NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Oden participates in full practice — Swatting the MVP, LeBron James, in practice had to feel somewhat nice for Heat reserve big man Greg Oden. But even better for Oden might be the fact he made it through his first full practice with Miami, which means Oden has cleared a significant hurdle in his recovery process that may lead to him playing in games for the Heat this season. Michael Wallace of ESPN.com has more on Oden, his practice and the long-term implications for the Heat:
Greg Oden went through his first full practice with the Miami Heat on Monday, clearing a significant hurdle in the former No. 1 overall pick’s quest to play in an NBA game for the first time in four years.Oden participated in some scrimmage stages of the Heat’s workout at AmericanAirlines Arena as the team prepared for Tuesday’s preseason road game against the Washington Wizards. Among the highlights of Oden’s day was blocking a shot by LeBron James.
It marked the most extensive on-court work Oden has done with the team since he signed with Miami in July after multiple knee surgeries forced him out of the game.
“It felt good to get out there and get some up-and-down,” Oden said after Monday’s practice. “You can see I’m frustrated because I’m not as back as I want to be. But it’s little steps, and today was another step, getting out there and doing some five on five.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he’s been encouraged by Oden’s progress over the past two months to get his weight down and improve his conditioning.
Teammates have been impressed during the limited doses Oden has been able to practice in the first two weeks of training camp. Oden was cleared last week to participate in some four-on-four scrimmage sessions that included physical contact. He advanced through that stage without any setbacks with his knees and progressed to more work this week.
James said he didn’t hesitate to drive right at Oden in Monday’s practice.
“He fouled me twice today, and I scored on him, too,” James said. “For him to be able to stick with it and be here — we went five on five — it’s a testament to him keeping his composure, him believing in himself, his family believing in him. He’s back where he belongs, and that’s in the NBA.”
No. 2: Sixers’ Turner: ‘I’m not a loser’ — Few NBA analysts are expecting the Philadelphia 76ers to have much success this year and many are projecting them to be among the worst teams in the league. Don’t tell that to Sixers swingman Evan Turner, though. He was outright defiant about the projections of a letdown season in Philly and told USA Today‘s Jason Wolf he will do all he can to keep the Sixers from falling to the depths most are projecting for them:
“I don’t think we’re going down,” Turner said when asked how he’ll cope with all the losing this season, as the Sixers take a run at the top overall pick in next summer’s draft. “I never woke up and thought I was going to be unsuccessful in my life. Pretty much, my teammates and I are going to go out and play every single game and play hard and take it from there.
“There’s different type of successes, in general, personal and team-wise. We’ve got to keep getting better,” he said. “But I’m not going to sit here and be a loser. … I’m not a loser. Period. Point blank. So I’m not going to sit there and dwell on it. Period.”
No. 3: Drummond gets top-secret FT tips from ‘Sheed — With a new coach (Maurice Cheeks), a new point guard (Brandon Jennings) and a new frontcourt mate (Josh Smith) in tow, Pistons center Andre Drummond looks poised for a breakout season. Drummond more than struggled at the free throw line last season, though, shooting just 39 percent. However, the addition of Rasheed Wallace to the Pistons coaching staff is paying dividends for Drummond, writes Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:
Having Rasheed Wallace’s voice in your head while taking free throws doesn’t seem like the type of anecdote that yields positive results, but Andre Drummond’s improvement can be traced to Wallace’s “three points” of emphasis.
Drummond is guarding those tips given by the Pistons’ new assistant coach as a precious commodity.
“It’s a little thing me and him came up with to help me focus when I get to the line,” Drummond said. “I can’t tell you that. That’s between he and I.”
Whatever it is, it’s working, considering the player who shot 39 percent during his rookie year is shooting 75 percent through three preseason games.
“It shows I’ve been in here day in and day out, working hard on different mechanics, taking time on my shot and getting it over the rim,” said Drummond, who’s averaging 17.6 points and 8.6 rebounds.
Considering his free-throw attempts often went wide left or wide right last season, “getting it over the rim” is probably his biggest focus. Instead of swishing it, it usually nicks the front rim and bounces in softly, showing the amount of touch a 280-pound center possesses.
“I think Rasheed has done a great job of working with him of taking his time and shooting the ball,” Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks said. “It’s central that he gets better at shooting foul shots. You probably just jinxed him but so far he’s been pretty good.”
No. 4: Wall making game-night note of playoff push — Talk around Washington, D.C., in terms of its NBA franchise, is that the Wizards may finally have the pieces in place to make a true playoff run this season. Point guard John Wall, who signed a multi-year extension in the offseason, is expected to spearhead that charge and is taking it seriously, writes Howard Beck of BleacherReport.com:
When the Washington Wizards open the season Oct. 30 in Detroit, Wall will take the court with the word “playoffs” scribbled on his shoes. He will repeat the exercise every day, through 82 games, lest he or anyone else lose sight of the goal.
“You will see it on all my shoes,” Wall said last week. “Every game pair is going to have `playoffs’ on it. That’s my main determination.”
“I should be in the playoffs,” Wall said.
The question is whether Wall, the Wizards’ blazing-fast, turnover-prone, jump shot-challenged point guard, is ready to lead them there.
There are doubts. Wall knows this. He has seen the critiques and the positional rankings. He carries them on his phone, as photographic motivation.
“I got snappings of all type of rankings,” Wall said. “I like it.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Odd story out of Orlando, where ex-Magic guard Chris Duhon was intentionally hit by a car … Timberwolves, Jazz among those interested in Bulls reserve Marquis Teague … Blazers looking forward to getting Dorell Wright into the lineup
ICYMI Of The Night: We can’t decide what we like more about this play — the hustle by Kevin Garnett, his dish to Brook Lopez for the and-one layup or KG’s reaction after the basket falls …