First Cup: Wednesday

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "With Yao Ming and the Rockets back this week for China Games 2010, the NBA has rushed in to capitalize on the most populous nation's rapidly growing affection for its product. 'I didn't have a specific picture in my mind,' NBA commissioner David Stern said. 'If I did, it would not have been as bright and as large as what has actually happened.' NBA games are televised in 215 nations. There are more than 100,000 stores (in more than 100 countries) that sell NBA merchandise. China is the second-most prolific market, after the U.S., with the league holding 570 events in China, ranging from clinics to a reality-television dance competition. The Rockets have no doubt how it happened. The day after the team selected Yao with the first pick in the 2002 NBA draft, Rockets owner Leslie Alexander said Yao would become the most popular athlete in the world, citing China's fan base and growing taste for basketball. It seemed hyperbolic then. It appears prescient now. 'Literally hundreds of millions of people follow us each and every season,' Rockets CEO Tad Brown said. 'We average 30-plus million people per game watching the broadcast of our games. It's given the full platform for the NBA to develop its grass roots, licensing, sponsorship, media, all of its efforts in China. The Rockets have truly become the national team of China.' Stern estimates between 3 and 5 percent of NBA revenue comes from China, and there is great potential for that figure to go up."

  • John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Just like coach Tom Thibodeau the day before, Carlos Boozer was dismissive of a New York Daily News report over the weekend saying the Bulls were looking into whether the power forward really broke his right hand by tripping over a bag in his home. 'Completely false, completely false,' Boozer said Tuesday. 'The guy was trying to create a story out of no story. Horrible reporting. Obviously, you want to get your facts right before you decide to write something that's not true. Horrible report and my Bulls are behind me and my teammates are behind me. For me, it's disgusting when a reporter writes something that's not true.' "

  • Gene Wang of The Washington Post: "The buildup to the Washington Wizards' first home preseason game was all about No. 1 overall pick John Wall making his VerizonCenter debut and the enigmatic Gilbert Arenas coming back there to play for the first time since a league-imposed suspension cost him the final 50 games of last season. While Arenas's anticipated return will have to wait at least several more nights because of what he later revealed as an apparently phantom ailment. ... Following the game, Arenas told reporters it was all a ruse in order to give Young the opportunity for more playing time. 'I know he's kind of frustrated he's not getting a chance to crack the three position, especially since we're going three guards, so I told him I'd go ahead and fake an injury or say something's wrong with me so you can start,' a smiling Arenas said in the locker room. When asked about the health of his knee, Arenas said, 'I'm fine,' and indicated he would play on Thursday in the Wizards' final home preseason game against Milwaukee."

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: "Lamar Odom said Tuesday he has never spoken of his beef from last season with Matt Barnes, then an Orlando Magic rival and now a Lakers teammate. Odom said the two are no longer 'enemies' because they’re teammates, but beyond that: 'I respect him.' Odom mentioned that he’s 'pretty sure' Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest never had to hash anything out after they had an altercation in the 2009 playoffs while Artest was with the Houston Rockets. Odom likened his situation with Barnes to that, and there’s no doubt that much of Odom’s spirit about the game lies in the team element about it."

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "The Knicks will probably not win an N.B.A. championship this season, but at least they can dream about it, without an alarm clock disrupting their R.E.M. cycles. There will be no morning shootarounds in New York this season, continuing an experiment that Coach Mike D’Antoni started last fall. But D’Antoni is tweaking the game-day schedule again, admitting that some parts of the routine did not work out so well. Last season the Knicks dropped the shootaround in favor of a late-afternoon walk-through, followed by a team meal. It reduced the commute time and ensured that players ate a healthy pregame dinner -- a main goal of the medical staff. The drawback was that players had to arrive by 4 p.m., three and a half hours before a typical 7:30 p.m. game. While some took advantage of the extra time to shoot or warm up, most of them merely loitered, or napped. The feedback was generally negative. ... This season the Knicks are dropping the pregame meal and requiring players to be at Madison Square Garden by 6 p.m., or 90 minutes before tipoff, which is the typical reporting time. ... A half-dozen N.B.A. teams have eliminated the traditional morning shootaround in recent years, preferring that players get proper rest and maintain a consistent sleep schedule. As always, D’Antoni said the new schedule was subject to change. 'I could go back to having shootarounds in the morning here,' he said. 'But right now the plan is not to do that at home.' "

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Whenever USA Basketball practiced to prepare for its World Championship run during the summer, Rudy Gay mostly played opposite Kevin Durant in what turned out to be spirited competition. However, Gay stops short of calling Durant a rival. The Grizzlies forward doesn't believe he's playing in his Oklahoma City Thunder counterpart's shadow, either. Griz coach Lionel Hollins also rejects the notion that it's a fair comparison just because Gay and Durant play small forward, are cornerstones of young teams and received maximum contracts during the offseason. 'You can't compare our team to Oklahoma City, either,' Hollins said. 'Two different teams. Constructed differently. They're an athletic, long, perimeter team. We're a power team that throws the ball inside.' The difference Tuesday night, albeit a preseason affair, was that the Griz made the Thunder look like its NBA Development League affiliate Tulsa 66ers in the BOK Center. Memphis shot 73.5 percent in the first half and cruised to a 116-96 victory after leading by as many as 39 points."

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Washington guard John Wall, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 draft, found a willing challenger in Hawks rookie Jordan Crawford. For a span of the second half, Wall and Crawford went back-and-forth in a scoring duel. Crawford ended with 30 points to 19 for Wall, though the Washington guard played 12 fewer minutes. Crawford made 13 of 20 shots while playing significant minutes at point guard for the second consecutive game. He also had five assists and five rebounds. 'I'm beat up a little bit. But it's fun,' Crawford said of playing 40-plus minutes in consecutive games. 'I'm the new guy on the team, and the preseason is for me. Coach is letting me play a lot of minutes and giving me freedom.' The Hawks acquired Crawford from New Jersey in a draft-night trade after the Nets selected him with the No. 27 overall pick."

  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: "Ronnie Brewer missed the final two months of last season with a partially torn right hamstring, then skipped the Bulls’ first three preseason games with another hamstring issue. Same leg, same muscle, but apparently two unrelated injuries. Asked how the problems differed, Brewer said the tear was at the bottom of his hamstring muscle, near the knee, while the recent pain was much higher on the leg. After sitting out the first two weeks of training camp to rest the latest injury, Brewer finally made his Bulls debut Tuesday night against Toronto. 'It was just kind of a weird thing,' he said. 'I was conditioning with the strength coaches and it happened to pull a little bit. It was the Friday before media day (Sept. 24). It definitely was a shock. There wasn’t any lingering trouble in my leg. There wasn’t any carry over from my previous injury.' Brewer played almost 10 minutes against Toronto, finishing the first and third quarters after checking in for Keith Bogans. Brewer finished with 4 points, a rebound and an assist."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "It's not difficult for Brandon Jennings to recall the playoff atmosphere inside the Bradley Center last spring, when the Milwaukee Bucks nearly upended the favored Atlanta Hawks in a first-round series. Sellout crowds of 18,717 attended Games 3, 4 and 6, and the Milwaukee fans were much louder than the crowds in Atlanta. Now Jennings believes that same spirit can be duplicated during the regular season when it opens in two weeks, with the home opener slated Oct. 30 against Charlotte. 'That means now we've got to go out on the court and do what we're supposed to do, and that's play Bucks basketball,' Jennings said after he scored 18 points Tuesday night in an open scrimmage at the Bradley Center. The Bucks have some appealing home games on the early season schedule, including a Nov. 16 date against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. There's also a Nov. 20 game against Team USA star Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder and a Dec. 4 matchup against Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic. And there is a Dec. 6 home game against the Miami Heat. You might have heard the Heat has added LeBron James and Chris Bosh to help former Marquette hero Dwyane Wade. 'All those games are going to be sold out,' Jennings said of home matchups with Miami, Boston and the Lakers. 'So we need a playoff atmosphere when those teams come. Hey, Kobe has a big fan base wherever he goes, and it's still going to be crazy.' "

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "Fans are running out of time to get a look at Tracy McGrady before the NBA regular season begins. Pistons coach John Kuester announced Tuesday that the free-agent acquisition will miss his third straight preseason game tonight, when the Pistons face Dallas in their annual trek westward to Grand Rapids. The team feels no rush to get McGrady on the floor before the season opener Oct. 27 at New Jersey. The Pistons are being extra careful with McGrady, 31, who is a year and a half removed from microfracture surgery on his left knee. McGrady took part in all drills the first week of training camp, but when his movements became less sharp, it was decided he would be better off getting his body ready for the regular season. Since playing only eight minutes in the opening preseason game at Miami, he has been in good spirits, joking around with teammates and a media member."

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "I want the old Stan back. The old regular-guy, no-tie Stan. Not this new, well-dressed, coat-and-tie Stan whom Magic brass are raving about. Did you see Stan Van Gundy during the team's preseason opener Sunday at the brand new Amway Center? He was wearing an impeccably tailored pinstriped suit -- necktie included -- bought for him by Magic President Bob Vander Weide. Said Van Gundy, relaying a conversation he had with Magic owner Rich DeVos after the game: 'Mr. DeVos said that I coach a lot better with a tie on. It was a subtle hint and we'll have to see where it goes.' Hopefully DeVos's hint, along with Van Gundy's tie, goes right in the trash can where it belongs. There should be some hard-and-fast rules in the NBA, and among them are these: 1. A maximum of six hours of Miami Heat coverage per day on ESPN instead of the usual 10. 2. No beer of 20 ounces or less in an arena can be sold for more than $5. 3. Stan Van Gundy should never wear a necktie. Putting a necktie on Stan Van Gundy is almost as criminal as putting a one-piece on Jessica Alba. Some things just don't go together: Champagne and Slim Jims. Mountain Dew and caviar. Peanut butter and horseradish. Stan and a tie."

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "His full name is Corperryale Ladorable Harris, but you can call him Manny. How's that? 'I really can't explain it,' the 6-5, 185-pound guard said with a smile. 'My daddy started calling me that when I was a baby.' After two strong showings in Cavaliers victories at Houston and Dallas, Harris is worth getting to know. His first name is a combination of the names of an aunt and uncle. All of his nine brothers and sisters -- Manny is the second-youngest of 10 children -- have similar first and middle names. But only two, Manny and his sister Janelle, made a name for themselves in basketball. ... Derrick McDowell, now the associate head men's basketball coach at Eastern Michigan, coached Manny Harris for his first two years at Redford, which is now closed. 'I knew he had a chance to be special,' McDowell said. 'At that point, I played him at point guard. I didn't know he'd turn out to be this athletic. After the middle of his sophomore year, he just kept getting better. I didn't think we could win the city title that year but we won it and the reason was Manny.' ... 'I'm surprised some people slipped on Manny,' McDowell said. 'After all that Cleveland's been through, if Manny can get on the team, I think Manny will wake up a lot of people. But I'm not surprised at all.' "

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "Kings rookie DeMarcus Cousins is tired and sore. His legs are heavy. His muscles ache. His sleeping patterns have been disrupted by the move to the West Coast. Often, he's the last man to reach the baseline during conditioning drills. But he's also the last big man standing. If he has to grab his shorts while catching his breath? If he still has a few pounds to lose? Not a long-term problem. The Kings just don't want their gifted young center -- their only healthy center -- to strain a muscle while he's bending over. 'It's been tough,' Cousins said before contributing 20 points and eight rebounds in Tuesday's exhibition victory over the Warriors. 'I'm making a lot of mistakes, committing turnovers. But I guess that's part of being a rookie.' And it's not going to get any easier. All thoughts of carefully choreographing Cousins' transition from Kentucky to the pros have been abandoned. Offseason acquisition Samuel Dalembert (groin) is sidelined four to six weeks, and 7-foot rookie Hassan Whiteside is out indefinitely (knee). 'Whether DeMarcus started or didn't start, Dalembert figured to play about half the minutes at center,' said Kings coach Paul Westphal. 'That was 48 minutes of pretty good center play we penciled in, figuring, 'Boy, we're pretty strong.' Now we can't even put Whiteside out there.' "

  • Rachel Bachman of The Oregonian: "Rich Cho got braces last December, seven months before the Trail Blazers hired him as general manager. His family couldn't afford to have his very crowded teeth straightened as a child, and he is glad he finally took the plunge. 'Some people have asked me about the job and, 'Hey, are you worried about what people think as far as you not making any moves yet or the moves you're going to make?' ' Cho said. 'And I said, 'Look, I'm 44 -- now 45 -- with braces. I'm not that concerned with what people think.' I'm just trying to do a good job and help the team win.' ... Bill Dischinger, who runs a Lake Oswego orthodontia practice with his father and former Blazer Terry Dischinger, says Cho is one in a line of Blazers one or both have treated, starting with longtime Blazers announcer Bill Schonely. 'I made a retainer for (current Blazer) Jerryd Bayless, so that was a big deal,' Bill Dischinger said. 'My staff was all excited about that.' "