TrueHoop: Toronto Raptors
Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty ImagesAre the Grizzlies considering moving Rudy Gay?
RENO, Nev. -- The Memphis Grizzlies have not made an iron-clad decision about trading swingman Rudy Gay before the league's Feb. 21 buzzer for deals, according to NBA front-office sources.
The Grizzlies might trade him. But they might not.
The Toronto Raptors, by contrast, have definitively decided to make a real run at Gay.
The Raptors might not be able to swing a deal for him. But they'd love to.
Sources told ESPN.com this week that the Raptors -- who tried to make a play for Gay before the 2012 NBA draft -- remain seriously "interested" in the Grizzlies' leading scorer and are trying to assemble trade packages to bring the 26-year-old to Toronto after preliminary talks with Memphis.
Among the trade chips that the Raptors are believed to be dangling, in addition to draft considerations, are veteran point guard Jose Calderon (who has an expiring contract worth $10.6 million) and young big man Ed Davis.
Grantland's Zach Lowe reported last week that the Grizzlies had begun the process of letting various teams know that Gay would be available in the right deal before the annual February trade deadline. Sources consulted in Reno during the NBA's annual D-League Showcase have described the bulk of those discussions to date to be exploratory in nature, but Toronto, as part of that process, has let it be known to the Grizzlies that its desire to acquire Gay has not waned.
It was widely assumed around the league coming into the season that the Grizzlies' new ownership group, headed by majority owner Robert Pera and CEO Jason Levien, would look into moving Gay to lessen Memphis' luxury-tax obligations after this season and coming seasons.
But the Grizzlies, with their three top players finally all healthy and playing in unison after two player runs impacted by health matters, got off to a rousing 14-3 start and, despite fading slightly to 22-10, are generally regarded as a team capable of winning the ever-competitive Western Conference.
That has led some rival teams to project that the Grizzlies, as one GM in Reno put in Tuesday, could "wait until the summer" before deciding whether they're indeed prepared to break up the Zach Randolph-Marc Gasol-Gay trio.
Yahoo! Sports reported Tuesday that the Phoenix Suns, like the Raptors, have let the Grizzlies know that they are prepared to trade for Gay by packaging swingman Jared Dudley with future first-round picks. The Memphis Commercial Appeal subsequently reported that the Sacramento Kings are also among the teams to engage the Grizzlies in preliminary Gay talks, with CBSSports.com and the Contra Costa Times reporting that similar discussions between Memphis and Golden State quickly ended when it became apparent that the Warriors would have to include the contract of Richard Jefferson to make the salary-cap math work.
The Raptors, meanwhile, tried to trade for Gay six months ago, offering up various packages headlined by the No. 8 pick in the draft (eventually used on Terrence Ross) and Calderon. The Grizzlies, still owned by Michael Heisley at the time, passed.
Word is that the Grizzlies' new regime is adamant that it won't merely try to dump salary by dealing Gay in-season if it severely weakens their team in the process. Gay, averaging a team-high 17.8 points per game but shooting a career-low 40.8 percent from the floor, is earning $16.4 million in 2012-13 and is scheduled to earn $17.8 million and $19.3 million in the following two seasons.
Said another GM: "I think keeping Gay is still on the table for them, too."
- It's near impossible to stop Chris Paul, but the trend around the league is to use a long, athletic swingman to smother the 6-foot point guard. That tactic has been effective for Golden State and Dallas, which used Dominic McGuire and Shawn Marion, respectively, to slow down Paul and the Clippers. But after reading this excellent post (with a great video of Paul discussing how he attacks taller players), I'm thinking that it takes more than one tall guy with quick feet to shut down CP3.
- Something new on Jeremy Lin: a stereotype scholar explains how racial stereotypes worked both for and against the Knicks point guard.
- Unexpected: John Hollinger says the Knicks are playing better defense when DPOY candidate Tyson Chandler sits. Expected: This has a lot to do with Chandler sharing the court with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. (Insider)
- Brandon Jennings has the foot speed to be a disruptive defender, but coach Scott Skiles would like to see him be a bit more conservative: “The thing that Brandon always has to battle is going for a steal, 'cause he can steal the ball. He had [Lou Williams] all bottled up, six, five left on the shot clock and he went for a steal, Lou went to his right hand and shot a dotted line jump shot. He’s still working on it, he’s just got to battle the urge to gamble when it’s just keep my man in front of me.”
- Is Chris Bosh better than LeBron James or Dwyane Wade? No. But he may be less dispensable to the Heat's offense. Brian Windhorst reports that Chris Bosh will return to the Heat lineup tonight after missing three games (two of them losses) following the death of his grandmother.
- The Raptors are fighting hard for new coach Dwane Casey, but it's still important that they lose their fair share of games in order to nab a high lottery pick. So, according to Prospect of Raptors Republic, last night was a perfect game: "The Raptors were outmatched, undermanned, but still somehow managed to put in a scrappy effort and almost won the game, pleasing tank nation while still giving the home fans a reason to show up."
- D.J. Foster on why the Clippers should be nervous about the postseason:"The best teams in the league force you to pick your poison, but the Clippers don’t really do that — Paul just administers the poison on his own and kills you himself. Eventually though, teams will start doubling Paul as soon as he crosses half court. We’ve seen it before in New Orleans — it’s not that crazy of a thought. They’ll get the ball out of his hands, and if they fail at that, they’ll collapse on him as soon as he moves towards the rim. Defenses will make anyone other than Paul beat them. A good portion of the time Paul will still beat them, but at times it will come down to things like this: Can Blake Griffin hit a mid-range jumper? Can Caron Butler hit the open 3 from the corner? Can Randy Foye make the right decision?
- Jan Vesely wants in the dunk contest. Anyone whose nickname is "Air Wolf" gets my blessing.
- Evan Turner's first start of the season didn't go so well. Should he be starting at all?
- For GQ, Bethlehem Shoals writes that fans give Lamar Odom the benefit of the doubt because he's never been shy about showing an emotional vulnerability that is unusual for professional athletes, but pretty common in most humans.
- The Charlotte Bobcats are making a legitimate run at being the worst team of all time. Related: Boris Diaw remains hopelessly out of shape, which may mean he's consuming calories equivalent to 200 White Castle burgers a week.
- Zach Lowe takes on the impossible task of quantifying Rajon Rondo's trade value.
- Plenty of people want to see Steve Nash get traded to a contender. But moving Robin Lopez might be more beneficial to the Suns.
- Despite missing Zach Randolph all season, the Grizzlies lurk as a sleeper to once again make a run in the Western Conference playoffs. But to do so, should they make a trade before the deadline?
- A lot has already happened since the All-Star break. Here's a funny video recap of it all (and some made up stuff, too).
Many expected that when partnered with point guard Derrick Rose, Boozer would be a force rolling to the basket. But entering Friday, Boozer was shooting just 45.9 percent from the field as the roll man in the pick-and-roll (according to video tracking by Synergy Sports Technology). That was bad enough for his second-worst shooting percentage in any play type this season (he rated worse in isolation plays).
Friday in a 90-81 win over the Nets, Boozer enjoyed one of his most successful games in the pick-and-roll. In four plays as the roll man, Boozer contributed three field goals and six of his 20 total points. That included a baseline dunk over Travis Outlaw in the third quarter.
Boozer is one of the more efficient post scorers in the halfcourt. Of all players with at least 50 shot attempts, he ranks fifth in the NBA in points-per-shot in the post.
But as Friday’s performance in the pick-and-roll shows, Boozer is still growing with his new teammates.
Even as he's growing, the Bulls are 12-2 since a loss to the Boston Celtics, posting the third-best record in the NBA during that time. Only the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs have been better. Boozer has regained his All-Star form and been one of the more dominating players in the NBA. In those 14 games, Boozer is averaging 22.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, and is shooting 56 percent from the field. He has nine double-doubles, including seven games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.
The other statistically-interesting story from the NBA's early New Year's Eve games was DeMar DeRozan's monstrous second half in a 114-105 loss to the Houston Rockets. DeRozan had 29 points in the last two quarters, tied for the fourth-most by any player in any half this season. Kevin Martin's 32-point first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers on December 11 tops the list.
Budinger has had two straight strong efforts, this one surpassing the last one against the Heat, when he registered 11 points in 16 minutes, and a plus-12.
Some jerk beat Chris Bosh to registering the domain www.chrisbosh.com. So Bosh went after the cybersquatter. All sorts of legal wrangling later, Bosh has won damages, his domain ... and a zillion other domains the same guy had been squatting.
There are nearly 800 names in the list, and Bosh and his internet consultant, Hadi Teherany of Max Deal, say they'll return them all to their rightful owners for free.
Which means a good chunk of the basketball world will be owing Bosh a favor. The list is thick with basketball players in the NBA, overseas, college and high school. There are also some football players, political sites, Britney Spears' child, singers, a site or two that sound raunchy, and the Mexican wrestler "El Octagon."
Just a few of the many NBA names on the list:
(Also on the list is AaronAfflalo.com, even though that Denver player spells his first name "Arron.") The vast list of names also includes instructions for athletes and celebrities to get their names back from Bosh, if they wish. Paging El Octagon ...
- Scott Cacciola of The Commercial-Appeal: "Allen Iverson's abilities are a gift, which even he recognizes. In the same way that musical prodigies can just pick up an instrument and create a song, so too can Iverson grab a basketball -- without hours of practice -- and control a game. He always has been at his best when he improvises. He would clash with his high school football and basketball coaches for missing practices, but they knew he would excel when it mattered. It was impossible to bench him. ... Iverson, no longer a brash rookie, said he has grown to understand the importance of taking care of his body, acknowledging that his long wait for a contract this summer meant sacrificing some of his preparation. Then again, he has coped with injuries before. He missed 34 games during the 2003-04 season because of problems with his right knee -- 'Shaq kneed me in my thigh,' he said -- and his right shoulder. He missed 17 games toward the end of last season with the Detroit Pistons because of a balky back, though he also was upset about his role with the team. He sees his latest challenge as a temporary setback. He is unwilling to concede anything to age. In his mind, it is a fluke."
- Sam Amick of The Sacramento Bee: "Most of this season was taken from Francisco Garcia when the exercise ball on which he lay while lifting two 90-pound dumbbells exploded. The accident, Garcia said, is as surreal now as it was when it happened. 'Just a regular day, lifting weights,' he said. 'I was out there, on the PhysioBall. We've got an understanding that the exercise was good. We'd been doing that, and it exploded on me. ? I didn't have time to react or anything. It's crazy, man. I keep reflecting in my head. It's crazy.' Garcia said he hopes to travel occasionally with the team and maintain a strong connection. 'I want to be here as much as I can, be on the road as much as I can,' he said. 'I just want to be there with them, as a teammate, as a friend, as a leader. I think they really need me out there, even if I'm not playing.' "
- Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: "Stephen Jackson renounced his team captaincy Tuesday. Captain Jack is now Captive Jack. Jackson has been stewing for weeks, making it clear and public that he wants the Warriors to trade him. Nice strategy, by the way: Clamor to be traded, thereby drastically decreasing your trade value. He returned to the Warriors on Tuesday after a two-game team suspension, meeting with coach Don Nelson and general manager Larry Riley before practice. When Nelson talked to a large group of media in the early afternoon, he was happy. 'The prodigal son has returned,' said a smiling Nelson. 'It's good to have Jack back.' Nelson also said, 'He's going to be the same guy.' But when it was Jackson's turn with the media, he seemed like a very different guy, not the positive and good-humored captain many of us have grown to know and like. To say Jackson seemed bitter Tuesday is to say that the day seemed a bit moist. I'm checking with sources to see if Jackson and Nelson attended the same meeting."
- Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "From a distance, Murphy comes across as a free-spirited prankster. It turns out that's not the case. 'Murph plays the Jersey goofball a lot, but he certainly knows what's going on, so we give him a hard time,' said Pacers swingman Mike Dunleavy, who has been Murphy's teammate for seven years. 'He knows all the things that are at stake.' Murphy regained his old form last season when he averaged 14.3 points and a career-high 11.8 rebounds. He's the only player in NBA history to finish in the top five in rebounding (second) and 3-point percentage (third) in the same season. He also had 48 double-doubles, a franchise record. Murphy averaged a double-double in three of the first five years of his career. 'He's always been a terrific rebounder,' Dunleavy said. 'He sort of went back to where he was in previous years and just seemed more focused and had it all together, and when he does that he's a pretty good player.' "
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Gilbert Arenas came back from the shower, put on his backpack and lowered his head. He was ready for the Q&Arenas. Here is the full transcript. Enjoy. Q: Do you have any comment on the fine you received today? Arenas: 'Nope.' Q: Do you think the game tonight was a sign of progress? Arenas: 'Yeah, both teams played hard.' Q: How are you feeling out there on the court? Arenas: 'I feel fine.' Q: What are your thoughts on Will Bynum? Arenas: 'He's coming along well.' Q: Anything else about tonight's game? Arenas: 'No.' Q: Do you feel good about the way things are going right now, feel good about the way you are playing, feel comfortable about the new coaching staff? Arenas: 'Yep.' Q: What can you say about Flip and how is he different than what you've experienced here before? Arenas: 'He's just bringing something different than the last coach.' Q: What in particular is he bringing that's different? Arenas: (Six second pause) 'What was the question again?' Q: What are your impressions of Flip? What has he brought to this team so far? Arenas: 'It's too early to tell. Maybe next month, I'll have a better answer for you' Q: Do you have anything to say about the fine today? Arenas: 'Nope.' Q: No comment? Arenas: 'Nope' The end."
- Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "Kings forward Francisco Garcia suffered an injury when an inflatable exercise ball exploded. Garcia reportedly was lying on his back across a 'physio ball' while lifting dumbbells. When the ball exploded, the player fell backwards, fracturing the radius in his right wrist. He also suffered ligament damage. Garcia is expected to miss four months of play after surgery to repair the injuries. On Monday, the Kings sent a warning to the other 29 NBA teams advising them about the incident. Spurs strength and conditioning coach Mike Brungardt said the team has used exercise balls -- large, inflated balls on which players balance while doing assorted exercises -- for many years. 'We check them several times each season, and we've never had a problem,' Brungardt said. 'We'll continue to use them, but we immediately eliminated their use in some exercises after we got the report from the Kings.' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he could not recall a Spurs player being injured during any sort of off-court workout. 'No,' he said, 'but it made us all think. We all have all these different contraptions we're using. Odd things can happen.' "
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "A significant decision awaits the Milwaukee Bucks by the end of the month, and it's not an easy one. Bucks general manager John Hammond faces an Oct. 31 deadline to decide whether to renew the first option year on forward Joe Alexander's cont
ract. Alexander would be owed $2.76 million next season if the Bucks pick up the first of two option years on his rookie-scale contract. Complicating the choice is the disappointing performance turned in by Alexander during his rookie year in 2008-'09 and the injuries that plagued him in training camp a year ago and again during the current preseason. Alexander worked hard during the off-season at the Bucks' training facility and performed well in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, but on the first day of training camp, he was standing on the sideline due to a strained right hamstring. The 6-foot-8 Alexander has not been able to practice yet or play in the Bucks' first five exhibition games, a huge setback for a player trying to gain coach Scott Skiles' confidence and battle for time at the small forward position. Hammond declined to comment Tuesday on the Bucks' intentions."
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Jonny Flynn hasn't played a real NBA game yet, but already Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis knows his rookie point guard can run successfully the two-man pick-and-roll play at the sport's highest level anytime and anywhere he so chooses. That's why he's not letting Flynn do it. At least not yet anyway. Rambis wants Flynn to concentrate on skills he hasn't mastered -- and those his team needs most -- in a preseason that's two games old. 'He's learning the importance of the point guard in this league,' Rambis said. 'I need him to orchestrate the offense and get his teammates involved. They're counting on him.' Oh, is that all? At the age of 20? At a position Rambis calls the most difficult to learn in the NBA?"
- Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Five years into his NBA career, Marvin Williams has more than established himself in the league. The proof can be found in his numbers. For his career Williams has averaged 12.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and started in 209 of the 284 games he's played since being selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2005 draft. For all that, both Williams and Hawks coach Mike Woodson are convinced that there's much more the starting small forward can do. 'Marvin's come in every year since his rookie year in great shape and he's really been consistent,' Woodson said. 'But he's the one guy over the next two years that I think can really make the jump to become more of an elite scorer, mostly because he can put the ball on the floor and draw fouls. He added the 3-point shot to his game last season and I think that pushed his game to another level. Now, he has to take another step.' Does that mean folks can expect to see a more aggressive and determined Williams this season? 'I think so,' Williams said. 'I've never been one to try and do too much. I've always felt like I know my role and I try to play the best I can. At the same time, I think this preseason I've tried to be more aggressive. And it's worked out.' "
- Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: "As the old saying goes, there is no 'I' in team. But there is a 'me,' and Sixers forward Elton Brand has had to concentrate on the selfish part of the game a little more than usual this preseason. Besides having to absorb the new offensive and defensive schemes that have been brought in by coach Eddie Jordan, Brand has had to make sure his surgically repaired shoulder and Achilles' tendon are ready to endure what he hopes to be an 82-game regular season. He also has had to find out whether he still has what it takes to be the 20-point, 10-rebound-a-night player he has been throughout his career. Sometimes that might take away from what Jordan is trying to accomplish. But for now, the coach is OK with it. 'I like that he's aggressive,' Jordan said of the player the Sixers signed in the summer of 2008 to a 5-year, $80 million contract. 'He's putting the shoulder down, he's really looking to be assertive in the paint area.' Then came the caveat. 'I want him to execute a little better, as far as spacing for his teammates, his cutting for his teammates, not for himself,' Jordan said."
- Frank Dell'Apa of The Boston Globe: "Rasheed Wallace, who had 20 points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes, defended his prediction the Celtics are capable of winning 72 games. 'When you play with a high caliber team, whose goals are higher than other teams in the NBA, when you play with teams that want that hardware, then, yes, those records can be broken,' he said. 'But I think we can get that 72. If we overcome injuries, I think we can get it. Just imagine if guys didn't get hurt [last season], they definitely could have gotten it. That's what we're shooting for this year.' "
- Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: "And now for your actual 2009-2010 Raptors. Halfway through the pre-season, the Raptors are poised for the first time to play a game with all five of their projected starters in the lineup. Hedo Turkoglu joins the recently returned Chris Bosh to the lineup giving coach Jay Triano his first look at a starting five that also includes Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani and, for now, DeMar DeRozan. And it all goes down in Hartford with the Boston Celtics providing the opposition. Triano will waste no time in getting Turkoglu involved. 'Does he deserve to start because of the amount he has practised? No,' said Triano answering his own question. 'But we only have four more pre-season games and I need to put him on the floor with guys he is going to play with for the majority of the time. I'm planning on starting him with Jose, Chris, Andrea and probably DeMar.' "
- Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel: "Mario Chalmers' scholarship ended Sunday. Suddenly, for the first time since Chalmers was named last season's Miami Heat opening-night starter, there is legitimate competition at point guard with the signing of free agent Carlos Arroyo. Until the Heat made the move for the eighth-year veteran, Chalmers' competition had been limited over the past year to the likes of Chris Quinn, Marcus Banks, Shaun Livingston, Luther Head and current camp longshot John Lucas III. But now there is a veteran in the mix who has started 113 NBA games, one who has served as an understudy to the likes of John Stockton, Mark Jackson and Chauncey Billups. 'I think he's landslide better than everybody,' Heat forward Michael Beasley said of Chalmers' previous competition. Beasley, in fact, said it is apparent that the signing of Arroyo has motivated Chalmers, who made the surprise jump to starter after being taken in the second round of the 2008 draft. 'I think he's taking this move and really getting competitive with it,' Beasley said of his closest friend on the team. 'Everybody knows Carlos is a great player, a vet, a scorer with court vision. He can do it all. And 'Rio now got somebody not only to go head-to-head with, but somebody to look up to, somebody to learn off of.' "
- Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times: "When so little went right -- as it did for the Clippers and their fans last season -- the temptat
ion is to go overboard when there are the slightest signs of promise. The incumbent Chris Kaman, veteran of those flickers, urged caution after back-to-back exhibition wins and a fresh air of hope in Clippers' training camp. It took one word to get that thought across: Fresno. 'Don't read into it so much,' Kaman said Tuesday after practice. 'It's basketball. See how it goes. It happened last year. We beat the Lakers in the preseason up in Fresno.' In fact, it was Oct. 9 of last year when the Clippers crushed the Lakers in Fresno, 107-80, in their exhibition opener. And you know the injury-marred rest of the story."
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown says the NBA game is flawed in ways that transcend whether replacement referees are making the calls. Brown will be relieved when this labor dispute is resolved and the veteran officials return. But he's seen a pattern the past few years -- too many whistles, too many contrived rules -- that rob basketball of its natural flow. 'Until we figure out a way to get more shots and have more of a flow up-and-down the court -- which is the beauty of the game -- it's gonna be tough' to entertain fans, Brown said. So if Brown were basketball czar, what would he do? 1) Standardize rules worldwide for the NBA, college and international games. 2) Move the NBA 3-point line in slightly. 3) Permit teams to play any defense they choose without violating some anti-zone rule. Brown believes those changes would both allow and compel teams to run more and shoot more, and that's what the game needs."
- Steve Politi of The Star-Ledger: "Bruce Ratner may have recruited Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov to bail him out financially, but money is not the only obstacle. You can only wonder how foreign it must seem to Prokhorov, coming from a country where the government gets what it wants, to see how one man can become a thorn to this massive project. The case is a long shot. 'The eminent domain issue is going to be very tough for them to win,' said William Ward, a Florham Park-based attorney who handles cases related to property seizure. 'The problem they have in my perspective is that the politicians are lined up against them.' Ward, who was once the lawyer for the Meadowlands sports complex, sees another legal victory for Ratner. But Goldstein and his allies, the underdogs from the start, still have hope that the Court of Appeals will see this deal for what it is -- the government taking property to line the pockets of a developer. 'The idea that the government would force me to sell to Forest City Ratner because this is some great public benefit offends me,' Goldstein said. 'It is not. If it were a benefit, I would not be doing this. I would have left.' Had he left, the Nets would have left New Jersey already, too. They are still here in part because one man dug in and decided to play some defense. Wednesday, he takes one final shot."
- Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "If anyone thought him guilty of unearned hubris, he followed by punctuating his performance with a basket that provided the Spurs their margin of victory in a 95-93 win. His game-winning layin, off a nice feed from Malik Hairston, gave him his 27th and 28th points of the game. By the time he headed to the locker room to receive a dose of instant humility, delivered by coach Gregg Popovich, DeJuan Blair had scored 15 of the Spurs' 33 fourth-quarter points, all in the final six-and-a-half minutes. Sunday's fourth-quarter explosion produced the second set of eye-popping statistics of the 6-foot-7, 265-pound post man's preseason. In the first preseason game, against the Rockets, he scored 16 points and grabbed 19 rebounds. Drafted in the second round because the Spurs believed him a legitimate NBA rebounder, Blair got a none-too-subtle reminder from Popovich that rebounding must remain his forte. 'He had a tough night,' Popovich said, straight-faced. 'He only had one defensive rebound.' Then, Popovich failed to suppress a grin as he told reporters from Florida, 'He's really going to enjoy reading that in the San Antonio paper.' "
- Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "Of all the key acquisitions the Dallas Mavericks made over the summer, Kris Humphries' arrival barely caused a ripple. Yet less than two weeks into training camp, he's provided some of the biggest tidal waves, not to mention one of the biggest dunks. The 6-8 forward has been the surprise of training camp. Apparently, he shocked Memphis' Zach Randolph, too. Humphries blew past the Grizzlies' forward twice for drives to the basket, including a thunderous two-handed throw-down that lit up the crowd and was the memorable play of the Mavericks' 114-107 win Sunday night at American Airlines Center. It's becoming routine to see Humphries making quality contributions. He had 16 points and nine rebounds (five offensive) in 21 minutes against Memphis. 'He's been very consistent,' coach Rick Carlisle said. 'He's got an all-around game and he's physical. He's been playing well since we got him in the trade. ... Look, there's still a long way to go, but he's making a strong case that he's deserving consideration for some playing time.' "
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has said Trevor Ariza does not have to become a star scorer for the acquisition to work for the Rockets, insisting Ariza's all-around production with the Lakers would be enough for the Rockets. But he and coach Rick Adelman believe Ariza is capable of more, faith that convinced Ariza to sign a five-year, $34 million contract with the Rockets. 'He's got to just play,' Adelman said. 'He's got to keep playing and trying things, can't be hesitant. As he gets hesitant, he gets around his guy and gets off-balance, rather than just be aggressive. He has to be aggressive and we'll take it from there. I thought he passed up a couple early. He's got to keep taking them. With new responsibilities, this is just part of it. You've got to keep doing it or you're not going to learn how to be aggressive, how to be a guy that attacks the other team. It's not unusual to be the way it is right now.' Adelman said he would look to put Ariza. a 6-8 swingman, in positions to do what he does best, but for now, heading into tonight's game against Milwaukee at Toyota Center, he wants to give him room to explore the scoring chances available to him. Ariza said he was 'never a volume shooter,' even in high school. But the transition could be as much about dealing with new responsibilities and expectations."
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Might the Wolves' notable new coaching staff be tougher than the team? 'Well,' forward Al Jefferson said with a pregnant pause, 'they think they are.' Their new head coach won six NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers as a player and assistant coach. But in a youtube.com world, Kurt Rambis just might be best remembered for those industrial-strength eyeglasses from long ago and for rising ready to fight after he was clobbered by Kevin McHale in a 1984 NBA Finals game. Rambis' search for candidates with championship pedigrees as well as both head-coaching experience and aspirations produced a staff that includes Bill Laimbeer, the most insufferable member from the Detroit Pistons' 'Bad Boys' teams of the late 1980s and early 1990s, two-time NBA All-Star guard and former Sacramento head coach Reggie Theus and Dave Wohl, an assistant coach on those 1980s Lakers teams and former New Jersey head coach. 'If the players ask about situations, these guys have actually, physically gone through it,' Rambis said. 'They've lived through losing environments, they've lived through winning environments. With all our years in the league, we've probably experienced everything and anything that all of these players are going to go through. That experience is going to be invaluable.' "
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "The Timberwolves haven't reached the postseason in the four years since firing Saunders; last season, the Pistons traded away Chauncey Billups, won just 39 games and lost in the first round. Saunders said the time away made him more secure and committed to his philosophies. 'When you don't reach a goal or don't finish it, it's a disappointment,' Saunders said of his time in Detroit. 'But I do think you feel that you're there and you averaged winning 60 games a year, I think you're doing something right.' Throughout his coaching career, Saunders has usually been asked to revitalize a flailing organization, as the case is now with the Wizards. But in Detroit, Saunders had replaced Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, who had guided the Pistons to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances and an NBA title in 2004. Saunders tweaked some things offensively and let his core group of Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace use some the defensive schemes that were successful under previous regimes. But near the end of his time in Detroit, many of his players tuned him out. Asked if he would've done anything differently in his three years in Detroit, Saunders said 'not at all.' He said his teams fell victim to some unfortunate circumstances."
- Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: "Rookies chosen with the No. 16 and 27 picks in the NBA draft usually generate low - to no - expectations upon arrival. So it's been a little surprising to see James Johnson and Taj Gibson jump into the spotlight early in the Bulls' preseason games. Johnson's game is difficult to define, but his lively athleticism and varied skills have been intriguing. After a rough opening game against Indiana, the 6-foot-9 forward from Wake Forest averaged 16 points and 7.5 rebounds, plus 5 turnovers, in his next two. Gibson has been logging significant minutes while Tyrus Thomas is out with a bruised hip, and has averaged 13.7 points. Gibson, a 6-9 power forward from USC, i
s an older rookie who plays like a steady veteran, biding his time and knocking down midrange jumpers when the chance arrives."
- Barbara Barker of Newsday: "Google Darko Milicic and the words 'draft bust' and you launch a never-ending Internet debate on where his selection by the Pistons with the No. 2 pick in the 2003 NBA draft ranks among the league's all-time worst picks. The 7-foot Serbian hasn't exactly had the kind of career that anyone expected when Joe Dumars picked him over Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. This goes a long way toward explaining why there was little fanfare when the Knicks traded Quentin Richardson to obtain him from Memphis this summer. Yet a couple weeks into training camp, and it's looking like that trade could pan into a fairly savvy move. Milicic has played for a variety of coaches in Detroit, Orlando and Memphis. His best season was in 2006-07 when he averaged 8.0 points and 5.5 rebounds. This marks the first time, however, that Milicic has played in a system that fits him as well as Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo one."
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "To the average fan, a basketball game is a circus. Ten showmen swoosh up and down the court, a whirlwind of entertainment, from long-range shots to high-flying dunks. To Dean Oliver, basketball is a math equation. In his eyes, games are a series of possessions, and the simple way to win this game is to maximize your possessions and minimize your opponent's possessions. Asked if fans are looking at the wrong stats, Oliver said, 'To some degree, yeah.' The best-selling book 'Moneyball,' about the forward-thinking Oakland Athletics' front office, preached the benefits of on-base and slugging percentages over batting average and home runs, statistics most fans have been told for decades are the standards of offense. In basketball, Oliver has "the four factors" he regards as the holy grail -- turnovers per possession, offensive rebounding percentage, free throws made per field goals attempted and effective field-goal percentage (which gives 50 percent more credit to 3-point shots than normal field-goal percentage). 'If you can control those four things -- offensively and defensively -- you win,' he said."
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Amare Stoudemire worked hard to get in shape this summer after two eye surgeries but needs this preseason to find his old self. Alvin Gentry gave Stoudemire more time (29 minutes) Saturday to help get there. 'Amare's going to get better,' Gentry said. 'He's just not physically where he's going to be. I like the effort he's playing with. I think he's playing harder than he's played the last five years that I've been here. ... He just can't quite complete certain plays.' Stoudemire made four jumpers and a follow to get 13 points and five rebounds. He has not been able to get to the rim off drives or rolls. 'I need to just get comfortable again,' Stoudemire said. 'I'm still not all the way there yet as far as my rhythm.' "
- Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "In what's amounting to a nice dose of tough love from his coaching staff, DeRozan is finding himself in and out of games quicker that you can say "blown assignment" through four exhibitions so far. A handful of times in Toronto's 100-93 win over the Washington Wizards at the Air Canada Centre Sunday afternoon, the 20-year-old prodigy found himself walking to the bench for a quick tutorial from the coaching staff. Never mind that he scored a team-high 19 points and had a couple of highlight reel-worthy forays to the rim, the game was more about teaching lessons than piling up numbers. 'I had to take him out three or four times just to talk to him and it wasn't about getting a breath,' coach Jay Triano said after Toronto ran its pre-season record to 2-2 before a sparse crowd of 11,936. 'He's still making mistakes. ... If Hedo (Turkoglu) and Antoine Wright and Sonny Weems (all injured and unavailable) are here, maybe I take DeMar out and I'd punish him by sitting him down. The way we did it today, I took him out and we corrected it. The good thing about him is he's a great learner.' "
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Pound for pound, Marcus Williams might be the hardest working player on the Grizzlies' roster. That's because every pound counts for the 6-3 point guard. Williams, who signed as a free agent in the offseason, is contractually required to weigh 207 pounds with 10-percent body fat this season. He said the team checks those measurements weekly, and the results have financial considerations. Griz general manager Chris Wallace and coach Lionel Hollins insisted on the clause because of the conditioning and weight issues that plagued Williams early in his career. 'I've made it every week so far,' Williams said. 'It's just about managing your weight and putting in the work. That's what Mr. Wallace wants me to do. That's what Coach wants me to do. I feel better. My body feels better being lighter. So I think it's working out.' "
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "First-round picks in the NBA just aren't as valuable as some of you treat them. I'm not talking ALL first-round picks. Michael Jordan should feel significant regret for using top-three picks on Kwame Brown (with Washington) and Adam Morrison (with Charlotte). My point is some of us treat all first-rounders as game-changers, and that's just not consistent with reality. At least seven of the 30 first-round picks in 2006 didn't reach the summer when teams would have to decide whether to tender qualifying offers to make them restricted free agents. If roughly one out of three first-rounders were ousted that quickly, then maybe the draft isn't all it's cracked up to be. Watching the Bobcats this preseason, I've been marginally more impressed by second-rounder Derrick Brown than lottery pick Gerald Henderson. That doesn't mean Henderson is a bust and Brown is a coup. And if Ajinca doesn't work out, I still think it was a good call to trade into the 20th spot. It's rare that you have a chance that late in a draft to explore a big man's possibilities."
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Nobody has to remind Magic SG Vince Carter that his shooting percentage is unacceptable. 'I criticize myself for my shooting more than anybody does,' Carter said after Sunday's practice. 'I'm trying to take a different approach and not worry so much about it. I know it will come.' After three preseason games, Carter is shooting a chilly 35.4 percent from the field and is even colder from 3-point land at 17.4 percent. The eight-time all-star knows how to get easier baskets. He acknowledged that Coach Stan Van Gundy 'wants me to be more aggressive and get to the paint.' "
- 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."
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Brandon Jennings admitted he was in awe playing at the Palace on Wednesday night. But that feeling quickly faded for the Milwaukee Bucks' rookie point guard, as he was tossed into the fray for 27 minutes in the team's second pre-season game. Jennings faced a tough task trying to guard Detroit's Will Bynum, and the Pistons backcourt dominated in a 113-104 victory over the Bucks at the Palace of Auburn Hills. But the 20-year-old Jennings also showed some progress with a team-high 18 points, six assists and six steals, despite five turnovers. 'I was out there playing a lot and I was a little fatigued,' said Jennings. 'I just had to play through it and keep playing. I'm not going to lie; I was a little nervous today, playing in the Palace and Detroit basketball. A lot of players came through here, guys like Isiah Thomas. I felt I just had to come out here and run the team and focus on the defensive end.' "
- Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "There is a tendency around the Trail Blazers to be careful about what is said about Greg Oden. Nobody wants to apply pressure on the 21-year-old center. Nobody wants to raise expectations any higher than they already are for the former No. 1 pick. But on Wednesday, after the Blazers second preseason game this season, nobody needed to say anything about Oden. The play of the new-look center is speaking volumes. With a lighter frame, and a brighter outlook, Oden continued his resurgent comeback campaign with 20 points and 12 rebounds during the Blazers' 89-86 win over Sacramento at Arco Arena."
- Terry Foster of The Detroit News: "The real treat was Will Bynum (23 points, six assists), who runs the point better than anyone for the Pistons and that includes Stuckey -- the man they want to run it. Bynum is not an elite point guard, but he gives the Pistons exactly what they want. He is an unselfish player who can get into the lane and make good decisions."
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "The Orlando Magic did not draft a shooting guard and sign another two-guard like they did the season before. No, this season the Magic just made a trade to acquire an eight-time all-star who plays shooting guard ( Vince Carter). Welcome to J.J. Redick's world. At least he can keep his sense of humor. 'Hey, I'm still here,' Redick laughed before the Magic's ragged 90-86 preseason win against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night at Amway Arena. While the Magic keep putting other two-guards between Redick and more playing time, he actually has closed in on defying doubters after three seasons."
- Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "The NBA is a watered-down product. The salary cap slowly has whittled benches across the league down to faceless entities, punchless sparring partners in practice and fill-ins who hope not to undo the work of their betters at gametime. But the Celtics went into last night's preseason opener against the Rockets with a modern-day anomaly. The reserves have dished out as much as they have absorbed during the first part of training camp. The second unit of Rasheed Wallace, Marquis Daniels, Glen Davis, Eddie House and Brian Scalabrine beat the starters in a scrimmage last Saturday in Newport, R.I., and figure to win a lot more. 'It's crazy,' Kendrick Perkins said of the burgeoning rivalry between the starters and reserves. 'They make us work every practice. We have no slack on the backup side, so every practice is really like a game. They're good. They have a lot of shooters. They have Eddie House, he's 10 years (in the league), Rasheed 15, Marquis seven, Baby three, Tony six, so they have a lot of experienced guys on their team.' "
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Nick Young entered this season determined that his name would not be preceded by the word 'backup,' stating before training camp that he hated sitting on the bench and was going after the starting job. That was a bold declaration coming from Young, who carried a happy-go-lucky demeanor his first two seasons in Washington. It also followed a summer in which the Wizards improved their back court with the additions of Mike Miller and Randy Foye, and DeShawn Stevenson returned from a back injury. Young feels that he squandered an opportunity last season, when injuries provided an opening for playing time that he was unable to fully take advantage of. He didn't believe he had any more time to waste. 'I always wanted to be a great player. This is the year to get it rolling,' Young said after scoring 11 points with four rebounds during the Wizards' 101-92 win against Memphis. 'It's my third year. It's time for me to grow up and get my name out there. This is the game I love and I just want to get better every year. I didn't want to be forgotten.' "
- Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: "Brian Cardinal has a receding hairline that makes him look more suited for a 50-and-over league. He admits he is not good enough to be a starting power forward in the NBA, yet he is approaching his 10th season in the league. Cardinal has been a backup with each of his five NBA teams, including the Wolves last season. He has never averaged more than 9.6 points in a season, but his value is measured more in work ethic and a lead-by-example attitude. 'I can't dunk on anybody, but the game is far bigger than being the greatest athlete or having a muscled-up body,' Cardinal said. 'It's about playing smart and doing the right things. That's why I've been fortunate to play this long.' Even if Cardinal makes the Wolves' final roster, he knows most of the playing time at power forward will be divided between Al Jefferson and Kevin Love. Jefferson was a freshman in high school when Cardinal was drafted by Detroit in the second round of the 2000 NBA draft. Love had yet to reach high school."
- Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: "One of the coaches stood in the locker room late Tuesday night, marveling about DeJuan Blair. Then he paused and changed direction. 'I love Ian Mahinmi,' he said, 'but ...' The coach roots for Mahinmi, as does everyone in the Spurs organization. Mahinmi has done everything the Spurs have asked. Still, on this night, the coach couldn't help but see the contrast. Blair turned 20 in April, and this is the first time he's ever lived more than a block from home. And yet: He showed more basketball instincts in his first NBA game than Mahinmi had in four years. It's October, and there are no guarantees Blair will be getting minutes in November. Still, his undeniable skill was on display. Blair had 19 rebounds in the first 22 minutes of his pro life, and this is something that works in any arena in any city."
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston
Chronicle: "We just watched 75 fouls and 102 free throws in one basketball game. OK, it's preseason. If you pay full price to watch these games, you're not too picky, anyway. But just as the teams learn all that must be corrected in time for the season, so must the league. 'Replacement refs' should become a euphemism for 'preseason refs.' The league cannot go through real games like this."
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "The Suns' annual propensity for giving up second-chance points undermines the defense and slows the pace. The task becomes tougher with Shaquille O'Neal gone and Robin Lopez out six to eight weeks. The Suns were 30-12 when they outrebounded their opponents last season and 12-24 when they did not. Outrebounding foes more often is misleading because, as the NBA's top shooting team, the Suns had fewer misses for teams to rebound. The Suns were 22nd in defensive rebounding percentage and gave up the fourth most offensive rebounds. 'It's a pretty heavy task of us, knowing we're a small team, but we should be able to do it,' Stoudemire said. 'For the most part, we have to rebound as a team. We also have good defensive guards. Grant (Hill) is a great rebounder for his position. Even Steve (Nash) gets in there and mixes it up. The big thing is us big guys have to grab those big boards.' "
- Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: "A new team and fittingly a new locker-room. Well, not really new, just dressed up. Immediately upon entering the Raptors' inner sanctum, and before you even get to the actual dressing room, the first thing you see is a tight, enlarged photo of the Raptors' hands coming together in a pre-game huddle that will be repeated every time they take the floor. It's one of those shots that catches the eye because it's a little different but it's the message it sends -- togetherness -- that is the real point. On the opposite wall is the word Raptors spelled out with the initial letters in the words Respect, Accountable, Proud, Together We Shall Prevail, Organized, Responsible, Standards, all things the team is expecting their players to be. Venture further in and more words to live by adorn yet another wall. This one reads: Do the right thing. Do it the right way. Do it that way all the time. The room itself where the players lockers are remain unchanged -- other than the nine new name plates above those lockers. At least Rasho Nesterovic got his old locker back."
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "His memories of Nov. 29, 2008, are vivid. It was a Saturday night. Newly named interim coach Scott Brooks had just told him he would be starting his first career game, against the Memphis Grizzlies. And that's when the knots started forming in the pit of his stomach. 'Oh it's a whole lot different,' Russell Westbrook said of his nerves just before the Thunder opened its preseason schedule. 'I'm so chill now. I'm so calm and cool.' Westbrook then went out and proved it, backing up his claim with a near perfect floor game in the Thunder's 99-91 loss. His final stat line -- five points, 10 assists, four rebounds -- wasn't jaw-dropping. But considering he turned the ball over only twice, took just four shot attempts and could have had 15 assists had his teammates knocked down a few more shots, Wednesday's opener was about as good as it gets."
- Ron Green Jr. of The Charlotte Observer: "Charlotte Bobcats rookie Gerald Henderson was on the court in Cleveland Tuesday night in the first semi-official minute of his NBA career when he found himself with the ball. Henderson, the former Duke All-American, came off a screen and turned the corner, the basket in his sights. From the corner of his eye, he saw Shaquille O'Neal coming his way. Even rookies know certain things. 'I was, like, this isn't going to be good,' Henderson said. O'Neal swallowed Henderson's dunk, fouling the rookie hard in the process. Henderson made one of two free throws, and the first of what will likely be several professional baptisms had occurred. 'It was one of those welcome to the NBA moments,' he said."
- Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "The team won't admit it publicly, but any way it's viewed, the Cavs are short a point guard. Add the continuing uncertainty surrounding Delonte West and it is only clearer. At the moment, it may not be a fatal flaw. If everything goes to plan, it may not even matter. But if there is one sure thing, it is that things rarely go to plan -- as West is currently proving. West began a second leave this season Wednesday, this one excused, to handle personal matters. He had not played in either the open scrimmage or first preseason game. There's no denying that is worrying. 'We're concerned about the state of Delonte because we want him here,' LeBron James said. 'You want your full team to see what your full potential is, but at the same time we're going to give him time.' James didn't say he was concerned about the point guard situation, but deep down he and his teammates must be to some degree."
- Tribune newspapers: "If this had happened a month ago, the San Francisco Chronicle and city officials would have joined the list of parties skewered in Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame induction speech. The newspaper published photos Tuesday of Jordan smoking a cigar during a practice round at Harding Park, despite the city's ban on smoking on public golf courses. City officials asked the PGA Tour to remind Jordan he can't smoke while being an honorary assistant at the Presidents Cup. 'It was sort of a gentle nudge reminding them that smoking is illegal and that we would appreciate their support,' Recreation and Park general manager Phil Ginsburg told the Chronicle. As for enforcing the $100 fine on Jordan? Matt Dorsey, the spokesman for City Atty. Dennis Herrera, remains unsure how that will play out. Said Dorsey: 'But don't expect me to ask him for it.' During a Q&A on Monday, Jordan said, 'I'm not even supposed to be smoking, but this was a practice round and no one said anything.' Jordan still had his cigar Wednesday. He simply chewed on it without lighting up."
- Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer: "It's still hard to believe, Shaquille O'Neal in a Cavaliers uniform. Then there's LeBron James, the league's Most Valuable Player -- and he's yet to celebrate his 25th birthday. And there's Mo Williams, an All-Star guard. Anthony Parker and Anderson Varejao, two respected role players who'd start for most teams. That was Tuesday's starting five: Parker, Williams, O'Neal, Varejao and James. As for Delonte West, he remains a question mark because of his emotional and legal issues. Obviously, with West, the Cavs are a stronger team. But even minus their starting guard, they are still loaded with talent. You could see it Tuesday night in the preseason opener, a 92-87 victory over Charlotte at Quicken Loans Arena."
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "He sat in his corner locker room stall, headphones blaring the sounds of Jay-Z and Notorious B.I.G., as he got himself prepared for his first preseason game in almost two years. As much as Washington Wizards fans have waited for Gilbert Arenas to return to the basketball court, the delay from the game he loves has been much more arduous and painful for Arenas. From a very brief flirtation with retirement this January, to pushing himself in the weight room for countless hours this summer with renowned trainer Tim Grover, Arenas has worked diligently to get back to play again on his surgically repaired left knee. Having already retired his Agent Zero and Hibachi personas last week, the three-time all-star hit the court against the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, simply to resume the career of Gilbert Arenas, the facilitator. Arenas had five points and 10 assists in 24 minutes in the Wizards' 101-92 victory and looked remarkably agile after three surgeries on his left knee limited him to just 15 regular season games the past two seasons."
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "There were plenty of signs of how the Rockets want to play, starting with those 15 first-quarter fast break points. The point guards and power forwards look like the strength of the team, which is not much of a surprise when there aren't any shooting guards and centers (well, almost) on the team. More than all that, though, Chase Budinger just kept doing what he has been doing, holding his own in the battle of the 'how did he get into the second round' draft picks."
- Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "DeJuan Blair was a smash in his preseason debut, scoring a team-leading 16 points and grabbing 19 rebounds in 22 minutes. 'I did what they asked me to, and that's rebound,' Blair said. 'Everything else came off of that.' Only Gregg Popovich could keep Blair, a second-round pick out Pittsburgh, from becoming the first Spurs player to grab 20 boards in the preseason since Will Perdue in 1996. He sat Blair for most of the fourth quarter, choosing to look at other players. After the game, Popovich pronounced himself pleased with Blair's first-game performance. Before it, the coach had cautioned about expecting too much, too soon from the 6-foot-7 rookie. 'I don't want to denigrate anything he's done in the past, and I don't want to over-emphasize anything he's doing well,' Popovich said. 'I just don't know exactly where to put him yet, as far as what kind of impact he might make.' "
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "David Kahn credits an epiphany for setting his franchise on a determined player-development course that brought former Timberwolves guard Chris Carr to practice Tuesday for an audition. Kahn's revelation last summer was that the Wolves can become league leaders in making their own players better. They already have interviewed several candidates for a sixth assistant coaching position, devoted solely to working with players on their skills. Former Timberwolves players Darrick Martin and Tony Campbell came to town before the team left for training camp in Mankato. Carr arrived Tuesday after a short crosstown trip from Hopkins, where he operates a basketball training academy for schoolchildren of all ages. The hire is another step in Kahn's effort to remake a franchise that hasn't made the playoffs since 2004."
- Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News: "Backing down simply isn't acceptable in the NBA. A young player must establish himself from the start, basically in each and every game. Reptuations are earned quickly, and unflattering ones don't go away easily. Weakness is noticed in this league, maybe more than any other sports league. Weaknesses will be exploited. It's early in the Pistons' season, but it's already apparent that no NBA bully is taking the lunch money of rookies Austin Daye, DaJuan Summers and Jonas Jerebko. Those were the indications from last week's training camp, and fortified Monday in the exhibition opener against the Miami Heat. 'These guys are fearless in the way they play the game,' coach John Kuester said. 'They play the game the right way.' "
- Tom Enlund of the Journal Sentinel: "New coach? New system? That's certainly nothing new for forward Hakim Warrick of the Milwaukee Bucks. After experiencing a revolving door on the coach's office during the first four years of his NBA career in Memphis, Warrick signed with coach Scott Skiles' Bucks as a free agent in July. Warrick is now playing under the fifth coach - or sixth, depending on how you count - since he entered the league in 2005. So it's easy to understand why the 6-foot-9 Warrick is looking for a bit of coaching stability. Warrick, in fact, had to stop and think for a moment when asked how many coaches he had played for in Memphis. 'I started with (Mike) Fratello, then we had (Tony) Barone, and then (Marc) Iavaroni ... and if you wanted (to count him), we had Johnny Davis for a game or two. And Lionel (Hollins). So that would be five in four years.' Hollins started last season as an assistant to Skiles but took the Grizzlies' coaching job in January."
- Dan Tomasino of the New York Post: "Jordan Hill is a quiet guy, but the amount of noise he makes on the court this season is of utmost importance to the Knicks' future. The first-round draft pick must prove he was worthy of such a high selection (No. 8 overall) to keep fans from losing faith in the drafting prowess of team president Donnie Walsh and coach Mike D'Antoni. And he must show he is a building block of a championship-caliber team in order to lure LeBron James to New York. The Knicks gambled on drafting Hill, a 6-foot-10 power forward, despite the presence of David Lee at the position and the team's obvious need for a point guard. In fact, Hill was drafted ahead of talented point guard Brandon Jennings, who greatly impressed scouts and executives with his Summer League performance. The Knicks selected Hill because they believe he has Amare Stoudemire-like ability. That'
s the kind of player who would be a great complement for James, should the Knicks sign the superstar free-agent-to-be next summer. If Hill fails, The LeBron Plan could fail with him because Lee and Nate Robinson are on one-year contracts and Danilo Gallinari, 2008's lottery pick, so far has been a bust. The Knicks need to show James that they have some pieces in place and they aren't the toxic club they were made out to be when several free agents spurned them this past summer."
- Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "The likely starting backcourt tandem ended Tuesday's practice with only two good ankles between them, and if that wasn't enough to make Lawrence Frank reach for the nitroglycerin tablets, it's only because the Nets don't have another preseason game until Friday. Devin Harris rolled his left ankle and sat out much of the session, and just 10 minutes later, Courtney Lee turned his right ankle and was taken off for X-rays, which revealed a sprain. The unwitting instigator in each case was a guy who could actually benefit from their absences. 'Tazmanian Devil over there kind of knocked out two guys today,' Harris said, referring to rookie Terrence Williams. Harris was injured while he was backpedaling in a defensive transition: Williams stepped on his foot and 'My body went one way and the ankle went another.' Lee, who missed the last four days of work because of a bruised left foot, had the more serious injury. After colliding with Williams in a rebounding drill, he landed badly, his right ankle swelled. Though X-rays were negative, he could miss a few days."
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal: "Mike Miller, traded from Minnesota to Washington during the offseason, has moved around in the NBA more than he thought he would. Miller spent six seasons with the Griz and is now on his fourth team. He acknowledged being a bit surprised to see Iverson land in Memphis. 'Especially a great player like him, to see him move around,' Miller said. 'That puts some comfort in me because I've been moving around a bit. You see stuff like that, but that's the NBA, you find a place and you go out there and play as hard as they can. I know he's going to play hard.' Miller offered this advice to Iverson about the fans in Memphis: 'They love basketball. If they get out there and win some games, they are going to love him.' "
- Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: "With newly acquired Emeka Okafor out for this week's three preseason games, the first tonight in Philips Arena in Atlanta against the Hawks, Hilton Armstrong might have had yet another chance to impress Coach Byron Scott with his ability to play in the post. But a strained left thigh is jeopardizing that possibility, according to Scott, who said Tuesday he might rest Armstrong for the first two games. ... Already this season, pundits are predicting that Armstrong's $2.8 million salary will be the perfect trading-deadline number to erase from New Orleans' payroll to lessen the expected blow of a luxury-tax bill at the end of the season. Yet Armstrong, in his fourth year and the Hornets' first-round draft pick in 2006, has never been far from a positive assessment in the last week and half since the team convened for training camp in Lafayette. Almost every day, when someone asked Scott to evaluate the players in camp, Armstrong's name has been one of the first he has mentioned. Why? 'Two things,' Scott said. 'No. 1, his conditioning is fantastic. No. 2, he's just much more aggressive than he has been in the past. And No. 3 is probably his confidence level. Those three things have been pretty evident when you watch him out here playing.' "
- Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun: "It took the crowd of 7,213 at the John Labatt Centre about five minutes before they started chanting the name of their favourite new player, Reggie Evans. And Evans no doubt will become a fan favourite at the Air Canada Centre too. He brings a style of play -- toughness, rebounding, energy -- which the Raptors have lacked in recent seasons. Last night, in the Raptors' 107-98 loss to the 'host' Philadelphia 76ers, the energetic Evans lived up to his advance billing, firing on all cylinders right from the opening buzzer. In the first quarter, the former Iowa star picked up six points (despite missing a number of layups under the basket), three steals, two offensive rebounds and an assist -- prompting the chant of 'Reggie, Reggie, Reggie'. 'It was a cool,' Evans said of the crowd. 'But at the end of the day, we've got to get the fans a win.' "
- Sam Amick of The Sacramento Bee: "Tyreke Evans received the start from Kings coach Paul Westphal and didn't look likely to give it up anytime soon, finishing with 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting, two assists, five rebounds and just one turnover in 24 minutes. His play continued to be predictable in all the right kinds of ways, with no one mistaking him for a pure point guard but nearly everyone recognizing the sheer impact he can have on a game. 'He looked like a veteran out there,' Kings coach Paul Westphal said of the player taken fourth overall in the June draft out of Memphis. 'He fit right in. For a first game on the road in a place like this against a team like this, there were a lot of good things to take away from it.' "
- Elliott Teaford of the Long Beach Press-Telegram: "Derek Fisher worked out with Peter Park, who has served as the strength and conditioning coach for cyclist Lance Armstrong, during the summer. As a result, Fisher showed up for training camp, older, wiser and just as fit as ever. Maybe fitter. It was a clear signal to all concerned he was back and ready for a run at a second consecutive NBA championship. It also was a sign he wouldn't be content to fade into the background after winning the fourth title of his career. Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown, the heirs apparent, took notice. 'Fisher's been around,' the 22-year-old Farmar said. 'He's won four rings. He still takes care of himself. He still gets the job done, so I've got to continue to keep working and support him in practice. Shannon is going to be there, too. We're all going to keep pushing each other, and that's going to make us better.' Farmar also is in the final season of his contract, so he has a good deal to prove as he hopes to play well enough to secure a big payday next July. Pushing for more playing time, battling Fisher in practice is the only way to get a bigger and better deal."
- Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: "The last few years in Warriors world, the atmosphere has been nothing short of volatile. Players often speak of the unpredictability of the Golden State environment. Then there's Andris Biedrins. The 23-year-old center is a picture of consistency for the Warriors, one of the few reliable producers. Perhaps his most important area of consistency is his steady improvement. Biedrins has increased his scoring and rebounding averages in each of his five NBA seasons, and he has expanded his presence in the locker room. Can the Warriors expect more from him? He thinks so. 'I can always get better,' said Biedrins, who at one point last season posted a triple-double in 17 consecutiv
e games, one off the Warriors' record. 'You want to keep adding stuff to your game.' "
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Vince Carter executed the beginning of the pick-and-roll perfectly. Carter drove past the defender who had been guarding him, sped into the lane and threw the basketball to Dwight Howard. Problem was, Howard wasn't expecting the ball. 'Man, I didn't know you were going to pass it,' Howard said. 'I thought you were going to score.' That sequence from a recent practice -- and described to reporters by Carter -- illustrates perhaps the biggest challenge the Orlando Magic face this preseason: The addition of so many new players means the defending Eastern Conference champions must build team chemistry all over again. The chemistry experiment will continue tonight when the Magic play the Miami Heat at Amway Arena. 'I want us to have an understanding season from Day One,' Carter said. 'We're trying to make our way through, instead of just feeling our way.' "
- Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "While all Green eyes are certain to be on Kevin Garnett tonight when the Celtics take the floor in Hidalgo, Texas, for their preseason opener against the Rockets, Doc Rivers doesn't see this as a grand opening. 'No, it's just another day,' the coach said after yesterday's practice. 'I'm sure it'll be billed as that though. You know, he's back on opening night as far as I'm concerned. Right now he's just going to play basketball.' The Celts will continue to try to manage Garnett through his comeback from right knee surgery, though both the club and player reiterated there is no trouble with the repaired area. But Rivers noted he'll keep KG out if the shin splints and calf problems persist."
- Broderick Turner and Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "Derek Fisher, 35, in his 14th season and the final year of a contract that pays him $5 million, said he plans on playing beyond the 2009-10 NBA season. 'I'm definitely not shutting it down after this season,' Fisher said after the Lakers' practice Monday. He plays point guard, a position in which so many younger players are quick and looking to attack him. Fisher knows that teammates Jordan Farmar, 22, and Shannon Brown, 23, are looking to push him for the starting job. Fisher is not ready to think about retirement. 'I don't see any reason why he can't play past this season,' Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. 'I know that we all think that we can get away with age, but age does have a tendency to level us out as we go along. But he's done such a great job of keeping his whole physique and his training together, it's awful hard to see any flaws in him right now.' Fisher said he spoke with Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak so he was aware of where Fisher stands."
- Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "The Cavs made a lot of fans unhappy over the course of last season by standing up in front of their bench. The NBA has since ruled players can no longer stand in front of the fans. LeBron James isn't sure he likes the ruling. 'It's hard to take that out of the game,' he said. 'Part of the game is emotion. Do you want to take that out of the game? Sometimes, your teammates are all you have.' The league has softened its stance on the dress code. James said he thinks the same thing will happen with the no-standing order. 'That's something you can't take out of the game, guys cheering,' he said. 'There's no way you can do it. That's part of the reason we played so well. We cheered on each other.' "
- Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times: "The N.B.A. union began tracking the classroom migration this year. Debbie Rothstein Murman, the director for career development for the union, said the number was much higher than in the past, although she does not have earlier numbers. For elite athletes, who command seven-figure salaries, returning to college is an investment and a hedge against what can be an uncertain future. Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets resumed classes at Wake Forest, and Russell Westbrook's teammate Kevin Durant continued working toward his degree at Texas. ... The Thunder and the Golden State Warriors each had three players enrolled in summer courses. While some are establishing building blocks for the future, others are fulfilling promises to loved ones or aiming to become the first member of a family to graduate from college. 'I have a younger brother, and it sets an example for him and how important it is,' said Westbrook, who declared for the N.B.A. after his sophomore season at U.C.L.A. The lectures could be boring, he said, and it took an entire day to write one page of the first paper assigned to him. But he also had the benefit of attending a university where a number of N.B.A. players convened for pickup games. So Westbrook easily shuttled from the court to the classroom. He recently posted on Twitter that he had received all B's in his summer classes."
- Scott Cacciola of The Commercial Appeal: "It is a coincidence that Allen Iverson's official public unveiling as a member of the Grizzlies will play out tonight in Richmond, Va., a short drive down Interstate 64 to the Atlantic shore, where he grew up. The Grizzlies' preseason opener against the Washington Wizards promises to be a homecoming of sorts for Iverson, still beloved by many in the state who watched him star in football and basketball at Bethel High in Hampton, Va. But the game also underscores an indisputable fact, one to which the rest of the team must grow accustomed: Iverson, at this stage of his career, is a bigger brand and greater draw than the Grizzlies. And it could create an interesting dynamic as Lionel Hollins continues to emphasize the need for team building."
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Aaron Brooks has seen his role change in small ways. He is the first point guard in drills, rather than waiting his turn. He has been featured in appearances and often the first request of the media during the sessions after practices. 'I still kind of know what the rookies are going through,' Brooks said. 'Everything is going 100 miles per hour. The thing that is most different for me is that everything slows down. You've seen everything. You know all the plays. You know what people are going to do before they do it. You relax, go out and play and try to be more vocal.' There will be more important tests, beginning with the back-to-back today and Wednesday against the Spurs and Celtics and similarly swift point guards Tony Parker and Rajon Rondo. It could be premature to expect Brooks to run in that fast company, but he said he does not mind the expectations or feel the pressure. As the trip back to McAllen reminded, he has come too far too quickly to worry about where he can go next."
- Scott Souza of The MetroWest Daily News: "With only six practices in the first seven days of preseason, and not a single double session, Celtics coach Doc Rivers acknowledges he is not even close to putting in all the sets and plays he normally might by the eve of the exhibition opener. But that's fine with the Celtics. With the experience both coming back and coming into this year's roster, they may still be well ahead of the game. 'We put in a few sets and we're playing off that so well right now,' said Paul Pierce. 'Doc sees these guys are picking it up easy. But at the same time we want to get in a good flow with the things we have in there so far.' Newcomer Rasheed Wallace predicted the collective basketball IQ of the main rotation will allow the Celtics to create so much out of a handful of sets that a book full of plays will hardly be necessary. Ray Allen said yesterday he's seen evidence of that in how few plays the team runs even when it's trying to go through plays with Wallace and fellow free-agent acquisition Marquis Daniels."
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "In the past decade, only one Western Conference team did what the Nuggets are trying to do this season. The stars aligned above, fittingly, for the Suns in 2005, and three of their players competed in the NBA All-Star Game. As for Denver, if Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups play as well as they did last last season, they will be headed to Dallas. But who's the third? 'Shaq is gone, Yao is out,' Nuggets coach George Karl said. 'This is the year of opportunity for Nene.' For the past couple of years, Karl has mentioned that Nene could someday be an all-star. This season might be his best chance. With Shaquille O'Neal in Cleveland and Houston's Yao Ming out with a foot injury, the 6-foot-11, 250-pound Nene is on the shortlist of the West's elite centers, along with the Lakers' Pau Gasol and the Suns' Amare Sto
udemire, who technically is a power forward, as is Minnesota's Al Jefferson. Also, Emeka Okafor has joined New Orleans, bringing his 13.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game to the Hornets."
- Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "When Antonio McDyess got into the first five-on-five scrimmage of training camp with his new teammates, he knew what to expect of most of the other big men. Once he found himself matched up against Ian Mahinmi, however, he began to wonder about a youngster with uncommon size and athleticism. 'I said, 'Oh, my goodness, this guy is good,' ' McDyess said. 'I wondered why I hadn't heard more about him. I love his game.' Spurs fans have been waiting to see more of Mahinmi since the Spurs made him the 28th pick in the 2005 draft. Beginning with tonight's preseason opener at the AT&T Center against the Houston Rockets, they will get another chance. Mahinmi knows tonight's game is the start of the most important preseason of his young career. He must prove he merits consideration for a spot in a frontline rotation that has added McDyess, veteran Theo Ratliff and rookie DeJuan Blair."
- Tom Enlund of the Journal Sentinel: "During a water break at a recent Milwaukee Bucks practice at the team's training center, forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute positioned himself alone at a basket and hoisted a number of jump shots while the other players quenched their thirst. It's also not uncommon to see the second-year player stay after practice and put up even more jumpers with assistant coaches. Improving his mid-range jump shot has been high on Mbah a Moute's list since the end of last season and it's something he took seriously over the summer and in training camp. 'He's put in hours and hours on it,' said Bucks assistant coach Bill Peterson, who worked regularly with Mbah a Moute over the summer. 'And good, quality time. Not just messing around. I think we'll see progress. Will he be where we want him to be? Not quite yet. He's only a second-year player. He's really focused on it. He wants to get better.' "
- Eric Koreen of the National Post: "It is only pre-season. Veterans do not get overly worked up about the first exhibition game of the year. Rookies, though, might get a bit over-excited to play their first professional basketball game. That is where those veterans are supposed to calm the youngsters down. Toronto Raptors veteran Chris Bosh is taking a different approach with the team's lone rookie, DeMar DeRozan. He is doling out some more practical advice. 'Don't mess up,' Bosh said. Well, that should relax the 20-year-old as he kicks off his career when the Raptors visit London, Ont., to play the Philadelphia 76ers.
- Mark Woods for the Chicago Sun-Times: "With Derrick Rose nursing an injury and John Salmons 4,000 miles away awaiting the birth of a child, Kirk Hinrich figures to start for the Bulls today when they meet the Utah Jazz in an exhibition game at the O2 Arena. As for when that will happen again, who knows? ''Right now, they'll probably be bringing me off the bench,' Hinrich said. ''John is just more of a natural two-guard. I'm more of a combo. I really don't care. I just want to play when it counts and help this team any way I can.' Ask any member of the Bulls, and they'll tell you they need all the help they can get after losing leading scorer Ben Gordon, who signed a free-agent deal with Detroit. And for Hinrich, starting his seventh year in the NBA, it's a chance to re-emphasize his worth after he missed 31 games because of injury last season and underwent an awkward transition to the bench."
- Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "Dwyane Wade couldn't do anything but laugh Monday night. The Heat star had just taken an outlet pass and was going to glide in for an emphatic dunk late in the second quarter of the exhibition opener for the Pistons and Heat. But midway through the glide, Pistons rookie Austin Daye came over to block the dunk and knock it out of bounds, eliciting a cheer from the sparse Palace crowd. Wade looked around and grinned. Later in the possession there was a Pistons foul, and Wade just joked and laughed with the Pistons' bench -- particularly Tayshaun Prince -- telling it that it was a great play. The good cheer continued throughout the night for the Pistons as they opened with an 87-83 victory. Pistons coach John Kuester grinned when asked about the play afterward, saying Wade's reaction showed his class. Kuester remarked how Daye and his fellow members of the Pistons' draft class -- Jonas Jerebko and DaJuan Summers -- will compete against anybody and doesn't really realize when they are going against a superstar."
- Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times: "It takes a village to raise a free-throw shooting percentage. Or something like that. But advice and affirmation from learned elders and helpful teammates can go only so far when you are flirting with sub-Shaq-like numbers. The Clippers' DeAndre Jordan, mindful of the grim 38.5% free-throw shooting in his rookie season, got his 6-foot-11 self into the gym in the summer. And stayed in the gym. 'I'm working on my free throws. A lot, a lot,' Jordan said. 'At the beginning of the summer, I had to make 10 in a row after I worked out to actually leave. The first couple of days it was tough. I would be here, like, an hour. I'd get to nine, like, eight times and missed the 10th in a row, like twirling the ball out. I'd be kicking a ball all the way over there. I'd have to stick with it and the time would get shorter and shorter.' He went six for nine from the line Sunday in the Clippers' opening preseason game at Oakland, a 108-101 loss to the Golden State Warriors. Jordan had his own eye-catching numbers: 22 points and 10 rebounds."
- Rachel Tobin Ramos of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The movie theater that bears Magic Johnson's name at Greenbriar Mall -- opened amid much hoopla 13 years ago -- will show its last movie on Sunday. The theater owner, Kansas City, Mo.,-based AMC Entertainment, said the 12-screen complex is underperforming. Employees were told last week the theater will close Oct. 11. The company would not say how many people are employed at the theater or whether they will be offered positions at other AMC properties. Ex-NBA star Johnson is no longer a partner in the theater, though it has borne his name since he invested $8 million to build the complex in 1996."
- 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 ESPN.com'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."
Wayne Winston is a professor at Indiana University and for the last nine years he has been Mark Cuban's stat guru for the Dallas Mavericks. Winston's recently published book "Mathletics," explains much of his work -- complete with formulas and spreadsheets. In this installement (see the first, and a follow-up) of a TrueHoop series based on discussions with Winston, he begins by discussing how his metrics treat some of the NBA's elite names.
Tracy McGrady is a player who has never helped his team as much as people thought. Allen Iverson -- for one or two years he was really good.
The best player of the decade, though, I'd say, was Kevin Garnett. We have a rating over the last eight or nine years, and Garnett comes out number one. And I think everybody else [other stat experts] has that too, so that's nice.
Although I don't like Garnett. When I watch on TV, he's turning too edgy. Chippy attitude.
If the Cavaliers had played Joe Smith in place of Ben Wallace, Cleveland would have beaten the Magic and made the Finals, says Winston. "I would not," he says, "have let this happen."
(Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images)
Another guy who is totally overrated is Amare Stoudemire. I mean, he's a stat stuffer. Troy Murphy gets great stats, but never does much for the team. (UPDATE: Winston amends this statement: "With Golden State Troy Murphy was a stat stuffer who did little to help the team but with Indiana the last two years he has improved to where he is an above average NBA player.") There's a bunch of guys like that.
Andre Iguodala, though. Whenever he's on the court for Philadelphia, they're great. Whenever he's off, they suck. God knows why he's a good player. I watch him play, and I don't know. (More on Iguodala.)
Jason Kidd is a little like that, but you can see why he makes guys better. But not Iguodala.
Sometimes I feel like I can see Kidd's greatness, but other times, at this stage of his career, I can't.
Kidd can't guard a fast guard. They go right by him like he's standing still. They always did. Against Chris Paul ... Jason Kidd might as well be standing still on defense.
But the interesting thing: Devin Harris can nail Tony Parker. But Steve Nash can beat Devin Harris. But Parker can beat Nash.
It's not transitive. We can show that. That's really interesting. That shouldn't be. But it is. There are probably a lot of other things like that.
If coaches see other examples of things like that, we can back them up with data. Del Harris really got to like us, I think, because a lot of times our numbers confirmed what he thought. It's hard to argue with the numbers when you've got a full amount of data on it.
Last year [Maverick assistant] Terry Stotts did a really great job asking us questions. Before the Spurs series, they asked us about Antoine Wright. He's not on the team anymore, thank god. OK, he had a bad rating in our system. But the fascinating thing was, when he played small forward, he was good. When he played shooting guard, he was terrible. So we can break that down. I can find every combination where he was small forward and he was good. Every combination where he was shooting guard he was terrible.Against the Spurs, they used him as a small forward and he was great. Every time he played for Howard at small forward, they killed the Spurs.
Things like this ... I needed the coach to ask me the question because I would have never thought of it. You don't just throw the numbers at the coach, because, I mean, 500,000 numbers! But if the coach understands what he's doing, and says "I think Antoine Wright can play small forward can you tell me if that's true?" That's how you use the stuff.
The best player of the decade, according to Winston's adjusted +/- stats.
(Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images)
What's the state of data for determining good and bad matchups?
It's hard. Because in the regular season, you don't have enough minutes that those two players have played against each other. In the playoffs, by the third game of the series, you pretty much have a good idea. But in the regular season, until they've played like the fourth game against each other ... then it might be worth something.
I don't know if last year's data on matchups ... I could use the last five years of the Spurs' data, which wouldn't be that bad. It's Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. But is Ginobili healed? I don't know. I could tell last year he was never going to get better.
But during the playoffs, that matchup stuff ... you can say that when Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen are on the court; I can pull up every minute, and I can see what works. You can see, you'd want to do that. If you're going to Game 7, maybe you can find a combination of your players that can handle the killer combination for the Celtics. There's always something.
Against the Nuggets, J.R. Smith and Chris Andersen just really killed the Mavericks [in the 2009 playoffs]. But, see, Dahntay Jones -- the Pacers signed him, but I think he's terrible. Every time he was in with those four good players, he made them bad. I mean, the Pacers thought he was better than Jarrett Jack. I don't get it.
Why did Cleveland lose to Orlando? I did a post on that. Everybody thinks Mike Brown did a bad job coaching, right? OK, when Ben Wallace played, they lost by a point a minute.
They have a stat guy who does this kind of work.
They used to have Dan Rosenbaum.
They still have Dan Rosenbaum.
Then ask Dan Rosenbaum why he let this happen. I would never let his happen.
The 57 minutes when Ben Wallace played, and they didn't have Joe Smith in there, they lost by 58 points.
How could they let that happen? Ben Wallace didn't have to play. He totally sucked. The rest of the series, the Cavaliers won by 43 points.
Didn't you feel like Cleveland sunk into Lake Erie when the Cavaliers lost that series? It didn't have to happen. The 57 minutes they lost by 58 points ... you didn't have to play Ben Wallace. They had Joe Smith. When Joe Smith played instead of Ben Wallace they did OK.
How could they not know that?
Maybe they knew it and the coach didn't listen. I mean, I should be fair here. But I mean, we would have definitely told that to the coach. When I send the analysis to the coaching staff, I'll put little tidbits in like that.
But I'll tell you what, the Cavaliers are going to be good this year, and it's not because of Shaq. It's because of Parker. Anthony Parker is really good. What happens with Delonte West wit
h this thing ... I don't know.
Do they need Delonte West?
I can tell you that Anthony Parker was really good for Toronto. Not every year is he really good in our system, but he's usually really good.
Delonte West was an average player who plays a lot of minutes. If he can't play, and Anthony Parker plays ... well, they're OK.
Everybody used to think you had to play a five [center], a four [power forward], a three [small forward], a two [shooting guard] and a one [point guard]. But Mike D'Antoni changed all that. He made Boris Diaw play every position. And I think that's ingenious. I mean, people make these stupid molds.
Even the Mavericks, when they play Brandon Bass and Dirk Nowitzki, I would say "when you play Bass at the five" -- and they would say "no it's Dirk at the five and Bass at the four ..."
Who cares? I mean, the two guys are on the court. I don't care. They don't know they're supposed to be the five or the four. They just know they're supposed to play basketball. But people always think that way, and D'Antoni did a nice job of changing that, I thought.
- You think the Lakers will retire Shaquille O'Neal's jersey? With bridges burned in Orlando and Miami, not much to show for his time in Phoenix, and twilight years in Cleveland ... O'Neal has the chance to become the greatest NBA player ever to not have his jersey retired.
- So, if Gilbert Arenas won't entertain us with off-court wit ... who will?
- The Spurs drafted, in DeJuan Blair, a player who grabbed a greater percentage of offensive rebounds than some teams. Blair, by himself, was a better offensive rebounder than Colorado was all together. The thing is, the Spurs are the worst offensive rebounding team in large part because they don't stick around to grab them, preferring instead to get back on defense. So ... how will Popovich play Blair? Something to watch.
- Little Amare Stoudemire.
- NCAA, if you're looking for an example of somebody who came to college for the basketball, but stayed for the academics ... here's your guy.
- Portland owner Paul Allen -- who knew? -- has just survived a profound health scare.
- Mike Dunleavy says he homebrewed what we now call effective field goal percentage in contract negotiations during his playing days.
- Video of Hakeem Olajuwon working out with Hasheem Thabeet and just a little time with Kobe Bryant. What a contrast in students for Olajuwon, huh? Maybe the most gifted and fluid offensive wing force in the modern NBA, compared to a big man whose offense, some scouts say, doesn't even belong in the NBA.
- The NBA offered some referees $575,000 to retire.
- First significant injury of the season: Bull Aaron Gray. Tyreke Evans has been sitting, too, although no word that it's serious.
- Shooting 3s from the corner: A good idea.
- NBA TV's Real Training Camp focused on the Denver Nuggets, and Roundball Mining Company's Jeremy has insight: "J.R. Smith is traditionally a slow starter, and in past Real Training Camps he has not had good shooting performances. Today he was on fire. In fact, I do not remember seeing him miss a shot. J.R. will be out the first seven games of the season, but hopefully when he comes back for game eight he will be shooting like he did today."
- Assessing the Thunder's depth chart, which is confusing thanks to multiple players who play multiple positions.
- The Bucks had a crisis last season: No one could hit a 3. Jeremy of Bucksketball: "But the Bucks have taken steps to rectify the situation, right? Supposedly. Don't get me wrong, the Bucks have done a thing or two this off season designed to rectify the three point shooting problem, I'm just not certain I'm buying all the moves. They've brought on Carlos Delfino, an alleged shooter; Ersan Ilyasova, a possible shooter; and will be bringing back a healthy Michael Redd, a slightly overrated shooter. In the process of adding (and re-adding in Redd's case) these three the Bucks managed to lose one of their best shooters from last year in Charlie Villanueva ..."
- RapsFan of RaptorsRepublic on Bryan Colangelo: "We all read between the lines, that BC swung for the fences this summer and put together what he thought was a solid team that improved over last season (and to a degree I do share this sentiment), but when he actually came out said the goal is 50 wins, wow. You would have hoped he learned his lesson from last season's claim that this was the most talented team he has assembled in Toronto, and managed expectations. He went the other direction, and what that has done is fuse most fans, and the media to a degree, with a new sense of optimism."
- Brandon Roy tells Benjamin Golliver of BlazersEdge about the sneaky defense the Blazers are working on: "It's a man defense but it's that we're so tight and we're helping so much it appears that it's a zone just to throw the opponent off."
- Charles Barkley says Twitter is for losers.
- Ron Artest, comic book character.
- Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "After missing 43 games last season -- including all of the playoffs -- with various ankle ailments, the prescription for Manu Ginobili's offseason included rest, rest and more rest. The one non-negotiable rule: No picking up a basketball. 'I guess they didn't trust my judgment,' Ginobili said. Ginobili arrived at training camp completely healed of the stress fracture in his right distal fibula that ended his season on April 5, and had transformed one of the league's most feared postseason performers into a helpless spectator for the Spurs' first-round playoff ouster against Dallas. Of all the additions the team made during the offseason, and there were many, the one they might be most excited about is a healthy Manu Ginobili. The Spurs were 36-12 with him in the lineup last season. They were 23-20 without him, including five playoff games. 'Hopefully, Manu will just be Manu,' Tony Parker said. The last time Ginobili took an entire Argentine winter off -- in 2007 -- he responded with the best season of his NBA career."
- Ramona Shelburne of the Los Angeles Daily News: "One thing about Tuesday's annual Lakers media day was downright shocking. As reporters, camera crews, radio producers and assorted other random people with handheld cameras positioned themselves to speak with the newest Laker -- Ron Artest -- and the newest Kardashian -- Lamar Odom -- the reigning Finals MVP walked onto the court with hardly anybody noticing. That would be Kobe Bryant, in case you've been too distracted watching the live feed of Odom's Sunday nuptials on TMZ's Web site. Two years ago, his entrance to the Lakers' practice facility meant the End of Days had been averted, with reporters stationed in the parking lot jotting down his exact arrival time after he spent the summer asking to play on Pluto. Last season, his was the only voice that carried much weight after the franchise recovered from a humiliating loss to the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. But this time around, Bryant looked like an extra on the set just trying to earn his SAG card. 'I love it,' he joked. 'It's cool and smooth.' Bryant, asked if he was grateful to Odom and Artest for taking the spotlight off of him, smiled and said, "I'll be thanking them all season long." He meant it as a joke, but no one will be laughing if any of the new, let's call it 'exposure,' becomes a distraction for the Lakers on the court."
- Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "So much for taking it easy on his stitched-up fingers. Hawks forward Josh Smith was on the floor for all but the scrimmage portion of Tuesday's first training-camp practice. He did this after saying Monday that he would 'probably stay out of the mix' to keep the stitches between the index and middle fingers on his left hand out of harm's way. 'I've got a pad on there, and my fingers are separated with tape to keep it all safe and secure,' Smith said. 'I did some conditioning on the treadmill while they did the five-minute [scrimmage] drill, but other than that, I feel great. My body is in great shape, and nobody needs to be worried about anything. This was just a minor setback.' Smith gashed his hand two weeks ago during a pickup game at the Hawks' practice facility and needed seven stitches to close the cut."
- Mike Jones of The Washington Times: "The day before the Washington Wizards began their first training camp under Flip Saunders, Caron Butler said he was anxious to see how things would unfold. He never expected what awaited the Wizards at their team dinner Monday night. Saunders, a part-time magician, brought in John-Ivan Palmer, who calls himself 'The Fastest and Funniest Hypnotist,' to provide entertainment and a little team building. Palmer, upon whom Saunders called a few times during his days with the Minnesota Timberwolves, had several players join him on stage. He successfully hypnotized Nick Young, Mike James and Gilbert Arenas but couldn't quite get DeShawn Stevenson or Butler to fall under his spell. At one point, whenever the lights went off, Young galloped around the room on a balloon as if it were a horse. James couldn't remember his last name and barked like a dog every time he heard the word 'defeat.' Arenas couldn't open his hand and moved like he was using a hula hoop."
- Kate Fagan of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "When last season ended for the 76ers, it did so with inner turmoil that included players' claims of mismanagement. A month later, the team had a new head coach: Eddie Jordan. Yesterday at St. Joseph's University -- home of the Sixers' training camp -- Jordan began installing his standards for discipline, efficiency, and execution. 'He's very strict on things,' guard Lou Williams said. 'One of the main things, he stopped the drill and we had to tuck our shirts in, and I think that's the first time we've had a coach that's been so set in his ways. And I think the type of team that we are, we're going to need that. We're going to need our coach to be our leader, and it's going to have to transfer to the guys on the court.' The Sixers practiced twice yesterday. The morning session went three hours, and Jordan focused on defense. The night practice was dedicated to the Princeton offense, Jordan's pass-and-cut system."
- John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Despite having offers elsewhere for more money and years, Jannero Pargo didn't hesitate to accept when the Bulls called over the summer and offered a one-year, $2 million deal. 'It's my city. I'm from here and I'm familiar with the organization,' he said. 'But most of all, I thought it was an opportunity for me to come in and help a team be a little more successful than it was last year. Things are moving in the right direction and I want to be a part of it.' Pargo, who played at Robeson, spent two-plus seasons with the Bulls from 2004 to 2006. Although he was always caught in a numbers game in a crowded backcourt then, Pargo was a valuable backup because he had the ability to come in and provide consistent scoring without consistent playing time. 'That's one of the pluses I bring to a team, just being ready at all times; not playing a game or two and being ready that third game when called upon,' he said."
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal: "Veteran guard Allen Iverson appeared to enjoy his new surroundings. The 34-year-old in his 14th season sang whenever there were stops in the action, yet went through every drill with high energy or in game mode. 'I still hate (training camp),' Iverson said, laughing. 'But if you can get through training camp, it makes it easier to get through the season. ... It's different because I'm the oldest one in here. I feel like one of the coaches.' The Grizzlies' first scrimmage during the morning session had Ive
rson working with the second unit. Gay, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo and Marc Gasol made up the first team. Hollins cautioned not to read too much into early lineup combinations. He told the team that the players who started last season begin camp in starting roles."
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "When asked if Kevin McHale's approach with him in particular benefitted him last season or if it was too conservative, Kevin Love answered simply, 'Too conservative.' He also admitted he reported to his first training camp a year ago this week in no shape for such a long professional season. 'Absolutely not,' Love said. 'I'm 20 pounds less coming into camp than I was last year. It took me a month and a half, two months to get into shape last season. Coming into training camp in shape this year really is going to help me in the long run.' Wolves new basketball boss David Kahn calls Love 'remarkably sleeker.' New coach Kurt Rambis terms Love's physical condition 'OK' and 'good enough' for what Rambis will expect from him on a team instructed to run, run, run this season."
- Howard Beck of The New York Times: "Danilo Gallinari's scouting report came to life Tuesday night, with dunks, deft passes and fluid moves. From the sideline, Mike D'Antoni could only smile and try not to get carried away. It was just one training-camp scrimmage, the Knicks' first of 2009. But watching a healthy, energetic Gallinari run the floor and make plays underlined what D'Antoni, the Knicks' coach, has been saying all along: the kid can play. 'I'm excited,' D'Antoni said. 'I'll try to tone it down. But you see that he knows how to play.' The superlatives and expectations keep growing for Gallinari, the sixth overall pick in the 2008 draft. He showed no signs of discomfort in Tuesday's two practices, or any indication that he had undergone minor back surgery five months ago. He did, however, show off his full range of skills while playing with the first unit in the evening scrimmage."
- Al Iannazzone of The Record: "The Nets opened training camp Tuesday not worried about who they lost or who might be coming next season but how they can make something of the 2009-10 campaign. To a man, the Nets talked about proving wrong the critics who picked them to be awful, and doing it with defense. It was so stressed that when coach Lawrence Frank was asked when he would put some new offensive plays in he replied, 'We're not doing offense.' So many things have to go right for the Nets to have an unexpectedly successful season, and everything starts with point guard Devin Harris. Vince Carter's trade to Orlando in June means the Nets are Harris' team. 'I like the sound of it,' Harris said after the first practice. 'You put your mark on it, your personality on it. It's not so much talking about it or voicing it but leading by example.' Who would fill the leadership void was of major concern but Harris, 26, seems ready to take the next step in his NBA development."
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Raja Bell said the core group all being together this preseason should instill some continuity the team lacked. Bell agrees with Mohammed that there's enough talent to reach the playoffs. But he acknowledges the margin for error is small because of the absence of a superstar. 'If you have a Kobe Bryant or a LeBron James, you can get away with a little less continuity,' Bell said. 'When you have a team of guys who are all good players, but no guy who is going to the free-throw line 27 times a night, you have to play together. That's going to be the beauty of us all being in the same training camp (following a season of roster churn). And Larry Brown is the perfect guy to navigate us through those waters early.' "
- Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: "The ice man cometh to Cajun country. And it was a good thing. After a first-day workout that lasted a little more than 3 1/2 hours, the Hornets' training and equipment staff was busy distributing more than 40 ice bags to the 17 players in training camp. 'More than a normal day,' equipment manager David Jovanovic said of the total number of swelling-reducing packs used Tuesday. All-Star forward David West sat on the sideline of Louisiana-Lafayette's Moncla Indoor Practice Facility with a bag on his back, one on each knee, and one on his left hamstring. All-Star guard Chris Paul had both knees iced. Rookie No. 1 draft pick Darren Collison walked around with ice attached to the back of each calf. Forward Julian Wright had his knees and calves iced down. 'As advertised,' Collison said of his first day in an NBA camp. 'We were cramping a little bit, but it's something you just have to push through.' "
- Michael Grange of the Globe and Mail: "Jay Triano has instituted a policy of no phones or computers for those watching practice, a ban that extends to team president Bryan Colangelo, who admitted that he was going through withdrawal after going nearly two hours without using his Blackberry. Colangelo said he's allowed to check his messages, but if he needs to respond to one, he has to leave the gym. The idea is that time in the gym should be spent on basketball; if other business needs to be done, it's less distracting if it's taken care of elsewhere, Colangelo said."
- Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "In the backdrop of the possibility of George Karl getting a contract extension with the Denver Nuggets this season is a milestone that would make it all worth the hassle. 1,000 wins. Friends and family have already broached the subject of Karl staying in the NBA at least until the mark is reached. 'There's some summer talk every once in a while about winning 1,000 that my kids have kind of joked with and some of my friends feel it would be a great mark,' Karl said. 'It means I'm an old (guy) that's coached a lot of games and have had some good teams.' "
- Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "If he is at all concerned about the reception that awaits him at EnergySolutions Arena, Carlos Boozer wasn't letting on Tuesday, just two days before the Jazz will host Denver in their preseason opener. 'I haven't thought about it at all, to be honest,' Boozer said. 'I'm looking forward to playing, looking forward to proving a lot to everybody, to myself, and getting back to being an All-Star player.' Back for a sixth season in Utah, Boozer will be making his first appearance Thursday before Jazz fans since conducting a series of offseason interviews in which he pushed for a trade, even naming Chicago and Miami as preferred destinations. With the Jazz having opted to bring him back, Boozer was asked if he thought fans eventually would be supportive. 'Honestly, I don't know,' he said. 'I hope they support me. I hope the fans support me. I love our fans. I hope they know that I'm happy to be here, love being here. I'm going to bust my tail for them and give them everything I've got and prove everything on the court.' "
- Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "For those who thought the Dwyane Wade Show reached its climax last season, it's safe to say they will be pleasantly surprised. It hardly is a stretch to consider that Wade will be better than last year. In his seventh year, Bryant's scoring average jumped almost five points to 30 a game. Wade is entering his seventh season. Want to compare ages instead of experience? Fine. When Bryant was 27, he had his best statistical season, averaging a ridiculous 35.4 points. Wade begins this season at age 27. 'This is the prime of his career,' Spoelstra said. 'He's  years old and he'll never have times like this again when he gets older. This is what players want to play at, when they have the experience but also the athleticism and quickness. I think he can play at this level for another four, five, six years.' Now that makes sense."
- Corey Brewer says that to him, Manu Ginobili is the toughest guy to guard in the NBA.
- Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo, as quoted by @StackMack on Twitter: "I ran out of players to trade."
- Nate Robinson says he's not bitter about not getting a longer deal, and that the Knick coaching staff has been working "to perfection."
- Lots of livestreaming. For instance, Brandon Roy is video chatting right now. The Spurs are streaming live. The Warriors. Many others.
- "Seeing my name on the jersey, it's really starting to hit home -- man I'm really in the NBA. It's awesome." -- Blazer rookie Jeff Pendergraph
- Brian Windhorst, on Twitter: "Delonte West declines to comment directly on arrest. He is in good spirits."
- Mike D'Antoni, via the Knicks' official Twitter feed: "I don't see why we can't put five guys out there 6-8 or over. We got some guys who can do some things ..." Knicks taller than 6-8 include Jordan Hill, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Al Harrington, David Lee, Jared Jeffries, Darko Milicic and Eddy Curry.
- What about Eddy Curry? Marc Berman tweets: "Curry has lost weight but must lose grotesque Media Day beard. Curry already missed last 4 pre-camp workouts with hamstring and calf."
- Michael Lee of the Washington Post: "Gilbert Arenas decided that he didn't want to pay a hefty fine so he spoke with reporters. Arenas purposely tried to be subdued, surly and serious and sounded reluctant to speak at the beginning. He scowled, offered simple, short answers and mumbles. But he wound up talking for about 30 minutes, adding some jokes from time to time. The man can't help it. The biggest thing he had to say was that he was done being an entertainer. No more Agent Zero. No more hibachi. No more antics. No more blogging. And he says he has no plans to get on Twitter. Arenas said he is focused only on playing basketball and being more a leader for the team."
- Doc Rivers says Kevin Garnett has no medical restrictions. UPDATE: Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times tweets: "KG: ready to go and been playing 5-on-5 since last week. Still no explanation for why the injury took so long to heal."
- Phil Jackson, like Mike D'Antoni (above) is dreaming of a large lineup of Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
- The Celtics have won 17 titles, but have 18 banners hanging in their practice facility. The last one is blank. Doc Rivers says it was Red Auerbach's idea.
- The Rockets have this video.
- Brian Windhorst: "An omen? Complete power failure at Cleveland Clinic Courts."
- Ben Q. Rock of Third Quarter Collapse, via Twitter: "Just walked up to Adonal Foyle. He was talking about socialized medicine."
- The leadership in Orlando -- Otis Smith and Stan Van Gundy -- get contract extensions.
- BlazersEdge quoting Greg Oden on Taylor Swift getting interrupted by Kanye West: "If I was 17 years old and somebody did that to me, I'd be in the back crying."
- Gilbert Arenas says his personal trainer, Tim Grover, will be coming to Washington to teach the training staff. Bullets Forever quotes: "What NBA staffs don't have, he has. He has a person who does acupuncture. He has a chiropractor, he has PT people. He has it all in one facility, so you get all the treatment you need right there. The stuff I needed, we didn't have here."
- LeBron James says he may or may not play for Team USA in the World Championships next summer.
- Stephen Jackson is still unhappy, and Monta Ellis is getting in on the act, too, saying he can't imagine starting alongside prized rookie Stephen Curry. Marcus Thompson on Inside the Warriors: "'I can't.' Why not? 'Cause I can't.' But why not? Too small? 'I just can't. I can't. Can't win that way.' Monta went on to say if coach Don Nelson -- who has been saying all offseason he wants to play them together, is hoping to re-create the Ellis-Baron Davis tandem, it ain't happening because, and I am summarizing here, Curry ain't Baron. He doesn't have Baron's experience and size to make it a productive backcourt."
- Ron Artest tweets that he recently learned he, and his proposed reality show, are too "ghetto" for BET. I'm thinking this is one reality show that belongs on the internet.
- Good day for rookies. Sacramento's Jon Brockman: "Just put my full uniform on for the first time. WOW what a great feeling."
- Larry Brown, using the media to needle Alexis Ajinca.
- Frank Dell'Apa of the Boston Globe, quoting Rajon Rondo, who would like a contract extension but is trying not to think about it too much: "I want to be wherever I'm wanted the next 10 years; if Danny wants me, I'll be here the next 10 years. I have sat down with Danny [Ainge], but we didn't speak about contract, we talked about expectations for the season. I try to focus on -- trying to get a ring, got to get one this year."