First Cup: Thursday

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Caron Butler donned a Suns uniform at a public unveiling of the new duds two weeks ago and that looks like it will be the only time he will be seen in it. The Suns have agreed to trade Butler, a Racine, Wis., native, to the Milwaukee Bucks for point guard Ish Smith and center Slava Kravtsov about seven weeks after they acquired Butler and hailed him as a veteran influence for the youthful Suns and part of the future. The Suns gain $5.65 million of cap space for any potential in-season trades but also save that money to make an expected costly waiver of Michael Beasley more palatable. Beasley would be owed $9 million of guaranteed salary. … “Much respect for the organization of the Phx Suns#staytuned,” Butler tweeted Wednesday night. … The Racine Journal Times first reported the trade talks Wednesday night. The deal should be finalized Thursday.

  • Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times: But many NBA observers expected Caron Butler’s time in the Valley of the Sun to be short-lived. After all, the Suns are in a full-fledged rebuilding mode and are attempting to stockpile draft picks and young players for the future. The Bucks, meanwhile, are committed to trying to make the playoffs for the second straight season. After a flurry of offseason trades and free-agent signings, they appear set at every position except small forward, which is where Butler plays. Carlos Delfino, whom the Bucks signed as a free-agent in July, had been the projected starting small forward. But Delfino is still recovering from surgery for a fractured bone in his right foot. There are whispers that Delfino will miss the entire preseason and even a portion of the regular season. The Bucks also have two other young small forwards on their roster: Khris Middleton, whom they recently acquired in a trade with Detroit, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, whom they selected in the first round of the June draft. While the Bucks are excited about the futures of Antetokounmpo and Middleton, neither player is close to being ready to play major minutes next season.

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: But here’s the thing: There’s no concrete evidence that summer hoops has a noticeably negative impact. Let’s look at the 52 players who have suited up for Team USA at the Olympics since 1992, excluding Larry Bird and Magic Johnson (retired) and Christian Laettner, Anthony Davis andEmeka Okafor (rookies). Of their combined 67 post-Olympic seasons: 34 played more or the same amount of games the following year. 33 saw their scoring averages increase. 40 improved or maintained their Player Efficiency Rating. Certainly there are players who suffered significant downturns, or fell apart physically. Robinson’s was the most dramatic case, limiting him to just six games. Then there were Alonzo Mourning (69 games missed in 2000-01) and Kevin Love (64 missed last season). Conversely, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony, among others, all enjoyed perhaps the best seasons of their careers coming off Olympic play. Wade’s case is particularly noteworthy, with major improvements across the board after both Olympic campaigns — all the more impressive considering his general lack of durability. If anyone should break down after an extra slate of hoops, D-Wade would be among the top candidates. But not only did he survive, he got significantly better, improving his scoring average by 7.9 and 5.6 points, and his PER by 6.5 and 8.9. So what can we take away from all this? There’s no doubt long that as players continue to sandwich summers of international competition between marathon NBA seasons, a portion of them will continue to get hurt and/or worn down. But let’s be clear — this so-called wear and tear is not an automatic consequence of such a choice. As we’ve seen, there’s a strong case that the combination of experience and physical work — the latter of which every player engages in on his own to varying degrees — can actually be beneficial.

  • Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press: The Wolves' Kevin Love, in town setting up residence for the coming season, showed up at Target Center this week weighing 240 pounds. "The lightest he's been since he's been a pro," Saunders said of the 6-foot-10 forward, who worked out at Target Center. "He's lost weight in his face, and his body looks leaner with muscle. He's really committed." Love was about 250 pounds last season.

  • Jenny Dial of the Houston Chronicle: While things didn’t work out with forward Royce White and the Rockets, the NBA player (traded to Philadelphia in July) will have an everlasting mark in the Bayou City. On Wednesday morning, White announced a partnership with his non-profit organization Anxious Mind’s Inc. and Bee Busy Wellness Center to create the Royce White Institute of Mental Health on the city’s southwest side. The Wellness Center, which is a 17,000-square foot facility that will also have dental and primary care, is located at 6640 W. Bellfort and will open in January 2014. “When I met Royce White a couple of years ago, I knew we would do something special like this,” Bee Busy CEO Normal Mitchell said. “I think it will be a great thing for this community.” White, who has been open about his own struggles with an anxiety disorder, said that he thinks every city should have a center where free mental healthcare is offered. He started the Anxious Mind’s Inc. group while in college at Iowa State, and this is the organization’s first partnership. He said he hopes to see it grow. … He said he is looking forward to his chances of playing with the 76ers. “I was traded to Philadelphia and that’s where my career is taking me next so we’ll see what happens,” White said. “I am hoping I will be able to go there and produce.”

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: The Thunder’s roster, like always, it seems, has very little makeover from last season. Kevin Martin out. Draft picks Steven Adams and Andre Roberson in. That’s about it. But John Schuhmann of NBA.com points out that the Thunder is in good company in keeping its roster basically intact. … Basing his list on minutes played, Schuhmann finds that the team most returning the bulk of its roster is the champion Miami Heat. The Heat is bringing back 94.9 percent of its minutes played from last season. The Thunder is second in the league, at 86.5 percent. And the Spurs are fourth, at 82.4 percent. Inexplicably, the woeful Charlotte Bobcats are third, at 85.3 percent.

  • Staff of the Toronto Star: Tracy McGrady has thanked the fans of three of the NBA teams he played for, including the Toronto Raptors. McGrady, who announced his retirement earlier in the week, tweeted out Wednesday photos of himself when he played with the Raptors, Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets. “Thank you Toronto. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to begin my career in the NBA. You believed in me and there my journey began. This incredible city will always hold a very special place in my heart.” — Tracy McGrady. The message comes despite the fact that McGrady was the constant target of boobirds at the Air Canada Centre, even after a decade he left for the Magic.

  • Staff of The Dallas Morning News: Tracy McGrady will be remembered as a player who went straight from high school to the NBA and became a dominant, two-way superstar. He will always be remembered, too, as a player who struggled with injuries. However, Mavericks fans likely will remember McGrady for different reasons, reasons former 7-6 Dallas center Shawn Bradley would probably like to forget. During the 2005 playoffs, McGrady and the Houston Rockets went up against the Mavericks. A McGrady dunk on Bradley in Game 2 put the poster in posterized. To be fair, Bradley was a shot blocker. He led the NBA in blocks in 1997 and had more than 2,000 in his career. With Dallas in 2000-01, Bradley blocked 228 shots. He finished his career with an average of 2.5 blocks per game. But, despite his height and wingspan, he also had a habit of getting dunked on violently - and often - by NBA stars big and small.

  • Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com: Portland Trail Blazers free agent forward Luke Babbitt has agreed to a one-year deal with the Europe club BC Nizhny Novgorod of Russia, a league source informed CSNNW.com. The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the fact that no announcement has been made, added that the deal does not contain an NBA out clause. Babbitt's agent Bill Duffy confirmed the deal saying, “My take is Luke needs to play 30 minutes a game and play a more expanded role. We've had recent success with both Danny Green (of the San Antonio Spurs) and Patrick Beverley (of the Houston Rockets) getting an opportunity to develop their games in Europe and returning to the NBA. The NBA is a league of opportunity. We feel strongly this is the best move for Luke at this time.” Portland opted not to exercise the fourth year of his rookie contract before the 2012-13 season began, making him an unrestricted free agent this summer.

  • Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun: Meanwhile, this Friday in Caracas, Venezuela, the Canadian men’s basketball team — a team that could turn this country on its ear at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics — plays its first game at the FIBA Americas Championship and hardly anyone seems to be paying attention — even though the event has huge implications. The bottom line is this: If Team Canada fails to finish in the top four in Caracas (and it’s no slam-dunk that they will, even with four NBA guys in the lineup), the program will suffer a significant set-back. With the hiring of NBA star Steve Nash as GM and Jay Triano as head coach last year, Canada Basketball pulled out all the stops in trying to attract the new generation of Canadian hoops talent to play for the national team, something that was never a sure thing in the past. There was a tendency for some of the young black players in Canada to shy away from playing on the national side, for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, that has changed over the past few years (including under former head coach Leo Rautins). However, if Team Canada should fail to finish in the top four in Caracas and fail to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Spain, who’s to say if the impressive legion of young hoops talent would want to play for Canada down the road?

  • Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune: Bobby Jackson, a great basketball player for the Gophers and for several teams in the NBA, is going to join the Timberwolves coaching staff as an assistant, according to President Flip Saunders. Jackson has a lot of familiarity with Rick Adelman, having played five seasons under him with the Sacramento Kings. Jackson started his post-playing career as an ambassador with the Kings and then as a regional scout working in player development. He became an assistant coach with Sacramento in 2009 and served in that role until June 5, when new head coach Michael Malone announced that the team would not retain any of the previous assistant coaches. Then there is the news that Saunders is going to hire Milt Newton to be the team’s general manager. Saunders and Newton agreed on terms of a contract after Newton spent this week visiting the Wolves. The two worked together for 2 years when Saunders was the head coach of the Washington Wizards and Newton was the team’s vice president of player personnel. Newton held that role in Washington for 10 seasons before joining the Wolves.