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First Cup: Tuesday

  • Ian O'Connor of ESPNNewYork.com: "The great free-agent class of 2010 turned out to be a two-man class, and Amare Stoudemire does not have a desk in that room. He is not LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, and no, he is not a true max-out player or $100 million asset, either. But you do know what Amare Stoudemire is, right? A hell of a catch for the New York Knicks. In fact, if Stoudemire can persuade James or Wade to join him, he will represent the smartest signing the Knicks have ever made. This isn't the time to focus on what or who Stoudemire is not. If he fails to stay healthy, or if he fails to shape a consistent contender without a quarterback named Steve Nash throwing him spirals, Stoudemire will get what's coming to him from the Madison Square Garden crowd. That's fine. Stoudemire wouldn't be the first big-name, bigger-money ballplayer jeered out of New York, and he sure wouldn't be the last. Only this much is certain for now: Stoudemire is the Knicks' best player since Patrick Ewing, better than Allan Houston and LJ and Spree, even if every New Yorker -- the new power forward included -- hopes Amare surrenders that title by the end of the week."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "A shake of the head and smile is all the waiting world got from LeBron James Monday when he was asked about his future as he left his Nike camp at the University of Akron. James made a bit of a surprise appearance for a workout on the first day of the LeBron James Skills Academy at Rhodes Arena. If he's stressing at all about his free agency decision with six teams attempting to sign him and much of the NBA hanging on his move, it didn't show. He looked relaxed during the two-hour workout and after an another hour of stretching and icing he left without directly answering reporters' questions about his decision or his timetable. As is commonplace, James wore a Yankees cap in and out of the building. James' manager, Maverick Carter, also declined to comment before James' group left in a motorcade led by James in a white Bentley coupe. It is believed James won't make an announcement on where he plans to sign at least until after the three-day camp ends on Wednesday."

  • Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times: "You've read the recent newspaper stories in which vulnerable Cavs fansare braced for the worst. You've seen the photos of desperate fans lining downtown streets to show LeBron how much they care. Any of the photos could be headlined, 'Seconds before the earthquake hit.' It might be different if Cleveland were Boston, but it's not. The Cavs, Browns and Indians aren't the Celtics, Patriots and Red Sox. Cleveland has experienced all sorts of sport-induced heartaches, and you know you're in trouble when many them have nicknames: The Drive. The Fumble. The Shot. Chicago has a lot more in common with Cleveland than it would care to admit. Maybe we've gotten a little uppity with six Bulls' titles, a Sox' World Series title in 2005 and a Hawks' Stanley Cup this year. If we had lost MJ after seven seasons, there likely are no NBA titles here, and we're still known around the world for Al Capone. As a sports city, we very well could be weighted down by a complex -- the kind of complex Cleveland has now."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "We seemingly have moved beyond the panic in the streets. Perhaps that’s because Dwyane Wade is back on South Florida’s streets. But all this Wade-will-walk wallowing never was grounded much in the way of anything tangible. And the entire custody angle is being way overstated. Don’t you think Dwyane saw all this coming way in advance of the start of the free-agency period? Such as during those times when he continually stressed that a South Florida return was his goal? Yes, the issue has come up in conversations with potential suitors. And, yes, Wade has told them that his personal issues would not be deal breakers. It is almost as if Wade is being viewed as someone who cannot take care of very real and very delicate situations while also being true to his profession and his livelihood."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "There was so much nuttiness in the LeBronathon (or is it LeBronapalooza as some have suggested, or perhaps even LeBronannukah) the Clippers being the Clippers was hardly noticed. After James met with the Heat, Pat Riley bringing his latest championship ring, Hall of Fameness and billionaire owner, the Clippers came in with an interim GM and a business side executive. The Knicks had a Sopranos episode just for him, along with testimonials from everyone from Willis Reed to Chris Rock. The Cavs had a Family Guy bit ready. The Bulls had a full-out recruiting effort to put him together with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh or both. The Clippers had two guys saying LA is really cool and that the Clippers really do play there. Somehow, it seems difficult to imagine James will pick the Clips. Enticing as the others were, Cleveland still seems to be the city and team to beat."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "The Bulls -- and other teams -- have remained in touch with the respective representatives of Wade and Bosh, who share an agent, and James. There is no timetable for players' decisions. Contracts can be signed beginning Thursday. The Bulls are hoping to utilize their roughly $30 million of salary-cap space by landing either Wade or James and an All-Star power forward such as Bosh, Carlos Boozer or David Lee. The Bulls will wait to fill out their roster -- which currently has only five players -- until after the main free-agent dominoes have fallen. That's also when they preliminarily will explore extending Joakim Noah's contract. That doesn't have to be done this summer. But with Derrick Rose eligible for a guaranteed maximum salary extension next summer, the Bulls' business will be getting expensive. Sources familiar with the Bulls' pitches to their primary free-agent targets said the team has been clear it will spend whatever it takes to lock up Noah and Rose long term. Depending on how the new collective bargaining agreement is structured, the Bulls could venture into luxury-tax territory if they land two prime free agents this summer. The luxury tax is dollar-for-dollar over the salary cap, so any more the Bulls pay to Rose and Noah that's over the cap, they also have to pay the same to the league."

  • Michael Grange of the Globe and Mail: "Raptors president Bryan Colangelo couldn’t quite say it Monday afternoon. He couldn’t quite come out and say 'rebuilding.' But for the first time in his tenure running the franchise he allowed that the Raptors are looking further down the road than the season immediately ahead. 'It feels like we’re turning over a new leaf as we build this roster and put a new product out there the floor,' he said yesterday. The men sitting to his right were doubtless happy to hear it. Colangelo was speaking by way of introduction of the team’s newest members, a pair of rookies-to-be in the form of Ed Davis, drafted No. 13 overall and Solomon Alabi, drafted No. 50. With Chris Bosh all but gone and Andrea Bargnani and Reggie Evans the only big men under contract -- the club can’t confirm the signing of Amir Johnson until Thursday -- there could be no better time to be close to seven feet and a Toronto Raptor, at least if the chance to earn significant playing time is the goal."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "In his first interview since the sides hammered out the $80 million deal, Dirk Nowitzki talked at length about many topics, including the free-agent process and the Mavericks' strategies on moving forward. He also said making a big splash this summer isn't necessarily the only way to keep the window genuinely open to win an NBA championship. The nine-time All-Star has learned plenty during the last few days. What he learned most was that free agency is 'not fun.' 'Obviously, a couple teams were interested,' he said. 'But it never really got to the point where I was ready to listen. My heart's here. To go through the whole process that everybody's going through, I don't like that. It was just weird. And to have two-hour presentations when I know I'm not really interested. I didn't see any sense in that. It didn't really get that far.' ... From Nowitzki's perch, there are only two players who could be added to the Mavericks' roster that would make the ultimate difference -- LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. 'I see it this way, if you don't get LeBron and you don't get Wade, are you going to give the max to somebody else and lock yourself in with a player who's not going to get you over the hump?' Nowitzki said. 'You got to be a little careful with locking yourself into something with a max contract with somebody that's going to give you 55 wins, and you're still going to lose in the second or third round. So to me, if you could get Wade or LeBron, you got to go for it. But other than that, it's tough. You don't want to completely screw the organization over for four or five years if it's not going to put it over the top.' "

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "I can confirm at least the Shaq half of this story: He’d be interested in playing for the Hawks, according to a person with knowledge of his free-agent desires. But a person familiar with Atlanta’s plans said it’s doubtful the team has made such an offer this early in the free-agent process. The Hawks are seeking a bulky center, and ASG is said to be willing to use the mid-level exception and pay some luxury tax if necessary to do so, but so far it doesn’t appear the Hawks have decided whom else to target after re-signing Joe Johnson."

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "The New Jersey Nets are interested in hiring Joe Dumars for the job of team president, a source close to the situation told the Free Press Monday. Shortly before 9 p.m. tonight, the Pistons issued this statement from Dumars: 'In response to today’s media reports regarding the New Jersey Nets, I can say that I do not have any interest in a basketball operations position with the Nets. My priority is to continue leading the Pistons’ basketball operations efforts and putting together a team that is ready to compete and get back on track next season.' Minutes before the release, Dumars said in a text that 'I have no interest in the Jersey position.' League sources with personal knowledge of the situation confirmed the Nets interest, but Dumars appears to have killed the speculation before it reaches a feverish pitch."

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: "Roughly one year from now, the Indiana Pacers will be doing the free agent shuffle, flying around the country attempting to lure free agents to Central Indiana. The question is this: Who will be doing the shopping? Will it be Larry Bird and David Morway, who, to their credit, will have put the Pacers in this favorable position by digging the team out of salary-cap purgatory? Or will it be somebody else, maybe Portland's recently deposed general manager, Kevin Pritchard, who got canned this week despite an aggressive tenure that saw him turn the JailBlazers into one of the league's most promising young teams? ... Before Bird and Morway get a chance to go shopping next June, owner Herb Simon is going to have to make one of his most important decisions: Should he entrust those two gentlemen with the responsibility of rebuilding the Indiana Pacers when they've got the cap freedom to turn it all around in one grand summer? The answer comes this season. The answer comes from Rush and Hansbrough and George and, who knows, maybe even Stephenson. If they make it, Bird and Morway survive. If they flounder, there's no reason to believe Bird and Morway have the evaluation chops to get it right next summer. Pretty simple, really."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond is trying to build a deep team with complementary parts, one that can be a yearly contender in the Eastern Conference. He doesn't have the luxury of being able to chase after one of those high-salaried free agents, to wine and dine LeBron James or Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh. But is that really so bad? Hammond's moves in the past two years have brought what some observers are calling 'middle-class' players with a number of middle-range salaries but with upper-class aspirations. Instead of surrounding one or two elite free agents with lower-salaried players, the Bucks are taking a different approach and developing a more balanced team around point guard Brandon Jennings and center Andrew Bogut."

  • Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun: "Solomon Alabi’s fall in last month’s NBA draft has landed the Nigerian big man in Toronto, an opportunity he hopes to seize. 'I don’t view what happened to me as a drop,’ began Alabi on Monday, when he and fellow draft pick Ed Davis were formally unveiled by the Raptors. 'I’m just excited to be here in Toronto, to be with the Raptors. The way I look it, there were teams who missed out on me.' Teams missed out because they were scared of Alabi’s health. Alabi suffers from Hepatitis B, an inflammation of the liver, a condition he said he has had since birth, very treatable and not likely to prevent him from reaching his pro goals. 'He has been checked out thoroughly by our doctors,’ Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo said."

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "According to a story on variety.com, the shooting of LeBron James' movie, 'Ballers,' will be postponed until next summer. Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment had hoped to get 'Ballers' off the ground next month, but have quietly put it on hold until next summer. The Brian Grazer-produced movie was going to have an August shoot in Miami with Malcolm Lee ('Soul Men') at the helm, but the project was shelved. Now, the studio is hoping to start filming in July 2011."