TrueHoop: Milwaukee Bucks
Special to ESPN.com
Speaking in London ahead of Thursday’s one-game trans-Atlantic stop between the New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks, Silver -- nearing his first anniversary on the job since succeeding David Stern -- confirmed that the NBA is closely studying their counterparts in football and the heavy investment made in shifting three NFL regular-season games in 2014 to London, with very overt ambitions to eventually provide the city with a permanent team.
Beyond this week, there is no firm commitment from the NBA even to return to London next season, league officials told ESPN.com, despite a sellout crowd at The O2 Arena on Thursday. And while Silver signaled he will seek to reinvest some of $24 billion in rights fees coming his way from ESPN and Turner Broadcasting over the next decade outside his home market, he remains cautious about matching the NFL’s speed and scale.
“We study what the NFL is doing very closely and what all leagues are doing,” he said. “I would say that they’re a very different schedule. They play once a week. There are bye-weeks built into the schedule. It’s a very different proposition in terms of them putting a team here. Which is why they’re ahead of us and they seem determined to put a team in London, and they seem to be doing a terrific job.
“People are already talking to us about the density of our schedule. The amount of back-to-backs. So for the NBA, for teams to travel over to Europe to get the appropriate rest, it required that the remainder of the schedule be that more compact. It’s a complex issue for us.
“For scheduling reasons, if we were to put franchises, or a franchise in Europe -- and David Stern had the same view -- we would have to put multiple franchises here. I don’t think it’s realistic that you could put one team. If we were to come to Europe, it would need to be with a division rather than a single team.”
Addressing a wide range of topics in front of British and American media, Silver revealed that NBA officials have held talks in London with United Kingdom betting providers to learn more about the European gaming market, which openly allows legalized wagering on professional sports, the NBA included.
“[It’s] something we’ve been studying for years,” he said. “I’m not sure what the next steps will be. I’m not looking to actively lobby Congress to make changes. I think that as states, and governors, look at the issue as it pertains to revenue sources in their jurisdiction, they will ultimately turn to Congress and look for a change in our federal law.”
One other part of the NBA’s visit has been a close-up look at the structure of European soccer and basketball competitions with a view, perhaps, to introducing a knockout Cup complement to league play in order to provide a secondary trophy within the season.
How that would fit in with an already-dense schedule remains open to debate. However, what seems fixed for the immediate future is the concept of altering the playoff structure and the seeding format to take into account the huge disparity in strength between the currently-dominant West and the weaker East.
“The best option is currently the way we’re seeding teams now,” Silver stated. “I've said before that we’re looking at other ways to seed teams. But it seems all the alternatives raised different issues in terms of the schedule, the way the conference competition the division competition, the amount of travel.
“For example, there’s a lot of focus on the number of back-to-backs, four games in five nights, to the extent if we changed the current division structure, it would require even more travel. I’m open-minded on the issue, but I can’t say today I believe there’s a better way.”
Sanders, of the Milwaukee Bucks, leads the NBA in blocks per game at 3.11. Why is that interesting? He’s doing it while averaging 25.5 minutes per game.
Since the NBA started tracking blocks in 1973-74, there have been eight previous instances of a player recording three or more blocks per game while averaging fewer than 30 minutes (minimum 2,000 minutes).
But there have been only three instances in which a player averaged fewer than 30 minutes and led the league in blocks per game.
Sanders will clear the 2,000-minute mark if he stays healthy and plays at roughly his current pace for the remainder of the season.
At his current 25.5 minutes per game, he would set the mark for fewest minutes per game for a player who led the league in blocks per game, edging out Manute Bol and Mark Eaton.
There have been 16 previous seasons in NBA history in which a player posted a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 30.0 or better (minimum 45 games played). James’ PER is a league-best 30.37. Assuming he can keep it up, James would become the second player in history with four or more seasons with that mark, joining Michael Jordan.
For the third time in the past three seasons, New York Knicks center Chandler is making a run at the record books. Chandler’s True Shooting Percentage -- which takes into consideration 2-point field goals, 3-point field goals and free throws -- is in rare territory once again, at 70.1 percent on the season. That is just fractionally behind his own record from last season (70.8).
The Milwaukee Bucks beat the New York Knicks who have now lost five straight games and stand at 6-9. Although Carmelo Anthony scored 35 points in the loss, the Knicks now stand at just 20-21 since trading for him last February.
A trend of leaning on Anthony in isolation continued against Milwaukee, as Anthony accounted for 15 of the Knicks’ 19 plays in isolation. On the season, the Knicks have ran a higher percentage of isolation plays than any other team, but are shooting just 29.3 percent on such plays, the worst in the NBA.
Brandon Jennings scored a season-high 36 points in the win, but did so without attempting a single free throw. He is the first player to score at least that many points without attempting a free throw since Jason Richardson in January 2008. Two of the three highest scoring games of his career have now come at Madison Square Garden, having hung 37 on March 25 of last season.
HOWARD SHOULDERS THE LOAD
Dwight Howard had 21 points and 23 rebounds to lead the Orlando Magic over the Los Angeles Lakers 92-80. It was Howard’s fifth game with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds this season, more than the rest of the NBA combined. According to Elias, Howard is the first player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975-76 with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in five of his team’s first 15 games of the season.
Although Kobe Bryant scored 30 points, the Lakers offense continues to struggle as they failed to top 100 points for the 10th straight game. That is tied for the second-longest such streak by the Lakers in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55).
BULLS WIN WITHOUT ROSE
Despite playing without Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls won 114-75, handing the Cleveland Cavaliers their worst home loss in franchise history. According to Elias, the 39-point margin of victory is the second-largest ever by the Bulls over the Cavaliers, trailing only a 121-80 result on December 22, 1970.
Chicago held Cleveland to just 30.3 percent shooting, the fifth-lowest allowed in a game this season. It was the fifth time this season the Bulls have held their opponent to under 35 percent shooting. The Lakers are the only other team with even three such games this season.
AROUND THE ASSOCIATION
• The Philadelphia 76ers beat the Atlanta Hawks 90-76 to improve to 11-4, their best start since starting 11-4 in 2002-03.
• LaMarcus Aldrige had 33 points, 23 rebounds and five assists to lead the Portland Trail Blazers over the Toronto Raptors. He is only the sixth player in the last 25 seasons to reach those threshold in a single game and the first to do it since Kevin Garnett in 2003-04.
• The Detroit Pistons scored 81 points in a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. It’s Pistons’ 16th straight game they have failed to score 100 points, their third-longest such streak in the shot-clock era.
The Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks combined to shoot 41-for-41 from the free throw line in Milwaukee’s 102-93 victory on Thursday night. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the best display of free-throw shooting in NBA history.
The previous mark was held by the Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors, who were a combined 16-for-16 from the line on Dec. 22, 2000. That’s the only other game in the shot clock era in which both teams went the entire night without missing a free throw.
Two other performances come close. On April 4, 1997, the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns were a combined 36-for-37. Nearly six years later, on April 5, 2003, the Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves were a combined 43-for-44.
In both instances, it was a Suns miss that prevented perfection.
Coincidentally, the Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers had 41 free-throw attempts on Thursday as well. But they failed at achieving perfection by a wide margin, combining to miss 14 attempts.
Between them, the Pistons and Bucks were shooting 76 percent from the free-throw line this season, so a game with 41 free-throw attempts figured to have around 31 makes and 10 misses. But on this night, they would be much better.
Monroe had a fantastic all-around game. He finished with 32 points and 16 rebounds, the third Pistons player to hit both of those plateaus in a game in the past 25 seasons , joining Grant Hill and Dennis Rodman, who each did so twice (alas, neither was perfect from the foul line in those games).
For the Bucks, it was their best free-throw shooting game since going 28-for-28 in a 103-94 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 12, 2000.
The 24-for-24 for the Pistons was the best by any team in the NBA this season, the best by any team since the Minnesota Timberwolves were 25-for-25 in a 104-92 win over the New Orleans Hornets on Feb. 7, 2011.
According to Elias, the last time the Pistons made that many free throws without a miss in a game was March 12, 1985, when they went 24-for-24 in a 111-110 loss to the Chicago Bulls.
That night, they lost to a rookie named Michael Jordan, who made four late free throws of his own to seal a 32-point effort and a win for his team.
The last team to lose a game in which it shot 24-for-24 or better from the free-throw line was the Dallas Mavericks, who went 29-for-29 in a 110-98 loss to the Washington Wizards on Nov. 26, 2007.
The Pistons were well short of the NBA record for the most makes by a team in a game without a miss. That mark of 39 was set by the Utah Jazz against the Portland Trail Blazers, Dec. 7, 1982.
Howard not so perfect, but sets record in win
Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard wasn't anything close to perfect on Thursday, but he set an NBA mark nonetheless.
Howard broke the record for free-throw attempts in a game with 39 in Orlando's 117-109 win over the Golden State Warriors. Howard broke the mark of 34 that stood for nearly 50 years, set by Wilt Chamberlain against the Hawks on Feb. 22, 1962.
Howard's 18 misses are the most by any player, not named Chamberlain, in NBA history.
Perhaps we can expect a big scoring day from Howard in the future. Less than two weeks after Chamberlain set that free throw attempts record, he set another record, one that hasn't been touched. On March 2, 1962, he scored 100 points in a win over the New York Knicks.
For now, Howard will have to settle for what he did on Thursday: becoming the only active player with a 40-point/20-rebound game.
For the first time this season, the "Big 3" for the Miami Heat each scored at least 20 points in a game en route to a 101-89 win over the New Jersey Nets on Saturday. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 73 of those points with Wade leading the way with 29 points, James with 23 and Bosh with 21. The Heat improved to 5-2 with two of those wins coming at the Nets' expense.
LeBron James has punished the Nets in transition this season. In the third quarter Saturday, LeBron went 3-for-3 in transition and drew two fouls that sent him to the line.
It took Bosh, James and Wade seven games before each of them scored 20 plus points in the same game. When it comes to other notable trios, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce accomplished that feat in just three games while Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon did it in their first game together.
Elsewhere around the NBA:
FROM THE ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU:The Hornets beat the Bucks 87-81 to improve their record to 6-0, though their largest margin of victory this season has been by nine points. New Orleans is only the second team in NBA history to open a season with six straight wins, with none of the wins by a double-digit margin. The 1948-49 Washington Capitols, coached by Red Auerbach, was the only other team to open the season with such a streak.
FROM THE ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU: John Wall, who had 10 assists in Washington’s loss to Cleveland Saturday night, has handed out at least seven assists in each of the five games he has played in the NBA. Oscar Robertson is the only other player in NBA history to record at least seven assists in each of his first five career NBA games. The “Big O” did it in each of his first 10 games in the NBA in 1960-61.
- 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."
- Shocking bit of news: Wayne Winston, the Indiana University professor I have quoted extensively in the last couple of weeks, and has been Mark Cuban's statistical consultant for the last nine years, just told me that his contract with the Mavericks has not been renewed. He assures me it's not related to his spilling the beans to TrueHoop. Winston has a professor job, and a book that just came out, and says he has not yet put much thought into whether or not he'll pursue work with other teams.
- It's probably time to stop thinking as players from the EuroLeague as raw projects, compared to, say, NCAA players. Consider the resume of young King Omri Casspi: He scored nine points in 18 minutes a game in the Euroleague, shooting 52% from the floor. Do those numbers mean anything? It's easy to make a case that his competition -- all grown men -- was better than an NCAA title team. In his final game of the season he shared the court with Carlos Arroyo, Dee Brown, Daniel Santiago, Juan Carlos Navarro, (current Buck) Ersan Ilyasova, Fran Vasquez, and (current Rocket) David Andersen among others.
- 20 points, 11 rebounds, eight blocks ... meet the new Roy Hibbert! (He's a Pacer, in case you didn't know.) His college coach is not surprised.
- Since Bill Davidson's death, the ownership picture of the Pistons has been a little unclear. The insight: Per Davidson's will, the team is being run by a committee featuring his widow, the president of Palace Sports and Entertainment, and some other unknown people. So, is that clear?
- If you're mad that you can't watch your team on TV this preseason, talk to Dwight Jaynes: "I cannot believe the sense of entitlement among today's sports fans. Sorry, kiddos, but right here you're going to have to hear an old guy give you one of those 'back in my day' talks. You see, when I was growing up, you got one Game of the Week in baseball (and it was usually the Yankees). One (if you were lucky) pro basketball game of the week, maybe a Notre Dame football game on Saturday -- you've probably heard all about it. And for most of the life of the Portland Trail Blazers the philosophy was that you didn't give your games away on television. At most, there were 20 televised games a season. That was it. But this season every single regular-season Trail Blazer game will be on television. Now some people without Comcast won't get all those games, but the fact is, a majority of the people in this market will be able to see every game. To a guy like me, that's pretty incredible. And I guess it makes people moaning about no telecasts of exhibition games seem kind of petty. I mean, really? Really? When every single REAL game is available to you? Sorry, but I just can't muster up much of a sense of injustice over this one. Be patient. You're going to see plenty of games."
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Brandon Jennings admitted he was in awe playing at the Palace on Wednesday night. But that feeling quickly faded for the Milwaukee Bucks' rookie point guard, as he was tossed into the fray for 27 minutes in the team's second pre-season game. Jennings faced a tough task trying to guard Detroit's Will Bynum, and the Pistons backcourt dominated in a 113-104 victory over the Bucks at the Palace of Auburn Hills. But the 20-year-old Jennings also showed some progress with a team-high 18 points, six assists and six steals, despite five turnovers. 'I was out there playing a lot and I was a little fatigued,' said Jennings. 'I just had to play through it and keep playing. I'm not going to lie; I was a little nervous today, playing in the Palace and Detroit basketball. A lot of players came through here, guys like Isiah Thomas. I felt I just had to come out here and run the team and focus on the defensive end.' "
- Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "There is a tendency around the Trail Blazers to be careful about what is said about Greg Oden. Nobody wants to apply pressure on the 21-year-old center. Nobody wants to raise expectations any higher than they already are for the former No. 1 pick. But on Wednesday, after the Blazers second preseason game this season, nobody needed to say anything about Oden. The play of the new-look center is speaking volumes. With a lighter frame, and a brighter outlook, Oden continued his resurgent comeback campaign with 20 points and 12 rebounds during the Blazers' 89-86 win over Sacramento at Arco Arena."
- Terry Foster of The Detroit News: "The real treat was Will Bynum (23 points, six assists), who runs the point better than anyone for the Pistons and that includes Stuckey -- the man they want to run it. Bynum is not an elite point guard, but he gives the Pistons exactly what they want. He is an unselfish player who can get into the lane and make good decisions."
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "The Orlando Magic did not draft a shooting guard and sign another two-guard like they did the season before. No, this season the Magic just made a trade to acquire an eight-time all-star who plays shooting guard ( Vince Carter). Welcome to J.J. Redick's world. At least he can keep his sense of humor. 'Hey, I'm still here,' Redick laughed before the Magic's ragged 90-86 preseason win against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night at Amway Arena. While the Magic keep putting other two-guards between Redick and more playing time, he actually has closed in on defying doubters after three seasons."
- Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "The NBA is a watered-down product. The salary cap slowly has whittled benches across the league down to faceless entities, punchless sparring partners in practice and fill-ins who hope not to undo the work of their betters at gametime. But the Celtics went into last night's preseason opener against the Rockets with a modern-day anomaly. The reserves have dished out as much as they have absorbed during the first part of training camp. The second unit of Rasheed Wallace, Marquis Daniels, Glen Davis, Eddie House and Brian Scalabrine beat the starters in a scrimmage last Saturday in Newport, R.I., and figure to win a lot more. 'It's crazy,' Kendrick Perkins said of the burgeoning rivalry between the starters and reserves. 'They make us work every practice. We have no slack on the backup side, so every practice is really like a game. They're good. They have a lot of shooters. They have Eddie House, he's 10 years (in the league), Rasheed 15, Marquis seven, Baby three, Tony six, so they have a lot of experienced guys on their team.' "
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Nick Young entered this season determined that his name would not be preceded by the word 'backup,' stating before training camp that he hated sitting on the bench and was going after the starting job. That was a bold declaration coming from Young, who carried a happy-go-lucky demeanor his first two seasons in Washington. It also followed a summer in which the Wizards improved their back court with the additions of Mike Miller and Randy Foye, and DeShawn Stevenson returned from a back injury. Young feels that he squandered an opportunity last season, when injuries provided an opening for playing time that he was unable to fully take advantage of. He didn't believe he had any more time to waste. 'I always wanted to be a great player. This is the year to get it rolling,' Young said after scoring 11 points with four rebounds during the Wizards' 101-92 win against Memphis. 'It's my third year. It's time for me to grow up and get my name out there. This is the game I love and I just want to get better every year. I didn't want to be forgotten.' "
- Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: "Brian Cardinal has a receding hairline that makes him look more suited for a 50-and-over league. He admits he is not good enough to be a starting power forward in the NBA, yet he is approaching his 10th season in the league. Cardinal has been a backup with each of his five NBA teams, including the Wolves last season. He has never averaged more than 9.6 points in a season, but his value is measured more in work ethic and a lead-by-example attitude. 'I can't dunk on anybody, but the game is far bigger than being the greatest athlete or having a muscled-up body,' Cardinal said. 'It's about playing smart and doing the right things. That's why I've been fortunate to play this long.' Even if Cardinal makes the Wolves' final roster, he knows most of the playing time at power forward will be divided between Al Jefferson and Kevin Love. Jefferson was a freshman in high school when Cardinal was drafted by Detroit in the second round of the 2000 NBA draft. Love had yet to reach high school."
- Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: "One of the coaches stood in the locker room late Tuesday night, marveling about DeJuan Blair. Then he paused and changed direction. 'I love Ian Mahinmi,' he said, 'but ...' The coach roots for Mahinmi, as does everyone in the Spurs organization. Mahinmi has done everything the Spurs have asked. Still, on this night, the coach couldn't help but see the contrast. Blair turned 20 in April, and this is the first time he's ever lived more than a block from home. And yet: He showed more basketball instincts in his first NBA game than Mahinmi had in four years. It's October, and there are no guarantees Blair will be getting minutes in November. Still, his undeniable skill was on display. Blair had 19 rebounds in the first 22 minutes of his pro life, and this is something that works in any arena in any city."
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston
Chronicle: "We just watched 75 fouls and 102 free throws in one basketball game. OK, it's preseason. If you pay full price to watch these games, you're not too picky, anyway. But just as the teams learn all that must be corrected in time for the season, so must the league. 'Replacement refs' should become a euphemism for 'preseason refs.' The league cannot go through real games like this."
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "The Suns' annual propensity for giving up second-chance points undermines the defense and slows the pace. The task becomes tougher with Shaquille O'Neal gone and Robin Lopez out six to eight weeks. The Suns were 30-12 when they outrebounded their opponents last season and 12-24 when they did not. Outrebounding foes more often is misleading because, as the NBA's top shooting team, the Suns had fewer misses for teams to rebound. The Suns were 22nd in defensive rebounding percentage and gave up the fourth most offensive rebounds. 'It's a pretty heavy task of us, knowing we're a small team, but we should be able to do it,' Stoudemire said. 'For the most part, we have to rebound as a team. We also have good defensive guards. Grant (Hill) is a great rebounder for his position. Even Steve (Nash) gets in there and mixes it up. The big thing is us big guys have to grab those big boards.' "
- Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: "A new team and fittingly a new locker-room. Well, not really new, just dressed up. Immediately upon entering the Raptors' inner sanctum, and before you even get to the actual dressing room, the first thing you see is a tight, enlarged photo of the Raptors' hands coming together in a pre-game huddle that will be repeated every time they take the floor. It's one of those shots that catches the eye because it's a little different but it's the message it sends -- togetherness -- that is the real point. On the opposite wall is the word Raptors spelled out with the initial letters in the words Respect, Accountable, Proud, Together We Shall Prevail, Organized, Responsible, Standards, all things the team is expecting their players to be. Venture further in and more words to live by adorn yet another wall. This one reads: Do the right thing. Do it the right way. Do it that way all the time. The room itself where the players lockers are remain unchanged -- other than the nine new name plates above those lockers. At least Rasho Nesterovic got his old locker back."
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "His memories of Nov. 29, 2008, are vivid. It was a Saturday night. Newly named interim coach Scott Brooks had just told him he would be starting his first career game, against the Memphis Grizzlies. And that's when the knots started forming in the pit of his stomach. 'Oh it's a whole lot different,' Russell Westbrook said of his nerves just before the Thunder opened its preseason schedule. 'I'm so chill now. I'm so calm and cool.' Westbrook then went out and proved it, backing up his claim with a near perfect floor game in the Thunder's 99-91 loss. His final stat line -- five points, 10 assists, four rebounds -- wasn't jaw-dropping. But considering he turned the ball over only twice, took just four shot attempts and could have had 15 assists had his teammates knocked down a few more shots, Wednesday's opener was about as good as it gets."
- Ron Green Jr. of The Charlotte Observer: "Charlotte Bobcats rookie Gerald Henderson was on the court in Cleveland Tuesday night in the first semi-official minute of his NBA career when he found himself with the ball. Henderson, the former Duke All-American, came off a screen and turned the corner, the basket in his sights. From the corner of his eye, he saw Shaquille O'Neal coming his way. Even rookies know certain things. 'I was, like, this isn't going to be good,' Henderson said. O'Neal swallowed Henderson's dunk, fouling the rookie hard in the process. Henderson made one of two free throws, and the first of what will likely be several professional baptisms had occurred. 'It was one of those welcome to the NBA moments,' he said."
- Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "The team won't admit it publicly, but any way it's viewed, the Cavs are short a point guard. Add the continuing uncertainty surrounding Delonte West and it is only clearer. At the moment, it may not be a fatal flaw. If everything goes to plan, it may not even matter. But if there is one sure thing, it is that things rarely go to plan -- as West is currently proving. West began a second leave this season Wednesday, this one excused, to handle personal matters. He had not played in either the open scrimmage or first preseason game. There's no denying that is worrying. 'We're concerned about the state of Delonte because we want him here,' LeBron James said. 'You want your full team to see what your full potential is, but at the same time we're going to give him time.' James didn't say he was concerned about the point guard situation, but deep down he and his teammates must be to some degree."
- Tribune newspapers: "If this had happened a month ago, the San Francisco Chronicle and city officials would have joined the list of parties skewered in Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame induction speech. The newspaper published photos Tuesday of Jordan smoking a cigar during a practice round at Harding Park, despite the city's ban on smoking on public golf courses. City officials asked the PGA Tour to remind Jordan he can't smoke while being an honorary assistant at the Presidents Cup. 'It was sort of a gentle nudge reminding them that smoking is illegal and that we would appreciate their support,' Recreation and Park general manager Phil Ginsburg told the Chronicle. As for enforcing the $100 fine on Jordan? Matt Dorsey, the spokesman for City Atty. Dennis Herrera, remains unsure how that will play out. Said Dorsey: 'But don't expect me to ask him for it.' During a Q&A on Monday, Jordan said, 'I'm not even supposed to be smoking, but this was a practice round and no one said anything.' Jordan still had his cigar Wednesday. He simply chewed on it without lighting up."
- 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."
- Broderick Turner and Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "Derek Fisher, 35, in his 14th season and the final year of a contract that pays him $5 million, said he plans on playing beyond the 2009-10 NBA season. 'I'm definitely not shutting it down after this season,' Fisher said after the Lakers' practice Monday. He plays point guard, a position in which so many younger players are quick and looking to attack him. Fisher knows that teammates Jordan Farmar, 22, and Shannon Brown, 23, are looking to push him for the starting job. Fisher is not ready to think about retirement. 'I don't see any reason why he can't play past this season,' Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. 'I know that we all think that we can get away with age, but age does have a tendency to level us out as we go along. But he's done such a great job of keeping his whole physique and his training together, it's awful hard to see any flaws in him right now.' Fisher said he spoke with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak so he was aware of where Fisher stands."
- Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "The Cavs made a lot of fans unhappy over the course of last season by standing up in front of their bench. The NBA has since ruled players can no longer stand in front of the fans. LeBron James isn't sure he likes the ruling. 'It's hard to take that out of the game,' he said. 'Part of the game is emotion. Do you want to take that out of the game? Sometimes, your teammates are all you have.' The league has softened its stance on the dress code. James said he thinks the same thing will happen with the no-standing order. 'That's something you can't take out of the game, guys cheering,' he said. 'There's no way you can do it. That's part of the reason we played so well. We cheered on each other.' "
- Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times: "The N.B.A. union began tracking the classroom migration this year. Debbie Rothstein Murman, the director for career development for the union, said the number was much higher than in the past, although she does not have earlier numbers. For elite athletes, who command seven-figure salaries, returning to college is an investment and a hedge against what can be an uncertain future. Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets resumed classes at Wake Forest, and Russell Westbrook's teammate Kevin Durant continued working toward his degree at Texas. ... The Thunder and the Golden State Warriors each had three players enrolled in summer courses. While some are establishing building blocks for the future, others are fulfilling promises to loved ones or aiming to become the first member of a family to graduate from college. 'I have a younger brother, and it sets an example for him and how important it is,' said Westbrook, who declared for the N.B.A. after his sophomore season at U.C.L.A. The lectures could be boring, he said, and it took an entire day to write one page of the first paper assigned to him. But he also had the benefit of attending a university where a number of N.B.A. players convened for pickup games. So Westbrook easily shuttled from the court to the classroom. He recently posted on Twitter that he had received all B's in his summer classes."
- Scott Cacciola of The Commercial Appeal: "It is a coincidence that Allen Iverson's official public unveiling as a member of the Grizzlies will play out tonight in Richmond, Va., a short drive down Interstate 64 to the Atlantic shore, where he grew up. The Grizzlies' preseason opener against the Washington Wizards promises to be a homecoming of sorts for Iverson, still beloved by many in the state who watched him star in football and basketball at Bethel High in Hampton, Va. But the game also underscores an indisputable fact, one to which the rest of the team must grow accustomed: Iverson, at this stage of his career, is a bigger brand and greater draw than the Grizzlies. And it could create an interesting dynamic as Lionel Hollins continues to emphasize the need for team building."
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Aaron Brooks has seen his role change in small ways. He is the first point guard in drills, rather than waiting his turn. He has been featured in appearances and often the first request of the media during the sessions after practices. 'I still kind of know what the rookies are going through,' Brooks said. 'Everything is going 100 miles per hour. The thing that is most different for me is that everything slows down. You've seen everything. You know all the plays. You know what people are going to do before they do it. You relax, go out and play and try to be more vocal.' There will be more important tests, beginning with the back-to-back today and Wednesday against the Spurs and Celtics and similarly swift point guards Tony Parker and Rajon Rondo. It could be premature to expect Brooks to run in that fast company, but he said he does not mind the expectations or feel the pressure. As the trip back to McAllen reminded, he has come too far too quickly to worry about where he can go next."
- Scott Souza of The MetroWest Daily News: "With only six practices in the first seven days of preseason, and not a single double session, Celtics coach Doc Rivers acknowledges he is not even close to putting in all the sets and plays he normally might by the eve of the exhibition opener. But that's fine with the Celtics. With the experience both coming back and coming into this year's roster, they may still be well ahead of the game. 'We put in a few sets and we're playing off that so well right now,' said Paul Pierce. 'Doc sees these guys are picking it up easy. But at the same time we want to get in a good flow with the things we have in there so far.' Newcomer Rasheed Wallace predicted the collective basketball IQ of the main rotation will allow the Celtics to create so much out of a handful of sets that a book full of plays will hardly be necessary. Ray Allen said yesterday he's seen evidence of that in how few plays the team runs even when it's trying to go through plays with Wallace and fellow free-agent acquisition Marquis Daniels."
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "In the past decade, only one Western Conference team did what the Nuggets are trying to do this season. The stars aligned above, fittingly, for the Suns in 2005, and three of their players competed in the NBA All-Star Game. As for Denver, if Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups play as well as they did last last season, they will be headed to Dallas. But who's the third? 'Shaq is gone, Yao is out,' Nuggets coach George Karl said. 'This is the year of opportunity for Nene.' For the past couple of years, Karl has mentioned that Nene could someday be an all-star. This season might be his best chance. With Shaquille O'Neal in Cleveland and Houston's Yao Ming out with a foot injury, the 6-foot-11, 250-pound Nene is on the shortlist of the West's elite centers, along with the Lakers' Pau Gasol and the Suns' Amare Sto
udemire, who technically is a power forward, as is Minnesota's Al Jefferson. Also, Emeka Okafor has joined New Orleans, bringing his 13.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game to the Hornets."
- Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "When Antonio McDyess got into the first five-on-five scrimmage of training camp with his new teammates, he knew what to expect of most of the other big men. Once he found himself matched up against Ian Mahinmi, however, he began to wonder about a youngster with uncommon size and athleticism. 'I said, 'Oh, my goodness, this guy is good,' ' McDyess said. 'I wondered why I hadn't heard more about him. I love his game.' Spurs fans have been waiting to see more of Mahinmi since the Spurs made him the 28th pick in the 2005 draft. Beginning with tonight's preseason opener at the AT&T Center against the Houston Rockets, they will get another chance. Mahinmi knows tonight's game is the start of the most important preseason of his young career. He must prove he merits consideration for a spot in a frontline rotation that has added McDyess, veteran Theo Ratliff and rookie DeJuan Blair."
- Tom Enlund of the Journal Sentinel: "During a water break at a recent Milwaukee Bucks practice at the team's training center, forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute positioned himself alone at a basket and hoisted a number of jump shots while the other players quenched their thirst. It's also not uncommon to see the second-year player stay after practice and put up even more jumpers with assistant coaches. Improving his mid-range jump shot has been high on Mbah a Moute's list since the end of last season and it's something he took seriously over the summer and in training camp. 'He's put in hours and hours on it,' said Bucks assistant coach Bill Peterson, who worked regularly with Mbah a Moute over the summer. 'And good, quality time. Not just messing around. I think we'll see progress. Will he be where we want him to be? Not quite yet. He's only a second-year player. He's really focused on it. He wants to get better.' "
- Eric Koreen of the National Post: "It is only pre-season. Veterans do not get overly worked up about the first exhibition game of the year. Rookies, though, might get a bit over-excited to play their first professional basketball game. That is where those veterans are supposed to calm the youngsters down. Toronto Raptors veteran Chris Bosh is taking a different approach with the team's lone rookie, DeMar DeRozan. He is doling out some more practical advice. 'Don't mess up,' Bosh said. Well, that should relax the 20-year-old as he kicks off his career when the Raptors visit London, Ont., to play the Philadelphia 76ers.
- Mark Woods for the Chicago Sun-Times: "With Derrick Rose nursing an injury and John Salmons 4,000 miles away awaiting the birth of a child, Kirk Hinrich figures to start for the Bulls today when they meet the Utah Jazz in an exhibition game at the O2 Arena. As for when that will happen again, who knows? ''Right now, they'll probably be bringing me off the bench,' Hinrich said. ''John is just more of a natural two-guard. I'm more of a combo. I really don't care. I just want to play when it counts and help this team any way I can.' Ask any member of the Bulls, and they'll tell you they need all the help they can get after losing leading scorer Ben Gordon, who signed a free-agent deal with Detroit. And for Hinrich, starting his seventh year in the NBA, it's a chance to re-emphasize his worth after he missed 31 games because of injury last season and underwent an awkward transition to the bench."
- Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "Dwyane Wade couldn't do anything but laugh Monday night. The Heat star had just taken an outlet pass and was going to glide in for an emphatic dunk late in the second quarter of the exhibition opener for the Pistons and Heat. But midway through the glide, Pistons rookie Austin Daye came over to block the dunk and knock it out of bounds, eliciting a cheer from the sparse Palace crowd. Wade looked around and grinned. Later in the possession there was a Pistons foul, and Wade just joked and laughed with the Pistons' bench -- particularly Tayshaun Prince -- telling it that it was a great play. The good cheer continued throughout the night for the Pistons as they opened with an 87-83 victory. Pistons coach John Kuester grinned when asked about the play afterward, saying Wade's reaction showed his class. Kuester remarked how Daye and his fellow members of the Pistons' draft class -- Jonas Jerebko and DaJuan Summers -- will compete against anybody and doesn't really realize when they are going against a superstar."
- Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times: "It takes a village to raise a free-throw shooting percentage. Or something like that. But advice and affirmation from learned elders and helpful teammates can go only so far when you are flirting with sub-Shaq-like numbers. The Clippers' DeAndre Jordan, mindful of the grim 38.5% free-throw shooting in his rookie season, got his 6-foot-11 self into the gym in the summer. And stayed in the gym. 'I'm working on my free throws. A lot, a lot,' Jordan said. 'At the beginning of the summer, I had to make 10 in a row after I worked out to actually leave. The first couple of days it was tough. I would be here, like, an hour. I'd get to nine, like, eight times and missed the 10th in a row, like twirling the ball out. I'd be kicking a ball all the way over there. I'd have to stick with it and the time would get shorter and shorter.' He went six for nine from the line Sunday in the Clippers' opening preseason game at Oakland, a 108-101 loss to the Golden State Warriors. Jordan had his own eye-catching numbers: 22 points and 10 rebounds."
- Rachel Tobin Ramos of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The movie theater that bears Magic Johnson's name at Greenbriar Mall -- opened amid much hoopla 13 years ago -- will show its last movie on Sunday. The theater owner, Kansas City, Mo.,-based AMC Entertainment, said the 12-screen complex is underperforming. Employees were told last week the theater will close Oct. 11. The company would not say how many people are employed at the theater or whether they will be offered positions at other AMC properties. Ex-NBA star Johnson is no longer a partner in the theater, though it has borne his name since he invested $8 million to build the complex in 1996."
- Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles has a brilliant way around the NBA's ban on criticizing replacement referees: "A huge percentage of our fouls," he says, "were legitimate."
- Kevin Arnovitz of ClipperBlog, toying with the notion of The Return of Baron Davis: "Baron is an unquestionably better conditioned man this October. He seems genuinely mortified by his status as an accessory to last year's debacle. Although he's not surrounded by perfect complements to his game, he knows he can trust Eric Gordon, experiment with Blake Griffin, and have Rasual Butler as a viable option in the corner for a kickout 3. Contrast that to what he was offered at the outset of last season. Davis' ego is bruised -- and that's a good thing. Whatever pleasure he derives from his extracurriculars, he understands that without some corresponding gratification in the league, those accouterments aren't worth much. The documentaries, cross-cultural endeavors and clubs are all nice -- but Baron Davis can't be Baron Davis unless he's part of the league's constellation of stars and playing basketball well into May."
- John Hollinger's player ratings are posted, and Kevin Durant is the story (Insider). He's poised, says Hollinger, to lead the league in points per minute. There are a ton of reasons to be very excited about what's next from him. But there are still things he's really not good at: "There's no question about Durant's scoring; it's all the other elements of his game that raise eyebrows. He's a very poor passer and makes far too many turnovers for a jump shooter, weaknesses encapsulated by a -3.10 Pure Point Rating that was the fifth-worst among small forwards. Durant also gave a poor accounting at the defensive end, with the Thunder surrendering 8.2 points more per 40 minutes with him on the court than off it. His adjusted plus-minus was a horrid -8.62 points per 100 possessions, a stat that's even more alarming because the Thunder had a bad bench. His rating from his rookie year wasn't much better."
- Some guy says he got punched in the face. That's the what. The why? Story is it has something to do with NFL player Braylon Edwards having a real dislike for LeBron James.
- There have been some suggestions lately that Lamar Odom -- impending reality TV presence, celebrity husband -- may be craving the spotlight more than in the past. Exhibit Q, for questionable: About 85:15 into this video, he's wearing a wireless microphone in training camp. He sure appears to be headed to the bathroom. Before going, though, he looks off-camera, presumably at the tech in charge of his mic, taps the mic, and says "I'm good." As in, no need to unclip me for this.
- Byron Scott in the Shreveport Times, with potentially bad news for Chauncey Billups, who likes to post up small guards, and plays for a Hornets' rival: "A lot of times guys are trying to post [Chris Paul] up, but our guys that are six, seven inches taller than him are having a hard time in the post because he's so strong now. A lot of it comes with maturity and age. You get a little bit stronger and a little bit bigger. But the biggest thing is that he hasn't lost any of his flexibility or quickness." (Via Hornets247)
- One pre-season game in, Taj Gibson seems comfortable in the NBA.
- Hey look, it's Jamal Mashburn, Jason Kidd and that other guy who used to be famous.
- "Mad Men" fans, that's not Don Draper on the Nuggets' preseason roster. That's Donte Draper, and he made a highlight reel.
- Danny Ainge, Rick Carlisle, Mike Dunleavy, Danny Ferry, Daryl Morey, Sam Presti, Ed Stefanski ... meet your new team in charge of modernizing how the NBA uses instant replay. Change is upon us.
- Tim Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell watching DeJuan Blair: "Will any rookie outperform DeJuan Blair on a per minute basis? I doubt it. He looks sensational. He's the exact same rebounder we saw at Pitt, plus he has soft hands, can finish around the basket, is an efficient passer and, surprise, surprise, has a little bit of a spot up game. Clippers fans, don't kill me. DeJuan Blair is Blake Griffin's biggest obstacle on his path toward the ROY. Don't get me wrong. The total minutes thing will remove Blair from the conversation, but per minute ..." Whether it happens like that or not, the fact that a sober-minded observer like Varner says it could is reason enough to praise the Spurs for making good use of the draft's 37th pick. Also, Varner says Manu Ginobili looks tremendous.
- Michael Redd is playing like a healthy man.
- If the Nets had a lot of rubles to spend on players, what would the roster look like?
- Shaquille O'Neal once saw LeBron James pass the ball, and still thinks it's amazing.
- Nicolas Batum is called the best player in a Blazer scrimmage. Martell Webster, the guy who had Batum's starting small forward spot before his injury, says he hopes Batum is the starter.
- The Salt Lake Tribune's Ross Siler in London, where it is said the NBA would one like to have a permanent NBA team: "It should be noted that The O2 [arena], built by the same people as Staples Center, would be the most impressive NBA arena today if it housed a team."
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Kevin Love's tweeter is broken, but he promises a glorious comeback. Love, a child of the computer age, embraced the Twitter social-network phenomenon as enthusiastically as any pro athlete, so much so he unintentionally broke the worldwide news that Kevin McHale wasn't coming back as Timberwolves coach and honestly offered up his comments on the team's confounding draft night. He hasn't tweeted since Aug. 14. For now, rookie Jonny Flynn is leading the Wolves, both at point guard and with the Twitter. 'I got shut down a little while from the Boss Man,' Love said. 'But be on the lookout: I'll be back. I just got tired of (Jim) Stack or (Fred) Hoiberg calling me and telling me not to tweet about this, not to tweet about that. I just said, 'What happened to the First Amendment law?' ' David Kahn, the Wolves president of basketball operations, said he wants Love to feel free to tweet and will encourage him to do so."
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal: "Marc Gasol insists he couldn't be more ready to patrol the paint for the Grizzlies. Why wouldn't the 7-footer be following his summer workout program? Forget for a second that Gasol played a lot of basketball this offseason, helping his national team capture the European Championship. He tackled something much bigger than tournament games in preparation for his second NBA season. 'Collseroz By Tibidabo,' Gasol said, naming the mountain in Spain that he regularly ran for eight miles to shed 25-30 pounds. 'It was great because when you get to the top you can see all of Barcelona. But it's not easy getting there.' Gasol, significantly slimmer and quicker, figures the hard work he put in to transform his body will make this season easier. Griz coach Lionel Hollins challenged Gasol to arrive at training camp able to run the court much better than he did during his rookie season. 'He's running the court really well,' Hollins said. 'That's something he labored with last year. His agility and quickness will really help at the pace we're trying to play.' Hollins wants Gasol to be a factor in the Grizzlies' up-tempo offense."
- Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: "The Simple things like regaining his shooting touch and the feel for the game will come easily, 'like riding a bike,' the Sixers' Jason Smith said. Interesting choice of words. Smith tore the ACL in his left knee in August last year while working out, causing him to miss all of his second season. The rehab was grueling, and it was one exercise in particular that Smith recalls. 'About a week or so after the surgery, they put me on a stationary bike,' said the 7-foot forward/center. 'My knee was still swollen and very tender, but they put me on the bike and told me to pedal. When I first tried, I could only move the pedal a very little bit. It was so frustrating. Gradually I could do a little more as I worked on it, then one day - and I'll never forget it - I was able to make one full revolution with the pedal. It sounds so insignificant, but man, I'll never forget that. It was cake after that.' It was a small step in the road to recovery, but as thsoe who have ever had to rehab a serious injury know, that's what keeps you sane during all the sweat and frustration."
- Dan Duggan of the Boston Herald: "When Glen Davis walked into the Wai Kru mixed martial arts gym in Allston last month, you can forgive owner and head trainer John Allan for getting excited. Not being a basketball fan, Allan's feelings had nothing to do with training an NBA player. Instead, Allan saw a massive 6-foot-9 project with the physical tools to become an MMA star. 'Initially I was salivating because I was like, 'Oh, I have the next big heavyweight star,' ' Allan said. 'It was close to the end of the lesson that someone informed me that I was actually training Glen 'Big Baby' Davis from the Celtics.' Despite the disappointment that he hadn't uncovered a future UFC star, Allan went to work with Davis. And there was no kid-glove treatment for the professional athlete. Though Allan said his top priority always was to avoid injury, Davis was put through rigorous daily workouts. 'With a name like Big Baby, when I found out that's what he was called, I was a little surprised because he was all business,' Allan said. 'He comes in here and he knows what I want him to do. When I tell him what to do, he does it. There's no hesitation. He works hard, and he loves it, which helps.' "
- Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "David Lee may look like the hard luck loser of the free agent market; he went searching for a $60 million contract and the Knicks got him for $7 million. Still, Lee did get a $6 million raise off a 50-loss season and he is convinced that his pot of gold - whether it's from the Knicks or another team - will be waiting for him next summer when the fifth-year forward/center becomes an unrestricted free agent. 'I want to be part of the solution here, and the solution right now is to do a one-year deal and next summer we'll talk again and we'll see what it comes to,' Lee said of his sometimes tense negotiations with the Knicks. 'I don't resent anybody. I think things ended up going great. Mr. (Donnie) Walsh was very up front with me about that. It was a compromise. 'We're going to compromise by taking care of you for one year. It won't hurt our salary cap going into the summer of 2010. We respect what you've done for our team and we want to have you happy going into this season and ready to contribute toward making the playoffs,' said Lee, recalling what Walsh told him."
- Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel: "I wondered what was up a few minutes ago when this tweet appeared on Rashard Lewis's Twitter account. 'Call me at 407-545-6592 for real & tell me what my intro should be to my Saynow #. it's my #, Ill be calling y'all back thru this # sometime' Josh Robbins and I sat around pondering what that number could actually be -- obviously Lewis wouldn't give out his personal phone number on Twitter -- for a few minutes before I made him call it and let me listen on speakerphone. Good move by me. He's now going to receive texts from SayNow.com, a phone messaging site through which celebrities communicate with their fans. The site's been mostly used by entertainers, though in a New York Times story, its founders said they wanted athletes and politicians involved, too. According to the site, Carmelo Anthony and Ray Lewis have SayNow accounts, as do Marlon Wayans, Tori Spelling, Tyrese Gibson and many musicians from T.I. to Bo Bice."
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Mike D'Antoni tried making Amaré Stoudemire a co-captain two seasons ago. The title didn't carry over to last season. But bestowed the honor again with Nash and Gran
t Hill, Stoudemire feels better prepared to lead. 'It feels great,' Stoudemire said. 'I definitely have been working on it and studying what it takes to be a leader. I've read books on it to figure out what it takes to be a successful leader. With Steve and Grant, watching those guys over the past few years definitely helped me a lot. I'm getting up there. I'll be 27 in November.' Stoudemire said his reading list included books about ancient Chinese commander Sun Tzu and becoming a general, as well as Wikipedia entries on leadership."
- Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "In the 2 1/2 months that passed between his final game as a Detroit Piston and his first day as a San Antonio Spur, Antonio McDyess contemplated his future in the NBA. His conclusion, reached in the hours before the free-agent market opened on July 1: Unless he got a contract offer from the Spurs, he would retire, giving up on his quest for an NBA championship ring after 13 seasons. 'That's how strong I felt about coming here,' said McDyess, the 6-foot-9 veteran who figures to be the team's starting center on opening night. The Spurs felt strongly enough about adding McDyess to their reshaped roster to offer him a three-year contract worth about $15 million. Both sides feel fortunate to finally have connected. 'There have been years when I've been trying to come here before, but they turned me down,' McDyess said. 'I feel privileged to be here.' "
- Mike Jones of The Washington Times: "Now playing for the third coach of their short careers, Blatche and Young have decided to follow McGuire's lead and take a serious approach to basketball. And McGuire, who last season drew motivation from the offseason birth of his first child, is aiming to continue his growth in his third year. Instead of coming into training camp overweight as in the past, Blatche spent the summer working on his conditioning entering his fifth season. He even changed his jersey number from 32 to 7 to symbolize his new dedication to working hard every day. Young, in his third year, heeded coach Flip Saunders' prodding that he stop smiling so much on the court and play with a more aggressive attitude. He spent much of the summer working on eliminating extra dribbling before taking a shot and on popping jumpers off screens. 'It was time for them to grow up, and they know that,' center Brendan Haywood said. 'I think with new staff coming in, they didn't wanna be labeled a certain way, so they're taking a more professional approach.' "
- Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "It's taken all of two full practices with his new teammates for Hawks guard Jamal Crawford to clear up any misconceptions who and what he is on the basketball court. Sure, they already knew he could score with the best of them. He is, after all, one of just four players in NBA history to score 50 or more points with three different teams, joining legends Wilt Chamberlain, Bernard King and Moses Malone in that elite club. But they had no idea he was such a gifted passer and tenacious defender as he's shown in the first hours of training camp. It's those two surprising traits, in addition to Crawford's ability to score in bunches from virtually anywhere on the floor, that are expected to make his transition a smooth one. 'It's the same feeling we had after our first practice when Mike [Bibby] got traded here,' Marvin Williams said. 'The previous point guards we had were guys that were more conservative and guys that were just trying to get the job done. Just like Mike, Jamal has that flash to his game that you don't really appreciate until you're out there with him.' "
- Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: "There's a training camp rule in the NBA that limits teams to one 'contact session' per day. Timberwolves assistant coach Bill Laimbeer is still trying to get used to the rule. After the Timberwolves completed Wednesday morning's practice at Bresnan Arena, Laimbeer sent a text message to his good friend and former Detroit Pistons teammate Joe Dumars, now the club's president of basketball operations. Laimbeer told Dumars the Wolves had a 'non-contact' practice. Laimbeer said Dumars replied: 'This is the new NBA, Billy.' For Laimbeer, a 6-foot-10 power forward who developed a notorious reputation for physical play during his 13-year NBA career, watching basketball for more than two hours with minimal contact is strange, if not absurd. 'We would scrimmage twice a day,' Laimbeer said of his training camp days with the Pistons. 'We would line up five on five, throw the ball up and play.' The rule, installed in 2005 to reduce injuries, limits teams to scrimmaging in either the morning or evening practice during camp. That leaves the other session for drills, conditioning and implementing new systems for offense and defense."
- Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "When Will Bynum was asked about this being a contract year, Kwame Brown leaned in and interrupted: 'He talks about it every day. 'I need to get mine. I need to get mine.' I hear him all the time saying that. I hear him. I tell him don't worry about all that, but he don't listen to me.' Bynum laughed and said: 'What's wrong with him?' Anyone who knows Bynum knows that the potential of a big payday will do little to change his approach. After kicking around the NBA, overseas and the NBA Development League for three years, he finally found stability with the Pistons. He started last season as the third point guard behind Chauncey Billups and Rodney Stuckey. But by the end of the season, the 5-foot-10 point guard finally proved he belonged in the NBA. After a summer of working out with noted fitness guru Tim Grover in Chicago -- alongside NBA stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Gilbert Arenas -- Bynum is eager to build upon last year's success."
- K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "The last Bulls fans saw of Brad Miller, he was playing impact minutes down the stretch of the epic playoff series against the Celtics and getting knocked upside the head by Rajon Rondo. But don't feel sorry for the veteran center. The scam he pulled over the offseason endures. Miller got to travel the world filming footage for 'Country Boys Outdoors,' a new TV show he's co-hosting that premieres on The Sportsman's Channel this month. A self-described 'hick' from Kendallville, Ind., who long has been passionate about hunting and fishing, Miller found himself chuckling over his good fortune when he, say, hunted red stagg or rabbits in New Zealand. 'We've been filming stuff for over three years,' Miller said."
- Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Roy Hibbert may have ended last season as the Pacers starting center, but the second-year player has to continue to get better if he expects to start this season. Just as he did during the team's media day last week, coach Jim O'Brien said starting positions are up in the air (unless your last name is Granger, Ford or Murphy). If early indications mean anything, Solomon Jones is not going to just hand the starting job o
ver to Hibbert. You can't blame Solo for thinking that way because it's not like he's playing on a team that's a lock to make the playoffs. 'I think it's wide open,' O'Brien said after practice Wednesday. 'It's not just between those two guys, Jeff (Foster) is also a possibility, too. I don't have any preconceived ideas of how that's going to play out. They're all going to get plenty of opportunities to get looks in game situations during the exhibition season.' "
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel : "The last time Ersan Ilyasova put on a Milwaukee Bucks uniform, he was a timid 19-year-old and still far from ready to contribute in a significant way. Now, more than two years later, the Turkish player is back with the Bucks and being counted on as an important part of coach Scott Skiles' power forward rotation. Following two seasons with Regal FC Barcelona, the 6-foot-9 Ilyasova actually looks the part of a National Basketball Association player. 'He's played competitively at a very high level,' Skiles said. 'Just look at his body; his body is filled out. He's got a nice skill set. Even when he played before here, he showed flashes of those skills. He could make threes. He can pass the ball; he's got nice length. He's been a good rebounder.' One other ingredient has been added to Ilyasova's game, a healthy helping of confidence. That comes from playing with one of the top clubs in Europe and also playing a starring role for Turkey's national team."
- Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: "After missing virtually the entire 2008-09 season -- and the Trail Blazers' first sniff of the playoffs in six years -- with a stress fracture of the left foot, Martell Webster can't imagine there is a player on the Portland roster more eager for the team to return to the postseason. 'Not after experiencing what I experienced,' the fifth-year small forward says. 'It's one of the hardest things a professional athlete could go through -- to be there when a team wasn't good, and now that they've taken the turn and reached the playoffs, and you aren't a part of that? That leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. I'm hungry to get there again.' Webster has a new jersey number -- switching from 8 to 23 -- and a new lease on his career after going down with the foot injury in a preseason game a year ago. He tried to return on Dec. 7, playing five minutes against Toronto, before aggravating the injury and being forced to call it a season."