First Cup: Thursday

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Though it might take one more win, Kevin Durant has already conceded the tournament MVP to Luis Scola, which should look nice in his trophy case, along with two Spanish League MVPs, and a Tournament of Americas MVP, to say nothing of a gold medal, two silvers and a bronze from previous Olympics or World Championships, and whatever medal be brings back from Turkey this summer. It is little wonder why Scola plays in these tournaments every chance he gets. But among the benefits that might be emerging through his phenomenal play in Turkey is that these competitions make him the rarest of professionals -- one that continues to improve as he reaches an age, 30, when players are supposed to be long past changing for the better. Scola will not have the same role for the Rockets as he has assumed for Argentina, though his play with Yao Ming out after the trade of Carl Landry indicated that his run this month is not a Turkish aberration. Averaging 30.3 points in the tournament, 6.6 more than the next best scorer, he will go back to playing off Yao and within an offense that spreads the wealth and touches. But his ability in these tournaments to rise to the occasion and be at his best when his best is needed does not just reveal that ability but might help develop it. He will not have to be the center of his team's offense, as he is these days with Argentina, to find himself with the key last-minute shot that makes or breaks a playoff game. Watching this tournament, it is difficult to imagine there is a place the Rockets would rather have that shot, or that he could have done anything that would better prepare for it."

  • Michael Lee of the The Washington Post: "The Wizards have been trade partners with the Minnesota Timberwolves over the past two summers and it will probably be several years before both deals can fully be judged. But two of the pieces that Washington sacrificed were on display on Wednesday during Serbia's 92-89 upset victory over Spain in the quarterfinals of the FIBA world championships in Istanbul. Ricky Rubio was never drafted by the Wizards, but he always be linked to the organization since the Timberwolves selected the teenage wunderkind with the fifth overall pick they acquired in a deal for Mike Miller and Randy Foye two summers ago. And, going into Spain's quarterfinal game against Serbia, Rubio was perhaps the most intriguing player to Wizards fans, given all the excitement he generated at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. But after the game, Nemanja Bjelica emerged as another prospect to keep an eye on down the road. The Wizards drafted Bjelica with the 35th pick last June before dealing him, and the 30th pick (Lazar Hayward), to the Timberwolves as part of a pre-arranged deal to get Trevor Booker and Hamady Ndiaye. ... Bjelica isn't expected to come to the NBA until 2012 after signing a five-year contract with Spanish club Caja Laboral -- where Brazilian forward Tiago Splitter starred before electing to join the San Antonio Spurs next season -- that included a buyout option to leave for the NBA after two years. His unique skill set has drawn comparisons to Toni Kukoc."

  • Andre Iguodala for the Philadelphia Daily News: "This Russian team will be the most physical we've played. They are a very, very tall team, with an average height of about 6-8 or 6-9. The guy who handles the ball most forthem is, like, 6-8, and I'll be sticking him most of the game. I'll try to get right up on him, get the ball out of his hands and take him out of his game. That's what they'll try to do to us, be physical and take us out of our game. They are kind of like the Detroit teams of the 1980s, where they get after you a lot defensively, mostly in a physical way. And that's a big part of our success, too, defense. When we have games where we aren't scoring, like against Brazil, we need to be able to rely on our defense, because that will always pull us through. Obviously, if we're not making shots, it makes things harder. But our defense will always keep us close if that happens. ... I've been reading a lot since being over here. I just finished two books and am now reading a book about body language. It tells you different things about what a person is thinking or how a person is feeling by how they are standing, if their arms are crossed, stuff like that. It has a whole chapter on smiling. It says that smiling is good for your health because it releases endorphins. It also burns calories. It gives a person a natural high. I don't smile that much on the court, because I'm so zoned into the game. But off the court, I love to smile and have a good time. My friends all know that I have a good, dry sense of humor. Fans might not see it on the court, because I'm so tuned in. There wasn't a whole lot to smile about last season, either. Hopefully, there will be more to smile about this season."

  • Evin Demirel for the Chicago Sun-Times: "Derrick Rose is ready to make the medal rounds with a young team seen by some as a junior varsity to the 2008 Olympic squad that won gold in Beijing. 'We're going to make it,' Rose said. 'There's no doubt in my mind. All my life, I've been hearing you can't do something or been an underdog.' ... The international experience has been good for Rose. ''You learn how to be a veteran, especially playing with a guy like Chauncey [Billups],' Rose said. 'He treats everybody just the same, and that tells you a lot about his character. Hopefully, one day I can win a championship like him or at least be right there on his level leadership-wise.' One player who could help him reach that goal in the NBA also could keep him from it at this competition: Bulls signee Omer Asik, one of the Turkish team's four 7-footers. 'He's real young, real active around the goal, plays aggressive -- and that's what we need on our team,' Rose said. Whether with the Bulls or Team USA, 'This whole year we're trying to base everything on defense,' Rose said. 'Defense first and offense second.' "

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Max Ergul, who is at the center of a controversy surrounding the recruitment of Turkish center Enes Kanter, played a role as a confidant and adviser to Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova. But Ergul never served as an agent for Ilyasova, according to former Bucks general manager Larry Harris. A Journal Sentinel story published in 2007 described Ergul, who is based in Chicago, as an agent. But Harris, reached by telephone Wednesday, indicated he played a different role. 'We had no dealings with him,' Harris said, referring to contract negotiations. 'He was a friend, helping Ersan make the transition to a new country. He was teaching him how to drive, taking him to the grocery, helping him get accustomed to the U.S.' Harris said negotiations were conducted with Turkish agent Tolga Tugsavul when the team was trying to keep Ilyasova under contract in the summer of 2007. ... When Ilyasova wanted to return to the NBA in the summer of 2009, Tugsavul and U.S.-based agent Andy Miller negotiated the deal, according to current Bucks general manager John Hammond."

  • Doug Lesmerises of The Plain Dealer: "The last time LeBron James took in an Ohio State game in person, he was still a Cleveland Cavalier and the Buckeyes lost to Penn State 13-6 during OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor's freshman year. Pryor wants another shot. 'I told him I owe him a show,' Pryor said Wednesday. Pryor is now a junior and James plays for the Miami Heat. Pryor said he has exchanged text messages with James this week and hopes to see him at Saturday's home game against the Miami Hurricanes, believing James plans to attend. If he does, Pryor has a message for fans. 'If LeBron does come, just treat him with respect and respect his decision,' Pryor said. 'Please, no name calling or booing or anything like that. Please. That's my mentor, and I've got a lot of respect for him and a lot of love for him.' In fact, Pryor said he was there for support after James announced his decision to leave Cleveland. 'When he was down, when people were throwing him under or burning his jersey, I just picked him up and said, 'I'm with you 100 percent,' ' Pryor said."

  • Fred Kerber of the New York Post: "Derrick Favors, the Nets' top draft pick this summer at No. 3, knows he will play this season, but his NBA introduction will be gradual. Steady, but gradual. There are elements he must acquire, like trust and confidence, that are as important as improvements to his physical game. Yes, the 6-foot-10, 251-pound power forward from Georgia Tech with the hellacious physical skills is prepared to wait his turn despite the lofty selection slot, despite joining a club whose team picture was a chalk outline after just a couple weeks last season. Still, that doesn't mean he can't impact in the minutes he'll get. 'My goal is to come in and get every rebound, try to score every time inside. Just play my part off the bench, come in, defend every minute,' Favors said yesterday after the team's voluntary workouts. 'Coach [Avery] Johnson told me they'd give me time to develop. I don't know what my minutes will be, but I just want to work hard in practice and prove to the coaches they can put their trust in me when they put me out on the court.' That trust is big for Favors, who turned 19 in July. Always, he has been a dominant force. Now he will face the very best in the world. He needs confidence. And coaches' trust breeds confidence. 'I'm confident, but I just want to make sure I'm on point with everything so I won't come out there and get called for travels, mess up a play or miss an assignment,' Favors said. 'Just be prepared.' "