First Cup: Monday

  • William C. Rhoden of The New York Times: Four years ago, LeBron James set a new tone for free agency when he left Cleveland, using his leverage to determine where he would play and with whom. His move to Miami showed how valuable he was not just to his team but to an entire region, with Cleveland’s economy seeming to take a hit. Anthony should keep that in mind and not accept a nickel less than he feels he is worth. Athletes are conditioned early on to feel grateful to be on the team. The reality is that their schools, and, later, their franchises, depend on the athletes to have a program. Athletes are the show. If the Knicks ask Anthony to take a pay cut, or when Pat Riley appeals to James’s sense of loyalty, the Clippers’ pending sale should be a glowing reminder to say no. In an often coldblooded industry focused on the bottom line, players still invariably lead with their hearts, often to their detriment. The new rules of engagement should be, simply, money first.

  • Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News: Pat Riley called adding a Carmelo Anthony-type max-salary player to the Heat "a pipe dream," and so far during free agency the Heat president has been proven correct. Marvin Williams, formerly with the Hawks and Jazz and considered a third-tier free agent, is the latest player to be recruited by the Heat, which on Sunday was still waiting to get a commitment from LeBron James. But James, in turn, is waiting to see what Riley gets in the free-agent market before he reups for perhaps only one more season. And so far, it can’t be very encouraging for the four-time MVP. The Heat hasn’t added anyone, although Miami has gone after Kyle Lowry, Luol Deng, Marcin Gortat, Pau Gasol and Trevor Ariza. If Riley doesn’t get moving, James just might start looking at teams that have already visited his agent, Rich Paul, in Cleveland. Those teams include the Lakers, Suns and Cavaliers. As they’ve found out in Miami, the Heat simply doesn’t have the cap space to be able to afford big-name talent, so it’s been busy talking to the likes of Williams, who was drafted No. 2 overall by Atlanta in 2005.

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: LeBron James' future in South Florida is expected to be decided this week in a face-to-face meeting with Miami Heat President Pat Riley. A source close to the situation told the Sun Sentinel late Sunday night, "there is an in-person meeting being scheduled for next two, three days."Confirmation of the meeting came amid a wild flurry of media reports that ranged from the Cleveland Cavaliers surpassing the Heat as the free-agency front-runner for James, to the Cavaliers working to create salary-cap space to accommodate James, to fellow Heat free-agent teammate Chris Bosh being poised to a move to the Houston Rockets amid the James uncertainty, to ESPN speculation of Carmelo Anthony replacing Bosh alongside James with the Heat. The most-recent wave of conjecture began hours after agent Henry Thomas, who represents Bosh and Heat free-agent guard Dwyane Wade, told the Sun Sentinel that previous speculation about his clients had been wildly off-base. While James has maintained a low-key presence since Tuesday's start of free agency, Riley has been scouring the free-agent market for players to bolster James' supporting cast, including recent meetings with Pau Gasol, Trevor Ariza, Luol Deng and Marvin Williams.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: The news of Ben Gordon’s impending signing has shocked some fans and analysts who think the Magic will overpay for a player who didn’t crack the Bobcats’ rotation during the 2013-14 season. Charlotte released Gordon shortly after the trade deadline after he had appeared in just 19 games. “I just want to be successful like any other basketball player,” Gordon said. “Whether people are happy with what I do or not, I can’t really control that. But I’ve just got my goals that I want to live up to and as long as I prove that to myself, then I’ll be satisfied.” But Orlando is far under the projected salary floor of $56,880,000 for the 2014-15 season. Teams that finish the season below the floor must pay a surcharge for the amount they are under the floor, and the money collected from that surcharge is distributed to the players on the roster. After the draft-day trade of shooting guard Arron Afflalo, the team’s best scorer and long-range shooter, as well as the decision to waive point guard Jameer Nelson, the Magic desperately need someone who can contribute on offense. Team officials will not comment about Gordon, but it’s believed they view Gordon as a low-risk signing because the second year of Gordon’s contract won’t become guaranteed until July 1, 2015. Gordon should have a lot to prove with the Magic.

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: This is known: As of Sunday evening, the Bulls hadn't been informed of any decision from Carmelo Anthony. And unlike some who are living and dying with each speculative twist and turn to this saga, Bulls management merely methodically kept working on contingency plans to improve whether or not Anthony comes. Some of those have been documented. The Bulls met with Pau Gasol, who turned 34 Sunday, on Thursday in Los Angeles. They have begun preliminary negotiations with Nikola Mirotic, their 2011 draft-day acquisition who is now more likely to join the Bulls this season than next. And they kept dialogue open with representatives for a multitude of small forwards should they fail to land Anthony. The Bulls have touched base with agents for Chandler Parsons, Paul Pierce, Shawn Marion, Luol Deng and Trevor Ariza, among others.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: As has been the case since well before free agency recruiting began, the Rockets’ chance at Chris Bosh could be triggered by LeBron James leaving Miami. While that has seemed more likely than a week ago, he too has no meetings scheduled, other than a sit down this week with Heat president Pat Riley reported by USA Today in which Riley could give a roster-building progress report. Those potential twists came after a weekend of reports that Anthony was choosing between the Lakers and Knicks, Anthony and Kobe Bryant reportedly stopped by UCLA for some pickup ball. Though it turned out they were never there at the same time, or with Kevin Love as some Tweets suggested, the tale quickly went viral, as if Anthony needed to see Bryant in action as he had Derrick Rose in Chicago. Things were odder earlier in the day when Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert’s plane was tracked heading to South Florida, moving him to announce that he was relaxing happily in his backyard. Still, strange as it has been, if Anthony does choose to take his talents to Westwood or keep them on Broadway, the Rockets would happily go through the whole thing again with James or Bosh, if either was so inclined

  • A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com: As the Boston Celtics summer league players took to the court to start practice on Sunday, James Young remained a spectator on the sideline. And it may stay that way for the rest of summer league. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said he expects to get more information on Young's status on Monday. "I don't know if he'll play this week," Stevens said. "From everything I know, it's from unlikely to probably not tomorrow (against the Indiana Pacers), and then from there we have another day off and we'll see about later in the week." Young, selected by Boston with the No. 17 pick in the June 26 NBA draft, was involved in a car accident a couple weeks prior to draft which resulted in him canceling a handful of workouts for teams that included the Boston Celtics. Since arriving in Boston, the 19-year-old guard/forward has been limited to non-contact work such as riding a stationary bike and some light shooting.

  • John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News: Saturday's action was just 26 minutes of hopefully thousands of minutes that the 20-year-old Noel will log in a long NBA career, just one game of hopefully the hundreds he will play at a high level for the Sixers. There were glimpses of why the Sixers felt it was worth the risk when they traded a young All-Star point guard for the high-ceiling potential of an injured young big man. Noel's amazing athleticism and quickness for a player his size are obvious. The injury does not appear to have taken anything away. "No mental blocks," Noel said. "It's been 18 months out. I haven't been thinking about the knee for many months now. I'm definitely going to continue to get it strong, as strong as possible, and continue working. I was nervous at the beginning, but I seemed to play a little better when I'm anxious. [The dunk] definitely helped the jitters and set the tone for the game. It's very validating. I'm real happy, but I can't get too happy because it's a long road ahead of me." Breaking down Noel's positives and negatives will be an ongoing process that is just starting this week in Orlando. Still, if a first impression is what you are looking for, the competitive fire that appears to rage within Noel is a perfect start.

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is playing the part of “Mr. July,” hoping it’ll translate into November. The second-year guard scored 30 and grabbed 12 rebounds in the Pistons’ 85-82 win Sunday over the Memphis Grizzlies. Before a pass made its way to Caldwell-Pope in the right corner, Peyton Siva could be heard saying, “Bang, bang!,” signaling the ensuing triple. Siva, who played another heady game with 12 points, seven assists and five rebounds in 28 minutes, was already backpedaling downcourt. Considering Caldwell-Pope began the game with a rare six-point trip, where he was fouled on a triple make, grabbed the rebound off his missed free-throw and hit another three, it’s not surprising to see everyone having supreme confidence in a player who had a disappointing rookie season.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Steven Adams could return to Oklahoma City with a new weapon. A back-to-the basket game. The Thunder has spent the first two days of the Orlando Pro Summer League running a ton of offense through the post, and Adams, the second-year center, got ample chances to go to work from the low block Sunday. Adams finished with 12 points on 4-for-5 shooting, showing off a pretty jump hook with his right hand on one possession and another nifty finish with his left later. “That’s something that we want to add to Steven’s game,” said Thunder assistant and summer league coach Darko Rajakovic. “He’s a great defender, a great rim protector. But we want to have more possessions and more touches for Steven in the low post. That’s what he needs to work on and continue to develop to add to his game."

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: League sources said Saturday that restricted free agent P.J. Tucker of the Phoenix Suns, a one-time Raptor, has caught Toronto’s interest. Tucker made less than $1 million last season and the Suns might match any offer he gets but Phoenix is also chasing the big game of this year’s free agent crop and has bigger issues to deal with. Whatever happens, the mastery of what Ujiri has done is that he hasn’t put in jeopardy a chance a year from now to make some significant noise on the free agent market. The salary cap machinations of Friday’s trade of Steve Novak to the Utah Jazz for the waivable Diante Garrett should leave Ujiri with the ability to offer a maximum value contract to a free agent year from now, even with a potential Vasquez signing. And if Ujiri’s short history in Toronto has shown anything, it’s that any addition he makes now will come on a team-favourable short-term contract that won’t limit that summer of 2015 cap flexibility.