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First Cup: Friday

  • Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle: "Trevor Ariza makes the Rockets younger, faster and better. He fits with the way Rick Adelman wants to play. Sometime next season, we're going to see Tracy McGrady, Carl Landry, Aaron Brooks and Ariza leading a fast break that will take your breath away. Finally, we're going to have an Adelman team that plays like an Adelman team. I'm so giddy about Ariza that I'm willing to forgive and forget with T-Mac. OK, so we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's take a deep breath and go one step at a time. Ariza is a first-rate defensive player, threw in almost 50 percent of his 3-pointers in the playoffs, and is still only 24. Yes, there's still that hole at center. Give Daryl Morey a couple more days to take care of that issue. Maybe you've heard Ariza wasn't Morey's first choice. You would be right about that. In fact, I'm guessing Morey took a flyer on Ariza, never figuring he had a chance to land him. Ariza told the Lakers and other teams it wasn't going to be about the money, but that's what people say. He apparently meant it, however; one source esti-mates he left $9 million on the table to join the Rockets."

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "Less than three weeks after the parade, the NBA champion Lakers have already met the biggest threat to their throne. Themselves. What are they thinking? What are they doing? They just won a title that would not have been possible without the strong defense and stunning shooting of a 24-year-old kid with a limitless ceiling. Yet they send the kid packing for an aging nut whose greatest hits have occurred on the heads of fans. They just won a title with a locker room bathed in the soothing light of unselfishness, teamwork and a quiet temerity. Yet they cut the power and added the darkest of moods, a guy who has made a career out of hoarding the ball, the attention, and the anger. Tell me again, why did they get rid of Trevor Ariza for Ron Artest?"

  • Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News: "All over Ohio, basketball fans are no doubt wracking their fertile minds, trying to come up with a new nickname for Shaquille O'Neal. Let me save everybody all the mental gymnastics. Just call the new Cav, the 'Big Delusional.' Arriving with the motto, "Win a Ring for the King,'' Shaq wasn't in Cleveland five minutes when he dropped the E-bomb on Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. It's always been about the dough for O'Neal and he didn't hide his desire to get two more years after this one. That would take him through his 40th birthday. 'I've been in it for 17 years but I've missed three years because of injury,' he said of his storied NBA career. 'If you do the math, I've still got three years left. You got that?' Hey Big Guy, how about winning some games first? Go help Cleveland win its first title in any sport since 1964 before you look to add to your bank account. Go do what you did for Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade before you start asking for another $70 million extension. Somewhere, Laker owner Jerry Buss must have shook his head and said, 'He hasn't changed a bit.' But this is what you sign on for when you take on Shaq."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "To a degree, an Allen Iverson-Heat marriage makes sense. For years, Pat Riley has run a last-chance saloon. But it's not going to happen the first week of free-agent negotiations. It's not going to happen at the July 8 start of the free-agent signing period. And it's not going to happen until after the July 12 window opens for Dwyane Wade to be eligible to sign an extension. Iverson makes sense because Iverson may not have many other options. But until the Knicks spend their mid-level exception, until Larry Brown gets an official rejection from Bobcats management, and until the remaining precious little cap space around the league is spent, Iverson doesn't have to move to Plan B. With the Heat already into the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax, anything paid to Iverson will be doubled on the books next season. So even with a $2 million contract, is he worth $4 million at this stage?"

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial Appeal: "This team is bringing in Randolph, sports fans. Three-year, schmee year. It's not like the Grizzlies could care much about image, either. The team of Shane Battier has morphed into the team of Z-Bo. So why should anyone be surprised that Allen Iverson contacted the Grizzlies about playing here next season? What other team was he going to call? The Detroit Pistons asked Iverson to stop showing up at the end of last year. The guy is not exactly in demand. He probably had some low moments, too. Wondering how he'd ever get another job. You can just imagine how it sounded on Iverson's end when his agent finally called with the breaking news. 'Yo, this is AI. Have I heard what? That some team is trading for Zach? What team would do that? The Grizzlies? Dang. Get them on the phone!' It makes sense, really, in the exact same way that trading for Randolph makes sense. Randolph puts up numbers; Iverson puts up bigger numbers. Randolph is a name; Iverson is an even bigger name."

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "His leg was bad, his finger was bad, his game was bad and his team was bad as the 2008-09 NBA season got away from the Raptors, the 27-year-old point guard a lightning rod for criticism. But he knew what they were saying and he concurred; he also knows it was an aberration, and as the days pass in Spain, the No. 1 task at hand is restoring some life to those legs, some explosiveness to the body, some peace to his mind. That is the single-minded goal of Jose Calderon this summer: Become the Calderon of old. He may not be one to play the 'everyone's-against-me-I'll-prove-them-wrong' card; he is simply supremely confident that given good health after a summer of work, that people will go back to lauding him as they were the season before last. 'It was not me, I knew it, I was like 50 per cent,' Calderon said in a telephone conversation from Spain yesterday. 'My numbers were good but I was not playing. And I knew it.' This summer has been dedicated to getting the hamstring that bothered him for half a season in perfect condition, to let the surgically repaired finger on his left (non-shooting) hand heal, to be sure when he comes back to North America in September, he's 100 per cent."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "Gerald Green spent last season in Dallas after signing a one-year contract. He played in 38 games and averaged 5.2 points in 9.9 minutes. Now, he's looking for his next chance. But Green knows his reputation for having great character is superseded in coaching and GM circles by the tag of him not being a hard worker. It's a label Green desperately wants to shed -- so much so that he's taken up boxing this summer as a form of conditioning to supplement the time he spends in the weight room and on the practice court. 'I always hear about how I'm
    a bust or I'm this or I'm that,' Green said. 'I just want to prove everybody wrong. I've just really been trying to control my own part by being in the gym and becoming a better player. The more work you put in the better you get because of it.' And Green insists he's learned much throughout his NBA odyssey, taking something from players and coaches each step of the way."

  • Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune: "One thing I thought I'd never see out of the Jazz is this: They could wind up with the highest -- or near the highest -- payroll in the NBA. Even though the Jazz in the past shouldn't be characterized as cheap, if you had asked me a decade ago which would come to them first, a championship or the league's biggest or near-biggest payroll, I would have, without hesitation, taken the title. Well. They are closer to the big-money trophy. The Jazz rank fourth on the NBA's payroll list, behind the Hornets, Lakers and Wizards. There is some inexactness, of course, because some individual salaries are estimates, and totals are fluid. Still the Jazz rolled in at over $73 million. And one of the most notable things about that number is it does not include a full roster of players. Most significantly, it doesn't include whatever it will take to re-sign Paul Millsap. Add that in, and the Jazz could find themselves at the head of the big-spenders club, or near it, if the Lakers, as expected, roll out some major bones to re-sign all their guys."

  • Pete Kerasotis of Florida Today: "You know this remarkable playoff run we just enjoyed from the Magic? The one that took us all the way the NBA Finals? Oklahoma City could've been enjoying it. Or Kansas City? Or Las Vegas? Or Anaheim? Or ... well, you get the idea. Had the city of Orlando not approved this new arena, then there would've been no Magic, nor the magic the team just produced this postseason. The franchise would've been long gone, and with it any of the excitement we just enjoyed. As for Orlando, it would've gone back to being a low-grade minor league city, going after alphabet soup football leagues and -- dare we say it? -- Mickey Mouse sporting ventures. You see, if this new arena, just a mile from Amway Arena, wasn't going up today, the Magic would've been gone many yesterdays ago. Without a new arena, the Magic in Orlando would've been old news. 'If this arena wasn't approved,' said Alex Martins, the franchise's chief operating officer, 'I don't believe ownership would've moved the team, but they likely would've sold the team.' Likely? Uh, more like definitely."