First Cup: Monday

July, 22, 2013
7/22/13
5:21
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: I guess the only question is if Metta expires before Shumpert, one of the few Knicks who has value. Dolan is reportedly upset that Shumpert wasn’t interested in working with the summer league team and wants to trade him. Shumpert, I’ve heard, isn’t too crazy about the moves the Knicks have made, which could further stunt his development. The bigger issue is that Dolan is still throwing his weight around and throwing temper tantrums. The man behind the curtain who refuses to answer questions and address his loyal fan base is very much in charge. He was the driving force behind the grand plan to acquire Melo, Amar’e and Paul. Instead, the Knicks’ three big moves this summer were to form the alliance of Bargnani, Smith and Metta World Peace. That none of the three was formally introduced with a traditional press conference is somewhat telling. Leave it to the scene stealing Nets to televise the Garnett and Pierce press conference live last week. The Knicks, who have their own network, went as dark as the Garden in June. My theory is that Dolan didn’t want to preempt any of his summer programming on MSG Network. You know, those fan favorites like “Serpico” and the Knicks legend series featuring Baron Davis and Rasheed Wallace.
  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: Paul Pierce was asked to play point forward, serve as the Celtics’ primary scorer, and also often defend the opposing team’s best scorer. That responsibility was too much for the 35-year-old Pierce, and Shumpert’s aggressive defense simply wore him down. Pierce may not be the player he was in 2008, when he led the Celtics to the title at age 30, but in his new role with Brooklyn, he should flourish. With Garnett, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez, double teams will be less prevalent for Pierce. He should thrive against single defenders. “There will definitely be less pressure on me on this ball club than there was in Boston,” Pierce said. “In Boston, I was the No. 1 primary option. Here we have so many options. We have young All-Stars on this team. My job is to be more of a glorified role player, as Doc [Rivers] used to always say, with the guys we have. “With my abilities to do so many things, there’s going to be nights where I’m not going to score a bunch of points. I can do other things to help this club win. With the combination of these guys, we’re going to take pressure off each other.”
  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: Ultimately, the chance to make another playoff run with a roster that remains largely intact brought Splitter back to the team. “When you have such a successful team, you've got to keep what's working,” Splitter said. “We didn't win a ring last year, but we were very close, and we went the year before to the West finals. You don't want to change it.” Splitter acknowledges he thought about signing an offer sheet that might have resulted in playing for another team. The Hawks and Trail Blazers talked to his agent about proffering offers. Prepared for a long summer of free agency intrigue, he was happily surprised when a deal that kept him in San Antonio shaped up quickly. “My agent told me it was going to be a long summer for me,” he said. “But the Spurs made an offer that I liked and is great for me and my family. I couldn't say no. I want to stay here, and I had that in my hands, so it's great for me.” The deal, signed one week ago, will pay Splitter $36 million over four seasons. Still, when offers to play elsewhere were presented, the temptation to leave was considerable. “You feel good that some teams want you, and sometimes you even feel like you'd like to try something new,” Splitter said. “You have that doubt behind your ears. I really wanted to stay. That was always my first option, so when I had the chance to stay, I took it.”
  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: The Heat has called to express interest in center Marcus Camby, who cleared waivers late this afternoon. Camby intends to consider the Heat, Chicago and Houston, according to a source. "Marcus is weighing his options and would like to make a decision in the next few days," said his agent, Richard Kaplan. … Besides Camby, the Heat also continues to explore signing 7-0 center Greg Oden, who hasn't played since 2009 because of knee issues. Oden's agent said the Heat will see Oden a second time, possibly this week in Ohio or Indiana, and watch him conduct his daily workout routine, including some shooting and weight training.
  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: Q: Kyrie has not shown much interest in playing defense in either of his first two years. Would you hesitate to pull your best player off the floor if he’s not defending? Mike Brown: I’m going to coach all of our guys, but it’s not my goal to embarrass anybody. If I pull someone off the floor, it would be as a teaching experience. We talked about that with Dion [Waiters] and Tyler [Zeller]. They’re two roster guys who are young and can grow defensively. Going into the summer league, I told [assistant coach] Jamahl [Mosley], if something needs to be corrected, go ahead and pull Dion. So he got pulled a couple of times. Jamahl and some other coaches let him know what he needed to do as opposed to what he did do and then they put him right back in. That won’t be any different for me. If I feel like I need to pull Kyrie or Tristan [Thompson] or Dion or anyone else, I’ll do it if I feel it’s the appropriate time. I’ll blow timeouts if I have to get a point across to the team. I think as a team we have to be better defensively than what we have been in the past.
  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: When the regular season starts, Gal Mekel will join Houston’s Omri Casspi as the only players from Israel to play in the NBA. In his six games for the Mavs in the Las Vegas Summer League last week, Mekel showed that he’s a proficient ball-handler who can run an offense and knows how to find an open player. But with rookie Shane Larkin ( broken ankle) not available to split time at point guard, and with the Mavs ending summer-league play with four games in four days, the added burden of playing with less rest took its toll on Mekel. Still, the early impressions from Mavs summer league coach Monte Mathis about Mekel were positive ones. “I think it’s a jump from any league coming into the NBA,” Mathis said. “Any league in Europe, any league in the states — whether it’s college, small college — it’s a jump.” The oldest of seven kids, Mekel as a child in Israel woke up many times in the middle of the night to watch NBA games live on television. Mekel doesn’t have a role model, but he likes point guards. “I love the point guards that’s involving everyone and getting all of the other guys better and controlling the tempo,” Mekel said. “You have a lot of them in the NBA — Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Chris Paul — a long list. That’s the style of game that I play.”
  • Craig Davis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Though basketball already had a foothold in China, popularity took a quantum leap when Yao Ming made it to the NBA. No one is forecasting a comparable impact in India from the recent purchase of the Sacramento Kings by Mumbai-born Vivek Ranadive, who was previously part owner of the Golden State Warriors. India has yet to produce an NBA player, though nations such as Sudan, Senegal and Turkey have. During a visit to Mumbai in April, outgoing-NBA Commissioner David Stern predicted that could change within the next five years. One possibility is 17-year-old Satnam Singh, already 7-feet-2 and honing his skills at the IMG Sports Academy in Bradenton. "I don't think it's necessary to have an NBA player from India in order to grow the game. It would serve as an additional catalyst," Colaco said. The immediate focus is on bringing the game and league to India. Chris Bosh cut his planned trip to Italy short by a couple days to aid the cause. In a busy four days, he shepherded a replica of Larry O'Brien Trophy around Mumbai, mingled with some Bollywood stars and served as a role model for curious young fans to look way up to. Bosh also had a session with a fortune teller. But he didn't get a definitive answer on prospects for a Heat three-peat. "He just told me that I have some good years ahead. So I look at that as everything else is left up to how it's supposed to be," he said.
  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: This is when it starts, this new day for DeMarcus Cousins. His return visit with the U.S. national team – the chance to enhance his prospects as a future Olympian – is also his latest and perhaps best opportunity to obliterate the past and sketch a more favorable, embraceable image. The suspensions. The locker room feuds. The verbal tangle with a television analyst. The communication dust-up a year ago with the USA Basketball czar. With issue-free participation in this week's minicamp, Cousins redirects his career. He wins over his critics, empowers his advocates and delivers a strong message to his new bosses and his curious fans back in Sacramento. But he has decisions to make and thoughts to be shared. He has undertaken a strange vow of silence – his feelings about the dramatic developments in Sacramento are unclear – while his new agent (Dan Fegan) privately seeks a five-year maximum contract before the Oct. 31 deadline. That deal should not and probably will not happen. Cousins, who can become a restricted free agent next summer, still has much to prove. He doesn't have to be perfect, but he has to behave. If he just plays the game and dumps the nonsense, he takes the angst out of any negotiations. He completes the season and earns that max deal.
  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: But every time I see Meyers Leonard on the basketball floor I believe he will one day be the answer in Portland. Leonard turned 21 last NBA season. And if you want to polarize your next cocktail party, wait for a lull, and ask for a show of hands of those who believe Leonard will one day start a playoff game at center for the Blazers. Because this city is no longer Eastside vs. Westside. It's not hipsters vs. yuppies. As division goes, there are those who believe Leonard will blossom, and those who think he's a stiff. I see a star. Far as we know, Leonard spent his summer league hacking opponents around the basketball and tweeting about various Cirque du Soleil shows on the Vegas strip. But he also attended a Big Man's Camp, and got stronger, and worked on his footwork. And even as Leonard told me at the beginning of the summer that he wanted the Blazers to sign "a veteran center to show me the ropes," I think a little patience from the organization could end up making Leonard a steal at No. 11 in the 2012 NBA Draft.
  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: Dave Joerger spent several days watching Saunders during the Wolves’ 2003 training camp when Saunders taught his intricate offense to newcomers Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell on a team that reached the Western Conference finals that season. “I love the way Flip coaches offense,” Joerger said. “I can’t get enough. I’ve stolen a lot of stuff. Flip, George, Phil Jackson, those guys are legendary in the CBA. They set the bar pretty high, and I wanted to be like those guys. I never worried about the NBA.” But here he is, six years after then-Grizzlies head coach Marc Iavaroni brought him to Memphis and two months after the team decided to move on from Hollins by promoting Joerger after it had interviewed Karl and two others. Here he was back at summer league for the 15th consecutive year, ever since he was 24. Many years, he came searching to recruit players bound for Europe or the American minor leagues after their NBA dreams died in July or looking for a job. Now he has arrived at the top of his profession with a four-year contract that reportedly will pay him $1.5 million annually and with an established, veteran, winning team no less.
  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: Playing for coach Tom Thibodeau as a rookie isn’t a foregone conclusion. Jimmy Butler didn’t do it, and Marquis Teague basically redshirted last season. With the Bulls bringing back their core group this season, minutes for Snell won’t come easy, either. Especially if he doesn’t show Thibodeau that he buys into the Bulls’ defense-first mentality. “I understood that as soon as the Bulls [drafted] me,’’ Snell said. “If you’re not playing well defensively, you’re going to get exposed. And there’s no point in you going out there if you keep getting scored on and you’re not playing good defense, so I really take pride in my defense.’’ Snell showed that in five summer-league games, using his length to make life difficult for opponents and at least showing he has the ability to make the NBA three-pointer. He went 8-for-23 from beyond the arc on his way to averaging 11.8 points to go along with 6.6 rebounds. In other words, a very Kawhi Leonard-like showing. So while the comparison works for now, Snell knows that down the road he’d like to carve his own path. “This is the place I wanted to be,’’ Snell said. “I just know that I want to try to help this team win a championship.’’
  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: The Nuggets' new assistant general manager was in Las Vegas, but suddenly he was in Barcelona, Spain, transported to a time so powerful that clichés weren't cliché, and as such, sports weren't just sports. "For us, at that time," Arturas Karnisovas said, "the bronze medal was like a gold medal." … The story was storybook. It was recently turned into a documentary titled "The Other Dream Team." The Soviets seized Lithuania in the 1940s, transforming a proud nation under their militant, malicious rule. Nearly half a century later, Lithuania was able to declare its independence — but not before bloody clashes with Soviet troops in 1991. A year later, Lithuania was free. And bankrupt. But in one of the zaniest twists in Olympic history, an American band, the Grateful Dead, became aware of this team, finally free, representing hope with hoops. The band bankrolled the Lithuanian national team, which played under the mantra "Better Dead Than Red" and famously wore tie-dyed outfits during the Olympic medal ceremony. … Karnisovas is now with the Nuggets. He had a splendid professional career overseas, winning FIBA's European player of the year award in 1996. He later worked for the NBA and for the Houston Rockets, with whom he most recently was the director of scouting.

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