First Cup: Wednesday

  • Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer: "And with the No.2 pick of the 2004 NBA draft, the Charlotte Bobcats select ... Nobody. That’s how it seems, anyway, after the Bobcats waived center Erick Dampier Tuesday and got rid of his unguaranteed, $13.07-million salary for next season. This release sounds OK in principle on first glance. The Bobcats were able to get below the luxury tax and Dampier is too old to help them much on the court. The Bobcats certainly aren’t good enough to be paying a luxury tax. But chase this one down the rabbit hole far enough and you won’t like what you see. Essentially, the Bobcats have made two trades in the past two summers that got rid of center Emeka Okafor and ended up with hardly anything but payroll relief. Okafor was once the NBA Rookie of the Year in Charlotte. Even though Okafor will always be a somewhat robotic player, he was still an asset. The Bobcats basically traded Okafor to New Orleans for Tyson Chandler last summer in large part because Chandler’s contract had fewer years left on it. Then they traded Chandler away to Dallas in July and picked up a couple of spare parts and Dampier’s non-guaranteed salary. ... I guess this is the move that Michael Jordan warned us about -- the one that gets the Bobcats out of a salary mess and better equipped to do the next good deal down the road. It’s just amazing to me that in only six years the Bobcats got into that big of a mess in the first place."

  • Darren Rovell of CNBC Sports Business: "Miami Heat guard LeBron James has a lot of work to do on his reputation. That’s at least according to the latest Q Score, released exclusively to CNBC, on Tuesday morning. Following James’ move from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat, and the way he announced it in the ESPN hour-show dubbed 'The Decision,' the general population has changed its opinion of the man nicknamed King. In January 2010, The Q Scores Company took a poll of the general population and found that 24 percent of people thought of James in a positive light, compared to a 22 percent negative opinion. ... But since 'The Decision' show on July 8, things have gone seriously downhill for the NBA star. ... LeBron is now the sixth most disliked sports personality, according to The Q Score Company, behind Michael Vick, Tiger Woods, Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco and Kobe Bryant."

  • Eddie Sefko of the The Dallas Morning News: "Tim Thomas has decided not to returnto the Mavericks because of the ongoing situation with his ailing wife. Her condition, which Thomas and his family prefer to keep private, forced the 6-10 forward to stay with her much of last season. He played with the Mavericks for the first half of the season, averaging 7.5 points and 2.3 rebounds in 18 games. But he left in January -- with the Mavericks' blessing -- to care for his wife. Thomas said in March that if his wife's situation improved, he wanted to return to the NBA and play for the Mavericks. His agent, Bob Myers, said Tuesday that Thomas would not be rejoining the team. 'The Mavericks have been very understanding on their end throughout the process,' Myers said. 'Tim just feels that this is the best decision for himself and his family at this time.' It remains possible that Thomas may retire after 13 seasons in the league."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "If David Thorpe had marketing on his mind, he could have spoken of the great success of a summer spent in a gym with his prized pupil, Kevin Martin. Thorpe, Martin's personal coach for nine years and an ESPN.com columnist, has played an important role in Martin's success as an overachiever out of Western Carolina, something less than a hotbed for NBA talent. Martin had returned to Houston this week, having been in Tampa to work with Thorpe from May 10 through Sept. 2, and sounded so determined and so confident, Thorpe had his chance to explain his role in Martin's planned revival. Thorpe, however, gave Martin the credit. He said Martin has had the best summer shooting 3s he has ever had. He said Martin has embraced the Rockets training program. He pointed to Martin's dramatically improved athleticism and finishing ability. More than anything, however, Thorpe said Martin's success was largely due to his improved health and hard work."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "One way or another, Kevin Martin pledges to be unrecognizable. Having heard the speculation that the Rockets would be interested in acquiring Carmelo Anthony and knowing such a deal might have to include him, Martin made an offer to at least look the part. 'If Houston wants Carmelo that bad,' Martin said, 'on Halloween, if I'm still here, I'll dress up as Carmelo.' Martin said that even without the Anthony get-up, he will bear only a vague resemblance to the player who finished last season with the Rockets. 'I'll be very different,' Martin said. 'I'll be back to my pre-wrist-injury form. I'm feeling better, more like I was before the injury. That was the main goal, to get back there. My goal when I got traded was to fit in with a great group of guys, not try to be that person that came in here thinking he was going to take every shot. That fitting-in phase is definitely over. Now I'm ready to get back to being myself. Nobody has seen the real me yet. I'm ready to take off.' "

  • Jeff Rabjohns of The Indianapolis Star: "The moment likely will have a lasting impact for Eric Gordon. On Sunday, instead of hearing the national anthem play before a game, he heard it while wearing 'USA' on his uniform with a gold medal hanging around his neck. 'It makes you more appreciative of your country and what you really represent,' Gordon said Tuesday after returning from Turkey, where he helped the U.S. win the FIBA world basketball championship for the first time since 1994. 'When you're a youngster, even when you go to games, people do the national anthem and it's over with and the game starts. When they played it after that championship game, that was really meaningful.' Gordon, the youngest player on the team, led the U.S. in scoring twice during its 9-0 run in Turkey and finished as the Americans' fourth-leading scorer despite not scoring in the gold-medal game."

  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: "Derrick Rose’s role for Team USA was far different than it will be for the Bulls. Rose was charged with pushing the tempo, moving the ball and holding down turnovers. He succeeded in all three categories. Kevin Durant was the star, but also vital for the U.S. was having six players average between 9.8 and 7.0 points (Billups, Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, Rose, Lamar Odom and Rudy Gay). When the U.S. needed Rose to step up late in a game, he delivered by scoring the final 4 points in a confidence-building exhibition win over Spain in Madrid. Mostly, though, he stuck to his role. So don’t be so quick to invite Deron Williams or Chris Paul back to the 2012 Olympic team. Or anoint Russell Westbrook as the NBA’s best young point guard. If nothing else, Rose deserves strong consideration for the London trip. Maybe when it comes to international competition, Team USA doesn’t need a veteran distributor or a 3-point specialist as much as it requires a high-powered engine. Rose revved it up and delivered a gold-medal performance."

  • Dan Bickley of The Arizona Republic: "Jerry Colangelo went on a six-week survival mission, and came home with a net. It was a special souvenir snipped from a basketball rim in Turkey. For those paying attention, it wasn't as easy as it looked. 'On 9/11, we were in Turkey, where the population is 99 percent Muslim,' Colangelo said. 'With threats of the Quran being burned in Florida, there was a fear that all Americans would be targets.' Later that night, Team USA would play a semifinal against Lithuania, uncertain of what was going down in the real world, a terrifying place where an obscure pastor in the Florida panhandle can spark international conflict. 'Who knows what could've broken loose,' Colangelo said. 'But it was the eye of the storm on the international stage, and we were in the middle of it.' "

  • Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com: "Taj Gibson will be a jack of all trades for Tom Thibodeau this season. After starting most of last year under Vinny Del Negro, Gibson continued to show improvement as the year progressed, averaging nine points and almost eight rebounds a game while playing in all 82 regular-season contests. He proved to be one of the biggest steals of the draft at No. 26, earning an invitation to play in the Rookie/Sophomore Game during All Star Weekend. Unlike most rookies, the USC alum embraced the concept of defense, and he became a Del Negro favorite because of his team-first attitude. At 25, he is more mature than most young players who come into the league. With the addition of Carlos Boozer, Gibson will come off the bench this season, but he still is expected to get plenty of minutes as one of the better sixth men in the league. He can play both forward positions and will most likely be used as a defensive presence late in games. After struggling to find his offense in the beginning of last year, Gibson has spent a lot of time in the gym working on his jumper, and he should be able to expand his range."

  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "Billy King doesn’t talk about it much: It entailed a possible return to his hometown of D.C., and originally, it was Jon Corzine’s idea. At that time in 2003, our then-Senator was the head of the Senatorial Campaign Committee and was scouting around for potential candidates for ‘04, so he took the Amtrak from Union Station to Philly, met with King, and gave it a shot: You should consider running for Arlen Specter’s seat next year, Corzine told him. King actually gave it 'some serious thought,' he said this morning. The committee told him he’d be staked $3 million -- the rest he would have to raise himself. The latter wouldn’t be much of a problem -- it rarely is, when you’re a cog in David Stern’s PR machine. There were only two problems. First, King’s wife didn’t seem particularly enthusiastic about it. Wives are always the sensible ones in moments such as these, but they can eventually be brought around to embracing the insane idea of moving into a fishbowl. Second, 'I really don’t think Ed Rendell wanted it,' King explained, and when you don’t have the blessing of the Pennsylvania governor -- who had already emerged as a national Democratic leader -- your candidacy isn’t going anywhere. But you could sense by the look in his eye that King really wanted it."

  • Janis Carr of The Orange County Register: "Derrick Caracter realizes he faces long odds of making it in the NBA. But the former Texas-El Paso forward, taken with the No. 58 pick of the 2010 NBA Draft, is eager to be a part of the Lakers' drive to another three-peat this season and possibly a career at this level. 'It's a challenge as a rookie because you have to adapt to the NBA lifestyle and the travel,' Caracter said. 'Then there are the games and learning the triangle offense and a lot of other different things. It's a lot of stuff to learn all at once. But I'm learning and adjusting to it all. There are a lot of veterans on this team that will help us.' Caracter already has started working out at the Lakers' training facility in El Segundo and met Kobe Bryant, Shannon Brown and newcomer Theo Ratliff. Ratliff, a veteran center, no doubt will get the job of schooling Caracter in the paint, and the rookie admits he has plenty to learn. 'I'm taking it one day at a time, getting up early, working out, paying attention,' he said. Ironically, it was school and paying attention that caused him the most problems in high school and college. ... Caracter said his path to the NBA has made him stronger in his faith and resolve to steer clear of any and all issues. His weight is holding at 275 pounds, which adheres to a clause in his Lakers contract, and he is taking a more humble approach in the pros. 'I've learned not to worry about the extra stuff,' he said. 'I enjoy the game of basketball and this is all I do now. I don't have school to worry about anymore so I'm concentrating on just doing my job and we'll see how it goes.' "

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "It's unusual to go this long without a peep from Gilbert Arenas, but that's probably for the best since what people really want is to see whether or not the former all-star guard can still play. He's already shown that he can create suspense and hype around his comebacks, but after a series of flops, the time has come for him simply to produce. ... Don't let Arenas' silence make you think that he is not conscious of the narrative surrounding him. The man who came to personify the No. 0, rising from nothing to something, has changed to No. 9 - and it wasn't a random selection. He originally picked the No. 6 to represent the day that he was suspended - his birthday no less - but, according to a former teammate, Arenas backed off that choice when LeBron James let it be known that he was switching to No. 6 from No. 23 out of respect for Michael Jordan. Instead, Arenas went with a number with a more personal connection, especially considering that he lost his estranged mother, Mary Francis Robinson, last March. Robinson abandoned Arenas when he was just 31/2 and left him at an apartment complex in Miami's rough Overtown neighborhood - in apartment No. 9. He's coming back against the odds once again."

  • Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News: "The signals are strong: If the timing is right and the discussions progress, my belief is that Joe Lacob is planning to move on from Don Nelson and probably install Keith Smart as the Warriors’ interim coach for the coming season. Nothing is concrete. The rush of training camp–due to start in late-September (earlier than I thought) -- complicates everything. ... Before the Carney deal, the Warriors signed undrafted free-agent PG Jeremy Lin, who is not a DNT, since Lin comes into the NBA with a lot of attributes, but reliable three-point shooting from pro distance is not one of them. Lin was a personal choice of Lacob, just a reminder. Before that, the Warriors added SF Dorell Wright, who has developed into a decent three-point shooter but is probably more valuable as a length-defender, so he isn’t a DNT. Before that, the Warriors drafted F Ekpe Udoh, who might not play until January or later, but who does not resemble Dirk Nowitzki or Billy Owens in any way that I can tell, so he’s not a DNT, either. ... I don’t know if I can or should count the David Lee thing, since that was mostly about the Warriors’ obsession with the All-Star PR, and I guess Nelson could’ve gone along with that, and apparently Lacob did, too, as he was about to close the deal. So Lee doesn’t count in this. But everything else since late-June or so has been notable by the way it hasn’t fit with Don Nelson’s system or likings. Everything else has been a piece of the puzzle, and when you start fitting them together … You get a clear picture."

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "David Kahn has gone silent and deep with the media since that ESPN1500 interview and subsequent NBA fine, but he's back with a letter to the fans now that training camp is just 11 days away. It's a bit more detailed than the full-page ad the Wolves ran in yesterday's Star Tribune. Most interesting is his mention of a 'singular' move that awaits, to complete the rebuilding of a roster than has been transformed with the addition of Wes Johnson, Martell Webster, Nikola Pekovic, Lazar Hayward, Luke Ridnour (and the re-signing of Darko Milicic) and the subtraction of Al Jefferson since the team last played in April. It'll be great sport to watch in the coming months -- a time frame Kahn lays out that will run until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is in place -- and contemplate what "star" players might become available for a team that has now young players and two extra first-round draft picks to offer."

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "Four veteran referees with a combined 72 seasons of N.B.A. experience have retired or moved on: Joe DeRosa, Joe Forte, Sean Corbin and Phil Robinson. The vacancies will be filled by five Development League referees, one of whom will stand out for his size if nothing else. Kevin Cutler, who is 6 feet 8 inches, will be one of the two tallest officials in N.B.A. history. (Michael Henderson, who was also 6-8, worked for the league from 2001 to 2005.) Cutler, 42, became a curiosity in N.B.A. arenas last season when he refereed a half dozen games as part of an initiative aimed at preparing top prospects. ... Steve Javie, one of the league’s best referees, nearly joined that group but will return for a 25th season. Javie, 55, considered retiring after a painful knee condition forced him to miss most of last season. He has decided to return, however. Javie has worked 210 playoff games, including 21 finals games. Dick Bavetta, who turns 71 in December, is returning for his 36th season despite persistent rumblings that the league is pushing him to retire."