Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Each weekday morning, Ball Don't Lie serves up a handful of NBA-related stories to digest with your delicious tripe.

RealGM/AP: "Kevin Garnett returned to the court on Wednesday night in Boston's preseason loss to Houston. Garnett had six points and five rebounds and provided the Celtics with a scare when he went down after a missed alley-oop attempt early in the first quarter. After falling, he quickly got back up and drained two free throws. 'For the most part, it felt great to be out there,' Garnett told the Associated Press. 'I came in here and looked at my jersey before I put it on. That's one of those small things you never take things for granted. It's just real fortunate for my opportunity. Tonight was fun.'"

Chris Tomasson, FanHouse: "Zydrunas Ilgauskas was beginning to make Bill Walton look like an iron horse. Through the 2000-01 season, Cleveland's big center missed 268 of his first 378 possible career NBA games. He'd had five surgeries on both of his feet in a half decade. His final surgery was in February 2001, and it was pretty much all or nothing. If the complicated procedure to insert three screws and reconfigure his left foot wasn't successful, many believed Ilgauskas would retire. But Ilgauskas, 34, is getting close to the end of the line. His contract expires at the end of this season, and he told FanHouse he might retire next summer. 'This [season] could be it,' Ilgauskas said. 'I don't know. ... Injuries. Everything else. I'm not a spring chicken any more. So we'll see how I feel [after the season].'"

Barbara Barker, Newsday: "Nate Robinson has a special sort of energy. When it is harnessed and pointed in the right direction, he can do spectacular things — like beating out Dwight Howard(notes), a player 14 inches taller, to win the NBA Slam Dunk contest. And when it's not harnessed and pointed in the right direction? Well, Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said Wednesday that Robinson's inability to direct his energy appropriately is a big reason he and the Knicks are in their present position. 'That's why we're on a one-year contract. That's why we've won 32 games,' D'Antoni said after practice. 'If Nate gets it and we get it, we can get in the playoffs and the guys can find homes. I think that's everyone's goal.' D'Antoni was asked what were some of the wrong things Robinson was doing. 'There's a lot of things like grabbing people, cutting down on technicals,' D'Antoni said. 'He's got to do a better job of keeping his mind right and focused on the game.'"

Michael Lee, The Washington Post: "Nick Young entered this season determined that his name would not be preceded by the word 'backup,' stating before training camp that he hated sitting on the bench and was going after the starting job. That was a bold declaration coming from Young, who carried a happy-go-lucky demeanor his first two seasons in Washington. It also followed a summer in which the Wizards improved their back court with the additions of Mike Miller(notes) and Randy Foye(notes), and DeShawn Stevenson(notes) returned from a back injury. Young feels that he squandered an opportunity last season, when injuries provided an opening for playing time that he was unable to fully take advantage of. He didn't believe he had any more time to waste. 'I always wanted to be a great player. This is the year to get it rolling,' Young said after scoring 11 points with four rebounds during the Wizards' 101-92 win against Memphis. 'It's my third year. It's time for me to grow up and get my name out there. This is the game I love and I just want to get better every year. I didn't want to be forgotten.'"

Paul Coro, The Arizona Republic: "Amaré Stoudemire played his first game since February and flashed his full-throttle self when he filled lanes for transition slams on successive third-quarter plays. Stoudemire said he has lost 13 pounds in the past nine days, going from 264 to 251 and trimming his body fat percentage from 9.4 to 7. 'That was a long time coming,' he said. 'I never had doubts, but when I had the eye surgery, I was a long way off from playing basketball. There was a little 'worry-ation' there and a little fear. I don't fear too much at all. Finally being back out on the court and around my teammates, I feel phenomenal.'" 

Jeff McDonald, S.A. Express-News: "[Gregg] Popovich has been effusive in his praise of [George] Hill, going so far as to label him, 'my favorite player on the entire team.' 'He's really matured,' Popovich said. 'At this point, I'm really pleased to have him as our backup point.' Of course, it isn't as if there are many other reasonable alternatives. Though backup point guard was a perpetual question mark for the Spurs last season — indeed, Popovich tried everybody but Bonner there — they made no effort this offseason to bring in other candidates. Before camp even began, it was going to be George Hill(notes) or bust. 'He's got to be a backup point,' Popovich said, 'or we're in big damn trouble.'"

Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun Sentinel: "Jermaine O'Neal immediately made sure to quell the concerns. 'Not the knees,' the Heat center before Wednesday night's 90-86 preseason loss to the Orlando Magic at Amway Arena, 'it's not the knees.' But it was a game played in the injury absence of O'Neal, and considering the 14th-season veteran's history, that's always a concern. 'I'll be back at practice ready to go on Friday,' O'Neal said, with the Heat expected to be given Thursday off, before beginning preparations for Sunday's home exhibition opener against the Spurs. 'I have no doubt in my mind that I'll be ready to rock and roll at a high level come Sunday.' O'Neal has been limited since being kicked in the left foot during the second day of training camp. [...] 'If it was a regular-season game, I would play and play pretty easily.'"

Brian Windhorst, The Plain Dealer: "The team won't admit it publicly, but any way it's viewed, the Cavs are short a point guard. Add the continuing uncertainty surrounding Delonte West(notes) and it is only clearer. At the moment, it may not be a fatal flaw. If everything goes to plan, it may not even matter. But if there is one sure thing, it is that things rarely go to plan — as West is currently proving. West began a second leave this season Wednesday, this one excused, to handle personal matters. He had not played in either the open scrimmage or first preseason game. There's no denying that is worrying. 'We're concerned about the state of Delonte because we want him here,' LeBron James(notes) said. 'You want your full team to see what your full potential is, but at the same time we're going to give him time.' James didn't say he was concerned about the point guard situation, but deep down he and his teammates must be to some degree."

Dave D'Alessandro, The Star-Ledger: "That side trip back to Guangdong for Yi Jianlian(notes) is off. It is now officially off his itinerary, we're told — in spite of considerable pressure from the other side to get him to compete in the China's national games. Understandably, the Nets weren't crazy about him flying halfway around the globe during camp, but they grudgingly figured he'd have to put in some appearance — even conceding that they probably could let him go from Oct. 13 to 18. Then the dates of the China Games changed (from Oct. 16 to 28), and the Nets said that was a dealbreaker. That wasn't an easy thing to say, either, because this reneges on an agreement that the Bucks made a year ago. Case closed? Maybe. Just don't count on it. When he goes home again, Yi is probably going to hear about it. What the ramifications will be remains to be seen. But if he can say that he wasn't the one making the decision, maybe they go easy on him. It could be a very sensitive situation."

Marcus Thompson II, Contra Costa Times: "Warriors rookie guard Stephen Curry(notes) will be at least a part-time starter this season. Before Wednesday night's 118-101 exhibition loss to the Los Angeles Lakers at the Honda Center, Warriors coach Don Nelson said Curry will be used at times as the fifth starter and play alongside Monta Ellis(notes). But that plan didn't work out too well against the Lakers when Ellis sprained his left ankle just over a minute into the game and did not return. Nelson didn't name Curry the permanent starter, saying he will go with someone bigger when an opponent has a shooting guard that is too big and dominant. 'I think I'm going to — because the kid (Curry) is so good — leave that spot open and it will be a matchup thing,' Nelson said. 'We're going to have a small backcourt anyway. We might as well start that way sometimes.'"

A. Sherrod Blakely, "Former Piston Carlos Delfino(notes) finds himself in the hunt to start for the Milwaukee Bucks this season. Delfino, who played in Russia last season, signed a two-year deal with the Bucks this summer. Skiles has been impressed with Delfino's shooting and rebounding. 'He's a guy right now, he's a guy ... I'm starting (Luc Richard) Mbah a Moute at the 3 (small forward), but Carlos could end up winning the job as camp goes on,' Skiles said. 'We'll see.' On Wednesday, Delfino had six points."

Mark Murphy, Boston Herald: "Could this group exceed the effectiveness of the 2008 second team? 'I think so,' [Kendrick] Perkins said. 'We have a lot of guys who are coming in as ready to win, but also we have a lot of guys who know how to win. [...]' The 2008 second-teamers have rings as well. Perhaps the most celebrated second unit in Celtics history, the 1986 reserves, played the starters better than most opposing teams. That pattern could be replayed this season. 'It is happening,' coach Doc Rivers said. 'Our second team is good. I think it was like that two years ago for us too. They just didn't take any crap from the first unit. That's when you have a bunch of veterans on your second unit. I played on a team with the Spurs late in my career and it was myself, Terry Cummings, Moses Malone, Chuck Person. I mean, that's an old team coming off the bench. We routinely gave it to the first unit, and even if they were beating us, we physically beat 'em down because we could.'"

Mike Ganter, Toronto Sun: "A new team and fittingly a new locker-room. Well, not really new, just dressed up. Immediately upon entering the Raptors' inner sanctum, and before you even get to the actual dressing room, the first thing you see is a tight, enlarged photo of the Raptors' hands coming together in a pre-game huddle that will be repeated every time they take the floor. It's one of those shots that catches the eye because it's a little different but it's the message it sends — togetherness — that is the real point. On the opposite wall is the word Raptors spelled out with the initial letters in the words Respect, Accountable, Proud, Together We Shall Prevail, Organized, Responsible, Standards, all things the team is expecting their players to be. Venture further in and more words to live by adorn yet another wall. This one reads: Do the right thing. Do it the right way. Do it that way all the time. The room itself where the players lockers are remain unchanged — other than the nine new name plates above those lockers. At least Rasho Nesterovic(notes) got his old locker back."

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