First Cup: Training Camp Monday

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "'Me, Chris Bosh and Jose (Calderon) sat down after the scrimmage (last week) and it was like, `Man, we have a real shot here,' newcomer Jermaine O'Neal said. 'We've got a real shot. Obviously, we have the talent on paper and if we mentally believe that and bring that swagger every day, that we're the best team on the floor every time we step on the floor, we've got a shot at doing some great things this year.' O'Neal is certainly to be at the centre of any resurgence of the Raptors, who've bowed out of the first round of the playoffs in each of the last two seasons."

  • Michael Wallace of The Miami Herald: "Dwyane Wade led the NBA in turnovers last season. He might already be on pace this season to lead the way in patience with a group of untested point guards. Wade said it would take longer than a month of training camp to develop trust with any of the Heat's contenders to start alongside him in the backcourt. 'It's going to take gradually through the season,' Wade said between training camp practices Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena. 'There's a lot going on in training camp. It's going to take time for guys to really know each other..'"TrueHoop First Cup

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "The Trail Blazers begin training camp Tuesday with one of the deepest rosters in the NBA, renewed community enthusiasm, playoff aspirations and the byproduct of this desirable combination: financial optimism. At a time when the U.S. economy is in crisis, the Blazers brand is so strong that the team has been able to increase both prices and sales, even though fans and businesses are coping with tighter budgets. This would be an accomplishment for any business, but it is all the more remarkable considering the organization's recent struggles."

  • Brian Hanley of the Chicago Sun-Times: "After enduring a 33-49 season, Bulls general manager John Paxson told his players during one-on-one meetings last April that he expected to see them working out together at the Berto Center as much as possible in the summer. Apparently, Paxson liked what he saw. 'We had a good group here,' he said. 'Kirk [Hinrich] had a terrific summer. Tyrus Thomas, it was his best summer of work as a pro. We had Joakim [Noah] and Thabo [Sefolosha]. Luol [Deng] was in when he was not over playing in Europe. And Ben Gordon was in the building a lot.'"

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Dwyane Wade noticed one particularly unusual facet of Michael Beasley's approach to this morning's Miami Heat practice at AmericanAirlines Arena: The No. 2 overall NBA Draft choice out of Kansas State wasn't talking very much. There was a reason for the rare quiet air. 'You've got to know so much,' Beasley said. 'This game is not only physical, it's mental, too. So that's probably been the toughest part, so far.' Whether it has been playing power forward or small forward, Beasley has impressed his teammates with his physical skills. But he acknowledges there have been challenging moments. 'Remembering everything, from the plays, to the situations, to the defensive side,' he said."

  • Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal: "So what does the man who once made the Griz relevant think of the course of tearing down a franchise in order to rebuild? 'It's intriguing,' Jerry West said. 'Marc and Chris want to assemble young talent. They want to position themselves to be involved in the free-agent market. They want to let those young guys play and get experience and then sign an attractive free agent. They want the fans to see that there is a plan. Memphis is coming off two bad years in a row. People have become skeptical. But you're going to get a young team that will resonate with fans. The good thing about having a young team is that you get excited about their development. It's very fragile, but if these young men reach their potential, the people there will have a team to be excited about.' And there lies the rub for West. His biggest regret is that he didn't leave Memphis with a competitive team after building a postseason qualifier for three consecutive seasons."

  • David Moore of The Dallas Morning News: "The players are sold. They find Rick Carlisle's approach refreshing and his excitement infectious. Now comes the hard part. Do you buy it? Are you sold that the Mavericks still have what it takes to compete for the championship?"

  • Sekou Smith The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "If Mike Woodson thought the past four years were challenging, now comes the hard part. He must do it again. Knight's replacement, Rick Sund, rewarded Woodson with a two-year deal. ... This season shapes up as more of a referendum on Woodson's fate than last season. Woodson has 10 returners, including his entire starting five and all but Josh Childress from the limited bench rotation he used most of last season. 'I know people expect so much, and I know now that we've made the playoffs, we've put people in a different light here in Atlanta. And that's good.'"

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "The Pacers, who open training camp Tuesday, hope the personnel changes and emphasis on high character will win games and fans. They know it will take time. The Pacers ranked last in attendance at 12,222 a game last season. 'It's like a new start around here,' Pacers co-owner Herb Simon said.'I feel Larry Bird has kept us competitive by keeping our core players and going out and getting us good ones. I feel good about what has happened, but we have to show results on the court.' Winning is the quickest way to improve attendance. The Pacers, though, are several players from contending again. They hope their style -- up-tempo with a lot of 3-point shooting -- and a likeable team will entice fans to return to the fieldhouse."

  • Ramona Shelburne of the Los Angeles Daily News: "For the Lakers, not much has changed since school let out last June. All but two of the players present when the team lost to Boston 131-92 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals are back, mostly well-rested, and presumably anxious to pick up right where they left off after a summer reflecting on how and why that final series turned against them. For the Clippers, just about everything has changed. Starting right out front with the face of the franchise, where Baron Davis has been cast as leading man in place -- as opposed to alongside -- of Elton Brand, and extending inside the team's inner sanctum, which has moved up the 405 Freeway a bit, to a new, state-of-the-art facility in Playa Del Rey. But while the two teams had vastly different agendas during their summer vacations, each begins the year with uncertainty."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "As the Thunder opens the 2008-09
    season Tuesday with the start of training camp, perhaps no player is at a more pivotal point than Wilcox, a former No. 8 overall pick of the Los Angeles Clippers who was taken one spot ahead of Phoenix All-Star forward Amare Stoudemire and two spots ahead of Washington All-Star forward Caron Butler. Injuries and inconsistency have plagued the 6-foot-10, 235-pound Wilcox throughout his career. Some in NBA circles say Wilcox is maxed out, a player who'll never average more than 14 points and eight rebounds. Others see a player who, at only 26 after leaving Maryland after a national-championship-winning sophomore year, still could maximize his natural ability and reach his full potential. Thickening the plot of Wilcox's is his expiring contract. Wilcox's career is at a crossroads. Shed his inconsistent label and exceed expectations and he could be rewarded with a contract that etches his name alongside franchise cornerstones Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook. Flop and it could mean goodbye and good luck on the free agent market."

  • Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune: "If Kevin O'Connor were any more relaxed, he might need an alarm clock to keep from missing the start of training camp in Boise on Tuesday morning. And why not? As the vice president of basketball operations for the Utah Jazz, O'Connor appears to have his team perfectly positioned for another successful season. No contract hassles. No injury worries. Cornerstone players just entering their prime. Proven, versatile depth. Clearly, the days leading up to training camp haven't been this worry-free for the Jazz since John Stockton and Karl Malone were in their prime and preparing to lead Utah to the NBA Finals."

  • Michael Grange of The Globe and Mail: "Chris Bosh has his own channel on YouTube and a content deal with AOL that will soon be announced. He enjoyed a successful stint as a correspondent for The Tonight Show at the NBA final last June, ad-libbing with Jay Leno, and will be featured again this season in ESPN's NBA promotional campaign, where the deadpan, off-beat tone suit Bosh's own emerging comic sensibility nicely. As part of the AOL deal, he will be participating in a season-long contest with Baron Davis of the Los Angeles Clippers in which fans will get to judge which player can make and post the funniest video. If you want to match wits with Bosh in fantasy football, you can check his team's progress on Rotohog.com. Where it all will lead, not even Bosh knows, but he's excited about the prospects of stepping out of the box of preconceptions so easily built around professional athletes. His first step, even before his video debut, is his full head of growing dreadlocks, now about six inches long, a project more than two years in the making."

  • Tom Enlund of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Toni Kukoc was asked about the state of the team and how it should go about trying to improve its fortunes. 'They did so many changes again,' Kukoc said. 'They do the changes every year. As much as the some people (players) are not going to like it, it's on the leaders to turn the team. When your leadership makes it a, 'OK, let's play as a team,' then everybody else follows.' And that is the key for the Bucks this season? 'To me, that's always been a key,' Kukoc said. 'To any team sport.'"