First Cup: Wednesday

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
By Nick Borges
  • Evan MacDonald of The Plain Dealer: A Miami radio program on Tuesday attempted to buy a full-page advertisement in The Plain Dealer to poke fun at LeBron James. A mock-up of the advertisement posted on Twitter depicts two Miami Heat championship rings above the words "You're Welcome, LeBron." Below are the words "Sincerely, Miami Heat Fans." Representatives of The Dan LeBatard Show called the Cleveland media outlet on Tuesday to purchase a full-page advertisement in this Sunday's edition of the newspaper, Northeast Ohio Media Group Vice President of Sales and Marketing Mike Maleski confirmed. NEOMG sales staff are responsible for ads in The Plain Dealer. The show's request was "politely declined," Maleski said. ... LeBatard said during the show that the ad was not intended to be mean-spirited, but rather a way to poke fun at James and Northeast Ohio residents who watched him win two championships in Miami.
  • Michael Cohen of The Commercial-Appeal: Now, 10 weeks and one infamous Robert Pera Twitter chat later, the Grizzlies' front office is finally stabilizing. The organization announced Tuesday a pair of front office moves symbolizing calmer seas in Memphis. Chris Wallace, who had served as interim general manager since May, saw the interim tag lifted and he was rewarded with a multiyear contract as the team's general manager. Joining him in the front office will be veteran NBA executive Ed Stefanski, who was named executive vice president of player personnel. ... Together with Wallace the organization has a pair of respected front office members whose long-term security appears to signify a righting of the ship. The Grizzlies are no longer "a mess."
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Kevin Durant isn’t ready to travel in time but understands that questions about his future are unavoidable. His contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder has an expiration date in 2016 and he will be the most in-demand free agent, with fan bases around the league – specifically in his hometown of Washington – already salivating about the prospect of having the reigning league’s most valuable player on their roster. When asked about the possibility of playing for the Wizards, Durant didn’t shoot down the notion. “We’re going to put it out on the table. It’s been talked about,” Durant said. “Everybody is asking me about it. Every time I go on Instagram or Twitter, all my friends ask me about it. So I’m not going to sit here and act like I’m na´ve to the fact that people think about that stuff. But I just tell everybody, ‘Look, I’m here in Oklahoma City. I love it here.’ Who knows what’ll happen? You never can close a door on anything, but I like where I’m at right now. I can’t answer those questions.” That certainly won’t stop the four-time NBA scoring champion from being pressed for answers during an era when speculation and hope have a greater currency among fans than tangible realities.
  • Jill Painter of the Los Angeles Daily News: It was a star-studded cast showing their support for their former teammate. His family and grandchildren were there, too. Only one person could’ve made it better. “The only thing I regret is that Dr. Buss is not here today,” a teary-eyed Scott said. “He was a guy you could talk to about everything, about life, basketball, money, anything. I wish he was here today. As I told Jim and Jeanie, I’m going to do everything in my power to bring this team back to where it should be. This organization is about championships. Period.” When Scott referred to the Lakers’ 16 NBA championships, he inadvertently referenced the Lakers’ 17 titles. Perhaps he had that self-fulfilling prophecy in mind. Scott wants to do the Buss family proud — with Jim and Jeanie running the basketball and business side, respectively. How can you not love Scott’s lasting connections, passion for the Lakers and unbreakable ties? That counts for something. He cares deeply about this franchise. Neither Mike Brown nor Mike D’Antoni had that. Neither of those press conferences featured any semblance of emotional investment. In fact, D’Antoni joked he was hopped up on medication following a recent knee surgery.
  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: Barring an unexpected change of heart by the NBA, Christmas in Miami will feature LeBron James’ much-anticipated return to Miami in an opposing uniform. Though the NBA’s schedule will not be finalized and released until mid-August, an unofficial internal schedule of select games has Cleveland playing the Heat in Miami on Christmas on ABC, according to a person familiar with the situation. The game likely would be played at either 2:30 p.m. or 5 p.m, depending on what other game is selected for ABC that day.
  • Chris Haynes of Things aren’t looking good when it comes to negotiations between the Phoenix Suns and their restricted free agent star guard Eric Bledsoe. According to league sources, an “ominous development” has arisen with sides still “very far apart” in contract negotiations. It has even escalated to the point where the “relationship is on the express lane to being ruined,” a source with knowledge of the situation informed The Suns offered Bledsoe a four-year, $48 million deal with declining salaries each year, two sources said. That proposal was quickly turned down. Bledsoe’s camp is putting a max price tag on the player Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek called “a Top-10 player in the NBA in coming years”, another source said. Phoenix has made it known publicly and repeatedly that they intend to match any offer sheets competitors issue out to Bledsoe. This tactic has succeeded in scaring away any potential suitors so far. However, the effort by the Suns to undermine Bledsoe’s market is what has angered Bledsoe and his reps and led to a standoff in which the relationship is now on the verge of being irreparable, we’re told.
  • Christopher L. Gasper of The Boston Globe:Celtics owner and CEO Wyc Grousbeck disputed the idea that Boston with only a fervent fan base and a raft of tradition to offer wasn’t an NBA destination. He said the Celtics can build through free agency, as well as via trades and the draft. “What we are working on in Boston is offering the possibility of contending for a championship. If a ring is more important to a guy than the climate or the taxes that’s the kind of guy we want,” said Grousbeck. Patience is going to be required with the Progeny of the Parquet. The fireworks display has been postponed. “I’m really looking forward to the year. I’d like it to be a building year,” Grousbeck said. “Brad is a great coach. I’m glad he is here. He has brought a lot of knowledge, passion, and enthusiasm to the organization. I want to see him succeed. He deserves success in the NBA. I hope we can give him a roster that will get him there.” That might take longer than Grousbeck thought.
  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: Bulls rookie Doug McDermott admitted Tuesday that he was close to settling on a place in Chicago. And, yes, he’s more likely renting than buying. Smart decision. The Kevin Love-to-the-Bulls trade rumors have quieted to an almost complete silence, but a source said the team was still in pursuit, and that meant the package of Taj Gibson, McDermott and ‘‘other assets’’ was still on the table. ... "I didn’t really pay attention to it much,’’ McDermott said. "I think rumors happen a lot. There have been a lot this offseason, so you’ve just got to stay patient. You can’t really read into that stuff. I’m just focused on what I can do to become better." That’s also why he admitted to staying away from asking his new organization about it. "To be honest, I get asked about it; I don’t really ask anyone," McDermott said. "I try to stay off Twitter, and a lot of people ask me or text me through my friends. But I just ignore it. Whatever happens, happens."
  • Scott Cacciola of The New York Times: Misery loves company, and there was a lot of misery to go around in Southern California this summer. The Los Angeles Clippers had to deal with Donald Sterling, the owner who refused to leave, and the Los Angeles Lakers had to deal with an injured Kobe Bryant and a collection of call-ups from the Development League. After months of shared unhappiness, both teams are having an eventful week. On Monday, a court gave Sterling his walking papers when a probate court judge cleared the path for the $2 billion sale of the Clippers to Steve Ballmer, the former Microsoft chief executive. A day later, the Lakers staged a news conference to introduce a head coach to guide the team’s woeful roster: Byron Scott, the former Lakers guard from the Showtime era. The two teams, which have been uneasy roommates at Staples Center, both finally have some resolution. But they are franchises on different trajectories with very distinct strategies.
  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: It is Tony Parker’s first full summer off in four years, and he is taking full advantage. The six-time All-Star recently returned to San Antonio from a jaunt to Las Vegas. He’s got another trip planned to an undisclosed destination with his fiancee and infant son Josh, followed by a visit to France before the Spurs begin training camp in October. “It’s great,” he said Tuesday during his appearance at the Spurs’ summer basketball youth camp. “I’m enjoying every moment, having a lot of fun.” ... So as much as Parker would love to be with Les Bleus getting ready for the World Cup, he’s more than happy to have some time off. “Obviously it’s always tough to see my teammates start without me,” he said. “It feels like my second family is playing right now. But I have to be smart. I think it’s the right decision for me, for the Spurs if I want to play a long career. I want to play two more summers (with France) and then I’ll be done."
  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: Knicks legend Earl Monroe sees some pearls on this Phil Jackson-inspired, revamped Knicks roster. The man known as “Earl The Pearl’’ even believes Jackson’s Knicks easily could finish in the top four in the wide-open Eastern Conference after failing to make the playoffs last season with a 37-45 record. Monroe, the flashiest member on the Knicks’ last title team in 1973, with Jackson as teammate, said he believes on paper only Indiana and Chicago boast a distinctly better roster. Sorry, LeBron. “If these guys can get off to good start and stabilize what their roles are, I don’t see why they can’t be as good as the rest of the guys in the East," Monroe told The Post Tuesday. “I see them [in the top four] easily."
  • Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post: The two years away had a huge impact on Afflalo. He was quickly forced into a leadership role both on and off the court with a young and rebuilding Orlando Magic team. Afflalo had his best seasons on the court, and those around the Orlando franchise raved about the example Afflalo set for young players with his professionalism. Afflalo comes back to Denver a more confident, more authoritative player. If he was ever hesitant to make suggestions previously, it won't be that way this time around. Afflalo injecting himself into a team leadership role could be a huge help to Nuggets coach Brian Shaw, who has been searching for leaders. Late last season, he sat down guard Ty Lawson and forward Kenneth Faried and challenged them to take on a more vocal role. Afflalo should help.

Kevin Love is way better than you think

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
Abbott By Henry Abbott
Judging Kevin Love by Minnesota's win-loss record is a giant mistake, says David Thorpe.


First Cup: Tuesday

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
By Nick Borges
  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: Early on during Derrick Rose’s rehab from the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in 2012, it was easy for him to remain insulated from the critics. But even that bubble can pop. Criticism from fans and media is hard to ignore when the volume gets high enough. “Hell, yeah, it’s even more," Rose said Monday when asked if he still thought those who doubt him are fools. “I’m a special player. I still have youth. I’m only 25, man. Just doing everything I’m supposed to do in rehab. Just strengthening everything, taking it one day at a time and getting the most out of every day. I’ve been preparing for this moment. I can’t get mad at [the criticism]. People are going to say anything. For me, just try to take it in and use it when I work out, use it as motivation. Go out there and try to prove people wrong. I know how special I am as a player. And I know what I still can do." He’s in a small group because few are so sure of his capabilities.
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Eric Bledsoe's real problem is that being a really good point guard in the NBA is not as special these days. The league is saturated with quality point guards, leaving teams not in need of one, not wanting to spend exorbitantly for a minor upgrade, or waiting to develop or draft one. Nine other point guards averaged at least as many points per game as Bledsoe last season. Twenty-four point guards averaged more assists. All of them played more games. Eleven teams have an All-Star point guard. Another 12 to 14 teams arguably are set at the position and have either an established point guard, one on the rise or the point-guard market cornered (see Phoenix). Combine an overabundance of point guards with a dwindling market of spenders, and Bledsoe is slim on options. Besides Philadelphia being the only team with a maximum-salary spot (and a Rookie of the Year point guard), it would be a hard sell for any team to bring a lucrative deal forward at this point and sell Bledsoe as a target it always had marked.
  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: Byron Scott wasn't hired to win a championship; he was hired to protect a threatened asset, calm an angry fan base, and keep the electricity running until the winds change. This is not a very sexy mandate, but somebody has to do it, and it might as well be an old-school Laker who remembers when Showtime was more than "Homeland," it was actually home. Scott was hired for his three Lakers championship rings' worth of playing credibility, two NBA Finals appearances' worth of coaching credibility, and the sort of folded-arms, piercing-eye glare that says, I've got this. Scott has Kobe covered. He was Bryant's teammate and locker-room mentor when the high school kid entered the league in 1996, and thus will be a perfect bookend boss to oversee Bryant's departure. ... If Mike Brown was vinegar and D'Antoni was poison, Scott will be received as a nicely aged merlot. Many believe that since the death of Jerry Buss, his son Jim has forgotten or ignored the championship values of the Lakers' past. This hiring is a reminder that at least he remembers some of its players.
  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: If Manu Ginobili were healthy, that would be one thing. But with an injury, and at 37, did it make any sense to risk perhaps his last year and Tim Duncan's? Kawhi Leonard offers the opposite. He is neither hurt nor old, yet he passed on a USA Basketball invitation because of the wear of the championship run. If the Spurs were willing to live with Ginobili's eccentricities before, they aren't now. They recently sent him a letter outlining their contractual rights, and this could cause a rift. One within the Spurs franchise joked that Ginobili might ignore them and still play. But maybe that narrative is the one the Spurs want out there. After all, earlier this month, Ginobili told reporters in Argentina that his right leg did not hurt and that he was “optimistic” he could play, while also admitting “I have doubts, I have fears.” Now all of that has been removed, along with any criticism toward Ginobili, because of a letter.
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: For nearly three weeks there has been near silence from Miami Heat management about the free-agent departure of forward LeBron James to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Until Monday. Until Heat owner Micky Arison, in what the team termed "a message to Heat nation," spoke of the franchise's championship commitment in the wake of the exodus of the franchise's centerpiece. "We are laser-focused on the present and the task at hand of defending our Eastern Conference championship with the East being described as 'wide open,' while also positioning ourselves for maximum flexibility and maneuverability in the future," Arison said. ... Arison's tone was one of fight instead of surrender. "Our roster is comprised of players capable of versatility and who are out to prove something to the rest of the league," he said.
  • Andrew Keh of The New York Times: Bojan Bogdanovic, a 25-year-old forward from Bosnia and Herzegovina and an intriguingly unknown quantity, has been on a whirlwind introductory tour since signing a three-year contract with the Nets last week. Curiosity about Bogdanovic and questions about whether he can help the Nets handle the departure of forward Paul Pierce should only continue to build, though, until the start of the season. And he still needs to meet his teammates. “We have some of the best players in the N.B.A.,” he said Monday while touring the team’s practice site in East Rutherford. “I can’t wait to meet them and start to play with them.” Bogdanovic, who is ethnically Croatian, has played and thrived the last three seasons with Fenerbahce Ulker of the Turkish league, but he acknowledged that the N.B.A. represented a new, difficult challenge. Familiarizing himself with the league and the players will be the first step.
  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: The Timberwolves agreed to terms on a one-year, $3.75 million contract with veteran guard Mo Williams. The move was announced Monday afternoon by Williams representative, Priority Sports. The Wolves could announce the signing as early as Tuesday. In Williams the Wolves are getting a 31-year-old veteran who can play both point guard and shooting guard. Indeed, Williams is best described as point guard-sized but with a shooter’s mentality. He could back up starting point guard Ricky Rubio on a second unit that could include rookie Zach LaVine with him in the backcourt. ... Williams’ addition brings into question the future of guard J.J. Barea, who is entering the final year of his contract with the Wolves and is due to make just over $4.5 million in the upcoming season. Barea could be on the trading block. One possibility is if Saunders can find a third team to get involved in a potential trade involving Love. If Love leaves, Saunders would be looking to add a veteran power forward.
  • Chris Haynes of It’s going to be an uphill battle for Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers as he works towards earning a spot on Team USA’s 12-man roster for FIBA World Cup competition in Spain later this summer. Of the 20 versatile players in attendance at training camp on the campus of UNLV, the point guard position is the deepest. It consists of Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, Washington’s John Wall and Chicago’s Derrick Rose. And by the way, Rose looked extremely sharp and athletic on the first day of camp. Lillard has defied all of the odds to get to this point in his career and he’s not about to alter his makeup now. He’s well aware of the numbers game at his position. Whatever happens, happens, he says.
  • Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune: After everything that has happened since the Jazz’s season ended in April, Gordon Hayward recognizes his life is different now. The expectations and accountability that accompany his biggest offseason move follow him everywhere. Signing a $63 million contract? Yeah, that’s also significant. Hayward stood on UNLV’s practice court after the opening session of Team USA’s training camp Monday, talking with Jazz coach Quin Snyder. He smiled, laughed and cringed — knowing that accepting Snyder’s dinner invitation would involve another layer of decision making with his wife of two months, Robyn; they had already outlined an itinerary of Las Vegas shows. As for the occupants of those seats in EnergySolutions Arena, Hayward also feels considerable responsibility to them. But that feeling has more to do with "25-57" than "$63 million." He’s willing to be judged by the Jazz’s record going forward, but not necessarily by the numbers that follow the dollar sign. "For me, I don’t think I have to live up to anything now," he said. "They paid me what they wanted to pay me, and let’s go from there."
  • John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News: Continuing debate about whether Sixers president/general manager Sam Hinkie made the right decision to nuke the team's core and start building from scratch is a moot exercise. The only question now is how patient a notoriously impatient fan base is going to be, waiting to see if the fruits of Hinkie's labors will result in that oh-so-elusive NBA championship. I think the acceptable standard in rebuilding is that it is a four- to five-season process. The trickier issue is determining what is acceptable after that time. ... None of this is to say that Hinkie's ambitious plan cannot win a championship within 5 years, because at some point the young talent is going to be augmented by veterans via free agency or trades. Still, there are a couple of other reasons to put a countdown clock on the 2017-18 season. Right now, under their current contracts, that is the final season before Carter-Williams and Noel hit unrestricted free agency. If those two players develop into the superstars that fans hope but the franchise isn't at championship level, Philadelphia could end up like Cleveland did when LeBron James took his talents elsewhere in pursuit of a title. History says that 5 years may not be enough for a player to go from rookie to champion for his original franchise. The problem for Hinkie is that he may not get more time than that.
  • Daniel O'Leary of the New York Daily News: If Timberwolves rookie Zach LaVine gets off the bench this upcoming season, the team may have to alert local airports. The guard showed off some serious hops at the Seattle Pro-Am this weekend, calling to mind visions of a young Vince Carter. While it remains to be seen if LaVine can parlay his raw athleticism into an advantage in NBA games, we can all agree this is pretty fun to watch, for the moment.

Byron Scott Lakers' best option?

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
Abbott By Henry Abbott
In a time when NBA coaches are more innovative than ever, David Thorpe yawns at the Lakers' entirely conventional choice of a new head coach.


LeBron not first to play NBA numbers game

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
By Adam Reisinger
LeBron JamesAP Images/Mark DuncanLeBron James will return to wearing his original No. 23 for the Cavaliers in 2014-15.

LeBron James announced Sunday that after four seasons of wearing No. 6 with the Miami Heat, he'll go back to his original No. 23 when he rejoins the Cleveland Cavaliers this season. When James originally announced his decision to change to No. 6, he did so out of respect for Michael Jordan -- who, coincidentally has his jersey hanging on the wall in Miami, despite never having played for the Heat.

However, James is far from the first superstar to change his number, then have a change of heart and change back.

Ray Allen (34 to 20 to 34)

James' old Miami teammate Ray Allen has some experience with this type of jersey switch. Allen came into the league wearing No. 34 -- his college number -- for the Milwaukee Bucks, then held on to it with the Seattle SuperSonics. However, when Allen was traded to the Boston Celtics, 34 was taken by Paul Pierce, so Allen switched to 20. Upon signing with the Heat, Allen had his choice of 20 or 34, and went back to his original number.

Dominique Wilkins (21 to 12 to 21)

Dominique Wilkins most famously wore No. 21 for the Atlanta Hawks, where his number hangs in the rafters. He kept the number when he was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers late in the 1993-94 season, but when he signed with the Celtics, 21 wasn't available (it's retired for Bill Sharman). Wilkins played one season in Boston wearing the unfamiliar No. 12, before bolting for Europe. When he returned to the NBA in 1996-97 with the San Antonio Spurs, he was back in his trademark No. 21 -- becoming the last Spur to wear it before Tim Duncan.

Charles Barkley (34 to 32 to 34)

After Magic Johnson announced his sudden retirement due to HIV, Charles Barkley chose to change his jersey number from his original 34 to 32 to honor Johnson -- getting permission from Philadelphia 76ers legend Billy Cunningham to have the number temporarily unretired. However when Barkley was traded to the Phoenix Suns in the offseason, No. 32 was already being worn by Negele Knight, so Barkley switched back to 34, before finishing his career in Houston wearing No. 4.

Shaquille O'Neal (32 to 34 to 32)

In the exact reverse of Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal started his career wearing 32, switched to 34, then went back to 32 (before moving on to 33 and 36 in his twilight years). O'Neal actually wanted 33 -- his college number -- when he was drafted by the Orlando Magic, but that was taken by Terry Catledge, so O'Neal settled for 32. When he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, both 32 (Magic Johnson) and 33 (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) were retired, so he took No. 34, which was available after George Lynch was traded to the Vancouver Grizzlies. When O'Neal was traded to the Heat, he had his choice between 34 and 32, and decided to go back to his original number.

Michael Jordan (23 to 45 to 23)

Perhaps the most famous jersey number reversal, Michael Jordan wore No. 23 during his original stint with the Chicago Bulls, up until his retirement in 1993. When he returned to basketball in 1995, he chose to wear No. 45 -- the number he'd worn during his brief professional baseball career -- and leave No. 23 in the rafters. However, during the Bulls' Eastern Conference semifinal loss to the Magic, Jordan switched back to his customary No. 23, a move he said made him more comfortable, but cost his team a $25,000 fine. Jordan remained in 23 for the rest of his time with the Bulls, and kept the number during his brief comeback with the Washington Wizards.

First Cup: Monday

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
By Nick Borges
  • Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press: If the Timberwolves are still hoping they can persuade Kevin Love not to opt out of his contract after next season, they can give up hope. The all-star forward is adamant about leaving, either by forcing a trade or on his own. For a variety of reasons, there is no chance he will change his mind. Had the Wolves, however, given Love a maximum five-year contract instead of four years in 2012, he would not have wanted out of Minnesota. Love's preference, by the way, is to play with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavs. Meanwhile, Love, who turns 26 in September, has been working out incessantly in Los Angeles.
  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Everyone associated with Derrick Rose’s second straight serious knee rehabilitation has said the process has gone smoothly. Now, it’s finally time to publicly see the results. Rose on Monday will be one of 19 players at USA Basketball’s five-day minicamp in Las Vegas. The week begins the process that will include a three-day August stint in Chicago and culminate with a 12-man roster traveling to Spain for the FIBA Basketball World Cup from late August to mid-September. Rose hasn’t answered questions about his basketball performance since scoring 19 points in 33 minutes during a Bulls’ loss at Denver last Nov. 21. The next night, he tore his right meniscus on a seemingly benign backcut against the Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore. “This is the next step,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who also serves as Mike Krzyzewski’s assistant for USA Basketball. “Derrick has handled every step to this point the right way. The last time he participated in USA Basketball, he followed that with his MVP season (in 2010-11). So we’re hoping he can use this time productively.”
  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: You never say never with Ainge, and in an interesting reworking of fellow owner Wyc Grousbeck’s “fireworks” prediction, Pagliuca points to Ainge’s restless nature. “ ‘Fireworks’ means that Danny is fearless in trying to get something done,” Pagliuca said. “Wyc meant that there would be a lot of activity, and there’s still a lot of time to go. A lot of teams assess what they have and what they need after going through training camp.” And at least for the record, Celtics ownership prefers to keep Rondo through his next contract, which would begin in the fall of 2015. The Celts could actually receive a value bump from their existing material next season, with Rondo and Jeff Green both in contract years — the latter if he decides to decline the 2015-16 option in his contract. But in the meantime, the Celtics are in the midst of a period that has a lot more in common with the Al Jefferson era than they would like to admit. Jefferson was developed for three seasons before becoming the key bargaining chip in the 2007 trade for Kevin Garnett. The Celtics averaged 34 wins over that three-season stretch with Jefferson, including a two-year gap between playoff appearances. Even with Ainge’s reputation considered, the business of flipping assets requires development and time. The Celtics’ 2008 NBA title resulted from the single greatest turnaround in NBA history — from a 24-win regular season to 66.
  • Mark Heisler of The Orange County Register: When Bryon Scott joined the Lakers in 1983 as a rookie, having been acquired in a trade for the popular Norm Nixon, Norm’s buddies, Magic Johnson and Michael Cooper, put him in the deep freeze for the first part of the season to break him in ... and it was still faster than the process that led to Scott’s hiring as Lakers coach. Two months and 26 days after Mike D’Antoni’s May 1 resignation, the Lakers finally made the obvious choice. ... The Lakers started out looking for a way to hit a grand slam. I heard they reached out to an unnamed college coach - who, I’m going to guess, was Mike Krzyzewski. Whatever happened or didn’t happen, all it did was extend the search. Happily, the Lakers picked someone who can stand up and make their world seem OK again, even if it’s not.
  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Paul Millsap has a new summer job. The Hawks All-Star forward was added to the 2014-16 U.S. Men’s Basketball Team roster Sunday. He will one of 19 NBA players who will participate in the first of three training camp sessions to be held Monday-Friday in Las Vegas. The team will also hold sessions in Chicago and New York later this summer. The camps will be used to decide the 12-man U.S. roster that will compete in the FIBA Basketball World Cup that will be held in Spain starting Aug. 30. The U.S. will try to secure an automatic berth in the 2016 Olympics. “I’m very excited about being added to the USA Men’s National Team roster,” Millsap said. “I look forward to practicing with and competing against some of the NBA’s best for the honor of representing our country in Spain.” Millsap joins teammate Kyle Korver on the roster. The Hawks are one of only three NBA teams with two players on the roster. The Wizards’ John Wall and Bradley Beal and the Warriors’ Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are also part of the roster.
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Two weeks ago, Suns center Miles Plumlee was in Las Vegas as an inexperienced player who needed his skills to be developed during a NBA Summer League composed of mostly non-NBA players. This week, Plumlee is in Las Vegas as a rising talent who can help push the nation's best players in preparation for the FIBA World Cup. Plumlee, 25, is part of the 13-man USA Basketball Select Team that will scrimmage this week against the men's national team during its training camp. He did not see his selection coming earlier this month when Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby called. The good news was made better by telling him that his brother Mason of the Brooklyn Nets also was picked for the team. "I'm really thankful that we both got invited," Plumlee said. "You get to go play against the best players in the world. I think it's a big confidence booster to go there and compete.
  • Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune: Summer league is over. Training camp is still two months away. So, naturally, it’s time for basketball. Basketball’s World Cup starts late next month in Spain, and a few members of the Utah Jazz are hoping to make their presence known on the global stage. Dante Exum (and Jazz summer leaguer Brock Motum) have returned to Australia to prepare for the tournament. Center Rudy Gobert is back home in France. And Utah’s new max-man, Gordon Hayward, will begin his quest to earn a spot on the United States’ 12-man roster starting Monday, when Team USA begins it’s camp in Las Vegas. Exum, the Jazz’s first-round pick in last month’s draft, figures to have the most prominent role among his teammates. With point guard Patty Mills injured, the 19-year-old Exum should get heavy minutes in the Australia backcourt. Jazz officials think it’s a tremendous opportunity for the young point guard.
  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: Pablo Prigioni has done this before — backing up Jose Calderon at point guard. The Argentine and Spaniard were teammates in the Spanish League years ago with Tau Ceramica de Vitoria and now they have been reunited in Phil Jackson’s all-international point guard tandem with the Knicks. Prigioni is delighted to have Calderon — the Knicks’ biggest offseason acquisition. And he’s just as thrilled Carmelo Anthony re-signed on the dotted line. Prigioni said his wife and Calderon’s wife have remained friends. “I’m very happy to have the opportunity to play with Jose one more time,” Prigioni told The Post on Saturday. “We played together in Spain and we did really well. He is a great player and very good professional, a great 3-point shooting guy. He can run the team and read the game very well and is a good defender. He has all that a good point guard must have.”
  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: Roll call on the Thunder summer. Drafted Mitch McGary. Tried to sign Pau Gasol. Did sign Anthony Morrow. Re-signed Grant Jerrett. Let’s see. A rookie with all kinds of offensive talent but probably not ready for NBA defensive assignments. A former superstar who isn’t the player he used to be but still has a great set of ball skills. The NBA’s second-best shooter, behind only Steph Curry. And a big man whose only discernible ability, albeit it strong, is deep shooting. The trend is clear. The Thunder’s priority is to upgrade its offense. And the statistical trend says that’s smart. The Thunder ranked second in NBA offense (points per possession) in both 2011-12 and 2012-13 but slipped to seventh last season. Points per possession is the best way to gauge an offense (or defense), and the Thunder slipped to 1.081 points per possession last season, after averaging 1.102 the year before.
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: In his five seasons with the Mavericks, Shawn Marion never once got anywhere close to scoring or rebounding like he did when he was a double-double machine and a four-time All-Star with Phoenix. And yet, he could see himself going down in history as a Maverick. And maybe into the Hall of Fame as a Maverick, too. The Matrix put the candle on his career birthday cake in Dallas when he, Dirk Nowitzki and Co. won the NBA championship. “It was memorable, baby,” Marion said. “It’s hard to say it wasn’t fun. We had a great run and made the playoffs four of five years and won a championship. We set goals every year, and most years we reached them. And to win a championship, it was unbelievable. I wish we could have made a couple more runs at it, but it is what it is." It’s become clear that Marion — if he continues playing — won’t be doing so in Dallas. That’s what happens.
  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: NBA free agency intrigue will spill into August with a number of quality players still on the market, including swingman Shawn Marion, point guard Ramon Sessions, former Celtic Jordan Crawford, and Mo Williams, Andray Blatche and Michael Beasley. Those players come with baggage and it seems teams are going to wait for the market to dry and try to sign them to below-market contracts ... Another intriguing player on the market is former Celtic E’Twaun Moore, who had his moments the past two years with Orlando, while the Knicks just waived Shannon Brown a week after he played for their summer league entry in Las Vegas. Moore and Brown could compete for a third guard slot on a club.
  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: A soccer television crew for NBC that was dining at the Heathman Restaurant a couple of Thursdays ago provided the first confirmed visual sighting of Gregg Popovich's summer visit to Oregon. The San Antonio Spurs coach walked with a cane. He had dinner with a couple in their 30s. A friend in that broadcast crew texted, asking me, "Would he be in PDX for any reason?" I'd been tipped off that Popovich would be in Oregon weeks before. Over coffee on a sunny day, screenwriter and friend Mike Rich remarked to me that he knew Popovich might make an appearance at a private wine event in the Willamette Valley. "You should try to track Pop down and see what happens," Rich said. This is how "Finding Popovich" was born. ... Popovich ate dinner at the Heathman. Others in the restaurant didn't approach him or make a fuss. His table wasn't surrounded by basketball fans who wanted face time with the man who is not only the longest tenured active coach in the NBA, but also every other major American sports league. In fact, the cane probably got more attention than the man using it.

First Cup: Friday

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
By Nick Borges
  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Brandon Jennings’ 2008 decision to skip college to play professionally overseas didn’t exactly start a trend. But prep standout Emmanuel Mudiay followed in Jennings’ footsteps this month when he decided to spurn SMU and former Pistons coach Larry Brown to play in China. Multiple reports said Tuesday that the projected lottery pick of next year’s draft signed a deal worth $1.2 million for one season with the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the China Basketball Association. SMU announced last week that Mudiay would head overseas. “This is not an academic issue ... but rather a hardship issue,” Brown said in a statement. Mudiay is a 6-5 point guard. Jennings, who chose to play professionally in Italy in 2008 instead of playing for the University of Arizona, took to Twitter to comment on Mudiay’s signing. “Emmanuel Mudiay’s one-year deal with Guangdong of the China Basketball Association will pay him $1.2M. That’s Baller! Do what you gotta do,” Jennings wrote.
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Newest Maverick Jameer Nelson wasn’t a bad 3-point shooter last season. He hit 34.8 percent, which is OK. Except that, by his standards, it’s not. That’s what happens when you lack the proper sidekicks to help make your life easier. The free looks from the perimeter dried up along with the victories in Orlando the last two seasons. Nelson firmly believes that problem will be history in Dallas. After 10 years, an NBA finals trip and two miserable recent seasons with the Magic, Nelson landed in Dallas on Thursday, signing a two-year contract paying him $2.732 million this season. The second season is at Nelson’s option at $2.855 million for a total of $5.587 million. He couldn’t have been more excited — not only to be with a team that has had a booming summer of roster activity but one that fits his profile and has a chance to win a lot of games this season.
  • David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune: Smart business move or not, dealing Nikola Mirotic after earning his trust over three years would be contrary to everything Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf wants his organizations to represent and a departure from how the Bulls typically operate. It would be bold but borderline betrayal. It might lead to more victories but overall result in the loss of respect, and the Bulls traditionally care about both. Perhaps that explains why, as of Thursday, Mirotic and his representatives remained under the impression the 6-foot-10 forward was not part of any "significant offer" the Bulls made for Love. And without Mirotic included in a package centered around Gibson, the chances of the Bulls' latest Love interest leading to a relationship in Chicago dwindle. Removing a player with Mirotic's potential likely makes competing offers from the Cavaliers and Warriors more attractive to the Timberwolves. ... The Bulls had to call the Timberwolves about Love's availability. They have to keep calling until Love is a former Timberwolf. They must do everything within reason to try to keep Love away from the Cavs. It would be stunning if a Bulls organization headed by Reinsdorf considered breaking a commitment to Mirotic, a player who trusted them implicitly, within reason.
  • Janis Carr of The Orange County Register: Jeremy Lin arrived in Los Angeles this week but don’t expect Linsanity to follow. That’s what the high-profile point guard is hoping when he plays his first season in a Lakers uniform. Lin said Thursday he wants to leave behind the moniker and image he earned as a second-year player in New York when he went from unknown bench player to a starter for the Knicks and overnight sensation three years ago. His upbeat style of play, fresh face, Taiwanese-American roots, Harvard education and uncanny confidence made him a spectacle. He helped turn around the Knicks that season despite having played only 55 minutes through the first 23 games, prompting then Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni to claim he had “hit the lottery” with Lin. Those days are over, though, Lin said during his introductory news conference where he received his No.17 jersey. He said he is looking forward and so should Lakers fans.
  • Matthew Glenesk of The Indianapolis Star: Depending on how you decode some tweets from Pacers star Paul George, it appears, at least to conspiracy theorists, that George is considering a switch from his traditional 24 to 13. On Wednesday, George tweeted: "Got something in store for y'all in a couple weeks Indy!" OK, benign enough, but this morning, for the fourth time in three days, George tweeted: "#Trece". For those non-Spanish speakers, trece is 13 in Espanol. Now maybe George keeps scoring 13 goals in 'FIFA14' or perhaps there's some new energy drink or music group I don't know about, but a change could be a smart business move for a player already enjoying endorsements with Papa John's and Gatorade. A switch to 13 would allow George to be called PG-13, an idea that Jimmy Kimmel ran by him in January.
  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: The ongoing saga of Manu Ginobili’s status for the upcoming FIBA Basketball World Cup took yet another turn after long-time national teammate/friend Luis Scola gave a scathing interview in the Argentine media threatening to boycott the event in light of rampant corruption within the country’s hoops federation. Ginobili is scheduled to receive an update on the stress fracture in his lower right leg on Friday. But even if healthy and cleared to participate, there now seems to be a chance that Ginobili and others could follow Scola’s lead if he does indeed follow through on his threat. As a native Argentine and knowledgeable basketball fan, J.J. Gomez of Pounding the Rock has done a wonderful job providing context and insight ever since Ginobili’s injury came to light, not just of the unique pressures Ginobili is under in his home country to play internationally but how it all fits within the parameters of a governing body that has succumbed to institutional rot.
  • A. Sherrod Blakely of There's still plenty of time for Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics to slim down this bursting-at-the-seams roster. But even after a few contracts are shed from the payroll, there will still be a growing need for a Hunger Games-like emergence of someone from a young but talented cast of players that includes third-year big man Jared Sullinger. The 6-foot-9 forward returned this past season following lower back surgery to lead the team in rebounds (8.1 per game) in addition to averaging 13.3 points per game. And like the Celtics roster, the burly forward wouldn't mind being a little leaner this season as well. While dropping a few pounds is certainly something that Sullinger and the Celtics know can only help him, all agree that improving his game and not just his girth, should be the focus.
  • J. Michael of CSN Washington: Before Kevin Seraphin agreed to sign a $3.89 million qualifying offer from the Wizards, he had a minor procedure to clean out his troublesome right knee, had confirmed late Wednesday with a person with knowledge of the situation and a second person Thursday morning. Then FIBA released a list of players who wouldn't be competing in the Basketball World Cup in Spain on Thursday which included Seraphin. The Wizards would not release him to play because of the surgery which was minor. The surgery was expected given Seraphin's difficult season with the Wizards in which he had recurring issues with swelling in the knee. His playing time was sporadic, and when he had a chance to play his way back into the rotation he couldn't because of the health issues.
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: The Suns waived shooting guard Dionte Christmas on Thursday, avoiding a $1.15 million guaranteed contract for him and leaving some roster flexibility for the coming season. If Christmas had remained on the Suns roster for another week, he would have been guaranteed a $1.15 million for next season. The Suns' projected roster already has six guards and Christmas, 27, did not project to crack the rotation after only making 31 brief appearances during his rookie season and not doing enough at NBA Summer League to project for more. Without Christmas, the Suns expect to have 14 guaranteed contracts for training camp with the addition of first-round picks T.J. Warren and Tyler Ennis and the expectation that they will re-sign restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe. With a league roster maximum of 15 for opening night, the Suns now have space for training camp free agents to compete for a job or the flexibility to add a player through free agency or trade.
  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer: The 76ers signed injured point guard Pierre Jackson to a one-year, partially guaranteed contract Thursday. The 5-foot-10 rookie will be sidelined six to 12 months after rupturing his right Achilles tendon July 5 in a game against the Magic in the Orlando Pro Summer League. Jackson suffered the injury while attempting to make a move in the backcourt. He reached down to grab his Achilles and hopped on one leg twice before resting at midcourt. ... "Obviously we were devastated by Pierre's injury," said Jackson's agent, Colin Bryant. "However, with the outstanding support of general manager Sam Hinkie, coach Brett Brown, and the Sixers medical staff, he is on the road to recovery and looks forward to getting healthy and returning to the court soon."
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: It certainly didn't take long for the Heat to move on from the free-agency departure of swingman James Jones, with swingman Danny Granger to wear the No. 22 that Jones wore the past six seasons. Forward Luol Deng will wear the No. 9 that Rashard Lewis had worn the past two seasons. Forward Josh McRoberts will wear the No. 4 most recently worn with the Heat by Gerald Fitch and best known with the Heat for being first worn by Rony Seikaly and later Caron Butler. Rookie forward James Ennis will wear the No. 32 mostly recently worn by Mickell Gladness and previously worn with the Heat by Shaquille O'Neal. And rookie guard Shabazz Napier will wear the No. 13 most recently worn with the Heat by Mike Miller.

Teams have Twitter fun with #NBASitcoms

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
By Adam Reisinger
The NBA offseason isn't much fun for the people running NBA team Twitter feeds. With Las Vegas Summer League wrapped up and only a few notable players left unsigned in free agency, the flow of NBA news has become a mere trickle. So teams are left to fill the void with creativity, and that's just what they've done. The other day, a handful of teams went all in on the #NBAmusicians trend, and they were back at it on Thursday, this time focusing on #NBASitcoms.

The @Suns got the ball rolling.

The @dallasmavs were the first other team to jump in.

From there the Suns kept it going, and other teams quickly got involved.

The teams are still going, and you can get in on the fun by using the hashtag #NBASitcoms on Twitter.


Andrew Wiggins and the power of potential

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
By Seerat Sohi
Special to
Andrew WigginsJack Arent/NBAE/Getty ImagesWho is Andrew Wiggins as a pro? Who knows? But his promise is driving NBA-shaping trade talks.
It’s Thursday night at summer league in Las Vegas, the Cleveland Cavaliers are playing the Houston Rockets and for a brief moment, Andrew Wiggins appears to be in control of his destiny.

Wiggins catches the ball, sizes up Nick Johnson and begins to back him down. In a matter of seconds, the whistle blows. The 6-foot-9 Maarty Leunen, who came over to help and ended up fouling Wiggins’ jumper, is visibly exasperated. For an undersized power forward just trying to make it in the NBA, ticky-tack fouls like this one may be a death blow. Wiggins, who is about to line up for his 19th and 20th free throw attempts, has been dealing them all game.

The Cavaliers' reported willingness to include Wiggins in a deal for Minnesota's Kevin Love has been met with mixed reviews. From a pure basketball standpoint, Love is the obvious choice. He is coming off a 26-point, 12-rebound season. His best skills -- shooting, court vision and fundamentally superior rebounding -- are the kind that age like good scotch. At 25, he’s still young enough to take over the team once LeBron James wears down. Any defensive upgrade Wiggins could provide is offset by the fact that young players almost always take years to translate their defensive chops onto the court. A trade for the disgruntled big man would pair two of the league's most efficient superstars with one the best young point guards. So, yes, Love is by all means the better basketball player. But there is no one who is better than what Wiggins represents.

Wiggins carries unprecedented star power, even for a No. 1 pick. He doesn’t just inspire belief in his future, he inspires us to prioritize it over a sure thing. Think of how many players have been able to do that before stepping on an NBA court. It’s a short list.

But in about 25 minutes, Wiggins will be shuttled away under some guise or another -- perhaps a photo shoot or an autograph session -- from reporters trying to unearth how he feels about the prospect of being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Underneath all those layers of potential and hope through which we’ve come to understand Wiggins is a guy who is just as clueless as everyone else. He doesn’t even know where he’s going to play, let alone how he’ll perform.

A San Antonio Spurs, David Robinson-to-Tim Duncan-esque scenario, where Wiggins eases LeBron’s load until eventually taking over, is tantalizing. It’s funny, when you think about it: The same “built vs. bought” and “right vs. wrong” paradigm that infiltrated the Spurs vs. Miami Heat NBA Finals just a month ago is back again, except this time, LeBron and the Cavs have a choice between the two.

A tendency to side toward keeping Wiggins -- and the route of unhurried team-building -- has little if anything to do with winning the ever-so-preachy “right” way, but with how some prefer to experience their favorite teams. The biggest draw the NBA has against the NCAA is that the former gives you the chance to watch something grow. The zenith of fandom, of course, is winning the last game of the season. But before that, there’s an entire process of imagining and contemplating a team’s trajectory. There are little joys along the way, like watching the result of a veteran player teaching a young player old tricks, and seeing tiny improvements -- as well as their ripple effects -- laid bare on the court.

To be a fan of an up-and-comer is to hope that things go right. To be a fan of a contender is to pray nothing goes wrong. In essence, optimism is more fun than anxiety.

Of course, trading Love for Wiggins isn’t as extreme. Any team featuring LeBron is bound to be a contender, but a trade for Love shifts the team’s focus from salivating over the sheer possibilities to figuring out how to fix the pipes. It’s already prominent in most trade discussions. The questions that skew heavy in a LeBron-Love-Kyrie Irving scenario -- How will they defend? How will they shore up their frontcourt depth? -- are surprisingly absent when you replace Love with Wiggins.

Such is the world of dreaming: fun, inconsequential and limitless. Everyone has to wake up at some point though, and when they do, the world around them won’t be likely to conform to those dreams. The reality in Cleveland is replete with “ifs," even outside of how Wiggins will pan out. No one knows what to make of Anthony Bennett, who showed up to summer league slender and invigorated. Whether Dion Waiters will smarten up under LeBron’s influence is another if. The verdict, to a lesser extent, is out on Tristan Thompson. Throw in injury-prone Anderson Varejao’s health concerns, too. On the other hand, there is concrete evidence that Love is a top-10 player.

There’s nothing wrong with nosediving in the possibilities of what isn’t yet known -- it’s a lot of fun! That's the entire point of the draft. But curiosity needs to be measured with an eye toward reality. Combine too many unknowns and the ground underneath them starts to get shaky. Trading Wiggins for Love wouldn’t sell the future for the present; it would stabilize both.

Seerat Sohi writes for the TrueHoop Network. Follow her, @DamianTrillard.

First Cup: Thursday

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
By Nick Borges
  • A. Sherrod Blakely of There's no waiving of the white flag just yet, but the Boston Celtics appear to be ready to move on from their pursuit of Minnesota star Kevin Love, league sources tell "The more teams step up and show interest in Love, the further Boston falls in the pack," a source said on Wednesday. "Danny's a smart guy. He knows when to keep pushing for something and when to move on." That's why the Celtics are reportedly among the clubs to express some interest in being a third team to help facilitate a trade involving Love to what one source said has become his "preferred" destination, Cleveland. I know. Cleveland.
  • Chris Fedor of The Plain Dealer: The Cavs will win the title in 2014-15 if they trade Wiggins, Bennett and at least one future first-round pick for Love. Fact: Isn't it way too early for this question? Can't I answer in October? Fine, then my answer is yes. Sure, they would be relatively inexperienced. They would have a head coach who hasn't coached in the NBA. The roster wouldn't be filled out completely. Chemistry would need to take place. The teams in the Western Conference are really, really good. I just don't see how a team with James, Irving and Love loses four times in seven games. That's three guys who can dominate games for long stretches of time all on the same court. That's two of the top 10 players in the league on the same team who fit perfectly next to each other. That's the top two players (James and Love) available this off-season going to the same team. Can they start printing the banners now?
  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Each time Taj Gibson works out at the Berto Center, team officials tell him not to focus on trade rumors involving his name. That said, they’re not stopping. And Wednesday brought another round as the Bulls continue talking with the Timberwolves about Kevin Love. ... The Tribune previously reported that Nikola Mirotic sought a commitment from the Bulls before completing his buyout from Real Madrid. And league sources indicated to the Tribune on Wednesday that reports of offers of Mirotic and first-round acquisition Doug McDermott for Love are “overstated.” Plus, Pau Gasol is under the impression he’s starting. In fact, the Bulls were positioned better to acquire Love without gutting their team in June with Carlos Boozer’s expiring contract, two first-round picks and non-guaranteed deals of salary-cap filler that were waived in July.
  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News: Amid all the unanswered questions who the Lakers will hire as their next head coach and when, two team sources strongly disputed that any delay stems from waiting out to see if Clippers coach Doc Rivers will become available because of embattled owner Donald Sterling prolonging a costly litigation battle. ESPN’s Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose each brought up that prospective theory on why the Lakers have gone three months without hiring a coach since Mike D’Antoni’s resignation on April 30. Clippers interim Chief executive Dick Parsons also testified in court Tuesday that Rivers does not want to continue to coach if Sterling still owns the team next season. ... The Lakers have said that the prolonged delay all stemmed from wanting to concentrate on the NBA draft and filling out their roster during free agency. They also said the personnel would dictate who they hire as a coach. But after initially believing the coaching hire would be resolved within this week, a Lakers official on Wednesday hardly provided much clarity on the finality. Still, the Lakers have not interviewed any candidates since free agency began this month except for Byron Scott last week, according to league sources familiar with the situation. The Lakers also have not currently scheduled any future interviews.
  • Tom Sorensen of The Charlotte Observer: Last season Kemba Walker helped recruit Al Jefferson. This month he pushed for Lance Stephenson. There is no offseason. “Of course I was excited,” says Walker. “You always want great talent around you and he’s really good. I think he can do so much on the basketball court and elevate the games of a lot of players. You always need a guy like that on your team.” Describe his game. “He’s a New York City guard,” says Walker. “He’s super tough, he’ll never back down from anything, and for his height (6-5) he handles the ball really well. He does the pick and roll really well. He passes the ball. He’s a great overall player.” What will Stephenson do for you aside from bringing a little New York? “He’ll help me in a lot of aspects,” says Walker. “I think he can make shots; I think he can take a lot of pressure off me as well. In late game situations we can go to him. And I can go off the ball at times. If he rebounds I can run and depend on him to make some plays." Stephenson can run an offense? "No question," says Walker.
  • Cody Stavenhagen of The Oklahoman: Registration for Kevin Durant’s basketball camp at the University of Oklahoma’s Huston Huffman Center filled after a couple of weeks, but 900 children were left on the waiting list. The solution? For Durant — maybe only for someone like Durant — it was to open a second camp that will run simultaneously Aug. 7-8, and having it in a community still recovering from a catastrophic tornado. Durant announced Wednesday he will host a second camp at Westmoore High School in Moore, allowing 600 additional kids to attend. Durant is reserving free camp spots for children affected by the May 2013 Moore tornado. He will even have a special spot for Hezekiah Darbon, a tornado survivor from Briarwood Elementary who was featured in a piece Durant narrated for ESPN.
  • Eric Koreen of the National Post: One extra win last summer could have drastically changed this summer for Canada’s men’s basketball team. If they had managed a single additional victory, it might have been enough to land the team in the top four of last year’s FIBA Americas tournament, qualifying them for this year’s FIBA World Cup in Spain — the renamed world championships. Instead, they fell short, and have been reduced to playing some exhibition games in Europe. Understandably, the likes of Tristan Thompson, hunting for a new contract, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, possible trade chips in Cleveland, and Nik Stauskas and Tyler Ennis, getting set for their rookie years in the NBA, are not participating. For various reasons — insurance money for players’ contracts, a team’s wishes and more — it does not make sense for them to play in low-stakes games. However, a hypothetical: Would those players, pointed to as long-term cornerstones of the program, be in red and white if these games mattered more?
  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Jameer Nelson is expected to sign a one-year free-agent contract worth $2.73 million with the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, a source said. Nelson is slated to meet with Mavericks officials in Dallas on Thursday. If all goes well he could then sign his new contract, the source said. Wednesday’s news regarding the 6-foot point guard was part of a whirlwind day that also saw the Mavericks void the contract of power forward Rashard Lewis, in addition to seeing point guard Raymond Felton plead guilty in a New York courtroom to attempted criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of a firearm. The Mavs also didn’t waste time fretting over the loss of Lewis as they reached an agreement late Wednesday with forward Al-Farouq Aminu (6-9, 215) on a two-year contract worth $2.1 million. The second year of the contract includes a player option for $1.1 million.
  • Dwight Jaynes of I almost feel that if Victor Claver is still a Portland Trail Blazer on opening night this season, someone should be carrying a sign around the Moda Center that reads, "Free Victor Claver." ... I had the feeling many times the team had just already made its mind up he is not part of the future here and the young players were in line for playing time ahead of him. OK, fair enough, I guess. And I may be all wrong about him as a player. Perhaps he's just not very good. So why is he still here? Is he going to be paid $1.33 million during the 2014-15 season NOT to play in games again? I hope not. If a team cannot be found willing to give up a future second-round pick for him, I'd suggest waiving him. Yes, take that salary on your cap but at this point, so what? It will be gone next summer when the space is needed. And I think by now he's served his time. Paid his dues. I'd like to see him get another chance someplace else or, at worst, go back home to Spain and not waste any more time here.
  • J. Michael of CSN Washington: The Wizards would like to do a better job resting key players, particularly at the end of the season, to make sure everyone is fresh for a postseason run. The Spurs are a high benchmark, but look at how often their best players played en route to winning their fifth NBA championship because of coach Gregg Popovich's deep rotations and willingness to rest aging starters on back-to-backs: Tony Parker missed 14 games and averaged 29.4 minutes per game; Manu Ginobili missed 14 games and averaged 22.8 minutes; and Tim Duncan missed eight games and averaged 29.2 minutes. And while solid, their bench isn't a list of future Hall of Famers. In doing so, the Spurs still won 62 games and were the much fresher team than the Miami Heat who were dispatched in five games. Maybe that's too much of a reach for 2014-15 for the Wizards, but having a goal and the pieces in place to reach it is a start. They made a 15-game improvement last season. At least 50 wins and a Southeast Division crown are well within reach. Now comes the difficult part in all of this -- execution.

Josh Huestis, first stashed domestic pick?

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
Young By Royce Young
Josh HuestisMike Stobe/Getty ImagesWhen the Thunder selected Josh Huestis in the first round, they had an innovative plan in mind.
Nobody saw it coming when the Oklahoma City Thunder selected Stanford forward Josh Huestis with the 29th overall pick in last month's draft.

Except, apparently, Josh Huestis.

As noted by Zach Lowe, Huestis and his agent, Mitchell Butler, had a prearranged agreement with the Thunder before the draft. The Thunder would take him with the No. 29 pick in the 2014 draft, but Huestis wouldn't sign his guaranteed rookie contract.

Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman laid out the parameters of the innovative agreement last week. Projected by all accounts to be a second-round pick, Huestis elected to become a bit of a draft pioneer, the NBA's first domestic draft-and-stash player. He would leave his rookie contract unsigned, a deal that would pay him somewhere between $750,000 and $900,000, to sign with the Thunder's D-League affiliate instead. Then in a year or two Huestis would, presumably, sign his rookie deal.

It was a clever idea by one of the most forward-thinking front offices in the league. Huestis isn't exactly NBA-ready, but he could potentially be a future replacement for Thabo Sefolosha, who signed with the Atlanta Hawks this offseason. By not signing him immediately, the Thunder aren't clogging a roster spot with a player they won't use and aren't eating up almost a million bucks of cap space on him. And better yet, it stops the clock on Huestis' rookie deal, which would have been only a year behind the one signed by Andre Roberson, a player with similar skills, last season.

Smart, right? The real question is this: Was all this legal, or is Sam Presti the NBA's Wolf of Wall Street?

A pre-draft arrangement like this isn't against the rules, as there are ample amounts of gray area within which to operate. But it's certainly against the spirit of the draft, as Tom Ziller of SB Nation notes. And because of it, one would think the National Basketball Players Association has some interest in this situation. On the surface of this is a first-round pick willingly giving up his guaranteed first-round rookie-scale deal, which locks him into roughly almost $2 million over the next two years and up to $5 million over the next five, for a $25,000 D-League contract.

Why would Huestis agree to this? Because of the potential guarantee of an NBA contract, and thereby bigger overall earnings. By all accounts, it was extremely unlikely that Huestis would be picked in the first round and find himself with a guaranteed deal. He was headed for the second round and was probably going to the D-League regardless. So instead of having to work himself into a future NBA deal, he's simply delaying it. In a roundabout way, it gave him control to pick the team he wanted, and presents him with something he likely wouldn't have otherwise had -- an actual NBA deal. Per his agent, Huestis had interest in doing this only with either the Thunder or Spurs. So think of it like a college grad who really wants to work at Google deciding to take an unpaid internship out of college, turning down a more lucrative offer with a company he didn't think he'd fit as well with.

Now, there are ample amounts of risk in this move for Huestis. What if he blows out his knee or has some kind of medical issue that derails his career? But there was also risk going the other way, getting picked by the wrong team in the second round and watching his career slip away for a shot at a $500,000 nonguaranteed contract.

[+] EnlargeJosh Huestis
Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Josh Huestis suited up for OKC in the Orlando Summer League. Is the D-League his next stop?
It's a complicated situation that might be a win-win for both the Thunder and Huestis, but there should be concern with the precedent it could set. Front offices are prone to deception. They promise players they'll select them in the first round if they leave college early. They tell them not to work out for other teams. They tell them they're going to take them no matter what, and then don't. With the way the Thunder operate, regardless of what happens, they're likely to uphold the agreement with Huestis. But would all 29 other teams? At some point, some prospect is sure to get burned.

This isn't the first time Presti persuaded a late first-round pick to work with him. Roberson, the 26th overall pick, signed his rookie deal at 80 percent of its worth last season, reducing the cap hit by a couple hundred thousand dollars. Again, savvy stuff from the Thunder, who are pinching every penny possible in order to avoid the luxury tax for as long as possible. But there's also the unseemly aspect of an organization pulling in almost $30 million in profit strong-arming prospects to take less money.

The obvious question: Why not just take Huestis in the second round if this was the plan? The Thunder didn't have a second-round pick until they bought No. 55 and selected Semaj Christon. Huestis was a surprise pick at 29 to start with, so unless there was a major concern of the Spurs snatching him at 30, why not trade that 29th pick to drop to 31 or 32 and snag Huestis at a spot where his contract wasn't guaranteed? That's what the Thunder did with Grant Jerrett last season and now he has a multiyear deal signed with the team. Problem is, the Thunder would've been rolling the dice on losing a player they liked to someone else. Second-round picks have their own value because the contracts aren't guaranteed. We can assume a team at 31-35 would've bit to move up to 29, but those teams may not have wanted a guaranteed rookie deal on their books either.

Plenty of first-round picks have opted not to sign their first-round deals. In all of those cases, though, they were international draft-and-stash moves, like Serge Ibaka, who stayed an extra season in Spain after being taken 24th overall. The difference between those type of moves and Huestis is that an international player is still making a hefty salary, certainly more than a D-Leaguer's $25,000 a year.

The real issue here isn't with the Thunder or Huestis, it's with the D-League-NBA relationship. The league desperately wants to grow its developmental ground, but with a lot of teams not owning their own affiliates outright and having a one-to-one relationship, there's not enough synergy or continuity. The Thunder have been on the forefront of utilizing their D-League team, but with backward roster restrictions in place, it creates the need to get creative.

The fixes are obvious. One, as Ziller pointed out, is to make a provisional 16th roster spot, one that doesn't count against your cap. Another is more complicated, but probably necessary anyway: Raise D-League wages. If the NBA wants the D-League to become more of a true minor league system, with teams utilizing it as an actual developmental tool, players would need to be able to earn legitimate money there. Probably never to the extent international guys do for CSKA Moscow or Besiktas or whoever, but at least provide a decent financial alternative.

The arrangement between the Thunder and Huestis is not breaking the rules, per se, and it's certainly an advantageous move for the Thunder to pull, and really, good for Huestis. Potentially.

But it could set a poor precedent and open a slippery slope as front offices try to manipulate the cap as much as possible, thereby hurting impressionable players desperate for an NBA contract. Remember: Chandler Parsons was a second-round pick, and after making a couple million dollars, just signed with the Mavericks for $46 million over three years. What the Thunder and Huestis have engineered all works in theory, so long as owners and front offices follow through. But nothing is guaranteed when it comes to this stuff. Well, except for first-round contracts. Or at least they were supposed to be.

The Clippers' no-win situation

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
Adande By J.A. Adande

There’s no need for Doc Rivers, Chris Paul or any other member of the Los Angeles Clippers to abandon ship now, because there’s no way for them to beat Donald Sterling. You can’t defeat a man who doesn’t care if he loses, and Sterling’s made it clear he fears no loss at all. He doesn’t care if he loses out on the $2 billion he could get if he signed off on the sale of the team to Steve Ballmer. He doesn’t care about salvaging whatever respect accompanied his name. He doesn’t care about paying attorneys for a never-ending series of lawsuits.

There’s no reason to prove a point to the NBA because commissioner Adam Silver and the league are on their side, having banned Sterling for life with a willingness to vote to oust him if need be. If the forced sale gets tied up in the legal system, so will an attempt by Sterling to overturn his ban. Either way, don’t expect Sterling to be sitting courtside on opening night. So what would a resignation by Rivers – as interim CEO Richard Parsons suggested could happen -- or a player boycott accomplish? It would create nothing but hardship for other players, fans, arena workers and broadcast partners.

For anyone contemplating bailing, it’s really about resolving a conflict with their own conscience. And the only way to do that would be to give back every dollar they ever made from Sterling. They can’t act as if Sterling’s true nature only came to light when TMZ posted the V. Stiviano recordings in April. If they signed their contracts in a shroud of ignorance, that’s on them.

Sterling’s lawyers are trying to portray this entire saga as an unfair exploitation of an illegally recorded private conversation. It’s so far beyond that now. Every act of defiance by Sterling, every sponsor who stays away from the Clippers while he still owns the team, every day this story drags on all conspire to “affect the Association…adversely”, which is one of the criteria for the NBA to terminate ownership. So is delinquency in paying debts to the league, and the NBA says Sterling still hasn’t paid the $2.5 million fine levied by Silver.

It’s impossible to discern Sterling’s end game. He can’t realistically hope to keep his team. He’s not looking to get as much money as possible. He apparently enjoys inconveniencing as many people for as long as he can. The option of inconveniencing him right back isn’t viable. He takes the witness stand and disparages everyone in the NBA, yet he resists a $2 billion opportunity to rid himself of their company forever. Apparently, he prefers this misery.

Even if the players, sponsors and fans abandon him and he feels compelled to sell he’ll still reap a windfall. We just witnessed the Clippers go through a no-leverage sale (get rid of the team immediately or have the league do it for you) and get sold at quadruple the market value. Apparently there’s nothing that can depreciate this asset. Sterling’s best efforts couldn’t.

The irony of Rivers weighing the option of quitting is that it would be the equivalent of firing someone who had just typed up a letter of resignation.

First Cup: Wednesday

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23
By Nick Borges
  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: And on the next day closer to a Kevin Love trade ... Cleveland completed a trade with Utah that brought back three players with non-guaranteed contracts Tuesday, assets they can use to make a trade for the Timberwolves star work under the NBA’s complicated salary-cap rules. Also Tuesday, Wolves President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders pulled owner Glen Taylor out of the third quarter of the WNBA’s Lynx game at Target Center, presumably to attend to an urgent Wolves’ matter in the team’s upstairs arena offices. He returned to watch the end of the Lynx’s double-overtime victory and then quickly returned to the Wolves’ offices. In a matter of days, the Cavaliers have gone from insisting they absolutely will not trade No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins to positioning themselves for a blockbuster trade that’d acquire a third star to go along with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. The Cavaliers did so Monday by swinging a trade that sent away guard Carrick Felix’s guaranteed minimum contract, a second-round pick and $1 million to Utah for guards John Lucas and forwards Malcolm Thomas and Erik Murphy.
  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: If the Bulls are back in the Kevin Love sweepstakes, as ESPN reported Tuesday, that would be news to a source close to the situation. “I would like to know which side let that out," the source said, inferring that it sounded more like the Timberwolves were playing chicken with more serious bidders such as the Warriors and Cavaliers. The Bulls were one of the first teams to throw a serious package at the Timberwolves in June, headlined by Taj Gibson, Tony Snell and multiple draft picks, but it wasn’t to be.
  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: Speaking with fellow ESPNer Keith Olbermann, Jason Whitlock, no stranger to controversial, attention-grabbing comments, said “Andrew Wiggins’ effort and intensity sometimes was inconsistent at Kansas and that might be a personality quark he’ll deal with throughout his career. “That’s why (the Cavs) would probably prefer to play with Kevin Love. This is what a lot of NBA people believe. American-born ... players have more intensity, they’re not as laid back.” Canadians were defiant at training camp at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday in dismissing Whitlock’s statements. “They say different things like that. We have many athletes in many different sports that can excel at many high levels,” said Carl English, a 33-year-old guard who has led the Spanish ACB, the world’s second-best league, in scoring. ... Orlando Magic forward Andrew Nicholson, who played extremely aggressively, getting himself into foul trouble a year ago, was stunned when he heard the quote. “Wow. I don’t agree with that. I know we have motivation, that’s why we are here,” Nicholson said. ... “It’s a wonderful sweeping generalization. Really good. Hit it on the head there. Our hockey team lacks a lot of competitiveness and determination for sure,” Steve Nash said, tongue firmly in cheek.
  • Cliff Pinckard of The Plain Dealer: LeBron James is a caring neighbor. Earlier this month, Cleveland Cavaliers fans and journalists arrived in droves outside of James' home in Bath Township as they waited for his announcement on where he would play next season. It caused quite a furor in the neighborhood, and extra police were called in to manage the crowd. James is aware of this and to make amends, he sent a note of apology accompanied with cupcakes to his neighbors on Tuesday.
  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Kendall Marshall describes himself as a "pass-first" point guard. That could be just what the Milwaukee Bucks need. So it was not too surprising that the Bucks jumped to make a waiver claim after the Los Angeles Lakers released the 6-foot-4 Marshall last week. One moment Marshall was playing for the Lakers' summer league team in Las Vegas and the next he was a member of the Bucks' suddenly changing guard corps. Or as he put it nicely on Twitter: #FeartheBeardedDeer. "I'm very excited about it," Marshall said Tuesday in a phone interview. "I like the young core they have. With the athletes they have it's going to be more probable to get in the open court." Marshall will be reunited with his former North Carolina teammate John Henson. The 22-year-old Virginia native provides a true point guard option to go along with Brandon Knight and newcomer Jerryd Bayless, both considered hybrid types that can play either point guard or shooting guard. ... Playing under new Bucks coach Jason Kidd, a future Hall of Fame point guard, is an opportunity Marshall relishes.
  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: The Celtics are banking that the Evan Turner who arrives at TD Garden is the one who averaged 17.4 points in 54 games with Philadelphia last season before being traded to Indiana. The Turner who played for the Pacers had no defined role or responsibility on a team that became increasingly dysfunctional. Turner walked right into the NBA’s version of “Bad Girls Club.” It’s a fresh opportunity for a kid who has received more scrutiny than he deserved. Turner is tired of talking about what hasn’t happened with his career and why. He won’t face that type of pressure in Boston, and Ainge and Stevens will give him ample opportunity to show he’s got game left. Now it’s about creating the right situation for that to occur.
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: After weeks referring to second-round pick Nick Johnson as if he already was a signed member of their roster, the Rockets will soon make it official. A day after the Rockets completed play in the Las Vegas Summer League, the Rockets expected the signing of Johnson to be imminent, a person with knowledge of their talks said. Johnson will sign a three-year deal. The Rockets are also expected to sign first-round pick Clint Capela. Johnson and Capela are, however, the only players from the large list of prospects whose rights the Rockets hold expected on the roster. Second-round pick Alessandro Gentile is expected to remain in Europe for at least another season. The Rockets last week did not come to terms with forward Kostas Papanikolaou after several days of talks.
  • Staff of The Dallas Morning News: On Chandler Parsons ... Mark Cuban: "I was pretty confident. Houston is a very logical organization. They do things by the book. They'll follow logic as opposed to some other human elements ... I guess I can't think of a better way to put it. And so, by the book, they were not going to match. We priced it so if they tried to do a sign-and-trade, they were up against the CBA's hard cap. And that would limit their options. We knew if they didn't do anything with Chris Bosh, it would create limitations for their future flexibility. If they did bring in Chris Bosh, they basically were going to have to get rid of everybody. We tried to make it as difficult as possible on them."
  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: Mark Barnhill, senior partner at Platinum Equity, issued a statement Tuesday reflecting the sentiments of Pistons owner Tom Gores, in light of the Ilitch family unveiling plans for a $650 million entertainment district downtown. The Pistons are the lone pro sports team in Detroit that isn't downtown, and they are not currently weighing the possibility of moving from The Palace of Auburn Hills, Barnhill said. "We have a beautiful arena, and we have invested tens of millions of dollars over the past three years to modernize and improve that facility," said Barnhill in the statement. "At the same time, we would never close the door on alternatives if they made good sense for our fans, for our team, for our business and for Michigan." The Palace is the only arena among the four used by Detroit’s pro sports teams that was built solely by private funds -- by late owner William Davidson in the 1980s.
  • Scott Horner of The Indianapolis Star: Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert had some rather accomplished company for dinner Tuesday night -- basketball legends Larry Bird and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Bird also happens to be Hibbert's boss as Pacers president. Hibbert's tweet indicates he got to ask them plenty of questions. Wonder if any were these: Can you teach me that sky hook? Who would win a game of H-O-R-S-E (hook vs. 3-pointers)? Inch-for-inch, which of you was better? Bird (6-9) averaged 24.3 points and 10 rebounds per game over 13 seasons, with three NBA titles, three straight NBA MVP awards and 12 All-Star Game honors. Abdul-Jabbar (7-2) averaged 24.6 points and 11.2 rebounds per game over 20 seasons, with six NBA titles, six NBA MVP awards and 19 All-Star Game honors.

First Cup: Tuesday

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
By Nick Borges
  • Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press: Hall of fame coach Mike Krzyzewski says a Kevin Love-to-Cleveland trade would have his approval -- and that it doesn't take much thought. There were reports last week that the Cavaliers could be willing to trade the previous two top picks in the NBA draft -- Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett -- to the Timberwolves in exchange for Love, but the trigger has yet to be pulled. Krzyzewski, who coaches Duke and the U.S. men's national team, told CBS Sports radio Monday that if he were with Cleveland, he would trade for Love in an instant. But if Cleveland signs Wiggins to a contract within a week, as reported Sunday by ESPN, a possible trade would be delayed for 30 days.
  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: Yes, Mark Jackson is gone, but his standard of defense still exists. Kevin Love doesn't bolster the Warriors defense, and losing Thompson would be a big blow. You think new coach Steve Kerr -- who we've reported prefers to keep Thompson -- wants to be the reason for reverting back to the old Warriors who gave up 110 a night? And then there is this: Curry doesn't want Thompson to go. Can the Warriors really afford to spurn the wishes of their best player again? If his influence keeps getting diminished by management, why would he want to stay when his contract comes up? The Warriors have a star playing on the most favorable contract in the league. He's still a bit skeptical from the ouster of the coach who finally introduced him to winning. It's risky business to now take away his backcourt mate after he asks management not to. Can the Warriors do it? Sure. Curry is on the books for three more years, and winning can smooth over hurt feelings. But what if they don't win? That could mean losing Thompson and eventually Curry for the difference between Love and David Lee. Still a no-brainer?
  • Steven Lounge of While the roster won’t officially be released until after the camp, the team Triano will be bringing with him will look very similar to the one from last summer, headlined by NBA players Joseph, Andrew Nicholson and Kelly Olynyk. The most noteworthy absences include the Cleveland Cavalier trio of Andrew Wiggins, Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett, as well as the two other Canadians drafted in the first round of this year’s NBA draft, Nik Stauskas and Tyler Ennis. When asked about this, Steve Nash explained that there is a lot of interest from everyone in the national team, but the program ultimately didn’t want to interfere with those players’ NBA commitments. “Everyone’s shown interest but for various reasons it’s not that simple,” Nash said. “You’ve got interests of the club, the players’ level of health, fatigue, but first and foremost we want our young guys to be in good stead with their team. So I think some more guys could be here but right now they’re trying to fulfill their obligations to their team.” Despite saying all that, Nash seemed to allude to the fact that Wiggins could be joining the team this summer. “Andrew’s shown a lot of interest, right now he’s got a lot of attention on him, and a phenomenally difficult and trying last year, but his team is also really concerned about what he does and when he does it,” the NBA’s oldest player said.
  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Ben McLemore has worked on his game. The second-year guard is hardly a finished product, but he showed important signs of growth. McLemore won’t be trying out for the Harlem Globetrotters based on his ballhandling, but it was improved after the Kings’ first summer league game, in which he had eight turnovers. McLemore also showed he can begin to do more than camp out at the three-point line. McLemore was active without the ball and showed he also could become a competent rebounder. McLemore could have been a mess considering the Kings used this year’s first-round pick on another shooting guard, Nik Stauskas. Perhaps the addition motivated McLemore to continue improving. McLemore could have been more consistent, but the Kings like the growth he showed.
  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: This offseason, Tony Snell lost the braids he had worn since elementary school and gained 10 pounds of muscle. The Bulls hope he also found sustained confidence that he showed only in spurts during an uneven rookie season. "If you're not confident out there, you shouldn't be playing," Snell said in a recent interview in Las Vegas. "I've got a lot of shots up this summer and I feel pretty confident." Snell earned first-team All-NBA Summer League honors by virtue of averaging 20 points in the Bulls' five games. Snell shot 46.6 percent overall and 50 percent from 3-point range and averaged 4.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists. "I got a lot stronger and faster, so that's a good sign," Snell said. "I've been working hard all summer."
  • Bryan Gibberman of The Phoenix Suns lost one integral member of their roster from last season when Channing Frye signed a four-year deal with the Orlando Magic. To help fill the void created by Frye's absence, the team signed Anthony Tolliver, a six-year veteran who has played for six different NBA teams. Once Frye agreed to terms with Orlando, Tolliver targeted Phoenix as a potential landing spot. ... The big question is if Tolliver can shoot with the same type of consistency Frye has over the years. The 6-foot-8 forward has eclipsed the 40 percent mark from three-point range twice in his career, but hit just 24 percent in 2011-12 and 34 percent in 2012-13. Tolliver is confident in his ability to shoot from deep because he's been working on this aspect of his game for a long time.
  • Tom Sorensen of The Charlotte Observer: Marvin Williams, who nine seasons ago helped lead North Carolina to the NCAA basketball championship, is 6-foot-9. He’ll play power forward and small forward, likely more of the former. He played for Atlanta and then Utah, and in nine seasons averaged 10.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists. Williams, who turned 28 last month, won’t be asked to win games. He’ll be asked to hit shots from the perimeter, hit the open man and drive to the basket. He’ll also be an influence on the younger players the Hornets collect, and he won’t have to be asked. We don’t know what free agent Lance Stephenson or rookie P.J. Hairston will bring. But a strong core of players is essential. Williams makes a strong group stronger.
  • Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe: A couple of years ago, the Celtics turned their office on Causeway Street, near TD Garden, into a pseudo museum detailing the franchise’s history, with pictures and memorabilia covering nearly every square inch of space. And down one hallway, all the Celtics logos dating to the team’s founding in 1946 were splashed on the wall, each carrying the story behind its origin. Those stories sparked an idea for something new with a touch of the past, and after 18 months of work, that idea will debut this week: a new alternate logo. Created in-house, the logo, which is known as the “Lucky Alternate,” pays homage to the early 1960s illustration created by Celtics patriarch Red Auerbach’s brother, Zang, a former editorial and sports artist for newspapers in Washington. ... “It’s such an iconic silhouette that people, when they see it, they’ll know exactly what it is,” said Shawn Sullivan, the team’s chief marketing officer. The logo will first be used on adidas team apparel and merchandise on sale through the team’s online store beginning this month.
  • Cody Stavenhagen of The Oklahoman: It’s no surprise, but the Oklahoma City Thunder is making a firm stand in establishing an independent identity. Christopher Arena — the NBA’s vice president of outfitting, identity and equipment — told The Oklahoman in a phone interview Monday the Thunder will not honor the Seattle SuperSonics’ 1979 NBA title with the league’s new championship tags. Beginning in 2014-15, the NBA and Adidas will add small gold mark on the back jersey collar of teams that have won an NBA championship. The mark features a depiction of the Larry O’Brien Trophy along with a notation indicating how many times the franchise has won the NBA Finals. Last week, a leaked PDF of an Adidas catalog showed Thunder jerseys appearing without the tag, but the organization has yet to confirm or deny the decision. “As of right now, they are not wearing it,” Arena said.
  • Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: The NBA’s inevitable march toward having advertising on its jerseys has continued with a subtle change to their style this season. By moving the league’s iconic silhouette logo from the left chest area to the back above the player’s name, the NBA has now opened up a prime piece of real estate on the front of its jerseys to eventually place advertising on them. While the idea of having ads on jerseys is against the sensibilities of most American sports fans, they are commonplace in Europe, and since taking over for David Stern back in February, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has made it clear it’s only a matter of time before they’ll be seen on NBA jerseys. “I think it’s inevitable,” Silver said in March at the 2014 IMG World Congress of Sports, according to Ad Age.

Las Vegas Summer League, Day 11 grades

July, 21, 2014
Jul 21
By Fred Katz

Here are eight notable performances from the Sacramento Kings' 77-68 win over the Houston Rockets in the championship game on Day 11 at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas:

Ray McCallum, Sacramento Kings | Grade: A-plus-plus-plus
Anytime you can actually pull off the Jordan shrug in summer league, something is going right for you. McCallum did exactly that, reining in MVP of the summer league championship game by scoring 29 points on just 15 shots. He made his open jumpers. He dribbled around screens like a legitimate NBA, offense-controlling point guard -- a rarity at summer league. By the end, the Kings point guard was so hot, he was pulling up from 30 feet. Controlled willpower with the ability to capitalize when you got for it all; that's not exactly common to find in Vegas.

Nik Stauskas, Sacramento Kings | Grade: B-minus
With only seconds remaining in the second quarter, Isaiah Canaan barreled down the court, heading straight to the hoop. Figuring he could get by a flat-footed and backpedaling Stauskas, he dribbled right and tried to turn the corner. But Stauskas bodied him up, used his help-defender and forced a wild shot from Canaan. That’s a learned play from the offensive-minded Kings rookie, who failed to score in the second half against the Rockets. Discovering defense is the next step, and slowly but surely he’s starting to do that.

Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings | Grade: C-minus
Summer league hasn’t been kind to McLemore. Another game, another day without any assists. Three turnovers in the LVSL championship game gave the former first-rounder a 9-to-26 assist-to-turnover ratio in his second summer league. For a kid who is supposed to be working on his facilitating, that’s not necessarily the most encouraging performance, especially considering how many open shots he missed Monday.

MarShon Brooks, Sacramento Kings | Grade: C
If Brooks’ best shot to make a roster -- and then earn playing time next season -- has to do with his decision-making, he should hope NBA teams weren’t tuned in to Monday’s championship game. He always seems to be looking for his shot, which is a fine attribute, but not when it yields indiscriminate irresponsibility. He’s shooting no matter what, like on a third-quarter play when two defenders came in his area and he attempted a step-back jumper with time left on the shot clock instead of kicking to a wide-open, red-hot McCallum in the corner. If you’re going to try to play like Jamal Crawford, you'd better hope you can actually play like Jamal Crawford.

Quincy Acy, Sacramento Kings | Grade: B-plus
No one pulls off the intimidation walk quite like the Baylor alum: chest out, thighs fighting through the air like they're in a workout pool, and eyes glaring enough to make anyone dive out of the way of their sight line. "Squints" Acy matched Monday's game style with that walk. He might have totaled just six points, but his defense was fierce and physical. He bullied anyone with a pulse on the way to eight boards. The beard is scraggly. So is his game. But it works.

Isaiah Canaan, Houston Rockets | Grade: B-plus
It’s incredibly possible that Canaan has never passed up a shot when his defender fails to fight through a screen. Go under a pick when you’re guarding him, and the ball is going up every time. Every single time -- and he makes his shots, too. Canaan finished summer league averaging just fewer than six 3-point attempts per 36 minutes. Isaiah’s not even a gunner. He’s something bigger. He’s a Canaan.

Donatas Motiejunas, Houston Rockets | Grade: B
Motiejunas is potentially going to provide an interesting case study for the Rockets this season. If he plays anything like he did in summer league, we’ll see a decent amount of midrange jumpers and post-ups. That’s not Houston’s style, but in Vegas those moves worked, and he finished with 16 points in the championship game.

Nick Johnson, Houston Rockets | Grade: B
Johnson’s reputation pegs him as shooter, but he’s shown off many more skills at both the Las Vegas and Orlando summer leagues. He can handle and has the athleticism to attack the rim; now all he needs to do is finish in the paint consistently. Johnson missed a couple of layups that could’ve put his grade over the top, but his activity on the boards and on the defensive end still completes a solid final game for him.