Monday, July 15, 2013
First Cup: Monday
By Nick Borges
- Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: Finally, Derrick Rose’s left knee wasn’t the main topic of conversation for Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. Speaking to the media on Saturday for the first time since lead assistant coach and close friend Ron Adams was let go, Thibodeau did his best to dismiss the idea there’s a rift between him and general manager Gar Forman. “No, we’re fine,” Thibodeau said before the Bulls played the Memphis Grizzlies in their first NBA Summer League game. It was convincing enough to quiet the speculation for now, but Thibodeau didn’t sound thrilled by Adams’ removal. “As I tell our players, I tell everyone, we’re not looking backwards, we’re looking ahead, and we’re getting ready for next season,” Thibodeau said. “That’s all we’re thinking about.” Asked if he felt good about where he and Forman are, Thibodeau said, “Yeah. We’re getting ready for next season. We want to be a championship-caliber team, and that’s all we’re thinking about.”
- Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: Metta World Peace wouldn't mind playing for the Clippers now that he's a free agent. "Of course I'm interested in Clippers," World Peace texted to The Times on Sunday. "I have to meet them first." The Clippers also are interested in speaking with World Peace, said NBA executives who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. There have been reports the New York Knicks are also interested in World Peace, who was waived by the Lakers under the amnesty provision on Thursday. Sunday at 2 p.m. Pacific time was the deadline for teams with salary cap room to bid on World Peace. But no team did, allowing him to clear waivers and negotiate with the team of his choice. The most the Clippers can pay a player with World Peace's experience level is $1.4 million. He still will get the $7.7 million owed by the Lakers.
- Marc Berman of the New York Post: Metta World Peace is free to come home — 14 years later. World Peace is a free agent after clearing amnesty waivers last night, and the Knicks officially expressed interest to the agents of the former Ron Artest at the Las Vegas Summer League. The Knicks are trying to schedule a meeting with World Peace in Las Vegas today or tomorrow. Agent Marc Cornstein said nothing is set in stone on the meeting yet, but said there’s “mutual interest.’’ World Peace, when asked if he’s coming to Vegas to sit down with the Knicks, responded via text message to The Post, “No, going to watch Floyd Mayweather train.” Cornstein planned to speak with World Peace last night to go over his options. Knicks coach Mike Woodson acknowledged the club likes what the Queensbridge product can bring. “I like his skill set a lot,’’ Woodson said. “A lot of teams liked his skill set over the years. He does a little bit of everything.’’
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: It's been a polarizing summer for Thunder fans. Many wonder why the team isn't doing more. But those fans seem to have forgotten a major element that defined the Thunder's season in the two months since OKC was knocked out of the playoffs in the second round. Russell Westbrook suffered a season-ending knee injury. Had the team's star point guard not gone down with a fluke injury, who knows how the Thunder's season would have played out? That's the main reason the Thunder hasn't made any sweeping changes or departed from its process. When Westbrook returns, the Thunder is expected again take its place at the top of the Western Conference. But money matters also have shaped the Thunder's summer.
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Hakeem Olajuwon, a key part of the Rockets’ recruiting efforts to land Howard and a large part of the festivities Saturday after Howard signed, will rejoin the Rockets in an official capacity for the first time since he spent the final season of his career with the Toronto Raptors in 2002. Olajuwon’s duties and title are being discussed, and he will spend much of the year at his home in Jordan. But he will work with Rockets interior players, as he does with big men around the NBA each offseason, as a team employee. “We are going to bring him in as full-time as is possible,” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said Sunday. “It’s not done, but we have mutual interest to get it done, and we’ve had some early discussions. “We want him to work with Dwight and Omer (Asik), and he wants to do that.” Olajuwon, 50, has worked with Howard in two offseasons, and Howard has spoken about training with him again, this time as the latest in the line of Rockets All-Star centers.
- Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: From Sports Illustrated to ESPN to CBS, all the major U.S. media players were left in awe of the Raptors big man who made his debut in the final game of Day 2 at the Las Vegas Summer League. That it came in a loss to a Miami Heat squad that likely doesn’t have a player who will make an NBA squad this year is beside the point. What everyone in attendance saw was a player who has taken a solid rookie season and is already giving every indication his sophomore season will dwarf it. The more astute critics were careful to point out that Valanciunas’ dominance is coming against players who for the most part are a couple of years behind him in their development. Normally Valanciunas would have played at least once in the summer league already considering he was drafted in 2011. But playing another year in Lithuania before his buyout was complete (the 2011 summer league was cancelled anyway, a victim of the lockout) and then helping Lithuania to qualify for the Olympics and play in them last summer kept him away. So unlike many others, Valanciunas isn’t here to open eyes or audition for a job. He has got the job already based on that solid rookie season. What Valanciunas is here to do is take the next step and — as harsh as this may sound — that means crushing the competition that stands opposed.
- Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: There has been a lot of enthusiasm surrounding the Trail Blazers’ addition of Thomas Robinson this offseason. General manager Neil Olshey labeled it an “absolute steal” and the consensus — both locally and nationally — seems to be that the Blazers scooped up Robinson for nothing when they acquired him for a pair of second-round draft picks and a couple of international prospects. But after two uneven summer league appearances, including Sunday’s 81-63 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, that opinion has a fresh perspective. Robinson’s effort and energy have been inconsistent. His raw and beastly athleticism have been more imposing than productive. Far too often, he’s resorted to one-on-one offensive play rather than embracing the dirty work he supposedly relishes. … But two summer league games is the only body of work Blazers fans have so far, and it’s been a hit-and-miss experience. Robinson is a bundle of hustle and muscle, who — at 6-foot-10 and 240-pounds — is a hulking, physical force. He thrives on contact and rugged play and, thanks to a 7-3 wingspan and a 35-inch vertical leap, he excels at rebounding and defense. What’s more, he loves both.
- Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: Atlanta's Schröder looks eerily like.... Rajon Rondo. Their mannerisms are quite similar and Schröder causes the same type of defensive havoc as Rondo, at least in summer league. Schröder plays aggressively on defense and also has an uncanny confidence and swagger. The Celtics seriously considered taking Schröder with the 16th pick but traded up to take Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk, a selection they are thrilled with after his impressive summer league performance. Schröder finished with a Rondo-like 9 points on 4-for-12 shooting, 8 rebounds and 4 steals in Atlanta's 75-71 win over Miami.
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Don Newman, however, kept Otto Porter Jr. as his starting shooting guard, and the result was another rough outing offensively for the 6-foot-9 rookie more suited to play small forward. Porter once again got off to a decent start, scoring eight points in the first half as he caught a backdoor pass from Jan Vesely for a layup, made a mid-range jumper and even threw down two rare fast-break dunks. But he went scoreless in the second half, missing all five of his shot attempts, and finished 4 of 13 from the field in the Wizards’ 82-69 loss. “It’s hard to get that comfortability right now, playing different positions, trying to figure it out, trying to execute,” Porter said. “It’s different.” … The Wizards certainly aren’t panicking since they are obviously experimenting with Porter. In the regular season, Porter usually will be surrounded by better offensive players, which will allow his skills as a do-it-all complementary piece to stand out. Newman said the Wizards are “fishing around” to figure out how to best use Porter when the regular season begins. Coming from a structured system at Georgetown, Porter is trying to find his way in a much more wide-open summer league style. More of a reactionary, adjusting player, Porter is still trying to get a feel for the strengths and weaknesses of his teammates.
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Fast as Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford hopes Cody Zeller develops, he’s wary of overloading the rookie with data. “What we’re doing with him is a little different than the other three guys’’ under contract, Clifford said following an 86-80 summer-league victory over the Dallas Mavericks. “We’re just kind of letting him feel his way. He’s so smart, and the (NBA) rules are different. He’s so bright that you can see every time you practice, he figures something else out.’’ Zeller, the fourth overall pick, finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds and a block. He improved dramatically from his first game, when he totaled eight points and five rebounds. Some of that was simply about shooting. He missed a bunch of jumpers Friday against the San Antonio Spurs that fell through Sunday. But it was also about Zeller’s comfort level in the high-post sets the Bobcats are implementing to let him be a passer-shooter.
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: So where does this leave the Bucks and Brandon Jennings? He has served as Milwaukee's starter for the past four seasons since being selected 10th overall in the 2009 draft. And he averaged 17.5 points and a career-best 6.5 assists last season while continuing to struggle with his shooting percentage (39.9%). Jennings was in contention for an all-star berth at the halfway point of the season but he struggled at the end of the season and in a first-round playoff series against Miami. The fact the Bucks aggressively sought another point guard could put a serious damper on Jennings' thoughts of playing a fifth season in Milwaukee. But it's the way restricted free agency works, a painful process at best. The Bucks made a $4.3 million qualifying offer to Jennings, so they still have the ability to match any offer the 23-year-old receives from another team. So far Jennings has received no offers. A sign-and-trade deal with Jennings also could still be done, and the Bucks could look at other point guard options through trades or the free-agent market.
- Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune: If Flip Saunders had behaved this way when he was 5 years old, someone would have prescribed Ritalin. The man is on fire. As the Timberwolves’ personnel boss discussed his many moves on Friday, he could barely sit still. And after the news conference, when the room had emptied, he gushed with the kind of optimism that most team executives try to keep hidden beneath a layer of professional caution. “I’m really excited about what we have,” Saunders said. “I don’t want to put any expectations on us. And the reason I don’t want to put any expectations on us is I don’t want to make those expectations too low. I do believe if we stay healthy, the way Rick [Adelman] coaches and with the system we have, that we could be a very scary team.” He’s right. With the addition of defensive-minded wing Corey Brewer, Saunders and Adelman, the Wolves coach, have built the deepest, most versatile roster in franchise history. In this case, “franchise history” isn’t too impressive. Look at it another way: This year’s Wolves will have a bench that could have beaten the starting fives of a few recent teams. If Adelman starts Brewer at small forward for defensive purposes, the starting five will be Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Brewer, Kevin Loveand Nikola Pekovic. The next seven players will be J.J. Barea, Chase Budinger, Derrick Williams, Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng, Ronny Turiaf and Alexey Shved.
- Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: It's official: The Spurs' main starting five last season will be back. The Spurs on Saturday announced the re-signing of center Tiago Splitter. The Spurs had a good idea of Splitter's market value, and they weren't surprised when they learned the Trail Blazers were preparing an offer sheet of four years at $36 million for the restricted free agent. When word reached Portland that the Spurs intended to match their offer, the Blazers withdrew from the process, and Splitter agreed to the same terms to stay in San Antonio. Of those on the Spurs' playoff roster, only forward DeJuan Blair, guard/forward Tracy McGrady and guard Gary Neal remain unsigned for next season. It's highly unlikely Blair or McGrady will be back, but Neal could return if he doesn't get a restricted free agent offer the Spurs deem too costly. Portland's planned offer for Splitter was deemed well within the parameters for starting centers with skills similar to the Brazilian. “I don't think you ever look at anything as 'no matter the price tag,'” general manager R.C. Buford said, “but we had expectations of what the market was going to bring. It was clear there was a market for Tiago; we had the opportunity to match because of his being a restricted free agent.”
- Gil LeBreton of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Tank the season? Trade Dirk? Start over? No, no, no, no and no. And an extra no on the trade-Nowitzki thing. On a radio talk show the other day, a host gushed about the largesse of draft choices that a trade of Dirk would bestow. No doubt Nowitzki could, even at age 35. But what kind of team, exactly, would be interested in trading for an aging, 11-time All-Star? A contending team that would view Nowitzki as its final missing piece. A team willing to take on the league’s second-highest annual salary, $22.7 million. In other words, a playoff team, not a lottery one. And if the Mavericks wouldn’t be picking from one of the first three places in the draft, what would be the odds of finding another Dirk Nowitzki? I’m not an old-school guy, really. But I do bristle under my button-down collar about this. I didn’t want to see Mike Modano skate in anything but a Stars uniform. Dirk, playing for the Houston Rockets, would similarly jar the senses. Fortunately, there is no apparent local movement afoot to package Nowitzki for either a bag of NBA beans or the family cow. It’s hard to imagine that owner Mark Cuban has ever seriously considered it.