First Cup: Friday

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "The Celtics are about to discover just how short the NBA offseason has become. They open training camp Monday night with a week of double sessions at Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I., and there will be issues for the team. Last season, by virtue of trades that brought Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen into the fold, some proclaimed the Celtics preseason favorites to win the NBA title. They will be the poster boys this year as well, but now for a far different, more substantial reason. They answered all of last year's predictions with the 17th title in franchise history. But with James Posey signing a four-year contract with New Orleans, and P.J. Brown once again retiring -- this time presumably for good -- Rivers will start camp in search of depth."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "The blunt question made Dirk Nowitzki uncomfortable. But it didn't necessarily catch him by surprise, like he knew it was coming sooner or later: If Avery Johnson was still coaching the Dallas Mavericks, would Nowitzki still be on the team? It was more than just a rumor last season that Nowitzki had grown tired of Johnson's system and coaching style. But was it really as bad as the whispers made it sound? 'I had a good time with Avery,' Nowitzki said Thursday. 'But sometimes I wish we had communicated a little more. We all know Avery ran a little dictatorship here. I think this league is still a league of players, not a coaches league.'"TrueHoop First Cup

  • Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle: "For the record, both vice president Chris Mullin and head coach Don Nelson are working on the final year of their contracts. Neither has begun talks with owner Chris Cohan or his right-hand man Bobby Rowell on a new one, and neither seems terribly bothered about that, at least not outwardly. But the problem of Ellis' punishment for mopedding his six-year, $66 million contract into jeopardy impacts Mullin and Nelson, because it seems clear that Cohan and Rowell want to make Ellis a bigger issue than Mullin and Nelson do, and if they aren't incredibly deft at getting their point across without alienating Ellis, they will have lost the face of their franchise over a principle that can be solved in any number of other and more creative ways."

  • Ken Berger of Newsday: "Marbury made himself the center of attention at D'Antoni's introductory news conference. He will be the No. 1 topic -- perhaps the only topic -- Friday when the Knicks hold a preseason news conference for Walsh and D'Antoni at the Garden. Marbury will steal the spotlight Monday at media day, and again Tuesday when the Knicks open training camp in Saratoga Springs. And again and again and again, until he is gone. All the toxic assets being peddled on Wall Street will be easier to get rid of than the one Walsh and D'Antoni inherited from Thomas."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Akron Beacon Journal: "After last September and October's upheaval followed by the roster-shaking, 11-player midseason trade, there is an air of stability around the Cavs these days. There was another trade this summer with point guard Mo Williams added to the roster. There will be two rookies, draft picks J.J. Hickson and Darnell Jackson, and two new free agents, Tarence Kinsey and Lorenzen Wright. So there are some new faces, but the prospect of a peaceful camp opening and reasonable stability follows much closer to the course Ferry and Gilbert charted when they remade the organization starting in 2005."

  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Stephon Marbury is a big name. Sportswriters and fans love big names. But if he gets his buyout from the Knicks, I think that it would be a big mistake for the Heat to sign him. ... The Heat isn't winning a championship this season, but it is trying to recreate a hard-work culture in the wake of the likes of Antoine Walker and Shaquille O'Neal. While I understand that some players (Anthony Mason, Rod Strickland, Jason Williams) have reformed under Pat Riley's watch, why would you burden a new coach with a guy like this? Why would you expose Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers to his influence? For what, five or six more wins? What in Marbury's history leads you to believe his acquisition would lead to that?"

  • John Denton of Florida Today: "Out all last season after tearing the rotator cuff in his left shoulder, Tony Battie is being looked at by some with the Orlando Magic as the team's biggest offseason acquisition. Those are lofty expectations indeed for a 32-year-old, 11-year veteran with a career scoring average of 6.7 points a game. But after the way the Magic got pushed around and physically dominated by the Detroit Pistons in the playoffs back in the spring, it has become quite apparent that the Magic need just what Battie gives them. ...'Maybe we lack the things that I do well, and those things don't always show up in the stat sheet. I'm not going to score 20 points or grab 15 rebounds, but I'm going to defend, play physical and be that big body we needed at times last year. I'll play that tough (power forward) or (center) to keep Dwight fresher and I'll set screens to get Turk and Rashard open. I'm ready to do those things again.'"

  • Chris Tomasson of the Rocky Mountain News: "George Karl says if you want to call the Nuggets a 'playoff flop,' he won't argue. If they flop again, there's no certainty he'll still be around. The Nuggets coach won't go so far as to say it's win in the playoffs or bust this season. Still, he recently quipped that if the Nuggets, who have lost five straight first-round series (four under Karl) don't finally break though, he doesn't know if 'any of us' will remain. 'If the edict is changing the face or changing the coach, we can live with that,' Karl said about his job security entering Tuesday's start of training camp. 'We all know that that happens. There are very few lifetime coaches in the NBA.'"

  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: "Raptors mainstays, Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon, brought a little shine of their own to the Air Canada Centre yesterday. Bosh, with an Olympic gold medal he brought back from Beijing for the U.S. and Calderon with the sparkling silver he helped Spain win -- which he practically considers gold given the Americans single-minded goal to redeem their national basketball program -- were in agreement their success at the Olympics only can bode well for the Raptors season that lies ahead."

  • Brian Hendrickson of The Columbian: "This is September, after all, not the end of a long road trip in January. It's easy to read too much into a player in pick-up games. But at the same time, Steve Blake has never grabbed much attention during the preseason
    . He is an established commodity. We know what to expect, and don't bother looking for more. So hearing Kevin Pritchard say a week before training camp that he is excited about Blake's progress, and that he is prepared to have a great season, holds a little more weight than with other players. The progress may get overlooked next week when the newcomers grab all the attention in training camp. But in the background, Blake may unveil an unexpected surprise."

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: "No season in Hornets history has been more anticipated than this one, given the accomplishments of last year when New Orleans came within one victory of reaching the Western Conference finals. So the defending Southwest Division champions, who report for camp today and begin practice Saturday, have much to prove in 2008-09, including that last year's record was no fluke, that MVP runner-up Chris Paul can continue to carry the load with help from fellow All-Star David West and newly acquired swingman James Posey is a final piece to a championship puzzle."

  • Howard Cohen of The Miami Herald: "Alonzo Mourning, the Miami Heat center who received a kidney transplant in 2003, is turning his attention to raising awareness of organ transplantation. On Thursday, he signed on as spokesman for the Miami Transplant Institute at Jackson Memorial Hospital and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. 'I'm a living testimony that transplants save lives,' he said. Since its founding in 1979, the Miami Transplant Institute has conducted 3,000 liver transplants and 7,000 kidney transplants."