First Cup: Friday

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: The Sixers have released four players, a source told the Daily News. They are Temple product Khalif Wyatt, forward Royce White, forward Mac Koshwal and guard Vander Blue. There are a couple of surprises there. It was generally thought that Blue and Wyatt were competing for one of the roster spots. But when coach Brett Brown gave them very limited minutes in the final few preseason games, it appeared that maybe neither had won the battle. Perhaps the bigger surprise is the release of White. At 6-9, 265 pounds and with a versatile game, he appeared to be an intriguing part of where this team is heading. But anxiety issues make flying on the team charter always iffy for him, and he didn’t appear to have the best of attitudes, something that is high on the list for Brown, as he oversees his first roster as a head coach.

  • Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune: Here’s an idea that either will make your day or make you sick: The Jazz should trade for Jimmer Fredette. No matter what is written here, no matter what argument is laid down, many already have made up their minds on the matter. Jimmer and his game have had — and still have — a real dividing effect on basketball fans around here. But I’ve talked with a few NBA player-personnel people, and they seemed to agree that there’s a place for Fredette in the league. Utah is that place. The reasoning goes like this: Fredette can score, especially from deep. Even in the dysfunctional blob that was the Kings last season, Jimmer averaged 18 points per 36 minutes. He hit 41 percent of his 3-point shots. And he did that under a confused coach who jerked him around like a flounder on a hook. Even on nights when Fredette got minutes in the second quarter and lit it up, he strangely vanished for the remainder of the game, buried on the bench of a bad team that played bad team basketball led by a bad coach. ... There is one other group out there: those who can’t stand Fredette because they’re still gathering themselves from the mania that surrounded him in college. If used properly, though, the Jazz and Jimmer could soothe many of those critics and make the situation a win-win, even as the Jazz lose a little less and make a little more (money) than they would otherwise.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: First it was the “LeBronathan” in 2010, and then it was “Melodrama” in 2011 and, of course, the “Dwightmare” followed in 2012. Durant's day as the center of a will-he-or-won't-he-leave watch appears to have arrived. It's just the nature of the NBA. These countdowns have become cyclical events that take on a life of their own for myriad reasons. But above all, they inject fans with excitement, fear and hope. ... In cases like Oklahoma City's, the franchise's market size adds another hurdle. A team like the Thunder ($71 million payroll) never will be able to splurge as much as a team like the Nets ($101 million payroll). With larger market teams, players have the potential to maximize their earning power by pulling in more money on an off the court. It's why, even after a lockout, players like Howard immediately fled Orlando for Los Angeles, Chris Paul parted ways with New Orleans for the Los Angeles Clippers and Shane Batter made his way from Memphis to Miami. This is how it works in the NBA. Durant and the Thunder might be happily married for three more seasons. But that won't stop the rest of the country from setting their clocks and starting the countdown. Durant becomes a free agent on July 1, 2016. That's 979 days. Buckle up, Oklahoma.

  • Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times: Winning now means nothing. It’s the playoffs that count, remember? Rose cannot be a wilted bloom by May. The players must have legs left. And mental energy. Recently, Saints star tight end and former college basketball player Jimmy Graham was asked how James would fare in the NFL. Graham said James might struggle until he figured things out, but then he would be the best receiver in the league. That’s the Heat’s heart and soul. Only three teams have pulled off a three-peat in the NBA. The Heat could be the fourth. But the Bulls have enough to derail history. Man for man, they match up with the Heat, even if no one equals LeBron. But five can always beat one. The Bulls have watched the Heat long enough. They have lost to the Heat in the playoffs. They have seen enough to know their clock is ticking, that their team could be blown up next offseason. There’s only one bull’s-eye out there. The Bulls — these Bulls — can nail it.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: When asked how things have gone working in Dwight Howard, coach Kevin McHale laughed at how easy it has been. Howard would put up 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting and 16 rebounds in just 30 minutes against the Spurs. But even before Howard’s strong showing against Tim Duncan, McHale thought it had been smooth sailing so far. “It’s like easing into a Mercedes,” McHale said. “If you can drive, it’s not a bad way to go.” McHale wasn’t angling for a new ride or endorsement deal, at least not yet. “When they get a pickup,” McHale said, “it will be right up my alley.”

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: The dreaded exhibition season is finally — mercifully — over. What did we learn? Outside of how glad everybody is that the games will finally start to count next week, not a whole heck of a lot. Sure, head coach Gregg Popovich has a little bit more information with which to assemble his rotation, specifically who will have the honor of caddying for All-Star point guard Tony Parker. We also saw that: 1. Kawhi Leonard is poised to take a significant leap in his third season. 2. Marco Belinelli seems to be a quality pickup. 3. Said backup point rotation is no less muddled than it was last season. Otherwise, Parker is Parker, Tim Duncan is Tim Duncan, and the Spurs are the Spurs

  • Michael Pointer of The Indianapolis Star: Danny Granger’s return to the Indiana Pacers likely will be delayed a bit longer — although no one knows exactly how long. Pacers coach Frank Vogel said after practice Thursday that the strained calf suffered by Granger last week is worse than previously thought and he doubts the former All-Star forward will play in the team’s regular-season opener against Orlando on Tuesday. “There’s a chance he could play (against the Magic), but it’s probably unlikely,” Vogel said. ... The setback with the calf ensures Stephenson will start, Vogel said. “We’ll see where Danny is as he heals and that could change down the road,” Vogel said.

  • J. Michael of CSN Washington: With John Wall being the leader, and embracing that throughout training camp, a lot of that blame will fall on him. So the question is obvious: Will there be a new and improved Wall, coming off a hot stretch in the last two months of the 2012-13 season to post career highs in average for points (18.5) and field goal shooting (44.1%)? Or was that Wall, who scored a career-high 47 points in a win vs. the Memphis Grizzlies, an aberration? That answer will be revealed sooner rather than later. After the Wizards open the season Oct. 30 at the Pistons, who are expected to be one of the league's most improved teams because of their off-season moves, they face a slew of elite opposition: Miami Heat, Brooklyn Nets, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs. All are in the first two weeks of the season. Three of them, except the Nets, are on the road. For his part, Wall has yet to display the shooting touch. He shot 29-for-82 for the preseason for 35.3%. He only made 2 of 17 three-point attempts, or 11.7%.

  • Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post: Not lost on the coaching staff is the scary shooting of the Nuggets, 39.6 percent from the field and 27 percent from the 3-point line through five games. "Today was more of a fun, conditioning day," first-year Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said. "We did a lot of shooting, a lot of competitive one-on-one defense. But it was mainly shooting and conditioning, getting up a lot of shots. Just trying to get confidence in their shots." Only five Denver players are shooting better than 40 percent. Among the players who have attempted at least 10 3-pointers, only Quincy Miller is hitting at least 40 percent. He's at 41.7 percent. Ty Lawson (36.4) and Nate Robinson (37.5) are, however, respectable from beyond the arc. Both are set to play Friday at Chicago in the Nuggets' final preseason game.

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: Mike Miller, a popular and contributing piece of two Heat championship teams before the team released him in July, is strongly considering filing a lawsuit against the team because he believes the franchise bears some responsibility for him being swindled by a con man, his attorney tells us. Miller, who now plays for the Memphis Grizzlies, lost $1.7 million in a scam allegedly orchestrated by Haider Zafar, a South Beach bling king who presented himself as a member of a wealthy Pakistani family. According to Miller's complaint that has been drawn up but not yet filed, a Heat employee introduced Miller to Zafar, and Zafar used $700,000 of the money he stole from Miller to pay for courtside Heat tickets. Settlement talks between Miller and the Heat have stalled. Miller asked for that $700,000 back from the Heat, plus attorney’s fees, but “the parties were far apart,” Miller’s attorney, Andrew Fine, said. ... Heat forwards James Jones and Rashard Lewis also were defrauded by Zafar and suffered undisclosed losses, but neither is pursuing claims against the team.

  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: Andrew Bogut is on a mission. It’s a topic near and dear to his heart. You can hear the determination in his voice when he speaks about it. “The NBA needs to have a game in Australia,” Bogut says with a sort of righteous indignation. “We’ve been to every other continent.” Bogut isn’t joking. He said he understands Australia, with a population of nearly 23 million, doesn’t have the global expansion possibilities of China and its 1.3 billion residents. And it doesn’t have the heart-warming, charity feel of trips to Africa, which the NBA does frequently through its Basketball Without Borders program. But Bogut thinks his native country deserves some NBA love. “Australia is the biggest international supporter of the NBA,” he said.

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: The Kings took another step toward fulfilling owner Vivek Ranadive's quest to make DeMarcus Cousins a big name in India. The Kings announced Thursday the launching of www.kings.com/hindi, with interviews, features and player profiles written in Hindi. Ranadive is from Mumbai and speaks often of making the Kings a global brand. A contingent of media from India will be at Sleep Train Arena for next Wednesday's season opener against the Denver Nuggets. "A key facet of our ownership group's vision is for the Kings to become India's home team," Kings president Chris Granger said in a statement.