First Cup: Tuesday

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "Yet some Lakers think it's not out of the question to try to top 72. Lakers veteran forward Lamar Odom, whose name now resonates among gossip-magazine groupies because of his rush-to-the-altar marriage last month to reality-TV star Khloe Kardashian, is on the 'anything's possible' side. 'I think there's a shot. It would be cool too,' he said. 'If we can get the Bulls' record and win a championship, I'd take that. But if we won only 58 and won a championship, I'd take that. At the end of the day, you want to be the best team standing in June.' The Lakers' resemblance to that legendary Bulls team is obvious, if not slightly peculiar. Each team had the best player in the clutch -- the Bulls had Jordan, the Lakers have Kobe Bryant. Each team had a talented No. 2 guy -- Pippen for the Bulls, Pau Gasol now for the Lakers. And each team had a wild card, someone as flamboyant off the court as on it, the Bulls' Rodman and Lakers newcomer Ron Artest, two players with unpredictable personas. They also share a head coach -- Phil Jackson is in his 10th season with the Lakers, after guiding Chicago to that regular-season record, plus six championships."

  • Tom Knott of The Washington Times: "This time it is Antawn Jamison in the infirmary, laid up and out the next month. This goes with the program, the players either cursed or exceptionally brittle. The Wizards cannot catch a break unless it is one to a hand. That was one of the injuries that sidelined Caron Butler during the team's extended period of invalidity. This was supposed to be a pain-free season, stuffed with victories and devoid of doctors' orders and timetables. We now know that was a misguided hope. Most teams get through the preseason without an injury to an All-Star. The All-Stars with the Wizards cross the street and are lucky to come out of the experience in one piece."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Perhaps this wasn't what the NBA had in mind. Sending the Rockets back to Portland, to begin the season where the postseason began six months earlier, might have offered a nice bit of symmetry, a way to renew a budding rivalry between two of the Western Conference's emerging teams. And despite a question posed by Aaron Brooks -- 'Does one series make a rivary?' -- it could have felt as much like a Game 7 of a playoff series as Game 1 of the Rockets' 2009-10 schedule. Instead, with the Rockets radically different with Yao Ming out and Tracy McGrady not yet back, the matchup offers a chance not just for them to measure themselves against one of the best teams in the West, but to compare themselves to what they were when they last took the floor for games that matter."

  • Tom Enlund of the Journal Sentinel: "There's an adage that says the statistics don't lie. But the numbers can, at least in the preseason, sometimes be a bit misleading. Take the Milwaukee Bucks, for instance. 'If you look at statistics you could say it didn't go very well,' said coach Scott Skiles whose NBA team won three of eight preseason games. 'We got out-shot from the field, out-shot from the three, out-rebounded, out free-throwed ... but we feel like some of those are deceiving. I suppose every coach, maybe other than Stan (Van Gundy) because Orlando went undefeated, but I would imagine everyone else would say there were good moments, bad moments, and things to work on. You try to build on the good things you're doing and eliminate the things you're not doing well.' Some of the preseason statistics do not reflect well on the Bucks. The opposition shot 44.9% from the field while the Bucks shot 42.9%. Milwaukee made 35.3% of its three-point shots while the opponents shot 38.5%. The opposition made 233 of 311 free throws (74.9%) while the Bucks were 149 of 214 (69.6%). The Bucks were out-rebounded by an average of 40.9 to 38.8% per game. On the other hand, Skiles was pleased with the way his team moved the ball (23.4 assists per game compared to 17.9 for the opponents). The Bucks averaged 1.1 more steals and 4.4 less turnovers per game than their opponents. But it's difficult to draw too many conclusions from preseason statistics."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel: "Welcome to the 2009-10 season, the waiting room for the Miami Heat's future. Yes, the league still will count wins and losses for South Florida's entry this season. And the playoffs remain the goal for Erik Spoelstra's team. But it is the long view that figures to dominate the Heat's perspective, even as it gets to the short-term task at hand of Wednesday's season opener against the New York Knicks at AmericanAirlines Arena. No, this is not a case of a franchise held hostage. Dwyane Wade, who can opt out of his contract by June 30 and become a free agent on July 1, insists the focus is improving on last season's 43-39 finish and seven-game first-round playoff ouster at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks. ... 'My focus right now is to move forward and get ready for the season,' he says during a quiet moment on the Heat's practice court. 'I'm here. This is my team. I just look at it and say on the business side of things that I put myself in the position where I can control some of my own destiny, and that's hopefully right here in Miami.' The words are similar to those offered by LeBron James in Cleveland and Chris Bosh in Toronto, All-Stars who also can opt out at season's end and become players of a different sort on the 2010 free-agent market. The words also are similar to those offered by a dominant free agent of a previous decade, who once uttered, 'Orlando is my first option.' Months later, Shaquille O'Neal left the Magic to start a Lakers dynasty in Los Angeles."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "From fans to front-office types, the Nuggets' moves this summer were underwhelming. And with several competitors adding big-name talent, most predict the Nuggets will fall down a few steps from their conference finals appearance. None of those skeptics, however, work at the Pepsi Center. 'I think it's very fair to say that we haven't had a marquee move,' Nuggets vice president of basketball operations Mark Warkentien said. 'But I would say last year, (Chris Andersen) and Dahntay (Jones), when we did those deals, those weren't viewed as marquee deals either.' By the end of the season they were, with Andersen spectacular coming off the Denver bench and Jones having earned a starting spot as a defensive specialist. Warkentien said the Nuggets' moves this summer were based on the same strategy, keeping the team largely intact but adding talent through less-publicized moves. 'We traded to get into the draft to get Ty Lawson. I think that's proven to be prudent,' Warkentien said. "We traded to get Arron Afflalo, which was all about replacing Dahntay Jones, and we feel good about that. Malik Allen was a swap of rookie parts for a veteran guy. I don't know whether he's the fourth big, fifth big, whatever, but I'd say he's an upgrade from whatever we had at that point last year.' "

  • Kate Fagan of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Approaching their opener tomorrow against the host Orlando Magic, the Sixers are a mystery. More than any Sixers season in recent memory, there are a high ceiling and a low basement. There are also important questions. If they are solved, this team could be catapulted near the top of the Eastern Conference. If they are not, it would likely drop out of playoff contention, into the draft lottery. Of those questions, the most pressing involves head coach Eddie Jordan's Princeton offense. Jordan, who first ran it with the Sacramento Kings in the 1996-97 season, loves the way it incorporates every player on the floor. He also employed the offense as an assistant coach of the New Jersey Nets and as head coach in Washington. But do the Sixers understand it? Are the players buying in? Why even learn such an intricate system? Realistically, in the first 10 games, if the Sixers are going to win while running the offense, they will need to run it as little as possible. Such is the case not because it ultimately won't work - no one is sure of that yet - but because, as in years past, the team is most effective in transition."

  • Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun: "Chris Bosh, who put on about 20 pounds of muscle in the off-season in an effort to bump up his own game, particularly when he's facing three of the best bigs in the East (Shaq, Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard), said that building chemistry is going to be huge for the Raptors, with nine new faces in the lineup. Given the fact that they missed the playoffs last year and they really haven't had a chance to play as a starting unit full-out during the pre-season because of injuries, Bosh admitted that this year's Raptors are very much a mystery team. 'It's very interesting. We're one of those teams that has a question mark by our record,' Bosh said. 'But you just have to play basketball. But it's good to have a question mark,' he continued. 'You never know what's going to happen. And as long as we stick to positive thoughts about success, I think we're going to be good.' Naysayers might suggest that Bosh worked doubly hard in preparation for this season because he is eligible to become a free agent at the end of the campaign. But those close to the four-time NBA all-star, including Triano, see it as a young player determined to lead his team out of the wilderness."

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: "Amid a nationwide economic downturn, sports fans in this area are still seeking out ways to escape their anxieties for a few hours. The Hornets are the beneficiaries of a loyal fan base that continues to buy tickets in a way that a year ago went against the NBA norm, though Hornets officials say 2009 purchasing patterns are slightly different. 'Last year, we sold more season tickets than any other team in history from the previous summer and surpassed the 10,000 total, which is an industry benchmark, ' team president Hugh Weber said. 'This year, we've seen a more deliberate approach in purchasing habits but are seeing trends that project us to having similar levels as last year.' "

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "Since the first day of training camp, the Cavaliers have been living in a gray area with the status of Delonte West, their valuable but troubled guard. Sometimes it has been because they were trying to protect West, sometimes it has been because they were trying to help him, and sometimes it has been because they just don't know. Battling to attain balance coming off a very difficult month, West is truly day-to-day. Monday after practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts the team left the door open that West could play against the Celtics in the season opener tonight. But because of the nature of the situation, it is far from a sure thing and not just because the Cavs may want to leave the Celtics guessing. Even the team seems to be guessing. 'Right now he is, I think he's active for tomorrow night,' LeBron James said Monday. 'It is still up in the air, I'm not sure. We hope he's active and he's ready to go.' "

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "You might think Doc Rivers should walk gingerly through a rotation that includes such rare and fine gallery pieces as Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rasheed Wallace. But to Rivers' way of thinking, to cook a championship omelet, one must break a few Faberge eggs. He's not going to be stupid as he tries to steer his thirtysomething stars through the season, but the coach isn't going to be overly careful either. 'No, I don't think you have to be,' Rivers said as he approached the season. 'I think that is a little overplayed. You know, they're basketball players. That's what they do, and I don't think that's going to change much ever. Guys are going to play their minutes. You always watch minutes with the veteran guys, but experts will actually tell you that's the exact opposite of what you should do. The younger guys are the ones who get more tight. It's funny. We assume the younger guys are in better condition, but you ask any exercise guy in the world and they'll tell you the veteran guys are more conditioned, mentally and physically. Having said that, you always watch the minutes. But I rarely think fatigue has anything to do with why a guy gets injured. I think usually people get injured because they're in a bad spot at the wrong time.' "