First Cup: Friday

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "The Celtics, as is the custom for any major professional sports champion in this country, will be honored by President George W. Bush in the East Room of the White House this afternoon. The reigning NBA title-holders will tour the grounds, all of the historic rooms and meet various politicians. Members of the Massachusetts delegation will flood the premises like star-struck kids. Back in 1963, though, the official visit had none of the sameness that now marks every major sports team's visit with the president. It was instead unique -- a one of a kind invitation. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, thrilled with what at the time was the Celtics' fifth straight NBA title, simply wanted to meet his hometown heroes. The session, held in the Cabinet Room, next to the Oval Office, lasted 45 minutes -- 40 more than the alloted time. It famously ended when then-Celtic Tom 'Satch' Sanders turned to Kennedy, offered a hand and said, 'Take it easy, baby.'"

  • Art Thompson III of the Orange County Register: "With Luke Walton hoping but not guaranteed to be a full strength when training camp begins in 12 days, this presents a ripe opportunity for Trevor Ariza to stake his claim to the starting small forward position. I know what Laker fans are saying, 'What about Lamar Odom?' Odom has discussed with the basketball staff the possibility of accepting a sixth-man role, which has all sorts of delightful possibilities to it, due to the 6-foot-10 Odom's versatility. He could come off the bench to play small forward or play the two position (shooting guard) or power forward. The Lakers' staff even has discussed with Odom the possibility of him being a hybrid point forward and initiating the offense in that role."TrueHoop First Cup

  • Gilbert Arenas for NBA.com: "I had to explain that to my dad too, he was like, 'BOY, YOU'RE GETTING ANOTHER SURGERY?! WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOUR KNEE NOW??!!' I was like, 'Dad, there's nothing wrong, I just have to get the debris cleaned out.' ... I have to make sure my knee is 100 percent and I have to make sure that mentally I'm there and once those components come, the basketball is second nature to me, I do that 24/7. I'm sitting here with my knee up high and elevated and I'm dribbling a basketball. I have almost 42 basketballs in my house. I got one in the toilet, I got one in the pantry … When I'm bored, that's what I do, pick up a basketball. I love basketball. This right here is for the real fan of mine though. You hear about the story of where I came from and what I had to deal with, but to come back from injury is going to be more empowering to young kids. I'm going to do whatever it takes to get back there."

  • Matt Steinmetz of The Examiner: "By the looks of things, it doesn't appear as though the Warriors are going to extend the contract of executive vice president of basketball operations Chris Mullin. ... Perhaps, the Warriors are taking a wait-and-see approach … you know let the season begin to play out, take a look at how things are going and make an offer or not at some point. That would be risky. Think about it. It's already setting up to be an extremely challenging year for the Warriors. They lost Baron Davis, and Monta Ellis is expected to be out at least a couple of months. Did we mention the Warriors are very young, too?"

  • Mike Barrett's Blazers.com Blog: "Greg Oden continues to impress everyone, and played in about six games on Wednesday before taking off to a community appearence. A guy who has also been incredibly impressive has been Jerryd Bayless, and that continued Wednesday. He had several vicious dunks, with one of them coming off a lob pass, in traffic, from Sergio Rodriguez. I knew Bayless was explosive, but I can't say that I expected him to be able to rise above the rim as easily as he does. As you know, there is one roster spot available, and the competition for this spot is going to be interesting. Steven Hill, Luke Jackson, and Shavlik Randolph all look very good. Randolph, who spent his first three years with Philadelphia, has played well. Hill, who starred for Portland's summer league team, is an NBA player, and is a very likable guy. And, of course, there's still a chance Portland could decide to extend an offer to Shaun Livingston, who is in town being evaluated. I have not seen this process up close, but I can tell you they're continuing to investigate."

  • Chris McCosky of The Detroit News: "Michael Curry joined the Pistons' preseason bus tour for its final two stops (Flint and Toledo) Thursday and offered a glimpse of what to expect from his first training camp. ... Pay attention to detail ... Daily conditioning and player development sessions ... Increase the intensity and consistency at the defensive end ... Increase scoring in the paint ... Establish clearly defined roles. Curry expects to play 10 or 11 players on a regular basis."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: You can see new coach Larry Brown's defensive focus in the team signing Shannon Brown and Donell Taylor, at least for training camp. ... The way Gerald Wallace is blocking shots and driving to the rim, it's clear he's regained his explosiveness after a nasty groin pull late last season. ... Emeka Okafor says he gained a few pounds this summer, but he looks lighter and more flexible, as he was his rookie season. ... Best training-camp competition should be between point guards Raymond Felton and D.J. Augustin."

  • Mike Baldwin of The Oklahoman: "Squatch lives. Sort of. Marc Taylor, the person inside the Squatch costume at Sonics NBA games in Seattle, is relocating to Oklahoma City to serve as the Thunder's mascot. The team's mascot hasn't been revealed. But Taylor will be the person inside the costume, it was announced Thursday in a press release."

  • Fran Blinebury of the Houston Chronicle: "A handful of Rockets players and dozens of members of the organization teamed up with Feed the Children to hand out food and toiletry items at the POD (point of distribution) on the University of Houston campus Thursday. 'This neighborhood reminds me of my neighborhood back in New York,' Rafer Alston said. 'So I can relate to the people who grew up around here, for one. Also, they get a chance to see us live and in the flesh out here helping, just like ordinary people.' Forward Mike Harris cracked jokes as he hoisted cases of orange juice into trunk after trunk. Guard Aaron Brooks, the smallest member of the team, worked feverishly loading boxes of supplies."

  • Julian Garcia of the New York Daily News: "Not only is Julius Hodge phys
    ically stronger than he's ever been, he feels mentally tougher as well. An incident that nearly ended his life 2-1/2 years ago has made him so. Late in his rookie season, Hodge was shot multiple times in a drive-by shooting on a Colorado highway and came within minutes of bleeding to death. After struggling to resume his career, getting traded and eventually playing overseas, Hodge is ready to make his comeback -- and the Nets are giving him a chance."

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: "Jazz forward Kyle Korver will be shooting for -- or, more accurately, kicking for -- a Guinness World Record today. In an effort to raise money for one of his favorite charities, Korver will be part of a group hoping to play the longest kickball game in history. To kick the current record to the curb, Korver and friends will have to play longer than 24 hours."