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First Cup: Friday

  • Tom Sorensen of The Charlotte Observer: I wrote Wednesday that I hoped the Bobcats would not sign Al Jefferson. I said I liked Jefferson’s game, but I didn’t like the timing. I still don’t. The Bobcats’ strategy has been clear: be bad until there’s an opportunity to be good. Divest the roster of veterans, drop to the bottom of the standings, parlay draft choices into talent and make a move when the time is right. That time is 2014-15. I didn’t want them to tank next season to get a shot at Andrew Wiggins or a lesser but still glittering pick in the 2014 draft. I just didn’t want them to excel. As long as they hustled, as long as their young players improved and as long as Zeller, whom they drafted last week, brings talent and a hard edge, I was fine with another low-victory, high-pick team. It’s terrible to be the worst team or among the worst franchises in the NBA every season. But who remembers Cleveland before LeBron, Oklahoma City (or Seattle) before Kevin Durant or Chicago before Derrick Rose? You get a great one and what you were before he arrived no longer matters. It’s amnesty not for a player but for a team. Alas, Charlotte decided to make the move a year early. Signing Jefferson gives them credibility they’ve never had.

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: These new guys? They don't mess around. They are daring, disciplined, decisive, relentless. They swing and miss on Andre Iguodala, a free agent they coveted and offered to compensate generously, then come right back and swing again, this time connecting on a three-team deal that will send Tyreke Evans to the New OrleansPelicans for point guard Greivis Vasquez. Vivek Ranadive. Pete D'Alessandro. Mike Bratz.Michael Malone. Plotting behind closed doors. An active offseason in sweltering Sacramento. A presence during free agency. And now, finally, a pure point guard. Guess we've missed a lot these past few years.

  • Dwight Jaynes of CSNNW.com: So the Trail Blazers Thursday added Robin Lopez -- known by some as the "defensive" or "oft-injured" Lopez brother (Brook is the "offensive" brother). And it didn't cost them much aside from cap space. So, in essence, Portland has added Thomas Robinson and Lopez in the past few days at a salary cap cost of about eight and a half million bucks.Yes, there is room to add another player or two. But two moves took a significant chunk of cap space. This is a difficult thing to analyze because General Manager Neil Olshey basically brought in two players for almost nothing. Now before you start thinking this is something akin to pulling a rabbit out of his cap at midcourt during a halftime show in front of 20,000 people, understand that in this era of salary dumps, stuff like this happens. A lot. Teams are more than willing to hand you a player in return for wiggling room under the cap. Particularly when they're in the hunt for big-ticket free agents. … The biggest fear for Blazer fans should be this: Has Portland done exactly what most teams DO NOT want to do this season -- improved just enough to crawl into the playoffs next season but lose in the first round, thus missing a chance at the lottery, which is destined in 2014 to be stocked with outstanding prospects? I still have a feeling there are more moves ahead for Portland. But if not, I must ask you -- how much has the needle moved? And at this point, the answer could certainly be: A) Not much. B) A lot. C) Too much.

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: After careful examination of the facts in evidence, I have come to a verdict on the Celtics future of new coach Brad Stevens. I don’t know. This may get me thrown off the active list at the Blowhard Pundits of America Club (hope they’ll let me retain the social membership), but I don’t see how one can accurately predict with any certainty how Stevens will do as he moves from Butler to his first NBA job of any kind. Key words: accurately, certainty. First of all, his fitness as an NBA coach cannot be fully judged until he has the players to win, and it appears that won’t be happening around the Celtics to any serious degree for a while. … On July 5, we do not have all the answers. And the feeling here is that it is not possible to have them at this point. Out in the basketball business, it’s fair to say the opinions on Stevens are, to put it kindly, mixed.

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Some of you get really angry when I play contrarian, so get ready to become angry: Tyrus Thomas wasn’t as useless as he’ll be remembered. Him losing his way as a Charlotte Bobcat wasn’t entirely his fault. … Beat writers show up way early for games. I’d walk into arenas around 4 p.m. for a 7 p.m. tip-off and often Tyrus was either just in front of me or just behind me at the media/player entrance. I’d be mulling around, looking for information, and there would be Thomas running drills before any of his teammates were in the building. He was trying to do the right thing. Now the inevitable will happen, and the Bobcats will use the Amnesty Clause to move past this mistake. I hope Thomas finds a new team. I hope he figures out how to again be the guy who delivers 10 points and five rebounds a night. He’s an odd guy but not a bad guy. I’m not sure fans get the difference.

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: With Tristan Thompson and top overall pick Anthony Bennett available to play power forward, the Cavs view Clark as a small forward who will likely contend with Alonzo Gee, C.J. Miles and Sergey Karasev for the starting spot when camp opens in October. Clark earns a significant pay raise over last season, when he made $1.2 million with the Lakers. In Cleveland, he will be reunited with coaches Mike Brown and Igor Kokoskov. Clark played briefly for Brown last season before he was fired by the Lakers, while Kokoskov was an assistant with the Phoenix Suns when Clark began his career there. The Cavs aren’t done shopping. They’re still looking for a backup point guard and another big. With Miles on a non-guaranteed contract this season, they could still try and improve the wing position again.

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: Marco Belinelli, a 27-year-old former Italian League star who has shown promise in six NBA seasons spent with four teams, has agreed to a two-year deal worth nearly $6 million to join the Spurs, league sources said. Belinelli cannot officially sign his deal until July 10, per NBA rule. The Spurs apparently moved fast to line up Belinelli, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard, as other teams began circling reserve guard Gary Neal, a restricted free agent. Neal, another expatriate of the Italian Leagues, has been garnering offers from other teams the Spurs might be disinclined to match, according to an ESPN.com report. He has not yet signed an offer sheet with another team. If Neal is indeed headed out of town after three seasons with the Spurs, the team appears to have already identified his replacement in Belinelli, a native of Bologna, Italy.

  • Jonatah Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: While Dwight Howard headed to the mountain air to consider where to take his talents, Daryl Morey grabbed a day to breathe before heading to Orlando, Fla., for summer league. For nearly two years, the Rockets general manager had chased Howard one way or another. He had come tantalizingly close and fallen far short. He had tried to engineer trades, reworked his roster and cleared salary-cap room, all to bring in the player he pegged to be the next in a line of Rockets star big men stretching from Elvin Hayes through Moses Malone, Ralph Sampson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Yao Ming. Morey could get an answer as soon as Friday, with Howard, 27, expected to emerge in the coming days with his decision. … The Rockets sought to sell that they could provide both, as other teams no doubt did, too. But their long, unrelenting pursuit could be viewed as a contrast to Bryant’s tough-love recruiting pitch. The Rockets see Howard as the key to assembling a championship team; Bryant according to a Yahoo Sports report told Howard he could teach him how to be a champ. It’s unclear what Howard thinks about that. That and a great deal more could become evident in the coming days. If nothing else, if there was an inclination to hold their breath while waiting for a puff of white smoke, or Tweet, out of Aspen, the Rockets should know better. After two years, they should be accustomed to reminding themselves to breathe normally.

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: Unless you just touched down from Mars, you've probably noticed that most of Los Angeles is anxiously waiting on center Dwight Howard to decide where he wants to spend the next four or five years of his career. And by now, you probably know Howard has met with, and will decide among, the Lakers, Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks. You probably even know Howard took meetings with all five teams between Monday and Tuesday near his home in Beverly Hills. What you might not know is, some of the key elements of that story were brought to you by a kid who just finished his sophomore year at Beverly Hills High. Meet Arye Abraham, full-time Lakers fan, part-time photo/autograph hound and current Twitter sensation. "I honestly didn't set out for all this," Abraham said Wednesday. "Mostly I just wanted to maybe have some sort of impact on Dwight's decision by showing him how much we want him to stay with the Lakers." But in the process, he became a go-to source for the latest news on the Howard sweepstakes. It was Abraham who put two and two together and figured out the team executives heading to Los Angeles to woo Howard would probably stay at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

  • Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post: After no team would give him a summer league shot in 2012, Chris Wright played last season with the Iowa Energy in the NBA Development League. Wright was named to a D-League all-star roster and earned a 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks, though that contract was not renewed. Now, after an incident-free season in the D-League, Wright has earned summer league gigs with the Brooklyn Nets in Orlando and the San Antonio Spurs in Las Vegas. The self-proclaimed gym rat works out daily near Bowie, where he lives with his girlfriend and 4-month-old son, Chris Wright Jr. (“Deuce”). Last weekend, Wright hosted the first annual MS Basketball Jamboree at St. John’s High. The event featured weight and conditioning training tips for kids, a few words from Crayton about life with MS, a charity game and appearances from NBA players and former Georgetown standouts Jeff Green and Greg Monroe and Hoyas Coach John Thompson III. Being the first NBA player with MS means a great deal to Wright, who found inspiration in the fact that he received his diagnosis during MS Awareness Week.