First Cup: Friday

  • Staff of the Houston Chronicle: After weeks of Lakers associates and fans making negative remarks about Dwight Howard, the Rockets center had some revenge yesterday via social media. First a fan warned Howard of his new surroundings. Being in Houston, he may have to turn to livestock for his social life. Howard gladly informed them that Texas isn’t the only state that has cows. … His most scathing comment was in response to a fan who said he would never win a championship. … Jaded fans shouldn’t read too much into Howard’s tweets. He brushed off his comments, saying that he was just having fun.

  • Staff of The Dallas Morning News: Mavericks owner Mark Cuban joined Jay Leno on The Tonight Show on Thursday. Here are some highlights.Jay Leno on the A-Rod suspension ... was it fair? Mark Cuban: Horrible. I think it's disgraceful what major league baseball is trying to do to him. Not that he doesn't deserve to be suspended. He does. But they have policies in place, first-time offender 50 games, second time a 100. 214 games? That's personal. My experiences with major league baseball. It's basically become Bud Selig's mafia. He runs it the way he wants to run it. When I was trying to buy the Rangers, it was an open auction. I sat in there with my good, hard-earned money trying to bid and they did everything possible to keep me from buying the team. They had lawyers in there trying to change the rules, they had people trying to put up more money. For him to come out and attack A-Rod the way he did and do something totally outside the rules. Jay Leno on Dwight Howard? Mark Cuban: I like to go for the fences. And with the Mavericks, we're trying to get better. One of the best free agents on the market, obviously, was Dwight Howard. I thought we had a chance. We spent a lot of time putting together a really cool presentation. He went to the Houston Rockets, made a huge mistake.

  • Mike Gavin of Newsday: During the offseason, J.R. Smith re-signed with the Knicks, underwent knee surgery and temporarily dyed his hair blond. The NBA's reigning Sixth Man of the Year wasexpected to miss three to four months after having surgery on his left knee in July to repair the patella tendon and fix a torn meniscus. He walked without a brace Thursday -- his hair now a very dark shade of red -- but said he's uncertain if he'll be ready for the beginning of the season. "It's still too early to tell from what I hear from the doc and all that, but I hope so," he said before The J.R. Smith Youth Foundation golf tournament at Eagle Ridge Golf Club. "I want to be there opening night. I want to start training camp off with my team and my new teammates." Smith, who averaged a career-high 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds last season, re-signed with the Knicks in July for three years and roughly $18 million. Just days later, it was revealed that he would require knee surgery.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Bucks center Larry Sanders is eligible to sign a contract extension before Oct. 31 and there were indications Thursday that the process is moving along. Sanders sent out two tweets hinting at the talks. The first said: "Well let's get it done then! #Buck4Life And the second followed: "I love the city of Milwaukee and I will stay as long as you'll have me." Sanders is entering the fourth and final year of his rookie-scale contract and will be paid about $3 million next season. He is eligible to sign a four-year extension that would run through the 2017-'18 season. With the departure of point guard Brandon Jennings and the loss of other members of last year's Milwaukee team, it is clear the Bucks are building around the 6-foot-11 Sanders and 6-11 power forward John Henson. The Bucks have an entirely new backcourt including 21-year-old point guard Brandon Knight, acquired from Detroit in the sign-and-trade deal involving Jennings.

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: With the Heat a day earlier announcing the signing of free-agent center Greg Oden to a two-year contract, Mourning found himself captivated by the possibilities of the 25-year-old injury-plagued center. "Extremely excited, extremely excited," he said by phone, "because I understand the potential that he has." Mourning confirmed that he was among those in the organization who helped recruit Oden in recent months. …. Asked if he plans to work directly with Oden, Mourning said, "I think we all, as an organization, are looking forward to working with him, developing him, so that he can be a part of this organization for years to come."

  • Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press: When Steve Smith makes his first visit to the Palace for a Pistons game, he expects to see point guard Brandon Jennings getting the ball to Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe inside and thinking jump shot as a second option. The Oak Hill Academy coach has closely watched his former player since he left Mouth of Wilson, Va., to pursue a pro career. He believes, with the talent the Pistons have up front, Jennings’ game should reach a higher level. “He usually adapts pretty well to the players around him,” Smith said. “He has a good feel for the game. He’s dedicated to the game. It’ll be interesting because Josh (Smith) played for me, too. I’m going to have to come up to Detroit, because I have two Oak Hill guys playing there.” Smith says having Josh Smith, Drummond and Monroe in the lineup also will create more offensive opportunities for Jennings. “He has a great young player in Drummond to get the ball to,” Smith said.

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: The Charlotte Bobcats are bringing back Jannero Pargo to serve as their third point guard and could soon add forward Anthony Tolliver. Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins told the Observer the team has come to terms with Pargo and has offered Tolliver a one-year, veteran-minimum contract. … New coach Steve Clifford said at summer league last month that adding a reliable third point guard was his top priority for the last couple of roster spots. Clifford said he also wanted to have a sixth option at the center/power forward positions. … Tolliver has reportedly also drawn interest from the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: The Wizards already have close to $70 million committed to 14 players and would only be able to sign a player on a minimum salary to stay below the luxury tax line. Owner Ted Leonsis said he is “willing to spend” but would probably want to have a contending team before making the Wizards a tax-paying team for the first time in franchise history — especially with the organization still on the hook for about $7 million to Andray Blatche. If they look to make trades, Ariza and Okafor are both in the final year of their respective deals and Chris Singleton and/or Jan Vesely could also become expiring contracts if the Wizards decline the fourth-year option on either player. Ariza already believes the Wizards have had an eventful summer after closing out the season by winning 24 of their final 49 games. “It is some interesting moves,” Ariza said. “I feel like it is a good team. Just got to pick up where we left off last year. I know they said that last year, but I felt like toward the end of the season, when everybody really was healthy and we found our groove, we had a good thing going. So if we can pick up from there and get better and continue to make the right moves, we’ll be all right.”

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: Let’s take a look not only at the hot names to fill the Sixers’ coaching vacancy, but reasons for or against their hire. Michael Curry: He has dutifully been overseeing all the basketball operations since Doug Collins’ departure on April 18. While coaching the organization’s entry in the Orlando Pro Summer League, Curry certainly looked as if he was auditioning for the job as new general manager Sam Hinkie looked on. Curry has a year of coaching in the NBA on his resume (39-43 with Detroit in 2008-09) and is very familiar with the returning players as he was on Collins’ staff for each of the three seasons. Keeping Curry would most likely mean that Hinkie wasn’t overwhelmed with any of the other prospects and that moving forward (if that’s what you want to call what’s going to happen this season) with the staff already under contract (including assistants Aaron McKie and Jeff Capel) is the way to go. Brett Brown: The San Antonio assistant certainly would seem to be an enticing bet as he has learned under the best coach in the league in Gregg Popovich for many years, the past seven as an assistant. The 52-year-old also has a an international background, certainly something that would interest the Sixers, as he was the head coach for the Australian national team from 2009 to the 2012 Olympics in London. Popovich said of Brown to the Denver Post when Brown was a candidate for the Nuggets job: “We all know him as a lifer basketball guy who lives and breathes the game. He is an idea guy daily, just bubbling over and we all know that about him. But he’s also a wonderful, humor-filled person who is filled with kindness.” I’ve said all along that if you’re going to hire an assistant, there is no better place to pluck than San Antonio. If the Sixers do decide to go with Brown or another hot assistant, there will have to be an abundant amount of patience on both sides, as the turnaround is going to be a long process.

  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: Yes, Canada beat Jamaica 81-72 in the opener of the two-game Jack Donahue International Classic, but that was of little importance. The keys were getting a chance to battle against an opponent, instead of teammates. “We needed to play a game, we’ve been playing against ourselves in practice every day, and to find out where we are, it was good, I thought as the game progressed we got better so that’s a good sign,” said head coach Jay Triano, who started his second tenure in charge with a win. Triano’s nephew Brady Heslip led the way with 18 points, nailing four threes, including a pair in the final quarter when he shot 5-for-5 from the field. … Future key cogs Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynyk were absent due to NBA commitments. All were reminders that there’s even more talent on the way to help further strengthen the program. For now, the goal is to perform well later this summer in Venezuela and earn one of the four berths at next year’s FIBA World Cup in Spain. On Thursday, Canada held out Joel Anthony, Carl English and Kris Joseph, due to various ailments and did not play a few others who Triano said likely would get looks on Saturday.

  • Mike Tokito of The Oregonian: Since starting his Shake It Till We Make It fund-raiser in 2010, former Trail Blazers forward Brian Grant has been fine-tuning the goals of the event and the foundation that it benefits. The 2013 version will be held Saturday, Sept. 7 at the Rose Garden and will raise money and awareness to help those afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, a brain disorder that saps a person's ability to control his movements, often resulting in uncontrollable shaking and tremors. The Brian Grant Foundation, which aids patients negotiate day-to-day living, is putting a greater emphasis on exercise and nutrition. “I think in the past, we were still trying to discover what we’re trying to accomplish,” Grant said at a news conference Thursday.