First Cup: Thursday

  • A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com: There's no waiving of the white flag just yet, but the Boston Celtics appear to be ready to move on from their pursuit of Minnesota star Kevin Love, league sources tell CSNNE.com. "The more teams step up and show interest in Love, the further Boston falls in the pack," a source said on Wednesday. "Danny's a smart guy. He knows when to keep pushing for something and when to move on." That's why the Celtics are reportedly among the clubs to express some interest in being a third team to help facilitate a trade involving Love to what one source said has become his "preferred" destination, Cleveland. I know. Cleveland.

  • Chris Fedor of The Plain Dealer: The Cavs will win the title in 2014-15 if they trade Wiggins, Bennett and at least one future first-round pick for Love. Fact: Isn't it way too early for this question? Can't I answer in October? Fine, then my answer is yes. Sure, they would be relatively inexperienced. They would have a head coach who hasn't coached in the NBA. The roster wouldn't be filled out completely. Chemistry would need to take place. The teams in the Western Conference are really, really good. I just don't see how a team with James, Irving and Love loses four times in seven games. That's three guys who can dominate games for long stretches of time all on the same court. That's two of the top 10 players in the league on the same team who fit perfectly next to each other. That's the top two players (James and Love) available this off-season going to the same team. Can they start printing the banners now?

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Each time Taj Gibson works out at the Berto Center, team officials tell him not to focus on trade rumors involving his name. That said, they’re not stopping. And Wednesday brought another round as the Bulls continue talking with the Timberwolves about Kevin Love. ... The Tribune previously reported that Nikola Mirotic sought a commitment from the Bulls before completing his buyout from Real Madrid. And league sources indicated to the Tribune on Wednesday that reports of offers of Mirotic and first-round acquisition Doug McDermott for Love are “overstated.” Plus, Pau Gasol is under the impression he’s starting. In fact, the Bulls were positioned better to acquire Love without gutting their team in June with Carlos Boozer’s expiring contract, two first-round picks and non-guaranteed deals of salary-cap filler that were waived in July.

  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News: Amid all the unanswered questions who the Lakers will hire as their next head coach and when, two team sources strongly disputed that any delay stems from waiting out to see if Clippers coach Doc Rivers will become available because of embattled owner Donald Sterling prolonging a costly litigation battle. ESPN’s Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose each brought up that prospective theory on why the Lakers have gone three months without hiring a coach since Mike D’Antoni’s resignation on April 30. Clippers interim Chief executive Dick Parsons also testified in court Tuesday that Rivers does not want to continue to coach if Sterling still owns the team next season. ... The Lakers have said that the prolonged delay all stemmed from wanting to concentrate on the NBA draft and filling out their roster during free agency. They also said the personnel would dictate who they hire as a coach. But after initially believing the coaching hire would be resolved within this week, a Lakers official on Wednesday hardly provided much clarity on the finality. Still, the Lakers have not interviewed any candidates since free agency began this month except for Byron Scott last week, according to league sources familiar with the situation. The Lakers also have not currently scheduled any future interviews.

  • Tom Sorensen of The Charlotte Observer: Last season Kemba Walker helped recruit Al Jefferson. This month he pushed for Lance Stephenson. There is no offseason. “Of course I was excited,” says Walker. “You always want great talent around you and he’s really good. I think he can do so much on the basketball court and elevate the games of a lot of players. You always need a guy like that on your team.” Describe his game. “He’s a New York City guard,” says Walker. “He’s super tough, he’ll never back down from anything, and for his height (6-5) he handles the ball really well. He does the pick and roll really well. He passes the ball. He’s a great overall player.” What will Stephenson do for you aside from bringing a little New York? “He’ll help me in a lot of aspects,” says Walker. “I think he can make shots; I think he can take a lot of pressure off me as well. In late game situations we can go to him. And I can go off the ball at times. If he rebounds I can run and depend on him to make some plays." Stephenson can run an offense? "No question," says Walker.

  • Cody Stavenhagen of The Oklahoman: Registration for Kevin Durant’s basketball camp at the University of Oklahoma’s Huston Huffman Center filled after a couple of weeks, but 900 children were left on the waiting list. The solution? For Durant — maybe only for someone like Durant — it was to open a second camp that will run simultaneously Aug. 7-8, and having it in a community still recovering from a catastrophic tornado. Durant announced Wednesday he will host a second camp at Westmoore High School in Moore, allowing 600 additional kids to attend. Durant is reserving free camp spots for children affected by the May 2013 Moore tornado. He will even have a special spot for Hezekiah Darbon, a tornado survivor from Briarwood Elementary who was featured in a piece Durant narrated for ESPN.

  • Eric Koreen of the National Post: One extra win last summer could have drastically changed this summer for Canada’s men’s basketball team. If they had managed a single additional victory, it might have been enough to land the team in the top four of last year’s FIBA Americas tournament, qualifying them for this year’s FIBA World Cup in Spain — the renamed world championships. Instead, they fell short, and have been reduced to playing some exhibition games in Europe. Understandably, the likes of Tristan Thompson, hunting for a new contract, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, possible trade chips in Cleveland, and Nik Stauskas and Tyler Ennis, getting set for their rookie years in the NBA, are not participating. For various reasons — insurance money for players’ contracts, a team’s wishes and more — it does not make sense for them to play in low-stakes games. However, a hypothetical: Would those players, pointed to as long-term cornerstones of the program, be in red and white if these games mattered more?

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Jameer Nelson is expected to sign a one-year free-agent contract worth $2.73 million with the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, a source said. Nelson is slated to meet with Mavericks officials in Dallas on Thursday. If all goes well he could then sign his new contract, the source said. Wednesday’s news regarding the 6-foot point guard was part of a whirlwind day that also saw the Mavericks void the contract of power forward Rashard Lewis, in addition to seeing point guard Raymond Felton plead guilty in a New York courtroom to attempted criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of a firearm. The Mavs also didn’t waste time fretting over the loss of Lewis as they reached an agreement late Wednesday with forward Al-Farouq Aminu (6-9, 215) on a two-year contract worth $2.1 million. The second year of the contract includes a player option for $1.1 million.

  • Dwight Jaynes of CSNNW.com: I almost feel that if Victor Claver is still a Portland Trail Blazer on opening night this season, someone should be carrying a sign around the Moda Center that reads, "Free Victor Claver." ... I had the feeling many times the team had just already made its mind up he is not part of the future here and the young players were in line for playing time ahead of him. OK, fair enough, I guess. And I may be all wrong about him as a player. Perhaps he's just not very good. So why is he still here? Is he going to be paid $1.33 million during the 2014-15 season NOT to play in games again? I hope not. If a team cannot be found willing to give up a future second-round pick for him, I'd suggest waiving him. Yes, take that salary on your cap but at this point, so what? It will be gone next summer when the space is needed. And I think by now he's served his time. Paid his dues. I'd like to see him get another chance someplace else or, at worst, go back home to Spain and not waste any more time here.

  • J. Michael of CSN Washington: The Wizards would like to do a better job resting key players, particularly at the end of the season, to make sure everyone is fresh for a postseason run. The Spurs are a high benchmark, but look at how often their best players played en route to winning their fifth NBA championship because of coach Gregg Popovich's deep rotations and willingness to rest aging starters on back-to-backs: Tony Parker missed 14 games and averaged 29.4 minutes per game; Manu Ginobili missed 14 games and averaged 22.8 minutes; and Tim Duncan missed eight games and averaged 29.2 minutes. And while solid, their bench isn't a list of future Hall of Famers. In doing so, the Spurs still won 62 games and were the much fresher team than the Miami Heat who were dispatched in five games. Maybe that's too much of a reach for 2014-15 for the Wizards, but having a goal and the pieces in place to reach it is a start. They made a 15-game improvement last season. At least 50 wins and a Southeast Division crown are well within reach. Now comes the difficult part in all of this -- execution.