Thursday Bullets

  • Scary times for Etan Thomas, who is having open heart surgery today to repair a leaky aortic valve. Former Syracuse teammate Jason Mallin chimes in on the blog FromCourtside: "As a former teammate and friend of Etan, I wanted to wish him the best of luck with his surgery and a quick recovery. Etan is a man of great intellect and maturity well beyond his years. He wasn't the kind of guy you would find partying at the bar or getting into trouble. He is an individual thinker with strong beliefs but most of all he is a nice, caring and thoughtful person. Thinking back to our college days I recall many fond memories with Etan. We spent a fair amount of time together, being not only teammates but also business majors. Some of those memories include joking around as we sat bored out of our minds in managerial accounting, talking after practice or on road trips, driving around picturesque Syracuse, NY in his Tahoe as we headed to the mall or even to grab a quick bite. I always enjoyed Etan's company. It's been a few years since I last spoke to Etan. In fact, the last time I saw him was when the Wizards were in town to face the NY Knicks and I arrived at the Garden early. I recall him calling me down to the court as the players were shooting around. We caught up for a few minutes underneath the basket as he told security to let me on the court. I remember feeling very happy for Etan knowing how far he had come to make it in the NBA. He wasn't the most naturally gifted athlete, and was also undersized, however he was an extremely hard worker that persevered to become a defensive presence in the League."

  • Houston, don't say you weren't warned. There will be some very loud Greek fans in the Toyota Center tonight.

  • There are many arguments that top college athletes should stay in school. The more corruption we learn about in college sports, and the more athletes don't seem to be getting real educations, the less intriguing most of them are to me. Here's the other side of the argument, from Damon Agnos: "The last month has been a bad one for last year's star 7-foot freshmen: Greg Oden has had knee surgery, Spencer Hawes has been scheduled for knee surgery, and Brook Lopez has been declared academically ineligible for the first part of the season. Meanwhile, one-time surefire 1st round pick and current 1st round age limit casualty Bill Walker struggles to recover his trademark explosiveness after having his ACL fixed. Had he been born a year earlier, he'd be rehabbing on the dime of an NBA club, with another couple years of guaranteed pay ahead of him. Sort of like prep-to-pro Robert Swift, who's been paid handsomely to recover from knee surgery, or Swift's classmate Shaun Livingston, who may never play again but who can now afford decades of tuition payments. The lesson, college stars? Don't believe the hype -- unless the hype is that you're a consensus first-round pick. And as soon as that's the case, get out."

  • Basketbawful has the goods on a Mehmet Okur beverage commercial from Turkey. The product is called "Dimes:" "Forget Russell versus Chamberlain or Magic versus Bird; this is Mehmet Okur versus Mehmet Okur. I hate to ruin the surprise for you, but Mehmet Okur wins. Of course, the real winner is anybody who drinks Dimes. Seriously, I think Memo had a drinkgasm at the end of this clip. Have you ever in your entire life seen a look of such totally refreshed satisfaction on a human face? If you said yes, you're lying." Also, I'd point out that according to this commercial, in Turkey, apparently, in one-on-one, you check the ball in at half-court.

  • Ron Hitley of Hornets247: "With apologies to their fans, methinks the Pacers are the most insignificant team in the NBA right now. Perhaps insignificant is the wrong word. It's just that if the Hornets killed my family or something, thus forcing me to pick a new favorite team, the last team I'd pick would be the Pacers. They're just... ugh."

  • Luis Scola puts his finger on a difference between NBA and European basketball, as reported by Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Luis Scola had his first welcome to the NBA moments into Tuesday's game, repeatedly getting called for moving screens, fouls he said would not be called in Spanish League or Euroleague games. 'It was a big difference,' Scola said. 'You saw it. They call fouls every time. That's the difference. I have to stop doing it and doing it different, the way they do it here. It's no big deal. Don't move, I guess.'"

  • Interesting account of how teams should and should not credential bloggers.

  • Brian Windhorst writes about Cleveland's training camp for ESPN.com. After detailing the misery of the off-season -- instead of fresh talent, there's last season's roster minus holdouts Sasha Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao, and injured Eric Snow, plus effective player Damon Jones wants to be traded -- Windhorst writes: "The news isn't all bleak at Cavs camp, though. James arrived in excellent shape after a summer of hard work. After the Spurs had used his inconsistent jumper against him by playing off him and daring him to shoot during the Finals -- he shot just 35 percent in the four games -- James swore he would improve. After looking at several different shooting coaches, James practically had Cavs assistant coach Chris Jent live with him over the summer. Jent flew around the country on James' private jet to various locales and worked on shooting whenever James got time around sponsor commitments and vacations. The results showed with Team USA, when he averaged 18.1 points and shot a shocking 62 percent from 3-point range. 'LeBron could've just taken the summer off and nobody would've blamed him,' Cavs coach Mike Brown said. 'He's showing a lot of dedication, and that's what you want from your leaders.'"

  • Ian Whittell is awesome, huh? He's writing for ESPN.com from London: "NBA commissioner David Stern stressed Wednesday that he has not ruled out the possibility of taking punitive action against the New York Knicks or coach Isiah Thomas in the wake of the civil action that reached its conclusion last week. Stern also revealed that the league will not be firing any more of its referees after interviewing all 60 on staff in an attempt to unearth further conduct violations following the Tim Donaghy betting scandal." Then Stern goes on to get all mad at the New York Times. Worth a read. Also, here's video of Stern's press conference.

  • Great newsreel footage of a then 17-year-old: "Remember the name, Wilt Chamberlain -- It will probably make big sports copy for years to come."

  • The Oregonian has famously warre
    d with the Blazers on a number of fronts in recent years. But the war is over. Consider the comments of new Oregonian Blazer beat writer Joe Freeman (who, by the way, has been doing great work) as quoted by BlazersEdge: "I can't imagine there being an easier, more accommodating franchise to work with. Kevin Pritchard and Nate McMillan are extremely accessible and forthcoming. The players seem to be genuinely nice and hardworking. And the public relations and communications staff is friendly and helpful. I can't speak to what things were like before I hit the scene in the spring, but I have heard horror stories about the previous regime. There has been a great transformation with this franchise on the court and off the court, and I think it has been overwhelmingly positive."

  • I just got this email from TrueHoop reader Angel who says that if you look at Gilbert Arenas' online Halo 3 profile you will see that he has been victorious in a lot of games that were only a few seconds long. This is a known method to boost your rankings, although it is generally considered cheating. Do we know this is Gilbert Arenas doing this? We do not. But he did once say in his blog that he uses the name "Agent Arenas." UPDATE: Here's video of Arenas bragging about his Halo 3 ranking, saying things like: "I'm pretty talented, you know, I actually was beating the pros who were the pros in Halo 2 but not pros in Halo 3 ... for a while I was the number one player in Halo 3 until everyone got it."

  • Long, long, long interview from this summer with O.J. Mayo.

  • The Grizzlies are desperate to show they are a new team with a new attitude. New coach, new GM, new players ... and they came out of the gate with a loss to Unicaja Malaga. Whoops. Means nothing, but would have been better if it didn't happen that way. The thing to watch on that team: how do they play Kyle Lowry, Mike Conley Jr., Juan Carlos Navarro, and Damon Stoudamire? They're all real NBA players, and they can't all find time. Conley himself blogs about the game: "Yesterday we had our first pre season game and i had nerves running all through my body! It was different because of the hostile environment. I had never played over seas before and the fans love basketball. You could hear random whistles coming out of the stands and all of the different horns that people would play. I thought we werent mentally ready to play from the beginning of the game. But in the second half Kyle Lowry really stepped up when no one else was and helped get us back into the game. The other team made some tough plays down the stretch in order to beat us by a couple of points but i think it was a learning experience for both my teammates and I."

  • Remember Sedale Threatt? Yesterday The New York Times published a Michael Weinreb article which quoted the mother of one his children estimating Threatt might have as many as 14 kids. One of the two kids he has called Sedale Threatt Jr. (with different mothers) is the starting quarterback for Lehigh. If he's anything like his mom, Nadine Jackson, he's one tough dude: "Over the years, Jackson and her son moved frequently and endured a number of struggles, both financial and emotional. When Sedale Jr. was about 18 months old, a fire at the house where they were living in Boston killed Jackson's grandmother and her aunt's two babies. Her 10-year-old cousin leapt out of a second-floor window into her arms. Jackson said most of her salary from her job at the Gillette Company went toward care for Sedale Jr. 'We had nothing but the clothes on our back,' she said. Jackson said she refused to go on welfare, in part to serve as an example to her son. They bounced between various residences for several years. She and Sedale Jr. recalled that their overtures toward his father were repeatedly rebuffed; Sedale Jr. spent a couple of weeks with his father in Arizona as part of a court order when he was a teenager, but has not seen him since. But Jackson also refused to paint an overtly negative portrait of him. 'People would say: 'How can you do this? You're giving your child false hope,'' she said. 'But I didn't want him to be another young man whose father walked out on him. I didn't want him to be a young angry black man.' Jackson, who eventually became director of community relations for the New England Patriots, now works at an investment bank and lives in a house in Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood. She sent her son to private schools, and said that although Sedale Sr. promised to help pay the tuition at Lehigh, he had yet to contribute."

  • Matt from Blogabull on Joakim Noah's first pre-season game: "The guy I was really impressed with was Noah. Sure, his first possession was a jumphook chucked off the backboard. He was good at what we were told he was good at: passing, catching, defense, and rebounding. He'll fit in well with the Bulls big men with an uncanny ability to get his hands on loose balls and even pitching in a few steals. He finished strong and above the rim, and showed impressive athleticism when blocking and challenging shots. He's ready to join the frontcourt rotation right away."

  • Golden State's Kelenna Azubuike has barely been in the NBA long enough to learn his way into the locker room, but has already dropped 27 preseason points on the Lakers.

  • Quoting Sactown Royalty: "The Kevin Durant Show, Starring Kevin Martin." In Durant's first game, Martin scores 27 points on 11 shots. It's hard to help on Martin, because he scores within a second or two of posessing the ball. Durant will look better against other players.

  • Pat Riley called out Antoine Walker in the media, again, for his conditioning. Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel: "What did the Heat expect when it added Walker in the 2005 offseason? His current conditioning numbers are actually better than when he was acquired. This is who is he, what he is, and what he always has been."

  • Newsday's Ken Berger on Allan Houston's new deal with the Knicks: "Houston got a one-year deal, but the real mystery is whether it's guaranteed. Since a roster spot isn't guaranteed, logic would suggest that the contract isn't either. But with the Knicks, you never know. They won the Randolph Morris derby, for example, by guaranteeing his two-year deal and not prorating his salary last season."

  • Blazers.com's Mike Barrett on a Blazer who shone against the Clippers: "Martell Webster had the most impressive game offensively, scoring 28 points on 11 of 14 shooting. He had 22 in the second half, and scored in a variety of ways. He's talked of wanting to be more aggressive in takin
    g the ball to the rim, as well as shooting from distance, which he obviously has down." Sergio Rodriguez had seven assists and one turnover. Taurean Green was solid. LaMarcus Aldridge, again playing well. Brandon Roy didn't play, but says he has no pain. If Roy and Aldridge stay healthy, this is not a cellar-dwelling team.

  • Keeping tabs on Roko Leni Ukic, a tall point guard I was all over in the 2005 draft.

  • Speaking of over-sized Europeans I have adored in drafts, here's Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune: "Kyrylo Fesenko's game will be remember for the untucked jersey episode in the fourth quarter. That will overshadow what he did in the second quarter, when he had seven points and drove for a really nice left-handed basket. Maybe it isn't such a sure thing that he's headed to the NBA Development League this season."

  • Mark Cuban produced a hard-hitting documentary about Iraq, but the documentary's director is not at all happy with Cuban at the moment.

  • The genius who gave "Agent Zero" his nickname is ready to set up Washington Post beat writers Michael Lee and Ivan Carter with nicknames of their own. Hilarious, and a little strong in the language department.

  • UPDATE: Now that his Yankees have been vanquished, LeBron James is supporting the Indians. Via Deadspin.