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First Cup: Friday

8/22/2014
  • Fred Kerber of the New York Post: Carmelo Anthony, of course, had a rather hectic summer, which included his decision to re-sign with the Knicks for five years, $124 million, rejecting considerably less financially from Chicago, but also spurning the chance to join the Bulls, the team many view as the favorite in the East. Instead, he chose to stay with the rebuilding plan of Knicks president Phil Jackson. It was, however, a close call. “As far as me staying here, a lot went into that decision. At the end of the day, I did have to believe in Phil, I did have to believe in my teammates. So that’s all that matters,” Anthony said. “It was close, it was close. I don’t even like to talk about that. This is home. There is no place like New York. Although the other situations were very intriguing, there is no place like New York.” The slimmed-down forward has been in touch with teammates all summer. He cited the offseason regimens of Amar’e Stoudemire, J.R. Smith, Cleanthony Early and Iman Shumpert. “Everybody is just putting in the proper work. I think with the new energy that we have now with the team and the coaches, everybody is just excited to get back,” said Anthony, who added “I can’t wait” — or a variation thereof — about 30 times. Everybody’s antsy, waiting to get back,” he said. “And I can’t wait. I look forward to this season.” But before you purchase playoff and Finals tickets, Anthony cautioned there will be an adjustment period. There are new players (Samuel Dalembert, Jose Calderon, Jason Smith, Early, Travis Outlaw, Shane Larkin, Quincy Acy), a new coach (Derek Fisher), a new system (the triangle offense). Learning the triangle will take time.

  • Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press: The first time the Timberwolves traded their franchise player, the plan was to rebuild a team that would be back in the postseason in two to three years. It's now 10 and counting, the longest active postseason skid in the NBA. "I think that when you give up a top-10 player, it's the exception to the rule that you survive," said George Karl, an ESPN analyst. The question now is whether the Timberwolves can be the exception. Last time, they weren't. Minnesota got five players and two first-round draft picks when they sent Kevin Garnett to Boston in July 2007. The Celtics got an NBA title in 2008; the Timberwolves, as their fans well know, got nowhere. Since then, the Wolves are on their fifth head coach, third front-office boss and no playoff appearances. Yet they're again on the verge of trading one of the NBA's best players as soon as Saturday, the first day they can finalize a deal to send sweet-shooting, big-rebounding power forward Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers for 19-year-old Andrew Wiggins, the first overall pick in the 2014 draft.

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: There’s a powerful person behind Derrick Rose’s participation with USA Basketball who prefers to remain behind-the-scenes. Jen Swanson, whom the Bulls hired last summer as their Director of Sports Performance, is more qualified than anyone tomonitor Rose’s rehabilitation, knees and body. And the fact she is traveling with USA Basketball and in consistent communication with Rose, who returned to practice Thursday after three days of rest, is an important security blanket for the Bulls, who still believe reward outweighs risk in this endeavor. ... The Bulls hired Swanson away from Athletes’ Performance in Los Angeles after she worked extensively with Rose during his rehabilitation from his May 2012 surgery to repair the torn ACL in his left knee. She quickly developed a strong rapport with players during her first season and then unexpectedly developed an even stronger bond with Rose when he tore his right meniscus in November 2013. ... Whether the Bulls win or lose depends largely on Rose staying healthy. Swanson, who is scheduled to travel to Spain for Rose’s participation in the FIBA World Cup, will be critical in that goal.

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: It will be hard to truly define Tim Leiweke’s legacy with the Raptors because the things the departing chief executive officer of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment provided are not quantifiable. But in his first year at the top of the pecking order in the organization, his contribution was to infuse the franchise with a sense of importance and watch it gain momentum, not only among fans here but with people throughout the league. His most significant move was also his biggest and his first, one that should resonate for years. Disposing of former president and general manager Bryan Colangelo in an awkward and not-well-handled transition period allowed Leiweke to pluck Masai Ujiri from the Denver Nuggets. Leiweke gave Ujiri carte blanche to do with the roster what he saw fit and it started the Raptors on a course that returned them to relevancy in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. It was Leiweke’s aggressive nature — too blustery and aggressive at the start, he will attest — that gave Ujiri the feeling he could do whatever was necessary to get the franchise headed in the right direction. It was as if, in some ways, Leiweke picked a clone to run an NBA team that hadn’t sniffed the playoffs in half a decade. The two men are equally driven to win. They can be demanding and they are both adamant that the Raptors will command respect around the league. And it worked.

  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: The first decade or so of his basketball career, Lin was just a guy. The pinnacle of his career was supposed to be when he led Palo Alto High to a Division II state title in 2006. Those days are gone. As much as he may miss the anonymity, the luxury of being the underdog, that's not his lot anymore. The low-key kid has accepted his calling to the big time. So he heads to the Lakers, on the final year of his contract, needing to produce under the heat of the magnifying glass. "It's incredible. It's a blessing," said Lin, who turns 26 on Saturday. "I am a lot more comfortable now than I was in the beginning. Going into my fifth year, I'm able to handle that now more than ever. I put more pressure on myself now than what I feel from the outside." It's a raw deal in some respects. Lin will probably never be appreciated nationally the way he actually should be -- as a productive NBA guard. Like many others, he has some bankable skills to go with some weaknesses.

  • A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com: One of the youngest players in this year's draft, James Young should benefit to some degree from being coached by Stevens, whose coaching career has been at the college level minus last season as the Celtics' head coach. Just like John Calipari challenged Young to continue improving in his lone season at Kentucky, the 6-foot-7 guard/forward is finding it's not all that different with the Celtics and Stevens. "Coach Stevens has really been on me about defense," Young told CSNNE. "That's how coach Cal was, too." Because of Young's 7-foot wing span, his potential as a solid defender is clear which can only increase the chances of him seeing time on the floor sooner rather than later.

  • Matt Velazquez of the Journal Sentinel: With his long strides, Giannis Antetokounmpo looks as if he can go coast-to-coast in a just two dribbles. He nearly did just that on Thursday while playing for the Greek national team against Turkey in Athens. Did Antetokounmpo travel on the play above? After watching the clip too many times to count — mostly because it was too impressive to just watch once or twice — I'm convinced he didn't. Even if he had, do you think any NBA referee would blow the whistle? No way. Regardless, this is just the latest in a long series of head-scratching, hard-to-believe highlights from the Bucks' 19-year-old star. Overall, Antetokounmpo led Greece with 12 points and added six rebounds in a 70-56 win over Turkey. Nick Calathes of the Memphis Grizzles also had 12 points for Greece.

  • Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post: Drew Gooden will not be able to represent Finland in the upcoming FIBA World Cup because his application for dual citizenship will not be cleared in time for the tournament, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The Wizards big man, whose mother is Finnish, was not on the 12-man roster Finland submitted Wednesday for the competition, according to reports out of Finland. The tournament will begin Aug. 30 in Spain. Finland’s first game will be against the United States. In a recent phone interview, Gooden explained that he grew up with his father, Andrew, in Oakland, Calif., but made summer-long trips to Finland every two years to spend time with his mother’s family. He roamed his grandparents’ farm — situated about four hours north of the Finnish capital of Helsinki — milking cows, hunting, fishing, and tending to chicken coops. The biennial visits left an impression on Gooden, who identifies as Finnish.

  • Staff of The Dallas Morning News: On what he feels like being the only owner speaking out about international basketball -- Mark Cuban: “I’ve never had an owner come up to me about the subject and say I’m wrong. Never. They all thank me. And that’s typical of my role. It’s just not a lot of the owners’ nature to say anything publicly. You better believe OKC was breathing a sigh of relief when Kevin Durant stepped down. There was nobody in Oklahoma saying, ‘Darn. What about the USA and the Olympics?’ Everyone understood that it was the right decision for Kevin Durant. It is about money. We accept that it’s about money.”