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First Cup: Friday

  • Michael Wallace of The Miami Herald: "In the end, Lamar Odom made the smart decision. He turned his back on a second stint with the Heat. There certainly is no shame in taking a more lucrative offer to return to the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. The Heat was a long-shot at the beginning to get Odom and, essentially, was so at the end. The Heat certainly made this all interesting. But the Lakers made it obvious. Odom, according to published reports, accepted the Lakers' four-year, $33 million offer on Thursday. In the process, he walked away from a potential reunion with the Heat, which had offered him up to $34 million over five seasons, with the chance to opt out early. In the end, are you really surprised? I'm not. The Heat did all it could - offered every dime it had available under league rules - to go after Odom. Guard Dwyane Wade turned Twitter into his own personal recruiting message board for Odom's services. But this is what you get when you've essentially got $15 to $20 million of unproductive salary-cap weight on the roster from previous bad deals and failed gambles. There's not much wiggle room."

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "Charlie Bell has a few words for those who question the Pistons for signing forward Charlie Villanueva. Bell, a standout at Michigan State who plays for the Milwaukee Bucks, thinks his former teammate is just scratching the surface of his talents. 'He can do a lot of things,' Bell said Wednesday after his round in the pro-am at the Buick Open. 'I think he really doesn't realize yet. 'He can put the ball on the floor. He can shoot it. He's a great athlete. Once he puts it together, knows when to score, when to put it on the floor and how to make his teammates better, he'll really be a great player.' And that's what the Pistons are counting on."

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "Ramon Sessions could receive a contract offer from the Knicks as early as Friday, assuming they don't have a change of heart and shift their point-guard focus to Allen Iverson. Mike D'Antoni is said to favor Sessions, a restricted free agent who enjoyed a breakout season for Milwaukee last year. However, Iverson could be a cheaper alternative because the perennial All-Star is willing to accept a one-year contract that would cost the Knicks their $5.85 million mid-level exception. Sessions, 23, is hoping to receive a multi-year contract starting with the mid-level exception. The Bucks would have seven days to match the offer. According to a team source, Knicks president Donnie Walsh and Iverson's agent, Leon Rose, met two weeks ago to discuss the possibility of Iverson joining the Knicks. Iverson had a subpar year last season with Detroit and desperately wants to salvage his career. ... The Knicks would sign Iverson only if D'Antoni endorsed the move. Iverson, 34, has a history of clashing with head coaches, which would obviously concern D'Antoni. However, there is also a feeling that Iverson will thrive in D'Antoni's free-flowing offense."

  • Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun: "There was a nice present for Jay Triano when he came back to the office this week --new building blocks. And with Italian swingman Marco Belinelli topping the set after general manager Bryan Colangelo completed the trade with the Golden State Warriors yesterday, there is potential for seven new faces at training camp, with an outside chance that shooting guard Carlos Delfino comes back, too. Coach Triano, who was forced to over-tax those such as rookie point guard Roko Ukic last year, suddenly is awash in new players who bring experience, physicality, utility and attitude adjustment to a team that lost its way in 2008-09. 'Depth was one of our issues,' Triano said yesterday. 'We had a lot of money tied up in Jermaine O'Neal. When (Colangelo) made that trade, he addressed that we're going to have cap space to bring new players. We've been able to keep the core with Jose Calderon, Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani and we've built around that. Antoine Wright, Jarrett Jack, Reggie Evans and Rasho Nesterovic (the 7-foot free agent centre re-signed as expected yesterday) are guys who are going to make the (starters) work hard every day. If they don't, they're going to get embarrassed.' "

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Orlando Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy peppers his sentences with adjectives such as 'incredible,' 'great' and 'tremendous' when he discusses the moves General Manager Otis Smith has made this free-agency period. In an exclusive interview with the Orlando Sentinel on Thursday, Van Gundy said the additions of power forward Brandon Bass and wing player Matt Barnes, as well as the decision to re-sign backup center Marcin Gortat, will provide plenty of lineup options once the season arrives. 'Otis has done a tremendous job, I think, not only in signing good players but really getting pieces that have a very good chance of fitting together well,' Van Gundy said. 'I think that we've got several very versatile guys. I think we've got about every situation covered. I don't think that there's really any kind of lineup that we can't play.' "

  • Jeff Rabjohns of The Indianapolis Star: "The more Solomon Jones talked about defense, the more he smiled. Leaning forward in a chair in the media room at Conseco Fieldhouse, the Indiana Pacers' most recent addition described himself as someone who relishes playing defense with an edge. 'Why not?' the 6-10 forward said Thursday after signing a two-year contract. 'I think defense sparks other things. We get out there and have that edge and get things going, that brings momentum on the offensive end. Defending is fun to do. Once you're stopping people and blocking shots and getting steals, it makes the game fun.' Jones is the Pacers' third offseason acquisition known primarily for defense, joining guards Dahntay Jones and Earl Watson."

  • John DeShazier of The Times-Picayune: "It wasn't mainly about money, because the New Orleans Hornets didn't have much of it to offer. Security didn't much factor in, either. Ike Diogu as much as said he got a one-year deal from the Hornets, and that he'll be on the free-agent market again next season. Time is what Diogu was after, and what the Hornets offered. Because time, more than anything else, is what it really boils down to. Any athlete worth his jersey wants to play, wants to feel like he's a part of what's happening, wants to feel like he has contributed to the success and had some control over his fate. So we remain unsure if Diogu actually is a legitimate NBA player, but we know for certain that he's convinced he is, and we're going to have a chance to find out. Because finally, he's going to get the time and opportunity to prove it. 'I haven't really
    had too many opportunities with the previous teams I've been with,' Diogu said, and that's saying a little something, because he has been with four. 'So I'm just really excited to show everybody that I belong in the league, and that I was worthy of being taken ninth overall (by Golden State) in 2005. It's not a logjam at the big-man position (in New Orleans). They do have big men, but there's not six big men down low like it was in Portland (last season). That was one of (the Hornets') needs; they said they wanted to add more depth in the frontcourt.' "

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel: "How do you escape a free-agency whirlwind that has your team uncertain about its roster for the coming season? You head half a world away. As a bonus, the trip is part of an emotional homecoming. The NBA's first Asian-American head coach, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has spent the past week in his mother's homeland, the Philippines, a country he had not visited since he was three. The experience, Spoelstra said today, has been overwhelming. 'I certainly have a great deal of pride about my heritage and it's been a very special week,' said Spoelstra, 38, who is about to begin his second season as Heat coach. 'I've been able to reconnect with a lot of family members over here, some of them who I've had good relationships already with in the States, when they lived there, and some that I haven't seen since I was three years old. It's been an incredible experience. I've had the unique upbringing. Obviously, I grew up with an American influence, but also been able to grow up with the Filipino influence. And to be able to come here, 6,000 miles away, and really see and feel that sense of being a Filipino is a special feeling.' "

  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Some NBA players sponsor youth basketball teams. The Orlando Magic's Jameer Nelson is taking it a step further. The Chester native and former star at St. Joseph's promotes basketball and academics, responsibility, social consciousness, and pride in the community. To give back to his community, the NBA all-star has created and sponsors the Chester-based Team Nelson AAU program. In its first season, the program has featured two teams: for those 13 and under, and those 14 and under. The players formerly competed for the Chester-area programs Youth Interlock and Educated Athletes. 'I just think that it's needed,' Nelson said of his program. 'I'm not able to help out every kid. But the ones I have in my program I am able to help out.' "

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "Nuggets guard J.R. Smith is out of jail and keeping a low profile -- at least in the media -- until training camp starts in the fall. Smith was released from Monmouth County (N.J.) jail on July 24, six days earlier than expected. According to his original sentence, Smith would have been released from jail either late Thursday night or today. He was incarcerated late June 30 after pleading guilty to reckless driving in connection with a 2007 car crash that killed his best friend, Andre Bell. Smith was originally sentenced to 90 days in jail, but 60 were suspended. He is also required to do 500 hours of community service."