First Cup: Friday

  • Bob Sansevere of the Pioneer Press: The Minnesota Timberwolves have been busy lately signing players they hope can lift them into the playoffs. Nobody in the organization is hoping for that more than president of basketball operations David Kahn. BS: If this is the team you go into the season with, are you feeling good about competing for a playoff spot -- or even more than just a playoff spot? DK: If we stay healthy. We learned the hard way last year what that means. Last year, we were fighting for a playoff spot, and through two-thirds of the season things were moving on a nice incline. And all of a sudden, the world came to an end in a matter of a few weeks (after rookie point guard Ricky Rubio suffered a season-ending knee injury). If we stay healthy, we should be competing for a playoff spot.

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: Carmelo Anthony had a wild London party at the Olympics tonight and it made history. The party took place at the basketball venue at Olympic Park before 12,000 fans. Anthony set the all-time record of most points by a U.S. player at the Olympics, erupting for 37 , making a record 10 3-pointers on 12 attempts in Team USA’s record-setting 156-73 destruction of Nigeria – an 83-point massacre. It was the largest margin of victory for the U.S. Olympic Team. Anthony broke Stephon Marbury’s record for 3-pointers and points. Marbury scored 31 points vs. Spain during the 2004 debacle, making 5 3-pointers. “The way they were telling me to shoot the ball, encouraging me to make and take shots, just the feeling every time I touched it, it’s hard to explain it," Anthony said. "If you’ve never done it, you wouldn’t understand it.’’

  • Dan Bickley of The Arizona Republic: Scola's attitude has been known to inspire teammates. He plays relentlessly, grabbing and fighting for every loose ball. He has great hands. He sticks up for teammates. He does the stuff that isn't always glamorous. That's not an easy mentalityto sustain. ... A longtime nemesis of the Suns, Ginobili is well aware of Scola's new franchise. He was asked to give a candid assessment to fans in Phoenix. "I've been playing with him for 15 years, I know him very well," Ginobili said. "He's definitely a hard worker, a hard-nosed player. He's going to run on every single possession. Up 20, down 20 or tied, he's going to play. He's going to try to play every game possible. He's not going to rest five games because he's tired." Translation: He won't be complaining about fatigue, using the Olympics as an excuse to report late or ease into his new surroundings. "He's going to try to play 82 (games), and he's a hell of a scorer," Ginobili said. "He has so many trick shots and mid-range shots. He became just lethal from the free-throw-line area. He can give you a lot." Don't take our word for it. Scola's team has an upcoming showdown with Team USA. If you haven't seen him play, it would be a wonderful time to get acquainted with your new Luis.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: One of Jacque Vaughn’s first tasks as the Orlando Magic’s new coach was to speak with all the players on the roster, preferably face-to-face. He has met already with Glen Davis, the team’s projected starter at power forward. What was Vaughn’s message to Davis? “Just be ready,” Davis recalled Thursday. “Just making sure that you’re ready. You’re going to have the opportunity to be a contributor here. You’re going to have the opportunity to do big things, and you just be ready, making sure that you come in [to training camp Oct. 1] the right way, in the right shape, and just holding me accountable.” ... Davis entered last season’s training camp, his first with the Magic, a bit out of shape after the five-month NBA lockout. One of his goals this offseason has been to improve his conditioning. Davis attended Vaughn’s introductory press conference Monday and left impressed about his new, 37-year-old coach. Davis remains impressed. “He’s a wonderful guy,” Davis said of Vaughn.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: With Roger Mason Jr. leaving for New Orleans, the Wizards have lost out on another one of their free agents as James Singleton has declined to accept an offer to return. Singleton’s agent, Andy Miller, said on Thursday that his client “rejected the deal and has moved on.” Singleton wrote in a text message that the Wizards wanted to bring him back again for the veteran’s minimum, which led him to explore other options. Singleton received a more lucrative contract in China when he left as a free agent two years ago. After averaging 8.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 17 games last saeason, he might take a similar path overseas if unable to find another opportunity in the NBA. ... Free agent forward Anthony Tolliver told Fox Sports Florida that Washington is pursuing him harder than any other team. The Wizards reached out to the 6-foot-8 Tolliver after using the amnesty provision on Andray Blatche.

  • Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times: While the top-shelf wings have already signed with other teams, there are still some solid veterans available. One of them is Mickael Pietrus, who played last season with Boston. Pietrus, 30, isn’t much of an offensive player — he averaged 6.9 points in 42 games last season for the Celtics — but he is a superb defender with excellent quickness and length. He is also versatile, able to defend forwards and guards alike. Bill McCandless, Pietrus’ agent, said his client is drawing consideration from several teams. McCandless confirmed he and Bucks general manager John Hammond have had exploratory talk. ... Another small forward who appears to be drawing consideration from the Bucks is C.J. Miles. Just 25, Miles has already played seven seasons in the NBA, all with Utah, which selected him in the second round of the 2005 draft. ... Like Pietrus, about a handful of teams are pursuing Miles as well.

  • Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune: On Tuesday newly-signed guard Brandon Roy laughed about his first stint with the Wolves, which lasted a matter of minutes after he was drafted by the team in 2006, then traded. Thursday, new backup center Greg Stiemsma was asked what was the best thing about his first stint with the Wolves. "Was there one?" he joked. Stiemsma, whose basketball career included stints in Turkey, South Korea, the development league and last season with the Boston Celtics, signed a two-year deal worth nearly $2.6 million, with the first year guaranteed. He brings to the Wolves proven shot-blocking ability; he was second in the league last season in shots blocked per minutes played. Adding a player capable of protecting the basket was an offseason goal for David Kahn, Wolves president of basketball operations.

  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: The Warriors' biggest issue over the years has been a weak defense, a product of being undersized and stocked with players who couldn't play that side of the ball. That need was a big reason the Warriors gave up star guard Monta Ellis for Bogut. And the addition of rookie Festus Ezeli, a 6-foot-11, 255-pound shot-blocking specialist from Vanderbilt, significantly beefs up the front line. The Warriors also shored up the backcourt. Acquiring Jarrett Jack from New Orleans gives Golden State a defensive-minded combo guard. Jack (6-3, 202) is known for being physical and tough. And if the summer league was an indicator, rookie shooting guard Kent Bazemore could be a pest on defense. That's four guys -- Bogut, Ezeli, Jack, Bazemore -- who make their living on the defensive end. Plus, swingman Brandon Rush, who re-signed Wednesday, is no slouch on defense. He led the Warriors with 58 blocks. The only guard with more was Miami's Dwyane Wade (63).

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: As they attempt to rebuild the wreckage that is the Orlando Magic, general manager Rob Hennigan and head coach Jacque Vaughn have identified the Spurs as the model they’ll attempt to copy. It makes sense. Not only did Vaughn spend the past five years in San Antonio before joining the Magic last month, the Spurs have been one of the most successful and consistent organizations in American professional sports. But as San Antonio’s own family tree illustrates — let alone 60-plus years of NBA history — it’s much easier said than done. Of the nine head coaches and general managers who has sprung forth from San Antonio, only Oklahoma City supremo Sam Presti has built a foundation that truly mirrors that of the Spurs. To follow that path, one first has to examine how they’ve managed to register four championships, 15 playoff appearances and 14 50-win campaign over the past 15 seasons: 1) Draft MVP-caliber talent at the top of the draft. 2) Surround said talent with quality support through shrewd management. Simple, right? Danny Ferry probably doesn’t think so. He had the most important piece in place in the person of LeBron James. But the best wing man Ferry could find in five seasons with Cleveland was Mo Williams, and he ended up resigning just before James fled to Miami. Which just goes to show how difficult it is to put a championship team together, no matter how good your model.

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Pistons second-round pick Khris Middleton still hasn't signed, but he is one of several players who hasn't -- including Chicago Bulls first-rounder Marquis Teague. There isn't a sense of urgency with training camp two months away. But the Pistons have a two-week window before Sept. 5 where they would have to tender Middleton -- the 39th overall pick -- a contract to retain his rights and the indication is the Pistons plan on getting a deal done. Even if the Pistons offer the tender, they still can negotiate a deal under different terms.