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

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.

LaMarcus Aldridge anxious for contract extension

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.