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First Cup: Friday

  • Harvey Araton of The New York Times: "Legal challenges and N.B.A. vetting hurdles remain before 80 percent ownership of the Nets shifts from Bruce C. Ratner to Prokhorov. Then it would take at least two years for them to move from New Jersey and become the Brooklyn Nets. If and when, the Nets will matter in a way they have only dreamed of since they were born in 1967 as the New Jersey Americans of the American Basketball Association, cash-poor and attention-starved. Suddenly, the team that has been slumming in the shadows of the Manhattan skyline is a few notarized documents from initiating a fierce intracity rivalry with the Knicks. The franchise that has long symbolized suburban sterility could become a central player in Commissioner David Stern's global basketball crusade. In Cleveland, a make-or-break mandate to retain LeBron James seemed a prime motivation for the Cavaliers to partner up with Chinese investors, who agreed to purchase 15 percent of the team last May. In northern New Jersey, Ratner's dire team finances and inability to raise capital during the recession were jeopardizing the Brooklyn arena and vast housing development. Whatever the circumstances, Stern's march on the world appears to have developed a free-flowing reverse commute."

  • Alan Hahn of Newsday: "Sure, Larry Hughes and Al Harrington are technically the elders of the locker room, but David Lee and Nate Robinson are both home-grown talents who should start taking it upon themselves to set the example for the new crop -- Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas -- and take greater responsibility in the culture change that still needs to take place in the Knick locker room. It is up to them to set the standard, to raise the level of play and to enforce accountability. ... It is up to them to sacrifice stats for wins, which you can expect because Donnie Walsh cleverly decided to add that $1M bonus if the team makes the playoffs. You want to see a guy hold his teammates accountable? Put a million bucks on the table and he'll make sure everyone around him is playing just as hard as he is. Cutting corners costs him money. Honestly, this is the way all contracts should be structured in the NBA. Bonuses should be a combination of player performance in relation to team performance (it seems so obvious). That way, everybody wins."

  • Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle: "I don't know about you, but when I first saw the Rockets' new jerseys, I thought back to championship celebrations and the night Rudy T. took the microphone and talked about the heart of a champion. I thought of Dream and Clyde and Kenny and all the rest. I didn't even live here at the time, but I covered the games and know it was the most special era sports fan have had in this city. To some, they were the ugliest uniforms ever created. Remember ketchup and mustard? To others, though, they represent something special in their lives. How about the night Dream took David Robinson and his MVP trophy and stuffed it in the basket? How about Mario Elie and the Kiss of Death? How about the celebration that spilled onto Richmond?"

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "The final product -- a respected franchise in the community and a legitimate title contender on the court -- is far from finished. Larry Bird knows it. And that's why the Hall of Fame forward has no intention of stepping away until he puts on at least an All-Star performance as president of the Indiana Pacers. Bird's contract expires after this season, but team owner Herb Simon has made it clear he wants him to return. Bird, entering his second year with full control of basketball operations, is slowly rebuilding a team that has endured its toughest stretch in decades. His method isn't ordinary, either. Acquiring talent -- no team wins without it -- took a back seat to high-character players after a 2004 brawl at Detroit and subsequent off-court incidents altered the way the fans viewed some players. 'I said when I took over that we were going to change the culture, and I think we've done that,' Bird said while sitting in his office, just days before the Pacers open camp Saturday. 'Now it's putting the pieces of the puzzle together to get the type of team I want here and it ain't going to happen overnight. It's a process, and we said it's going to be three years and we feel we're still on course.' "

  • John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "This season, even though Derrick Rose doesn't turn 21 until Oct. 4, there's no reason for him to defer to anyone. In fact, Rose being consistently more aggressive on the offensive end is one way the Bulls are hoping to make up for the loss of Gordon's production -- and that includes becoming the team's go-to scorer at the end of games. We certainly saw during Game 1 of the Boston series that Rose is capable of scoring in bunches and dominating a game when he puts his mind to it. Frankly, he was unstoppable, and the Celtics didn't know what to do as the Bulls pulled off the 105-103 shocker. While I wouldn't expect Rose to match his gaudy numbers from that night (36 points and 11 assists) on a regular basis, I believe he can bounce back from a couple of off-the-court controversies in the spring and summer to average better than 20 points and seven assists -- and make a serious push at becoming the Bulls' first All-Star since the Jordan era. Losing Gordon actually could accelerate Rose's development because he won't be worried about getting Gordon shots. For the Bulls to take a step up, Rose has to grab the reins and become the on-court leader, but this is far from a one-man team, and there's plenty of talent around."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "With the exception of 'The Godfather, Part II' and Frank Fox's second daughter Megan, sequels are seldom scintillating. But your hometown Nuggets hope they are en route to an encore, beginning training camp this weekend following their best season since the Reagan administration. Naturally there have been whispers about the Nuggets all summer, some from doubters -- the Lakers, Spurs, Mavericks and Trail Blazers all got better -- and believers -- Denver was the No. 2 playoff seed in the West last year, so teams are simply trying to catch up with them. Indeed, the Nuggets didn't make any roster overhauls or sign any marquee names, Chris "The Birdman" Andersen notwithstanding. Instead, Denver has tried to keep its payroll, again, around the luxury-tax line, and hope that will be sufficient in the ever-wild West."

  • Michael Wallace of The Miami Herald: "Seven months ago, he was widely viewed as the low-post presence who would balance the roster and get the Heat back into deep playoff contention. And if it didn't work out, he would simply be reduced to another O'Neal with a bloated contract the Heat would look forward to dumping for financial relief and roster revitalization. Today, with the start of training camp approaching in mere hours, Jermaine O'Neal is a
    man who finds himself in the middle of those two distinction. The Heat's success largely depends on Dwyane Wade's health and hunger. Miami's improvement from last season will be based mainly on the second-year growth of Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers. But the team's ultimate finish in the playoffs - assuming things work out as expected and the Heat falls somewhere between the 5th and 7th seeds -- could hinge on the joints in O'Neal's troublesome knees and his ability provide a productive and proficient anchor in the middle of the starting lineup."

  • Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "With apologies to the Ringling Bros.' clowns, tigers and elephants at EnergySolutions Arena this weekend, Carlos Boozer will be the ringmaster of a circus all his own today when the Jazz open training camp. Against all odds, Boozer will return for a sixth season in Utah, after the former All-Star forward decided on June 30 against opting for free agency only to campaign weeks later for a trade. Instead of heading to training camp with Chicago, Miami or any of the other teams to which he was linked, Boozer finds himself back with the Jazz, returning to familiar if not necessarily friendly surroundings. Along with Boozer, the Jazz will bring back 11 players from last season's 48-34 team that stumbled to an eighth-place finish in the Western Conference and was eliminated by the L.A. Lakers from the first round of the playoffs in five games."

  • Martin Frank of The News Journal: "New coach Eddie Jordan admitted that the players might not feel comfortable in the offense until 'late in the season.' So Jordan's course on Princeton Offense 101 can't begin soon enough for him or the players. The main lesson, according to Jordan, is simply: 'To see. We have to see what's available on the floor. It's a read and deliver offense. We try to train our players, 'What do you see when you have the ball? What do you see when you don't have the ball? There is a reaction to an action. When that action takes place, what do you see? Do you see a handoff or a jump shot? Or do you see a backdoor cut for a layup? Do you see a man open in the post? And if you do, what kind of cut will you use when you feed him? Repetition is the mother of all learning. We will do it every day. We'll teach them how to see.' That's why Jordan insists the Sixers don't need a true point guard, that Lou Williams can succeed there even though he has never started a game in his previous four seasons. Jordan said guard/forward Andre Iguodala could start the offense as well. 'We'll have guards doing forward things and forwards doing guard things,' Jordan said."

  • Dave Sheinin of The Washington Post: "From the comfort of his home, Kenny Anderson, who didn't know his own father until his early 30s, contemplated the blessings of fatherhood and beamed. In the faces of his kids, he could see the evidence of his own past mistakes -- the womanizing, the failed marriages, the hollow attempts at fatherhood he made during a 14-year NBA career that ended in 2005. But over the course of those few amazing, late-summer weeks, he could also see the seeds of his new beginning, a new chapter for Kenny Anderson -- now a 38-year-old, full-time, stay-at-home father to Kenny Jr. and Tiana, and an aspiring college basketball coach who wants nothing more than to distance himself from those past failures as a father, as a husband, as a man. The magnitude of the moment absolutely blew him away. 'It was awesome,' Anderson says. 'Now they could all see how their daddy really is. They can see for themselves. . . . I'm involved in their lives, all of them, but this was the first time I got all of them together. My mother, she'd be rolling over in her grave, she'd be so happy.' "