First Cup: Tuesday

  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: "Pau Gasol broke his left middle finger while practicing with the Spanish national team in Seville and underwent surgery Monday, Lakers spokesman John Black said. It's unknown how long Gasol might be sidelined. Black received the news of the power forward/center's injury via a telephone call from Gasol's Spain-based agent, Arturo Ortega. A Spanish Web site reported Gasol hurt his left index finger while trying to block teammate Felipe Reyes' shot and was taken to a local hospital."

  • Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "One last thing, regarding another Joe (as in Johnson). I'll admit to being perplexed at all the rancor over whether or not it's prudent to explore contract extension talks with JJ's camp. Why wouldn't the Hawks want to lock up their best player for at least four more years (and that's all the Hawks can offer since Johnson has a year remaining on his current deal, per league rules)? A four-year deal in the $62-$64 million neighborhood (that's an extension from what he makes now with the proper annual raises) makes plenty of sense to me. The question is how much sense does it make to JJ's camp as they weigh the millions you can touch now with the potential millions that might (or might not) be available next summer, when he'd be an unrestricted free agent? I know some of you are vehemently (I love that word) opposed to the idea of '4 More Years' with Joe in office. I just don't understand why. We're talking about a three-time All-Star that would still be in his NBA prime at the end of the deal. And if the fears of a potential lockout two years from now are realized, I'd much rather have the core of my team locked up going into the summer of 2011 as opposed to fishing around for players with so much uncertainty surrounding the league."

  • Dan Duggan of the Boston Herald: "Shelden Williams failed to live up to expectations in Atlanta and he was dealt to Sacramento midway through his second season. Williams then was traded to Minnesota for 15 games last season before becoming a free agent. Looking for a fresh start, Williams decided to bring his game to the Celtics, signing a one-year contract for the veteran's minimum worth $1.3 million. 'The interest has been there for a while now,' said Williams. 'They've had a strong interest going back to my senior year when I was coming out in the draft. Also, with the tradition here and being in an atmosphere like this, versus the teams I've been on in the league, is something different and I think it'll be a good opportunity.' Celtics general manager Danny Ainge believes Williams can produce if given the opportunity. 'We think that Shelden is a good young player that hasn't really had much of a chance,' Ainge said. 'He's a real pro. He works extremely hard. He's worked hard this summer. He faced some adversity early in his career and he's responded in the right way by training and working really hard.' "

  • Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman: "Nick Collison is back in Seattle this summer, and he's been having a virtual lovefest over his off-season home on the social networking site. There have been tweets about the weather and the activities, the sites and the sounds, the beauty and the grandeur. If you didn't know better, you'd think he was cashing checks from the King County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Sure, the folks in the Thunder front office love it, too. That one of the team's veterans is talking up the city that fought the franchise tooth and nail can't be all that popular. But before anyone gets any crazy ideas -- Twitter bans have become all the rage in the sports world, after all -- the Thunder's top brass needs to remember one thing. Collison's right. Seattle is a great place. Truth be told, it's one of the best American cities. It has culture, character and charm. Seattle isn't as big or as glitzy as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or Miami, but none of them are less than two hours from the beach and the mountains. ... Collison is a cerebral dude with a dry sense of humor, and on Twitter, that personality comes through. It is evident. It is real. We don't always get to see that from professional athletes. Twitter might reveal a side of some athletes that we'd rather not see, but in Collison's case, I don't like him less for raving about Seattle's ambiance and complaining about Oklahoma City's heat. I like him more."

  • Jamie Samuelsen for the Detroit Free Press: "So what is Ben Wallace now and why is he here? Is he expected to be a mentor to the younger players? I hadn't noticed that the young players need lessons in how to plunge the knife in their coaches back. Ben is an expert at that. Maybe the youngsters need tutoring on how to complain when they don't get the ball, even though they have no offensive skills (the kids have skills, Ben doesn't). Or maybe it's important at a young age for NBA players to grow a massive chip on their shoulders that's so big that it can't be eroded by thousands of fawning fans and a franchise that paid Big Ben handsomely and promoted him prominently. Maybe the Pistons view this as a public relations move. With the team in a rebuilding mode and expected to struggle again this year, maybe the front office thinks that this will be a way to sell tickets. But I don't. Do you really think that fans will flock to the Palace to watch a shell of a former player grab four or five rebounds a night, commit four fouls and then yell at his coach when he's taken out of the game. Ben WAS a very good player. And the Pistons marketed him brilliantly. He was a key player in winning a title and he benefited from it greatly. But that was five years ago. This feels desperate on both sides. And I predict it will end quietly or badly. I don't see any way that it ends well."

  • Fred Kerber of the New York Post: "There is encouragement -- but call it tempered encouragement -- about Yi Jianlian being a dominant force for the Chinese National Team. The encouragement is that Yi is dominant. 'He never has been the big scorer or the big rebounder for them, so that is encouraging,' Rod Thorn said. The tempered part? He's doing it against the United Arab Emirates and other international powerhouses that would finish, like, 17th in the NBDL. 'True, they're not playing the toughest competition,' Thorn acknowledged. 'But we are getting good reports.' "

  • Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News: "It isn't really accurate to say Royal Ivey is returning to the 76ers, because he never really left. Oh, Ivey opted out of the second leg of the contract he signed in 2008 and became an unrestricted free agent, mostly in search of a little more money. Agent Keith Glass said he 'talked to some teams,' but that Ivey becoming a free agent wasn't really about
    a desire to leave the Sixers. 'We're very, very happy to be back in Philadelphia,' Glass said yesterday, after Ivey passed his physical examination and signed a new contract. 'When we opted out, it wasn't a reflection on the Sixers, it was a belief that Royal is worth more than the minimum, and that's been born out.' Glass would not divulge specifics about Ivey's new contract, but a source familiar with the situation said it was for 1 year, worth slightly more than the $959,111 veterans' minimum."

  • Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "As much of an impression as he made in summer league with the Jazz, Josh Duncan has opted to play in Belgium this season rather than trying to make the roster in Utah out of training camp. Duncan's agent, Lance Young, said Monday that the former Xavier forward has signed to play for Belgacom Liege, which offered guaranteed money not available to Duncan in the NBA. ... Duncan, who played last season for Pau Orthez in France, averaged 11.4 points and shot better than 70 percent in five games with the Jazz at last month's summer league in Orlando, Fla. There was too much uncertainty, though, for Duncan to turn down Europe, Young said. Many NBA teams are expected to carry the minimum 13 players due to the economy and the Jazz's roster is in flux pending a potential Carlos Boozer trade. At the same time, Young estimated 80 to 90 percent of the spots available to players in Europe have been taken, forcing Duncan to commit now rather than waiting to see what materialized in the NBA."

  • Bill Bradley of The Sacramento Bee: "When the Kings were preparing to retire the numbers of Vlade Divac and Chris Webber last season, some fans said they was undeserving of the honor because neither had won a championship in Sacramento. If that's the crucial factor, then I have one jersey the Maloofs should hang from the Arco Arena rafters: Yolando Griffith's No. 33. Griffith retired last week from an 11-year WNBA career. She spent nine seasons with the Monarchs before playing the past two seasons with Seattle and Indiana. She will best be known as the center who helped to lead the Monarchs to eight playoff berths, two finals appearances and one league championship in 2005."