First Cup: Tuesday

  • Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star: Danny Granger’s comeback stalled Monday when the Indiana Pacers announced the veteran forward will miss approximately three weeks with a strained left calf injury. The surprising announcement spawned doomsday posts on message boards, sparked a sense of deja vu on the eve of the start of the regular season and caused hearts to race outside Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Inside, however, the Pacers displayed calm. Especially the man who launched a top Twitter trending topic. “It’s no big deal,” Granger repeated three times while meeting with the media after the team’s practice one day shy of a year of the news he would be out indefinitely last season. “I mean, honestly, it could be a week. It’s just — we want to give myself some time. Like I said, it’s a calf strain. I’d rather (the injury) be that than something else, honestly.” ... Pacers coach Frank Vogel echoed Granger’s optimism. “It’s not that big of a deal,” Vogel said. “It’s nothing to do with the knee; the knee is actually doing great.”

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Tonight, they'll start to learn whether their work paid off. They'll open their 2013-14 regular season on the road against one of the league's top teams, the physical, defense-oriented Indiana Pacers. "It should be fun," Magic small forward Maurice Harkless said. "It's going to be a good measuring stick for us. They're a good team, a great defensive team. It's just going to give us a chance to go out there and see where we are." Vote: Who's the greatest Magic player in history? The NBA's schedule-makers did the Magic no favors, beginning Orlando's season with three games in four nights. The Pacers embarrassed the Magic the last time they faced each other. On March 19 at Amway Center, Indiana thumped Orlando 95-73 as Orlando managed to make just 32 percent of its shot attempts. "A different year," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "A different team." In reality, though, the Magic have largely the same roster they had back in mid-March. That's by design. Team officials want to allocate as much playing time as possible to their young nucleus of 21-year-old rookie guard Victor Oladipo, 23-year-old center Nik Vucevic, 21-year-old forward Tobias Harris and Harkless, who is 20.

  • Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: The end of the Miami Heat's practice Monday served as the perfect set up for the season-opener. The Heat fully expect a physical challenge against the Chicago Bulls Tuesday, so it made sense they ended their workout with a football-like drill. It will surely give them an indication of what's to come once the 2013-14 season tips off at AmericanAirlines Arena. "We don't like them, they don't like us," forward LeBron James said. "It's not unheard of. We all know how it is." James was one of four Heat players to participate in a drill with assistant coaches David Fizdale and Juwan Howard at the end of practice. It involved each player driving toward the basket for a dunk or layup. Once they got to the rim, they were hit by Howard with a pad. The drill, which included Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Michael Beasley, continued for about 15 minutes after the rest of the team had left the court. The reason? To prepare for the bruising style of the Bulls. "It's all planned," Bosh said. "We know they're big, physical and we know we have to finish." The Heat and Bulls have recent history. Miami defeated Chicago 4-1 in the 2011 Eastern Conference finals despite losing the regular-seasons series. The teams were set for a rematch the following year until guard Derrick Rose was injured in the opening round against the Philadelphia 76ers.

  • Mike Imrem of the Daily Herald: Tom Thibodeau can wear on people around him, from Bulls management to the local media to loyal fans he might interact with. The question is whether Thibodeau's constantly consistent and consistently constant demands ever will wear on Bulls players, or even worse wear out some of them this season. The primary public discomfort over Thibodeau centers on how many minutes he keeps his best players on the court in games. Now, I'm somebody who believes that players play. They're being paid a lot of money to play, and they should play. Yet Thibodeau tests even my patience and understanding when dots aren't connected between players playing a lot of minutes and some of those players breaking down. There are limits to everything, you know? It's easy for outsiders to grow weary of hearing Thibodeau's unyielding philosophy and of watching the Bulls hobble around late in the season. If it makes you wonder whether he ever wonders whether he's doing the right thing, a good guess is that it never enters his mind anymore.The bodies of some players on some NBA teams can endure the heavy workload and heavy-handed approach. The Bulls don't appear to be one of those teams, at least concerning the workload.

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: Don't tell Clippers center DeAndre Jordan that the Clippers and Lakers are a rivalry just yet. Yes, Jordan said, the Clippers and Lakers both play in Los Angeles, they share Staples Center and they both play in the Pacific Division. And, yes, the Clippers open the regular season Tuesday night against the Lakers in a Lakers designated home game. But in Jordan's eyes, it takes more than that for the Clippers and Lakers to be a rivalry — like meeting in the playoffs, something the two teams have never done. "I don't think it'll ever be a rivalry. You guys [in the media] want it to be, though," Jordan said. "I would say Memphis more than the Lakers." That's because the Clippers and Grizzlies have met in the first round of the playoffs the last two seasons. The Clippers won a thrilling Game 7 in Memphis during the 2012 playoffs and the Grizzlies beat the Clippers in six games last spring. "I hate every other NBA team in the league. If anybody [is our rival], I'd say Memphis," Jordan said.

  • Phil Collin of the Los Angeles Daily News: On the eve of the 2013-14 NBA season, Clippers guard Chris Paul apparently could not be more ready. His free-agent deal behind him and with new coach Doc Rivers hauling in some extra talent in the offseason, Paul was asked if this could be the best team he’s ever been a part of. Excepting, of course, the U.S. Olympic team. “No question,” Paul said. “I think we definitely have the tools. The season should be a lot of fun.” First things first, and it gets underway Tuesday night at Staples Center on the Lakers’ court (and under the Lakers’ banners and retired jerseys. This might be the Clippers’ year to contend for a title, but they’re not about to overlook the Lakers in the second year of the Mike D’Antoni regime, even if they will be without Kobe Bryant at the outset of the campaign. “Coach D’Antoni has those guys runninm, playing fast, everything is probably centered around Pau (Gasol) as it should be right now,” Paul said. “It’s going to be a big test.”

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: And for the first time in forever, that means the man coaching the Clippers is in a far safer place than his counterpart with the Lakers. While Rivers oversees the young, talented Clippers and has a flashy championship ring letting them know what’s up whenever they step out of line, Mike D’Antoni tries to rebuild his image after his mostly disastrous first year with the Lakers. Rivers has security, a proven track record and talent that translates for the present and immediate future. D’Antoni has two more years left on the three-year, $12 million dollar contract he signed last November, but that’s just paper security. If things turn sour the Lakers will not hesitate to replace him, especially with so much at stake next summer when they pursue big-name free agents. He also has Kobe Bryant coming off a serious injury, an aging Steve Nash, a Pau Gasol in the final year of his contract and a bunch of other players on one-year deals auditioning for work next season. If ever there was a case of two coaches presiding over two completely different situations, it’s Rivers and D’Antoni.

  • Dareh Gregorian of the New York Daily News: A sports agency is accusing Mariano Rivera’s agents of playing dirty pool to steal away one of its clients. Andy Miller and ASM Sports accuse Happy Walters and Relativity Sports of stealing Milwaukee Bucks (center) Larry Sanders away from them with “flights on private planes, expensive dinners, invites to pre-ESPY awards parties, acting classes and trips to Disneyland for his family,” according to papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court. Miller wants Relativity, whose clients include Rivera and Amar’e Stoudemire, to fork over the commission he would’ve received from Sanders’ $41 million contract. “Even in the hypercompetitive world of sports agents there are rules and boundaries that must be followed,” the suit says.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl made one thing perfectly clear after Monday's season preview luncheon at the Hyatt Regency. Tanking is not in his plans. There's plenty of talk about National Basketball Association teams positioning themselves for the 2014 draft lottery, with a loaded field of collegiate talent available in June. But Kohl said he thinks the reshaped Bucks roster can compete better than many league observers expect. "We'll see what happens, but we're not playing for the lottery," Kohl said. The Bucks finished in the eighth-seeded spot in the Eastern Conference last season and quickly were swept in the opening round of the playoffs by the Miami Heat, the eventual NBA champion. That prompted an off-season of change and a massive roster turnover. Eleven of the 15 players introduced at Monday's luncheon were newcomers, although several have played for the Bucks in the past. "They're all here for a reason, to play basketball and win games," Kohl said. Asked if he thinks some teams will not try to contend, Kohl said, "I don't know. Every team genuinely makes their own decisions and I don't quarrel with it.

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: When the Warriors open their season Wednesday, Fred Kast will be stationed in Oracle Arena's best seat. Since the early days of the franchise's move west from Philadelphia, he's been manning the front row at Warriors home games in Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and Daly City. It'll be no different this season. Kast is set to celebrate his 50th anniversary as the Warriors' official scorer, a job that has both mandated his penchant for meticulousness and has afforded him the opportunity to witness some of the world's greatest athletes from a center-court floor seat. "I've seen Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, Bill Russell, K.C. Jones and Satch Sanders. Where do you want me to start?" Kast said. "I don't go quite as far back as George Mikan, but I saw Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. Bob Davies and Bobby Wanzer. Everybody, from Wilt Chamberlain to Michael Jordan. "I've been fortunate enough to see all of them play from that perfect seat."

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: It’s going down to the wire whether the Mavericks will be able to extend pro sports’ longest active sellout streak. Less than 48 hours before the Mavericks’ regular-season home opener Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks, approximately 1,000 tickets remain unsold. The Mavericks own the longest active sellout streak in all of the four major sports. Dating to Dec. 15, 2001, the Mavericks have sold out 477 consecutive regular-season home games.