- K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf issued a statement Thursday night in response to a Sun-Times report about a rift between Derrick Rose and the organization. "I am confounded by the irresponsible report in the Chicago Sun-Times suggesting there is anything approaching discord or confusion between the Bulls executive office, coaching staff, and Derrick Rose or any other Bulls player," Reinsdorf said. "To the contrary, I can remember no time when the organization has been any more focused, optimistic, and cohesive. ... I am deeply disappointed that unnamed sources and totally inaccurate statements and assumptions can be used to foment nonexistent friction. The report is totally without basis or fact. It is pure malicious fiction." The newspaper quoted Rose acknowledging hearing "from certain people that everything wasn't all right." The report based the discord on Rose allowing "his camp to take shots at the franchise."
- Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: Multiple sources in the organization say tension was mounting because Rose allowed his camp to take shots at the franchise. Gradually, there seemed to be less communication between the Bulls and their biggest star. And tensions hit a peak when Rose, who has a five-year, $94.8 million contract, seemed to want no part in the recruitment of players. The Bulls’ pursuit of free agent Carmelo Anthony was the latest example. Looking back, it’s clear Rose wasn’t all that interested in teaming with Anthony, who chose to return to the New York Knicks. Rose was much more aggressive in the Bulls’ pursuit of free agent Pau Gasol, not only asking for his phone number, but giving a hard sell to the big man on joining the Bulls. So why Gasol and not Anthony? “[Gasol is] someone that I knew I could play with," Rose said. “You think about Pau, him now being in the East, what he’ll be able to achieve with the way we play, the way we dump the ball in the post a lot. It could be great." As far as tensions with his own organization, Rose didn’t single out one side or the other. At 25 and two knee surgeries reminding him he’s mortal, it’s time to stop pointing fingers. “This is a new beginning," Rose said several times. “It really is."
- John Gambadoro of ArizonaSports.com: OK, enough is enough. Time to get real here. Memo to Eric Bledsoe -- you need new representation. This Rich Paul is a joke and he is steering you down a slippery slope. I'm sure he told you everything you wanted to hear at the end of the season. I'm sure he told you that teams would be lining up to make you an offer and that a max contract of $80 million was well within reach. And when those things didn't happen, he blamed the Phoenix Suns. The organization that believed in you, traded for you and gave you an opportunity that you weren't getting backing up Chris Paul in Los Angeles. Ask around, Eric. Talk to players in the league, teammates, former teammates, coaches and assistant coaches that aren't based in Phoenix. You will be hard-pressed to find ONE that doesn't believe the offer that Phoenix has on the table for four years and $48 million is an awesome offer. Trust me, I know. Because I have made those phone calls, dozens of them. And everyone that I spoke with thinks you're borderline nuts for not jumping at this offer and giving yourself financial security for life. You want to roll the dice and play for the qualifying offer of $3.7 million? Good luck. It's a huge risk. You have had two knee injuries, you missed half of last season. And you may not be able to make back the money you are leaving on the table for this season. ... So let's do this. Let's repair this relationship with the Suns that your side believes is in shambles. Fire your agent. Get some real representation. Start over.
- Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: Kevin Durant’s contract expires soon, and the organization with which he’s been for what seems like forever is under siege. Every competitor wants Durant’s services, most notably an upstart in his youthful stomping grounds. We’re talking about Nike, of course, which has produced seven versions of Durant’s signature shoe, but Durant’s Swoosh contract runs out this week, and Maryland-based Under Armour plans to come after Durant with gusto. And you think the Thunder walks softly around Durant? Well, the answer is yes. The Thunder and everyone else from Balko to Broken Bow. Durant’s Thunder contract expires in summer 2016. The Durant Watch began in earnest after this season, and after Durant’s comments in Las Vegas this week, the gluteus maximus of every Thunder fan and brass is pricked with pins by the number and needles by the score. ... It’s going to be a long two years. In fact, the only salvation is that in the next 700 days, about 200 of them will be filled by a game day, Durant playing ball with the OKC logo. That can and has made many an Oklahoman forget their troubles.
- Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Nearly a month into free agency, it doesn’t appear Greg Monroe will get an offer sheet. If one came, the Pistons would have three days to match. The sides could agree to a deal. Or the sides (and another team) could agree to a sign-and-trade. And the threat is there from Monroe to sign a $5.4-million qualifying offer, play out next season and become an unrestricted free agent. Monroe’s contract situation has been the No. 1 issue of the Pistons’ off-season, taking the spotlight away from free-agent signings of Caron Butler, D.J. Augustin and Jodie Meeks. The Pistons have agreements with free agents Cartier Martin and Aaron Gray, but have yet to announce the signings. Butler, Augustin, Meeks and Martin will be a boon to one of the league’s worst three-point shooting teams — and also create room for Drummond, Monroe and Josh Smith to operate.
- Dan Robson of Sportsnet.ca: Look, I support making big trades to win immediately. But right now, the Cavs have the potential to become a legitimate dynasty (built on a few years without James and unbelievable luck with draft balls). Think about the possibility of Wiggins with James in just a couple of seasons. There are a few titles waiting to be won by that kind of tandem. Buffalo Harry’s would absolutely have to put a “King James-sized Wiggins-wich” on the menu. Or at least wait for the season to begin and put some more pressure on Minnesota to make deal at the deadline, and then given them Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett. I’m just spit-balling here. But, yes, it seems likely that when the Cavs are able to trade Wiggins on August 23, the Canadian star will end up in Minnesota. No worries, then, I guess. Everyone knows that Minneapolis is way too cold for a southern Ontario guy to handle. When his four-year deal is up, Wiggins will naturally head south and come home to Toronto. And then, well—you had your chance Cleveland—the real Wiggin-ing (trademark pending) can begin.
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: But this week, at Team USA training camp at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center, Beal is also out to show he is getting better while matching up in practice with all-stars and other rising talents in the game. Unlike last summer, when he was in Las Vegas as a spectator limited to shooting stand-still jumpers as he recovered from a stress injury in his right leg and watching Wall compete, Beal is often sharing the floor with his Wizards backcourt mate. “It’s a great sign for our team, for us continuing to grow and it’s just showing that we’re constantly getting better and better and better,” he said. “We’re going to put on for the city of D.C., and for our families and the Wizards organization.” Wall was a late addition after all-star Russell Westbrook withdrew, but Beal was named to USA Basketball’s original 28-man pool for international competitions through 2016 and is one of a handful of shooting guards, along with James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, Klay Thompson and Kyle Korver.
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Jerryd Bayless has seen plenty in his six pro seasons with five teams. But something will be new when the 6-foot-3 guard joins the Milwaukee Bucks for training camp in September. Bayless will be playing under future Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd, who will be in his second season as an NBA coach and his first with the Bucks. "J-Kidd is a young coach but he has been in the league for a long time," Bayless said. "Just being around him and learning from a player of that magnitude, who now has switched over to coaching, is something I'm really looking forward to. I think he can help me in different ways, not only from the point guard position, just his view of the game."
- Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com: After four grueling days of a Team USA minicamp, Damian Lillard is still raving about adidas’s new Crazylight Boost basketball shoe that he has been playing in this week. Ever since breaking his foot in college, Lillard hasn’t been a fan of light shoes because of support concerns. These latest by adidas are game-changers. “Since I’ve been in the league I really haven’t cared how light the shoe were because I didn’t think they were supportive enough,” Lillard told CSNNW.com. “I always wanted a supportive shoe so It was like I’ve never had a chance to experience a really, really light shoe. Now that I have it on, I can feel the difference.” The groundbreaking boost material is filled with thousands of capsules that help store and release energy when athletes need it most during competition, the shoe powerhouse says. Its cushioning technology is designed to deliver the ultimate responsiveness and comfort.
- Jordan Heck of The Indianapolis Star: Metta World Peace, the player formerly known as Ron Artest, talked to Larry King Wednesday night on the web series "Larry King Now." The two discussed multiple topics, but near the end of the near half-hour interview King opened up the questioning to Twitter. The first question asked, "If you could win a championship for any city? Which city would that be?" World Peace said Indianapolis. "Honestly, there are two teams I would want to win a championship for. Number one would be Indiana," he said. "Great owner. A team that kind of sparked my career. Larry Bird and Donnie Walsh, they helped me out a lot." His second city? Detroit. "Because of the brawl," he said. "And I just think it would be an amazing story to win a championship for Detroit."
- Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune: They put up big bucks last fall to lock up Derrick Favors, their defensive anchor. It cost even more to bring back Gordon Hayward. And now the Utah Jazz front office is once again faced with key decisions regarding the futures of two fourth-year players, as they begin extension talks with shooting guard Alec Burks and big man Enes Kanter. This is the reality of life in the lottery, where the Jazz have made five picks in the last five seasons, while acquiring a sixth (Favors) via a trade. There is the influx of talent-and then the inevitable cost of keeping that talent. Venturing forward, however, Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey is confident. "We knew Gordon was going to receive a substantial offer," he says. "We’ve tried to maintain our flexibility so that we can still bring in a free agent if the right one wants to say yes to us, and to have the ability to keep our own young players."
- QMI Agency via the Toronto Sun: He may look fragile now, but Robert Bobroczky -- the 7-foot-4, 13-year-old tower disguised as a European basketball player -- has plenty of time to hit the weights before NBA scouts start knocking. A video of the Romanian teen is making the rounds on the World Wide Web. The news report from Sport.ro, which was uploaded to YouTube under the underselling banner of "Huge 13 Year Old Basketball Player," shows pencil-thin Bobroczky landing a pretty hook shot. This should come as no surprise, considering his peers in the video are notably shorter. At one point in the footage, a teammate has to actually jump to give Bobroczky a congratulatory head rub. How abnormally tall is Bobroczky, anyway? Well, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the average height for a 13-year-old male is 5-foot-1 ¾. What's most stunning is that Bobroczky is probably still growing. With at least a half-decade to beef up and hone his on-court skills, combined with his freakishly tall frame, Bobroczky will surely attract the NBA's attention in years to come.
- Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer: Several NBA sources have confirmed that the 76ers are against a proposal that would balance out the draft lottery as early as next summer. General manager Sam Hinkie could not be reached for comment. League sources said Wednesday afternoon that the Sixers would not get any sympathy from fellow franchises. That's because for the second straight season, the Sixers are expected to field a roster below NBA standards in order to guarantee losses in hopes of a high draft pick. This tactic, said one Eastern Conference executive, is having "a negative effect on the integrity of the NBA." He believes the proposed new format, which could come to a league vote in the fall, would go a long way in preventing teams from duplicating what the Sixers are doing. ... The Sixers believe they are just taking advantage of a system that has been in place, and they're not the first team to do so. However, a league source said that teams believe the Sixers made a mockery of the rules by fielding a roster full of NBA Development League talent.
- Dan Bickley of The Arizona Republic: Forty-eight million dollars, guaranteed. For Patrick Peterson, the number is a blessing. For Eric Bledsoe, the number is an insult. What's wrong with this picture? Start with Peterson's new contract with the Cardinals, a textbook case in how approach and resolve pricey negotiations. After watching fellow cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Joe Haden score huge signing bonuses earlier in the year, Peterson was clearly expecting a comparable windfall. Tension was building. ... Yet to his credit, Peterson never lost sight of the big picture. He arrived in camp with a great attitude, even though obstacles still remained on the negotiating table. He made sure his self-interests ranked below the team's interests. ... The money came, and today, Cardinals fans will celebrate Peterson's contract. He is a great player who wants to be here, a star who engages fans and media, a leader who wants to be the face of the franchise. If only the Suns could say the same.
- Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: Whether Derrick Rose will make Team USA no longer is in question. Considering the damage he has inflicted on opposing guards during the first three days of tryouts, it’s more about when it will be made official. Rose all but did on Wednesday. Well, kind of. In discussing new Bulls teammate Pau Gasol, who was signed as a free agent earlier in the month, Rose mistakenly said, “I talked to [Gasol] before he signed and he said when we get to Spain [for next month’s FIBA Cup] that we’ll probably get something to eat, so I’ll probably catch up with him, get dinner or something." Call it Rose already knowing something or just having flat-out confidence in his ability. Go with the latter, because if there is one thing Rose is not lacking these days it’s confidence. Admittedly, his self-assurance is a far cry from where it was last year. For the first time since suffering the tear of the left anterior cruciate ligament, Rose said that his attitude about basketball going into the 2013-14 season was not good. And while he only lasted just 10 games into the regular season before a torn right meniscus derailed his comeback, it’s an attitude he doesn’t want to experience again.
- Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: Make no mistake Kevin Durant is a man of his word. A year ago, he and Minnesota's Kevin Love affirmed their union with Team USA. Love pulled out last week fearing an injury in the run-up to the World Cup, or in the tournament itself, might derail his chances of being traded from the Timberwolves to a more desirable NBA destination. Durant remained steadfast. "I mean everybody is their own man; you've got to realize that," Durant said. "I made this decision based on what I felt was right for me. If guys want to follow that, it's cool. But a lot of guys sacrifice their summers before I was even in the NBA to USA Basketball. I think guys like LeBron, Carmelo, Chris Paul, I think it's their duty now to sit out and rest, plus they're older." Clearly, there's no doubting Durant's fidelity to the flag or his U.S. teammates. He is the leader of this team, as he is the Thunder. More importantly, the pride he feels when he pulls on a USA jersey is genuine, not made-for-image artificial.
- Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com: The back and forth exchanges between Houston Rockets guard James Harden and newly-minted Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parson has ended. Thanks to TEAM USA for bringing them together in Las Vegas for training camp, Parsons said he and Harden found time in between time to chat and patch things up. “We’ve been in the casinos together and everything,” Parsons said to CSNNW.com. “We talked about it and it’s in the past. We’ve been hanging out, talking. We played on the same team a few times here, which was cool to get back out there with him. There are no hard feelings.” Harden insists that his initial comments about himself and Dwight Howard being the cornerstones and the others are just “role players,” was taken out of context by the media.
- Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press: Reports out of Las Vegas say Pistons third-year center Andre Drummond should make the USA FIBA World Cup team as a second-team backup to starters Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. Davis (New Orleans) is projected as the starter at power forward, Cousins (Sacramento) the starter at center. Other projected starters are Stephen Curry (Golden State), James Harden (Houston) and Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City). With decisions not to play from Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard, the U.S. team is short on big men, which makes Drummond almost a lock to make team. ... Drummond’s role could be to battle Marc Gasol off the bench, especially with a thin U.S. front line and the penchant for Cousins to get in foul trouble. Drummond, the NBA’s second-leading rebounder last season at 13.2 per game, would be counted on for defense and rebounding.
- Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle: Rockets center Dwight Howard has been busy in sunny California. He is there training at the Peak Performance Project facility and has made a point to get out in the community according to KEYT in Santa Barbara. He started by working out at personal trainer Jenny Schatzle’s gym and inspiring a group of women who had never run outside there to go on a run with him around the block. Schatlze called the activity inspiring. The next day he responded to a challenge on twitter from Cody O’Bryen and showed up to play kickball at West Beach. Howard played the whole game as pitcher. His pre-game speech was fairly inspiring.
- Diamond Leung of The Oakland Tribune: The Warriors’ Steve Kerr went out of his way to pick the brain of Bill Parcells in preparation for a future in coaching, and in his quest for knowledge, he turned to another Super Bowl-winning coach in Pete Carroll on Wednesday. According to Seahawks.com, Kerr attended Seattle’s training camp in Renton, Wash. in order to “soak in Carroll’s coaching philosophy” before his first season as Warriors coach. “As a young coach I just like to see people at work,” Kerr told Seahawks.com. “And Pete obviously is one of the best. He’s one of the most intriguing people that I’ve met and that I’ve sort of watched over the years as a football fan. I’m thankful that he gave me the opportunity to come visit with him."
- Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post: This is a very pivotal year for JaVale McGee. He's got to stay healthy and play well to live up to the contract he inked after playing well a couple of years ago. If not, sure, there's a possibility he could be dealt. McGee has two years and nearly $24 million left on his deal. His last season is $12 million, which isn't impossible to deal, particularly because it would be an expiring deal. But we'll see. Reports are he's looking good and on-target to hit the ground running at training camp in the fall. Jusuf Nurkic will take time to get up to speed. Nikola Jokic will not be on the roster in the fall. Timofey Mozgov is the player to watch, coming off of his best season as a professional. There are plenty of questions at center. McGee can ease a lot of concerns by arriving in shape, ready to play, with a work-hard, winning mind-set.
- Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman: The significance of the NBA coming to OKC is reflected in the mementos on the walls and shelves of Mick Cornett’s city hall office. Durant wearing his “OKLAHOMA CITY” jersey on the cover of ESPN The Magazine. Chris Paul and Desmond Mason bobblehead dolls from the Hornet days. Cornett in a photo with Hornets dignitaries George Shinn, Willis Reed and Byron Scott on the day that it became official the franchise was relocating from New Orleans to Oklahoma City. “To just have Willis Reed and Byron Scott in town would’ve been a big deal,” Cornett said of days before the Hornets’ arrival. Less than a decade later, folks in Oklahoma City can hardly remember what life was like without an NBA team. How did we fill the winter months without games at The Peake? What did we do every spring without the Thunder in the playoffs? Cornett will forever be linked to OKC’s big-league transformation, and frankly, it’s a bit ironic that he is the Putnam City alum with the biggest sports impact on this city.
- Zoe McKnight of the Toronto Star: Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment hasn’t said much about rumours that the Toronto Raptors home games could start a half-hour later, at 7:30 p.m., this season. An MLSE official confirmed that games at the Air Canada Centre this coming season will be slated for a 7:30 start but reserved further comment until plans are fully determined. But some fans say that would suit them just fine, especially those who drive or take public transit from Milton or Oshawa. “Superfan” Nav Bhatia, who buys 10 seats each year and who has never missed — or been late to — a single regular-season game in nearly two decades, welcomes the possible change because he drives in from Mississauga.
- John Marzulli of the New York Daily News: It’s the feds’ version of a pick and roll. Federal prosecutors are going after disgraced referee Tim Donaghy's pension to satisfy the restitution he still owes the National Basketball Association for his betting scandal case. The Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's office is seeking a restraining order prohibiting Donaghy from getting his hands on a lump-sum payment of $203,256 that he's scheduled to receive from his referees' pension plan on Aug. 1 through a rollover into his individual retirement account, according to court papers. Donaghy, 47, pleaded guilty in 2008 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and admitted taking payoffs from gamblers for inside information on basketball games that he was officiating. Federal Judge Carol Amon ordered him to pay $195,466 to the victim of his crime — the NBA — but he has only paid $41,835 toward the total restitution amount. He was also sentenced to 15 months in prison.
Durant is saying all the right things, as you might expect, lauding LeBron James' "classy" return to Cleveland, saying he loves Oklahoma City while doing his best to keep the door slightly open for a potential exit. But the questions will only multiply from here. Especially now that James’ homecoming has, in the eyes of some, laid the groundwork for Durant to make a similar move to his hometown of Washington, D.C. In an interview with Darren Rovell, Durant said the speculation has forced him to delete the Twitter app from his phone.
But now, two years away from when Durant will actually be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career, plenty of assumptions are being made about the Thunder forward and his future.
Two things about that:
1) Unlike LeBron, who drew all sorts of ire for his Miami move, Durant's approval rating hasn’t wavered. He doesn't need a homecoming to change public perception or increase his branding potential.
2) Durant wants to define his career himself, not be the guy to do what LeBron did. The two are friendly rivals, playing with immense mutual respect, but Durant's pending decision will be his alone. He alluded to as much in his MVP speech:
"When they told me I was going to win this prestigious award, the first thing I did was go to YouTube, and I looked at what LeBron James said a few years ago and what Derrick Rose said,” Durant said. “And I just tried to change it up a little bit. I wanted to come here and hit everybody in the face with what I said so they could feel it. I wanted to leave my mark.”
Durant does love his hometown. In that same speech, he mentioned growing up in Prince George "P.G." County. He has "Maryland" tattooed in giant letters across the top of his back. He has the Washington Nationals logo tattooed above his belly button. He wears a snakeskin-billed Redskins hat after most games. He knows where he's from. He loves where he's from.
But that doesn't necessarily mean he wants to play basketball there. When Durant picked a college in 2007, he didn't stay close to home at Georgetown, or Maryland or Virginia, or even North Carolina. He chose Texas, some 1,500 miles away. He may not be a boisterous leader, but he’s also not one to follow.
“I’m going to do what’s best for me,” Durant told reporters in Vegas. “It’s hard to talk about that right now when I’ve got two years left in Oklahoma City. I’m just going to focus on that. I’m not going to make a decision based on what anybody else does.”
Durant's top priority has always been winning, and with the Thunder, he's done an incredible amount of it. In the past four seasons, he's won about 75 percent of his games, been to the Western Conference finals three times and made one trip to the NBA Finals. Basketball is what drives Durant most. He’s a junkie who can't keep himself off a court. While other Team USA stars have bowed out of the World Cup, Durant is, predictably, ready to go. His decision will likely come down to where he can win next, not where he has won, but the Thunder have two years to prove that their franchise offers the best opportunity to do just that.
You can’t dismiss the emotional connection Durant has built in Oklahoma City, either. D.C. may be home, but Durant has spent his first seven NBA seasons with the Thunder, growing up from a skinny kid who couldn't bench 185 pounds to the league's MVP. Durant often references the team's 3-29 start to the 2008-09 season, a touchstone for him and the franchise, and those kinds of moments are something only the Thunder have had with him.
Over the next two years, the variables leading to Durant's choice will pile up. The bulk of the factors that will influence his decision most haven't even happened yet. Things will change, and so will he. Durant recently told reporters that the reason he signed a five-year max deal with no opt-out in the final year was because he was young and didn't know any better. He's a different person now than he was then.
He'll be a different one in 2016. A man with different goals, different motivations, different desires.
But winning will still be most important to him. The basketball will be the only thing that he follows.
Now the Sixers are feeling the NBA pinch at their super terrible teams. In a report by Brian Windhorst, a recent league plan to overhaul the draft has rankled Philadelphia officials.
“The rough draft of this plan was met with opposition by 76ers management, which is in the midst of a multiseason rebuilding project that is dependent on a high pick next year," Windhorst writes. "The 76ers, sources said, are hoping to get the NBA to delay the plan's implementation for at least a year because it would act as a de facto punishment while just playing by the rules that have been in place.”
Sometimes, even while playing by the rules in place, you can break unwritten rules, deviating from social norms to the point where the majority fights back. This looks to be what’s happening here. Owners created a system where, should their teams fall hard, they land softly on a pile of valuable high draft picks. The system of giving handouts to bad teams was all well and good so long as a team didn’t overtly strategize around getting those handouts.
The Sixers took the rules to their logical extension, and made the system's absurdity obvious. They blew up a playoff-contending team to draft someone too injured to play that season (Nerlens Noel), then followed it up the next draft with picks of Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, players who might not see the court this season. All of these moves are understandable, if not savvy. In a vacuum, none of these moves looks especially brash. But as a collection of decisions, they reveal a bold scheme, one in which being bad is as much the point as it is a natural consequence of rebuilding.
Obviously, Philadelphia didn't plan on being bad forever. It just figured that there's little to be gained in the middle ground between "bad" and "great." And so long as the league is heaping massive rewards on terrible teams, the Sixers might as well keep being terrible until they have the assets to reach greatness.
Now that the league is looking to more evenly balance the lottery odds among the teams with the lowest win totals, the Sixers' strategy might be compromised. They've been playing the long game, which leaves them vulnerable if the league suddenly changes course.
It's hard to blame the Sixers for their strategy, but they may have been too obvious and intentional in its employment. Their 26-game losing streak by a roster replete with unrecognizables might have sounded the alarm for change. The Sixers tanked to such a planned degree that they represented a rebellious shift from the old way of losing hard for Duncan, Durant or whichever prodigy. They were too confident and competent about being incompetent.
- 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 naļve 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 CSNNW.com: 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 CSNNW.com. 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.
- 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 CSNNW.com: 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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 CSNNE.com: 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, CSNwashington.com 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.
The @Suns got the ball rolling.
Dharma & Greg Smith #NBASitcoms— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) July 24, 2014
3rd Rock from the Suns #NBASitcoms— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) July 24, 2014
Dirkaholics #NBASitcoms— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) July 24, 2014
Threes a Crowder #NBASitcoms— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) July 24, 2014
Knight Court #NBASitcoms— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 24, 2014
Leave It To Bonner #NBASitcoms— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) July 24, 2014
Boy Meeks World #NBASitcoms— Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) July 24, 2014
The Larry Sanders Show #NBASitcoms— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 24, 2014
Wilt & Grace #NBASitcoms— Philadelphia 76ers (@Sixers) July 24, 2014
The Jabari Parkers #NBASitcoms— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 24, 2014
Will Bynum & Grace #NBASitcoms— Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) July 24, 2014
Kawhi Five-0 #NBASitcoms— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) July 24, 2014
The teams are still going, and you can get in on the fun by using the hashtag #NBASitcoms on Twitter.
Special to ESPN.com
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.
- A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com: 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 CSNNE.com. "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 CSNNW.com: 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.