From Jerry Crowe, Los Angeles Times: Knee injuries delayed the professional basketball debuts of No. 1 NBA draft picks Greg Oden and Blake Griffin. For Bob Boozer, it was national pride. The top pick in 1959, he kept the Cincinnati Royals at arm’s length for more than a year to maintain his amateur status in hopes of playing for Team USA in the 1960 Olympics. “I always had this deep desire to represent this country on its Olympic basketball squad,” Boozer says, “and at that time, you only had one go-round at it. Everyone told me, ‘Your chances are remote,’ et cetera, et cetera. Each person that tried to get me to sign on the dotted line expressed that, but I said, ‘Hey, this is something I’ve got to go for.’ “I knew I only had once chance.”
From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: According to Elias Sports Bureau, since the 1998 season, there is only one player who’s won two or more NBA titles without logging even one second of court time during a Finals game. It’s the same player, by the way, who led the nation in scoring (28.1 ppg) just four years ago as a junior in college, a campaign among the more compelling in recent memory. Adam Morrison. Since entering the nation’s consciousness, Morrison has been described in many ways. A scoring machine. A long haired, mustachioed flake. Diabetes conqueror. A can’t miss NBA prospect. An NBA failure waiting to happen. The next Larry Bird. The next Kwame Brown. An enigma. A scrub. An expiring contract. Jimmy Kimmel’s favorite target. He is most concerned, however, about his current label: Unemployed.
From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: With Shannon Brown deciding a Three-peat shot is too great to pass up, the Laker roster appears to be set, for all intents and purposes. Yes, time still remains for a preseason trade (likely the kind where Sasha Vujacic is jettisoned for nothing but a “no give backs!”). The uncertain status of Luke Walton’s back puts his upcoming campaign and even his career in jeopardy. Plus, the Lakers’ pair of draft picks aren’t actually Lakers yet, despite all expectations of this being a matter of time. But barring the unexpected or impossible to predict, it’s become reasonably safe to assume who’ll be on board as the Lakers look to defend their championship for the second year running. With that in mind, we decided to take a player-by-player look at the principals on hand, their roles for the upcoming season, and the best and worst case scenarios down the road. First up, the pups…
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Q: Hey guys! Now that the team is set, how do you see [Phil Jackson] using the bench guys on the rotation? Does he leave Sasha to dry until Mitch can trade him? Thanks! –Nadya, Los Angeles A: Nadya, there’s always a chance Vujacic earns himself a reasonable amount of minutes … but it’ll take someone else playing his way out of the rotation. The current setup will demand Sasha get closely acquainted with his warmup suit. Had the Lakers not been able to re-sign Shannon Brown, it could have been different. The Lakers didn’t add another few mil to their luxury tax bill just to watch Brown sit around, and as we learned last season it’s very difficult to work five guards into a rotation. So look for Blake and Fisher to hold down the point, while Brown helps the Lakers try and limit Kobe’s minutes at the two.
From C.A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: Andrew Bynum may be the most contentious figure in all of Lakerdom. Sure, once you leave the friendly confines of the purple and gold fanbase, you’ll find lots of people who don’t like Kobe Bryant too much, or people who aren’t keen on Derek Fisher’s skill in the art of elaboration. People still hold a grudge against Ron Artest for past transgressions, and Phil Jackson has a legion of people who dislike his smug demeanor and seem willing to dismiss his “Best Coach Ever” legacy by claiming its the quality of his players, not his coaching ability, which is the reason for his unprecedented success. In house, however, there is no player two Lakers fans are more likely to disagree on than big Drew.
From Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Certain NBA sticklers discount the significance of the league’s Most Valuable Player award even in the thick of basketball season. The games in June are the ones that matter, they’ll cry in touting the superiority of the Finals MVP trophy. Here at The Race we respectfully disagree, because a prize sought by as many as 450 candidates across six months seems more desirable than one that, one way or another, will be handed out to one of 24 contestants after two weeks of work. It would be one thing if the Finals MVP were occasionally held back, shelved, and only presented in those years when someone truly achieved greatness in the championship round. Now that really would honor Bill Russell, the Boston Celtics icon after whom the award is named. But the trophy is bestowed every June, no exceptions, and – since in all but one case it’s gone to a player from the winning team – the pool of eligibles is really just 12 guys deep. Any shallower and it would be like the “Best Dad” trophy your kids got you on Father’s Day. Sweet and all but, uh, who else exactly was in the running?
From Mike Wells, IndyStar.com: Fifteen players. Twelve roster spots. The names Durant, Billups, Rose and Odom are virtual locks for a trip to Turkey with Team USA for the World Championships later this month. Two players with local ties — Danny Granger and Eric Gordon — can’t say the same. The Indiana Pacers forward and former North Central High School standout are on the bubble. They’ll make their final effort for a roster spot at this week’s training camp in New York. Granger and Gordon would be the first players with Indianapolis ties to be selected since Reggie Miller and Jermaine O’Neal played on the 2002 team. Here’s a breakdown of the competition for Gordon and Granger.
From DJ Byrnes, Lakers Nation: It still hasn’t gotten old. Every day I wake up and I ask myself, “Am I still living in a world where the Boston Celtics choked away a 13 point lead in the second half of Game 7 to lose to the Lakers?” And then I’ll hop on my BlackBerry and confirm: indeed, I am living in such a world. And such a world is a beautiful place. This off-season has seen seismic shifts in the power hierarchy of the NBA. Amar’e Staudemire left for the bright lights (and #8 seed) of New York. Carlos Boozer went to Chicago (who quietly built themselves a very solid squad in the wake of losing the LeBronathon). And Darko Milicic signed a contract that will pay him to suck at his profession and make more money in one year than I’ll probably make in six lifetimes.