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First Cup: Monday

  • Pete Thamel of The New York Times: "The Americans bumbled through nearly seven minutes of the second quarter without a field goal, giving the heavily pro-Slovenia crowd -- like a chanting, green version of the one at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium -- a dollop of hope. In the end, the United States pulled away and won its second game of pool play easily, 99-77, behind 22 points by Kevin Durant. There were no chairs thrown at the Abdi Ipekçi Arena, but Krzyzewski asked a Turkish reporter, 'Do you know my reputation?' Much like those seven listless minutes, t two strong games for the United States cannot be seen as a sign of things to come. Especially with four knockout games looming in its attempt to win a world championship gold for the first time since 1994. 'You can’t go too crazy about anything,' Krzyzewski said. 'You have to keep calm in these situations, as it’s just one game and you’re out.' The United States, which beat Croatia in its opener, faces a feisty Brazil club on Monday in what projects to be its only difficult game until the knockout round begins, most likely on Sept. 6 for the Americans."

  • Andre Iguodala for the Philadelphia Daily News: "Defensively, to start the game, from tip, we really got after it, got some steals, got some deflections. We really wanted to extend our defense and make them push their offense out a little further than they are accustomed to. That really disrupted them. We had 12 turnovers in the first [half] and we were still up 12, 14 points. We figured we'd come out in the second half, apply the same pressure and cut the turnovers down. We have to be careful with the traveling. You're going full speed and you catch the ball, it's hard to just stop. We'll adjust to the rules and get it done. [Brazil] has some tough players. They've got [Leandro] Barbosa, obviously, and [Anderson] Varejao, NBA guys. Barbosa's their go-to guy. We're going to try to key in on him a little bit. Obviously, he's been in the league for 8 years so he has some experience in the NBA and international play. I'm sure they want to upset us. I feel like we still have some ways to go, but these next three games will be good for us to try to continue to work on the little things."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "He's done pull-ups on the rim, stared down the opposing bench after a vicious slam and pummeled opposing big men to dunk on them. The lone Wizard playing in the FIBA world championships in Turkey has been putting up one of the better individual performances through the first two games of the tournament. Yi Jianlian, the new face of the Chinese national team as it moves forward in the post-Yao Ming era, has averaged 26 points and 11.5 rebounds as China has gone 1-1. China faces a difficult challenge in making it out of Group C, which features host Turkey, Greece, Russia, Puerto Rico and Ivory Coast. The top four teams advance to the next round, but Yi is embracing his role as team leader and go-to-guy, and his teammates are looking to him -- though not often enough. Yi struggled in his final tune-up before the world championships -- when he scored just 11 points in a loss to Puerto Rico in an exhibition in New York. But he has come back fired up. Yi carried China to its first win on Sunday, with 26 points and nine rebounds in an 83-73 victory against Ivory Coast. With Ivory Coast lacking much size, the 7-foot Yi had his way inside, backing down defenders and showcasing his low-post game with bank shots and jump hooks."

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "They come by the thousands always, with their gold, red and green flags and their drums and their uniforms and their songs and their chants. And their passion. First and foremost, their passion. They are as recognizable to the global basketball community as any player has ever been. The wildly enthusiastic Lithuanian fans follow their team and the sport with a fervor possibly unmatched in any sport anywhere. It is, in many ways, what defines the nation. "Basketball is the most important thing in Lithuania, more than anything else,' said Maurizio Gherardini, a long-time follower of the international game and now managing director of Canada’s national teams. 'Basketball is not only the sport, basketball is life philosophy, it’s religion. They are all basketball people, they know the game, they are all coaches, they are all players, you feel and smell basketball everywhere. So every time you have an international competition, you have thousands of Lithuanians coming, wherever the competition is. 'It’s not just sport ... it’s a country that found a way to present itself to the rest of the world from it.' "

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Amid all this Miami Heat chatter, why exactly isn't anyone talking about the Los Angeles Lakers flirting with history? Phil Jackson's team, after all, plays in the Western Conference. And he already has coached one 72-win team. No, this is not a bandwagon of choice, at least not this offseason, what with LeBron James and Chris Bosh joining Dwyane Wade in South Florida. But the West simply isn't what it used to be. ... And now the Denver Nuggets appear to be in fire-sale mode with Carmelo Anthony, which also could mean a selloff of Chauncey Billups. Each could be headed East. Let's see: The Phoenix Suns lost Amare Stoudemire in the offseason. The Utah Jazz lost Carlos Boozer. The San Antonio Spurs got a year older. The Houston Rockets still don't know whether or not Yao Ming is on his last legs. Yes, the Dallas Mavericks remain potent. And the Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers are on the rise after identical 50-32 seasons. But the difference between the Lakers and second-best in the West might be more substantial than the difference between the Heat and second-best in the East (when factoring in the Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics)."

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "With less than a month before the Sept. 28 start of training camp, Daniel Gibson is looking forward to erasing the memory of last season and making his mark in Byron Scott's up-tempo offense. Although he usually responded when called upon, he couldn't seem to find a regular spot in Mike Brown's rotation last year. 'I definitely feel like I didn't get a fair chance,' Gibson said of last season. 'But as a person and a player I continue to work and have faith in God and the system we've put in that it will turn. That's what I tried to do -- continue to stay positive. I'm still continuing to work and hoping this year things will be different. I'm ready to play and ready to help.' Gibson said he has altered his workouts to prepare for the new system. 'That's one of the things I've been doing all summer -- getting my body in good shape, knowing that we're going to be an up and down team,' Gibson said. 'I think this summer I did a lot more cardio. Normally I don't do cardio because I'm already frail as it is. I try to stay away from a whole lot of running because I lose a lot of weight. 'But this summer I did both. I did a lot of strength training, so I'm very strong right now. I combined it with a lot of calestenics, running hills, running on the beach, different things to build endurance.' Gibson, who said he still weighed between 190 and 195 pounds, laughed when asked if he was buff. 'But I think I'll surprise some people,' he said."

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: "In the wake of Brandon Rush's drug suspension, let me tell you a little bit about the NBA's drug-testing policy: First, to get suspended for five games, as Rush did Friday, a player has to test positive for marijuana three times. (And you should know, the team is not notified of the first two positive tests, so it's not like the Indiana Pacers were burying their heads in the sand.) Second, the NBA tests only during the season. So what we've got here in Rush, a guy who floats around the court like he's stoned at times, is a guy who cares so little about his team, his teammates and his profession that he can't lay off the chronic for a measly couple of months. You know what weed-smoking NBA players do? They smoke weed during the summer, when there's no testing. Is it so much to ask of a guy making millions of dollars to lay off the cannabis during the basketball season? Rush: a dope smoking dope. The Pacers can't win basketball games with guys like Rush, and they can't win back the fans with guys like Rush. Once again, team president Larry Bird will have to trade a player with a gun pointed at his temple -- but it's got to be done."

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: "Austin Daye and Tracy McGrady are at opposite ends of the career spectrum, but they are the most intriguing Pistons headed into training camp. There's only one small caveat: They play the same position. But that's not such a bad thing. ... McGrady and Daye will show flashes this year. McGrady will remind people of how good he used to be, while Daye will give glimpses of how good he can be. What isn't as knowable, though, is whether those signs will be sustained or fleeting. Daye, 22, will excite fans with his versatility. He plays the floor angles as well as anyone his age and his natural shooting ability is probably second to only Ben Gordon. Jonas Jerebko made the all-rookie second team last year, and for good reason. He adapted to the pro game better because of his experience, and his motor will always run hot. But make no mistake: Daye's ceiling is higher. There's so much more open space he's yet to explore. Their limitations, not their strengths, will determine how much time they see this year."

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "According to Darren Tillis, who recently followed former Marshall head coach Donnie Jones to Central Florida, Hassan Whiteside was one of his sharpest students. He introduced his star freshman to a video clip of Jack Sikma, for instance, and days later, saw his center stroking stepback jumpers from the baseline. 'The kid will do whatever you tell him to,' said Tillis. 'The speed of the game, that's something he has to work on. The other thing is … he befriends everybody. He's a light-hearted kid, and he's going to have to take things more seriously. But if he puts it together and the Kings develop him, he could be the steal of the draft.' Whiteside, who plans to live alone, is renting a condominium near Arco Arena. If he gets lonely, he says, he visits Tyreke Evans. He's also eager for DeMarcus Cousins to arrive; the two became acquainted earlier this month at the NBA Rookie Orientation seminar in New York. Turns out both had conducted background checks well before the draft. 'I had looked DeMarcus up on the Internet,' said Whiteside, with a grin, 'and he said he did the same thing. There weren't too many other good big guys out there. I'm real competitive, so just have to keep working, getting my body ready. Going 33rd … I just love proving people wrong.' "

  • Ron Green Jr. of The Charlotte Observer: "Michael Jordan and the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats will announce a $250,000 donation Monday to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system to help fund middle-school athletics programs this academic year. Jordan, an NBA legend who made a fortune with his basketball skills and marketing savvy, bought the Charlotte Bobcats this spring. At the time, he talked of the importance of making the franchise an active contributor within the Charlotte community. Budget cuts, including the school system's elimination of $1.25 million - the entire budget - for middle school athletics, brought an opportunity to do just that, Jordan told the Observer. 'We investigated the situation. We looked for ways to help middle schools and this was one of the options presented to us. We took it because of the impact on middle schools and giving them the opportunity to play sports and as motivation for education as well,' Jordan said."

  • Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press: "Last weekend, Matt Dobek took his own life. I suspect that a lot of fans did not even know who he was until he died. That's a shame, because good people like Matt, who was one of several employees fired by the Pistons in May, are an essential part of the sports world. Most fans do not know (or need to know) about the tug-of-war that goes on behind the scenes between reporters and athletes. Athletes often don't want to give interviews; reporters, of course, would like to interview point guards as they dribble up the court during playoff games. And in the middle are media-relations people. It can be a thankless job. But the best ones can bring both sides together in a way that helps the people who matter most: the fans. Matt was one of the best. When he smiled and asked "did you rip us?" the key was not the question but the smile. It was a subtle acknowledgment of the tension beneath the surface. Matt never let that tension overwhelm the room."