First Cup: Wednesday

  • Vincent Goodwill Jr. of The Detroit News: "Leave it to our good friend in Minnesota David Kahn to leave Kurt Rambis on a string for the better part of three months before finally firing him Tuesday. Rambis finished 100 games under .500 in two years and never seemed to click with his best player, Kevin Love. He should've been fired the day after the season ended, but that would've required Kahn to actually communicate with Rambis. Reportedly, the two hadn't been on good speaking terms for months at that point. Instead, Kahn went on an ESPN podcast and took a few thinly-veiled shots at his head coach but chances are, Kahn never told Rambis man-to-man of his issues. ... No one knows why Kahn has developed this warped sense of doing business, one thing is for sure: He'll have a hard time sitting in front of prospective coaches explaining his actions. Which makes a hard sell even more difficult."

  • Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press: "The Timberwolves' firing of Kurt Rambis on Tuesday marked the official divorce between coach and organization. But the marriage had soured much, much earlier. In fact, during the final months of last season, Rambis had become withdrawn and spoke to virtually no one in the organization, except the players he was hired to coach. His relationship with owner Glen Taylor had become fractured. It was the same with David Kahn, the man who hired him. Rambis also had issues with several players. He was no fan of Kevin Love, who suddenly was the face of the franchise. Things became so bad that as soon as the season ended, Taylor and Kahn questioned Rambis as to whether he even wanted to be here. Rambis appeared at times to be coaching on autopilot during that final 15-game losing streak. Management had to prod him to get off the bench and show some involvement during the games. When he was hired, Rambis appeared to be an upbeat, positive guy. He certainly had the pedigree to be a good coach. As a player and then an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers, he knew what it took to win. He also had the benefit of learning the coaching profession at the knee of Phil Jackson. But adversity does strange things to people. Some learn from it. Others rise above it. Rambis turned sour. ... This probably was the worst defensive team in Wolves history. They were horrifyingly bad in that area. Yet defense is a teachable commodity. Rambis clearly wasn't getting through. Also recall the season-ending 15-game losing streak. Talk about killing hope ... a young team should be better the more time it spends together. Yet to finish the way the Wolves did, for the second year in a row, was an abomination. So no one really should be surprised by Rambis' firing. Especially Rambis. In the end, the right thing happened, even if it didn't happen in the right way."

  • Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune: "If you parse his grandiloquent language and stare into his eyes as he explains his basketball vision, what you discover is that David Kahn doesn't know what he's talking about. The emperor has no clues. Kahn, the Wolves' basketball boss, belatedly fired Kurt Rambis as the Timberwolves coach on Wednesday.Then Kahn said his search for Rambis' replacement will be "wide but not voluminous.'' That is gibberish. He said he wants his next coach to encourage an 'up-tempo' style of play. That is silly, because last year Rambis' Timberwolves ranked first in the NBA in pace of play, according to ESPN's John Hollinger, and demonstrated what happens when a poor team plays fast. It loses 65 games. Kahn let Rambis dangle for months when everyone in the NBA knew Rambis effectively had been fired, then pretended that the elapsed time was due to diligent thinking. That is reprehensible, leaving someone in limbo for so long. Kahn admitted that he has contacted Bernie Bickerstaff on the day that Bickerstaff's son, longtime Wolves assistant coach J.B., was revealed to be leaving the organization to work with Kevin McHale in Houston. That is embarrassing. All of which leaves us asking the same question about Target Center as we do about those little cars at the circus: How do they fit so many clowns in there?'

  • Joe Fitzgerald of the Boston Herald: "Red Auerbach, a gifted communicator, believed, 'It’s not what you tell people that matters; it’s what they hear.' Anyone in the business of communicating knows just how true that is. It’s a thought that came to mind upon hearing that a Bill Russell statue will, at long last, grace this city in which he reigned as the winningest athlete in the history of professional team sports, capturing 11 championships in the 13 seasons (1957-1969) he backboned the Celtics [team stats]. And if it hadn’t been for a bum ankle in the spring of 1958, his total would have been 12. If the statue, which will tower over City Hall Plaza, evokes only memories of basketball prowess, it will certainly be deserving of its prominence, but its viewers will have missed the bristling essence of the towering personality it honors. Russell saw this country and this city through eyes attuned to slights and hurts, and he verbalized what he saw, calling it what it was, mincing no words, with little regard for his own popularity and less regard for those who wished he’d just shut up and rebound. 'I don’t need anyone telling me I’m OK,' he once explained when asked why he knowingly ruffled the feathers of a public that wanted to adore him. 'I know I’m OK.' "

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "With the addition of Sampson and Bickerstaff to Finch, there seems a recurring theme to choices. Each was best-known for their work with their team’s young prospects, with Finch having nothing but young players in his successful two-year run as the Rockets’ D-League coach and Sampson well-known for his college coaching, especially as the national coach of the year in 2002 at Oklahoma. If you go back to Adelman’s departure, there was a sense that the Rockets were dissatisfied with the player development work done by Adelman and his staff. This did not make a lot of sense since Aaron Brooks was the league’s most improved player one season and Kyle Lowry and Chuck Hayes were nearly unrecognizable the next. Kevin Martin should have been the Most Improved winner several seasons ago when Adelman was his coach in Sacramento. Had Rick Adelman been willing, he could have probably remained Rockets coach by giving in and dramatically altering his staff. He refused, unwilling to sell out assistants that had worked hard and done well for him. The Rockets, however, wanted change. That began with the selection of McHale. On Tuesday, he put together his staff and as crucial as the staff always is to a coach’s success, Alexander made it clear how important he believes it to be."

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: "It's still pretty nice to be Jimmer Fredette. Fredette is in Los Angeles for the ESPYs and Thursday he'll be at the American Century Championship Conference where the rookie will take part in the celebrity tournament in Lake Tahoe. With no Summer League to take up his time, Fredette will be on the same course as NBA legends (Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley), Super Bowl winners (Aaron Rodgers, Marshall Faulk, Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice) along the likes of Dan Quayle, NFL coaches Todd Haley and Ken Whisenhunt, Dale Jarrett, Deron Williams, Tim Tebow, Tom Glavine and Andy Pettitte. This might be the setting where Fredette won't be rushed by fans like a pop star - at least not as many fans as Jordan or Barkley. On a conference call this afternoon, Fredette touched on a variety of topics in 15 minutes ranging from BYU moving to the West Coast Conference in basketball, whether he'd consider playing in Europe during an extended lockout (nope) and if he had the answer to the national debt (just kidding). Fredette continues to say all the right things. ... Fredette, fair or not, will be expected to play at a high level from day one. Casspi's good start to his rookie season was a surprise. Fredette is already mentioned as a Rookie of the Year candidate. So far, Fredette seems ready for that."

  • Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: "The league office has prohibited the teams’ employees from commenting on players. Employees can talk about team issues, evidently, but not about players. ... Witness a recent interview with Trail Blazers acting General Manager Chad Buchanan. When it was observed that it’s too bad there is no summer league scheduled, Buchanan replied, 'Yeah.' Shortly thereafter, the league threatened Buchanan with a $1 million fine, according to one source. Insanity. Blazer President Larry Miller was a guest on the team’s 'Courtside Monday Night' radio/TV show Monday night. He was OK to talk about the general manager search and the permission given to Minnesota to talk to Blazer assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff about the vacant Timberwolves head job, but there was no conversation about players. Until Yao Ming filed paperwork for his retirement, Houston officials couldn’t hold a news conference with the announcement. Blazer ambassadors such as Terry Porter and Jerome Kersey are prohibited from saying anything about players, too. Brian Grant – also on the Blazer payroll as an ambassador – can’t have current NBA players participate in his upcoming golf event for Parkinson’s disease."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "While the NBA universe continues to buzz about New Jersey guard Deron Williams' decision to play basketball in Turkey as players face an expected long lockout, many others are pondering overseas stints as well. Count Nuggets guard Ty Lawson among them. Lawson is not only seriously thinking about making a similar decision, he said he would definitely play overseas if the NBA lockout proves to be as long as many of the predictions. 'If they say we're definitely going to be locked out in November, I'm going to go over there until the season starts or for the whole year,' Lawson said. The guard, who finished his second season with the Nuggets, averaging 11.7 points, 4.7 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 1.0 steals, said it won't take long to survey the landscape and make his move. He's fond of exploring playing opportunities in Italy. 'Yeah, go over to Italy, chill out for a little bit,' Lawson said. 'I haven't been there before, so it would be a new experience.' He says he hasn't yet been approached by a team."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "Locked-out NBA players have reason to smile just a little today. The lockout isn’t ending soon, but the latest news was positive. It seems the owners will have to refund the $160 million withheld from players’ paychecks as part of the escrow system in the collective bargaining agreement that expired July 1. Citing sources within the NBA and the players’ union, NBA.com reported a pending infusion of dough for the players, who had yielded 8 percent of each paycheck, per the fine print, during each season in the old deal. This is money that will make it easier for players to stand firm against the league. Tim Duncan, for example, should get a check for $1.5 million and change. DeJuan Blair will get $73,440; Gary Neal, $45,200. Additionally, there are lockout jobs awaiting players at the bottom end of the pay scale, and they don’t even have to leave North America to get them. The newly formed National Basketball League of Canada, after breaking away from something called the Premiere League, recently opened its arms to what it called 'Tier 3' NBA players staring at a long lockout. The NBL defines 'Tier 3' players as those on the lower side of the NBA salary spectrum, especially young players earning the league minimum."

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: "The immediate future of the NBA, now in Day 13 of a lockout, is unknown. The future of the 76ers? That may have become clearer yesterday as it appears a group headed by Joshua Harris is close to finalizing a deal with Comcast-Spectacor to take over the team. A league source said the completion of the sale was awaiting signatures of the parties involved, while another source confirmed the deal is 'very close' to being finalized. Harris, a leveraged buyout specialist, and his group are reportedly purchasing the team for $280 million from chairman Ed Snider and Comcast-Spectacor. Snider will retain a 10 percent financial stake, but will not have any management responsibilities. Following an agreement, the sale will have to be approved by the NBA Board of Governors. Approval would not be hindered by the lockout. Among the group joining Harris is David Blitzer of the Blackstone Group, and Jason Levien, a former sports agent and front-office employee of the Sacramento Kings."

  • Louis Aguilar of The Detroit News: "Tom Gores — a 47-year-old private equity investor and full-time resident in Beverly Hills, Calif., who bought the Pistons in June — is considering buying a Metro Detroit residence closer to his basketball and concert facilities, a spokesman for Gores said, but declined further comment. Gores, whose family emigrated from Israel when he was 4 and who grew up in Flint, hasn't indicated what kind of a house he is seeking. He already owns three properties on Grosse Ile, the Downriver community where his wife has family ties. And he looked at an estate on the island last month, according to a real estate agent. Several real estate agents say they have heard Gores has looked at properties in northern Oakland County, which would be much closer to his recent Palace Sports & Entertainment acquisitions, including DTE Energy Music Theater in Clarkston and Meadow Brook Music Festival in Rochester Hills. But he hasn't toured any of the luxury homes they represent, they said."