First Cup: Tuesday

  • Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times: Is the release of Bulls assistant coach Ron Adams a sign of a fracture in the relationship between general manager Gar Forman and coach Tom Thibodeau? Maybe, maybe not. But when Forman insisted, ‘‘I think Tom and I have a very good working relationship,’’ it’s worth noting that he did so at a news conference alone. Thibodeau, who had just shared the same table with Forman at a news conference to introduce draft picks Tony Snell and Erik Murphy, suddenly was nowhere to be found. … The bigger issue is how this will affect the relationship between Forman and Thibodeau. … We’ll see about that. As it stands, Forman and Thibodeau are united and moving forward. But the situation bears watching. The way the Bulls handled the Adams situation leads you to believe that if there’s not more to the story now, there might be someday. Forman compared his discord with Thibodeau over Adams to disagreements husbands and wives have all the time. He’s right about that. But it doesn’t strengthen his argument. Nearly 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, often because one disagreement leads to others. So stay tuned.

  • Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle: Dwight Howard will never have Olajuwon’s game, but he could have a similar transformation or rehabilitation in reputation over the next few years if he contends for and/or wins and NBA championship. There is little question that the best place for that to happen with Howard commanding the max contract that he deserves is in Houston. And, obviously, Howard is the Rockets’ best and fastest way into contention. If you think otherwise, you need to ask somebody else to start doing your basketball thinking for you so that you won’t hurt yourself. This is a marriage made in NBA free agency heaven. Morey has positioned Houston to be a player for high-priced free agents for the next few years. If he doesn’t lure Howard, he won’t waste money on a bad contract for a semi-star, because the Rockets are setup to be major players again next offseason, as only Harden, Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik are under contract for the 20-14-15 season.

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Sunday night, the New Orleans Pelicans met with Evans in Los Angeles and presented an offer sheet for four years worth at least $44 million, said a source familiar withthe negotiations. … The Kings could match the Pelicans' offer to Evans or try to work out a sign-and-trade deal with New Orleans. Pelicans point guard Greivis Vasquez and center Robin Lopez could be parts of a trade. … The Pelicans view Evans as a combo guard and reportedly would make him their prized sixth man, a role he likely would not accept in Sacramento. In New Orleans, Evans would be grouped with recently acquired All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday and shooting guard Eric Gordon. After meeting with the Detroit Pistons, Evans met with the Kings on Monday. He will continue to meet with other teams, and a session is scheduled today with the Atlanta Hawks.

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Celtics ownership decided throughout the Kevin Garnett era that luxury-tax penalties were not a problem as long as the team contended. But for the first time in six years, the Celtics are facing a season out of contention for anything but the right ping-pong ball count. A team payroll of more than $70 million isn’t going to make a lot of sense for the first time since the 2006-07 season. With a harsh “repeater” tax scale — penalizing teams that exceed the threshold for the three previous seasons — set for activation in the 2014-15 season, the Celtics want to clear their books. What you see on the Celtics roster is probably close to what you will see in November. “In order for us to do anything in free agency, it would have to be through sign-and-trades, and free agency isn’t really our objective,” president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said yesterday after a press conference to introduce rookies Kelly Olynyk and Colton Iverson. “Right now, it’s not a priority for us. . . . We have too many players. We have logjams at power forward, center, shooting guard. But our job is to try and clean that up during the summer.”

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: Marcus Camby, originally drafted by the Raptors in 1996, isn’t likely to ever suit up for Toronto; he wants to end a long career trying to win a championship. Toronto sources say Ujiri does not yet have a landing spot for Camby but the Raptors GM does have more than a week to find a way to flip him for some other asset. Not doing so risks having to buy Camby out of the last guaranteed year of his contract and get nothing in return for the veteran centre. And putting Richardson in the deal to make it work by matching salaries creates an even bigger glut at the wing positions that Ujiri will have to address. The Raptors, as constructed once the trade goes through, have DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Terrence Ross, Landry Fields, Novak, Richardson and Linas Kleiza all capable of playing on the wings; that’s about four too many for a playing rotation and Ujiri has to find a way to move some of them out. He also has to decide whether or not to pick up the full final year of point guard Kyle Lowry’s contract — the Raptors can save about $5 million by cutting Lowry loose before July 15 — and whether or not to use the one-time amnesty clause to create more financial savings.

  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: It will be nearly impossible for the Bulls, Pacers or Nets to make any more major moves now, after the Nets added Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry, and in light of the salary cap and luxury tax situations of the three teams. Still, all three teams needed depth as free agency opened, and all three have had some success so far. The Pacers added point guard C.J. Watson on a two-year contract, giving them a replacement for the erratic D.J. Augustin; Watson played well against Mario Chalmers when he was a Bull. The Nets re-signed forward/center Andray Blatche, who had interest from other teams, for the league minimum; and they are the frontrunners for Kyle Korver, a proven long-range shooter. The Bulls are adding Mike Dunleavy for their mini mid-level exception, giving them an upgrade over Marco Belinelli, and a strong backup backcourt with Kirk Hinrich. If Miami retains Chris Andersen, it still has the deepest bench of that group of teams. But not by as much as two days ago.

  • Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: He (Josh Smith) already has visited with the Detroit Pistons. He reportedly will meet with the Houston Rockets and the Hawks today. My expectation is that the Hawks won’t re-sign him. Neither general manager Danny Ferry nor coach Mike Budenholzer has stated this publicly but I don’t think he fits the type of player they’re looking to build with. Ferry and Budenholzer came from the San Antonio Spurs, a high-IQ team. Smith, for as great as he can be at times, too often has not been a high-IQ player. I also think it’s more likely Smith leaves via free agency than a sign-and-trade because I don’t believe Ferry wants to take back any contracts, but I guess that depends on the player(s) available.

  • Terry Foster of The Detroit News: The Pistons did the right thing by standing on Josh Smith’s doorstep as soon as free agency began Monday morning. He needs to be the main target on a team badly in need of a trigger man. And the Pistons must do everything they can to sign him -- which they appear to be doing. This is an important move for the Pistons. By signing Smith it would show they can outbid other teams and get their man. That has not really happened before in free agency. The Pistons have not brought in elite free agents. They signed Chauncey Billups in 2002, and the Larry Brown remake made him look a lot better in Detroit than any other place. Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva were panic targets in 2009 because the Pistons knew they could not get into the real free-agent market the following season when LeBron James and Chris Bosh were destined to be the big targets. Smith would represent the most polished and accomplished free agent in Pistons history. And he would help this team at least make the playoffs. That is how much talent he has. I’d even be willing to take a risk on a guy who is not a great chemistry guy and could possibly turn the dressing room sour if things don’t go right for him.

  • Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com: But what's being overlooked in all this was the Trail Blazers' willingness to facilitate the deal in order for Houston to free up the necessary cap space to pursue free agent center Dwight Howard. According to league sources, several teams including the Trail Blazers, are closely monitoring the Omer Asik situation. Reports are out that the 7-0 center is available. If the Rockets get that verbal agreement they so desperately want from Dwight Howard, Asik will be moved. One source who is tuned-in with how things could develop tells CSNNW.com that the Trail Blazers are in the Rockets' good graces, which could have an influence on where they choose to ship Asik when it's time to do so. The center position is a dire need for Portland, being that they were one of the worst defensive teams in the league.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Former Wizard Andray Blatche has agreed to return to the Brooklyn Nets for $1.4 million, according to multiple published reports. He will earn close to $9 million under a complicated formula for amnestied players, but his signing only provides a slight reduction from the $7.8 million that the Wizards will still pay him. If Blatche had signed for more money, the financial hit for the Wizards would’ve been lessened. In Brooklyn, Blatche will become teammates with Kevin Garnett, whom he famously sparred with verbally late in the 2009-10 season.

  • Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times: Where are the Milwaukee Bucks headed? Are they going to continue to wallow in mediocrity? Are they going to descend to the depth of despair? Or are they finally going to ascend to the ranks of a certifiable quality team? We are probably going to have the answer to that question by next Wednesday. That’s when NBA teams are allowed to sign free agents. That’s when we’ll know if the Bucks, who have a ton of Benjamins at their disposal, will pull off a coup and sign a big-time free agent like Josh Smith and whether they’ll be able to find some nice complementary pieces to go along with Ersan Ilyasova, Larry Sanders and John Henson. Suffice to say, Bucks general manager John Hammond has never been, or perhaps ever will be, under more intense pressure to restructure his roster in such a positive manner.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: If the Orlando Magic aren't the favorite to win the upcoming Orlando Pro Summer League, then the Magic at least should be considered one of the top contenders. The Magic released their summer-league roster Monday, and as expected, six of the 18 players spent at least part of last season with Orlando: Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris, DeQuan Jones, Doron Lamb, Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O'Quinn. First-round draft pick Victor Oladipo and second-round draft pick Romero Osby also are on the roster. Summer-league play is far more about player development than about winning, and the Magic intend to experiment during the exhibitions by playing Oladipo at least a bit at point guard after he played shooting guard in college.

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: If you happened to buy a No. 3 Trey Burke Utah Jazz jersey at a Fanzz store Monday, consider yourself lucky. And put it in a safe place — or on eBay. The shirt might become a collector's item. A mini-controversy — one that seems more humorous than harmful — spread in Jazzland when a photo of the replica uniform taken by @Utah_JazzNation was posted on Twitter and details about Burke's temporary number were revealed. What's the big deal? Ask DeMarre Carroll. Though he became an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and currently isn't employed by the Jazz, the Junkyard Dog has worn No. 3 since joining the team a year and a half ago. If he re-signs with the Jazz — a distinct possibility that has been discussed by his camp and Utah's front office — Carroll would have the first right of refusal on No. 3. … Though the Burke jerseys remained on display all day, Fanzz store employees received a late-afternoon message from upper management to cease selling them. Carroll's response? "SMD (Shaking My Dreads) They trying to give my jersey number away already?!" he wrote to Salt Lake Tribune writer Bill Oram on Twitter. "Take them a arm and leg to put in stores for my Fans. SMD."