TrueHoop: Sacramento Kings

Kings draft targets: shooting and defense

June, 28, 2012
By Ryan Feldman, ESPN Stats & Information
The Sacramento Kings have needs across the board. With the No. 5 pick, will they be able to find a player to fill those needs? Here's a look at areas in which they struggled during the 2011-12 season:

The Kings attempted more 3-pointers than most teams this season, but they had the second-worst 3-point percentage. They had the third-fewest points per jump shot, the second-fewest points per catch-and-shoot jumper, and the third-fewest points per jump shot off the dribble.

The Kings allowed the most points and the highest field-goal percentage in the NBA this season. They played at the fastest pace in the league, so that had something to do with it, but they still allowed the third-most points per 100 possessions.

The Kings averaged the fourth-fewest points per post-up play this season. Only the Charlotte Bobcats, Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers were less efficient in the post, where the Kings shot just 39 percent. Their primary post player was DeMarcus Cousins, but of the 18 players with at least 300 post-up plays, nobody averaged fewer points per post-up play than Cousins.

Based on their statistical weaknesses, the Kings could use a a good shooter who can lock up defensively.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who's currently projected to go fourth to Cleveland in Chad Ford's latest mock draft, would certainly help defensively. At Kentucky, he held opponents to 30 percent shooting as an on-ball defender.

He excelled defending both the pick-and-roll and isolation plays. On those particular play types, he held opponents below 26 percent shooting. Of the 285 players who defended at least 50 pick-and-roll ball-handler plays, Kidd-Gilchrist allowed the fourth-fewest points per play.

But MKG isn't without some room for improvement himself. He shot just 25 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers and 20 percent on jumpers off the dribble.

Heat, Hibbert among night's best

February, 22, 2012
By ESPN Stats & Information
The Miami Heat were in a zone against the Sacramento Kings' zone defense in their 120-108 win on Tuesday night.

The Kings spent almost the entire first half trying to contain the Heat’s potent half-court offense by playing a zone . That’s something that had worked for other teams earlier this season, but not for the Kings in this contest.

The Heat entered having scored on 42 percent of their possessions against zone defenses. But the Kings' zone posed no problems. The Heat scored 47 points against Sacramento’s zone defense, shooting 65 percent against it.

Heat guard Mario Chalmers tied a career-high by making six three-pointers. Four of those came on spot-up jumpers. He typically averages a pair of baskets on spot-ups per game.

The Heat have won seven straight games by 10 or more points, the second-longest streak in Heat franchise history. The last time a streak of seven or more such wins occurred in the NBA was when the Heat won a team-record nine in a row last season.

Reversal of Fortune
The Portland Trail Blazers ended the San Antonio Spurs 11-game winning streak on a night in which Tim Duncan and Tony Parker both sat to rest.

This was a game that was over early. One night after scoring a franchise-record low seven points in the first quarter, the Trail Blazers tallied an NBA season-high 41 first-quarter points.

The 137 points that Portland scored in its win was its most since 1997. The 40-point defeat was the Spurs worst defeat, also since 1997.

Feat of the Night
Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert scored a career-high 30 points in an overtime win against the New Orleans Hornets.
Roy Hibbert
Hibbert hadn’t even reached the 20-point mark in his last 14 games.

The primary reason for his success on Tuesday? Offensive rebounding.

Hibbert had seven offensive rebounds and converted five baskets from them, netting 11 points for himself. He entered averaging only 2.4 points from offensive rebounds (so around one basket) per game.

Plus-Minus Note of the Night
All four Cleveland Cavaliers reserves had a positive plus-minus, and all five of their starters had a negative one in their 101-100 win over the Detroit Pistons.

The most notable of the Cavs subs was Alonzo Gee, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds. In his 25 minutes, the Cavaliers outscored the Pistons by 14 points. It was his second-best plus-minus of the season.

Lin-vestigating History

February, 15, 2012
By ESPN Stats & Information

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesJeremy Lin is rewriting the record book in his first two weeks as a starter, but not all the records are positive.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jeremy Lin’s 136 points in his five NBA starts is the highest point total for any player in his first five starts since John Drew tallied 139 points for the Atlanta Hawks in 1974-75. Among players who began their career since 1970, when Elias became the official statistician of the NBA, the high mark for the first six starts is 162 by Bob Lanier and Charlie Scott.

Standing Alone
Also from Elias, Lin is the only player to go undefeated and score 20 or more points in each of his first five starts since the ABA-NBA merger in 1976-77.

Better Late Than Never
Lin excels as the game progresses. During the New York Knicks six-game win streak, Lin has scored exactly twice as many points in the fourth quarter as the first quarter. In fact, his point production has improved each quarter (27, 38, 42, 54).

Two of a Kind
In the NFL this season, "Tebow Time" was the final nine minutes of the fourth quarter, in which Tim Tebow’s total QBR of 85.3 ranked third. In the final nine minutes of the fourth quarter in the NBA this season, Lin ranks fourth in Player Efficiency Rating (min. 85 minutes).

Tonight’s Game
The Sacramento Kings are among the league’s worst teams at defending the rolling man in pick-and-roll offenses, ranking in the bottom five in Points Per Play. Additionally, 15 percent of the points the Kings have allowed on those plays have come at the free-throw line, third-highest in the NBA. The Knicks offense ranks first in free-throw percentage in those situations.

Room for Improvement
Yes, there are aspects of Lin’s game that haven’t been spectacular. Lin has committed at least six turnovers in each of his last three games. According to Elias, he could tie the Knicks' record for consecutive games with at least six turnovers (a statistic that has been officially recorded for individuals since 1977). Ray Williams (1978-79), Bob McAdoo (twice during 1977-78) and Patrick Ewing (1993-94) all had streaks of four games in a row.

St. Knick?
Lin has scored at least 20 points and dished out at least seven assists in each of his last six games, tying Walt Frazier and Micheal Ray Richardson for the longest such streaks in Knicks history.

Tyreke Evans' improved vision

June, 29, 2011
Harper By Zach Harper
Tyreke Evans
Jonathan Santiago/Cowbell Kingdom
Tyreke Evans sees the big picture a lot clearer now.

The concept of vision has many different levels.

On the surface, it can simply mean how well someone reads a street sign or if they need glasses to read a book held in front of their face. Vision can also go much deeper than that. It can relate to a sense of perspective. Knowing that you should sit out a basketball game because you can see the signs of injury plaguing you, and you know your body needs to rest.

For Tyreke Evans of the Sacramento Kings, his vision has improved over the last year, even though his eyesight is still perfect.

Teaming with VSP Vision Care, the largest not-for-profit vision insurance company in the United States, Tyreke is holding an off-season basketball camp at the Dr. Ephraim Williams Family Life Center in Sacramento, to help promote vision care to young students. The underlying theme to the camp is that you need good vision to be able to play sports and participate in everyday activities, but for Tyreke, vision goes into that deeper meaning after the past year he endured.

A little over a year ago, Tyreke Evans was coming off one of the most historic rookie seasons in NBA history. He finished with season averages of 20.1 points, 5.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game. It was just the fourth time in NBA history that a rookie finished with 20-5-5. Aside from a couple of turned ankles and a concussion in his rookie campaign, Tyreke was relatively healthy all season and able to impose his physical dominance on the defense almost every night.

But as he entered his sophomore NBA season, with high expectations for himself and the team he leads, Evans was already battling a dreaded plantar fasciitis injury to his left foot and trying to be tough for his team. “Just because I’m young, when I got hurt, I tried to play through it, “ Evans said as he reflects on his second season.

Tyreke did try to play through it early on and struggled while doing so. He played in 46 of the first 53 games of the 2010-11 season. While it may be unfair to call his averages of 18.3 points, 5.5 assists and 4.9 rebounds in those first 46 games struggling, those were the types of expectations his rookie play brought about. He couldn’t explode to the basket in the same way he was used to, and with his struggling jump shot unable to fall, he was constantly left with a physical disadvantage.

“It was pretty hard, “ Tyreke admits. “Just knowing that I like to get to the basket, I’ve got to use that leg to push off with.”

His attempts at the rim fell from 8.4 per game his rookie year (best in the league) to 6.2 last season (ninth in the NBA). His biggest asset was now his greatest limitation. Without the ability to break down the defense whenever he needed, he and his teammates struggled mightily to get any kind of offensive continuity. The pain eventually became too much for him to endure on a nightly basis and he decided to get serious treatment.

“I used to wake up and feel like a knife was stabbing me in my foot.”

Finally, Evans sat out for about three weeks starting in mid-February and underwent shockwave therapy on his injured left foot. “Some games, I’d rest it, come back and feel better. Then I’d start playing again and it started hurting again. Once I got the treatment in LA, it stopped hurting. Now, it feels pretty good.”

For Tyreke, he looks back at this past season as a frustrating and yet invaluable lesson on how to treat your body in the NBA. He endured a pretty debilitating injury, struggled because of it, and can now use it as a learning experience on knowing when to rest his injuries.

Tyreke’s vision on the court has been questioned in his first two years as people try to figure out the exact position he should play. While he says his vision is “on point”, many critics question his ability to see the court and find open guys. But even before the Kings drafted Jimmer Fredette, Evans was talking about playing off the ball more and trying to round out his game.

Last summer, he was making sure to work on his weakness of having a suspect jumper and getting his body in better shape after an initial month of off-season rest. In retrospect, maybe it was sort of a myopic viewpoint on what he needed to do to improve on a stellar start to his career.

This summer, he hasn’t taken any time off and continues to work on his all-around game. He doesn’t give any focus when you ask him what he’s working on. The answer is simply “everything.”

I think that’s where you see the growth with Tyreke now from Tyreke one year ago. There aren’t any nearsighted viewpoints on what he needs to do, what his team needs to do, or how they need to go about it. Not just one thing will make him better, nor will one single thing make his team better. It’s simply all about becoming better everywhere.

He’s learned from his injury that looking at the bigger picture down the road is what’s best for everybody around him and in the Kings organization. For a young player who has had early individual success, it shows a pretty special form of vision.

Everybody should be able to see it clearly on the court next season.

Thursday Bullets

December, 30, 2010

Take my team...please!

December, 29, 2010
Strauss By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
Did LeBron James miss the point about contracting teams, and did we all miss the point while chasing his tail?

When James spoke well of contraction--and yes, that’s what he did, despite contraction retractions--he posited a better, cleaner, less diluted league. This logic was easy to puncture. The NBA is more talented than ever before, losses are a zero sum game. To my mind, his statements were misguided. As an aside, I found the impassioned “How dare he job the union like that!” exclamations to be overheated "Decision" aftershocks. Billy Hunter will live.

(Hypothetical David Stern: I’m happy to announce that NBA players will be making minimum wage as a result of LeBron’s off-hand remarks to a reporter! Bwahaha!)

Lost in the haze of the James kerfuffle was that contraction isn’t about players or teams: It’s about cities. Some cities--especially smaller Southern cities--flag in NBA support. There's a reason why the annually awful Golden State Warriors are never threatened with contraction, while the sword of Damocles perpetually hangs above the Grizzlies, Bobcats, and recently NBA-purchased Hornets.

What I want to know is, does this matter to you as a fan? Do you care if certain regions are lukewarm for pro basketball, or if the NBA bleeds money maintaining a product in smaller markets?

I personally love supportive small markets like Portland and Phoenix. Keep them at all costs, it's fun to cheer a dogged underdog. And I'd take once-supportive Sacramento under my wing, had I the power to shield. But I don't want my favorite sport to languish, unloved, before empty arenas. Televised apathy saps energy from the viewing experience, and it makes little sense to force a product on an unreceptive customer.

It was easy to attack LeBron’s points about league quality but difficult to address the issue he ignored. Is the NBA better for eliminating the teams that drag apathetic followings?

First Cup: Wednesday

October, 14, 2009
  • 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."

First Cup: Tuesday

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

Late Friday Mini-Bullets

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

First Cup: Friday

October, 9, 2009
  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "It is hugely significant that Chris Bosh will make his pre-season debut for the Raptors in Minneapolis on Friday night, but another development at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday was just as welcomed by the team's brass. As Bosh went through some post-up drills with assistant coach Marc Iavaroni at one end of the practice court, Hedo Turkoglu was involved in some full-speed shooting drills at the other. And getting the high-priced free agent into action with his new teammates is of paramount importance to the Raptors. 'I'm feeling much better physically and mentally, too,' Turkoglu said after his workout. 'Hopefully next week, I'll start practising with the team and hopefully get into game shape and try to be 100 per cent on opening night.' Bothered by sore knees and a body worn down by a busy summer, the 30-year-old Turkoglu hasn't done anything of substance so far in training camp."
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "One of Mickael Pietrus' best dunks from last season lives on in an Internet video clip and in the pain he still feels in his right wrist. The highlight-reel play occurred last December against the Detroit Pistons. Pietrus dribbled across the lane, elevated off his right foot and slammed the ball home left-handed. 'Check it out on YouTube!' Pietrus said recently, grinning. 'It was nice.' Nice, yes. But costly, too. Pietrus collided with Detroit's Jason Maxiell and tumbled to the floor, bracing himself with his right hand. Pietrus fractured his shooting wrist. The wrist still hurts, though you wouldn't know it by how he's performed this preseason. Pietrus is excelling despite the pain, just as he did in last year's playoffs. 'He's shot the ball really well in training camp, so whatever the problem is, he should leave it exactly the way it is,' joked Orlando Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy."
  • Kate Fagan of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Yesterday at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, the Sixers practiced for about two hours: On multiple occasions, Dalembert dished to cutters for quick hoops. Such a display was a 180-degree turn from last season's struggles, when Dalembert requested a trade and spent much of the season frustrated with his role and playing time. 'I love Sam,' Eddie Jordan said. 'I love what Sam is doing for us. I love his approach, I love his attitude, I love his enthusiasm. ... Sometimes I have to tell him, 'Look for your shot, look for your shot.' And he's a willing passer out of the post.' This praise could come across as hollow as a basketball, but all on-court evidence supports Jordan's assertions: Dalembert's midrange shot has been consistent, as has his unselfishness in the post. 'Sam is an emotional guy and he knows this coaching group has his back,' said point guard Lou Williams. 'He's happy. Sam is happy. He's joking with guys again, he's talking; he's back to his normal self. We're going to need him to be that way.' Jordan said Dalembert has the second-best shot on the team, behind forward Jason Kapono, who is one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA."
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "In case you haven't noticed, Brendan Haywood has been around a while. 'Everybody is gone except me,' said Haywood, who is entering his ninth season with the Washington Wizards. 'It is weird, when I tell somebody I've been in the league, coming up on nine years, they say, 'How many teams?' I say, 'Just D.C.' They say, 'Wow, that's crazy.' Because normally you get through free agency or trade, people leave their cities, but I've always been here. It's been fun and I hope I can end my career here.' Haywood is one of just 10 active players in the NBA to spend at least eight seasons with one team. He is the only player on the Wizards roster whom President Ernie Grunfeld wasn't responsible for bringing to town. (Michael Jordan acquired him from Orlando in August 2001 after Haywood was drafted by Cleveland and traded to the Magic on draft night.) And now, Haywood is in the last year of a five-year, $25 million extension and fully plans to enter free agency for the first time next summer."
  • John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Fans don't get a chance to see a coach work with players in practice, so I can understand why most Bulls fans had a negative opinion of Vinny Del Negro. All they saw were the games and there were too many mistakes to have any other opinion. I know it's just the preseason, but I've noticed a change in Del Negro so far. The year of experience seems to have made a big difference. He's more confident and isn't as defensive. He's been very organized and the team got a lot accomplished in the first two weeks of camp. Barring any major injuries over the next three weeks, the Bulls should be prepared for a fast start in the regular season. Although the ultimate test of Del Negro's improvement will come when he's involved in a tight game in the regular season, I think Bulls fans will be pleasantly surprised this season. I'm not saying Del Negro will be the second coming of Phil Jackson, but he knows the game, has a sound philosophy and I believe he will be a good NBA coach."
  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: "It's not as though Hornets rookie point guard Darren Collison is normally quiet and soft-spoken when he's on the basketball court. Nonetheless, New Orleans Coach Byron Scott has been telling Collison, the team's first-round draft choice, he has to be more assertive when running the show. Problem is, while Collison was a starter in college at UCLA and ran the Bruins' offense, he never got much chance to talk. 'That's what the coaches are telling me,' he said Thursday night, after he made his NBA debut in the Hornets' 108-101 preseason loss against the Charlotte Bobcats. 'Make sure I call the plays out. Just make sure I do little things like that. At UCLA, I never called any plays out. We just called one play the whole time. As a point guard, it's something that has to be natural. But it's something I'll get accustomed to.' "
  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "Omri Casspi had three tough days and what he thought were three legitimate reasons to be in a funk. He thought the coach was down on him. He thought his fans in Israel were disappointed. He thought the glut of Kings small forwards foreshadowed a season of down time, depriving him of an opportunity to establish himself in the league. He was wrong about everything except the glut of small forwards. The rookie must fight through the crowd to earn playing time, but he already projects as an intriguing, energetic wild card. He runs. He shoots. He dunks. He dives on the floor. He plays fast and physical, and wants to play faster. And unofficially, and only because the exhibition season doesn't count, he already h
    as become the first Israeli to rouse an NBA crowd in the closing minutes of a home-court debut ? which he did during the Kings' loss to Portland on Wednesday night at Arco Arena. The ebb and flow of his rookie season thus far suggests that this is a good week. So Casspi, 21, should breathe a little. You know, chill. Resume the search for quality hummus. Enjoy."
  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: "While the Celtics' focus in training camp has been Kevin Garnett's rehabilitation from knee surgery, Ray Allen's decline in the postseason was a cause for concern. He shot 48 percent during the regular season, his best clip since 2000-01, but with no Garnett in the playoffs, opposing defenses focused on Allen, whose shooting dipped to 40 percent, 35 percent from the 3-point line. Fatigue may have been a factor, especially with Allen approaching his 34th birthday, and the guard also said he was nursing a sore hamstring during the postseason that was diagnosed as a sore lower back. So that's why he was running sprints after practice as if he were still in high school. Shirtless, Allen ran with fluidity and precision, determined to tire himself out. 'I think about field goal percentage, I think about 3-point field goal percentage and all those things are directly related to what kind of condition I am in,' said Allen. 'I did do a lot more this summer. I never really eat too bad but a lot things, you know you go to barbecues and eat more hot dogs and cheeseburgers on the grill, I cut that back a little earlier. It was just one of those things that felt necessary.' "
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Chuck Hayes gets it. The idea that he is - at a stocky 6-6 with few offensive skills - a starting center in the NBA, inspires the same reaction from him that he imagines others have at the sight of him in such an exalted position. 'I laugh,' he said. 'It's funny. We have the shortest point guard (Aaron Brooks) and the shortest center. But we find ways to make it happen.' The Rockets used to have the tallest center, adding to the sight gag. With Yao Ming out, they have gone from a 7-6 wealth of offensive skills and celebrity, a former first pick of the draft and seven-time All-Star, to Hayes, a relative unknown who is a foot shorter, was undrafted and worked his way back to the Rockets through the D-League. It is little wonder Hayes is amused by such a turn of events, with another reminder likely tonight in a matchup with Orlando's gifted young giant, Dwight Howard. The Rockets, however, have found that at a time things could fall apart, they need him to he hold them together. 'He's really important to have on the floor for us,' Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. 'I'm pretty sure he's going to be on the floor a lot because he's our best defender. There is nobody on our team close to him as far as defending inside.' "
  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "Back when he was in the Eastern Conference, Richard Jefferson used to look forward to a game against the Spurs the way a child looks forward to a visit to the dentist. The only upside was that he had to do it only twice a year. 'They were a team that, if they weren't scoring, neither were you,' Jefferson said. 'They were consistently one of the best defensive teams in the league.' If coach Gregg Popovich gets his wish, the Spurs will soon get back to playing the kind of defense Jefferson used to know and loathe. After a decade of standard-setting when it came to the art of suffocating other teams, the Spurs slipped from "elite” to 'just pretty good' last season. They finished ninth in field-goal percentage defense at 45.3 percent, the team's lowest rank and highest number in a dozen full seasons under Popovich. For a while, the Spurs were floundering along in the low 20s, a ranking that rendered Popovich practically apoplectic. ... Popovich has spent much of his time on the pulpit this preseason preaching the need for his team to return to the glory days. 'We tried to institute some new things the past couple of years, and they didn't really work out,' Popovich said. 'So we're going back to the good old days when we tried to lead the league defensively.' "
  • Mike Baldwin of The Oklahoman: "After facing him in a playoff series, Pat Riley said, 'If he gets much better, he's going to be one of the better players in this league.' And Jason Kidd called him the best big man he had ever played with. In 2006, that was the trajectory of Nenad Krstic's career. But a serious knee injury three days before Christmas altered his future, a major reason the 7-foot center from Serbia is now on the Thunder's roster. 'People in Oklahoma City probably don't know how highly thought of he was around the league,' said one Eastern Conference scout. 'He was starting to really take off. If he can be that player again, he would be a steal for them.' The looming question, the scout said, is whether Krstic can return to the form that impressed Riley, Kidd and Jefferson."
  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "Marcus Landry paid his own way to New York just for a tryout. As if answering a want-ad in the newspaper, he arrived without a place to stay and without much of a shot of making the Knicks. 'I don't like to think of myself as a longshot,' Landry says. 'I'll let the coaches decide that.' Undrafted, undersized but mostly undeterred, Landry is becoming the feel-good story of training camp. The 6-foot-7 rookie out of Wisconsin is making a strong push for a roster spot, having survived the first round of cuts while impressing Mike D'Antoni and Donnie Walsh with his work ethic and toughness. 'That's the kind of player we need,' Walsh said. It's been an eventful three weeks for Landry. The Knicks thought so little of him that they didn't provide a ride from the airport or pay for his $80-a-night hotel room. But after a solid training camp and in subsequent practices, let's just say Landry's accommodations have been upgraded. 'I just come out here every day, work hard and leave it up to Coach D'Antoni and Mr. Walsh to decide,' Landry said. 'We'll see what happens.' "
  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "Shaquille O'Neal raised a few eyebrows after practice Thursday by declaring this Cavaliers team 'the best team I've ever played on. On paper, anyway.' Some might take the 1999-2000 NBA champion Lakers with Bryant, Glen Rice, Robert Horry, Ron Harper, A.C. Green and Derek Fisher, or the 2003-04 Lakers who finished 56-26 with Bryant, Karl Malone and Gary Payton. When skeptical reporters questioned O'Neal about the comment, he said: 'I've always begged management to get me the power forward I've needed and the shooters I've needed. Here you've got a guy that's been starting 10 or 11 years [Zydrunas Ilgauskas] that's backing me up, you've got Varejao who's one of the top forwards in the league and you've got D-Block [Jackson] coming off the bench. We have a lot of great shooters, so on paper, I'd say yes.' When told of the c
    omment, coach Mike Brown smiled and said: 'When the big fella talks, you've got to listen. If he says that, it's something that has to be heard.' "
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "One thing is indisputable: D.J. Augustin is back to full health. An abdominal strain robbed Augustin of his explosion and change-of-direction the second half of last season. But Thursday he drove his way to 18 free throws, making 16, in the Charlotte Bobcats' 108-101 preseason victory over the New Orleans Hornets at Greensboro Coliseum. Augustin, a second-year point guard, finished with 22 points and the Bobcats totaled 58 free-throw attempts."
  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "The facility might not be entirely cooperative, but tonight could still shape up to be Fabulous. The Lakers return to the Forum in Inglewood for an exhibition game against Golden State, a blast from the past in a season that holds a promising future. The Lakers haven't played there since leaving for Staples Center in 1999, but owner Jerry Buss has wanted to return to the Forum for years. Now seemed like a good time, the franchise's 50th year in Los Angeles. ... The Lakers had to transport their basketball court from Staples Center to the Forum. There's no longer a scoreboard, so they will hang two large LED screens over the court. They will also bring their lighting trusses, basketball hoops and scorer's table from Staples Center. In fact, leaving no chance for faulty locker-room plumbing, the Lakers don't plan to shower at the Forum after the game. Players will take a team bus bound for the training facility in El Segundo, where hot water is guaranteed to await them. It might seem like a lot of extra work for an exhibition game, but, well, this is the former site of six Lakers championship teams."

Thursday Bullets

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

From the archives, a nice little tribute to Vlade Divac.

They ask Del Harris if he taught Vlade Divac how to flop. He cracks up. "Did I teach Vlade Divac how to flop? Are you kidding me? He came over here and taught the whole NBA how to flop."

Wednesday Bullets

October, 7, 2009

First Cup: Wednesday

October, 7, 2009
  • 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."

First Cup: Friday

October, 2, 2009
  • Michael Wallace of The Miami Herald: "Players and coaches said Alonzo Mourning already is having an impact in his new role as Miami's vice president of player programs. Mourning watched Thursday's practice with other members of the Heat's front-office staff and spoke one-on-one with several players after the workout. He also has mentored players in the weight room and over lunch. 'Alonzo's got a lot of wisdom,' Dwyane Wade said. 'He'll be great in that role.' "
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Though out until late November at the earliest, Tracy McGrady has attended Rockets practices, a change from past seasons that Rockets coach Rick Adelman said would help McGrady see the changes this season. 'I think it's better,' Adelman said. 'Sometimes it's hard to go through really long practices. Do you sit like Yao (Ming)? What would Yao do here. He probably doesn't show up because I might put him in the scrimmage. 'I think it's better to be around your teammates as much as you possibly can and be a part of it. We don't know how long (McGrady) is going to be out. He needs to know what we're doing. It's different. We're not doing the same things we did before because we don't have the personnel.' Until then, McGrady and Shane Battier, who is out until next week at the earliest, do offer two more voices at the workouts. 'Tracy, he knows what's happening,' Adelman said. 'It's good. He and Shane have been good, talking to guys as they come out. I'd rather see them out on the floor. That would be a lot easier.' "
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Brian Cook drilled his 3 and shouted toward the Toyota Center rafters 'It's about … time.' He was referring only to that shot, coming late in an afternoon when he believed too many shots had missed. But the cry of frustration could have as accurately described his escape from his past two seasons, especially since his trade deadline deal to the Rockets. 'It's always difficult not to play,' Cook said. 'This last year-and-a-half has been real tough for me. It was the first time in my life I haven't played and didn't have a role on the team, where I wasn't even coming in and shooting the basketball or rebounding, playing D and contributing to the team. 'I kind of got into a dark place where I didn't know what was happening. As the NBA goes, I'm getting older (28) and there are younger guys coming in. But I still want to be competitive. There's a lot of things I could have done differently, been more mature, not blown up, losing my mind.' Cook, a 6-9 forward, said he had not lost his temper around the Rockets, but did let his frustration get the better of him. 'Everybody sometimes just snaps and does things the wrong way,' he said. Cook's frustration only grew in each of the past two postseasons when each of the past two teams that traded him -- the Lakers in 2008 and the Magic last season -- went to the NBA Finals a few months later, eventually meeting one another last season."
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "Big men are going to take the spotlight for the Mavericks in the next few weeks, starting tonight at a scrimmage during the Fan Jam festivities. And it's not just Drew Gooden and Erick Dampier who will spend the preseason battling for playing time at center. It's Kris Humphries, too. He's a power forward by trade, but he has the size and physical nature to play center. Quality has always been an issue for the Mavericks at center. Quantity won't be a problem this season. 'Competition for minutes at the big positions is stiff,' coach Rick Carlisle said. 'We've got a lot of guys who are experienced.' Humphries in particular has been a surprise during the early days of training camp. Acquired in the Shawn Marion trade, the 6-9, 235-pounder from Minnesota has spent five years in the NBA with Utah and Toronto and has fought through some fluke injuries, like the broken fibula he suffered early last season when he was kneed in the leg. So far this fall, there have been nothing but rave reviews from the Mavericks."
  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "So far, the camp experience has been different for each of the Spurs' three most important players. Parker has had his prescribed 'Brunge time.' Ginobili has had his minutes monitored closely, occasionally sitting out all or parts of a workout. Duncan has yet to be limited at all. 'Everything in a way is by the seat of the pants,' coach Gregg Popovich said. 'Every day will be a little different. They're all on a different schedule. The object will be to have all of them fresh come playoff time.' Indeed, despite the copious amount of ink spilled on the Spurs' offseason additions, the bulk of their championship hopes still rests on the health of their Big Three. Since last winning the title in 2007, the Spurs have now gone two consecutive postseasons without their talented triumvirate at 100 percent."
  • Michael Wallace of The Miami Herald: "By now, you've probably seen the YouTube clip of Dwyane Wade murdering the Boyz II Men hit, End of the Road, during his Wade's World Foundation celebrity weekend bowling event last month in Chicago. Even worse, you may have actually turned up the volume and heard his karaoke version of the song. In short, Wade probably owes Boyz II Men an apology. Wade improved his defense to an All-World level last season. But he may have been at his defensive best after Thursday's practice, when he tried to explain his performance on the mic. His publicist and friend, Lisa Joseph, re-posted the less-than-grammy-worthy performance on the Internet earlier this week to give Wade's friends another round of laughs after the initial wave wore off. Wade took it all in stride and said the video probably got 20,000 more hits in one night. 'Everybody was scared to get up there, and I decided to get up there and be a leader,' Wade said of his decision to take the stage and flex his vocals. 'Unfortunately, it was a camera around. It (sounded) a lot different in my head. When they put the music on and the words, it turned out a little differently.' "
  • Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel: "Dwight Howard's lack of moves in the low post have been one oft-criticized aspect of his game. 'Have you ever seen a better athlete with worse low-post moves? Er, move?' wrote's Bill Simmons in a diary of Orlando's Game 4 loss to the Lakers in the NBA Finals. 'He's like a jukebox with one song - and in this case, the song is, 'I'm going to turn right, bring the ball down low, take a dribble, put my shoulder into my guy and shoot a jumphook.' I think the Lakers know it's coming, Dwight. No offense.' But to Howard, that's not the real issue. 'People say that, but when you get double-teamed every play, it's hard to get post mov
    es,' Howard said. 'My biggest thing is passing out the double team and allowing my guys to get shots, trusting them. That way I have an easier chance to score.' The Magic have given him plenty of practice with that this week. Nearly every time Howard touched the ball in scrimmages on Wednesday and Thursday, he was double-teamed. And just in case he needs it, he's also paid a lot of attention to his jump shot. Howard said he worked on it every day and even circulated a video this summer in which he ran up and down a court drilling 15-footers."
  • Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News: "Jonas Jerebko is a rarity in Detroit professional sports. He's a Swede who doesn't play for the Red Wings. The 6-foot-10 rookie forward was unique back in Sweden, too, for his love of basketball. 'I wasn't watching the NBA growing up,' said Jerebko, alluding to the lack of basketball coverage back home. 'It was the NHL and European soccer and that's about it. The only NBA would be the Finals when they'd show some highlights. In Sweden, basketball is maybe number seven or eight of all the sports. Everybody plays soccer growing up, and you have hockey and handball. Hopefully me signing and coming over here will help the basketball in Sweden.' What spurred Jerebko's interest in basketball? 'I grew up in a basketball family,' Jerebko said. 'My mom played, and my dad played at Syracuse. They've helped me a lot. I've always been playing basketball. I went to the camps over here because there are no camps in Sweden.' "
  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Don't tell the third-year big man Friday's exhibition opener against the Pacers in Indiana isn't a big deal. For the first time in his NBA career, Joakim Noah has reported to camp in shape, eager to build on his strong finish to last season. That's not to say Noah didn't have his offseason fun; pictures of him at Lollapalooza are everywhere on the Internet. But he combined focus with his fun -- extending range on his jumper, adding 10 pounds of muscle, playing with the French national team. 'I feel very confident,' Noah said. 'Plays like that one definitely help. There were times earlier last season where I wasn't as confident. I worked really hard to get stronger and improve my shot during the offseason. I understand my role. I'm not trying to do too much. But we have a different team with (Ben Gordon) gone. He was a big part of what we did. If I need to step up offensively, I will. If not, I will keep affecting the game by busting my (butt).' "
  • Frank Dell'Apa of The Boston Globe: "Marquis Daniels committed to the Celtics in July, eventually signing a one-year deal worth $1.99 million, turning down more lucrative offers because of the championship chances in Boston. 'A lot of guys just talk about that,' Daniels said of sacrificing on his paycheck. 'Some people actually do it. I had goal in mind. This is a great organization, great teammates, great coaching staff. I like our chances of achieving the goal we have in mind. In the end, hopefully, there can be the glory. I'm just taking a step back to go forward.' "
  • Michael Grange of the Globe and Mail: "The Toronto Raptors aren't exactly sure what role DeMar DeRozan will play when they break training camp and begin the regular season. But the high-flying rookie from the University of Southern California has already been stamped 'approved' by NBA royalty. The final negotiations were still being done yesterday, but DeRozan said he expects to be signing an endorsement deal with Nike and more significantly will be the only NBA player this season to wear the signature shoe of Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers star and reigning NBA Finals most valuable player. 'That's great, that's big, being able to wear one of my favourite player's shoes,' DeRozan said yesterday."
  • Chris Young of the Toronto Star: "Next up -- Chris Bosh: The Movie. Or at least, a little taste of it. Bosh's latest project -- First Ink, a high-def rendering of the Raptors star's latest rendering -- gets sneak-preview status alongside the first-night headliner at this weekend's Canadian Sport Film Festival. The 40-minute documentary is two weeks away from completion and is scheduled for full DVD release later on next month, but a three-minute teaser is on deck Saturday at the festival, returning for its second year. The Toronto production company behind the film followed Bosh and shot footage in Toronto over a two-month period this summer. Bosh's first tattoo -- from inception to first sitting -- is the jumping-off point for a look at the player who may well be heading into his final season in a Raptors uniform. 'It's a little bit of comedy, and it has a documentary part,' Bosh told the Star's Dave Feschuk Thursday at Raptors training camp in Ottawa. 'It's maybe a side of me nobody's ever seen. It's got that same skit feeling to it (as some of Bosh's youtube videos). We've got some funny ones. There's some good stuff in there. Hopefully it'll be entertaining to people, and really interesting and artistic.' "
  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "After two years of being pummeled around the basket, often elevating and landing on someone's foot, frequently twisting the ankle he now tapes, Kevin Martin is embracing change. And he's right. And smart. He needs to adjust, or he can count on a shortened career. 'I love contact,' Martin said the other day, 'but in a perfect world, I'll be going to the foul line maybe seven, eight times this year instead of 10. I have to take more jumpers and (shots off) curls so I don't take such a beating.' There is an impressive precedent here. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen experienced similar epiphanies in their mid-20s. So did Doug Christie, whose wiry physique most closely resembles that of his former teammate. All three were superb athletes who improved their jump shots and, as they aged and physically matured, more selectively slashed to the rim. 'Kevin wants to be stronger, not at the start of the move but at the finish, so when he absorbs the contact, he lands with better balance,' added David Thorpe, Martin's offseason trainer. 'That doesn't mean he won't get hurt, but it improves his chances of landing with some stability.' This makes sense. The combination of Martin's body type (a skinny 6-foot-7, 185 pounds), unconventional form and passion for hanging above the rim make him too inviting a target."
  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: "Maybe Monta Ellis' comments Monday that he and Curry wouldn't work together as a tandem illustrates Ellis' development. Members of the organization are certainly touting Ellis as much improved. They say he's 100 percent healthy. They say he's matured. They say he's motivated like never before. Ellis' development on and off the court has them all but promising big things. 'He will have a great year this year, if he stays healthy,' said Warriors coach Don Nelson said. 'Monta, after this season, he'll be a made man.' Three significant changes are at the root of Ellis' alleged transfo
    rmation. Perhaps chief among them was the Warriors' decision to back off their stance that they reserved the right to terminate Ellis' contract, which officially ended the controversy of his moped accident."
  • Brian T. Smith of The Columbian: "When the Blazers were the joke of the NBA from 2004-06, Joel Przybilla was part of the joke. When Portland posted consecutive 27- and 21-win seasons, redefining the lows to which a rebuilding franchise can sink, Przybilla wore black and red. And now that Rip City has returned, and the Blazers appear to be on the verge of once again becoming a Western Conference powerhouse? Portland's 7-foot-1, 255-pound center is still around. Perseverance has paid off for Przybilla. So has faith. A tattoo illustrating two praying hands, draped by a cross, is inked into the 29-year-old's left shoulder. 'I knew things couldn't get any worse, man, to tell you the truth,' Przybilla said Thursday. What pulled Przybilla through? What convinced him to stay a Blazer, while other free agents avoided Portland during the franchise's recent lean years? The former University of Minnesota standout said the knowledge that good people were in place, primarily coach Nate McMillan and general manager Kevin Pritchard, made the difference."
  • Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Generally, Carlos Boozer's reception would be best described as chilly, although not openly hostile. There were muted cheers during pregame introductions, grumblings after each of his three missed shots in the first half and some sustained boos when he stood at the free-throw line in the third quarter. The response was much more positive when he twice poked the ball away from Denver's Nene for steals. So it is apparent that Jazz fans' love of Boozer will be conditional. That's still better than the outright anger directed at him in March 2007, the first time he returned to Cleveland in a Jazz uniform, or the way Derek Fisher was treated here in November 2008 after coming back with the Lakers. In each of those cases, the visitors were being punished for perceived betrayal of the franchises. Some of that sentiment exists here about Boozer, certainly."