Notes from TNT’s Coverage of the NBA – Thursday, October 30, 2008

(AP Photo/Donna McWilliam)

TNT NBA Tip-off presented by AutoTrader.com

Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Chris Webber

Barkley on the addition of Ron Artest to the Houston Rockets: “Ron Artest is a really good player who says crazy things. (The Rockets) could win the championship, but he could blow that team up any day now.  Ron Artest is going to have to prove it to me, that’s no disrespect, he’s got a track record and his track record is up and down.  He’s going to have to prove if he can keep his head together for the entire season. I think a person who has issues always has issues.”

Tracy McGrady on the temperament of Ron Artest: “Everybody is telling me (Ron Artest) has that other side, but I don’t see it and I really don’t, I guess that’s a good thing. The window is closing for me as well, so when that time comes, come on Ron, we’re too old for this, lets’ do this together.  I’m sure he understands that and like he said, we’re not getting any younger and the time is now.”

Barkley on the three people the Rockets need to win a championship: “For the Rockets to win a championship, they’ve got to have three things work perfectly, Ron Artest, Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady have to stay healthy and I don’t think all those things are going to happen.”

Smith: “That means you’re a doctor and psychologist.”

Barkley: “No, I just play one on television.”

Webber on positive comments from Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki about new head coach Rick Carlisle: “When you believe in your coach your game is always better. That’s good to hear from Dirk (Nowitzki) saying he has freedom, I expect his input to go up.”

Barkley on the success of a coach being more important than his popularity with players: “It’s like when (former Cowboys coach) Bill Parcells was too rigid but, they were winning, they had the best record in the NFC.  Now (current Cowboys coach) Wade Phillips comes in and they’re like, ‘Wade is a really good guy’ and (the team) stinks. (Former Mavericks coach) Avery Johnson did a hell of a job, he got them to the Finals, they had the best record in the NBA and one of the best every year, to come out and say, ‘we’ve got freedom’ is just bull.”

Smith on the Mavericks having the same issues despite who is coaching them: “You need to rebound and defend, those are the two issues with Avery (Johnson), with Nellie (Don Nelson) and still with Rick Carlisle.  (The Mavericks need to) rebound and defend, and in the last three minutes of the game, who is the guy who’s going to score for them?  They don’t really have a guy with a killer instinct.”

Johnson on Smith’s ensemble which included a turtleneck sweater: “I thought (Smith) was going trick or treating as an art dealer.”

Smith on Shaquille O’Neal’s offensive role with the Suns: “I don’t know if they are a championship team, but the Hornets are true team.  Watching the Suns in the preseason and seeing how much they implemented Shaq differently, he’s really a part of the offense.  Regardless of how many games he plays, if he’s hurt of if he’s not, when he’s in there he’s going to be intricately involved in the offense which he wasn’t last year.”

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Game 1:  Houston Rockets (112) @ Dallas Mavericks (102)

Announcers Marv Albert, Reggie Miller and Mike Fratello with Cheryl Miller reporting

Fratello on the Rockets’ depleted center position with back-up Dikembe Mutombo no longer on the team: “(The center position) to me is a huge, huge hole in this Rocket team and that’s what separates them from what they were a year ago.  When Yao (Ming) went down, Dikembe Mutombo came in last year and gave them tremendous minutes and gave them a 22-game winning streak, a 50-some win season.  Now without Mutombo, when Yao comes out, who goes in is a 6’7″ or 6’8″ guy to replace him?”

TNT’s Cheryl Miller interviewed Rockets head coach Rick Adelman after the first quarter.

Adelman on whether he liked the tempo set by the Dallas Mavericks in the first quarter: “Not really I didn’t (like the tempo).  They want to get up and down the court and there’s about five or six times we let them push up and get easy shots.  We want to push it here, but we also want to keep the game under control and to make sure we go to our strengths.”

Fratello on the odd free throw motion of Rockets forward Chuck Hayes: “That free throw looks a little like (Charles) Barkley’s golf swing, it comes in segments and there’s a little hitch in there.”

Miller on his experience playing with a young Ron Artest: “It remains to be seen (whether Ron Artest is different).  I’ve heard this before, I’ve looked at him dead in the eyes and told him certain things I believed he was doing wrong and he said, ‘Yes Reg, yes Reg,’ then he would go out and do the exact opposite. I spoke to him before the game (tonight) and he said, ‘Look Reg, I have to apologize. I was very selfish, I was very young.’ If I feel like I did anything wrong in Indiana it was not getting Jermaine O’Neal and Ron Artest on the same page because I felt like both guys, they were young and in their prime, and they had a shot to win a couple of  championships if they could have played together.”

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Halftime

Johnson, Smith, Barkley and Webber

Smith on Rockets forward Ron Artest being talented on both ends of the court: “The one thing (Ron Artest) brings to the game, he’s one of the only guys in the league that can score 20 points and then stop a guy from getting 20 points.  There’s maybe only two other guys and if you can name them, I’m not sure where they are.”

Webber on Mavericks guard Josh Howard needing to prove himself on the court after a summer of off-court distractions: “(Josh Howard) has already apologized with words, but right now he has to show the people that his effort is there.  He’s put himself in a pretty bad position that he has to handle.”

Webber on being in a similar situation as Ron Artest and getting a fresh start through a trade: “I really hope that (Ron Artest) does well. For me, getting traded from Washington to Sacramento, I had to look at myself in the mirror and say what type of person, what type of player will you be?  You don’t get many second chances in life and when I got traded to Sacramento it was for me personally God saying, ‘What are you going to do? Who are you going be to get this right?’ and it made me more cautious.  I hope we aren’t going to get lip service because he’s had a lot of chances and if he doesn’t do it this time than it’s really sad to see.”

Barkley on Miller’s comment that the Pacers could have won championships: “Reggie Miller said (the Pacers) could have had multiple championships; he was drinking on the job.”

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Miller on 6’8″ center Brandon Bass fighting for a ball against 7’6″ center Yao Ming: “That’s like Roy Jones Jr. taking on Lennox Lewis, a light heavyweight taking on a super heavyweight.”

TNT’s Cheryl Miller interviewed Rockets head coach Rick Carlisle after the third quarter.

Carlisle on playing the game with energy: “This game is about energy for us, (the Mavericks) played last night and we’ve been waiting a whole week since our last exhibition game to play.  Our energy should be better, but it’s got to translate to the game and it’s got to be efficient.”

Miller’s response to a technical foul Rockets forward Ron Artest received when trying to separate a tussle between Mavericks players and Rockets center Yao Ming: “Because of this history of Ron Artest everyone gets out of their seats and makes it bigger than it is.  What does Ron Artest get a technical for? That’s guilt by reputation, I understand there’s no way you know with Ron, but there’s no way he’s getting a technical for coming to the defense of 7’6″ Yao (Ming).”

Fratello on Rockets head coach Rick Adelman being content with a small line-up: “Look at the confidence Rick Adelman has had with the group he put on the floor when the score was tied and close. He has stayed with (Brent) Barry, he stayed with (Chuck) Hayes, he stayed with (Aaron) Brooks and then of course (Ron) Artest and Yao (Ming).”

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Game 2:  New Orleans Hornets (108) @ Phoenix Suns (95)

Announcers Kevin Harlan and Doug Collins with Craig Sager reporting

Collins on the altered offensive philosophy of the Phoenix Suns: “As people are watching the Suns this year they are thinking, ‘What kind of fast breaking team are they going to be?’ On every possession that’s a live ball, when they get a steal or a shot block or missed field goal, they are going got to run, but they are going to run selectively. (Suns coach) Terry Porter says if you don’t have layups pull the ball back and run a set offense.  But when the game is on the line expect Steve Nash to have that ball in his hands and expect them to run some kind of pick and roll.  You’re going to go to your strength and that’s exactly what the Suns did last night against the Spurs.”

TNT’s Craig Sager interviewed Hornets head coach Byron Scott after the first quarter.

Scott on the performance of the Hornets at the start of the game: “I know it’s a big task playing against Shaq (O’Neal), but we are doing the things we want to do offensive and defensively, we’ve just got to tighten up a little on defense, especially transition-wise.  (The improvement in Hilton Armstrong is his) maturity, he’s got a little more experience in the game so he’s playing a little bit better and he’s playing with a little more confidence now.”

Collins on Suns forward Louis Amundson fouling Hornets center Melvin Ely: “The Suns are making Melvin Ely look like Moses Malone here early in this game.”

Collins on Phoenix Suns forward Grant Hill taking a charge: “(Duke head coach) Coach K (Krzyzewski) is smiling down at Duke’s Grant Hill stepping up and taking that charge, something that they pride themselves on there.”

TNT’s Craig Sager interviewed Hornets forward Peja Stojakovic at halftime.

Stojakovic on the Hornets approach to the game: “We approached the game very aggressively from the very beginning, moved the ball and we got ourselves a lead.  Help each other, make them move the ball, make them play half court offense and we’ll see what happens.”

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Halftime

Johnson, Smith, Barkley and Webber

Smith on the lack of experience of the Phoenix Suns’ bench: “The upper echelon teams in the West are going to be there because of their bench.  The Phoenix Suns bench is inexperienced, with some guys that have a tough time scoring. They don’t have a fluid offense in their second unit. You look at the second unit of the best teams in this league, you look at the Lakers and they have (Lamar) Odom coming off of the bench who would start on any other team.  They have Odom, (Jordan) Farmar, (Luke) Walton, (Sasha) Vujacic and (Vladamir) Radmanovic. You go to the Rockets and you see Aaron Brooks come in today, (Brent) Barry come in with experience.  That’s where championships are won, that second unit that sustains leads or changes leads and I don’t know if the Phoenix Suns have that right now.”

Barkley on the Suns bench: “(The Suns’) bench resume is thinner than (vice presidential candidate) Sarah Palin’s.”

Johnson: “I can see Alaska from the set.”

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Collins on the Suns first-year head coach Terry Porter taking on a tough job: “I think (Terry Porter) has one of the toughest jobs in the NBA.  You take over for a guy like (Mike) D’Antoni who was ultra successful, they averaged 58 wins for fours years. Now the team has changed the way they play, they are a bigger team, a power team, they are getting older.  I think this a very, very tough job that Terry Porter has taken on.”

Collins on Hornets center Hilton Armstrong playing for four years at Connecticut despite only starting his senior year: “For all these young guys who go to a school and maybe don‘t play for a bit and think they want to transfer, (Hilton Armstrong) stayed at Connecticut all four years, played behind (Emeka) Okafor.  He got better every year, he started as a senior and became a No. 1 draft pick, sometimes you just stick around, continue to get better and he played with the best player with Okafor in practice every day (and that) probably helped him get better.”

Collins on Suns guard Raja Bell being an emotional leader on the team: “(Raja Bell) gives this team an emotional lift, he’s been very flat.  He’s good when he’s passionate, when you see him taking some hard fouls and playing with great energy.  Right now he’s making the adjustment to a new coach and a new system. He brings that emotional fire (to the Suns).”

TNT’s Craig Sager interviewed Suns coach Terry Porter during the game.

Porter on the turnovers being the biggest problem for the Suns against the Hornets: “Turnovers have been the difference in this game, we haven’t done a good job of taking care of the ball.  Obviously they’ve made some shots, but our turnovers have really hurt us, we give those guys some points and we’re not giving our guys a chance to defend.  We need those guys to play better, I go back to the turnovers, those guys play hard, we need some energy, we need some steals and some easy opportunities ourselves.”

Collins on the Hornets’ bench players stepping in and playing well: “You have no Tyson Chandler, so you start Hilton Armstrong and Melvin Ely, they get a chance to play. The two areas for New Orleans are defensive consistency and improving their bench. That’s a big concern for (coach) Byron Scott, how he puts all the pieces together. Tonight their bench came through and really helped them especially in the fourth period.”

TNT’s Craig Sager interviewed Hornets guards Chris Paul and Morris Peterson.

Paul on the importance of the Hornets win over the Suns: “You’ve got to get as many wins as possible especially in the Western Conference. Doing it without Tyson (Chandler) showed a lot of fight, Mo (Morris Peterson) played outstanding, the bench was great and this was a big win for a team early in the season.”

Peterson on playing with the talented Chris Paul: “It’s unbelievable, the kid can play. (Chris Paul) does a great job of finding guys and he makes our job easier all we have to do is be ready to shoot.”

Peterson on his motivation for preparing for this season: “Our last game we played in San Antonio, it burned.  That’s what I thought about everyday going to the gym. I just wanted to be ready to play.  Watching those guys win the gold medal really inspired me.”

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Inside the NBA presented by Hyundai

Johnson, Smith, Barkley and Webber

Webber on the New Orleans Hornets being dependant on guard Chris Paul: “Chris Paul, it’s his fault that I don’t believe in the team.  He is so good that I’m thinking (if) one thing happens to him and one minute he’s out – like Phoenix with (Steve) Nash if he has to be out a few minutes – that makes me cautious.  I know how good they are and I see it, but I worry about the future.”

Smith on the depth of the Hornets: “All of the players around (Chris Paul) do something really, really well, they are great in one area. Tyson Chandler is a great rebounder and shot blocker, David West is a great scorer, Mo Peterson is a really, really good shooter and Peja (Stojakovich) is a great shooter.  So what happens is no matter what, Chris Paul plays like he does, but those guys are specialty guys and they’re not good in those areas, they’re great in those areas.”

Barkley on the LA Lakers: “This Lakers team has a chance at being a dynasty.  If Andrew Bynum keeps getting better and Kobe stays motivated, they could be scary.”

Barkley on giving credit to New Orleans coach Byron Scott: “We talk a lot about Chris Paul and James Posey and all of (the Hornets’) players, but we’ve got to start giving Byron Scott some credit…He took the New Jersey Nets to the Finals back-to-back years, he turned around this New Orleans team, we’ve got to start giving him credit.  That’s one of the best coaches in this league.”

Smith on teams measuring up to the LA Lakers: “The measuring stick for everyone – even the Boston Celtics because they are a little bit of an older team – is the Los Angeles Lakers, you have to be able to match-up.  When we were playing the measuring stick was the Boston Celtics, the Detroit Pistons, the Chicago Bulls, the measuring stick right now is the Los Angeles Lakers.  The way they are able to have so many guys coming at you, you have to have depth on your team and that’s what the Phoenix Suns don’t have.”

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