First Cup: Thursday

  • Bill Livingston of The Plain Dealer: If healthy, the 7-foot Bynum could remind critics of just how good he was in Los Angeles. At the very least, he gives some depth to a roster whose bigs consist of fragile Anderson Varejao, third-year man Tristan Thompson, project Tyler Zeller and rookie Anthony Bennett, the top pick in an unexciting NBA Draft. Of more importance to fans who have seen three straight seasons of sometimes epic losing, the Cavs are actually trying to make the playoffs with the Bynum gamble. You'll see more teams "pack it in" next season than there were San Antonio Spurs guarding the rim and daring LeBron James to shoot jump shots in the recent NBA Finals. All this positioning will be to try to get the prize of next year's draft, incoming Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins. … Mike Brown is back now as Cavs coach. Bynum had his best season as a pro with Brown in Los Angeles. The stars aren't aligned, but they're not crossed, either. Bynum is hardly the most daring gamble Horseshoe Casino impressario and Cavs' owner Dan Gilbert ever took.

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Sometimes, the best moves are the ones you don’t make. Other times, they are the ones you try to make, but get left at the altar. The Mavericks have lost out on Andrew Bynum, a source said Wednesday evening. The Mavericks had met earlier Wednesday with the 7-foot center who didn’t play a second last season because of surgery on both knees. The Cleveland Cavaliers outbid the Mavericks and we all know money usually rules the day in the NBA. The guess here is that the Mavericks will end up being happy they finished second in this race. (Or third, maybe, since Atlanta was in the mix). But Bynum’s health is so uncertain that it wouldn’t be a shock if he missed a good chunk of the upcoming season. The Cavaliers — young and building for the future — could afford that sort of risk. The Mavericks would have taken a chance. But with a win-now philosophy, they could not justify pouring a ton of guaranteed money to Bynum if they weren’t sure he was going to be available for most of the upcoming season.

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: With the addition of draft picks Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum, half the roster has been restructured, and more shuffling is expected. Bottom feeders seldom become upwardly mobile after one offseason. It took years to create this mess and will require severalsmart draft selections and free-agent signings, slick negotiating and deal-making, and quality, consistent coaching to transform a team that is still adjusting to sticking around. But the theme – cautiously courageous – should come with the following caveat: continue to resist the allure of Monta Ellis, one of the few upper-tier free agents still available. No, no, no, no, no, no. The reasons? Where to start? The Kings don't need to imitate their neighbors in Oakland, don't need another undersized scorer, don't need another volume shooter, don't need another ball-dominant player, don't need a veteran who struggles to defend his position and who, despite a history of knee and foot problems, opted out of a contract with Milwaukee that would have paid him $11 million in 2013-14. Given Vivek Ranadive's fondness for Ellis – the two were together with the Warriors – this is a test.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: The point guard merry-go-round continues to spin for the Milwaukee Bucks. And on Wednesday night it spun firmly in the direction of Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague. Teague signed a four-year, $32 million offer sheet with Milwaukee, Bucks officials confirmed late Wednesday. The Hawks will have three days to match it, and if they do not, Teague will be the Bucks' new starting point guard. The league's moratorium on signings and trades ended Wednesday, but the Bucks still had unfinished business regarding their pursuit of Teague and the fate of last season's backcourt starters, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. Milwaukee is seeking to revamp its backcourt after earlier agreeing to a three-year, $24 million contract with shooting guard O.J. Mayo. Jennings, a restricted free agent, and Ellis, who is unrestricted and will not return to Milwaukee, have yet to land new contracts.

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: The Timberwolves made room for the defensive-minded wing player they lack by agreeing to contract terms with unrestricted free-agent Corey Brewer, while also agreeing on a three-team deal that will send veteran guard Luke Ridnour to Milwaukee, two league sources said Wednesday. The Wolves cleared enough salary-cap space for Brewer’s three-year, $15 million contract by reaching agreement on a sign-and-trade with Oklahoma City for free-agent signee Kevin Martin and by sending Ridnour and his $4.3 million salary back to the Bucks without accepting any salaries in return. Both trades are contingent on Brewer and Ridnour passing physical exams as soon as Thursday.

  • Phil Collin of the Los Angeles Daily News: Barnes, Hollins and Collison signed free-agent contracts. The Clippers are still shopping, with forward Lamar Odom and Antawn Jamison still on the wish list. It all started with Paul, who acknowledged he was ready for the grumblings of fans who thought he wielded too much input in player selection and determining that Vinny Del Negro would not return as coach. "I knew that going into free agency that any time something happened, everybody was going to say 'What is Chris doing?' but it comes with it and I was prepared for that," Paul said. "I was shooting a commercial when I found out about (the Redick-Dudley deal). It's part of the process." New coach -- and senior director of basketball operations -- Doc Rivers now has to take the parts he has acquired and assemble them with mainstays Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford. "I told our guys if you feel like this team has a chance, then you want to play with us," Rivers said of his recruiting pitch. "If you don't, and I was honest, go somewhere else and try to win it. I told all of them that because that's our goal." Paul's early commitment to the cause set the tone.

  • John Niyo of The Detroit News: Nice guys don’t always finish last. But the Pistons have done enough of that lately for Joe Dumars, the nicest of the Bad Boys, to know this rebuilding project of his at The Palace needed a few more rough edges. That sounds a bit counter intuitive, I realize, given some of the insolence and insubordination this franchise has endured in recent years. But as quiet as The Palace has grown amid the sparsely-attended games and successive 50-loss seasons, so has the roster, in a way. Out with the old, and in with the new? Of course. It couldn’t — and didn’t — happen soon enough, honestly. But the Pistons’ youth movement also brought with it a passivity that was at times painful to watch the past couple of years, and not just for the fans. Josh Smith, the newest free-agent addition, is a lot of things, and not all of them good. But passive isn’t one of them, and that, Dumars insisted as he officially introduced the talented, temperamental forward to Detroit on Wednesday, is part of his plan, too.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: The first step toward getting Howard signed was to complete the trade of Thomas Robinson to the Portland Trail Blazers. That deal was made official Wednesday, with Robinson, the fifth pick in the 2012 draft, going to Portland in exchange for the rights to forward Kostas Papanikolaou and center Marko Todorovic and two second-round picks. The Rockets will get Portland’s pick in 2017 and either Denver’s or Minnesota’s, whichever is better, in 2015. … With that deal complete, the Rockets have to officially complete the trade of Royce White and the rights to Furkan Aldemir to Philadelphia. They can then sign Howard, but that likely will not come next. To sign second-round pick Isaiah Canaan to a three-year deal (with several team options), they have to sign him into cap room, something they can not do if Howard has filled the cap space. Once the trade of White and the $1.7 million guaranteed on his contract and the signing of Canaan are complete, the Rockets will be ready to sign Howard, expected either Thursday or Friday.

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Mike Dunleavy Jr. received lengthier and more lucrative free-agent offers than the two-year, $6.2 million deal he signed as the Bulls' main offseason acquisition. But the reason the veteran shooter took less is because he wants more. Playoff appearances, that is. "I've been in the league 11 years and I've been through a lot of mediocrity," Dunleavy said Wednesday at the Berto Center. "To be a part of this is special. I don't take it for granted."

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: You can't talk to new 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie for more than a minute without some form of the word "observe" coming from his mouth. He is taking in his first summer league as a general manager, so his sightlines are somewhat different. He is evaluating the talent of the two players he drafted last month in Michael Carter-Williams and Arsalan Kazemi. He is looking at wannabe players both on the Sixers and other players whom he may decide to try to bring to training camp. And, of course, he is keeping his eyes open for whom he will bring in as the next coach of this franchise. … Ah, the coach. Yesterday and throughout the summer league, it will be Michael Curry. Could he also be on the sideline when the Sixers open the regular season or could it be someone else? Again, Hinkie is observing. "I think he's done a really good job," Hinkie said. "Our practices have been lively and energetic. We've spent a lot of time [practicing] system-wise, but we've also spent a lot of time on skill development, too. I think overall it's been a good week for our whole staff. We've got most of the assistants from last year here and I think they've done a good job. I am very pleased." So is he evaluating Curry for the coaching position? No doubt Curry is auditioning, and an interview after the summer league is most likely on the agenda. "For sure, I am evaluating everyone," Hinkie said. "We've had some of our scouting staff here so we've spent some time together. I observe a lot and I'm trying to observe everything."

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Let’s be clear: Paul Millsap would be a fine addition at just about any price, but at this price he’s a steal. He’s a proven power forward – proven at power forward in a way that Al Horford is not, let me emphasize – whose signing won’t hamstring the Atlanta Hawks for the next half-decade. Nineteen million over two seasons? Great deal. Of Millsap, Hawks general manager Danny Ferry said Wednesday at Philips Arena: “His energy level night in and night out is unique … He embodies the identity and the values we want to have.” Let’s also be clear about this: At the moment, the Hawks aren’t as talented as they were last season and not nearly as gifted as they were before Ferry arrived and starting clearing cap space. … Ferry again, speaking of a 4-5 tandem of Millsap and Horford: “The thing I really like is their ability to pass the ball … The chemistry between them should be very good.” And let’s be clear about one final thing: Playing as a team is a great and laudable thing. Still, this is the NBA, and in the NBA, as the former Hawks coach Larry Drew said, “Talent wins.”

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: More than a few eyebrows were raised when Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard was included on the Blazers' summer league roster. Why would someone who led the NBA in minutes played and enjoyed a remarkable rookie season land on a summer league team? Well, it would not be wise to expect Lillard to play in any games when the team travels to Las Vegas on Friday. Lillard decided to take part in summer league to be around his teammates and get to know the Blazers' newest additions, including Thomas Robinson, CJ McCollum and Crabbe. Lillard has participated in minor portions of the Blazers' practices, but he is not expected to play in any games in Las Vegas. "I think more than anything, I’ll be there for support," Lillard said.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: In four seasons with three teams, Maynor has already assumed that role for all-star Deron Williams in Utah, all-star Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City and rookie of the year Damian Lillard in Portland. Last week, Maynor arrived as a free agent signee in Washington, where he has been tasked with the same assignment for John Wall, a former No. 1 pick who started to fully tap into his potential late last season. Feeling the need to upgrade behind Wall, the Wizards targeted Maynor immediately after the free agent recruitment period began. And desiring to end the suspense about his future, Maynor reciprocated the interest and accepted a two-year deal worth about $4 million and includes a player option for the second season. “I think this is the kind of team that’s going to be on the rise,” Maynor said. “I just wanted to get it out the way. I didn’t want to be waiting. I felt like this was a great situation for me. Young team. Up-and-coming. Nice deal for me. I’m excited about being here.”

  • Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer: My friend and colleague Tom Sorensen has criticized the Jefferson signing, in large part because he wants the Bobcats to have another bad team next season to get another high pick for the 2014 NBA draft – preferably the first pick. It sounds fine in theory, but we all know that it rarely works. This isn’t the NFL. Even if you have the worst record in the NBA, there’s a 75 percent chance you won’t get the No.1 pick. The Bobcats had that happen in 2012, when a 7-59 record still didn’t earn them Anthony Davis. So if you’ve got an opportunity to get a player like Jefferson, then you go for it. Right now. Yes, he’s more toward the end of his career than the beginning. But he has been very durable the past three years, he’s only 28, he will be a low-maintenance locker room leader. He will make Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo more effective by mentoring them and allowing each to do what they do best.