First Cup: Wednesday

  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: Realizing that an impact player would not be available with the No. 18 overall pick in the draft on Thursday night, June 28, the Wolves added more experience to the roster Tuesday by trading the pick to Houston for three-year veteran Chase Budinger, a 6-foot-7 small forward with outside shooting range. At the end of the 2011-12 season, Wolves coach Rick Adelman expressed a need for more veterans, particularly players with perimeter scoring ability. Budinger, who played two seasons for Adelman in Houston, fits that description. "This has Rick's stamp all over it," Wolves TV analyst Jim Petersen said of the move to acquire Budinger. "Budinger knows the corner offense that Rick likes to run. He's somebody that Rick has a comfort zone with, and he's not a rookie."

  • Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle: Should the Rockets, who are doing all they can to position themselves to acquire the best center in the NBA, be interested in Dwight Howard for a one-year so-called rental? You darn tootin’. First, it isn’t a rental. It is for the remaining one year on his contract. And I don’t care what people have said about how Howard wouldn’t want to resign with the Rockets. They said that about his extending for another year with Orlando, and he did that, right? Second, what better option do you have? Is there another best player at his position available that the Rockets could get? Didn’t think so. Worst-case scenario is the Rockets have Howard for just one season, then they return to their hunt for a superstar the following offseason.

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: This deal is consistent with what Rich Cho envisioned when he came aboard as Bobcats general manager a year ago. Cho has talked frequently about acquiring extra draft picks, and using cap space and trades as a means to leverage in that direction. When Cho was in the Oklahoma CityThunder front office, the Thunder accepted the contract of Kurt Thomas off the Phoenix Suns’ payroll, receiving two first-round picks as compensation. One of those picks eventually became power forward Serge Ibaka, arguably the best defensive player in the NBA. ... Gordon has been both a starter and a sixth man over his NBA career. He’s not a pure point guard and is a relatively small shooting guard at 6-3. But he’s a proven scorer, which can’t help but be of benefit to a team that finished last in points per game (86.9) and field-goal percentage (41.4 percent). The Bobcats have the second and 31st picks in Thursday night’s NBA draft. With Gordon on the roster, this could signal a lean toward using the No. 2 pick on a big man, such as Kansas’s Thomas Robinson.

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: The Pistons fan base has waited since the summer of 2009 for the front office to make a major move. The wait is over as two nights before the draft, Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars was able to move on from one of the missteps of that summer. The Pistons announced that the club has traded shooting guard Ben Gordon, 29, and a protected first-round pick to the Charlotte Bobcats for swingman Corey Maggette, 32. ... The move helps the Pistons financially; ultimately it will save them close to $15 million. Maggette is on the books for one more season at $10 million while Gordon has two more seasons at close to $25 million.

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: It’s sad and unfortunate, in a way, because Larry Bird did all the heavy lifting necessary to lift the post-brawl Indiana Pacers out of the financial and competitive doldrums and brought them to a point where they look like a 50-win team for years to come. It’s also for the best. As Reggie Miller once said when he decided to remain in retirement rather than join the Boston Celtics for a run at a ring, “If you’re not all in, you’re out.” Bird came to the decision he could no longer be all in. Why did he make this call? He has told people there were not disagreements with owner Herb Simon, either about front- ?office personnel or payroll. Fact is, Bird got what he wanted: David Morway got punted and Kevin Pritchard will take over Bird’s spot as the man who oversees day-to-day operations. So why is he walking? Over the past year, we had a few conversations about what he might do. One day, he would sound like he was staying. Another day, he would sound like a goner. But the one thing he would always bring up was the pain he was feeling in his eternally balky back, the fact it was so difficult to sit for hours on end and watch tape or sit in a gym and watch prospects. Unless there’s a back story with which we’re completely unfamiliar, this sounds like a health or quality-of-life issue at its core.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: As Thursday’s draft draws near, the Wizards are discovering that No. 3 is in demand. According to two league sources, the Wizards have been fielding calls in recent days from teams interested in moving up to possibly select Kansas big man and District native Thomas Robinson. The Charlotte Bobcats hold the second pick in the draft and are reportedly interested in taking Robinson but they also need to acquire more assets after finishing 7-59 last season. Cleveland has been mentioned as a possible trade partner for the Bobcats, since it holds picks No. 4 and No. 24. The Cavaliers have interest in Bradley Beal and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and could risk losing out on the player they covet most by standing pat — which adds to the intrigue leading up to the draft. ... According to multiple sources, the Bobcats are trying to convince teams interested in the second pick to also take back disappointing power forward Tyrus Thomas, who has more than $26 million remaining on his contract. Thomas is coming off the worst season since his rookie year as he averaged just 5.6 points and 3.7 rebounds. When asked if teams would be willing to touch Thomas, one Western Conference executive said, “I don’t think so.” ... If Charlotte deals the No. 2 pick and blocks the Wizards from taking the best perimeter option on their draft board, it would be interesting to see if Washington stands in the way of the Bobcats taking Robinson. This is a crazy draft game.

  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: Now the Heat will get a chance to defend a championship, so it has no need to defend its odd way of play, nor to reach for lesser lights who might better fit someone else’s positional definition. As Wade noted, in an era missing a Shaquille O’Neal or Hakeem Olajuwon, the Heat still wasn’t often the bigger team and yet “our game was successful for us.” Battier appeared comfortable as a “stretch four,” which is what Oklahoma City envisioned when pursuing him as a free agent. Bosh even seems to have embraced the center switch: “It’s kind of cool because I can say, ‘I’m the starting center for the NBA champions.’ You’d look at me and you wouldn’t think that.” James? “I don’t know, as the years go on, I don’t see a 31- or 32-year-old LeBron playing the power forward,” James, 27, said with a grin. “But we’ll see. Whatever it takes, man. As long as I stay healthy, that’s all that matters. As long as I stay healthy, I can play any position.” His presence should give the Heat this healthy outlook at the shopping season opens: Positions don’t matter. Players do.

  • Shannon J. Owens of the Orlando Sentinel: The Heat made smart adjustments, but ultimately everything started and ended with the domination of [LeBron] James. If [Dwight] Howard wants to build his legacy as more than a great defender, he must dominate both facets of the game — whether that's in Orlando or beyond. He must be clear and focused about his future, but above all he must play well without the backdrop of excuses in poor management, injury or average teammates. A true superstar will do one of two things: 1. Adjust and rise above the circumstances; or 2. Change the circumstances. We will soon see what type of star Howard truly is.

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: Too many teams in sports operate out of fear. They're paralyzed by the idea of making a mistake. And so, faced with an opportunity, they do nothing. Owner Paul Allen doesn't seem like a man who wants to endure another rebuilding era. In fact, I believe one of the key factors in ex-general manager Rich Cho getting fired wasn't necessarily his personality. Rather, that Cho wanted to start over and Allen didn't want to hear it. And to this, I'm with Allen. Because starting over means giving up. Whether it's Lillard or Rivers at No. 6 feels incidental to me. I like them both. It's more about what the Blazers plan to do with their other three draft picks, their cap room and a roster with only one player who feels off limits. We've been told for three years that Kevin Pritchard wasn't the sole architect of that record-setting draft day in which the Blazers pulled off a league-record six trades. If that's true, someone who played a role must still be in the Blazers draft room. So prove it.

  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: Warriors general manager Bob Myers seems to be maintaining his usual cool exterior. He's still sporting the fresh smile, still oozing poise. But even Myers will tell you he feels the pressure. Sometimes, he said, he'll wake up at 3 a.m. thinking about the draft Thursday, options and ideas racing about his brain. "It's my first time," Myers acknowledged. "It's a lot of stress." The sports agent-turned-front office exec didn't get the easy route for his first time. Golden State has four draft picks year, topped by the No. 7 overall selection. What's making things even more stressful is the noticeable drop-off after the top five players.

  • Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times: When it comes to plans for Thursday night’s NBA draft, Milwaukee Bucks officials are about as secretive as a CIA operative. Neither Bucks general manager John Hammond or coach Scott Skiles will divulge information about their intentions. The Bucks, with the 12th overall pick, are expected to take a center, simply because they don’t have one. Milwaukee has been using power forwards — primarily Drew Gooden and Larry Sanders — at center after trading Andrew Bogut to Golden State in March, “I think right now there is the assumption we’re kind of looking into basically a narrow mind-set, that we have to go big,” Hammond said. “There’s a need there, so obviously that is going to be a discussion and it’s going to be somewhat of a priority for us. The most important thing is your drafting talent. So, when we look at 12, it’s going to be who is the best player on the board and we’re not just going to say we have to go to a certain position." ... “It’s the 12th pick in the draft,” said Hammond, who added that it was unlikely he would trade to move up or down in the draft. “History will tell you that with the 12th pick, at times you hit and sometimes you don’t. To say the draft is an inexact science is an understatement.”

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: The Suns are just flat-out needy after two non-playoff seasons. They need a dynamic scorer. They might need a point guard, depending on Steve Nash's and other free agents' choices. They do not appear to need a big man, with four under contract and another (Robin Lopez) under their control, but that would not stop them from taking a top-10 player on their draft board to improve the talent level. The Suns should have one of many talented wings fall to them at No. 13 on Thursday if they feel the talent is a match with their greatest need. They also could snare Kendall Marshall to be their floor general of their future. Or they could take a power forward they rank highly, such as Mississippi State's Arnett Moultrie. The Suns are dependent on the 12 picks ahead of them and the trade talks in the works to see which shooting guards will fall to them: Connecticut's Jeremy Lamb, Syracuse's Dion Waiters, Duke's Austin Rivers and Washington's Terrence Ross.

  • Neil Hayes of Chicago Sun-Times: The bet here is the Bulls will continue to explore their options but will ultimately resist making significant changes to a roster heading into a season where they will be hard-pressed to contend for a championship for reasons beyond their control. After next season, the Bulls could rid themselves of Carlos Boozer’s burdensome contract. Deng’s deal comes off the books the year after that. The Bulls will take a step back next season but it may not be as big of a step as many believe given the current state of the Eastern Conference. Forman has said repeatedly that this core group of players has earned the right to grow together. They could make one more run in 2013-14 before remaking the roster in the summer of 2014. That doesn’t mean the rumors will stop and the speculation will end. The Bulls are doing what they should be doing. They are working the phones and testing the market. More likely, this Bulls team will remain mostly the same next season with major changes coming further down the road.

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: The Kings certainly aren't acting like a team trying to trade Tyreke Evans. Unlike last season when Evans spent much of the summer in Southern California working out, Evans has been in Sacramento working out with basketball president Geoff Petrie and other Kings staff. Rumors persist involving Evans being traded, the latest being another proposed deal sending him to Houston that no one in our outside of the Kings has validated the proposed deal. So, Evans is still a King that is working out with his boss. ... The fact is Evans cannot play with the ball all the time. And in order to enhance Evans' view of the game, coach Keith Smart wanted Evans to see the game from a new perspective. There were times where Evans was clearly unhappy about the move (almost always after he had a bad game). How he handles it going forward will decide his future with the Kings, assuming he's not traded. Evans is eligible for a contract extension but the Kings won't sign him to one, preferring to let this season play out. And even after some struggles the last two seasons I'm told there are still as many as 11 teams that expressed interest in Evans, so he does have value. For now, Evans will play his fourth season out as a King.

  • Kyle Veazey of The Commercial-Appeal: From the computer in his home in Altadena, Calif., Larry Goldfield sought the recent spate of news articles about his son. Like many in his shoes, he was tempted to enter the comments section and respond. Unlike many, he did. But his son is no average character. He's Robert Pera, the prospective owner of the Memphis Grizzlies, who rose to the ranks of the rich by creating and running Ubiquiti Networks Inc. Since his son's agreement to purchase the Griz was made on June 11, Goldfield has commented on a handful of articles at places like the websites of The Commercial Appeal and The Memphis Flyer, along with the Griz fan blog 3sob.com, pointing out his son's business acumen and personal strengths. It's especially interesting considering that Goldfield and Pera are estranged, even though his biological father hopes that comes to an end soon. "I happen to love my son, regardless of our estrangement," Goldfield said Tuesday, in a phone interview with The Commercial Appeal

  • Doug Robinson of the Deseret News: Instead, Karl Malone does everything. Life is one big sampler box for The Mailman. Malone is still doing many of the things he dabbled with as a player except now they are connected to his growing collection of businesses, which focus largely on commercial development, restaurants and timberland operations, all under the umbrella of Malone Properties. Are you sitting down? Malone will turn 50 next year and has been retired from basketball for a dozen years, but he's not exactly spending his retirement years on the golf course or lounging by the pool. If you ask him how he occupies his time these days, you'd better take a seat. This is going to take a while.