TrueHoop: Utah Jazz
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The Lakers have a chance to move as high as the 7 seed, or miss the playoffs completely.
Wednesday is the final day of the NBA regular season, and there’s no shortage of reasons to tune in. There are still playoff spots to be clinched, seeds to be determined and individual honors to be claimed.
Wild West Playoff Picture
Here’s how much we know for sure in the Western Conference entering Wednesday. The Oklahoma City Thunder are the 1 seed, and the San Antonio Spurs are No. 2. That’s it.
The Denver Nuggets have the inside track for the 3 seed. They’ll lock it down with a home win over the Phoenix Suns, or if the Los Angeles Clippers lose what could be the Kings’ final game in Sacramento. If Denver loses and the Clippers win, the Clippers take the third slot.
The worst the Nuggets or Clippers could do is the 4 seed and a First Round matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies, but who hosts the first game of that series is still to be decided.
If Memphis, currently with the same record as the Clippers, ends with a better record, it will have home-court advantage of the series, despite being seeded lower.
From six on down, it gets even more convoluted. If the Houston Rockets beat the Los Angeles Lakers (10:30 ET, ESPN) and the Golden State Warriors lose to the Portland Trail Blazers, the Rockets knock the Warriors out of the 6 seed.
The Warriors can’t fall any lower than seventh, but Houston could potentially fall as low as eighth. If the Lakers beat the Rockets, the Lakers take the 7 seed, knocking Houston to eighth.
If the Lakers lose to the Rockets, it opens the window for the Utah Jazz to get the final playoff spot with a win over the Grizzlies (8 ET, ESPN).
East is Much Simpler
If the Western Conference scenarios were too confusing, you might like the Eastern Conference much better.
Six of the eight playoff seeds are already locked in. The Chicago Bulls hold the 5 seed, and will hold onto it with either a home win over the Washington Wizards, or an Atlanta Hawks road loss to the New York Knicks.
Of course, with the 5 seed comes a potential Conference Semifinals matchup with the Miami Heat.
Individual Honors on the Line
The biggest head-to-head battle Wednesday night seemed to be Kevin Durant chasing Carmelo Anthony for the scoring title, but news that Durant will not play means that Anthony becomes the second Knicks player to win a scoring title, joining Bernard King.
Curry is averaging 3.5 3-pointers this season, meaning the odds are in his favor to break the record.
With Durant not playing, it also means Trail Blazers rookie Damian Lillard will likely lead the NBA in total minutes. He’d be just the third rookie in NBA history to lead the league in minutes played. The other two are Wilt Chamberlain (in 1959-60) and Elvin Hayes (1968-69).
San Antonio scored 19.8 points per game in transition against Utah, an increase of nearly four points per game from its regular-season average. And the Spurs pinpoint shooting when on the break (62.2 percent from the floor) allowed them to average 1.30 points per play in transition, an increase from their NBA-best 1.24 transition points per play in the regular season.
But it isn't solely fast-break offense that has San Antonio in the Western Conference semifinals for the 12th time in 15 seasons. The Spurs dominated the Jazz from the 3-point line as well, making 33 3-pointers to the Jazz's nine during the series. While San Antonio made 41 percent of its 3-pointers in the first round, the Jazz shot just 20 percent from 3-point territory, including an 0-13 performance Monday that was the Jazz's worst from beyond the arc in the regular season or postseason since Game 4 of the 2008 Western Conference first round vs. the Houston Rockets.
When a team performs as well as the Spurs did both on the run and from 3-point territory, it's not surprising that they often win by a substantial margin. San Antonio outscored Utah by 64 points in the first round, its second-best point differential ever in a playoff series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Spurs outscored the Denver Nuggets by 67 (664-597) in the 1983 Western Conference semifinals.
Elias also tells us that it's the Spurs' sixth postseason sweep since Tim Duncan's rookie season in 1997-98. Only the Los Angeles Lakers, with seven, have more in that span. For the Jazz, it's the second straight playoff series they've failed to win a game after being swept by the Lakers in the 2010 Western Conference semifinals. Utah's eight-game postseason losing streak is the longest in franchise history.
• The triple-double comes in Wall's sixth career NBA game; only four players needed fewer games to record their first career triple-double (Oscar Robertson, Hambone Williams, Magic Johnson and Connie Hawkins).
• Wall's 13 assists give him 61 in his first six NBA games, the most for a player in league history in his first six contests (Robertson had 60 in his first six NBA games).
ELSEWHERE IN THE NBA
The Utah Jazz trailed by 18 points in the second half against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, but just as they did in their previous two games, the Jazz rallied from a deficit of at least 18 points and won, defeating Orlando 104-94.
Elias tells us the Jazz are the first team in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55) to win three consecutive games after trailing by 10 or more at the half in each one.
Utah's past two rallies have been from at least an 18-point deficit in the second half and have come on the road on back-to-back days. According to Elias, the last team to do this was the Portland Trail Blazers on April 7-8, 2009.
It's also the second time in Jazz history they have posted wins in Miami and Orlando on consecutive days; the last time they did that was on Dec. 19-20, 1996 -- they went on to lose in the NBA Finals that season.
The Jazz trailed by as many as 22 points in the second quarter and 19 at the half before coming back to rally for the win in overtime. The 19-point halftime deficit is tied for the second largest the Jazz have ever overcome to win a game.
On the individual front, Millsap led the Jazz with a career-high 46 points as he hit 19 of 28 field goal attempts. Millsap scored 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting in the final 30 seconds of regulation, including a game-tying putback to force overtime. The other three field goals Millsap hit in the final 30 seconds were 3-pointers. Prior to those, he was 2-for-20 on 3-point field goals in his career. Millsap's 46 points are the most by a Jazz player since Karl Malone dropped 56 on the Warriors on April 7, 1998. Millsap has been a revelation as Carlos Boozer’s replacement, taking a clear step forward from his reserve role last season, ramping up his offensive output without turning the ball over more frequently.
Meanwhile, Wade led the Heat with a season-high 39 points and scored all 10 of their overtime points. James added 20 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists for his 29th career triple-double and first with the Heat. His 29 career triple-doubles are tied for second most among active players with Grant Hill (trailing Jason Kidd). The triple-double was the first against the Jazz since James had 32 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists Nov. 7, 2007. James has failed to register 25 points in seven straight games, which is the second-longest such streak of his career. The 11 rebounds and 14 assists both represented season highs for him, and he has scored exactly 20 points in four of his past five games.
The game's two leading scorers, Wade and Millsap, worked effectively around the basket, as they've done all season. Wade scored seven of his 12 field goals within 5 feet of the hoop while Millsap added 10 such field goals. Entering the night, Wade and Millsap ranked first and fifth in the NBA in field goals made within 5 feet of the hoop with 30 and 26, respectively.
- More Coach Wooden, on his 99th birthday, as relayed by Esquire: "Coming off the floor after the NCAA semifinal win over Louisville in 1975, it just hit me: Time to go. It was an emotional thing. I can't explain it. I went to the dressing room, congratulated my players. I said, 'I don't know how we'll do against Kentucky, but regardless of the outcome, I never had a team give me more pleasure. It's been a great year, and I'm proud of you. This will be the last team I'll ever coach.'"
- Baron Davis' tactical advantage, in video.
- The Magic shoot the lights out.
- Joakim Noah made three hook shots in one game. He was also a monster getting blocks and rebounds.
- The suggestion Paul Pierce would re-work his contract to help the Celtics get more talent in the long run. (First discussed here.)
- Optimism, from a plus/minus expert, about Kevin Durant's future. Also, Wayne Winston's plus/minus case for Russell Westbrook. And, a smart look at how other Thunder players performed with and without Durant.
- Pistons fans are in love with Will Bynum.
- It's in the realm of possibility that Jerry Sloan could end his career with more wins than any other NBA coach.
- Phil Jackson is a big believer that geography can play a big role in helping a team win.
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 ...
- Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles has a brilliant way around the NBA's ban on criticizing replacement referees: "A huge percentage of our fouls," he says, "were legitimate."
- Kevin Arnovitz of ClipperBlog, toying with the notion of The Return of Baron Davis: "Baron is an unquestionably better conditioned man this October. He seems genuinely mortified by his status as an accessory to last year's debacle. Although he's not surrounded by perfect complements to his game, he knows he can trust Eric Gordon, experiment with Blake Griffin, and have Rasual Butler as a viable option in the corner for a kickout 3. Contrast that to what he was offered at the outset of last season. Davis' ego is bruised -- and that's a good thing. Whatever pleasure he derives from his extracurriculars, he understands that without some corresponding gratification in the league, those accouterments aren't worth much. The documentaries, cross-cultural endeavors and clubs are all nice -- but Baron Davis can't be Baron Davis unless he's part of the league's constellation of stars and playing basketball well into May."
- John Hollinger's player ratings are posted, and Kevin Durant is the story (Insider). He's poised, says Hollinger, to lead the league in points per minute. There are a ton of reasons to be very excited about what's next from him. But there are still things he's really not good at: "There's no question about Durant's scoring; it's all the other elements of his game that raise eyebrows. He's a very poor passer and makes far too many turnovers for a jump shooter, weaknesses encapsulated by a -3.10 Pure Point Rating that was the fifth-worst among small forwards. Durant also gave a poor accounting at the defensive end, with the Thunder surrendering 8.2 points more per 40 minutes with him on the court than off it. His adjusted plus-minus was a horrid -8.62 points per 100 possessions, a stat that's even more alarming because the Thunder had a bad bench. His rating from his rookie year wasn't much better."
- Some guy says he got punched in the face. That's the what. The why? Story is it has something to do with NFL player Braylon Edwards having a real dislike for LeBron James.
- There have been some suggestions lately that Lamar Odom -- impending reality TV presence, celebrity husband -- may be craving the spotlight more than in the past. Exhibit Q, for questionable: About 85:15 into this video, he's wearing a wireless microphone in training camp. He sure appears to be headed to the bathroom. Before going, though, he looks off-camera, presumably at the tech in charge of his mic, taps the mic, and says "I'm good." As in, no need to unclip me for this.
- Byron Scott in the Shreveport Times, with potentially bad news for Chauncey Billups, who likes to post up small guards, and plays for a Hornets' rival: "A lot of times guys are trying to post [Chris Paul] up, but our guys that are six, seven inches taller than him are having a hard time in the post because he's so strong now. A lot of it comes with maturity and age. You get a little bit stronger and a little bit bigger. But the biggest thing is that he hasn't lost any of his flexibility or quickness." (Via Hornets247)
- One pre-season game in, Taj Gibson seems comfortable in the NBA.
- Hey look, it's Jamal Mashburn, Jason Kidd and that other guy who used to be famous.
- "Mad Men" fans, that's not Don Draper on the Nuggets' preseason roster. That's Donte Draper, and he made a highlight reel.
- Danny Ainge, Rick Carlisle, Mike Dunleavy, Danny Ferry, Daryl Morey, Sam Presti, Ed Stefanski ... meet your new team in charge of modernizing how the NBA uses instant replay. Change is upon us.
- Tim Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell watching DeJuan Blair: "Will any rookie outperform DeJuan Blair on a per minute basis? I doubt it. He looks sensational. He's the exact same rebounder we saw at Pitt, plus he has soft hands, can finish around the basket, is an efficient passer and, surprise, surprise, has a little bit of a spot up game. Clippers fans, don't kill me. DeJuan Blair is Blake Griffin's biggest obstacle on his path toward the ROY. Don't get me wrong. The total minutes thing will remove Blair from the conversation, but per minute ..." Whether it happens like that or not, the fact that a sober-minded observer like Varner says it could is reason enough to praise the Spurs for making good use of the draft's 37th pick. Also, Varner says Manu Ginobili looks tremendous.
- Michael Redd is playing like a healthy man.
- If the Nets had a lot of rubles to spend on players, what would the roster look like?
- Shaquille O'Neal once saw LeBron James pass the ball, and still thinks it's amazing.
- Nicolas Batum is called the best player in a Blazer scrimmage. Martell Webster, the guy who had Batum's starting small forward spot before his injury, says he hopes Batum is the starter.
- The Salt Lake Tribune's Ross Siler in London, where it is said the NBA would one like to have a permanent NBA team: "It should be noted that The O2 [arena], built by the same people as Staples Center, would be the most impressive NBA arena today if it housed a team."
- 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."
- "When we put pursue universal principles ... we do ourselves a massive disservice." That's Malcolm Gladwell talking about coffee, but it applies to analyzing basketball players.
- Chris Paul says his dad spent his entire 401k on his kids' AAU basketball. Wow. Paul says he also had to have a 3.0 grade point average or his parents wouldn't let him play.
- The NBA has a real tap-dance to do, talking about replacement referees. They sell us on the integrity of the game with promises of the best referees in the world. Now those same people have to sell us on the acceptability of a whole other bunch, including some people they previously fired for incompetence. So ... does the NBA demand the best referees in the world, or not?
- The Maloofs say they won't apply to relocate the Kings before the March deadline.
- Brian Windhorst of the Plain Dealer: "Delonte West is at Cavs practice, more info to come."
- Everybody's talking about the important new addition to the Spurs. Richard Jefferson? Try Antonio McDyess.
- A video report on the Wizards' four candidates -- DeShawn Stevenson, Mike Miller, Randy Foye and Nick Young -- to start at shooting guard.
- Zach Harper of Cowbell Kingdom: "Sean May made weight (sub-265 lbs.), which earned him the final $100,000 of his contract this season. I on the other hand decided I didn't want to walk up the stairs to my bathroom and weigh myself, so I stayed downstairs, watched the latest Sons of Anarchy, and paid my DirecTV bill. So he made 100 Grand by not eating 100 Grand and I gave a big corporation $115 dollars. I can totally relate to his life."
- If Blake Griffin signs your sandwich, and you eat it, will it make you more Griffinish?
- When Carlos Boozer is healthy, the Jazz have been really good. The Jazz play tonight, in the pre-season's first game against the Nuggets. Hopefully Hall-of-Fame coach Jerry Sloan won't have to deal with traffic. Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune writes: "Sloan's commute to the Jazz's practice facility has been negatively impacted by construction for a new highway off-ramp for a Karl Malone Toyota dealership. 'I'm going to get on his butt and see if he can get that done with,' Sloan joked."
- The NBA has e-mailed to say that any reports that the league has told people not to shake hands ... are false.
- Channing Frye on Inglorious Basterds: "It is really a bit graphic at times but, no lie, so is life. The one thing I really can't get enough of is the great dialogue. The conversation between characters is what makes the movie, what molds the storyline, what draws me in. The action and craziness gives me a cherry on top."
- 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."
- What obligation to teams have to their fans to keep them informed about injuries? Zach Lowe of CelticsHub: "As for the state of [Kevin] Garnett's knee toward the end of last season, it's reasonable to assume the Celitcs knew more than they revealed publicly. To us, as outsiders, it seemed a near certainty that Garnett would play in the post-season; the announcement that he would not came as a surprise gut punch. But the team likely knew the odds were against Garnett playing. At the very least, they knew there was a significant chance he would not play. Should they have told us that? Do they owe us that sort of openness?"
- Stan Van Gundy follows many different kinds of new basketball statistics, and is particularly a fan of John Hollinger's work. He also says Otis Smith's easiest decision of the off-season was bringing Adonal Foyle back.
- Beno Udrih says the Kings lacked direction last season (when they were coached by Reggie Theus until mid-December, then Kenny Natt): "We were definitely confused."
- Sam Amico, on the ClevelandFan.com, writing about Cavs guard Mo Wiliams: "Williams preferred to keep things light, continuously insisting that he's beat everyone on the team in pool. But that was news to fellow backcourt-mate Daniel Gibson. 'Oh no he hasn't,' Gibson said with a grin. 'He hasn't played everyone. That sounds like a challenge to me. Tell him I accept.'"
- A tale of Brandon Roy interrupting his own workout to greet a rookie, and invite him to come in to work out together the next day. Dante Cunningham tells BlazersEdge: "That's somebody that I want to go to battle with."
- I've talked to many team stat people who don't know which other teams even have stat experts. Everyone knows about the Rockets, Mavericks, Cavaliers, Nuggets, Celtics, Spurs and Blazers. Jeff Bower, Hornets GM, tells Hornets247 that his team has been on it for years, and has their own internal measures and databases. He also describes Vince Carter and Antonio McDyess as two of the bigger off-season acquisitions.
- Drew Gooden, holding it together.
- Clipperblog's Kevin Arnovitz: "Baron Davis looks fantastic, a shadow of his 2008 self. How did he get in such good shape over the summer? 'Crack,' Davis said in jest, before attributing his svelte physique to a summer regimen that had him either in the gym or in Asia -- both sure-fire ways to drop LBs."
- Alando Tucker loses a bet, has to grow a rat tail like Eddie Murphy in "Coming to America."
- Tony Parker will be doing limited duty in Spurs' training camp. That could be an opportunity for George Hill, who looked good in summer league.
- Jeremy from Bucksketball quotes Scott Skiles on Luc Richard Mbah a Moute: "Whatever Luc's high water mark as a player is going to be in the league he's going to reach it. When he's done playing you're going to say he's gotten the most out of his ability."
- Patty Mills was drafted in the second round by the Blazers, then broke his foot. He's almost recovered, though, and angling to make the NBA. (Via BlazersEdge)
- "All hell fell loose." It's a new saying, and I love it. Credit Tracy McGrady.
- Jerry Sloan urges his players to cut the replacement referees some slack.
- LaMarcus Aldridge is disappointed his contract isn't done.
- UPDATE: Watch a Warriors' practice live online right now.
- UPDATE: It's back! The infamous off-season "15 pounds of muscle." A year ago we dug into this phenomenon. In an Oregonlive podcast, the Oregonian's Jason Quick made the point that the last time you saw all these players they were gaunt, gassed and spent by the rigors of the season. A lot of players are looking big and ripped for that reason alone. A TrueHoop reader urged us to consider what 15 pounds of meat would look like. That's like a Thanksgiving turkey. Is it really possible to add that much bulk?
- Harvey Araton of The New York Times: "Legal challenges and N.B.A. vetting hurdles remain before 80 percent ownership of the Nets shifts from Bruce C. Ratner to Prokhorov. Then it would take at least two years for them to move from New Jersey and become the Brooklyn Nets. If and when, the Nets will matter in a way they have only dreamed of since they were born in 1967 as the New Jersey Americans of the American Basketball Association, cash-poor and attention-starved. Suddenly, the team that has been slumming in the shadows of the Manhattan skyline is a few notarized documents from initiating a fierce intracity rivalry with the Knicks. The franchise that has long symbolized suburban sterility could become a central player in Commissioner David Stern's global basketball crusade. In Cleveland, a make-or-break mandate to retain LeBron James seemed a prime motivation for the Cavaliers to partner up with Chinese investors, who agreed to purchase 15 percent of the team last May. In northern New Jersey, Ratner's dire team finances and inability to raise capital during the recession were jeopardizing the Brooklyn arena and vast housing development. Whatever the circumstances, Stern's march on the world appears to have developed a free-flowing reverse commute."
- Alan Hahn of Newsday: "Sure, Larry Hughes and Al Harrington are technically the elders of the locker room, but David Lee and Nate Robinson are both home-grown talents who should start taking it upon themselves to set the example for the new crop -- Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas -- and take greater responsibility in the culture change that still needs to take place in the Knick locker room. It is up to them to set the standard, to raise the level of play and to enforce accountability. ... It is up to them to sacrifice stats for wins, which you can expect because Donnie Walsh cleverly decided to add that $1M bonus if the team makes the playoffs. You want to see a guy hold his teammates accountable? Put a million bucks on the table and he'll make sure everyone around him is playing just as hard as he is. Cutting corners costs him money. Honestly, this is the way all contracts should be structured in the NBA. Bonuses should be a combination of player performance in relation to team performance (it seems so obvious). That way, everybody wins."
- Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle: "I don't know about you, but when I first saw the Rockets' new jerseys, I thought back to championship celebrations and the night Rudy T. took the microphone and talked about the heart of a champion. I thought of Dream and Clyde and Kenny and all the rest. I didn't even live here at the time, but I covered the games and know it was the most special era sports fan have had in this city. To some, they were the ugliest uniforms ever created. Remember ketchup and mustard? To others, though, they represent something special in their lives. How about the night Dream took David Robinson and his MVP trophy and stuffed it in the basket? How about Mario Elie and the Kiss of Death? How about the celebration that spilled onto Richmond?"
- Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "The final product -- a respected franchise in the community and a legitimate title contender on the court -- is far from finished. Larry Bird knows it. And that's why the Hall of Fame forward has no intention of stepping away until he puts on at least an All-Star performance as president of the Indiana Pacers. Bird's contract expires after this season, but team owner Herb Simon has made it clear he wants him to return. Bird, entering his second year with full control of basketball operations, is slowly rebuilding a team that has endured its toughest stretch in decades. His method isn't ordinary, either. Acquiring talent -- no team wins without it -- took a back seat to high-character players after a 2004 brawl at Detroit and subsequent off-court incidents altered the way the fans viewed some players. 'I said when I took over that we were going to change the culture, and I think we've done that,' Bird said while sitting in his office, just days before the Pacers open camp Saturday. 'Now it's putting the pieces of the puzzle together to get the type of team I want here and it ain't going to happen overnight. It's a process, and we said it's going to be three years and we feel we're still on course.' "
- John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "This season, even though Derrick Rose doesn't turn 21 until Oct. 4, there's no reason for him to defer to anyone. In fact, Rose being consistently more aggressive on the offensive end is one way the Bulls are hoping to make up for the loss of Gordon's production -- and that includes becoming the team's go-to scorer at the end of games. We certainly saw during Game 1 of the Boston series that Rose is capable of scoring in bunches and dominating a game when he puts his mind to it. Frankly, he was unstoppable, and the Celtics didn't know what to do as the Bulls pulled off the 105-103 shocker. While I wouldn't expect Rose to match his gaudy numbers from that night (36 points and 11 assists) on a regular basis, I believe he can bounce back from a couple of off-the-court controversies in the spring and summer to average better than 20 points and seven assists -- and make a serious push at becoming the Bulls' first All-Star since the Jordan era. Losing Gordon actually could accelerate Rose's development because he won't be worried about getting Gordon shots. For the Bulls to take a step up, Rose has to grab the reins and become the on-court leader, but this is far from a one-man team, and there's plenty of talent around."
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "With the exception of 'The Godfather, Part II' and Frank Fox's second daughter Megan, sequels are seldom scintillating. But your hometown Nuggets hope they are en route to an encore, beginning training camp this weekend following their best season since the Reagan administration. Naturally there have been whispers about the Nuggets all summer, some from doubters -- the Lakers, Spurs, Mavericks and Trail Blazers all got better -- and believers -- Denver was the No. 2 playoff seed in the West last year, so teams are simply trying to catch up with them. Indeed, the Nuggets didn't make any roster overhauls or sign any marquee names, Chris "The Birdman" Andersen notwithstanding. Instead, Denver has tried to keep its payroll, again, around the luxury-tax line, and hope that will be sufficient in the ever-wild West."
- Michael Wallace of The Miami Herald: "Seven months ago, he was widely viewed as the low-post presence who would balance the roster and get the Heat back into deep playoff contention. And if it didn't work out, he would simply be reduced to another O'Neal with a bloated contract the Heat would look forward to dumping for financial relief and roster revitalization. Today, with the start of training camp approaching in mere hours, Jermaine O'Neal is a
man who finds himself in the middle of those two distinction. The Heat's success largely depends on Dwyane Wade's health and hunger. Miami's improvement from last season will be based mainly on the second-year growth of Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers. But the team's ultimate finish in the playoffs - assuming things work out as expected and the Heat falls somewhere between the 5th and 7th seeds -- could hinge on the joints in O'Neal's troublesome knees and his ability provide a productive and proficient anchor in the middle of the starting lineup."
- Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "With apologies to the Ringling Bros.' clowns, tigers and elephants at EnergySolutions Arena this weekend, Carlos Boozer will be the ringmaster of a circus all his own today when the Jazz open training camp. Against all odds, Boozer will return for a sixth season in Utah, after the former All-Star forward decided on June 30 against opting for free agency only to campaign weeks later for a trade. Instead of heading to training camp with Chicago, Miami or any of the other teams to which he was linked, Boozer finds himself back with the Jazz, returning to familiar if not necessarily friendly surroundings. Along with Boozer, the Jazz will bring back 11 players from last season's 48-34 team that stumbled to an eighth-place finish in the Western Conference and was eliminated by the L.A. Lakers from the first round of the playoffs in five games."
- Martin Frank of The News Journal: "New coach Eddie Jordan admitted that the players might not feel comfortable in the offense until 'late in the season.' So Jordan's course on Princeton Offense 101 can't begin soon enough for him or the players. The main lesson, according to Jordan, is simply: 'To see. We have to see what's available on the floor. It's a read and deliver offense. We try to train our players, 'What do you see when you have the ball? What do you see when you don't have the ball? There is a reaction to an action. When that action takes place, what do you see? Do you see a handoff or a jump shot? Or do you see a backdoor cut for a layup? Do you see a man open in the post? And if you do, what kind of cut will you use when you feed him? Repetition is the mother of all learning. We will do it every day. We'll teach them how to see.' That's why Jordan insists the Sixers don't need a true point guard, that Lou Williams can succeed there even though he has never started a game in his previous four seasons. Jordan said guard/forward Andre Iguodala could start the offense as well. 'We'll have guards doing forward things and forwards doing guard things,' Jordan said."
- Dave Sheinin of The Washington Post: "From the comfort of his home, Kenny Anderson, who didn't know his own father until his early 30s, contemplated the blessings of fatherhood and beamed. In the faces of his kids, he could see the evidence of his own past mistakes -- the womanizing, the failed marriages, the hollow attempts at fatherhood he made during a 14-year NBA career that ended in 2005. But over the course of those few amazing, late-summer weeks, he could also see the seeds of his new beginning, a new chapter for Kenny Anderson -- now a 38-year-old, full-time, stay-at-home father to Kenny Jr. and Tiana, and an aspiring college basketball coach who wants nothing more than to distance himself from those past failures as a father, as a husband, as a man. The magnitude of the moment absolutely blew him away. 'It was awesome,' Anderson says. 'Now they could all see how their daddy really is. They can see for themselves. . . . I'm involved in their lives, all of them, but this was the first time I got all of them together. My mother, she'd be rolling over in her grave, she'd be so happy.' "
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
- Howard Beck revisits 1995, when replacement refs took to the hardwood and the grass was vividly greener for the players: "The games got messy. The players got antsy. They wanted their old referees back - the same ones who, in any other season, would be the targets of their fury."
- Kurt Helin of Forum Blue & Gold tries to answer a pertinent question: "How do you fit Artest into the Triangle?"
- Brandt Andersen, dynamic owner of the D-League's Utah Flash, wants to see a Michael Jordan-Byron Russell charity game. (Hat Tip: McHale)
- The 76ers unveil their new (old) jerseys with Elton Brand on the podium showing off the gear. With today's event, Brand has now officially logged more minutes as human mannequin than power forward for Philadelphia.
- Using a win shares-based system, Basketball Reference projects win totals for the 2009-10 season. The system is relatively bullish on Utah, Dallas and Toronto, and frowns on Miami, Washington and the Clips.
- Bret LaGree of Hoopinion poses a direct question to Hawks fans: "What is the argument to support the opinion that the Hawks will win more games than last year?"
- Everything you could ever want to know about Lawrence Funderburke. Among the curisoties, Funderburke wrote a book titled "Hook Me Up, Playa!" Even more curious is the author of the book's foreword -- Cubs manager Lou Piniella.
- Basketbawful's Idiom of the Day: Pickup Revisionism (pik'-up ri-vizh'-uhn-iz'-uhm) noun. The conscious or unconscious distortion of specific events that occurred during a pickup basketball game such that certain elements of a player's performance appear in a more or less favorable light. Pickup Revisionism appeals to the intellect using a number of techniques to advance a view. These techniques include presenting false memories as genuine, inventing reasons for distrusting accurate accounts of the game, attributing their own conclusions to other players, manipulating statistics to support their views, and deliberately misinterpreting other players' statements.
- Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times: "Kevin Durant is one of the N.B.A.'s fastest-rising figures in a league in which a player's star power often develops before his maturity. Yet the 6-foot-9-inch Durant, last season's sixth-leading scorer, hides here in plain sight. Many predict Durant to evolve further this season, and yet he attends movies without being recognized. He parks and enters the team's training center, previously a skating rink, in the front instead of beyond layers of security. A run to the grocery store is usually the same as it is for a soccer mom. In the era of camera phones and athlete and celebrity obsession, the 20-year-old Durant is an anomaly. Some of it is based on where he is. Oklahoma City is the league's smallest market. And although this city may have accepted its professional basketball team -- the Ford Center had 18 sellouts last season, the franchise's first after a move from Seattle -- it is still discovering the players. Most of it, though, is based on who Durant is, a person with a quiet sense of humor and a demeanor so modest that it is as if he is a star who does not quite realize he is one."
- Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post: "The most important fact in the dynamic between Flip Saunders and Gilbert Arenas so far is that Saunders seems less concerned with Arenas's public persona than with his work ethic, which he clearly appreciates. 'I've never seen anyone that has the total 24-7 commitment that Gilbert does,' Saunders said, and this from a man who coached Kevin Garnett, the hardest working and most consummate professional in the league. The Wizards' audience will be relieved to hear that Arenas has been diligently reading through Saunders's sizeable playbook, studying tape and taking notes. 'He'll watch film and come in the next day and have six sheets of paper written up on drills that he's going to work on,' Saunders said. ... The really good coaches in the league can deal with ego, or temperament -- what they can't deal with is laziness. 'That's what I'm saying,' Saunders said. 'When everyone says these things about Gilbert, anybody who loves to play as he does, loves the game, I think that you got to respect him as far as that. We're going to have run-ins. If we don't have run-ins, we've got a problem. I'm not going to agree with everything he does and he's not going to agree with everything I do. At the end we've got to come to an agreement, we've got to agree to disagree, you know? And I think he understands that.' ... The bet here is that if Arenas stays that way, Saunders will find the right way to work with him -- and vice versa. 'I feel pretty confident with where we're at, where we're going," Saunders said. "We're not going to agree on everything. But when I say we're going to do things a certain way, that's the way we're going to play.' "
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Seeking any advantage available, the Rockets looked for the most cutting-edge science out there in regard to athletic performance. They consulted with the best minds, considered the most effective methods, and hired Darryl Eto to implement the techniques he honed over years of working with world-class athletes in a variety of sports. So now, sometime during today's workouts at Toyota Center, Rockets players will play tag. ... There are greater goals in the Rockets' move to functional training than determining who is 'it.' In their tag-like drill, the offensive player can sprint; the opposing player must chase him with defensive slides as he would in a game. Many of the other new training techniques simulate specific basketball plays. Guards drive for layups while being slammed with pads to improve their ability to finish at the rim. Players take off on sprints while being held back by elastic cords to improve first steps on fast breaks or cuts to the basket. Players alternately slide and sprint between carefully placed cones to improve their quickness closing out to shooters and returning to defensive position."
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal: "Allen Iverson inked a one-year, $3.09 million deal after it became apparent that he'd run out of NBA options. Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley seemed unfazed by the circumstances and three-month pursuit, and agreed to add $600,000 worth of bonuses -- tied to team wins -- into Iverson's contract. "Allen is going to bring a lot of spirit to Memphis,' Heisley said. 'He's only interested in one thing: winning. We need to make these young guys understand that there is no substitute for winning in the NBA. If it's a good experience for him and for us, it might last more than one year. 'Allen Iverson is a walking Hall of Famer. …He's not going to interfere with our team. He's going to help develop our players and help us win.' Although the Grizzlies' interest in Iverson began with Heisley's strong insistence, Heisley contends he never would have sealed the deal without consent from general manager Chris Wallace and head coach Lionel Hollins."
- Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer: "Here is what we know about the Delonte West situation: The Cavaliers will be without their starting guard for at least a few games this season. West is likely to face a suspension from Commissioner David Stern for being arrested on weapons charges. He was carrying three different guns while riding a motorcycle last week in Maryland. In the recent past, Stern delivered a three-game suspension to Sebastian Telfair after the guard pleaded guilty to 'criminal possession of a weapon.' The commissioner suspended Stephen Jackson for seven games after the forward fired a gun in a parking lot. West may or may not face some jail time, depending upon how the legal system views his case. The Cavaliers will do everything within their power to help West, who has admitted to a history of depression and a bipolar mood disorder. With the blessing of the team, West missed 10 days of training camp last season when he went into a treatment center for his mental illness. The primary concern for Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, General Manager Danny Ferry and coach Mike Brown is to work with West and his doctors, creating the best environment for the 26-year-old guard to handle his emotions. What the Cavs don't know is how many games he can play, given the latest developments. They don't know if he will have another emotional setback, or how he will react to his arrest and legal issues."
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Training camp is less than a week away for the Milwaukee Bucks, and veteran guard Michael Redd figures it will be a critical time for the team's reshuffled roster. Gone are Richard Jefferson, Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions, all of whom filled starting roles at some point last season. And in Jefferson's case, he started all 82 games at the small forward position. When the Bucks open camp on Tuesday morning at the Cousins Center, they will have seven new players acquired in free agency, via trades or in the draft. 'We just need guys to step u
p and play minutes they normally would not have played,' Redd said. 'We're very young. It will be interesting to see how we turn out.' ... 'I'm anxious to see how we do in pre-season,' Redd said. 'We've got to develop chemistry quick, in training camp and pre-season.' That process has been helped by the early arrivals who have been working out informally at the team training facility for several weeks."
- Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "As usual, Lawrence Frank entered the room like he was on a six-latte jag ('I went to Greece and was introduced to Frappe -- it is soooo good') and spoke as if he were vaccinated with a phonograph needle. New year, same coach. In other words, the kids who occupy his roster may not be ready for this, but he's as ready as he'll ever be. Even if -- for the first time since taking over the Nets in January 2004 -- there are more wannabes than stars that will determine his team's success. 'We're getting away from this 'Big Three' bull,' said Frank, whose team opens camp Monday morning. 'Okay? We are going to be about the team. Now, if you're a bona fide Hall of Famer, you can be part of a Big Three. But we have to be about the team.' There are enough players to field one, anyway. And it doesn't bother him that his rotation figures to be just as young as last year's model, and everyone remembers how that turned out. Frank has an All-Star point guard (Devin Harris), a potential monster in the middle (Brook Lopez), an army of athletic and versatile wings (Courtney Lee, Keyon Dooling, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Terrence Williams), and a handful of serviceable veterans. With all that, he must turn the next four weeks into a very comprehensive chemistry lesson."
- Sam Amick of The Sacramento Bee: "Long after the balls stopped bouncing inside the Kings' practice facility Tuesday, the competitive juices were still flowing. They overflowed, in fact, into the digital realm. While Sean May and his veteran-laden team may have lost four out of seven scrimmages to the team's young guns during what could be dubbed pre-training camp, he wasn't about to let second-year player Donté Greene get away with trash talking. Especially since it was on Twitter for all to see. 'Just finish kill'n the vets. Me and (Jason Thompson) and the rooks … ' Greene wrote in his corner of the public forum. Six minutes later, May responded on his page. 'Killin? Really. Y'all won the series … but no killin was going down.' If anything can be determined about this Kings team before training camp begins, it's that it should be spirited."
- Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "Intrusive media members won't get the unfiltered version of what players think about having replacement referees if the NBA and the referees' union cannot agree on a collective bargaining agreement before the season starts next month. The league is prepared to lock out the referees over what amounts to NBA chump change -- less than $1 million separates the two sides, according to several reports. The referees have accepted that they will have to make give-backs to the league. But they will only go so far. The players, for the most part, will adjust. 'It's going to be a work in progress for everybody if they can't work out the agreement,' Kidd said. 'Some guys will have the opinion that replacement officials are just as good as the old officials. One way to look at it is it'll be a fairer playing field for everybody because nobody will have an advantage. The officials will call what they see. I think veteran clubs will have the advantage just to keep your composure, play the game the right way and if the whistle is blown, it's a foul and you move on.' "
- Howard Beck of The New York Times: "Labor disputes can create strange alliances and even stranger quotations. Fourteen years ago, the N.B.A. locked out its referees, handed their whistles to an army of wide-eyed substitutes and watched the insanity unfold. The games got messy. The players got antsy. They wanted their old referees back - the same ones who, in any other season, would be the targets of their fury. 'They need five of these guys to equal one of the regular refs,' Charles Oakley, the former Knicks bruiser, complained in 1995. He described the replacements in one word: 'Terrible.' On the night the regular referees returned, after a 68-day standoff, some players could hardly contain their joy. 'The real refs are back?' the Washington Bullets' Chris Webber said. 'Hallelujah.' If history is any guide, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard may soon be pleading for the return of their favorite nemeses. The league has again locked out its referees because of a breakdown in contract negotiations and will begin training some 60 replacements this weekend. The preseason begins in eight days."
- Frank Dell'Apa of The Boston Globe: "Rasheed Wallace has been training with the Celtics in Waltham. But on this day, he was going for the full immersion tour of Boston, joining the youngsters on a Duck Boat ride. 'I don't know too much about the city, I don't know the best restaurants and all that stuff yet,' Wallace said. "But I'm pretty sure the guys on the team will tell me about that. I have no complaints. Everyone here has treated me with open arms. It's been a good experience, and as far as the guys in the locker room, we can't wait to get started.' Wallace is eager to plug into the local sports scene. He passed a quick quiz regarding the number of local professional teams. 'Definitely, guys are huge Pats fans, huge Red Sox fans,' Wallace said. 'They support their teams well up here and that's what a city should do. You have a whole lot of professional teams - there's five up here - and they're behind them 100 percent and that's good. That's what a community, a city, needs.' "
- Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "As they prepare to open training camp this weekend, the Jazz also could be closing a chapter when it comes to two longtime favorites of coach Jerry Sloan and former teammates of Karl Malone and John Stockton. Veteran center Jarron Collins, one of only 10 players in franchise history to have spent eight or more seasons with the Jazz, said Tuesday that he will go to camp with Portland and attempt to make the Trail Blazers' roster. ... Also Tuesday, all indications were that the Jazz and Matt Harpring have determined that Harpring will not be able to overcome his ankle and knee problems to play this season, though no official announcement has been made. An 11-year veteran, Harpring has spent the past seven seasons with the Jazz but continues to suffer the effects from a devastating infection that followed ankle surgery last summer as well as from the multiple knee surgeries during his career."
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "Suddenly, that Nuggets preseason game against Partizan Belgrade is a little more enticing. The Nuggets have acquired James 'Flight' White, a skywalking, YouTube dunking sensation -- who might have the versatility to make the team's roster. 'Looking at the roster, they have 12 guys now, so I figure that I have a good chance making the team if I go out th
ere and work,' White said by phone. On Tuesday, the Nuggets traded the draft rights of Axel Hervelle (who never played for Denver) to Houston for White, who has played in 10 NBA games. But last season, he averaged 25.9 points for Anaheim in the D-League, tying the league high. 'I'm definitely excited, and excited that the Nuggets were looking at me and inquiring about me,' the 6-foot-7 White said. 'I'm just a guy who likes to make plays on both ends of the court. I like to get out in transition, run the floor, make plays like that. And on the defensive end, get steals and try to defend the best guy that's out there.' "
- Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle: "Based on Larry Riley's world view, Stephen Jackson never made his trade demand. Nothing's happened. Nothing's changed. Camp starts, and Jackson will be right on time, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and happy to be the captain of the Warriors. And why, you ask. Because neither Jackson nor his representative (or representatives) has ever repeated what he told an audience at a New York shoe show back in August while standing next to former Warriors forward Al Harrington, and logically when someone wants to play for another team, he doesn't forget to ask. 'That's what we're presuming,' Riley said from the general manager's office at Warriors Interplanetary Headquarters. 'Nothing has happened since (Aug. 28), and we've talked several times. I've talked to him, and I've talked to Mark Stevens, who is one of his representatives, and they haven't said anything about it since.' That doesn't mean that Jackson has changed his mind, or that the Warriors have changed theirs. It just means that nothing has happened, which you can all agree is a fairly apt metaphor for a lot of Warriors-based things."
- A suggestion, via Twitter, that a Bryon Russell vs. Michael Jordan match may be in the works.
- LeBron James is coming to New York ... to promote the movie "More Than a Game." A Nike press release about the visit (taking place this Sunday), makes clear it will be another opportunity for James to demonstrate his lack of steadfast commitment to Ohio. One line that caught my eye: "As part of the celebration, James will be presented with an exclusive pair of Nike Air Max LeBron VII's featuring a New York City-inspired design created by local artist Tomokazu Matsuyama."
- Imagining replacement refs.
- I once read an interview with some celebrity, can't remember which one. She explained why she only did big budget movies: Studios will market the hell out of them, for fear of having a colossal failure. So they usually succeed, and make her look like a good investment! In those cases, the executives are emotionally invested, too. Their reputations are on the line. Cheap movies, though, can be dropped, without any reflection on the executives. So in some weird way, wasting money is the surest way to making money, if you see what I mean. Anyway, Rob Mahoney detects a bit of the same dynamic at the end of the Mavericks' roster. There are three candidates to cut, and one of them has a fat salary, which may help him stick around. The team has to pay either way, but cutting a guy like that, having once invested so much, could be an embarrassing admission of defeat.
- The Suns get a sponsor on their practice jerseys.
- An inspiring tale of overcoming cancer, starring three miniature NBA basketballs.
- Jared Wade of Eight Points Nine Seconds: "Not only is he an All-American basketball player, but Tyler Hansbrough is, to my knowledge, the first NBA star to also crossover into the social networking-based dog-catching profession."
- Morris Almond, a former Jazz pick and a fine young man (who once wrote for TrueHoop) will be in camp with the Magic. Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune: "Almond was widely expected to go to camp with New York after playing in summer league with the Knicks. Instead, he'll get the chance to prove to the Magic that they never can have enough three-point shooters. I've said it here before not to count out Almond. He's been a slow starter his entire basketball life, whether it was being stuck in Josh Smith's shadow in high school or his first two college seasons at Rice. We'll see ifthe pattern repeats itself in the NBA."
- David Stern talked NBA basketball in a barbershop in Harlem. TrueHoop reader Armando Lara-Millán (Fellow of the American Sociological Association, MFP, Department of Sociology at Northwestern University) writes: "What is interesting to me is that the issues that come up are the issues that continue to strike NBA fans of color as policy inspired by racism -- The NBA age limit rule, the dress code, and the fallout from the melee. I was reminded at why these these issues continue to drum up discussions about racism amongst any group of NBA fans of color: a big organization is attempting to regulate a group of people of color so that they behave morally and ethically in ways that are comfortable for white fans. You will notice, actual talk about the content of NBA playing is very limited."
- "Black Rushmore," a new Gilbert Arenas tattoo.