Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Each weekday morning, BDL serves up a handful of NBA-related stories to digest with your poached eggs.

Kevin Ding, Orange County Register: Kobe Bryant(notes) said the summer for him would be all about getting healthy. So, is he now? Well ... Bryant had surgery to clean up his pesky right knee and has been recovering well. Even though it was his third surgical repair there in seven years, things should be good enough on that front. Then there's the finger ... Despite some speculation that he'd have surgery to fix the right index finger that he called a "constant battle" for him last season, that didn't happen. That's because surgery wouldn't really fix an arthritic finger that has so little cartilage with which to work, something Bryant found out even before July rolled around. You don't usually have surgery when you have arthritis anyway. Maybe you get a cane, install bars in your shower or call your grandchildren to for help you when you've fallen and can't get up. Kobe being Kobe and also being just 32, he isn't quite ready for any of that. So he has been diligently doing what he can for the finger, even if it's about as exciting as kneading dough. An array of finger exercises is making the best of a tough situation, improving Bryant's range of motion and strength. The finger feels better than it did in June -- and perhaps Bryant's daughters have come to be connoisseurs of finger puppetry -- but the finger also hasn't had any 250-pound, hard-fouling dudes hacking it to make it swell. The reality is that Bryant isn't necessarily much better off than before, because this is a chronic situation. Arthritis is the wearing down of the cartilage in the joints, and the middle knuckle on Bryant's index finger is flat-out worn down.

Frank Isola, New York Daily News: Timofey Mozgov, the Knicks' new international man of mystery, may have won the starting center job even before training camp begins. A Knicks official says that Mozgov, the 7-1 rookie from St. Petersburg, Russia, has been impressive during voluntary training sessions in Greenburgh and that coach Mike D'Antoni is already considering starting Mozgov alongside Amar'e Stoudemire(notes), Danilo Gallinari(notes), Wilson Chandler(notes) and Raymond Felton(notes). Mozgov's presence is further proof that Eddy Curry's(notes) days with the club are numbered. Curry's expiring contract makes him a valuable trading asset that the Knicks would gladly include in a potential deal for Denver's Carmelo Anthony(notes). However, unless the Knicks can acquire a first-round pick to send to the Nuggets, it is unlikely that team president Donnie Walsh will have the pieces to satisfy Denver.

Phil Jasner, Philadephia Daily News: This was awkward, even painful. Here was 76ers assistant coach Aaron McKie(notes) putting Willie Green(notes) through a workout at the team's practice site yesterday morning, knowing Green was within minutes of being officially traded. "And I couldn't tell him," McKie was saying yesterday, after Green and Jason Smith(notes) had been dealt to New Orleans for veteran forward Darius Songaila(notes) and rookie big man Craig Brackins(notes). Worse, McKie and the other players in the gym were there when coach Doug Collins came in to tell Green and explain it to the other players in the gym. "That was heartbreaking," McKie said, "because Willie had his 10-year-old son, Ross, with him, and Ross just walked off the court crying. I told him he'd always be family, and Willie explained it to him, but that was tough." Coach Doug Collins, choking back the words, said, "It hit me hard. It reminded me of when I got fired in Chicago, with my kids." "Willie was my rookie when he joined the Sixers," McKie said. "He's like a little brother to me. He's cut from old-school cloth; his approach is always the same - he's already ready. He had called me [Wednesday] night about coming in to work out. It was about an hour after I had found out something could be happening." Green's run of seven seasons playing for six different Sixers coaches is over after 422 games and a 9.4 career scoring average. Smith's more modest run of three seasons that included 132 games, averages of 4 points and 2.8 rebounds and reconstructive knee surgery was equally done. But Green, who can be a free agent next summer, is going to a team that, having traded Darren Collison(notes) to Indiana, had desperately needed a backup point guard behind Chris Paul(notes). "In some respects, this could be better for Willie, because he'll have a better opportunity to play and he'll be with a team that should be in the thick of the playoff hunt," said Green's agent, Noah Croom. "He's going to get meaningful minutes."

Rusty Simmons, San Francisco Chronicle: In July, the signs pointed toward a possibility. In August, possibility gave way to probability. And now, in September, it's just about official. Sources said Thursday that Warriors coach Don Nelson will be out by the opening of training camp Tuesday and will give way to assistant coach Keith Smart, who will be tasked with leading the transition to a new era under yet-to-be-approved owners Peter Guber and Joe Lacob. Nelson, 70, who last season became the league's all-time winningest coach, said just weeks before the Warriors' summer-league games in July that he was reinvigorated and would coach the team in Las Vegas. But when the summer league opened, Nelson had already opted not to coach and didn't even show up for practices. His voice-mail greeting Thursday said it all: "Hi, this is Nellie. I'm busy, very busy, probably swimming with the dolphins." Nelson might be allowed to call the decision a resignation, but sources said he was interested in remaining with the team in some non-coaching capacity but instead was asked to leave altogether. ESPN reported that Nelson will receive the entire $6 million he is owed for the 2010-11 season.

Michael Lee, Washington Post: As usual, Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld's pre-training camp news conference was peppered with questions about Gilbert Arenas(notes). But there was something missing from his 30-minute sit-down at Verizon Center on Thursday. At no point did Grunfeld talk about postseason goals. Through more than two decades as an executive in New York, Milwaukee and Washington, Grunfeld has usually opened the season with a veteran roster, focused on making the playoffs and possibly competing for a title. But this time around -- having purged most of last season's roster, winning No. 1 overall pick John Wall(notes) in the NBA draft lottery and electing to start over with younger, hungrier players -- the goals for the Wizards are much more modest: to be competitive, to play hard and to grow together. And Grunfeld is not complaining. "In 20, 21 years that I've been a general manager, this is one of the most anticipated seasons I've had," Grunfeld said. "It's a fresh start. This is more exciting, because this is the beginning of a new era. We've made no secret of the fact that we're rebuilding." Grunfeld's biggest announcement actually came after the cameras had clicked off and several reporters began to trickle out. With a handful of reporters still lingering, Grunfeld let slip what new owner Ted Leonsis had been intimating for some time -- that the Wizards plan to return to the red-white-and-blue uniforms that the Bullets wore in their first 23 years in the Washington area before the late Abe Pollin changed the name of the team. Grunfeld said the change would not occur until the 2011-12 season.

Dan Duggan, Boston Herald: The Celtics will have a slew of new faces on the court when training camp opens at Salve Regina on Tuesday, but first-round draft pick Avery Bradley(notes) won't be one of them. Bradley, a combo guard out of Texas, still is recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle. Bradley underwent the procedure July 2 and initially was expected to be sidelined 6-8 weeks. Bradley has spent the summer at the C's practice facility in Waltham, mostly in the weight room. "I don't think Avery will be ready for training camp," general manager Danny Ainge said yesterday before the team's annual charity golf tournament at Granite Links Golf Club in Quincy. "He's a couple of weeks away at least." The only other Celtic expected to miss the start of camp is Kendrick Perkins(notes). The center tore the ACL in his right knee in Game 6 of the Finals in June and is expected to be out until early February. "Nobody knows, but he's doing well," Ainge said of a timetable for Perkins' return. "He's ahead of schedule according to him and the doctors, but we'll see."

Michael Wallace, Miami Herald: Having limped out of last season with injuries, Miami Heat forwards LeBron James(notes) and Chris Bosh(notes) likely won't miss a step when the team opens training camp next week. Heat president Pat Riley said Thursday that James and Bosh recently passed voluntary conditioning tests and have recovered from injuries that limited both late last season and into the playoffs. James played with a strained right elbow during Cleveland's playoff run that ended with a six-game loss to Boston in the second round of the playoffs. Bosh sustained a facial fracture April 6 that required surgery. He missed the final five games of the regular season with Toronto. He also has missed dozens of games in recent years with soreness in both knees. Although James and the Cavaliers initially downplayed the significance of the strain last season, Riley said Thursday "it was a real injury" the Heat checked out after James signed with the Heat as a free agent in July. Riley said James passed a physical examination before signing his six-year, $110 million contract and has shown no discomfort in workouts with Miami's staff. "There was some soreness there, and there was some treatment there,'' Riley said of James' elbow during Thursday's preseason press conference at AmericanAirlines Arena. "It was a real injury, based on what we found out. But it's all fine now. He's getting up a lot of shots and he doesn't look like he's having any after-effects from it at all.''

Ronald Tillery, Memphis Commercial Appeal: It has been a week since Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley cleared the way for his rookies to sign contracts. But Xavier Henry(notes) and Greivis Vasquez(notes) have yet to officially sign, despite Heisley's decision to remove performance incentives from the team's offer. General manager Chris Wallace said Thursday that both contracts will be finalized by Monday when the team hosts media day. Training camp practices begin Tuesday in Memphis. "It's a procedural thing," Wallace said. "I'm confident it'll get done. There are I's to dot and T's to cross in every contract. There's nothing adversarial right now. It just has to do with language. And we didn't get started on it until earlier this week."

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