First Cup: Monday

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "As for Donnie Walsh, the smart money says Isiah Thomas is his successor-in-waiting. The transition may not take place for another two years, but it's coming. Here's the thing: Why wait? Walsh should force Dolan's hand today. Fire the Knicks before they humiliate you. Walsh doesn't need this aggravation. Not at this stage in his life and career. This is a man who has faced two major surgeries in less than two years while still managing to extract all the bad contracts he inherited from Thomas. Go now and Walsh leaves the organization in better shape than he found it. The New York City Sanitation Dept. will give him a plaque for cleaning up the biggest mess in town. ... The fact that Dolan can't see that Walsh has done a solid job tells you all you need to know. This is the same guy who blames the media coverage for nine straight losing seasons. So quit, Donnie. Resign. Walk away. You've already said you'll stick it out because you're a class act. But you deserve better."

  • Ian O'Connor of ESPNNewYork.com: "Isiah Thomas is good for business, if you happen to be in the business of outsmarting the Knicks. But what happens tomorrow when the Miami Heat want to hire John Calipari as a paid consultant? What happens the following day when the Boston Celtics want to reach a similar arrangement with Mike Krzyzewski, and the day after that when the Chicago Bulls want to sign up John Thompson III? Why can't every NBA team buy its own Division I middleman, and ask him to manipulate the amateur market to serve its own agenda? David Stern needs to annul this unfathomable second marriage between Dolan and Thomas, and sooner rather than later. Before that first marriage died a slow and painful death, the commissioner said this of the Knicks and their $11.6 million defeat in a sexual harassment case: 'It demonstrates that they're not a model of intelligent management.' Nothing's changed, David."

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: "The Heat not only will be great, but historically great. So predicts the co-lead NBA analyst for ABC/ESPN. 'They will break the single-season win record [of 72],' Jeff Van Gundy said. 'And I think they have a legit shot at the Lakers' 33-game [winning] streak [in 1971-72], as well. And only the Lakers have even a remote shot at beating them in a playoff series. They will never lose two games in a row this year. They have put together a much better roster than anybody could ever have expected,' Van Gundy added. 'There is now no good way to defend them. They are unguardable. They are indefensible. They are just too good and have added so much shooting and are so versatile that they will score at will. And with Erik Spoelstra coaching, they will be in the top three defensive teams in the league, as well. The other 29 teams better hope the lockout gets moved up a year.' ... 'I'm not trying to be Mercury Morris and root against anybody, but I don't think it will happen again,' said TNT's Steve Kerr, who played on that Chicago team. 'There are too many variables, too many meaningless games, too many bad shooting nights, too much playoff preparation.' "

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: "The same concerns that could nag the Celtics also could surface in Miami, where the Heat are banking that their Big Three -- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh -- can mesh well enough to form a championship-caliber team. Of course, the fundamental difference is the Celtics are nearing the end of their careers; the Heat players are entering their prime. 'One of the reasons why it worked out so well in Boston is Garnett and Allen were older players,' Robert Parish said. 'Those guys [in Miami] are under 30, and are they going to be able to put their egos aside trying to carve out their niche, their legacy? It looks good on paper, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a success on the court. I don’t see them coming out of the East because they don’t have a true point and true center, because [Zydrunas] Ilgauskas is not going to get it done against Shaq, Jermaine, and [Orlando’s] Dwight Howard.' "

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: "Like many NBA fans, David Stern has some pretty fond memories of Karl Malone. In what would have to be considered a pretty sweet perk to his job, the commissioner was there, in fact, for some of the highlights of The Mailman's career. This week will be no exception. Once again, Stern will enjoy some right-place-right-time fortunes with Malone. On Friday night, he'll be among the large crowd to personally witness one of the greatest power forwards of all-time get inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The Mailman will be enshrined at Symphony Hall in Springfield, Mass., along with Bulls great Scottie Pippen, Lakers owner Jerry Buss, WNBA star Cynthia Cooper, high school coaching legend Bob Hurley, Sr. and posthumous honorees Dennis Johnson, Gus Johnson and Maciel 'Ubiratan' Pereira. Malone will actually be enshrined twice, seeing as the 1992 Dream Team will also enter the Hall of Fame along with the 1960 U.S. men's Olympic basketball squad. 'I think,' Stern said, 'it's great that he's going into the Hall of Fame. And I'm looking forward to it.' "

  • Jerry Crowe of the Los Angeles Times: "Considered the greatest amateur basketball team ever assembled, it featured future Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Jerry Lucas and Walt Bellamy. 'We,' Bob Boozer says, 'were the first Dream Team.' The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will pay homage Friday, enshrining the team en masse along with the 1992 Dream Team ( Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, et al) and eight individuals, among them Jerry Buss, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, Cynthia Cooper and the late Dennis Johnson. Boozer, 73, is delighted to be in their company. A member of the Nebraska State Board of Parole and a former Laker, he never regretted his decision to postpone the start of his NBA career to chase his Olympic dream. He'd been a two-time All-American under Tex Winter at Kansas State, where the Wildcats utilized the triangle offense in reaching the Final Four in 1958, but was in no hurry to go pro. 'I had tunnel vision,' says the gold medalist, who is no relation to Carlos Boozer of the Chicago Bulls. 'I was going to stay out that year and try out for the Olympic basketball squad. No ifs, ands or buts about it, that's what I was going to do.' "

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Fifteen players. Twelve roster spots. The names Durant, Billups, Rose and Odom are virtual locks for a trip to Turkey with Team USA for the World Championships later this month. Two players with local ties -- Danny Granger and Eric Gordon -- can't say the same. The Indiana Pacers forward and former North Central High School standout are on the bubble. They'll make their final effort for a roster spot at this week's training camp in New York. Granger and Gordon would be the first players with Indianapolis ties to be selected since Reggie Miller and Jermaine O'Neal played on the 2002 team."

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "Tracy McGrady isn’t a Piston yet. But there is a distinct possibility the one-time superstar could come to Motown with the hopes of rejuvenating a career that once seemed destined for the Hall of Fame. But fans appear to be lukewarm about the possible addition of another swingman to an already crowded perimeter of Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Gordon, Austin Daye and DaJuan Summers. And that’s not even counting that Rodney Stuckey will also be getting time at shooting guard. So it would appear that if Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars signs McGrady, 31, to a one-year, $1.35-million veteran’s minimum deal, he is confident he will be able to do something in the trade market (Hamilton or Prince) before the start of training camp in late September. The Pistons will talk with McGrady on Monday."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "The Oklahoma City Thunder has suddenly become characterized by one word. Darling. Comb over any recent national clipping centered on the Thunder and chances are you'll find that description, or some derivative. No matter the language, though, the message is being delivered. The Thunder is the new 'it' team. Oklahoma City might still trail the L.A. Lakers, and now Miami, as the most glamorous outfits. But the Thunder has climbed atop the NBA's shortlist of sweetheart teams, franchises from which the league chooses a face and ensues to flood promotional spots with throughout the marathon season. Already this summer there have been real ramifications of last year's success story. Team USA will reconvene today in New York City, where three of the 15 remaining hopefuls for this summer's World Championship are Thunder players."

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "Newly signed Spurs center Tiago Splitter suffered a thigh contusion playing in for his native Brazil on Saturday, but he is expected to be available for the start of training camp Sept. 28. An MRI taken Sunday confirmed the minor bruise, which Splitter suffered in Brazil’s victory over Venezuela in the Super Four tournament, a warm-up for the FIBA World Championships later this month. Splitter, 25, has been cleared to return to the Brazilian team but will sit out the remainder of the Super Four as a precautionary measure. According to international reports, Splitter’s absence will not affect his status for the World Championships in Turkey."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "The injury to Roddy Beaubois was immediately described as justification for Mark Cuban's long-held objection to NBA participation in international events. Splitter's condition was a rapid reminder of the more serious injuries suffered by Spurs' stars Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. The injury history with Yao Ming has long left Rockets fans crossing fingers and holding breath while Yao played for China, and then debating the impact those competitions had on the injuries that followed. Yet, this weekend's setbacks, like Yao's, though unfortunate in no way argue against NBA players playing for their countries. These injuries have nothing to do with the uniform the players wore at the time. The idea that injuries incur because players were training with their national teams is usually ridiculous. Players that choose not to play internationally -- or who do not have that option -- do not sit at home encased in bubble wrap. They are training, too. And they usually train without the advantages of working under the direction of top trainers and with the help of top medical people."

  • Robbi Pickeral of The Charlotte Observer: "North Carolina freshman Harrison Barnes was practicing moves at the Smith Center on July 3 when he spotted strength and conditioning coach Jonas Sahratian. 'So, are we going to do a workout tomorrow?' the top incoming recruit in the nation asked. The next day -- a holiday Sunday -- the 6-foot-8 wing completed his 9 a.m. solo session with Sahratian with a similar question: 'What time tomorrow?' 'Then the next morning, he comes in at 8:30 a.m … with Kendall [Marshall], Will Graves and Dexter Strickland,' Sahratian remembered. 'I said, ‘I thought you were coming by yourself.’ He said, ‘I can’t do it all alone.’ 'Right then I said, ‘OK, we’re going to be all right.’ ' Barnes -- projected as the No. 1 overall NBA pick next summer in several mock drafts -- is already known for his smooth outside shot, athletic rebounding, and honed court smarts. But the Iowa native also boasts an intangible quality that might be even more important as the Tar Heels try to ricochet from the worst season in the Roy Williams era: leadership."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "People watch Taylor Griffin, Alando Tucker and Yuta Tabuse don Suns jerseys and think, 'Why not me?' Their reality is twisted by park status, small-college glory or bad NBA stats. Even with movie magic, neither Billy Hoyle nor Sidney Deane were written into the NBA by the end of 'White Men Can't Jump.' Jackie Moon had to buy a team to get into the ABA in 'Semi-Pro.' No NBA team, not even the Clippers, holds a tryout to accumulate off-the-street players like in 'The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh.' Dreaming remains free. Those sure they can win over the Suns don't bother with in-between steps, like a D-League tryout. They wish to co-star with Meryl Streep before acting in a local theatre. Until they moved into US Airways Center in 1993, Director of Player Personnel Todd Quinter said Suns staff was accessible in offices at Central Avenue and Thomas Road, leaving the team MVPs -- its administrative assistants -- to ward off wide-eyed walk-ins. They received a similar tape from a Southern man who called himself 'knockdown shooter' before missing a series of shots and 'mad handles' before kicking the ball off his foot.'They send tapes playing one-on-zero,' Quinter said. 'They're 5-8 or 6-5 and 300 pounds. Physically, there's no way they could think of playing.' "