First Cup: Thursday

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "The best thing about the reunion of Michael Jordan and Kwame Brown with the Charlotte Bobcats is that both men are in completely different places right now. Jordan isn't trying to scratch a final itch while proving to his boss he has what it takes to be both a spectacular player and executive. Brown isn't a teenager weighed down from expectations to deliver as a franchise savior. Jordan no longer has to worry about his boss, because he is the boss. Brown doesn't have to worry about expectations because he has been, for lack of a better word, a bust. Well, bust may not be fair, because Brown was placed in a position unlike any other high school player before him. Plucked by the Washington Wizards straight from rural Georgia in 2001, Brown was asked to rescue a moribund franchise - while being teammates with the man regarded as the best to ever play the game (a man who regularly belittled him after once serving as a mentor). During my first year covering the Wizards, Brown told me, 'It's not my fault they picked me number one.' No, it was not. Jordan's decision to draft Brown first overall has haunted both individuals -- and the Wizards -- for the past nine years. But the Wizards really didn't know what they were getting in Brown, who dominated his foes on the high school level with his quickness and size, then was asked to immediately replicate that success against grown men."

  • Adam Fluck of Bulls.com: "The Chicago Bulls have plans to unveil a bronze statue of Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen that will be displayed permanently in the United Center at some point towards the end of the 2010-11 season. 'Not only is Scottie Pippen one of the greatest players to ever wear a Bulls uniform, but he’s among the best players in history of the league to play the game,' said Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. 'He had a tremendous impact in bringing six world championships to Chicago and there is no better way to pay tribute to him than with a permanent statue that honors his inspirational career.' The statue will be crafted by Omri and Julie Rotblatt-Amrany of Highland Park, Ill., who also sculpted the famous Michael Jordan statue which was unveiled in January 1994 in conjunction with Jordan’s No. 23 jersey retirement. 'Words really can’t express my feelings,' said Pippen. 'It’s an unbelievable honor and truly amazing. It’s something you dream of as a kid growing up, but you can never foresee those childhood fantasies becoming reality. You see statues of individuals who have done great things and made their mark on history, but as a basketball player, you never really think about arriving at this point. It’s an amazing honor for the Chicago Bulls to do this for me.' "

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "A few years ago, Josh Kroenke stood in an airport security line when the whispers began. Soon after, the cellphone cameras started flashing. He thought to himself -- is this a practical joke? Then, Kroenke realized who was in front of him -- Carrie Underwood, an 'American Idol' winner and wildly successful recording artist. The two got to talking. Curious, he asked how she dealt with this omnipresent spotlight. 'It comes with the territory, she told the stranger. Well, now he will deal with that spotlight too. The 30-year-old son of Stan Kroenke, the Nuggets and Avalanche owner, is now in line to take over for his dad. 'Bottom line -- it's exciting,' Josh Kroenke said Wednesday. 'Anytime you get a fresh face around, people are half-scared and half-excited about what you're going to do, and hopefully I can keep the excited portion going more than the scared portion.' On Wednesday, Stan Kroenke officially became the majority owner of the NFL's St. Louis Rams, but because of the league's cross-ownership policy, his son -- who spent the past three years in the Nuggets' front office -- will gain management control over personnel and financial decisions of the NBA and NHL franchises."

  • Andre Iguodala for the Philadelphia Daily News: "I thought in (yesterday's) game (against Greece in Athens) we played really well. We got off to a good start, and our defense was really clicking. I think we held them to just one field goal in the first 6 minutes, or something like that. This was our best defensive game by far. We have really come together as a team since we first got together in Las Vegas and have gotten a lot better, especially defensively. I think the reason is because we are getting more acclimated with each other. That is such a big part of any kind of success we're going to have when we start the championship games. I was talking to Lamar Odom about it, and he was saying that with the Lakers, he would go onto the court and for about 30 games, they didn't have to talk to each other out on the court because they were so in tune what each of them were supposed to do. I'd like for us to get close to that point, and I think it's coming. ... We're playing well right now, and, hopefully, that will carry over into the world championships."

  • Pete Thamel of The New York Times: "It is fitting that the Achilles’ heel of USA Basketball’s resurgence has been Greece. After being embarrassed in Athens at the 2004 Olympics, the Americans revamped their basketball system to better exploit their superior talent. The low point for the United States came in a loss to Greece in 2006 at the world championships, the lone significant defeat since USA Basketball was restructured by its chairman, Jerry Colangelo. That loss to Greece came in the world championship semifinals to a team without an N.B.A. player. Greece used a simple pick-and-roll repeatedly to upset an American team with Dwight Howard, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Four years later, an American team with far less star power thumped a depleted Greek team, 87-59, on Wednesday in Athens in its final game before the world championships. The Americans open pool play Saturday against Croatia in Istanbul. ... Perhaps the most interesting wrinkle of the Greece game was how much zone defense the Americans played. After the 2-3 zone made a few cameos on baseline inbounds plays and in the final possession against Spain, the Americans flashed it for long stretches against Greece. It appears likely that they will use a zone, especially to eat up space for post players, but Greek center Kostas Tsartsaris still managed to score 24 points. Many of the looks were far too easy. This American team has shown it can run, shoot and defend at a high level. When the games start Saturday, however, the Americans will have to show they can perform at a similar level."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "You watch the NBA playoffs because you have favorite players, a city allegiance or an appreciation for basketball at its best. You watch Olympic basketball because you have patriotic pride in one of our finer sports and a value for the ultimate worldwide competition. So why not care about the FIBA World Championship that starts Saturday? The rest of the world does. ... The big difference is the U.S. has tried to win the World Championship, to varying degrees. It just hasn't been good enough since 1994. The U.S. rarely fields its best offering of talent, as is the case again this year with the 'B team' having no returnees from the 2008 Olympics' 'Redeem Team.' The U.S. has not even made the World Championship gold-medal game since 1994, hitting rock bottom in 2002 with a sixth-place finish in front of sparse crowds in Indianapolis. 'Other nations feel like this is the biggest basketball event,' said USA Basketball director of international player personnel Tony Ronzone, the Minnesota Timberwolves' general manager and longtime Valley resident. 'In America, we just don't grasp it like them. It's like the World Cup of soccer to them. It's a big, big deal. These countries take a lot of pride. It's the letters in the front, not the back.' "

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: "Brian Shaw, 44, has held off. It hasn't always been easy, especially for a guy who prides himself on living life to the fullest -- something he has done even more so since the 1993 death of his mother, father and sister in a car accident. The 11-month-old daughter of Shaw's sister survived the crash, and he fought to become legal guardian of Brianna, his niece and namesake. Shaw's patience with his job search has positioned him perfectly, even though Jerry and Jim Buss aren't tipping their hand. Phil Jackson eventually did decide in early July to coach another season but immediately declared it his 'last stand.' So with Mitch Kupchak already dropping hints about maintaining the triangle offense without Jackson and having promoting Chuck Person to full-time assistant coach so the Lakers' staff might return nearly intact for 2011-12 ... the shadows in which Shaw is so good at lurking are growing short. He has made a life out of being good but not great, omnipresent but not omnipotent, a man of the people yet governor of none. So no one can know for sure how he'll be as a head coach. But it's time for everyone to start thinking about it. He can't possibly be Jackson, but there is a calm that radiates from Shaw, too."

  • Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News: "Let's put the possibility of Mavs winning a title with Dirk at about 15 percent. That's as high as I can go. Realistically, he has about three more years before he starts to decline. At the most. That's 15 years in the NBA . And right now this team is either about what it was at the end of last year or a little better if Tyson Chandler is a significant upgrade. I'm actually excited to watch some of the international games with him at center for Team USA. But the Mavericks aren't the Lakers, who have plenty of years left with Kobe and Pau. And they aren't the up-and-comers from Oklahoma City. They are in that big, big mix trying to play for seeds in the playoffs. And that doesn't even address the need to beat the Big Three in Miami once a team gets out of the West."

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "As training camp approaches, the Hawks will look to see which vets are waived and presumably they’d be interested in Erick Dampier if he’s let go since he’s probably a better option than the other centers on the market. ... The potential problem for the Hawks, of course, is if Dampier turned down $2.2 million from Charlotte he wouldn’t be inclined to sign for the minimum. Atlanta’s team salary is roughly $2.7 million under the luxury-tax threshold so there’s some wiggle room above his vet minimum of $1.35 million. Dampier wouldn’t come with the potential headaches that spooked them with Shaq so, who knows, maybe the Hawks would offer Dampier more than the minimum if it came to that. So far the minimum looks to be the market price for Josh Boone, Francisco Elson and Brian Skinner."

  • Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe: "As Danny Ainge weighs his options, he and Doc Rivers are also deciding where to hold training camp. The past two years, it has been at Salve Regina in Newport, R.I., but Paul Pierce has talked to Ainge about going farther away to help develop chemistry, especially with so many new personalities. Before the 2007-08 championship season, the Celtics held camp in Rome, allowing Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Pierce to jell. It was there the team came up with its 'Ubuntu’ mantra. Ainge is considering Pierce’s suggestion. 'We haven’t made a confirmation on that yet,’ Ainge said. 'We’re looking into the different possibilities, and Doc and I are discussing where we want to have training camp, what’s best for our team. 'I think he has a point. I’m not so sure that that’s the only way to bond together as a team, but I certainly understand where he’s coming from. There’s always a lot of factors in training camp, and we certainly try to do what’s best.' "

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Halfway into his second day on the job, Suns General Manager Lance Blanks' first impression was to not make too much of an impression on a club he considers to be great. Blanks just wants to nudge the superlative needle from 'great to greater.' Despite spending the past decade in Cleveland and San Antonio, Blanks endorsed the Suns' more open style of play. After missing all the off-season action that brought in five new Suns, Blanks hailed the moves that leave him little roster work to do but for adding a big man. 'There's a great infrastructure in place to have success,' Blanks said. 'So part of my job will be staying out of the way and not messing things up.' New Suns President Lon Babby hired Blanks three weeks ago to be his 'basketball genius.' Babby cited Blanks' acumen for the game, locker-room presence as an ex-player and his front-office work with successful teams, including the past five years as Cleveland's assistant GM. 'He will have the most influential voice on personnel matters,' Babby said, diffusing opinions that the GM role would be watered-down under Managing Partner Robert Sarver and Babby."

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: "Greg Monroe has gone through an eventful summer. He was drafted by the Pistons and then spent a good amount of time in Las Vegas at the Summer League. But as for one of his first impressions of Detroit, well, he likes what he sees. Monroe was at Milliken State Park in downtown Detroit, where Coca-Cola presented a $25,000 check that will be used for an indoor/outdoor adventure play area. 'It feels good to be around in a new city,' Monroe said. 'Being around the leaders of the city, at such an early age, it feels good.' ... After attending a three-day rookie symposium before returning to Detroit, Monroe saw similarities between here and his hometown of New Orleans. 'It's a big city with a very big metropolitan area,' he said. 'It's a big sports town, like Detroit. Detroit is on its way back. The people have been wonderful, and I'm looking forward to representing the city.' "

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "Score one for the rookie. The Kings' Hassan Whiteside threw out the first pitch a few minutes ago at the River Cats-Fresno Grizzlies game at Raley Field, and while his velocity was lacking, he avoided tossing a one-bouncer into the dirt. Whiteside, who has been in town finding an apartment and working out, received some pitching tips at the practice facility earlier in the day from Kings stats guru Darryl Arata. While offering his own version of a pitching windup, Arata advised the 7-foot Whiteside to overthrow the ball if necessary. 'Most of the people throw the ball in the dirt,' noted the longtime Kings publicist, who remains an invaluable resource for us media types. 'Throw it higher, harder, so it doesn't bounce.' "