First Cup: Tuesday

  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Geez, I go off to Richmond to cover a NASCAR race for a few days and look what happens: We're all going to need protective fire suits to cover the NBA this season. The Orlando Magic and the Miami Heat are going old-school nasty, making like Richard Petty and David Pearson, rubbin' tires and tradin' paint before the season even starts. To briefly recap, Magic general manager Otis Smith called out LeBron James, questioning his competitive desire after signing with the Heat. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy ripped Chris Bosh, calling him Dwayne Wade's 'lapdog.' Then Miami Heat President Pat Riley shot back, ripping Smith and Van Gundy. Then Van Gundy lashed back at Riley. There's not enough room to get all of this material on the bulletin board, unless you buy a bunch of them. This is mean, nasty and personal. The only thing missing is Rex Ryan barking that the New York Jets will win the [bleeping] NBA championship this season. I love it. For once, nobody can blame the media for trying to stir the pot. The pot's already boiling over with contentious crossfire. And that's how it should be. The best rivalries need a few obvious ingredients: Two great competitors (check), a contempt for each other's lifestyle (check), and a lively volley of words between both sides (double-check). Think Frazier-Ali, Celtics-Lakers, Yankees- Red Sox. Dare we add Magic-Heat to the mix?"

  • Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Ah, Stan. My friend. My old friend. My old, angry, jealous, emotional, genuinely fascinating friend. What were you thinking? More to the point: What exactly were you saying? And, whatever it was, can you keep saying it, please? This is starting to get fun. The Heat actually will care even more about Stan Van Gundy's Orlando team this season. Maybe not as much as Cleveland (for LeBron James' sake) or Boston (the second-best team in the East). Certainly not as much as the Los Angeles Lakers in mid-June. But the he-spat-he-spat contest between Heat president Pat Riley and Van Gundy was more emotional this weekend than most of the the football and twice as entertaining. If the Dolphins or Gators fizzle, can Riley and Van Gundy get in the Octagon? ... In so many ways, he and Riley are alike. Smart. Successful. Entertaining. And Stan, to his credit, is far more approachable, a common man done good. He's someone to root for. But calling another team's player a 'lap dog?' Then attacking a Hall of Famer for defending that player? Is this really who he wants to be when he grows up? Stan Van Ryan? It's fun. It's captivating. It's just makes me wonder what my old friend is thinking, much less saying."

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "This was always going to be a year when AndreaBargnani had to expand his role with the Raptors. But to heartthrob? The 24-year-old centre cavorted with model Nawal Valderrama in a video shoot for the Italian edition of GQ magazine -- 50 seconds that’s creating a bit of a stir in Bargnani’s adopted hometown of Toronto. In the video, which was first posted last week, Bargnani and Valderrama, who are reportedly dating, strike a variety of poses while a photographer snaps pictures and the 7-foot centre would appear to have some work to do before he’s totally comfortable in front of the camera. But it is a departure from the usual Bargnani that fans in Toronto have come to see over the course of his career. He’s never seemed entirely at ease with the spotlight, although those close to the team say he’s got a good if understated sense of humour. That level of awkwardness with the media may have to change this season, though. This is being seen as a year for Bargnani to emerge as one of the team’s leaders and public faces after the departure of Chris Bosh for Miami this summer."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "For now, however, the Rockets report for camp Sept. 24 expecting the roster to look as it does right now. They will insist they are happy about that, a point general manager Daryl Morey has made to his players. If a player of Carmelo Anthony's caliber becomes available, however, they cannot be satisfied. They are not the Lakers or Heat. They don't seem to have a championship roster. If they can make an improvement, they have to pursue it. But they were happy with the offseason. Give it a solid B. Plan A -- to get Chris Bosh -- failed. Plan B -- to keep Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry while adding a solid backup for Yao -- worked. Sounds like a B. Kevin Martin gushes with confidence and determination. Yao is ahead of schedule. Scola had a tremendous tournament in Turkey. Still, the questions are about Anthony. This is entirely understandable. A 'B' of an offseason does not inspire September predictions of an "A' of a season. But the Rockets do believe in the steps they have taken."

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "So this is the dilemma faced by the Hawks. They have the most leverage because they have Jamal Crawford under contract and are under no obligation to offer him an extension or trade him. The Hawks could tell Crawford they aren’t in position to meet his contract demands and don’t intend to trade him, and then hope Crawford’s desire to showcase for his next deal while playing for a winning team eventually will trump any hurt feelings. But taking that stance could threaten the team’s chemistry and cohesion before the season even gets started. I don’t need to remind you that both of those things unraveled for the Hawks by the end of last season. Larry Drew already has a lot on his plate before adding a disgruntled sixth man to the list. That’s not to say the Hawks will give in to keep Crawford happy but they obviously have to consider how not doing so could affect chemistry. You can see where both sides are coming from in this. Harder to see is the room for compromise if Crawford sticks with his demands and the Hawks stick with their fiscal plan. The Hawks probably anticipated Crawford would seek an extension after he slid seamlessly into the sixth man role and turned in his best season. What they may not have foreseen was that the request would come with a 'or trade me' addendum, which has led to this delicate dance as camp approaches. Things are quiet for the Hawks right now but a storm could be brewing."

  • Jeff Caplan of ESPNDallas.com: "When it comes to going under the knife, there's nothing wrong with calling in Mom. Yet, Rodrigue Beaubois refused his mother's persistent pleas to be by his side in Dallas for his Aug. 13 surgery in which a pin was placed in his left foot days after he broke his fifth metatarsal bone during a practice with the French national team. The injury eliminated him from playing in the just-concluded FIBA World Championships, what would have been his first international competition, and wiped out an important training camp as he enters his anticipated second season with the Dallas Mavericks. 'My mom wanted to come so bad, but I don't like that. I don't like to feel like I can't do anything. It wasn't like I couldn't move or anything like that,' Beaubois said.'It wasn't that big of a deal, and other people were there to help me.' ... Yes, everybody loves Roddy. And his mom, Roselys, and his dad, Gabriel, are now getting a first-hand look. Beaubois finally granted permission to his parents to visit for just the second time since he joined the team. They're in town for another week. 'I just wanted her to come and enjoy Dallas, do more than just take care of me,' Beaubois said. 'We've been to the mall and some good restaurants.' "

  • Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe: "Clifford Ray played ball at Oklahoma and won an NBA championship with Golden State. When he had the chance to continue doing what he lived for in that Mavericks job, he didn’t let pride get in the way. 'It was a tough thing,’ he said. 'But I took whatever opportunity was in front of me and tried to make the most of it. I had to go out every day and mop the floor at the practice facility and clean the gym and do whatever I had to do. I looked at it as an opportunity to teach, because that was my goal, to teach.’ However, Ray’s teaching days in Boston came to an end; he found out last month the Celtics weren’t bringing him back. ... The names of the players he’s helped mold stretches into the dozens. He has worked Kendrick Perkins to the bone over the past seven seasons. Dwight Howard still talks about the work ethic Ray instilled in him. He coached Carlos Boozer and DeSagana Diop in Cleveland. He mentored Chris Webber and PJ Brown in New Jersey and Boston. Adonal Foyle, a player Ray tutored in Golden State, repeatedly thanked Ray during an emotional retirement announcement. Antawn Jamison still invites Ray to his North Carolina home. ... Ray doubts he’ll land another job in the league, especially with the start of the season so close. He’ll spend time with his girlfriend, Mary, and his 11-year-old son Everett. 'There’s nothing I can do besides go home,’ Ray said. But when he looks at what basketball’s given him -- from Golden State to Dallas to Boston -- he has no regrets. 'I’ve had a really blessed life,’ Ray said. 'Maybe it doesn’t equate to millions and millions of dollars and maybe my lifestyle is a really simple lifestyle, but you know what, I don’t have no complaints about it.' "

  • From the Associated Press: "The Minnesota Timberwolves are nothing if not honest. The team took out a full-page ad in Monday's Star Tribune sports section, featuring a long open letter to fans that acknowledges the negatives, points to the positives, and spells out the plan for improvement. Included in the letter are these words: 'So will we challenge for the NBA championship this year? Not likely.' Chief marketing officer Ted Johnson says this is part of the team's attempt to establish a new relationship with fans and bring some transparency to how it operates. The franchise has struggled in the six years since Kevin Garnett led the Wolves to the Western Conference finals."