First Cup: Monday

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "It will be debated and discussed for the next five years. Did the Lakers do the right thing in essentially trading up-and-comer Trevor Ariza for already-there Ron Artest? An unforgettable July afternoon turned into the busiest of the summer for the Lakers after they agreed to terms with Artest on a five-year, $34-million free-agent contract. Ariza then accepted Houston's identical offer almost immediately after hearing that Artest had been snapped up by the Lakers. Time will be the final judge, as always, though one Western Conference coach is already offering an intriguing analysis. 'I think it was a 'volatility' trade,' Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy said. 'I think Ariza was a flat line that was very positive for them. I think Artest has the ability to raise above that line, significantly. If Kobe Bryant went down during the year, Artest has the ability to carry a team more than Ariza would have the ability to carry a team. So it's positive from that regard. [Artest] gives you more obviously, but there is the question -- he has had a past of some indiscretions. I don't think it's probably going to be an issue for them. Everything I've read, his mind-set seems to be pretty good.' "

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: "Rudy Gay was a judge at the Tigers slam-dunk contest Friday. He saw the madness up close. Then he saw the mildness. Thoughts, Rudy? 'Winning brings them out,' he said. Ding, ding, ding. Get that man a prize. For all the talk about history and tradition, the biggest difference between the Tigers and the Grizzlies is Ws and Ls. The Tigers have been one of the best teams in college basketball over the last four years. The Grizzlies have been one of the worst teams in the NBA. So which would you rather pay to watch? You prefer joy or pain? There's no big secret to any of this. Everyone digs wins. 'If we win, it will change,' said Grizzlies center Marc Gasol. Which is why Saturday's performance was particularly nice to see. Because the Grizzlies looked -- ready for this? -- great. No, seriously. They looked great."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "Some of the toughest days for LeBron James over the last year had nothing to do with basketball. It was the gut-churning period when he waited to make sure he didn't have cancer. In his first interview on the subject since surgery to remove a tumor from his jaw area in June, James told The Plain Dealer there were several jittery days last January after he had a biopsy on the growing lump under his right ear. 'It was a nerve-racking experience but I knew at that point I had to get it done,' James said. 'I was on edge for those few days, I was lucky the season was going on and we were playing really well so I could concentrate on basketball. My family was nervous.' Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic found a growth on James' parotid gland, which produces saliva. Those sorts of tumors are somewhat rare, on average there's usually around 2,500 cases each year. It represents only about three percent of all discovered tumors and just six percent of tumors found in the head and neck area, according to several medical reference Web sites."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "The Rockets' difficulties defensively have been in part caused by using different combinations in the frontcourt, leading to a lack of cohesion and communication not uncommon in the preseason. But they also have been held back offensively, with players bringing different styles and strengths, from Pops Mensah-Bonsu's ability to play above the rim to Brian Cook's ability to shoot 24 feet away from it. 'It's about finding the strengths of different people and then trying to incorporate those strengths in the game,' Rick Adelman said. 'I wasn't sure what was going to be best for us. I think we have a pretty good idea about individual people, what they are going to do. I think we still are going to try to run. We felt that from the start. I think it's even more apparent that if we get up the court quicker and get into our stuff quicker, we have even more of a chance to attack the other team.' The Rockets have found that if the motion-based half-court offense does not spring someone open quickly, they are better suited to moving to more traditional pick-and-rolls, the key to their success in the postseason wins against the Lakers after Yao Ming's injury."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "A lot of these Mavericks found the last coach, Avery Johnson, overbearing. But he also led the Mavericks to their only appearance in an NBA Finals. Every coach is different. And when he has to tell a player he's making a mistake, he can scream, he can be subtle or he can simply say, 'look at the film.' All three can be effective, and Rick Carlisle has used each. For Kris Humphries, he went to the film. 'I'm greedy,' Carlisle said. 'I want him to play better and better. The last couple games, some things have been falling off a little bit in terms of his energy level so I've talked to him about that. He needs to be an energizer guy for us.' Specifically, Carlisle showed Humphries that he took a pass when it came to getting back on defense after a Mavericks' turnover Saturday against Cleveland. 'He pointed that out at halftime,' Humphries said. 'Definitely, stuff like that can't happen. We're still working things out.' Carlisle said Saturday's game was one of Humphries' worst of the preseason, even though he nearly had a double-double with 12 points and 9 rebounds."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "The NBA last week announced a clarification to its official rule about traveling. For years, the league's referees have allowed players to take two steps after catching passes on the move, and before jump stops, even though the official rule book specified that players could take only one step. The interpretation of the rule came into play last season when Cavaliers star LeBron James complained he had been called for a travel when he had taken what he called a 'crab dribble' -- catching on the fly and taking two steps before putting the ball down on the court. Now, the league has changed the written rule to allow players on the move 'to gather the ball, after driving or catching it, and then take two steps.' 'I was doing that move a lot my first couple of years in the league,' Spurs guard Tony Parker said. 'Then they put that rule, so I try not to do it any more. It's a question of habit to not do it. If they say it's a travel, it's a travel. Different people will say different stuff.' "

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "This training camp has been a disjointed mess. Management and players insist there is enough time between now and the Oct. 29 season opener against San Antonio to get in game condition, establish a rhythm, jell. And given the Bulls are 5-1 entering Monday's next-to-last exhibition against Orlando, who's to argue? But with Derrick Rose again sitting out a practice that he had hinted at participating in, not to mention John Salmons and Lindsey Hunter being elsewhere, the practice just underscored the only consistent theme to this camp -- inconsistency. .... Hinrich, who hyperextended his left elbow in London, hadn't planned to practice Sunday. With Rose, Salmons and Hunter out and the fan-friendly workout scheduled, he had to. 'If we think the way we played in the preseason is going to get wins in the regular season, we're fooling ourselves,' Hinrich said. 'Our schedule is crazy. No question we need time together. That's what the preseason is for, getting used to rotations and each other.' "

  • John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "As rookies James Johnson and Taj Gibson left the United Center with their pink backpacks -- a 'gift' from Brad Miller on the first day of training camp -- Joakim Noah was asked if he participated in the rookie hazing. 'No, it would be hypocritical of me to do so,' he said. 'I wasn't a so-called 'good rook.' I was a rebel. So I try to leave them alone.' To prove the point, Noah told a story about how he and Aaron Gray splashed veteran Ben Wallace with water while he was getting a massage during their rookie seasons. According to Noah, Wallace exacted his revenge by driving Gray's car to a remote section of the hotel parking lot in the same office complex as the Berto Center and then hiding the keys."

  • Richard Sandomir of The New York Times: "Mikhail D. Prokhorov reached an agreement last month with the Nets' principal owner, Bruce C. Ratner, to pay $200 million for 80 percent of the team and 45 percent of the proposed arena in Brooklyn that is the showpiece of Ratner's Atlantic Yards development. But to complete the deal, Prokhorov will have to win the approval of at least 23 of the N.B.A.'s 30 owners, which may not be easy, even for a tycoon who capitalized on Russia's shift of state enterprises to private ownership in the 1990s. On Wednesday, he will try to make a positive impression on some of the owners during a meeting of the league's advisory and finance committee in Manhattan. Like any prospective owner, Prokhorov will be investigated by the N.B.A. and a security firm that specializes in risk management. They will try to ascertain his net worth, debts, character, associates, personal history and integrity. The process is designed to rule out inappropriate buyers who lack financial clout or present public-relations risks to the league. ... The league's investigation may never yield as complete a picture of Prokhorov as it would an American buyer. All the same, N.B.A. owners will have to decide whether the cash infusion for the Nets is worth taking a risk on a charismatic billionaire willing to bail out a franchise that has lost nearly $400 million in five years under Ratner.The investigation is expected to tap into Russian police, military, diplomatic and intelligence sources, some from the former K.G.B., as well as his partners, competitors and customers."

  • Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times: "The N.B.A. has hardly looked back since introducing the 3-pointer 30 years ago. The shot and its usefulness have revolutionized the game. It has evolved from a gimmick adapted from the American Basketball Association to a tactic for overcoming large deficits, and now is a focal point in many N.B.A. offenses. The 3-pointer does not guarantee success. But evidence suggests that it does not prevent success, either. Much to D'Antoni's delight, the Orlando Magic dispelled the notion that a team that relies on the 3-pointer could not reach the N.B.A. finals. Orlando reflects the trajectory the league has taken on the 3-pointer. Teams attempted a record 44,583 3-pointers in 2008-9. They made 36.68 percent, the second-highest success rate in league history. Teams converted 36.69 percent in 1995-96, when the 3-point line was a uniform 22 feet from the basket. Since 1997-98, the arc has ranged from 22 feet at the corners to 23 feet 9 inches."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "It used to be that there were no guarantees in life -- except in the NBA. Practically anyone with previous experience beyond a 10-day contract was assured of cashing some sort of paycheck no matter their training-camp fate. And then the luxury-tax bills went up and the economy went down. Because of that, the NBA now finds itself in a show-me state. 'Everybody is taking a hit,' Heat guard Carlos Arroyo said. He meant the economy in general, but the situation also hits home. For the first time in years, Arroyo is in an NBA camp with not a single dollar guaranteed. And he is not alone. Among NBA veterans forced to actually play for their pay this preseason, without any financial guarantee, are Tim Thomas, Desmond Mason, Ime Udoka, Jarron Collins, Juan Dixon, Chucky Atkins, Michael Ruffin and twin brothers Joey and Stephen Graham. Then there are former first-round picks Stromile Swift and Rashad McCants, who could do no better than non-guaranteed camp invitations and already are again searching for their first 2009-10 dollars."

  • Eric Koreen of the National Post: "Over the last two regular seasons, the Raptors went 1-7 against the Garnett-infused Celtics. That one win, which came two seasons ago, featured an unfathomably good shooting night. And it can be argued that last year went awry on an early November evening in Boston when the Raptors coughed up a 15-point lead. There is a definite mental aspect to the Raptors' struggles with Boston. The good news: Of this year's Raptors, only Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon have been a major part of that losing. The bad news: Based on the pre-season, little has changed. The Raptors deserved some credit Sunday, as the game featured more intensity than the average pre-season contest. There was some trash talk, and coach Jay Triano kept the rotation at 10 men for most of the game instead of the usual clearing of the bench by the half."

  • Steve Bulpett of Boston Herald: "Eddie House has to be a little giddy on the inside. While many seasons in his career, he's been seen as little more than a specialist to employ when a quick burst of shooting is needed, now he is a focal point of sorts. The Celtics are well aware of his skills after two good years, and this past summer they acquired some pieces that complement House's game. Instead of just getting another point guard, they went for Marquis Daniels, a guy who can handle the ball and provide enough size that House can be a 6-1 shooting guard and not have to apologize for it. He should be smiling at the respect shown him. But House insists it's not about that at all. 'I'm not looking at what is going to be best for me,' he said. 'I look at what we've got out there and I see what's best for the team. I mean, I don't set too many individual goals. I really only set one this year, and that's to shoot better on free throws than I did last year. That was crazy.' After shooting .917 from the line the two previous years, House shot .792 last season. He hit 42-of-53, the most attempts (by four) that he's had in his career. 'Beyond that,' he said of the freebies, 'my only personal goal is to be better defensively. And if I'm better defensively, it's better for the team.' "