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First Cup: Monday

  • Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press: "The big question is this: Does Avery Johnson realize where he went wrong? Has he learned from his mistakes? If Johnson tells Joe Dumars he got a raw deal in Dallas, simple as that, then he is the wrong man for the Pistons. Johnson has one clear advantage in this race: He has been an NBA head coach. The other candidates who have been mentioned -- Cleveland assistant John Kuester and Boston assistant Tom Thibodeau -- have not. Dumars would be taking a bigger risk by hiring Kuester or Thibodeau. As Dumars found out with Curry, the distance from an assistant's seat to the head coach's seat is much greater than it appears. When Dumars fired Curry, he said he is looking for somebody with more 'experience,' and a lot of people have taken that to mean he needs a proven head coach. I'm not so sure. ... So whom should the Pistons hire? I don't know. I wish I did. All three of these coaches are qualified, but each is a risk in his own way. I do know this much: Joe Dumars has a long history of making unconventional moves. Now he has to decide if it's time for another one."

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "You'd think an NBA general manager would get a chance to catch his breath after landing one of the biggest available free agents on the market. Nah. Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo was back on the phones yesterday, trying to work some contract magic that would allow him to keep one of his current players or land someone in a sign-and-trade that would make a few extra bucks for Shawn Marion. There was no indication from several league sources exactly what Colangelo had in mind, but the spectre of trying to deal Kris Humphries for a draft pick or some other future consideration was being kicked around by a couple of league sources. That would seem to be a long shot -- Humphries is hardly A-list material and is coming off a broken leg -- but it does mean Colangelo is not done. In a perfect world, he'd find a way to make it financially possible to keep one of Anthony Parker or Carlos Delfino, but nothing is close to being done."

  • Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "But when I think about all the deals that get done in these desperate summers (the ones where there aren't a bunch of teams flush with cash and the free agent market is generally considered thin, by historical standards) and I cringe at some of the disastrous purchases that have been made. Remember when Chicago thought they were snatching the championship momentum from Detroit a couple years ago by stealing Ben Wallace away for $64 million? Or how about the Hornets righting their champion-'ship stock with Peja Stojakovic with a similarly bloated contract? And we don't even have to travel back that far. Just look at last summer, when Philadelphia thought it was remaking itself into a title contender with the acquisition of Elton Brand (who, his his defense, had his season cut short by a severe injury). I point these instances out to illustrate just how cautious a team needs to be when dipping its toes into the murky free agent waters. That said, I'd love for the Hawks to get all their business done now and make a sizable splash while doing so. I just don't see it happening. ... When you're coming off back-to-back playoff seasons, the need for prudence in all matters can't be stressed enough. One false move (or non-move in the Hawks' case this summer) can set you back. Sometimes it can send you back as well, all the way back to Jersey for the lottery ceremony."

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "Whenever Cavs forward LeBron James is asked about staying in Cleveland, he always says the same thing. He loves it here. Then why doesn't he sign an extension with the Cavs this summer? Does James realize what a distraction it's going to be this season? Sure, the presence of Shaquille O'Neal might deflect some of that attention on James' contract, but it's going to be hanging over the team all season. Of course, James can get more bang for his buck opting for free agency and then signing a maximum deal with the Cavs. But is it all about the money with James? He probably wants to see how the Cavs build their team. But his uncertainty might be hurting the Cavs chances of signing free agents."

  • Brad Rock of the Deseret News: "I'm all in favor of the Jazz retaining Paul Millsap and giving him a generous bump in income. They can do that by matching any offer another team makes. The hazardous part is if someone offers him cuckoo money, say, $12 million or $14 million a year, and the Jazz buckle under the fear of having him return to haunt them. Then they're committed to a multiyear deal, at a huge price. Millsap is a fine player but not a perennial All-Star. And he's certainly not a franchise player. He's a relentless, tough, no-nonsense guy. He gathers up the ball from off the floor, the rim, the glass and the loading docks, if necessary, and keeps it in play. There's not a team in the league that wouldn't want him. But he's not a superstar. I know it's a different era, with a different marketplace, but here's some food for thought: If Millsap gets $11 million a year, he'll be earning as much as 10-time All-Star John Stockton ever did. There could be worse things than losing Millsap to free agency. Signing him to an overpriced, never-ending contract, for example."

  • Mike Baldwin of The Oklahoman: "Nick Collison said he believes the Thunder's young core -- Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook -- have gained invaluable experience. He said Green took a huge leap forward last season, and Westbrook played well for a rookie who didn't start his freshman year at UCLA. But it's Durant, the 2008 NBA Rookie of the Year, who Collison believes can help take this team to another level. 'Talent-wise, I don't think we've ever seen a guy that tall who can do the things he can do,' Collison said. 'I don't want to place too much expectations on him, but he could be one of the best to ever play.' After being spoiled for so many years, Collison craves the opportunity to once again play for a winner. 'When you're driving to the arena and you know you've got a good chance to win the game, that's such a great feeling,' Collison said. 'We haven't had that in a while. That's what we've got to get back to.' "

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "When it became apparent Leon Powe was going to need reconstructive knee surgery, and that the impending free agent's chance at a good contract would be imperiled, Doc Rivers said he would do whatever possible for the forward to stay with the Celtics. The coach is still pulling for Powe, but with a caveat. Rivers said prior to yesterday's summer league practice that he supports general manager Danny Ainge's decision not to tender Powe a qualifying offer - reasoning that the C's will take another look at Powe once he is ready to return from his injury. 'We want him back, but he needs to get
    healthy,' he said. 'He's one of the favorites that I've coached, and I don't say that often. When he's done rehabbing, he can come back and play for us.' Asked about his initial vow to bring Powe back, Rivers said, 'I'd love to keep him, but you have to do your business. Believe me, if anyone in the world can get healthy, it's Leon Powe. And if he can sign a long-term contract with someone else, then for his sake I hope it happens.' "

  • Michael Wallce of The Miami Herald: "The Heat will have a scouting presence at the Orlando Magic's practice complex when the weeklong Pepsi Pro Summer League opens Monday. Miami's front-office staff also plans to attend next week's action in Las Vegas. But the Heat's young core of Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers, Daequan Cook, Dorell Wright and rookies Pat Beverley and Robert Dozier will push through their offseason programs without leaving AmericanAirlines Arena. ... Heat president Pat Riley made the decision to skip summer league after the team was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Atlanta Hawks and finished the season 43-39. The Heat later considered sending a summer team to Las Vegas but ultimately stayed with the local approach to development. ''I think our players are going to really improve with just the development instead of just taking them to Orlando or Vegas to play six [games],' Riley said. 'I've seen Daequan, Mario, Beasley, Dorell -- I've seen them all in summer games. You can't work with them. You just play them. I wanted, this year, out.' Although the Heat has had to reduce staff in business operations amid a tough economy, Riley said the decision to skip a week in Orlando was not a result of financial issues."

  • Heath Hamilton of the Houston Chronicle: "Paging through the NBA's history book, there are a number of prominent big men who had trouble shaking the injury bug in their lower extremities. Bill Walton might be the most famous, having played in just 44 percent of his teams' regular-season games during a 13-year career. Players such as Sam Bowie, Rik Smits, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Greg Oden have had similar problems. Walton and Ilgauskas might have the most in common with Yao; they, too, have dealt with the uncommon fracture of the tarsal navicular bone, which is between the ankle and toes. Dr. Jack E. Jensen, founder of the local Athletic Orthopedics and Knee Center, consults with athletes who cover the spectrum, from Olympians to professionals to recreational enthusiasts. he says just a few extra pounds can make a noticeable difference in how much pressure the body endures. ... For someone weighing 310 pounds, that could mean a constant jolt of 1,000 or more pounds of force through the lower body. And just because someone has a large frame, it doesn't mean his bone structure is stronger than that of someone smaller. But leg and foot injuries can't be dismissed as a problem just for bigger players. A speedy guard might be taking more steps on the hardwood to cover the same ground or be in the air higher and longer when jumping. Nonetheless, Jensen said weight is a prominent factor in leg and foot injuries. If Yao lost 5 percent of his body weight, or roughly 15 pounds -- putting him around his rookie weight of 296 -- that could be up to 60 fewer pounds of force per stride."