to be when several free agents spurned them this past summer."
- Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "The likely starting backcourt tandem ended Tuesday's practice with only two good ankles between them, and if that wasn't enough to make Lawrence Frank reach for the nitroglycerin tablets, it's only because the Nets don't have another preseason game until Friday. Devin Harris rolled his left ankle and sat out much of the session, and just 10 minutes later, Courtney Lee turned his right ankle and was taken off for X-rays, which revealed a sprain. The unwitting instigator in each case was a guy who could actually benefit from their absences. 'Tazmanian Devil over there kind of knocked out two guys today,' Harris said, referring to rookie Terrence Williams. Harris was injured while he was backpedaling in a defensive transition: Williams stepped on his foot and 'My body went one way and the ankle went another.' Lee, who missed the last four days of work because of a bruised left foot, had the more serious injury. After colliding with Williams in a rebounding drill, he landed badly, his right ankle swelled. Though X-rays were negative, he could miss a few days."
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal: "Mike Miller, traded from Minnesota to Washington during the offseason, has moved around in the NBA more than he thought he would. Miller spent six seasons with the Griz and is now on his fourth team. He acknowledged being a bit surprised to see Iverson land in Memphis. 'Especially a great player like him, to see him move around,' Miller said. 'That puts some comfort in me because I've been moving around a bit. You see stuff like that, but that's the NBA, you find a place and you go out there and play as hard as they can. I know he's going to play hard.' Miller offered this advice to Iverson about the fans in Memphis: 'They love basketball. If they get out there and win some games, they are going to love him.' "
- Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: "With newly acquired Emeka Okafor out for this week's three preseason games, the first tonight in Philips Arena in Atlanta against the Hawks, Hilton Armstrong might have had yet another chance to impress Coach Byron Scott with his ability to play in the post. But a strained left thigh is jeopardizing that possibility, according to Scott, who said Tuesday he might rest Armstrong for the first two games. ... Already this season, pundits are predicting that Armstrong's $2.8 million salary will be the perfect trading-deadline number to erase from New Orleans' payroll to lessen the expected blow of a luxury-tax bill at the end of the season. Yet Armstrong, in his fourth year and the Hornets' first-round draft pick in 2006, has never been far from a positive assessment in the last week and half since the team convened for training camp in Lafayette. Almost every day, when someone asked Scott to evaluate the players in camp, Armstrong's name has been one of the first he has mentioned. Why? 'Two things,' Scott said. 'No. 1, his conditioning is fantastic. No. 2, he's just much more aggressive than he has been in the past. And No. 3 is probably his confidence level. Those three things have been pretty evident when you watch him out here playing.' "
- Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun: "It took the crowd of 7,213 at the John Labatt Centre about five minutes before they started chanting the name of their favourite new player, Reggie Evans. And Evans no doubt will become a fan favourite at the Air Canada Centre too. He brings a style of play -- toughness, rebounding, energy -- which the Raptors have lacked in recent seasons. Last night, in the Raptors' 107-98 loss to the 'host' Philadelphia 76ers, the energetic Evans lived up to his advance billing, firing on all cylinders right from the opening buzzer. In the first quarter, the former Iowa star picked up six points (despite missing a number of layups under the basket), three steals, two offensive rebounds and an assist -- prompting the chant of 'Reggie, Reggie, Reggie'. 'It was a cool,' Evans said of the crowd. 'But at the end of the day, we've got to get the fans a win.' "
- Sam Amick of The Sacramento Bee: "Tyreke Evans received the start from Kings coach Paul Westphal and didn't look likely to give it up anytime soon, finishing with 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting, two assists, five rebounds and just one turnover in 24 minutes. His play continued to be predictable in all the right kinds of ways, with no one mistaking him for a pure point guard but nearly everyone recognizing the sheer impact he can have on a game. 'He looked like a veteran out there,' Kings coach Paul Westphal said of the player taken fourth overall in the June draft out of Memphis. 'He fit right in. For a first game on the road in a place like this against a team like this, there were a lot of good things to take away from it.' "
- Elliott Teaford of the Long Beach Press-Telegram: "Derek Fisher worked out with Peter Park, who has served as the strength and conditioning coach for cyclist Lance Armstrong, during the summer. As a result, Fisher showed up for training camp, older, wiser and just as fit as ever. Maybe fitter. It was a clear signal to all concerned he was back and ready for a run at a second consecutive NBA championship. It also was a sign he wouldn't be content to fade into the background after winning the fourth title of his career. Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown, the heirs apparent, took notice. 'Fisher's been around,' the 22-year-old Farmar said. 'He's won four rings. He still takes care of himself. He still gets the job done, so I've got to continue to keep working and support him in practice. Shannon is going to be there, too. We're all going to keep pushing each other, and that's going to make us better.' Farmar also is in the final season of his contract, so he has a good deal to prove as he hopes to play well enough to secure a big payday next July. Pushing for more playing time, battling Fisher in practice is the only way to get a bigger and better deal."
- Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: "The last few years in Warriors world, the atmosphere has been nothing short of volatile. Players often speak of the unpredictability of the Golden State environment. Then there's Andris Biedrins. The 23-year-old center is a picture of consistency for the Warriors, one of the few reliable producers. Perhaps his most important area of consistency is his steady improvement. Biedrins has increased his scoring and rebounding averages in each of his five NBA seasons, and he has expanded his presence in the locker room. Can the Warriors expect more from him? He thinks so. 'I can always get better,' said Biedrins, who at one point last season posted a triple-double in 17 consecutiv
e games, one off the Warriors' record. 'You want to keep adding stuff to your game.' "
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Vince Carter executed the beginning of the pick-and-roll perfectly. Carter drove past the defender who had been guarding him, sped into the lane and threw the basketball to Dwight Howard. Problem was, Howard wasn't expecting the ball. 'Man, I didn't know you were going to pass it,' Howard said. 'I thought you were going to score.' That sequence from a recent practice -- and described to reporters by Carter -- illustrates perhaps the biggest challenge the Orlando Magic face this preseason: The addition of so many new players means the defending Eastern Conference champions must build team chemistry all over again. The chemistry experiment will continue tonight when the Magic play the Miami Heat at Amway Arena. 'I want us to have an understanding season from Day One,' Carter said. 'We're trying to make our way through, instead of just feeling our way.' "
- Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "While all Green eyes are certain to be on Kevin Garnett tonight when the Celtics take the floor in Hidalgo, Texas, for their preseason opener against the Rockets, Doc Rivers doesn't see this as a grand opening. 'No, it's just another day,' the coach said after yesterday's practice. 'I'm sure it'll be billed as that though. You know, he's back on opening night as far as I'm concerned. Right now he's just going to play basketball.' The Celts will continue to try to manage Garnett through his comeback from right knee surgery, though both the club and player reiterated there is no trouble with the repaired area. But Rivers noted he'll keep KG out if the shin splints and calf problems persist."