First Cup: Friday

  • Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News: The oligarch who blew up the NBA salary cap is unrepentant, even lighthearted about his monetary mischief. Mikhail Prokhorov says he wasn’t about to wait in line for a championship, and that he doesn’t mind spending $100 million in salaries and another $80 million in luxury taxes next season if that’s what it takes. “They’re still counting money in back office,” Prokhorov said Thursday, straight off a flight from Europe to greet Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry in Brooklyn. “I am hoping check doesn’t bounce. It’s not (my) way to wait 10 years for championship.” He is, in other words, a fan’s dream owner, an easy newspaper column, and something of a nightmare for James Dolan and every other league executive. Prokhorov is the closest thing we have around here to the late George Steinbrenner, now that the Yanks have turned into skinflints. Only he’s far richer, with an estimated worth of $13.5 billion. And with Prokhorov, we get only good humor without the nasty stuff, because the skeletons in the closet are 5,000 miles from New York. What happens in Moscow, stays in Moscow, or on his private jet. It won’t hurt the Nets’ interior defense. Prokhorov is giving a cast of canny, veteran All-Stars many monetary units to topple Miami, Chicago, Indiana and the Knicks. Especially the Knicks. He says this is a good business investment, because the value of the franchise has tripled since he purchased it in 2010.

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: His emotions were on his sleeve, obvious despite his silence. Paul Pierce looked up at the videoboard at Barclays Center and saw a large photo of he, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry with donning Brooklyn jerseys, a superimposed image that surfaced when the trade to Brooklyn became official last Friday. But the moment was here. The moment Pierce held a mesh jersey that didn't read "Celtics." The moment that he realized that Boston was part of his past and Brooklyn was part of his present. He was sedate during the press conference introducing the trio while Kevin Garnett tried getting the audience riled up with a "what's up Brooklyn?" Thursday's introduction was more like a reflection for Pierce, who after 15 years in Boston was obviously moved by the reality of being gone.

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Years ago NBA commissioner David Stern treated Charlotte’s desire to get back the Hornets nickname as so unlikely it was a bit of a joke. Nobody is laughing anymore.By a unanimous vote of NBA owners Thursday, the Bobcats were given permission to become the Hornets after the 2013-14 season. “True-blue fans of the old Hornets said, ‘Give us our name back,’ ” Stern said at a news conference at the end of the owners meeting at a Las Vegas resort hotel. “There is something to it: The team will receive (positive attention) from fans who said, ‘This is what we were asking for.’ ” The logistics of a changeover in uniforms, logos and signage inside and outside Time Warner Cable Arena means even starting the 2014-15 season as the Hornets will be somewhat of a challenge. … Stern said he believes this is an opportunity for the Bobcats to widen their fan base to those who have not taken to the NBA since the Hornets departed in 2002. “They can grab fans in the region who have not connected with the Bobcats,” Stern said.

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: Nine days after Andrew Bynum announced he would play for the Cavaliers, the team is finally ready to make it official. Bynum will be introduced at a news conference this morning after signing a two-year deal potentially worth $24 million. The lapse in time between Bynum’s decision last week and today’s official announcement was for a variety of reasons, particularly the language that had to be written into the contract to protect the team and the 5 p.m. Wednesday amnesty waiver claim deadline. By dragging out the Bynum contract, the team left itself with cap space to potentially make a claim on a player who was waived under the league’s amnesty provision. … Instead, within hours of the amnesty waiver claim deadline passing, the team announced today’s news conference involving Bynum. The preliminary plan now is for Bynum to primarily remain in Cleveland throughout the summer. His agent, David Lee, insists his client is completely healthy, but any remaining rehab work Bynum needs on his knees will be completed under the care of the Cavs. The deal, as previously reported, includes just $6 million guaranteed for this season. But if Bynum is healthy, he can be a game-changer for the Cavs. … Bynum’s signing will complete a stunning summer for the Cavs, which includes the signings of Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark and the addition of draft picks Anthony Bennett, Sergey Karasev and Carrick Felix. After three relatively quiet summers, the Cavs have positioned themselves to contend for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: At first glance, the rebuilding Lakers will make you cover your mouth in shock. No Dwight Howard. No Metta World Peace. No Earl Clark. No new coach. No defined ownership. No clear plan. No Showtime. No Lake Show. No Bench Mob. No way in heck are you going to rush home from work on a Tuesday night in February to watch the fourth quarter of their game in Atlanta. But now wait. Look at what is left. Look at what has been added. If you really look at it, when you slowly remove your hand from your mouth, you might actually be smiling. In losing some of their hype and much of their hope, the Lakers gained something that has been missing in the three years since the final moments of Game 7 against Boston. These Lakers could actually be fun again. There is a little chance they will make the playoffs. There is a decent chance they will stink. There is zero chance they will play any defense. But with something to prove and nothing to lose, they are almost guaranteed to entertain. The theme will be Waiting for LeBron. The goal is still to get into position for a decent pick in one of the top drafts in recent history. The journey is still to nowhere. But it's going to be a blast watching the ride.

  • Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press: It looks as if the Timberwolves might have gotten a bit of a break in their attempt to re-sign Nikola Pekovic. Surprisingly, the restricted free-agent center has not received a competing offer sheet from any other team, thus reducing his contract leverage. Teams that reportedly were interested in acquiring unrestricted free-agent center Dwight Howard, who recently signed with Houston, should seem to have at least some interest in the 6-foot-11, 290-pound Pekovic, 27, who last season averaged 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds. Those teams would include the Lakers, Golden State, Dallas and Atlanta. But none has stepped forward with an offer for Pekovic, perhaps because it's virtually understood that the Wolves intend to match any offer, as is their right. Pekovic is expected to soon re-sign with Minnesota for a four-year deal in the $48 million range.

  • Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: Israeli president Shimon Peres is trying to recruit Amar’e Stoudemire to join Israel’s national basketball team. Peres hopes Stoudemire, who has traveled to Israel since joining the Knicks and has said he believes he has some Jewish ancestry, will be able to help lead the country’s basketball team back to the Olympics for the first time since 1952, when Israel made its only appearance. It would seem unlikely Stoudemire would be allowed to play for Israel because of his prior commitments to USA Basketball. Stoudemire was a member of the bronze medal Olympic team in 2004, and also played for Team USA when it won the gold medal at the FIBA Americas tournament in 2007. Once players have played at the senior national level for one country, they usually are tied to playing for only that country, except in rare instances.There’s also the legitimate question of whether Stoudemire, who has played in a combined 66 regular-season games the past two years, would be healthy enough to play internationally during the offseason at this point in his career.

  • Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune: So now that the Jazz basically have netted Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Marvin Williams and Trey Burke for sending Deron Williams to the team now playing in Brooklyn, everybody can declare them the winners of that trade, right? Uh, they probably have to win a playoff game before we ever can say so. … Look, the Jazz would do this deal again, based on how they viewed their future with Williams. But to say that they’re better off now than they were in February 2011 is a huge stretch. It may become true someday, if Favors and Kanter develop into All-Stars and Burke becomes a franchise point guard. Of course, the Jazz once had one of those guys. Since trading D-Will, they’ve started Harris, Earl Watson, Jamaal Tinsley and Mo Williams at point guard and are about to launch their next phase with Burke, John Lucas III and Raul Neto. The Jazz do have an intriguing future, brightened by a recent trade with Golden State that gives them two first-round picks and more financial flexibility. Brooklyn has a potentially phenomenal present. Trading with the Jazz ultimately has put the Nets in a much better place. Here in Utah, we can only wonder when the Jazz will get there.

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Owner Mark Cuban embraces the strength-in-numbers philosophy of winning in the NBA. But he also knows that superstars rule the day. That’s why he’s not trying to underplay the fact that the Mavericks started the summer by losing out on Dwight Howard. It’s a loss that hurt. And the long-term health of his Mavericks still is predicated on acquiring a superstar of the Howard ilk. But until the Mavericks can reel in a player good enough to make Dirk Nowitzki a sidekick, Cuban remains one of the best salesmen you’ll ever meet. And he believes his Mavericks are well-positioned to be better this season than they would have been with Howard. And the two-year rebuilding plan remains on target, if not ahead of schedule. “I was disappointed that we didn’t get Dwight,” Cuban said Thursday, clarifying and expanding on previous comments. “We went after him as our first option. But we also pursued him knowing that it was a two-year plan. If we spent all of our cap room on a single player we would have only been able to add minimum players to fill out our roster. Point guard and shooting guard would have been difficult to fill at minimum salaries.”

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: The NBA's Board of Governors on Thursday voted to reimburse the Thunder for a portion of the contract extension it signed Kevin Durant to in 2010. But the refund is nothing more than a gracious gesture, given three years too late and without the proper provisions to do any real good. The reimbursement, The Oklahoman has learned, has no bearing on the Thunder's team salary. Durant's larger-than-expected extension will continue to count against both the cap and the team's tax computations. Although the exact amount of the reimbursement is unclear, a league source with knowledge of the situation said it is not the full amount of the roughly $15 million in additional salary that Durant received. Durant signed a five-year extension worth approximately $89 million in July 2010. But the league didn't ratify its collective bargaining agreement until December 2011, and Durant was grandfathered in. Oklahoma City in 2011 protested Durant's inclusion to no avail.

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: With the addition of guards Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson said he’s anticipating getting plenty open shot opportunities this upcoming season. He said Holiday, Evans and Eric Gordon have the ability to drive to the basket, which will draw the attention of the defense and possibly allow more shot opportunities on the perimeter. ``Jrue, Eric and Tyreke really can attack the rim and are all great offensively,’’ Anderson said. ``They all demand attention from the defense. I can play off guys like that. It will be a great opportunity for us to have those guys to be able to attack the rim. If they don’t have a shot, they can kick it out to me. They can also draw my defender away. We’re going to have an opportunity to score in a lot of different ways.’’ Pelicans coach Monty Williams said earlier this week that he has already been meeting with his assistants to change a significant amount of their offensive sets from last season.

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: All that fans are hearing these days from the Raptors is chatter about attitude and, dare we say, disposition, talk about a defence-first attitude, toughness, something bordering on defiance. It is a message coming down from on high — head coach Dwane Casey is mentioning it almost daily as the team rolls through the Summer League season — as it becomes the one skill-development issue that is being asked roster-wide. Yes, there is need for skill improvement from veterans and young players; the specifics of those needs will be clearly laid out, but the one consistent theme is that everyone has to be tougher. That’s tougher mentally and physically and it is getting through to one veteran who must be spending the summer working on his leadership skills. “I’ve been through the losing — it gets to the point where you get tired of it . . .,” DeMar DeRozan said. “You’ve got to do whatever you’ve got to do to win.”