Archive for September, 2009

Delonte West skips two Cavs workouts

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Delonte West seems like a nice-enough guy, and he’s a talented combo guard, but the guy has some issues. Unfortunately, the Cavs now have a bit more of a distraction to deal with.

Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:

Delonte West skips two Cavs practices

West hit a new low Tuesday on the first day of training camp, skipping both of the team’s workouts. The absences were unexcused and caught the team off-guard after West reported to Monday’s media day. It has now left the Cavs immersed in a gray area of how to proceed with their talented but troubled guard.

“Delonte is in Cleveland,” Cavs General Manager Danny Ferry said in a statement. “He is addressing a personal matter and did not attend practice.”

According to a source, West was in his home for the day and did not leave to come to practice. There was no indication whether West was planning on coming to today’s workouts.

Whatever is going on, I hope Delonte is OK and not in some sort of bad situation beyond what everyone knows.

Less handshaking?

OCT. 2 UPDATE: This story is apparently inaccurate. No such anti-handshake directive has been passed down.

Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald reports: The NBA, fearful of the damage an H1N1 flu outbreak could wreak on the league, has passed down an anti-handshake directive. Players and coaches have been asked to greet each other via more sanitary means of contact, like fist pounding, or maybe chest bumps. One can only imagine what Utah’s Jerry Sloan thinks about this. “No handshaking,” Doc Rivers said. “I think it’s a good thing. A fist pound is just great.”

InsideHoops.com editor says: Before I shake hands with a public figure these days, I pull out a giant spray-can of cleaning fluid and unleash a few gallons of it on him/her. Then while I shake hands with one hand I offer the celeb a towel with the other. It does the trick and keeps me healthy.

Tony Allen still healing

Boston Celtics shooting guard Tony Allen is taking a while to regain full health.

Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald reports:

tony allen

A slower-than-expected recovery from ankle tendon surgery was given as the reason Allen didn’t scrimmage during yesterday’s practice at Salve Regina College.

Add the arrival of swingman Marquis Daniels to the picture and Allen has never been further down the depth chart.

“We were hoping Tony would be able to come along for training camp but he just wasn’t coming along as quickly as we wanted,” general manager Danny Ainge said. “We’ll take it week by week. He’s close. He’ll do things on the court, but he just won’t go live to come out of the gate. It puts him behind everyone until he can play. You have to remember that the most important ability is availability.”

All players need their athletic ability to be effective, but some need it more than others. Allen is one of those guys. So until he’s close to 100 percent he should probably remain out of action.

Al Jefferson slims down

Al Jefferson slims down

The AP reports: ”Big Al” isn’t quite as big these days, and that’s no accident for the Minnesota Timberwolves star as he returns from a major knee injury. A slimmer, trimmer Al Jefferson returned to full practice Tuesday for the first time in nearly eight months following surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee. He has lost 31 pounds in an effort to reduce the stress on his knees and get him ready to run in the new up-tempo offense that coach Kurt Rambis plans to install. ”It felt real good,” Jefferson said after the Timberwolves opened training camp in owner Glen Taylor’s hometown. ”It’s more about my lungs than anything. My knee felt great. Felt good to be back out here with the team.”

Nuggets declare Renaldo Balkman a small forward

Denver Nuggets forward Renaldo Balkman is an energy player. At 6-8 and around 210 pounds, he has no clear position. He’s not a shooting guard. And although he hits the boards and bangs like a power forward, he’s too small to really play the four-spot. Size-wise, he’s a small forward. So, even if he can’t shoot, from now on that’s what the Nuggets will consider him.

Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post reports:

This year, George Karl is making what he thinks is “a pretty drastic switch,” but it could be fruitful — Balkman is now a small forward.

Makes sense. No, Balkman can’t shoot like most small forwards, but as far as size, he’ll be a perfect fit defensively. And with Linas Kleiza no longer on the team, that opens up some minutes behind Carmelo Anthony — though it’s possible Karl could, at times, play a point guard alongside J.R. Smith and Arron Afflalo.

“We’re a little excited about seeing Balkman at small forward,” Karl said. “We’re going to give him a lot of minutes there in training camp. We would like, as we cut the roster down, to give him 15-20 minutes in the games at the two or three position.

Regardless of what position he’s playing, Balkman will do what he does, which is hustle and try to fill in the blanks and make things easier for teammates who have better-refined basketball skills.

Aaron Gray out 6-8 weeks

Chicago Bulls  center Aaron Gray developed lower leg pain over the last two days.  He was examined by team physician Dr. Brian Cole of Midwest Orthopedics at Rush University Medical Center and it was determined that he has a stress fracture of his left fibula.  The diagnosis was confirmed by MRI.  He is likely out 6-8 weeks.

The 7-0, 270-pound Gray is entering his third NBA season, playing each year with the Bulls.

Suns to run again

steve nash

The Phoenix Suns were a fun, super-fast, run-and-gun team back in the not-so-distant past. Then they made a bunch of trades, added Shaquille O’Neal, and became a regular squad that fast-breaked about as much as anyone else.

Now, Shaq is gone and Steve Nash has guys like Jason Richardson, Amar’e Stoudemire and Leandro Barbosa to toss the rock to. Guys with quickness and athletic ability.

What this means is, the fun Suns may reappear.

The AP reports:

The Suns begin training camp with “a clear vision of how we’re going to play,” Steve Nash said at the team’s media day on Monday.

That would be fast and furious, just like in the days when Mike D’Antoni was coach.

“This year I think it’s going to be much clearer as to who we are and how we’re going to play,” Nash said, “and that’s going to allow us to build a chemistry and believe in one another.”

It’ll be interesting to see how aging Steve Nash performs in 2009-10.

Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge wants a contract extension, and apparently the team isn’t quite ready to offer what he may feel he’s worth.

Joe Freeman of The Oregonian reports:

lamarcus _aldridge

LaMarcus Aldridge expressed displeasure and confusion Monday afternoon at the unresolved status of his contract negotiations with the Trail Blazers.

Speaking publicly for the first time since negotiations started in July, Aldridge said at the team’s annual media day that he was stunned the Blazers had not signed him to a long-term contract, particularly considering the prominent role he has played in helping transform the franchise into a Western Conference power.

“I didn’t think it would take this long,” Aldridge said. “I thought that after what we did last year, having 54 wins and after the big change that’s happened … here, I just felt like it wouldn’t be this hard to get it done. But it is. I can’t say that I’m happy about it.”

Nothing really to worry about just yet.

Chris Paul may play fewer minutes

chris paul

Star point guard Chris Paul is the heart and soul of the New Orleans Hornets. While reducing his minutes during the season to keep him fresh for the playoffs and healthy long-term has been a regular goal, it’s been hard to do.

But maybe this is the season CP3 gets preserved a bit.

John DeShazier of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports:

“I think so,” Byron Scott said Monday at the New Orleans Arena hours before the team trekked to Lafayette to hold the first week of training camp, beginning today. “I’m really comfortable and more confident this year that I’ll be able to do it with Bobby (Brown) and Darren (Collison). They’re going to be fighting it out for the backup role.

“Both of those guys have had their moments in the scrimmages the last couple of weeks. So I feel really good that I’m going to be able to cut (Paul’s) minutes down to what I think he should be playing, which is about 34 to 35 minutes, not 39 minutes.”

Seeing Paul a bit less on the floor may not please his biggest fans live as the game happens, but perhaps they’ll get to enjoy his career a few extra seasons down the road as a result.

Return of the Wizards

Remember the Washington Wizards? They were pretty good a while back, when Gilbert Arenas and various other key guys were fully healthy. The team has been forgotten about in recent seasons but they hope to place themselves back on the map in 2009-10.

Mike Jones of the Washington Times reports:

gilbert_arenas

From new coach Flip Saunders to three-time All-Star/three-time surgery survivor Gilbert Arenas to free-agent-to-be Brendan Haywood down to aging backup point guard Mike James, every member of the Wizards has some individual criticism, fault or doubt to disprove.

But when the Wizards’ players held court during media day Monday at Verizon Center, the common theme - as cliche as it may sound - was Just win.

DeShawn Stevenson and offseason acquisitions Mike Miller and Randy Foye will compete for the starting spot at shooting guard, but all three said they’ll accept whomever Saunders chooses to start and do their part to contribute.

On paper, the Wizards should qualify for the playoffs in the East. Whether they’re a first-round-and-out team or something better remains to be seen.

Glancing at Eddy Curry

eddy_curry

Eddy Curry showed nice potential offensively as an inside force with the Chicago Bulls and early on with the New York Knicks, but things have gone downhill since 2006-07. In 2007-08 Curry played just 59 games and averaged an unimpressive 13.2 points and 4.7 rebounds. Last season he didn’t really exist, registering a mere three games played and spending the season an injured, out of shape mess.

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reports:

Curry is also one of the highest-paid Knicks despite never appearing in a playoff game. He has two years left on his contract and his future in New York is shaky at best. Curry was never in shape last season and quickly fell out of favor with D’Antoni. It began when he missed camp with a stomach virus. His year was further derailed by a series of events off the court, including the murder of his infant daughter, which set him back emotionally as well.

Curry dropped 40 pounds but he’s not 100% fit. He already has injured his left hamstring and right calf during scrimmages last week but plans to practice with his teammates today at Skidmore College. It’s not much but it’s something.

The Knicks, in full rebuild mode, still look to deal Curry for expiring contracts.

Grizzlies, Marko Jaric to part ways

marko jaric

The Memphis Grizzlies today announced that they have mutually agreed to allow guard Marko Jaric to not join the team for training camp and the preseason, and have provided permission for Jaric’s agent to seek a roster spot with another team.

“With the offseason additions of Allen Iverson, Marcus Williams and Sam Young, our backcourt has become crowded,” Grizzlies General Manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations Chris Wallace said. “Therefore, we have agreed with Marko Jaric and his representatives that he is permitted to seek out another situation that will provide him with a better opportunity to play. Marko is a proven NBA player and is deserving of such an opportunity.”

Jaric, a seven-year NBA veteran, owns career averages of 7.1 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 25.2 minutes in 447 games with the Los Angeles Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves and last season with the Grizzlies. Memphis acquired the 6-7, 224-pound guard, along with the draft rights to O.J. Mayo, Greg Buckner and Antoine Walker in exchange for the draft rights to Kevin Love, Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal and Jason Collins on June 26, 2008. Jaric was originally selected by the Clippers in the second round of the 2000 NBA Draft (30th overall) and played six years professionally in Europe before making his NBA debut in 2002.

New Detroit Pistons guard Ben Gordon was a big part of the Bulls, on offense at least. Will Chicago miss him? Yes, but John Salmons is more than capable of easing the pain.

John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times reports:

john_salmons

The reason no one is sweating the loss of Gordon is the presence of Salmons.

Though he played almost exclusively at small forward since bring acquired from the Sacramento Kings in February last season because of the injury to Deng, Salmons actually has spent most of his career playing shooting guard.

He probably won’t lead the team in scoring like Gordon, but Salmons is more of an all-around player and at 6-6 gives the Bulls more size in the backcourt than they’ve had in years.

”[Salmons] gives you a little more versatility,” coach Vinny Del Negro said. ”We’ll have to wait and see how all that pans out, but you like that length.

Both the Bulls and Pistons will be fun to watch early on in the season as they adjust to summer roster changes.

Discuss the Bulls on the InsideHoops Chicago Bulls forum.

Jameer Nelson returns

Jameer Nelson returns

The Orlando Magic aren’t really themselves anymore with Hedo Turkoglu gone and Vince Carter in his place. There are other changes too, of course, like rugged forward Brandon Bass coming on board.

But despite reaching the NBA Finals last season, the Magic weren’t truly themselves because point guard Jameer Nelson was injured.

Although the team will be different this season, fans should get to see the old Nelson again.

Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel reports:

Is Jameer Nelson back to being his old self?

“I feel good — normal now,” he said. “I worked harder this summer than I did any summer ever because I had to. I wanted to get back to the level I was at. I didn’t want to become just one of the guys.”

Nelson concedes that the little guy running around in the NBA Finals against the L.A. Lakers, making a surprise return just four months after major shoulder surgery, was an imposter.

“I was nowhere near 100 percent,” he said after a recent workout at RDV Sportsplex. “I’m not sure of where I was at. Because of who I am, I was really confident out there. I didn’t play with any lack of confidence. It was just me knowing the reality of the situation, knowing I couldn’t do certain things.

“I had to tone things down a little bit.”

The Magic will be interesting to watch in 2009-10. Even with Nelson playing like his old self, I can’t help but wonder if they’ll take a step backwards this season.

Welcome party for Shaq in Cleveland

shaq joins cleveland

Shaquille O’Neal is old but still good (and big) enough to contribute positively to a team. I worry that he’ll throw Cleveland Cavaliers chemistry off a bit this season, though.  Even if he’s more effective than Zydrunas Ilgauskas for stretches, Big Z can hit open mid-range jumpers that Shaq can’t make.

Anyway, Cleveland welcomed Shaq to town in style. The AP reports:

Shaq got in one last party before training camp.

Shaquille O’Neal, the big man Cleveland is counting on to deliver this championship-starved city a title, was welcomed to town Sunday with a star-studded party that included sports celebrities and Average Joes looking to rub elbows with them.

Fashionably late, O’Neal arrived in an SUV at 11:15 p.m. as fans, one of them holding a life-size cardboard cutout of O’Neal in an Orlando Magic uniform, cheered on the sidewalks and took pictures of the town’s newest superstar, who will be teammates with reigning league MVP LeBron James.

O’Neal has had a good first impression of Cleveland.

”It’s a nice town,” he said. ”The entertainment is already here. Everything is here. The Browns are here, LeBron is here and now I’m here.”

NBA preseason begins this Thursday.

Jazz injuries start early

minor andrei kirilenko injury

Tim Buckley of the Deseret News reports: Three Jazz players — all small forward/swingmen types who are rotation regulars for the club — were injured at training camp this morning. Andrei Kirilenko (strained left quadriceps muscle), C.J. Miles (strained left hip flexor) and Kyle Korver (inflamed left knee) all did not take part in tonight’s second session of two-a-days. Usual backup shooting guard Korver underwent an MRI exam, results of which were not immediately made known.

Jazz hope to avoid injury woes

On paper, last season’s Utah Jazz were a very good team and while not necessarily a championship contender they appeared to be as good as anyone on that next level down. But the  injury bug big hard, keeping them at a constant disadvantage. Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune reports:

More than anything, the Jazz are hoping to avoid a repeat of last season, when they lost players to injuries for a combined 149 games, forcing them to use 20 starting lineups.

“I thought it definitely put a damper on our season,” said Deron Williams, who suffered a sprained left ankle in the preseason and missed 13 games before returning for good.

“We never got comfortable, we never got continuity with each other. It was just a tough adjustment for everybody to go in and out of different lineups and play with different roles. Nobody had a defined role for a whole season.”

Although the Jazz dropped seven of their final nine regular-season games, including a crushing home loss to a seven-man Golden State team, general manager Kevin O’Connor opted to keep together the roster.

The Jazz continue to have a talented, very good, scary team, on paper at least.

Anderseon Varejao in a good place

Cleveland Cavaliers forward/center Anderson Varejao is in a good place right now as far as his basketball life both home and abroad is concerned. Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:

anderson varejao overpaid

Not only is Varejao sporting a new contract, he’s also got his national hero status back.

Healthy and with a new six-year, $48 million deal, he was able to play to Brazil in the FIBA Americas Championship in Puerto Rico. He played well, averaging 13.6 points and 8.4 rebounds, and the Brazilians won the gold medal and qualified for next summer’s world championships. Team USA didn’t take part.

“It was a good summer for me, it was good to be able to play for Brazil again,” Varejao said. “When I was at the airport in Sao Paulo on my way back, there were people who wanted to take their pictures with me now.”

Varejao said it helped that the team’s performance in Brazil got excellent television coverage at home. But what he did after he came back didn’t hurt his reputation, either.

The Cavs remain one of several favorites in the Eastern conference to reach the NBA Finals.  The team is playing Varejao more money than what a role player expects to make. I’m not sure how much he can improve.

Kenyon Martin has no plans to opt out

The Denver Post reports: Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin has no plans to opt out of his contract at the end of this season. “They could have sent in that paperwork that day (I signed the contract),” Martin said Friday during Nuggets media day. “No, I ain’t opting out of nothing. I worked for that (money). I want that.” As a result, Martin will make nearly $17 million next season in the last year of his pact. He could have opted out of the deal and become a free agent next summer. He originally signed the seven-year, $92.5 million contract in 2004.

The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced that the team and Antonio Daniels have mutually agreed to part ways. Daniels and his agent, Tony Dutt, have the team’s permission to pursue a trade, and have agreed to accept a buyout in the event that a trade cannot be consummated.

“I understand Antonio’s desire to be assured of playing time this season, and that this is especially important to him in light of the fact that this is the final year of his contract,” said David Kahn, Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations. “However, with Jonny Flynn and Ramon Sessions on our roster, the opportunity for Antonio to play would have been unlikely. One of our main priorities this season is to accelerate the development of our young talent. This is a critical year for our team, and I believe that it is best to relieve the team of any potential distractions before the start of training camp.”

Daniels was acquired in a trade with New Orleans on Sept. 9, a move that eliminated the Wolves from the financial obligations of Darius Songaila’s contract for the 2010-11 season. The 6-4 guard has appeared in 867 career games over his 12-year career, including stops in Vancouver, San Antonio, Portland, Seattle, Washington and New Orleans. Originally selected by Vancouver with the fourth overall pick of the 1997 NBA Draft, Daniels owns career averages of 7.6 points and 3.4 assists per game.

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