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First Cup: Thursday

  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: At this point, we're all reading tea leaves when it comes to figuring out if Thunder reserve guard James Harden will or will not sign a four-year contract extension by next Wednesday's deadline. Harden is not saying anything about contract talks. General manager Sam Presti absolutely never says anything about negotiations, or much else concerning personnel matters. Based on Harden's preseason performance, however, perhaps negotiations are weighing heavily on his mind. Harden finished with 16 points in Wednesday night's 88-76 victory against the Dallas Mavericks before a record crowd of 15,004 at Intrust Bank Arena, but he continued to struggle with the velvet shooting stroke that made him a near-unanimous choice as NBA Sixth Man of the Year last season.

  • Al Iannazzone of Newsday: The Knicks couldn't escape the final preseason game without another injury to a significant player. This time it's Tyson Chandler's health that has Mike Woodson 's stomach in knots. Chandler left the Knicks' locker room on crutches Wednesday night and will have an MRI on his left knee Thursday. Trying to set a pick, Chandler collided with the Nets ' Gerald Wallace , ending his night 44 seconds into the Knicks' 97-95 overtime win at Nassau Coliseum. Chandler appeared to be in serious pain after Wallace ran into him. He immediately fell to the floor and was clutching his left leg. After being down for several moments, he banged the hardwood with his fist, then hopped up and walked off. The Knicks called it a sore left knee, but Chandler said he thinks it's a sprain. More will be known after the MRI. … Chandler didn't sound too concerned, though. He said the Knicks want him to not put any pressure on his knee until they get the results of the MRI.

  • Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post: Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to bury a sports icon: the NBA center. Hey, the big guy had a good, long run. But he's just another stiff now. In lieu of flowers, we'll send off the NBA center with a rewrite of a classic Randy Newman song: "Tall People Got NoReason to Live." The NBA center is dead? Heck, some of the Nuggets didn't even know he was sick, most particularly Kosta Koufos, who is 7 feet tall. "I definitely think of myself as a center," Koufos told me Wednesday. Well, hate to break this to you, big guy. But the league has thrown dirt on basketball tradition, officially erasing center from the NBA all-star ballot. And not even a tear was shed. What in the name of George Mikan is going on? The position had a duty to die, according to NBA executive vice president of operations Stu Jackson, calling the term "outdated and not representative of today's game or players." Who knew? Quicker than you can dump an iPhone 4S in the recycle bin, the NBA center has become more archaic than a typewriter.

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: An optimist would look at Wednesday's news and say that, while Andrew Bynum has had knee troubles in the past, this is a particular injury and the team is just practicing caution in delaying his return. A pessimist would wonder whether the Sixers invested a lot of money in a player who can't seem to stay healthy. Bynum and his new organization are positive this is nothing more than a bump in the road, though the 7-footer hasn't been running or doing any basketball-related activities. "Every day that he is not here on the court diminishes his chances of being there for the opener," DiLeo said of the Oct. 31 game against the Denver Nuggets. "We just have to talk to Andrew every day and see how he's feeling, and when he is pain-free, that's when we'll start basketball activities. Now he's going to rest a bit, and then he'll slowly do the low-impact things and build up. The same things that he was doing before but probably a little more rest after the Synvisc injection, and then after that, he'll do the same activities, low-impact, and build it up to a place where he can get out on the court and do basketball-related activities.

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: The Cavaliers exercised the option on coach Byron Scott's contract for the 2013-14 season, an NBA source told The Plain Dealer on Wednesday. It is believed the option is worth about $4 million. Scott and team officials did not meet with the media to comment. Scott, 51, has compiled a 40-108 record in his two seasons with the Cavs, but he has provided stability and leadership through some trying times. Also, he has been instrumental in developing the team's young players -- like last year's NBA Rookie of the Year, Kyrie Irving, and Tristan Thompson. Scott took over for Mike Brown in July 2010 under difficult circumstances. He took the job not knowing whether LeBron James would return to the team, then began the challenge of rebuilding when James left for Miami a week later.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Rockets guard Jeremy Lin continued to struggle with his shot Wednesday but in some ways saw progress. He had another in a series of preseason games in which he did many things well and got good shots for himself and teammates. But he made just one of eight attempts, taking six of those shots at the rim in the face of converging big men. “For me, it’s progress,” Lin said. “Obviously, I’m not where I want to be right now. Do I wish I played better? Of course. But I have to be realistic and understand when I came into training camp I couldn’t even get into the paint, and now I can get into the paint, but I’m not finishing. The next step is to start finishing, hitting open shots, and hopefully the dam breaks loose. I want to mix in the mid-range as well. But for the most part, the shots that I took are the ones I can finish and should finish. It’s one of those things (where) I took the shots and missed them, got blocked on a couple, didn’t make the right adjustment. But it will be better — much better — coming up soon.” Lin is 8-of-36 in the preseason. On Wednesday, he had five assists, three rebounds and two steals. He also had six turnovers, with most coming like his missed shots — deep in the paint as he tried to complete plays in traffic.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Arron Afflalo insists his left hamstring no longer worries him. But his lungs are a different story. Afflalo made his preseason debut Wednesday night -- a 115-100 Orlando Magic loss to the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum -- but he feels like he still has plenty of conditioning work left to do. That became clear as he chased Quincy Pondexter around screens. "The idea is for me to get to that level of conditioning to where I can do that, where I can guard some of the better players that get a lot of attention and still have the energy level to assume some responsibility on the offensive end of the court," Afflalo said afterward. In almost 19 minutes, Afflalo finished with 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Most important, he didn't suffer any setbacks in his return from a hamstring strain.

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: That essentially was the NBA's verdict when it came to Heat forward LeBron James being called for a technical foul while being the victim of a foul in Tuesday's exhibition victory over the Bobcats. On an odd sequence that appeared to involve a block-charge scenario, no sooner had James received the call in his favor then referee Marat Kogut whistled James for a technical foul seemingly for thrusting his chest into Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson. An incredulous James tried to plead his case, but amid the chaos, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra also was called for a technical foul. Wednesday, the Sun Sentinel learned that the league rescinded James' technical. As it is, technical fouls during the preseason do not count toward the total that can lead to a regular-season suspension.

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: Many in the Spurs organization expect Curry, the veteran big man waived by the team Tuesday, will hook on with another NBA squad. On Wednesday, Curry received one such endorsement from Tim Duncan. “Eddy had a really good camp,” Duncan said. “I thought he did a really good job. He played well. It was just kind of situational that we couldn’t keep him.”

  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: Dwane Casey hopes his players are reading the season previews and not getting carried away by a 5-1 pre-season record. “We still have work to do. We practised today like we’ve arrived. (Like) we’ve already pencilled (ourselves) in (as a playoff team), we’re nowhere near that,” a perturbed Casey said on Wednesday. The head coach would prefer that his Raptors go out and prove that they are better than how many prognosticators are sizing them up. ESPN’s John Hollinger pegged the team as a 33-win outfit this week and Casey noticed. “I saw today someone predict we’re going to win 33 games, so, with that lack of respect, that should get us motivated to come in this gym each and every day to bust our tails,” Casey said. “(The) Hollinger report or whatever it was. That right there tells us how much lack of respect the league has for us and how much we’ve got to continue to work each and every day we walk on the floor.” Casey said while the low expectations bother him, he thinks they should irk his charges a lot more.

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Ray Allen hasn’t held back while talking with the Miami media about his dissatisfaction with his last two seasons with the Celtics. But if his old teammates have paid attention, they’re not saying. “I didn’t see anything,” Rondo said. “I didn’t read any papers. I just hit the gym. I didn’t see anything about No. 20.” An amused Rivers smiled and said very little, other than: “We’re just going to let Ray keep talking. It’s easier.”

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: Hornets Coach Monty Williams thinks Anthony Davis has just scratched the surface of his potential, especially offensively. "I've talked to Anthony about exploring, but I want him to do it the right way," Williams said. "He's got to go out there and find his niche, whether it be playing from the elbow, pick-and-pop shots. I want him to run the floor. I think he's a guy who can get a couple of layups or dunks a game just off misses that he takes off. I was on him so much the other day. He had 17 rebounds and I thought he should have had 25. Because he's that kind of a player. I think if he plays with high level intensity, he's going to have nights like 20, 25 rebounds. And everybody is going to be amazed at it. But I won't. Because I think he's the kind of guy who can rebound out of his area, he can guard wings.”