NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Rose having best training camp of his career? -- If his words are any indication, any indication at all, Derrick Rose is primed for a huge season with the New York Knicks. Not only does he consider the Knicks a "super team," he also believe he's in the midst of the best training camp of his career alongside Carmelo Anthony, Joakim Noah and the rest of the group assembled in New York over the summer to help resurrect the franchise on Phil Jackson's watch. Ian Begley of ESPN.com has more:
"I look at it as the years that I've played on the league, this the most focus I've had knowing the situation, what I'm getting myself into," Rose said. "The big year we have ahead of us. We're focused, we're dedicated, that's all you want from this group."
Rose added that Knicks coaches have been impressed by his stamina, which is measured by a wearable technology that the Knicks players use during practice.
"This is my first time paying attention to it," Rose said. "And the training staff went into depth about how hard I go and how much distance I cover and the impact of how I just play. And they have to kick me off the court here and there cause of how hard I work."
The health and stamina of Rose, who has missed two training camps due to injury in the past five seasons, is paramount for the Knicks.
Phil Jackson overhauled the roster in the offseason, building a team built to win immediately. Rose was the key acquisition of his offseason.
Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek and some players have been impressed by what they've seen from Rose in training camp.
The key for Rose, of course, is to stay healthy during the regular season. He has played in 39 percent of his games during the past four seasons.
Rose has spent time this training camp learning his teammates and getting acclimated to the Knicks' offense.
"It's open. [There's] more weapons. But they allow me to play the way I know how to play and that's an up-tempo game. And to attack, downhill," said Rose, who is set to be a free agent after the season.
Hornacek will use aspects of the triangle offense in half-court sets. Rose said earlier in the week that the triangle sets were "foreign" to him and "complicated" but that he saw the opportunity to be creative in the offense.
"I think the more we work on it and the way the coaches are putting it into the offense, it's [going to get a] little bit easier," Rose said after Thursday's practice. "[There's] like 40 to 50 options on one side of the floor. It's like giving you your space for creativity. It's like if you're doing it the right way, you could do everything you want, you could freelance but you just got to know where you're going."
Rose and the Knicks begin the preseason on the road Tuesday against the Houston Rockets. Rose may miss the game and subsequent time in the preseason because the civil trial set to begin Tuesday in which he and his two friends are accused of rape.
Rose said Saturday that he expects to be with the Knicks on Tuesday in Houston. He reiterated that the pending trial hasn't been a distraction.
"I'm sensitive to the subject and the topic but in my mind I feel like I didn't do anything wrong so I can't waste a lot of time thinking about it. I have a great [legal] team handling it," he said.
Rose added that, if he were to miss time while attending the trial, he would remain physically fit by exercising in his room.
"I do penitentiary workouts, bro. [I'm] in my room doing push-ups, sit ups. I got it from Lamar Odom," Rose said. ".... It's stretching and working on my body, flexibility."
No. 2:Lillard bent on taking his game to the next level -- Last season was just the warm up for Damian Lillard. The Portland Trail Blazers' star is ready to take his game to the next level this season and he's not at all shy about saying so publicly. Joe Freeman of the Oregonian explains:
If you were worried that the face of the franchise was satisfied heading into his fifth NBA season, that he was comfortable with his All-Star and All-NBA status or content with a nine-figure maximum contract, rest assured. Lillard is as motivated and focused as ever. He ranked sixth in the NBA in scoring (25.1 points per game) and eighth in assists (6.8) last season, becoming the first player in franchise history to finish in the top eight in both categories, and he earned All-NBA Second Team honors. What's more, his career resume features an endless string of superlatives: Rookie of the Year .... two All-Star game berths ... two All-NBA team selections ... two trips to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs.
But mention any of this or — gasp! — suggest to him that it's hard to imagine ways he can improve, and he shakes his head.
"I haven't won a championship, I haven't won an MVP, I haven't been First Team All-NBA, I haven't started an All-Star Game," Lillard said. "It's a lot of things I haven't done. I haven't even been to the Western Conference Finals. So I can't say that I've done everything that I want to do."
From taking better care of his body to shoring up his biggest weakness to growing more determined as a leader, Lillard is bound and determined to get even better.
"I've said that about Dame from Day 1, he's never satisfied, he wants to continue to improve," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "And he's been an All-NBA performer two out of his four years, right? To me, that's a sign of greatness. You're never satisfied with what you are and you always feel like you can get better."
Ask Lillard's teammates to name an area in which their captain has improved and you might be surprised by the response. Defense. Lillard spent chunks of the summer refining the part of his game that draws the biggest criticism and says he's figured out one important detail that will elevate his play. He's struggled over the years slipping past screens — which come at point guards in waves over the course of a game — and teams have tried to beat him up and wear him down with endless pick-and-rolls.
Lillard watched video this summer to evaluate the myriad ways teams sent pick-and-rolls at him — and how he navigated them — and then he spent time during September pickup games toying with different angles and techniques to work around the screens without getting hit.
He believes he's uncovered a new angle that will help him work around screens easier. This technique, coupled with the natural anticipation that comes from playing 321 regular season games, could make a world of difference. And that difference, Lillard said, could help elevate his play across the board.
"Like I said, over time, you get better at stuff," Lillard said. "So defensively, I've figured out an angle where I can get hit less. Getting hit less, I'm less tired, my body's taking less banging. So hopefully I'll be better in that area and that will give me more energy from not getting hit on a bunch of screens and getting stuck. And I'll have more energy to push the ball back the other way. And more energy to finish defensive possessions."
No. 3:Carter-Williams ready for new role, whatever it is -- Michael Carter-Williams has to feel like his Rookie of the Year campaign was a lifetime ago. Things have not been easy for the point guard as he's bounced around the league and dealt with his fair share of drama (injury-related and otherwise). Healthy and energized after missing the final 23 games last season (hip surgery), he's ready to help the Milwaukee Bucks get back into the mix in the Eastern Conference playoff chase. And he's willing to play whatever role Jason Kidd needs him to this season, as Charles Gardner of the Journal Sentinel explains:
The 6-foot-6 guard is healthy again and brimming with enthusiasm in training camp this fall. He’s part of a bolstered playmaking group that includes Giannis Antetokounmpo, Matthew Dellavedova and rookie Malcolm Brogdon.
And he’s ready to play his part, knowing he may be needed in several roles. He could be used to relieve Antetokounmpo, now the starting point guard.
Or Carter-Williams could play alongside the Greek Freak in certain lineups or with Dellavedova, the former Cleveland Cavaliers guard and free agent acquired by the Bucks in the off-season. Carter-Williams' versatility could be a big asset for Milwaukee if he can stay healthy.
“My hip feels great; my body feels really good,” Carter-Williams said after the Bucks concluded the first portion of their training camp on Friday.
Carter-Williams said he took the time he needed to recover from his injury.
“Then I wanted to really break down my shot and get it more consistent,” he said. “Then it was just a process of getting some reps up and getting up and down again, sliding and cutting and doing things like that.
“It was a long summer and I wanted to strengthen my legs. (Strength coaches) Suki (Hobson) and Mike (Davie) did a great job with that and I tried to take advantage of that.”
Carter-Williams averaged 11.5 points and 5.2 assists last season while shooting 45% from the field, but he was just 27% from three-point range and took only 55 attempts while making 15.
“It’s something that everybody likes to pick on,” Carter-Williams said. “I don’t really like talking about myself that much.
“I did shoot 45% from the field. I didn’t shoot the three as well. I’m looking to stay in the lane – I think that’s my game – and look for guys. If I’ve got an outside shot, knock it down.”
No. 4: Steady Williams a perfect fit in Charlotte -- Focusing on what he was and not who or what he was not is what helped Steve Clifford tap into the very best that Marvin Williams has to offer. A steady, skilled and "professional" power forward is what the Charlotte Hornets were looking for in Williams and, as Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer points out, that's exactly what they got in the former North Carolina Tar Heel star when they made him a priority in the offseason:
"When I came out of college, I wanted to go to Charlotte to stay close to Chapel Hill," said Williams, who spent a single season at North Carolina before turning pro. "Twelve years later I’m really happy playing here and living here."
It’s been a great fit. Williams originally signed with the Hornets in the summer of 2014, then re-signed for four seasons and about $54 million in July.
Both in skill set and attitude, he epitomizes what Hornets coach Steve Clifford wanted: a power forward with a reliable 3-point shot (40.2 percent last season) who was defensively versatile.
"To me, he’s such a winning player. He totally fits what this league is all about," Clifford said.
"He’s a stretch 4, so he creates space (with his 3-point shooting). Defensively, he can guard the smaller 4s who shoot 3s and drive the ball, and the bigger 4s who post it. There aren’t many guys who can do that."
Beyond that, Williams is the polar opposite of a prima donna. He sets a tone in that locker room that would be hard to replace.
"It’s never about, ‘I can do this’ or ‘I need to do this.’ " Clifford said. "He views the game in a very team-oriented way."
Which helps to explain why Williams is still so valuable 12 seasons into his NBA career. Eight of the 14 lottery picks in that 2005 draft are out of the NBA. Meanwhile, Williams is coming off a career season that pushed Hornets management to lock him down the first day of free agency.
The Hornets’ top priority was shooting guard Nic Batum. Four team executives, plus players Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, flew to Dallas to convince Batum to re-sign the minute such meetings were allowed under NBA rules July 1.
The next step was for Clifford to meet for breakfast with Williams before Clifford left for Orlando summer league.
"We just wanted Marvin and Nic to know they were the priorities," Clifford said. "It was ‘Here is why we want you here.’ ‘Here is why we consider you important.’ "
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Phil Jackson to Joakim Noah, "stand for you what you believe in" ... Ronnie Price is ready for a bigger role in Oklahoma City ... Herb Brownpraises for Portland for passing on Dwight Howard in free agency ... The Warriors looked a bit disjointed in Kevin Durant's preseason debut Saturday night, which should come as no surprise ... J.R. Smith doesn't have a contract yet, but the Cleveland Cavaliers should have no trouble locating him if and when they are ready to get a deal done ... Don't go looking for a certain rookie from Los Angeles (the Lakers' Brandon Ingram) on #MUSCLEWATCH anytime soon ... Speaking of rookies, should the Sixers consider ending the entire season for Ben Simmons now?