First Cup: Friday

  • Peter Finney of The Times-Picayune: "Chris Paul is trying to force a trade in order to join: Pick one, Amar’e Stoudemire with the Knicks; Dwight Howard with the Magic; Brandon Roy with the Trail Blazers; or Dirk Nowitzki with the Mavericks. He’s trying to do what Kobe Bryant did several years ago when he vowed to leave the Lakers unless they 'got serious' about winning. At the time, the Lakers were in far better shape than the Hornets, mainly because they had the best player in the league (if you think Kobe is better than LeBron), but they still needed a trade gift in Pau Gasol to get over the 'win-now' hump. As for Paul’s plea to trade him so he can win now, my answer would be: 'NO! Not now, Chris.' Who knows what’s going to happen in 2011-12, with the lockout looming next offseason? Some players, especially the best ones, think they have all the answers. I’d be interested in having Demps pose the question to the point guard of the Hornets: 'Chris, if you were me, who would you go after to make us a better team?' ... It’s obvious what you have here. The Hornets are dealing with a young man caught up in LeBron’s win-now, build-a-mini-dynasty fever. That’s the bad news. The good news is Paul is not a Baron Davis. Paul is not a coach killer. He’s not a Hall of Fame malcontent. He’s a thoroughbred. I’m assuming he’ll be suiting up as a Hornet, giving it his best shot. I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t. By the way, Dell Demps and Monty Williams, welcome to life in the NBA."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Unless he turns himself into too much of a locker room nightmare, Chris Paul has absolutely no leverage to force the Hornets to trade him. But just as LeBron James had his Game 5, Paul had Game 4 against the Nuggets and it was worse. As much as James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh took team building into their own hands, Paul would be taking that to a whole other level by abandoning his team with three seasons (two plus a third at his option) left on his contract. The Hornets have shown no interest in moving him. For more than a year, the Hornets smacked back every trade call -- including many from the Rockets -- that came their way. But that was with another GM (Jeff Bower) and the current, but likely outgoing owner (George Shinn) running things. Bower was fired in part because he lost Paul, showing that the Hornets would much prefer to make Paul happy in New Orleans than somewhere else. All first-time GMs are greeted with calls from their new peers hoping to welcome them to the club by fleecing them in a trade. Demps is extremely well prepared for the job, but certainly will receive those initiation calls. For now, the wisest thing Demps can do is to do nothing other than work to earn Paul's confidence."

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: "If you were the Hornets, looking at Chris Paul's remaining two years and his demands, maybe you'd tell Paul to take his list and stuff it. But if Portland owner Paul Allen is willing to not only take the All-Star point guard, but also, take on Emeka Okafor and the $50-plus million remaining on his contract, aren't the Blazers on unique ground? Allen owns the biggest yacht in the world. Things are so surreal around him that prior to hiring general manager Rich Cho this week, Allen flew him to Helsinki and interviewed him on the yacht, as if it were a James Bond film. That yacht has an eight-man submarine that is capable of submerging for two weeks. And so maybe we realize that Allen, who has $13.5 billion, now has the opportunity to attempt to pick up the league's best point guard and see how much fun he has with that. P-A-U-L. When it comes to the Blazers history that name has been greeted plenty with scowls, and head shakes. Portland's owner has made some puzzling moves in his time. He's owned the Blazers for 22 seasons without a championship. But should Allen, who hired USC football coach Pete Carroll for the Seahawks, make a bold NBA move and manage to bring the other Paul to Portland, his legacy as a sports owner would be redefined in one move. So, how about it New Orleans? You game? That's become the question to ask."

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "The Knicks have to do whatever it takes to get Chris Paul, even if it means trading Danilo Gallinari which is something Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni would not be in favor of doing. But Gallinari cannot be a deal breaker if the Knicks have a chance to add one of the league's top point guards. Acquiring Paul makes the Knicks a top 5 team in the Eastern Conference which is saying something for a franchise that has suffered through nine straight losing seasons. There seems to be a lot of momentum building toward Paul leaving New Orleans but let's also remember that the Hornets aren't about to just give away their best player. ... Here's something else worth remembering: The Associated Press reported that Paul is scheduled to meet on Monday with new general manager Dell Demps and new head coach Monty Williams. Both Demps and Williams once worked for the Knicks as a scout and player respectively. They're also pretty savvy and understand what Chris Paul means to the Hornets. It's the first big job for both guys and you don't want to start your new regime by trading away your best asset."

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "Amid the murmurings and the rumors, there is encouragement for the Knicks -- even if Paul never comes to New York. By naming the Knicks, even privately, Paul has validated their rebuilding effort and their hope of becoming a desirable destination for star players. For most of the last decade, the Knicks were regarded as more dysfunctional and hopeless than the Hornets are now. But the recent signing of Amar’e Stoudemire has changed perceptions and given every N.B.A. star a reason to take notice. In a toast at Carmelo Anthony’s wedding, Paul even joked about the idea of a Stoudemire-Anthony-Paul partnership in New York. The wedding guests chuckled. It was a far-fetched fantasy. But not as laughable as it once might have seemed."

  • Andy Kamenetzky of ESPNLandOLakers: "Well, save an unexpected development, the roster feels more or less set. And if I may offer my humble opinion, an offseason securing the services of Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher, Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, Theo Ratliff, plus two potentially useful players in the second round of the draft, is a summer well utilized. The core was maintained, and the bench was strengthened. Can't ask for much more without being greedy. I doubt Mitch Kupchak will take time to relax, but he earned the right. If nothing else, he should allow himself the treat of a martini while chained to his desk."

  • Brad Rock of the Deseret News: "The look Kevin O'Connor wore this week hovered between neutral and mildly pleased, as though viewing a restaurant dessert tray. It wasn't smug or condescending -- merely content. On Monday, the Jazz GM officially welcomed Raja Bell to Utah with a press conference. It was the team's second such occurrence in a week. The other was July 16, when the Jazz signed big man Al Jefferson. In just a few days, the team's forecast had gone from stormy to mostly sunny. Meanwhile, O'Connor went from idiot to master chemist in the eyes of many. After losing Wesley Matthews, Kyle Korver and Carlos Boozer to free agency, he nimbly added Jefferson and Bell, giving the Jazz an upbeat new look. You have to hand it to O'Connor -- the man has timing. For whatever success the Jazz have had since his arrival in Utah 11 seasons ago, it had become clear the team wasn't greatly improving. It was time for a change. So he made some, and not a moment too soon. Nitwit or genius? 'My wife would agree with both,' O'Connor said.

  • Bill Bradley of The Sacramento Bee: "Before current and former players take a holier-than-thou attitude about Miami's Big Three, let's remind everyone that creating superstar pairings is not new to the NBA. Before the 1996-97 season, Charles Barkley demanded a trade to the Rockets, who already had Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. In 2003-04, Karl Malone and Gary Payton joined Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal with the Lakers. And, in 2007-08, Kevin Garnett teamed with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce on the Celtics. These are cautionary tales, though. Only two of these three super groups won NBA titles. That shows you that super teams are not always indestructible."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "C.J. Watson says he knows nobody on his new-look Bulls team, but he actually introduced his elbow to Joakim Noah's face during a bitter Tennessee-Florida matchup in 2006. 'Yeah, Joakim and I have some history and some talking to do,' Watson said, chuckling at the memory. 'That was for the No. 1 seed in our conference. All I remember is going for the rebound and Joakim crowding and I just threw an elbow. I think I knocked his tooth out. But we beat them.' And that's exactly why Watson and Noah will get along fine once Bulls training camp rolls around. Watson, officially acquired Thursday in a sign-and-trade transaction with the Warriors that was reported Monday, has the same goal as Noah. 'I just want to win,' Watson said. 'That was what I was looking for in free agency, to join a winning team and a playoff team. The Bulls have a lot of great players and we can be a really good team.' "

  • Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe: "The championship expectations are as clear now as they were when he arrived. After signing a contract extension with the Celtics for two years worth $9 million with performance bonuses, Nate Robinson will have a summer, a training camp, and a full season upon which to build. 'It’s definitely going to be a bonus for me,’ said Robinson, who agreed to the deal a week ago. 'I know most of the plays now. I remember them. I’ll be way more comfortable and I can just play free basketball because I’ll know every play, I’ll know every set and everything, so I can’t wait.’ His preparation has already started in Seattle, where the former University of Washington standout has been working out with Trail Blazers star Brandon Roy, Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford of the Hawks, and Most Improved Player Aaron Brooks of the Rockets. Off the court, Robinson’s doing the little things to help build relationships with teammates, such as planning to speak at Kendrick Perkins’s summer camp in early August."

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "KSTP 1500 AM radio just played a taped interview their afternoon show did with David Kahn, who once again wasn't at a loss for words. Here are some of the things he told my newspaper colleague Patrick Reusse and Phil Mackey: Michael Beasley smoked too much pot in Miami, but he's a changed man now. Make that, changed young man. 'He's a very young and immature kid who smoked too much marijuana and has told me that he's not smoking anymore,' Kahn said, 'and I told him that I would trust him as long as that was the case.' On being something of a youtube sensation for a contentious NBA TV interview with Chris Webber from NBA Summer League last week: 'He's kind of a schmuck, isn't he? Methinks that he spent a lot of time on NBA TV with a former Timberwolves person and he seemed to come into the interview with an agenda. Tough questions are fine, but I felt like he was a little defensive about some of the things.' "

  • John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Right now, Derrick Rose is in the midst of training camp with the U.S. men's national team and is trying to earn a roster spot for the team that will compete in the world championships next month in Turkey. But after practice Thursday at the Cox Pavilion on the UNLV campus, he took a moment to assess the Bulls' free-agent signings -- Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson -- and the team's prospects for next season. 'We're good; we're good,' Rose said. 'We can actually go out and fight. The two years I was there, we were just dealing with what we had to deal with until now. Now that we have Boozer, Brewer, Korver and C.J., I think we can actually go out there and compete against some teams.' What does that mean? How many wins can the Bulls rack up? Rose wouldn't get that specific. 'We can get farther than last year,' he said. 'Every year, I want to get farther. This year, we stayed the same. Next year, I'm looking for a long year. That means a lot of working out, a lot of lifting weights so that I can endure the season.' When asked if the Bulls can compete with LeBron James and the Miami Heat, all Rose said was 'we will see.' "

  • Dan Wolken of The Commercial-Appeal: "Derrick Rose's name will never officially be part of any records at the University of Memphis, thanks to the NCAA ruling last year that made him retroactively ineligible and wiped out the 2007-08 Final Four season. But Tigers coach Josh Pastner does not want Rose to be an ignominious figure in the program's history and let him know as much this week during a visit to tryouts for USA Basketball's national team, which will compete in the upcoming World Championships in Turkey. 'He was just telling me I still have a home at Memphis, and the thing that happened wasn't going to change that,' Rose said. "They still have love for me down there, and I really love Memphis and love the year I was there.' Pastner, who is in Las Vegas watching recruits this week, said he spent between 10 and 15 minutes visiting with both Rose and former Tiger guard Tyreke Evans on Wednesday night in the lobby of the Wynn Hotel as well as earlier in the day at the U.S. team's practice. The message was simple: Even though there have been dramatic changes at Memphis since they departed, he wants both NBA Rookies of the Year to be visible advocates for the program."

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: "Jrue Holiday looked very much at home this week as he stood outside the basketball gym at Shepherd of the Hills Church in Porter Ranch. This makes sense, considering the Philadelphia 76 ers guard has been a member of Shepherd of the Hills for as long as he can remember. ... This was Holiday giving back to a church and community that helped rear him, the ones that watched proudly as he led Campbell Hall to three state titles before accepting a scholarship to play at UCLA, and the ones that helped him get through a sometimes-trying rookie season with the Philadelphia 76 ers last year. Just as important, this was Holiday remembering what it was like to be a kid, laying awake at night thinking about meeting one of his heroes the next day. 'Because I was that little kid,' Holiday said, smiling. 'I was the kid who wanted to go to Kobe Bryant's camp or LeBron James' camp. I know what that feeling is, so to be able to provide a place where kids can come and see me, where they can hang out and meet me and learn a little bit about basketball isn't just pretty cool, it's actually a dream come true.' "