First Cup: Thursday

  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: Tony Parker shook hands with the Spaniards, then made one, final Olympic gesture. He smashed his goggles onto the floor. A few hours later, near the same spot where pieces of plastic had skidded, Manu Ginobili made a gesture, too. He and his Argentine teammates sang with the crowd, pointing to those in the stands, hugging, almost dancing. “Doing our thing,” Ginobili said afterward, smiling. The two were a contrast, but their emotions were also a contrast to what they do in San Antonio. Parker never smashes anything as a Spur when he loses, and Ginobili never sings when he wins, yet they were here, all while playing for free. And David Stern, who witnessed all of it in the London arena Wednesday, wants to take this away? We think we know about rivalries in the United States, but Spurs-Mavs is preseason stuff compared to Wednesday’s quarterfinals.

  • Gary D’Amato of the Journal Sentinel: Dwyane Wade said he expected to be ready for the start of training camp. The Heat signed guard Ray Allen as insurance, giving Wade all the time he needs to get back to 100%. ... Wade said he watched Team USA's pool games and liked what he saw other than the team's slow starts in a couple games. ... Wade met with the team Tuesday night and said, "It was like old times. We all are brothers in the sense of we play the game of basketball together. Even though we compete (against each other in the NBA), we all play for one country, the USA. We share that in common." He'll be in the stands for the semifinal and final. But he also wants to soak in the entire Olympic experience and was looking forward to attending the women's gold-medal soccer match between the U.S. and Japan on Thursday.

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Even Kobe Bryant's teammates kept waiting for that look, that competitive countenance that fuels one of his scoring barrages. When it finally came, during the second half of the U.S. men's basketball team's 119-86 quarterfinal victory over Australia, nobodyseemed surprised. But some tried to take credit. "I was on him the whole game: 'Wake up!' He looked a little sleepy out there," Carmelo Anthony said. "I guess I woke the Mamba up, and he got it going in that third quarter." Bryant, who entered averaging a meager 9.4 points and failed to score in the first half, dropped a 3-point barrage on the pesky, physical Australians, sinking six en route to his team-high 20 points Wednesday. The U.S. advances to face Argentina in a Friday semifinal, three days after the teams tussled and Facundo Campazzo punched Anthony in the groin. ... "I was just kind of searching for something to get me going, searching for something to kind of activate the Black Mamba," he said. When Bryant is talking in the third person, it's usually a sign of trouble for opponents. And a player who owns five NBA championships and is seeking his second straight gold medal knows failure often is part of success. Consider yourself warned, Argentina.

  • Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune: David Blatt is a proud American who works as an elite coach in his ancestral home of Israel and coaches the Russian basketball team. He said "Shalom'' to a television camera before the playing of the Russian national anthem, and he has resuscitated the Russians' drowning national team. Wednesday he gesticulated and screamed on the sideline as the most surprising team in the Olympic basketball tournament advanced to the semifinals. With future Timberwolf Andrei Kirilenko sprinting around the court like a younger version of himself, the Russians beat Lithuania 83-74 at North Greenwich Arena. They'll play Spain on Friday, probably for the right to face the United States for the gold medal. Kirilenko had 19 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocks, playing with the kind of passion Americans rarely see out of their men's Olympic team. "Andrei is the greatest player in the history of Russian basketball, bar none,'' Blatt said. "And he is here of his own volition and leading us with his heart. In Russia, he is a Michael Jordan-like figure for us. He is our best player. He is also our hardest worker and our leader. And with him it is all coming from the heart.''

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: The Washington Wizards were one of 10 NBA teams with at least two representatives in the London Olympics but neither Nene nor Kevin Seraphin will return to Washington with a medal after both players’ teams were eliminated on Wednesday in the quarterfinals at North Greenwich Arena. Nene returned to action after missing the previous game with soreness in his left foot and finished with seven points and 12 rebounds in Brazil’s 82-77 loss to Argentina. ... With Brazil no longer in the hunt for its first medal in 48 years, Nene can now rest his ailing left foot and prepare for Wizards training camp on Oct. 2. He averaged 6.6 points on 55 percent shooting and eight rebounds in his first Olympics appearance. ... Seraphin played sparingly in France’s 66-59 loss to Spain, collecting two points, three fouls and three turnovers in 6 minutes, 31 seconds. Seraphin didn’t play the final 16 minutes, leaving the floor with his team trailing by two.

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: If the Lakers arrive at a future point where they definitely don’t plan on trading Bynum, then they could work the hard sell on how he should lock that extension up in case he suffers another knee injury. Along those lines, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak mentioned last month the “risks” vs. the “bird in hand.” But rest assured that Bynum has been looking forward to flexing his full free-agent power for quite some time. If you revisit Bynum’s specific season-ending comments on how he would “entertain” the Lakers on the topic of the extension while “I’m not reaching out,” it’s clear that he understands he can dictate to the Lakers a few things – and maybe even arrange for a handicapped-quality parking space next to the head coach’s prime spot at the Lakers’ El Segundo training facility. Bynum was clear back in May about his desire to stick with the Lakers, though, saying about a possible lack of extension: “I can assure you I’m not waiting because I want to go somewhere. That’s for sure.” This was clear, too: After emerging as an All-Star and avoiding significant knee injury in the lockout-compressed schedule, Bynum also said: “I don’t expect to hear my name out there as a possible trade.” Oops.

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: Terry Stotts may not have been the sexiest hire, but when he was introduced Wednesday as the new Trail Blazers coach, he probably raised a few eyebrows with an intriguing vision of his new team. These Blazers, Stotts says, will favor the three-point shot. They will play at a fast pace. They will be given the freedom to create, as long as they show trust in teammates to pass. And over-dribbling will be frowned upon. Of course, all this will be attempted with a young and largely unproven roster outside of cornerstones LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews, so nobody on Wednesday was making any grand predictions about the playoffs or win totals. Instead, the Midwestern son of teachers, and the longtime NBA assistant and head coach, predicted a season of instruction, and the successes will be judged not so much by wins and losses, but by the learning and the improvement. "I think they are going to play an exciting brand of basketball," Stotts said.

  • Reid Laymance of the Houston Chronicle: Jeremy Lin recently took time to skype with a young Knicks fan who was upset about Lin’s signing with the Rockets as a free agent. The father of Naim, the 5-year-old fan, posted a video on YouTube of his son’s despondence over Lin’s departure. Lin apparently saw the video and responded with a skype chat. Lin tells Naim: “You need to still root for them (Knicks), ’cause they’re gonna be a great team with or without me, all right? So you have to keep going to their games and watching them. They’ll be really good.” Wrote Naim’s father: “Jeremy was so touched by the original video that he decided to reach out to us and offer a skype virtual meet with Naim. Naim was so shy :) he made me do all the talking. Thanks again Jeremy hopefully we’ll see you at the bb game when we welcome you back to The Garden.”

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: The Cavaliers signed swingman C.J. Miles to a two-year contract on Wednesday. He arrived in Cleveland earlier in the day and took his physical. Attempts to reach Miles were unsuccessful. He announced the reported $4 million deal on Twitter. "Papers signed," he tweeted. "It's a done deal." He is expected to provide backup minutes at small forward or shooting guard. There's a chance he could move into the starting lineup at small forward. The deal doesn't preclude the Cavs from trying to re-sign swingman Alonzo Gee. The restricted free agent has yet to find a deal this summer. If the Cavs can't sign Gee to a multiyear deal, he could sign his $2.7 million qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: DeMarre Carroll’s fully aware Utah’s stacked in the frontcourt. Gordon Hayward, newly acquired veteran Marvin Williams and 2012 NBA All-Star slam-dunk champion Jeremy Evans are expected to compete for time at small forward, while the Jazz’s big lineup featuring Al Jefferson and Derrick Favors turns Paul Millsap into a 3. Does Carroll care about the buildup? No. Like many, he sees the depth as a team asset. And he knows that every strong NBA squad features one rotational player content to scrap, claw and dig — and occasionally drill a wide-open 3-pointer. "Top teams, they have one guy who’s an energy guy," said Carroll, who’s averaged 3 points, 2 rebounds and 11.1 minutes since entering the league as the No. 27 overall pick in the 2009 draft. "You can look at Memphis: Tony Allen. Thunder: [Thabo] Sefolosha. You can always go down the list. At one point, Chicago: Ronnie Brewer was out there, doing his thing." Carroll expects to enter camp in excellent health. A sprained left ankle that limited his play in Summer League action has healed well.

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: As an unrestricted free agent this summer, veteran shooting guard Roger Mason attracted attention from the Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder and the Chicago Bulls. But Mason said none of those teams offered him a bigger role coming off the bench than what he expects to play for the Hornets this season. Seeking a team where he could blossom as a veteran leader, Mason signed a one-year contract with New Orleans last week. “Obviously, I felt like this presented the best opportunity for me on the court,” said Mason, an eight-year veteran who has played for the Bulls, Spurs, Raptors, Knicks and Wizards since coming out of Virginia in 2002. "Ultimately I have a level of excitement to come down with these young guys to play for Coach Monty Williams and to be with this organization.” ... The Hornets are rebuilding around shooting guard Eric Gordon and first-round draft picks Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers, but Williams said they need veterans with leadership abilities like Mason.

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Palace Sports & Entertainment president Dennis Mannion said Detroit Pistons jerseys “most probably” will have small sponsorship patches in the future. The NBA signaled last month that -- pending formal league approval -- it will allow small patches on the upper left part of jerseys. It’s not exactly going the NASCAR route, but it’s a significant move as the league ponders another revenue stream. Mannion said Tuesday there have been discussions about offering the space as part of a package with a high-end sponsor. “The ilk of sponsor that you could attract is typically very big consumer marketers, and they help you with your brand,” Mannion said. “So I think we are doing an OK job here in the Detroit metro area with the Pistons brand, (but) there are sponsors out there that can take you to a whole new level and other markets, and that’s exciting.”

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: The Wizards are close to filling out Randy Wittman’s coaching staff with the addition of Jerry Sichting, league sources with knowledge of the situation have confirmed. An official announcement is expected to come soon. Sichting worked previously with Wittman in Minnesota, where both were members of Flip Saunders’s staff with the Timberwolves. When Wittman replaced Dwane Casey and took over as Minnesota’s head coach in January 2007, Sichting had already moved on after being with the organization from 1994 to 2005. Sichting returned to serve as an assistant under Kevin McHale after McHale replaced Wittman in December 2008.

  • Nate Taylor of The New York Times: Madison Square Garden opened its doors to the news media Wednesday for a tour of the second part of a three-part renovation of the arena. The event was led by Hank Ratner, president and chief executive of Madison Square Garden Company. The main selling point Ratner gave for this round was centered on fans who will sit in the upper bowl when the Garden hosts its first game on Nov. 1, when the Rangers play the Dallas Stars. “I think the first impression for fans is they’re going to see a brand new upper bowl,” Ratner said. “You’ll see the new seating and that every seat is closer to the action. Fans will see that their experience will be upgraded in every level.” Among the many upgrades to the Garden, the easiest one to recognize is how the seating in the upper bowl has changed. Fans will now sit 10 feet closer to the court or ice, and the seats have been elevated by 17 degrees.

  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: The bounce of basketballs may be upstaged by a morality play this season. Forget the Dwight Howard referendum for a moment. The more pertinent question in some people's minds is this: Are you in favor of traditional marriage or do you support gay rights? The DeVos family, which owns the Magic, are staunch traditionalists. The Douglas and Maria DeVos Foundation donated $500,000 to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) in 2009. NOM is on the front lines of the anti-gay marriage movement, leading initiatives on same-sex marriage bans in eight states. It became a public issue this week when Fred Karger, president of the LGBT advocacy group, Rights Equal Rights foundation, cited the DeVos Foundation contribution in calling for a boycott of Amway and its affiliates, which includes your Orlando Magic. The team is owned by Rich DeVos, who is an Amway co-founder. ... Advocacy shouldn't be focused on food, beverage or basketball choices. Your moral compass should be set on greater things with more impact. Regardless, the call for a boycott of Magic games is very much in play this season. And you, the paying customer, just like the DeVos family, can make whatever choices you see fit to use your disposable income. Let the morality games begin.