First Cup: Wednesday
July, 30, 2014
By Nick Borges
- Evan MacDonald of The Plain Dealer: A Miami radio program on Tuesday attempted to buy a full-page advertisement in The Plain Dealer to poke fun at LeBron James. A mock-up of the advertisement posted on Twitter depicts two Miami Heat championship rings above the words "You're Welcome, LeBron." Below are the words "Sincerely, Miami Heat Fans." Representatives of The Dan LeBatard Show called the Cleveland media outlet on Tuesday to purchase a full-page advertisement in this Sunday's edition of the newspaper, Northeast Ohio Media Group Vice President of Sales and Marketing Mike Maleski confirmed. NEOMG sales staff are responsible for ads in The Plain Dealer. The show's request was "politely declined," Maleski said. ... LeBatard said during the show that the ad was not intended to be mean-spirited, but rather a way to poke fun at James and Northeast Ohio residents who watched him win two championships in Miami.
- Michael Cohen of The Commercial-Appeal: Now, 10 weeks and one infamous Robert Pera Twitter chat later, the Grizzlies' front office is finally stabilizing. The organization announced Tuesday a pair of front office moves symbolizing calmer seas in Memphis. Chris Wallace, who had served as interim general manager since May, saw the interim tag lifted and he was rewarded with a multiyear contract as the team's general manager. Joining him in the front office will be veteran NBA executive Ed Stefanski, who was named executive vice president of player personnel. ... Together with Wallace the organization has a pair of respected front office members whose long-term security appears to signify a righting of the ship. The Grizzlies are no longer "a mess."
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Kevin Durant isn’t ready to travel in time but understands that questions about his future are unavoidable. His contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder has an expiration date in 2016 and he will be the most in-demand free agent, with fan bases around the league – specifically in his hometown of Washington – already salivating about the prospect of having the reigning league’s most valuable player on their roster. When asked about the possibility of playing for the Wizards, Durant didn’t shoot down the notion. “We’re going to put it out on the table. It’s been talked about,” Durant said. “Everybody is asking me about it. Every time I go on Instagram or Twitter, all my friends ask me about it. So I’m not going to sit here and act like I’m na´ve to the fact that people think about that stuff. But I just tell everybody, ‘Look, I’m here in Oklahoma City. I love it here.’ Who knows what’ll happen? You never can close a door on anything, but I like where I’m at right now. I can’t answer those questions.” That certainly won’t stop the four-time NBA scoring champion from being pressed for answers during an era when speculation and hope have a greater currency among fans than tangible realities.
- Jill Painter of the Los Angeles Daily News: It was a star-studded cast showing their support for their former teammate. His family and grandchildren were there, too. Only one person could’ve made it better. “The only thing I regret is that Dr. Buss is not here today,” a teary-eyed Scott said. “He was a guy you could talk to about everything, about life, basketball, money, anything. I wish he was here today. As I told Jim and Jeanie, I’m going to do everything in my power to bring this team back to where it should be. This organization is about championships. Period.” When Scott referred to the Lakers’ 16 NBA championships, he inadvertently referenced the Lakers’ 17 titles. Perhaps he had that self-fulfilling prophecy in mind. Scott wants to do the Buss family proud — with Jim and Jeanie running the basketball and business side, respectively. How can you not love Scott’s lasting connections, passion for the Lakers and unbreakable ties? That counts for something. He cares deeply about this franchise. Neither Mike Brown nor Mike D’Antoni had that. Neither of those press conferences featured any semblance of emotional investment. In fact, D’Antoni joked he was hopped up on medication following a recent knee surgery.
- Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: Barring an unexpected change of heart by the NBA, Christmas in Miami will feature LeBron James’ much-anticipated return to Miami in an opposing uniform. Though the NBA’s schedule will not be finalized and released until mid-August, an unofficial internal schedule of select games has Cleveland playing the Heat in Miami on Christmas on ABC, according to a person familiar with the situation. The game likely would be played at either 2:30 p.m. or 5 p.m, depending on what other game is selected for ABC that day.
- Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com: Things aren’t looking good when it comes to negotiations between the Phoenix Suns and their restricted free agent star guard Eric Bledsoe. According to league sources, an “ominous development” has arisen with sides still “very far apart” in contract negotiations. It has even escalated to the point where the “relationship is on the express lane to being ruined,” a source with knowledge of the situation informed CSNNW.com. The Suns offered Bledsoe a four-year, $48 million deal with declining salaries each year, two sources said. That proposal was quickly turned down. Bledsoe’s camp is putting a max price tag on the player Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek called “a Top-10 player in the NBA in coming years”, another source said. Phoenix has made it known publicly and repeatedly that they intend to match any offer sheets competitors issue out to Bledsoe. This tactic has succeeded in scaring away any potential suitors so far. However, the effort by the Suns to undermine Bledsoe’s market is what has angered Bledsoe and his reps and led to a standoff in which the relationship is now on the verge of being irreparable, we’re told.
- Christopher L. Gasper of The Boston Globe:Celtics owner and CEO Wyc Grousbeck disputed the idea that Boston with only a fervent fan base and a raft of tradition to offer wasn’t an NBA destination. He said the Celtics can build through free agency, as well as via trades and the draft. “What we are working on in Boston is offering the possibility of contending for a championship. If a ring is more important to a guy than the climate or the taxes that’s the kind of guy we want,” said Grousbeck. Patience is going to be required with the Progeny of the Parquet. The fireworks display has been postponed. “I’m really looking forward to the year. I’d like it to be a building year,” Grousbeck said. “Brad is a great coach. I’m glad he is here. He has brought a lot of knowledge, passion, and enthusiasm to the organization. I want to see him succeed. He deserves success in the NBA. I hope we can give him a roster that will get him there.” That might take longer than Grousbeck thought.
- Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: Bulls rookie Doug McDermott admitted Tuesday that he was close to settling on a place in Chicago. And, yes, he’s more likely renting than buying. Smart decision. The Kevin Love-to-the-Bulls trade rumors have quieted to an almost complete silence, but a source said the team was still in pursuit, and that meant the package of Taj Gibson, McDermott and ‘‘other assets’’ was still on the table. ... "I didn’t really pay attention to it much,’’ McDermott said. "I think rumors happen a lot. There have been a lot this offseason, so you’ve just got to stay patient. You can’t really read into that stuff. I’m just focused on what I can do to become better." That’s also why he admitted to staying away from asking his new organization about it. "To be honest, I get asked about it; I don’t really ask anyone," McDermott said. "I try to stay off Twitter, and a lot of people ask me or text me through my friends. But I just ignore it. Whatever happens, happens."
- Scott Cacciola of The New York Times: Misery loves company, and there was a lot of misery to go around in Southern California this summer. The Los Angeles Clippers had to deal with Donald Sterling, the owner who refused to leave, and the Los Angeles Lakers had to deal with an injured Kobe Bryant and a collection of call-ups from the Development League. After months of shared unhappiness, both teams are having an eventful week. On Monday, a court gave Sterling his walking papers when a probate court judge cleared the path for the $2 billion sale of the Clippers to Steve Ballmer, the former Microsoft chief executive. A day later, the Lakers staged a news conference to introduce a head coach to guide the team’s woeful roster: Byron Scott, the former Lakers guard from the Showtime era. The two teams, which have been uneasy roommates at Staples Center, both finally have some resolution. But they are franchises on different trajectories with very distinct strategies.
- Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: It is Tony Parker’s first full summer off in four years, and he is taking full advantage. The six-time All-Star recently returned to San Antonio from a jaunt to Las Vegas. He’s got another trip planned to an undisclosed destination with his fiancee and infant son Josh, followed by a visit to France before the Spurs begin training camp in October. “It’s great,” he said Tuesday during his appearance at the Spurs’ summer basketball youth camp. “I’m enjoying every moment, having a lot of fun.” ... So as much as Parker would love to be with Les Bleus getting ready for the World Cup, he’s more than happy to have some time off. “Obviously it’s always tough to see my teammates start without me,” he said. “It feels like my second family is playing right now. But I have to be smart. I think it’s the right decision for me, for the Spurs if I want to play a long career. I want to play two more summers (with France) and then I’ll be done."
- Marc Berman of the New York Post: Knicks legend Earl Monroe sees some pearls on this Phil Jackson-inspired, revamped Knicks roster. The man known as “Earl The Pearl’’ even believes Jackson’s Knicks easily could finish in the top four in the wide-open Eastern Conference after failing to make the playoffs last season with a 37-45 record. Monroe, the flashiest member on the Knicks’ last title team in 1973, with Jackson as teammate, said he believes on paper only Indiana and Chicago boast a distinctly better roster. Sorry, LeBron. “If these guys can get off to good start and stabilize what their roles are, I don’t see why they can’t be as good as the rest of the guys in the East," Monroe told The Post Tuesday. “I see them [in the top four] easily."
- Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post: The two years away had a huge impact on Afflalo. He was quickly forced into a leadership role both on and off the court with a young and rebuilding Orlando Magic team. Afflalo had his best seasons on the court, and those around the Orlando franchise raved about the example Afflalo set for young players with his professionalism. Afflalo comes back to Denver a more confident, more authoritative player. If he was ever hesitant to make suggestions previously, it won't be that way this time around. Afflalo injecting himself into a team leadership role could be a huge help to Nuggets coach Brian Shaw, who has been searching for leaders. Late last season, he sat down guard Ty Lawson and forward Kenneth Faried and challenged them to take on a more vocal role. Afflalo should help.