First Cup: Monday

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Prospective Grizzlies owner Robert Pera has broken his media silence — if only slightly. Pera, who has declined repeated interview requests from The Commercial Appeal, granted an interview to the San Jose Business Journal in which he staked out two positions, neither of them surprising: He loves basketball, and he's confident that his company, Ubiquiti Networks, is healthy and viable despite the plummeting of its stock price in recent months. Pera did not directly address his bid to buy the Grizzlies, for which NBA approval is expected before training camp begins Oct. 1, or his efforts, reported by this newspaper, to attract local investors. Pera, a California communications technology tycoon, has an agreement to buy the team from Michael Heisley for an amount believed to be $335 million.

  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: All signs continue to point toward 21-year-old big man Derrick Favors as a major centerpiece of the Jazz’s future. While Favors crisscrossed Utah this week, strengthening his bond with fans by visiting remote towns as part of the annual Junior Jazz program, initial contract negotiations quietly began between the small-market organization and longtime power forward Paul Millsap. The sturdy six-year veteran was offered a three-year extension worth about $25 million, The Salt Lake Tribune has learned, which is the maximum extension Millsap can receive under the new collective bargaining agreement. The proposed deal features an annual 7.5 percent raise, would kick in after Millsap’s current contract expires June 2013, and could keep the career Jazzman in a Utah uniform through June 2016. Initial indications are Millsap won’t agree to the extension, though, preferring to enter free agency in 2013 with plans to cash in on an inflated 2012 market that saw mid-tier forwards such as Gerald Wallace, Andrei Kirilenko, Nicolas Batum and Ryan Anderson recently receive lucrative multiyear contracts.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: For the Thunder, in-house development always has trumped blockbuster trades and mega free-agent signings. This offseason has been no different. Over the past two months, OKC has substituted veterans Derek Fisher,Nazr Mohammed and Royal Ivey with Perry Jones III, Hasheem Thabeet and Hollis Thompson. All of the newcomers are younger, cheaper players who don't figure to be in next year's rotation. That puts the pressure of next season squarely on the returning players — and the man in charge of leading them. For his part, Scott Brooks says he's committed to using this summer to become a better coach. How? “I think you get better by a few areas,” Brooks said. “You have to continue to watch film and develop your game that way and also be critical on what you've done in the past and try to improve on it. Also, talk to coaches. I love spending time with coaches, whether it's high school coaches, junior college coaches or college coaches, or other NBA coaches. I think that when you're around (other coaches) you spark things and you brainstorm and you can improve.”

  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: Dwight Howard has a more daunting challenge: He's been targeted as the "bad guy" by most of the media, quite a number of peers and certainly the majority of NBA fans. This is hardly the goody-two-shoes image that Howard had cultivated since the start of his NBA career. The young man who once desired to put a cross on the NBA logo is now burning in eternal damnation in the minds of some fans for having the arrogance to want to switch markets. Howard's problem isn't wanting to play in another city. That is and remains his prerogative. But the way he and his handlers have botched this move is incomprehensible. Howard can do himself a great favor by cutting out all his middlemen and dealing directly with the media. Say what you need to say and move on. People will respect you a lot more for being a stand-up guy rather than a puppeteer pulling strings in the shadows. Howard's divorce with the Magic is inevitable. It's time to move on without smashing all the fine china to pieces and shattering whatever good will remains on the table.

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: Center Robin Lopez, who the New Orleans Hornets acquired in a trade from the Phoenix Suns on July 27, underwent successful surgery Saturday to correct a tear of his medial meniscus in his left knee. The procedure was performed by Dr. El Attrache at the Kerlan Jobe Clinic in Los Angeles. Lopez, 7 feet, is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for training camp this fall. Lopez was acquired along with forward Hakim Warrick and cash considerations from the Suns. He averaged 5.4 points and 3.3 rebounds for the Suns last season in 14.0 minutes over 64 games. Last month, rookie guard Austin Rivers underwent a procedure to remove a bone spur from his right ankle, and guard Xavier Henry had arthroscopic surgery to repair a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee. Similar to Lopez, Rivers and Henry are expected to be ready before training camp begins.

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: Like everybody else in the Pacers organization, Danny Granger is eager for the season to start after they were eliminated by Miami in six games in the second round of the playoffs last season. “Still not over it,” Granger said laughing about losing to the Heat. “I’m over it. It happens. They were the better team. I think they deserved to win the championship. That’s the way it goes. We have to get better.” The Eastern Conference will be better next season. Brooklyn, Boston, New York and the Pacers are expected to be in the mix for seeds 2-4 in the East. Granger believes they’ve got the second best team in the conference behind the Heat. “It’s going to be tough,” he said. “Brooklyn, they are going to be a threat. Obviously Miami is going to be there, but I think we still view ourselves as a top-2 team in the East.”

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Isaiah Thomas hasn't slowed down much since the end of his rookie season. Thomas completed coursework for his degree in American Ethnic Studies last month at the University of Washington. He's also been playing basketball whenever and wherever he can. Thomas is also keep a promise he made to himself growing up to bring basketball to youth with the Isaiah Thomas Elite Skills Academy basketball camps he's held this summer. There will be six in all, the latest being today through Thursday at the Hardwood Palace in Rocklin. The camps have been in Washington and Hawaii. Thomas said his desire to host camps stems from his days of wanting instruction from NBA players as he began playing basketball. "Just growing up and wanting to be that kid that wanted to be at a camp hosted by an NBA player," Thomas said.

  • Matt Breen of The Washington Post: Kevin Durant, Wayne Pratt’s son, stole the ball near mid-court, dashed toward the basket and dished it to U.S. Olympic basketball teammate LeBron James for an easy dunk over a Tunisian defender. Watching with a few friends and co-workers, Pratt pointed toward the big-screen television as the replays showed his son’s beautifully crafted pass. He laughed as it showed different angles of James’s dunk. But for Pratt and Durant, it wasn’t always this way. When Pratt was 23 years old, he was already a father of two. He says he wasn’t ready for the responsibilities. Around Durant’s first birthday, Pratt deserted the family, leaving behind his wife, Wanda, and sons Kevin and Tony. “I felt like I was immature, selfish, I was young. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” said Pratt, now 46. “But my sons helped me realize how important it was to be in their lives by always wanting me to be around.” Wanda Durant (her maiden name) sits courtside at most Oklahoma City Thunder games and is regularly interviewed by major media outlets. Meantime, Pratt is a lesser known figure who said he’s happy with the simple life he lives. It took Pratt nearly a decade to seek forgiveness from his two sons and worked out a decent relationship with his now ex-wife. He said Wanda was always a positive person and strong enough to raise two sons.