First Cup: Friday

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: Blake Griffin received a diagnosis of a torn medial meniscus in his left knee and will have arthroscopic surgery, probably early next week, the Clippers announced Thursday night. Griffin will not be playing for the U.S. Olympic basketball team in London this summer, but he should be available for Clippers training camp that starts at the end of September or in early October. Griffin is expected to be out about eight weeks after the surgery and should be ready to play when the regular season starts.

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: Blake Griffin's expected departure also moves Cousins deeper into the conversation and USA Basketball officials into an increasingly uncomfortable position. No question about it. Publicly and privately, DeMarcus is making everyone sweat. Here's the situation: Because Cousins wasn't in the pool of national team candidates submitted to the United States Olympic Committee in January and updated in May – in other words, he was only invited to train with the Select Team because of serious lobbying from the Maloofs and Keith Smart – he wasn't subjected to the requisite drug tests and, thus, hasn't received USOC clearance. Should any of the USA's remaining big men get hurt or otherwise become unavailable between now and the London Games, adding Cousins would require serious arm-twisting by USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo, or worse, an act of Congress. "It's not impossible," men's national director Sean Ford said Thursday night. "Nothing's impossible at this stage, but we've been focused on what's in front of us right now."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: The Pacers improved their depth Thursday when they agreed to terms with unrestricted free agent guards D.J. Augustin and Gerald Green. Augustin, who started 142 games in hisfour seasons with Charlotte, agreed to a one-year, $3.5 million deal. Green signed a three-year deal for about $10 million. Fans don’t like what they’ve seen so far. Some already want Walsh to retire and Pritchard to go somewhere else. Have the moves been flashy? Not even close. Are the moves good enough to catch Miami in the Eastern Conference? Not as long as the Heat have LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. But it’s all about progression for the Pacers. They had no choice but to trade point guard Darren Collison. Collison told Pritchard during his exit meeting in May that he didn’t have a problem returning as Hill’s backup next season, but he was being politically correct. Collison believes he’s a starter after leading the Pacers to a 34-22 record as the starter.

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: LeBron James broke Cleveland’s collective heart, but he did it cleanly. (One choreographed special, one “I’m-taking-my-talents” declaration, one massive Ohio bringdown.) Dwight Howard has turned this into the saga that twists and turns but never concludes, and Orlando has long known it can only end in tears. We in Atlanta have seen more than our share of frazzled sports moments, but we’ve never had anything like this. I’m not sure any city has. Oh, and one thing more. Dwight Howard? As a player, he’s overrated.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Magic general manager Rob Hennigan emphasized Thursday night that no trade is imminent. "I don't think there's a real correlation to anything with Luis [Scola] as it pertains to us," Hennigan said. But the Magic have limited trade options otherwise. ... Asked if he knows what Howard wants to do now that the Nets are out of the picture until mid-January, Hennigan responded, "That's not necessarily true."

  • Edie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: It’s always dangerous when a sportswriter attempts math, but just working off some cursory numbers, it appears the Mavericks right now are about $5 million or $6 million under the salary cap. That includes the money that will be owed to newcomers Chris Kaman, Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones, as well as rookie Jared Cunningham. If that’s the case, the Mavericks will be hard pressed to make amnesty bids on both Elton Brand and Luis Scola. More than likely it will have to be one or the other. At this point, it makes sense to go after Brand, since his amnesty period (48 hours) will end before Scola’s. If the Mavericks don’t get Brand, they can reload and fire at Scola. Either way, they have a chance to get a good player who can help them in the short term on the court, could be a valuable trade chip and won’t clog their cap for the future.

  • Ray Richardson and Tim Leighton of the Pioneer Press: The Timberwolves and Portland Trail Blazers failed to reach a sign-and-trade agreement Thursday, July 12, involving forward Nicolas Batum, and no offer sheet was extended by the Wolves to the restricted free agent, a Wolves source said late Thursday night. The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said it will be "a quiet night" and that the two teams would resume discussions Friday. Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor expressed hope Thursday of submitting an offer sheet to Batum by the end of the day. Portland general manager Neil Olshey told The Oregonian newspaper Thursday evening that he had not received an offer sheet from the Wolves for Batum, a 6-foot-8 small forward who the Wolves believe can help improve the team's perimeter scoring.

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: We get it. Minnesota general manager David Kahn believes he's the most clever man in the room. I had coffee with an former colleague of his this week, who told me, "David was always more noise than action." And so the clanging pots and pans you hear is the Timberwolves holding us all hostage with the threat that, maybe, just maybe, they'll clear enough cap space to sign a $46 million offer sheet for restricted free agent forward Nicolas Batum. Of course, this offer would probably just be matched by the Blazers. Kahn and his owner, Glen Taylor, must be leaning hard on the hope that Batum's comments about preferring to play in Minnesota alongside Ricky Rubio might terrify Portland, sending the city into a panic, suddenly increasing Minnesota's leverage. Save it, dudes. We've heard, and feared, far worse around here (See: various menisci). The sooner Batum understands this little free agent charade ends with him coming back to the coal mine known as One Center Court, the better for us all. My hunch is, Batum will play small forward in Portland next season. ... Vulcan sources said Allen was irked more than a week ago when Minnesota began to woo Batum and whisper promises in his ears. On some level, Kahn must know outbidding Allen for Batum isn't possible. At some point, Kahn must know he's going to tick off the Blazers. Maybe Kahn already has. Wonder what happens after that. The Wrath of ... Olshey?

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: The three-day clock on the Bulls' decision to match Omer Asik's three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet from the Rockets will start Friday or Saturday after the Rockets spent Thursday preparing to use the amnesty provision on Luis Scola in an attempt to land Dwight Howard eventually. Sources have indicated any potential pursuit of Howard won't affect Asik's offer, which Bulls management hasn't tipped its hand on matching or declining. Management is said to have gone back and forth on the decision, which would ensure the franchise entering luxury tax territory for the first time. With Derrick Rose's maximum extension beginning next season and the need to re-sign Taj Gibson eventually, the Bulls could become a repeat tax offender, which is more punitive under terms of the collective bargaining agreement.

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: The Nuggets continue to pursue restricted free-agent center JaVale McGee, who has a five-year, $50 million offer on the table, a source said. But McGee's representatives don't appear to be in a hurry to get a deal done and will continue to negotiate. The Nuggets can match any offer another NBA team would make to McGee, 24. ... The price of NBA big men keeps going up. The Nets, now based in Brooklyn, resigned Brook Lopez this week to a four-year contract worth $60 million. Lopez, 24, has career averages of 17.4 points and 7.5 rebounds. The Pacers resigned all-star center Roy Hibbert, 25, to a four-year contract worth $58 million.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Andray Blatche has been a disappointment since signing a three-year extension in 2010 that restructured his existing contract to be worth $35 million over five years. Uneven play on the court and questionable decisions away from the court have made Blatche a target of derision from fans at Verizon Center and a once-supportive front office has been seriously considering options to part ways. One person with knowledge of the Wizards’ thinking said this week that there is a “fair” chance that the team would waive Blatche. But before asking owner Ted Leonsis to give Blatche the remaining $23 million on his contract to just go away, the Wizards continue to work the phones in an effort to find a palatable trade for 6-foot-11 forward, according to sources. The Wizards were unsuccessful in their efforts to move Blatche at the trade deadline and around the NBA draft, and one league source remained doubtful that he could be dealt “unless [the Wizards] give up a major asset to provoke the trade.”

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Ray Allen raised several issues with the Celtics following his introduction as the newest member of the Miami Heat on Wednesday. This included what he considered to be a diminished role in Doc Rivers’ offensive scheme. But the Celtics coach, watching this team’s summer-league team play Detroit yesterday here, didn’t want anything to do with his former guard’s issues. “Listen, I’m not talking about Ray right now. He’s no longer part of us,” said Rivers. “That’s my take, really. We talked about a lot of stuff, but really, I’m talking about our guys.”

  • Roderick Boone of Newsday: With the Knicks likely to match the Rockets' $28.8-million offer sheet for Jeremy Lin, Mike Woodson said Wednesday that Lin will get the starting nod at point guard over Kidd. The veteran reiterated Thursday that he doesn't have a problem with coming off the bench and serving as Lin's understudy if that's what Woodson prefers. But those final six-plus minutes of crunch time? Kidd wants in on that. "I would love to start," Kidd said. "I mean, my job is to make Jeremy better at practice and stuff like that. But at the end of the day, it's about six minutes. That's what I've learned. If I've learned anything in the last 18 years, it's the last six minutes of any NBA game, down 15 or up 15, you can still win or lose. So that's the best part of the game."

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: The Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets just can’t get enough of each other. The two teams that failed to come to an agreement as part of a three-way trade that would’ve sent Dwight Howard to the Nets have held preliminary discussions about a sign-and-trade deal that would send Antawn Jamison to the Nets, a league source confirmed. Yahoo Sports first reported the trade talks, which were a surprising twist since Jamison had spoke glowingly in recent weeks about the idea of returning home to finish his career with the Charlotte Bobcats. That is still a possibility, a source close to Jamison confirmed, but he is looking at other options such as the Nets and Los Angeles Lakers.

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: The Pistons are expected to sign Ukrainian center Slava Kravtsov as early as today. There had been reports about issues with his Ukrainian team, but members of the Pistons front office said it has not been a problem and something should be finalized soon.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Larry Sanders believes it's time to take the next step. That's why the 6-foot-11 Milwaukee Bucks player is embracing the chance to head to Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League next week. "Now I get a chance to play against other bigs going to summer league," Sanders said after the Bucks opened a four-day camp Thursday at the Cousins Center. "I want to keep the momentum going forward and take the least amount of steps back as possible. I'm going to try to learn as much as I can and be around these coaches, get more comfortable and get a better feel for everything." Sanders, the Bucks' first-round choice in the 2010 draft, and forward Tobias Harris, last year's top pick, took a leadership role on the opening day of the camp. Seventeen players took the court, ranging from 31-year-old center DJ Mbenga to the 19-year-old Harris and 20-year-old Doron Lamb.