First Cup: Friday

  • Branson Wright of The Plain Dealer: "Pat Riley leads a group that includes Managing General Partner Micky Arison and Andy Elisburg, senior vice president/assistant general manager of basketball operations. They gathered Thursday evening near the far right corner in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel lounge. The atmosphere was casual. Riley and members of his group were barely audible from a distance of six-feet away. The discussion was certainly about Friday's meeting with James. When approached, Riley asked for a moment while he continued to conduct business. Shortly after two members of Riley's party called it a night, Leon Rose, James' agent, entered the room and joined Riley and Elisburg. More than likely, Rose will participate in today's meeting with the Heat, but apparently neither side could wait. So why the rush? Rose and Riley talked for nearly 45 minutes. Their conversation ended around 12:20 A.M. Just before leaving, Riley would only address the Cleveland Cavaliers new coaching hire. 'I'm not surprised,' said Riley, about new Cavaliers coach Byron Scott. 'He's a good choice. He'll do a wonderful job.' "

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "The Should-Melo-sign? debate has consumed Denver sports talk this week, and the Nuggets did some talking of their own Thursday, even using the brow-raising 'E' word. Mark Warkentien, the team's vice president of basketball operations, said by phone that he wants Carmelo Anthony to be like a John Elway. 'Win a championship and play in one place forever,' Warkentien said. 'Bill Russell, David Robinson, you go to one place and you're the brand. There's a special category for that type of guy.' Anthony is pondering a three-year contract extension worth around $65 million. The offer is good until next July 1. If Melo doesn't sign, he will become a free agent that summer -- the same time the owners and players are set to battle over a revised collective bargaining agreement, which could shake up the length and strength of player contracts. If Melo turns the team down this summer, the last resort could be trading him, a source told The Denver Post's Mark Kiszla earlier this week."

  • Richard Sanomir of The New York Times: "The Knicks and the Nets hope that LeBron James’s talents includereversing their embarrassingly low TV ratings. If James signed with either team, it would allow the MSG Network or the YES Network to boost advertising rates and eventually increase subscriber fees. A vigorous, competitive Knicks franchise could elevate the stock price of its parent company, Madison Square Garden, which also owns MSG. Recent trading in Garden shares has not firmly reflected investors’ optimism or pessimism about the prospect of signing James. On Wednesday, the stock price closed at $19.67 a share. ... Lee Berke, an industry consultant and former MSG executive, said that the James Effect could create the leverage for MSG or YES to sell advertising at rates up to 20 percent higher than now; push subscriber fees to higher levels than usually anticipated when affiliation deals with cable, satellite and telephone companies expire; and help sell club seats and luxury boxes at the under-renovation Garden or the under-construction Barclays Center in Brooklyn. But crucial to those optimistic situations is whether James helps the Knicks or the Nets win consistently. 'A team with LeBron that doesn’t win, doesn’t have leverage,' Berke said."

  • Michael Wallace of The Miami Herald: "Next stop on the 2010 Free Agency Recruiting Tour for the Miami Heat? LeBronland. After a whirlwind first day of free agency that saw the Heat's deligation start with an early morning meeting in Los Angeles with Amare Stoudemire and end with a Thursday night session in Chicago with Chris Bosh, team president Pat Riley has his sights set on the top prize in the talent-rich market. Riley and a group that includes Heat vice president Nick Arison, coach Erik Spoelstra and former center Alonzo Mourning is scheduled to meet with LeBron James during a morning session in downtown Cleveland. Riley was hopeful that his recruiting party would have included at least two other members -- Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. But after a day of pitches that fell short of landing commitments from some of its other top free agent targets, the Heat swoops in on James hoping to impress the most sought-after player on the market."

  • Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post: "Given that LeBron has said more than once that he wants to win championships, plural, and that he wants to be considered one of the greatest players ever, his decision ought to come down essentially to one thing: Where can he win and win quickly? The only way to enhance his brand, the only way to grow the business of Being LeBron, the only way to take his place alongside the greats in his profession is to win championships. He'll have more pressure to win next year than any player has ever had in his life, and he might as well make his call with that in mind. He's completed seven NBA seasons already without winning a title. Any examination of league history tells us that even though LeBron's only 25 years old, he's still got no more than eight additional years (presuming relative health) of great basketball in him. Nobody in the history of the game has had more than that. It's not the age, it's the mileage. At the age of 25 Michael Jordan had played in 312 regular season games. At the age of 25 LeBron has played in 548 regular season games -- and LeBron won't be 26 until December. In other words, LeBron's window of opportunity for winning multiple championships, which is how legendary greatness is measured in the NBA, isn't as wide open as his age suggests."

  • Bill Lubinger of The Plain Dealer: "Former Cavalier Devin Brown thinks Byron Scott is the perfect new coach for the Cavs and the sort of guy who just might persuade free agent LeBron James to re-sign with the team. 'He demands respect,' Brown said of Scott, his coach for two-plus seasons in New Orleans. 'I really think he was a great hire for Cleveland. I think it was a move to show LeBron that they are serious about what they're trying to do. I really think it's a great fit.' The 49-year-old Scott was officially hired to replace Mike Brown in a release that came just after midnight this morning. A three-time NBA champion as a player with the Los Angeles Lakers, Scott also coached the New Jersey Nets to the NBA Finals twice. He has been known to use his championship rings to inspire players, as he did a couple of seasons ago when the Hornets were getting ready for the playoffs. 'He brought in those rings and said, ‘This is what we're chasing,' ' said Brown, a free agent who played with the Cavs in 2007-08. "He told us: ‘This is it. This is what it's all about.' 'That can't do anything but motivate you.' Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert obviously hopes it will work."

  • Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com: "In the end, the fly in the ointment was too big to ignore. Near the end of Phil Jackson's meeting with the media last week, when he claimed he was leaning toward retirement, he smiled when the idea of completing his fourth three-peat of his career. 'My intention was that if we won the second time, to go for a three-peat would be natural,' Jackson said. 'It would be tough not to go for another championship in that three-peat realm, which is ridiculous. That's one of those things that's sitting out there that's still a fly in the ointment.' Well, in the end, the fly and the three-peat won. They were always going to win. Anyone who knows Jackson knew the ointment didn't stand a chance no matter which way he was leaning."

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "Look at Cleveland today, Orlando. And when you do, remember this: You are looking in the mirror. You see all of this uncertainty and anxiety, frustration and consternation surrounding LeBron James and whether he will leave "The Cleve" and send the Cavaliers franchise into a death spiral? This, friends, is the Orlando Magic in three years. Actually, it's the Orlando Magic in two years. That's the year before Dwight Howard's contract runs out and the army of NBA writers, broadcasters, bloggers and tweeters begin asking Howard if he is going to stay in Orlando or go to a bigger city with brighter lights? This is why the Magic are now officially on the clock to win a championship. Magic ownership and team president Bob Vander Weide are on the clock. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy is on the clock. Magic GM Otis Smith is on the clock. Stuff, the Fat Guy, the Magic dancers and the blue-haired guy who shoots the T-shirt bazooka are on the clock, too. To paraphrase that astute NBA analyst Larry the Cable Guy: Get 'er done, boys. The future of the franchise depends on it. You're probably thinking this column is way too premature since Dwight still has three years remaining on his contract. You couldn't be more wrong. Only losers wait until the last minute to take a proactive stance (see Magic's insulting lowball offer to Shaq 15 years ago before management finally came to its senses when it was too late)."

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: "Rudy Gay is a 23-year-old small forward who has never made an all-star team, never carried the Grizzlies to a .500 record and never fully tapped into his enormous athletic potential. Is he worth a five-year, $82 million contract? He had better be. He had better stop disappearing during long stretches of games. He had better play with intensity and focus on defense. He had better emerge as the true alpha dog whom coaches and fans have been wishing for ever since his college days. Otherwise, the Grizzlies will have made a potentially debilitating error in judgment Thursday. As I told you in Thursday's column, Mike Heisley wasn't about to let another owner come in and take Gay from the Grizzlies. He made certain of it Thursday by presenting Gay with an offer he would have been insane not to accept."

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: "Reports surfacing that the Blazers got serious about chasing Chris Paul in the last week. A reported offer of Joel Przybilla, Andre Miller, Nic Batum, Jerryd Bayless and the No. 22 pick for Paul and Emeka Okafor was a nice start. New Orleans apparently loved the notion, but shied away from pulling the trigger. That's a lot of youth and $14 million in expiring contracts as trade bait for the Blazers. Source close to Paul told me on Thursday that the guard remains hopeful that New Orleans will still try to build around him. That doesn't mean the door is shut, though. Same source told me Paul covets the opportunity to play alongside a star such as Roy, but as for the offer, 'it would take more work from Portland' to get it done. Stay tuned on this one."

  • Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press: "The dust will settle. We promise. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, possibly not next week. But by the end of the month, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and the NBA's other top free agents will find their landing spots, and that will allow the Pistons to do what they must: Trade Rip Hamilton. It's time. Hamilton has no interest in playing for a rebuilding team. Ben Gordon and Hamilton played nice, but it's time for Gordon to play more. The Pistons need to swing a deal before it gets ugly. Deal Hamilton, clear his salary, hopefully pick up some talent, and move on. Both sides will be better off. Hamilton, 32, has three years left on his contract, at $12.5 million a season. That is more than he is worth, but I still believe the Pistons can and will find somebody to take the contract."

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Earl 'The Pearl' Monroe still follows the game closely. You can draw parallels between Monroe's trade to the Knicks and Vince Carter's trade from the New Jersey Nets to the Orlando Magic. Monroe's transition to the Knicks didn't go smoothly that first season, and Carter's transition to the Magic hit a brick wall in the Magic's Eastern Conference finals loss to the Boston Celtics. Monroe thinks Carter needs to play better for the Magic to win a title. 'I saw articles somewhere that Carter had come here and he understood what his position was, to really augment [ Dwight] Howard,' Monroe said. 'But they really needed somebody stepping up from the outside. Howard can do so much up underneath, but you've got to have a guard to lead him. You had a good point guard, but still you've got to have somebody who can take over a game. That's what I felt that his [Carter's] role should have been on this particular team.' "

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "The nickname 'Born Ready' is tattooed on Lance Stephenson's right arm. He was anointed with that name by the public address announcer at Rucker Park in New York. He also starred in an online reality show of the same name. Stephenson appeared to be an eventual sure-fire lottery pick coming out of high school as New York City's all-time leading scorer, but character issues on and off the court turned off some people. The Indiana Pacers are giving Stephenson, their second-round pick, a chance. But there's a stipulation that comes with it. Stephenson has to be a model citizen because the Pacers will be watching him closely. The Pacers have spent the past few years cleaning up their public image and have no intention of letting one player set them back again. 'Whoever said I have a bad attitude really doesn't know me,' Stephenson said Thursday. 'I'm definitely a coachable player. That's not me.' ... 'We did our due diligence from the standpoint of background checks, psychological testing, interviews, interviews with people from his high school days all the way through,' Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said. 'We felt very comfortable in drafting him and feel that he'll be just fine with what he's going to bring to the team.' "

  • Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Coaching has been in Donyell Marshall's blood. The University of Connecticut has been in his blood. Karl Hobbs, the basketball coach at George Washington, offered the perfect combination. Marshall, 37, left his position as a basketball analyst for Comcast SportsNet, to join Hobbs' staff as an assistant. Hobbs is a former assistant at UConn. '[Marshall] was definitely going to go into coaching at some point,' said Andy Miller, Marshall's agent. 'UConn ties run deep. This heated up in the last 2-3 weeks.' Marshall, who appeared in 25 games for the 76ers in 2008-09, replaces Brian Ellerbee, who accepted a similar position at DePaul."

  • Steve Pardo of The Detroit News: "The credit card sales kept coming Thursday and liquidators kept busy making change as hundreds of people came through the home of the legendary late Detroit Pistons coach Chuck Daly, buying both mementos and the mundane. 'We're just big fans of Chuck Daly and we wanted to see where he lived and what he had. I wish I could have met him,' said Robert Farhat, a 34-year-old Grosse Pointe resident who was joined by his co-worker Joe Tonio, 28, from Macomb Township. The pair came on their lunch hour and waited in line with about 20 others before getting into the house. ... Some people came because they're fans, said Andrew Adelson, Everything Goes president. And some, he believes, came just for a peek into the private life of Daly, who led the 'Bad Boys' Pistons to NBA championships in 1989 and 1990. Either way, representatives were busy all day as people grabbed everything from Pistons T-shirts and books to lamps and kitchen items including glassware, pitchers and pans."