First Cup: Tuesday

  • Mike Bresnahan and Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times: With Kaman in the fold, the Lakers have nine players under contract for a total of $81.6 million, including Metta World Peace, whom they can waive via the one-time amnesty provision. In fact, Kobe Bryant seemed to fear for the worst. "This is a tough day for Laker nation," he said Monday on Twitter, reminding his 3 million followers that World Peace was a key part in the Lakers' Game 7 victory over Boston in the 2010 NBA Finals. "Personally I'd keep Metta and make a run with the unit we have and just add a few pieces," Bryant added, along with the hash tags "Keep the peace" and "Lakers still deciding." The Lakers couldn't actually waive World Peace until a one-week period that would begin Wednesday, and they would have to still pay his $7.7-million salary next season, but they would save about $15 million in luxury taxes if they cut him. The Lakers would have no small forwards on their roster if they waived World Peace, though Bryant occasionally has played the position.

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: Larry Bird does not talk much to the media, but when he does, he is brutally honest, engaging, and entertaining. He was after the Pacers' game at the Orlando Summer Pro League, when he was asked about a variety of topics, since time with Bird is so precious. He addressed the end of the Big Three Era in Boston and reflected on his own Big Three Era, and how he, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish were allowed to age in Celtics uniforms. "It's tough. I knew I was on my way out. Actually I was going to leave a couple of years earlier and (former president) Dave Gavitt talked me into staying," Bird said. "It was tough. There was always talk about should Red (Auerbach) trade us early, but there's loyalty there in that organization and he decided to keep us. "But you always gotta look out for the franchise. You always do." Bird said seeing Paul Pierce not finish his career with Boston is difficult.

  • Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times: Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond claims it is his “intention’’ to re-sign Brandon Jennings. Many NBA officials are skeptical. Jennings, the Bucks’ starting point guard the last four seasons, is a restricted free agent.He can entertain offers from any team with the Bucks having the right to match and retain his services. Since his arrival in Milwaukee five summers ago, though, Hammond has constantly stated he wouldn’t overpay a player — even though he has done that, most notably with his free-agent signing of Drew Gooden. Hammond gave Gooden a five-year, $32 million contract and, to say the least, it was a major mistake. … Some league officials claim Jennings is seeking a contract that would pay him $12M a season. The speculation is that Hammond doesn’t believe Jennings is worth that amount and thus is more receptive to moving Jennings in a sign-and-trade deal than he’s publicly letting on. Of course, if the Bucks unload Jennings, they’ll need someone to replace him. The Bucks had expressed interest in ex-Golden State veteran guard Jarrett Jack, but he has made a verbal commitment to sign with Cleveland. The Bucks are also believed to have had serious discussions about pursuing Atlanta’s Jeff Teague, a restricted free agent who is a good friend of former Hawks and current Bucks coach Larry Drew.

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has targeted the regular-season opener as the date to expect Rajon Rondo’s return to action, and the point guard’s agent agrees. “That sounds right,” Bill Duffy said yesterday at the Orlando summer league. “We don’t want to put any pressure on him and overanticipate, but the main thing is to be healthy and 100 percent. He’s on target in his rehab and we anticipate a 100 percent return.” Duffy doesn’t expect Rondo to suffer from the uncertainty that continues to hound Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose’s return from knee surgery. “I think Rajon’s (knee surgery) was less severe, so he’s more optimistic,” Duffy said. “I don’t think that’s Rajon’s nature. He’s not going to be as patient. But psychologically he’ll be fine. That was a big hurdle for Rose, but Rajon isn’t made that way.” Nor does Rondo appear to be bothered by the latest round of trade rumors. “He’s been going through that for the last three years,” Duffy said. “He’s just used to it.”

  • Mac Engel, of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Andrew Bynum is going to squeeze teams as much as he can because he knows there are not many people on this earth who can do what he does. How many 7-foot men on this earth are actually any good at basketball? Five, six? By comparison, giving Beltre a monster deal looked like the sure thing compared to an NBA player who only once in his career has played a full 82-game season. We forget now, but the Rangers took a major risk when they handed Beltre a six-year deal worth $96 million. We forget because Beltre has been such a hit. If Cuban wants a real center — and Andrew Bynum is the next-best option — he is going to have to take a similar risk and deal with the consequences.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Larry Bird was a little blunter when I asked him today to elaborate on why teams like Oklahoma City and Indiana can’t toy around with the tax. “Because we can’t afford it,” Bird said. “It’s like buying a used car and a new car. If you got the money to buy a used one, you better get the used one.” Bird then said something interesting. He said the Pacers owners essentially have done the same thing the Thunder’s owners have done. That’s sign off on the front office assembling a roster that is as competitive as possible but one that doesn’t push the team past the tax threshold. Indiana’s payroll also is approaching $70 million. The projected tax threshold for the 2013-14 season is $71.6 million. “Our owners went out and have done everything they could this year so we could be up close to the tax,” Bird said. “We just can’t fight the tax. It’s always going to be a disadvantage for us. I feel bad for Oklahoma. They had a great team and they had to make a trade. They were right there. But we’re going to have to do the same in the future. We’re always fighting an uphill battle with revenues. But that’s part of who we are. And we do the best we can with what we have.”

  • Shawn Windsor of the Detroit Free Press: Josh Smith, the Pistons’ newest free agent-to-be, isn’t a good three-point shooter. In fact, he isn’t much of a jump shooter beyond 12 feet. This isn’t good news for those of you who think NBA small forwards should be able to … shoot. But this isn’t awful news, either. At least not yet. If Maurice Cheeks and his staff can persuade Smith to avoid chucking up long two-pointers and concentrate on attacking the rim, the Pistons will sport as athletic a frontline as there is in the league, capable of post offense, post defense, shot blocking and rebounding. Smith is a 6-foot-9 leaper with a quick first step and good vision. Whether cutting to the basket from the weak side or rolling to the lane off pick-and-rolls, the Pistons haven’t had a player like this in a long time. Actually, few teams possess a player like Smith. And that’s the issue. His uniqueness tantalized coaches and fans for nine years in Atlanta but never quite satisfied them. A jump shot and a full-time motor make him a top-five player. But even without the shooting range, Smith can take over a game. That ability could push the Pistons into the playoffs.

  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer: Josh Harris made one thing clear Monday: The 76ers' managing owner is learning from new general manager Sam Hinkie."We thought we were getting a super-smart, very hardworking, very focused, world-class general manager - and that's what we got," Harris said before the Sixers faced the Indiana Pacers in an Orlando Pro Summer League game. So I like to say that I was playing checkers and he was playing chess," Harris added. "He's thinking about five moves ahead. So I am learning a lot about basketball from interacting with him." Hinkie orchestrated his first bold move with the team on draft night. He traded all-star point guard Jrue Holiday and acquired the rights to center Nerlens Noel, the sixth overall pick, in a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans. The Sixers also received the Pelicans' 2014 first-round pick, which is protected from picks one through five, for Holiday and a second-round pick (42d overall) in the draft. On Friday, the Sixers acquired Royce White and the rights to Turkish star Furkan Aldemir in a trade with the Houston Rockets. The Sixers essentially gave up nothing in return.

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: Most players on summer league rosters are recently drafted rookies, first- or second-year players, or NBA hopefuls looking to catch an eye and get a fall camp invitation. And then there's Jeremy Evans. He's an oddity in Orlando. And not just because he's the only one here who has leaped over his own drawing during a dunk on national television. As a player about to enter his fourth NBA season, the 25-year-old Evans is considered an old man in this part of Florida. By coming to camp again, the 2012 Slam Dunk champion is hoping to continue improving to the point he can work his way into the Jazz's regular rotation.

  • J. Michael of CSN Washington: Bradley Beal won’t play in this weekend’s summer league for the Wizards due to a leg injury, and it is looking doubtful he’ll be able to suit up for the USA Basketball mini-camp later this month, too. Beal, who was in attendance Monday to watch 2013 draft picks Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr. work out for the Wizards at Verizon Center, still has some discomfort in his right fibula, the smaller of the two bones in his lower leg. While he only watched the first day of mini-camp, Beal has been cleared for some basketball activities by the team’s doctors. He last had an X-Ray almost a month ago. Beal’s season ended April 2 when tests showed he had a stress injury -– but not a fracture. “They cleared me to start running doing some light things. It’s definitely going to be a slow progression. There’s still a little pain on touch,” Beal said. “As far as hurting when I'm running its not hurting at all, or (when) jumping at all. I’m still going to take my time because it might come back on me.”

  • Jason Gonzalez of the Star Tribune: Devean George wants to bring a sense of hope to the north Minneapolis intersection of Golden Valley Road and Penn Avenue. The Minneapolis native, former Augsburg College star and NBA player is taking aim at the same stretch of neighborhood where he grew up dribbling a basketball and later witnessed a random drive-by killing of an 11-year-old boy that shook the city. The change will come in the form of 45 affordable housing units, built on top of an outreach program for community youth that he calls George’s Building Blocks. “It’s all about collaboration. That’s what this plan is. Everyone building blocks one at a time,” said George, who played alongside Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal after becoming the first Division III player selected in the NBA draft’s first round. “From Morgan Avenue to Queen Avenue. We’ll start on this corner, and from there, harmony.” Building toward something greater always has been a part of George’s life.

  • Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune: The Jazz have some issues when it comes to playing consistent, team-oriented defense inside EnergySolutions Arena. But it’s apparently a different story outside the building. An author who toured the NBA in search of ticket bargains credits the brokers outside ESA with establishing an almost impenetrable defense. More accurately, Motez Bishara accuses them of collusion, not allowing one another to lower the prices. Beating the NBA: Tales From a Frugal Fan is Bishara’s story of how the secondary ticket market works. He shares his experiences of landing high-priced courtside seats for marquee games and finding huge discounts for other games, mostly by scouring websites and making in-person deals with scalpers outside the arenas. Except in rare cases, he succeeded in securing good tickets for much less than face value. So he was not happy about paying $20 for a $17 upper-bowl ticket to watch the Jazz play Phoenix on a cold night in February 2011.