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First Cup: Monday

7/21/2014
  • Billy Witz of The New York Times: Natalie Nakase, the Clippers’ assistant video coordinator, is trying to earn credibility in the coaching profession the same way: by proving her worth. She landed a spot as an assistant coach on the Clippers’ bench during the two-week N.B.A. Summer League here, a first according to the Clippers and a step toward her goal of becoming an N.B.A. coach — something no woman has ever accomplished. “I don’t want to just coach,” Nakase said. “I want to win championships.” On that point, she is echoing the mantra of Doc Rivers, who joined the Clippers last summer as coach and chief executive of basketball operations, and who in the wake of the Donald Sterling scandal became an inspirational beacon for the organization. Rivers has said the Clippers do not just want championship players, but championship sales representatives, accountants and marketers. So when Nakase, 34, sat on the bench recently on the staff of Brendan O’Connor, the summer league coach, it was an acknowledgment of the work she has put in over the last two seasons as a video intern.

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: When Larry Bird met with Lance Stephenson, his family and his agent the first night of free agency, he had a couple of five-year options and was sure one of them was going to be acceptable. But a few days later, Ebanks called back Bird and told him, "I don't think this is going to work. I don't believe you have the money available to re-sign Lance." Bird was stunned. They ultimately went back and forth, contemplated different options, but the money was never right. Of all the head-scratchers, this is the biggest: Why would Stephenson accept a team option in the third year? A player option would make some sense. If he blew up and became an All-Star, he could opt out and hit the lottery. But a team option gives Michael Jordan and the Hornets all the leverage. If Stephenson develops into a top-tier player, Jordan locks him into the last year of the contract. If he struggles or screws up, the team can just drop him. Bizarre. Bird could stomach this if Stephenson had left for much greener pastures, a lot more cash. But the argument can be made that he left for a worse deal. ... In the end, he wasn't worth $10 million or more. Not to the Pacers, not to anybody, in the end.

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: Why are so many contracts during free agency — including that of LeBron James — for the short term? James signed a two-year deal with the Cavaliers intentionally, understanding the league’s television deal is up for negotiation in 2016 and Fox Sports will join the NBA broadcasting partners along with ESPN and TNT. With perhaps a 100 percent increase in television revenue over the $930 million, eight-year deal signed in 2008, the salary cap could approach $90 million for the 2016-17 season, and the owners and players split the basketball-related revenue 50-50, according to the collective bargaining agreement. “Well, I think it’s appropriate in that the players are our partners,” Silver said about players taking shorter teams to ensure themselves a raise with their next contracts. “We have a system in place in which the players receive roughly 50 percent of the revenue, and we’ve been very transparent with you, the media, obviously our owners know what’s going on, but we’ve also included the Players Association directly in updates on those discussions.” It’s interesting that Silver would acknowledge the expected increase, an indication that the league is soaring in popularity. The desire of Fox Sports to pursue a Saturday national game of the week only confirms that.

  • Ben Standig of CSN Washington: In a good news, bad news situation, Glen Rice Jr. learned he would not leave Las Vegas empty handed moments after the Wizards were bounced from the summer league. Rice was named the Las Vegas summer league Most Valuable Player after leading all scorers with 25 points per game. He had 36 points in Washington's triple-ovetime against San Antonio on Saturday and tallied 24 in Sunday's 74-62 loss to Sacramento. Otto Porter also received first-team honors. The third overall selection in the 2013 draft averaged 19 points and 5.8 rebounds. "Were just trying to build off of last year," Rice said of the Wizards overall. "Like you said, Otto Porter played extremely well in this tournament. That made it a lot easier for me. He drew a lot of double teams." Joining the Wizards duo on the first team included Houston's Donatas Motiejunas and Chicago's Tony Snell and Doug McDermott, the lone rookie in this group.

  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer: The 76ers may have acquired a second-round steal in Jordan McRae. The 6-foot-6, 185-pound swingman garnered second-team all-NBA Summer League honors on Sunday. The rookie out of Tennessee averaged a team-leading 21 points. ... McRae was also a shutdown defender during the summer league, finishing with a total of seven steals and three blocks. Not bad for someone drafted by the San Antonio Spurs with the 58th overall pick and traded to the Sixers on draft night. ... Rudy Gobert (Jazz), Tim Hardaway Jr. (Knicks), Russ Smith (Pelicans) and T.J. Warren (Suns) accompanied McRae on the second team.

  • Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: Andrei Kirilenko apparently doesn’t get why Jason Kidd chose to leave Brooklyn for Milwaukee. In an interview with SovSport, a Russian national daily sports newspaper, Kirilenko said Kidd’s decision to move on from his job as head coach of the Nets to take the same position with the Bucks was an “unequal exchange,” and seemed to wonder whether or not Kidd wanted to deal with the microscope that comes with working in New York City. “The pressure is huge,” Kirilenko said, according to a Google translation of the interview. “And Kidd couldn’t handle it … or maybe he didn’t want to.” This isn’t the first time a Kirilenko has criticized Kidd over the last year. After the versatile forward was left on the bench for all of the Nets’ victory in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series against the Raptors this spring, his wife Masha took to Instagram to post a picture of her husband sitting on the bench with the caption, “... And are you Kidding like Jason,” which appeared to be a reference to Nelly’s song, “Hot in Herre,” which includes the line, “I’m just kiddin’ like Jason.”

  • Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press: We know, of course, that there is a 99 percent chance that Kevin Love will be traded, especially now that LeBron has weighed in and officially requested his presence in Cleveland. Yet notice that Saunders didn't jump right away, even after the Cavs allegedly included Wiggins in the package. The Timberwolves appear to have gone from being tapped out to holding all the cards. There is a buzz surrounding the team, and it's more positive than negative. It seems as if something big is about to happen. Something good or, at least, not horrible. Who'd have thought we'd get from there to here in a couple of months? So congrats to Flip Saunders and the organization. It's hard to say how it will all work out but, for now, they've made chicken salad out of chicken, um, droppings.

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: The Cavaliers insist rookie swingman Andrew Wiggins has not been offered in a possible trade for Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love. No one involved would guarantee it wouldn’t happen at a later date, but for now the Cavaliers will proceed in Love negotiations without using the mercurial Wiggins as a trade chip, a source told The News-Herald. Another source told The News-Herald last week the Cavaliers would be willing to deal the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft in a trade for Love — and that might still happen. ESPN the Magazine’s Chris Broussard and USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt also reported the same thing. All-Star forward LeBron James has reportedly spoken to Love about joining forces in Cleveland, according to a Yahoo! Sports report. Love is apparently open to signing an extension with the Cavs or the Golden State Warriors. Golden State and the Boston Celtics are also trying to acquire the 6-foot-10, 250-pound Love. The Warriors have maintained they won’t trade shooting guard Klay Thompson in any deal for Love. If they budge on that stance, that might force the Cavs to reconsider with Wiggins.

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: But the legend of Charles Barkley is an enduring, endearing, evolving fable. Charities continue calling. Adversaries plead for help. Individuals such as NBA executive Rod Thorn – who levied the fine in 1991 and was among the USA Basketball officials who only reluctantly endorsed his inclusion on the Dream Team – are among his most vocal fans. There simply is no one quite like Charles. He is a human being with flaws, but with enormous compassion. He cares. He keeps giving. Mustard Seed School can’t wait for his return.

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: There weren’t a whole lot of NBA players making stops in Paul George’s hometown back in the day. The Antelope Valley might only be 64 miles from Los Angeles, but when it comes to luring star power it might as well be on the other side of the planet. So when George looked out to the 100 or so wide-eyed faces staring back at him at his one-day camp at Heritage Christian High in North Hills on Saturday, he really didn’t see himself as much as who he wanted to be all those years ago. “I never had the chance being out in Palmdale,” George said. “We never got the opportunity to even meet someone in the NBA.” It’s one of the reasons the Indiana Pacers All-Star forward is so adamant about making the necessary time to give back to his young fans. His annual camp in Indianapolis and the one in Los Angeles is his way of giving youths something he didn’t have access to growing up. George gets just as much out of it as the kids.

  • Kirkland Crawford of the Detroit Free Press: Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond continues to be the unofficial reigning champion of social media in the NBA. He recently posted a Vine video titled “Why NBA players shouldn’t bowl.” With the help of his friends, the classic “Sweet Georgia Brown” song and a key sound effect, Drummond put a comedic twist on the 7-footer’s foray from the lane to the lanes.

  • Brennan Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: Utah Jazz fans have been excited about the addition of Dante Exum, but this guy took it to another level. Twitter user @dilldrape7 sent out that picture of himself Saturday, apparently getting the shoulder sunburn from some summer yardwork around his home. Making the best of an unpleasant situation, he drew the outline of an Exum jersey and the rookie’s number, 11, mentioning both Exum (@daanteee) and Rodney Hood (@rodneymhood) in separate tweets. Asked how long it will take to get the paint off his back, he corrected another Twitter user, saying: "It was a sharpie. Maybe a couple of days. But no, it was a spur of the moment thing. Maybe if it wins me a free jersey." The official Jazz account retweeted the photo Sunday afternoon and the new publicity has already earned the photo 50 more retweets and 88 favorites.