First Cup: Tuesday

  • Michael Grange of sportsnet.ca: The buzz has been building for years, starting as names like Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph, Andrew Wiggins and many more got whispered about, Tweeted about, YouTubed and ranked when they were in their early teens. Canada is coming. The buzz got a jolt just over a year ago when Steve Nash came on board with Canada Basketball as the general manager of men’s senior national team. The hum got louder when Anthony Bennett became the first Canadian to be taken first overall in the NBA draft last month and Wiggins became the most talked about non-NBA player in the world this past year and the leading candidate to be the No.1 pick in the NBA draft in 2014. Sports Illustrated noticed. ESPN has noticed. The world has noticed. … On Friday arguably the most gifted group of Canadian basketball players yet assembled — true even despite a few key absences — will begin training camp to prepare for the FIBA Americas Championship in Caracas, Venezuela August 30th – Sept. 11th. … Now, finally, the hype hits the floor, and everyone will get to find out if the Golden Age will translate into an international medal of any kind — it’s been a while, after all.

  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: Expectations are sky high given the amount of talent being produced, but Canada Basketball GM Steve Nash is trying to temper expectations. Nash and senior men’s head coach Jay Triano met with the media on Monday morning, ahead of a big summer for Canada’s ascending program. “This really is the golden age of Canadian basketball,” Nash started off. “We plan to build upon this momentum over the next three years as we look toward the 2016 Olympics and beyond. Our immediate goal is to prepare the team over the next month to be in the best possible position to secure a berth to next year’s FIBA World Cup." First, the squad will meet Jamaica for a couple of tune-ups in Toronto next week in advance of the Tuto Marchand Cup, which goes in late August in Puerto Rico. From there, the big test will come when Canada competes at the FIBA Americas Championship in Venezuela in early September with that worlds berth on the line.

  • Eric Koreen of the National Post: Last decade, the whims of Steve Nash and Jamaal Magloire came to define Canada’s senior men’s basketball team. When Nash retired from international competition in 2004, it was all anybody concerned with the team would talk about.When Magloire, summer after summer, declined to represent his country, he was vilified and blamed for Canada’s underwhelming results. As the years went on, the citizenship status of Samuel Dalembert and Matt Bonner became the big issues with the team. If they could not join the team — and Bonner never was able to — all hope was lost. But in 2013, what used to be the headline is now more an addendum. As Canada tries to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Spain, 2013 first-round picks Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynyk cannot play because of shoulder and foot injuries, respectively. Andrew Wiggins, the future face of the program, is not competing as he is preparing for his year with the University of Kansas. Robert Sacre, last seen celebrating on the bench of the Los Angeles Lakers, declined an invitation. And still, the team’s training camp roster includes five players who spent last year on an NBA roster, and a few other young players who could make the league this year.

  • Staff of The Dallas Morning News: Country or club. We hear that phrase associated with soccer players quite often. But this week, new Dallas Mavericks point guard Gal Mekel had to make that tough decision. On Sunday, he notified Israel national coach Arik Shivek that he was pulling out of September’s EuroBasket tournament in order to focus on preparing for his rookie season in the NBA with the Mavs. Shivek was not a happy camper and said Mekel’s decision was based on the pressure he was put under by GM Donnie Nelson and others in the organization. “Mekel told me that he was put in a room with General Manager Donnie Nelson and all the coaches and they told him that as a rookie he would have a better chance of playing more minutes at the start of the season if he takes part in the preliminary training camp as well as the final camp,” Shivek told the JerusalemPost.com. “I was very surprised and so was Gal.” … Despite Shivek’s claims, Mekel took full responsibility for his decision not to play for Israel.

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: Daniel Artest, Metta World Peace’s brother who had a brief professional career, told The Post the Knicks were missing a certain element last season — “a goon.’’ He feels his brother can fill the bill. The Knicks got beat — and beat up — by the Pacers last May in the playoffs. And they signed World Peace partly with the rugged Pacers in mind. “They’ve got a good team but they never had that goon — that defensive goon last season,’’ Daniel told The Post yesterday from his home in Indianapolis. “Someone that’s not afraid. If Ron was on the team, they would have gotten past the Pacers. … “I’m not worried [he’s washed up],’’ Daniel said. “It’s all about heart. The way Ron plays, he will help the Knicks out the way he plays defense and take pressure off Carmelo [Anthony], [who] won’t have to guard the best forward guy anymore. [World Peace] can guard the power forward. He held a lot of power forwards like Zach Randolph, David West and LaMarcus [Aldridge] last season way below their scoring average. He’s still very strong and has a lot of game left.’’

  • Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune: "It’s a good fit for me here," he (Ian Clark) said. The Little Engine That Could, then, fresh out of the Little Train Yard That Sort Of Could, was all about taking full advantage of the open track suddenly in front of him. He pondered that notion long and hard when he was asked about it on Monday. "I wasn’t highly recruited," he said. "But I don’t regret going to Belmont at all. I just want to inspire other people that anything is possible." After eight NBA teams — including Boston, Houston, the Clippers, Golden State, Phoenix, Portland, Chicago and Milwaukee — worked him out in the spring and, ultimately, decided against taking him in the draft, hooking up with the team of his choice brought a big grin at his introduction. Clark, indeed, took a different route to the NBA. But his path to playing time, with the Jazz this coming season, could be more promising for him than it is for a lot of guys who were happy to hear their names called on draft night, an emotion the Jazz’s new guard never felt and never expected.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: This is not to say the trade is a shoo-in to work. Time will tell, but the reaction around the NBA and Planet Orange was predominantly positive. More importantly, the Suns are thinking of the big things while doing the small things. From the time the Suns claimed Luis Scola on an amnesty deal last summer, it was clear he would be moved when he became trade-eligible this month. He belonged on a contender, and the Suns’ victorious amnesty bid, also the calculative work of Bukstein, put Scola on a good-value contract that made him attractive for barter. Indiana had expressed interest in Scola for months, and McDonough squeezed a value return last week by taking on Gerald Green in order to acquire Miles Plumlee and another first-round pick, which again is a big-picture move if a trade for a star becomes possible and demands a boatload of picks. It is too early to declare all the decisions a success, especially after a lowered bar, but the newfound aggressiveness and conviction is to be commended. Even the return on the Steve Nash trade that was questioned here for being low draft picks with rare impact might soon need a re-examination. It did not hand the enemy a championship. Archie Goodwin is a promising No. 29 pick. And maybe, just maybe, that “other” first-round pick (in 2015) acquired from the Lakers — which carries only top-five protection — will not be so low after all.

  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer: The Sixers have the most salary-cap space in the NBA, and all signs point to their making more trades. "We will be an attractive trading partner for teams around the league all year - not just for players, but for the cap room that we have," Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie said. The team is about $16.6 million under the $58.679 million salary cap for this season. It could have as much as $36 million available next summer. "That kind of flexibility will give us real options," Hinkie added. Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes, and Evan Turner provide the best trade value in the pursuit of young players and expiring contracts.

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: Well, it was an interesting hour, not horribly enlightening but interesting, that a group of us got to spend with Tim Leiweke and a few of his Henchpeople on Friday morning when he visited with our editorial board. The one thing that stood out to me, and I don’t think I’m talking too much out of turn here, is that he says he realizes now that he’s not the story, nor the focus and that, yes, he probably came off a bit brusque and a bit — I think was his word — bullish – in his first few weeks on the job. And the one thing I was glad to hear was him suggest that he indeed didn’t treat Bryan Colangelo as well as he should have when that departure was happening. I think Tim’s over-exuberance at making the change atop HOTH World got a bit in the way, his excitement to start something new with Masai Ujiri made it look like he was gleeful at dumping Bryan and a couple of shots that were taken were actually regrettable.

  • John Helsley of The Oklahoman: Marcus Smart's invitation to last week's Team USA minicamp in Las Vegas, involving almost exclusively NBA pros, wasn't just some token nice gesture to college kid. It was a calculated inclusion for a player already owning an international basketball résumé — and building on it to project an even bolder international future. Jim Boeheim, the Hall of Fame coach of Syracuse who is also serving as the committee chair and assisting head coach Mike Krzyzewski with Team USA, has targeted Smart for the squad, both now and later. “He's just a competitor,” Boeheim said. “He gets things done. And he wins.” Boeheim has watched Smart closely, with the Oklahoma State sophomore directing back-to-back USA wins at the FIBA U19 World Championship the past two years. “We hadn't won the 19-and-under in a while, and we win two with him,” Boeheim said. “He wins games. He's an unbelievable competitor. It's been fun having him on our teams.”