First Cup: Tuesday

  • Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer: "Despite the fact that Emeka Okafor has been more productive over his NBA career than Tyson Chandler, I've not been a huge Okafor fan for the past several years. I would argue that he never really improved since that standout rookie season. So I would say this is a worthwhile gamble for the Bobcats. On its face, it's not a good deal. But I think it ultimately will become one (and it certainly clears out a lot of salary space down the road). But there is one major caveat -- Chandler's health. The Bobcats' doctors better work him over in the pre-trade physical. Chandler would already have been traded to Oklahoma City this year except that he failed that physical because of a bad big toe. Let's put it this way: Chandler can be more of a difference-maker than Okafor, but only if he is healthy. Okafor hasn't missed a game in two seasons. Chandler missed 37 last season. To me, this trade provides evidence that coach Larry Brown got frustrated enough with Okafor that he just didn't feel like he could win with him in the middle."

  • Pierce Huff of The Times-Picayune: "This is at least the second time this offseason New Orleans has had discussions with another team about Chandler, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2001. Last month, league sources said the Hornets tried to deal Chandler to Cleveland, but the talks fell through when the Cavaliers traded for Shaquille O'Neal. Other than the Chandler-to-Cleveland talks and drafting UCLA guard Darren Collison and LSU guard Marcus Thornton, the offseason has been quiet for the Hornets. Former guard Jannero Pargo signed a one-year, $2 million deal with Chicago, and former forward Brandon Bass signed a four-year, $18 million deal with Orlando. Both players expressed interest in New Orleans before the free-agency signing period began July 8. Despite the Hornets' lack of activity, General Manager Jeff Bower has said consistently that the team was on the right track to upgrade its roster and keep pace with the top teams in the Western Conference."

  • Ramona Shelburne of the Los Angeles Daily News: "CBS 2's Jill Hill reported this afternoon that Odom will meet with Miami Heat president Pat Riley and superstar guard Dwyane Wade. Wade has been publicly campaigning for Odom to return to South Florida via his Twitter feed for weeks. As we mentioned a couple of nights ago, Riley has a home in L.A., so it wasn't clear if he was coming out West to meet with Odom or just to spend some time in his former haunts. I still believe, based on recent conversations I've had with people who haven't taken the vow of radio silence some of the principals in the negotiations have, that Odom will be back with L.A. The Miami gambit is merely his best leverage at getting the Lakers to sweeten their offer. But financially, he can still make the most with the Lakers."

  • Mark Wollemann of the Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Agent Bill Duffy emailed the Star Tribune to clarify comments he made in Sid Hartman's Sunday column. Here's what he said: 'I want to elaborate a little more extensively on comments related to me in a recent Sunday article in the Star Tribune. I meant no disparagement toward Ricky Rubio. He is inarguably an immensely talented young man with a very bright future. I do know that both his agent and the Timberwolves organization are working feverishly for a solution. Having been in similar situations before, I wish them nothing but success in their pursuits. Additionally, I have no real insight into the coaching selection process being conducted by the Timberwolves organization. I feel badly if any of my commentary takes away from work being conducted by all of the parties and if I have offended anyone involved.' "

  • Bruce Arthur of the National Post: "Life, obviously, changes a person. Priorities change as you grow older -- when you leave school, when you buy a house, when you have kids. You tend to get more risk-averse, more willing to compromise. And most of us stop reaching for the stars when it becomes clear we'll probably never get there. Steve Nash has apparently reached that stage in his basketball life. At 35, he could have played out his contract with the Phoenix Suns and explored free agency in 2010. He could have forced a trade to a potential contender. He could have held out for another chance at a championship. Instead, Nash signed a two-year contract extension with Phoenix, where contention is only a memory. The boy from Victoria, B. C. signed the deal because the money was good, sure -- a reported US$22-million over two years -- but mostly, he stayed in Phoenix because he likes the guys he plays with, and he likes the city, and he likes the staff, and he is comfortable there. In other words, he is still in the game, but not for a title. His priorities, it seems, have changed. 'You know, only one team wins a championship,' Nash said. 'I don't know if we're that good or not, but to be a part of a really great group of people, a group that I think can really grow and improve and win a lot of games, is exciting for me. And on top of that, I really love living in Phoenix and being a part of this community, and the fans have been fantastic to me.' "

  • Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "You were warned that things between the Hawks and Marvin Williams would drag out this summer. I wasn't joking. Nothing has changed. The sides remain on opposite sides of the restricted free agent street right now. I know that other outlets reported that the sides were "close” and all that, but it's just not true. The sides are talking. And they'll be back at it this week. Anyone that sees an end in sight has X-ray vision, because I wouldn't be surprised if things lasted deep into next month. Look back at the Hawks' dealings with many of their own players in the past (I know Mike Bibby and Zaza coming back as quickly as they did had you juiced but that was out of the ordinary for the Hawks). It usually takes time, especially for restricted free agents."

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "By now, Theo Ratliff is used to the drill. At various other points in his 14-season pro career, he has also done the turn-your-head-and-cough routine in Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Portland, Boston and Minnesota. The welcome-to-the-team physical has been roughly the same in each locale, as thorough as it is monotonous. 'Lots of checks and balances,' Ratliff said with a chuckle after his latest exam ended late Monday afternoon. Well-traveled and well-heeled, Ratliff arrives in San Antonio in search of the one significant bauble that has eluded him. A championship. Ratliff, the 6-foot-10 center who signed a one-year, veteran-minimum deal with the Spurs last week, did so because he believes the team gives him the best chance of putting an exclamation point on his long and winding career. 'Just to be in a position going into the season where you know you have a chance to be playing in that final game, that's something I haven't had in a long time,' sa
    id Ratliff, 36. 'That's more important than anything.' "

  • Ian Begley of the New York Daily News: "Starbury? How about Bizarre-bury? Stephon Marbury hosted a 24-hour Internet video chat on the Web site UStream.tv on Friday. At one point during the live video stream, Marbury starts crying in front of the camera. A shirtless Marbury sobs -- at times uncontrollably -- during the 5:26 video. He is consoled by someone in the background as the song "Lean on Me" by Kirk Franklin plays. It's unclear why Marbury grew so emotional in the video clip, later posted on YouTube. The former Knicks guard rambles and rants about many topics during the full Web chat, including addressing some of the lower points of his forgettable Knicks tenure. At one point, Marbury offers a mea culpa to Anucha Browne Sanders, who won a sexual harassment suit against Isiah Thomas and Madison Square Garden. 'Shout out to Anucha Browne Sanders,' a shirtless Marbury, wearing Celtics shorts and sharing his thoughts from an entertainment room in his L.A. pad, said during the chat. 'I'm sorry I called you a 'b.' You ain't supposed to call no woman a 'b.' I'm sorry about that. I was wrong.' "

  • Mike McGraw of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald: "Bulls forward Luol Deng made it official Monday: He will skip the European championships later this summer and concentrate on making a full recovery from the stress fracture that kept him sidelined for the final 29 games of last season. The decision was not a surprise, but it means Deng won't be able to continue his incredible run with Great Britain's national team. Britain had never made any kind of ripple in international basketball until Deng carried the squad through two years of qualifying and earned a spot in the 16-team EuroBasket tournament, which will be held in Poland beginning Sept. 7. Deng expressed his disappointment during a conference call Monday with reporters in England. 'The fracture of my leg was such a serious injury that I need all summer in order to go full speed and I'm not full speed yet, but I'm almost there,' Deng said. 'Right now, it's the right decision. Hopefully it will come out as a small sacrifice for my future with the Bulls and my future playing with GB.' "

  • Janis Carr of The Orange County Register: "When they signed up for the Derek Fisher Basketball Academy, most of the 170 young players figured they were going to get lessons on how to dribble a basketball. Perhaps they would even learn how to shoot a classic 3-pointer like camp's namesake. Little did the 170 kids know they would receive much more at Fisher's first basketball camp. Fisher, the Lakers' starting point guard, said what separates his camp from others is the fact he and his staff focus on teaching life skills as well as basketball skills. These kids are drilled in running the floor and their life. 'We're not babysitting form 8:30 to 3:30,' Fisher said. 'Our basketball camp hopefully is an extension of what parents are trying to teach their kids at home about having the right attitude in life, about putting in the maximum effort in the classroom and on the basketball court. It's about being a leader in the classroom and on the court. It's about being mentally tough in life on and off the court. About living your life based on their character and who they want to be. We hope those are all the things parents are teaching at home, so when you come in here, and your kids spend a week with us, we are building on a foundation that you're already laying.' "

  • Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times: "No reason to panic, Lakers fans. Whether free agent Lamar Odom stays in Los Angeles or leaves for the Miami Heat, Las Vegas bookmakers said Monday they don't anticipate anything that would drop the Lakers from their perch as preseason favorites to win the NBA championship -- again. 'Getting [forward Ron] Artest is better than losing Lamar,' said Jay Rood, director of the MGM/Mirage Race and Sports Book. The Lakers signed free agent Artest this month. 'The core of that team still is what it is, and as long as you keep Kobe [Bryant] and [Coach] Phil [Jackson], nothing changes.' At MGM/Mirage, the Lakers are an 8-5 favorite to win the NBA title, followed by the Boston Celtics, and recent addition Rasheed Wallace, at 3-1, and the Cleveland Cavaliers, with Shaquille O'Neal joining LeBron James, at nearly 4-1. The Orlando Magic are 13-2 and the San Antonio Spurs are 7-1. 'We didn't change anything when they got Artest, and if they lose Odom it'll just be a wash,' said Jay Kornegay, executive director of the Las Vegas Hilton's Race and Sports book, which has the Lakers as the 2-1 favorite over the 3-1 Cavaliers and 5-1 Celtics."

  • Bill Livingston of The Plain Dealer: "Before dismissing 'Shaq Vs.' as trash sport, consider the philosophical implications and entertainment possibilities of the new reality show, starring the new Cavalier. The show begins Aug. 18 on ABC. It pits Shaquille O'Neal against swimmer Michael Phelps, tennis star Serena Williams, baseball slugger Albert Pujols, boxer Oscar de la Hoya, beach volleyball's Misty May-Treanor and Karrie Walsh and the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger. The huge Cavs center will get a handicap in each sport. The all-around athlete fell out of favor in this country as parents with their eyes on college scholarships forced kids to specialize. But the athletic player who can adapt to different roles is becoming more important with the rise in football of run-pass threats at quarterback in the 'wildcat' formation and with the blurring of positions in basketball. The only danger, besides muscle pulls in areas of unfamiliar stress, is that the Shaqtathlon might force a 'Frazier Moment' on the Big Multifaceted. Former Cavs coach Mike Fratello thinks Shaq has a shot, depending on the handicap. 'If you watch his breakdancing, he's a very gifted athlete,' said Fratello, now a TNT basketball analyst."