Training Camp Buzz (cont.)
The biggest story of the 2010-11 season resides in Miami. So it should come as no surprise that a whopping 350 media members -- not including ESPN's television crew that's stationed outside the team's training camp facility at an Air Force Base in the Florida panhandle -- swarmed the Heat's media day on Monday.
Donning their new uniforms -- LeBron James wearing No. 6 -- the Heat's Big Three served up the usual platitudes ("We're going to bring our 'A' game") and anticipated responses to critics. But throughout the multiple interviews and photo shoots, James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh made it clear that they had moved on. The summer's "Decision," and the parade of scrutiny that followed, is a thing of the past, and their primary focus now is on basketball.
"I've heard everything this summer," said James, who responded to criticism from Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley. "Things I expected. Some I didn't expect. Well, I make my own decisions and live with them. I still respect Mike, still respect Magic, Charles and the rest. They paved the way for guys like myself, on and off the court.
"A lot of people try to tell you what to do in life, and a lot of them don't have their own life in order."
Since the three joined forces over the summer, there has been speculation over whether they can actually play together, whether three of the league's finest players can share minutes and sacrifice individual accolades in order to win.
"We understand the steps we've got to take," Wade said. "It's going to be a long journey, but it's going to be a fun one."
"I'm not the loudest guy," he said when asked about sharing leadership duties. "It allows me to stay within my personality and not go outside my box."
When James committed to the Heat in July, he said he understood each player would have to make individual sacrifices to help the team as a whole. But on Monday, he insisted he never would have left Cleveland if he thought Wade's style of play would change.
"When you're the No. 1 option, there's times when you've got to force certain shots," James said, "because you feel like, 'My shot is a lot better percentage-wise than somebody else's.'
"But if he's not the same player, I could have stayed where I was."
Among other tidbits to come from Miami's media day: LeBron said his elbow -- the one that limited him in the Cavaliers' playoff run last season -- is as good as new.
Carmelo Anthony arrived at the Nuggets' media day seeming as uncertain about his future as anyone else in the room. The All-Star forward has been the center of trade rumors, including one that seemed close to sending him to New Jersey in a complicated, multi-team deal. Most of the speculation is due to the fact that he hasn't signed the three-year, $65-million contract the Nuggets have on the table, but as he wore a Nuggets uni at Monday's interview sessions, he denied all reports that he asked out of Denver.
"I never said I wanted to be traded. I never once said that," he said. "Right now, I'm leaving my options open. At the end of the season I'll sit down with my team, sit down with the Nuggets, we'll discuss it and go from there."
Over the weekend, the Nuggets were reportedly close to sending Anthony to New Jersey in a complicated, multi-team deal. But after days of stalling, the deal the crumbled and a league source told SI.com's Chris Mannix that the deal was "dead."
Earlier this week, there was speculation about a potential trade with the Sixers that would ship Andre Iguodala to Denver.
"There's been a lot of speculation, a lot of rumors going on this summer about where I'm going to end up, the Nuggets want to trade me, I want to be traded. That's for my team and front office to discuss. I'm here to focus on basketball and training camp tomorrow."
As NBA.com's Michael Kelly pointed out, Anthony isn't the Nuggets' only question mark. If Kenyon Martin doesn't sign an extension before the season's end, he too will become a free agent. Veteran point guard Chauncey Billups has a team option for 2011-12, and coach George Karl, who returns to the bench after months of cancer treatment, is working off a one-year contract. Luckily, all but Anthony have given their word that they want to stay with the organization.
"Everybody knows that I don't want to be a free agent," Billups said. "I want to be a Nugget until I'm done, until I have no more gas left in the tank."
But even with their starting point guard back, the Nuggets, who overhauled their front office and named Masai Urjiri general manager this summer, will inevitably face seasons of rebuilding if Carmelo leaves.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
The focus in Portland this summer has been on Greg Oden, the 7-foot center who broke his kneecap last December and sat out the remainder of the season to recover from surgery. When the former No. 1 pick arrived for the start of camp on Monday, he said wasn't sure when he'd return this season.
When asked if he'd be ready to play by Christmas, Oden simply shrugged, according to The Associated Press.
"I wish I could honestly say there's a timeline, but there's not," he told reporters. "There's good days and bad days."
Oden missed his rookie season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee, and then he missed six games the following season after injuring his right foot in the season opener. Later in the 2008-09 season, Oden sat out another 14 games with a bone chip in his left knee before finishing the season with averages of 8.9 points and 7 rebounds.
But the Blazers' concerns down low go beyond Oden. Fellow center Joel Przybilla, who also missed a good portion of last season with a knee injury, said Monday that he felt great and was way ahead of schedule -- although he too probably wouldn't be available on opening night. Coach Nate McMillan said Marcus Camby would start at center.
As the C's opened camp in Newport, R.I., on Tuesday, newcomer Shaq said he doesn't expect to encounter any trouble in adjusting to his new team. The big man signed a two-year deal with the Celtics at a veteran's minimum this summer to help fill in for the injuried Kendrick Perkins down low.
"I just wanted to come to an organization that's used to winning," Shaq told NBA.com about his reason for joining the team. "I'm used to winning. I only have 735 days left and then my career will be over.
"At this point in my career, it's not about what I can do individually. I've got 28,000 points, 12,000 rebounds so I've been there and done that.
"I'm 38 years old. I have no quarrels, no beef. It's all about the team, it's all about the city of Boston. Whatever they need me to do, the Big Shamrock will do."
NEW YORK KNICKS
The start of a season has never been kind to Eddy Curry. And this year is no different.
An MRI revealed Curry strained his right hamstring in practice on Sunday and will need four to six weeks to recover. He is not expected to make the trip to Europe for the team's exhibitions in Italy and Paris the first week of October.
The day before camp opened last year, Curry was hospitalized with an illnees, and the year before that, he tore a calf muscle on the first day of practice.
The latest injury prompted questions about whether Curry, who has an expiring $11.3 million contract and has played only 10 games the past two seasons, has actually been working out on his own this offseason. While coach Mike D'Antoni and team president Donnie Walsh didn't think his conditioning was an issue, Curry's newest teammate, Amar'e Stoudemire had an interesting remark about the team's health.
"The great thing about this is the fact that we came in so early this summer, to where this doesn't feel hard to us," Stoudemire told Newsday's Alan Hahn. "If we didn't come in early, this would feel like one of the hardest training camps I've ever been a part of. But all the guys are in shape."