First Cup: Tuesday

  • Brad Rock of the Deseret News: I believed this in June and I haven’t changed my mind: The Jazz didn’t have a lot of options. They knew where they were going with the Jefferson-Millsap approach – mid-to-low end of the conference. Better to roll the dice. It’s going to be painful and with what they have now, it won’t be smooth. They’re at least two All-Stars away from being serious, maybe more. In fact, Mehmet Okur, Andrei Kirilenko and Devin Harris were All-Stars and even played on the same Jazz teams. They didn’t go far. Neither will this team, as it stands. I know it’s early, but this might be a good time for Jazz fans to temper expectations. Sports Illustrated can see that from a distance. From up close, it might have looked better a couple of months ago than it really was.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Injuries almost have turned Malcolm Lee into an NBA stranger. Lee logged barely more games in two years with the Minnesota Timberwolves (35) than he did as a UCLA junior (33). He has undergone two surgeries on each knee and a hip surgery and was acquired in June by the Suns mostly because they had to take on his contract to move up one draft spot for Archie Goodwin. Lee, 23, is trying to make sure you have not seen the last of him. Or that you are about to see the first of him. He has been in Phoenix for the past month, working with Suns athletic trainers with the belief that he will be ready to participate when the team heads to Flagstaff for training camp on Sept. 30. He has a guaranteed $884,000 contract, but the Suns also will have 15 other guaranteed contracts with a maximum of 15 regular-season roster spots. The Suns believe in Lee’s talent, but it is a matter of the 6-foot-5 guard’s health and whether he can recapture his athleticism and show his defensive aptitude.

  • Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times: Kobe Bryant continued to push his way back from a torn Achilles tendon, releasing a video of his workout via Instagram on Monday. The clip shows Bryant running on the Alter-G, the weight-bearing treadmill. While he has been walking on the Alter G for some time during his recovery, Bryant has clearly increased his pace. The Lakers All-Star guard was injured April 12 in a win over the Golden State Warriors. He had surgery the following day. While touring China, Bryant said he has "shattered" his recovery timetable, but more recently, Bryant said he's not sure if he'll make it back in time for opening night (Oct. 29). The original timetable for his recovery was six to nine months. Bryant also tweeted that he won't forget about what was said and written since his injury.

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: Q: Is this job harder than you thought it’d be? Flip Saunders: No. When I coached, I was always pretty active in the personnel side of things. Were there some challenges? Yeah, there were, challenges trying to change the culture — how we operate internally and externally — so all parties understand what you’re trying to do. Q: Anything you understand now about the job that you didn’t four months ago? Flip Saunders: I don’t think so. People talk about the importance of the agents and how they can dictate things; I believe my year with ESPN helped me tremendously in dealing with media and even agents. You understand these people have an agenda and you have to respect what their agenda is. It might not be the same as yours, and you might not like what they’re doing, but it’s not out of spite to you. It’s because they have a job to do. You have to respect that. I understand that more now, and I don’t take it maybe as seriously, to be honest, as I would have in the past. Q Any roster needs you still need to address? Flip Saunders: I don’t think we have any needs. Right now, talking to Rick, we feel comfortable with the roster we have. Not only is it balanced, but we feel we have talent at every position. I’ve talked a lot about this team and there are pretty good players out there we don’t even talk about right now: Derrick Williams, J.J. Barea, Dante Cunningham. When you put all those guys together with who we’ve added, you’ve got to feel comfortable.

  • Gary Dzen of The Boston Globe: Based on this team's current roster, do you see them winning more than 30 games? This means last place in the East. Larry, Tallahassee, Fla. Have you seen the Bobcats play, Larry? In all seriousness, 30 is a good number to debate. Fans seem to be all over the place on where this team finishes, but I'm in the camp that the losses of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, as well as Rajon Rondo's recovery from knee surgery, leave the Celtics in a bad spot. Add in a new coach and a repetitive roster I'll go jus over and say the Celtics win 31 games. That leaves them out of the playoffs but maybe ahead of the Bobcats.

  • Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com: We're in the midst of what is considered the slow time of the NBA offseason. It's a place in time where Ivan Johnson thought he would have had his next stop locked up already. But he isn't expected to be available past August. A source close to the power forward informed CSNNW.com that Johnson is issuing NBA teams a two-week deadline to come up with a reasonable offer. If no NBA offer presents itself, Johnson will bite on one of his several overseas offers. The source who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of these talks says, “Johnson will be fine either way, as long as he is playing the game of basketball.” The New York Knicks were one of the NBA teams inquiring about Johnson early on, however they have not reached out at the same regularity, another source told CSNNW.com.

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Monday proved to be a day of minor details for the Miami Heat, both halfway around the world and halfway across the country. In Australia, Heat second-round acquisition James Ennis, the swingman out of Long Beach State, was introduced as the newest member of the Perth Wildcats. In Sioux Falls, S.D., Heat scout Pat Delany was introduced as coach and Heat Director of Player Personnel Adam Simon as general manager of the NBA Development League Skyforce, the Heat's minor-league affiliate. In addition, Heat player-development coach/advance scout Octavio De La Grana was confirmed as an assistant coach for Delany. To a degree, the events were related, with Ennis bypassing the opportunity to play for the Heat's D-League affiliate in favor of a more lucrative contract in Australia. Both Ennis and Perth coach Trevor Gleeson downplayed the opt-out in Ennis' Wildcats contract that would allow him to return to the Heat at any point if summoned this season.

  • Ben Standig of CSN Washington: As for a return to Washington, it seemed highly unlikely even from the moment the Wizards acquired him (Jason Collins) from the Celtics in a deal for Jordan Crawford. It still does especially since there isn't actually a roster spot to spare after Al Harrington's signing brought the roster to full capacity with 15 members. It still would even if the team opened space by trading one of their frontcourt options elsewhere. Then again, the playoff-pushing Wizards would arguably be better off with a third center, even one with no scoring prowess, rather than a plethora of young forwards whose respective NBA roles remain rather undefined. Teammates last year praised Collins' ability to set screens in the context of helping the team produce points even if said points rarely came directly under the names Collins. Since many assume Nene will miss a chunk of the season at some point for some ailment, why not have another big man option. Until or if the Wizards make another move that opens up a roster spot, there is nothing to ponder. Even then, not so much, or even a little.

  • Rustin Dodd of The Wichita Eagle: Thomas Robinson averaged just 4.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in 15.9 minutes before the Kings shipped him to Houston in a late February trade. If the situation is Sacramento was untenable, the stint in Houston wasn’t much smoother. The Rockets had a logjam at power forward, and when the franchise had a chance to sign free agent center Dwight Howard this offseason, the team sent Robinson to Portland in a salary-dump move. “Up and down,” Robinson said, “rookie roller coaster.” For now, though, the ride appears to have slowed down a bit, and Robinson will have the opportunity for a fresh start with the Trail Blazers. He’ll join a young core that includes power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and point guard Damian Lillard, the league’s reigning rookie of the year. And most importantly, Robinson says, he finally feels wanted. “They’re constantly behind me,” Robinson said. “I’ve been up and down through my rookie year (with) two teams already. So for them to come in and make me feel like it’s gonna be a home for me is definitely a big deal.”

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban is certainly one of the most influential people in the Dallas area and when it comes to the NBA, he’s got lots of clout, too. On Tuesday, he’ll be unveiled as a mover and shaker in the world of mixed martial arts when USA Today names the “25 Most Powerful People in MMA.” Cuban checked in at 13th, along with Andrew Simon, who is his CEO of Fights at AXS TV. The pair turned then-HDNet into a home for MMA bouts back in the early days of the sport, seeing an opportunity. As two of the pioneers of giving the sport a platform for exposure, Cuban and Simon understood from the start the popularity that MMA would gain and gave the sport instant credibility. “If we weren’t going to be great at it, there was no reason to do it,” Cuban said in the special edition of MMAjunkie.com magazine, which produced a first-time print edition of 70 pages to chronicle the 25 heavyweights of the sport.

  • Tony Bizjak and Ryan Lillis of The Sacramento Bee: Sacramento's arena war hit new levels of intensity this week after Seattle financier Chris Hansen was revealed as the secret source of money for a petition drive to put the city's arena plans to a public vote. Seizing on outrage at the news, arena supporters took to the streets Saturday, hanging more than 1,000 fliers on front doors asking residents who signed the petitions to withdraw their signatures. "Don't let Seattle money steal away our chance at 4,000 jobs for Sacramento!" the fliers urged. Arena backers, a group that includes many of the city's prominent business people and politicians, argue the Seattle funding offers proof that the two-month-old petition drive is really an attempt to derail the city's downtown arena plans and push the Kings out of town. Yet Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork, the group behind the ballot measure, insists it is a homegrown effort, aimed at giving voters a voice. Its leaders today vowed to come back fighting - possibly with a local fundraising effort.