First Cup: Friday

  • Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times: "Lessons for a rookie, Part 9. There's plenty for Clippers rookie Blake Griffin to remember and, by all accounts, he's doing a standout job, on and off the court. But even the most diligent of pupils can slip up from time to time. 'Biggest thing I've learned?' he said on Thursday. 'Being in somebody's spot when you're a rookie, you've got to move. I've been kicked out of so many spots.' Such as the wrong chair on the side of the court, wrong seat on the bus, wrong yoga mat ... and wrong shower. Shower? Griffin nodded. 'You've got to remember,' he said. 'I think I've got it down now.' Almost. 'Ricky [Davis] was in the bathroom and there was a [yoga] mat open. I'm stretching and all of a sudden I look up and Ricky's standing over me, like, 'You must have forgot,' ' Griffin said. ' 'You're right. I did.' ' Forgetfulness on the court has been rare in camp. Griffin quickly answered any outstanding questions about his defensive abilities and worked tenaciously on his shot since the Clippers took him with the No. 1 overall pick in June."

  • Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun: "Andrea Bargnani told a fan that his goal was to make the NBA all-star team. The fan posted the comments on a website and yesterday, following the Raptors practice at the Air Canada Centre, Bargnani was asked by the media if he has indeed set such a goal. 'Of course,' the 7-foot Italian responded. 'I think every kid all over the world dreams about being an all-star.' When pressed if making the all-star team was a specific goal for him this season, the Rome native responded in the affirmative. 'You can set a goal as much as you want, but it's not going to get you there unless you practice (hard) every day and play good,' he said. ... A member of the Raptors media relations staff expressed concern that Bargnani may not have realized that by telling a fan he wants to be an all-star this season, his words would eventually reach the local media. In today's multi-media age, there are few secrets when dealing with the public. But general manager Bryan Colangelo certainly doesn't have a problem with Bargnani making his goals known to anyone, whether to fans or ink-stained wretches."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "One way or another, two of you have written to say the Bobcats should sign Dionte Christmas and Carlos Powell, now that they technically have an open roster spot. Thanks for playing at home, and I really don't mean this in any flippant way, but you don't understand the realities, no matter how often I write them. The Charlotte Bobcats painted themselves into a corner in a big way. They're way too close to the luxury-tax threshold, and there is zero chance of them crossing that border. So the value of exploring guys of D-League value at NBA prices has passed. This is mostly about deals that brought Gana Diop, Nazr Mohammed and, to a lesser extent, Vlade Radmanovic to the Bobcats. None of those guys are quite worth the contracts the Bobcats inherited (though the jury is out on Radmanovic). That reduced the Bobcats' options to the extent that it's hard to justify risking even a minimum salary on a flyer. Get used to it. They need to find a great trade at a time in our general economy when it's challenging to get anyone to buy your (now) over-priced house."

  • John Petkovic of The Plain Dealer: "Well, FINALLY, we have the Cavs. At 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, the LeBron and Shaq show hits The Q to open the 2009-2010 season against, yeah, those guys, the Boston Celtics. It isn't just that the Cavs are better viewing than the Tribe and Browns. They're more fun. And it's more than a game. It's a going-out experience that has brought new vibrancy to downtown. It's only going to get better this season, says Nick Kostis, owner of Pickwick & Frolic on East Fourth Street. 'It portends to be a great season, and we have two superstars in LeBron and Shaq,' he says. 'It creates a new interest in the whole area -- we have people coming downtown not just from the area, but a world of fans coming to witness basketball history.' East Fourth has done its share to revive downtown, but the entertainment district is also a de-facto party zone for Cavs fans."

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "First, there was Hack-a-Shaq. Now, there's Smack-a-Superman. Teams are fouling Orlando Magic C Dwight Howard when he has the basketball near the basket and looks like he's ready to shoot. Howard concedes that he sometimes fights frustration when teams employ the tactic.'I think I've just got to play through it,' Howard said. 'Coach, he allows guys to do the same thing in practice, so I've just got to get used to it. It's tough, because you've got people hanging on you, pulling at you, slapping at you, whatever, the whole game. You try to stay calm, but sometimes you just want to react. But you've got to do what's best for the team.' Howard is shooting 50.7 percent from the free-throw line this preseason. 'We'll give him some help, and he'll get it figured out,' Coach Stan Van Gundy said following the Magic's practice Thursday. 'I'm not too concerned about it. He'll keep working at it, and we'll get it better.' "

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "The organization seemed somewhat content with bringing Mike Conley -- a 19-year-old out of Ohio State -- along slowly at that time. But since coach Lionel Hollins' arrival, the demand for Conley to emerge as a forceful leader on the court has intensified. No kid gloves this season. Conley has received a strong message. The coaching staff is demanding he be more assertive and in charge of a group that features strong personalities and offensive wills. Under Hollins, Conley already proved he is a credible NBA point guard. The pressure this season is for Conley to build on his personal gains and prove his position isn't in need of an upgrade. 'I don't want to be the weak link,' Conley said. 'You want to be a key part of why a team is winning. It forces me to look at the game differently. I've got to be a force so that guys can't sag off me or take me for granted. I know people may have given up and lost interest in me, but I use all of that as motivation. The people who doubt me, I try to go out and prove them wrong. I know I can help make this team better. I'm at the point now where I feel like people are going to realize that I belong in this league.' "

  • Mike Jones of The Washington Times: "Caron Butler shook his head in disbelief. The two-time All-Star was asked about the Washington Wizards' chemistry and their readiness for the regular season, and Butler couldn't help but notice a familiar trend. 'You saw us the first game against Memphis down in Richmond. You saw us the second game against Dallas,' Butler said. 'Then we lost Antawn [Jamison] during the Cleveland game and obviously lost Gilbert [Arenas]. We can't all get out there for some reason. It's unbelievable. But hopefully we can kick off the season right.' Butler and the Wizards have one preseason game left - Friday night in Chicago - and then two more practices to prepare for the season opener Oct. 27 in Dallas. They would have liked it if they had spent the preseason reacclimating themselves to a healthy Arenas and center Brendan Haywood and working on developing chemistry with new teammates Mike Miller and Randy Foye. Instead, Haywood missed four preseason games with a sprained ankle before returning last week. The next day, Jamison partially dislocated his right shoulder, an injury that has sidelined him for the last week. Then both Arenas and Miller missed games Monday and Tuesday with the flu."

  • Michael Hunt of the Journal Sentinel: "The Milwaukee Bucks are asking for the two things they should have no right to expect. They are asking for trust. And they're asking for patience. Combine the franchise's missteps of the last 20 years with the current state of the NBA, and that's sort of like General Motors wanting the public to hold on just a little more for a worthwhile product. The marketplace can only abide for so long. So the news Thursday that Joe Alexander's career went from jumping the tracks to full-scale train wreck would seem to exacerbate the Bucks' credibility issues. Since Alexander was among John Hammond's first major decisions as the No. 8 pick in the 2008 draft, should that trust and patience be afforded the general manager as he tries to dig out from all that he inherited? Lest myopia from the Alexander experience affect the long-term view, the answer is a conditional yes. Unquestionably, Hammond blew it with Alexander. The GM has been taking a beating for months from those who insist he should've drafted Brook Lopez, the No. 10 pick who had a very good rookie year in New Jersey. But because the Bucks had already decided to make a $60 million investment in Andrew Bogut, the Lopez argument isn't applicable unless, of course, Lopez goes on to have a better career than Bogut."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "Arron Afflalo is a role player, a guy who could walk the 16th Street Mall and get more requests for change than requests for autographs. He has a paltry career scoring average (4.3 points). And the summertime acquisition from Detroit has yet to play a regular-season game for Denver. But just listen to what they're saying about him in the Nuggets' locker room, and one can quickly conclude he may have a bigger impact for this team than most fans realize. Teammate Carmelo Anthony: 'He doesn't take possessions off. He wants to get better in the gym -- every day.' Coach George Karl: 'He's the most organized, regimented young player I've ever coached.' Vice president of basketball operations Mark Warkentien: 'He is everything a coach wants in a player. ... We knew he had ridiculously high character.' Now, Afflalo ain't Air Jordan. The guy isn't going to win scoring titles and sell you sneakers. But for a Nuggets team that was yearning for role players -- the right role players -- Denver feels it got a steal in Afflalo."

  • George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press: "Former Pistons player and Shock coach Bill Laimbeer returned to the Palace on Thursday as an assistant coach with Minnesota. ... Laimbeer said he left tickets for some of his former Shock players, who learned earlier this week the team was moving to Tulsa, Okla. 'I think it's disappointing,' Laimbeer said of the Shock's departure. 'I'm disappointed for the players and the fans that would come to all the games. A lot of hard work by the employees has been put into it. But at the same time, you gotta understand this is a bad market to be in for a professional sports team right now. The Pistons aren't going to do very well this year, is my guess. The Shock just aren't able to make a dollar right now. As a matter of fact, they're losing a lot. If somebody else wants them and can be more supportive, great.' Laimbeer said he was glad the team didn't just fold completely."