First Cup: Tuesday

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "To a certain extent, those of us who have watched LeBron James play over the last seven years have been spoiled. I freely admit it. If he leaves via free agency in July, it's not going to be the same at Quicken Loans Arena. I covered the Cavaliers before James burst upon the scene. It was not fun to cover a beat that was almost irrelevant. I still tried to uncover good stories and tried to write good features, but one could only write about Ricky Davis and Darius Miles so much. When James arrived, interest picked up dramatically -- from the readers and this sportswriter. ... I'm not going to sit here and tell you where he'll land. It could be in Cleveland. Heck, he could sign with the Los Angeles Clippers for all I know. Anyone that tells you they know where he'll sign is lying. I don't think James knows right now. But if he decides he wants to play elsewhere next year, I'll tell you it's not going to be the same for me, either. I don't want to sound like a homer here, but it was an unbelievable ride."

  • Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News: "The teams have more than history and banners and Hollywood fans at one end and a parquet floor at the other. They have players who get what it's all about, and so many NBA teams simply don't. They also remind us that there is no democracy in the NBA. Since the Lakers-Celtics rivalry was renewed in 1984, seven franchises have won titles. That's seven in 26 years. That leaves a lot of folks on the sidelines patiently waiting their turns. But this series also should serve notice to those wannabes that the dream is out there to be realized. As recently as 2006, when Miami and Dallas broke up the elite's monopoly on the Finals, the Lakers were a mess with Kobe Bryant pouting his way through a 31-point Game 7 loss to Phoenix in the opening round. It wasn't until nearly two years later that a trade of the Gasol brothers with Memphis brought Pau to Los Angeles and had Western Conference general managers crying foul. Sometimes greatness is just one trade away. The Mavericks hoped that was the case when Jason Kidd got here in 2008. They hoped that was the case when Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood arrived from Washington in February. Maybe it's going to take one more deal. Maybe Erick Dampier's expiring contract holds the key. You never know. Who would have thought that a couple of picks and the rights to Marc Gasol held the key for the Lakers?"

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: "The Lakers now have won the Westalmost as many times (31) as not (33). The Lakers, not the Yankees, are America's most constant winner. That's why I think Sam Presti is standing on solid rock with his master plan, which is hard for some to stomach but will be the best thing for Oklahoma City. The Thunder general manager is not trying to build an NBA champion. He's trying to build a perennial winner. There's a difference. A big difference. Try to win a championship, and Presti might shoot the moon. Might upset the Thunder's carefully constructed payroll with a flier on a big-name free agent. Might deviate from the plan that has brought the Thunder so far so fast, seeing a Western Conference with his baby Boomers gaining ground fast on aging contenders. But Presti, if he sticks to his word, won't be tempted. He'll stay committed to the long-term. ... Presti's message is fundamental. He's not going to mortgage the future for the present. Makes you wish he was in Congress, but it also should make you glad he's running the local NBA squad."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Amar'e Stoudemire wasted little time showing that he will be expected to be treated as a worthy member of the free agency super Class of '10, announcing he plans to join the stars summit. In some ways, though, there seems something right about his uncertainty. For his own career and stardom, he cannot do better than to continue to run pick-and-roll with Steve Nash and play for the Suns in the modified seven-seconds-or-less offense. He insists, however, that he wants to find the best chance to win a championship. His best chance still might be in Phoenix, but he can understandably want to take time to decide that, even if he did give decidedly mixed messages on the topic when he also said that the Suns could have won it all this season. There still seems plenty of need to simply be treated as one of the league's great stars. But even though he is on the best team of the summer's most coveted free agents, he can understandably want to decide if the Suns will be the best team he can find, rather than just the team that can make him look best. The Suns' decision has become clear. They need to sign Stoudemire, even to a max contract, and ride this thing as long as possible."

  • Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun: "The writing was on the wall that this was going to be a disastrous year for Hedo Turkoglu and the Raptors when he showed up at training camp and team officials told everyone not to expect much from the club’s new star small forward, at least early on, because he was fatigued and sore from playing international basketball in the summer. Boo-friggin-hoo. Turkoglou was treated with kid gloves from the start and settled into an existence of entitlement and apathy -- partying when he was supposed to be hurt, his petulant and immature act when he was being interviewed by popular Raptors broadcaster Jack Armstrong, his snatching a phone away from a fan who just wanted a picture. This is the guy who gladly accepted $53 million US from the Raptors and now he says he’s lost his enthusiasm for the city and wants out. Basically, it’s everyone else’s fault that he had a bad season."

  • Michael Grange of the Globe and Mail: "It’s safe to say Hedo Turkoglu, who was given the first three weeks of the season off and at various times earned the franchise’s ire for some off-the-court issues, including one in which he confiscated a fan’s cellphone camera in a night club and another when he was seen in Toronto’s Yorkville district after missing a game with the flu, isn’t the franchise president’s favourite under-achieving $10-million-a-year player these days. But apart from the attention Turkoglu generated, it’s hard to see how it has significantly changed the situation the Raptors face this summer. Turkoglu’s trade overture just means he’s in agreement with the Raptors, who would certainly have been looking to deal the 31-year-old and the $43-million he has remaining on his contract as he comes off one of the least productive statistical seasons of his 10-year career. The options for Colangelo are a cattle call of the NBA’s worst contracts -- the four years and $80-million the Washington Wizards owe Gilbert Arenas come to mind, as do the four years and $51-million the Philadelphia 76ers owe Elton Brand. None of which concerns the four National Collegiate Athletic Association stars the Raptors were looking over on Monday: guards Avery Bradley of Texas and Willie Warren of Oklahoma, and forwards Stanley Robinson of Connecticut and Gordon Hayward of Butler, who put himself on the draft map by leading the small Indiana school to within a rimmed out, half-court three-pointer of the NCAA title."

  • Steve Yanda of The Washington Post: "In addition to holding the No. 1 overall pick in the June 24 draft, the Wizards also possess the 30th and 35th picks. Greivis Vasquez -- who was joined at the workout by Gonzaga's Matt Bouldin, Michigan State's Raymar Morgan, UTEP's Derrick Caracter, Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado, and Devin Sweetney (Riverdale Baptist) of St. Francis (Pa.) -- said he's prepared to step out of the spotlight that followed him throughout a college career in which he became one of the most prolific scorers in Terrapins history. 'I know my role is going to be different on an NBA team than it was in college," Vasquez said. "It's not about me playing 48 minutes and taking big-time shots. It's just maybe coming off the bench and being a backup point guard and learning from some veteran guys and getting better until eventually I become the starting point guard of a team. It's going to take me a little while. ... It's not like I got to go to a team and be the starting point guard right away. No, I got to work my way up. I want to earn everything I get in the NBA, so obviously, I want to come to a team like this if I can and work hard and help the team win games by maybe being the guy that comes to practice and gets guys better, or whether I back up somebody, Gilbert Arenas or somebody, playing at the point guard position or the two-guard.' "

  • Jerry Briggs of the Express-News San Antonio Express-News: "Rarely do the sons of NBA players duplicate the success of their famous fathers, but Austin Rivers may have a shot. Winter Park coach David Bailey said Rivers, who will start his senior year of high school in the fall, is 'as good as advertised -- and possibly even better.' 'There is not a whole lot he cannot do,' Bailey said. 'It's really amazing to see.' In San Antonio, Rivers will attempt to make the 12-man USA team for the FIBA Americas U18 Championships for Men, set for June 26-30 at St. Mary's. Elliott said he is happy to hear that Rivers, his former down-the-street neighbor, has enjoyed so much success. Elliott is curious to see how the young man will fare in the USA team tryouts. 'You see a lot of kids that don't really want to follow in their parents' footsteps,' Elliott said. 'But you could see that all of Doc's boys looked up to him — big time. I would have been surprised if his sons hadn't played basketball.' Jeremiah Rivers, Austin's older brother, plays for the Indiana Hoosiers. Callie, his older sister, is on the volleyball team at Florida. Spencer, a younger brother, plays basketball and is going into the eighth grade in Winter Park."

  • Brad Rock of the Deseret News: "Seldom a day passes without a coach or player saying, 'It is what it is,' which goes right along with its twin catchphrase, 'You are what you are.' Clippers assistant coach and former NBA player John Lucas claims he once had to explain those concepts to his son, who wanted to be a rap artist. But Lucas didn't think rapping about street life was a great move for a kid from the wealthy suburbs. At a YMCA fund-raiser in Salt Lake City last week, Lucas said his son 'wanted to be like the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.' Added Lucas wryly, 'We do live in Bellaire … Texas. I said, 'Son, you got a swimming pool. You drive a Hummer. And you want to rap about the street? Somebody's gonna want to (throttle) you. You got to deal with the way life is.'?' Which brings up another truism to live by: You drive what you drive."