Thursday, July 25, 2013
First Cup: Thursday
By Nick Borges
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Derek Fisher, who traveled to Oklahoma City from Los Angeles on Wednesday afternoon to sign the contract, will join the Thunder on the veteran’s minimum, or roughly $1.4 million. But unlike his first two stints in town, Fisher this time will have a chance to make his mark from the start of the season. In each of the previous two seasons Fisher was signed midway through the year. Fisher appeared in 20 games as a member of the Thunder during the 2011-12 season and took the court for 24 games last year. … In order to not exceed the tax in the event of a second potential minimum signing, however, the Thunder would have to part with at least one of its three players on non-guaranteed contracts, Daniel Orton, DeAndre Liggins or Hasheem Thabeet.
- J. Michael of CSN Washington: After talking with several people with knowledge of the situation, CSN first reported a deal for the maximum appeared inevitable just before Leonsis' remarks and that talks were underway between Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld and Dan Fegan, Wall's agent, in Las Vegas last week. ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski first confirmed these details: 5 years, $80 million, or somewhere in that ballpark. That means Wall isn't just a "max" player but would be the Wizards' designated player by securing the fifth year. Each team can have only one. So the chatter over the next few days, culminating when the Wizards make it official with a press conference as early as next week, will be inevitable: Is Wall worth it? It all depends on your starting point. If history is a guide, meaning what Wall has accomplished so far, the answer would be undeniably no. He has never been an All-Star, never led his team to the playoffs and until the second half of last season lacked a jump shot. If you're projecting on how good he can be, that answer might be yes. That's what the Wizards are doing here.
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: The Nuggets have a dozen (or, counting unsigned center Timofey Mozgov, a baker's dozen) players who are talented enough to crack coach Brian Shaw's rotation. But how many will get meaningful minutes? This week's addition of backup point guard Nate Robinson accentuated the question. "It's going to be a challenge, but what I like is it promotes healthy competition, and we have a lot of competitive guys who aren't going to shy away from it, or pout about it," Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly said Wednesday. "We lack that traditional superstar, so it's important to have depth at these positions. We're three deep at every position, and I don't think there's much drop-off. So, in lieu of the traditional superstar, we've got to do it a different way." If the season started now, assuming small forward Danilo Gallinari (knee surgery) doesn't return until December, the starting lineup would appear to be Ty Lawson at point guard, Randy Foye or Evan Fournier at shooting guard, Wilson Chandler at small forward — and power forward Kenneth Faried and center JaVale McGee in the frontcourt.
- Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press: Glen Taylor was able to persuade free agent Corey Brewer to sign with the Timberwolves with a phone call. But the Wolves owner doesn't feel it will take a personal call to get free agent Nikola Pekovic to re-sign. "I can and I would, but at this point of time, I've not been asked to nor am I inclined to just because I think I know where the contract negotiations are," Taylor said Wednesday. "And it's not at a critical stage or anything like that." The 6-foot-11, 290-pound Pekovic, 27, played for $4.8 million last season, when he averaged 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in 62 games. He can expect a four-year extension worth about $50 million. Pekovic is a restricted free agent, meaning the Wolves can match any offer he receives elsewhere. But, surprisingly, there have been no other offers, probably because teams figure the Wolves -- and Pekovic -- are intent on remaining in Minnesota. "I think everybody knows we're going to work it out," Taylor said. If necessary, though, Taylor said he would get on the phone to Pekovic.
- Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: He is 7 feet and 275 pounds, and he is medically set to be cleared for full contact in August and to be ready for the start of somebody’s training camp. “Oden” and “knee surgeries” have been the word-association game for so long, it is easy to forget, and bears remembering, that in 82 career NBA games — the equal of one full season — he has averaged 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 58 percent shooting in only 22 minutes per game. His productivity has never been an issue, when healthy. That continues a massive “if” until proved otherwise, but, for Miami, right now, that’s a calculated, smart gamble. Postscript: LeBron’s high school in Akron, Ohio, and the Indianapolis medical center where Oden has done much of his rehabilitation both happen to be named in honor of Saint Vincent. Omen?
- Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: DeMarcus Cousins aspires to be considered one of the best centers in NBA history. The Kings' big man, entering his fourth season, said he'd love the opportunity to work with one of the greatest centers of all time, Shaquille O'Neal. After meeting Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive last month, O'Neal pledged to help "make DeMarcus Cousins the best big man in the game." That's fine with Cousins, but he's still waiting to connect with O'Neal. "I have not heard from Shaq at all," Cousins said. "Not a tweet, DM (direct message), nothing." During his career, and especially with the Los Angeles Lakers, O'Neal taunted the Kings and dominated them on the court.
- David Mayo of MLive.com: Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe will be opponents Thursday night but the effort is steeped in teamwork. The Detroit Pistons big men will play on opposite teams as USA Basketball's intrasquad game wraps up a summer mini-camp with three days of practices in Las Vegas marked by NBA rivals and teammates alike joining together. Drummond and Monroe had dinner Wednesday with Chauncey Billups and gained some familiarity with their new teammate, who also is on the USA Basketball board. They also were struck by seeing some national team incumbents, 2012 Olympic gold medalists Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves, in attendance at Wednesday's final practice even though this isn't a veterans' camp. "Seeing guys like that come in the gym on the last day of practice just to come watch us and show their support, that just shows how serious they are about USA Basketball," Drummond said. "I know they want to see who they're picking to be in their spots, too.
- Mike Tokito of The Oregonian: “This” refers to Monty Williams’ new position as an assistant coach for USA Basketball under Mike Krzyzewski. Williams, about to start his fourth season as New Orleans coach, and Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau slid into the slots vacated by McMillan and Mike D’Antoni, who served under Krzyzewski through two Olympics. … Williams, who has gained a reputation as one of the NBA’s most honest, humble coaches, said the job presents him with a great opportunity not to teach, but to learn. “For me, I’m probably the one who gets the most out of it of anybody here,” he said. “I’m the only coach that hasn’t done anything, and I’m getting the chance to learn from some of the best who’ve ever done it. It’s a great atmosphere for learning, to experience different systems and different ways of doing things. If you can’t come here and get better, you don’t have your eyes open.” The appointment continues Williams’ rapid rise in coaching. After finishing a nine-year NBA career in which he played for five teams, Williams started coaching as an intern with San Antonio in 2004-05, a season in which the Spurs won the NBA title.
- Holly Mackenzie of sportsnet.ca: While it’s been a basketball-intensive stretch, DeMar DeRozan couldn’t be happier. Proud to wear USA across his chest, there isn’t anywhere the 23-year-old swingman would rather be in July. Gesturing around the packed gymnasium, DeRozan explained how the intensity of the workouts with USA Basketball fuels him when it comes to thinking about his upcoming season with the Toronto Raptors. “Stuff like this makes me want to work that much harder,” he said. “Not to do it just for myself, I want to bring it to a team perspective and have the same success that I have individually, team-wise. That’s big. That’s the next step for me, really bringing that out with myself and with my team. Not just myself, the whole team and the whole country of Canada be recognized.” While DeRozan will never be the loud and showy type, he has learned how to use his voice within the Raptors locker room. With some urging from head coach Dwane Casey and the assistance of veteran Rudy Gay, he is ready to help lead his team this season.
- Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: Trey Burke’s summer struggles have been well-documented. The national player of the year went 1 for 12 in his Utah Jazz debut two weeks ago. The point guard who led Michigan to the 2013 NCAA championship game in April missed 18 of 19 3-point attempts and only shot 24 percent in his first four games with his new team three months later. The ESPY award finalist for best male college athlete never found an offensive rhythm against guys who were bigger, quicker and more seasoned than most college athletes he outplayed so often. Derrick Favors’ reaction to all of that? Blah, blah, blah. OK, the Jazz power forward, who watched Burke and Utah play in Florida on TV, didn’t exactly say that. But close. “That don’t worry me, because I had a tough summer league too,” Favors said this week while participating in a Team USA minicamp. “His shot was off, but everybody’s shot will be off.” … Gordon Hayward, also participating with USA Basketball, liked the poise he saw from Burke even while his shot was off. “It didn’t seem like he got rattled too much," he said during a team visit in Orlando, "and that's definitely a good sign.”
- Staff of The Dallas Morning News: Mark Cuban: “I’ll tell you something else, I was shocked when people thought we signed a bad deal with Jose Calderon because hey, the guy shot 50 percent from three. The market for guys who can catch and shoot threes and do nothing else was higher than what we paid for Jose. He knows how to play point guard. He knows how to get Dirk the ball. He knows the game. Never turns it over. Literally, I was like what are people thinking. He may not be the best defender, but it’s not like he was replacing a great defender. I was really surprised by the response to Jose. I think he’s going to make us a much better team. Shawn Marion is going to love playing with Calderon because Shawn knows how to use space better than anybody in the game, and we didn’t have a guy who can get him the ball. Dirk and Vince (Carter) were the two best passers so I think there is just so many things to get excited about. But the No. 1 thing is Dirk has a chance to prepare all summer.”
- Staff of the Houston Chronicle: “Linsanity,” a documentary about Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin has been picked up by distributor Ketchup Entertainment and will be released Oct. 4, Variety reports. The film chronicles the life of Lin, from his childhood in California to his magical month in New York, where the relative unknown and undrafted Harvard product became a household name with the Knicks. Directed by Evan Jackson Leong, the doc will debut in about 20 cities, including New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and was featured at South by Southwest in March.