First Cup: Thursday

  • A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com: There are those who see the signing of Avery Bradley as a waste or too much money on a player who doesn't quite provide the sizzle many hope the Celtics will be able to have this summer. (note: It's been two days, folks! Two days of free agency!) Others believe the Celtics should go into Tankapalooza 2.0 and do everything they can to gut this roster, guarantee another trip to the NBA lottery, and maybe the basketball gods will reward them with the No. 1 overall pick even when such efforts around these parts in the past have turned up futile, every time. But the Boston Celtics didn't come to terms with Bradley just so he could help sell t-shirts with his name and face on them, or bring the TD Garden crowd to their feet the minute he enters the building. The Celtics are trying to put together a winning puzzle and Bradley is just another piece; a talented piece but just a piece nonetheless. ... The deal he has agreed to recognizes his proven track record as an elite defender and an emerging scoring threat, while recognizing the potential he has shown going forward to improve in those areas and others.

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: The Knicks have made Lakers coaching candidate Kurt Rambis a four-year offer of roughly $4.8 million to be rookie coach Derek Fisher’s top assistant, according to an NBA source. Rambis, a triangle guru and Lakers assistant last season, remains in the mix for the Lakers’ head-coaching vacancy and still is mulling a cross-country move to New York. The offer is close to what was billed as the largest assistant’s contract in NBA history, given by the Cavaliers to Tyronn Lue, who signed a four-year, $6.4 million pact.

  • Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Thus far, in three years the master plan to have financial flexibility under the NBA’s salary cap has resulted in one first-round playoff exit, no postseason at all, and an additional first-round series loss. The sports crime in all of this is that Cuban whiffed huge on his gamble to surround his meal ticket with top-tier players. Dirk Nowitzki is the best basketball thing to ever happen to Cuban, and his time as a prime player and in the NBA in general are fading quickly. The only way this can be undone is if Melo says yes to Cuban’s pitch, and then we can see if the plan could actually work. Right now, the idea of the plan looks silly. No one can say the Mavs don’t try and are not creative. But no one can say this plan is working, or is even plausible if the big fish continue to eat elsewhere. Cuban is entrenched with this plan and plans to continue to pitch it to the big fish. He is sure one of them will say yes. For the sake of every Mavs fan, and Dirk, hope he is right. Right now, Cuban looks like he is a contestant on his own TV show, and the sharks are devouring him.

  • Michael Hunt of the Journal Sentinel: The new Milwaukee Bucks coach avoided direct answers Wednesday like he once eluded defenders during a Hall of Fame playing career. Jason Kidd's dais manner was closer to Congressional-testimony evasive than happy-talk effusive about, say, Jabari Parker's place in the pick and roll. ... For now, I'll take them at their word that Kidd's awkward and troubling hiring was more about na├»ve mistakes than future intentions to meddle heavily in basketball operations, although it is difficult to believe that a couple of savvy businessmen didn't anticipate the story being leaked from Moscow to Brooklyn. They say they've learned their lesson and claim henceforth all basketball decisions will go through the GM's office. That, of course, may be subject to Kidd's vaulting ambitions. But that's the reality of professional sports, where professionalism doesn't always enter into the equation. Kidd is never going to win Mr. Nice Guy awards, but none of this matters if he is able to turn a young roster into winners. The Bucks haven't had this much creative tension since they hired George Karl, another big-name ambitious schemer who brought attention and success to the franchise by taking it to within a game of the 2001 NBA Finals.

  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: In the end this is what both sides wanted. The contract will include an early termination option (ETO) that will allow Lowry out after three years if things go sideways here, but either way he is being handsomely compensated. For the Raptors they get the guy they want without having to fork over the kind of five-year $60-million figure their Eastern Conference rival Washington Wizards did to retain Marcin Gortat. Lowry will be 32 when this contract ends assuming he doesn’t exercise the ETO. He won’t be in his prime anymore but it’s hard to believe his skills will have diminished much by then. Raptors GM Masai Ujiri had one must-do on his summer work list. Lowry was it. Now it’s just a matter of surrounding him and DeRozan and Valanciunas with a strong supporting cast and see where they take things.

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: While Oklahoma City is thought to be the front-runner followed by several other suitors, free agent forward/center Pau Gasol is pondering life in San Antonio after the Spurs reached out to the multi-skilled Spaniard in the early hours of free agency. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein described Gasol as giving the Spurs “legit consideration” despite the massive pay cut he’d have to take to join the defending champions. Jeff McDonald of the Express-News confirmed Gasol’s interest, but characterized initial conversations as exploratory.

  • Derek Wetmore of 1500ESPN.com: The celebrity softball game at Target Field will have one fewer participant but immeasurably less awkwardness. The Twins on Wednesday announced a revised lineup for the game. Kevin Love is no longer scheduled to appear in the game. The Wolves are entertaining trade offers for Love, who will more than likely opt out of his contract next summer. The popular belief is that the Wolves must trade him before they lose him for nothing. Love, who by now could have put out the fires of rampant trade speculation, instead has fanned the flames. Although Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders contends it's possible Love starts the season with the Wolves, it appears outwardly to be a virtual lock that the superstar will not remain with the Wolves beyond this season.

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: There is a compromise. Monroe and the Pistons could agree on a two- or three-year deal with a player option for the final season. Under such a scenario, he would give it his best and if things are still trending downward, he can hit the open market at age 26. The Pistons are in a holding pattern until the matter is resolved. There won’t be any decisions made on Smith’s future until they know Monroe’s address next season. But the ball is in Monroe’s court.

  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: Officially, the Bulls still have several weeks to decide if they want to invoke the amnesty provision for Carlos Boozer. But they don’t need it. A source said Wednesday that Boozer’s departure is a “done deal,” adding that Boozer’s camp already has been informed. There haven’t been any takers on a sign-and-trade for Boozer, and the Bulls also want the money to go in a different direction, whether Carmelo Anthony is in the mix or not. Under the amnesty provision, Boozer still will be paid the $16.8 million he’s due next season, but it won’t count against the salary cap.

  • Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post: In league circles, Denver's name is mud. Or worse, it's viewed as next to Sacramento at the dead end of the league road. Nothing against coach Brian Shaw or Connelly, but the Nuggets need a better basketball recruiter. I've got the man for the job: Chauncey Billups. At age 37, Billups is reluctant to hang up his sneakers, but his playing career is over. And what a career it was: 17 seasons, 15,802 points, NBA Finals MVP, five times named to the All-Star Game. If you ask me, Billups belongs in the Hall of Fame. And now it is time to bring the King of Park Hill home. The Nuggets should make Billups an offer he can't refuse to become the team's assistant general manager if Connelly wants to begin painting the team in a better light. ... Billups owns a great basketball mind. He has the desire and the ability to build a champion as an executive. What better place for Billups to do so than his hometown?

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: The Cleveland Cavaliers might be the first team to make a bid in the Gordon Hayward Sweepstakes. Or maybe the won't. Or maybe they will. But not yet. Then again? Whew. Keeping up with this free-agency drama? Here's what is certain: Hayward met in Cleveland with Cavaliers' management on Wednesday. Things get a bit less certain after that, though.

  • Nakia Hogan of The Times-Picayune: NBA veteran Josh Howard will be among the players participating on the New Orleans Pelicans summer league team, the team announced Wednesday afternoon. Howard, a 34-year-old former Dallas Mavericks standout small forward, will join group that also includes rookie guard Russ Smith, a second-round pick who was obtained in a trade last week with the Philadelphia 76ers, and holdovers Jeff Withey, Luke Babbitt and James Southerland. Howard, 6 feet 7, played 11 seasons in the NBA and made the All-Star team in 2007. He averaged 14.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in his NBA career. He spent last season in the NBADL.