First Cup: Friday

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "Just as the Celtics watched with interest as their intimate enemies made key additions, so now must those adversaries contemplate a world where Doc Rivers can reach onto his bench and produce a multi-faceted big man. 'I think when Kevin was traded here two years ago, it put the NBA on notice,' said Ray Allen. 'A lot of people sat back and they automatically pushed us to the top. They were a little afraid of us, and I think the same thing has happened now that we've added Rasheed to our roster. Sometimes not doing something is doing something. Sometimes you do something and it hurts your team. So it had to be the right something. I knew when Rasheed was available that it was the ultimate do something that we needed to do.' The Celtics had to come up big if they hope to make it out of the East. They could not hope to negotiate a peaceful settlement when all around them plowshares are being turned into swords."

  • Kevin Sherrington of The Dallas Morning News: "Unlike the NFL and Major League Baseball, where clubs must build from within and add pieces as needed to put them over the top, the NBA is an instant makeover kind of league. As Danny Ainge showed with the Celtics, age isn't always a negative. And as Mark Cuban hopes to prove, not every piece you add has to be a Hall of Famer, either. The Mavericks already had a couple of those in Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki. They simply need better help to fill in around them, and fast. The window, as they say, is closing on both. In fact, Kidd will need a pretty good nudge just to squeeze through. The additions of Marion and Marcin Gortat should help Kidd's cause immensely."

  • Bruce Arthur of the National Post: "Remember when Bryan Colangelo could do no wrong? Remember the honeymoon? Remember when he arrived in Toronto to become the general manager of the Toronto Raptors, fresh off creating some indelible teams in Phoenix, and promised to save the franchise from men like Rob Babcock, Glen Grunwald and Isiah Thomas? For the last year and a half or so, Colangelo hit a run of bad luck, of bad calls, and the euphoria of his arrival melted away. Andrea Bargnani, his No. 1 overall pick, went backwards in his second season. His trade for Jermaine O'Neal, a risk from the start, went sour. His addition of Jason Kapono, his belief in Joey Graham, and his backtracking team - two first-round losses, and one 33-win mess - all conspired to dirty his famous high collars and to wrinkle his forehead. But after an audacious, creative and - to these eyes, at least - successful off-season, Colangelo has rediscovered the halo from those early days. He's back."

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "Lean back. Close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths.And keep saying to yourself over and over again: 'In Otis we trust ... In Otis we trust ... In Otis we trust.' Seriously, hasn't Magic GM Otis Smith, after putting together the greatest team in franchise history, earned your confidence for a couple of years? Or, at the very least, for a couple of weeks? Instead, here we are in the first few days of free agency, and Smith is being loudly lambasted by the message board malcontents and radio rabble rousers. ... I'm not here today telling you Smith is above being second-guessed; I'm just saying he deserves at least a modicum of patience after what he and the Magic have accomplished in recent seasons."

  • Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: "Kevin Pritchard didn't look worse for wear Thursday. Maybe the Zen meditation recommended by Phil Jackson worked wonders, but Portland's GM doesn't need an escort to steer him away from the nearest bridge. Don't be concerned with reports of disharmony because the contract extensions with Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge haven't gotten done yet. Almost always, those things take a little time. The Blazers weren't going to start with their best offer. If the sticking point with Roy is a fifth year of guaranteed maximum money, the sides aren't that far apart. As for Aldridge, the five-year, $50-million extension those rascal Raptors bestowed on Andrea Bargnani ups the ante for the Blazers, for sure. But Portland won't have to give a max deal to Aldridge, who fully understands that. 'Brandon and LaMarcus are absolutely critical to what we're doing forward, and they're going to be here a long time,' Pritchard assured the media. 'We're having amicable talks with their agents. We all value Brandon and LaMarcus so much, we'll do everything we can to come to a solution. Whether it's this week or next week, I don't know, but it's so important to us and to them.' "

  • Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News: "With the Pistons, it's never about any particular coach for any discernible length of time. Oh, John Kuester seems like a bright guy with solid credentials, although he hasn't been an NBA head coach, which gives me pause. I could be snippy and make some joke like, 'How soon before Kuester is tossed on his keister?' but that would be missing the point. The point is, the coach doesn't matter to the Pistons, or at least doesn't matter nearly as much as the guy in the big office, the one who deflects and attracts attention at the same time. Genial, savvy Joe Dumars is the man who matters more than ever now, more than any player (including good, expensive newcomers Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva), more than any coach. Dumars is the focus, and not just because he introduced his sixth coach in a nine-year span Thursday. Dumars has made it clear he values players more than coaches, and in the NBA, that's not a bad philosophy. Let's be straight on this: What Dumars has done since 2000, reviving the franchise, winning a title and reaching six straight Eastern Conference finals, is remarkable. Anyone who thinks otherwise either has a narrow perspective or isn't being honest."

  • Mike McGraw of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald: "An NBA insider suggested Thursday that trade rumors tend to follow a familiar cycle: Once it becomes public, that usually means the deal is starting to fizzle. The Bulls have discussed a bold three-way deal that would bring Utah power forward Carlos Boozer in a trade and still save enough salary-cap room to make a run at Dwyane Wade or another free agent next summer. One version that has been discussed, according to a source, would send Tyrus Thomas to Utah for Boozer, then Kirk Hinrich and Tim Thomas to Portland for Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw. Blake and Outlaw both have one year remaining on their contracts. Whether this trade still has any life is anyone's guess, but there appears to be advantages for all teams involved. Since the Trail Blazers have the cap room to absorb some of Hinrich's $9.5 million salary, Utah could trade Boozer for Tyrus Thomas straight up and knock $8 million off its payroll for next season."

  • Patrick McMana
    mon of the Akron Beacon-Journal:
    "Fifty million dollars is a lot of money for anything, really ... tomatoes, pretzels, basketball players, you name it. But as often happens with professional sports contracts, $50 million is not really all that. It's funny money. It's $50 million only if Varejao plays six years with the Cavs and hits every incentive in the deal, including becoming America's Next Top Chef. So scratch most of the incentives. The deal actually averages $7 million per year, and only a portion of the final year of the contract is guaranteed. Which puts the contract at five years for somewhere around $37 million or $38 million, with a team option for a sixth. That's still a lot of tomatoes, but it's not $50 million. That number is one an agent can throw out to impress his peers and other clients. Does five years for $37 million sound better for Varejao? Yes. Is Varejao worth $7 million per year? The more important question is whether he's worth a five- or six-year deal. I'd have preferred four. But sometimes in negotiations sides have to give. The upside of this is that maybe this indicates the Cavs feel confident that LeBron James will stay in Cleveland. One of the benefits of Varejao is that he plays so well off James."

  • Tom Sorensen of The Charlotte Observer: "I'd love to see the Bobcats sign Allen Iverson. He wouldn't start, of course. That's the problem. How does coach Larry Brown convince Iverson, who eight seasons ago was the league MVP and helped lead Brown's Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA Finals, he no longer is good enough to start? For the Bobcats? The elite are reluctant to acknowledge when their talents have eroded. They lose credibility and quickness, and their teams lose games. Yet when they look in the mirror, they see a superstar. How can the world not see it? Maybe Bobcats managing partner Michael Jordan could explain the phenomenon."

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "The past two weeks have been a dizzying one for the Spurs' front office, which has spared no expense in seeking to rebuild the team after April's first-round playoff flameout against Dallas.On June 23, the Spurs pulled the trigger on a trade with Milwaukee, swapping aging veterans Bruce Bowen, Fabricio Oberto and Kurt Thomas for 29-year-old scoring swingman Richard Jefferson -- and footing the $29.2 million remaining on his contract. Two days later, DeJuan Blair, a consensus All-American forward from Pittsburgh, fell to them in the second round of the draft. Then on Wednesday, the Spurs landed free-agent big man Antonio McDyess, the former All-Star from Detroit. The team expects to officially sign him to a three-year deal worth a guaranteed $15 million before week's end. In a flash of a fortnight, the Spurs have gone from an aging team on the verge of inconsequence to a reinvigorated team again in the thick of the NBA title conversation."

  • Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review-Journal: "Adam Morrison is back in the summer league, probably the last place he thought he'd be as he prepares for his fourth season in the NBA. But the former Gonzaga standout finds himself at a career crossroads. The Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA title with little contribution from Morrison. He's scheduled to make $5.2 million for the 2009-10 season and is still trying to fully recover from a torn knee ligament suffered in October 2007. The time for Morrison to prove he can play -- and contribute significantly -- is now. After the coming season, nothing is guaranteed. 'I think (about it) a little bit,' Morrison said. 'Having not played much last year, I have to see if I can fit in. I don't think I'm starting over necessarily. I still have confidence in myself. My knee feels pretty good right now, and I'm as close to 100 percent as I can get.' The 6-foot-8-inch Morrison will be the most recognizable player on the Lakers team that faces Toronto at 5 p.m. today in Cox Pavilion as the summer league's sixth year in Las Vegas gets under way."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "It's show time in Las Vegas for the young Milwaukee Bucks players, starting Friday night. Brandon Jennings, the Bucks' first-round draft pick and dynamic point guard, will get his chance to impress in the NBA Summer League. So will second-year forwards Joe Alexander and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who already have been tested during the regular season. Shooting guard Salim Stoudamire will try to begin his comeback from an injury that sidelined him all of last season. And 6-foot-9 power forward Amir Johnson will get some playing time, too, agreeing to make the trip after a conversation with coach Scott Skiles. Johnson is eligible to play in Las Vegas even though he has been in the league for four seasons. 'Any chance he can get to absorb part of our system is beneficial to him,' Skiles said. 'He's picking up the concepts and things we're doing, so it will be good to get out there and stretch his legs and play in a game.' "

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: "Julian Wright has been mistake-prone and slow to adjust to Coach Byron Scott's demands the past two seasons, but he appears driven to improve this upcoming season. When the Hornets begin play this fall, Wright said he wants to be counted on to average at least eight points and four rebounds per game -- both of which would be career-highs. Instead of waiting for training camp, Wright wants to make an impact as a member on the Hornets' summer league team. Starting Sunday against the Spurs, the Hornets will play a five-game schedule that will extend for nine days in Las Vegas. Joining Wright on the team are first-round draft pick Darren Collison and second-round selection Marcus Thornton. 'I want to be counted on in certain areas and provide certain stats,' Wright said. 'I want to be productive in terms of just playing aggressive. I can't be passive. I have to look for shots more.' "