First Cup: Wednesday

  • Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle: "It is all-out rumor season in the NBA. Today is the first day free agents can sign contracts for the upcoming season. This afternoon, the Rockets will introduce their newest acquisition, Trevor Ariza, one of the NBA's top 10 free agents. Unless he changes his mind and signs with another team, that is. It could happen. After all, the King, LeBron James, and the Big Poacher, Shaquille O'Neal, reportedly called Ariza to try to talk him into dropping the Rockets to sign with Cleveland. Word is, what they said didn't work. But who knows? It's that time of the year. I got a tweet from a guy who knows a girl who is a relative of an NBA forward the Rockets would love to have. The guy who knows the girl said the girl related to the forward said the forward she is related to said the Rockets called to see if he were interested in being a Rocket. If you can't keep up, he basically tweeted what she said he said they said. (If you don't know what a tweet is, don't feel bad.) A bad rumor, it wasn't true. Do you hear the Timex Social Club playing in the background? For NBA front-office types, the rumors mean more work. It can be important work. 'I admit it: We have to chase those rumors down too,' Rockets vice president of basketball operations Sam Hinkie said. 'Rumors are just rumors, and the news isn't as reliable these days with it coming from everywhere, so some things stand out. But we wouldn't be doing our jobs if we didn't look into what is out there. It's just one of the new costs of doing business. It's not like I spend my day chasing rumors.' "

  • Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: "Nickname was 'The Answer' back before that became a question. At age 34, he is no long-term solution for the Heat or any other NBA team. But here, at least, he might just be something worthy of a new nickname. Allen Iverson: 'The Gesture.' Miami signing the free agent Iverson, and the interest is mutual, could be the pacifier that serves to mollify superstar Dwyane Wade, who has gone public -- though tactfully -- with his displeasure over his team being passive so far this summer while Eastern Conference rivals are making moves to get better. Heat architect Pat Riley's focus has been on planning for the much-anticipated, bounteous free agent summer of 2010, which is fine except that standing pat now surrenders Miami to one more season of so-so. Of barely getting into the playoffs and quickly getting out of them. ... For the Heat, it has never stopped being about the one absolute priority: keeping Wade. That starts with keeping Wade happy. And if signing Iverson is part of The Answer there, well, do it"

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "While the Mavericks tried Tuesday to iron out details of a trade for Shawn Marion that still looks shaky at best, Jerry Stackhouse faced the reality that if this isn't the deal that sends him into free agency, it isn't far away. He's come to grips with the idea that his time with the Mavericks is done. He had four solid seasons and one that was forgettable after last season was wrecked by a foot injury that kept him off the court. So what now? Stackhouse said he's looking on the bright side of things. Whenever he's traded, the team that gets him will buy out his contract before Aug. 10. Stackhouse will pocket $2 million and search for a new team. The waiting is the hardest part. 'I would hope to have things sorted out sooner rather than later, but I understand deals can take some time,' Stackhouse said. And each day Stackhouse remains tied to the Mavericks is another day he can't begin the process of landing with another team. And he has some preferences. 'I would love to end up back East at this point of my career, but haven't ruled out possibly playing with a Western Conference contender,' he said."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "A tanned Carmelo Anthony strode into the Gold Crown Field House on Tuesday, a beneficiary of the sun in Malaga, Spain, where he hosted the World of Basket Camp last week. He hopes he soon will be the beneficiary of a Nuggets roster improvement as well. 'You know what you have to do and what you need and what you think you need to get over that hump,' Anthony said. 'I'm pretty sure the front office is talking about that, looking at that right now. And hopefully they can make some good decisions over the next couple of weeks.' It started Tuesday night when center-forward Chris Andersen agreed to re-sign with the Nuggets. Today is the first full day NBA free agents can sign, and Andersen was the team's biggest target ... Anthony is bullish on the Nuggets, even if they stick to re-signing their players. 'We were there with the team that we had,' he said of the Nuggets reaching the Western Conference finals. 'So I feel confident about what we can do and what we can accomplish next season.' "

  • A. Sherrod Blakely of Mlive.com: "John Kuester, 54, struggled in his head-coaching stint at George Washington in the late 1980s. He since has worked diligently on several NBA benches for some of the game's top coaches, including Hall of Famer Larry Brown. He is better equipped to be a head coach now than he was 20 years ago. That still might not be good enough to keep a job in Detroit beyond a couple seasons. But things are different now. The economic woes most NBA teams are experiencing make it vital to make prudent decisions when it comes to hiring coaches. So it only makes sense that Dumars, while still wanting to win at the highest level possible, shows greater patience now than he has in the past. Because if Detroit is staring at another head coaching search in a year or two, that might not be the only position it is looking to replace."

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "With only a few contractual details left to be worked out, Rasheed Wallace is expected to officially become a Celtic either today or tomorrow, when a tentative press conference has been scheduled to introduce the former Piston and Blazer. Some in the league are unmoved. 'I still like us,' Vince Carter, the newest member of the Magic, said yesterday while watching the Celtics summer league team lose, 85-82, to the Orlando entry. Others are more forthcoming. As one general manager who was interested in Wallace can attest, the Celtics just raised the bar to an Olympic level in what has become a torrid Eastern Conference arms race."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "You know that prediction I made that the Charlotte Bobcats would make the playoffs next season? I might need a mulligan on that one. Most anyone in the know in the NBA would endorse the reasoning that if you're not getting better, you must be getting worse. In the face of what the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors are doing, the Bobcats got worse the past few weeks. The Raptors and Wizards both finished behind the Bobcats last season -- the Raptors with two fewer victories, the Wizards with 16 less. Since then, the W
    izards effectively exchanged the fifth pick for veterans Mike Miller and Randy Foye and the Raptors came to terms with Orlando free agent forward Hedo Turkoglu. Meanwhile, the Bobcats have done nothing to address that lack of depth at power forward. Think the Raptors and Wizards are still looking up at the Bobcats? Me, neither."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "The Washington Wizards knew that the tax man likely was coming to collect next year, but now they have a better idea of how much they'll pay after the NBA announced both the salary cap and the luxury tax level for 2009-10 late Tuesday night. The salary cap will be $57.7 million and the luxury tax level will be $69.92 million next season, which is down from last season when the respective numbers were $58.68 million and $71.15 million. The cap declined for just the second time since it was instituted in 1984, although league-wide revenue increased 2.5 percent. The Wizards currently have a payroll of $75.8 million for 13 players and would owe roughly $6 million in luxury tax penalties. That tax penalty will likely increase if the Wizards add more players to their roster in free agency."

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: "In Indiana, and in many other parts of the NBA-watching world, it's the giant white elephant in the middle of the room. Is Pacers president Larry Bird specifically trying to build a team dominated by white players? It's an uncomfortable question to ask in these politically correct days, but how do you ignore a roster that includes Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, Josh McRoberts, Travis Diener, Jeff Foster and now, first-round pick Tyler Hansbrough? In a league where little more than 10 percent of the players are white Americans, the Pacers roster is racially split down the middle, making them one of the whitest teams in the league. 'I don't see race at all,' Bird said recently. 'I know a lot of it comes out of the brawl (in 2004 at Detroit), people think Indiana has to get all white guys, but I don't buy any of that. I played in Boston, where it didn't matter who came in or who left, it was who helped us win. (Late Celtics coach and architect) Red (Auerbach) never saw color. And I don't, either. I just pick them. If we hadn't taken Tyler Hansbrough, it would have been Ty Lawson. And if I could have gotten another pick (later in the first round), I would have taken Sam Young or Wayne Ellington.' "

  • Scott Cacciola of The Commercial Appeal: "Last summer, before the start of his senior season at Pittsburgh, Sam Young lugged an air mattress and some sheets across campus to the Petersen Events Center, where the team practices and plays games. He walked to a back corner of the locker room and inflated his bed. Young lived there for a month, the idea being that he could work out whenever he so chose. Foul shots after breakfast? Laps for lunch? Outside jumpers before dinner? It was the sort of monastic lifestyle that suited Young, who described basketball as his 'love' and his girlfriend as his 'mistress.' And she knows that,' he added last week. Young, a 24-year-old forward, was the Grizzlies' third and final pick in last month's NBA Draft, but perhaps the most intriguing. A third-team All-American at Pitt, where he ranks fourth on the all-time scoring list, Young has long been known for his work ethic and his determination. At 6-6 and 210 pounds, he plays basketball in a minor key, all angst and controlled rage, motivated by those who had underestimated him, written him off, ignored him."