First Cup: Thursday

  • Charles Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond is confident in the abilities of new point guard Brandon Knight. Brandon Jennings is off to Detroit after Tuesday's sign-and-trade deal, with another Brandon taking his place in the Bucks backcourt. "He still has tremendous growth ahead after two solid years in the NBA," Hammond said of the 21-year-old Knight. "He's a future building block to the organization because of the kind of player and person he is." The 6-foot-3 Knight has averaged 13.1 points and 3.9 assists while shooting 37.3% from beyond the three-point arc in his first two pro seasons. He has started 135 games in 141 appearances. "Let's make it perfectly clear. He's a starting point guard in the NBA," Hammond said. Knight and veteran Luke Ridnour, who started 82 games for Minnesota last season, give the Bucks an entirely different look at point guard.

  • David Mayo of MLive.com: Poker-faced Joe Dumars knew when to fold. The most important element of the Detroit Pistons' sign-and-trade with the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday wasn't necessarily getting point guard Brandon Jennings, though that significantly shakes up the roster and rotations in its own right. It was the symbolism of Dumars tossing Brandon Knight into the right trade and tacitly acknowledging that their relationship never quite worked out how the Pistons hoped. Two years ago a No. 8 overall draft pick, until Tuesday a presumed starter in the 2013-14 backcourt, Knight is gone now. No matter how it's framed, Dumars decided that waiting on Knight to run half-court sets effectively either wouldn't happen within an appropriate time frame, or not at all. At the very least, Dumars decided three years of Jennings is a better option.

  • Jason Whitlock of FoxSports.com: The NBA players association could be on the brink of a seismic power shift that goes well beyond the naming of a new executive director. LeBron James, the game’s best and most popular player, is mulling a bid for the union’s presidency. “It’s something he has talked about with a small group of people,”a source with close ties to James told FOXSports.com on Wednesday. “He was very vocal at the meeting during the All-Star Weekend about the need for the union to dramatically change. There is a new executive director coming in and new commissioner. He recognizes that this is the time for the union to change.” Derek Fisher’s term as president expired this summer. It’s unlikely that Fisher, who recently signed a new contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder, would retain the presidency since he is facing a lawsuit from the union’s former executive director, Billy Hunter, and because Fisher is at the end of his career. Jerry Stackhouse, an 18-year veteran and the union's first vice president, has been the point man for union activities so far this offseason. The union could elect its new president as early as late August when it holds its summer meetings in Las Vegas. The source close to James cautioned that he thinks it’s “unlikely” the Miami Heat superstar will decide to seek the presidency.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: John Wall knew when he arrived at Verizon Center on Wednesday that he needed to sign a lucrative contract extension with the Washington Wizards, but he also didn’t want to lose sight of what it would take to make the franchise’s five-year, $80 million commitment rewarding for both sides. So before he put pen to paper, Wall worked out with teammates Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. in the practice gym, putting up shots in an effort to get better. Later, with Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld standing next to him, Wall signed a deal that reinforces the Wizards’ rebuilding efforts since selecting the talented point guard with the first overall pick of the 2010 NBA draft. … Because Wall has never made an all-star team or all-NBA team and has won a total of 72 games in his first three seasons, the Wizards will be paying him mostly for what they hope he’ll become instead of what he already is. But his résumé has already revealed some promise: Wall is one of just four players in NBA history to average at least 16.5 points, 8.0 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals over his career, joining an exclusive list that includes all-star Chris Paul and Hall of Famers Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson.

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: Their pragmatism goes beyond the court. Professional sports is a realm of mercenaries, all but devoid of loyalty. But on a team like the Spurs, where players are expected to forfeit minutes, shots and money for the good of the whole, it has to go both ways or the team culture they’ve worked so hard to build falls apart. It’s the same reason Popovich has spoken about the need to develop a relationship with Parker off the court even as he was melting the young point guard’s face off with daily tirades. Otherwise, Popovich said, players are just chattel, and they won’t make the aforementioned sacrifices. Ginobili — who could have left long ago for a more expansive role elsewhere, like Harden did — deserved his extension for that reason alone, just as Parker will deserve the massive deal he’ll get next summer even with his mid-30s looming. Both gave in their own ways, so shouldn’t the Spurs? Again, not for sentimental reasons, but to maintain the cohesion and chemistry that has helped them perform beyond what the sum of their individual parts would suggest. In poker parlance, that’s what’s known as a smart play, eschewing the adrenaline of a big risk in favor of the percentages. Considering how well this approach has worked for the Spurs, why change now?

  • Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman: The comments were lighthearted, as were the plays. But Tony Allen's ultracompetitive nature, in all situations, can't be masked in any environment. It's too ingrained in his personality and vital to his craft. And now, because of that relentless energy and work ethic, particularly on the defensive end, he returns for a week in his college town as a mature, wealthy and respected man, the perfect success story for local campers to model after. He's 31 and settled, at the perfect place in his career, recently signed to a four-year, $20 million extension with the Grizzlies. It was a well-earned payday that comes on the heels of his second consecutive All-Defensive First Team nod, an award he gladly gloats about. “Been a long time coming,” Allen said. “I felt my first six years in the league, I played behind Paul Pierce. I wasn't really able to let the world see my attributes that I bring to the table. But I've just been working and now I'm in a great situation, as far as my team, as far as my contract, my life and all I could do now is eat, sleep and work on defense. So it's fun to me, any time I get an award like that.”

  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: Dwight Buycks’ family helped make life comfortable for Junior Cadougan while they were at Marquette and Cadougan intends to return the favour for the new Raptors point guard. Buycks, a Milwaukee native, and Cadougan, from Toronto, were teammates for two seasons in Wisconsin, battling for playing time and bonding in the process. … Buycks averaged 8.8 points, 3.4 assists and 3.1 rebounds in his senior year as a Golden Eagle. Cadougan a former Eastern Commerce and AAU star in Toronto, who was among the first Canucks to head south for a bigger basketball challenge in high school, graduated two years later, averaging 8.5 points and 3.8 assists this past season. Cadougan said he has told Buycks a lot about Toronto and expects him to love it. “We were just talking about it, saying it’s crazy. I tell him it’s a great city, it’s very multicultural. You’ll always have a home at my home and you’ll always have my family there like how your family had me in Milwaukee, so, he’ll be good.” Cadougan said Buycks would bring “a hard-working mentality” in his fight to win the backup job behind Kyle Lowry and expects him to progress throughout the season.

  • Kevin Nielsen of Sportsnet.ca: So heading into the season, they may still dump Richardson to add one more body but it seems unlikely that there will be any more significant moves. But that is just fine as it will give Masai Ujiri a chance to take a closer look at what he has to work with going forward. For the Raptors, the best-case scenario is that he likes some pieces on the roster and will look to build upon any success going forward. But if the season starts as poorly as the last one did, which seems improbable, the new Raptors boss could also begin to jettison bodies as well. Having signed a few bodies to low-budget, short-term contracts makes them easy to move but will also leave plenty of cap space for the Raptors next summer. If Ujiri needs to balance out any contracts in a potential deal, trade partners would be unlikely to scoff at the notion of adding someone they are not stuck with beyond next season. The only guaranteed contracts going into next summer are Landry Fields, DeRozan, Novak and Gay although the latter have the ability to opt out at season’s end. (Valanciunas and Ross will see their options picked up though.) Those six deals total around $46 million going forward — plenty of space for Ujiri to play with. While the Raptors general manager likely still isn’t a 100 per cent certain of the direction he is headed in with this roster, he has wisely done nothing to limit his options going forward.

  • Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: A major project for Chris McGowan in recent months has been seeking a naming rights sponsor for the Rose Garden — which, incidentally, is unlikely to carry the “Rose Garden” moniker when a deal is reached. Businesses want the most bang for their buck, and if the Rose Garden is part of the name, that’s what fans will call it. The Blazers have had talks with 250 companies about naming rights over the past six months and are in more serious negotiations with at least one business with local ties. “It’s an organizational priority,” McGowan says. “It’s my goal to have it done before the start of the season. For Paul and me, doing a deal isn’t the goal here. Doing the right deal is. I’m not going to do a bad deal, a deal with a brand that we don’t align with, that isn’t stable. It has to be with the right company. We don’t have to do it, but it’s too good of an opportunity to not do.” A naming rights contract will reap millions. The New York Mets have the most lucrative deal in pro sports, a 20-year, $400-million pact for Citi Field. In the NBA, the Brooklyn Nets get $10 million a year over 20 years for Barclays Center. More comparable to the Blazers are Memphis (22 years, $90 million), San Antonio (20 years, $41 million), Philadelphia (29 years, $40 million) and Orlando (10 years, $40 million). “They’re all over the map, from five years to indefinite,” McGowan says of the length of naming rights deals. “For us, I’d suggest it be a 10-year deal. Ten years would be great.”