First Cup: Tuesday

  • Fred Mitchell and David Kaplan of the Chicago Tribune: "For years, there have been whispers around the NBA that Michael Jordan first retired from the league in 1993 to play baseball because of his heavy involvement in gambling. Ron Shelton, who directed the ESPN '30 for 30' documentary 'Jordan Rides the Bus' that airs at 7 p.m. Tuesday, has been disabused of that notion. 'I probably, like most people in America, thought he left the NBA for a year because of gambling,' Shelton told us Monday. 'After researching the project, I was utterly convinced that was nonsense. And probably like most people, I thought he was a catastrophically bad baseball player. And after researching it, I got a different view about that, as well.' Shelton, who previously wrote and directed hit movies 'Bull Durham,' 'Tin Cup' and 'White Men Can't Jump,' said he found no reason to believe the NBA quietly punished Jordan for a year because of gambling. 'Everybody that I talked to said they spent hundreds of hours looking for smoking guns and there is not even a leak; it's just circumstantial. It's just a theory,' he said."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "When I heard about the Bobcats signing Kwame Brown, I figured I'd blog in: Again this is one more indication the Bobcats will eventually waive Erick Dampier's contract to off-load about $13 million in salary responsibility. Sorry if that ticks some of you off (I know you want Dampier to be a trade chip), and they certainly gave up an asset in Tyson Chandler. However, it's no surprise. The day Michael Jordan was formally introduced as majority owner he predicted they'd have to make a trade that wouldn't be good basketball-wise, but would have to be done, payroll-management wise. This was that deal. They haven't waived Dampier yet because he hasn't cost them anything. But barring a miraculous deal that both solves their luxury-tax problems and improves their roster, Dampier seems destined to be waived. ... Please don't fancy this as Jordan's effort at rectifying a mistake. Taking Brown No. 1 way back when for the Wizards had little, if anything, to do with signing him as a free agent for a modest salary now. Brown has become a journeyman. He's a viable defensive big man, so he can supply some of what they lost trading away Chandler. Larry Brown always wants several options inside. I'm confident this is much more about placating Larry Brown (who can't be pleased they traded Chandler for little more than payroll relief) than about any misguided sense Kwame Brown will suddenly become a difference-maker."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "The question really is: Can the Nuggets move J.R. Smith? The short answer is, yes, eventually. Working in the Nuggets’ favor is Smith’s expiring contract at a very economical $6.7 million. Working against the Nuggets is his baggage. It’s considerable. Consistent questionable actions on and off the court have damaged his value. So, either the Nuggets get a bit less than what they could have gotten for an athletic, 3-point shooter, or they package him up with another player to help bring back more value. Either way, expect the Nuggets to continue to try to move him.

  • Frank Zicarelli ofthe Toronto Sun: "Jose Calderon’s confusing summer took another bizarre turn for the worse, a development that should have no bearing on the Raptors’ ability to trade their point guard. Everyone in the NBA knows what Calderon can bring to the table, but more importantly they know what he can’t do on the floor, which is to say that he can’t play defence, or at least he can’t keep his man from getting into the lane. In a perfect world, Calderon would be leading his native Spain on a long and memorable run at the coming world championship in Turkey, where virtually every NBA GM is expected to congregate. With so many league officials in one setting, it’s natural that trade seeds would get planted, names being bandied about even at time when most teams have already completed their off-season makeovers. Calderon will now be unavailable to Spain following an injury to his hamstring, a setback the veteran Raptor developed against the U.S. on Sunday. In today’s messed-up world of reporting, where Internet garbage gets packaged as gospel, where bloggers are somehow viewed as credible, Calderon was feared to have torn a leg muscle. Turns out Calderon sustained a minor hamstring injury, which is expected to heal prior to the start of the season. ... Calderon is a good guy who plays hard and says all the right things, but he no longer fits in Toronto."

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "With training camp set to open in about five weeks, the Hawks are in the peculiar position of having committed to the richest contract in the NBA while still facing the perception they didn't significantly improve their roster. The Hawks signed Joe Johnson to a six-year, $123.7 million deal last month because they wanted to avoid backsliding after three straight years in the playoffs. But with no major moves since then and none on the horizon, there is nothing on paper to suggest Atlanta has taken a step forward during the offseason. As it stands now, the top nine players from 2009-10 will be the same top nine in 2010-11. ... The Hawks can boast that they return the core of a team that won 53 regular season games (including 34 at home), finished No. 3 in the East and was the third-most efficient offense. Yet even those accomplishments come with disclaimers. Foremost, the Hawks signaled their underachievement when they let go of coach Mike Woodson."

  • Darren Rovell of CNBC Sports: "CNBC has exclusively learned that Li-Ning, China's top athletic brand, has signed Evan Turner, the No. 2 pick in this year's NBA Draft to a multi-year deal that will make him the face of the brand. Why is this a potentially game changer? Because the Chinese shoe brands -- not willing to compete with the Nikes and adidases of the world -- haven't been willing to pay for top talent to endorse their shoes. Instead, they have waited until some of the league's veterans were willing to go to them. ... Turner starts with Li-Ning and that makes a big difference. Turner will wear Li-Ning for his rookie season and will immediately appear in the company's marketing. ... What makes this even more intriguing is that Turner's agent is David Falk, who of course is responsible for establishing the greatest marketing deal of all time, Michael Jordan, Nike and the Air Jordan franchise."

  • The Dallas Morning News Staff: "First it was Jerry Jones. Now it's Mark Cuban. HBO's Entourage sure seems to be enjoying the Dallas sports ownership scene lately. Maybe Tom Hicks will make a cameo next to help pay off some more debt? Cuban made his appearance Sunday night playing himself. The Mavericks owner showed up in Ari's office with his business manager, played by Bob Odenkirk of Mr. Show fame. Not really clear on why Cuban was there, but he ended up talking about a tequila business with Turtle. Cuban's favorite part? How tall he looked. Here's what he had to say on twitter afterward: 'Thx for #Entourage props 1st thing every1 ALWAYS says 2me: they thought i was 5'5. Its from standing next to 7' footers all the time.Im 6'3' "

  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: "After five straight wins in European championship qualifying, Luol Deng’s British squad was worked over by host Macedonia 75-56 on Monday. Now 5-1 in pool play, Great Britain can still wrap up a spot in next year’s championships by winning one of its last two games against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Thursday or Ukraine on Sunday. Deng had an interesting stat line, finishing with 14 points, 9 rebounds and 8 turnovers. He hit 4 of 13 shots from the field and just 3 of 9 free throws."