First Cup: Tuesday
July, 29, 2014
By Nick Borges
- Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: Early on during Derrick Rose’s rehab from the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in 2012, it was easy for him to remain insulated from the critics. But even that bubble can pop. Criticism from fans and media is hard to ignore when the volume gets high enough. “Hell, yeah, it’s even more," Rose said Monday when asked if he still thought those who doubt him are fools. “I’m a special player. I still have youth. I’m only 25, man. Just doing everything I’m supposed to do in rehab. Just strengthening everything, taking it one day at a time and getting the most out of every day. I’ve been preparing for this moment. I can’t get mad at [the criticism]. People are going to say anything. For me, just try to take it in and use it when I work out, use it as motivation. Go out there and try to prove people wrong. I know how special I am as a player. And I know what I still can do." He’s in a small group because few are so sure of his capabilities.
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Eric Bledsoe's real problem is that being a really good point guard in the NBA is not as special these days. The league is saturated with quality point guards, leaving teams not in need of one, not wanting to spend exorbitantly for a minor upgrade, or waiting to develop or draft one. Nine other point guards averaged at least as many points per game as Bledsoe last season. Twenty-four point guards averaged more assists. All of them played more games. Eleven teams have an All-Star point guard. Another 12 to 14 teams arguably are set at the position and have either an established point guard, one on the rise or the point-guard market cornered (see Phoenix). Combine an overabundance of point guards with a dwindling market of spenders, and Bledsoe is slim on options. Besides Philadelphia being the only team with a maximum-salary spot (and a Rookie of the Year point guard), it would be a hard sell for any team to bring a lucrative deal forward at this point and sell Bledsoe as a target it always had marked.
- Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: Byron Scott wasn't hired to win a championship; he was hired to protect a threatened asset, calm an angry fan base, and keep the electricity running until the winds change. This is not a very sexy mandate, but somebody has to do it, and it might as well be an old-school Laker who remembers when Showtime was more than "Homeland," it was actually home. Scott was hired for his three Lakers championship rings' worth of playing credibility, two NBA Finals appearances' worth of coaching credibility, and the sort of folded-arms, piercing-eye glare that says, I've got this. Scott has Kobe covered. He was Bryant's teammate and locker-room mentor when the high school kid entered the league in 1996, and thus will be a perfect bookend boss to oversee Bryant's departure. ... If Mike Brown was vinegar and D'Antoni was poison, Scott will be received as a nicely aged merlot. Many believe that since the death of Jerry Buss, his son Jim has forgotten or ignored the championship values of the Lakers' past. This hiring is a reminder that at least he remembers some of its players.
- Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: If Manu Ginobili were healthy, that would be one thing. But with an injury, and at 37, did it make any sense to risk perhaps his last year and Tim Duncan's? Kawhi Leonard offers the opposite. He is neither hurt nor old, yet he passed on a USA Basketball invitation because of the wear of the championship run. If the Spurs were willing to live with Ginobili's eccentricities before, they aren't now. They recently sent him a letter outlining their contractual rights, and this could cause a rift. One within the Spurs franchise joked that Ginobili might ignore them and still play. But maybe that narrative is the one the Spurs want out there. After all, earlier this month, Ginobili told reporters in Argentina that his right leg did not hurt and that he was “optimistic” he could play, while also admitting “I have doubts, I have fears.” Now all of that has been removed, along with any criticism toward Ginobili, because of a letter.
- Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: For nearly three weeks there has been near silence from Miami Heat management about the free-agent departure of forward LeBron James to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Until Monday. Until Heat owner Micky Arison, in what the team termed "a message to Heat nation," spoke of the franchise's championship commitment in the wake of the exodus of the franchise's centerpiece. "We are laser-focused on the present and the task at hand of defending our Eastern Conference championship with the East being described as 'wide open,' while also positioning ourselves for maximum flexibility and maneuverability in the future," Arison said. ... Arison's tone was one of fight instead of surrender. "Our roster is comprised of players capable of versatility and who are out to prove something to the rest of the league," he said.
- Andrew Keh of The New York Times: Bojan Bogdanovic, a 25-year-old forward from Bosnia and Herzegovina and an intriguingly unknown quantity, has been on a whirlwind introductory tour since signing a three-year contract with the Nets last week. Curiosity about Bogdanovic and questions about whether he can help the Nets handle the departure of forward Paul Pierce should only continue to build, though, until the start of the season. And he still needs to meet his teammates. “We have some of the best players in the N.B.A.,” he said Monday while touring the team’s practice site in East Rutherford. “I can’t wait to meet them and start to play with them.” Bogdanovic, who is ethnically Croatian, has played and thrived the last three seasons with Fenerbahce Ulker of the Turkish league, but he acknowledged that the N.B.A. represented a new, difficult challenge. Familiarizing himself with the league and the players will be the first step.
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: The Timberwolves agreed to terms on a one-year, $3.75 million contract with veteran guard Mo Williams. The move was announced Monday afternoon by Williams representative, Priority Sports. The Wolves could announce the signing as early as Tuesday. In Williams the Wolves are getting a 31-year-old veteran who can play both point guard and shooting guard. Indeed, Williams is best described as point guard-sized but with a shooter’s mentality. He could back up starting point guard Ricky Rubio on a second unit that could include rookie Zach LaVine with him in the backcourt. ... Williams’ addition brings into question the future of guard J.J. Barea, who is entering the final year of his contract with the Wolves and is due to make just over $4.5 million in the upcoming season. Barea could be on the trading block. One possibility is if Saunders can find a third team to get involved in a potential trade involving Love. If Love leaves, Saunders would be looking to add a veteran power forward.
- Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com: It’s going to be an uphill battle for Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers as he works towards earning a spot on Team USA’s 12-man roster for FIBA World Cup competition in Spain later this summer. Of the 20 versatile players in attendance at training camp on the campus of UNLV, the point guard position is the deepest. It consists of Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, Washington’s John Wall and Chicago’s Derrick Rose. And by the way, Rose looked extremely sharp and athletic on the first day of camp. Lillard has defied all of the odds to get to this point in his career and he’s not about to alter his makeup now. He’s well aware of the numbers game at his position. Whatever happens, happens, he says.
- Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune: After everything that has happened since the Jazz’s season ended in April, Gordon Hayward recognizes his life is different now. The expectations and accountability that accompany his biggest offseason move follow him everywhere. Signing a $63 million contract? Yeah, that’s also significant. Hayward stood on UNLV’s practice court after the opening session of Team USA’s training camp Monday, talking with Jazz coach Quin Snyder. He smiled, laughed and cringed — knowing that accepting Snyder’s dinner invitation would involve another layer of decision making with his wife of two months, Robyn; they had already outlined an itinerary of Las Vegas shows. As for the occupants of those seats in EnergySolutions Arena, Hayward also feels considerable responsibility to them. But that feeling has more to do with "25-57" than "$63 million." He’s willing to be judged by the Jazz’s record going forward, but not necessarily by the numbers that follow the dollar sign. "For me, I don’t think I have to live up to anything now," he said. "They paid me what they wanted to pay me, and let’s go from there."
- John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News: Continuing debate about whether Sixers president/general manager Sam Hinkie made the right decision to nuke the team's core and start building from scratch is a moot exercise. The only question now is how patient a notoriously impatient fan base is going to be, waiting to see if the fruits of Hinkie's labors will result in that oh-so-elusive NBA championship. I think the acceptable standard in rebuilding is that it is a four- to five-season process. The trickier issue is determining what is acceptable after that time. ... None of this is to say that Hinkie's ambitious plan cannot win a championship within 5 years, because at some point the young talent is going to be augmented by veterans via free agency or trades. Still, there are a couple of other reasons to put a countdown clock on the 2017-18 season. Right now, under their current contracts, that is the final season before Carter-Williams and Noel hit unrestricted free agency. If those two players develop into the superstars that fans hope but the franchise isn't at championship level, Philadelphia could end up like Cleveland did when LeBron James took his talents elsewhere in pursuit of a title. History says that 5 years may not be enough for a player to go from rookie to champion for his original franchise. The problem for Hinkie is that he may not get more time than that.
- Daniel O'Leary of the New York Daily News: If Timberwolves rookie Zach LaVine gets off the bench this upcoming season, the team may have to alert local airports. The guard showed off some serious hops at the Seattle Pro-Am this weekend, calling to mind visions of a young Vince Carter. While it remains to be seen if LaVine can parlay his raw athleticism into an advantage in NBA games, we can all agree this is pretty fun to watch, for the moment.