VIDEO: Highlights from games played Oct. 6
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Cousins says MVP is his ‘to grab’ this season — Success in the win column has been hard to come by for Sacramento Kings star center DeMarcus Cousins. While he was an All-Star last season, the Kings have never won more than 29 games in any of his five seasons with the team. A roster restocked with veterans and a full season under coach George Karl have given Cousins hope of not just the playoffs, but of the grandest piece of NBA hardware come season’s end. Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report has more:
The topic is the 2015-16 NBA MVP award and whether it could be reachable for DeMarcus Cousins.
“Reachable, man?” Cousins told Bleacher Report, his voice rising high. “It’s mine to grab.”
In five previous NBA seasons, Cousins has never gotten even a single fifth-place vote for MVP, and his vertical isn’t the kind to invoke visions of such a quantum leap over myriad more established superstars.
His approach transcends hard work on the court or powering ahead with a limp in camp despite a “real tender” left heel. Cousins has made a totally fresh commitment to being the best he can be, becoming a constant at the Kings training facility late in the offseason in search of every edge he can get for his team.
And if the professionalism continues, Cousins is right to believe he can be the best.
“It’s going to take a full team effort,” Cousins said. “I’ll try to play at a high level and bring my team along with me.”
New teammate Rajon Rondo floated the same idea during Kings media day, telling reporters: “Not to put any pressure on him, but I expect nothing less but MVP.”
“I don’t trust the rebuilding system in the NBA,” Karl said. “It has failed about 80 percent of the time.”
Kings owner Vivek Ranadive wants to win quickly, too; the franchise moves to a new arena next season.
Most importantly, however, this is what Cousins wants.
He said his new veteran teammates are “incredible.”
“You’ve got guys who know how to play the game, guys that know the game,” Cousins said. “Coming out and building chemistry is even easier. Trying to do that with younger guys? They’re trying to figure out their game and learn how to play.”
Even so, and despite their recent discord, Karl, who reportedly worked to trade Cousins over the summer before the team decided to unite behind the young center, can’t resist criticizing this facet of Cousins that “cheapened the game” and cost the team key possessions last season.
“DeMarcus has got to make a commitment just not to allow frustration to cause a disruption in the game,” Karl said. “I don’t like negative emotion in a game. I think it’s a sign of weakness.”
Karl’s free-flowing offense figures to help Cousins tremendously with spacing on the floor, yet already in camp it has been Cousins often jacking up desperate three-pointers.
In ways big and small, Boogie’s poise and professionalism are going to decide this season in Sacramento.
VIDEO: Take an All-Access look at DeMarcus Cousins at training camp
No. 2: Whiteside hoping to be back in action next week — A variety of injuries and transactions kept the Miami Heat from ever getting to see what their full projected starting lineup of Luol Deng, Chris Bosh, Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside could do last season. They’ll have to wait a week or so in the preseason to see it, too. Chris Wallace of ESPN.com writes that while the rest of the Heat unit is healthy, Whiteside is still recovering from a nagging calf injury:
Hassan Whiteside believes he’ll need about another week to recover from a strained right calf that has sidelined the Miami Heat center through the first two weeks of the preseason.
“It’ll be maybe a week or maybe more,” Whiteside said after Tuesday’s practice at AmericanAirlines Arena. “It really is just day-to-day at this point. I expect to play before the season starts. Hopefully, I can catch a couple of these preseason games before the season starts, to get out there with the team.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Whiteside would travel with the team to Louisville, but only to continue his conditioning and rehab work with the training staff.
After injuries ravaged the roster during last season’s 37-45 finish, the Heat were optimistic about entering camp this month healthy and with their projected starting group of Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Whiteside intact.
But Whiteside sustained the injury during a conditioning workout three days before the start of camp, when he said he felt “a tug” on his calf. Since then, the promising 7-footer has been relegated to free throws on the side courts at practice and exercises on the stationary bike, treadmill or in the pool between the workouts.
“He’s making progress, but he’s still not ready to practice,” Spoelstra said. “Until he’s ready to practice, I’ll focus on the guys we have out here.”
Veteran center Amar’e Stoudemire, signed by the Heat to a one-year deal for the $1.6 million veterans minimum, is expected to get significantly more playing time in the preseason until Whiteside returns.
VIDEO: Hassan Whiteside gives an update on his injury and status
No. 3: Lakers’ youngsters soak up Kobe’s stories, feedback — As our David Aldridge pointed out in this week’s Morning Tip, the Los Angeles Lakers of 2015-16 are in a decided transition. Superstar Kobe Bryant is heading into his 20th season with a cast of young players and NBA newbies. Bryant, though, is embracing this chance to play elder statesman, writes Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News:
The attentive Lakers players eagerly pulled up a chair. They sat around Kobe Bryant, ready to soak in every word that came out of his mouth. The Lakers’ star then talked, fueled by both his teammates’ endless questions and his own desire to share his wisdom.
“Whenever he’s talking, I try to gather around and listen,” Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell said. “I could listen to him all day.”
“There’s a generational gap, but the universal language is the game,” Bryant said. “These guys are thirsty for knowledge.”
Bryant appears willing to quench that thirst. After all, Bryant spent NBA All-Star weekend in 1998 peppering Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, John Stockton and Gary Payton with questions. So Bryant told countless tales that Lakers rookie forward Larry Nance Jr. likened to “somebody reading a book to you.”
Bryant reported most of the chapters touched on an his journey and what “separates good players from great players.” Bryant also explained how he has maintained longevity through his strong fundamentals, training techniques and constant recovery.
But the Lakers’ star also offered perspective on other things.
Bryant stressed becoming educated on what Lakers forward Tarik Black called “the business of basketball.”
“He’s kicking knowledge about handling your money, dealing with agents, how to play the game properly and what it takes to win,” Black said. “He’s sharing all the stories he’s been through. He’s been good to us.”
Bryant even addressed post-retirement.
“He talked about when he is done with basketball, he’s not going to be the type of guy that is sitting around,” Lakers rookie forward Anthony Brown said. “He’s trying to work on something else and perfect something else. The biggest thing with him is that anything you do, try to perfect it.”
That left Bryant’s teammates determined to follow his path.
“He’s a borderline genius,” Lakers forward Julius Randle said of Bryant. “He hasn’t been shy sharing his knowledge, and his experiences with us on and off the court. It’s very helpful.”
That reminded Lakers coach Byron Scott of when he mentored Bryant and Derek Fisher during their rookie seasons 19 years ago, noting that things have come “full circle.”
“They were always asking questions,” said Scott, who played for the Showtime Lakers. “(Kobe) knows how important he is to their growth. They feel that if he’s behind them, it gives them more confidence.”
No. 4: Hibbert, Booker get chippy in Hawaii — Los Angeles Lakers center Roy Hibbert is one of the fiercest rim-protectors in the league. Utah Jazz reserve forward Trevor Booker is an undersized banger who does not suffer fools. When the two met in the paint in last night’s exhibition game in Hawaii, it got more than a little physical. The teams had played a preseason game two days earlier and Booker was reportedly barking at Hibbert in that game. Last night, it boiled over and ended with Booker getting ejected for slapping Hibbert in the head. Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune was on hand for the scrap and has more:
The Jazz forward was ejected from Tuesday night’s preseason game against Los Angeles for taking a swipe at Lakers center Roy Hibbert and, depending on how the league office rules, could be facing fines or even a suspension.
The fracas broke out in the third quarter of Utah’s 117-114 overtime win over L.A., after Booker and Lakers forward Julius Randle got tangled up on the court. Booker picked up a technical foul and Hibbert raced over to defend his teammate, bouncing Booker with his chest in the process. Booker swung at Hibbert’s head and missed.
The feud between Booker and Hibbert seemed to start earlier in the week, with the two exchanging words in Sunday’s preseason opener. After that game, Booker declined to elaborate on the issue by saying, “I don’t even want to talk about him. No words for him.”
After Tuesday’s game, Booker had even less to say. The veteran forward declined to speak with reporters at all.
Hibbert didn’t have much to add, either.
“We play together. I’m not going to speak too much about that play,” Hibbert told reporters in the locker room after the game. “Like I said, he’s the face of this team for the future and, one through 15, I’d step up for anybody, anybody in the starting five to the guys at the end of the bench. We play as a team and I have everybody’s back.”
VIDEO: Trevor Booker, Roy Hibbert scuffle in Hawaii
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: How Tyson Chandler may end up helping the Phoenix Suns this season … The Charlotte Hornets are still trying to get used to all their new faces … Former Atlanta Hawks lottery pick Shelden Williams, who is now playing in China, is mulling a retirement from pro basketball … Utah Jazz fans are pumped about rookie guard Raul Neto. Coach Quin Snyder is trying to manage that hype …
ICYMI of the Night: Is this botched Vince Carter dunk the first Shaqtin’ A Fool nominee for 2015-16? …
VIDEO: Vince Carter botches the open dunk