<
>

First Cup: Thursday

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: "Larry Bird might have just saved his job. More important, though, the Indiana Pacers president, along with general manager David Morway, just made their long-irrelevant team about a thousand times more interesting and competitive. Hello, Darren Collison, point guard of the future, short and long term, and a guy who is still playing on his modest rookie contract. Hello, James Posey, a veteran defensive presence with 3-point shooting capabilities, a championship pedigree and a reasonable $13 million left in the final two years of his deal. And goodbye, Troy Murphy, who performed solidly during his time here but carried an albatross of a contract ($11,968,253, the Pacers' highest for this season) that now lands in New Jersey's lap. The Pacers immediately dropped $4 million from payroll. Two words: Great. Deal. What's not to love? ... As for Bird and Morway, this one might have been a job-saver. As the weeks wore on without any Pacers news, and news of Donnie Walsh's imminent departure from New York, it struck me that Walsh might land back here in Indy to replace Bird. But give Bird and Morway credit: They stuck to their guns, refused to take on big contracts for short-term gain, and kept their eyes on the ball. Finally, we're seeing the dividends. Not just a good deal. A great one."

  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "The Nets have landed their starting power forward, and in an ancillary benefit, he happens to be a Jersey Guy. Troy Murphy, the Sparta native who is one of those rare NBA commodities -- a double-double machine -- was acquired from the Indiana Pacers today in a four-team, five-player trade that cost the Nets starting two-guard Courtney Lee. The deal is low-risk and high-reward for Nets GM Billy King, because it’s rare to land a productive power forward in the prime of his career with an expiring contract, one who is willing to hold a job until rookie Derrick Favors is ready to snatch it from him. 'When I looked at the team, and talking with Avery (Johnson) about where we are, I think Derrick Favors is going to be an All-Star down the road,' King said. 'But I felt we were a little thin at the power forward spot, and looking at Brook Lopez -- and looking at how I think Avery wanted to coach -- one of the players who stood out to me right away was Troy Murphy.' "

  • Les East of NewOrleans.com: "When Dell Demps met Chris Paulfor the first time in an air-clearing meeting a couple of weeks ago, I think the GM told the All-Star point guard to give him a chance to show the Hornets can and will build a championship contender sooner rather than later. He convinced Paul to give rookie coach Monty Williams a chance to prove he’s someone Paul will want to play for long term. On Wednesday, Demps backed up the words of two weeks ago with actions. No, the arrival of Trevor Ariza and Marco Belinelli won’t cause Paul to call Demps and say, 'I’m sold. We’re on our way. Where do I re-up?' But the trades -- Darren Collison and James Posey to Indiana for Trevor Ariza in a four-team deal and Julian Wright to Toronto for Belinelli -- should give Demps some credibility. First, by trading away the player who would replace Paul if Paul were dealt (Collison), Demps is telling the world that Paul isn’t going anywhere any time soon. By acquiring Ariza and dealing Posey, Demps is saying 'we’re getting younger because we plan to have the pieces in place to compete for a championship throughout Chris’ prime.' "

  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: "The Raptors have shuffled the deck, but they basically replaced one low card with another. Adding Julian Wright, formerly of New Orleans Hornets, for Marco Belinelli likely won’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. Belinelli showed flashes, but his erratic shot selection and spotty commitment to defence led him to head coach Jay Triano’s doghouse too often and his role was bound to be small this season. In Wright, the Raptors add a 6-foot-8, multi-skilled combo forward who was highly touted as a third team all-American coming out of Kansas for his ability to do a little bit of everything on the court. The Raptors take a significant step back in the shooting category: Wright’s lack of a jumper is the biggest hole in his game, but add another athletic, defensively capable player to a roster which increasingly seems to be heading in that direction."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Still, as with the deal for Kyle Lowry, the Rockets traded a starter (Trevor Ariza) in a multi-team deal for a player expected to be a backup. As with that deal, they went after a player they had tried to get for years, having spent nearly two years in pursuit of Lowry and more than two years chasing Courtney Lee. And as with that deal, they did it in part because they were not sure how the player they were trading would react to a cut in playing time. ... Gersson Rosas described him with the Rockets' form of high praise. He said Lee was 'cut in the same cloth as Shane Battier.' He will use information, follow a game plan and stay entirely disciplined to do the job as directed. Daryl Morey and Rosas also said again and again that this was not a cost-cutting move. Morey insisted the Rockets would have done it even if they did not save a dime, as opposed to the nearly $10 million they would save in salary and luxury tax. He added that Leslie Alexander has already given the go-ahead to use the $6.3 million trade exception the Rockets picked up in the trade, a deal that if he pulls it off would end up costing the Rockets $2.6 million in tax and salary compared to if they just stood still on Wednesday. They made the move, he said, to get the guy they wanted and had wanted since 2008. The argument sounded very familiar, he had to admit. He can only hope it works out as well."

  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Just last week, an elderly gentleman approached Doc Rivers after a round of golf at Interlachen Country Club. 'Hey I'm only two years older than Shaq,' he said. 'Can you sign me too?' I think Doc is going to get a lot of that this season. He's ready with a few zingers of his own. 'We're the only team with players eligible for the All-Star and the Legends Game,' Rivers said. He laughs at all the swipes and the slights, and the suggestions that the Heat are ruining the game. What's the problem? Doc embraces the Axis of Evil (my words, not his) as astute businessmen. 'If you were a businessman who could buy two other companies to form what would be a dominant company, what businessman wouldn't do that?' he said. 'That's what LeBron did. I have no problem with that. It just makes it more challenging for us, the Magic and everybody else. It's puts a bull's eye on them. Well, everybody wants to beat the Celtics, too. You want the pressure, You don't want to run from it.' Good for Doc. No whining, no complaints, no whispers of collusion. It would be good for everybody else to follow his lead."

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Andre Iguodala was impressive in workouts in Las Vegas last month and in the few days the team has spent in New York this week. The burden of having to be the man, as often happens when he is donning a 76ers uniform, is obsolete. 'I basically try to do the same things [as during the regular season], but I have a little more energy,' Iguodala said. 'Everybody does. K.D. [Durant] has more energy to score, same with Rudy Gay. Our shooters have a lot of energy to shoot and our defenders spend a lot of time defending. I think everybody is playing to their strength. I really have to play defense. We're small, so I have to rebound. I really have to focus on that area and just knock down open shots and take care of the ball. Everyone's game is really simple.' If Iguodala continues to play to his strengths, which he has been doing throughout the workouts, according to Mike Krzyzewski he will be more than just a good piece to a puzzle that has a lot of really good pieces. 'For us, Andre's been one of our best players,' Krzyzewski said. 'He's in great shape, he's in midseason shape. He's doing the things that come naturally to him that are easier for him most of the time. Like, he's playing defense. He's filling a lane, he's driving the ball, he's not forcing shots. He's really been an easy guy to play with. Athletically, he's as good an athlete we have.' "

  • Dan Duggan of the Boston Herald: "In his four years with the Celtics, Rajon Rondo has transformed from a question mark into one of the NBA’s elite point guards. Though Rondo has made major progress, the 24-year-old still has room to grow. Celtics coach Doc Rivers believes Rondo will make strides this summer, as he is currently going through training camp with Team USA in preparation for the world championships in Turkey Aug. 28-Sept. 12. 'I like that he’s playing with them,' Rivers said on Tuesday. 'I think the whole team part of that is good for Rondo. I think every day he’s in that team atmosphere is another day for him to learn.' ... Rivers’ top priority is for Rondo to improve as a free throw shooter. Rondo, a 63 percent shooter from the line for his career, shot an abysmal 26.3 percent in the Finals. 'I think when he becomes a better free throw shooter it’ll make him a better driver,' Rivers said. 'I think, unfortunately it happened in the Finals, when he started missing free throws he stopped driving. That’s what all guys do.' "

  • Janis Carr of The Orange County Register: "Playing for the Lakers. Living in L.A. Competing alongside Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and the others. They were all good reasons why Shannon Brown should re-sign with the Lakers. But it was the chance at winning a third consecutive NBA title that led Brown to spurn other teams and return to the two-time defending champion Lakers. On Wednesday, the athletic guard officially signed a two-year, $4.6 million contract with the Lakers at the team’s training facility in El Segundo. 'It (possibility of winning a three-peat) is pretty special,' said Brown, who has won two NBA titles since being acquired by the Lakers in February 2009 as part of a trade with Charlotte. 'There are a lot of guys who came through this NBA, some lasted, some didn’t. Some played 15 years and can’t say they even made it to the Finals. The possibility of winning three NBA championships is something that will go down in history.' "

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Larry Drew said his emphasis is on exploiting Atlanta’s strengths rather than covering for its weaknesses. It’s an aggressive approach. There certainly will be more turnovers. Theoretically there should be fewer isolations and long jump shots. I figure Drew will have to use his bench liberally, too, if he wants the Hawks to run a lot of motion offense and while also becoming a bona fide defensive team. He’ll have to make lineup adjustments on the fly. The Hawks are going to have to be in good shape to run this stuff; Drew said conditioning would a 'top priority' early in training camp. The Hawks also are going to have to be precise, unselfish and persistent. Drew has some work to do with that Woody had a lot of stuff he wanted to run too but he never could coax guys to do it consistently. Things got tough and the Hawks freelanced. Drew is going to have to break the Hawks out of their iso offense, sometime-y defense mold. It will be interesting to see how he manages it and how the players take to it once it’s time to do the work."

  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: "Veteran guard Keith Bogans, who officially signed with the Bulls on Wednesday, is heading to his new team with some personal history on his side. During his high school years, Bogans played with Carlos Boozer at a basketball tournament in Germany. 'I've known Boozer since we were 13, 14 years old,' Bogans said in a phone interview. 'I know his mom, dad, his whole family. He's going to be great here. He's a great guy, on and off the court. He works extremely hard and wants to win. I think he's going to put that into all the young guys' heads. All of us will be able to feed off that.' ... Bogans said he had some options with other teams, such as New Orleans, but he and his agent targeted the Bulls as his preferred destination when the summer began. He spent last season with San Antonio, averaging 4.4 points per game. The Bulls turned down a chance to sign seven-time all-star Tracy McGrady, who is coming off microfracture knee surgery, to go with Bogans. ... 'I'm an older guy now, so to come in here and play with a group of young guys like they have here, it's going to be real exciting,' he said. 'It's going to be fun to be a part of and fun to watch.' "

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: "Karl Malone thought the Hall of Fame should have bent the rules for him last year. As it turned out, The Mailman did not receive a special invitation to be enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame a year early to allow him to enter with Utah Jazz inductees John Stockton and Jerry Sloan in 2009. 'In my little crazy world,' Malone said, 'I thought maybe they would make an exception.' Even though he had to wait the full five years after retirement to become eligible to be nominated like all other players, Malone will at least get a chance to enter the Hall of Fame with his favorite passer in 2010. The Jazz legends will both be immortalized in the hoops haven together Friday night along with the rest of their teammates from the original Dream Team. The U.S. men's basketball team, which clobbered all foes en route to the 1992 Olympic gold medal in Barcelona, Spain, is one of two teams that will be enshrined. Malone still believes the Hall of Fame missed out on a marketing opportunity to have three guys from the same NBA organization enter together. In his mind, organizers could've easily rationalized the exception by saying, 'We thought it would only be the right thing to do if Karl and John went in together.' "

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Former Milwaukee Bucks guard Junior Bridgeman is being honored for his community service Friday, when he will receive the 2010 Fellowship Open Legends Award. U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, owner of the Bucks, will present the award at Silver Spring Country Club as part of the annual charity golf event. Bridgeman, 56, has made a successful transition from a career on the basketball court to the business world. He is the owner and president of Bridgeman Foods, and oversees 121 Chili's Grill & Bar restaurants and 161 Wendy's restaurants throughout the country. ... Last year, former Milwaukee Braves and Milwaukee Brewers slugger and baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron was honored with the Fellowship Open award. Since the golf tournament was started in 2001, it has raised more than $500,000 for more than 50 youth organizations."