First Cup: Tuesday

  • Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com: "Phil Jackson has officially signed a contract to return to the Los Angeles Lakers. The 11-time NBA champion coach announced on July 1 that he would return for what he called "the last stand for me" but it took until last week to finalize a new contract, according to a source close to the situation. ... With Jackson's deal finally in place, the Lakers were able to quickly reach agreements with the rest of his staff. Longtime assistants Brian Shaw, Frank Hamblen and Jim Cleamons are returning and special assistant Chuck Person has officially been added to the staff."

  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Hakeem Olajuwon called Dwight Howard a scaredy cat. His exact term was 'afraid,' but still, calling out a big man like that is usually 'fightin' werds.' Howard didn't flinch. He listened, took things to heart. Fabulous. I don't know if Howard's mentoring hook-up with Hakeem will be much ado about nothing or a pivotal turning point in his career. It's certainly has made for some frisky blogosphere chatter about Hakeem's influence on Howard, the scope of Patrick Ewing's ability to make Howard a better player, and whether Howard himself is committed to the cause. We'll find out shortly when the invites roll out for a new downtown arena, future home of the Orlando Magic and their championship dreams. Right now, there's good reason to be pumped up about the prospects. Howard is a tremendous player already. A little tweaking here and there -- dare we say a short perimeter game? -- and it's going to make those Three Amigos down in South Florida squirm a little bit before ordering party favors to celebrate seven consecutive NBA titles."

  • Michael Wallace of The Miami Herald: "The Heat will open the 2010-11 season against theBoston Celtics on Oct. 26 at TD Garden, multiple league sources said Monday night. ... There are plenty of subplots in play for the Heat-Celtics opener. Boston, the defending Eastern Conference champion, knocked off Wade and the Heat in five games during the first round of the playoffs. In the second round, the Celtics eliminated Cleveland in six games in what proved to be James' final appearance with the Cavaliers. The game also features the battle of the respective Big 3s, with the Celtics' star-studded trio earning that nickname three seasons ago when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were traded to Boston to join Paul Pierce. The Celtics won the 2007-08 NBA title in their first season together. ... Dwyane Wade said the Heat welcomes the challenge and the bull's-eye, at home and on the road this season. 'I understand people are going to say stuff. And we accept it with open arms,' Wade said. 'And even on the road, because every place is going to sell out when we come to town. So [opposing teams] can thank us now.' "

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "The Cavs shopped guard Mo Williams over the summer, but didn't find the right deal. He sent out his now-famous tweet saying he didn't want to be traded and wanted to stay in Cleveland. Fans responded in a positive way to his message, and now he's beloved. After being spurned by LeBron James, fans loved the fact that Williams wanted to remain in Northeast Ohio. But if the Cavs could have moved his enormous contract, they probably would have. So, they are in a rebuilding mode, even if it's going on behind the scenes. Cavs general manager Chris Grant is stockpiling draft picks. They've acquired two first-round picks and three second-rounders since the start of free agency. They're also trying to get younger and possibly shed some of their older players. That's one reason why re-signing Shaquille O'Neal is probably out of the question. No, the Hawks aren't going to deal forward Marvin Williams to the Cavs in a sign-and-trade for O'Neal. The Cavs are open to using O'Neal in a sign-and-trade, as long as they don't get any long-term contracts in return. The Cavs will have salary-cap space galore next summer. Perhaps they'll be able to overpay a free agent of their liking. ... Just because they have money, that doesn't mean they have to spend it. They're not ready to get locked into any long-term, big-dollar deals until they are ready to contend. That time is not now."

  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: "Roger Mason Jr. had heard the name before. But that was about it. Mason didn’t know Gary Neal is from his Baltimore-Washington area, and he didn’t know Neal had played overseas, as Mason once had. Mason also didn’t know Neal was once charged with rape. But Mason knows one thing about the player who, in effect, replaced him on the Spurs roster. 'If the Spurs signed him,' Mason said, 'I’m sure he’s a good kid.' That sounds like something Mason would say. He came to San Antonio in the fall of 2008, another in a line of Spurs professionals. The bright son-of-a-doctor impressed everyone. And when Mason tossed in a handful of game-winners that first season, the Spurs Way was in full force. But the game is rarely that predictable, nor personalities that simple. Mason remained smart and committed, but the Spurs saw some cracks as he fell out of Gregg Popovich’s rotation; when Mason struggled, some in the organization thought he played as if he were embarrassed."

  • Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News: "The 76ers' Andres Nocioni sprained his left ankle Friday while training with Argentina's national team and is out indefinitely pending results of X-rays and an MRI exam. A report in Argentina suggested Nocioni could be out for roughly 20 days. Ed Stefanski, the Sixers' president/general manager, said he was awaiting the test results, which will be forwarded to the Sixers' medical staff. 'Until then, we don't know the severity of the situation,' Stefanski said. Given that, it would be premature to question whether the injury will affect Nocioni's availability to play in the World Championships, which begin Aug. 28 in Turkey."

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "I’ve heard Jamal Crawford would like an extension but not sure how much he’s really pushed the issue since he knows Al Horford would be next up for a deal. It’s not hard to see where Jamal is coming from: He likes playing for the Hawks, he had a strong season and like all players he’d like to get a new deal under the current CBA. But I can’t see where it would benefit the Hawks to give J.C. a new deal before they see how this season plays out. If things don’t go as they hope, then Crawford becomes either a nice trade piece at the deadline or his $10.1 million salary comes off the books after the season. Either option would give the Hawks some flexibility to regroup."

  • George Panagakos of the Washington Examiner: "Last week the Washington Wizards met formally with building-block Kirk Hinrich, and on Friday, the Wizards re-signed Josh Howard, who left early last season due to a torn ACL in his left knee. Did Washington make the right call? Prior to Howard's first performance as a Washington Wizard last season, there was some concern about his character. Fans were losing Caron Butler, their two-time All-Star co-captain, a jovial guy without much of an off-court track record. In contrast, Howard had been well-documented for his outlandish behavior. Considering everything that went down between Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton earlier that season, Howard seemed like a gamble out of the All-Star break. And after Howard tore his ACL -- in only his fourth game as a Wizard -- Washington is once again making a gamble."

  • Thomas Kaplan of The New York Times: "Like most people who run for governor, Chris Dudley is crisscrossing his state to shake hands, kiss babies and chitchat with voters. Unlike most people, he is doing so at the height of 6 feet 11 inches, his ticket to a 16-year N.B.A. career. ... Dudley, 45, is an unusual political candidate. He played basketball at Yale, a university far better known for producing politicians than N.B.A. players, and did so while living with diabetes. And in N.B.A. history, no player who scored as little as Dudley -- he averaged 3.9 points a game and was famous for his inept free-throw shooting -- has managed to linger longer than his 886 games, which included three and a half seasons with the Nets and three with the Knicks. He faces an uphill battle in the political arena, too: President Obama won Oregon by 16 percentage points in 2008, and the last time a Republican was elected governor in the state was 1982. But polls have put Dudley in a virtual dead heat with his Democratic opponent, former Gov. John A. Kitzhaber. (The most recent poll, released last Wednesday by SurveyUSA, put Dudley ahead by 2 percentage points, within the margin of error.) Dudley’s advisers say they hope to replicate the kind of jobs-focused campaign that helped win governorships for Republicans last year in two other states that went for Obama, New Jersey and Virginia."

  • Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News: "As the 7- and 8-year-olds scurried into the Huntsman Center on Monday morning, the youngsters were greeted by a 30-something guy with long curly hair, a wispy goatee, wearing a gray Utah basketball T-shirt. Most of the kids probably didn't know Andre Miller, whose No. 24 jersey hangs in the rafters of the 40-year-old arena. The NBA star was there to greet the youngsters as they arrived at one of the sessions of the annual Utah basketball camp. A few hours later, Miller was back on duty welcoming older kids arriving for the afternoon session. 'It's all about helping the kids,' Miller said. 'I try to do as much as I can.' Miller, an 11-year veteran of the NBA who graduated from Utah in 1999, is spending the week helping with Utah coach Jim Boylen's basketball camps. Miller brought his 10-year-old son, Duane, along with a cousin and two friends from L.A. and their two kids. 'I'm hanging around and having a little fun,' Miller said. 'It's a good opportunity to come and participate in the camp.' ... Miller, an ironman who has incredibly missed just five games in 11 seasons while starting 834 of 897 games, said his goal is to play four more years in the NBA before retiring."

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: "Jazz fans and NBA-TV viewers got a taste of what the future holds in store for Harpring last season when the sidelined player did some on-camera color commentary and analysis work in his spare time. After a season of experimenting, Harpring discovered that he prefers doing in-game color commentary over sitting in the studio analyzing the entire league. 'I love doing the color. ... You're involved in the game,' he said. 'You feel like you're a part of it. You get the emotions, you get the ups and the downs, the adrenaline. It's the next best thing to playing without playing.' Best part? No icing of joints is required after the final buzzer. Harpring's interest in becoming a broadcaster piqued after he did a guest spot with Hot Rod Hundley on a Jazz game about five years ago. The former Jazz play-by-play commentator told Harpring, 'You've got to do this. You're a natural at this.' Hundley continued to encourage Harpring over the ensuing seasons, and he took the compliment and advice to heart as he pondered a post-NBA future. Since then, Harpring has tuned in to the broadcast team to learn from the pros while watching any sporting event -- football, basketball or baseball."