First Cup: Friday

  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer: Brett Brown is the preferred candidate for the 76ers coaching job, according to a league source. If the job doesn't go to Brown, the search for Doug Collins' replacement will remain competitive, the source said. Portland Trail Blazers assistant David Vanterpool; Sixers assistant Michael Curry, a holdover from Collins' staff; and Boston Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga are believed to be the other serious contenders. … This isn't the first time Brown has been mentioned as the leading candidate. About two hours after the June 27 NBA draft, Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie denied a New York Daily News report that the Sixers had decided to hire Brown. … Seven other NBA assistants - Ed Pinckney (Bulls), Quin Snyder (Atlanta Hawks), Kenny Atkinson (Hawks), David Fizdale (Miami Heat), Melvin Hunt (Denver Nuggets), Chris Finch (Houston Rockets), and Kelvin Sampson (Rockets) - also have been mentioned as candidates.

  • Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune: If you take the word of Flip Saunders, the president of basketball operations for the Timberwolves, you can quit worrying about the club signing Nikola Pekovic. Saunders believes it’s just a matter of time before the 6-11 center from Montenegro agrees to a deal with the club. “Yeah, I’m still optimistic,” said Saunders, who plans to travel in the near future to New York to speak to Pekovic’s agent. If you want to select the most important announcement one of the local four pro sports organizations needs to make right now, I would vote for the signing of Pekovic. I am convinced that if he returns, the Wolves will be great entertainment this season. “Right now we’re going through maybe an education process [with] Pek and his people of where we’re at with our organization and his importance to us and where we feel we’re at with what our offer is and why we’ve offered him what we’ve offered,” Saunders said. … Saunders also said he remains optimistic that Rick Adelman is ready to return as coach next season. “I think he feels very good about where we’re going,” he said.

  • J. Michael of CSN Washington: Ted Leonsis wanted to be certain that Wall was on board. Sure, he could've waited until after the season to re-sign him because the Wizards would've been able to match any offers made to Wall as a restricted free agent. But why bother putting up a front when there wasn't really anything to negotiate? Why deal with a year's worth of questions about it? Wall wanted the max. Leonsis didn't mind giving it to him. “I wanted to do it, show respect. I also wanted to see how he was doing with his workouts,” Leonsis said of his trip to L.A. “The discussion really was that I want to make sure I hear from you that this won’t amp up your personal goals, but it will be more about team goals. One of the reasons we wanted to do this and do it early is to remove the I-need-to-get-stats. This is such a stats-oriented league and to have the focus on what the team needs to accomplish.” This was typical of how the Wizards operated this off-season. They moved fast when the free agency period opened July 1, signing Eric Maynor, Martell Webster and Garrett Temple in the first three days. They have 14 players under contract. The maximum is 15.

  • Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: The whispers and accusations started after Andrei Kirilenko agreed to terms with the Nets, when he took an enormous pay cut to join Mikhail Prokhorov’s quest for an NBA title. Anonymous rival executives surmised a Russian conspiracy, according to a Yahoo! report. They envisioned rubles passed under the table, or elsewhere, although they lacked evidence. They called for an investigation from the commissioner’s office. “I can’t do anything with what people think,” Kirilenko said in a conference call on Thursday. “I’m coming from the facts. I can’t change it. I can’t control it. . . . Those type of rumors I can’t control. And I guess it comes from the history because of the Russian KGB. It makes it a little funny. What can I do?” The reality, according to Kirilenko, was he opted out of a one-year, $10 million deal with the hope of re-signing long-term with the Timberwolves, only to discover Minnesota GM Flip Saunders wasn’t interested. So he signed with the Nets for about $3 million per season, and the 32-year-old forward said it had nothing to do with shady deals or the work of the Russian underworld.

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: The Knicks have decided rest is more important for Amar’e Stoudemire than “The Dream Shake’’ and wisdom of Hakeem Olajuwon. Stoudemire will not return to the Olajuwon camp in Houston to work on his post moves again this month as had been planned, The Post has learned. Stoudemire had planned to return to Texas to refine the post moves he learned last summer. That Olajuwon is about to be named to the Rockets staff as instructor for Dwight Howard and Omar Asik is not a factor in Stoudemire not attending. According to a Rockets source, Houston is allowing Olajuwon to fulfill any of his prior commitments with opposing players this month before he exclusively works with Rockets big men. Hence, Stoudemire might never work with Olajuwon again.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: A whirlwind summer has taken 18-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo around the globe. The Milwaukee Bucks' first-round pick in the June draft, the 6-foot-9 small forward has traveled to New York and Milwaukee, home to Greece, to Slovenia and Estonia and now back to Milwaukee. Suddenly he's a millionaire after signing his first NBA contract Tuesday. But he's also an untested rookie. The good news for the Bucks is the smiling Antetokounmpo, already being called "GA" by some, is willing to learn. He worked out Thursday on the Cousins Center court with player development coach Josh Oppenheimer and Cody Ross of the basketball operations staff. Asked if he was satisfied with his showing for Greece in the Under-20 European Championship earlier this summer, Antetokounmpo did not hesitate to answer. "No," he said. "I was not satisfied with my performance. What can I do? I'm going to try next year. "If the team had taken a medal, maybe I would have been OK. But we didn't take a medal. I didn't play (great)."

  • Jamie Samuelsen of the Detroit Free Press: In essence, the Detroit Pistons traded Brandon Knight for Brandon Jennings. Is this just a short-term fix or a long-term solution for the Pistons at point guard? If a patient is declared dead and then you get a pulse – that’s a cause for celebration, right? You’re not necessarily looking for him to jump off the gurney and start running all over the hospital. But once you get that heartbeat back, anything is possible. … There are five virtual locks in the Eastern Conference for the playoffs – Miami, Indiana, Chicago, Brooklyn and New York. The Pistons are now high amongst the group of teams fighting for the last three spots. That’s something you couldn’t have said a month ago. And that makes this a team to watch. Full credit to Dumars for moving the parts around to create the space to make this team better. They’re not contenders. Not yet. But they’re alive. And that’s a heck of a lot better than being dead.

  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: If all goes according to plan, Derrick Rose's return to NBA action will not start in Chicago. The Bulls released their preseason schedule on Thursday and it features games in Indianapolis, St. Louis and Rio de Janeiro before the first contest at the United Center on Oct. 16 against Detroit. Rose said during a recent European promotional tour he feels 100 percent healthy and plans to play in the preseason opener. He's been sidelined since April 28, 2012 when he tore the ACL in his left knee in a playoff game against Philadelphia. The Bulls will start the preseason against Central Division rival Indiana on Sat., Oct. 5, then face Memphis at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. After that, they'll play the first NBA game in Brazil on Sat. Oct. 12 against Washington.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Veteran guard Francisco Garcia re-signed with the Rockets on Thursday, taking care of perhaps the final entry on the Rockets’ off-season to-do list. Garcia on July 6 reached agreement on a two-year veteran’s minimum deal, the second with a team option, worth $2.6 million. He had been out of the country following the end of the signing moratorium and unavailable to complete his physical, leading to the delay. The Rockets are expected to announce the signing on Friday. “He was a revelation after the trade,” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said. “He stepped right in to the locker room as one of our key guys. There was no way we’d have advanced as far as we did in the Oklahoma City series without him. He brings leadership, shooting, defense. We’re very happy we were able to work this out to bring him back.”

  • Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe: The Celtics have cut forward Shavlik Randolph, a move that trims their roster to the regular-season limit of 15 signed players and also saves them about $1.1 million. The team had until Thursday to cut the 6-foot-10-inch Randolph or else his contract would have been fully guaranteed for the 2013-14 season. Randolph's agent confirmed to the Globe that the Celtics informed Randolph that they won't be picking up the option on his non-guaranteed deal, thus ending his tenure with the team he joined in February after playing in China. … But with the Celtics' desire to trim salary to stay under the tax line, and with a crowded roster especially heavy in the frontcourt with Humphries, Brandon Bass, Vitor Faverani, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, and Fab Melo, Randolph was simply a victim of the numbers.

  • Mike Gegenheimer of The Times-Picayune: "We can all be very proud as we're going to be very proud of our team as we work hard to become a champion," Tom Benson said. "We're going to have two champions -- the New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans." Pelicans forward Jason Smith gave fans their first look at the team's new home jerseys as he emerged from the manufactured fog and into a crowd of local-area children and several members of the media. Smith, along with Anthony Davis, donned the white home gear, which had red and gold striping down the sides and "New Orleans" displayed across the jersey in blue lettering inspired by the iconic street signs of the French Quarter. The road uniforms, modeled by forward Ryan Anderson and new point guard Jrue Holiday, are similar to the home uniforms in design but navy blue. The Pelicans are one of only three NBA teams to feature the name of the city on home and away jerseys, and one of 10 franchises to have a navy uniform. "I kind of never had that before in my life," Davis said. "To come out here and actually present the uniforms to you guys and the kids and their families and the owner -- it means a lot. It says they have a lot of confidence in me and faith and trust in me."

  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: Remember the name Thon Maker. He’s going into Grade 10 and already 7-foot-1, runs the floor well and is a solid jump shooter. He wasn’t even the tallest man in the building this week though. That honor goes to Brampton’s Tanveer Bhullar, who is bound for New Mexico State and stands 7-foot-3, though he’s small compared to his brother Sim, also at New Mexico State and 7-foot-5. Another name to remember: Montaque Gill-Caesar, also known as Teki. He’s the same height and build as Wiggins, plays for Wiggins’ old school, Huntington Prep in West Virginia, has similar mannerisms and even sounds like him. He’s also a solid player already and getting better.