First Cup: Friday

  • Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press: Timberwolves President Flip Saunders has been watching point guard Ricky Rubio lead Spain in the European Championships on TV. "What I like about him is, his game continues to get better and better right now in the heat of the tournament," Saunders said. Saunders is heading to California to check in with forward Derrick Williams, whom he wants to lose some weight. Williams finished last season at 260 pounds.

  • Ben Standigof CSN Washington: The Wizards front office is less empty now. Washington hired former Raptors executive as Marc Eversley as Vice President of Scouting. Eversley enters the front office along with former Oklahoma City Thunder scout Frank Ross. Going the other way, former director of player personnel Pat Connelly, ex-VP of player personnel Milt Newton and Mike Wilson, who headed the organization's college scouting. Toronto had a front office overall starting at the top. The hiring of former Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri spelled the end for Eversley, the Raptors VP for college scouting. Eversley originally joined the Raptors as director of basketball operations after more than 10 years with Nike.

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: The Heat’s signing of Michael Beasley to a non-guaranteed deal was low risk. But the broadcaster who analyzed his work for the Phoenix Suns last season isn’t optimistic about Beasley’s future and wonders why the Heat would inject a “knucklehead” into a locker-room filled with serious, respected professionals. “If he stops smoking marijuana and stops ‘hanging out,’ the talent is there. But I don’t see it [happening] after all these chances,” Suns radio analyst and former NBA center Tim Kempton told us. “It’s difficult to believe he will change his stripes at this point. “People have gone out of their way to make Michael Beasley successful, but he hasn’t accepted it. He spent time in Los Angeles with [former Lakers guard] Norm Nixon. You would think that would have helped him. The Suns had a life coach that traveled with us the entire season. But he slipped three times when he was here” -- an arrest on suspicion of drug possession, an ongoing investigation into a sexual assault allegation, and charges of vehicular violations, including driving with a suspended license. On the court, Kempton said Beasley could exasperate teammates and coaches – both Alvin Gentry, before his dismissal, and interim coachLindsey Hunter.

  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News: Will Jordan Hill’s outside jumper improve? He mostly focused on that area this offseason in hopes of becoming more of a complete player and possibly becoming a stretch forward in Mike D’Antoni’s system. There’s plenty of debate on whether it’s actually good for D’Antoni to feature Hill more as a jump shooter than a low-post player (it isn’t a good idea). But it definitely won’t hurt if Hill adds more to his game simply so he can become more dangerous offensively. Hill said he’s addressed that this offseason at his Atlanta residence by taking at least 1,000 shots per day, focusing on his ball handling and receiving pointers from reserve shooting guard Jodie Meeks. Hill took steps prior to last season to improve his shot, but it hasn’t translated. … It’s unrealistic to expect Hill suddenly to become an elite outside shooter. But if his shooting accuracy improves, that will yield plenty of trickle-down affects. Hill will have an expanded role and become more of a dependable insurance policy for Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman. It’ll also help stretch the floor, giving easier looks to Gasol and Kaman in the post, Bryant on the wing and the post and the team’s outside shooters on the perimeter.

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: Basketball was not Carrick Felix's first love. Believe it or not, the Cavaliers rookie swingman initially wanted to make his living on a skateboard. "I wanted to be the next Tony Hawk,'' he said, referring to the most famous skateboarder in the world. From the age of 7, when a neighbor kid on a skateboard landed in Felix's front yard outside Phoenix, until his junior year in high school, Felix was on his board all day every day. "i was always outside practicing from 7 o'clock in the morning to 12 o'clock at night,'' he admitted. But by 11th grade he started to focus on basketball, eventually earning a scholarship to Arizona State. He found that some skateboard skills involving balance and footwork actually transferred quite naturally to basketball. Then in his sophomore year with the Aztecs, his coaches suggest he put the board away. "The skateboard is off limits,'' Felix said, laughing. "I still have it in my room. I never get on it [but] it's always fun to look at.''

  • Tom Moore of The Intelligencer: The 76ers are finalizing a contract with free agent point guard Darius Morris. An NBA source said the two sides were close Thursday night. The deal is believed to be for the third-year NBA minimum of $884,293, with part of it guaranteed. Also Thursday evening, Stephen Pina, agent for former Temple standout shooting guard Khalif Wyatt, confirmed Wyatt has "agreed to terms" with the Sixers. Wyatt is an undrafted free agent from Norristown. Morris, 22, expects to play a bigger role with the Sixers than he did as a Laker during his first two NBA seasons after being taken 41st in the 2011 NBA Draft. He could be the primary backup to rookie first-rounder Michael Carter-Williams.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: As Russell Westbrook continues to embrace his inner fashion bug, the Thunder point guard is forcing the fashion industry to pay attention to his unique style. The New York Times caught up with Westbrook during his recent trip to New York City for his first New York Fashion Week. … Westbrook attended multiple fashion shows over the weekend and rubbed elbows with some of the industry’s biggest names. He called the shows “amazing” and said escaping from his routine basketball circle was “refreshing.” As he opened up about his fashion tastes, Westbrook said he’s always been into fashion but didn’t always have the means to be as big into it as he is now. “It was basically what I could afford,” Westbrook said of his fashion choices growing up in the Los Angeles area. “Trying to find the best bargain, I kind of shopped all over the place.” That all began to change, Westbrook said, when he was drafted fourth overall in 2008. He kept things simple as a rookie, but saw an opening.

  • Michael Kaskey-Blomain of The Philadelphia Inquirer: Some athletes are content to share their good fortunes with their immediate inner circle, while others look to give back to their community at large; consider Tyreke Evans among the latter type. Evans has a long history of charity work, which includes poker games, camps, and clinics. Most recently, he has spent the past week in his hometown of Chester, working with VSP vision to provide free eye care and glasses to children and families in need. The complimentary eye care comes just in time for the students to head back to school. As if Tyreke isn't busy enough preparing for his first season as a Pelican and helping his hometown, he took some time out to talk to me about the importance of giving back and his expectations for the upcoming season. Q: How did your partnership with VSP Vision begin? A: "This is the fourth year I've worked with VSP. I got connected with them through a diabetes event and have been working with them every year since. We have always had a great relationship and I look forward to continuing to work with them in the future."

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: The Cavs have asked the league’s approval to place season-ticket holders’ names on the apron of the court, a league source confirmed, speaking on condition of anonymity because the idea has not yet been approved by the league. Sports Business Daily was the first to report the idea. The Milwaukee Bucks are also seeking approval to place names on the court, according to the report, but the Bucks’ idea is to put the names on the playing court. The Cavs’ names will be on the apron. Final details have not been determined, according to the report, including which ticket holders would be selected. Any changes to the court design must pass league approval. League executives are reviewing the proposal to ensure it won’t clutter the court or distort how the game is viewed on television, according to the report. The Cavs previously allowed stakeholders and their entire staff to sign the four corners of the court during the playoffs a few years ago.