First Cup: Wednesday

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: And now, they all wait. After five meetings squeezed into 48 hours, from the Rockets’ opening pitch to the Lakers’ closing appeal, Dwight Howard left his agent’s office Tuesday afternoon, slipped out of a pinstriped jacket, and squeezed behind the wheel of a white Ferrari hatchback without coming close to tipping his hand. … Monday’s meetings with the Hawks and Warriors and Tuesday’s sessions with the Mavericks and Lakers. By Tuesday night, the Rockets believed they had effectively stated their case. “I feel like we did everything and answered every question and we’re the best option for him to win,” general manager Daryl Morey said on Tuesday. “I like how he is going about the process. He is taking his time and weighing everything. We think when he does that, we’ll come out ahead.” There were discussions about the Rockets’ ability to continue to build their roster, and Howard spoke about being including in decision-making — something Morey has routinely sought with stars — but no specific names were mentioned. Morey added that he is not looking to deal Omer Asik or Jeremy Lin.

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: If you would bet on the day of D12's decision? Which date would you choose? Eddie Sefko: July 4...just because that would mess up everybody's holiday....not that there are any holidays this time of the year. Actually, a more educated guess will be Friday. He'll take a couple days to turn everything over in his head, let his agent (Dan Fegan) tell him about the financial implications and then the white puff of smoke will come out of the chimney and we'll have a new Pope.

  • David J. Neal of The Miami Herald: Can you imagine former Lakers ace general manager Jerry West or Jeanie’s late father, longtime Lakers owner Jerry Buss, doing anything like that even for Kareem or Magic Johnson? It’s the kind of degradation that could have Jerry Buss spinning in his grave while earning a ghostly laughfrom Theodore Lodigensky that such a comedown is the way of all flesh in Hollywood. Lodigensky is the Czarist Russian general who wound up working as an extra in Hollywood after the Russian Revolution. Lodigensky’s humiliating story wound up filmed as The Last Command with Emil Jannings winning the first Best Actor Oscar for playing the Lodigensky role (and the lead in The Way of All Flesh). Unfortunately for the Lakers, they’re in this position because current GM Mitch Kupchak is even further from West as a GM than he was from Hall of Famer West as a player. Kupchak didn’t analyze what he was getting in Howard and how he fit with what they had, personally and professionally. He didn’t do what the Heat has done so well (with some exceptions) over the past 17 years. Which is why one team now puts up billboards celebrating championships and tries to figure out how to stay there and a former champion puts up billboards trying to keep from falling to relevance-only-by-good-name.

  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: David West for three years, $36 million to stay in Indiana? We get that. He’s a proven commodity there, and his departure would have damaged a championship contender on the court and off. But a New Orleans offer sheet averaging roughly $12 million for Tyreke Evans? Teams, like Detroit — which should have learned its lesson in 2009 with Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva — weighing maximum offers for Josh Smith and Andre Iguodala? Kevin Martin getting four years and $28 million? Andrew Bynum still a hot commodity, after not playing all season and reportedly refusing to work out? It’s just another sign that nothing has been learned, nor will it ever be. Look at this list, from 2010. Other than the free agents that the Heat secured, and Dirk Nowitzki re-signing with Dallas, which of the major ones have worked out? Carlos Boozer? Amare Stoudemire? Joe Johnson? Now, go further down the list, but not too far. Travis Outlaw? Richard Jefferson? Tyrus Thomas? Laughing? You’ll do the same about this summer in three years.

  • Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: The Suns won’t say it, but we will. The Kendall Marshall draft pick last season was a mistake. … The Suns sent Jared Dudley to the Clippers, who once played in his hometown. The Milwaukee Bucks, the third-team in the deal, ship guard JJ Redick to the Clippers and get second-round draft picks in exchange. This isn’t to say that Marshall, who was selected when Lance Blanks served as general manager, doesn’t have a place in the Suns future. It’s just that it’s probably as the team’s third point guard. Starter Goran Dragic was the best player as the Suns playmaking guard last season, but he’s got combo-guard skills. So Bledsoe can serve as his backup and also play alongside him against some lineups. Butler, meanwhile, is a player the Suns almost drafted when they took Shawn Marion in 2002. Some thought at the time Butler was the better pick. The deal also may explain why the club decided to exercise a team option and keep wing guard Shannon Brown. The Suns have dramatically improved the athleticism of their lineup. We’re going to miss Dudley, though. The guy is about as media friendly as players get, but he also is one of those “glue” players teams love.

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: It’s kind of fun sitting out free agency in some ways, isn’t it? Don’t have to sit around every minute of every day either waiting for the phone to ring or the little text “ping” on your phone to go or to read something on the tweeter that someone else because of a function of timing. … But just because that’s where things are today — and it’s been enjoyable so far — doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done around these parts and it’s going to be quite interesting to see what Raptors GM Masai Ujiri can pull out of his hat in the next week and a half. He needs help, there is no question about that. When the Andrea Bargnani trade goes through he’s got an ugly unbalanced roster and you have to think he’s got something mind already to clear up the glut of wings and address needs. However, with the zaniness of the money so far, I’m wondering if it might not be prudent to let the top names, and even some in the second tier, shake out before pouncing on the leftovers.

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: Even now, decades after professional sports salaries began surging into the stratosphere, the money can still be shocking. Take the four-year, $36-million extension Tiago Splitter finalized on Tuesday with the Spurs. Even for someone who expected his new salary to fall between $8-10 million per year, the sheer bulk of it took my breath away for a split second. All that cash for what is, by most measures, a solid but wholly unspectacular player. Let it serve as another reminder that real-world sensibilities simply do not apply to the multi-billion dollar industry that is modern pro athletics. The value of Splitter’s contract can only be determined through that lens. And with that necessary perspective, it’s actually quite reasonable. Consider: The average NBA salary in 2012-13 was $5.2 million. The average salary for a starting power forward salary was $8.8 million. The average salary for an NBA All-Star was $13.3 million. Considering Splitter fits the Spurs so well on both ends of the court, as a pick-and-roll finisher and defensive partner to Tim Duncan, it can be argued that they might have actually gotten a slight bargain.

  • Chris Herrington of the Memphis Flyer: On a day when wing players around the NBA were signing bigger-than-expected deals — four years and $27 million for J.J. Redick, four years and $30 million for Kevin Martin, three years and $16 million for Chase Budinger, and four years and $22 million for Martell Webster — the market for Grizzlies guard Tony Allen seemed to be moving in divergent directions. On the one hand, the asking price for starting-caliber but non-All-Star wing players was coming in higher than the Grizzlies may have hoped to go for Allen. On the other, some potential Allen suitors — notably the Clippers and Pacers — seemed to be filling up roster spots or salary space needed to entice Allen. In the end, the negotiation between Allen and the Grizzlies seems to have come down to years — a guaranteed fourth year for the 31-year-old guard with a sometimes balky knee. And Allen got his fully guaranteed fourth year in a four-year, $20 million dollar deal that is, nevertheless, still less on a per-year basis than any other wing player signing on Tuesday. This for the only player in the group that has made three straight all-defensive teams, the only player in the group who just started on a conference finalist, and, certainly, the only player in the group to have significant, tangible box-office and marketing value beyond his on-court merits. … Re-signing Allen wasn't the only business the Grizzlies conducted late Tuesday night. The team also reached a multi-year agreement with forward Jon Leuer with a starting salary a little lower than the qualifying offer the team declined earlier in the week. The three-year deal at just under $3 million gives the Grizzlies room to develop Leuer at a low risk, in the hopes that he can be a cost-effective stretch-the-floor option at the back of their frontcourt rotation.

  • J. Michael of CSN Washington: The Wizards used the full mid-level exception, meaning it doesn't count against their salary cap, to sign Webster to a four-year contract worth $22 million Tuesday. They will have the option to buy him out in the final year which isn't fully guaranteed, so the commitment is actually less than $20 million until further notice. … So looking at the big picture, Webster’s signing makes perfect sense as long as he holds up physically. He had two back surgeries before coming to Washington and ended last season on the bench because of an abdominal strain. But consider this: Kyle Korver, an elite three-point shooter like Webster, earned $5 million for the Atlanta Hawks last season and as a free agent now he'll get at least that much. Kevin Martin, a sometimes lethal shooting guard, signed a deal with the Timberwolves on Tuesday that will pay him $30 million for the next four seasons -– an average of $7-plus million per. That’s the going rate, and neither is a two-way player like Webster who is a far better defender than both.

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: J.R. Smith's list of potential suitors continues to grow but the contracts signed by two free agent shooting guards on Tuesday increases the likelihood of Smith returning to the Knicks. The Clippers agreed to acquire J.J. Redick in a sign-and-trade with the Milwaukee Bucks while Oklahoma City Thunder free agent Kevin Martin verbally agreed to a four-year, $28 million deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The maximum the Knicks can offer Smith, the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year, is a four-year contract starting at approximately $5.5 million per season. Smith has told close friends that if the money is comparable his preference would be to re-sign with the Knicks. Still, some of the teams that contacted Smith's representatives have the ability to offer a deal approaching $30 million. The Pistons, Mavs, Rockets, Bucks and Bobcats have all expressed interest in Smith, who is coming off his best season.

  • Tom Sorensen of The Charlotte Observer: I hope the Charlotte Bobcats’ interest in Al Jefferson is a public relations move. See, fans? We’re tired of waiting. We want to improve now. That’s why we’re bringing Jefferson, the second-best big man in all of free-agency, to Charlotte Wednesday. We’re going to pick up his airfare, put him up in a nice hotel, buy all his meals – the man weighs 289 pounds – and maybe throw in Jordan Brand gear. And it’s all on the house except the Jordan Brand gear, which we’ll sell him at cost. Jefferson, 6-foot-10, will average about 17 points and nine rebounds for whomever he plays. He’s smart and effective and would be the best big man Charlotte has ever had. The Bobcats could use him next season. But they don’t need him next season. Next season is the season the Bobcats have to go through to reach 2014-15. That’s all it is. I’m not suggesting that Charlotte tank. … Every recent move the Bobcats have made is about 2014-15. The move they don’t make should lead there, too.

  • Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman: Money is tight in New Zealand youth basketball. And Steven Adams didn't have a lot of it growing up. So the towering 7-foot “Kiwi Phenom,” as he's referred to now, was unable to play the game until he was 14 and was out of the spotlight until he was 17, making the meteoric two-year rise that followed all the more impressive. As of 2011, he was still a relative unknown in New Zealand. But by last Friday afternoon Down Under, Adams was the hottest name in his home country, becoming the first New Zealander ever selected in the first round of the NBA Draft, going 12th overall to the Thunder. “Eyes were glued to the television,” New Zealand sports radio personality Glen Larmer said of the draft coverage. “Both major television networks led with the news that night. Not just the sports news, the lead of the entire bulletin. So that just gives you an example of the massive interest and following of this last week.”