First Cup: Wednesday

  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "Suddenly, everything that goes wrong in the NBA can justifiably and comfortably be blamed on LeBron James. Creating an even more top-heavy league? LeBron's fault. Making free agency more interesting than the NBA Finals? LeBron's fault. A lockout looming at the end of the upcoming season? LeBron's fault. Well, that third one isn't an argument that has been made yet, but it might as well be anticipated given the irrational scrutiny James has received for choosing to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. The latest round of nonsense comes as a result of Chris Paul trying to force his way out of New Orleans via trade. Paul reportedly wants to play with at least one superstar, knowing that it's the minimum requirement for creating a championship contender. Paul appeared to back off his trade request Monday, but reports remain that he still wants out. ... For those who aren't friends with Paul, it would be nice to see him honor his contract with the Hornets in a Western Conference that has been slightly weakened through free agency and wait until he's a 27-year-old free agent to leave New Orleans rather than cripple the franchise that apparently is trying to rebuild itself. But James is Paul's friend. He might see things differently. That still doesn't make this his fault."

  • Phil Miller of the Star Tribune: "Jonny Flynn got an early start Tuesday on an ugly Timberwolves tradition: second-year injuries to first-round picks. Flynn underwent surgery to repair a tear in the labrum of his left hip, an injury that almost certainly will keep him out of training camp and could cost him the first month of the 2010-11 season as well. That makes him the fifth consecutive Wolves' first-rounder to be sidelined by major injury in his second season. Flynn was hampered by his sore hip in the final few weeks of his rookie season, and even sat out the finale after starting the Wolves' first 81 games. ... The streak began in 2006, when 2005 first-rounder Rashad McCants missed more than half of his second season after microfracture knee surgery. The Wolves' bad luck is unbroken since then: Randy Foye, who played in only 39 games of his sophomore season because of a stress reaction in his knee; Corey Brewer, who tore an ACL in his knee and played in only 15 games his second season; and Kevin Love, who needed surgery after breaking his left hand during a preseason game last October, costing him 18 games."

  • Baxter Holmes of the Los Angeles Times: "The courtship began with a text message. Matt Barnes typed out a greeting, added his name and pressed send. Surprisingly, Kobe Bryant texted right back. The flirting escalated from there. Ultimately, Barnes signed a two-year deal Thursday with the Lakers, a lifelong dream of the former UCLA Bruin. On Tuesday at the Lakers training complex, Barnes explained that his route to L.A. was largely because of Bryant, the player with whom he has a bumpy past. 'He told me one day that anyone crazy enough to mess with me is crazy enough to play with me,' Barnes said. Barnes, a forward who averaged 8.8 points and 25.9 minutes a game last season for the Orlando Magic, is on his eighth team in eight years. It appeared he would be heading to Toronto in a sign-and-trade deal, but that fell through. Other teams appeared interested, but Barnes eventually signed for less money in order to pursue a championship with the Lakers, who at most can pay him $1.77 million next season; Barnes also has a player option for about $2 million in 2011-12."

  • Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle: "First of all, if Yao gets hurt again, he won't need to announce his retirement. He'll be retired. That'll be understood. He won't announce his retirement because he'll keep trying to play. Why? Because that's what athletes do. So this retirement talk is just silly. Yao is smart enough to know that about 99.99 percent of professional athletes have no say when they retire. When teams stop calling, they're retired. Sometimes it's because their skills have gone. Sometimes it's because their bodies are broken. Either way, the athlete has no say. He may think he has a say. He may tell the world he'll go when he wants to. He says these things because he's trying to convince himself. ... So Yao says if his foot doesn't hold up, he may retire. I doubt it. He may think that, but there's one thing in the world he's better at than almost anyone, and he's going to do it as long as he can."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "This time, Yao Ming said if he does not recover from his foot injuries, he might consider retiring. This seems pretty obvious. Yao cannot play with a broken foot. If Yao's foot remains broken, Yao cannot play. This feels like a revelation because it brings up the possibility that Yao will not recover. 'If we did not think he had recovered,' one Rockets official said Tuesday with a laugh, 'we wouldn't be letting him go through full contact, on-court workouts.' This is not to say that Yao will never be injured again. There is always a possibility that the surgery won't work the way his surgeon predicts. According to persons familiar with Yao, he also has a right foot. It is possible he could have similar problems on the other side. At the moment, however, Yao's left foot is doing remarkably well. He is definitely not as strong on that side as on the right. That familiar tree trunk calf is noticeably slimmer on the left. But he was absolutely giddy after a few recent workouts. He was thrilled with his improved conditioning. He was so enthusiastic about his diet -- 'The food tastes horrible so you don't want to eat it,' he said. -- that he was nagging me to join him."

  • Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer: "The Cavaliers have traded for a 24-year-old point guard who had some success early in his career, but was trapped in a system that underlined his main weakness while erasing his greatest strength. Ramon Sessions is exactly the type of player the Cavs should be adding at this stage of their life without LeBron James. That's especially true because the price for Sessions was minimal, in terms of contract ($12 million left over three seasons) and cost in the trade. Delonte West and Sebastian Telfair were shipped to Minnesota, where both are expected to be cut for salary cap purposes. Meanwhile, Sessions could start, or at least be the Cavaliers' first substitute in the backcourt. ... At this point, Sessions is a better bet to consistently produce. He may resemble the Delonte West who showed up with the Cavs in 2007. He had a so-so career on some bad Boston teams, then played little for Seattle -- before joining the Cavs and being significant contributor for 1 1/2 seasons until he struggled last season. The Cavs also picked up 7-footer Ryan Hollins in the trade, but he's a backup. This deal is about Sessions, and it could be a very good one for the Cavs."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "It's still two months and a few days before the Spurs begin training camp, but it's never too early to challenge a widespread misperception. Though he was the Spurs' starting point guard for 18 of the final 23 regular-season games and all 10 playoff games, George Hill wants the basketball loving world to know his rapid development at the position has not rendered three-time All-Star point guard Tony Parker expendable, no matter how much speculation to the contrary has hit the rumor mill this summer. Hill has seen and heard most of the rumors, which aver that Hill's progress, combined with the fact Parker's contract expires after next season, makes Parker prime trade bait. 'I've heard that (stuff),' Hill said, 'but I don't think a player like Tony Parker, a guy who has helped this team win and has championships under his belt, can ever be considered expendable. Right now I don't pay any attention to it. ‘TP' is my teammate, and that's all I'm riding with. Hopefully, I still get to play alongside him next year in that 1-2 combo situation.' "

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: "Retired or well-past-their-prime point guards keep lobbying to play for the Heat. First it was Penny Hardaway and Stephon Marbury (forget those). Now, Steve Francis plans to contact Miami; he's 33 but hasn't played since a quadriceps tendon injury in 2007-08. Retired former Duke star Jay Williams said, 'I should come out of retirement and give Miami a point guard. I'm only 28. It helps that [Heat executive] Nick Arison and I went to school together.' But all of those names are unlikely, and there are mixed views inside the Heat about whether even to add a third veteran point guard."

  • Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post: "After eight U.S. presidents, 19 Supreme Court justices and 41 Nobel laureates, it looks like Harvard University can chalk up a different achievement this summer: its first grad in the NBA in 57 years, and just the fourth ever. Jeremy Lin, who signed July 21 with his hometown Golden State Warriors, also will be the first Asian American in the league since 1947, when Wat Misaka, a Japanese American, became the first non-white player in what was then known as the Basketball Association of America. 'Trying to make the NBA is one of the very few areas where a Harvard degree won't necessarily help,' Lin said matter-of-factly. Lin is aware of the significance of both accomplishments, but doesn't want the labels. He was usually the only Asian on the court when he captained Palo Alto High to a California state championship in 2006 and during four years at Harvard, where last season he was part of the 0.5 percent of Asian American Division I men's basketball players. Lin just wants to be known as a basketball player."

  • Kerry Eggers of the The Portland Tribune: "There are only a few players in the two decades I have covered the Trail Blazers who have carried themselves with an almost regal presence. Clyde Drexler. Brian Grant. Scottie Pippen. Brandon Roy. I’d put Buck Williams in that category. If Drexler and Terry Porter were the lifeblood of the Blazers who were the best team in the NBA through three seasons in the early ‘90s -- everyone living in the City of Roses at the time knows it’s true -- Charles Linwood Williams was their heart and soul. ... Williams was a first-team all-defensive team pick his first two seasons with Portland and a second-team selection in 1991-92. The Blazers nearly reached the summit twice, losing to Detroit in 1990 and to Chicago in ‘92 in the NBA finals. To Williams -- who retired after 17 seasons in 1998 as one of nine players with 16,000 points and 13,000 rebounds -- it has always stuck in his craw. Now Williams – officially named Tuesday as a member of Nate McMillan’s coaching staff -- has some unfinished business to tend to. 'We came so close to winning a championship during my time here as a player,' Williams says. 'I just feel like my career is not really complete until I win a championship. I didn’t do it as a player, but I think I can help the Blazers get it done as a coach. We have all the pieces here to do it. We’re going to get it done.' "