First Cup: Thursday

  • Ramona Shelburne of the Los Angeles Daily News: "There is only so long a guy can be someone else's right-hand man. So many times he can receive pay raises or be mentioned as a possible successor. Sit in that chair too long and you become a career assistant coach, which is fine for some guys, but not for the likes of Kurt Rambis, who has had 'future head coach' written all over him since before he even traded in his Clark Kent-glasses for a clipboard. Rambis' hiring wasn't just a case of an assistant coach being tired of waiting. It was a case of a guy waiting for the right opportunity and jumping on it. Although he was often mentioned as a possible successor to Phil Jackson, if and when the Lakers coach retires, there was never any guarantee he'd get the job. That should not be taken to mean that the team ever discreetly let Rambis know they had another plan. Actually, Lakers insiders continue to insist that there's no succession plan in place because so much of that decision depends on how much longer Jackson coaches and which players are still on the team. Even so, it's obvious whoever gets that call will have a tough act to follow. ... Like Rambis, it's clear Brian Shaw will make a fine head coach someday and would like to move in that direction eventually. He is smart, well-liked, and seems to have the respect of the Lakers most important player, Kobe Bryant. But also like Rambis, Shaw has been given no guarantees. Right now, and until he no longer wants to be, Phil Jackson is the Lakers coach. There is no so-called 'coach-in-waiting,' merely one less talented assistant coach waiting for his shot."

  • Alex Kennedy of RealGM.com: "After Hedo Turkoglu backed out of a verbal agreement with Portland in order to sign with the Raptors, many felt the Blazers let a top player slip away. But Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith didn't agree. In a conversation with Blazers' general manager Kevin Pritchard, Smith told Pritchard that he had 'caught a break' with Turkoglu signing elsewhere and made it clear the Blazers 'weren't missing out on anything.' Smith didn't feel that Turkoglu was worth the five-year, $50 million Portland was ready to spend. Turkoglu spent five seasons in Orlando before signing with Toronto."

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "Reason No. 9,817 why the Internet can be evil. Dwight Howard wants to be a movie star and now he is being treated like one. And that's not always a good thing. Just like many Hollywood celebs, Howard -- or at least Howard's representatives -- apparently have had to work to get what they say is a fake nude photograph of the Orlando Magic center taken off of a popular urban website. ... Dwight, who is currently shooting a movie in New Jersey, better get used to this tabloid journalism and invasion of privacy (see ESPN's Erin Andrews and Twilight star Ashley Green). He's not just the Magic's center anymore; he's a sports and entertainment celebrity who is starting to run with the Hollywood crowd. Sadly, the more famous he becomes, the more he will have to deal with these sort of stories -- whether they are true or not."

  • John Schuhmann of NBA.com: "So they're back at the bottom -- familiar territory for long-time Nets fans -- and looking toward next summer when they can start climbing back to the top, as they did in the first few years after Jason Kidd arrived. Many doubt the Nets' ability to attract high-caliber free agents next summer. They're losing a lot of money at the Izod Center. Their proposed move to Brooklyn is seemingly forever in doubt. If they don't get the go-ahead on the Brooklyn move, the franchise's future will be in a serious state of uncertainty. They need to break ground by Dec. 31 in order to sell tax-exempt bonds for the project (or have the budget go up considerably), and with an eminent domain hearing on Oct. 14 holding things up, it will be a tight squeeze at best. If they can't get to Brooklyn, no one knows where the Nets will end up and how that will affect their spending next summer when they have all that cap space. Even if free agents aren't willing to spend a year or two in New Jersey, though, there are other ways to bring in more talent. Kiki Vandeweghe is quick to bring up the possibility of using cap space to acquire players via trade. For now, the Nets play a waiting game, both with Brooklyn and with their roster. While they wait, they're preaching patience and a focus on improving from within."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Bruce Bowen is gone, waived for $2 million in savings. Fabrico Oberto never really landed with the Bucks, instead being sent to Detroit as part of the three-team deal which resulted in veteran Richard Jefferson joining the San Antonio Spurs. Now Oberto has signed with the Washington Wizards after being released by the Pistons. But what about Kurt Thomas, the veteran forward-center and the third San Antonio player involved in the trade? The 6-foot-9, 240-pound Thomas is part of the Bucks' plans for the coming season, an experienced pro who can help the young talent the team has acquired. General manager John Hammond sees Thomas as a player who can provide support at both the power forward and center positions, helping to back up center Andrew Bogut and the Bucks' young trio of power forwards -- Hakim Warrick, Amir Johnson and Ersan Ilyasova. 'The question is how many minutes can he play,' Hammond said. 'You don't want to wear him out. ... He's a pro's pro. The fact is he's a guy you can have on the floor to finish games. He can step up to make the big shot, and he knows how to defend on the interior. His rebounding numbers are excellent.' "

  • Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press: "Bringing back Ben Wallace is like eating your favorite meal from when you were a kid. It won't be as good as you remember. There might be moments when you feel a little nauseated. But as long as you know that going in, it will be worth it. Wallace will be 35 next month. He will be making the veteran's minimum salary on a one-year deal, so there is no financial risk for the Pistons. They don't expect the Ben Wallace from 2004. As long as Wallace also remembers this isn't 2004, I don't see a real downside here. He can grab a few rebounds and maybe help instill a defensive mind-set to a team that badly needs it. And he can quickly restore his long-term status as one of this city's all-time favorite athletes, instead of needing several years after retirement to repair the relationship. The Pistons ostensibly signed Wallace to back up Kwame Brown, but I already can hear Pistons PA announcer John Mason doing the pregame introduction: 'Aaaaaaaaaat center ... Kwame Brown?!?!?' I suspect newly acquired Chris Wilcox will be the starting center before long. Wallace's role should be limited: 5 to 20 minutes per night, depending on matchups and his energy level."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Fabricio Oberto is coming off a season in which he averaged 2.6 points and 2.6 rebounds. His season began ominously, when he missed the first two games because of an arrhythmia called atrial fibrillation. He routinely missed a game or two throughout the season as doctors monitored him, and claimed that medication he took to treat his condition made him 'dizzy when I was playing.' After another incident in March, Oberto decided to have an ablation, a non-invasive procedure to serve as a permanent treatment. Andrea Natale performed the procedure in Austin, and Oberto said he doesn't expect to have any problem going back to rugged ways on the basketball court. He is also excited about joining the Wizards, whose doctors cleared him this week. 'I mean, it's like a new era for me,' said Oberto, 34. 'We have a great, great team. We got to put our goal from the beginning to be in the playoffs and be a very dangerous team.' "

  • Mark Hamblett of New York Law Journal: "The National Basketball Association can be considered a victim for purposes of restitution in a gambling scandal involving one of its referees, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. James Battista, who conspired with referee Timothy Donaghy to get information on games for betting purposes, claimed he should not be liable for restitution because the league could not be considered a victim under the Victim and Witness Protection Act of 1982. But the 2nd Circuit said the NBA was ' 'directly and proximately harmed' by Battista committing the crime of conspiracy to transmit wagering information' and that restitution was properly imposed under the act in United States v. Battista, 08-3750-cr. Donaghy had worked as an NBA referee for more than 12 years when in December 2006 he began feeding 'picks' on games to Battista and co-conspirator Thomas Martino."