First Cup: Friday

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: Kevin Durant cited physical and mental fatigue in leaving the U.S. basketball team, which is preparing for the World Cup later this summer. I don’t know if Paul George’s gruesome injury suffered last weekend played any part in Durant’s decision. Neither do I care, just so long as Durant made the decision. The risk/reward nature of international summer play came into full view with George’s injury. Especially in a non-Olympic year. Last week, before George’s injury, I said on one of our press row videos that I wished Durant wouldn’t play internationally in the summer. Too much wear and tear on the Thunder franchise player. Durant’s words Thursday sounded like he agreed with my assessment. ... My friend said the best reason to play basketball is to play for God, which I assume he means something like Athletes in Action. Second on the list is playing for country. It’s a compelling argument. But we don’t really feel that way as fans. We put the Thunder, or the Pacers, or the Spurs, or whatever team to which you hold allegiance, at the forefront. Which is why Durant’s decision Thursday was very good news.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Kevin Durant has been going non-stop for the past five seasons, playing in 388 of a possible 394 regular season games. He’s logged 15,064 minutes over that span, or 930 more than the next closest player. With another 73 playoff games since 2010, including three conference finals appearances in the past four seasons, Durant has played an additional 3,090 postseason minutes, third most in that stretch behind James and Wade. Durant also has been a fixture on the USA Men’s National Team since 2010, leading the team in minutes played in each of the past two international events. Toss in off-court commitments with sponsors such as meetings, commercial shoots, promotional tours and trips to Asia, his annual youth camp in Oklahoma, his skills academy in Washington, appearing at legendary playground leagues from New York to Los Angeles for pickup ball, attending award shows, filming a movie and actually working out and it becomes clear why Durant is finally drawing a line.

  • Bill Livingston of The Plain Dealer: If Irving doesn't at least play as well this season as his Uncle Drew character of television commercials does on the playground, it will be because he is fragile and often hurt, not because he lacks the space or opportunity. It will take sometime to blend the parts, particularly with a new coach in David Blatt and a lack of experience in the playoffs that runs up and down the roster, including Love. It is doubtful if the team will win 66 games, as the Cavaliers did in James' next-to-last season in his first term, only to fall short of the Finals. ... But by the time the playoffs start, the Cavs' Big Three -- James, Irving, Love -- should have their gears meshed. There is no reason not to think they are capable of winning it all. This season. Wiggins might become the superstar the Timberwolves think he is. But he wasn't going to be that right now. The Cavs with this deal seemingly locked up are no more into deferred gratification than are Cleveland fans, who have waited 50 years for a parade. Gotta write fast, reporters. There will be a lot of 8 p.m. starts and night deadlines at The Q. Gotta root fast these days, fans. The Cavs are changing almost by the day, all seemingly for the good, and you don't want to miss any chance to clap as the most fascinating Cleveland sports season ever approaches.

  • Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon-Journal: Not many people could stroll onto the practice field during Browns training camp and completely overshadow “Manzielmania,” but LeBron James is one of the few who can. James stole the show from rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel, his friend and business partner, by simply walking onto the field about an hour after practice began Thursday and watching the action from the sideline as the Browns prepared for their preseason opener Saturday night against the host Detroit Lions. It was James’ first public appearance since he left the Miami Heat and re-signed with the Cavaliers last month. “We had one of the biggest athletes in the world at practice,” said strong safety Donte Whitner, a Cleveland native. “I think there has to be a lot of buzz.” ... The Browns believe James could help Manziel learn how to best handle his celebrity and balance it with his responsibilities as a professional athlete. “LeBron has been dealing with it his entire life — high school till now,” Whitner said. “He’ll be a good mentor for Johnny and help him deal with some of the stuff off the field. I think it’s probably been going on already.”

  • Judd Zulgad of 1500ESPN.com: Top-notch reporter Jon Krawczynski, who covers the Wolves for the Associated Press, said there is still a chance that Philadelphia will end up as a third team in this deal. That's because Saunders would like to get power forward Thaddeus Young from the 76ers. It's not certain who or what (draft picks) would go to Philadelphia, but Young's stay in Minnesota could be a short one, given that he can opt-out of his contract after next season. That might be a slight concession by Saunders the executive to Saunders the coach. Nonetheless, it only would serve as a slight one given the prize to any return for Love would be Wiggins and the potential he brings to Minnesota. This potential almost certainly wouldn't be immediately realized, making Saunders' job as coach that much tougher, but Saunders the executive knows that adding Wiggins is the best idea for the future health of a franchise that hasn't been healthy in years. And for that, 16 days from now, Saunders should be applauded.

  • Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca: Who knows what getting Andrew Wiggins out of Cleveland would have been like after he’d been to the NBA mountaintop alongside LeBron James? Getting Wiggins out of Minnesota first chance? Easy as pie. If Leiweke, Ujiri and Drake can’t pull that off, then they aren’t nearly the salesmen they have made themselves out to be. This is a superstar-in-waiting placed on a tee. It will be up to MLSE’s three wise men to drive it home. ... Now the Raptors get the best of all worlds. Ujiri/Drake/Leiweke can go about the business of building a winning basketball team while Wiggins goes through his growing pains in a cold place far from home before finally making a triumphant return—not as a saviour, but as the final ingredient in a championship contending maple syrup-flavoured pie. For this, LeBron, Canada thanks you.

  • A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com: The Celtics won't trade Rondo just for the sake of trading him. Boston will want a star or a young star on the rise in return; a player who would come here with something to prove; someone younger, who brings an element of excitement to the game that'll keep fans cheering and maybe just as important, generate a few more wins. Boston needs Eric Bledsoe. Yes, he's a restricted free agent in Phoenix and they have said publicly that they intend to re-sign him. Still, when he turned down their four-year, $48 million offer because he felt he was deserving a max contract, that's when you knew this was going to get messy. Bledsoe is a talented player who will be an All-Star in this league at some point. ... So why would either team do this deal? For the Suns, it would give them the kind of difference-maker they'll need in the near future to get to the playoffs and potentially make a run. ... In Bledsoe, Boston would add another young, dynamic player to a roster that's already overflowing with good talent.

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: The NBA was David Stern’s league during his 30 years, which began on Feb. 1, 1984 and ended three decades to the day later when he retired. He ruled with a heavy hand. He and his staff worked feverishly to exterminate the NBA’s well-earned reputation of being a drug-infested league, a drifting sport saved by the emergence of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. It was a league with an image issue and made up of a majority of black players, a league just a few years removed from tape-delayed games of its championship. West Coast fans would have to wait until 11:30 p.m. (approximately 5½ hours after the start) for the tipoff. During the 1982-83 season, CBS broadcasted four regular-season games. Stern, 71, will enter the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday in Springfield because he has been credited — along with the presence of Michael Jordan — with turning the NBA into a thriving, worldwide enterprise that is no longer regarded as a strictly urban sport.

  • Jenny Earl of Newsday: Metta World Peace is at it again. The NBA star, formerly known as Ron Artest, is planning on changing his name to “Panda Friend.” World Peace made the announcement hours after he told Twitter followers he was joining the Sichuan Blue Whales Basketball Club of the China Basketball Association. “New Chinese name coming soon. You guys are going to love it!!!!” he tweeted on Monday. According to China Daily, World Peace is changing is name in honor of his move to China. “New high-profile import playing for Chinese basketball Association club Sichuan Blue Whales is known as Ron Artest but intends to change his name to 'Panda Friend' in honor of his move to China,” the newspaper reported. However, World Peace clarified on Twitter on Thursday that his name will not be “Panda Friend” – it will be “The Pandas Friend.”

  • Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: Not only is Andrei Kirilenko getting a chance to help people this week, he’s getting to know his new coach. Kirilenko is in South Africa working with the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program alongside Lionel Hollins, whom he had already grown to respect after watching from afar the job Hollins did turning the Grizzlies into a Western Conference power. “[Hollins] really built up a great system with the Grizzlies,” Kirilenko said on the phone from Johannesburg. “He has a lot of guys who were veterans and he mixed it up with the younger guys, so he knows how to work in a different kind of situation, and his teams are all very defensive-oriented, which I like a lot. But he’s just a nice person. He’s a nice person to talk to, and he knows a lot of wise knowledge, so we’re having a great time here.”

  • Dick Jerardi of the Philadelphia Daily News: It took far longer than it should have, but the first great player of the Big 5 era finally will take his rightful place in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame at a ceremony tonight in Springfield, Mass. Only two players have won the Geasey Award as the Big 5's best player three times, without any ties. That would be Guy Rodgers, who won the first three awards from 1956 to 1958 and La Salle's 3,000-point scorer, Lionel Simmons. Kenny Durrett (La Salle) and John Pinone (Villanova) also won three. Durrett shared one, Pinone two. Rodgers was the quintessential Philadelphia point guard. He was the model for everyone who ran a team in this city. "Guy was very strong," Scheuer said. "He was 6-1, 190. If he was a fighter, he'd be a heavyweight, even though he was extremely quick."