First Cup: Friday

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: I always found Allen Iverson to be a polarizing figure, he was self-confident to a level that some felt was off-putting but I think that’s what made him special in a lot of ways. I’m sure there was a rather substantial chip on his shoulder and he didn’t mind that everyone knew. He had a level of disdain for authority that was palpable at times, his clashes with Larry Brown were significant but those are two very strong-willed men so that shouldn’t come as too much a surprise. thing is that all the extraneous stuff — the posses, that legendary practice rant (and it was my dear friend Phil Jasner who started that, bless his soul), the tattoos, the “I’ve got to get mine” attitude — probably clouded judgement of him too much. And that’s his own fault, isn’t it? I’m not suggesting he — or anyone — should totally change the way they are just to get along or to present a false version of their character but at some point if you’re in a team sport, some bending for common good may be necessary.

  • Tom Layman of the Boston Herald: Walter McCarty’s education as a coach came from a very unpopular voice here in Boston. But without it, the former Celtics reserve forward might not be answering questions as a new assistant for Brad Stevens. McCarty — who was hired by Stevens to fill out the Celtics coaching staff with Ron Adams and Micah Shrewsberry, along with holdovers Jamie Young and Jay Larranaga — spent three seasons, starting in 2007, as an assistant coach at the University of Louisville under his former C’s coach Rick Pitino. It was there where he learned the intricacies of what a coach does behind the scenes, and how to find a voice as an assistant from a guy who has brought three different programs to the Final Four. “Working for Rick Pitino taught me a lot. It really prepared me for how to prepare for opponents, how to scout games, how to teach and develop players, and how to speak and communicate with players, as well,” McCarty said from the Celtics practice facilities before a private basketball clinic with MarShon Brooks for YMCA of Greater Boston youth yesterday. “I think without those three years and that schooling, that education under Rick Pitino, I think this would have been a tough get.” … McCarty is the only assistant on Stevens’ staff with any NBA playing experience. He has one year under his belt as an assistant for Jim O’Brien with the Indiana Pacers in 2010-11, and he is hoping his 10-year resume as a player will benefit Stevens and the players in the Celtics locker room.

  • Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times: As much as he (Doc Rivers) needs fresh scenery, the Clippers will need his strategizing and motivational skills to meet the high expectations they will face this season. With Blake Griffin in his prime and Chris Paul secured to a five-year, $107.3-million extension, winning a playoff round or two won't be enough for this team. Rivers must make the players' considerable individual talents add up to a cohesive whole, polish their many assets, and solidify their defense before they can be a championship contender in a rugged conference. "The expectations are great. I don't want us to shrink from that at all. I don't want us to run from that," he said. "But what we've got to get our guys to understand is expectations are one thing. Realization is a whole different thing, and just because you're expected to do anything doesn't mean you've arrived. We have not arrived. We didn't win a playoff series last year. So we have a lot of work to do as a group. We should expect to do that work. We have to expect that it's going to be much harder and we have to embrace it and do it."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: LeBron James might be entitled to his opinion, but it doesn't mean Magic Johnson has to agree. Asked in a recent Fox Sports television interview to name his three greatest NBA players of all-time, the Miami Heat forward paused and then somewhat hastily went for Michael Jordan, Julius Erving and Larry Bird. Omitted and paying attention, former Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson replied Thursday on Twitter. Johnson first posted, "Lebron is entitled to his opinion, but I still think that he and I have a similar game and that's why I LOVE to watch him play!" That quickly was followed by, "NBA Championship rings are all that matter; Jordan 6, Me 5, Bird 3, LeBron 2 and Dr. J 1." … For the record, James did add that if he was asked for his top four, Johnson would have made that list. Somewhat surprised by the question asked during his charity event in Akron, Ohio, two weeks ago, James' first response was, "Michael Jordan, uh, wow . . . Michael Jordan . . . wow, this is tough . . . Michael Jordan, uh, Dr. J., Larry Bird. "You give me three? Oh my God. Three? Larry Bird, Dr. J. Michael Jordan." James said stopping at three was difficult. "I know," he said. "Can I get four? All right, Magic."

  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer: The remaking of the 76ers continues. The team has acquired Tony Wroten from the Memphis Grizzlies Thursday for a protected second-round pick, a league source confirmed. This pick is based on where the Sixers, who are expected to struggle, finish in the standings. As a result, they basically surrendered nothing for Wroten, a 2012 first-round selection. “Just want to say thank you to ALL the Memphis Grizzlies fans, coaches, etc.,” Wroten tweeted Thursday. “I love the city of Memphis. Will always have love for you guys. GnG.” The 6-foot-5 point guard later tweeted ‘Where the homie @MeekMill at? LOL” before tweeting “Philly Philly Philly. City Of Brotherly Love. #215.” Robert Williams, better known as Meek Mill, is a rap artist from Philadelphia. The source said this move was about acquiring Wroten’s 1.1 million salary. Including his pay, the Sixers have around $41.2 million of salary guaranteed to 10 players for the upcoming season. NBA teams must have a minium payroll of $52.811 million. The Grizzlies needed to make this trade to shed salary and open up a roster spot.

  • Kevin Nielson of Sportsnet.ca: Heading into the final year of his contract and with a new management team to answer to, Dwayne Casey’s tenuous future in Toronto will likely come down to the play of three wing players: Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross. Gay has seen his three-point shooting plummet from his career high (39.6 per cent) in 2010-11 to 32.3 per cent last season. The Raptors forward had off-season eye surgery to correct an astigmatism, and Casey is hoping this will help his star forward rediscover his outside shot. … Many believe that the outside combo of Gay and DeRozan is doomed to fail as neither has the ability to stretch the floor from long range. While Gay was bad from beyond the arc, DeRozan was terrible (28.3 percent), especially for a player whose position has the word ‘shoot’ in the title. … While Casey acknowledged Ross’ potential, the old-school coach will not reward him with minutes based on potential alone. The Raptors coach is looking for more consistency from the sophomore forward.

  • Nat Newell of The Indianapolis Star: The Indiana Pacers always-engaging center Roy Hibbert is back at it on social media. After sending out a picture following a workout in San Antonio earlier in the week in which he dwarfed Tim Duncan, Hibbert put pictures of himself in an airplane bathroom on Instagram. The answer? He doesn't. He wrote with the photo, on his accountroyhibbert55,” “I'm not one to take selfies but I know y'all were wondering how I fit in an airplane bathroom and the answer is ... I don't. #crampedlife”

  • Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News: The NBA could award the All-Star Game in 2015 to the Garden and have its All-Star weekend events leading up to the game held in Brooklyn, but there won’t be a decision on the specifics for another few weeks, according to well-placed league sources. The Garden and Barclays Center continue to be in discussions with the league, with each entity looking to host the weekend’s main event — the 64th All-Star Game. “It hasn't been finalized,” one source said Thursday night. The league plans on making a decision by mid- to late September. The idea of having the Knicks and Nets co-host the weekend has been known since last February. It’s also possible that the All-Star Game could return to New York before 2020, with the game hosted by the Nets and the Knicks having the Friday and Saturday night events. The 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend will be held in New Orleans.

  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: Canada dropped the opener of the Tutu Marchand Continental Cup to host Puerto Rico on Thursday night. The tournament is a tune-up for next week’s FIBA Americas Championship, where four berths will be earned for next year’s FIBA World Cup in Spain. Minnesota guard J.J. Barea lit up the Canadians with 23 points and eight assists, helping Puerto Rico to a 40-30 half-time edge by notching 15 through two quarters. Orlando forward Andrew Nicholson paced the visitors with 21 points and Cleveland big man Tristan Thompson was excellent with 10 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in 22 minutes of play. Canada closed within three heading into the final quarter, before a 10-2 run made the deficit too great to erase. Another tough opponent in Argentina awaits Canada on Friday.

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: It has been a busy offseason for Lou Williams. The Hawks guard has been rehabbing a torn ACL and hopes to be ready for the start of training camp. He also has been in a studio recording his recently released mixtape entitled 'Here Goes Nothin' under the name Lou Will. There are 16 tracks and the mixtape features other artists including 2 Chainz, Meek Mill, The Casey Boys from Jagged Edge, K. Michelle and Quez from Travis Porter. I listened to the tracks for language and content. Nothing major. I will leave the reviews to you and those far more qualified. Williams announced the release of the mixtape via Twitter Tuesday.