First Cup: Thursday

  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: It’s either smart business or a dangerous game of chicken with the hopes of landing the best player in the world in LeBron James. A long shot? Definitely, but with the Bulls at least in the conversation with James in his first decision, one that the organization has to explore. Herb Rudoy, however, said on Wednesday that choosing this path could cost the Bulls Deng come July 1, and despite Deng wanting to stay, any idea of home-town discounts if talks eventually restart are out the window. … Rudoy was asked if Forman indicated that the Bulls first wanted to try and look at bigger options before opening up talks again with Deng, and said that wasn’t relayed to him. “Of course they didn’t say they didn’t want him back, so that was never discussed,’’ Rudoy said. “I told Gar they are running the risk that someone can step up on July 1 and they can lose him. “At this point, we’re not looking to do anything except get the best deal possible. We’ll see what happens and we’ll see what’s out there. He loves Chicago, loves playing for [coach Tom] Thibodeau, really loves playing for Thibodeau, but he will look for the best offer.’’

  • David Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Michael Beasley isn't just a strange signing for the Heat. He's the exact kind of player club president Pat Riley usually avoids. Do you know that kid in your class who never grew up? Who you can't reach in and re-wire? That seems to be Beasley.

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: In a dramatic and extraordinary move, the Miami Heat have invited their 2008 No. 2 overall NBA Draft pick Michael Beasley to training camp, with a contract that exposes the team to no binding commitment. After previously emphatically denying the possibility of a reunion following the forward's buyout release from the Phoenix Suns last week, the Heat, according to a source familiar with the situation, will bring Beasley back on a non-guaranteed, make-good contract. The agreement with Beasley comes at a time when he remains under investigation for sexual assault in Scottsdale, Ariz., for a January incident at his home there, and a month after his arrest in Scottsdale on suspicion of drug possession, after an officer detected the smell of marijuana coming from his vehicle. A source familiar with the Heat's approach said the team views the signing as a low-risk addition, citing Beasley's potential upside, noting Beasley does not turn 25 until January. To say the Heat's approach was tepid would be an understatement.

  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: Essentially, it’s a camp tryout. That’s the penance that Beasley is paying for his assorted transgressions, whether they got him on the police blotter (such as a recent arrest on suspicion of drug possession) or just in the coach’s doghouse, as was the case with the Suns. It’s not no-risk, because nothing is, not when you’re injecting anyone into a locker room, particularly someone who hasn’t shown half the maturity of most of the teammates he will be joining, and whose absence some Heat insiders have credited for his friend Mario Chalmers’ growth. But it’s certainly low risk. It’s low risk because if Beasley’s lack of seriousness is irritating Dwyane Wade, as often appeared the case on the court during their last collaboration, Miami can move on. (For what it’s worth, Wade has continued to praise Beasley’s talent publicly, while generally adding “it’s up to him” to be great.) If Beasley bristles about minutes, which figure to be scarcer than in Phoenix last season (20.7 per game), Miami can move on. If Beasley doesn’t do everything the way LeBron James demands, when James demands it, Miami can move on. And, of course, if Beasley finds himself in any additional legal trouble, Miami can move on. That’s the new Beasley plan. It’s up to him to make it work, since he has more riding on it than the Heat do.

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: Talked to a Phoenix Suns person tonight who said two of Michael Beasley’s biggest problems last season were ones familiar to Heat fans: Hogging the ball at times (which frustrated teammates and his two head coaches) and deficient defense. He said teams often went to the player Beasley was defending to exploit that matchup. His efficiency and shooting percentage have either stayed the same or gone down every year. He shot 47.2 percent as a rookie, then 45, 45, 44.5 and 40.5 last season with Phoenix. He’s best from mid-range, shooting 46.1 percent from 10 to 16 feet last season, but just 30.6 percent from 3 to 10, and 34.9 from 16 feet to the three-point line. He shot just 31.3 percent on threes last season, 34.5 percent in his career. His metrics in games when he plays 20 minutes or fewer are much worse than games when he plays more --- which is largely the result of the fact that coaches will play him less if he gets off to a bad start.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: The Suns took the high-risk, low-reward approach to the Beasley signing and tried to overwhelm him with support, even up to this offseason when he stayed in Phoenix and the Suns invested in rehabilitating him. In Miami, the risk is even lower and the reward would not take much, given he is not coming in with hopes of being a leading scorer like what Phoenix wished to get . Grant HIll could have been an ideal mentor for Beasley but he left disgruntled last year and Lance Blanks tried to become Beasley’s mentor in addition to a counselor they hired for him. The Miami mentorship already showed it can work wtih Chris Andersen, who once served a two-year suspension for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy but proved to be a critical piece for the Heat’s title run last season. The inconsistency of Beasley’s game, attention and effort will not be as exaggerated with a mature, successful team. And when he does go awry, the impact and price will not sting so much for a team counting on him little and paying him a NBA pittance. But it will still come down to the decisions Beasley makes when the good influences are not around him. Can he make logical choices, like keeping substances out of his car for a drive home in case he gets pulled over?

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: But with training camp less than three weeks away, the Wizards and John Wall should feel encouraged that he is playing — and playing well — regardless of the venue. The success of the team will hinge on his continued development and ability to stay healthy. Wall, who recently celebrated his 23rd birthday in New York, looked like he will be ready to go full bore during training camp as he lead his Blue team to a 111-95 victory in a game that also featured NBA players Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Brandon Knight, Patrick Patterson and Terrence Jones. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe, Wall’s good friends and former teammates for one year at Kentucky, were assistant coaches and helped get the most out of him — with a little reverse psychology. “E. Bled told me I wasn’t going to get 40, so I went to go get 40,” Wall proclaimed to reporters after the game. Wall also made an interesting declaration when asked after the game which point guard was the best to ever play for Calipari. “Me,” Wall said quickly. “That’s just my competitive edge. I’m always going to say me.” Former league most valuable player and three-time all-star Derrick Rose might disagree with Wall, but the comment was more a reflection of the confidence that Wall has begun to exude after remarkable finish to his third season, which he eventually helped him receive a five-year, $80 million extension in August.

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: Rather than projecting, perhaps a more interesting discussion might be, what constitutes a superstar? Kawhi Leonard used the word this summer to describe his ultimate goal, and it’s nebulous distinction. Where, exactly, are the cut-offs from good, to great, to even better than that? Can Leonard reach the ultimate level without becoming a significantly better scorer? The list of players who have become legitimate, game-changing stars based mainly on their defense is short, and it’s almost entirely limited to centers like Bill Russell and Ben Wallace. Sure, there have been plenty of elite wings who dominated in their own way, one of the best of which was Bruce Bowen. Leonard proved his mettle during the Finals, doing about as reasonable job as could be expected against a player, LeBron James, who will go down among the five best to ever put on an NBA uniform. Thanks to the individual nature of perimeter matchups, however, it’s always going to be difficult, if not impossible, for a wing to match the macro impact of a dominant defensive big. That puts more emphasis on the scoring piece, which loops us back to the previous paragraphs: At 22, with work ethic and ambition to match his prodigious physical gifts, Leonard oozes with potential, even after already establishing himself as an impact player. But a key component of potential is that it hasn’t happened yet.

  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: Klay Thompson is relieved. He was bracing for another grueling season, playing big minutes and being Golden State's version of a defensive stopper. But the Warriors went out and got swingman Andre Iguodala, a known defensive talent. And they added veteran back-up Toney Douglas. Now Thompson has considerable help. … Last season, Thompson averaged 35.8 minutes -- an 11-minute average increase in playing time. What's more, while averaging 16.6 points per game, he was called upon to defend the league's best point guards to protect Stephen Curry. In the playoffs, Thompson's minutes jumped to 41.3 per game. Even for a 23-year-old gym rat, the load took its toll. That's why Thompson expressed relief that the Warriors now have two more players capable of being the defensive stopper. He said he hopes that reality helps him improve his offensive efficiency (42.2 percent from the field last season). He also said getting in better shape, improving his decision making and getting better on defense were offseason goals.

  • Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: After a summer of plenty of activity, many of the NBA’s Western Conference lineups have been shaken up like a good martini. For an educated opinion on which teams benefited the most by offseason moves, I sought out one-time Trail Blazer guard Steve Kerr, who offers expert analysis for TNT. Kerr’s first mention was Portland and Houston. “Those are the two that jump out at me,” he says. Portland General Manager Neil Olshey, as those of us in the Moda City know, acquired a defensive presence as starting center — Robin Lopez — along with veterans Mo Williams, Dorell Wright, Thomas Robinson and Earl Watson fortified what a year ago was in the conversation for the worst bench in recent NBA history. … My pick for the best offseason in the West is the Los Angeles Clippers, who have added J.J. Redick, Darren Collison, Jared Dudley and Antawn Jamison, along with re-signing free agent Chris Paul — the latter the most important offseason player move in all of the NBA. “Slipped my mind,” Kerr says. “I like what they’ve done a lot. Maybe their biggest acquisition was getting Doc Rivers as coach. Everything they’ve done has the potential to get them to that next step and put them up there with Oklahoma City, San Antonio and the top teams.”

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Jared Cunningham had a run at the White House. Three of them in fact. That's run as in a game of basketball. The Hawks guard played three seasons at Oregon State, where he was all Pac-12 first-team in 2012. He played under head coach Craig Robinson - better know as President Barack Obama's brother-in-law. Cunningham and his teammates made three trips to the White House to play a little basketball with the President. "We went to the White House, hung out with Barack, played hoops a couple of times," Cunningham said as part of an interview with the AJC Wednesday. "This past year, they went and had dinner at the White House. Unfortunately, I missed it. I wish I could have been there for that one." Cunningham has been in Atlanta working out for several days. He is trying to rebound from a disappointing rookie season where he had several injuries, most notably right knee tendinitis, and stints in the NBA Development League. Cunningham was acquired in a draft-day trade this year and hopes to earn a spot on the Hawks roster.