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First Cup: Friday

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "Kings forward Omri Casspi said Thursday he was 'hurt' after learning that a mural featuring his likeness was defaced with a swastika. The incident at 16th and R streets in midtown Sacramento is being investigated as a possible hate crime by local authorities. 'It's been all over the news over here,' said Casspi by phone at his family home in Yavne, Israel. 'Everybody's talking about it. It's hurtful to think that this is 2010, and there are still people like that out there. I almost don't know what to say. It's probably just some idiot who wants some publicity. But I know the people in Sacramento, and they have been wonderful to me. I know they must feel bad about this. Same thing with the Kings. I'll just let the police handle this and focus on having a great season.' Casspi, the first Israeli to play in the NBA, returns to Sacramento on Monday to begin preparing for his second training camp."

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "The Laker who impulsively dyes his hair, tweets his anger and was recently stopped by police while driving what appeared to be a Formula One race car through Los Angeles was speaking to middle schoolers about the importance of mental stability? 'I was like, I don't think I can do this, this is an important issue and I won't want to get out the wrong message,' Ron Artest told several hundred young teens. 'Then I said, 'You know what?... Who else better to do this than me?' ' And so he did it. At the invitation of Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (D-Norwalk), who is pushing a bill providing funding for schools to set up mental health programs, Artest stepped back into the punch line of the joke that has haunted him for most of his 30 years. In torn jeans, tennis shoes, collared shirt, sport coat and vulnerable grin, the wacky one took the stage at his weakest. I've never seen him stronger.For 20 minutes in an auditorium that was hushed and reverent, the Lakers tough guy bared not his elbows or his fists, but his soul. Artest talked about being in therapy from the time his parents separated when he was 13 years old. He talked about being counseled for anger issues, marriage issues, parenting issues. 'I'm like, how can a kid in East L.A … get the same help that I got without paying so much?' he said. Artest embraced every stereotype about him, explained every rip, displayed the sort of courage that goes far beyond staring down Paul Pierce."

  • Pete Thamel of The New York Times: "Turkey’s rapid rise as a basketball power can betraced, in part, to 'The White Shadow,' whose 54 episodes appeared on black-and-white TV here from 1980 to 1982. 'It made people aware of basketball in Turkey,' said Alper Yilmaz, a former national team player who works in the front office of Efes Pilsen, a club in Istanbul that has won 13 Turkish League titles since its founding in 1976. 'There was already basketball in Turkey,' Yilmaz added, 'but after that show, everyone started playing.' When 'The White Shadow' was first shown in Turkey, the country had one TV channel, Turkish Radio Television. With little competition, the series, which was dubbed, acquired a huge following. Aydin Ors, considered one of Turkey’s greatest coaches, said the impact could be felt in youth basketball -- mini basket, as it is known here -- and carried all the way to the national team. 'To see an indoor sport, people didn’t know a lot about indoor sports until that time,' Ors said. 'This show started to bring basketball into people’s lives every week.' "

  • Andre Iguodala for the Philadelphia Daily News: "That was a good win for us. The Russians are a very tough and physical team. I know people back in Philly are looking at my offensive numbers and don't think that I'm playing that well, but that's not my role on this team. I am here to play defense, score out on the break, get some putbacks. That's how I'll score on this team. I think Chauncey Billups put it best some time ago when we were all together. He said that there are really only three guys on this team that will play the same way that they will play in the NBA. Derrick Rose is our lead point guard who can score getting to the basket, who can find the open man and who plays good defense out front on the ball. Those are all the things he does with the Chicago Bulls. Kevin Durant is here to score for us, and he can do that a lot of ways. That's what he does for Oklahoma City. And Tyson Chandler is here to block shots and rebound, and that's what he does in the NBA. The other guys on the team have to fill in where needed."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "A resolution to the Nuggets' drawn-out negotiations with Carmelo Anthony will come only after the two sides formally meet, but that hasn't happened yet. That meeting is expected to happen soon. The Nuggets want to get a firm, final answer from Anthony on whether he wants to remain in Denver. The team offered a three-year, $65 million contract extension early this summer, and Anthony has not responded. New Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri said at his introductory news conference last week that he wanted to sit down with Melo as soon as possible in order to lay out the team's vision and try to persuade him to sign the contract extension. That meeting also has not happened yet. If Melo won't sign the extension, the Nuggets will seek a trade so they get something in return, as opposed to letting him become a free agent next summer and getting nothing. Melo's only public comments on the matter came last month when he said he would take his time and assess the situation."

  • Marty Dobrow of The Boston Globe: "Tonight, perhaps, the past will finally be reclaimed. John Calipari will be back in the house for a ceremony inducting Marcus DeWayne Camby into the UMass Athletic Hall of Fame. 'He deserves it,’ said Calipari, now the coach at the University of Kentucky. 'We were a top 25 [team] before he got there. He took us to the next level. We became No. 1 in the country.’ 'It’s a great feeling,’ said Camby, who is now playing for the Portland Trail Blazers, his fifth NBA team. 'I’m excited to be recognized for my contributions.’ Some view the induction as a sellout by the school (a recent headline in the Springfield Republican referred to Camby’s induction into the 'UMass Hall of Shame’). Others see it as a long overdue tribute, a chance to honor one of the school’s greatest athletes, and a player who has generally conducted himself with dignity and generosity through a 14-year career in the NBA. 'Marcus is just a huge part of the athletic history here at UMass,’ said athletic director John McCutcheon, who did not work at the school during Camby’s playing days. 'We’re not trying to cover up and forget the bad things that happened. But we want to remember that some really good things happened as well. We just think it’s time to recognize what he did mean to the program.’ " ... Bayno has long maintained that Camby was unfairly singled out for criticism in the aftermath of the agent scandal. 'He was a young kid,’ Bayno said. 'He had a lot of his friends getting involved with these agents. How many young kids put in that position wouldn’t have given into the temptation? Especially growing up poor, with nothing, and you think, ‘I’m not going to get caught.’ We all make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect. But he did own up to it. The bottom line, anybody who knows Marcus, he’s always been an absolute sweetheart of a kid.’ Calipari is characteristically blunt in his assessment of what happened to Camby: 'He was preyed upon.’ "

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Bucks assistant general manager Jeff Weltman said his quick trip to Istanbul was trouble-free, a 10-hour flight from Chicago O'Hare to the Turkish city last week and the same trip back on Wednesday. What Weltman found was interesting, to say the least. How about giant pictures of Bucks forward and Turkish star Ersan Ilyasova plastered all over a city bus? 'The atmosphere was great,' Weltman said after returning home. 'There's a huge political referendum going on and there was a U2 concert. But it's safe to say the FIFA World Championships were front and center.' Weltman went to Turkey to show his support for Bucks players Ilyasova and Carlos Delfino, watching both of them in round-of-16 games. He saw Delfino and Argentina knock off Brazil, although Argentina was eliminated from medal contention in a 104-85 quarterfinal loss to Lithuania on Thursday. ... Weltman said he believes the experience gained by Ilyasova and Delfino will help them when they return to the Bucks for training camp in a few weeks. 'Look at Carlos' situation,' Weltman said. 'Argentina had to search for points and it put Carlos in a more prominent scoring role, maybe even forced him to do things a little out of his comfort zone. It makes you grow up. It's a man-sized challenge to assume the responsiblity that comes with it.' "

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "Roddy Beaubois was doing his best Lance Armstrong on Thursday in the Mavericks' locker room, pedaling the stationary bike up and down imaginary hills. That and weightlifting is about all he can do. He still wears a protective walking boot on his left foot, which needed a pin inserted in it to stabilize a broken bone near the outside of the foot suffered in early August. At least he's not on crutches anymore. Now, he's getting primed for what the Mavericks hope/expect to be a breakout season for the second-year guard. He took some time to detail what his off-season was like, starting with the injury that happened when he was working out with the French national team in preparations for the World Championships. 'I was feeling a little pain for a couple days, but they X-rayed it and didn't see anything,' Beaubois said. 'I couldn't feel it every time, so I thought maybe it's nothing. Sometimes I'd feel it for a couple of minutes. But I'd come back and it would be good. Then, one day, whoa, it just broke. When it broke, I knew it. I knew it was something bad.' Beaubois said he's hopeful to be ready to go by the start of the regular season on Oct. 27."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "When John Wall was introduced to adoring fans during Midnight Madness festivities before his freshman year at Kentucky, he broke out his infamous, tea-kettle inspired dance and started a sensation. What will he have in store when he makes his Wizards' debut when the team holds its own Midnight Madness festivities on Sept. 28? That's right. An NCAA tradition is coming to the NBA. The Wizards' plans to move training camp to George Mason's Patriot Center after spending the past six seasons in Richmond have been known for some time, with new owner Ted Leonsis expressing a desire to be closer to his fanbase. They made those plans official on Thursday but also announced that much more change is in store as the Wizards take a different, more interactive approach to training camp, with a midnight practice on Sept. 28. The event will be open to the public and feature player introductions, an open practice, giveaways and ticket offers for regular season games. The team will also offer special incentives for George Mason students. Doors open at 11 p.m. on Sept. 27."

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: "When Al Jefferson grew up in his small Mississippi town of Prentice, school supplies weren't easy to come by. Now a successful adult -- one with millions of dollars, at that -- the newest member of the Utah Jazz is making sure a few dozen underprivileged Utah children and their parents no longer have a similar concern. On Thursday, Jefferson met, chatted with and delivered scholastic-friendly backpacks loaded with pencils, notebooks, scissors, glue and the like to about 40 pumped-up kids and dozens of equally pumped-up parents who live at The Road Home-sponsored Palmer Court. 'I just figure,' Jefferson said, 'it's one less thing for them to worry about ... (so they can) focus more on school.' It was Jefferson who paid for the supplies and whose camp contacted organizers of the affordable housing facility, which provides permanent shelter for formerly homeless families in a transformed hotel on Main Street. 'I love kids. They (are) our future. It's all about them, so why not give back to help them?' the 25-year-old big man said. 'I've been blessed. It's my turn to bless people -- that's the way I look at it.' 'Thrill of a lifetime' was the way those attending seemed to look at it after they got to rub shoulders with Jefferson, who continues to win over fans in Utah since being traded from Minnesota."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "For years, especially around All-Star Weekend and the accompanying dunking contest, the calls were made, especially to an aunt who lived in Miami. Each time the answer was the same. 'He doesn’t want to talk.' Or 'He doesn’t want to do anything.' And so, Harold Miner, Miami Heat 1992 first-round draft choice, and two-time dunking-contest champion, simply faded into oblivion. Eventually, the queries diminished. Miner, after all, played a mere three seasons in South Florida, started just 47 games, appeared in only four playoff games. And then? And then this thing called the Internet took off. And then niche websites, such as LostLettermen.com, sprouted. And because of that, there now is a rest of the story. Harold Miner, now 39, lives. Quietly. In Las Vegas. Off his NBA earnings, with no real need for a day job from the time he left the league. Quiet by nature from the moment he arrived in South Florida, his shyness accompanied by a warm smile, Miner recently told LostLettermen.com he was surprised by all the fuss from those spending these intervening years trying to locate him. 'I’m really kind of dumbfounded as to why people would be interested in reading a story about me,' Miner told the website. 'I haven’t played in almost 15 years and I haven’t done anything significant on a national scale since my junior year at (Southern Cal) almost 20 years ago. It’s a trip, actually.' "