First Cup: Monday

  • Ben Standig of CSN Washington: Further proof of Victor Oladipo's ascension from unheralded DeMatha prospect to the No. 2 overall in the NBA Draft came Sunday night at his former High School - against Kevin Durant. Look past the high-rising guard's inclusion in the Goodman League Roundball Classic. Even with several future professional peers also on the court and John Wall observing from the sideline, it was Oladipo in the game's spotlight matchup versus the Oklahoma City Thunder star. Durant is the face of D.C. area basketball, not to mention part of an incredibly short list of those considered the best in the NBA. The local products faced each other throughout, landing basketball-type haymakers via long distance shots, highlight dunks and tight defense until the final buzzer, which came without an actual winner declared. The game ended in a 116-116 tie. The mano-y-mano type scenario developed in the second quarter. On one possession, Oladipo stole the ball from Durant and quickly went into offensive mode with a fast break dunk. Moments later, the Orlando Magic rookie and supposedly suspect perimeter shooter pulled up from just inside half court and drained a 3-pointer. The 6-foot-11 Durant, who finished with a game-high 40 points, then backed down the 6-foot-3 Oladipo before fading back for a high degree of difficulty 3-pointer at the buzzer.

  • Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: The possible reasons for Deron Williams’ regression have been documented and dissected, with conclusions mostly bouncing from an extended aberration to the beginnings of an ill-timed downfall. There were injuries to blame in New Jersey, along with subpar teammates and poor fan support. Then there were more injuries in Brooklyn, extra weight, and Avery Johnson’s unimaginative offense. But new coach Jason Kidd has aggressively pitched the rejuvenation of his point guard. It’s a task Kidd seems most qualified to accomplish given his history at the position. On Sunday, the rookie coach revealed one of his goals for Williams. Not surprisingly, it concerns passing. “I’m going to push him. I want the best for him,” Kidd said after signing autographs at the Nets’ store in Coney Island. "When we sit down and talk about goals, team goals and also individual goals, I’m going to push him and I want to get him back to double-digit assists."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: At some point, someone suggested the Thunder sends Serge Ibaka to Portland for LaMarcus Aldridge. Little by little, the idea began to spread. One prominent writer afteranother, it seemed, jumped on board the belief that Aldridge would be the final piece to the Thunder's championship puzzle. Their logic never really made much sense. And here's why. Ibaka, despite his shortcomings, still is younger, cheaper and more battle tested than Aldridge. Aldridge just turned 28. Ibaka will be 24 when the season begins. Aldridge will make nearly $15 million this season. Ibaka will be closer to $12 million. Aldridge has appeared in 18 playoff games and never made it out of the first round. Ibaka has appeared in 54 playoff games, experienced the conference finals twice and the NBA Finals once. At this point in their careers, Aldridge is the better player. Few would debate that. But what the popular ESPN Trade Machine can't take into account is fit. Aldridge has averaged better than 21 points in each of the last three seasons. But he also averaged at least 17 shots in each of those seasons, putting him on par with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant's volume. In Oklahoma City, Aldridge would have to adjust to being third banana after years of being the go-to guy.

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: So 3½ years following his final NBA game, Allen Iverson finally decided to end the waiting game. He should be remembered as an all-time great. Three years from now, we’ll be driving to Springfield to watch his induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame. He was a pioneer, ahead of his time for his game and expression. Iverson was a complex player, undefined by a position, but as his numbers piled up and the wins didn’t, the perceptions about his selfishness grew exponentially. There is a recipe for growing old successfully in this league. You work. You stay in premium shape. You mentor and you avoid delusions of grandeur. Iverson likely wasn’t capable of carrying out those tasks, and while he tried to convince anyone who listened that he had been humbled, visions of Iverson attempting to snatch away shots and attention from younger, more worthy players remained in the thoughts of NBA executives. Recent history doesn’t view Iverson fondly, but long-term history should. Eventually, if he can get his financial life in order and determine a post-career plan, he could become a coach and pass on his wisdom. It is possible he can escape from his current spiral and become a positive role model. It’s possible that Iverson will inspire in his Hall of Fame speech in 2016.

  • Stephen Haynes of Newsday: Jason Kidd thinks Jason Collins certainly has a place in the NBA and expects his friend to sign with a team before the season. But it won't be the Nets. "He wants to play still, but we have 15 [roster] spots already filled,'' the new Nets coach said Sunday. In April, Collins became the first active male athlete from one of the four major professional sports to announce his homosexuality. Kidd was among several athletes who voiced their support, and in June, the Nets reportedly had interest in signing Collins, a free-agent center. Kidd said that possibility was something the organization "talked about over the summer'' but likely won't pursue now. "His knowledge as a veteran … can help a young team,'' Kidd said of Collins, a Nets teammate for seven years. "He'll find a job at some point.''

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: Dorell Wright signed a two-year, $6 million free-agent contract with the Blazers this summer. He's one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA, and joins a team that desperately needed depth. But if you spend any sort of time talking with Wright, what you understand first and best, is that he's a good father. This is why it was important that he arrive ahead of Blazers training camp, get moved in, and get his 5-year old son, Devin, enrolled in kindergarten. "I'm going to be there for the first day of kindergarten. It's a big, big deal. I'm here. We're here. My family is coming with me, and we're excited." Wright talked on Friday about signing with the Blazers. While he believes he'll compete for a starting position, Wright is the rare NBA player who isn't disillusioned, out of touch, or simply here to say what he thinks he's supposed to say so you'll like him. Wright said, "I know what I can do. I know what I can bring. But I see myself as a guy who comes in off the bench; knocking down threes, being a stretch-four." Does he prefer that? Nope. But Wright, who went from high school to the NBA in 2004, knows his role, and if Portland is going to find chemistry in a locker room filled with new faces, the faster they accept their roles, the more effective they'll be early.

  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer: These days, the new Sixers coach is lean and gray-haired. He's a loving husband and a father of three children: Julia, 17; Laura, 15; and Sam, 8. But back in the day, Brett Brown cut a figure in gritty South Portland. Along with his scoring average, his outgoing personality, curly blond hair, and blue eyes captured the attention of the town's young women. Paddy MacNeil, now a waitress at J's Oyster, was one of them, from a distance. "He was a cutie," she said. While his looks caught people's attention, Brown's outgoing and grounded personality made him one of the most popular teenagers in South Portland. And he's still extremely popular in the port town - perhaps even more since the Sixers hired him on Aug. 12. "A lot of people were texting me back and forth, 'Can you believe what Brett has done?' " said former Sacred Heart football coach Paul Gorham, a close friend and former South Portland teammate. Gorham now resides in Connecticut. "Everyone is happy for him," Gorham added. "That's first and foremost. And proud of him. He can do nothing wrong in South Portland right now."

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Scratch that. Earlier this summer I predicted Chauncey Billups and Brandon Knight would be the starting backcourt for the Pistons. But that was before Knight, Khris Middleton and Slava Kravtsov were traded to the Bucks for point guard Brandon Jennings. The move also opened up two roster spots that allowed the Pistons to sign point guard Peyton Siva and center Josh Harrellson. So here’s another stab at projecting the playing rotation. STARTERS: C: Andre Drummond: Probably works better with Jennings. PF: Greg Monroe: Team hopes he fits with Drummond. SF: Josh Smith: Crowded paint still a concern. SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: Skill set better with the starters. PG: Jennings: Make no mistake — he will be the starter. SECOND UNIT: C: Monroe: Could be his best position. PF: Smith: Could lessen spacing issues here. SF: Luigi Datome: Shooting desperately needed. SG: Rodney Stuckey: Probably more effective off bench. PG: Billups: Will probably get 20 minutes per game.

  • John Coté of the San Francisco Chronicle: The Golden State Warriors' plan to build a waterfront arena in San Francisco is months behind its original schedule, and the repair cost for piers to hold the venue has increased by as much as $50 million, city documents show. The team could miss its 2017 targeted opening, and the new figure - if it holds - raises the question of who would cover the bill. The basketball franchise's representatives dispute the cost projection and downplay the delays as routine for a complex project. They maintain that the arena will be ready for the start of the 2017-18 NBA season but acknowledge their schedule is tight - and doesn't leave much room for unforeseen problems. "When we began this project, we laid out a timeline that had a built-in cushion for the natural delays that occur on a project of this size," said Nathan Ballard, a Warriors spokesman on the arena plan. "We've got a lot of work to do in a short time frame, but we are confident we can complete it by 2017."