VIDEO: Sekou Smith digs in on why the 2015-16 season will be great
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: LeBron OK to go in opener; Rose ready for opener, too — Well, after months of waiting, the season is FINALLY here. And what better way to start things off than with a matchup between two Eastern Conference heavyweights — the defending conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers, who take on their longtime rival, the Chicago Bulls (8 ET, TNT). The best thing about the matchup may be that former MVPs LeBron James and Derrick Rose, both slowed by injury in the preseason, are ready to go and neither is expected to be on a minutes limit.
James spoke about his status after practice, which we’ll turn to Tom Withers of the Associated Press for more:
After sitting out nearly two weeks since undergoing an anti-inflammatory injection, James was able to fully participate in Cleveland’s practice for the second straight day and said he’ll play Tuesday in the season opener at Chicago.
“I feel good,” James said following Monday’s workout at Cleveland Clinic Court. “I’m ready to go. I’ll be active tomorrow.”
James had been limited in practice since receiving the shot Oct. 13, the second injection he has gotten in 10 months. The four-time MVP took some contact Sunday and said the big test would be how he responded after the workout. Although he didn’t get into any specifics, James feels good enough to take on the Bulls.
The 30-year-old was asked if he ever worried he’d have to miss the opener.
“Nope,” he said.
“He won’t have a specific limit minutes-wise,” coach David Blatt said. “On the other hand, we will be cautious and careful and not overplay.”
“We’re not going to put too much on the first game of the season,” James said. “We’ve put in a lot of work over the last few weeks, and you can only try to get healthy, work your habits, work your rhythm and our last few practices have been very good. But you don’t put too much onus on if this will be the team that we’ll be long-term tomorrow.”
The Cavs will begin the season missing All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, who is still recovering from surgery on a broken kneecap and may be weeks away from his debut. Cleveland will welcome back forward Kevin Love, who missed most of the playoffs after dislocating his left shoulder in the first round against Boston.
“I did everything leading up to be ready for this,” said Love, who re-signed with the Cavs as a free agent this summer. “My body feels good and now is just the time to get to work for the real thing.”
And here’s Sam Smith of Bulls.com, who caught up with Rose after practice about the upcoming season:
I was reminded Monday after Bulls practice about Jerry’s mom from the Seinfeld series. She’d heard about “Crazy” Joe Davola not liking Jerry. She’s stunned, in disbelief. “How can anyone not like you!” she exclaims. “Doesn’t like you? How can that be?”
And then there was Derrick Rose Monday concluding another long media session in the Advocate Center and being asked about having to endure yet another setback, his fourth surgery in the last four years, though expected to be in the starting lineup Tuesday when the Bulls open the 2015-16 NBA season against the Cleveland Cavaliers on national TNT.
“It’s part of it,” Rose said. “It’s a big picture. I’ve got to take the good with the bad and the ugly. It was ugly when I started training camp. Like I said, taking the good, how my life has been. I’ve been so comfortable; my family has been so comfortable, everybody is enjoying their life. It’s a lot of positives and a lot of blessings that come with playing this sport. Getting hit in the eye, all these surgeries, I’ve got to take it. This game changed my life too much.
“I don’t think I have to prove anything to anyone,” said Rose. “It’s just all about having fun. Enjoying the game, appreciating the game. Seeing how far this game has taken me. How comfortable my life is as far as I’m able to focus on certain things, focus on my profession without any distractions. I just feel blessed. I’m not expecting anything (Tuesday). I’m just expecting to win the game. For myself, I don’t care. As long as we win the game, I’m fine.”
I hear plenty of discussion, national and local about the Bulls, and so much is about Rose and that he doesn’t relate to his team and is some sort of distraction and it’s some fight over whose team it is and should be and some lack of respect and regard for all that is holy and good in the world. I have defended Rose plenty in the past. So full disclosure, as the saying goes, is warranted. But I never quite get this level of media and public outrage directed toward him.
All I see is a guy who works relentlessly to get back and play basketball.
It’s all he wants to do.
Rose meets with media as much or more than anyone on the Bulls, at least when he is not in rehabilitation. He answers questions with sincerity and often humor. After the game in Nebraska last week he did group and individual interviews. He obviously has a strong faith as I have never heard him blame anyone for his injuries or ask why it befell him.
And now he’ll be in the starting lineup and open the season Tuesday against tormentor LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I’m very excited, very excited as far as what I just went through as far as the surgery, and just how much I miss the game,” said Rose. “My appreciation for the game just grew. My faith grew as far as all this is out of my hands. I can’t control this. I’ve just got to go along and take the good with the bad.’’
And because Rose is playing and in good health and basically of positive attitude, the Bulls again have a chance to defeat the Cavaliers.
“I’m just happy to be back playing again, so it really doesn’t matter,” Rose told reporters when hearing for the first time he’d be starting Tuesday following coach Fred Hoiberg’s comments to media. “It’s (left eye) still blurry a little bit. But every day, like I said, it’s improving. It’s a slow process. A little bit (of double vision still) when I look certain places. But if I concentrate really hard or focus on it a little harder, I can see more things at certain times. I see side-to-side, but usually when I look certain places I see double still. When I play I just play with one eye. Close the other eye until my vision is back clearer. I just close one eye and just go out there and play. It worked out for me.’’
“If anything (the surgery) helped me recover with my body,” said Rose, putting a positive spin on getting his face broken. “It helped me focus on other things, like my ankles and my hips, getting them loose and staying loose. As far as massages and all that stuff, I made sure I got the maintenance for my body.
“I think my body is fit for (the season) now,” said Rose. “I lost a couple of pounds. Last year I was at 212. This year I’m at 203. Same weight I was when I won MVP. So feel a bit lighter. And who knows? The way I was able to drive the ball [Friday playing 10 minutes against the Mavs with eight points], it felt good driving, and like I said, it boosted my confidence a little bit.
“Since the first day, I really haven’t had a problem with (wearing the protective mask),” said Rose. “When I’m playing I’m so focused on the game that you really don’t know that you have it on until there’s a timeout or something like that and you’ve got to wipe it off. But other than that I don’t care.
VIDEO: Derrick Rose talks about his status for tonight’s opener
No. 2: Report: Carlisle, Mavs negotiating extension — The Dallas Mavericks have had nine coaches in their existence, but only current coach Rick Carlisle is the only one who took the team to an NBA title. And, oh yeah, Carlisle is two wins from passing Don Nelson as the team’s winningest coach and is three seasons from passing Dick Motta as the longest-tenured coach in team history. It’s not a big surprise, then, given Carlisle’s championship past, four 50-win seasons (in seven seasons overall) that the team is hashing out a contract extension with him. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein has more:
The Dallas Mavericks have advanced negotiations on a contract extension with coach Rick Carlisle, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN.com that Carlisle and the Mavericks are nearing an agreement on a five-year extension that will extend Carlisle’s stay in Dallas well beyond a decade.
One of just five active NBA coaches with a championship on his resume, Carlisle left his role as an ESPN analyst to join the Mavericks in May 2008 and, after successful coaching stints in both Detroit and Indiana, now ranks as one of just 11 figures in league history to win it all as both a coach and player thanks to Dallas’ title in 2011.
The coming season is the last on Carlisle’s second four-year contract with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. But the Mavs’ desire to keep him in place with another long-term deal has been an open secret around the league, with president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson memorably announcing in April that he and Mavs owner Mark Cuban regard Carlisle as “our Jerry Sloan.”
No. 3: Taylor shares details on Saunders’ passing — The NBA family is still in deep mourning over the sudden passing of Minnesota Timberwolves coach and president Flip Saunders on Sunday. He lost his battle with cancer, news that came a shock to many, including Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor. In an interview with local reporters, Taylor provided some detail into Saunders’ sudden health decline and some other news as the team picks up the pieces from this tragedy. Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune has more:
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said Monday that Flip Saunders’ health changed over a “three- to four-day period” in early September. Saunders passed away Sunday from complications association with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and the details provided by Taylor were the first on Saunders’ rapid decline.
Taylor said that “backing up seven weeks, I was talking to him and everything was, I don’t want to say fine or great, but it was what we expected. …. He was basically with everything [going on], guys coming in to practice, he was up to date on all that.”
What happened next “happened so fast,” Taylor said. “He got a fever and from that fever … within a day, all of a sudden he was in the hospital. Once he was in the hospital, his situation changed very rapidly. You take it over a three-four day period, one day he’s walking around talking to you and four days later, we have a serious condition going on.”
Taylor declined to talk about whether Saunders had contracted pneumonia, or a different infection.
“I knew how tenuous his situation was, so many things going wrong, but still you always had that hopefulness inside you that he’d turn the corner the other way, and pretty soon we’d be talking basketball with each other again,” Taylor said. “You just can’t prepare yourself for this.”
Taylor also said during an interview that Sam Mitchell, appointed as interim coach when Saunders was hospitalized, will direct the team this season. Milt Newton will have expanded duties as the team’s general manager.
The Wolves are likely to have a patch on their uniforms and/or warmups to honor Saunders. The team has to get league approval for uniform patches, but players are free to put their own messages on sneakers.
NBA Coaches Association President Rick Carlisle said the organization will honor the memory of Saunders by having league coaches wear a “Flip” lapel pin this season. Carlisle praised Saunders’ “strong voice for the profession of NBA coach.”
Veteran Tayshaun Prince said he signed with the Wolves this offseason as a free agent because Saunders convinced him on the mentorship role he could play to the team’s young players. Prince played three seasons for Saunders in Detroit.
“It’s becoming a lost art in this league as far as a lot of these young teams getting veteran core pieces to help out the young guys,” Prince said. “That’s what Flip really pinpointed to me, what really got me here, now it’s time for me to leave an imprint on these young guys and how to play the game the right way.’’
VIDEO: NBA TV looks back on the life and career of Flip Saunders
No. 4: Ainge in it for long haul with Celtics — If you missed it last season, our Ian Thomsen wrote a fantastic profile on what drives Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. Boston is knee-deep in its rebuilding effort and last season’s surprising run to the playoffs gave it hope things are headed in the right direction. As they aim toward the future and hope for another championship banner, Ainge has helped Boston amass a stockade of future draft picks and good salary cap flexibility. So, does Ainge see himself handing over the reins to someone else? Not hardly, writes Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald:
Danny Ainge turned the Celtics down on their first attempt to put him in charge of their on-court fortunes back in 2003, but as he begins his 13th season on the job, he can’t picture himself doing anything else.
“I don’t see a finish line . . . at all,” Ainge said. “I guess there’s a finish line for everybody, but I don’t see it. Listen, I’ve been around the NBA long enough to know that you never know how things are going to play out. I don’t expect anything. I never really think about it. When I took this job and we came back, my wife wondered how long we would do it, but we really didn’t know. Still don’t. I still don’t think about it, or worry about it.”
Ainge insists he is not fatigued by the process, nor is he looking to get this rebuilding completed to make his exit and leave the franchise on solid footing.
“I’m having too much fun,” he said. “I like working with the guys. I feel like right now, after 12 years, I think what we’ve sort of built with our data people, our sports science people, our training staff, our medical staff and our coaching staff, it’s come a long way. I love working with the guys I work with. I still like the players of today. I’m not one of those people that think, ‘Oh, the players of today aren’t what they used to be.’ I don’t see that at all. I love the young kids. I love how hard they work. They work harder than we ever worked. They energize me. I love being around this group of guys.
“And it’s great working with (owners) Steve (Pagliuca) and Wyc (Grousbeck). They’re passionate and successful guys that have high expectations, and they’re really into it. But they let (coach) Brad (Stevens) and I do our jobs. We know that they’re there, and they have high expectations. I enjoy that. I enjoy the atmosphere that we have from the top down.”
“I want Brad to be successful,” Ainge said. “I want Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley to be successful just as much as I did with Paul and Ray and KG and (former coach) Doc Rivers. These guys dedicate their lives to it, and I want them all to be successful. That’s what makes it fun. That’s what drives me each day. How can I help them all become successful? That’s what motivates me.”
“I love Boston,” Ainge said. “I’ve lived in Boston longer than any other place in my life now. I love everything about Boston.”
He then laughed and added, “But I also love the fact that I can go scout in February and March. No, in all seriousness, I really have grown to love Boston. We have three grandkids in Boston.
“I honestly don’t know what I’ll do. I just know that right now I love what I do. Every day, I love going to work. I love the guys I work with and I love the guys I work for. It makes it fun.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Lance Stephenson will ‘most likely’ start in the Los Angeles Clippers’ opener … Atlanta Hawks swingman Thabo Sefolosha plans to file a civil lawsuit against the New York Police Department … Russell Westbrook has a new Mountain Dew commercial … The Utah Jazz changed the name of their arena and did this cool video about doing so … Former NBA All-Star Danny Granger got waived by the Detroit Pistons yesterday … After the Los Angeles Lakers’ final roster cutdown yesterday, Metta World Peace is on the team …
ICYMI(s) of the Night: What amazing plays with 2015-16 bring us? Who knows. But while we ponder that thought, let’s relive the top 10 plays from 2014-15 …
VIDEO: The top 10 plays from a season ago