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Sonics have mixed feelings about new ball

Miami center Shaquille O'Neal hates the NBA's new basketball, a microfiber synthetic model that's replacing the old leather balls this season. Phoenix's Steve Nash, the reigning two-time MVP, has also voiced complaints.

Sonics guard Ray Allen understands the criticisms, but he declined to take sides on the issue, as did most Sonics.

"Well, it is a little tougher to shoot," he said. "As big as our hands are, the ball is a lot softer and we can all palm it pretty easily. The discrepancy from one ball to the next is not that different, so each ball pretty much maintains the same feel and integrity.

"But when it gets wet, it's probably a little more slippery."

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Joint effort refines need for speed

The last time a Nugget led the NBA in scoring was 23 years ago, when Alex English averaged 28.4 points a game. But watch out, Kobe Bryant.

With a newly designed offense meant to push the pace, Carmelo Anthony could compete to be the next Nugget to lead the league.

"We shall see," said Anthony, who averaged 26.5 points last season, eighth-best in the NBA, which Bryant led with a 35.4 mark. "I just got to get used to it. We're going to keep the offense spread out, which gives everyone a chance to get to drive. Coach (George) Karl's thing is shoot first, drive to the hole or pass. I like it. I like playing fast."

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Players' review is mixed on NBA's microfiber ball

Nuggets assistant Doug Moe last season called them the "gang that couldn't shoot straight."

And that was with the old ball.

The Nuggets shot an NBA-worst 32.5 percent from three-point range. Now, they head into a season using a ball some believe will hamper shooting percentages.

"Not really," Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony said when asked Wednesday at training camp at Fort Lewis College if he likes the league's new ball. "It feels like an outside ball I used to play with back in the day on the outside court. But we have no choice but to get used to it."

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Grizzly's main goal is better floor play

If your assessment is that Dahntay Jones hasn't reached his potential and still needs to prove his worth, then you're not alone.

Jones is in agreement.

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New spin on an old rotation

On paper the Knicks have so much talent, they could put out a different starting lineup every game.

Wait, they tried that already.

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MRI on Wade's hand comes back negative

The good news is tests showed nothing is seriously wrong with guard Dwyane Wade's sore right hand. The bad news is that the pain lingers, without a definitive solution in sight.

An MRI taken Wednesday came back negative.

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Nelson has new faith in Pietrus

Plenty of minutes were available for Mickael Pietrus in 2005-06 with Mike Dunleavy enduring a nightmare season. Problem was, Pietrus was just as bad as, if not worse than, his beleaguered teammate.

Warriors coach Don Nelson watched Pietrus struggle from afar. Nelson saw enough of an undisciplined athlete who "wasn't playing very much or very well," that he admits questioning whether Pietrus would fit into his system.

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Krstic recharges game after a draining finish

Nenad Krstic's feet were in the sand in the Dominican Republic but his head was in South Beach.

The 7-foot center couldn't shake what happened in Miami the May night the Nets' season ended. His foul-plagued 29-minute, one-point effort in Game 5 practically haunted Krstic and kept him from totally enjoying his vacation.

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It's a delicate balance for Isiah

While discussing his coaching philosophy and experiences with the whistle, Isiah Thomas was asked yesterday when he first knew he wanted to be a head coach.

"When Mr. Dolan told me I had to," he said with a laugh.

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Isiah Working Under Dolan's Ultimatum

With owner James Dolan watching the Knicks' second day of training-camp practices here, Isiah Thomas had his first chance to show the boss he deserves to stick around past this season.

Dolan has given no concretebarometer Thomas must reach to save his job, but the pressure Thomas is feeling is tangible because of the owner's one-year ultimatum.

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The Warmth Thomas Is Feeling Is Likely the Hot Seat

Isiah Thomas is embarking on his second coaching tour, but by his own recounting, he never set out to take this path.

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Knicks notebook

With his one-year win-or-else mandate hanging over president-turned-coach Isiah Thomas, Knicks owner James L. Dolan made a cameo appearance at camp late Tuesday and early Wednesday.

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Knick duo faces Brown-out

Imagine the courtroom drama that could have unfolded in Manhattan this past week had Jamal Crawford and Quentin Richardson been asked to testify before NBA commissioner David Stern in Larry Brown's arbitration hearing.

Under oath, Crawford would paint a very different picture of the head coach the Knicks are trying to portray as devious and borderline crazy. Crawford would admit that while in fact Brown was critical of him, the Knicks guard flourished under Brown and enjoyed the best season of his career. And Crawford would recall that Brown eventually called him "the most improved player I've ever coached."

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What about minutes for Collison?

While there is unbridled optimism in the Seattle SuperSonics’ training camp, there is one player whose season and future seems particularly unsettled because of the way the team has been structured.

With the glut at center and power forward – the re-signing of Chris Wilcox and the drafting of Mouhamed Sene – Nick Collison finds himself in a state of uncertainty about exactly where he is going to play and for how long.

Of course, the coaching staff says Collison will be on the floor. But if Wilcox develops into a reliable double-double player, and the Sonics need to develop their three centers, the playing-time crunch is going to be felt by somebody, and that likely is Collison.

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Sonics' Lewis still has much to prove

As the Sonics' second day of workouts ended and some players began voluntary free-throw drills while others conducted media interviews, Rashard Lewis slid out the back door of the Furtado Center court and into the locker room.

He does not want the usual training-camp publicity. Lewis said he has something to prove and would rather shift his full concentration to preparing for the regular season.

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Hollins brings rim down -- on coach

You know it's been a rough practice when a coach ends up on the injury report.

Charlotte Bobcats rookie center Ryan Hollins brought down a basket support with a thunderous dunk Wednesday morning. Assistant coach Jeff Capel was underneath, and bruised an arm protecting himself from the falling basket.

That wasn't the end of the bang-ups. Point guards Raymond Felton and Brevin Knight collided during a drill, causing coach Bernie Bickerstaff to immediately end the session.

It wasn't a surprise that 7-foot Hollins would be the one to bring down a basket. Also a track athlete at UCLA, he keeps drawing ooohs and aaahs from teammates for his swooping dunks.

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Expansion not near for global NBA

American sports are generally nothing more than a curiosity in Europe. That’s not the case with the NBA. The same league that has darts thrown at it by Americans, especially when U.S. teams are defeated in international play, is big time in Europe.

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Grunfeld gets contract extension

The Washington Wizards yesterday gave president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld, who oversaw the team's return to the playoffs the past two seasons, a multi-year contract extension.
"I'm appreciative and flattered that [team owner Abe Pollin] has been supportive of me and committed to the organization," Grunfeld said yesterday afternoon. "He has provided us with the resources to be successful now and in the future of the franchise."
Terms of the deal were not revealed.

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Nash struggles to get a handle

Steve Nash's play will no longer be finger-lickin' good.

The leather ball that has been in the league longer than he has been alive is gone. It has been replaced with a microfiber composite version that will no longer require Nash to moisten his fingers for grip.

The new Spalding ball - only the third version in league's 60-year history - is tacky, and the players mean that in more than one way. The Suns have been using the ball for about a month, since the start of informal workouts, and it seems that all of them want ol' reliable back.

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