First Cup: Thursday

  • Jarrod Rudolph of RealGM: Dwight Howard has long coveted the Brooklyn Nets as his next landing spot, but after a summer filled with daily rumors of four-team trade proposals, the six-time All-Star has moved on from his Big Apple infatuation and is locked in on joining the Los Angeles Lakers, sources tell RealGM. The Lakers, Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers are reportedly discussing a three-team trade that would send Howard to the Lakers, Andrew Bynum to the Cavaliers, while the Magic would receive Anderson Varejao and multiple draft picks.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: The Rockets might be betting on a long shot as they continue to seek a trade for the star they lack, primarily talking with the Magic about center Dwight Howard. But particularly after their good fortune in his pursuit of Lin this week, Alexander was willing to gamble again. “I wish I had a set team like when I had Dream (Olajuwon) and all the set players, so I have to take risks to get where I want to go,” Alexander said. “We have to take risks.” He already has the Rockets back in the spotlight that left when Yao Ming retired. Alexander said the benefits to the business of basketball are nice, but far from the motivation, instead citing how they might help the Rockets rebuild. “I love it,” Alexander said. “I think it’s great for the city of Houston. It’s great for the fans. I think a team needs to have that attention to attract free agents and do what we have to do to win. It helps. It always helps (the business), but the real reason is it helps to attract free agents. They’ll want to play with Jeremy, but also they want to be someplace they will be on TV, they can market themselves, all that stuff.” The addition of Lin should immediately bring attention. ESPN will broadcast his introductory press conference. CNN will cover it. Alexander, however, was happy just to have Lin running the point on his dramatically rebuilt team. “I think he’s going to be a great addition for the team,” Alexander said.

  • Harvery Araton of The New York Times: We can also debate until opening night the basketball merits of retaining Lin versus letting him go, without reaching a satisfying conclusion. But that is exactly the point for long-sufferingKnicks fans. A majority, I am betting, wanted Lin on their team next season, if only because they wished this compelling saga would continue in the Garden, where it started and where they have been extraordinarily loyal to a franchise that has not really deserved it. To that end, one season-ticket holder for decades whom I have known for many years expressed exasperation over Dolan’s unwillingness to do what he has asked of his fans over and over: keep the faith and invest in the potential for success, in this case that of the 23-year-old Lin. “After sitting there all those years and watching all that horrible basketball, we finally had such a feel-good story that felt like our own,” said the ticket-holder, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from a management that has been notoriously contentious. “How many times can they hurt me?”

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: The Wizards felt that paying a proven, veteran commodity in Nene was a smarter investment than dedicating an eight-figure annual salary to a freakish athlete who remained unpolished and provided inconsistent production. Denver, however, took the opposing viewpoint and rewarded the gifted but goofy center with the big money he started chasing last season in Washington. McGee announced on Wednesday on Twitter that he re-signed with the Nuggets. He will reportedly receive $44 million over the next four years (slightly less than the $14 million annual salary McGee reportedly sought from the Wizards before getting moved in March). Nene, who turns 30 in September, is set to earn $52 million over the same time period. ... Both franchises feel good about the trade that they made three months ago. And since both Nene and McGee play the same position, comparing which franchise came out ahead will be easy to do over the next four years.

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: The high-flying JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried are officially Denver's frontcourt, thanks to the Nuggets agreeing with McGee on a contract. The deal is a four-year, $44 million contract, his mother, Pam McGee, confirmed. ... "We are so excited to be a part of the Denver Nugget family, and the wonderful Denver community," Pam McGee said in a text. ... Denver has now made good on its promise to bring back McGee and point guard Andre Miller.

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: The next time the Bulls face the Rockets after Wednesday's summer-league contest, Omer Asik will be in uniform. Though Asik won't sign his three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet until likely Friday, more signs developed that his uniform will have "Rockets" on the front. Marc Cornstein, the agent for Darko Milicic, confirmed the Bulls have expressed interest in his client, who was a recent amnesty cut by the Timberwolves. League sources also indicated the Bulls are casting a wide net for other lower-salaried big men in free agency. Though management isn't commenting publicly, these moves would suggest the Bulls won't match Asik's offer, which contains a so-called "poison pill" third-year salary of close to $14.9 million. The Rockets waived Jon Leuer and Jerome Jordan on Wednesday and will sign Asik to his offer sheet when those players clear the 48-hour waiver process.

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: On multiple occasions, Batum and Ndiaye said Batum longed to play with point guard Ricky Rubio and under coach Rick Adelman and had decided that it would be best for him to follow his "heart" and join the Blazers' Northwest Division rivals. All the while, Timberwolves executives tried to strong-arm the Blazers into agreeing to a sign-and-trade package that would ship Batum to Minnesota and avoid having the seemingly disgruntled Batum land in Portland. In an effort to inflate the offer sheet, Minnesota general manager David Kahn even attached some bonuses that were disallowed by the NBA office. But behind the scenes, Batum evidently was telling the Blazers a different story throughout all the drama. Olshey said he had daily communication with Batum after the sides met for lunch in Portland on July 5, and Batum never wavered on his commitment to the Blazers. Olshey never once contemplated letting Batum go.

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: Darko Milicic's agent, Marc Cornstein, cautioned not to overstate Heat interest in the free agent center. He said he had a preliminary "fact-finding" conversation with the Heat, but Miami has not made an offer. The Heat can make offers only at the league minimum. The Clippers, Brooklyn and Chicago also have been linked to Milicic.

  • Roderick Boone of Newsday: Just call him Book Lopez. "I kept to myself mostly," the Nets center said Wednesday, "and read a lot of books and comic books." With that four-year, $61-million contract he signed, perhaps Lopez should buy his own book store now -- just in case those Dwight Howard rumors resurface after Jan. 15. That's when Lopez, whose name was mentioned as a trade chip for Howard, will be eligible to be traded if the Nets revisit the talks for the Magic's superstar. Lopez, of course, wasn't totally oblivious to the constant trade talk and plans to use it as fuel. "There is definitely a motivational factor," Lopez said at a news conference in Brooklyn. "I tried to ignore it as much as possible, but the little bit that I do hear, yes, I definitely use it as motivation."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Bucks general manager John Hammond said Wednesday he never seriously considered using the amnesty option this summer. The deadline for exercising it was Tuesday. Backup point guard Beno Udrih is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $7.8 million this season. But he is a valuable hybrid guard who can play behind both point guard Brandon Jennings and shooting guard Monta Ellis. And the Bucks did not have a burdensome contract such as the $18 million remaining in the final year of Elton Brand's deal, which led to the Philadelphia 76ers using the amnesty rule on Brand. Amnesty can be applied only to contracts signed under the old collective bargaining agreement, the one in effect before last season. And it can be used just once during the new agreement, so the Bucks still have it for next season.

  • Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune: You couldn't really argue when watching Williams look slow and lost while trying to defend the position. Derrick was told at season's end to go home and lose some weight. He doesn't exactly have the look of a prison camp survivor, as did Love a year ago, but you can notice the missing 15 to 20 pounds watching Williams in the Las Vegas Summer League. Plus, he had septum surgery, which means he's going to enter his second NBA season carrying less bulk and breathing easier. He should be applauded for that, yet it sounds as if Adelman continues to disdain the idea of Williams as the forward opposite Love. The gentlemen telecasting Tuesday night's summer game said they had asked Adelman if Williams could play the "3,'' and the coach harrumphed: "He never has before.'' Right now, it would be rash to make the following claim about Wes Johnson, but I do know this: A coaching legend should be embarrassed if he can't fit Derrick Williams into his team and turn the 21-year-old into a productive NBA player.

  • Bill Livingston of The Plain Dealer: Perhaps significantly, Irving has proven fragile before. He played only 11 games in his only season at Duke after suffering a toe injury. He returned in time to play well in the NCAA Tournament and allay doubts about the toe. Irving missed three games after he banged his head against the knee of Wade in a fall during a game against the Heat last season. He missed a total of 10 more games after spraining his right shoulder in a collision with Milwaukee's Ergan Ilyasova. Irving said it was the same shoulder he had injured as a sophomore in high school. He did not play in 15 of 66 games overall, two of them by coach's decision, and was on the inactive list twice. It doesn't mean Irving is going to prove fragile throughout his career. Zydrunas Ilgauskas' career appeared to be over because of recurring foot problems. Then a medical miracle restored him to the lineup, and he became the franchise's all-time leader in games played. Still, this is not an event with Irving, it's a trend.

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: In his first two seasons as coach of the Cavaliers, Byron Scott is 40-108. He has lost 26 games in a row, the best player in franchise history left a week after he arrived and his .270 winning percentage is third-worst among NBA coaches (minimum 90 games) the past two years, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Yet anyone expecting Scott to bolt for the Los Angeles Lakers as soon as the opportunity arises can forget it. In his strongest comments since taking over the Cavs, Scott reaffirmed his commitment to the organization and was adamant he has no intention of leaving anytime soon for the Lakers. “I love where I am. I love the situation I’m in and I’ve got the right people around me,” Scott told the Beacon Journal prior to a summer league game in Las Vegas this week. “I tell people that in L.A. that ask me all the time about if that Laker job comes open. I am happy as hell here.”

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: For all the Suns' roster movement this month, it is not evident whether the Suns are any better or even as good as the teams that just missed the playoffs the past two seasons. They will be younger (only Luis Scola, 32, is older than 30) but have all sorts of questions from chemistry to leadership as they count on commodities with short, proven histories (Goran Dragic replacing Nash after 36 career starts) or inconsistent track records (Michael Beasley's maturity-impaired potential). The Suns could wind up being worse next season but adding a reliable, proven big man such as Scola on a high-value contract won't let them bottom out, to a lesser extent of what Nash's presence did amid a declining talent level in the past two seasons. Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver advocated adding Dragic and Scola, but the Suns apparently are putting the brakes on major signings. Instead, they could turn to bringing back Shannon Brown for another one-year deal rather than engaging in a battle for Courtney Lee and creating Houston Rockets West with a third starter from a team that also didn't make the playoffs.

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: Once Duncan’s new deal sapped any shot the Spurs had at salary cap room, doubling down on a roster that won 50 of 66 games last season and came within two wins of the NBA Finals became the only sensible play for Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford. In a turn of events that should please team chairman Peter Holt, the Spurs were able to do it without crossing the luxury-tax line of $70.307 million. “Lots of times you don’t have a choice (but to stand pat), because of contracts or numbers or whatever,” Popovich said. “This year, we were able to do everything and stay under the tax at the same time. That was a goal, to stay under the tax. We weren’t sure we were going to be able to do it.” Between now and the start of training camp in October, Popovich and Buford will keep an eye on the waiver wire for opportunities to upgrade the roster. The bulk of the front office’s summertime work, however, is already done.

  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: Anybody worried about whether Jonas Valanciunas would play for the Toronto Raptors this season can rest easy. The Lithuanian big man’s buyout has been completed and the Raptors announced on Wednesday that the prized rookie, selected fifth overall in 2011, is now under his rookie scale contract. Valanciunas, 20, stayed in his native Lithuania as were the terms in his buyout agreement with Lietuvos Rytas last year and averaged 14.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks against older competition. “We are very pleased to welcome Jonas to the organization,” Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo said in a release. “We are certain that Raptors fans will soon realize that the year-long process was worth the wait.” That’s the buzz in NBA circles and the team is counting on Valanciunas, though he will be brought along slowly, to be one of the major blocks in the foundation moving forward.

  • Dick Harmon of the Deseret News: Jimmer Fredette played his second to the last summer league game in Las Vegas on Wednesday night. His 19 points came on 5 of 17 from the field, and 2 of 9 from beyond the arc. He made 7 of 10 free throws (a real sign of fatigue), had 4 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal. In four summer league games he is a miserable 5 of 29 from 3-point range and that, aside from free throws, is his strength as an offensive player. Right now, since the Kings signed Brooks, Fredette is in a fight for playing time with Isaiah Thomas and Brooks, a former Rocket and Suns guard, who just finished playing ball in China. If Fredette finds time as a shooting guard, it will be behind Tyreke Evans and a logjam with John Salmons and Marcus Thornton — if he stays in Sacramento. Now, that's a great summer dilemma. Will he find himself in a trade and will that be so terrible? The Kings are a team with a myriad of problems. Fredette appears to be his best when another point guard is on the court. It'll be an interesting fall for Fredette. He's got a hoops Rubik's Cube going as a pro.

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: For a player as confident as any entering this year's NBA draft, Thomas Robinson's pro debut hasn't exactly been sterling. Four summer league games into his NBA career, the Kings rookie forward needed only two words to sum up his play. "Not good," Robinson said. Wednesday was another rough day for Robinson, the fifth overall pick in last month's draft, in the Kings' 96-89 exhibition loss to the Toronto Raptors at Thomas & Mack Center. Robinson missed his first seven shots and finished 3 of 13. He's shooting 32 percent (16 of 50) in the summer league and has more turnovers (19) than baskets. Robinson finished with seven points, eight rebounds and five assists. ... When asked what he's learned in four games, the self-critical Robinson said "not much." "I got the game experience, but personally, not much," he said.