TrueHoop: Free Agent Reports

The season that never ends

July, 15, 2014
Strauss By Ethan Sherwood Strauss

LAS VEGAS -- At the NBA Board of Governors meeting here, Adam Silver sang praises of the city as a location for NBA events. He was quick to add, “I don't gamble as the commissioner of the NBA, for the record, not because there's anything wrong with it, I just don't think I should be gambling as the commissioner.”

He might not roll dice away from the boardroom, but Silver seems more inclined toward a faster, looser NBA ecosystem. His predecessor preached the virtues of players staying with one team over time. David Stern favored a relative lack of player movement, as reflected in years of collective bargaining agreements that give incumbent teams large advantages in re-signing players. Silver represented a contrast in that approach days after LeBron James shocked the sporting universe by spurning the Miami Heat for a Cavs organization he spurned in the past.

On the question of whether this free-agent activity is “good for the league,” Silver began by saying, “I support a player's right to become a free agent,” which hews closely to Sternisms on the topic that sound more like resignation than ringing endorsement. Silver continued, though, with a broader view of how player movement benefits basketball: “I think, from a macro standpoint, I think all the movement was very positive for the league. The coverage has been fantastic.”

Yes, the coverage. Off-court intrigue has grown so colossally since the advent of Twitter that interest in the transaction might have overtaken interest in the on-court action. It’s unclear if the upside of this was lost on Stern, or if he was merely miming the interests of owners who despised groveling before empowered athletes. In any event, it represents a difference to see Silver wax so positively on the free-agent circus.

Despite the owners’ best efforts to keep players from controlling their own fates, the NBA’s hot stove has been cooking of late. Fans certainly love a loyal athlete, and there is value in one who stays with a team for the duration of his career. But in the increasingly short-attention-span theater of modern sports, incredible interest is gained through the possibility of players moving to new situations.

The NBA might never equal the NFL’s gigantic TV ratings, but the league is threatening to dominate the news cycle with all these free-agent possibilities. It shouldn’t be a surprise that a younger commissioner sees the value in the way sports consumption is changing.

LeBron James threw his lot with Cleveland while hanging out in Las Vegas, and it’s kicked off what should be a highly exciting basketball season. What happened in Vegas didn’t stay there; it enveloped the news cycle and put the spotlight on Silver’s league. It remains to be seen if owners are to see the good side of superstar movement, but what happened in Vegas showed how their sport can be helped by changes.

Pau Gasol's final scene in Lakerland?

April, 14, 2014
Adande By J.A. Adande
LOS ANGELES -- Pau Gasol looked out onto the court, where the team from his past played the team of his present, then looked up to the scoreboard, where the clock ticked down toward the start of his future.

The Memphis Grizzlies, Gasol’s team from draft night in 2001 until the 2008 trade that sent him to the Los Angeles Lakers, were finalizing the Lakers’ 55th loss of the season. Same old story for the Lakers: hang tight for a half, lose by double digits. And a frustratingly frequent tale for Gasol: sidelined by injury, missing his 20th game and counting, with a bout of vertigo guaranteed to keep him sidelined for the Lakers’ two remaining games on the road.

He’ll be a free agent this summer, which means this might have been his last home game at Staples Center. It certainly meant he felt the emotional impact. As the game drew to a close he reached toward the seat to his right and tapped teammate Jordan Farmar’s leg to signal that it was time for them to leave. Except Gasol wasn’t really ready to leave. He congratulated his brother, Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, then playfully shoved Marc away so he wouldn’t sweat on Pau’s nice, movie-ticket-taker- burgundy red jacket. He moved on to other players and coaches, stopped to talk to a couple of fans, then chatted with courtside regulars Jimmy Goldstein and Dyan Cannon.
[+] EnlargeMarc Gasol
Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY SportsMarc and Pau Gasol, the brothers who were traded for each other in 2008, greet each other Sunday.

He stopped and signed autographs for fans on the other side of the courtside seats. He leaned in behind a woman who took a selfie with her phone. He entered the tunnel and accommodated more fans who reached through the rails to have him sign programs, hats, tickets and -- just when he was ready to cut things off -- a fan who dangled a No. 16 Gasol golden Lakers jersey.

Finally he said no mas.

“I gotta go in,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

He blew the fans a kiss with both hands, bowed and moved on to the Lakers' locker room.

“I always appreciate the fans,” Gasol said. “You never know. The last couple years when I walked out of this building it’s been emotional. This year it’s been a little bit different because we haven’t been successful as a team, we had a lot of injuries, I haven’t been able to finish the season playing. So I kind of had it more in my mind.

“The last couple of years I didn’t know if I was going to be back. This year with even more reason, because now I’m a free agent. It’s just a way of me appreciating everyone and our fans.”

The fans showed their appreciation, giving him a warm cheer when he was showed on the scoreboard video screen late in the game. Will the Lakers do anything similar -- something along the lines of the golden parachute they granted Kobe Bryant? The Kobe contract might actually preclude a Gasol gift by eating up too much salary cap room. Gasol can’t expect to match the $19 million he made this season; he might get about half of that, from what some general managers say. It's also possible that the Lakers could sign him to a short deal that would give them the possibility of using him as a trade asset next season.

But a multi-year contract would alter any Lakers plans to make a big splash in the 2015 free agent market -- or even to bring in the additional pieces the Lakers would need around Bryant and Gasol.

That’s why Sunday was the night for sentiment. Come July 1 it will be all business.

“You’ve got to put heart and emotions aside a little bit and think what’s going to be the best position for me to succeed, not just individually but collectively,” Gasol said. “And hopefully help put myself in a position where I can win a championship. That will be the goal. Where can I win and where can I be a key piece to help a team win, whether it’s here or another team? I don’t know exactly what’s going to be the structure or the roster [with the Lakers], so there’s going to be a lot of question marks here. But I’m open to listen. I’m a good listener. I will listen to what’s offered.”

Then there’s the possibility of playing with his brother in Memphis.

“It’s appealing,” Gasol said. “We have a lof of fun always in the summers [playing together with the Spanish national team]. But I don’t know if it’s going to be completely 100 percent up to me, because there’s going to be a lot of teams that are going to be probably limited or conditioned to a trade, and the Lakers will probably have some say in that. We’ll see. It’ll be an interesting process. I don’t know if the Grizzlies are one of the teams that are most interested.

“I’d love to play with Kobe more, because he’s a friend, he’s a winner and he’s a guy that I’ve been through a lot and won championships with. I would love to play with my brother, but you can’t have everything. Just try to think where is the best position for me to succeed collectively and individually.”

Time passes so quickly in the NBA, turning from ally to enemy. Gasol made the Lakers championships contenders when he arrived in February of 2008, and they were on their way to three consecutive NBA Finals. In April of 2014, the only player in uniform who was around for that heyday was Farmar. It’s no accident that he was sitting next to Gasol.

“[The bond is] even sweeter for us because we lost one [NBA Finals] first,” Farmar said. “ We got all the way there, we lost, and then we learned as a group and came back to win back-to-backs. So we’re a little closer. It’s a little more special. It’s experiences you can’t really teach. You just have to go through it and know what it takes. It’s hard to pass that knowledge on to young guys. There’s just no way they can understand the dynamics of a championship team unless you’re on that caliber of a team.”

You can see why playing for another team consisting primarily of those young players wouldn’t appeal to Gasol at age 33. You also can see how a 33-year-old who has missed 53 games over the past two seasons with injuries stretching literally from his feet (plantar fasciitis) to his head (vertigo) might not have GMs filling his voicemail inbox this summer. But he’s still an experienced big man who averaged 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds this season.

“In this league, no one person can do it by themselves,” Farmar said. “You need to put a team together of guys that understand the importance of winning,
that are committed to it and fit well together. I think that’s what it comes down to. The front office knows that. I think Pau, whether it’s here or someplace else, will be on a team like that.”

For the past three seasons we’ve wondered if the Lakers would send him someplace else before the trade deadline. Now it could be of his own volition. That’s why this wasn’t just another night in Staples Center, the building where the two most recent Lakers championship banners hang as a result of his handiwork.

Sources: Sasha Vujacic eyes NBA return

September, 16, 2013
Stein By Marc Stein
After two seasons in Turkey, former Lakers and Nets guard Sasha Vujacic is determined to force his way back into the NBA.

Sources briefed on the Slovenian's thinking told that Vujacic is working out feverishly in L.A. in hopes of landing an NBA roster spot following his stint with Anadolu Efes that began during the 2011-12 lockout.

Word is Vujacic, now 29, has been playing well in L.A. pickup games and plans to stay stateside in pursuit of an NBA deal as opposed to returning to Europe.

"He's in the best shape of his life," one source offered, "which is saying something because Sasha has always taken care of himself."

Vujacic last played in the NBA with New Jersey in 2010-11.

First Cup: Tuesday

July, 16, 2013
By Nick Borges
  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: When Jeff Teague’s phone rang Saturday – while on a Harry Potter themed amusement park ride in Orlando – he answered. Hawks general manager Danny Ferry was calling with news that the team intended to match the four-year, $32 million offer sheet from the Bucks. Teague would remain in Atlanta. “He said they were going to match the offer and we’re glad to have you back,” Teague told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I held on a little bit, got off the ride and we started talking a little bit more.” Just three days earlier, Teague had expressed to Ferry his desire to move on. The restricted free agent was unhappy with the progress of negotiations and he was impressed by the interest the Bucks showed. He also wanted an opportunity to reunite with former Hawks coach Larry Drew. Teague said he is happy to remain a Hawk. He showed up at the team’s Las Vegas Summer League game Monday night and there were hugs all around – from Ferry, teammates John Jenkins and Mike Scott, coaches and support personnel. “It’s a process,” Teague said. “I understood that going into it. I was a restricted free agent and I knew that all along. I was happy either way. I’m glad to be back in Atlanta. It’s been home for four years. It’s time to get back to work. There is no bad blood. We are all professionals.” Teague said he was encouraged by the faith the Hawks showed in him by matching the offer sheet.
  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: The topic will come up over the course of a long NBA season because coaches in the final year of their contracts are constantly reminded about it. But Dwane Casey is not going to play along — no way, no how, no chance. He made that crystal clear here Monday afternoon, months before training camp even begins, the time when the questions about his future could become almost a daily occurrence. “I’m going to say this and I’m not going to talk about it again: I could care less about three years on the contract, four years on the contract, I’m going to be the same coach,” he said after the Raptors played an informal scrimmage with the Washington Wizards on a Summer League off-day. “This year, I’m going to coach the way I want to coach, to coach the way that puts us in the best position to win.” In case no one’s been paying attention, Casey is in the third year of a three-year deal and is now working for a different general manager than the one that originally signed him.
  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: When the C’s yesterday introduced three of the four players they received in exchange for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry, that word was once again in circulation. And Keith Bogans wasn’t too happy about that. “A negative like that — tanking to lose — if I get a vibe like that in anybody’s attitude, I’m going to have an attitude,” said Bogans, who sat next to MarShon Brooks and Kris Humphries during yesterday’s press conference. The fourth former Net, Gerald Wallace, was not in attendance due to a commitment with his annual basketball camp in Alabama. Indeed, Bogans found it hard to believe that losing in the name of the lottery, even one as preordained for greatness as the 2014 draft, could even be connected to his new franchise. “It means a lot to come to a franchise with so much tradition. Let me put it this way. I played at Kentucky. I played at DeMatha (High School),” he said. “The main thing is to come out, play hard, win and hope I get the same thing from my teammates and the coaching staff. I’m not looking at this as something to look down on. I definitely want to win.” Humphries admitted to broaching the subject yesterday with president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. “I was talking with Danny Ainge earlier and it was just, ‘We’re not tanking, we’re playing hard. We’ve got to compete and make it to the playoffs,’ ” Humphries said.
  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: Ron Artest is coming home, with a more whimsical name and a more expansive biography, dotted with asterisks and footnotes and curious detours, some glorious and some less so. He returns as an N.B.A. champion and a mental-health advocate, a reformed villain-turned-Mr. Congeniality, but mostly as a proud New Yorker eager to hang a banner at Madison Square Garden. Fourteen years after bypassing him in the draft — a decision etched in franchise infamy — the Knicks finally signed Artest on Monday. He is 33 and goes by the name Metta World Peace. He is a bit slower, but no less tenacious. He is downright giddy about the possibilities. “I’m getting more excited to play with the players,” World Peace said by telephone Monday night. “I’m more excited to play with the players than I am to be in New York City, you know? I’m more excited to play with the team. That’s what make me excited.” That was four uses of “excited” in 12 seconds, as if to erase any lingering ambiguity.
  • Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times: The idea that Derrick Rose could be ready in July and not be ready in April is beyond some people’s ability to comprehend. I didn’t know there was a scheduled date for when he would feel ready to go. And here I see I’ve fallen into the trap. A story about Rose’s readiness for next season has turned into a column about the stupid abuse he has taken for being methodical in his comeback. A story that stated the obvious — that Rose would be back next season — has turned into another round of haymakers between the people who think he’s selfish and the people who wonder how anyone could question his heart. I can’t wait for the season to begin. I fully expect the people who are furious with Rose to show up at the United Center with signs letting him know how they feel, even as he scores 30 points. I’ve never seen this much anger directed at someone in sports who hasn’t been accused of a crime. So it’s only right that his critics don’t let up on him all season, if not for the rest of his career. Somehow, I don’t think that’s going to happen. Derrick, keep the ‘‘breaking news’’ to yourself. From now on, let your game speak for itself. It’ll hush the crowd.
  • Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News: One year after Jason Kidd ran his Cadillac Escalade into a tree at the intersection of Cobb Road and Little Cobb Road in Water Mill, L.I., behind the wheel of a car when somebody should have been driving him home from a club they had to carry him out of, he is back in the Hamptons at 11 o’clock Tuesday morning. This time Kidd is not leaving a fancy charity event at a big East Hampton estate, or a club called SL East. He is walking into a courtroom, in the Southampton Town Courthouse in Hampton Bays, to make what is called an interim plea on his DWI arrest last July 16. … Kidd has agreed to make school appearances on Long Island in the fall, which will be taped and can be used later as public-service announcements if the DA’s office chooses to use them that way. When asked on Monday what Kidd will say to students when he does appear at these schools, Burke said that the talk will be about drinking and driving with kids who either have their driver’s licenses or are about to have them, about how “it doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done in your life, in basketball or anything else, that alcohol impairs everybody.”
  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer: Tuesday marks the 89th day since Doug Collins stepped down to take a consultant's role with the team, and it seems that no one except general manager Sam Hinkie and majority owner Josh Harris know when the coaching search will conclude. So far that's been OK for assistant coach Michael Curry, who is a candidate for the job. The 44-year-old, who was the associate head coach under Collins, is expected to interview for the job, and Curry's on-the-job training has been as good as it gets. … "I'll just continue to work every day and continue to get better as a coach," said Curry, who along with assistant coaches Aaron McKie and Jeff Capel, is under contract for another season. "I'm the senior guy on the staff, so I will continue to lead the rest of the staff and the players that we still have and the ones we have under contract. Just continue to make them get better." Curry said Hinkie informed him that the coaching search would be a long process when they first spoke. The Sixers also are expected to interview Boston Celtics assistant coach Jay Larranaga, according to multiple reports. Five other NBA assistants - Brett Brown (San Antonio Spurs), David Fizdale (Miami Heat), Melvin Hunt (Denver Nuggets), Chris Finch (Houston Rockets) and Kelvin Sampson (Houston Rockets) - have also been mentioned as candidates for the Sixers' job.
  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: Appearing eager to support his teammates, New Orleans Pelicans shooting guard Eric Gordon attended the team's summer league game on Monday and sat on the bench. Traveling from nearby Los Angeles, where he's doing his ankle rehabilitation work after requiring surgery in May, Gordon said he came to support the team during their 66-62 victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers at UNLV's Cox Pavilion. Gordon said he will likely return to see more games before their summer league schedule ends. “People forget that Eric is a good guy,'' Pelicans coach Monty Williams said after Monday's game. “I actually called him out of the blue the other day and he told me he was coming out. Nobody asked him, he just said coach, `I'm coming out and I want to be around the team.' I thought that was phenomenal.'' During timeouts Monday, Gordon appeared to be engaged in the huddle, encouraging and giving pointers to some of the team's younger players. … Gordon said his rehabilitation is on schedule and he's been moving around pretty well. “It's been easy sailing so far and I when training camp begins, I want to be at 100 percent,'' Gordon said.
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Though it might not seem to make sense, the Mavericks’ meeting with Greg Oden on Monday night in Las Vegas actually is a continuation of a dialogue that has been ongoing between the sides for nearly a year. Despite Oden’s major injury problems, the Mavericks seem to think it’s worthwhile to explore the option of bringing him on board to try to kick-start his career. That it should come much more cheaply than Andrew Bynum might have something to do with it. Oden, 25, spent five seasons with Portland. He played in two of them, with his serious knee problems keeping him on the shelf the other three. Last season, he was not with any NBA team. The price tag could be right for Oden. The Mavericks showed an interest in the 7-footer since he became a free agent after the 2011-12 season. He’s been weighing his options to try to resuscitate his career. While Bynum could have cost as much as $24 million for two years, Oden won’t command anything close to that.
  • J. Michael of CSN Washington: The Wizards have begun talking with John Wall’s agent, Dan Fegan, regarding an extension before the regular season, CSN Washington has learned. Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in 2010, is eligible for up to a four-year, max contract with the Wizards in addition to the final year remaining on his deal that will pay him $7.45 million next season. If he's named the franchise's designated player, Wall can get five years. If the Wizards cannot reach an agreement with him by Oct. 31, talks will have to be tabled until after the 2013-14 regular season.
  • John Niyo of The Detroit News: He’d prefer it if you called him “Gigi.” He’s single, in case anybody’s interested. And, yes, the newest member of the Detroit Pistons, Italian sharpshooter Luigi Datome, said Monday he plans on keeping both the full beard and the ponytail. “Yes, why not?” he laughed, shortly after signing his first NBA contract. “So people will recognize me easier.” But all joking aside, the 25-year-old MVP of the Italian League wants everyone to recognize his American dream — “and for sure, this was my dream for a long time,” he told me — is one that fans in Detroit should embrace, too. “I want to come here and show that I deserve to be an NBA player,” he said. Clearly, the Pistons think he does, and will. And while Monday’s signing won’t register the same as last week’s Josh Smith introduction or today’s Chauncey Billups return, it’s an intriguing addition, nonetheless. Not just because of the accent, either, though Datome’s brief news conference at the practice facility Monday certainly had a different rhythm than the one that immediately followed for Will Bynum, who also re-upped with the Pistons for two more years.
  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: On the cusp of his third NBA season, Cory Joseph’s Summer League assignment is clear. The Spurs want him to speak up and be a leader. Spurs assistant Ime Udoka, who helms the Summer League squad, reiterated as much after an 82-76 loss to Toronto late Sunday night. Joseph’s final numbers were solid — 16 points, six rebounds, six assists. But in Las Vegas, Joseph — who ended the season as Tony Parker’s primary backup — is not being judged on numbers alone. “We need him to be more vocal in his role, especially when they up the pressure,” Udoka said. “We need to respond better when we get in those ruts. He’s a leader out there and we’re looking for him to take more command. He had decent game, but he can do much better.” A bit introverted by nature, the 21-year-old Joseph says he is up to the challenge. “I’m the point guard,” Joseph said. “I’ve been leading teams all my life.”
  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: Daniel Orton likely is the odd man out. He’s due to be paid just $916,099 in 2013-14, and Orton’s Summer League performance last week was impressive. But Orton is one of four centers on the Thunder roster. In the modern NBA, you don’t need four centers. Heck, in the old NBA, you didn’t need four centers, not when you’ve got Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison, too. So look for the Thunder to try to trade Orton. Probably a second-round draft pick is all OKC could get for him, but that’s better than nothing, which is what the Thunder will get if it has to waive him. It’s possible the Thunder could trade or cut Orton and sign two players in his stead – both at minimum salaries. That would drop the Thunder just below the luxury tax threshold
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Did the Suns draft damaged goods at No. 5 last month by choosing Alex Len? Is this another big man with chronic health issues barely above the hardwood? Visions of Robin Lopez and Kurt Thomas feet issues come racing back. There certainly is reason for concern, because Len is a critical element to the Suns’ turnaround. But the ankle issues do not alarm the Suns. They checked out the left ankle before drafting him and were confident that the partial stress fracture would not be a future issue. After drafting him, it made sense to have the other ankle checked out because of how the body often compensates for injury. Sure enough, there were miniscule signs of the beginning of a stress fracture. The surgery that Len underwent Friday, by Dr. Gustavo Armendariz in Phoenix, was a similar procedure to what he had in early May, but this was only preventative. It does not add any rehabilitation time to what he was already undergoing, meaning Len should be able to resume some activity during September voluntary workouts and be ready for October training camp. “Do you let it heal or do you do something proactively?” Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said. “They found something at the earliest possible stages. It didn’t require surgery, but that was the safest course of action.”
  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: If heads continue to be scratched about why the Utah Jazz traded for Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush, fans should remove all fingers from their scalps. We don't want any hair to be pulled out by accident — or because the Jazz's intentions aren't understood. Yes, those three Warriors will become California transplants in Utah this fall. No, the Jazz didn't make the trade just to acquire them. You've heard that phrase players occasionally spout about how the "NBA is a business," right? … Because the organization decided not to bring Jefferson, Millsap, Mo Williams or any other veteran free agents back from last year's team, it required multiple big salaries from elsewhere to get to the NBA's minimum payroll level of $52 million. There weren't a whole lot of prized free agents within Utah's reach this offseason, so general manager Dennis Lindsey & Co. went wheeling and dealing for a solution. A quick fix presented itself via Oakland. Biedrins and Jefferson make a combined $20 million next season, and Rush is due $4 million. Eh, voila.

First Cup: Monday

July, 15, 2013
By Nick Borges
  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: Finally, Derrick Rose’s left knee wasn’t the main topic of conversation for Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. Speaking to the media on Saturday for the first time since lead assistant coach and close friend Ron Adams was let go, Thibodeau did his best to dismiss the idea there’s a rift between him and general manager Gar Forman. “No, we’re fine,” Thibodeau said before the Bulls played the Memphis Grizzlies in their first NBA Summer League game. It was convincing enough to quiet the speculation for now, but Thibodeau didn’t sound thrilled by Adams’ removal. “As I tell our players, I tell everyone, we’re not looking backwards, we’re looking ahead, and we’re getting ready for next season,” Thibodeau said. “That’s all we’re thinking about.” Asked if he felt good about where he and Forman are, Thibodeau said, “Yeah. We’re getting ready for next season. We want to be a championship-caliber team, and that’s all we’re thinking about.”
  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: Metta World Peace wouldn't mind playing for the Clippers now that he's a free agent. "Of course I'm interested in Clippers," World Peace texted to The Times on Sunday. "I have to meet them first." The Clippers also are interested in speaking with World Peace, said NBA executives who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. There have been reports the New York Knicks are also interested in World Peace, who was waived by the Lakers under the amnesty provision on Thursday. Sunday at 2 p.m. Pacific time was the deadline for teams with salary cap room to bid on World Peace. But no team did, allowing him to clear waivers and negotiate with the team of his choice. The most the Clippers can pay a player with World Peace's experience level is $1.4 million. He still will get the $7.7 million owed by the Lakers.
  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: Metta World Peace is free to come home — 14 years later. World Peace is a free agent after clearing amnesty waivers last night, and the Knicks officially expressed interest to the agents of the former Ron Artest at the Las Vegas Summer League. The Knicks are trying to schedule a meeting with World Peace in Las Vegas today or tomorrow. Agent Marc Cornstein said nothing is set in stone on the meeting yet, but said there’s “mutual interest.’’ World Peace, when asked if he’s coming to Vegas to sit down with the Knicks, responded via text message to The Post, “No, going to watch Floyd Mayweather train.” Cornstein planned to speak with World Peace last night to go over his options. Knicks coach Mike Woodson acknowledged the club likes what the Queensbridge product can bring. “I like his skill set a lot,’’ Woodson said. “A lot of teams liked his skill set over the years. He does a little bit of everything.’’
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: It's been a polarizing summer for Thunder fans. Many wonder why the team isn't doing more. But those fans seem to have forgotten a major element that defined the Thunder's season in the two months since OKC was knocked out of the playoffs in the second round. Russell Westbrook suffered a season-ending knee injury. Had the team's star point guard not gone down with a fluke injury, who knows how the Thunder's season would have played out? That's the main reason the Thunder hasn't made any sweeping changes or departed from its process. When Westbrook returns, the Thunder is expected again take its place at the top of the Western Conference. But money matters also have shaped the Thunder's summer.
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Hakeem Olajuwon, a key part of the Rockets’ recruiting efforts to land Howard and a large part of the festivities Saturday after Howard signed, will rejoin the Rockets in an official capacity for the first time since he spent the final season of his career with the Toronto Raptors in 2002. Olajuwon’s duties and title are being discussed, and he will spend much of the year at his home in Jordan. But he will work with Rockets interior players, as he does with big men around the NBA each offseason, as a team employee. “We are going to bring him in as full-time as is possible,” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said Sunday. “It’s not done, but we have mutual interest to get it done, and we’ve had some early discussions. “We want him to work with Dwight and Omer (Asik), and he wants to do that.” Olajuwon, 50, has worked with Howard in two offseasons, and Howard has spoken about training with him again, this time as the latest in the line of Rockets All-Star centers.
  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: From Sports Illustrated to ESPN to CBS, all the major U.S. media players were left in awe of the Raptors big man who made his debut in the final game of Day 2 at the Las Vegas Summer League. That it came in a loss to a Miami Heat squad that likely doesn’t have a player who will make an NBA squad this year is beside the point. What everyone in attendance saw was a player who has taken a solid rookie season and is already giving every indication his sophomore season will dwarf it. The more astute critics were careful to point out that Valanciunas’ dominance is coming against players who for the most part are a couple of years behind him in their development. Normally Valanciunas would have played at least once in the summer league already considering he was drafted in 2011. But playing another year in Lithuania before his buyout was complete (the 2011 summer league was cancelled anyway, a victim of the lockout) and then helping Lithuania to qualify for the Olympics and play in them last summer kept him away. So unlike many others, Valanciunas isn’t here to open eyes or audition for a job. He has got the job already based on that solid rookie season. What Valanciunas is here to do is take the next step and — as harsh as this may sound — that means crushing the competition that stands opposed.
  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: There has been a lot of enthusiasm surrounding the Trail Blazers’ addition of Thomas Robinson this offseason. General manager Neil Olshey labeled it an “absolute steal” and the consensus — both locally and nationally — seems to be that the Blazers scooped up Robinson for nothing when they acquired him for a pair of second-round draft picks and a couple of international prospects. But after two uneven summer league appearances, including Sunday’s 81-63 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, that opinion has a fresh perspective. Robinson’s effort and energy have been inconsistent. His raw and beastly athleticism have been more imposing than productive. Far too often, he’s resorted to one-on-one offensive play rather than embracing the dirty work he supposedly relishes. … But two summer league games is the only body of work Blazers fans have so far, and it’s been a hit-and-miss experience. Robinson is a bundle of hustle and muscle, who — at 6-foot-10 and 240-pounds — is a hulking, physical force. He thrives on contact and rugged play and, thanks to a 7-3 wingspan and a 35-inch vertical leap, he excels at rebounding and defense. What’s more, he loves both.
  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: Atlanta's Schröder looks eerily like.... Rajon Rondo. Their mannerisms are quite similar and Schröder causes the same type of defensive havoc as Rondo, at least in summer league. Schröder plays aggressively on defense and also has an uncanny confidence and swagger. The Celtics seriously considered taking Schröder with the 16th pick but traded up to take Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk, a selection they are thrilled with after his impressive summer league performance. Schröder finished with a Rondo-like 9 points on 4-for-12 shooting, 8 rebounds and 4 steals in Atlanta's 75-71 win over Miami.
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Don Newman, however, kept Otto Porter Jr. as his starting shooting guard, and the result was another rough outing offensively for the 6-foot-9 rookie more suited to play small forward. Porter once again got off to a decent start, scoring eight points in the first half as he caught a backdoor pass from Jan Vesely for a layup, made a mid-range jumper and even threw down two rare fast-break dunks. But he went scoreless in the second half, missing all five of his shot attempts, and finished 4 of 13 from the field in the Wizards’ 82-69 loss. “It’s hard to get that comfortability right now, playing different positions, trying to figure it out, trying to execute,” Porter said. “It’s different.” … The Wizards certainly aren’t panicking since they are obviously experimenting with Porter. In the regular season, Porter usually will be surrounded by better offensive players, which will allow his skills as a do-it-all complementary piece to stand out. Newman said the Wizards are “fishing around” to figure out how to best use Porter when the regular season begins. Coming from a structured system at Georgetown, Porter is trying to find his way in a much more wide-open summer league style. More of a reactionary, adjusting player, Porter is still trying to get a feel for the strengths and weaknesses of his teammates.
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Fast as Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford hopes Cody Zeller develops, he’s wary of overloading the rookie with data. “What we’re doing with him is a little different than the other three guys’’ under contract, Clifford said following an 86-80 summer-league victory over the Dallas Mavericks. “We’re just kind of letting him feel his way. He’s so smart, and the (NBA) rules are different. He’s so bright that you can see every time you practice, he figures something else out.’’ Zeller, the fourth overall pick, finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds and a block. He improved dramatically from his first game, when he totaled eight points and five rebounds. Some of that was simply about shooting. He missed a bunch of jumpers Friday against the San Antonio Spurs that fell through Sunday. But it was also about Zeller’s comfort level in the high-post sets the Bobcats are implementing to let him be a passer-shooter.
  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: So where does this leave the Bucks and Brandon Jennings? He has served as Milwaukee's starter for the past four seasons since being selected 10th overall in the 2009 draft. And he averaged 17.5 points and a career-best 6.5 assists last season while continuing to struggle with his shooting percentage (39.9%). Jennings was in contention for an all-star berth at the halfway point of the season but he struggled at the end of the season and in a first-round playoff series against Miami. The fact the Bucks aggressively sought another point guard could put a serious damper on Jennings' thoughts of playing a fifth season in Milwaukee. But it's the way restricted free agency works, a painful process at best. The Bucks made a $4.3 million qualifying offer to Jennings, so they still have the ability to match any offer the 23-year-old receives from another team. So far Jennings has received no offers. A sign-and-trade deal with Jennings also could still be done, and the Bucks could look at other point guard options through trades or the free-agent market.
  • Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune: If Flip Saunders had behaved this way when he was 5 years old, someone would have prescribed Ritalin. The man is on fire. As the Timberwolves’ personnel boss discussed his many moves on Friday, he could barely sit still. And after the news conference, when the room had emptied, he gushed with the kind of optimism that most team executives try to keep hidden beneath a layer of professional caution. “I’m really excited about what we have,” Saunders said. “I don’t want to put any expectations on us. And the reason I don’t want to put any expectations on us is I don’t want to make those expectations too low. I do believe if we stay healthy, the way Rick [Adelman] coaches and with the system we have, that we could be a very scary team.” He’s right. With the addition of defensive-minded wing Corey Brewer, Saunders and Adelman, the Wolves coach, have built the deepest, most versatile roster in franchise history. In this case, “franchise history” isn’t too impressive. Look at it another way: This year’s Wolves will have a bench that could have beaten the starting fives of a few recent teams. If Adelman starts Brewer at small forward for defensive purposes, the starting five will be Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Brewer, Kevin Loveand Nikola Pekovic. The next seven players will be J.J. Barea, Chase Budinger, Derrick Williams, Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng, Ronny Turiaf and Alexey Shved.
  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: It's official: The Spurs' main starting five last season will be back. The Spurs on Saturday announced the re-signing of center Tiago Splitter. The Spurs had a good idea of Splitter's market value, and they weren't surprised when they learned the Trail Blazers were preparing an offer sheet of four years at $36 million for the restricted free agent. When word reached Portland that the Spurs intended to match their offer, the Blazers withdrew from the process, and Splitter agreed to the same terms to stay in San Antonio. Of those on the Spurs' playoff roster, only forward DeJuan Blair, guard/forward Tracy McGrady and guard Gary Neal remain unsigned for next season. It's highly unlikely Blair or McGrady will be back, but Neal could return if he doesn't get a restricted free agent offer the Spurs deem too costly. Portland's planned offer for Splitter was deemed well within the parameters for starting centers with skills similar to the Brazilian. “I don't think you ever look at anything as 'no matter the price tag,'” general manager R.C. Buford said, “but we had expectations of what the market was going to bring. It was clear there was a market for Tiago; we had the opportunity to match because of his being a restricted free agent.”
  • Gil LeBreton of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Tank the season? Trade Dirk? Start over? No, no, no, no and no. And an extra no on the trade-Nowitzki thing. On a radio talk show the other day, a host gushed about the largesse of draft choices that a trade of Dirk would bestow. No doubt Nowitzki could, even at age 35. But what kind of team, exactly, would be interested in trading for an aging, 11-time All-Star? A contending team that would view Nowitzki as its final missing piece. A team willing to take on the league’s second-highest annual salary, $22.7 million. In other words, a playoff team, not a lottery one. And if the Mavericks wouldn’t be picking from one of the first three places in the draft, what would be the odds of finding another Dirk Nowitzki? I’m not an old-school guy, really. But I do bristle under my button-down collar about this. I didn’t want to see Mike Modano skate in anything but a Stars uniform. Dirk, playing for the Houston Rockets, would similarly jar the senses. Fortunately, there is no apparent local movement afoot to package Nowitzki for either a bag of NBA beans or the family cow. It’s hard to imagine that owner Mark Cuban has ever seriously considered it.

Sources: Nuggets interested in Robinson

July, 13, 2013
Stein By Marc Stein
The market for guard Nate Robinson is likely to expand as free agency approaches its third week, but the identity of at least one suitor for Robinson is clear.

Sources close to the situation said Saturday that the Denver Nuggets have registered their interest in Robinson, who ranks as one of the most attractive free agents still available after his playoff scoring binges for Chicago.

The prospect of a return to Chicago appears increasingly unlikely. Sources say that the reluctance of Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau to bring Robinson back -- with Derrick Rose returning -- is expected to lead Robinson elsewhere.

First Cup: Thursday

July, 11, 2013
By Nick Borges
  • Bill Livingston of The Plain Dealer: If healthy, the 7-foot Bynum could remind critics of just how good he was in Los Angeles. At the very least, he gives some depth to a roster whose bigs consist of fragile Anderson Varejao, third-year man Tristan Thompson, project Tyler Zeller and rookie Anthony Bennett, the top pick in an unexciting NBA Draft. Of more importance to fans who have seen three straight seasons of sometimes epic losing, the Cavs are actually trying to make the playoffs with the Bynum gamble. You'll see more teams "pack it in" next season than there were San Antonio Spurs guarding the rim and daring LeBron James to shoot jump shots in the recent NBA Finals. All this positioning will be to try to get the prize of next year's draft, incoming Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins. … Mike Brown is back now as Cavs coach. Bynum had his best season as a pro with Brown in Los Angeles. The stars aren't aligned, but they're not crossed, either. Bynum is hardly the most daring gamble Horseshoe Casino impressario and Cavs' owner Dan Gilbert ever took.
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Sometimes, the best moves are the ones you don’t make. Other times, they are the ones you try to make, but get left at the altar. The Mavericks have lost out on Andrew Bynum, a source said Wednesday evening. The Mavericks had met earlier Wednesday with the 7-foot center who didn’t play a second last season because of surgery on both knees. The Cleveland Cavaliers outbid the Mavericks and we all know money usually rules the day in the NBA. The guess here is that the Mavericks will end up being happy they finished second in this race. (Or third, maybe, since Atlanta was in the mix). But Bynum’s health is so uncertain that it wouldn’t be a shock if he missed a good chunk of the upcoming season. The Cavaliers — young and building for the future — could afford that sort of risk. The Mavericks would have taken a chance. But with a win-now philosophy, they could not justify pouring a ton of guaranteed money to Bynum if they weren’t sure he was going to be available for most of the upcoming season.
  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: With the addition of draft picks Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum, half the roster has been restructured, and more shuffling is expected. Bottom feeders seldom become upwardly mobile after one offseason. It took years to create this mess and will require several smart draft selections and free-agent signings, slick negotiating and deal-making, and quality, consistent coaching to transform a team that is still adjusting to sticking around. But the theme – cautiously courageous – should come with the following caveat: continue to resist the allure of Monta Ellis, one of the few upper-tier free agents still available. No, no, no, no, no, no. The reasons? Where to start? The Kings don't need to imitate their neighbors in Oakland, don't need another undersized scorer, don't need another volume shooter, don't need another ball-dominant player, don't need a veteran who struggles to defend his position and who, despite a history of knee and foot problems, opted out of a contract with Milwaukee that would have paid him $11 million in 2013-14. Given Vivek Ranadive's fondness for Ellis – the two were together with the Warriors – this is a test.
  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: The point guard merry-go-round continues to spin for the Milwaukee Bucks. And on Wednesday night it spun firmly in the direction of Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague. Teague signed a four-year, $32 million offer sheet with Milwaukee, Bucks officials confirmed late Wednesday. The Hawks will have three days to match it, and if they do not, Teague will be the Bucks' new starting point guard. The league's moratorium on signings and trades ended Wednesday, but the Bucks still had unfinished business regarding their pursuit of Teague and the fate of last season's backcourt starters, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. Milwaukee is seeking to revamp its backcourt after earlier agreeing to a three-year, $24 million contract with shooting guard O.J. Mayo. Jennings, a restricted free agent, and Ellis, who is unrestricted and will not return to Milwaukee, have yet to land new contracts.
  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: The Timberwolves made room for the defensive-minded wing player they lack by agreeing to contract terms with unrestricted free-agent Corey Brewer, while also agreeing on a three-team deal that will send veteran guard Luke Ridnour to Milwaukee, two league sources said Wednesday. The Wolves cleared enough salary-cap space for Brewer’s three-year, $15/million contract by reaching agreement on a sign-and-trade with Oklahoma City for free-agent signee Kevin Martin and by sending Ridnour and his $4.3 million salary back to the Bucks without accepting any salaries in return. Both trades are contingent on Brewer and Ridnour passing physical exams as soon as Thursday.
  • Phil Collin of the Los Angeles Daily News: Barnes, Hollins and Collison signed free-agent contracts. The Clippers are still shopping, with forward Lamar Odom and Antawn Jamison still on the wish list. It all started with Paul, who acknowledged he was ready for the grumblings of fans who thought he wielded too much input in player selection and determining that Vinny Del Negro would not return as coach. "I knew that going into free agency that any time something happened, everybody was going to say 'What is Chris doing?' but it comes with it and I was prepared for that," Paul said. "I was shooting a commercial when I found out about (the Redick-Dudley deal). It's part of the process." New coach -- and senior director of basketball operations -- Doc Rivers now has to take the parts he has acquired and assemble them with mainstays Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford. "I told our guys if you feel like this team has a chance, then you want to play with us," Rivers said of his recruiting pitch. "If you don't, and I was honest, go somewhere else and try to win it. I told all of them that because that's our goal." Paul's early commitment to the cause set the tone.
  • John Niyo of The Detroit News: Nice guys don’t always finish last. But the Pistons have done enough of that lately for Joe Dumars, the nicest of the Bad Boys, to know this rebuilding project of his at The Palace needed a few more rough edges. That sounds a bit counter intuitive, I realize, given some of the insolence and insubordination this franchise has endured in recent years. But as quiet as The Palace has grown amid the sparsely-attended games and successive 50-loss seasons, so has the roster, in a way. Out with the old, and in with the new? Of course. It couldn’t — and didn’t — happen soon enough, honestly. But the Pistons’ youth movement also brought with it a passivity that was at times painful to watch the past couple of years, and not just for the fans. Josh Smith, the newest free-agent addition, is a lot of things, and not all of them good. But passive isn’t one of them, and that, Dumars insisted as he officially introduced the talented, temperamental forward to Detroit on Wednesday, is part of his plan, too.
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: The first step toward getting Howard signed was to complete the trade of Thomas Robinson to the Portland Trail Blazers. That deal was made official Wednesday, with Robinson, the fifth pick in the 2012 draft, going to Portland in exchange for the rights to forward Kostas Papanikolaou and center Marko Todorovic and two second-round picks. The Rockets will get Portland’s pick in 2017 and either Denver’s or Minnesota’s, whichever is better, in 2015. … With that deal complete, the Rockets have to officially complete the trade of Royce White and the rights to Furkan Aldemir to Philadelphia. They can then sign Howard, but that likely will not come next. To sign second-round pick Isaiah Canaan to a three-year deal (with several team options), they have to sign him into cap room, something they can not do if Howard has filled the cap space. Once the trade of White and the $1.7 million guaranteed on his contract and the signing of Canaan are complete, the Rockets will be ready to sign Howard, expected either Thursday or Friday.
  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Mike Dunleavy Jr. received lengthier and more lucrative free-agent offers than the two-year, $6.2 million deal he signed as the Bulls' main offseason acquisition. But the reason the veteran shooter took less is because he wants more. Playoff appearances, that is. "I've been in the league 11 years and I've been through a lot of mediocrity," Dunleavy said Wednesday at the Berto Center. "To be a part of this is special. I don't take it for granted."
  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: You can't talk to new 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie for more than a minute without some form of the word "observe" coming from his mouth. He is taking in his first summer league as a general manager, so his sightlines are somewhat different. He is evaluating the talent of the two players he drafted last month in Michael Carter-Williams and Arsalan Kazemi. He is looking at wannabe players both on the Sixers and other players whom he may decide to try to bring to training camp. And, of course, he is keeping his eyes open for whom he will bring in as the next coach of this franchise. … Ah, the coach. Yesterday and throughout the summer league, it will be Michael Curry. Could he also be on the sideline when the Sixers open the regular season or could it be someone else? Again, Hinkie is observing. "I think he's done a really good job," Hinkie said. "Our practices have been lively and energetic. We've spent a lot of time [practicing] system-wise, but we've also spent a lot of time on skill development, too. I think overall it's been a good week for our whole staff. We've got most of the assistants from last year here and I think they've done a good job. I am very pleased." So is he evaluating Curry for the coaching position? No doubt Curry is auditioning, and an interview after the summer league is most likely on the agenda. "For sure, I am evaluating everyone," Hinkie said. "We've had some of our scouting staff here so we've spent some time together. I observe a lot and I'm trying to observe everything."
  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Let’s be clear: Paul Millsap would be a fine addition at just about any price, but at this price he’s a steal. He’s a proven power forward – proven at power forward in a way that Al Horford is not, let me emphasize – whose signing won’t hamstring the Atlanta Hawks for the next half-decade. Nineteen million over two seasons? Great deal. Of Millsap, Hawks general manager Danny Ferry said Wednesday at Philips Arena: “His energy level night in and night out is unique … He embodies the identity and the values we want to have.” Let’s also be clear about this: At the moment, the Hawks aren’t as talented as they were last season and not nearly as gifted as they were before Ferry arrived and starting clearing cap space. … Ferry again, speaking of a 4-5 tandem of Millsap and Horford: “The thing I really like is their ability to pass the ball … The chemistry between them should be very good.” And let’s be clear about one final thing: Playing as a team is a great and laudable thing. Still, this is the NBA, and in the NBA, as the former Hawks coach Larry Drew said, “Talent wins.”
  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: More than a few eyebrows were raised when Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard was included on the Blazers' summer league roster. Why would someone who led the NBA in minutes played and enjoyed a remarkable rookie season land on a summer league team? Well, it would not be wise to expect Lillard to play in any games when the team travels to Las Vegas on Friday. Lillard decided to take part in summer league to be around his teammates and get to know the Blazers' newest additions, including Thomas Robinson, CJ McCollum and Crabbe. Lillard has participated in minor portions of the Blazers' practices, but he is not expected to play in any games in Las Vegas. "I think more than anything, I’ll be there for support," Lillard said.
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: In four seasons with three teams, Maynor has already assumed that role for all-star Deron Williams in Utah, all-star Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City and rookie of the year Damian Lillard in Portland. Last week, Maynor arrived as a free agent signee in Washington, where he has been tasked with the same assignment for John Wall, a former No. 1 pick who started to fully tap into his potential late last season. Feeling the need to upgrade behind Wall, the Wizards targeted Maynor immediately after the free agent recruitment period began. And desiring to end the suspense about his future, Maynor reciprocated the interest and accepted a two-year deal worth about $4 million and includes a player option for the second season. “I think this is the kind of team that’s going to be on the rise,” Maynor said. “I just wanted to get it out the way. I didn’t want to be waiting. I felt like this was a great situation for me. Young team. Up-and-coming. Nice deal for me. I’m excited about being here.”
  • Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer: My friend and colleague Tom Sorensen has criticized the Jefferson signing, in large part because he wants the Bobcats to have another bad team next season to get another high pick for the 2014 NBA draft – preferably the first pick. It sounds fine in theory, but we all know that it rarely works. This isn’t the NFL. Even if you have the worst record in the NBA, there’s a 75 percent chance you won’t get the No.1 pick. The Bobcats had that happen in 2012, when a 7-59 record still didn’t earn them Anthony Davis. So if you’ve got an opportunity to get a player like Jefferson, then you go for it. Right now. Yes, he’s more toward the end of his career than the beginning. But he has been very durable the past three years, he’s only 28, he will be a low-maintenance locker room leader. He will make Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo more effective by mentoring them and allowing each to do what they do best.

Will Bucks and Hawks swap guards?

July, 10, 2013
Stein By Marc Stein
It is arguably the biggest remaining source of intrigue in NBA free agency outside of the Andrew Bynum saga:

This ever-evolving Point Guard Dance involving the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks.

As has reported on more than one occasion this month, Milwaukee and Atlanta have explored a variety of sign-and-trade scenarios involving unrestricted free agent Monta Ellis and restricted free agents Brandon Jennings and Jeff Teague.

The only certainty in the process, sources close to the situation continue to say, is that the Bucks have Teague at the top of their wish list. Sources said Wednesday that Milwaukee is readying an offer sheet for Teague that Atlanta would have just three days to match if the point guard actually signs it.

The mere threat of an offer sheet, though, could also trigger ramped-up talks between the Hawks and Bucks on the sign-and-trade front. Predicting where it goes from there, though, is troublesome in the extreme, given the mixed signals emanating from Atlanta about how interested -- or not -- the Hawks are in Ellis or Jennings in a sign-and-trade scenario.

The Bucks would happily do a sign-and-trade for Teague with either one of them. Yet it's likewise possible that the Hawks will pass on both if the latest rumbles in circulation about Atlanta's interest in free-agent point guard Mo Williams have weight.

UPDATE: As if this merry-go-round needed one more variable to muddle things, ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard reported Wednesday that Ellis has left longtime agent Jeff Fried and is expected to sign with Dan Fegan.

First Cup: Wednesday

July, 10, 2013
By Nick Borges
  • Al Iannazzone of Newsday: The Knicks had a chance to draft Metta World Peace 14 years ago when he went by the name of Ron Artest, but passed. They probably won't do that again if World Peace becomes available now. There is speculation that the Lakers could waive World Peace through the amnesty provision as early as Wednesday. If they do, league sources said the Knicks would be interested in signing the enigmatic forward. A source with ties to World Peace said the Knicks are at the top of the list of teams he'd like to play for. "If he does get amnestied, Metta would love to play for the Knicks,'' the source said. "I know he would love to be with the Knicks and retire a Knick.'' World Peace, 33, is from Queensbridge, N.Y., and played at St. John's, so coming to the Knicks would be a homecoming. The Clippers also could be an option.
  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Hawks met Tuesday with unrestricted free agent Andrew Bynum, according to a person familiar with the situation, as the team continued its search for a center. Bynum reportedly received a two-year, $24 million offer from the Cavaliers after he met with the team Monday. The injury-plagued 7-footer is scheduled to visit the Mavericks on Wednesday. …. The list of free agent centers available is dwindling. Zaza Pachulia, who played the past eight seasons with the Hawks, agreed to a deal with the Bucks. After Timberwolves restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic, the list of unrestricted possibilities include Johan Petro, Samuel Dalmebert, Brandan Wright, B.J. Mullens, Cole Aldrich and Greg Stiemsma. Petro saw limited action for the Hawks last season. He started four of the six playoff games against the Pacers after Pachulia was lost for the season with a partially torn Achilles tendon.
  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: The Cavaliers were pushing Andrew Bynum for a quick response to their two-year offer, but they might have to wait on him longer than expected. After visiting the Cavaliers’ facility Monday, Bynum visited with the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday and will meet with the Dallas Mavericks today, his agent, David Lee, told the Akron Beacon Journal. While reports surfaced early Tuesday morning that Bynum could make a decision by the end of the day, Lee said there is no timetable and was vague when asked if it will be made this week. “It might be, but it’s hard to say,” Lee said. He wouldn’t get into specifics of the visits in Cleveland or Atlanta and wouldn’t disclose what the Hawks offered. “It’s ongoing discussions and I’d prefer they stay private among the parties,” he said. Ideally, the Cavaliers would’ve liked a decision by today, when the moratorium period ends and free agents are allowed to sign with their new teams. The Cavs are expected to finalize contracts with free agents Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark today, and adding Bynum to the list would make it a blockbuster day. That, however, seems unlikely now.
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: The NBA gets back to business Wednesday, with all those handshake agreements struck over the last 10 days available to be signed as the league’s moratorium is lifted and the new salary cap is set. So are the Mavericks ready for more heartbreak? They are finalists once again for the best free agents left on the board. Favorites for Andrew Bynum or Monta Ellis? Nope. The Mavericks merely are in the conversation, and it’s entirely possible they could come up empty again. … That brings up the distinct possibility that the Mavericks’ search for a viable center might move from a free-agent signing to a trade. A source said that is becoming a realistic option, particularly if Bynum elects to sign elsewhere. Cleveland was believed to have offered a two-year deal Tuesday, and the Cavaliers have more cap space to work with than the Mavericks do.
  • Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post: While the Nuggets have struggled to make the improvements necessary to remain among the Western Conference's elite after a NBA franchise-record 57 wins, other teams have made moves that push them closer to the top. So, although the Nuggets haven't definitively lost ground, other teams appear to be getting better. And that doesn't bode well for Denver, which has a new general manager and a new coach. The Nuggets, who will make official Wednesday the acquisitions of big man J.J. Hickson (free-agent signing) and guard Randy Foye (sign-and-trade) now that the league moratorium on signings has ended, finished third in the Western Conference last season. As things stand, it's difficult to make a case for the Nuggets being better than seventh in the West. That has less to do with the Nuggets and what they've done, or not done, than it does the six teams ahead of them: Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Houston, L.A. Clippers, Golden State and Memphis. None of the six got worse, and Houston and Golden State upgraded.
  • Monte Poole of The Oakland Tribune: Local fans are going to trip over their tongues to express their love for him. Iguodala will have to go wrong 4.8 million ways before October to deny himself a standing ovation on opening night at Oracle Arena. The bar for free agents who are paid big money to wear a Warriors jersey is woefully low, set by Derek Fisher ($37 million over six years in 2004) and Corey Maggette ($50 mil, five years in 2008). Iguodala immediately becomes the most heralded free agent to actually choose the GSWs. It's not that the Warriors haven't signed free agents who became effective. They've had plenty of guys -- Terry Teagle, Rod Higgins, Mario Elie, Earl Boykins, Anthony Morrow, Nate Robinson to name six -- become fan favorites. But each was coming from the CBA or the D-League or off the street. Iguodala is coming from another playoff team, a decorated star joining a competitive Warriors team on a feverish quest to improve. He joins a franchise trying to shed old skin, one that for the past quarter century has responded to every hint of growth by cannibalizing itself. Iggy represents the kind of move the 49ers routinely attempted and often completed under the Eddie DeBartolo ownership before the NFL adopting a salary cap.
  • Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune: For Jazz fans worried about what in the name of bad basketball Dennis Lindsey is doing, here’s a bit of advice: Don’t. There’s no guarantee the road the Jazz are now traveling will lead them to real contention, but one thing is certain. The old path didn’t. And another, the old path wouldn’t. Maintaining that former course — scratching and clawing to stay afloat, trading for or signing mid-tier veterans and nudging them toward conscientious effort and sound teamwork — would be a waste of time, at least if the Jazz ever want to climb to the top. Finding themselves somewhere on the sliding scale of good, which the club had pretty much mastered since Karl Malone and John Stockton left the building, but never sniffing great is a mistake of seasons gone by. Now the Jazz are stripping the thing down to grow it back to where everybody around here wants it to be. The notion of safety no longer is in play. It’s time, they figure, to make some smart choices and take some smart chances.
  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: But while the 7-footer’s actions — the smooth shots, the court awareness — certainly are enough to warrant praise, it is important to add that they must be taken in context. Or, as Olynyk’s neighbors might say, “How about a little perspective, eh?” It is impossible to avoid being impressed with the kid’s game. He has a calm presence on the floor, and he’s shown a willingness to mix it up in traffic, even if his body isn’t yet entirely suited for such close-quarter combat. But this merely is a summer league, a fact that, to Olynyk’s great credit, he understands. What the 13th overall draft pick is showing on the Orlando Magic practice floor is that he has the skills to be a successful NBA player. But said talents won’t get an honest test until he gets hit in the face — literally and figuratively — by the league and its players. From what we’ve seen, Olynyk can be a player who sets up teammates with his passing and hustle, then makes opponents pay when they drift toward those he has just fed. He’ll be in the right places and will hit open shots, and some that are not so open as well.
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: For point guard Kemba Walker, flying to Charlotte this week was no big deal: A chance to get some summertime run on the basketball court and an opportunity to spend time with the coaching staff and rookie Cody Zeller. To new Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford, it was huge. “It shows a commitment, a seriousness about getting better,’’ Clifford said after morning practice Tuesday. “He’s going to practice twice today, completely on his own. From both a basketball and leadership standpoint, it speaks volumes. It will speed up the process for everybody.” Walker, the Bobcats’ leading scorer last season, volunteered to work out with the summer-league team this week. As team president of basketball operations Rod Higgins sometimes says, Walker has been handed the keys to the car. This is his way of living up to that faith.
  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: The Timberwolves are set to publicly introduce newly signed Kevin Martin on Wednesday morning. His arrival finally gives the team a legitimately sized (6-7) shooting guard and reunites Martin with Wolves coach Rick Adelman for the third time in their NBA careers. David Thorpe — Martin’s personal coach, analyst and executive director Florida’s Pro Training Center — recently discussed with Jerry Zgoda the player he has trained since Martin was 19. Q Other than nearly 28 million other reasons, why is this marriage between Kevin and the Wolves now the right fit? A He just felt so good about being part of a team that’s ready to make a resurgence, in a system he knew, with a coach he trusted 100 percent. He has never played with a guy like Kevin Love and for all the points he’s scored, he has never played with a point guard — like Ricky Rubio — who was looking to get him the ball more than he looked to score himself.
  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: As the Raptors summer league team assembles here in the desert for the next two weeks, the big question is what direction new Raptors general manager and president Masai Ujiri will take with this year’s roster. That direction should begin to become clearer over the next week as the league moratorium ends today and the backload of signings and trades over the past few weeks become official. Ujiri hasn’t tipped his hand yet as to where he wants to take this roster this year and whatever transpires or doesn’t transpire in Vegas is expected to have much of an impact on that decision. While at least four Raptors for next year’s roster will play here in Vegas including Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross, Quincy Acy and the recently signed point guard Julyan Stone, it’s going to be the call on whether Ujiri can turn some of his surplus wings into something else that will likely set the tone for the season.

Sources: Hawks, Mavs still in Bynum hunt, for now

By Marc Stein | July 9, 2:12 a.m. ET

Andrew Bynum, to this point, has not canceled his scheduled recruiting visits this week in Atlanta and Dallas despite receiving a two-year offer from Cleveland worth an incentive-laden $12 million annually.

Which is to say that the Hawks and Mavs, for the moment, are still in the game.

Yet sources close to the process tell that the Cavs are mostly worried about Dallas in the Bynum chase and have thus tried to construct an offer that the Mavs can't touch while likewise doing no harm to their long-planned bid to try to bring LeBron James back to Ohio in free agency in the summer of 2014.

The Cavs would hold a team option in the second year of the proposed deal, which they feel would provide the needed flexibility to either keep Bynum if he bounces back in a big way or part ways with him if Bynum's famously shaky knees don't hold up.

Why are the Cavs, as reported here Sunday night, willing to extend themselves to such a degree for a player who didn't play a single second in Philadelphia last season and couldn't have been abandoned faster by the Sixers? Word is Cleveland sees this as a unique opportunity, given how rarely former All-Star centers become available -- especially at age 25 -- as well as gettable for a franchise not exactly known for its free-agent pull.

Sources: Brandon Jennings for Jeff Teague?

By Marc Stein | July 8, 2:52 a.m. ET

Word began to circulate late Sunday that the Denver Nuggets were closing in on a verbal agreement with free-agent shooting guard Randy Foye.

And that initially seemed to signal that the Atlanta Hawks' lead in the race to sign Monta Ellis, as detailed here late Saturday, has only widened.

However ...

An alternate scenario began to make the rounds as Sunday bled into Monday suggesting that a far wilder set of moves could soon follow and involve Atlanta as well as Milwaukee, Sacramento and possibly Cleveland.

Sources briefed on the situation told that the Hawks and Bucks have in recent days discussed a sign-and-trade deal to land Brandon Jennings in Atlanta and send fellow restricted free agent Jeff Teague to Milwaukee to reunite with former Hawks coach Larry Drew. reported early in free agency that the Bucks, at Drew's behest, had interest.

If those sign-and-trade talks progress to the serious stage, sources said, Atlanta would inevitably have to rescind its long-standing interest in Ellis, knowing he and Jennings realistically couldn't play together again given how poorly they functioned as a backcourt duo in Milwaukee last season.

Sources say that the Kings, meanwhile, have been shopping the likes of Jimmer Fredette and Chuck Hayes to the Cavaliers to create the requisite salary-cap room to try to sign Ellis comfortably. Hard to see Cleveland wanting Hayes, whose contract runs through 2014-15 and thus potentially would cut into Cleveland's reserves earmarked for a free-agent run at LeBron James next summer. Fredette's $2.4 million salary is a virtual expiring deal.

Yet the closest thing to a lock regarding all of the above, as Week 2 of NBA free agency begins, is that Foye coming to terms with Denver would essentially take the Nuggets out of the Ellis hunt. If the Nuggets strike a deal with Foye, that's essentially an admission that Ellis is out of their price range.

First Cup: Monday

July, 8, 2013
By Nick Borges
  • Roderick Boone of Newsday: Arms extended with his palms pointing upward at the Amway Center practice court, Jason Kidd was incredulous. The guy who had racked up 26 technical fouls in 19 seasons as a player had just been given a technical, all because he strayed too far from the coaches' box with 2:33 to play, wandering past midcourt a few steps from the Pistons' bench. Kidd couldn't believe it. He sought an explanation from one of the referees, only to be told he'd get one later. Essentially, the official's message was this: Hey, welcome to the sideline, Coach. Take a seat. "We were trying to foul a player and the referee missed it and it led to free throws," Kidd said Sunday after making his debut as a coach in the Nets' 76-67 loss to Detroit in summer league action. "So I tried to express to the referees that they missed what we were trying to do. It happens. They are not perfect, we are not perfect. So it's a lesson learned that I know I can't go past half-court." In other words, Kidd is going to have to strike a few things from memory. And quickly.
  • Woody Paige of The Denver Post: He never liked to be called Iggy. How about Benedict Arnold Iguodala? The turncoat rejected the Nuggets' offer and signed with the Warriors for less guaranteed money. To which we say: Good riddance. Iggy was no biggie. I didn't want the Nuggets to re-sign Iggy Stardust anyway. He was just a so-sojourner. This doesn't have to be the end of the Nuggets. Losing Dikembe Mutombo in free agency was. Andre Iguodala wasn't on the all-star team and, despite what some claimed, didn't belong on the all-defensive team. (You can look it up, or think about his offensive and defensive efforts in the playoff series against the Warriors.) He isn't among the top-30 players in the NBA, and Iguodala certainly isn't a franchise player. He doesn't have a consistent outside jumper, isn't a feared driver and can't shoot free throws. Twelve mil is too much. Iguodala didn't want to be here. He proved it during his one season in Denver. He switched sides as Arnold, the Duke of Saxony and Melo did.
  • Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe: Next year's draft is loaded and the Celtics are rebuilding, which would lead any logical soul to believe that they may well "tank" -- or whatever you want to call it; "experiment" is another word that will suffice -- next season. This theory has been making the rounds, and Celtics forward Jared Sullinger seems to be more than fed up with it. "When you have Celtics pride, you really don’t have time to rebuild," Sullinger said after his team's summer league game here, which he didn't participate in as he's still recovering from season-ending back surgery. You gotta play hard, you gotta play smart. I think with the veterans we have like Gerald Wallace coming from Brooklyn… and we have Jeff (Green), everybody counts us out, but we still have (Rajon) Rondo. He won a title in ’08. He know what it takes. And also with Kevin (Garnett) instilling the will, the power, the intensity in all of us, within that one year, especially with me, that 'rebuild' word we really don’t like it." Sullinger, who will be entering his second season, admitted that he needs to take on more of a leadership role.
  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: The Pistons’ acquisition of Josh Smith sent shock waves through the NBA and it received positive reactions from two of the team’s building blocks. Smith will make life easier for Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond, the team’s first-round picks in 2011 and 2012, respectively. “Honestly, he’s a great player,” Drummond said after the Pistons‘ 76-67 Summer League win over the Brooklyn Nets Sunday at the Amway Center. “He creates shots for himself and his teammates. He’s (like) a big guard.” Knight, who didn’t play with the summer league team but practiced with them this week, approved of the deal — which was to be expected. “Athletic player, competitor, tough, tough guy,” he said. “If he does decide to come, he’ll be a great player to have.” … As for any concerns about how the three big men will fit offensively, Drummond isn’t the least bit worried. Neither Drummond nor Monroe will be camping out near the 3-point line — although Smith tends to do it more than fans would prefer. “Joe (Dumars) knows what he’s doing,” Drummond said. “We have a great coach in Mo Cheeks so he knows how to get the best out of everybody. I’m sure he’ll find a way.
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Of all the things rookie Victor Oladipo did in his summer-league debut Sunday — the made 3-pointers, the rebounds in traffic, the steals — perhaps nothing should give the Orlando Magic more hope than what occurred with two minutes to go in the final quarter. Teammate Andrew Nicholson set a screen that allowed Oladipo to dribble into the lane. Oladipo slowed a bit, drawing a Boston Celtics interior defender toward him, and dished to Kyle O'Quinn, who scored on a layup. Magic officials already knew about Oladipo's explosive leaping ability, high work rate and improved jumper, but over these next few days, they want to see if the second overall pick in last month's draft can play some point guard, too. The assist to O'Quinn offered a glimpse of potential: Perhaps Oladipo, a shooting guard in college at Indiana University, can run an offense. … A few hours after he signed his contract with the Magic, Oladipo finished with 18 points, six rebounds, seven assists and five steals. "I wouldn't call it an experiment," said the Magic's lead assistant coach, James Borrego, who is coaching Orlando's summer-league team. "It's just more, 'Let's see what we have,' and let him grow at both positions. At the end of the day, we'll find out where he's at.”
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: The future flashed before our eyes Sunday, providing a riveting peek into what the Oklahoma City Thunder might someday look like. Jeremy Lamb was doing something we didn't know he could, running the high screen and roll, orchestrating the offense and taking ownership of his team. Steven Adams, today just a mystery who locals only hope doesn't become the next Robert Swift, the last center the franchise selected with the 12th overall pick, was a bundle of athleticism, energy and hustle. Together, they connected on the highlight of the opening day of the 2013 Orlando Pro Summer League. Adams set a pick for Lamb on the right wing, springing Lamb free to squirt into the paint. When his penetration prompted the Indiana defense to collapse, Lamb lobbed a pass to a rolling Adams. He then gathered, leapt and received the pass with only his right hand. In one motion, Adams brought it straight down into the hoop, punctuating the play with a powerful dunk.
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: The center position is open for the Mavericks, and they have options. While reading the tea leaves is difficult, they appear to be in the conversation for Andrew Bynum. But there’s a good chance they are no more than a parenthetical phrase for the oft-injured big man. There are several other teams that have more cap space now than the Mavericks, who are very hesitant to jettison Shawn Marion and his appetizing, expiring contract next season. He’s helped win a lot of basketball games in the last four seasons and can help win a lot more this season. They may have to lose Marion’s money on the cap to get into the Bynum running. Bynum’s agent, obviously, is trying to maximize his client’s value and if a team with more salary cap space is interested in Bynum, that will trump the Mavericks. Hard to believe there is this much attention being paid to a player who has not played in more than a year and has knees that are extremely suspect.
  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: According to several sources, general manager Gar Forman’s phone has taken more calls than it has made during free agency, with Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah all targeted in trade talks. From Charlotte to Portland, Bulls players have been popular on the trade-talk circuit this summer. But Forman seems content to stand pat and has an excellent reason to think that’s a good decision for one more year. As Forman pointed out several times last season, the Bulls have won 86 percent of their games with Deng, Noah, Rose and Carlos Boozer playing together since Tom Thibodeau took over as coach. That can’t be overlooked, especially with a returning lineup that -- at least on paper -- is as good as the Bulls have had in trying to go toe-to-toe with the Heat. … With a flood of high-profile free agents becoming available next summer, as well as cap space opening up, the Bulls should stand pat and make one last stand.
  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: Andrea Bargnani is already asking former Knick Danilo Gallinari about the best Italian restaurants in Manhattan. Bargnani, whose trade from the Raptors will become official Wednesday, is flying in from Rome tomorrow to meet with Knicks brass.Bargnani and Gallinari, from Milan, are close former Italian National Team members. Gallinari is giving Bargnani a lot of advice. “We are very good friends,’’ Gallinari said in an email to The Post. “He’s a great guy. He loves to work and he likes New York a lot. He’s very excited. I think he will be good in New York.’’ Clearly, Bargnani, the No. 1 pick in 2007, needed a change of scenery and won’t have the burden of living up to his draft selection. Bargnani, who had an injury-wracked 35-game season, seemingly is healthy and is scheduled to participate for Italy’s National Team in the European Championships, which begin Sept. 4. Gallinari is still rehabbing a torn ACL. When the Knicks drafted Gallinari, there were a lot of comparisons between the two Italians, and Gallinari has proven the better pro.
  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: The Cavaliers finally struck it rich in free agency. They agreed to a four-year, $25 million deal with guard Jarrett Jack on Saturday, a league source confirmed. That was a legitimate addition to the roster. If you watched the Golden State Warriors in the postseason last season, you saw Jack in action. He might have been the best backup point guard in the league. Often times, he played during crunch time when Warriors coach Mark Jackson stuck with the players with the hot hand. … Some have suggested that the Cavs overpaid for Jack’s services. I don’t buy that. He’ll average about $6.25 million throughout the deal — the price you have to pay for a player of his ilk. Jack is also a guy who will speak up in a locker room filled with many young players. He’ll probably relish the role as leader. He could also push Irving and Waiters to new heights. They already have the talent. He can help them with some of the complexities of the NBA game.
  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: The Timberwolves have made a formal contract offer to restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic and waived two players in preparation for Wednesday’s end to the NBA moratorium period. According to league sources, the Wolves made an offer to Pekovic on Friday and expect to receive a response early this week. On Sunday, they waived center Greg Stiemsma and swingman Mickael Gelabale in two salary-cap moves designed to clear space to allow them to sign free agents Kevin Martin and Chase Budinger as well as bring back Pekovic on a four-year deal that likely will be worth $12 million a year or more. They also continue to try to trade guards J.J. Barea and/or Luke Ridnour in an attempt to create more cap space to add another two players through signing or trades. The Wolves have the right to match any offer Pekovic receives from another team. As of Sunday, he is not believed to have been offered such a deal and the number of teams who have the cap space and desire to sign him had dwindled to one or two.
  • Michael Hunt of the Journal Sentinel: So what about Brandon Jennings? It has been incredibly quiet on that front. General manager John Hammond said recently that the Bucks would match any offer for the restricted free agent, which doesn't, of course, preclude the possibility that the Bucks would sign and trade their point guard. Most Bucks fans would be fine with the Bucks moving on without Jennings. The Bucks really haven't won anything with him, and the way he monopolizes the ball does nothing for the development of Sanders and Henson. A total rebuild would mean starting rookie Nate Wolters at the point. It's too early to say if he's another Jimmer Fredette, but the Bucks' plan to surround their young building blocks with reasonably priced veterans would lead you to believe that they would get a free agent to replace Jennings, if the Bucks are not overpricing him in the market. How is any of this different from the last half dozen seasons isn't altogether clear at the moment. But for now, the Bucks are hoping that their three prized frontcourt players develop while they win enough games to keep them viable in their own market.
  • Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: When word leaked that the Suns were involved in a three-team deal that would send Jared Dudley to the Clippers, ship a second-round pick to Milwaukee and bring point guard Eric Bledsoe to Phoenix, it was reminiscent of another deal made about 25 years ago. That one brought Kevin Johnson to the Valley. This isn’t to say that Bledsoe is the next KJ. But there are some parallels. … But this is what really reminded us of KJ’s arrival: When he got here, the Suns had a young, 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard named Jeff Hornacek. Of course, Hornacek is now the Suns head coach, who happens to have a young, 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard named Goran Dragic. In 1988, the Suns slid Hornacek over to the shooting-guard position and he evolved into an All-Star. KJ and Hornacek were essentially a pair of combo guards who played together. Like his coach then, Dragic has the ability to play off the ball or run the offense. Bledsoe and Dragic are essentially a pair of combo guards who could, potentially, play in the same backcourt, too.
  • Rhett Wilkinson for the Deseret News: Be it in a rowdy pub or on a washed-up deck, Captain Jack Sparrow has a manta he likes to exchange with loyal friend Joshamee Gibbs. “Take what you can,” says one. “Give nothing back,” says the other. This summer, Utah Jazz General Manager Dennis Lindsey and team brass can appreciate that averment from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" characters — more or less. Lindsey only gave up little-used rookie Kevin Murphy, trade exemptions and $24 million in cap relief to Golden State for center Andris Biedrins and wings Richard Jefferson and Brandon Rush, along with unprotected first-round picks in 2014 and 2017, two second-round picks, and an undisclosed amount of cash. The trade has been applauded by many commentators, including Danny Hansen on for, among other things, serving youth, “meeting the salary floor” and not letting cap space burn in their pocket.

Bucks guard still on Atlanta's list

By Marc Stein | July 7, 1:39 a.m. ET

The Atlanta Hawks wanted to trade for Monta Ellis on deadline day in February.

They haven't lost interest, either.

The Hawks, according to NBA front-office sources, have emerged as a serious suitor for Ellis in free agency on top of the deals Atlanta has already struck with former Utah Jazz forward Paul Millsap and returning sharpshooter Kyle Korver.

With the future of restricted free agent point guard Jeff Teague still uncertain, Atlanta has roughly $10 million in available salary-cap space to potentially use on Ellis. Sources say that the Hawks have also given center Andrew Bynum some thought, but all the latest signals suggest that Ellis is the Hawks' top current target.

In the event Atlanta proposes another short-term deal -- as seen with Millsap's two-year, $19 million pact -- its available cap space allows the Hawks to at least offer a healthy annual salary that other teams interested in Ellis would struggle to match. The Denver Nuggets are another team known to covet Ellis, for example, but Denver is said to be shopping veteran guard Andre Miller to try to create enough financial flexibility to make Ellis a competitive offer.

The Dallas Mavericks were another prime suitor for Ellis, but Dallas' decision to bring Hawks free agent Devin Harris back to Big D on a three-year deal worth in excess of $9 million realistically takes the Mavs out of the Ellis hunt. Bynum continues to the Mavs' focus after their deals with Harris and Jose Calderon.

The Milwaukee Bucks will actually have to renounce their rights to Ellis on Wednesday if he hasn't found a new home by the first day teams are officially allowed to execute signings and trades after the lifting of the league's annual moratorium on player business. If Ellis doesn't have a new team by then, Milwaukee would not have the salary-cap space necessary to formally sign O.J. Mayo ($24 million over three years) and Zaza Pachulia ($16 million over three years) without surrendering its rights to Ellis, who opted out of next season's $11 million to become an unrestricted free agent.

The Hawks' trade talks with Milwaukee on deadline day headlined by Josh Smith broke down when the Bucks refused to part with Ellis in the proposed deal.

Farewell, native son: Smoove moves on

July, 6, 2013
LaGree By Bret LaGree
Josh SmithAndrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe fresh-faced Atlanta native boosted his hometown team upon arrival in 2004.
Al Horford aroused admiration, Jeff Teague tantalized, Zaza Pachulia provoked passion, coaches and general managers drew criticism. Josh Smith, whom reports say agreed to a four-year, $56 million contract Saturday with the Detroit Pistons, inspired a powerful mix of admiration, tantalization, passion and criticism for a longer time and from deeper roots than any other Atlanta Hawk.

Let’s revisit Summer 2004. Hawks fans, unfamiliar as they were with the practical reality of their team making (and keeping) a good draft pick, can be forgiven for greeting the raw, hometown rookie with skepticism. It turns out the only thing grounding Smith’s otherwise storybook debut season in reality was that he spent his senior year at Oak Hill Academy, which prevented him from going directly from McEachern High School to Philips Arena.

Once on the court, he displayed his sui generis talent. He was immediately a great finisher and shot-blocker, an unpredictable dribbler, ambitious as a passer and in the passing lanes. He would try anything, and when something came off, Hawks fans knew hope again.

He became a starter five days after his 19th birthday. Two months later, he won the Slam Dunk Contest, forging the first successful connection of the lengthy, contemporary rebuilding project to the Dominique Wilkins-era Hawks. At 22, Smith was, at worst, the co-equal best player on the first Hawks team of the 21st century to make the playoffs. The next season, the Hawks won a playoff series for the first time in a decade. Smith scored 21 points on 12 shots in Game 7 against the Heat.

Shots. We have to talk about the jump shots. Over time during home games, it became a call and response. Smith would wind up from 20 feet, and the fans would bellow, “Noooo.”

Smith catches too much flak for taking more than 100 3-pointers a season and, well, not enough for the several hundred long two-point jumpers he takes every season, those less valuable shots that can escape notice due to the lack of their own column in the box score. Hawks fans bellowed “Noooo” to every jump shot not because they didn’t like or appreciate Josh Smith, but because they understood, in their brains and in their hearts, that Josh Smith shooting jump shots is a drag. It’s a drag both on the offense and his singularity. Anyone can miss jump shots. There’s only one Josh Smith.

Hawks fans know the following: Josh Smith can make just 35 percent of 731 two-point jumpers over two seasons, he can miss too many free throws, he can not box out and he will put on sour faces. The thing is -- through some combination of despite and because of all those things -- Josh Smith is, overall, a very good basketball player.

If he got too much credit for his help defense as a young player, he gets too little now for his improved on-ball defense, both on the perimeter and in the post, which has made him a universal defensive weapon. He is an excellent passer. He is an effective rebounder. He makes essentially all of the shots you want him to take. Pistons fans will get to know much, if not at all of this. About that, there is some jealousy.

Josh Smith is leaving the Hawks. Josh Smith is leaving Atlanta. Part of Atlanta goes with him -- the part that hoped for a happy ending to the story that began in 2004, one in which a truly unique, native Atlantan led the Hawks to the Conference finals or beyond. That’s not going to happen. The Josh Smith era is over.

Quite fairly, there will be those who reject this ending. Where some see flexibility and opportunity, others see uncertainty and what’s lost. I contend a happy ending is not lost forever. The opportunity remains for both the Atlanta Hawks and Josh Smith to succeed, to achieve through separation what they couldn’t quite together. It need not be either/or. It could be yes, and.

First Cup: Friday

July, 5, 2013
By Nick Borges
  • Tom Sorensen of The Charlotte Observer: I wrote Wednesday that I hoped the Bobcats would not sign Al Jefferson. I said I liked Jefferson’s game, but I didn’t like the timing. I still don’t. The Bobcats’ strategy has been clear: be bad until there’s an opportunity to be good. Divest the roster of veterans, drop to the bottom of the standings, parlay draft choices into talent and make a move when the time is right. That time is 2014-15. I didn’t want them to tank next season to get a shot at Andrew Wiggins or a lesser but still glittering pick in the 2014 draft. I just didn’t want them to excel. As long as they hustled, as long as their young players improved and as long as Zeller, whom they drafted last week, brings talent and a hard edge, I was fine with another low-victory, high-pick team. It’s terrible to be the worst team or among the worst franchises in the NBA every season. But who remembers Cleveland before LeBron, Oklahoma City (or Seattle) before Kevin Durant or Chicago before Derrick Rose? You get a great one and what you were before he arrived no longer matters. It’s amnesty not for a player but for a team. Alas, Charlotte decided to make the move a year early. Signing Jefferson gives them credibility they’ve never had.
  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: These new guys? They don't mess around. They are daring, disciplined, decisive, relentless. They swing and miss on Andre Iguodala, a free agent they coveted and offered to compensate generously, then come right back and swing again, this time connecting on a three-team deal that will send Tyreke Evans to the New OrleansPelicans for point guard Greivis Vasquez. Vivek Ranadive. Pete D'Alessandro. Mike Bratz.Michael Malone. Plotting behind closed doors. An active offseason in sweltering Sacramento. A presence during free agency. And now, finally, a pure point guard. Guess we've missed a lot these past few years.
  • Dwight Jaynes of So the Trail Blazers Thursday added Robin Lopez -- known by some as the "defensive" or "oft-injured" Lopez brother (Brook is the "offensive" brother). And it didn't cost them much aside from cap space. So, in essence, Portland has added Thomas Robinson and Lopez in the past few days at a salary cap cost of about eight and a half million bucks. Yes, there is room to add another player or two. But two moves took a significant chunk of cap space. This is a difficult thing to analyze because General Manager Neil Olshey basically brought in two players for almost nothing. Now before you start thinking this is something akin to pulling a rabbit out of his cap at midcourt during a halftime show in front of 20,000 people, understand that in this era of salary dumps, stuff like this happens. A lot. Teams are more than willing to hand you a player in return for wiggling room under the cap. Particularly when they're in the hunt for big-ticket free agents. … The biggest fear for Blazer fans should be this: Has Portland done exactly what most teams DO NOT want to do this season -- improved just enough to crawl into the playoffs next season but lose in the first round, thus missing a chance at the lottery, which is destined in 2014 to be stocked with outstanding prospects? I still have a feeling there are more moves ahead for Portland. But if not, I must ask you -- how much has the needle moved? And at this point, the answer could certainly be: A) Not much. B) A lot. C) Too much.
  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: After careful examination of the facts in evidence, I have come to a verdict on the Celtics future of new coach Brad Stevens. I don’t know. This may get me thrown off the active list at the Blowhard Pundits of America Club (hope they’ll let me retain the social membership), but I don’t see how one can accurately predict with any certainty how Stevens will do as he moves from Butler to his first NBA job of any kind. Key words: accurately, certainty. First of all, his fitness as an NBA coach cannot be fully judged until he has the players to win, and it appears that won’t be happening around the Celtics to any serious degree for a while. … On July 5, we do not have all the answers. And the feeling here is that it is not possible to have them at this point. Out in the basketball business, it’s fair to say the opinions on Stevens are, to put it kindly, mixed.
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Some of you get really angry when I play contrarian, so get ready to become angry: Tyrus Thomas wasn’t as useless as he’ll be remembered. Him losing his way as a Charlotte Bobcat wasn’t entirely his fault. … Beat writers show up way early for games. I’d walk into arenas around 4 p.m. for a 7 p.m. tip-off and often Tyrus was either just in front of me or just behind me at the media/player entrance. I’d be mulling around, looking for information, and there would be Thomas running drills before any of his teammates were in the building. He was trying to do the right thing. Now the inevitable will happen, and the Bobcats will use the Amnesty Clause to move past this mistake. I hope Thomas finds a new team. I hope he figures out how to again be the guy who delivers 10 points and five rebounds a night. He’s an odd guy but not a bad guy. I’m not sure fans get the difference.
  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: With Tristan Thompson and top overall pick Anthony Bennett available to play power forward, the Cavs view Clark as a small forward who will likely contend with Alonzo Gee, C.J. Miles and Sergey Karasev for the starting spot when camp opens in October. Clark earns a significant pay raise over last season, when he made $1.2 million with the Lakers. In Cleveland, he will be reunited with coaches Mike Brown and Igor Kokoskov. Clark played briefly for Brown last season before he was fired by the Lakers, while Kokoskov was an assistant with the Phoenix Suns when Clark began his career there. The Cavs aren’t done shopping. They’re still looking for a backup point guard and another big. With Miles on a non-guaranteed contract this season, they could still try and improve the wing position again.
  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: Marco Belinelli, a 27-year-old former Italian League star who has shown promise in six NBA seasons spent with four teams, has agreed to a two-year deal worth nearly $6 million to join the Spurs, league sources said. Belinelli cannot officially sign his deal until July 10, per NBA rule. The Spurs apparently moved fast to line up Belinelli, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard, as other teams began circling reserve guard Gary Neal, a restricted free agent. Neal, another expatriate of the Italian Leagues, has been garnering offers from other teams the Spurs might be disinclined to match, according to an report. He has not yet signed an offer sheet with another team. If Neal is indeed headed out of town after three seasons with the Spurs, the team appears to have already identified his replacement in Belinelli, a native of Bologna, Italy.
  • Jonatah Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: While Dwight Howard headed to the mountain air to consider where to take his talents, Daryl Morey grabbed a day to breathe before heading to Orlando, Fla., for summer league. For nearly two years, the Rockets general manager had chased Howard one way or another. He had come tantalizingly close and fallen far short. He had tried to engineer trades, reworked his roster and cleared salary-cap room, all to bring in the player he pegged to be the next in a line of Rockets star big men stretching from Elvin Hayes through Moses Malone, Ralph Sampson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Yao Ming. Morey could get an answer as soon as Friday, with Howard, 27, expected to emerge in the coming days with his decision. … The Rockets sought to sell that they could provide both, as other teams no doubt did, too. But their long, unrelenting pursuit could be viewed as a contrast to Bryant’s tough-love recruiting pitch. The Rockets see Howard as the key to assembling a championship team; Bryant according to a Yahoo Sports report told Howard he could teach him how to be a champ. It’s unclear what Howard thinks about that. That and a great deal more could become evident in the coming days. If nothing else, if there was an inclination to hold their breath while waiting for a puff of white smoke, or Tweet, out of Aspen, the Rockets should know better. After two years, they should be accustomed to reminding themselves to breathe normally.
  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: Unless you just touched down from Mars, you've probably noticed that most of Los Angeles is anxiously waiting on center Dwight Howard to decide where he wants to spend the next four or five years of his career. And by now, you probably know Howard has met with, and will decide among, the Lakers, Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks. You probably even know Howard took meetings with all five teams between Monday and Tuesday near his home in Beverly Hills. What you might not know is, some of the key elements of that story were brought to you by a kid who just finished his sophomore year at Beverly Hills High. Meet Arye Abraham, full-time Lakers fan, part-time photo/autograph hound and current Twitter sensation. "I honestly didn't set out for all this," Abraham said Wednesday. "Mostly I just wanted to maybe have some sort of impact on Dwight's decision by showing him how much we want him to stay with the Lakers." But in the process, he became a go-to source for the latest news on the Howard sweepstakes. It was Abraham who put two and two together and figured out the team executives heading to Los Angeles to woo Howard would probably stay at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
  • Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post: After no team would give him a summer league shot in 2012, Chris Wright played last season with the Iowa Energy in the NBA Development League. Wright was named to a D-League all-star roster and earned a 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks, though that contract was not renewed. Now, after an incident-free season in the D-League, Wright has earned summer league gigs with the Brooklyn Nets in Orlando and the San Antonio Spurs in Las Vegas. The self-proclaimed gym rat works out daily near Bowie, where he lives with his girlfriend and 4-month-old son, Chris Wright Jr. (“Deuce”). Last weekend, Wright hosted the first annual MS Basketball Jamboree at St. John’s High. The event featured weight and conditioning training tips for kids, a few words from Crayton about life with MS, a charity game and appearances from NBA players and former Georgetown standouts Jeff Green and Greg Monroe and Hoyas Coach John Thompson III. Being the first NBA player with MS means a great deal to Wright, who found inspiration in the fact that he received his diagnosis during MS Awareness Week.
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Will Kobe's reported pitch turn off Dwight?

By Chris Broussard | July 4, 2:54 p.m. ET

Two people close to Dwight Howard said Kobe Bryant's reported "pitch" in this past Tuesday's meeting with Howard will hurt the Lakers' chances of retaining the superstar center.

"It'll be a complete turnoff," said one person, who has worked closely with Howard during his career. "He'll be offended and think, 'How can you teach somebody who's been to the Finals how to win?'"

Neither of the sources have spoken to Howard since the meeting with the Lakers. But both have known Howard for years.

Bryant, who joined Lakers brass and teammate Steve Nash in the Lakers' recruitment meeting, said Howard needs Bryant to teach him how to win championships, according to a Yahoo! Sports report.

"You need to learn how it's done first," Bryant reportedly said, according to an anonymous source in the meeting. "And I can teach you here. I know how to do it, and I've learned from the best -- players who have won multiple times over and over. Instead of trying to do things your way. Just listen and learn and tweak it so it fits you."

One person close to the situation said this is not the first time Howard has heard that from Bryant. The source said Bryant began relaying that sentiment to Howard as soon as they became Laker teammates last season.

"Kobe was saying that from the very beginning," the source said. "It was a source of tension between them from the outset."

Barnes' future with Clippers unclear

By Ramona Shelburne | July 4, 9:46 a.m. ET

The Clippers would love to bring back Matt Barnes, who added toughness, 3-point shooting and perimeter defense in a reserve role last season. Barnes would love to come back to the Clippers, too. But with the Clippers getting serious with forward Carl Landry, their affection for Barnes might not be enough.

Sources close to the situation have told ESPN that it might not be possible financially to sign Landry and re-sign Barnes. The Clippers will certainly try -- as they genuinely like both players -- but with only a mid-level exception at their disposal, it simply might not be possible to do both without treading into luxury tax territory (a brave new world for the Clippers).

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