First Cup: Friday

  • Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press: Team USA starts its gold-medal defense Sunday, July 29, against France. Kevin Love is only 23 but acknowledges this might be his only shot at an Olympic medal if USA Basketball opts to limit NBA player participation to those 23 and under. He wants to make it count. "This is the opportunity of a lifetime. I just want to take in the whole thing, all the different experiences on and off the court," Love said. "(NBA Commissioner David) Stern and the powers that be might put in the rule of 23, and this might the one time I get to do this. I don't want to miss out on anything."

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: With NBA Commissioner David Stern beginning a campaign to limit Olympic basketball participants to 23 years of age and under beginning with the 2016 Games, this very well could be the Americans’ last roster packed full of NBA superstars. LeBron James will begin his third Olympic tour with Sunday’s preliminary-round opener against France. He witnessed the basketball debacle in 2004 from the bench, where he was primarily a young spectator as Team USA lost three games in Athens and tumbled to the bronze medal. "That team was put together so fast,” said James, who is seeking his second gold medal this summer. “I never felt like we’d be able to become a team that quick. I never thought we would be a team fast enough to win a gold in ’04.” He was right. The bronze medal eight years ago remains one of the low points in the Americans’ basketball history and served as the key reason behind the first overhaul in philosophy.

  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: These were supposed to be Tony Parker’s Olympics. He was supposed to be the host, in Paris, his name in lights in the City of Light. Instead, he’s teasingly close to his homeland, leading a splintered French team, knowingthese will likely be his only Olympics. But he walked along the Thames Thursday night seemingly OK with that, and what happened last month had something to do with this. Parker thinks sitting in the dark for a week may have changed the way he sees things. In many ways, these are still his Olympics. He attended a marketing extravaganza Thursday night in a large building turned into something called “Club France,” and he was clearly the headline performer. “This has been crazy,” Parker said as he went from interview to dignitary to sponsor, but there was little reluctance. The same Parker who likes to duck out of the Spurs locker room was around as long as necessary.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Long before Omer Asik held up his No. 3 Rockets uniform on Thursday, before the Bulls chose not to match the Rockets’ offer sheet to get him, even before his new team began the free agency period at Asik’s door, Asik planned to be a starting NBA center. With Asik having served a two-season apprenticeship behind Joakim Noah, the move to Houston gives him his chance. And it gives the Rockets a center whom vice president Sam Hinkie said they “long coveted.” “This is a big opportunity for me,” Asik said. “It will be a little different for me. I didn’t start much there, but I think I will be working very hard and try to adapt quickly.” The Rockets would be happy if Asik simply brings the defense and rebounding that he called his strengths and that drew them to him in the first place. Asik averaged 3.1 points and 5.3 rebounds in his 14.7 minutes per game last season. However, he said he has more offensive ability than he has shown and plans to develop it.

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: New Charlotte Bobcats center Brendan Haywood says the best thing he got from that 2011 championship with the Dallas Mavericks wasn’t a ring or a parade or a big playoff check. It was a lesson that success isn’t all about you. “Everyone on that team did things they were not used to doing,’’ Haywood recalled Thursday at an introductory news conference. “Caron Butler was used to taking shots in the fourth quarter. His job there was to get Dirk Nowitzki shots in the fourth quarter. “Everyone sacrificed. As you get older, you appreciate that as a good thing.’’ Haywood says at 32, 11 seasons into an NBA career, he’s far less self-centered than he was coming out of North Carolina. Two of his former coaches -- Rick Carlisle in Dallas and Ed Tapscott -- both called him a delight to coach.

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Forgive Wayne Ellington if he seems a little giddy about the possibilities. Just thinking about joining a team with a strong interior presence has the Grizzlies' latest addition eager to assume a role that shooters always envision. Ellington insists he'll be ready if teams continue to collapse in the paint to crowd Griz big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. ... The 2012-13 NBA regular season can't start soon enough for Ellington, a 6-4 shooting guard whom the Griz acquired this week in a trade that sent forward Dante Cunningham to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Memphis is hoping the 24-year-old former North Carolina star will bolster its three-point shooting. Ellington is counting on a change of scenery and consistent playing time to help his game.

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: The free-agent forward [Alonzo Gee], in town for one of the Cavs' basketball camps put on by the National Basketball Academy, smiled. Although he's not currently under contract with the team, he made it clear where he'd like to be. "I want to be in Cleveland,'' he said. "This is where I want to be. I love the coaches and my teammates. This is where I want to be.'' Although he remains unsigned, Gee said the uncertainty during this summer has not been difficult. "That's my agent's job," he said. "He's working. I'm just enjoying my summer and working out. That's all I can do.'' Asked whether he would consider signing a qualifying offer of $2.7 million and then becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer instead of waiting for a multi-year deal, Gee smiled and said, "It's going to work out eventually.''

  • Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: The Knicks’ season opener is against the Nets at the $1 billion Barclays Center. Nets CEO Brett Yormark told the Daily News Thursday that he requested the matchup, despite the threat of Knicks fans overrunning the arena, because “we wanted the most dramatic game possible to introduce our new team. “We asked the league to give us the most dramatic game to open the season. I was obviously for playing the Knicks and thankfully the league felt the same way. We are going to have a homecourt advantage in Brooklyn. And we’ll experience that on opening night.”

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: The Thunder and the Heat will play on Christmas Day (ABC) and on Valentine's Day (TNT) and, heck, who knows, maybe even Father's Day again, next June. You get the feeling the NBA would schedule Thunder-Heat on Armistice Day, St. Patrick's Day and National Plumbers Day (yep, there is one) if the league could get away with it. The NBA Finals were sufficiently entertaining – four riveting games before Miami's closing blowout -- to leave pro basketball wanting more. Not just more Thunder-Heat. More Thunder in general. The Thunder has the league-maximum 25 nationally televised games. Ten on TNT. Ten on ESPN. Five on ABC. That matches the Heat and the Knickerbockers for the NBA high. The Heat are must-see TV because Miami has the world's best team and world's best player; the Knicks because, as Batman keeps proving, millions will flock to watch Gotham City burn. The Thunder will be nationally televised more often than the Lakers (24), and every Laker game since the explosion of cable seems to be nationally-televised. The Thunder will be nationally televised more often than the Celtics (19) or the Bulls (19) or the Spurs (16).

  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: What sticks out on next season’s Heat schedule, even more than the opening game against the Boston team it beat in the Eastern Conference Finals, or the Christmas contest against the Oklahoma City squad it whipped in the NBA Finals? All the open spaces. This season, unlike last, there are plenty of days Miami won’t play. After playing 18 back-to-backs and a back-to-back-to-back during the lockout-shortened 66-game season, Miami will play just 16 back-to-backs over the course of the more normal 82-game slate. This will allow Erik Spoelstra to hold many more practices, and also to offer some rest to a team that figures to have several thirtysomethings in its regular rotation.

  • Seth Gruen of the Chicago Sun-Times: The success of this coming season hinges on the answer to the question every Bulls fan has been asking since Derrick Rose tore his ACL on April 28. When will he be back? Reports of the progress of Rose’s rehab are conflicting, with the only consensus being that his return will likely not come before the 2013 All-Star Game, which takes place in Houston on Feb. 19. The league released its 2012-13 schedule on Thursday, and it plays to the Bulls’ favor. The first two months of the season are relatively light, while the toughest stretch occurs over the last two months.

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: The Indiana Pacers are finally getting some national respect. After years of being an afterthought on the national television scene, the Pacers will play seven games on TNT and ESPN during the 2012-13 NBA season. The Pacers open the season in Toronto on Halloween. After playing at Charlotte on Nov. 2, the Pacers face Sacramento in their home opener Nov. 3 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers are coming off their best season since 2003-04. They finished with the fifth-best record in the NBA and advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: There is something to be said for familiarity. That’s why Kent Bazemore, this year’s unknown to emerge from Summer League, chose to sign with the Warriors. He made it official on Thursday. “Being undrafted,” Bazemore said, “you have to prove yourself anyway. I learned a lot here. I didn’t want to go into training camp having to learn a whole new system.” Bazemore didn’t pursue an opportunity with the Oklahoma City Thunder, whose Orlando Summer League squad he was on. He also passed up a one-year, non-guaranteed deal from Atlanta, which is much closer to his hometown and family. He’d already grown a level comfort with the Warriors. Joining Golden State was a no-brainer. He worked out twice with the Warriors, each time he said he was impressed with how they operated.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Rick Welts has not even been gone from the Suns for a year and the presidency of the franchise's business side is changing again. Brad Casper, the former head of Dial Corp., resigned as Suns president after nine months on the job. Chief Operating Officer Jason Rowley will assume the role of president overseeing the Suns' business operations.

  • William Croyle of the Cincinnati Enquirer: Tayshaun Prince, a former University of Kentucky star and 10-year veteran of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, isn’t just making a brief appearance. He is here every day for the entire six hours, participating in all the drills and working with each camper. “When I was a kid in California, I went to basketball camps run by guys like Magic Johnson, A.C. Green, Michael Cooper – I felt I could learn a lot from them to continue on the path I wanted to be on,” Prince said. “I want to provide that same thing for these kids, and put smiles on their faces.” Kicks for Kids is a nonprofit founded in 1995 by former Cincinnati Bengals kicker Doug Pelfrey. The organization provided full scholarships for about 75 percent of the attendees, who are here through organizations such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Cincinnati, Covington Independent Public Schools and Inner City Youth Opportunities.