The feud between LeBron James and Charles Barkley just won't cool down.
Two days after James and business manager Maverick Carter said they believed race played a role in the backlash the two-time MVP has received after choosing to join the Heat, Barkley criticized James' charge.
"It's like watching a movie," Barkley told WIP radio in Philadelphia. "Just when you think it couldn't get any stupider, it gets more stupid. ... The only criticism of LeBron has been the decision and the one hour of our life that we can't have back. ... That has nothing to do with race."
Over the summer Barkley ripped James for staging his one-hour show announcing his decision and the Heat's three stars for celebrating at a Miami rally after Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and James had all agreed to play together.
Seems wise to hold off on sending out those Thanksgiving invitations to James and Barkley.
NEW YORK KNICKS
According to ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan, Knicks GM Donnie Walsh has lined up a deal to acquire a first-round draft pick in 2011. Before pulling the trigger on the deal, though, the Knicks are waiting to hear if Denver will send Anthony their way. The pick and other assets would then head to Denver to kick-start the Nuggets' rebuilding plan.
While the Knicks have grown confident they can create a palatable package for Anthony, Denver's unwillingness to give Melo his wish of playing in New York appears to be the primary holdup in completing a deal, according to Newsday's Alan Hahn.
With Anthony eligible to become a free agent next summer, the Nuggets are likely to hear the clock ticking on any deal a lot louder as the season continues.
NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
First Chris Paul was unhappy in New Orleans. Now he's elated to be there. And now ... he wants to bring Carmelo Anthony to the Bayou?
The rapid change of heart from Paul, who has two years left on his contract with the Hornets, has been nothing short of shocking, and as training camps opened this week, it took on another twist.
After the proposed four-team trade that would have Carmelo to New Jersey was deemed "dead," Paul reportedly has been trying to convince the Nuggets' All-Star forward into joining him in New Orleans.
The Hornets new GM Dell Demps, a front-office veteran of the Spurs, has remained tight-lipped about any plans, but such a deal would be plausible if they offer up David West, Marcus Thornton and Peja Stojakovic's $14.3 million expiring contract to the Nuggets. According ESPN.com's Marc Stein, a source close to the situation confirmed "that word has indeed been trasnmitted form Paul to Anthony that teaming up in the Bayou might be the solution for both of them."
Anthony has refused to sign a three-year, $65 million extension offered by the Nuggets, but at the team's media day Monday, he denied he ever requested a trade.
At Carmelo's July wedding in Manhattan, Paul gave a toast suggesting the two of them, along with Amar'e Stoudemire, create their own dynastic trio in New York. Though Paul refused to elaborate on the wedding toast when he was asked about it at media day this week, the 25-year-old's comments over the past few months have been heard loud and clear, both by fans and team executives.
In June, Paul, who has two years left on his contract, said he'd be open to a trade if the Hornets weren't committed to spending in free agency to become competitive in the Western Conference.
A month later, after meeting with new coach Monty Williams and Demps, Paul quickly changed his tune and pledged his support to the organization.
In mid-August, the Hornets traded away Paul's backup at point, Darren Collison, to acquire swingman Trevor Ariza, a move that signaled New Orlean's committment to building around Paul.
Hornets brass are well aware that a strong start to the season is paramount to keeping their point guard happy, especially now that his future has become the No. 2 story behind Carmelo.
"More than all the other stories that [were] taking place, I was fighting with myself mentally all summer just because I know where I want to be ... and by that I mean physically. I was more concentrating on getting myself back on the court so I could compete the way that I wanted to.
"It's like I'm a rookie again, like I'm starting over."
We'll see how long this outlook lasts.
After sitting out an entire season to recover from foot surgery, Houston's 7-foot-6 center Yao Ming returned to training camp only to get injured again -- to his other ankle.
Yao turned his right ankle during the team's practice on Wednesday, but he said he wasn't concerned. He tested it a few minutes after the team decided to hold out him for the remainder of practice and said there was no reason to worry.
"It's not bad," Yao told the Houston Chronicle. "I'll be back tomorrow. It happens. I step on people's foot."
Rockets coach Rick Adelman plans to give him a day of rest before green-lighting him for another round of workouts.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Good news for LeBron: He's not the only one taking heat for his decisions over the summer. Lakers big man Andrew Bynum has been criticized for putting off knee surgery so he could attend the World Cup in South Africa in July.
Bynum held off on surgery for a torn ligament in his right knee late last season so he could help the Lakers to their second straight NBA championship. But instead of opting for surgery right after the playoffs, he delayed it roughly six weeks so he could take in the sights in South Africa.
When he finally went in for the procedure, on July 28, six weeks after the season ended, doctors realized the injury was more extensive than they originally thought, and Bynum's recovery time would have to be extended. Now, the center is sidelined for the start of the 2010-11 season, and at the team's media day on Saturday, he said he hopes to return in late November.
Bynum is no stranger to the injured list: He missed 46 games in 2007-08 because of a partial dislocation of his left knee, another 32 games the following season with a torn ligament in his right knee and 13 games last season with a strained left Achilles tendon.
Given Bynum's history of knee problems, it seems baffling that Phil Jackson and the Lakers' front-offce signed off on allowing him to postpone the operation, even if they expectd it to be a routine procedure. Why not take out all the stops when dealing with such a key component of their offense?
"I had to have the surgery when I was ready for it," Bynum told ESPNLA.com. "I was coming off the emotional high of going out and winning your second championship. I just kind of needed a little me time. Me and the family. I just took it from there. I went to go see the World Cup, it was a great time for me, one of the best of my life. I got to stay on safari. And then when I got back home, I took care of business."
The 7-footer has spent his entire five-year career with the Lakers. Last season, he averaged a career-high 15.0 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 57 percent from the floor. After aggravating his troublesome knee in the first round of the playoffs against Oklahoma City, Bynum played through pain to come up big for L.A. in the Finals, in which he grabbed 5.1 boards and recorded 1.3 blocks in about 25 minutes per game in the seven-game series against Boston.
"It's tough to speculate on what's going on in a guy's mind, as far as his body, his knee, how he feels about his situation," Lakers point guard Derek Fisher told NBA.com. "I guess from a team perspective it's disappointing because it maybe delays our ability to be as good as we want to be at certain points during the season. But overall, as long as he's healthy, as we move through this season and hopefully into December and the first part of the year, he starts to come around. We feel like we can still accomplish our goals."
Was the vacation worth it? Was a week of escapism worth perhaps at least a month on the bench with his team is vying for a three-peat?
Stan Van Gundy is using training camp an experiment. The Magic coach has decided to toy with the team's lineup, specifically with RashardLewis. For most of the last three seasons, Lewis, who is naturally a small forward, has played the 4, where he's created matchup problems on offense with his 6-foot-10 frame and ability to shoot from the perimeter.
But Van Gundy wants to switch things up and move Lewis to small forward.
"I think it gives us more size on the floor if we do that," Van Gundy told reporters of moving Lewis. "He can get into his post-up game more. We don't lose any shooting on the floor. The concern with him playing the 3 is never at the offensive end."
Lewis, who shed about 10 pounds this summer, has admitted he feels more comfortable at small forward; he played nine seasons at the 3 with the Seattle SuperSonics before joining the Magic.
The most notable change, as The Associated Press reported Tuesday, will be on the defensive end, where he'd have to guard more perimeter players and fewer big men.
The Orlando Sentinel's Josh Robbins spelled out the details of the switch, noting that the Rashard Lewis Experiment would create a ripple effect throughout the entire roster. Should Lewis stay at power forward, Van Gundy would likely use either Quentin Richardson, J.J. Redick or Mickael Pietrus as the fifth starter. And if Lewis moves to small forward, the Magic have the option of using Ryan Anderson or Brandon Bass at the 4 spot.
So far, the players seem amenable to the experiment.
"Why not?" Vince Carter said. "This is the time to really figure it out. Once it gets to the real deal, you kind of have an idea of the direction you want to go against particular teams. So we might as well be prepared for it and be ready when it gets here."
Is Hasheem Thabeet a changed man? According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, it seems so.
Thabeet, the second overall pick in the 2009 draft, struggled with his transition to the pros and averaged only 2.5 points, 2.9 rebounds and 10.3 minutes a game before the Grizzlies shipped him off to the D-League. But he apparently received an attitude check this summer.
The 7-foot-3 center out of Tanzania has been working with Hall of Famer BobLanier, whom the Grizzlies enlisted to salvage Thabeet's career ... and their investment. And so far, coach Lionel Hollins is pleasantly surprised by what he's seen.
"He put in the most time this summer," Hollins said of Thabeet. "He put in the most days here.
"I expect him to play and I expect him to contribute every game. I expect him to be a factor."
Thabeet played three seasons at UConn, where he averaged 10.3 points and 8.5 rebounds. In his third and final season, he was named the Big East Co-Player of the Year and the conference's Defensive Player of the Year.
The Grizzlies placed high hopes on the big man, only to watch him fail to contribute while players selected after him -- like Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings and Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans -- flourished in their first year. Last February, the team sent him to North Dakota, making him the highest-drafted NBA player to join a D-League team.
The Grizzlies didn't add anyone to back up Marc Gasol and ZachRandolph this summer, meaning the pressure's on Lanier to turn Thabeet into (at the very least) a competent player in the paint.
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 -- LeBronJames 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."