First Cup: Thursday

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: Who knew this would be treated like Lance Stephenson blowing in LeBron James' ear? Or worse? The Miami Heat, especially James, tossed off Stephenson's buffoonery for what it was. But Duncan's words? James called it proof the Spurs don't like the Heat. Chris Bosh vowed to use it as added motivation. Duncan was asked about the Heat's response again Wednesday, the first day of NBA-mandated media availability sessions. He could scarcely voice his response while stifling laughter. “I don't know what I said that was so bad,” he said. “Everybody keeps talking about it. I said I wanted to win the Finals. We're back here now and I wanted to win. If they need to find fuel in that, so be it. I don't know what (James) was talking about but if he needs to find fuel in that, so be it. I don't have a problem with them individually or as a team. I respect what they've done. Unfortunately for them, we're here to try to win."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Dwyane Wade also bristled, albeit with a smile, when asked about how last year's Finals have become reduced to Ray Allen making or missing that 3-pointer from the right corner off a Bosh rebound. "We're thankful for, you know, Ray Allen making that shot," Wade said, "but there were so many other things that had to play right for us to win that game. So you need a little luck, both ways, even to be in The Finals. "We were recipient of luck in that moment, but we won the championship." Allen said he never looked at the 2013 championship as a singular moment, as his moment. "The end result, people think about the shot going in but," he said. "You know, me, personally, I think about everything that happens and I tell people that, you know, Chris Bosh getting the rebound was just as important as me making that shot. So many things had to happen. LeBron had to make a [3-pointer] previous to that. So many things had to happen." James said he sees the 2013 Finals, the Heat's second consecutive championship, only provided so much fuel for the Spurs.

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: Mark Jackson admitted on Wednesday that “everybody’s not made for New York City” in relation to working or coaching the Knicks. Jackson has not beencontacted by Knicks president Phil Jackson to interview for the team’s head coaching vacancy. Instead, the 11-time championship coach is targeting Oklahoma City guard Derek Fisher after Steve Kerr turned down the Knicks and accepted a job with Golden State. Fisher has neither a connection to New York or the Knicks other than playing for Jackson. Kerr was concerned about working for Garden Chairman James Dolan as well as moving from his family, which resides in San Diego. Fisher would have to uproot his family from Los Angeles if he accepts the Knicks job. On Sunday, Fisher admitted that his first impression of New York was not a good one. “It grew on me,” he said. ... Fisher is widely recognized as a smart and savvy veteran player who is adept at managing the locker room and dealing with the media. However, he’s never had to do that before as the star player on a team or as a head coach. He and Phil Jackson are expected to meet at some point this week.

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Joakim Noah’s honor calls for a $500,000 bonus. But thanks to the Jazz claiming rookie Erik Murphy off waivers, the Bulls, barring unknown contract incentives, avoided the luxury tax threshold by a mere $291,165. This means not only do the Bulls receive a payment from the taxed teams to the non-taxed teams, they also avoid a season counting toward the repeater tax. The Bulls, who paid the tax for the first time in franchise history after last season, traded Luol Deng to the Cavaliers in January and promptly waived Andrew Bynum. At that time, Bulls executive John Paxson said ownership assured management the luxury tax savings would be re-invested into personnel. The Bulls also saved about $300,000 when they traded first-round bust Marquis Teague to the Nets in January.

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: For Al Horford, the rehabilitation continues. Even in Italy. The Hawks center is participating in Basketball Without Borders this week in Rome. He works with young campers from all over Europe by day. He still finds time following activities to work toward a return from a torn right pectoral muscle that cost him most of last season. Horford has gotten a little help from his friends. Hawks assistant coach Darvin Ham is on the European trip and the two have been continuing to work together. Horford said he has no doubt he will be ready following season-ending surgery by training camp at the end of September. “I’ll be fine,” Horford told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from Rome Wednesday. “I’m very confident I’ll be good to go. It’s been a little longer recovery than I expected but there is no question that I will be ready to go by training camp.” Horford said he could not yet say how close he is to being 100 percent recovered. He has not begun contact work.

  • Vince Marotta of Arizona Sports: Entering free agency for the first time since 2009, Marion joined Burns and Gambo Wednesday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM and said he doesn't necessarily plan on retiring as a Maverick. "That's not what I said, I didn't say that," Marion stated. "I said that I didn't know where I was going to retire (in the league), because I can't dictate what's going to happen this summer, I can't control anything. If it happens, it happens, but what I said was I was going to retire (after the playing days are over) in the Dallas community." Marion, 36, appears to have some fuel left in the tank after averaging 10.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in 76 starts for the Mavericks last season. "I want to play a couple more years," he said, adding that his preference is to re-sign with Dallas, but he's open to other locales. "My ultimate goal is to win another championship, so it's wherever I feel is the best chance to win another championship."

  • Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press: Stan Van Gundy said the organization is trying to figure out the parameters of a contract with Monroe. Both sides have a certain number in mind, and Van Gundy said if you let Monroe get away because you had to spend a few dollars more than expected, “then how do you replace his contribution?” “It’s going to be a high number because Greg’s a very, very good player,” he said. Monroe averaged 15.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game and shot 49.7% from the field in 2013-14. Van Gundy said, within the next week to 10 days, the sides would meet again to continue the process with Bower now being involved. Van Gundy admitted the trio of Josh Smith, Drummond and Monroe could play together, but shouldn’t be on the floor for long stretches. In looking at film, Van Gundy came to the conclusion that the three spent too much time on the floor together.

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: The free-agent pool this summer is to be determined. It seems likely LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will opt out of their deals, which will instantly make them the biggest fish in the pond and long lines will form immediately to pursue them. The Mavericks won’t be at the head of those lines. But at least they won’t get laughed at for being in them. Beyond James and Anthony, Luol Deng, Marcin Gortat, Lance Stephenson, Kyle Lowry, Trevor Ariza, Greg Monroe and others are all players who could become difference-makers in the right situations. From the Mavericks’ perspective, the best thing about all those players is that they will be making their sales pitches from a position of more strength than they had the last two summers. Would they rather still be playing? Of course. But in this case, being on the sidelines has had some benefits.

  • Tom Moore of The Intelligencer: Michael Carter-Williams has heard the rumblings and insists they don’t faze him. Last week’s espn.com report claimed general manager Sam Hinkie and the Sixers have “bounced around” the possibility of trading Carter-Williams, the 2013-14 NBA Rookie of the Year, and are intrigued by 18-year-old Australian point guard Dante Exum, who is projected to go in the top five of the June 26 draft. Asked Wednesday if he’d be surprised if he’s dealt, Carter-Williams replied, “Nothing — I’ve heard rumors and everything like that. I’m not a big believer in rumors. If it was serious, I would’ve been contacted by somebody, so I’m not paying attention to it.” Carter-Williams said agent Jeff Schwartz hasn’t even bothered to check with Hinkie about it, though he agreed that Hinkie trading all-star point guard Jrue Holiday in June 2013 shows anything is possible.

  • Mike Wise of The Washington Post: An owner and general manager’s decision comes down to two questions: (1) Will our players buy in more with New Coach X than they will with Old Coach Y? and (2) Do we really envision our current coach ever raising the Larry O’Brien Trophy? In the case of Randy Wittman and the Washington Wizards, we’ll get to No. 2 in a moment. But majority owner Ted Leonsis and team President Ernie Grunfeld can feel good about their decision to give Wittman a reported three-year, $9 million extension because there is no doubt about No. 1. John Wall, Bradley Beal and their teammates were not going to listen to and respect Karl, Larry Brown, Pat Riley or even Phil Jackson any more tomorrow than they listen to and respect Wittman today. There was no better coach for this team, plain and simple.

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: Counting last year's six-day search, the Cavs average search for a new coach has been 29 days. This year, Brown was fired on May 12, 23 days ago. The team has interviewed at least five candidates through Monday -- Adrian Griffin, Tyronn Lue, Alvin Gentry, Vinny Del Negro and Lionel Hollins -- with a second round likely to follow with one or more of them and/or additional candidates. The team has not been commenting on the search process. But well-respected agent Steve Kauffman, who represents Griffin and Hollins, conducted a five-year study from 2008-13 and found that the average date to hire new coaches is June 13. ... So, be patient Cavs fans -- at least for another week or two.

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: The Hornets officially bring back Hugo as their mascot early Thursday morning when he’ll make a 7:30 a.m. rooftop appearance at Time Warner Cable Arena. The teal-and-purple bug will make several appearances around Charlotte Thursday, including a Hornets “tweet-up” at just past noon on the corner of Trade and Tryon.