First Cup: Monday

  • Percy Allen of The Seattle Times: For one afternoon, Kevin Durant belonged to Seattle once again. It was as if the lanky basketball superstar stepped into a time machine and transported back to the summer 2007 when the Sonics selected him No. 2 overall in the NBA draft. There he was Sunday, in the city where his professional career began, and the 24-year-old looked just like he did when he played his last game in Seattle five years ago. However, instead of his old green and gold No. 35 jersey, Durant wore a red No. 7. And instead of an NBA contest at KeyArena, he turned a summer-league game at the Jamal Crawford Pro-Am into a must-see event that drew manic fans to Seattle Pacific University. The crowd overflowed out of Royal Brougham Pavilion and snaked around the corner onto Nickerson Street. When Durant walked through a side door, the place went bonkers. And when he stepped on the court, the crowd of 3,000 greeted him with a standing ovation that lasted several minutes. … Durant took 62 shots — making 26 — and scored 63 points. He drained three-pointers and flushed dunks. Conroy (33 points) set him up for a thrilling alley-oop slam. Durant could have penned a storybook ending, but he missed a potential game-winning midrange jumper in the final seconds. In the extra period, the team led by Crawford (46 points), Washington Wizards guard Martell Webster (25) and former UW standout Tre Simmons (26) pulled away for a 147-141 victory. However, the real winners were the fans. “I’ve had a fun time here in Seattle,” Durant told the crowd while holding the microphone at midcourt. “I miss you guys. Thank you for the warm welcome, man. I can’t wait to come back. Thank you. I appreciate it.”

  • Bernie Augustine of the New York Daily News: There is clearly some Air left in his Jordans. Michael Jordan wowed campers at his annual Flight School camp in California over the weekend, showing that His Airness can still fly — albeit at a lower altitude — by rising up and dunking with one hand. At 50-years-old. In a pair of jeans and Air Jordans. “This still happens,” was the description accompanying the photo sent out from the Twitter account of Jordan’s camp, @MJFlightSchool.A YouTube video shows a young camper defending Jordan, and when he goes for the steal the Hall of Famer drives the lane and throws down the one-handed jam. Jordan takes the youngster to school one more time in the short clip, playfully backing him down before spinning away and sinking a running left-handed hook shot. Something has clearly gotten into the NBA stars of the 1980s and 90s this summer, as they’ve reminded a younger generation that they still have it. Or at last some of “it.”

  • John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News: Let me start by saying, I think it's a bit ridiculous that it has taken new Sixers czar of basketball Sam Hinkie nearly 3 months to finally come up with a candidate worthy enough to offer his head coaching job. Even if we know that Hinkie's"analytical" approach to managing is the exact opposite of an "instinctive" one, 3 months is a long time for dotting all of the i's and crossing the t's. … Brown doesn't have the Sixers over a barrel, but if you're Hinkie and you've waited this long to come up with the right coach, can you afford to have him turn you down? How would you then sell the next guy in line as anything more than a temporary hire or a guy desperate for any head-coaching job? That would be a humiliating confirmation of how bad people think of the Sixers' situation. Still, I like that Brown has some kind of hammer over Hinkie because at the minimum he should be able to coax out a long-term commitment as the coach. … With the Sixers expected to lose anywhere from 55 to 65 games, a one-and-done scenario could definitely be in play for the next coach If I were Brown, I'd insist on a 4- or 5-year contract from the Sixers - one that gives management incentive to stick by me through some anticipated lean times. Honestly, the next coach getting a long-term commitment also would be best for the Sixers.

  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: “I understand,” Greg Oden said. “My body is not going to be when I was 18, able to run all day and jump over people. I can’t do that now. It’s just not going to happen. My knees, the wear and tear of the surgeries, I understand that. “But I’m going to play as hard as I can, and I’m going to try to jump over people, and I’m going to try to run all day. If my body lets me, I’ll do it.” In that sense, he is grounded. That is good. His comeback, however, could be grounded, too, by the slightest slip. It might not even take a touch. That’s how brittle he is. That’s how fragile this comeback is. That’s what Heat fans need to understand. Oden’s return to game action should not be based on anything that is occurring inside the team. Bosh is getting beaten on the boards? Doesn’t matter. Chris Andersen can’t sustain last season’s success? Doesn’t matter. The team endures a losing streak of some length? Doesn’t matter. All that matters is how Oden feels about his readiness, and how the Heat feel about that feeling. In fact, even when Oden clears himself for greater responsibility, Heat decision-makers should stall him some, just to make sure.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Kendrick Perkins himself admitted that he was displeased with his performance last season. And so he's dedicated this offseason to developing his skills and improving his game. … Perkins' motivation is twofold. The Thunder's second-round exit last season still is fresh in his mind, and he knows he didn't help the team as much as he would have liked to. As for the former, the basketball world now seems to be overlooking the Thunder going into the 2013-14 season, something that isn't lost on the Thunder. “They count us out,” Perkins said. “But at the end of the day we feel like each guy at the end of the season said we were going to come back better. So we feel like each guy just got to step their roles up a little bit more and step their games up and we feel like we can do that.” Perkins will be the first to say that he's starting with the man in the mirror. He's heard his critics this offseason, and while he isn't making any vows to shut them up Perkins is using their criticism as fuel. “One thing I learned, and I learned this from Kevin Garnett, is don't only read the good things about you,” Perkins said.

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: One could bill next July as the Summer of LeBron II. But as far as the Cavaliers are concerned, their most pressing need might be signing All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to a contract extension. The Cavs can offer Irving an extension in July 2014, undoubtedly for maximum dollars. … "I know it's your job to ask about it, but I'm not really worried about that right now," he said. "I'm going to focus on my third year and worry about that in the summertime." … The 6-foot-3, 191-pound Irving said he's content in Cleveland. "Right now I'm a Cavalier," Irving said. "This is where I am. All that other stuff, I'm not worrying about it. I'm living in the moment right now. I want to work with the coaching staff and get to the playoffs. That's all I can do right now, give it my all. All that future stuff, I'm not really worrying about it." He wants to make it clear that rumors on Twitter last month about him not re-signing with the Cavs were false. "My job is to play basketball," Irving said. "That guy on Twitter that said that, (he's not) close with my family. I wanted to let Cleveland know those rumors were bogus and nothing to worry about."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: “I’m so thankful for the position that I’m in,” Otto Porter said in a recent telephone interview. “There are a lot of guys who would love to be in my position, so just to see how far I’ve come in two or three years, coming from a small area to now I’m here in the NBA and it’s all happened so fast, it’s amazing.” From the moment he declared for the draft out of Georgetown, Porter has been flooded with information about what it takes to survive in a high-profile occupation. Last week, that information was condensed to a four-day session of seminars and workshops at the NBA’s rookie transition program in Florham Park, N.J., designed to educate players on the challenges that come with handling their finances, relationships and health. Porter and fellow Wizards rookie Glen Rice Jr. were among the nearly 50 players in attendance to receive frank instruction and personal tales of hardship and perseverance from former and current players such as Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, Jerry Stackhouse and Kyrie Irving and other experts in their respective fields. They also gained an understanding of the expectations that come with being part of a business that generates more than $4 billion in annual revenue.

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: The roster makeover has been significant, and this clearly looks like a more competitive team than the one that bumbled its way to a 28-120 record the past two seasons. They drafted Indiana power forward Cody Zeller and signed free-agent center Al Jefferson. They re-signed shooting guard Gerald Henderson and power forward Josh McRoberts. In two lesser moves – but ones that fill needs new coach Steve Clifford identified – they’ve added veterans Jannero Pargo and Anthony Tolliver as third options at point guard and power forward, respectively. Tolliver agreed to a one-year, veteran-minimum deal Saturday. Once he formally signs, the Bobcats will have 13 guarantees for next season, with an NBA-maximum 15 roster spots available. The Bobcats also have power forward Jeff Adrien on an unguaranteed contract and have indicated they will work out guard Seth Curry, the Charlottean and former Duke star, who went undrafted in June. With 13 guarantees, this is pretty much the roster the Bobcats will bring to UNC-Asheville for training camp in October.

  • Staff of The Dallas Morning News: Norm Hitzges: How long a contract do you suspect you'll offer Dirk once he gets into free agency this year and you start the re-up discussion. Mark Cuban: I have no idea. But I'll talk to Dirk about it. Pretty much whatever he wants. Dirk's got a no-trade deal, so whether it's one year, three years, 20 years, it really doesn't matter. He gets to sign and re-sign as often as he wants. The length of the contract is more about how long longer Dirk wants to play more than anything else. Particularly with a young kid, he's gonna want to spend time, but he's also going to want to get some sleep. I don't see Dirk walking away from the game anytime soon. Dirk really wants to come back and send a message to everybody that he's got a lot left. The thing about Dirk is he's skill driven. He's basketball-IQ driven, he's wins driven. He's not driven by athleticism. As long as he stays healthy, he could play for a long time.