TrueHoop: Washington Wizards

Wizards 'breaking' through with Wall

February, 8, 2013
2/08/13
9:19
AM ET
By Rachel Stern
ESPN Stats & Information
Archive

Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsThe return of John Wall has the Wizards playing more efficiently on both ends of the floor.
After missing the first 33 games with a knee injury, John Wall made his season debut Jan. 12 -- and since then things have been much different for the Washington Wizards. They are 8-7 since Wall’s return – three more wins than they had without him (5-28) – including wins against the Hawks, Nuggets, Bulls, Clippers and most recently, the Knicks.

So how has the former No. 1 draft pick helped change the Wizards? They’re shooting better from the floor, scoring more, allowing fewer points and sharing the ball more with Wall on the court.

The Wizards’ offensive efficiency, or points per 100 possessions, is 99.8 in the 15 games with Wall, compared to 93.1 in the 33 games without him. Their defensive efficiency, or points allowed per 100 possessions, is also down considerably since Wall’s return (see chart).

In the 33 games without Wall, the Wizards spent 12.5 percent of their plays in transition and averaged 15.6 transition points per game. Since Wall’s return, the team is in transition on 16.6 percent of their plays, averaging 18.6 points per game.

Though Wall is averaging about two fewer points this season than in his first two seasons in the league, he is sharing the ball more. Wall has assisted on 42.4 percent of his teammates’ field goals when he is on the court. That assist percentage is the highest of his career, and is the fifth highest percentage this season among players who have logged at least 250 minutes.

Can we expect more of the same on Friday? The numbers say yes. Wall has scored in double figures in four of five career meetings against the Nets and Brooklyn ranks in the bottom half of the league in both opponent field goal percentage (56.7) and points per game allowed (15.8) in transition this season.

--Statistical support for this story from NBA.com--

Bryant on verge of youngest to 30,000 Pts

December, 4, 2012
12/04/12
3:46
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
Archive

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireKobe Bryant needs 52 points to reach 30,000 for his career.
The Los Angeles Lakers visit the Houston Rockets tonight with Kobe Bryant just 52 points shy of 30,000 for his career. Only four players in NBA history have reached the 30,000-point milestone (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain).

Thanks to an NBA career that began at age 18, Bryant (age 34) is poised to become the youngest player to reach the mark. There is an outside chance he could eclipse 30,000 points tonight, as he has scored at least 52 points in a game 14 times in his career. What's more, three of those games have come against the Rockets, which is tied for his most against any opponent.

While Bryant will be the youngest to reach 30,000 career points, he is also getting there with more mileage. He has over 7,000 more career minutes played (including playoffs) than Jordan had when he reached 30,000, which is approximately two and a half 82-game seasons averaging 35 minutes per game.

What is the rough equivalent of reaching 30,000 points in the NBA? Based on how rarely it is attained, it is similar to several other elite milestone across pro sports. Only four players have 50,000 passing yards in the NFL, while only five players have reached 3,500 hits in MLB.

Looking ahead, when will Bryant potentially move up the scoring ladder? Assuming he averages 25 points per game and does not miss another game this season, he would match Chamberlain by the end of this season.

As for catching all-time leader Abdul-Jabbar, if Bryant keeps up his 25.0 points per game pace, which is roughly his career average, he could track him down in the 2016-17 season.

Heat Look to Capitalize on Epic Mismatch

Elsewhere, the Miami Heat (12-3) travel to play the Washington Wizards (1-13) tonight in a notable mismatch (more than a 700-point difference in winning percentages). According to Elias, over the last 20 seasons visiting teams with that large of an advantage in winning percentage this late in a season (with both teams having played 14 games) are 26-7.

In addition, the Wizards are running into a very hot Miami squad, as the Heat are riding a season-high six-game win streak and are looking to start 13-3 for the first time in franchise history.

Washington is likely going to have a tough time defending Miami, which ranks top five in the league in points per 100 possessions, effective field goal percentage and turnover percentage. The Wizards, on the other hand, rank last in both points per 100 possessions and effective field goal percentage.

Adding to the Wizards’ woes is their poor three-point shooting. They have attempted 305 three-pointers, their most in franchise history through 14 games according to Elias, but have connected on just 30.2 percent. That's their second-lowest percentage in the three-point era (minimum 200 attempts) over that span.

Wizards hit a wall, target perimeter help

June, 26, 2012
6/26/12
1:43
PM ET
By Ryan Feldman, ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com

Brad Mills/US PresswireThe Wizards need help in the backcourt, where John Wall ranked last in the NBA in points per play.
The Washington Wizards didn’t win three games in a row all season before ending with a six-game win streak. With positive momentum on their side, the Wizards have an opportunity to improve on the perimeter in the NBA Draft.

SHOOTING
The Wizards were among the worst outside shooting teams in the NBA. They shot 32 percent on 3-point attempts, which ranked third-worst in the league.

Despite relying on spot-up jumpers more than any other play type, the Wizards were the third-worst spot-up team. They averaged 0.88 points per spot-up play and shot 36 percent on those shot attempts. Only the Charlotte Bobcats and Sacramento Kings shot worse and were more inefficient on spot-up plays.

PICK-AND-ROLL BALL-HANDLERS
Only four teams averaged fewer points per play this season on pick-and-roll ball-handler plays. The Wizards averaged just 0.72 points per play and shot 37 percent when the ball-handler held onto the ball in pick-and-roll situations.

The Wizards relied on John Wall as their primary ball-handler with over 30 percent of his offense coming from the pick-and-roll. Wall averaged 0.69 points per play and shot 36 percent as the pick-and-roll ball-handler, both of which ranked last in the NBA (min. 200 plays).

INEFFICIENT BACKCOURT
The Wizards backcourt wasn’t just inefficient in pick-and-roll situations. Among the 40 players with at least 1,000 plays this season, Jordan Crawford ranked 38th and Wall ranked 40th in points per play.

The Wizards also had the third-worst assist-to-turnover ratio in the NBA this season and the fourth-lowest percentage of assisted field goals.

TOP DRAFT TARGETS
Based on their statistical weaknesses, the Wizards should focus on improving their backcourt in the NBA Draft. The top guard prospect is Bradley Beal, who wasn’t incredibly efficient as a freshman. But Beal improved in the NCAA Tournament.

Beal averaged 1.15 points per play during the NCAA Tournament, which would have ranked in the top-3 percentile during the regular season. His adjusted field-goal percentage of 71 percent would have ranked best in the country during the regular season.

The other top backcourt option would be Weber State’s Damian Lillard, the fourth-most efficient scorer in college basketball this season among the 174 players with at least 500 plays.

Lillard could especially help the Wizards in the pick-and-roll, where he averaged the fifth-most points per play in the country (min. 100 plays). But would the Wizards want to pair Lillard, a 6-foot-2 point guard, with Wall, their franchise point guard drafted No. 1 overall in 2010?

The Wizards could also improve at small forward, where Chris Singleton and Jan Vesely both ranked in the bottom 50 percent of the NBA in points per play. The top options could be North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes and Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, neither of which ranked in the top-25 percentile this season in points per play.

Statistical support for this story from NBA.com.

Get the information you need to be ready for the draft and follow the action Thursday night @ESPNStatsInfo.

Tuesday Bullets

March, 6, 2012
3/06/12
4:10
PM ET
Mason By Beckley Mason
ESPN.com
Archive
  • 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).

Hawks slow down Heat in Miami's first loss

January, 2, 2012
1/02/12
11:52
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
Archive

US Presswire
Tracy McGrady scored 13 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Hawks handed the Heat their first loss of the season.
Somebody finally figured out how to slow down the Miami Heat. The Atlanta Hawks opened the fourth quarter with a 15-3 run on Monday night, outscoring Miami 33-21 in final quarter to hand the Heat their first loss of the season.

The Heat had a season-low 92 points and struggled offensively because they could not get out in transition. In their first five games, the Heat were averaging 101.6 possessions per game and were one of the best transition teams in the NBA. On Monday, Miami had a season-low 92 possessions and struggled to get out on the break.

The Hawks also dominated the Heat down low with a 50-38 advantage in the paint. Entering Monday night, Miami was allowing only 32.8 points in the paint per game, the third-fewest in the NBA, and were outscoring their opponents in the paint by an average of 16.4 points per game.

Miami’s ball-hawking defense was also absent against Atlanta as the Hawks committed only 10 turnovers, the fewest by any Heat opponent this season. The Heat generated just 13 points off turnovers, also a season-low and nearly half of their season average through the first five games.

In its first five games Miami scored 35.7 percent of its transition points directly off “live-ball” turnovers. On Monday only one of the Heat’s 13 transition plays resulted from a “live-ball” turnover, and they scored just one point on that play.

LeBron James was the lone star for Miami and finished with a game-high 28 points on 11-of-18 shooting. James now has 176 points on the season, his most points scored through his team’s first six games in any season of his career.

James, however, really struggled in isolation as he made just 2-of-7 shots and averaged a season-worst 0.57 points per play. He entered the game making nearly half of his shots in isolation and averaging almost a point per play.

Elsewhere Around The Association
• Kevin Love scored a team-high 24 points and pulled down 15 rebounds for his fifth double-double this season, as the Minnesota Timberwolves' snapped a 16-game losing streak vs the San Antonio Spurs.

Tim Lincecum
Love
Love has at least 20 points and 12 rebounds in each of his first five games this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only other NBA player to do that since 1976-77 was Charles Barkley in 1992-93.

• Mike Bibby played just 15 minutes in the New York Knicks' 90-85 loss to the Toronto Raptors and scored zero points as he missed all three of his shot attempts from beyond the arc.

The Raptors outscored the Knicks by 18 points while he was on the court, which was the worst plus-minus on the team despite Bibby playing fewer minutes than all but two teammates.

Blake Show gets record ratings

March, 24, 2011
3/24/11
3:13
AM ET
By ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com
Archive
Blake Griffin posted his first career triple-double in the Los Angeles Clippers 127-119 double-overtime win over the Washington Wizards. He had a career-high 10 assists, was one shy of a career high with 17 rebounds, and his 33 points were the fourth-most of his career. He also fouled out, making him the first player to foul out with a triple-double since Lamar Odom in April 2007.
Blake Griffin
Griffin


With the Clippers winning at home in double overtime a day after the Los Angeles Lakers won at the Staples Center in triple overtime, the Elias Sports Bureau reports that the last time there were back-to-back multi-overtime games in the same arena was March 1984, at the HemisFair Arena in San Antonio. The San Antonio Spurs beat the Dallas Mavericks in two overtimes on March 13 and then beat the Hawks in three overtimes seven days later.

Overshadowed in defeat, John Wall set a career high with 32 points, topping his previous best of 29, against the Philadelphia 76ers in November.

In other triple-double news, Chuck Hayes and Kyle Lowry are evoking memories of Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley and Hakeem Olajuwon. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but Hayes' triple-double on Wednesday (13 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists) makes him the second Rocket with a triple-double in as many games, joining Lowry, who did it Sunday against Utah. The last time Houston had multiple players with a triple-double in the same season was 1996-97, by Drexler (2), Barkley and Olajuwon.

Perhaps more impressively, Elias says that the last team to have triple-doubles from different players in consecutive games was the New Jersey Nets in March 1996, by the vastly dissimilar Shawn Bradley and Chris Childs.

Speaking of New Jersey, Kris Humphries had 18 points and 23 rebounds in the Nets overtime win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday. The last Nets player with at least 23 rebounds was Michigan State alum Jamie Feick, who had 25 boards on Jan. 20, 2000 vs Detroit.

Although the Boston Celtics lost to the Memphis Grizzlies at home, Kevin Garnett made a bit of history. With his 10 points, Garnett passed Adrian Dantley for 20th place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Next on the list is former Celtic great Robert Parish. At his current pace of 15.0 points per game this season, and assuming he plays every game, Garnett would pass Parish in the season's penultimate game, against Washington on April 11.

Tuesday Bullets

December, 28, 2010
12/28/10
4:07
PM ET
Mason By Beckley Mason
ESPN.com
Archive
  • A moment of silence please, for the death of my favorite NBA Twitter handle.
  • Jared Wade is at the controls over at The Point Forward, where he's done a lot of statistical legwork to figure out what makes a player MVP-worthy. His conclusion: "By examining past winners, we get a snapshot of the typical MVP: a 27-year-old, healthy big man who leads his team to 60 wins while scoring 25 points (on 51 percent shooting), grabbing 13 boards and handing out five assists per game. We are looking at Charles Barkley on the Suns, basically."
  • Pistons to MacGrady: "Tracy, this is awkward. It's not that we didn't think you'd be good, it's just that we never thought anyone would want to buy your jersey."
  • This physics-defying freethrow attempt made me think of The Sixth Man. Beware the ghost of Antoine Tyler!
  • Sebastian Pruiti shows us the effect of good coaching versus bad coaching can have when it comes to getting clean looks.
  • I'm almost positive this is legitimate. An English translation of Knicks forward Timofey Mozgov's lengthy, revealing blog post which originally appeared in Russian here. Quoth Mozgov on his recent Did Not Play, Coach's Decisions: "You should agree with me that panic is a bad advisor; it’s hard to work productively when it’s there. But I’m not complacent either. So, I’ll repeat myself: I’m not ashamed."
  • Ever wonder what The View would look like with younger hosts who only discussed sports? If so, I direct you to KFrye and Friends, a new sports talk show hosted by Channing Frye's Emmy Award-winning mom, Karen. I'm not sure how large the audience will be, but I'm interested to see women talking about sports (video) in a way that seems intended for a primarily female audience. If it works, KFrye could really be on to something.
  • For Atlanta fans, this ain't good.
  • This is what they're saying about the Knicks' stud rookie Landry Fields over at DraftExpress: "Considering where he started and where he is now, Fields' case might be the most unlikely we've seen in the seven NBA drafts we've covered." Read up to find out why Fields has been one of David Thorpe's top rookies all year.
  • LeBron's contraction remarks have once again stoked the flames of his most passionate detractors. The guys at Nets Are Scorching roast James in this half-serious, half-hilarious debate to determine what the correct reason to hate LeBron is.
  • After three exceedingly frustrating years, Nick Young is putting it together. But Kyle Weidie of Truth About It notes that while he's playing more efficiently and intelligently than ever, he's still a historically awful passer.
  • The No Look Pass takes a shot at ranking the five most lopsided trades of the last 15 years.
  • You may hate the Heat, but there is simply too much stellar writing and analysis on the Heat Index to let that keep you from reading. Today: Tom Haberstroh explains how the Heat's newly methodical execution on both ends is slow cooking the competition; Kevin Arnovitz provides five insights into the rematch of 2010's most entertaining game; and Mike Wallace explains that part of why Chris Bosh has been so magnificently effective for the last month is because he's finally got his legs under him.
  • Jeremy Schmidt may be on to something. If Jason Collins is killing you on the glass, you're doing it wrong.
  • Because the Spurs are running so much, and Tim Duncan's statistics are down, you may not have noticed that he's still playing a vital role in the Spurs revamped offense.
  • Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph of the Memphis Grizzlies have some thoughts on contraction, and the fact that Memphis would be one of the more obvious targets should the NBA actually decide to eliminate a couple teams. I'll say this about the matter: if it happens it will be because of a dilution in league-wide revenue, not talent.

Magic-Suns Trade Breakdown

December, 18, 2010
12/18/10
4:59
PM ET
Broussard By Chris Broussard
ESPN.com
Archive
Hedo Turkoglu

Doug Benc/Getty ImagesHedo Turkoglu played his best ball in a Magic uniform. Two teams later, he aims to recapture glory.
The Phoenix Suns-Orlando Magic deal (Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, a 2011 first-round pick and cash considerations for Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark) seems to benefit both teams. At this point, 29-year old Richardson could be seen as an upgrade over Carter, who at 33 is having the worst season of his career. Richardson is shooting 42 percent from 3-point range and can spread the floor like Rashard Lewis, who was shipped to Washington for Gilbert Arenas.

But the most exciting piece for Magic fans may be the return of Turkoglu. The 6-10 small forward had the best years of his career while in Orlando from 2004-2009. He averaged 16.8 points in helping the Magic reach the 2009 NBA Finals before signing with Toronto as a free agent.

After struggling badly in Toronto, Turkoglu was traded to Phoenix, where he also failed to reach the level he played at in Orlando.

The Magic haven't been the same without Turkoglu either. His playmaking ability has been sorely missed.

For Phoenix, Gortat was the biggest basketball piece. The 6-11 center has been dying for more playing time while backing up Dwight Howard. Viewed as a starting caliber big man throughout the league, he'll finally get his shot in Phoenix. It was a nice addition for the Suns, who are currently the second-worst rebounding team in the league.

Carter, who could experience an uptick in the Suns' wide-open system, can adequately replace Richardson, and Pietrus brings attitude, defense and 3-point shooting.

Only about $4 million of Carter's $18 million salary for next season is guaranteed, and Pietrus has a player option worth $5.3 million next season.

Wall notches triple-double in Wizards' win

November, 11, 2010
11/11/10
12:13
AM ET
By Mike Lynch, ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com
Washington Wizards guard John Wall recorded his first career triple-double with 19 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds in a win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that at 20 years and 65 days, Wall is the third-youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double.

John Wall
Wall
Only LeBron James (who had two at a younger age) and Lamar Odom had triple-doubles at a younger age than Wall. Here are some other notes, courtesy of Elias:

• 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.

Chris Bosh, Cyber Hero

October, 14, 2009
10/14/09
11:01
AM ET

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:

  • SamCassell.com
  • SteveNash.com
  • AmareStoudemire.com
  • AndreIguodala.com
  • JJRedick.com
  • EddyCurry.com
  • CarmeloAnthony.com
  • BrandonJennings.com
  • DelonteWest.com 
  • LuolDeng.com
  • KobeStopper.com
  • CaronButler.com
  • DeronWilliams.com
  • DariusMiles.com
  • BryanColangelo.com

(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 ...

First Cup: Wednesday

October, 14, 2009
10/14/09
8:52
AM ET
  • Scott Cacciola of The Commercial-Appeal: "Allen Iverson's abilities are a gift, which even he recognizes. In the same way that musical prodigies can just pick up an instrument and create a song, so too can Iverson grab a basketball -- without hours of practice -- and control a game. He always has been at his best when he improvises. He would clash with his high school football and basketball coaches for missing practices, but they knew he would excel when it mattered. It was impossible to bench him. ... Iverson, no longer a brash rookie, said he has grown to understand the importance of taking care of his body, acknowledging that his long wait for a contract this summer meant sacrificing some of his preparation. Then again, he has coped with injuries before. He missed 34 games during the 2003-04 season because of problems with his right knee -- 'Shaq kneed me in my thigh,' he said -- and his right shoulder. He missed 17 games toward the end of last season with the Detroit Pistons because of a balky back, though he also was upset about his role with the team. He sees his latest challenge as a temporary setback. He is unwilling to concede anything to age. In his mind, it is a fluke."
  • Sam Amick of The Sacramento Bee: "Most of this season was taken from Francisco Garcia when the exercise ball on which he lay while lifting two 90-pound dumbbells exploded. The accident, Garcia said, is as surreal now as it was when it happened. 'Just a regular day, lifting weights,' he said. 'I was out there, on the PhysioBall. We've got an understanding that the exercise was good. We'd been doing that, and it exploded on me. ? I didn't have time to react or anything. It's crazy, man. I keep reflecting in my head. It's crazy.' Garcia said he hopes to travel occasionally with the team and maintain a strong connection. 'I want to be here as much as I can, be on the road as much as I can,' he said. 'I just want to be there with them, as a teammate, as a friend, as a leader. I think they really need me out there, even if I'm not playing.' "
  • Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: "Stephen Jackson renounced his team captaincy Tuesday. Captain Jack is now Captive Jack. Jackson has been stewing for weeks, making it clear and public that he wants the Warriors to trade him. Nice strategy, by the way: Clamor to be traded, thereby drastically decreasing your trade value. He returned to the Warriors on Tuesday after a two-game team suspension, meeting with coach Don Nelson and general manager Larry Riley before practice. When Nelson talked to a large group of media in the early afternoon, he was happy. 'The prodigal son has returned,' said a smiling Nelson. 'It's good to have Jack back.' Nelson also said, 'He's going to be the same guy.' But when it was Jackson's turn with the media, he seemed like a very different guy, not the positive and good-humored captain many of us have grown to know and like. To say Jackson seemed bitter Tuesday is to say that the day seemed a bit moist. I'm checking with sources to see if Jackson and Nelson attended the same meeting."
  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "From a distance, Murphy comes across as a free-spirited prankster. It turns out that's not the case. 'Murph plays the Jersey goofball a lot, but he certainly knows what's going on, so we give him a hard time,' said Pacers swingman Mike Dunleavy, who has been Murphy's teammate for seven years. 'He knows all the things that are at stake.' Murphy regained his old form last season when he averaged 14.3 points and a career-high 11.8 rebounds. He's the only player in NBA history to finish in the top five in rebounding (second) and 3-point percentage (third) in the same season. He also had 48 double-doubles, a franchise record. Murphy averaged a double-double in three of the first five years of his career. 'He's always been a terrific rebounder,' Dunleavy said. 'He sort of went back to where he was in previous years and just seemed more focused and had it all together, and when he does that he's a pretty good player.' "
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Gilbert Arenas came back from the shower, put on his backpack and lowered his head. He was ready for the Q&Arenas. Here is the full transcript. Enjoy. Q: Do you have any comment on the fine you received today? Arenas: 'Nope.' Q: Do you think the game tonight was a sign of progress? Arenas: 'Yeah, both teams played hard.' Q: How are you feeling out there on the court? Arenas: 'I feel fine.' Q: What are your thoughts on Will Bynum? Arenas: 'He's coming along well.' Q: Anything else about tonight's game? Arenas: 'No.' Q: Do you feel good about the way things are going right now, feel good about the way you are playing, feel comfortable about the new coaching staff? Arenas: 'Yep.' Q: What can you say about Flip and how is he different than what you've experienced here before? Arenas: 'He's just bringing something different than the last coach.' Q: What in particular is he bringing that's different? Arenas: (Six second pause) 'What was the question again?' Q: What are your impressions of Flip? What has he brought to this team so far? Arenas: 'It's too early to tell. Maybe next month, I'll have a better answer for you' Q: Do you have anything to say about the fine today? Arenas: 'Nope.' Q: No comment? Arenas: 'Nope' The end."
  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "Kings forward Francisco Garcia suffered an injury when an inflatable exercise ball exploded. Garcia reportedly was lying on his back across a 'physio ball' while lifting dumbbells. When the ball exploded, the player fell backwards, fracturing the radius in his right wrist. He also suffered ligament damage. Garcia is expected to miss four months of play after surgery to repair the injuries. On Monday, the Kings sent a warning to the other 29 NBA teams advising them about the incident. Spurs strength and conditioning coach Mike Brungardt said the team has used exercise balls -- large, inflated balls on which players balance while doing assorted exercises -- for many years. 'We check them several times each season, and we've never had a problem,' Brungardt said. 'We'll continue to use them, but we immediately eliminated their use in some exercises after we got the report from the Kings.' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he could not recall a Spurs player being injured during any sort of off-court workout. 'No,' he said, 'but it made us all think. We all have all these different contraptions we're using. Odd things can happen.' "
  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "A significant decision awaits the Milwaukee Bucks by the end of the month, and it's not an easy one. Bucks general manager John Hammond faces an Oct. 31 deadline to decide whether to renew the first option year on forward Joe Alexander's cont
    ract. Alexander would be owed $2.76 million next season if the Bucks pick up the first of two option years on his rookie-scale contract. Complicating the choice is the disappointing performance turned in by Alexander during his rookie year in 2008-'09 and the injuries that plagued him in training camp a year ago and again during the current preseason. Alexander worked hard during the off-season at the Bucks' training facility and performed well in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, but on the first day of training camp, he was standing on the sideline due to a strained right hamstring. The 6-foot-8 Alexander has not been able to practice yet or play in the Bucks' first five exhibition games, a huge setback for a player trying to gain coach Scott Skiles' confidence and battle for time at the small forward position. Hammond declined to comment Tuesday on the Bucks' intentions."
  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Jonny Flynn hasn't played a real NBA game yet, but already Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis knows his rookie point guard can run successfully the two-man pick-and-roll play at the sport's highest level anytime and anywhere he so chooses. That's why he's not letting Flynn do it. At least not yet anyway. Rambis wants Flynn to concentrate on skills he hasn't mastered -- and those his team needs most -- in a preseason that's two games old. 'He's learning the importance of the point guard in this league,' Rambis said. 'I need him to orchestrate the offense and get his teammates involved. They're counting on him.' Oh, is that all? At the age of 20? At a position Rambis calls the most difficult to learn in the NBA?"
  • Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Five years into his NBA career, Marvin Williams has more than established himself in the league. The proof can be found in his numbers. For his career Williams has averaged 12.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and started in 209 of the 284 games he's played since being selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2005 draft. For all that, both Williams and Hawks coach Mike Woodson are convinced that there's much more the starting small forward can do. 'Marvin's come in every year since his rookie year in great shape and he's really been consistent,' Woodson said. 'But he's the one guy over the next two years that I think can really make the jump to become more of an elite scorer, mostly because he can put the ball on the floor and draw fouls. He added the 3-point shot to his game last season and I think that pushed his game to another level. Now, he has to take another step.' Does that mean folks can expect to see a more aggressive and determined Williams this season? 'I think so,' Williams said. 'I've never been one to try and do too much. I've always felt like I know my role and I try to play the best I can. At the same time, I think this preseason I've tried to be more aggressive. And it's worked out.' "
  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: "As the old saying goes, there is no 'I' in team. But there is a 'me,' and Sixers forward Elton Brand has had to concentrate on the selfish part of the game a little more than usual this preseason. Besides having to absorb the new offensive and defensive schemes that have been brought in by coach Eddie Jordan, Brand has had to make sure his surgically repaired shoulder and Achilles' tendon are ready to endure what he hopes to be an 82-game regular season. He also has had to find out whether he still has what it takes to be the 20-point, 10-rebound-a-night player he has been throughout his career. Sometimes that might take away from what Jordan is trying to accomplish. But for now, the coach is OK with it. 'I like that he's aggressive,' Jordan said of the player the Sixers signed in the summer of 2008 to a 5-year, $80 million contract. 'He's putting the shoulder down, he's really looking to be assertive in the paint area.' Then came the caveat. 'I want him to execute a little better, as far as spacing for his teammates, his cutting for his teammates, not for himself,' Jordan said."
  • Frank Dell'Apa of The Boston Globe: "Rasheed Wallace, who had 20 points and nine rebounds in 25 minutes, defended his prediction the Celtics are capable of winning 72 games. 'When you play with a high caliber team, whose goals are higher than other teams in the NBA, when you play with teams that want that hardware, then, yes, those records can be broken,' he said. 'But I think we can get that 72. If we overcome injuries, I think we can get it. Just imagine if guys didn't get hurt [last season], they definitely could have gotten it. That's what we're shooting for this year.' "
  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: "And now for your actual 2009-2010 Raptors. Halfway through the pre-season, the Raptors are poised for the first time to play a game with all five of their projected starters in the lineup. Hedo Turkoglu joins the recently returned Chris Bosh to the lineup giving coach Jay Triano his first look at a starting five that also includes Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani and, for now, DeMar DeRozan. And it all goes down in Hartford with the Boston Celtics providing the opposition. Triano will waste no time in getting Turkoglu involved. 'Does he deserve to start because of the amount he has practised? No,' said Triano answering his own question. 'But we only have four more pre-season games and I need to put him on the floor with guys he is going to play with for the majority of the time. I'm planning on starting him with Jose, Chris, Andrea and probably DeMar.' "
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel: "Mario Chalmers' scholarship ended Sunday. Suddenly, for the first time since Chalmers was named last season's Miami Heat opening-night starter, there is legitimate competition at point guard with the signing of free agent Carlos Arroyo. Until the Heat made the move for the eighth-year veteran, Chalmers' competition had been limited over the past year to the likes of Chris Quinn, Marcus Banks, Shaun Livingston, Luther Head and current camp longshot John Lucas III. But now there is a veteran in the mix who has started 113 NBA games, one who has served as an understudy to the likes of John Stockton, Mark Jackson and Chauncey Billups. 'I think he's landslide better than everybody,' Heat forward Michael Beasley said of Chalmers' previous competition. Beasley, in fact, said it is apparent that the signing of Arroyo has motivated Chalmers, who made the surprise jump to starter after being taken in the second round of the 2008 draft. 'I think he's taking this move and really getting competitive with it,' Beasley said of his closest friend on the team. 'Everybody knows Carlos is a great player, a vet, a scorer with court vision. He can do it all. And 'Rio now got somebody not only to go head-to-head with, but somebody to look up to, somebody to learn off of.' "
  • Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times: "When so little went right -- as it did for the Clippers and their fans last season -- the temptat
    ion is to go overboard when there are the slightest signs of promise. The incumbent Chris Kaman, veteran of those flickers, urged caution after back-to-back exhibition wins and a fresh air of hope in Clippers' training camp. It took one word to get that thought across: Fresno. 'Don't read into it so much,' Kaman said Tuesday after practice. 'It's basketball. See how it goes. It happened last year. We beat the Lakers in the preseason up in Fresno.' In fact, it was Oct. 9 of last year when the Clippers crushed the Lakers in Fresno, 107-80, in their exhibition opener. And you know the injury-marred rest of the story."
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown says the NBA game is flawed in ways that transcend whether replacement referees are making the calls. Brown will be relieved when this labor dispute is resolved and the veteran officials return. But he's seen a pattern the past few years -- too many whistles, too many contrived rules -- that rob basketball of its natural flow. 'Until we figure out a way to get more shots and have more of a flow up-and-down the court -- which is the beauty of the game -- it's gonna be tough' to entertain fans, Brown said. So if Brown were basketball czar, what would he do? 1) Standardize rules worldwide for the NBA, college and international games. 2) Move the NBA 3-point line in slightly. 3) Permit teams to play any defense they choose without violating some anti-zone rule. Brown believes those changes would both allow and compel teams to run more and shoot more, and that's what the game needs."
  • Steve Politi of The Star-Ledger: "Bruce Ratner may have recruited Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov to bail him out financially, but money is not the only obstacle. You can only wonder how foreign it must seem to Prokhorov, coming from a country where the government gets what it wants, to see how one man can become a thorn to this massive project. The case is a long shot. 'The eminent domain issue is going to be very tough for them to win,' said William Ward, a Florham Park-based attorney who handles cases related to property seizure. 'The problem they have in my perspective is that the politicians are lined up against them.' Ward, who was once the lawyer for the Meadowlands sports complex, sees another legal victory for Ratner. But Goldstein and his allies, the underdogs from the start, still have hope that the Court of Appeals will see this deal for what it is -- the government taking property to line the pockets of a developer. 'The idea that the government would force me to sell to Forest City Ratner because this is some great public benefit offends me,' Goldstein said. 'It is not. If it were a benefit, I would not be doing this. I would have left.' Had he left, the Nets would have left New Jersey already, too. They are still here in part because one man dug in and decided to play some defense. Wednesday, he takes one final shot."

First Cup: Tuesday

October, 13, 2009
10/13/09
8:58
AM ET
  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "Coach Mike D'Antoni, ever the nonconformist, is eliminating the morning shootaround for all home games this season, starting with Tuesday's exhibition against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Knicks instead will gather for an afternoon meeting and walk-through at Madison Square Garden. The change saves everyone from having to commute twice in a day, first to the team's Westchester training center (for the shootaround), then to Midtown (for the game). It also gives players a little more time to shake off the cobwebs. So rather than roust themselves for a groggy gathering at 10 a.m., the Knicks will have the morning to themselves. They must report to the Garden by 3:30 p.m. ... The morning shootaround is a time-honored N.B.A. tradition. It serves a dual function: to prepare for the game and to give party-minded players an incentive to get to bed early. Whether it works is a matter of some debate. The routine can actually be draining. Many N.B.A. players take afternoon naps to recover from the shootaround."
  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "Never let it be said Kevin Garnett doesn't take requests. A day after his coach noted an aspect of his game that's been missing, KG made like a DJ and spun the tune. 'I think he's getting stronger and stronger,' said Doc Rivers. 'The only thing left is today he caught a lob and dunked. An amazing dunk. Everybody was like, oh, we haven't seen that. I made the comment yesterday that the only part lacking is that he's not as explosive yet. When he did it, he yelled out, 'Oh, I can do it.' So that was good to see.' The rejuvenated Celtic was ready when asked about it later. 'I think Doc's been waiting for me to grow wings and fly,' he said. 'I'm telling him just be patient. The wings are coming. They're coming.' That Garnett's humor is back also is a good sign things are all right with his surgically repaired right knee."
  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "A little more than two weeks into his first NBA training camp, rookie forward DeJuan Blair says his knees are feeling just fine, thank you. Blair arrived from the University of Pittsburgh devoid of an anterior cruciate ligament in either knee. Though the condition was never an issue for Blair in college, the Spurs' medical staff has been compulsive about monitoring him after practices and games. 'The training staff is doing an excellent job of keeping my knees in shape and strengthened,' Blair said. 'I just need to keep (being) me, and not worry about my knees. They're going to be as healthy as possible.' ... Ehen Blair takes the floor for his fourth preseason game Wednesday against the Clippers, he is likely to see time against the most ballyhooed rookie in the NBA. Blair says he is looking forward to the potential matchup with Blake Griffin, the former Oklahoma All-American. Not because Griffin was the top pick in the June draft in which Blair fell to 37th, but because it gives the two a chance to rekindle a friendship spawned during the draft process. 'I can't wait to see him,' Blair said. 'I haven't seen him since the draft. I talked to him in the summer and told him congratulations. He's a good person, and I hope everything works out for him.' "
  • Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle:"The Stephen Jackson supernova is merely the latest example of what is now the only Warriors story in the world, namely: Something Goes Wrong - Is This the Final Straw That Convinces Chris Cohan to Sell the Team? And again, we say, "It ain't got nothin' to do with it." Cohan will sell when his price, already judged exorbitant by Larry Ellison, whose wallet could eat Cohan's entire house, is met. Or when the Internal Revenue Service decides to bring the noise to his ongoing tax issues. Are there people who would love to buy the team and move it, maybe to San Jose, maybe to San Francisco? Yes, and there have been - but Cohan isn't what real-estate people call a motivated seller, even with all the horrific embarrassments he has instigated and allowed instigated in his name. Apparently, the man simply cannot be shamed."
  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "Not much new in Lamar Odom's life, other than a reality-TV star wife, a $33-million contract extension and daily games of hide-and-seek with the ever-present paparazzi. A year ago, Odom was angry when Coach Phil Jackson said the Lakers forward would be a backup instead of a starter. That's the least of his concerns now. He still has reserve status, but no longer single status after marrying Khloe Kardashian about two weeks ago, a move that shifted him from the inside pages of sports magazines to the covers of supermarket tabloids across the country. It also made nights on the town a little less, uh, private. Even if it's just Odom and his wife, it can feel like a table for eight with the phalanx of photographers zooming in on them in restaurants, clubs and the like. Because of Kardashian's popularity among gossip groupies, Odom is tracked pretty much everywhere he goes. 'It's part of what they do. It's part of the world,' he said of the paparazzi. 'Once I'm in the house and a comfortable place, they can't come on private property. If we're in a restaurant and they want to sit there and take pictures, it doesn't matter.' Doesn't matter?"
  • Mike Jones of The Washington Times: "In their first three preseason games, the Washington Wizards have provided a glimpse of what can be expected in the coming season should they remain healthy. The team has scored plenty of points behind Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, averaging 103 points in its three outings. Coach Flip Saunders also has several different lineups and rotations at his disposal with four different shooting guard candidates and a versatile bench. That doesn't mean, however, the Wizards are ready for the regular season. Gilbert Arenas has displayed flashes of greatness with explosive third quarters (24 points and eight assists) in back-to-back outings. But he also has shown rust (12 turnovers this preseason, a 1-for-5 shooting performance in the opener). Saunders has encouraged Arenas to play with his old aggression, but the guard appears to be feeling his way along as he learns a new offense. And his teammates -- outside of holdovers Jamison, Butler and center Brendan Haywood -- are working to adjust not only to the returning floor general but also to their roles on a revamped team."
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Australia slept in. Being that showdowns are not what they used to be, this one did not stir the imagination of a nation the way meetings of the Rockets and Bucks did not very long ago. Then, Yao Ming played Yi Jianlian for the first time in an NBA game, and every network in China with the option, showed the game live. The audience was believed to be the largest ever for an NBA game. When Rockets rookie center David Andersen met Andrew Bogut at To
    yota Center on Monday, they figured the audience in Australia for the first NBA meeting of the Australian centers probably consisted of Andersen's three brothers, assuming they could find a website streaming the game. ... 'It won't be anything like that,' Bogut said. 'We only have three million people in our country. Probably one or two (are interested). Basketball is not huge in Australia, probably scraping in the top eight, top 10 sports. Maybe during the season, if we both have pretty decent records more people will take notice. At the moment, compared to China, maybe five percent will watch.' "
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "In the Thunder's 110-105 overtime win over Phoenix, the second-year point guard displayed to his home fans the continued development he's shown throughout this preseason. Russell Westbrook scored 10 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and dished nine assists in 26 minutes. He again played with confidence and control, showing complete command of the offense and newfound patience that he lacked last season. Westbrook made five of eight shots, turned the ball over just three times and came away with two steals. 'It is the preseason, but that's all we have to judge Russell Westbrook on right now,' said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. 'We still have some work to do, but with Russell, like I've said many times before, he's only 20 years old and for the next 10 years you're going to see a lot of improvement.' "
  • Kate Fagan of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "After yesterday's practice, 76ers coach Eddie Jordan said he asked Thaddeus Young how he felt about New York City. Young responded that all cities are 'about the same to me.' 'Really? New York isn't more special?' 'Not really, they're all about the same to me,' Young repeated. Recounting the story, Jordan laughed. 'So, yeah ... he's low-maintenance,' Jordan said. 'I don't worry about Thad.' ... Young, in his third NBA season, is averaging 9.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. Last season, he averaged 15.3 points per game. Still, Young seems about as low-maintenance on the court as he is off of it: snagging offensive boards, scoring in transition, picking up buckets on broken-down plays. 'I'm pretty good right now,' said Young, the team's starting small forward. 'I'm just going out there and trying to do the things I've been doing - rebounding, playing defense, getting steals. Doing the little things. My offense is going to come; I'm not worried about that too much.' "
  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: "Al Jefferson's Subway diet in the offseason -- which helped him lose 31 pounds -- has given him a quicker first step at the power forward position and turned him into a role model for people with weight-loss issues. Jefferson, 24, attracted interest from the local American Heart Association, which is partnering with the five-year veteran for a six-week program known as 'Get Healthy With Big Al.' Jefferson helps kick off the program, aimed at school kids in the Twin Cities, with an appearance today at Andersen Elementary School in South Minneapolis. The program stirs memories for Jefferson, who called himself a 'chubby kid' while growing up in Prentiss, Miss. 'You have to deal with people teasing you,' Jefferson said. 'Hopefully, I can inspire and motivate kids who might be overweight and let them know they can do what I did. It's hard for kids. You want to eat everything ... all the sweets you can eat and everything else.' Jefferson weighed 293 pounds when his season ended in February because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. A few days after surgery, he began his diet of ham or turkey sandwiches from Subway -- complete with lettuce, tomatoes and other vegetables. For dinner, he had salads and soups. Convinced he needed to lose weight to help rehabilitate his knee, Jefferson stuck with the diet after a 'tough first couple of weeks.' He reported to the Wolves' training camp weighing 262 pounds."
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Memphis Grizzlies Coach Lionel Hollins intimated that the replacement referees favored Magic center Dwight Howard when the opening whistles blew. Rookie Grizzlies center Hasheem Thabeet, 7 feet 3, picked up two quick fouls in the first few minutes, wrapping his arms around Howard in an attempt to stop him on the first play. 'Dwight Howard's a great player and Thabeet didn't get a fair share of the calls right from the start of the game,' Hollins said. 'It's not Dwight Howard against Thabeet --- it's us against the Orlando Magic.' Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy didn't see it that way after the Magic improved their preseason record to 4-0 by beating the Grizzlies 102-83 Monday night at FedEx Forum. 'That's absurd. I thought from the first play, all Thabeet did was try to grab him. It was obvious. Of course, I'm going to see it differently than Lionel,' Van Gundy said. Howard, who usually doesn't think he ever gets a break from the officials, said incredulously, 'Are you kidding? Somebody said I was getting calls?' "
  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: "Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and a 'prestigious group of Sacramento business leaders' will announce today at Arco Arena a plan to sell out the first two Kings home games this season. Kings co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof, Kings president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie, Westphal and members of the business group will be at the news conference. Attendance continued to decline at Arco last season as losses piled up. The Kings had only three sellouts last season."
  • A. Sherrod Blakely of MLive.com: "Will Bynum was a freshman at Arizona when Gilbert Arenas, just a few months into his NBA career with the Golden State Warriors, returned to campus. Arenas talked of the challenges he faced as a second-round pick trying to crack the rotation as a rookie with the Warriors. 'I saw the frustration in his eyes when he was talking to me,' Bynum said. 'He was telling me how hard he was working and how (not playing) just fueled him. I had kind of a similar path.' The paths of these kindred spirits crossed again this summer during workouts in Chicago with basketball strength and conditioning guru Tim Grover. 'I learned so much from (Arenas),' Bynum said. 'We talked about the game and how we could challenge ourselves in workouts everyday, trying to get better at every aspect of the game.' "
  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: "Some teams look good on paper. The Bulls sound as though things are shaping up for a strong season. Since training camp began, players have been emphasizing how well they've gotten along. No doubt, the locker room is louder and livelier than it's been in the past. Excessive laughter could be heard in the hallways even after a mundane Monday practice at the Berto Center. 'The practices are fun,' Joakim Noah said. 'We're having a great time together.' Maybe that's a good sign. The Detroit Pistons, which played for the conference championship six straight years from 2003-08, are probably the best recent example of a team that got along well and carried a strong chemistry onto the court. Vetera
    n guard Lindsey Hunter played on championship teams with the Pistons and Lakers. He's seen what works and gave the current Bulls a strong review. 'It's like family and that's how you want it,' Hunter said. 'It's hard to get that, too, by the way. It's really hard to get.' "
  • Bob Wolfley of the Journal Sentinel: "You could say Marvin Fishman helped shape the way Milwaukee defines itself as a city. His role in bringing the Bucks to Milwaukee and later donating art to museums in Wisconsin from his impressive collection were part of his legacy, part of the diverse ways Fishman influenced the culture of Milwaukee. Fishman died on Friday. He was 84. Anyone who encountered Fishman over the years and talked to him at any length knew him to be smart, tough and funny. But above all else, he really loved talking about the Milwaukee Bucks. He particularly loved talking about the Bucks in the early years. That made sense because Fishman was a major reason the National Basketball Association ended up in Milwaukee."

First Cup: Monday

October, 12, 2009
10/12/09
8:53
AM ET
  • 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.' "

First Cup: Friday

October, 9, 2009
10/09/09
8:52
AM ET
  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "It is hugely significant that Chris Bosh will make his pre-season debut for the Raptors in Minneapolis on Friday night, but another development at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday was just as welcomed by the team's brass. As Bosh went through some post-up drills with assistant coach Marc Iavaroni at one end of the practice court, Hedo Turkoglu was involved in some full-speed shooting drills at the other. And getting the high-priced free agent into action with his new teammates is of paramount importance to the Raptors. 'I'm feeling much better physically and mentally, too,' Turkoglu said after his workout. 'Hopefully next week, I'll start practising with the team and hopefully get into game shape and try to be 100 per cent on opening night.' Bothered by sore knees and a body worn down by a busy summer, the 30-year-old Turkoglu hasn't done anything of substance so far in training camp."
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "One of Mickael Pietrus' best dunks from last season lives on in an Internet video clip and in the pain he still feels in his right wrist. The highlight-reel play occurred last December against the Detroit Pistons. Pietrus dribbled across the lane, elevated off his right foot and slammed the ball home left-handed. 'Check it out on YouTube!' Pietrus said recently, grinning. 'It was nice.' Nice, yes. But costly, too. Pietrus collided with Detroit's Jason Maxiell and tumbled to the floor, bracing himself with his right hand. Pietrus fractured his shooting wrist. The wrist still hurts, though you wouldn't know it by how he's performed this preseason. Pietrus is excelling despite the pain, just as he did in last year's playoffs. 'He's shot the ball really well in training camp, so whatever the problem is, he should leave it exactly the way it is,' joked Orlando Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy."
  • Kate Fagan of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Yesterday at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, the Sixers practiced for about two hours: On multiple occasions, Dalembert dished to cutters for quick hoops. Such a display was a 180-degree turn from last season's struggles, when Dalembert requested a trade and spent much of the season frustrated with his role and playing time. 'I love Sam,' Eddie Jordan said. 'I love what Sam is doing for us. I love his approach, I love his attitude, I love his enthusiasm. ... Sometimes I have to tell him, 'Look for your shot, look for your shot.' And he's a willing passer out of the post.' This praise could come across as hollow as a basketball, but all on-court evidence supports Jordan's assertions: Dalembert's midrange shot has been consistent, as has his unselfishness in the post. 'Sam is an emotional guy and he knows this coaching group has his back,' said point guard Lou Williams. 'He's happy. Sam is happy. He's joking with guys again, he's talking; he's back to his normal self. We're going to need him to be that way.' Jordan said Dalembert has the second-best shot on the team, behind forward Jason Kapono, who is one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA."
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "In case you haven't noticed, Brendan Haywood has been around a while. 'Everybody is gone except me,' said Haywood, who is entering his ninth season with the Washington Wizards. 'It is weird, when I tell somebody I've been in the league, coming up on nine years, they say, 'How many teams?' I say, 'Just D.C.' They say, 'Wow, that's crazy.' Because normally you get through free agency or trade, people leave their cities, but I've always been here. It's been fun and I hope I can end my career here.' Haywood is one of just 10 active players in the NBA to spend at least eight seasons with one team. He is the only player on the Wizards roster whom President Ernie Grunfeld wasn't responsible for bringing to town. (Michael Jordan acquired him from Orlando in August 2001 after Haywood was drafted by Cleveland and traded to the Magic on draft night.) And now, Haywood is in the last year of a five-year, $25 million extension and fully plans to enter free agency for the first time next summer."
  • John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Fans don't get a chance to see a coach work with players in practice, so I can understand why most Bulls fans had a negative opinion of Vinny Del Negro. All they saw were the games and there were too many mistakes to have any other opinion. I know it's just the preseason, but I've noticed a change in Del Negro so far. The year of experience seems to have made a big difference. He's more confident and isn't as defensive. He's been very organized and the team got a lot accomplished in the first two weeks of camp. Barring any major injuries over the next three weeks, the Bulls should be prepared for a fast start in the regular season. Although the ultimate test of Del Negro's improvement will come when he's involved in a tight game in the regular season, I think Bulls fans will be pleasantly surprised this season. I'm not saying Del Negro will be the second coming of Phil Jackson, but he knows the game, has a sound philosophy and I believe he will be a good NBA coach."
  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: "It's not as though Hornets rookie point guard Darren Collison is normally quiet and soft-spoken when he's on the basketball court. Nonetheless, New Orleans Coach Byron Scott has been telling Collison, the team's first-round draft choice, he has to be more assertive when running the show. Problem is, while Collison was a starter in college at UCLA and ran the Bruins' offense, he never got much chance to talk. 'That's what the coaches are telling me,' he said Thursday night, after he made his NBA debut in the Hornets' 108-101 preseason loss against the Charlotte Bobcats. 'Make sure I call the plays out. Just make sure I do little things like that. At UCLA, I never called any plays out. We just called one play the whole time. As a point guard, it's something that has to be natural. But it's something I'll get accustomed to.' "
  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "Omri Casspi had three tough days and what he thought were three legitimate reasons to be in a funk. He thought the coach was down on him. He thought his fans in Israel were disappointed. He thought the glut of Kings small forwards foreshadowed a season of down time, depriving him of an opportunity to establish himself in the league. He was wrong about everything except the glut of small forwards. The rookie must fight through the crowd to earn playing time, but he already projects as an intriguing, energetic wild card. He runs. He shoots. He dunks. He dives on the floor. He plays fast and physical, and wants to play faster. And unofficially, and only because the exhibition season doesn't count, he already h
    as become the first Israeli to rouse an NBA crowd in the closing minutes of a home-court debut ? which he did during the Kings' loss to Portland on Wednesday night at Arco Arena. The ebb and flow of his rookie season thus far suggests that this is a good week. So Casspi, 21, should breathe a little. You know, chill. Resume the search for quality hummus. Enjoy."
  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: "While the Celtics' focus in training camp has been Kevin Garnett's rehabilitation from knee surgery, Ray Allen's decline in the postseason was a cause for concern. He shot 48 percent during the regular season, his best clip since 2000-01, but with no Garnett in the playoffs, opposing defenses focused on Allen, whose shooting dipped to 40 percent, 35 percent from the 3-point line. Fatigue may have been a factor, especially with Allen approaching his 34th birthday, and the guard also said he was nursing a sore hamstring during the postseason that was diagnosed as a sore lower back. So that's why he was running sprints after practice as if he were still in high school. Shirtless, Allen ran with fluidity and precision, determined to tire himself out. 'I think about field goal percentage, I think about 3-point field goal percentage and all those things are directly related to what kind of condition I am in,' said Allen. 'I did do a lot more this summer. I never really eat too bad but a lot things, you know you go to barbecues and eat more hot dogs and cheeseburgers on the grill, I cut that back a little earlier. It was just one of those things that felt necessary.' "
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Chuck Hayes gets it. The idea that he is - at a stocky 6-6 with few offensive skills - a starting center in the NBA, inspires the same reaction from him that he imagines others have at the sight of him in such an exalted position. 'I laugh,' he said. 'It's funny. We have the shortest point guard (Aaron Brooks) and the shortest center. But we find ways to make it happen.' The Rockets used to have the tallest center, adding to the sight gag. With Yao Ming out, they have gone from a 7-6 wealth of offensive skills and celebrity, a former first pick of the draft and seven-time All-Star, to Hayes, a relative unknown who is a foot shorter, was undrafted and worked his way back to the Rockets through the D-League. It is little wonder Hayes is amused by such a turn of events, with another reminder likely tonight in a matchup with Orlando's gifted young giant, Dwight Howard. The Rockets, however, have found that at a time things could fall apart, they need him to he hold them together. 'He's really important to have on the floor for us,' Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. 'I'm pretty sure he's going to be on the floor a lot because he's our best defender. There is nobody on our team close to him as far as defending inside.' "
  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "Back when he was in the Eastern Conference, Richard Jefferson used to look forward to a game against the Spurs the way a child looks forward to a visit to the dentist. The only upside was that he had to do it only twice a year. 'They were a team that, if they weren't scoring, neither were you,' Jefferson said. 'They were consistently one of the best defensive teams in the league.' If coach Gregg Popovich gets his wish, the Spurs will soon get back to playing the kind of defense Jefferson used to know and loathe. After a decade of standard-setting when it came to the art of suffocating other teams, the Spurs slipped from "elite” to 'just pretty good' last season. They finished ninth in field-goal percentage defense at 45.3 percent, the team's lowest rank and highest number in a dozen full seasons under Popovich. For a while, the Spurs were floundering along in the low 20s, a ranking that rendered Popovich practically apoplectic. ... Popovich has spent much of his time on the pulpit this preseason preaching the need for his team to return to the glory days. 'We tried to institute some new things the past couple of years, and they didn't really work out,' Popovich said. 'So we're going back to the good old days when we tried to lead the league defensively.' "
  • Mike Baldwin of The Oklahoman: "After facing him in a playoff series, Pat Riley said, 'If he gets much better, he's going to be one of the better players in this league.' And Jason Kidd called him the best big man he had ever played with. In 2006, that was the trajectory of Nenad Krstic's career. But a serious knee injury three days before Christmas altered his future, a major reason the 7-foot center from Serbia is now on the Thunder's roster. 'People in Oklahoma City probably don't know how highly thought of he was around the league,' said one Eastern Conference scout. 'He was starting to really take off. If he can be that player again, he would be a steal for them.' The looming question, the scout said, is whether Krstic can return to the form that impressed Riley, Kidd and Jefferson."
  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "Marcus Landry paid his own way to New York just for a tryout. As if answering a want-ad in the newspaper, he arrived without a place to stay and without much of a shot of making the Knicks. 'I don't like to think of myself as a longshot,' Landry says. 'I'll let the coaches decide that.' Undrafted, undersized but mostly undeterred, Landry is becoming the feel-good story of training camp. The 6-foot-7 rookie out of Wisconsin is making a strong push for a roster spot, having survived the first round of cuts while impressing Mike D'Antoni and Donnie Walsh with his work ethic and toughness. 'That's the kind of player we need,' Walsh said. It's been an eventful three weeks for Landry. The Knicks thought so little of him that they didn't provide a ride from the airport or pay for his $80-a-night hotel room. But after a solid training camp and in subsequent practices, let's just say Landry's accommodations have been upgraded. 'I just come out here every day, work hard and leave it up to Coach D'Antoni and Mr. Walsh to decide,' Landry said. 'We'll see what happens.' "
  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "Shaquille O'Neal raised a few eyebrows after practice Thursday by declaring this Cavaliers team 'the best team I've ever played on. On paper, anyway.' Some might take the 1999-2000 NBA champion Lakers with Bryant, Glen Rice, Robert Horry, Ron Harper, A.C. Green and Derek Fisher, or the 2003-04 Lakers who finished 56-26 with Bryant, Karl Malone and Gary Payton. When skeptical reporters questioned O'Neal about the comment, he said: 'I've always begged management to get me the power forward I've needed and the shooters I've needed. Here you've got a guy that's been starting 10 or 11 years [Zydrunas Ilgauskas] that's backing me up, you've got Varejao who's one of the top forwards in the league and you've got D-Block [Jackson] coming off the bench. We have a lot of great shooters, so on paper, I'd say yes.' When told of the c
    omment, coach Mike Brown smiled and said: 'When the big fella talks, you've got to listen. If he says that, it's something that has to be heard.' "
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "One thing is indisputable: D.J. Augustin is back to full health. An abdominal strain robbed Augustin of his explosion and change-of-direction the second half of last season. But Thursday he drove his way to 18 free throws, making 16, in the Charlotte Bobcats' 108-101 preseason victory over the New Orleans Hornets at Greensboro Coliseum. Augustin, a second-year point guard, finished with 22 points and the Bobcats totaled 58 free-throw attempts."
  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "The facility might not be entirely cooperative, but tonight could still shape up to be Fabulous. The Lakers return to the Forum in Inglewood for an exhibition game against Golden State, a blast from the past in a season that holds a promising future. The Lakers haven't played there since leaving for Staples Center in 1999, but owner Jerry Buss has wanted to return to the Forum for years. Now seemed like a good time, the franchise's 50th year in Los Angeles. ... The Lakers had to transport their basketball court from Staples Center to the Forum. There's no longer a scoreboard, so they will hang two large LED screens over the court. They will also bring their lighting trusses, basketball hoops and scorer's table from Staples Center. In fact, leaving no chance for faulty locker-room plumbing, the Lakers don't plan to shower at the Forum after the game. Players will take a team bus bound for the training facility in El Segundo, where hot water is guaranteed to await them. It might seem like a lot of extra work for an exhibition game, but, well, this is the former site of six Lakers championship teams."

Thursday Bullets

October, 8, 2009
10/08/09
2:59
PM ET
  • A prediction this year's champion will come from the East, where David Berri's numbers say Orlando, Boston and Cleveland are far ahead of the rest of the conference.
  • They asked all the Blazers which NBA players they respect the most. Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan tie for first with three votes each
  • Chris Douglas-Roberts has the messiest locker of all Nets, and he doesn't like getting taped up for games, because the tape hurts the skin on the bottom of his feet. Also, word that Douglas-Roberts and Courtney Lee are locked into a "nasty" battle for playing time.
  • The Madrid team's whole starting front line is injured for their exhibition against the Jazz this afternoon. Madrid's new coach, Ettore Messina, blogs about the slow work of integrating many new players.  On Sports.ru, he also writes about a player who won't be playing for Madrid: "As we agreed terms with [Pablo] Prigioni, a possibility to talk to Ricky Rubio came up. So, good offers were made both to Joventut Badalona and the player himself. After a week of thinking, Ricky decided that he wanted to spend the following two years (before leaving for the NBA) in Barcelona, close to his family and friends. At that point there was no way persuading him to come to Madrid. Though, obviously, we still wish him good luck." Worth noting that Messina has the impression Rubio will come to the NBA in two years -- even though it would make financial sense to wait for three.
  • Antawn Jamison doing yoga.
  • Sergio Rodriguez, for a moment, forgot which team he was on.
  • I have a pet theory that long players who can hit open jumpers, pass and play D all over the court are super valuable to any team. Suns rookie Earl Clark could be one of those guys
  • Weird thing: Dennis Rodman is one of the best players in NBA history, thanks to the fact that nobody has really ever rebounded like he did. That's what makes him great. Yet it's clearly not what people most loved about him. Here's how I know that: I just spent 20 minutes trying to find a really good highlight reel of his rebounding prowess. I thought it would be something we could all learn from, especially about recognizing and pursuing rebounds out of your area. And there are a zillion highlight reels of the guy. But as far as I can tell just about all of them are mostly dunks, fights, blocks, 3-pointers and clowning. It feels a little like we love those elements of basketball so much that even when we're celebrating a great rebounder, we won't actually do so with, you know, rebounds.
  • It's getting to be just about time for Julian Wright to show what he can do. How did the young Hornet fare in a preseason game against the Hawks? Bret LaGree of Hoopinion was there: "Julian Wright has a great (I fear it may be an innate) ability to overcomplicate a situation, to try to squeeze three moves into a play where only one is necessary but that wasn't in evidence tonight. At the start of the game, he and Morris Peterson would spot up outside the arc, leaving the paint (extended) to Paul and West, maybe Sean Marks if he set a ball-screen for Paul. Wright would cut to the basket if his man helped defensively. The three he missed was in rhythm and as good a look from that range as he's likely to have. The 16' jumper he made on the baseline in third quarter looked very instinctual. He was far superior to the Hawks 2nd/3rd string in the fourth quarter."
  • The assertion that if roles were reversed -- Will Bynum has been a first-round pick, and Rodney Stuckey had been undrafted -- Bynum would be the Pistons' starter.
  • "More Than a Game" -- the LeBron James documentary -- is said to rank up there in the sports documentary world with the Muhammad Ali story "When We Were Kings." High praise, indeed.
  • "We Believe" proved to be a bad tagline for the Clippers.
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "The officiating by the replacements was so atrocious that fill-in official Robbie Robinson could become the first referee to ever be fired twice by the NBA."
  • Clark Matthews, writing for Daily Thunder, on the cheap seats in Oklahoma City: "Do we have to keep calling the third tier 'Loud City?' I know the Hornet marketing team, which did an excellent job selling the sport to this market, came up with the idea, and a lot of people have embraced this, but I've sat up there a lot. It isn't loud and it's not a city."
  • Pacer rookie A.J. Price wore the wrong gear to practice and couldn't be in the team photo. Travis Diener, writing on the Indianapolis Star's website: "Those darn rookies. You've got to hold their hands through everything."

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