First Cup: Friday

  • Ben Standig of CSN Washington: In fairness to NBA teams, they know what Jason Collins the player brings and it's not upside. At this point on the NBA calendar, that might not be enough. Expect a significant media crush for any time adding the social pioneer. Even with the Okafor scenario, don't expect the Wizards to be one of those teams. Collins wasn't part of the Wizards plans at the end of the season. With a league-maximum of 15 players under guaranteed contract, Washington would have to make a trade or eat money in order to sign another player. While there isn't a pure replacement on the roster for Okafor, who led the Wizards in rebounding and blocked shots last season, coach Randy Wittman can mix and match with Nene, Kevin Seraphin, Al Harrington and Jan Vesely depending on game situation. Once additional injuries pop up over the preseason - and assuming Collins the player remains interesting, teams will call. If they don't, then loud calls for a discussion about why not will begin.

  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: Dwane Casey and the Raptors have been pretty patient about the topic of tanking. More than they probably should be, since it makes little sense to ask players and coaches, who are paid to win games if they should lose in order to get a better (but still miniscule) shot at a draft gem like Thornhill’s Andrew Wiggins. General manager Masai Ujiri, his staff and MLSE head honcho Tim Leiweke are fair targets to weigh in on the subject. Casey, his staff and players are not. In any event, patience ran out on Thursday. “My job is to get this team prepared to play as hard and win as many games as we possibly can,” Casey said. “Fans are going to talk about tanking, that’s their prerogative, I think it’s an interesting subject for them. I’m not even thinking (about it though). That hasn’t even crossed my mind. That hasn’t been discussed in the organization and it won’t be discussed.” Casey said it’s frustrating that, in the past, the team has been criticized for losing too many games, but now the talk is of winning too many. “You can’t have it both ways,” he said. Pressed again, Casey swatted the query away like Dikembe Mutombo. “It’s the last time I’m going to talk about tanking, it does nothing, because I don’t think about it,” he said.

  • Peter Botte of the New York Daily News: Andrea Bargnani was back in Toronto Thursday, and while Raptors coach Dwane Casey wasn’t there to greet him, he had a suggestion for the new Knick forward. “He should probably put on ear plugs,” Casey joked with reporters, anticipating plenty of Toronto boo birds at Friday’s game. “They can boo (Bargnani) all they want to now,” Casey said. “Fans are going to do what they’re going to do.” With the way things ended in Toronto for Bargnani, it’s not a shock Raptor fans will let him hear it, and his teammates know it as well. As he addressed the media Thursday, the ex-Raptor was serenaded by Carmelo Anthony to the old “Welcome Back, Kotter” theme song. Bargnani, Barbarino — same difference. … The Italian forward’s tenure in Toronto ended badly, as his scoring fell from a career-high 21.4 points per game in 2010-11 to 12.7 per in just 35 appearances last season due to an elbow injury. “All I’ve got to say about Toronto is that it was a good seven years, I was lucky to play there and that’s really it,” Bargnani said after netting 12 points on 3-for-8 shooting in 19 minutes in the Knicks’ preseason opener Wednesday against the Celtics in Providence. “I don’t want to really talk about fans, what happened and frustration.

  • Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com: The organization is on the upswing, talent is blossoming, players are excited to be here and the corporate division is flourishing. The Moda Center locker room and facilities are second to none. They're in the process of enhancing its practice facility which will include a top-notch theatre room, barbershop, game room, among other attractive features fit for players of this generation. Times are beginning to change. Portland has never been a hotbed for free agents. A number of obstacles continue to hamper that. But with Olshey at the helm, who has deep-rooted relationships with high-profile agents and players, gives Portland a fighting chance to lure in such talent. That was the case with Williams, 30, who holds a player option for the 2014-15 season. It's quite early to be talking about next year, nevertheless Williams is proactively thinking next year and beyond ... in Portland.

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: As the Cavaliers prepare to play at the Orlando Magic tonight in a matchup of Anthony Bennett and Victor Oladipo, the top two picks in June’s NBA Draft, Bennett has to be more concerned with convincing coach Mike Brown that he can be trusted — and that won’t be easy. Historically, Brown has begrudged giving rookies a lot of playing time. In his first two years in the league, J.J. Hickson’s mental lapses drove Brown crazy. And before that, Shannon Brown appeared in just 23 games as a rookie — although Daniel Gibson eventually earned Brown’s trust enough to play big minutes on the Cavs’ march to the NBA Finals. But Brown has made it clear this preseason he doesn’t really trust rookies. Bennett annoyed him in Tuesday’s preseason opener by failing to box out, failing to get back in transition and, yes, the air ball annoyed Brown, too. He made it clear to Bennett that such mistakes during the regular season will result in a short stint on the court. Asked Thursday if it would pain him to rely on a rookie for big minutes, Brown said, “It probably would, yes. But it’s just the preseason, so it doesn’t matter

  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News: Pau Gasol still remains with the Lakers entering the final year of his contract and will make $19.3 million with another chance to prolong his stay with the franchise he loves. “If I perform well, am reliable and put up a great season, then I’m sure the Lakers will have interest in extending me maybe before the season is over,” Gasol said. “We’ll see if there’s interest or not. Then we’ll go from there.” The Lakers only have three players under contract beyond next season, including Steve Nash, Robert Sacre and Nick Young. That leaves the Lakers with plenty of purchasing power to attract high-profile free agents, possibly including LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Of course, the Lakers also want to resign Kobe Bryant, whose $30.5 million contract expires after this season. In the interest of the Lakers maximizing their financial flexibility, would Gasol accept taking a significant paycut? “Probably not,” he said. “You have to explore your options, but I would like to continue to play for the Lakers and maybe finish my career here. But you have to see the cards on the table.”

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Rockets coach Kevin McHale said after the game that he intended to rotate Lin and Patrick Beverley in the preseason starting lineups, with both having shown a good deal so far. But there were some that thought it was unthinkable that one of the point guards should have to come off the bench, as if that was all that mattered on a night in which having the game played at all was far, far more significant than who started it. Both point guards played well, showcasing their strengths. In many ways, that might be where McHale chooses a starter. Lin is the better offensive player, Beverley the better defender. Either could start effectively, but the decision on a starter could come down to what McHale needs most off the bench, Lin’s aggressive, attacking offense or Beverley’s tight, irritating defense. Do the Rockets need a jolt of scoring or of defense off the bench? It might not be that simple. As with our discussion of the power forward decision, the most important consideration will likely be about the combinations on the court. Lin’s attacking style on pick-and-roll suits Dwight Howard well. He pushed the break extremely well last season – helping make the Rockets the second-fastest offense in the league – but has seemed even better on the run this season. It can, however, be extremely valuable to have Beverley’s ball pressure on opposing point guards from the tip. And as the better scorer, Lin would have to defer less often off the bench. The other consideration that could come into play might be Lin’s potential as a backup shooting guard. Even if he came off the bench, he could play 24 to 36 minutes if he added that to his point guard duties and be an option to finish games whether he starts them or not.

  • Nakia Hogan of The Times-Picayune: There are few questions as to whether Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis, the No. 1 overall pick in last year's NBA draft, has elevated his game. The numbers speak volumes. After having moderate success in his first three preseason games last season, posting averages of 14 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and shooting 43.5 percent from the field and 53.3 percent from the free throw line, Davis' statistics through the first three preseason games dwarf those of his rookie season. So far this preseason, Davis is averaging a team-high 25 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks while shooting 52.7 from the field and 89.4 percent from the free throw line.

  • Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post: Turnarounds are usually accompanied by tall tales. Struggle one season, but flourish the next? Odds are the reasons for the turnaround come with a large dose of intrigue. Unless you're JaVale McGee. His success 10 days into Nuggets training camp has been a complete turnaround from last season, but there is no elaborate explanation. There's been no epiphany. McGee said there's been no drastic alteration in how he goes about his work. It's all as simple to him as basic math — opportunity plus positivity equals productivity. "It's not really a different mind-set," McGee said. "It's just no preconceived notions of what I'm supposed to be or what (new Nuggets coach Brian Shaw) wants me to be. So it's definitely all positivity coming into training camp. He sees everybody is working hard and we are all getting the same opportunity."

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: The Magic will honor Tracy McGrady at center court during the team's regular-season home opener on Nov. 1, and McGrady also will do some color commentary on Fox Sports Florida's broadcast. McGrady played four seasons for the Magic. He averaged 32.1 points per game during the 2002-03 season and 28.0 points per game during the 2003-04 season, winning the NBA scoring title in both seasons. The team is honoring McGrady as part of its ongoing 25th anniversary celebration.

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: The NBA uses the preseason to spread its brand internationally with teams playing in South America, Asia and Europe this fall. The Kings' opponent Thursday night, the Los Angeles Lakers, will play two games in China next week. And it's only natural to wonder when the Kings might play in India, considering principal owner Vivek Ranadive has stated he wants to make center DeMarcus Cousins a superstar in India, Ranadive's birthplace. Coach Michael Malone would not be surprised to see the Kings play in India in the coming years. "(Ranadive has) said many, many times he wants to be a global brand," Malone said. "With his background in India, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Sacramento Kings playing a game there in the foreseeable future. It's an untapped market."

  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: Truth is, this China trip is going to be a monster. About 12 hours on a plane, into a time zone 15 hours ahead. When they get there, they'll have appearances and community events, in addition to practice and two games against the Los Angeles Lakers. "We're not kidding anybody," Warriors forward David Lee said. "This is not going to be the easiest trip for us." With that said, why is Lee excited? Why was there a spirited buzz after Warriors practice, their last on American soil for at least the next 10 days? The answer is in the opportunity this China trip presents. The middle-of-training-camp trip to Asia affords the Warriors a chance to bond as a team. With potentially seven new players on the roster, Golden State is a month into its latest chemistry project. The hope is to recreate the magic of last season.