First Cup: Monday

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "Over the last two years, there have been hundreds of different theories as to what LeBron James will do when his free agency finally arrives this week. The conjecture has changed routinely after various suitors made trades over the months. Some teams have added a player, but most have accepted making the team worse in the name of clearing that fickle asset known as cap space. The logic behind the moves has sometimes been well-founded. But much of it has missed the point. The biggest misunderstanding of the historic James chase is the psychology of the man himself, which is something that can only be understood by knowing him and how he attacks a problem. This is the central tenet: The decision of where James will play will be made by James and James alone. Not his shoe company. Not his agent. Not the other high-profile free agents. Not his business manager/best friend. Not his friend/idol/world-class rapper. Not his associate/back-channel operator. Not his mother. Not his girlfriend. Not his children. Not his uncles. Not his former coaches. Not his teammates. Not his billionaire business associates. Not a marketing plan. Not the City of Akron. Not the People's Republic of China. James' personality is to decide on his own and then never look back with regret."

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "Few owners in this league have thrown money at winning with such fervor as Gilbert. New York has Times Square and Broadway and Madison Square Garden. Chicago has great restaurants, Michigan Avenue and the legacy of Michael Jordan. The New Jersey Nets have a Russian billionaire owner, good buddy Jay-Z and the eventual lure of Brooklyn, N.Y. Miami has a nearly committed Wade, South Beach and the potential to add James and one more. So what does that leave Cleveland? Gilbert's wallet and James' house. The Cavs' two biggest assets in luring James back to town are Gilbert's willingness to spend and James' affection for his hometown. There are those close to his inner circle who believe it will be hard for James to leave because of how the season ended. If James walks away now, after the way everything unraveled in the span of a week, he'll be viewed as a pariah and hated by many who have spent the past seven years embracing him. Can he live with that? Maybe, maybe not. This will be his home long after his NBA career has ended."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "On July 6, 2004, John Paxson and Jerry Reinsdorf met with Kobe Bryant and his agent at a Newport Beach, Calif., hotel and nearly pulled off the unthinkable. They nearly persuaded him to try to force a sign-and-trade from the Lakers, with Bryant even telling Bulls management he might take a free-agent visit to Chicago three days later. They also kept their surreptitious courtship of the game's best player quiet and out of the media for eight days, which Bryant said impressed him as much as the Bulls' philosophy. Paxson's and Reinsdorf's pitch centered on the organization's no-nonsense approach under then-coach Scott Skiles, the city of Chicago, a young talent base and a chance for Bryant to follow in the footsteps of his idol, Michael Jordan. Fast-forward six years. Multiple Tweets will circulate before the Bulls' sitdown with LeBron James concludes later this week in Ohio. And various league executives' and certified agents' speculation that James and either Chris Bosh or Joe Johnson are definitely signing with the Bulls will prevent this courtship from remaining private. But coincidentally, management's pitch to James will be eerily similar to that for Bryant six years ago. Change Skiles' name to Tom Thibodeau. Substitute Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah for Ben Gordon and Andres Nocioni. The city and Jordan's legacy remains the same."

  • Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com: "Out of all the strange theories as to why LeBron James wouldn't want to sign with the Chicago Bulls this summer, there's always been one that made me scratch my head more than the others: Why would LeBron James want to play in Michael Jordan's shadow? Seriously? ... People from other cities recruiting LeBron make it seem as if he'll never be able to live up to Jordan. My response to those folks is this: Who will? Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player of all time. James will be compared to Jordan no matter where he goes for the rest of his career, just like Kobe Bryant is right now and every other great player that came before him. People make it seem as if a basketball player can't possibly function and be successful in Chicago while living under the constant glare of Jordan's transcendent career. That's funny considering last I checked Derrick Rose was doing just fine in Chicago and has quickly become of the most popular players in the league. Joakim Noah got off to a rough start in the Windy City but now he's beloved and has become one of the most popular athletes in town."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "The Rockets are probably a long shot to land Bosh, but the word I received on Sunday was that they still believe they have a shot in the days before the process really heats up and the elaborate and inventive presentations are made. The chance to play with Wade and the dramatically retooled Heat, or with Bosh with the young and talented Bulls will no doubt be attractive options for Bosh. The Rockets have plenty to sell. He has said he is not a sidekick, but certainly would be in James' or Wade's shadow if he signs up with them. He has said he does not want to play center, but no destination can assure that quite like the Rockets. The Rockets have more parts to do a sign and trade and still have a solid roster, and no team can offer the same stage in the world's biggest hoops mad market. Still, it will take a pretty strong sales job and a bit of a leap of faith. (Can't help but think it might have been a good idea for the Rockets to not to roll over in Toronto the past two seasons.) But the same things that will make the Rockets want Bosh so greatly -- he is an ideal fit in a great variety of ways -- could appeal to him, too. If he can be confident Yao Ming will be Yao again, they would make an ideal partnership."

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "If Wolves fans wonder whether their team -- winner of just 15 games last season and seemingly so far from the playoffs -- can convince a substantial free agent to accept its accumulated salary-cap money, they're not alone. David Kahn said a staff member spoke up in a draft meeting last week and expressed the same doubt. They pulled out a list and went through the possibilities one by one. They crossed off free agents deemed too old to fit the Wolves' rebuilding plans and came up with a short list of players the team's staff collectively considered out of their reach. 'We counted three players we didn't think we could get,' Kahn said. 'By the way, I think you could put us in 92, 93 percent of the league.' Three players? Really? That excluded short list -- presumably James, Wade and Bosh -- would leave the likes of Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, David Lee and Rudy Gay possible. Kahn apparently believes a highly sought player can be gotten even through an outright signing or more likely a sign-and-trade involving Jefferson, Love or both. He also could choose to use his cap space to acquire an already-signed player whose salary another team wants to shed."

  • Michael Hunt of the Journal Sentinel: "It's June 2013, and David Stern has a crisis approaching the gambling ref on his hands. The Milwaukee Bucks and the Oklahoma City Thunder are in the NBA Finals. The sponsors are down to Gilles Frozen Custard, Bill's Tire and Battery of Muskogee and the usual suspects among ambulance-chasing set. But that's Stern's problem. On ESPN5, assigned to carry the series, they're talking about how the Bradley Center finally has some celebrities in the courtside seats. Garry Shandling and Jeremy Piven are showing up to watch Larry Sanders. They're talking about Sanders, who is developing into a Horace Grant-type player to the point that he's wearing goggles for no other reason. They're still talking about Carmelo Anthony, who stunned the league two years before by signing as a free agent with the Bucks. 'Well, who wouldn't want to play with Jennings and Bogut?' Anthony tells Charlie Bell of 'the Cinco.' They're talking about ... OK, I'm back on the medication now. Look, we all know there is no guarantee the Bucks will even return to the playoffs this season, much less make a serious run anytime soon. But you've got to appreciate that they have a direction, and that they're sticking to it. They saw how the Lakers and Celtics made the Finals. If you can't have a Kobe Bryant or even a Paul Pierce, go to the next layer."

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: "General manager Sam Presti has a plan. He has not, does not, will not deviate from the plan. Presti's blueprint is to build a franchise on solid rock. High character, selfless, defensive-minded. That pretty well sums up Aldrich, the Kansas ox who some say will be a defensive difference-maker and others say will be a career role player but no one says ever will be a malcontent. Aldrich has the Thunder's DNA, a favorite term around Camp Presti. I guess you could quibble with Presti's plan, though I don't know why anyone would. But just having a plan puts the Thunder way ahead of the game. Some NBA franchises wake up in a new world every day. Some gut their roster on the pipedream of signing superstars, because that's easier than actually scouting ballplayers or knowing what you're doing. Some can't handle a plan; the Trail Blazers fired general manager Kevin Pritchard the other day even though he has resurrected the Portland franchise with a model that even Presti envies. Every move since Presti took over three Junes ago has been calculated, with DNA and salary cap considerations always in the foreground."

  • Tyler Dunne of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Like most members of the 76ers, Marreese Speights is looking forward to a new beginning. For him and his team. 'Very excited to just get back onto the floor and improve on last year,' Speights said during a basketball clinic he hosted Saturday at the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr for children ages 8-14. After the Sixers' housecleaning, the 6-10 center/forward is ready to get the season under way. In 16 minutes per game last year, his second in the NBA, the 2008 first-round draft pick averaged 8.6 points and 4.1 rebounds. This fall, plenty of new faces will surround Speights, including coach Doug Collins, center Spencer Hawes, swingman Andres Nocioni and No. 2 overall pick Evan Turner. 'It's going to look pretty good,' Speights said. 'It's the NBA. You never know what's going to happen. Evan Turner is a good draft pick for us and coach Doug has been around for a long time so he's a really good coach. It's going to be a good, long season.' "