First Cup: Wednesday

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: The Lakers have garnered headlines with an off-season that has superstars Steve Nash and Dwight Howard headed to the West Coast. But the other team in Los Angeles, the Clippers, has quietly made some solid moves this summer from giving a five-year extension to franchise cornerstone Blake Griffin, trading for forward Lamar Odom and signing former Piston Grant Hill. So Clippers combo guard Chauncey Billups, who is diligently rehabbing his left Achilles tendon, isn't about to back down from the Lakers. “They are trying to stack the deck over there, but I tell you what - I'm very pleased with my team and what we've been able to do and I will just say this - don't nobody scare me, man,” said the former Piston with a chuckle.

  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: No shoe is worth $315,unless you are Carrie from Sex In The City. But back to reality, there’s been a lot of immediate yada-yada over the $315 LeBron James basketball shoe that will be released by Nike Inc. in the fall. It would be the most expensive sneaker ever. Reaction has been swift and punitive: The president of the National Urban League says “To release such an outrageously overpriced product while the nation is struggling to overcome an unemployment crisis is insensitive at best.” Please. The $315 price tag is insane, for sure, but is it much different than an adidas Chicago Bulls Revolution 30 Custom Authentic Alternate Jersey that sells for as much as $289.99? Or a Peyton Manning jersey that sells for $99.99? Or an Alex Rodriguez authentic road jersey that sells for $184.99? ... I get it. But business is business. No need to rip LeBron and Nike over :The Decision Part II.” The LeBron X Nike Plus will have a significant number of hi-tech perks like motion sensors that can measure how high players jump. I won’t need a motion sensor to tell me I can’t jump worth a darn. But I also wouldn’t spend $315 on a pair of basketball shoes. It comes down to consumer choice. I am sure Payless has plenty of sneakers selling for a whole lot less than 315 bucks.

  • Craig Davis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Despite the spike in prices over the past year, sales of basketball shoes costing more than $100 were up 50 percent, according to SportsOneSource. But will a $300 sneaker fly in a troubled economy? The LeBron X Nike Plus will be limited edition of about 50,000 pairs.There is a niche market out there unfazed by the price, as indicated by a comment on the forum of SoleCollector.com: “A shoe like that is not meant for everybody. It IS a luxury to have. For myself, I'd rather enjoy the luxuries of having a dope, basketball shoe over owning any type of Gucci, LV or even Yeezy shoe 100% of the time.” A different view from the marketplace was among the comments at LebronJames.com: “How about u call nike and tell the to lower the ridiculous and crazy price on your new shoes coming out...We ain't rich like u.” Ultimately, the market will provide the answer as to what features are vital in a sneaker. The old-school method for finding out how high one jumped was a mark on the wall and a tape measure. As for concern about parents being pressured into shelling out for a supposed must-have luxury item, there was an old-school answer to that as well. Simply stated: “No.”

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: Any fears Clippers fans might have about All-Star point guard Chris Paul having surgery Tuesday to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb should be put to rest, according to Coach Vinny Del Negro. He wanted to reassure fans that Paul "will be all right" and will "resume all basketball activities" after being sidelined for about eight weeks. It's possible that Paul could be back sometime during training camp, which starts Oct. 1. "I don't want to put an exact date on it," Del Negro said. "When he's ready to play, he'll play. But I expect him back sometime during training camp. I don't know when, but the most important thing is to get ready for the start of the season."

  • Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News: How many championship banners would be hanging in the American Airlines Center rafters had the Mavericks traded for Kobe Bryant in 2007? That may seem like a far-fetched idea but Mavs owner Mark Cuban said Tuesday morning that it was almost a reality in the summer of 2007. “When I was doing Dancing with the Stars, I was taking breaks because I was talking to Kobe’s agent because Kobe wanted to get traded,” Cuban explained on the Ben and Skin Show on 103.3 [KESN-FM]. “Literally, between Dancing with the Stars practices I had thought we traded for Kobe Bryant. I even talked to their owner and thought we were going to have done deal, and [Lakers GM] Mitch Kupchak changed [Kobe’s] mind and brought him back.” Not sure if the Los Angeles Lakers would’ve taken Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse, Devin Harris, Erick Dampier or Josh Howard in return but Cuban assures that Dirk Nowitzki was not in the deal. “It wasn’t Dirk for Kobe,” Cuban said before admitting that the Lakers were smart by not letting it happen.

  • Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman: Life is good for James Harden. But you have to wonder if The Beard Express has a chance of running off the rail. Earlier this summer, his account on Instagram, a picture-based social media website, had a photo of a note with some news. “JUST FOUND OUT I GOT TRADED TO THE HORNETS,” it read. “I'LL MISS OKC.” Not long after, the picture was deleted. Turns out it was a hoax. Hard to believe the Thunder was real happy that one of its potential franchise players is joking around about that. Then again, that gold-and-black, tiger-print cowboy hat couldn't have been a big hit either. But I'm telling you, the Thunder could use this to its advantage. Harden clearly has some wild child in him, and there's nothing wrong with that, but here's where the Thunder can make OKC a huge positive. Sell Harden and his people on the fact that he shouldn't live in party city with a bunch of money. Convince them that he can visit places like L.A. and Miami in the offseason but that he needs to spend most of his time in a place like Oklahoma City.

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: C.J. Miles contends he wasn’t able to display his entire skill set with the Jazz because he was simply playing the role asked of him behind more established stars. But that doesn’t explain his slip in production last season, when the Jazz revamped their roster following the recent departures of Boozer and Williams. Miles’ numbers slipped to 9.1 points and 2.1 rebounds last season and he shot 38 percent, his lowest shooting percentage since his second year in the league. Miles was shut out of the first wave of free-agent signings, but when most of the elite players found homes, the Cavs found a player still in his prime who fills a huge need at a relatively cheap price. The team began the summer with the clear goal of upgrading the wing position. By drafting Dion Waiters and signing Miles, they believe that has been accomplished. Miles has the ability to play shooting guard in bigger lineups, but will likely find the bulk of his minutes at small forward given the presence of Kyrie Irving and Waiters on the roster. General Manager Chris Grant said the organization didn’t believe the batch of wing players available was very deep, but Miles stood out because of his age and potential.

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: New Orleans Hornets rookie guard Austin Rivers said he remains on schedule to be fully healed by October’s training camp after having surgery three weeks ago to remove a bone spur from his right ankle. Rivers continues to do most of his rehabilitation work in Winter Park, Fla., his hometown, but said he plans to return to New Orleans soon to resume work. ... Besides Rivers, center Robin Lopez and guard Xavier Henry are both recovering from knee surgeries last month. Shortly after participating in all five games on the Hornets’ summer league schedule, Henry had arthroscopic surgery to repair a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee.

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: The Spurs announced today they have waived Derrick Byars, a rookie forward who joined the team on April 25 out of the Development League and appeared in the final two games of last season. The move, made in the name of roster housekeeping, was not unexpected. Byars, 28, was technically a member of the Spurs’ roster throughout the postseason run to the Western Conference Finals but was never listed on the active roster and didn’t make any of the road trips. The transaction officially drops the Spurs roster to 14, one less than the NBA maximum.

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Pistons rookies Andre Drummond, Khris Middleton and Kim English took part in the NBA's rookie orientation last weekend in New York. In place since 1986, the program is mandatory and one way the league and veteran players try to help rookies get acclimated to life as a professional -- and provide guidance to avoid common pitfalls. "It's a whole different ballgame now," said Drummond, the Pistons' first-round pick. "It's stuff we knew growing up from our mothers and family members that is being reiterated on a whole new level and how different things are going to happen to us." NBA senior vice president for player development Mike Bantom said the players really respond from advice from their older peers.

  • Brendan Savage of MLive.com: A highlight video of new Detroit Pistons big man Slava Kravtsov has readers excited about his potential and shot-blocking ability but questions remain about his offensive abilities. Sure, Kravtsov can dunk the ball ferociously. But can he shoot? That's what some fans are asking. Still, his ability to defend near the basket and swat shots is something all NBA teams covet, leaving fans optimistic the Pistons might have found a free-agent gem if he can bring those skills to the NBA.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: John Wall’s rise from unheralded high school prospect to phenomenon after participating in the Reebok Breakout camp has been chronicled many times, in many ways, including a cartoon version that was released earlier this summer. The breakout story has been packaged again, wrapped around a mini-documentary about the latest Breakout Challenge, which featured highly-touted recruits Aquille Carr and twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison and was held last month in Philadelphia. Wall’s thrashing of high school standout Tyrek Coger has made the rounds this week, as well as another video of him schooling even more players. But in this latest video created by NOC, Wall offers some advice to players seeking to reach his status – or higher – in the NBA. Wall will be one of several current and former NBA players – including Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, Chris Bosh, Kyrie Irving and Paul Pierce – in New York on Wednesday, offering support for the re-election campaign of President Obama at a fundraising event and dinner.