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First Cup: Monday

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "The Pacers might want to go find the private investigator they hired to check out Lance Stephenson because it appears the person didn't do a good job. The Pacers suffered a blow when Stephenson was charged with third-degree assault after he reportedly pushed his girlfriend down a flight of stairs in Brooklyn, N.Y., early Sunday morning. ... The Pacers are the last team that can afford to take a hit in the PR department after spending the past few years cleaning up their image. They raved about doing their homework on Stephenson and his family prior to the draft. Several people reached out to me after the draft and questioned why the Pacers decided to select him. Those same people called me Sunday and said, 'I told you so,' after hearing about Stephenson's brush with the law. The Pacers are in a dilemma with Stephenson. ... The Pacers might end up kicking themselves for signing Stephenson to a guaranteed contract last month."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "A methodical connecting of dots is slowly leading to a grim conclusion for the Nuggets, who want to re-sign Carmelo Anthony to face-of-the-franchise status beyond the upcoming season. These are some of the dots: He's selling his Littleton estate; the constant reports of Anthony telling friends that he wants to play for the New York Knicks; his New York wedding; his East Coast upbringing; summer trade talk that has cropped up twice in his time in Denver, which hasn't always made him feel wanted; oh, and not signing a contract that averages around $21.6 million per year for the next three years, a sizable amount of money that he may not be able to earn with a new collective bargaining agreement. Anthony has connected some dots of his own. Even if he was completely happy with the Nuggets now, in three years he may look around at a team that is a shell of the one that reached the Western Conference finals in 2009. It could be young and inexperienced. It could be filled with mediocre talent. His NBA biological clock would be ticking loudly because he would be in his 10th season. There's no way he wants to start over 10 seasons into his career. For the record, Anthony calls the New York speculation 'rumors.' "

  • Steve Adamek of The Record: "The United States men’s basketball team that heads off to Spain today, thenGreece to continue preparing for the world championships later this month in Turkey might best be called the 'B Team.' That’s because it lacks LeBron, Kobe, Carmelo or any of the only-single-name-needed “celebrity” players who won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 'redeeming' its predecessors’ bronze medal of four years earlier. Or maybe 'Team Tiny' fits better, for among the remaining 13 players, five are point guards (Chauncey Billups, Stephen Curry, Rajan Rondo, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook) and only one (Tyson Chandler, after JaVale McGee was cut Sunday) is a natural center. Plus, coach Mike Krzyzewski noted, five are just 21 and two are 22. So he said after Sunday’s 86-55 highlight-reel thrashing of France at a sold-out Madison Square Garden in its first pre-tournament game, 'It’s a young group and not a very bulky group.' Team Callow, then, might fit."

  • Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: "Kevin Durant now uses the failures as motivation, as well as a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of selfishness. 'From the outside looking in, it looked like the chemistry wasn't there,' Durant said after scoring 14 points in Sunday's 86-55 exhibition victory over France in front of a sellout at the Garden. It was the last game before the team travels to Europe today for the World Championships in Turkey, with its tournament opener Aug. 28 against Croatia. 'We have the chemistry here,' Durant added. 'All the egos are out the door and we're always willing to sacrifice. If that means our shots and minutes need to get diminished, then so be it.' Avenging USA basketball isn't Durant's only source of motivation. As last season's MVP runner-up and the best player on Team USA -- anointed as such by coach Mike Krzyzewski -- he's carrying the torch for the young NBA superstars, the post-LeBron generation. While every other player who received a MVP vote is skipping the World Championships, the Thunder forward embraced the challenge of a tournament viewed largely as inconsequential in this country, despite its significance to the rest of the globe. It's also a tournament the Americans haven't won in 16 years. 'We do have something to prove, of course we want to go and win it,' said Durant, who was cut from the 2008 Olympic squad. 'Without the big-name guys, people are counting us out.' Durant is a big name, even if he won't admit it. He just doesn't have the same innate desire for hype."

  • Lenn Robbins of the New York Post: "Lamar Odom, 30, is the second oldest player on the roster, after Nuggets point guard Chauncey Billups, who scored 17 for the U.S. They're the leaders, which is exactly how Odom wants it. He spoke yesterday of possibly going into coaching someday (maybe the first reality basketball coaching show?). He knows he wants to stay around the game. After he buried his mother, Odom shot baskets long into the night at his neighborhood's Lincoln Park. Two years ago he hosted Lamar Odom Day at Lincoln Park. Every kid got a present. That night he hosted a barbecue at his old house. He brought Khloe back to his old neighborhood -- 165th and Jamaica Ave. -- this past Independence Day weekend. 'She had never stepped out of Manhattan,' Odom said. 'It was a new experience. I guess to see the people's reaction. Everyone is so real and grounded, respectful yet street smart. I'll never forget where I'm from.' "

  • Dick Jerardi of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Earlier yesterday, Jeff Green and JaVale McGee were cut from the team. Thirteen players are going to Europe. One more will be cut. It won't be Andre Iguodala. Coach K has been praising him for weeks as the team's defensive stopper. 'Iguodala has been as good as anybody we have had so far,' Krzyzewski said. 'His defense is just at the highest level. He's really one of the great defenders, I think. But he has scored the ball well. Today, I think he had two shots, and it didn't stop him from playing defense. I even talked to him right after the game. I said, 'I'll try to get you more than two shots.' He said, 'No, coach, I'm OK.' I said, 'I know you're OK.' ' ... Kevin Durant will be on the 2012 Olympic team in London. Given that almost all of the players from 2008 have committed for London, there are probably only two or three other spots unaccounted for. The U.S. players who are most effective in Istanbul will get a long look for those spots. 'I'm truly happy right now,' said Iguodala, who neither looked nor played happy last season with the Sixers. 'It's great to be a part of this.' "

  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: "Judging by Team USA’s weekend exhibitions, Bulls guard Derrick Rose will get his share of playing time, but he may end up third in the point guard pecking order. Chauncey Billups and Rajon Rondo were the starting guards in blowout wins over China and France in New York. Rose played just 15 minutes against France on Sunday, finishing with 2 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 turnovers. Billups finished with 17 points, second on the team to Rudy Gay’s 19. Against China, Rose got a longer run and scored 12 points in 21 minutes, knocking down a pair of 3-point baskets. Team USA figures to have some easy wins at the FIBA World Championships in Turkey. But when things get tight, coach Mike Krzyzewski may go with the experience of Billups and Rondo. ... One more player has to go before the World Championships and many observers are predicting a battle between Stephon Curry and Eric Gordon for the last spot, although Russell Westbrook could be a candidate, since he’s basically the fourth point guard on the squad."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "Last season, we saw Russell Westbrook develop more patience as a playmaker, which only boosted his passing skills and complemented his underrated court vision. In one year, Westbrook's assists average ballooned from 5.3 to 8.0. Westbrook had 17 games in which he recorded at least 10 assists and had two turnovers or less. The Thunder went 14-3 in those games. The other major improvement in Westbrook's game was his midrange jump shot. Westbrook's total shooting percentage last year was just 41.8 percent, only percentage points above the paltry 39.8 percent of field goals he connected on as a rookie. But anyone who looks beyond stats can see how much better Westbrook became as a free-throw line extended shooter. That new skill helped transform him into an almost unstoppable performer down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs, as defenders had to now respect his pull-up jumper as well as his ability to dart to the basket."

  • Les East of NewOrleans.com: "Let’s give Dell Demps high marks for his first three weeks on the job. He immediately was confronted with all the Chris Paul trade demand speculation and put out that fire right away. He demonstrated the commitment to Paul by shipping away Collison, who would have been Paul’s replacement if the All-Star point guard were to be moved. 'We’ve been very clear. We haven’t been hesitant. We want Chris here and Chris wants to be here,' Demps said. 'Chris has been great. He has been engaged. He’s been texting and calling. He has ideas. Chris is on board.' And now so are Ariza and Belinelli. If Demps can make a couple more moves like his first two, the Hornets might start to look more like the Southwest Division champion team of 2007-08 than the disappointing one of the last two seasons."

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: "There will be something new and old on hand for Utah Jazz faithful tonight during the team's Fan Fest on the southeast plaza at EnergySolutions Arena. The Jazz will unveil their new uniforms with the old-school logo during the 7 p.m. event, using male models Utah players Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, C.J. Miles and Ronnie Price. The other highlight for fans will be a public appearance and autograph session by former Jazz standout Darrell Griffith. Today is the first day the NBA will allow the Jazz to show off their new uniforms, which will include the team's new dark-blue, green and gold color scheme."