First Cup: Thursday

  • Ian O'Connor of The Record: "A tall, dashing Russian billionaire said to appreciate fast jets and faster women, Mikhail Prokhorov has come rushing to the Nets' rescue, pledging to throw hundreds of millions of dollars at Ratner for the right to ferry the team to Brooklyn on his personal yacht. But before anyone counts this as a slam-dunk proposition, consider the Nets' recent and past history on notions and events that appeared too good to be true. Frank Gehry, the noted architect, was scheduled to build the eighth wonder of the world as the centerpiece of Ratner's answer to Shangri-La. Gehry's masterpiece already has gone poof in the Brooklyn night. LeBron James, the noted ballplayer, was scheduled to be seduced by Nets investor Jay-Z to sign as a free agent and inspire a zillion Manhattanites to flee the Knicks. Brooklyn no longer merits even a throwaway line on James' two-site list of preferred destinations: Cleveland and, yes, Madison Square Garden. The Nets have long led the league in empty promises and broken hearts. Rick Pitino. Jim Valvano. Rollie Massimino. They were all done deals to save the Nets until, of course, those deals were undone."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Trevor Ariza had it all. Or at least he thought he did before he discovered he wanted something else. He had returned home to Los Angeles, and if he could not be called a star, he had become respected and valuable and a champion. Ariza seemed destined to spend the next five years running between Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, winning championships in his beloved hometown, with an easy retreat to his home in La Jolla. Randy Newman couldn't have loved L.A. more. Then he knew he had to leave. Even Los Angeles and the Lakers could not offer Ariza something he still craved. He needed to grow into something more than the Lakers would ever want of him. He needed to become whatever his talents would allow. 'I loved playing for the Lakers,' Ariza said. 'I loved my teammates. I was at home. I could see my family (he has a 17-month-old son, Tajh, in Los Angeles) every day. Sometimes, things don't work out the way they should or the way everybody else thinks they should.' As Ron Artest quickly claimed Ariza's spot with the Lakers, Ariza slid into Artest's with the Rockets. Had the Lakers wanted nothing more than to keep Ariza, he likely would have returned and never wondered what might have been out there for him. But now, with training camp to begin next week and the business of the summer behind him, Ariza has become convinced he needed to move on."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "No hard feelings. We'll talk again next summer. That's the message point guard Raymond Felton sent the Charlotte Bobcats by signing a one-year, $5.5million qualifying offer days before Tuesday's start of training camp. Signing that qualifier acknowledged what's been building for months; that the Bobcats and Felton weren't close on a long-term contract. By signing this deal, Felton starts the process of becoming an unrestricted free agent in July 2010. But his agent, Kevin Bradbury, was adamant Wednesday that Felton's preference remains staying with the Bobcatsfor the long haul. 'Everybody understands the (financial) climate -- what the Bobcats are going through right now,' Bradbury said, referring to the millions the team is losing annually. Felton 'wants to be part of something -- he believes the team had good momentum last season and can be a playoff team. He's purely focused on his loyalty to the Bobcats and to coach Larry Brown.' "

  • Bill Lubinger of The Plain Dealer: "With so much intrigue, rumor and speculation about where the big man was going to land in Cleveland, 'The House-hunting Adventures of Shaquille O'Neal could have played as its own reality show. At first, the word was he was taking a penthouse loft in downtown Akron, where rock-n-roller Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders would have been a part-time neighbor. 'I could borrow a cup of sugar,' the Akron-bred Hynde, who was aware of the rumors, said at the time. But instead of a Sugar Shaq in Akron, O'Neal was seen scouting houses to the west. Tracy Raum, owner of Mojo's coffee shop in Bay Village, said O'Neal popped in last month, asking about the neighborhood, especially the parks, an Italian restaurant next door and Crocker Park, the sprawling shopping complex in nearby Westlake. He was clad in a white linen shirt and pants. 'The whole thing was surreal,' she said."

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "There was bold talk about winning a Northwest Division championship. There was brash discussion about advancing deep in the playoffs, perhaps even winning the Western Conference championship. But underneath all the gleeful rhetoric Wednesday at the Rose Garden, where Trail Blazers' coaches and management assembled for the first of two media days, was a simmering truth about a franchise that seems poised for its most successful season in years. From top to bottom, the Blazers are as imposing and potentially powerful as they have been in years at the start of training camp. Yet, in many ways, the team is alarmingly unsettled. 'We want to be one of those big boys that you know is going to bring it,' Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. 'But the jury's still out on us. On paper it looks good. But I remember the Lakers years ago, when they had (Karl) Malone and (Gary) Payton and Kobe (Bryant). It looked great on paper, but' ... It didn't equate to a championship."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Dominic James will be in an NBA training camp next week, and the former Marquette University star is elated. Injuries created some daunting obstacles for James during the past summer. First, the 5-foot-11 point guard was recovering from a broken left foot suffered late in his senior season with the Golden Eagles. Then he sprained his right knee while playing in the Bucks' summer league camp in July. But he's back with the Bucks after being added to the fall camp roster and is looking forward to the start of camp on Tuesday. 'Right now my concern is coming out here and working hard every day,' James said. 'That's what impressed them in the first place. This is a great opportunity I'm trying to take full advantage of, and I just appreciate the Bucks. They know what kind of player I am. I'm just all ears and trying to take the experience in.' "