First Cup: Monday

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "For the second time in less than a month, Heat forward Michael Beasley is out of the Twitter business, this time, perhaps, for good. Beasley's latest Twitter account, GorillaBeas, disappeared sometime overnight Saturday. That was shortly after he self-posted a photo of a new 'SuperCoolBeas' tattoo on his back, which also happened to be the name of his first Twitter account. Problem is, some have taken their inspection of the photo to a curious level. Yes, there appear to be two baggies in the background. No, I have no clue what they are, and, frankly, did not initially give it much second thought. You know, just Michael being Michael. ... What ultimately will matter most is what happens starting Sept. 28 when training camp opens at AmericanAirlines Arena. If Michael makes the game easier for Dwyane Wade , then no one will give a tweet about August hijinks. But these are different times. Image matters. And it certainly matters for a franchise that values its players and tries to keep their value high in the event of a trade."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: " 'This is the 'Practice? We're talking about practice!' rant. Allen Iverson, unplugged: How he brings it every game, how he sacrifices his body, how silly it is tell him what to do in the time between games. Then someone asked if he understood that practicing with Iverson -- the best and least replaceable player on the Sixers' roster -- might benefit his teammates. 'How the Hell,' Iverson replied, 'can I make my teammates better by practicing?' There you have it; what the Charlotte Bobcats would get if they go ahead and sign Iverson. Iverson isn't a bad guy, and he's the fifth-best scorer in NBA history. But if you're looking for a leader, a nurturer, someone who will raise the character or intensity of your locker room, you've wasted your time. Iverson is Manny Ramirez when he went from the Red Sox to the Dodgers: A great talent who some teams -- many teams, actually -- would consider more trouble than he's worth. He'll be a mercenary; someone with such talent you overlook the pimples. There will be pimples if he's a Bobcat. He's a Hell-raiser, and now-Bobcats coach Brown knows that. Brown sees what a good locker room the Bobcats have, and must figure they can manage Iverson's quirks."

  • Ailene Voisin of the The Sacramento Bee: "Omri Casspi's first-round selection is such an anomaly -- such a national sensation -- that champagne flowed throughout Tel Aviv long after the draft. On a video taped by an Israeli TV crew at his parents' home during the June 25 draft, Casspi's mother, Ilana, is seen pacing and cleaning while peeking at the screen. His father, Shimon, frowns and frets while standing a few feet away. Omri agonizes on the couch, thrusting his face into his hands, moaning in disappointment as other players are selected, their names and remarks scripted in Hebrew near the bottom of the screen. Finally the Kings are on the clock. 'Watch (NBA Commissioner) David Stern now,' Casspi instructed, remote in hand, while replaying the video for the zillionth time. 'When he calls my name he is smiling. He is Jewish, you know. See!' Jubilant friends and relatives dive onto the couch, onto Casspi, who disappears inside the scrum. Drenched in champagne, he strips down to an undershirt and is showered again. Throughout the day, his image flashed across TV screens. His cell phone never stopped ringing; he heard from teammates and politicians and the individual that every young Israeli basketball player idolizes. 'When I heard David Stern say, 'At No. 23, Omri Casspi,' my body was shaking,' related Berkowitz, the former Maccabi star and most beloved of all Israeli sports icons. 'Just shaking.' "

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "The question of defense has been raised often this off-season with the Pistons. There is little doubt president of basketball operations Joe Dumars has increased the firepower with acquisitions of free agents Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva and the drafting of multiskilled rookies Austin Daye, DaJuan Summers and Jonas Jerebko. But what about stopping power? Neither Gordon nor Villanueva has been accused of being a lockdown defender, but this off-season was more of an acknowledgment to how the game is played now. Up-tempo basketball featuring the pick-and-roll is how the game is played. League rules dictate fouls practically whenever an offensive player is touched. So good defense is more about schemes than just telling a guy to stop an opposing scorer one-on-one because that is a lot harder than it used to be."

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: "During his first two seasons, Julian Wright has struggled to find his niche. A crowd favorite because of his athleticism, he has been unable to hold onto a spot in Coach Byron Scott's normal game rotation. And on the occasions when Scott would give Wright regular minutes, the young forward often pressed resulting in silly errors which landed him back on the bench. Once again this summer, Wright has spent time in Chicago working with renowned trainer Tim Grover, who was once Michael Jordan's off-season mentor. Wright's five-day-a-week routine included work in the weight room as well as on the court where participants in Grover's summer program play five-on-five games. So far this summer, Wright has faced some impressive players in the pick-up contests. 'Tim has done a tremendous job so far keeping my focus,' Wright said. 'The lifting regimen is pretty solid. The workouts as well. At the end of the day we're playing five on five against some great players. There are a lot of wings. Not to name drop, but one day in one game I'm guarding (Philadelphia 76ers guard) Andre Iguodala. The next game, I'm guarding (Cleveland Cavaliers forward) LeBron (James). The next game, I'm guarding (Los Angeles Lakers guard) Shannon Brown. 'So I'm guarding guys who are quicker than me, who have played in the league longer. All these types of things. And it's just summer time. It's fun. We work hard. It's summer time, but we're working hard.' "

  • Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune: "If Kevin O'Connor wasn't about to celebrate his 10th anniversary as general manager of the Utah Jazz, Jerry Sloan isn't sure he would be preparing for his 22nd season as head coach. Why? Sloan gives O'Connor considerable credit for helping him survive the transitional years surrounding the retirement of John Stockton and the departure of Karl Malone. Rattling off a partial list of free agents who signed with Utah during those seasons of uncertainty, Sloan said, 'Raja Bell, Matt Harpring, Carlos Boozer, Memo Okur. ... If Kevin hadn't gotten those things done, I probably would have been gone a long time ago.' O'Connor became the Jazz's primary decision-maker on Aug. 26, 1999, when he replaced Scott Layden, who had been hired away by the New York Knicks. According to those who know him, O'Connor has become the NBA's second-longest tenured gener
    al manager behind Sacramento's Geoff Petrie because of a tireless work ethic, an intense competiveness and a franchise-first approach to his job. 'Kevin is a great guy -- a very bright guy,' said Rod Thorn, the president of the New Jersey Nets who is also a friend. 'I have tremendous respect for him because he's worked his way up through the system and has become one of the best in the business. He doesn't get the notoriety that some bigger-name guys do, but I don't know anybody who does a better job.' "

  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: "Clippers guard Baron Davis arrived last month at Mumbai Airport in India and stepped into a taxicab. He immediately noticed how India's driving habits hinge more on aggressiveness and efficiency than conventional traffic signs. 'A dog was walking across the street and the driver was going 70 [miles per hour] and not looking,' Davis said. 'The closer it gets, I'm in the back of the car screaming like 'Aghhhhh'! Then he goes right past the dog, laughs and says, 'stupid American.' ' Call it part of Davis' cultural assimilation. He was in Mumbai for a week in July for the NBA's first fan clinic event in India, part of 345 international events the NBA has played host to in 158 cities and 24 countries in the last year. Davis' clinics attracted about 10,000 fans a day, including Indian cricket stars Irfan Pathan and Piyush Chawla. The surge of interest in basketball overseas reminded Davis of his several trips to China. 'You see the before and after effect,' he said."

  • Mike Baldwin of The Oklahoman: "The Thunder will break ground on a new practice facility Thursday morning. A year from now, Oklahoma City's NBA team will feature what team chairman Clay Bennett has promised -- a training facility that will rival any in the league. When fans hear terms such as 'finest facilities,' some probably envision Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban providing his players with personal laptops, flat screen TVs and a plush locker room. The Thunder's new facility will provide perks for players, but a training facility's primary role is to provide practice courts and weight training equipment to assist players during a grueling 82-game season. ... 'This will be the players' office,' Bennett said. 'Many times it is home for a lot of the guys. They spend a lot of time in there. We want to make it the best it can be.' "

  • Tom Knott of The Washington Times: "Welcome to the media jungle, Brendan Haywood. That acknowledgement probably is long overdue, given his growing body of work, starting with providing color commentary of the Mystics in 2003. Excuse anyone for thinking the initial foray was a diversion to fill up the summer calendar. Now he is a blogger and a one-time radio host on FM-106.7 after putting in time with Comcast SportsNet last winter. He has barely cleared his throat. Being in the chattering class is his post-basketball aspiration. 'Being in the media, it's not easy,' Haywood says. Tell me about it. Stuff is always being misinterpreted. His off-handed crack on the nut who is Stephon Marbury led to a misunderstanding and an apology. 'I've learned very, very early that you have to be politically correct because people have thin skin,' Haywood says. A permeable skin would not be Haywood, the target of a number of objections from this space at the height of his quarrel with Eddie Jordan."