First Cup: Thursday

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: Two seasons ago, Chris Paul joined the Los Angeles Clippers and brought instant credibility to a woebegone franchise. Now he will try to do the same for the debilitated N.B.A. players union. Paul was elected president of the players association Wednesday after making a belated decision to run for office. He defeated Roger Mason Jr., who was elected first vice president at the union’s summer meeting in Las Vegas. Paul’s candidacy was a surprise, even to many union leaders. But his election indicated a recognition by the players that their most influential voices are needed in the most prominent roles. Paul, 28, is the first superstar to hold the president’s title since Patrick Ewing in 2001. He replaced Derek Fisher, whose term expired. … The union is trying to regain its footing after nearly two years of controversy and infighting, and a damning audit that charged Billy Hunter, the executive director, with nepotism and mismanagement of resources. Hunter was fired in February.

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich is widely applauded as the best coach in the NBA. He’s been with the Spurs 18 seasons for a reason. Just don’t try to tell DeJuan Blair about Pop’s coaching greatness. The new Mavericks big man once was an up-and-comer with the Spurs before things went sideways, Tiago Splitter arrived and Blair’s stock went down faster than a margarita on the Riverwalk. So what happened? “I don’t know,” Blair said. “Pop stopped [playing] me. I couldn’t tell you what was going through that man’s head at all. Nobody knows but him.” What was perfectly clear, though, was that Blair needed a change of address. “I had to leave and come here where I think they’ll give me confidence and believe in me,” he said. “I didn’t think they believed in me in San Antonio, so that’s pretty good here. I feel supported. That’s how it is.” … The Mavericks signed him specifically to fill the void that Brand left. As Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said, Blair isn’t afraid of contact. “DeJuan, I think he’s a beast, and he put us on our backs a few times and had no problems dunking on us [when with the Spurs],” Cuban said. “And I think he’s ready to turn that around and send it in the other direction. So yeah, I think DeJuan will help us.”

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: But I also understand I have not been perfect myself. It's a public stage we are on, and there are times I wish I could take back something I said on the radio, or revealed while being interviewed myself. And there are situations I wish I handled better. Two in particular. First, I badly misplayed the Brandon Roy/Andre Miller saga. I blindly took Roy's side that Miller was a poor fit for the team and that he was killing the Blazers offense because both he and Roy needed to handle the ball. The truth of the matter was Roy was being a big baby. Miller, who would later became one of my favorite players I've ever covered, was too professional, too wise to engage in the debate. "It's just basketball," Miller would say. "I don't see what the problem is." Eventually, I came to understand and appreciate the beauty that was Andre Miller. Later, I told him I was embarrassed how I handled the coverage. That I was wrong. We now greet each other warmly when we see each other, a relationship I take great pride in. The second regret is not focusing on Rasheed Wallace's talents as much as his attitude. Part of that was inevitable. He was such a jerk, such a hothead that his attitude often was the story. But so was his talent -- particularly defensively -- and sometimes I think my disgust for his attitude got in the way of recognizing his play.

  • Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune: Corey Brewer was a first-round draft choice (seventh overall) of the Timberwolves in 2007 and, after playing with the Mavericks and Nuggets, is back with the Wolves. He was asked if the fans are going to see a different Brewer than they might remember. “I am a whole different player now,” the 6-9 forward said. “I’m better. I got to go to Dallas and win a championship and learn from guys like Shawn Marion, Jason Terry and Jason Kidd, and I was in Denver and we were winning. It was all about winning. … I feel like I was making the open three. I know how to get my shots and I know what to do and what not to do.”

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Don’t expect to see a lot of center Josh Harrellson when the Detroit Pistons begin the regular season. If things go according to plan, Harrellson will probably only get minutes when foul trouble, injury or suspension strikes center Andre Drummond and power forward Greg Monroe. But things don’t always go according to plan and Harrellson, 24, has two things the Pistons were looking for — he is young and he can shoot the ball. The Pistons announced the signing today — a two-year deal with a partial guarantee for the first season with a team option for the second season. The Pistons were attracted to the 6-feet-10, 275 pounder gives because he provides size in case of an emergency and he is a 32% career three-point shooter.

  • Bernie Augustine of the New York Daily News: The pressure of living up to Linsanity nearly crushed Jeremy Lin during his first season in Houston. The former Knicks phenomenon — who captured the world’s attention during a 25-game stretch with New York two seasons ago — told a crowd in Taiwan that he experienced, “emptiness, confusion and misery” in his first season with the Rockets. “I became so obsessed with becoming a great basketball player ... trying to be Linsanity, being this phenomenon that took the NBA by storm,” the 24-year-old said at the Dream Big, Be Yourself youth conference in Taipei. “The coaches were losing faith in me; basketball fans were making fun of me. ... I was supposed to be joyful and free, but what I experienced was the opposite. I had no joy and I felt no freedom.” Following a breakout season with the Knicks, Lin signed a three-year, $25 million deal with Houston last offseason. Lin stated that he preferred to stay with the Knicks, but Garden chairman James Dolan felt deceived by Lin — who restructed his contract with the Rockets to include a $14.9M third year — and the team declined to match the offer the Harvard-bred point guard got from the Rockets. But Lin couldn’t replicate the run he had with the Knicks in Houston, averaging 13.4 ppg and 6.1 apg. Not unlike the end of his run with New York, Lin sat out the final two games of Houston’s first-round playoff loss to Oklahoma City with an injury.

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: Iman Shumpert said whether Knicks owner James Dolan was ticked at him for allegedly balking at playing in the Las Vegas summer league in July isn’t his problem. Shumpert played just one summer-league game before heading to China and Taiwan to help open an Adidas store and serve as NBA ambassador. The controversy arose when an outtake from ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith’s interview with Dwight Howard surfaced on YouTube. During an off-air chat, Smith told Howard he heard Dolan was furious at Shumpert for allegedly not wanting to play summer league and he wanted him traded. Smith said later on his radio show he believed Dolan was no longer peeved because Shumpert showed up. “That’s fine, that’s the media,’’ Shumpert said at yesterday’s Delta Open event with U.S. Open’s No. 1 seed Serena Williams at Madison Square Park. “Things get blown up in this day and age, with social media. It’s crazy. That video got out there and stuff happens. I’m happy to be a Knick. I’m worried about business.” Asked if he knows for certain if Dolan is still irritated, Shumpert said, “I don’t know. It doesn’t concern me. I got to make sure we go out and play basketball.’’

  • Tom Couzens of The Sacramento Bee: Though there appears to be nothing to the latest rumors, it's unlikely Fredette will get much playing time this coming season – if he's still with the Kings. The Kings acquired Greivis Vasquez to be their starting point guard, likely pushing incumbent Isaiah Thomas to a backup role. Look for rookie Ray McCallum, who impressed coaches this summer in Las Vegas, to be ahead of Fredette at the point, too. Things are just as crowded at shooting guard, with first-round draft pick Ben McLemore expected to start and Marcus Thornton getting plenty of playing time, too. Throw veteran John Salmons into the mix and that means there will be few minutes for Fredette. So where does that leave the guard who made "Jimmermania" a household word and won every major college award as a senior at BYU just two years ago? … Look for the Kings to try to deal Fredette before the February trade deadline, if not sooner, because it's time for Fredette – and Kings fans – to move on.

  • Sean Highkin of USA Today: Roy Hibbert has been in San Antonio recently, working out at the Spurs’ facility. Recently, Tim Duncan joined the Indiana Pacers center and brought some boxing coaches with him to help them with their routines. One thing that jumps out: how much taller Hibbert is than Duncan, one of the most dominant big men in NBA history. The Big Fundamental is in the middle, wearing red, and Hibbert (on the left) totally dwarfs him. Hibbert’s size played a major role in the Pacers’ ability to push the Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals — if they had won that game, they would have faced Duncan’s Spurs in the Finals. Instead, they’re teaming up for offseason workouts.

  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: Final auditions are about to get underway for Canada’s senior men’s basketball squad. Training camp has concluded and now, with only a week remaining before Canada’s most important games in two years, players on the bubble will try to prove their worth in Puerto Rico. Canada will play four games at the Tuto Marchand Continental Cup there, starting Thursday, against the hosts, Argentina, the Dominican Republic and Brazil. The event is the traditional tuneup for the FIBA Americas tourney, which tips from Caracas, Venezuela, Aug. 30. Canada and its three opponents in Puerto Rico will be joined by six other teams in Venezuela, with four berths at next year’s FIBA World Cup in Spain up for grabs. Canada has not competed at a major event since finishing sixth of eight teams at the 2011 FIBA Americas. … Steve Nash was beloved by teammates for his unselfishness on and off the court. Nash used to treat his fellow Canadians to dinner regularly when he was still an active player with the program. New leaders Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph appear to be carrying on the tradition. The pair recently bought every member of the squad custom Team Canada Beats By Dre headphones.