First Cup: Thursday

  • Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times: The Milwaukee Bucks are obviously happy to have acquired Samuel Dalembert. The feeling is apparently mutual. Marc Cornstein, Dalembert’s agent, said he had a brief conversation with his client after the veteran center was dealt by Houston to to Milwaukee Wednesday. “He was really excited about going to Milwaukee,’’ Cornstein said. “He’s very familiar with the Bucks’ roster and believes they are headed in the right direction. It’s always the coach’s decision about playing time, but he believes it’s a fabulous opportunity for him to play there. Like I said, he’s very excited.’’

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: The Rockets also do not want to stop there in their climb up the draft board, and they do not want to add three rookies to the three players they drafted last season. With that in mind, they have been talking to teams throughout the top 10, especially Sacramento, which holds the fifth pick, and Toronto, which has the eighth pick, about moving up. To move that much they would have to offer a veteran, rather than a package of picks. Guard Kyle Lowry is considered the most likely player to be moved, in part because of his relatively modest contract. But according to a person involved in the process, Lowry has in recent conversations seemed more open about returning to the Rockets since his comments last month and the team would like to bring him back if he is not the key to a larger deal. While Magic center Dwight Howard is the Rockets’ top target, the Magic have not specifically said what it would take to get him since trade talks between the teams ended March 15, and have not indicated which player they would want to get in the draft to help facilitate a deal. The Rockets are also are still interested in a deal for the Lakers’ Pau Gasol, according to a person with knowledge of their planning, but not at the price they would have paid before the season when they agreed to send Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic, Luis Scola and a first-round pick to New Orleans in the three-team deal blocked by commissioner David Stern.

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: Sixteen months after making the bold, risky trade that brought [Deron] Williams to New Jersey, the Nets have reached their moment of truth. At 12:01 a.m. Sunday, Williams is scheduled to become a free agent, holding the fate of a rebranded, relocated franchise in his palms. If Williamsstays and lures another star — ideally, Orlando’s Dwight Howard — the Nets can claim equal footing with the Knicks and mount a worthy challenge for the hearts and minds of New Yorkers. If Williams walks, Brooklyn’s first major team in a half-century might resemble an expansion franchise. So when someone suggests, as the New York magazine writer Will Leitch did recently, that this free-agency period “might be among the most important of the next decade,” not even the Nets will argue. “It is big,” General Manager Billy King said Wednesday at the team’s training center, which remains, incongruously, in East Rutherford. “I won’t downplay it.”

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: This year, on the eve of what was shaping up to be the least suspenseful first round in the franchise's Oklahoma City era, a report surfaced that said the Thunder has sought to trade into the top three. The supposed target: Florida guard Bradley Beal. ... [James] Harden, a fan favorite in Oklahoma City, has emerged as a top five shooting guard and the perfect buffer between Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant because of his ability to orchestrate the offense as well as spot up on the perimeter. Harden averaged 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists, all career highs, en route to earning Sixth Man of the Year honors in his third season. Any conversation centered on the Thunder climbing 26 spots certainly would begin with Harden. But one league source called talk of the Thunder trading Harden at all “humorous.” “That team just went to the NBA Finals,” the source said. “I don't think they're breaking up their team.” There is a growing concern, however, that if the Thunder doesn't do so now it will be forced to in the near future. That's because Harden's rapid development has created a financial quandary for the Thunder.

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: One of the complaints/concerns I’ve heard from people about Larry Bird stepping down as president is that the Pacers will lose the momentum they gained last season. That would be a legitimate problem if the Pacers went outside the organization to replace Bird and David Morway. Donnie Walsh, obviously, is replacing Bird as president of basketball operations, but the Pacers stayed inside the organization to get their new general manager. Kevin Pritchard was the team’s director of player personnel, but he was Bird’s right hand man on a lot of the decisions. Pritchard knows the players well and what areas on the roster need to be addressed. So there won’t be a transition period where things are disorganized. I’ve talked to a number of people who say Walsh and Pritchard will work well together.

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: Noted philosopher Shaq once said, "Change is good," although his changing uniforms wasn't good for the Magic some 16 summers ago. Uncharted change just isn't in the air again at Magic headquarters; it's as thick as smog. By our last count, 17 high-profile people have parted ways with the franchise dating to CEO Bob Vander Weide's curious exit in December. That's 17. You don't see this many falling bodies in a slasher movie. And wait until we start adding players to the total. The casualties so far include one CEO, one head coach, six assistant coaches, one GM, one assistant GM, six scouts and one player-development director. An entire basketball operations department could go on Craigslist. The Magic have fired so many folks, they're making Donald Trump look benevolent.

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: According to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, the Hawks have tired to trade forward Josh Smith for Lakers forward Pau Gasol. Bresnahan tweeted that no deal is imminent. And a big caveat is that his report says the Hawks first expressed interest in Gasol after Los Angeles was eliminated from the playoffs by the Thunder, back when Rick Sund was still Hawks GM. The Hawks have since hired GM Danny Ferry, who says he’s focused more on building long term. Gasol turns 32 next week and is owed more than $38 million over the next two seasons. Also, Bresnahan and ESPN’s Chad Ford reported the Lakers are open to trading Gasol for a high lottery pick and players, a price the Hawks can’t match.

  • Tom Sorensen of The Charlotte Observer: The Charlotte Bobcats have solid players in Gerald Henderson, D.J. Augustin and Ben Gordon, and they have players who will become solid in Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker. They don’t have a star. They don’t have anybody who can lead them and lift them and, when nothing else works, save them. They need to parlay the second pick in Thursday’s NBA draft into a star. I see two obvious candidates: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and, after him, Bradley Beal. I’ve written glowingly about Kidd-Gilchrist so many times that I feel like a member of the MKG fan club. I don’t join clubs. So I’ll be an honorary member. Love his intensity, passion, defense, rebounding and athleticism. Love everything about him but his jump shot. A small forward out of Kentucky, Kidd-Gilchrist shoots jumpers the way some big men shoot free throws. But he’s 18. He can learn to shoot. His relentless aggression and the zeal with which he goes to the basket can’t be taught. Those qualities can, however, be transferred. Kidd-Gilchrist would be Charlotte’s best player. If the team’s best player works as hard as he does, how do lesser players offer anything less?

  • Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer: Will the Cavs make a deal? Let's see, they are owned by Dan Gilbert. He also owns Quicken Loans and the Horseshoe Casino. Maybe, just maybe, he's a guy who likes to make deals? That's why I think they'll make a major push to acquire the No. 2 pick from Charlotte, which is open to a trade. I've heard that the Cavs not only offered their two first-rounders (No. 4 and 24) and some other draft picks to New Orleans for the top pick, but they also offered to take on some expensive contracts from the Hornets. The deal was declined, but it shows the Cavs' state of mind -- target a draft pick and go for it.

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: Waiting for an unsettled draft to play out, the Raptors and their No. 8 selection are creating all kinds of buzz around the league and they could become significant players in how the whole process plays out. According to several team and league sources, Toronto’s willingness to trade its pick — most likely to move back in the draft but possibly to move entirely out or closer to the top — is a factor in the decisions being faced by a handful of teams. ... There are a couple of situations that merit keeping an eye on, although both were said to be long shots by league sources on Wednesday. It’s no secret there are those in the Raptors organization who covet Houston Rockets point guard Kyle Lowry, who is on the outs with head coach Kevin McHale. The Rockets are also stockpiling draft picks so they can make an offer to Orlando for Dwight Howard, according to a variety of published reports, and a top-eight pick would be attractive. ... The Raptors did cause a bit of a stir Wednesday when news leaked out that they had Weber State point guard Damian Lillard in Toronto for a second workout on Tuesday. Lillard, who is seen as a certain lottery pick and who could end up going to Portland at No. 6, was the only player under consideration for the eighth pick that Toronto had in for a second workout. The names of the others on Colangelo’s short list is a closely-guarded secret, although Syracuse guard Dion Waiters and Duke guard Austin Rivers have been oft-linked to Toronto.

  • Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: "When need and talent meet, then you've got your best-case scenario," [Neil] Olshey told me Tuesday. "But you don't use the draft for need; you use it to acquire talent. "This is an organization that needs to be in asset acquisition mode. You do that by acquiring the best players available. They're always liquid, and they can net you a return that helps build your organization's asset value." True enough. And it may be the Blazers decide a prospect available when they pick at No. 6 or 11 -- shooting guards Dion Waiters of Syracuse or Austin Rivers of Duke, or even North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes, for instance -- is too good to pass on. Good point guards and post men will be there when the Blazers draft, though, leaving me to believe need and talent will intersect for the local quintet. I'm guessing that means drafting Weber State's Damian Lillard at 6 and Illinois' Meyers Leonard at 11. My reasoning is this: Lillard will be gone if the Blazers wait until 11. Chances are decent that Leonard will still be there at 11.

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: If they remain at No. 7, the Warriors will choose from a foursome of players. There's a chance that polished North Carolina small forward Harrison Barnes, the draft's best point guard, Damian Lillard of Weber State, dynamic Syracuse scoring guard Dion Waiters and puzzling Connecticut big man Andre Drummond will be on the board. ... Some team sources said if the Warriors select Drummond, he almost certainly will be used in a trade. Houston reportedly seeks Drummond as its project center, and the Rockets hold pick Nos. 12, 16 and 18. The Warriors would consider trading No. 7 for two of the Rockets' picks and would love to leave the first round after selecting North Carolina center Tyler Zeller and St. John's forward Moe Harkless.

  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: New Timberwolves forward Chase Budinger almost became an afterthought at a news conference that was arranged Wednesday, June 27, to introduce him to the local media and explain his role under coach Rick Adelman. Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn stole much of the show with indications of more moves leading up to Thursday night's NBA draft -- even the revelation that he has talked with Brandon Roy, a three-time all-star guard who retired before last season because of chronic knee problems. "We'll take a look at him," Kahn said. Roy is not the only item on Kahn's agenda. Trading for Budinger cost the Wolves their No. 18 pick in the first round, but Kahn admitted he's been looking into the possibility of getting the Wolves back into the round. Barring a trade, the Wolves will not have a pick Thursday night until late in the second round, No. 58 overall.

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: There will be several major debates in the Grizzlies' draft war room, and the discussions won't solely be about which player to select near the bottom of the first round. Internal talks about trading their 25th overall pick for a young veteran player have entered the forefront of the Grizzlies' draft preparations. Team executives in favor of moving the pick lost out earlier this week when the Griz passed on a chance to acquire Houston small forward Chase Budinger. Minnesota landed Budinger Tuesday in a deal that gave Houston the 18th pick in tonight's NBA draft. However, the Griz have held several trade talks with teams looking to unload young players in the final year of their rookie contracts or veterans who are on expiring deals. ... Memphis likely will not own a first-round pick in 2013 because the Grizzlies sent it (lottery-protected) to Houston along with Hasheem Thabeet for Shane Battier at the trade deadline in 2011. Still, the Griz are trying to win now with a veteran nucleus and their strategy for this draft appears to be coming into focus: They will look to make a draft-day deal to acquire proven NBA talent especially if there isn't a prospect they love left on the board.

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Pistons fans have spoken -- the reaction is basically muted to the trade of Ben Gordon and a first-round pick to the Bobcats for Corey Maggette. They are happy to be rid of the remaining $25 million owed over the next two seasons to the underperforming Gordon, who never came close to the five-year, $55-million deal he signed in 2009 as a free agent from Chicago. They realize when Maggette's $10.9 million comes off the books after this season, the Pistons will be able to afford a contract extension for Greg Monroe and retain financial flexibility that could be advantageous under the new collective bargaining agreement. But losing that first pick is irritating. With a team that has missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, giving away a potential young piece is bothersome. However, the Pistons potentially could get that pick back since they acquired Maggette's expiring contract. Expiring deals are easily moved, and the Pistons could flip Maggette's contract for a first-round pick before next season's trade deadline. So it might become a moot point.

  • John N. Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer: Asked this week whether the 76ers were trying to move up in Thursday night's NBA draft, Sixers president Rod Thorn said that while he has spent a lot of time on the phone, he doesn't expect to make such a move. Forward Andre Iguodala, as usual, has been mentioned more than any other Sixer as the player who might be moved. With three picks in the first 35, including the seventh overall, Golden State still is believed to be interested in a starting small forward. Iguodala's name came up in connection with the Warriors shortly after the Sixers were knocked out of the playoffs, but little has been said about that recently.

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: The Dallas Mavericks might use the NBA's one-time amnesty clause before free agency opens Sunday. General manager Donnie Nelson wouldn't say if center Brendan Haywood would be the target, as some media outlets have reported. Haywood is owed $8.35 million next season, $9.07 million during the 2013-14 season and $9.79 million for 2014-15. The Mavs also own a team option to pay Haywood $10.52 million for 2015-16. That's a huge contract the Mavericks could remove from their books via the amnesty clause for a player who averaged only 5.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per game this past season. It also could help them clear more salary cap space. "You guys got the roster ... You can do the math," Nelson said when asked about Haywood. "[But] that's not the only route to clear space."

  • David Barron of the Houston Chronicle: Former Rockets star and 1992 Olympic Dream Team member Clyde Drexler said Wednesday he did not make comments about Magic Johnson that were attributed to him in a book scheduled for publication next week. The book “Dream Team,” written by former Sports Illustrated writer Jack McCallum, includes a section that was published on Deadspin.com concerning attitudes toward Johnson, who has returned to basketball in the wake of his 1991 diagnosis with the HIV virus. Deadspin’s headline was “Everybody On The Dream Team Felt Sorry For Magic Because They Were Waiting For Him To Die.” The book excerpt quoted Drexler as saying that Johnson “couldn’t play much by that time” and that teammates felt sorry for him. “Everybody kept waiting for Magic to die. Every time he’d run up the court everybody would feel sorry for the guy, and he’d get all that benefit of the doubt,” the book quoted Drexler as saying. Drexler, however, said he denies making those statements to McCallum and has informed McCallum and Johnson that he was quoted inaccurately.