First Cup: Thursday

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: Carmelo Anthony doesn’t want to discuss his plans for free agency, but said he had a “great” meeting Friday in Los Angeles with Knicks president Phil Jackson, new coach Derek Fisher and general manager Steve Mills. At a promotional appearance in Manhattan Wednesday, Anthony told reporters, “It was a great meeting with Phil, it went well." Anthony was also asked about the hiring of Fisher, but he kept it short. “I like what Phil is doing," said Anthony. The Post reported Knicks brass, including Fisher, were satisfied after the meeting with Anthony and like their odds of retaining him despite a Yahoo Sports report claiming he was “leaning’’ toward leaving and Houston and Chicago were at the top of his list. Meanwhile, Rockets center Dwight Howard is beating the drum for Anthony. Howard said he hasn’t spoken to Anthony recently, but he hopes he will take a long look at Houston when he becomes a free agent. Howard won’t be doing the recruiting, but told USA Today, “It would be great to have him.”

  • Caleb Breslin of the New York Daily News: The Lakers are a mess. They don’t have a coach, have only three players under contract and are coming off the worst season in franchise history. But it seems there is some good news, and it’s coming out of Brazil, of all places. “Oh, yeah. I’m 100 percent," Kobe Bryant told an interviewer when asked if he’ll be ready for next season. “One hundred percent." Bryant tore his Achilles in the 2012-2013 season and only played in six games last year before fracturing his left knee in December. Without the former league MVP and perennial first team All-NBA performer, the Lakers stumbled through a 27-55 season. But Bryant, who’s taking in the World Cup in Brazil, said that he’s been training hard since his injury and will be continuing to work out throughout the summer for next season. Bryant knows the challenges the Lakers face as an organization, but says he's confident in the direction they are heading. "That's the best time," he said, "when people count you out."

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: The Celtics' pursuit of Kevin Love isn't as hot as reports are indicating. Sources close to the situation have told the Herald that Boston's offer of draft picks and players isn’t nearly the best the Timberwolves have received — or expect to receive — for their All-Star forward. The Celtics are willing to discuss a number of options, but none of them includes the quality of player with NBA experience that Minnesota is seeking or believes it can get elsewhere. One source indicated Denver and Golden State have both made more intriguing offers, and there are other teams very much in the picture, as well. There have been conflicting reports on whether the Warriors would make Klay Thompson available, but the Wolves are said to be confident they can find a more than acceptable deal there. And while Minnesota has certainly discussed trading Love, who, without a contract extension, can be an unrestricted free agent next summer, it's also possible that Flip Saunders, the club's coach and president of basketball operations, could choose to keep his best player a little longer.

  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer: With the NBA draft a week away, one Western Conference executive said the 76ers are at the mercy of the Milwaukee Bucks. The executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity, is confident the Cleveland Cavaliers will use the first overall pick on Kansas center Joel Embiid, if they don't trade out. The Bucks are slated to pick second, followed by the Sixers. He said Milwaukee will decide between Kansas swingman Andrew Wiggins and Duke swingman Jabari Parker. That, he said, will force the Sixers to settle for the player the Bucks don't draft. Milwaukee has also flirted with the prospect of drafting point guard Dante Exum of Australia. However, the executive is confident the Bucks will select Wiggins or Parker even though their position is filled by rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose superior athleticism rivals that of Wiggins.

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: I don't believe the Celtics are the frontrunners because I think Saunders would much rather have young established players with a known NBA record rather than trade away his All Star for the hope of multiple draft picks, unless one of those is a top-three pick. What would the Nuggets have to offer? The Boston Herald reported power forward Kenneth Faried, forward Wilson Chandler and could acquire Orlando's Arron Afflalo for them in a deal that would not include the Nuggets' No. 11 overall pick. The question with the Nuggets is would Love re-sign there long term. Sacramento apparently is willing to deal without an assurance that Love will stay there long term. Maybe the Nuggets are willing, too. I still make the Warriors the favorites in this derby, but don't sleep on Cleveland if the Cavs indeed offer up the No..1 overall pick. And don't discount the chance that Flip will hold onto Love until later in the summer or until next February's trade deadline, no matter how awkward that could make next season if Love pouts because he doesn't want to be here. I believe Flip is sincere when he says he won't trade Love just to trade him.

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Derrick Rose began taking full contact in the form of one-on-one or two-on-two or three-on-three offday sessions late in the first-round playoff series against the Wizards. With no setbacks, Rose continued increasing the intensity of his workouts and began full court scrimmaging last month, sources said. According to three people who either have played against Rose or witnessed his workouts, who requested anonymity, the 2011 NBA most valuable player is displaying both explosion and speed in games. Of course, Rose must prove he can remain healthy over the course of an 82-game schedule after playing in just 50 regular- and postseason games over the last three seasons. Team physician Brian Cole re-attached Rose's right meniscus during surgery, which created a longer rehabilitation process but is the preferred method for limiting long-term issues. A more efficient public relations practice, in which the Bulls ruled Rose out for the season directly after the surgery, aided Rose's second straight rehabilitation process. Coach Tom Thibodeau said the day after the season-ending loss to the Wizards that Rose may participate in summer-league practices and scrimmages at the Berto Center leading up to participation in the NBA Summer League in July. Though Rose won't play in Las Vegas, that possibility remains in play.

  • Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post: Is there any chance Denver could offer Minnesota more in trade than Golden State, Chicago and Boston, teams widely believed to be in hot pursuit of Love? Go ahead, peruse the rosters of the Warriors, Bulls and Celtics. Who's the most talented player any of those teams would be willing to surrender in trade? Then, I defy you to tell me any of those expendable players - jump-shooter Klay Thompson? Old-and-overpaid Carlos Boozer? Work-in-progress Kelly Olynyk? - has more upside and is more reasonably priced than Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried. Yes, if the Nuggets acquired Love, he could conceivably bolt after one season as a free agent. Or the Nuggets could prove to Love that they are serious about building a title-contending team around him. Would it be a gamble? Without a doubt. But what's the worse that could happen? Love dumps Denver in 2015 and the Nuggets fail to win the NBA championship for the foreseeable future, which would be no worse than what's happened every year since the franchise joined the league 38 years ago.

  • Richard Walker of the Gaston Gazette: After three years as the team’s general manager, Rich Cho is fully in charge of the Charlotte Hornets’ basketball operations now. But even after the surprising midnight firing of longtime team president Rod Higgins last Thursday night, Cho is confident his franchise is ready to build upon last season’s unexpected success when the NBA Draft is held next Thursday and with the free agent signing period beginning next month. “I don’t feel any more pressure,” Cho said Wednesday following the team’s 11th pre-draft workout and during his pre-draft media availability session at Time Warner Cable Arena. “The draft and the free agency period are something that we’ve prepared for all year long. We’re very well prepared for it. We’ve got five college scouts around the country, we’ve got one pro scout and we’ve got one international scout. So we feel well prepared.”

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: Cavaliers forward Luol Deng never forgets his roots. A refugee whose family fled his native Sudan when he was 5 years old, Deng has donated $30,000 to Save the Children ahead of World Refugee Day on Friday -- and he's asking his friends and fans to join the effort, too. The Luol Deng Foundation is partnering with Save the Children to provide critical child protection services for the 2.5 million South Sudanese children who are at risk of being separated from their families and recruited into armed groups. "Today I call Chicago, Cleveland and London home, but I never forgot where I came from,'' Deng said in a press release issued by Save the Children. "I know how it feels to be far from home. I know how it feels to struggle and to be afraid for my life and my family. I am calling on all of you who have provided me with support and encouragement throughout my career to join forces with me now. Let's create a better tomorrow for the children of South Sudan."