Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer: You'd think Michael Carter-Williams would be a little boisterous after dominating the Miami Heat on Wednesday night. But less than 12 hours later, the 76ers' rookie point guard was back to his unassuming and aloof self. "You know, our focus is on Washington, now," he said after Thursday's practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. "We go there today and we play there [Friday]. So my mind and focus now is on Washington." Still, no one would criticize him if he gloated about his performance in the opener. It was one of the better debuts in Sixers history. ... "I had a great game," Carter-Williams said. "It was a lot of fun with the guys. But it's still 81 more games left to play. You still have to be focused." A bad performance by Carter-Williams at the Verizon Center could lead to two things: The Sixers would have a tough time winning and it would also wipe out some of the hype he created for himself.
Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune: Without an extension, Gordon Hayward becomes a restricted free agent at the end of the season. He will be able to sign an offer sheet with another team, and the Jazz will have the opportunity to match. As the deadline approached, multiple reports indicated the two parties were still far apart on a possible deal. "It wasn’t for a lack of effort" from both sides, agent Mark Bartelstein said. Hayward’s agent called it a "difficult deal" to get done and says Hayward’s feelings and loyalty toward the organization haven’t changed. The Jazz did not comment on the situation. The ongoing negotiations have been the source of daily questions for Hayward, who did not speak with reporters Thursday. Prior to Wednesday night’s season opener, Hayward said he was not focused on the contract talks.
Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Eric Bledsoe will be a restricted free agent in July, giving the Suns an ability to match any offer sheet he might sign with another team. The Suns also maintain their cap space for a trade or free agency signing before matching to sign Bledsoe. They also could do a sign-and-trade in July if they are opposed to the market price. “There is no rookie extension with Eric but that doesn’t in any way suggest that we are not excited that Eric is a Sun and we look forward to Eric being a Suns for a long time,” said Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby, who has been engaged in extension talks over the past month with Mark Termini, the former agent who works as a negotiator for Bledsoe’s agent, Rich Paul. “It’s a hard thing to do. We had numerous conversations over the past few weeks. We had a good, professional exchange of ideas.” The task of extending Bledsoe was a challenging one, especially with Bledsoe logging one game as a Suns before the 9 p.m. deadline struck Thursday night.
Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Those who have wanted the Kings to "Free Jimmer" might get their wish. The Kings on Thursday declined to pick up the fourth-year option on guard Jimmer Fredette's contract for the 2014-15 season, which would have paid the 2011 first-round draft pick a little more than $3 million. The deadline to do so was Thursday at 9 p.m. Therefore, Fredette will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. The Kings could re-sign him at a reduced salary, but the decision likely means this will be Fredette's final season with the team. It also means Fredette probably would bring more value in a trade because his expiring deal would create salary cap space for next summer's free-agent class. The trade deadline is Feb. 20.
Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: It is an unusual dynamic, to say the least. Friday night, the Miami Heat play the new-look Brooklyn Nets for the first time in the regular season and already there is a sense of fatigue in the budding rivalry. With the teams having met twice in the preseason, once on each home floor, there already has been ample volume about how loathed former Boston Celtics rivals Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are now loathed Brooklyn Nets rivals. To recap: Heat forward LeBron James questioned Garnett and Paul for questioning Ray Allen's 2012 free-agency defection to the Heat only to make a similar offseason move to a contender. Pierce greeted James with a shoulder shiver in the teams' first preseason meeting. Garnett responded by telling James to shut up worry about his own team. And that was before the games even counted. Which brings us to Friday, and a game that sets up as more than the official start of a rivalry, with the Heat and Nets both coming off Wednesday road losses. "We know who they are. It's no surprise," center Chris Bosh said of what the Heat expect to encounter. "We've been playing these guys for 10-plus years. And we know their scouting reports. They don't run anything fancy. We know their set plays."
Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: It’s a long-standing tradition for Christians on both teams to have chapel together. Each NBA arena offers this service to the players, and there is usually one time and one room. That wasn’t the case Thursday. According to multiple sources, the Warriors were surprisingly given a separate, earlier, time for their own chapel services. The Clippers held their own private chapel. “Man, they don’t want to have chapel with us?” one team source asked. “I never heard that before, but OK.” The bad blood between the Clippers and Warriors extend back to last season, when Golden State took 3 of 4 against Los Angeles.
Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: The inclination for some is to downplay San Antonio with the Big Three aging (Duncan 37, Ginobili 36 and Parker 31) and the several top West clubs getting stronger. “There are five or six teams in the West where you can pick a name out of the bucket and any one of them could end up being in the finals,” Popovich tells me in a phone interview from San Antonio. The Spurs are one of them. And there is reason to believe they’ll be better than they were a year ago, when they came within a whisker of notching their fifth NBA championship since 1999, losing in seven games to Miami in the NBA finals. Nobody knows how to manage players’ minutes better than Popovich, beginning his 18th season at the San Antonio helm. His deft touch in that regard has lengthened the careers of Duncan and Ginobili — the former a future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, the latter on the short list of the greatest international players in NBA history. Is it reasonable to think the Spurs can get the same kind of production out of the Big Three as that of a year ago? “I think we’ll get better production,” Popovich tells me.
Ben Standig of CSN Washington: One game in and John Wall's fourth season is already associated with a flop. No, not because of the Wizards' opening loss at Detroit. Rather, for a play in the game the NBA is cracking down on. First, the announcement, which is the first one handed out for flopping this season: WAS guard John Wall receives flop warning, game played vs. Detroit on Oct. 30. Second, the play, which came in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. As Wall dribbled-jogged up the court, Detroit's Kyle Singler ran by. The two collided, Wall hit the deck. Passing on ideas that perhaps there was a slip or unfair contact, the NBA ruled Wall had flopped. For now it's just a warning. Another offense and Wall receives a $5,000 fine.
Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: Pistons forward Josh Smith has been called plenty of things during his nine-year career, and most of the adjectives revolve around what he believes are half-truths. He’d be the perfect movie villain begging for someone to understand him, to see there’s a method to his madness and behind it all reveals a sense of humanity no one has bothered to uncover. In its heyday, the Pistons franchise was a haven for misfits, talented players set aside, forgotten or vilified. "Watching Josh, watching him play, I like his personality,” Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks said. “I like his fire on the floor, and I don’t want to change that. There’s always ways to channel it. (But) I like the way he is, I liked it in Atlanta." Smith’s fiery persona seems to be the perfect fit, even if he isn’t the prototypical fit next to Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. Pistons president Joe Dumars saw a fit in attitude.
Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: The Orlando Magic will celebrate a key franchise milestone Friday. Team officials will infuse Amway Center with pageantry and hoopla, all tied to the team's 25th-anniversary season. ... But here's the hard part: Can the team make its regular-season home opener Friday night against the New Orleans Pelicans as joyous as the ceremonies surrounding it? ...The trouble is that wins likely will be difficult to come by in the months ahead.In Year Two of their rebuilding project, team officials are focused on making steady, incremental gains with their young roster, hoping to develop their inexperienced nucleus as they position the franchise to pick up a transformative talent in the deep 2014 NBA Draft. ... Orlando should have lots of salary-cap space for the summer of 2014, but given the age and likely destinations of some of the key free agents, it seems more likely that the Magic will wait until the summer of 2015 to try to make significant free-agent moves. For now, Magic fans are being asked to remain patient. On Friday night, however, the team hopes to give the fans something to celebrate.
Tom Sorensen of The Charlotte Observer: The Charlotte Bobcats will play their home opener Friday, the first Friday of November, against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Charlotte Hornets played their first game 25 years ago on the first Friday of November against the Cavaliers. Opening night should be special. But Nov. 4, 1988 was more than special. It was legendary. The term is overused, but it applies. You know if you were there. The Bobcats will become the Hornets next season, a testament to the enormous popularity of the early Hornets teams.
Gary Scheets of The Times-Picayune: Less than 24 hours after he was introduced, the verdict is in on the New Orleans Pelicans' new mascot. It's not good news for Pierre the Pelican … or as one Twitter wag referred to him: 'a clown murder bird.' Reaction to our discussion question and on the larger social media spectrum was swift and brutal, with many fans and observers raising the possibility that Pierre would live in the nightmares of children, possibly for decades.
Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: A statue of Hall of Famer Bill Russell will be unveiled today at City Hall Plaza, and Brad Stevens is making a point to be at the event. “Obviously he’s the greatest winner in the history of basketball that’s played the game,” Stevens said. “And obviously he made a mark on this organization like nobody else has. He’s won at the very highest levels in everything that he’s done. I’ve never met him personally, and I look forward to that (today). As a kid growing up and a basketball fan, he’s one of the names that forever is right next to the word ‘winner’ and the way you’re supposed to play the game.”