No. 1: Pau slips into new role -- There weren't necessarily any goosebumps for Pau Gasol Saturday night, when he played his first game as a member of the San Antonio Spurs in their home gym, the AT&T Center. Gasol, after all, has been around long enough that he's pretty comfortable on every basketball court on which he steps. But the newness still is exciting, not only for the veteran power forward but for his opponents-turned-teammates, writes Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:
A year ago, LaMarcus Aldridge stood where Gasol was, basking in the newness of his life. His transition from Portland to San Antonio wasn't seamless. After his second preseason game, Aldridge stuck around the AT&T Center for an hour and half to get in extra work. The good news for Gasol, and the Spurs, is that Aldridge envisions a swifter adaptation for his latest frontcourt counterpart. "I think he's going to pick it up faster than I did," Aldridge said. Aldridge scored 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting against the Hawks, who were playing without all five starters including newly added ex All-Star Dwight Howard. Gasol had five points and missed three of four shots, but equaled a team high with three assists. That included a first-half feed of Aldridge from the high post that resulted in a layup. For the first time playing together, it wasn't a bad night for the pair of 2016 All-Star big men. "We just have to get used to each other," Gasol said. "We figure things out, how we can be more dangerous and more effective." Spurs guard Manu Ginobili used the word "hesitant" to describe Gasol's maiden voyage with the Spurs. It was a feeling Aldridge knew well in the early going last season. Lured to pair with Tim Duncan, Aldridge admits it took him about half a season to get comfortable. In Portland, he was able to dominate touches on a nightly basis. The Spurs Way took some getting used to. "I came from having my own team to trying to learn how to play a new system," Aldridge said. Gasol, meanwhile, arrives from Chicago, where he was an All-Star – but one who blended in. That is a skill Aldridge says will serve Gasol well as he slides into Duncan's spot in the starting five. "He's past that point of having his own team," Aldridge said of Gasol. "I think he's definitely going to blend in faster."
No. 2:Three more years of World Peace? -- When Metta World Peace says he's hoping to eke at least three more years out of his basketball career – that would give him 20 seasons in the NBA, 21 as a pro overall – one's first reaction might be to scoff. After all, World Peace turns 37 next month and was a surprise to stick with the Los Angeles Lakers last season on a non-guaranteed contract. But that resiliency remains, and World Peace is having an impact on the Lakers both on and off the court, with two full weeks of preseason remaining. So never say never, based on Mark Medina's report for the Orange County Register:
First things first. World Peace must first prove he can survive several rounds of roster cuts before the NBA regular season starts in late October. “We didn’t expect him to make the team last year and he made it,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. “The same thing can happen this year.” Last year, the Lakers became concerned with World Peace’s durability after spending one season playing overseas in Italy and China. As World Peace said, “I just had to show I was in pretty good shape.” Then the Lakers found value World Peace could provide in a mentorship role. This year, the Lakers acquired several other veterans, including Luol Deng and Jose Calderon. But with Deng sidelined for Friday’s 101-97 loss to the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center with a bruised left knee, Coach Luke Walton started World Peace at small forward instead of rookie forward Brandon Ingram. Walton said he “absolutely” considered starting Ingram before choosing otherwise to ensure the same bench rotation. Despite sitting World Peace in select portions of practice and in the Lakers’ preseason opener, Walton praised World Peace’s conditioning and veteran presence. “Metta is very professional,” Walton said. “There’s a lot of help having him around and having him at camp.” Still, World Peace went scoreless and missed two shots in only six minutes. Yet, World Peace downplayed any worries about whether he can stay on the roster once the regular season in late October. “My concern is having a good time. There’s nothing to overcome,” World Peace said. “I’m a hell of a basketball player. That’s the hard part, becoming a good basketball player. Once you do that, you don’t have to worry about nothing else.” Still, World Peace could not resist smiling during the team’s first film session. Then, the reality hit him that he would play for Walton, who is nearly eight months younger than his former teammate. “I zoned out and was smiling. We literally sat next to each other in the film sessions,” World Peace said. “It felt good to see him up there coaching the Lakers.”
No. 3: Wizards like their 'non-draft pick'-- Sheldon McClellan wasn't initially invited to the NBA draft combine last spring. He went undrafted in June. But unlike a lot of hoops hopefuls eager to hook up with an NBA team – if not in the lucrative first round, at least in the still-exclusive second round – the 6-foot-6 wing player wasn't staring into an abyss afterward. He already had a team that liked him and a plan for this autumn, according to Candace Buckner of the Washington Post:
“I felt like I had a great year to get invited initially to the combine,” said McClellan, who played his first two college seasons at Texas and his final two at Miami, “and when I didn’t, I kind of felt disrespected.” McClellan, 23, was only summoned to the combine after another player had dropped out. Then in June, every NBA team with a draft pick passed on him. If he continues impressing the Wizards in what has been a promising preseason, however, he will likely fill one of three open roster spots. McClellan scored 20 points in 32 minutes of action in the Wizards’ double-overtime win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday. Besides that performance, he has shown potential behind closed doors in practices. “Like every player that comes into this league, he has a lot to learn about what we do and [how to] be able to do it consistently, but he’s had a good start to his pro career,” Wizards Coach Scott Brooks said. “He’s had a lot of good practices and a couple of good moments, or good games, and he’s played well, but it’s a long training camp. He still has to focus on being consistent with his habits, practice and game. But he’s played well.” The match of the Wizards and McClellan, a versatile 6-foot-6 guard, has been brewing for a while. The team scouted McClellan in college and from the time the draft process began, keeping a careful eye on his stock. Since the Wizards did not have a draft pick, they would either have had to make a deal to get into the second round to take McClellan or wait it out. “I do think there were draft-and-stash opportunities for him, but the Wizards had always expressed a high level of interest in him,” said Chris Caputo, Miami’s associate head coach. “We were in contact a good bit about him. “It was like, if he went undrafted, then he was coming to Washington,” Caputo continued. “They made it clear they liked him.”
No. 4: Silver optimistic about CBA deal -- There really wasn't any concrete news for the NBA to react to a few days ago, when an anonymously sourced report suggested that the league's owners and the players' union might reach a new collective bargaining agreement in the next few weeks. Both sides have made it clear for months that NBA commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts were talking privately about a new deal. Getting something done prior to an anticipated December "re-opening" of the current CBA could pre-empt a potential lockout and avoid the lost revenues and public rancor of the 2011 negotiations. Nothing had changed by Sunday but Silver, in Shanghai, China for this year's Global Games, addressed the topic with encouraging verbiage:
“In terms of our present bargaining discussions with the players, I’d say they’re going very well and there’s been a great sense and spirit of cooperation across the table and desire to move forward,” Silver said at a press conference before the Houston Rockets played the New Orleans Pelicans at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. “There’s a sense from both the owners and the union management that there is a lot at stake here and I think everyone’s feeling the pressure from all the constituents involved in this league for all the jobs that we provide that it’s incumbent upon us to work something out and get a deal done.” The league and the National Basketball Players Association signed a 10-year agreement in 2011, but either side can opt out of the contract by Dec. 15. “I’m not going to put any more specific timetable on it than that,” Silver said, “but that we continue to meet. In fact, the head of the Players Association, Michele Roberts, was in Spain, where I just came from, where she was accompanying the Oklahoma City Thunder. We had an opportunity to speak there as well. So we continue to be engaged on a regular basis. I remain optimistic that we’re going to get something done relatively soon.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Detroit's hobbled guard Reggie Jackson has chosen to undergo a platelet-rich plasma injection to his aching left knee and the Pistons will face six-to-eight weeks without their scoring point guard. … The Lakers' alumni club is pretty impressive and the team's current players got a sense of that when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Gail Goodrich spent time with them. … Carmelo Anthony is emerging deep in his career as a star athlete with a platform to address off-the-court issues. … Slender Knicks guard Brandon Jennings somehow packed on a troublesome 35 pounds in the wake of his Achilles surgery last year. But that weight is gone now and Jennings is feeling better for it. … Unsigned point guard Mario Chalmers is about a month away – rehabbing from Achilles surgery in March – from helping out some NBA team in the backcourt, reports ESPN's Brian Windhorst. … New York tabloids keep picking at the scab of Jeremy Lin's time with the Knicks and Anthony's alleged dislike for the Asian point guard...