First Cup: Thursday

  • Tom Moore of The Intelligencer: There has been little scuttlebutt about the 76ers' potential involvement in the impending Timberwolves/Cavaliers trade since multiple outlets said the Sixers could end up sending Thaddeus Young to Minnesota as part of the Kevin Love/Andrew Wiggins deal. One report indicated the Sixers could end up getting Anthony Bennett, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, as part of a package for Young. But Jerry Zgoda, Timberwolves beat writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, tweeted this Wednesday: “Just a reminder: if you keep reading Bennett is headed to Philly for Young in forthcoming trade . . . don't believe it.” ... If the Sixers cannot land Bennett, general manager Sam Hinkie could opt to swap Young for a pair of Minnesota players with expiring deals. Any two of these three guys — Luc Mbah a Moute, Alexey Shved and J.J. Barea — would work under the league's salary-cap rules. The Sixers could also wind up with a protected first-round pick.

  • Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times: OK, Derrick, just stop. Quit Team USA and call it a day. Or a week. Or whatever. Rest your right knee. Rest your left knee. Rest everything. Have yourself cryogenically frozen and then thawed in two months, ready to play NBA basketball. That’s when the regular season starts, and that’s all we really care about. That’s what the Bulls are paying you $100 million to do, after all. That’s what Adidas is paying you $200 million to do. Missing time with knee issues has become so common for Rose since 2012 that we don’t know whether the guy can play anything remotely like a full season without hurting himself. ... When does fatigue become "I’m hurt again”? I know this is hard for Rose to take. An elite, driven athlete is never sated just by tons of money. He wants to play. He wants to dominate. That’s what he was put on earth to do. But for Bulls fans, the wait to see a healthy, resilient Rose has been like dripping water torture.

  • Chris Fedor of The Plain Dealer: Before LeBron James announced his return to Cleveland and prior to David Blatt being named the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, owner Dan Gilbert had eyes for Kentucky head coach John Calipari. ... "David Blatt can really coach," Calipari told Frank Isola and Malik Rose during aninterview on SiriusXM NBA Radio. "He's a better choice than me to coach that team. I coached against him. I'm not sitting here just saying it. I coached against him in FIBA basketball. I watched him coach Russia, the guy can coach, OK? Those players, all they want is respect. If they respect you as a coach they're going to play like crazy." Calipari, who had one stint as a head coach in the NBA before returning to the collegiate ranks, believes the Cavs will return to prominence. "Dan Gilbert is a great guy who wants it for the right reasons, that's why Cleveland will win," Calipari said. "Now you just have to have really good players. Guess what? Cleveland has really good players." They could be adding one more in the near future when a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves becomes official, making All-Star forward Kevin Love the newest member of Cleveland's talented roster.

  • Rebecca Salinas of the San Antonio Express-News: The Spurs' Larry O' Brien trophy has jetsetted across the world this summer, traveling more than 47,270 miles since its takeoff from San Antonio. But just like any traveler knows, sometimes you just need a vacation from your vacation. The trophy got just that when it was Kawhi Leonard's turn to take the trophy to San Diego for three days. Leonard told the San Diego Union-Times that the trophy stayed in his condominium the first two days, Aug. 7-8. "I didn't have any time to do anything with it," Leonard told the newspaper. "My workout schedule is crazy." So, even the 2-foot beauty wasn't enough to break his commitment to starting the season off strong, which starts in October. "I'm just a low-key guy," he told the newspaper. "I'm just happy we won it. I don't even care about the trophy. The title matters the most." That is OK, though, the trophy's chaperone, Spurs communications coordinator Mitch Heckart, was able to relax too... at his hotel's pool. The trophy did get back to work on the third day, Aug. 9, when Leonard took it to his youth skills camp in his hometown of Moreno Valley. There, fans were able to take photos with the trophy, which is documented on the Spurs' website.

  • Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: The Nets will be getting a visibly thinner Brook Lopez when training camp begins next month. Lopez, who arrived at training camp last fall weighing around 290 pounds before playing at a weight several pounds lighter, looked noticeably thinner while participating in a youth healthy lifestyle clinic at Barclays Center on Wednesday afternoon. “I’m at my playing weight,” Lopez said with a laugh. “I can attribute that to laying in bed for months, but I’m back to the weight that’s normal for me. Last I checked, I was just under 275 [pounds].” The Nets center said last year’s bigger frame had nothing to do with the fractured fifth metatarsal he suffered in Philadelphia on Dec. 20. “I may have been five pounds heavier, but that’s not what injured me,” he said. Nevertheless, it’s hard to believe the two aren’t at least partially related. Even if Lopez is a few pounds lighter, there’s no reason to believe he should have any trouble moving around players in the low block as he has while developing into arguably the best-scoring big man in the NBA.

  • Marc D'Amico of Celtics.com: It’s a well-known fact that the Boston Celtics are in rebuilding mode. In order for them to take the next step in that process, they need several of their players to take a personal step forward this season. Many refer to this individual progress as “the leap,” and that leap can occur on many different levels. The most important leap of all is from great to superstar. Then there’s the jump from good player to great player, and from role player to featured player. Boston has players who fall into each of those categories, and Rajon Rondo is the man who headlines that list. He is ‘the man’ on this team. The Celtics need him to be a superstar. Let’s not forget that Rondo has been such in the past. He is a four-time All-Star, an NBA champion and a triple-double machine. However, he was none of those last season. Rondo returned to Boston’s lineup on Jan. 17 after missing nearly a year of action with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He was a very good player during his 30 appearances, averaging 11.7 points per game, 5.5 rebounds per game and 9.8 assists per game. Those numbers are solid, but Rondo would never admit to being satisfied with them. He wants to be a superstar – the best point guard in the league. That’s what he expects out of himself.

  • Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post: For one month earlier this summer, Wizards forwards Otto Porter Jr. and Glen Rice Jr. spent a couple of hours a day working on the Verizon Center practice floor. They hustled through ball-handling, shooting and defensive drills with oversight from former Wizards assistant coach Ryan Saunders and David Adkins, hired later in the summer to serve as the Wizards’ player development assistant. It was the beginning of a crucial offseason for Porter and Rice. Both registered limited playing time during their rookie campaigns, unable to crack the Wizards’ rotation as the team soared to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2004-05 season. They will compete against each other to become the primary three-man off the bench this season, but they first envisioned forming a potent tag team in the Las Vegas summer league. “We were talking about it before we went,” Porter said in a recent phone interview. “‘Hey, this is a great opportunity for us. We got to make the most of it.’ And that’s when we started working out together, getting better. And it definitely showed.”

  • Zak Keefer of The Indianapolis Star: For those around Greg Oden, the news was startling. As modest and reserved as he may have seemed growing up, Oden never knew normal. He stood out from his peers from an early age — first because of his size, then his skill. Perhaps it was the weight of his crumbled career, some reasoned, and all the frustrations of not being able to meet the hype. "Greg's the type of guy that was really hurting from the fact he wasn't able to live up to the expectations people set for him," Shelt said. In recent years, Oden has admitted to battling depression and alcoholism as his career dissolved. After playing a reserve role for the Miami Heat last season, he's a free agent. It appears unlikely any NBA team would take a flier on him after this month's events.