<
>

First Cup: Friday

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: With each member of the Heat’s Big 3 holding opt-out clauses next summer, Dwyane Wade said Thursday night that it will not be an issue for him because he plans to stay with the Heat long-term. “Everybody knows where I want to be. I want to be in Miami,” he said. “I have nothing to talk about [regarding 2014 opt-outs]. So there won’t be any exciting news over here.” LeBron James said in June that his hope would be to continue playing with Wade and Chris Bosh long-term in Miami but stopped short of saying he definitely would stay with the Heat beyond next season. Bosh said during the playoffs that he wants to stay with the Heat long-term. Wade said he will answer questions about 2014 free agency on Heat media day in late September “and that will be the last time I address it.” He said the priority must be to “make sure we focus on this season and winning the championship.” Meanwhile, Wade said his knees — which caused him discomfort during the playoffs — have improved considerably but are not 100 percent. … Last month, Wade underwent a treatment procedure, OssaTron, that he hadn’t used since 2007. The treatment is a non-surgical, high-energy shockwave system that can relieve tendinitis.

  • Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times: Very early into his hour-long conversation with Kobe Bryant, Jimmy Kimmel asked the Lakers All-Star guard the most important question. Will Bryant be ready to play Oct. 29 on opening night? "I don't know if I'll be ready for opening night. I really don't know," Bryant said. "I know I'm really, really ahead of schedule." Fresh off his trip to China and the Philippines, Bryant sat down at Nokia Theatre on Thursday night in a special event titled, "Kobe Up Close Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel" — the proceeds for the event going the Kobe & Vanessa Bryant Foundation to help fight homelessness. "With an Achilles' injury, it's just one of those freak situations," said Bryant, who didn't want to blame his April season-ending tear on playing too many minutes. Will he accept a reduced role next year? "That's the goal," Bryant said. "We got a little younger and picked up a couple of wing players who I really think will help us tremendously next year — Nick Young and Wesley Johnson. I really look forward to them easing the load." "Yeah, we'll see when you get on the court," Kimmel said.

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: Brett Brown’s poaching brings to four the number of former Spurs assistants now leading franchises of their own: him, Mike Budenholzer (Atlanta), Jacque Vaughn (Orlando) and Mike Brown (Cleveland). Include former coaching intern Monty Williams (New Orleans), and it’sfive. (In addition, Doc Rivers, Vinny Del Negro and Avery Johnson all played for head coach Gregg Popovich.) The Spurs’ influence is even greater in the front office, where six general managers claim Spurs ties: Dell Demps (New Orleans), Danny Ferry (Atlanta), Rob Hennigan (Orlando), Dennis Lindsey (Utah), Sam Presti (Oklahoma City) and Kevin Pritchard (Indiana). That makes more than a quarter of the NBA that is attempting to model what Popovich likes to call the Spurs’ “program.” But, Pop being Pop, even he scoffs at the notion that they’ve figured anything out. “Oh, hell, I don’t know anything about innovation,” he told Sports Illustrated earlier this year. “Here is my innovation: I drafted Tim Duncan. Okay? End of story.” Buford was similarly self-deprecating before the draft, noting that he’d love to be in the position to draft another franchise-changing, Springfield-bound 7-footer. Critical as talent is, the Spurs have proven that there might be something to Jerry Krause’s assertion that organizations, and not just players and coaches, win championships. Jerry West, a man who knows a little bit about team building, pinpointed three keys to the Spurs’ success: Identifying potentially good players other teams don’t want. Developing those players. A consistent system.

  • Michael Pointer of The Indianapolis Star: Paul George didn’t envision himself as a leader when he attended USA Basketball’s camp last year to scrimmage against the U.S. Olympic team. But when he returned to the national team minicamp in Las Vegas last month, the feeling was different. He arrived with an All-Star selection, as winner of the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award and recognition as one of the league’s elite all-around players. He’s now the player expected to lead the Indiana Pacers to their first NBA title. George said Thursday during a visit to Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health that he’s reveling in it — and that showed in his play against some of the league’s best players this summer. “I had a great showing out there,” he said. “That was another fun experience for me going into this summer and helping me prepare for this year. I’m looking forward to seeing the results.” George said he still considered Danny Granger the Pacers’ leader at this time last year as Granger had been the team’s most productive offensive player for several seasons. That was true even during training camp. Not anymore after Granger was limited to five games because of a knee injury. George looks forward to Granger’s return, but he understands this is his team after leading the Pacers within one game of the NBA Finals.

  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer: If Brett Brown had his wish, rookie Nerlens Noel would play from the start of the season. The 6-foot-11 center suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last season at Kentucky and will not be ready to play until December at the earliest. "Of course I'd love to have him," Brown said. "I mean, his future is what he wants it to be." The coach added that Noel's health will be held at a premium. Brown calls the athletic big man a "deer" with a penchant for running the floor. He also appreciates that Noel is a solid passer for someone his size. Clearly, the Sixers view Noel as someone to build around.

  • Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press: The Minnesota Timberwolves lost money last season, owner Glen Taylor said Thursday, but he expects the team to make money this season. That's despite the $60 million signing of Nikola Pekovic this week. "We think if we play well this year, we'll get past that hump and make money," Taylor said. Pekovic's deal is for five years. The 6-foot-11, 289-pound center can earn another $4 million in performance bonuses over the duration of the contract, but he'll have to be among the best at his position in the NBA. "They are not gimmes," Taylor said of the incentives. Taylor said the Wolves still have enough money to extend the contract of point guard Ricky Rubio when the time comes. "We had to make sure we had enough for him," Taylor said.

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Monta Ellis and six other free agents who signed with the Mavericks this summer were at the team’s fan event at American Airlines Center on Thursday. The high-scoring guard chuckled when asked if he is ready to have Dirk Nowitzki as his sidekick. But he understood the implication. The Mavericks have been trying to find somebody who can make Nowitzki their second-best player for a couple of seasons. Ellis is not being viewed as that player. Then again, for a guy who has averaged 22 points over the last five seasons, why not? Nowitzki won’t be the Mavericks’ leading scorer forever. “I think the team we have together is going to ease the pressure on him, not just me alone,” Ellis said. “We’re going to work together. Everybody in this locker room is going to have a say-so in our success. Dirk won’t have to put too much on his back with guys like me and Jose [Calderon] who understand the game and have been in the NBA a long time. I don’t think I have to come in and take the baton or he [Nowitzki] has to hand it over. I think we all just hold onto it as one. It’ll be easier for him.” So is Ellis ready to be the man? Or at least, the co-man? “I think I’m ready,” he said. “This is going to be the year, with the work I put in this summer and the relationship with me and Coach that’s building right now. And the relationship I’m going to build with my teammates. I feel great. I’m in a great spot.”

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: University of North Carolina coach Roy Williams believes Brad Stevens will do very well as he makes the move from college to the Celtics bench, but he does have some mixed feelings about the situation. He wishes Stevens could be coaching Paul Pierce. In a chat during this week’s Jim Calhoun Celebrity Golf Classic in Connecticut, Williams told the Herald that he’d have liked to see his former Kansas pupil remain in Green his entire career. Pierce spent 15 years with the Celtics but was dealt to the Nets with Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry this summer as the locals try to rebuild their roster on the fly. Williams gets that, but he wishes it weren’t so. “Yeah, I am a little sad,” he said. “And I understand that it had to happen. They want to make over the team because everybody’s getting older. Hey, I’m getting older myself. I turned 63 on Aug. 1. But I was just really hoping that Paul would be able to be a one-team guy. One of the reasons I thought seriously about staying at Kansas 10 years ago and not coming back to North Carolina was that I wanted to be one of those coaches that just coached at one school. I admire some of those professional athletes that just stay with one club, and I was hoping Paul would be one of them.” Williams paused and added, “Paul has done so much for Boston, and Boston has meant so much to him. I just thought that would have been neat.”

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: Not a bad parting gift for young point guard Myck Kabongo, one of two players released from Canada’s national men’s basketball team as the hard work of paring a roster to try and qualify for next summer’s World Cup begins. Kabongo, let go Thursday along with Carleton University guard Phil Scrubb, will head to Vancouver for a series of private workouts with national team general manager and Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Nash. “We’re not quitting on this kid,” head coach Jay Triano said of Kabongo, who struggled in two games last week against Jamaica. “We think he can be part of this program in the future and he has to go learn from one of the best right now.” The departures of Kabongo and Scrubb, who will head back to university, leave Triano with a 15-man roster for a four-day training camp and an exhibition tournament in Puerto Rico that lead into the World Cup qualification tournament in Venezuela beginning later this month.

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: Chris McGowan turned 40 over the weekend, and apparently as part of his celebration the president of the Trail Blazers wants to see a football game. A source told me Thursday that the Blazers are in preliminary negotiations with theArena Football League to relocate a franchise to Portland. This comes in the wake of the news that McGowan wants to talk about bringing NHL to Portland. The football team would play in the venue that was formerly known as the Rose Garden -- that was before the birthday boy sold the naming rights on the building to Moda Health. And while we're waiting to see how this unfolds, it's probably worth pointing out that the biggest development anywhere in this is that McGowan is getting stuff done at an organization that sat stagnant for a decade. A Blazers spokesperson declined to comment. But what's clear is that the organization is running like a business. They're exploring new revenue streams, and attacking empty dates, trying to fill the Rose Gard -- ahem -- Moda Center with events. And no matter if you like the idea of minor-league mutant football played inside an arena or not starting next year, what you have to love is the new energy from the old gray organization. The Blazers are trying to make things happen and if this philosophy extends to the basketball operation, what we might just have here is a revitalization of the entire culture of Trail Blazers, Inc. Too early to say until we see more basketball, but all this activity gives you some hope.

  • Steve Schrader of the Detroit Free Press: Now-and-then Detroit Pistons guard Chauncey Billups has partnered with former NBA player/restaurant franchise magnate Junior Bridgeman to buy 30 Wendy’s in the St. Louis area. Billups is an industry rookie, but Bridgeman has 196 Wendy’s, 100-plus Chili’s and several dozen Fazoli’s units, Nation’s Restaurant News reports (via ESPN’s Darren Rovell). “We are eager to welcome Chauncey to the Wendy’s family,” CEO Emil Brolick said.