First Cup: Monday

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Watching Dwyane Wade in Sunday's 89-68 Olympic exhibition victory over Russia, it has become evident that one thing hasn't changed amid the Heat's guard's offseason revival: The kid loves to gamble for steals. ... How does that impact the Heat? If you're going to have a player gambling for steals, you need a shot-blocker to clean up unsuccessful attempts. When Wade was playing alongside Shaquille O'Neal and, especially, Alonzo Mourning, there was plenty of secondary deterrence at the rim. Now, neither will be in place at the start of the season (with a Mourning comeback still very much up in the air). Over the second half of last season, there was no second thought by opponents about attacking the rim when the Heat's starting center was Mark Blount."TrueHoop First Cup

  • Matthew Syed of The Times: "Luol Deng, a forward with balletic style, does not drive a Porsche or a Baby Bentley. He does not wear cascades of bling or spend evenings in the roped-off areas of shimmering nightspots. He does not lust after fame, adulation or any of the conventional trappings of materialism. Deng's ambitions are forcefully different: 'I want to make the world a better place.' It is a somewhat clich├ęd aspiration, but in Deng's case it is shot through with personal and intellectual honesty. Whether it is talking about his impending purchase of a hybrid car or the possibility of funding a television channel devoted to environmental issues (a subject he has discussed with Al Gore, the former US vice-president); whether it is debating the responsibility of athletes to protest in Beijing or the ethnic roots of the conflict in Darfur, western Sudan, Deng combines moral seriousness with a commitment to action."

  • ESPN's Marc Stein: "Sources in Israel said [Carlos] Arroyo will receive an estimated $2.5 million net next season -- roughly the equivalent of a $5 million NBA salary after taxes -- as part of a three-year contract. The deal includes an opt-out provision that will enable Arroyo to return to the NBA after each of the next two seasons if he chooses. Arroyo becomes the eighth player who worked in the NBA in 2007-08 to sign with a foreign club since free agency commenced July 1. But he's just the second -- along with former Atlanta Hawks swingman Josh Childress -- who had established himself in the NBA before finding a more lucrative contract."

  • Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press: "Joe Dumars' role model was Dave Bing. Dumars and Isiah Thomas remain popular custodians of the team brand because they established the championship identity, but Bing remains 'Mr. Piston.' Now Bing is contemplating whether he'll strive for the honor of 'Mr. Mayor.' Bing remains the model for professional athletes appreciating that they are worth far more than the baskets they sink, touchdowns they score or home runs they bang."

  • Scott Taylor of the Deseret News: "Last year, Andrei Kirilenko led his Russian men's national basketball team in the 2007 European Championships. This Friday, he'll lead -- in a different way -- Russia's entire Olympic sports delegation in the Beijing Summer Games' opening ceremonies. Kirilenko has been selected to carry the Russian flag as he and his Olympic peers enter into and parade around Beijing's National Stadium. 'Representing in front of the world, you know, is a big honor,' said the longtime Utah Jazz forward, 'and I will try to do my best.'"

  • Scott Howard-Cooper of the Sacramento Bee: "Ron Artest can't splinter them. He can shake them up, though, and the locker room of the Toyota Center is one of the few places where that might be a good thing, given the personality of the Rockets and their history of annual early postseason exits. If lobbing Artest into this group of good guys creates a concern that a passive roster will get run over by his strong will, especially if Dikembe Mutombo does not re-sign and a mountainous presence is lost, it raises hope of new energy. It also raises hope that Artest will decide whether he is Ron or Bill and whether he will limit flip-flopping on his future in Houston to 39 times between New Year's and July, but one thing at a time and the possibility of the moment is that he could reach Texas with the most unexpected of attributes. That's right. Ron Artest: Emotional Leader. The eighth sign of the apocalypse."

  • Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: "With Houston's acquisition of Ron Artest, Rick Adelman deserves a salary increase for combat duty. Adelman is the official dumping ground for head cases, having worked effectively with Latrell Sprewell, Rod Strickland, Bonzi Wells, Chris Webber and others over the years."

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: "Piece by piece, Oklahoma City's NBA franchise comes together, and yes, it seems slower than a jigsaw. A radio contract here, a deal with Tulsa's D-League team there. We're more than a month removed from the celebration announcement that the Sonics were leaving Seattle, yet the franchise has no name, no colors, no tickets for sale and no noticeable staff on the ground. The season starts in about 15 minutes. Isn't it time to panic? No, says Clay Bennett. The task at hand is daunting but not overwhelming, says the Not-the-Sonics chairman."