Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer: Not Lance Stephenson. Let’s start there, shall we? If the Charlotte Hornets don’t get Gordon Hayward – and it looks like they won’t – they don’t need to blow in the ear of Stephenson and whisper sweet nothings to get him to Charlotte. Charlotte has a lot of money to spend, and throwing as much as humanly possible at Hayward is a good gamble. Hayward isn’t going to tug on LeBron James’ cape, as Stephenson has done repeatedly (flashing the “choke” sign after a missed LBJ free throw, blowing in James’ ear during the playoffs, calling James’ trash talk “a sign of weakness,” and on and on and on). ... The Hornets have got to do something to replace Josh McRoberts, to sign a veteran point guard to back up Kemba Walker and to figure out how to get some more outside shooting. There are a lot of options out there. Lance Stephenson should not be one of them.
Mike Wise of The Washington Post: Personally, I thought he had all he wanted in Miami, and if Riles could just tweak the roster and acquire genuine all-around players rather than specialists, the Heat would have at least three more title runs left But if he or his people felt slighted by the man in charge, well, divas do what divas do when they don’t get their way; they seek refuge in people who give them their way. Either way, let’s get this over. Now. It’s not just that the storm has passed here or that ESPN’s Josina Anderson probably does not want to stay up all night in front of Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena waiting for her next live hit. The longer this LeBron-a-thon goes, the worse it looks for a player who owes no team or town anything other than a phone call before he tells the nation he is leaving his current home. If he learned anything from 2010, it’s that breakups are less painful when everyone involved knows exactly where they stand. Somebody is going to be crestfallen. Some team will not get the final rose. The least he could do is let the runner-up know before we do.
Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: One certainty is that the Rockets will wait as long as possible before announcing whether they will match the offer. That would tie the Mavericks’ hands in executing any Plan B scenarios until at least Sunday evening. And if the Rockets do match the offer? It wouldn’t be the first time the Mavericks have gone down this road. They signed restricted free agent Marcin Gortat in 2009 to an offer sheet and, despite already having Howard at center, the Orlando Magic matched the deal. In 2002, Michael Redd was a RFA target, but the Mavericks’ offer sheet was matched by the Milwaukee Bucks. Not all restricted free agents stay put. But the majority do. So it would behoove the Mavericks to have alternatives at the ready. “We’ve got a lot of grease boards in that office up there with lots of different scenarios,” Nelson said. “I can’t tell you which scenario is going to pan out, but one of them is going to pan out. We will have a small forward with the Mavericks next year. Guaranteed.” It just might not be Parsons, in spite of the Mavericks’ best efforts. If that’s the case, then Plan B goes into effect and Pierce, Ariza and Luol Deng come into play.
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Carmelo Anthony’s agonizing extended into another day. Despite reports Anthony would make his return to the Knicks official on Thursday, the Bulls still hadn’t been notified of the All-Star forward’s intentions as the first full day of allowed signings passed. A source said the Bulls continued efforts to find a third team to make potential sign-and-trade possibilities work if Anthony were to have a change of heart and leave the Knicks. Otherwise, not much changed: The Bulls believe they made a strong impression on Anthony during their in-person pitch July 1 in Chicago.
Marc Berman of the New York Post: A source told The Post new Knicks point guard Jose Calderon also has texted his countryman/friend Gasol several times about joining him in New York. “Pau knows Jose wants him on the team," the source said. The Post reported one reason Anthony is close to re-signing is having a shot at the 34-year-old Gasol, who then could recruit his brother, Marc Gasol. The Memphis center is a free agent in 2015 when the Knicks should have plenty of cap space. Pau, however, would have to take less to play in New York for Jackson, his former coach, and for rookie coach Derek Fisher, Gasol’s former teammate.
A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com: There are still a couple of i's in need of dotting and t's crossed before Avery Bradley's return to the Boston Celtics becomes official. Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, said the 6-foot-2 guard's new deal with the Green team still has some "final details" to be worked out. But Ainge makes it clear that it should not be confused with there being a snag that would prevent the deal, reportedly a four-year, $32 million contract, from being consummated soon. "Avery's a big part of our future," Ainge said. "We have very intention of getting something done with him in the next day or two; just working out the final details."
Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Follow the money. Avery Bradley agreed to re-sign with Boston for $32 million over four years. Kyle Lowry will remain with Toronto for $48 million over four years. Chandler Parsons received a near max offer from Dallas. Gordon Hayward got a max offer from Charlotte. One look at the coin players are commanding on the free-agent market this summer should be enough to send a scare through all of Oklahoma. It’s proof that Thunder guard Reggie Jackson won’t come cheap. Jackson, of course, is now eligible for a contract extension. If the two sides don’t agree on a deal before the Oct. 31 deadline, Jackson will become a restricted free agent next summer. The Thunder would then have the opportunity to match any offer Jackson receives from another team. Good luck with that.
Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: Fun. That seems to be the word that best describes this bunch of players who make up the 76ers entrant in the Orlando Pro Summer League. The team plays with incredible speed, led by diminutive guard Casper Ware, who may be securing himself a spot in the league with his play down here, averaging 19 points and close to five assists a game. They have been able to knock down three-pointers at a 37 percent clip, have blocked shots and possess two of the best leapers in this Summer League, in Nerlens Noel and Ronald Roberts. All eyes, of course, have been fixed on Noel - and he is the epitome of fun. Though his timing is a bit off on both ends of the floor -- understandably so as he hadn't played for about a year and a half - he has averaged 13.7 points, shot 52 percent from the floor, made 15 of his 19 free throws and blocked nine shots. He has battled through fatigue, a tweak of his left ankle and the rustiness that was expected. "I've definitely felt it," said Noel of the fatigue.
Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo did not play in the NBA Summer League before his rookie season, instead competing with Greece's Under-20 team in the European U-20 Championship. Now he's 2 inches taller and with a year of NBA experience tucked away as he makes his Vegas summer league debut on Friday when the Bucks play the Cleveland Cavaliers. "I want to come in and be more aggressive and get more experience," the 6-foot-11 Antetokounmpo said after the Bucks' practice session Thursday at the Thomas & Mack Center. What specifically does he want to work on? "I want to work in the set game, when we play in the half-court, figure out ways to score," he said. "For sure, in defense, to be in the right spots. It's different over here than in Europe. "For sure, my shot, my scoring ability, my skills." Antetokounmpo said he is eager to play with No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker and has seen enough already to know the Bucks have a future star.
Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: Jodie Meeks spent last season with the Lakers, turning an opportunity for minutes and shots into a career year, averaging 15.7 points for a team that desperately needed scoring. The Pistons gave him a three-year deal worth nearly $20 million. When his contract figures came to light early in free agency, many speculated the Pistons were playing the “Detroit tax,” considering it’s not Los Angeles or New York. But Van Gundy doesn’t believe they necessarily overpaid for a player who made $5.3 million total in his first five seasons. Van Gundy said the Pistons’ recent history, having missed the playoffs since the 2008-09 season, probably was more of a factor than any negative perceptions about the city or region. “It’s not a matter of where you are,” Van Gundy said. “Detroit’s a great place with great tradition. The problem is we’ve been down for five years. So I’m not gonna say overpay, but you have to be more aggressive. You don’t want to sit back waiting and everybody else is showing the same level of interest you are.”
Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune: When Exum first stepped on the court, he was blown away by the ovation he got from the crowd. And perhaps a little freaked out. Ten-thousand people at a summer scrimmage for a rookie used to playing in high school gyms? It was a lot to absorb. "When they started clapping for me, it kind of hit me a bit," he said. "It took me a bit to settle down." Not sure that Exum ever did. "My shots weren’t falling," he said. "But it was about getting my teammates involved." Exum missed an open jumper. He bricked a 3. He clanked a reverse layup off a drive. He squibbed a shot that hit nothing but air. He shook his head in disgust. Yeah, about that shot: "It’s something I’m going to have to work on," he said. Quin Snyder seemed unconcerned about the teenager’s accuracy, or lack thereof, mentioning how hard all the summer league guys have been working in practice, tearing down their legs. Instead, Snyder stressed the positives. "[Exum] sees things on the court," he said. "That’s something you can’t teach. … He’s got a feel for the game."