Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: The Miami Heat will open the season at home against Boston and play host to Oklahoma City in a Christmas Day NBA Finals rematch, according to several league sources who have seen the league’s tentative schedule due to be released this week. That Heat-Thunder game is set for 5:30 p.m. on ABC. The Celtics opener at AmericanAirlines Arena will be played at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30, and be televised by TNT. The Heat will receive its championship rings that night, assuming Miami follows the protocol of most past NBA champions. The game not only would be a rematch of the Eastern Conference finals, but also Heat guard Ray Allen’s first game against his former team.
Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: The Dwight Howard trade rumors are not dead. As far as Andrew Bynum coming to the Cavaliers, it might be on life support. SI.com's Sam Amick tweeted over the weekend the Magic might have a deal in place to trade Howard that would have to wait until mid-August to be announced. One theory why is that's when players selected in the 2012 NBA draft can be traded. A proposed three-way deal involving Orlando, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Cavs has seemingly hit a snag. Howard would be sent to the Lakers in that trade, with the Lakers sending Bynum to the Cavs. The Cavs would ship draft picks and prospects to the Magic, who are looking at a total rebuild. Would the Cavs include either shooting guard Dion Waiters or center Tyler Zeller in a potential deal to land Bynum? Maybe. The Cavs announced the signing of both players on July 5. They could technically deal one or both players by Aug. 4 — 30 days after their signing. But don't expect that to happen.
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: The Bulls on Tuesday officially will announce they have declined to match Omer Asik's three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet from the Rockets, sources said, paving the way for multiple signings that began Monday with Kirk Hinrich.The Tribune reported on July 8 that Hinrich verbally agreed to a two-year deal, but it's closer to $8 million in value, sources said. Hinrich, who will be reintroduced at a 2 p.m. Berto Center news conference on Tuesday, turned down slightly more money from the Bucks, sources said. ... The Bulls will add another shooting guard as well, with the imminent signing of Marco Belinelli for the biannual exception of $1.9 million. Belinelli flew to Chicago on Monday for a physical, sources said, and La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that Belinelli's deal will be two years for $3.8 million, with the second year a team option. Because the Bulls used a portion of the $5 million midlevel exception for Hinrich and the biannual exception to sign Bellinelli, it's impossible for the Bulls to match even Asik's $5 million starting salary and stay below the hard cap of $74.3 million. They will pay the luxury tax for the first time in franchise history.
Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: The Boston Celtics have withdrawn their qualifying offer to center Greg Stiemsma, clearing the way for the Timberwolves to sign him as an unrestricted free agent, Stiemsma's agent, Mike Naiditch, told the Pioneer Press on Monday, July 23. Naiditch said he received a letter Monday from the Celtics stating the team is no longer offering Stiemsma a $1.050 million salary for the 2012-13 season. Stiemsma, 26, had become a restricted free agent July 1. The move also means the Celtics are prohibited from matching the verbal agreement Stiemsma reached with the Timberwolves on Saturday in Las Vegas. "We were told this was going to happen," Naiditch said of Boston's decision to let Stiemsma go. "The letter is confirmation. When it's practical to get everybody together, Greg will sign with Minnesota."
Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Much of what Shaquille O’Neal says should be greeted with skepticism. He is an entertaining provocateur who, by his own admission, often makes outrageous statements just to drum up publicity. Yet, on Sunday, he seemed to be speaking for much of the NBA when he questioned the direction of the Orlando Magic’s coaching search. “Orlando magic is about to hire jock Vaugh over mike Malone or Brian shaw,” O’Neal wrote on Twitter. “are u kidding me, wow, good luck winning wit Dat team Dwite howard.” Unless the Magic take an unexpected turn in the next week, they will hire Philadelphia 76ers associate head coach Michael Curry or Phoenix Suns player development coach Lindsey Hunter or San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Jacque Vaughn. Most NBA insiders consider Vaughn the front-runner. To be sure, Vaughn is highly regarded. “Bright,” “sharp,” “hard-working” are adjectives commonly used to describe him. But the word “inexperienced” is used, too.
Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: The Jazz have signed veteran shooting guard Randy Foye to a one-year deal, a league source informed The Salt Lake Tribune late Monday. ESPN's Ric Bucher first reported the signing. ... Veteran Raja Bell was the Jazz's primary starter at shooting guard last season. Bell recently agreed to a buyout with Utah, though, and the Jazz entered free agency seeking to add depth at the wing positions. Foye made $4.2 million with the Clippers last season. He'll likely be added via Utah's mid-level exception, which is worth $5 million. Foye's deal with the Jazz is reportedly worth $2.5 million, keeping Utah above the salary cap but below the luxury tax.
Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: The exhale begun when Garnett agreed to return could then be completed. So even if Doc was hiding his concern earlier, he could comfortably act all calm and cool now. “I don’t want to say too much, but I couldn’t be happier with where we’re at,” Rivers said. He still insists he knew this would all work out. “I was very confident,” Rivers said. “I mean, Danny works his butt off. Him and his staff, they put in more hours than probably anyone in the league. They’ve done an unbelievable job without having a lot of resources.” True enough, the Celtics managed to add two players at midlevel exception money ($5 million to start) and keep all but one key free agent, while subtracting Allen and players who weren’t a lock for the rotation. “I would say that’s a pretty good summer,” Rivers said.
Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: Donnie Walsh didn't have to return to an NBA front office position. Now 71, he spent last year relaxing at his Indianapolis home with his wife and dogs. At the same time, Walsh wasn't going to turn down an opportunity if the right situation arose. That opportunity came late last month when Indiana Pacers owner Herb Simon needed to replace team President Larry Bird. Simon could have gone outside the organization, but he puts a premium on trust. That's why he turned to Walsh, who spent 24 years with the Pacers before leaving in 2008 to become president of the New York Knicks. "People used to call me up and say, 'You must want to get back in.' I really didn't want to," Walsh said recently from his office at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. "I enjoyed doing nothing. I did it very well. Me coming back here really happened very fast."
Jonathan Feigen of Houston Chronicle: After all the years of working toward this moment, Chris Finch still isn’t sure what to expect. He will march into Olympic Stadium on Friday with the other coaches and athletes of the host country, part of the London Games spectacle in a nation that does pomp and circumstance like few others and cherishes such moments. As to how he will feel? Finch would not, or could not, imagine. A Rockets assistant coach, Finch has been the coach of Great Britain’s national basketball team for six years, building it to the point that it is worthy of its place — bestowed upon it as the host nation — in the Olympic tournament. That is a triumph in itself. “I don’t think I’ve really let myself think about it too much,” Finch said. “When I took the job in 2006, I didn’t take it with the intention of trying to be there in 2012. I took it with the challenge of building the program. Over the last couple summers, we’ve given ourselves and the guys some Olympic-type experiences to get a feel for it. But I don’t think any of us can really comprehend what it will be like to be there in London as the host and home team. “Growing up and watching the Olympics as a kid, it’s the spectacle of sports. I never thought I’d get the chance to be there.”
Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: Russian guard Alexey Shved has agreed to a three-year, $10 million deal with the Timberwolves and said coach Rick Adelman's faith in young players helped convince him to pick Minnesota, according to a Monday, July 23, interview with R-Sport, a division of RIA Novosti, Russia's state news agency. "Minnesota's a good, young and ambitious team," said Shved, who also had offers from the Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers. "All those factors were reasons to choose this club in particular, plus coach Adelman. They say that Rick trusts young players and discovers talents, and I'm ready to work for my part." Shved, 23, hasn't signed yet. The 6-foot-6 Shved would join Denver Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov as Russian-born players in the NBA.
Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: To realize his dream of returning to the NBA, P.J. Tucker is taking less than half of the salary he would have made overseas to join the Suns at potentially $762,195 for the first season. "It's been a long, grueling journey, but it's fulfilling," Tucker, 27, said. "I was so resentful in Toronto because I wasn't playing much. I was throwing fits. I was so young-minded. I didn't get the big picture or that it's a business. You have to understand your role on a team. You see kids come after you and do the same thing. So many never play and say they got screwed by the GM or coach. When you can be real with yourself and understand why, that's really when it comes to life." Tucker's entry into the NBA was no sure thing as a No. 35 pick in 2006 because second-round draft picks do not get the guaranteed contracts that first-round picks do. Since he was waived, the 6-foot-6, 224-pound forward has been a Most Valuable Player in Israel, a scoring champ in the Ukraine and the MVP of this year's German League finals. He also played in Italy, Puerto Rico and Greece, passing on NBA training-camp invitations to cement his role with European clubs that paid him well and supplied a home and a driver or car.
Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Khris Middleton was invisible through the first three games of summer-league action recently in Orlando. But when the Pistons decided to rest Kyle Singler for the final two games, Middleton benefitted. He averaged 10 points per game over the last two games, and he displayed the silky-smooth game that had the Pistons jumping to pick him with their first of two second-round picks in the June NBA draft. Mock drafts projected Middleton to go late in the first round after a standout sophomore season at Texas A&M. But a coaching change and a left knee injury caused him to slide into the second round. The Pistons believe he still hasn't fully recovered. They are high on him and think he can become a legitimate shot-maker in the NBA. He remains unsigned, but there really isn't a sense of urgency as many picks haven't signed, including former Michigan State standout Draymond Green with the Golden State Warriors.