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First Cup: Wednesday

  • Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer: "It's still hard to believe, Shaquille O'Neal in a Cavaliers uniform. Then there's LeBron James, the league's Most Valuable Player -- and he's yet to celebrate his 25th birthday. And there's Mo Williams, an All-Star guard. Anthony Parker and Anderson Varejao, two respected role players who'd start for most teams. That was Tuesday's starting five: Parker, Williams, O'Neal, Varejao and James. As for Delonte West, he remains a question mark because of his emotional and legal issues. Obviously, with West, the Cavs are a stronger team. But even minus their starting guard, they are still loaded with talent. You could see it Tuesday night in the preseason opener, a 92-87 victory over Charlotte at Quicken Loans Arena."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "He sat in his corner locker room stall, headphones blaring the sounds of Jay-Z and Notorious B.I.G., as he got himself prepared for his first preseason game in almost two years. As much as Washington Wizards fans have waited for Gilbert Arenas to return to the basketball court, the delay from the game he loves has been much more arduous and painful for Arenas. From a very brief flirtation with retirement this January, to pushing himself in the weight room for countless hours this summer with renowned trainer Tim Grover, Arenas has worked diligently to get back to play again on his surgically repaired left knee. Having already retired his Agent Zero and Hibachi personas last week, the three-time all-star hit the court against the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday, simply to resume the career of Gilbert Arenas, the facilitator. Arenas had five points and 10 assists in 24 minutes in the Wizards' 101-92 victory and looked remarkably agile after three surgeries on his left knee limited him to just 15 regular season games the past two seasons."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "There were plenty of signs of how the Rockets want to play, starting with those 15 first-quarter fast break points. The point guards and power forwards look like the strength of the team, which is not much of a surprise when there aren't any shooting guards and centers (well, almost) on the team. More than all that, though, Chase Budinger just kept doing what he has been doing, holding his own in the battle of the 'how did he get into the second round' draft picks."

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "DeJuan Blair was a smash in his preseason debut, scoring a team-leading 16 points and grabbing 19 rebounds in 22 minutes. 'I did what they asked me to, and that's rebound,' Blair said. 'Everything else came off of that.' Only Gregg Popovich could keep Blair, a second-round pick out Pittsburgh, from becoming the first Spurs player to grab 20 boards in the preseason since Will Perdue in 1996. He sat Blair for most of the fourth quarter, choosing to look at other players. After the game, Popovich pronounced himself pleased with Blair's first-game performance. Before it, the coach had cautioned about expecting too much, too soon from the 6-foot-7 rookie. 'I don't want to denigrate anything he's done in the past, and I don't want to over-emphasize anything he's doing well,' Popovich said. 'I just don't know exactly where to put him yet, as far as what kind of impact he might make.' "

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "David Kahn credits an epiphany for setting his franchise on a determined player-development course that brought former Timberwolves guard Chris Carr to practice Tuesday for an audition. Kahn's revelation last summer was that the Wolves can become league leaders in making their own players better. They already have interviewed several candidates for a sixth assistant coaching position, devoted solely to working with players on their skills. Former Timberwolves players Darrick Martin and Tony Campbell came to town before the team left for training camp in Mankato. Carr arrived Tuesday after a short crosstown trip from Hopkins, where he operates a basketball training academy for schoolchildren of all ages. The hire is another step in Kahn's effort to remake a franchise that hasn't made the playoffs since 2004."

  • Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News: "Backing down simply isn't acceptable in the NBA. A young player must establish himself from the start, basically in each and every game. Reptuations are earned quickly, and unflattering ones don't go away easily. Weakness is noticed in this league, maybe more than any other sports league. Weaknesses will be exploited. It's early in the Pistons' season, but it's already apparent that no NBA bully is taking the lunch money of rookies Austin Daye, DaJuan Summers and Jonas Jerebko. Those were the indications from last week's training camp, and fortified Monday in the exhibition opener against the Miami Heat. 'These guys are fearless in the way they play the game,' coach John Kuester said. 'They play the game the right way.' "

  • Tom Enlund of the Journal Sentinel: "New coach? New system? That's certainly nothing new for forward Hakim Warrick of the Milwaukee Bucks. After experiencing a revolving door on the coach's office during the first four years of his NBA career in Memphis, Warrick signed with coach Scott Skiles' Bucks as a free agent in July. Warrick is now playing under the fifth coach - or sixth, depending on how you count - since he entered the league in 2005. So it's easy to understand why the 6-foot-9 Warrick is looking for a bit of coaching stability. Warrick, in fact, had to stop and think for a moment when asked how many coaches he had played for in Memphis. 'I started with (Mike) Fratello, then we had (Tony) Barone, and then (Marc) Iavaroni ... and if you wanted (to count him), we had Johnny Davis for a game or two. And Lionel (Hollins). So that would be five in four years.' Hollins started last season as an assistant to Skiles but took the Grizzlies' coaching job in January."

  • Dan Tomasino of the New York Post: "Jordan Hill is a quiet guy, but the amount of noise he makes on the court this season is of utmost importance to the Knicks' future. The first-round draft pick must prove he was worthy of such a high selection (No. 8 overall) to keep fans from losing faith in the drafting prowess of team president Donnie Walsh and coach Mike D'Antoni. And he must show he is a building block of a championship-caliber team in order to lure LeBron James to New York. The Knicks gambled on drafting Hill, a 6-foot-10 power forward, despite the presence of David Lee at the position and the team's obvious need for a point guard. In fact, Hill was drafted ahead of talented point guard Brandon Jennings, who greatly impressed scouts and executives with his Summer League performance. The Knicks selected Hill because they believe he has Amare Stoudemire-like ability. That'
    s the kind of player who would be a great complement for James, should the Knicks sign the superstar free-agent-to-be next summer. If Hill fails, The LeBron Plan could fail with him because Lee and Nate Robinson are on one-year contracts and Danilo Gallinari, 2008's lottery pick, so far has been a bust. The Knicks need to show James that they have some pieces in place and they aren't the toxic club they were made out to be when several free agents spurned them this past summer."

  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "The likely starting backcourt tandem ended Tuesday's practice with only two good ankles between them, and if that wasn't enough to make Lawrence Frank reach for the nitroglycerin tablets, it's only because the Nets don't have another preseason game until Friday. Devin Harris rolled his left ankle and sat out much of the session, and just 10 minutes later, Courtney Lee turned his right ankle and was taken off for X-rays, which revealed a sprain. The unwitting instigator in each case was a guy who could actually benefit from their absences. 'Tazmanian Devil over there kind of knocked out two guys today,' Harris said, referring to rookie Terrence Williams. Harris was injured while he was backpedaling in a defensive transition: Williams stepped on his foot and 'My body went one way and the ankle went another.' Lee, who missed the last four days of work because of a bruised left foot, had the more serious injury. After colliding with Williams in a rebounding drill, he landed badly, his right ankle swelled. Though X-rays were negative, he could miss a few days."

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal: "Mike Miller, traded from Minnesota to Washington during the offseason, has moved around in the NBA more than he thought he would. Miller spent six seasons with the Griz and is now on his fourth team. He acknowledged being a bit surprised to see Iverson land in Memphis. 'Especially a great player like him, to see him move around,' Miller said. 'That puts some comfort in me because I've been moving around a bit. You see stuff like that, but that's the NBA, you find a place and you go out there and play as hard as they can. I know he's going to play hard.' Miller offered this advice to Iverson about the fans in Memphis: 'They love basketball. If they get out there and win some games, they are going to love him.' "

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: "With newly acquired Emeka Okafor out for this week's three preseason games, the first tonight in Philips Arena in Atlanta against the Hawks, Hilton Armstrong might have had yet another chance to impress Coach Byron Scott with his ability to play in the post. But a strained left thigh is jeopardizing that possibility, according to Scott, who said Tuesday he might rest Armstrong for the first two games. ... Already this season, pundits are predicting that Armstrong's $2.8 million salary will be the perfect trading-deadline number to erase from New Orleans' payroll to lessen the expected blow of a luxury-tax bill at the end of the season. Yet Armstrong, in his fourth year and the Hornets' first-round draft pick in 2006, has never been far from a positive assessment in the last week and half since the team convened for training camp in Lafayette. Almost every day, when someone asked Scott to evaluate the players in camp, Armstrong's name has been one of the first he has mentioned. Why? 'Two things,' Scott said. 'No. 1, his conditioning is fantastic. No. 2, he's just much more aggressive than he has been in the past. And No. 3 is probably his confidence level. Those three things have been pretty evident when you watch him out here playing.' "

  • Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun: "It took the crowd of 7,213 at the John Labatt Centre about five minutes before they started chanting the name of their favourite new player, Reggie Evans. And Evans no doubt will become a fan favourite at the Air Canada Centre too. He brings a style of play -- toughness, rebounding, energy -- which the Raptors have lacked in recent seasons. Last night, in the Raptors' 107-98 loss to the 'host' Philadelphia 76ers, the energetic Evans lived up to his advance billing, firing on all cylinders right from the opening buzzer. In the first quarter, the former Iowa star picked up six points (despite missing a number of layups under the basket), three steals, two offensive rebounds and an assist -- prompting the chant of 'Reggie, Reggie, Reggie'. 'It was a cool,' Evans said of the crowd. 'But at the end of the day, we've got to get the fans a win.' "

  • Sam Amick of The Sacramento Bee: "Tyreke Evans received the start from Kings coach Paul Westphal and didn't look likely to give it up anytime soon, finishing with 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting, two assists, five rebounds and just one turnover in 24 minutes. His play continued to be predictable in all the right kinds of ways, with no one mistaking him for a pure point guard but nearly everyone recognizing the sheer impact he can have on a game. 'He looked like a veteran out there,' Kings coach Paul Westphal said of the player taken fourth overall in the June draft out of Memphis. 'He fit right in. For a first game on the road in a place like this against a team like this, there were a lot of good things to take away from it.' "

  • Elliott Teaford of the Long Beach Press-Telegram: "Derek Fisher worked out with Peter Park, who has served as the strength and conditioning coach for cyclist Lance Armstrong, during the summer. As a result, Fisher showed up for training camp, older, wiser and just as fit as ever. Maybe fitter. It was a clear signal to all concerned he was back and ready for a run at a second consecutive NBA championship. It also was a sign he wouldn't be content to fade into the background after winning the fourth title of his career. Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown, the heirs apparent, took notice. 'Fisher's been around,' the 22-year-old Farmar said. 'He's won four rings. He still takes care of himself. He still gets the job done, so I've got to continue to keep working and support him in practice. Shannon is going to be there, too. We're all going to keep pushing each other, and that's going to make us better.' Farmar also is in the final season of his contract, so he has a good deal to prove as he hopes to play well enough to secure a big payday next July. Pushing for more playing time, battling Fisher in practice is the only way to get a bigger and better deal."

  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: "The last few years in Warriors world, the atmosphere has been nothing short of volatile. Players often speak of the unpredictability of the Golden State environment. Then there's Andris Biedrins. The 23-year-old center is a picture of consistency for the Warriors, one of the few reliable producers. Perhaps his most important area of consistency is his steady improvement. Biedrins has increased his scoring and rebounding averages in each of his five NBA seasons, and he has expanded his presence in the locker room. Can the Warriors expect more from him? He thinks so. 'I can always get better,' said Biedrins, who at one point last season posted a triple-double in 17 consecutiv
    e games, one off the Warriors' record. 'You want to keep adding stuff to your game.' "

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Vince Carter executed the beginning of the pick-and-roll perfectly. Carter drove past the defender who had been guarding him, sped into the lane and threw the basketball to Dwight Howard. Problem was, Howard wasn't expecting the ball. 'Man, I didn't know you were going to pass it,' Howard said. 'I thought you were going to score.' That sequence from a recent practice -- and described to reporters by Carter -- illustrates perhaps the biggest challenge the Orlando Magic face this preseason: The addition of so many new players means the defending Eastern Conference champions must build team chemistry all over again. The chemistry experiment will continue tonight when the Magic play the Miami Heat at Amway Arena. 'I want us to have an understanding season from Day One,' Carter said. 'We're trying to make our way through, instead of just feeling our way.' "

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "While all Green eyes are certain to be on Kevin Garnett tonight when the Celtics take the floor in Hidalgo, Texas, for their preseason opener against the Rockets, Doc Rivers doesn't see this as a grand opening. 'No, it's just another day,' the coach said after yesterday's practice. 'I'm sure it'll be billed as that though. You know, he's back on opening night as far as I'm concerned. Right now he's just going to play basketball.' The Celts will continue to try to manage Garnett through his comeback from right knee surgery, though both the club and player reiterated there is no trouble with the repaired area. But Rivers noted he'll keep KG out if the shin splints and calf problems persist."