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Smith: Nothin' But (Inter)Net

So off they've gone to Waterloo, to bond and work out for a few days and, who knows, maybe check out this Oktoberfest stuff we've all heard so much about.

But there are really only two things the Raptors have to work on these next four days before they break camp.

Getting Andrea Bargnani, Jorge Garbajosa and Anthony Parker used to the NBA game and figuring out the starting point for some kind of playing rotation.

First, the first.

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Mitchell's gotta develop few more dubyas But has no orders

Sam Mitchell was asked yesterday how he plans to divvy up the minutes to his renovated roster. In a novel approach this season, the Raptors are employing a bench of relative depth. So the coach, suddenly, is blessed with theoretical choice.

"Everybody's got to earn minutes," Mitchell said. "Hey, I'm in a good situation here. We don't have to beg, and gotta play this guy and gotta develop this guy. No. You've got to come ready to play."

It's easy to understand where Mitchell is coming from. On the watch of the previous management — before Bryan Colangelo took over in March — Mitchell was strongly encouraged to start at least one player, namely the since-traded first-round draft pick Rafael Araujo, who had no business in an NBA first five. You might never get Mitchell to admit on the record that Rob Babcock, his former boss, explicitly ordered Araujo into the lineup. But the coach will at least concede that the thin roster made it necessary for him to play underperformers who, if the roster was a little spiffier, would have been more frequently benched.

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Williams' absence an issue for Heat

With guard Jason Williams out until mid-November, somewhat to the dismay of coach Pat Riley, the Heat will open the season with Gary Payton at point guard and Dwyane Wade at shooting guard.

But problems could exist beyond that, because when Payton starts Miami has no proven backup at either guard position. It's a situation caused partly by Williams' decision to delay surgery on the patella tendon in his right knee until July 23. The Heat, which clinched the NBA title June 20 and had its championship parade June 23, would have preferred for Williams to have his surgery around that time.

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Power point presentation stars T-Mac

THE best point guard in the NBA this
season could be ... Tracy McGrady?

If we may borrow from the Rockets' glory days, which could well be on the horizon again, believe it.

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Mohammed, Murray hope to find stability with Pistons

Chauncey Billups has come a long way since becoming a Detroit Piston four years ago. Now one of the NBA's top point guards, Billups was considered one of the league's more easily discarded players before arriving in Detroit.

Two of the Pistons' new additions, Ronald Murray and Nazr Mohammed, have the potential to follow a similar path as Billups and ex-Piston Ben Wallace. After bouncing around the league for years, Billups and Wallace each found success -- and stability -- in Detroit.

"We believe both of those guys (Murray and Mohammed) fit in perfectly with what we're about, and will do well here," said Joe Dumars, Detroit's president of basketball operations. "We feel very, very fortunate to be going into this season with both of those guys in a Pistons uniform."

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Healthy Harpring keeps focus on the long haul

For the first time in a long time, Matt Harpring is healthy enough to do whatever he wants in training camp.
For purely precautionary reasons, however, the Jazz's veteran forward will not fully participate in both sessions of training camp during two-a-days this week.
"I can, but we're still going to be smart about this," said Harpring, whose right knee was repaired via microfracture surgery in 2004 and again in 2005. "The goal here is the long haul. We all know that, and the Jazz have been great with me (about) it. The knee feels good right now, but we don't want to do something ... stupid with it."
Harpring did not practice Tuesday night, as planned, and Jazz trainer Gary Briggs said the 30-year-old won't go all-out this morning either. In fact, Harpring's two-a-day days probably are done forever.

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Mavericks day in camp

Full-court press: Jerry Stackhouse

A daily look at life off the court for the Mavericks

Jerry Stackhouse funded the building of a new church, House of Hope Free Will Baptist Church, in Kinston, N.C., for his mother, Minnie, who is a pastor. The dedication happened during the off-season.

How did the dedication go?

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Billups will focus on the team and not his contract

All season, there will be whispers and worries.

Next summer, will Pistons point guard Chauncey Billups opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent? If so, will he follow in Ben Wallace's footsteps and leave Detroit for greener pastures?

Answers won't come until July, when Billups can officially make that decision.

And he doesn't think fans should expect much more discussion about the topic until then. He'd rather talk and think about getting the Pistons back to the NBA Finals.

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No heads will roll over new basketball

Despite Shaquille O'Neal's call for someone's head, NBA executive Stu Jackson said Tuesday that no one at the league office will be fired as a result of the new ball.

"No," Jackson said, "it's a better ball."

O'Neal said Monday that the new ball by Spalding, the first introduced by the NBA in 35 years, was terrible and that whoever thought it was a good idea should be fired. The Miami Heat center said the new ball will result in increased turnovers and lower shooting percentages.

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Brown case fed to Stern

Led by an army of attorneys, a silent Larry Brown left David Stern's offices yesterday still not knowing if he'll collect $52 million from James Dolan and the Knicks.

The two sides finished two days of hearings, totaling nearly 15 hours, with all parties complying with Stern's orders not to comment.

Afterward, league officials said they couldn't specify when Stern will rule on Brown's bid to collect what he is owed for the final four years of his contract, plus $12 million in other money. But it probably won't be for another two weeks, at least.

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Discussion Starter #11
Missed flight costs Griffin

Timberwolves forward Eddie Griffin's season started with a misstep.

Griffin will be fined for missing media day Monday at Target Center and the team dinner later that evening in Mankato, coach Dwane Casey said Tuesday.

Griffin said he left the Twin Cities on Friday to go to Houston for personal reasons. The 6-foot-10 forward missed his return flight, Casey said, and arrived Monday night in Mankato. Griffin attended both practices Tuesday.

Griffin said fans shouldn't interpret the miscue as another bad sign.

"They shouldn't be disappointed," he said. "I've been working hard, and my play is going to show on the court. They ain't going to be disappointed once we start playing."

The team isn't treating the issue as a big deal.

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Ciao to hoops, Suns take in soccer

Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns went to Italy for the beginning of their National Basketball Association training camp — and a soccer game broke out.

Ever mindful of his Canadian roots growing up in Victoria and playing youth soccer, the two-time NBA most valuable player decided to take advantage of the Suns' camp in Treviso and organized a side trip to Milan last Sunday.

The attraction? An Italian soccer league game between AC Milan and Siena that ended in a goalless draw.

The point guard took nine people from the Suns with him, including Kurt Thomas, Raja Bell, Leandro Barbosa and Sean Marks, but their bus was not exactly built for speed. A trip that normally takes 21/2 to three hours took about four hours.

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Discussion Starter #13
Laettner's gone before he ever got on board

If Christian Laettner did anything Tuesday, he displayed undiminished quickness.

He walked on and off the Grizzlies' roster in record time.

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Unlucky James hurts foot

James, who spent most of his first season in New York either banged up or in Larry Brown's doghouse, injured his right foot on the first day of practice yesterday. The Knicks originally called it an ankle injury before later determining that James had a partially torn plantar fascia, which is the soft tissue under the heel.

The injury is not considered serious but it could keep James sidelined for several days. Last year, James appeared in just 45 games and missed time because of a strained left hamstring, strained neck and strained right hamstring. He was also suspended for one game for reportedly showing up with a hangover when the Knicks practiced on Jan. 1.

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Perfect liftoff for Magic

Grant Hill, who turns 34 on Thursday, didn't waste time proving to the Orlando Magic that his rebuilt body parts were in working order.

Hill seldom dunks, but he raced down the floor for breakaway slams on successive possessions during a controlled scrimmage -- and trainer Tom Smith didn't flinch. Or faint.

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Hill has theory why everybody dislikes Redick

Why does everybody hate J.J. Redick so much?

Is it because he's good and knows it?

Or is it because he's a hot dog who's been known to do the shimmy after burying a 3?

Or is it that he's a cocky kid who once hit a shot in college and asked the opposing fans sitting in the front row, "Man, am I good or what?"

Or is it because he played college ball at hoity-toity, high-and-mighty Duke, the stuck-up private school of the privileged and powerful?


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Hornets want Stojakovic to be go-to guy

Really, he wouldn't mind if everyone forgot all about his past. How just two seasons ago, he capped a career year with a colossal meltdown in the playoffs. How that embarrassment managed to trump his original postseason disappearing act that came two years prior.

The questions keep coming.

Finally, Stojakovic, the Hornets' $64-million, off-season acquisition, assures that he's ready for what he couldn't seem to handle back then — when he continually let down his Sacramento Kings teammates and fan base when they needed him most.

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Stand-up guy eyes last laugh

As Tuesday morning's three-hour Bulls practice wound down, coach Scott Skiles asked which team had won a particular drill.

The loser would run wind sprints.


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Sometime in early July, Lamar Odom played full-court basketball. It was the last time he played in a five-on-five game until Tuesday.

Odom has searched for some normalcy in his life since June, and he may have found a measure of it during the Lakers' first day of training camp practice.

His 6½-month-old son, Jayden, died from sudden infant death syndrome in his crib in June and Odom and his family have been in mourning since.

Basketball was the last thing on Odom's mind.

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Isiah could get buried by Steph

As the first sounds of basketballs bouncing and sneakers squeaking resonated in the Knicks' little practice oasis, a quaint gym on the College of Charleston campus, it seemed pretty clear yesterday what has to happen for Isiah Thomas to keep his job.

The Hall-of-Fame point guard turned coach on the hot seat needs to look no further than the bald-headed enigma wearing No. 3 and $15 sneakers for the clue to achieving the "significant improvement" he is under orders to attain.

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