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First Cup: Monday

8/2/2010
  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: "Lorenzen Wright was killed by a self-inflicted gunshot. Or, wait, that was Wednesday afternoon's report. He really was murdered by a drug lord. Or his ex-wife, Sherra, was somehow involved. Or it could have been three men who came to his ex-wife's door, looking for him. All three of the men were wearing sport coats and carrying guns. Or not. But be sure to stay tuned to this column for more breaking developments! This is what the week has come to. A Memphis tragedy has morphed into a Memphis whodunit. In four short days, we've gone from grieving for a favorite son to sifting through clues. ... The Wright murder may be a mystery, but it's not a parlor game. A real man was shot dead in the woods. A real family was left to mourn his loss. Real kids will grow up without a dad. So here's hoping the police find those who were responsible. In the meantime, be wary of what you believe. Not long ago, Wright was reportedly killed by self-inflicted gunshots. Ten or twelve of them."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "But if the indignation is sincere, if the Cavaliers and Raptors truly believe there was some sort of before-the-fact chicanery involved, then why not take a stand? Why not show your fans that your franchise will not be trampled by those who you contend chose not to play by the rules? Why? Because the Cavaliers and Raptors sold out such righteous indignation for packages of draft choices. On the night that LeBron James and Chris Bosh were being introduced at AmericanAirlines Arena, the Raptors and Cavaliers were finishing off arrangements with the Heat for sign-and-trade agreements. For the Raptors, the NBA's version of an out-of-court settlement was two future first-round picks from the Heat. For the Cavaliers, it was two future first-rounders and two future second-rounders. Every team apparently has its price. And so does the NBA, which is why Commissioner David Stern fined Dan Gilbert for his post-LeBron vent to Cavaliers fans. Yet in the wake of that league sanction, Bryan Colangelo still chose to hit the Toronto airwaves and lash out at Bosh, raising further doubts about how Miami Thrice came about."

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "You have to watch the entire video to appreciate the speed, the danger, the prolonged recklessness of the Tyreke Evans speeding incident on May 31. If this were a video game, someone would be dead by now. But enough about the visceral reaction to Evans' mischief behind the wheel. The courts and the CHP have handled the matter – the video was released Friday – professionally and judiciously. The Kings' young star didn't receive special treatment because of his status as the region's most prominent sports celebrity. He cooperated and apologized. He was appropriately shaken. Nonetheless, if you're the Kings? Break out the street signs. Slow down. Stop and think. You can't hand Evans the keys to the franchise if he can't control himself on the freeway. He isn't ready to be your floor leader when he's so oblivious to his surroundings. ... The Kings were damn lucky, and so now, what are they going to do about it? Slow down. Let Evans earn the right to lead. And for now, take away the keys."

  • Brian T. Smith of The Columbian: "NBA legends Bill Walton and Bill Russell walked side by side, brushing tall shoulders and trading large smiles. Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler and Pat Riley strode down a bright-red carpet, engulfed by television lights, cameras and microphones. Meanwhile, the Portland Trail Blazers’ Brandon Roy and Greg Oden spoke with modesty and reverence. All carried big names and major star power Sunday evening at the Rose Garden. But none overshadowed ex-Blazer forward Brian Grant. Grant’s battle with Parkinson’s disease was the centerpiece of a glitzy, Hollywood-like fundraiser that benefited the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research. And as everyone from Walton to Roy made their way into the sold-out event, Grant’s ongoing effort to raise awareness about his illness drew words of praise and respect from current and former NBA stars who went out of their way to attend the benefit."

  • Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe: "By and large, the Celtics look as they did two months ago, and they’re banking on the idea that the team that was good enough to make it to the Finals despite an obstacle-filled regular season will be just as good next season. 'I think that the more important thing is that they themselves want another crack at it,’ said president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. 'Ray and Paul and Marquis and Nate, those guys all had opportunities to do other things. They all had other teams that had interest in them and they all chose to want to come back. Doc had other things he could have done, but everybody chose to come back. It’s not just about what I want or what [owners] Wyc [Grousbeck] and Steve [Pagliuca] want, it’s about what they want, too. And I think that that’s what’s the most intriguing part about it, or exciting part.’ "

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "If not for his serious left knee injury last February, Josh Howard probably would've been one of the most sought after small forwards this summer. Arguably, it would've been LeBron James, Rudy Gay, Paul Pierce and then Howard. But with the former all-star recovering from a torn ACL at age 30, Howard had to wait until the final week of July to sign an incentive-laden deal in the neighborhood of $4 million. Considering Howard's résumé and the contracts that some other small forwards signed this summer, the Wizards didn't necessarily pull off a coup. But they did get a solid, low-risk deal that could reap huge benefits should Howard return to anything resembling his three-year peak from 2005 to '08 when he averaged 18.3 points, helped the Dallas Mavericks reach the NBA Finals and made the 2007 all-star team. Howard's production has declined in each of the past two seasons, with injuries contributing to him playing a career-low 35 games last season and putting up his lowest scoring average (12.7 points) since his second year in the league. But that's how this deal works for both sides. The Wizards don't have to risk making a long-term commitment to Howard, while bringing back a player whose feistiness, intensity and leadership was immediately felt as he arrived in town talking about the playoffs. He immediately becomes the elder statesmen on the team, providing another veteran to a team that has eight players ages 25 or younger."

  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: "With the Warriors getting a new owner and a new-look team, the question most of the team's fans want answered is what to do with coach Don Nelson. Do the Warriors change coaches now, or allow the NBA's all-time winningest coach finish out the one year left on his contract? Right now, the odds seem to favor Nelson staying, unless the new ownership chooses the man who sits next to Nelson on the Warriors' bench, assistant coach Keith Smart. New co-owner Joe Lacob, who said he'll be the CEO of the franchise, wouldn't hint which way he's leaning but said he is considering all options. ... Making things difficult is the timing. The sale wasn't announced until July 15. By then, all the head coaching vacancies in the league were filled. And now, almost three weeks later, Lacob said he and co-owner Peter Guber are working to solidify the group of minority investors they will bring aboard. Lacob said he expects the sale to be finalized in late September, which is shortly before training camp starts. The coaching staff usually begins preparing weeks before, so when the ownership change finally is official, the staff already will be ready to go with a system orchestrated by Nelson. That improves the chances of Nelson finishing out his contract, for which he will be paid $6 million."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "But if you're looking for something that doesn't make sense, it is the extreme double standard LRMR and LeBron James enjoy with the college and high school ranks. James is permitted to hold camps with high school and college players who will be pros in less than a year while at the same time he's basically recruiting them to sign with his agency. At the July Nike camp in Akron that has all the top high school players and college stars acting as 'counselors,' there are signs everywhere that agents aren't allowed in the building. Even college coaches aren't allowed there. But Maverick Carter, the head and chief recruiter for LRMR, is allowed to be there and have unchecked access to these players while James gives them free shoes and gets to know them and their families. Then nine months later his firm is trying to sign some of them to agent contracts. All of this while NCAA officials are literally sitting there in the stands supposedly monitoring that all the rules are followed. LRMR has not been taking advantage of this edge and has not been able to land many of its top targets over the last three years. This year it missed on John Wall after a very hard recruitment led -- it would seem illegally by NCAA standards -- by James."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "The NBA isn't about nostalgia, and Oklahoma City fans who remember the Hornets' star point guard dazzling during his first two seasons should forget any ideas of the Thunder pursing Chris Paul. Paul needs the Thunder more than the Thunder needs Paul. In fact, the Thunder doesn't need Paul at all and isn't about to trade the farm to get him. At this point, any desire to see Paul in a Thunder uniform is a clear lack of respect for Russell Westbrook. Management affirmed its belief in Westbrook by passing on Ricky Rubio in the 2009 NBA Draft, and last season Westbrook promptly squashed the 'is-he-or-isn't-he' debate over whether he's a point guard. After putting together the best playoff performance of any Thunder player, Westbrook now enters his third season well-established as one of the league's best young floor generals. Yes, Paul is better than Westbrook. But Westbrook already has forced his way into any conversation about the game's elite young lead guards. It's a list that includes Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Tony Parker and Derrick Rose. Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings played their way into the mix last season, and 2010 No. 1 overall pick John Wall also will soon join the club. But any way you slice it, Westbrook currently ranks in the top five of the aforementioned list."

  • Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press: "The NBA effectively applied a skirt to playoff basketball to prevent a second Bad Boys championship revival. How can you not hate something like that? Having fans question why certain teams were even born becomes a badge of honor because those people are more likely to hate you when you're successful. When they're envious of the results, they'll take a flamethrower to the tactics. The Bad Boys deserved top billing as the most loathsome. It would put a devilish smile on Rick Mahorn's face."

  • Iman Milner of Edge Magazine: "Chris Douglas- Roberts stands at a self-diagnosed 6’7 ½ is awe-inspiringly handsome, creatively covered in tattoos, impressively intelligent, and boldly honest. But he simply defines himself as 'real.' ... He slips back into his poetic tone when I ask him how he measures his success, 'By respect. Respect. Things are just things. When I was driving a commander in college I felt the same way I do driving a Benz coupe. Once you get those things you realize they don’t mean anything, but I also measure my success by the love people who don’t even know me, have for me. That’s respect.' And as far as legacies go, the mature NBA star wants people to not only remember him by the organization he was affiliated with, but also for his character. 'He (Douglas-Roberts) told the truth. That’s it. No matter how blunt it was. I spoke that (expletive). I kept it real. I don’t want people to just know me as a basketball player. I want them to know that I affected people, I helped people.' And that is the reason why Chris Douglas-Roberts is timeless. He is not what you expect and nothing like what you want him to be. He is simply him. Unforgettable. Real. Fresh."

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: "The lines wound around the parking lot of Jack's Place in Avalon, N.J., on Saturday afternoon as Sixers fans waited to get a glimpse of and an autograph from rookie Evan Turner. They were there for the organization's annual Beach Bash celebration, which benefited the team's various charities. 'That's the main reason I came here, to see Evan Turner,' said Jack Walsh, 11, of Marlton, N.J. 'I think he's going to be really good.' Optimism was about as plentiful as sunshine as fans spoke of a major turnaround this season after the 27-win campaign of a year ago. Turner also sees bright times ahead for his new team. 'Man, this is pretty exciting,' said Turner, as he signed autographs and shook hands. 'You can really feel the energy from the fans here. Everywhere I go in and around Philadelphia, Sixers fans are really excited for the upcoming season. They aren't as excited as me, but no one could be.' "

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "One thing is safe to assume about Rich Cho: He won't be asleep on the job. Cho says on average he sleeps three, maybe four, hours a day, for reasons he can't explain. Rick Sund said it isn't unusual for him to get an e-mail from Cho at 6 a.m. Atlanta time, prompting Sund to once reply 'Don't you ever sleep?' Cho insists his lack of sleep is not because of stress. In fact, the extent of his worries these days is whether any food gets stuck in his braces. He was fitted for the braces in December and must wear them for two years. He said he never took care of his crooked teeth in part because of laziness and in part because he never had enough money. Now, he wants to straighten the Blazers' future onto a more accelerated upswing. He admits that his educational background -- he earned degrees in engineering (Washington State) and law (Pepperdine) -- has created an almost methodical and analytical approach to problem solving."