First Cup: Thursday

  • Howard Beck and Mark Viera of The New York Times: "League officials are projecting a net loss of $370 million for the just-completed season and are seeking a radical overhaul of the collective bargaining agreement. David Stern reiterated those points in a news conference here Monday evening. From New York, Hunter watched and shook his head. 'The reality is, is that the current scenario in the N.B.A. community is rosy,'Billy Hunter, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, said by phone. 'You can’t deny it. The experience that we’re having is unprecedented.' According to Hunter, basketball-related income last season was the highest in league history. At the same time, player earnings declined by about 1 percent because so many teams were saving for this summer’s marquee free-agent class, he said. 'They continue to talk about how player salaries outpace revenues, but it’s just not true,' Hunter said. The rhetorical divide, while predictable, bodes poorly for negotiations on a new labor deal. The sides have had three meaningful meetings so far, with another expected sometime in the next two months. They have until June 30 to complete a new agreement, and history suggests that they will need every last hour to get it done. Both sides are bracing for a lockout. ... Hunter strongly disputed Stern’s projection of $370 million in losses, saying, 'It just depends on what accounting procedure one applies.' He added, 'I contend that the loss, if any, is minimal.' "

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "What the team doesn't want is a repeat of its missteps of 1996, when timing issues over contracts cost the team the rights to Juwan Howard. So, first, Michael Beasley must push past the final round of clearance in Minnesota, with that trade to the Timberwolves to become official Thursday. Then, with the cap space cleared in that transaction, the Heat will formally sign off on its acquisition of Washington Wizards free-agent swingman Mike Miller. Once that move puts that Heat at the 2010-11 salary cap, Riley can commence signing players at the league's minimum scale, with Cleveland Cavaliers free-agent center Zydrunas Ilgausksas and Portland Trail Blazers free agent forward Juwan Howard, yes, that same Howard, to be added shortly thereafter. At that point, the Heat will be able to re-sign center Joel Anthony, a restricted free agent who has spent the past three seasons in South Florida and is the only player from the 2009-10 Heat roster still with his Bird Rights. That mechanism will allow the Heat to exceed the league's soft salary cap to retain the shot-blocker. And then the free-for-all can begin, veterans lining up to join the impending thrill show headlined by the recent free-agency haul of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Among names already floated with potential interest in the Heat are Tracy McGrady, Jerry Stackhouse, Eddie House, Keyon Dooling, Jason Williams and Rasual Butler, and that does not even include members of the 2009-10 Heat who could be called back for encores, such as James Jones, Carlos Arroyo and Jamaal Magloire."

  • Dave Krieger of The Denver Post: "For one season only, and maybe less than that, the Nuggets are making a nostalgic offer: Party like it's 1985. Wecan do without the rainbow uniforms, but Alex English could still probably get 12 a game. The Nuggets led the league in scoring that year, averaging 120 points a night. Their average was even higher earlier in the decade, in the first years of Doug Moe's mad science, but in '85 they turned it into success, winning 52 games and the division. With Wednesday's signing of free agent forward Al Harrington to take Kenyon Martin's place for nobody knows exactly how long, the Nuggets could lead the league in scoring again. In fact, if they want to be in contention by the time Martin comes back, they might have to. Harrington is a talented scorer and one-on-one player who doesn't do anything else particularly well and has a history of ignoring his coaches, so he should fit right in. George Karl intends to emphasize defense this season, but let's be honest. When Arron Afflalo is your only plus defensive player, defense isn't going to be your signature."

  • Eric Koreen of the National Post: "Despite what is coming in, though, the trade is about the failure of Hedo Turkoglu-in-Toronto experiment. He was brought in with the hope that he could improve the Raptors, enticing Bosh to stick around. Instead, he came to training camp out of shape, complained about his role, created scenes in nightclubs, and generally looked passive on the floor. And up until they benched him in a late-March game in Miami, the Raptors coddled him. Good for Bryan Colangelo for realizing the mistake; that he and the rest of the Raptors management allowed the situation to fester remains mystifying. 'We can’t stop getting excited about seeing a skilled 6-9, 6-10 small forward out there in a two-man game with 7-foot Andrea Bargnani or a 6-11 Chris Bosh,' Colangelo said upon acquiring Turkoglu. 'The matchups are going to be a nightmare.' The matchups, though, did not end up being very scary at all. Instead, it was the Raptors-Turkoglu pairing that was the nightmare."

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: "Forget those predraft allegations of DeMarcus Cousins having a bad attitude and poor work habits, among other criticisms. What observers have seen from Cousins during the Kings' first three NBA Summer League games is all the rookie said he was -- and more. 'I'm having a lot of fun,' Cousins said. 'It's not even about showing off. I'm just doing what I do and having fun doing it.' Cousins has used his size, strength and all-around skills to create a buzz felt from the Strip to midtown Sacramento. Although it's just three games in July, many around the league are already believing the Kings have pulled off another coup in the NBA draft. A year after snagging Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans with the fourth pick, the Kings appear to have plucked a gem with the fifth selection this year."

  • Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe: "The training staffs of the Raptors and Heat, along with noted Chicago trainer Tim Grover, helped Jermaine O'Neal come up with a program that got him healthy enough to play 70 games this past season, the most he had played since 2003-04. 'We checked him out thoroughly, [did] physicals and got the medical records from his past,' Danny Ainge said. 'So we’re not concerned by that any more than we’re concerned by any other player.’ O’Neal said he felt like he could play another five years, 'but hopefully I can win it next year and then win it the year after and walk away from it.’ At this stage of his career, he said, signing with the Celtics was the best chance for him to get the one thing he’s missing. 'I’ve been on the Olympic team,’ he said. 'I’ve had Nike campaigns. I’ve had All-Star Games, All-NBAs. And I don’t have an NBA Finals appearance, which is the most important thing to me. That’s what I really value the most right now.’ "

  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Do Magic fans chill and simply say 'In Otis We Trust'? Or do they scream, 'What the hey!!!!' We are talking NBA free agency, and the rather odd proceedings we’re witnessing so far. Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick could be supplanted by Quentin Richardson and Roger Mason? Really? That’s NOT an upgrade. By a long shot. Or is Magic GM Otis Smith sandbagging everybody, using up all his valuable anytime minutes on the cell phone to swing a deal to free up some cash to keep Redick in Orlando, or bring in another quality player? Everybody finds out Friday. That’s the deadline for the Magic to match the three-year offer sheet of the Chicago Bulls, who are trying to pry away Redick. Richardson’s presence likely means goodbye for Barnes, which was pretty much a given going into the free agency extravaganza. Now the suspense revolves around whether the Magic will match the $19 million, front-loaded contract that the Bulls offered Redick. Despite the luxury tax implications, the Magic should keep Redick. It’s not like they haven’t overpaid for other players. See contracts involving Rashard Lewis and Marcin Gortat."

  • Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle: "In a chat minutes after the Rockets closed out their summer-league play in Las Vegas, Daryl Morey sounded happy with where the Rockets are as an organization. What's wrong with this guy? Has he been paying attention this offseason? How could he be so happy when the Rockets didn't win the draft lottery, so they ended up stuck with the worst lottery pick? They barely got to speak to Chris Bosh, the free agent atop their wish list, and they have sat idly by as other free agents are getting signed like hotcakes. And thanks to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Rockets on Wednesday were forced to sign backup point guard Kyle Lowry to a $6-million-a-year contract. ... It is foolish to try to grade offseason performance when the offseason has just started. You ever get a final grade from a professor two weeks into a semester? At worst, or best, you could grade the Rockets with an 'I' for incomplete, but even that is ridiculous because that is the current grade for every team. Morey could fail this class if the Rockets aren't among the best in the West by midseason and he isn't able to make a major move to improve. (Of course, there will be a hefty points deduction if he can't find a backup center taller than Chuck Hayes.) But let Morey be happy right now. Grades don't come out for a while."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "I’m always asked why the Thunder hasn’t spent some of the money it’s had the past two summers on a major free agent signing. The answer is simple. OKC wants to see how its core develops together. Makes no sense to stunt the development of such a talented young roster simply because you have money to spend. The Thunder won 50 games and pushed the Lakers in the first round with its current young and inexperienced cast of characters. No telling what the boys can do if given just a little time to develop. That’s the basketball side of it. From a business standpoint, the Thunder is being wise about its budget. To ink Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, James Harden and Serge Ibaka to contract extensions without having an overblown budget, the Thunder must utilize some restraint now. And that’s precisely what OKC has done in sitting on the sidelines while others splurge on free agents. And it’s why the Thunder again played it right by refraining from entering into the mix for Al Jefferson."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "In the immortal words of Jack Nicholson's character, Col. Nathan Jessep, in A Few Good Men, 'Please tell me their lawyer hasn't pinned their hopes to a phone bill.' In this case, Mark Cuban is the lawyer and the phone bill consists of three players who combined for a grand total of two starts after Christmas last season. Clearly, this is not the kind of splash the Mavericks were hoping to make. But it is reality. This is not to diminish the quality of Tyson Chandler. He is a former No. 2 overall draft choice and when he's healthy, he's had some very solid seasons. Plus he's in the final year of his contract, so incentive should not be a problem. It's understandable that the Mavericks believe they are better than they were at the end of last season, when they were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round for the third time in the four seasons since their 2006 NBA Finals run. ... You just have to wonder if Dirk Nowitzki feels confident the rebate he gave the Mavericks -- and that contract has yet to be signed, by the way -- has been put to good use."

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "A week after the partying began in Miami for LeBron James, the Lakers quietly held a news conference for Steve Blake, their newest free-agent acquisition, who will add another steady veteran presence in the push for a three-peat. 'I'm extremely excited to be coming here to the Lakers,' said Blake. 'As a player who wants to win and has won championships at every level except the NBA, I think this is the best place to be.' Blake won a national championship with Maryland in 2002 and was on the top-ranked U.S. high school team in 1999, Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va. He has appeared in only 15 playoff games in a seven-year NBA career with six teams, but he hopes to change that by joining the Lakers, who are generally two-thirds the way through the postseason by the time they hit their 15th playoff game. 'I look forward to coming in here, whether it's starting or coming off the bench, and being productive,' he said, listing the ways in which he would do that.'

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Entering his fourth season with the Washington Wizards, Nick Young is at a critical crossroads for his career. He will be a restricted free agent next summer and the team is rebuilding around No. 1 overall pick John Wall, surrounding the 19-year-old phenom with players on short-term deals while determining the adequate supporting cast. Young made a cameo appearance for the Wizards at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas on Monday hoping to establish some chemistry with Wall and third-year center JaVale McGee and there was no doubt that the two were clicking, with Wall celebrating each Young jumper by lifting his index finger and backpedaling before the shot touched the net. He also wanted to show that he could still get his shot off at any time -- and he did with flair: When he was trapped in the right corner, he spun left, then right, and nailed a fall-away three-pointer. But Young admitted that Wall's animated reactions to his shot release put a little pressure on him."

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "The book on Tony Allen is that he's an elite, lockdown defender with an edge as big as his personality. His tenacity is often unmatched on the basketball court, something that makes up for low offensive output. And when Allen turned the page on the Boston Celtics to officially join the Grizzlies earlier this week, he also had something else on the résumé. The 6-4 swingman is known as a winner, too, after lending his talents to the Celtics' 2008 NBA championship and 2010 Finals appearance. Allen, 28, joined the Griz as an unrestricted free agent, signing a three-year deal valued at about $9.5 million, after spending his first six NBA seasons with the Celtics. Griz general manager Chris Wallace was part of the Celtics' front office when Boston selected Allen with the 24th overall pick in the 2004 draft. There are indications that Wallace put the Allen pursuit ahead of trying to re-sign former Griz swingman Ronnie Brewer."

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "A heat-scorched visitor from Minnesota gets the same puzzled look and essentially the same questions from every ink-stained colleague he encounters here at the NBA's Las Vegas Summer League this week. Whatever is he thinking? What's the plan? Is there a plan? The topic of conversation is, of course, Timberwolves boss David Kahn. He's the guy who in 14 months on the job has ripped apart a roster inherited from Kevin McHale much the way a caffeinated fantasy-league owner might and completely remade it by trading away former centerpiece Al Jefferson to Utah for draft picks and keeping only Kevin Love and Corey Brewer. ... There's no question these new Timberwolves are a resoundingly more athletic and better-shooting team than the ones that won a total of 61 games the first three seasons since Kevin Garnett was traded away. But will they be remarkably better than last season's 15-victory team? And will Kahn -- a former sportswriter and a lawyer who was a notably unorthodox hire -- eventually be proven to be mad scientist or simply mad?"

  • John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Billy King left the Sixers with the same class he displayed for a decade as a team executive. King, who was hired in 1997 as vice president of basketball operations and rose to become team president, was blindsided in December 2007 when the Sixers fired him and replaced him with Ed Stefanski. King had been allowed to direct the most important draft for the Sixers in a decade. He had been allowed to formulate and implement a rebuilding plan for life after a decade of Allen Iverson. But if King was bitter, he never let it show. The smart professional doesn't burn bridges. He doesn't do things that might cost him future opportunities. For 2 1/2 seasons, King waited for a chance to get back in the game. He did guest appearances on talk radio and television shows for the NBA Network -- anything to keep his name out there. It finally happened for King yesterday, when he was hired by the New Jersey Nets to replace the retiring Rod Thorn as general manager. 'I'm happy to be back,' King told me not long after news about his hiring broke. 'I feel blessed to be joining the Nets.' By the end, King had become a polarizing figure for Sixers fans. Some remember him only as the president who held on to Iverson a season or two too long and gave center Samuel Dalembert a ridiculous contract that was a millstone on the team's salary cap until he was finally shipped to Sacramento last month. But the other truth was that King did a pretty good job of clearing up much of the salary-cap hell the Sixers created while trying to extend the Iverson era."

  • Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News: "An investment group in Las Vegas wants to bring an NBA team to its city. The group, International Development Management LLC, said it's close to purchasing an NBA team to play in its proposed arena. Could that team be the Pistons? Nobody's commenting, and the Pistons are one of several teams -- Atlanta, Golden State and Memphis -- on the market. This deal, too, has a lot of loopholes to clear. The investment group must first strike a deal with the county to fund construction of its proposed arena -- and isn't having much luck. But Chris Milam , CEO of International, told the Las Vegas Sun a team is 'under contract.' "