First Cup: Thursday

  • Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman: With Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka already committed to long-term deals, Harden is the last of the young stars without a new contract. Sign the versatile guard, and the Thunder's already bright future is even more brilliant. So, is it out of the question that the Thunder might bite the bullet and pay a big chunk in luxury tax, even if for a few years? "There are certain realities that we face, and there are some inherent challenges that we face,” Presti said. “I don't feel comfortable, quite honestly, talking about limitations and things that we ultimately will have to decide on. But I think we're making a commitment to try to continue to put a competitive team on the floor. But we also have to do the right thing for the organization in the short and the long term.” The quick translation of what Presti said — the Thunder isn't going sign Harden to a max deal if it means having to pay a bunch in luxury taxes. ... For this deal to get done, the Thunder is going to have to pay more than it'd like and Harden is going to have to take less than he'd like. Both sides are going to have to sacrifice. Is paying luxury taxes among the sacrifices the Thunder is willing to make? Is Presti willing to bite that bullet? Depends on how big the bullet is.

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: Charlie Villanueva's body was drenched in sweat, having gone through a strenuous ultimate boxing workout in the effort to get himself ready for training camp. After the disappointment of last season, one marred by injuries and inactivity, it was clear he would have to ratchet up his summer workouts to prepare himself for the competition to earn minutes and finally, live up to the free-agent contract he signed with the Pistons three summers ago. At the suggestion of his financial manager, he found himself at Shut Up and Box in Royal Oak, using unconventional methods that are becoming increasingly popular in NBA circles. ... He started a few months ago and it's become addictive to the eighth-year forward, after the initial awkwardness. ... At the suggestion of Pistons strength and conditioning coach Arnie Kander, Villanueva has been doing sauna workouts, which help with metabolism, assist with detox and inflammation and having the training effect without beating the body up. ...Villanueva says it puts him in a more aggressive mindset, one he'll need in training camp in the effort to crack the rotation of big men to play alongside Greg Monroe.

  • Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News: Training camp opens next week, there are talented new Warriors players, big hopes, tickets to sell and renewed signs of life. Hey, isn't it time for Mark Jackson to promise a playoff berth this season? "No, I'm not going to say it,"the Warriors coach shot back quickly and seriously as he sat in a team conference room Wednesday. Not because I don't believe it, but ultimately there comes a point where, enough of the talking, go out and do it." Maybe this is a signal that things are clarifying for Jackson, who opened his rookie coaching season by loudly and inaccurately claiming that the Warriors were set to make the postseason. Maybe now that the playoffs are actually realistic for this beefed-up roster, Jackson understands he can eliminate much of the bombast. And maybe Jackson also realizes that in Year 2, he's being judged by results and reality, not rhetoric. To that point, he was careful to point out that health issues and the strength of the Western Conference could hinder the Warriors' immediate rise.

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Heisley, who has owned the franchise for the past 12 years, remains confident about his agreement to sell the team to Robert Pera despite the more-than three months that have expired since the deal was announced. "I don't think it's dragging on," said Heisley, who accepted a $10 million deposit from Pera on June 11. "Putting together the financing involving hundreds of millions of dollars is always a complex process. The banking industry is a lot more cautious and it takes a little longer than it did in the past. But I have no reason to believe that it won't go forward." The reportedly $350 million deal will not close this month, according to sources familiar with the process, but is expected to reach a conclusion sometime next month. Pera is working to satisfy the terms of the contract. He then must gain approval from the NBA Board of Governors. League owners meet Oct. 25 but could announce a decision before then after an e-mail vote. Heisley arrived in town Wednesday, and met with players and team personnel during voluntary workouts in FedExForum. Heisley described his visit as anything but a swan song.

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: In May, the Clippers picked up the option on Del Negro's contract, giving him a third season as coach for about $2 million. Still, Del Negro, 46, enters the new season in the final year of his contract. Sitting in his office Wednesday afternoon, Del Negro leaned back in his chair and said of his situation: "I think there's always pressure, but I think that's a position that you want to be in. My goal coming here was to help change the environment, change the culture and change the direction of the organization." Last season the Clippers went 40-26 in the regular season and Del Negro took them to the second round of the playoffs for just the second time since the franchise moved to Los Angeles in 1984. All signs point to Del Negro's leading the Clippers to back-to-back playoff appearances. If that happens, it will be for just the second time during the 32 years Donald Sterling will have owned the team. The Clippers last reached the postseason in consecutive years in 1992 and 1993 when Larry Brown was coach.

  • Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: Count Tyson Chandler among those who think Rasheed Wallace has something left. After taking the last two seasons off, Wallace worked out at the Knicks practice facility, and is considering signing with the team. And after seeing him work out, Chandler thinks Wallace can help. "He looked good,’’ Chandler said Wednesday. “Rasheed can be a great addition to us.” Despite his extended break from the NBA, with Wallace’s last game action coming with Boston in the 2010 Finals, Chandler said Wallace still has skills that can help the Knicks. “I hope he [comes],” Chandler said. “I don’t know what the situation is, but he’s a great communicator on defense and we know he can knock down the open 3 and jump shot.’’

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Will the Heat start how they finished? This is perhaps the most intriguing issue heading into camp. It is one thing to play Bosh at center, Shane Battier at power forward and push James to the limit over the final two weeks of the postseason. It is another to do it for nine months. While Bosh likely will stay at center, it will be interesting to see how coach Erik Spoelstra rounds out his power rotation during the regular season, whether he commits to nine months of "position-less" small ball, or whether he again saves his best for last, adopting a more convention look over the conventional stages of the season.

  • Tom Moore of phillyBurbs.com: Nick Young never expected to be a 76er. Upon becoming an unrestricted free agent last summer, Young admitted Wednesday to being “shocked” at ending up in Philadelphia. A phone call and subsequent chat with Doug Collins early in the free agency period gave the Sixers the inside track with Young. Collins sealed the deal by meeting with Young’s parents a few days later. “He sat down and talked to my dad and mom. Once my mom started raving about him, it was pretty much a wrap right there,” said Young, smiling. Young officially signed a one-year, $6 million contract July 12. Although Young said he’s not sure what his role will be when the 2012-13 Sixers begin training camp Tuesday at Saint Joseph’s University, it’s likely he’ll be a taller version of Lou Williams.

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: When Bulls training camp begins next week, center Kyrylo Fesenko will be there on a non-guaranteed contract, according to a league source. Fesenko, a 7-foot-1-inch former second-round pick, has averaged 2.3 points and 2 rebounds in 135 career games with Utah and Indiana. He worked out for the Bulls on Monday. The Bulls possess $758,550 under the hard salary cap of $74.307 million and thus can't sign a 14th player like Fesenko for the season until a prorated amount of the veteran's minimum of $854,389 drops to fit. That would be in late November. ESPN.com first reported Fesenko's camp invitation.

  • Lori Ewing of The Canadian Press: Landry Fields knows a failed bid for Steve Nash may be what brought him to Toronto. But the Raptors newcomer said he never saw the manner of his acquisition as an insult, and rather than dwell on the roller-coaster route that brought him to town, he plans to make the most of his new NBA home. ... The 24-year-old former Stanford star was caught in a middle of a fierce battle for Nash in the off-season, targeted initially because the New York Knicks planned to use him as a piece of a sign-and-trade deal to lure the Canadian point guard to New York. The Raptors signed Fields to an offer sheet that the Knicks opted not to match. Fields’ contract will pay him about US$20 million over three seasons — a considerable sum perhaps for a player who struggled mightily in his sophomore season.

  • Craig Stouffer of the of the Washington Examiner: Randy Wittman doesn't harbor a belief that the Wizards are better than people think. The changes and improvements the team underwent last year after he took over as interim coach during the season and that took place in the offseason are no secret. In his first season without the interim tag, the task is to build on that process and convince his players what it will take to continue to get better. "I don't want to surprise anybody," Wittman said. "I just want us to believe in ourselves. That's what we have to do. We have to believe we can do this, that we can make that next step. But I'm not worried about surprising or sneaking up on anybody else. I think as the year went on last year, I think teams saw the change in us."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Kendrick Perkins could miss all of training camp and perhaps each of the Thunder's seven preseason games while recovering from wrist surgery. Thunder general manager Sam Presti said Wednesday that the team is hoping to have its starting center back in time for the season opener at San Antonio on Nov. 1. ... Perkins underwent a surgical procedure on July 19 to repair a torn ligament in his left wrist. It was one of two surgeries Perkins needed this offseason. The other came just eight days earlier to repair a groin injury.

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Like every NBA team, the Mavericks are always on the lookout for a breakout player, somebody who takes a significant leap in production from the previous season. Dominique Jones, who is entering his third season, appears to be the early leading candidate for that distinction. Reports from the daily pickup games on the Mavericks’ practice court are that the guard has been one of the most eye-catching players. It’s always dangerous to put too much stock in summertime showings, but Jones seems to have figured some things out after two mostly unproductive seasons.