First Cup: Wednesday

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: By using the amnesty clause on forward Linas Kleiza — effectively cutting him while still having to pay his $4.6 million salary this season — the Raptors cleared up a situation they didn’t want to have to worry about before the tax penalties are assessed a year from now. While it’s only the team’s salary obligations on July 1, 2014 that count towards the tax, and other ways might come up to shave salary during the season, there was a sense that getting it out of way before the amnesty window closed Tuesday was best. “We thought it was safer now to do it,” Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri said after Toronto’s 81-70 summer-league win over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday. “Sometimes with those things it’s on your mind the whole time and you don’t want to end up doing something funny or losing something because you’re trying to get under the tax later on.”

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Seeking additional salary flexibility in the future, the Milwaukee Bucks used the amnesty clause on veteran forward Drew Gooden, the team announced Tuesday. Gooden became the 20th National Basketball Association player subject to amnesty since the provision was adopted in the collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011. The 31-year-old Gooden still will be paid the $13-plus million remaining on the five-year, $32 million deal he signed in the summer of 2010. But under the amnesty procedure the Bucks will be able to wipe that $13 million from their salary cap, including $6.7 million for next season. Two years remained on the deal. … Even though he was undersized, Gooden battled Dwight Howard and other elite centers and held his own. Gooden averaged 13.7 points, his best number since the 2004-'05 season, and made 46 starts during the lockout-shortened 66-game season. But Gooden was lost in the shuffle of Bucks big men last season and rarely got playing time. The emergence of Larry Sanders, Ersan Ilyasova, John Henson and Ekpe Udoh kept Gooden out of the rotation.

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: He converted seven 3-pointers against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the game that gave the Miami Heat the 2012 NBA championship. He started the June 20 Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs that gave the Heat their second consecutive title. And now swingman Mike Miller, the Heat's affable 3-point gunslinger, is gone. … Invoking their one-time right to waive a player through the NBA's amnesty-release program and alleviate their luxury-tax burden, the Heat made the move with the 33-year-old veteran nine hours in advance of Tuesday's 11:59 p.m. NBA amnesty deadline. Just four days earlier, Heat President Riley insisted the Heat would bypass the team's amnesty option, despite the millions of dollars such a move would save against the increasingly punitive luxury tax. The organization's tune changed Tuesday. "After many discussions internally and a sincere effort to explore the trade market, we made a very difficult decision to use our amnesty provision on Mike Miller," Riley said in a release. "Mike had an incredible impact on the Miami Heat, helping us to three finals appearances and winning back-to-back world championships." Riley had said that a final amnesty decision would come in consultation with owner Micky Arison. That collective decision led to Miller's release.

  • Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press: Brandon Knight probably isn’t the happiest Detroit Piston right now. Mr. Big Shot’s back. The Pistons didn’t go through all the pomp and circumstance of staging Chauncey Billups’ return Tuesday in the Palace atrium unless they envision him as the likely starting point guard on opening night. And the Rajon Rondo rumors aren’t dissipating anytime soon. … The third component is a 2014 first-round draft pick. Charlotte owns that Pistons’ pick, but it’s protected through the first eight selections. Knight might think the Pistons are pushing him out the door. But if he’s smart, he’ll appreciate the challenge facing him with a steadily changing Pistons’ roster. If he’s a competitor, Knight will use the shifting currents as motivation to push himself harder. It doesn’t help Knight’s development as a NBA-quality point guard if he honestly believes there’s limitless time on that clock. He’ll get every opportunity to prove that he’s ready to assume the leadership responsibilities that come with the title of point guard. But it’s time now to prove it. Don’t pout. Just play.

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: The Mavericks’ flood of free-agent news has diminished to a trickle, which surely means something big is about to pop. Other than getting previously agreed-to deals official with signings, their chief order of business remains finding a center. They continue to work with the agents for Samuel Dalembert and Greg Oden. In the interim, they will make things official with their draft acquisitions — Ledo probably first since his deal will not tie up much of the salary cap. Ellis and Ellington will follow, but those deals could wait until final numbers are hashed out between the Mavericks and whoever they nail down at center. Last to go in terms of officially signing contracts will be first-rounder Larkin and Brandan Wright, with whom the Mavericks can exceed the salary cap to sign. They also are continuing to talk to Harris and, as mentioned in recent days, it’s still likely they will come to terms with him. But the money and years are likely to be different.

  • Mike Imrem of the Daily Herald: Has Derrick Rose quit talking yet? The more he opens his mouth, the more even his admirers have reason to wonder all over again where he was when the Bulls needed him late last season. Rose told reporters this week in Spain or Serbia or Siberia or somewhere else that he expects to be ready to play next season whenever the Bulls are. Be still my heart. The only news here would have been if Rose blathered that his knee and head aren't a combined 500 percent healed yet. Look, don't blame Rose for the widespread media attention afforded his recent comments. He was asked a question and not answering would have been inconsiderate to the host country. Instead blame the attention on this being a slower period in Chicago sports than anyone could have imagined, starting with the White Sox' front office trying to win but they can't and winning not being a priority for the Cubs' front office so they won't.

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: There appears to be a logjam at power forward on the Cavs, with no less than six players who can play the position: Returning starter Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, Kevin Jones, Earl Clark, Tyler Zeller and Bennett. Varejao was the starting center when he injured his knee last season. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Zeller. Cavs coach Mike Brown said he's devised a plan in order for Bennett to get minutes at power forward. "He's a ‘4,'" Brown said in a telephone interview from Las Vegas. "That's where he's going to play for us. Way, way, way down the road, we might try him at ‘3.' Now, he's strictly a ‘4.' " How is he going to get minutes at power forward? "I got it figured," Brown said. "His ability to score in a lot of different ways is intriguing. His explosiveness is intriguing. His standing reach is higher than lot of guys playing power forward in the league, including Kevin Love. He's got long arms. There's a desire to want to be better. He has a lot of upside."

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: With so many moving parts and the need to begin the regular season with a payroll at least $2 million below where it is now, Ainge is attempting to time every signing and deletion from his roster. Next up is a decision on whether to pick up a $1.1 million option on Shavlik Randolph’s contract by Aug. 1. Management would clearly prefer to bring back the center, who may be one of the best rebounders on the roster. But there is an outside chance that the team will have to pass up on Randolph’s fairly minimal contract, if it means getting under the $72.7 million luxury tax threshold. Complicating the situation are ongoing talks with Brazilian 7-footerVitor Faverani. The sides have essentially agreed to a three-year contract worth roughly $6 million, but the transaction has been delayed by all of the other considerations Ainge must work out.

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: With an improved roster and higher expectations, New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams is already meeting with his assistants to change a significant amount of their offensive sets from last season. Williams declined to provide detailed specifics, but he said they are looking to maximize the abilities of All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, shooting guard Eric Gordon and guard/forward Tyreke Evans. New Orleans ran a significant amount of pick-and-roll plays last season. “We’re trying to come up with offenses we think will benefit the guys that we have,’’ Williams said. “When you have guys like Jrue, Eric and Tyreke, we’re going to be able to play a bit more faster.’’ With a young rebuilding roster, New Orleans ranked 25th in scoring with a 94.1 per game average.

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: When most of the Trail Blazers scattered across the globe to decompress from a disheartening end to the season, Freeland awoke in the morning, hopped in his car and drove to the team’s practice facility for a workout. He hoisted some jumpers and worked on his low-post game with assistant coach Dale Osbourne and went through a weight-lifting session with the strength and conditioning staff. Then he said goodbye to Joel Freeland. And hello to Nick Collison. … “They were talking about Nick Collison a lot, comparing me to him and stuff,” Freeland said of Stotts and Olshey. “It was: Nick Collison, Nick Collison, Nick Collison.” Near the end of the regular season, Freeland mentioned this to his European agent, Rafa Calvo, and Calvo dug up an article Collison had written for GQ Magazine in 2012 titled: “How To Survive in the NBA When You’re Not a Superstar.” During the final season of his All-American career at Kansas, Collison averaged 18.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. But when he arrived in the NBA, he quickly learned he would need to create a new identity if he wanted to last.

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Larry Jordan, older brother of Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan, is being promoted to the team’s director of player personnel, a team spokesman confirmed Tuesday night. The promotion of Larry Jordan, previously holding the title of director of special projects. Jordan, who would report to team president of basketball operations Rod Higgins and general manager Rich Cho, is in Las Vegas this week for the Bobcats’ participation in summer league. He’ll be doing various scouting assignments in this new job. Director of player personnel is a position last held with the Bobcats by Buzz Peterson before he left in 2009 for a second stint as head coach at Appalachian State. Peterson, Michael Jordan’s college roommate at North Carolina and a close friend, later left Appalachian State for UNC Wilmington.

  • Ailene Voisin, of The Sacramento Bee: John Kehriotis isn't a very convincing villain. On most game nights these past two decades, the Kings minority owner could be found sprawled in his courtside seat, chatting with fans and chirping at referees, and noshing on some assortment of chips and dips. He is as familiar as the color purple, part owner, part fan, part coach, and always close to the action. These days, though, Kehriotis, who owns 12.2 percent of the franchise, is sort of the odd man out. His team lost. His competing bid to purchase the Kings and renovate Sleep Train Arena didn't exactly endear him to the new downtown-centric regime. But Kehriotis isn't selling and he isn't leaving. He hopes to overpower his skeptics and outlast whatever resentment persists. His most immediate plan, he says, is to convince Vivek Ranadive that he's one of the good guys, one of those who stuck around.