First Cup: Monday

  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "He's getting the picture now. He's getting the sense that he may have only scratched the surface of his, and his team's, celebrity. He's gaining an awareness that even the carryover from carrying the 2006 team to the title might not compare to the madness in his future. 'There was a little while where I could go places and not get bothered,' Dwyane Wade said with a smile Sunday. 'But this is a little different. People chasing you down when you're walking through a hotel or you're doing stuff.' Sunday, he did something for charity, scoring 25 points in the loosely contested Summer Groove All-Star exhibition, flubbing a tomahawk dunk, sneaking in a halftime kiss with girlfriend Gabrielle Union during Flo Rida's halftime performance, and smiling as often as someone in his position should. It spoke to the state of basketball in this area that the exhibition drew its best attendance in years, even with the least star-studded rosters in memory. LeBron James wasn't there. Neither was Chris Bosh. Instead, you got DaJuan Summers, C.J. Watson. Whatever. Fans sold out the building anyway, to cheer Wade and wear their new James and Bosh gear. Such is the level of anticipation for the official debut of the Heatles. So, yes, Wade is getting the picture now. The next few years will be thrilling, and taxing. They will test his toughness and the toughness of new and old teammates."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "Over the next six days, out in scorching Las Vegas, three Thunder players will gain invaluable experience while training with the USA Basketball Men's National Team. And over the next two months, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green could learn lessons that will shape the rest of their careers. This week, Oklahoma City's trio will be competing against the best up-and-coming talent the NBA has to offer as the U.S. team prepares for the 2010 FIBA World Championship, which will be held in Istanbul, Turkey, from Aug. 28-Sept. 12. As the only team with three players at this week's training camp, the Thunder's organization is expected to take center stage. And with all 12 gold medalists from the 2008 Olympics declining to participate because of contract matters, injuries or personal reasons, Durant seemingly will supplant LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade as the face of Team USA as it enters into international competition."

  • Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com: "The Duck got paid. That's the initial thought I had whenI first heard that Brad Miller had agreed to a three-year deal with Rockets for $15 million. I was shocked that the Rockets were willing to give the 34-year-old veteran so much money, but more power to he and his agent Mark Bartelstein for pulling off the coup. Sure, the third year isn't guaranteed, and there is a solid chance there will be a lockout after next season, but Miller got a bigger deal than most people expected. Certainly, a bigger deal than the Bulls were willing to offer. The Bulls are going to miss Brad Miller. But I can't fault Gar Forman at all for not trying to match the Rockets offer. Miller played well at times during the season, giving the Bulls a boost off the bench, especially when Joakim Noah went down during the middle of the year because of plantar fasciitis. He was also a respected locker room presence, as evidenced by 'The Duck' moniker he was given by his teammates, and was someone Noah trusted and leaned on through good times and bad."

  • Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle: "One day, 2 hours, 51 minutes and 15 seconds. That is how long after we displayed the clock on the Rockets' need for a backup center that they went out and got one. So let it be written. So let it be done. There are circumstances in which you wouldn't need a big man: If you had Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant, Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, Scottie Pippen, John Havlicek and Bernard King on your roster, for instance. ... Recognizing that they do not have a superstar on the roster, and probably don't have a player that will ever even make an All-Star squad -- there is a chance Aaron Brooks will one day play at an All-Star level, but it is difficult to make the team in the Western Conference at the point -- the Rockets have decided they should employ a couple of centers this season. Yao Ming and Brad Miller. Finally, a reason for a parade."

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "Let's just say that DeMarcus Cousins' clunker of a finale in the NBA Summer League - a 1-for-12 performance - is a physical wakeup call. Of sorts. The Kings prize rookie was visibly, undeniably, understandably, exhausted following an intense 10-day prep for the upcoming season. Fortunately, the 6-foot-11 center won't ever have to play six games in seven nights. But clearly, he has to improve his stamina and conditioning for an 82-game regular season. He faded during the final three games, lacking llft on his shots and the energy to run the floor and challenge opposing centers underneath. And the more frustrated he became, the more impatient he was offensively. He forced shots, shanked chippies, and strayed farther from the basket than necessary. Yet he is so, so, so skilled, and at the very least, already is an instinctive rebounder and passer, and a very tough self-critic."

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "In one of the most brilliant Las Vegas shooting displays this side of the famed Gun Store, Gary Neal made six 3-pointers and scored 25 points -- including 13 in the game's first 2:45 -- to pace the Spurs to a 78-64 victory in their summer league finale. With it, the Spurs joined Toronto as the only team to leave Las Vegas 5-0, having done so with a roster devoid of assured NBA players. The Grizzlies, their foil in the finale, by contrast boasted three players with NBA experience -- Hasheem Thabeet, Sam Young and DeMarre Carroll. 'It's just a tribute to the guys and how hungry they are,' summer league coach Mike Budenholzer said. 'There's a reason we wanted them to be on our summer league team. They're competitive and play hard. Sometimes that's more important than the talent and the draft picks.' "

  • Jeff Caplan of ESPNDallas.com: "An ankle injury required daily treatment and left Rodrigue Beaubois limping at times, but he said it didn't affect his play. Anyone associated with the team brushed it off, a clear dose of tough love for the lithe, 6-foot-2 French-speaking native of Guadeloupe who continues to adapt to the physical nature -- and toll -- of the NBA. So how much more do the Mavs know about their young student than they did before arriving in the desert 10 days ago? 'We're seeing gradual progress with his development as a point guard. It's not going to happen overnight. We knew it wasn't,' Rick Carlisle said. 'He's far more accomplished as a 2-guard playing with Jason Kidd than he is a point guard, but he's a damn good young point guard. So that's where it's at. He's improved his strength and work capacity 300 percent from a year ago and he's going to keep getting better.' The Mavs did leave Vegas raving about first-round draft pick Jones, a 6-foot-4 freight train who delivered strong drives and double-digit trips to the free throw line as advertised. It took him 31 seconds into Sunday's 85-54 win over Sacramento to get to the line. But the shooting guard also raised eyebrows with better-than-expected playmaking ability. He led the summer squad in scoring (16.8) and assists (3.4), recording a game-high seven dishes to go with 17 points Sunday. 'The thing that surprised me is his ability to get the ball places and deliver it on time, on target to guys for shots, layups, dunks,' Carlisle said. 'He's really been good.' "

  • Frank Burlison of the Long Beach Press-Telegram: "It would have been easy to shrug, sigh and fall back on the what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas avenue of rationalization. But then the whole point of the Clippers' week-long stay in Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League would have been cast aside in the desert like so many out-of-towners' misguided dreams of coming home winners. After the Clippers -- with a roster that included Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Bledsoe and Willie Warren, the organization's bounty from the 2010 draft -- had lost for the third time in four games Saturday, a quick bit of analysis was offered by someone seated in a prime location in UNLV's Cox Pavilion for each of those games. 'It's the summer league, so no one is going to remember if you win or lose these games,' Clippers forward Blake Griffin. ... 'The thing is to learn from the mistakes and to get better from them,' added Griffin. ... Vinny Del Negro and General Manager Neil Olshey are due back at the team's Playa Vista headquarters this morning to get back to the business of assembling the roster that will head to training camp in a couple of months. Free-agent forward Tracy McGrady is expected to be in town on Wednesday to work out in front of the team's decision-makers. 'We are going to look into all avenues that come our way,' Del Negro said, without addressing McGrady specifically. 'We're going to cover all of our bases and be smart with our decisions.' "

  • Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune: "The Timberwolves' summer league collection was featured on NBA TV on Wednesday night. David Kahn, the president of basketball operations, dropped in for a chat with play-by-play guy Matt Winer and Chris Webber. What happened over the next few minutes has gained Kahn a degree of celebrity on YouTube. As of 2 p.m. Saturday, there were five postings of the interview on youtube.com and total of roughly 5,000 views. The headlines on the videos included "Insane Kahn ... ' and "David Kahn is an IDIOT.' ... Webber was offended when he was mentioned in the same sentence as Darko Milicic by Kahn, as the Wolves basketball boss talked about a player's NBA development. And when Kahn suggested Milicic's passing skills were remindful of 'Vlade,' Webber said: 'Vlade ... Divac? More intriguing from here in the Webber-Kahn tête-à-tête was our guy's contention that Milicic was 'manna from heaven' when he came to the Timberwolves in February. It made me wonder if my modest focus in long-ago religion classes left a distorted impression of manna. This was a definition found Saturday: '... a supernatural substance created during the twilight of the sixth day of Creation and ensured to be clean by the sweeping of the ground by a northern wind and subsequent rains.' Minnesota can offer plenty of northern wind during the basketball months, and snow provides the same benefit as rain, so perhaps Milicic's reputation as a basketball talent will be cleansed."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "Someone, somewhere a long time ago said to work smarter, not harder. The new NBA has taken it to heart. This period of free agency has been historical and clarifying. No other sport has had the nation's attention for a handful of players' decisions as the NBA has had this year. But what we have also learned is just how much 'branding' matters. We've learned that billionaires, rap stars and financial plans that chart out a path to nine figures -- as well as cartoons and 300-foot billboards near New York's Madison Square Garden -- are now recruiting tools. And it takes getting used to. Years ago, kids practiced with the intent of being a basketball star; of hitting the winning shot to be crowned the best. Now? Kids practice in order to be a star, in the 'E!' sense of the word. Winning shots add zeros to the bank account. There are reality shows to star in, dancing shows to compete on, clothing lines to start, movies to produce and music videos for cameo appearances. And the fact of the matter is, all of that can pretty much be accomplished without winning big. Winning used to be the requirement for the fame that came with it. Hoist the championship trophy and a world of opportunity opened up. But today's athletes are iPhones, and I'm still living in a land line past. They understand what a few well- placed 3-pointers, YouTube- and 'SportsCenter'-worthy dunks and chase-down blocked shots can do."

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "The transformation was more deliberate than dazzling, a subtle, fundamental evolution. The Knicks set out this summer to buy stardom and instant credibility. They settled for an extensive makeover. Over five days in July, the Knicks spent $36 million, acquiring youth, length, speed, size, shooting and stability. They bought six new players, started developing three rookies and restored a sense of direction. The lineup that Coach Mike D’Antoni will present this fall will be more talented, balanced and logically assembled, and quite possibly playoff worthy. It is a start, albeit a more modest one than a team built around LeBron James. 'This is the best position that we’ve been in three years,' D’Antoni said last week, a renewed enthusiasm in his voice. ... James declined their riches and the burdens of Broadway. So the Knicks invested in one established star, Amar’e Stoudemire, and a range of role players who fit D’Antoni’s style. They also retained enough cap flexibility to go shopping again next summer."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Chris Paul as a Charlotte Bobcat isn't crazy. It's unlikely. It's undoubtedly problematic. But it's more than some message-board fantasy if the Bobcats are willing to make a bunch of hard choices that just might test the patience of anyone who has bought a single-game ticket to watch this team play. Gerald Wallace? Gone. First-round picks? Gone. (Not that they've drafted particularly well.) And in the short run, anyway, Bobcats owner Michael Jordan better hope those "Jumpman" sneakers stay popular, because he'll need the royalty fees: The bills will pile up. But it's doable, and I'm told it's a twinkle in the eyes of this team's decision-makers. There are a handful of places Paul would want to relocate in a trade, and Charlotte – near his suburban Winston-Salem home and possessing a Hall-of-Fame coach – should be among the viable candidates. ... At some point (if he hadn't already) Paul is likely to walk into the corporate offices and spell it out that he needs a change. He figures to have a short list of alternatives. I suspect the Bobcats will be included."

  • Monte Poole of The Oakland Tribune: "The new owners seem to 'get it.' Joe Lacob in particular, as a hoops junkie and Warriors season-ticket holder, can visualize the potential. He knows the NBA and acknowledges there is a lot of work to be done and that some of it will be costly. Yet his task, distilled to its essence, is to pull a franchise adrift back into the NBA. It is imperative Lacob and Peter Guber realize not only how to get butts into seats but also how to attract talent. Follow that blueprint and they'll be lavishly rewarded. The house will rock, the money will flow and the value will rise. Cutting corners, though, is a sure way to ruin their $450 million baby. And it'll make the Fisher signing look like grand theft."

  • Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press: "The Golden State Warriors were sold for $450 million to a group led by Rich Guy, who got some help from his friends, I.M. Loaded and Lotta Cash. Amazingly, the $450 million was apparently not the high bid. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, continuing his desire to have the most fun life ever, said he offered more than $450 million. What does this have to do with the Pistons? Well, Forbes values the Warriors at $315 million. And Forbes values the Pistons (including the Palace of Auburn Hills) at $479 million. ... It is hard to imagine Forbes being so far off that the Warriors are worth more than the Pistons. That means the Pistons (including the Palace) should be worth at least a half-billion dollars. And, since the entire Palace empire is on the market, including DTE Energy Music Theatre, the total price tag should, theoretically, be higher than that. Theoretically. Valuations are nice, but what ultimately matters is how much an actual buyer will bid for the property. The price of sports franchises, more than almost any other big-ticket item, is driven by emotion. ... No, the Pistons probably are not going to Vegas. But the gamble of selling a team in a depressed economy looks a lot better than it did last week."