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First Cup: Friday

  • Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star: For the bargain price of the veteran's minimum, Stuckey should become part of the shooting guard committee to help fill the vacuum left by Stephenson. "If they want me to come off the bench, then I'll do that. If they need me to start, I'll do that. It doesn't really matter. Whatever they need me to do, I'll do," Stuckey said. "I'm excited to have a fresh start. It's going to be good for me. ... I want to win. I'm going to come in and work hard. I'm going to earn everyone's respect. I'm going to earn my minutes and I'm just going to come in and just compete." If Stuckey sounds as eager as a job candidate sitting opposite of an HR manager, then maybe the last five years in Detroit can explain his pledges. Though Stuckey played in the Eastern Conference Finals his rookie year with the Pistons, then got swept by Cleveland in the first round the next season, he has not experienced the rush of the postseason since 2009. "As far as being in Detroit and playing, it's been tough," Stuckey said.

  • Steve Schrader of the Detroit Free Press: Does ESPN have a problem with the Pistons? Thursday on “Around the Horn,” talking about a possible trade of Josh Smith, Bob Ryan ripped the Pistons’ forward. “Has anybody out there ever seen him play?” Ryan said. “He plays as if that headband’s over his eyes half the time instead of on top of his head. He’s a useless player. He’s an overpaid, useless player.” When host Tony Reali kind of said lighten up, Ryan added: “Hey, allow me my hyperbole, OK? He’s a useless player.” That ought to help his trade value. But what about a new Piston, free-agent signee Caron Butler? “Unfortunately, RPM (Real Plus-Minus) sees him as a washed-up 34-year-old,” Tom Haberstroh wrote at ESPN.com.

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: Ever since LeBron James returned to Cleveland, talks have intensified for All-Star power forward Kevin Love. Rumors have surfaced that the Cavaliers wouldn’t include rookie swingman Andrew Wiggins inany possible deal for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ star. A league source said on July 17 that the Cavs are now willing to trade the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft. Wiggins, a 6-foot-8, 194-pounder, has played well at the Las Vegas Summer League, where he’s become a crowd favorite. The former Kansas star has averaged 13.7 points and 3.0 rebounds in the Cavs’ first three games. However, he’s shooting just 37.8 percent from the field. Up until this point, it was assumed the Cavs wanted to hang onto Wiggins, largely because of comments made by Coach David Blatt. However, a source said James wants the 6-10, 250-pound Love on the roster. And, what James wants, he normally gets. The thinking is that Wiggins is going to be a very good player, a possible All-Star player, in time.

  • Chris Fedor of The Plain Dealer: David Blatt and the Cavs have tried to ignore the outside noise and limit the questions about Wiggins' availability in a potential trade. But the inquiries will continue as long as Love is available. The first-year head coach had no choice but to address the speculation on Thursday night. "Rumors are rumors," Blatt said following the Cavs loss to the Rockets. "That's why they call them rumors. Sooner or later in one's career you're going to have to deal with it. If (Andrew) has to deal with it now then so be it. It's summer league. He's learning everything as he's going along." Blatt was also asked whether he's had a conversation with Wiggins about the latest reports. "No, I don't talk to him about any of that stuff," he said. "It doesn't mean anything, at least not right now."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: About half the NBA’s 30 teams have something akin to this 21/2 stars combination. With the signing of free-agent shooting guard Lance Stephenson, the local NBA franchise will come closer to this than at any time since the Charlotte Bobcats’ inception in 2004. Center Al Jefferson, point guard Kemba Walker and Stephenson give the Hornets a shot at winning a playoff series. The closest the Bobcats ever came to that mix was Gerald Wallace-Stephen Jackson-and .... and really nobody. ... The potential question is how much Stephenson needs the ball to be effective and content. He’s been known to handle the ball a lot and there was some grumbling last season when Pacers big men Roy Hibbert and David West weren’t getting it much. Bottom line: Jefferson, Walker and Stephenson must learn how best to collaborate. Last summer Jefferson and Walker convinced teammates to devote August and September to improving in Charlotte. The sooner Stephenson learns his new teammates, the better.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: The Rockets did not expect to land Carlos Boozer on Thursday. This was only partly because they did not make a bid for him. The Rockets did have reason to carefully watch the bid process, won Thursday by the Los Angeles Lakers. Had Boozer, who was made an amnesty waiver by Chicago this week, not been claimed, the Rockets would have moved in to land him as a free agent. The Rockets had reason to be confident they would have been his choice, a person with knowledge of their planning said, though they considered it unlikely he would clear the bid process. The Rockets did not put in a bid for Boozer because to bid, they would have to have cap room. The Rockets’ salaries, even after Friday’s official signings of Jeff Adrien and Joey Dorsey, fall well short of the new salary cap of $63.065 million. But with the cap space occupied by the Rockets’ trade exception, bi-annual exception and full mid-level exception, they are technically over the cap. They could be under the salary cap if they need to be by forgoing those exceptions, but they prefer to hold on to those potential tools.

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: If they had their way, the Dallas Mavericks probably wish they had 15 players who view money the way Dirk Nowitzki does. Nowitzki’s $14.73 million salary cut — from the $22.7 million he earned last season to $7.97 million — is one of the largest one-year reductions in NBA history. The largest happened when Shaquille O’Neal went from earning $20 million with Cleveland in 2009-10 to $1.35 million with Boston the next season. What’s more, the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers reportedly were willing to give Nowitzki more than $20 million a season for four more years. Nowitzki, however, had no desire to talk to them. When Nowitzki hit the free-agent market July 1, he already knew he wasn’t going to desert the Mavs after spending his 16-year career with them. And he knew he was going to have to take a massive pay cut to help the Mavericks have the salary-cap space to chase quality free agents. ... According to spotrac.com, Nowitzki has earned $200.34 million during his career, trailing only Kevin Garnett ($298.89 million), Kobe Bryant ($244.36 million) and Tim Duncan ($220.02 million) among active players.

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: The Sacramento Kings are continuing their pursuit of Pistons power forward Josh Smith, sources told The Detroit News on Thursday. This is the second time in recent weeks the Kings have approached Pistons officials about Smith, 28, who was signed by Detroit last summer for four years and $54 million. The sources requested anonymity due to the ongoing nature of the negotiations. When the Pistons and Kings engaged in talks a few weeks ago, negotiations centered around trading Smith for Jason Thompson and possibly Derrick Williams or Jason Terry. But according to sources, Pistons president Stan Van Gundy balked at dealing Smith for what essentially came down to spare parts. However, the Kings have a trade exception they acquired when point guard Isaiah Thomas signed with the Phoenix Suns for $7 million last week, and although it can't be used to absorb Smith’s remaining three years and $40 million, perhaps it can be a chip to entice a third team. The Kings are looking for a third team to help facilitate a deal, from a talent standpoint or a money standpoint.

  • Des Bieler of The Washington Post: Fresh off his heroics at the World Cup, USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard appears ready for a new, much more difficult challenge: joining the New York Knicks. Well, maybe not. But Howard, who grew up in New Jersey, posted this intriguing tweet today: "#TBT Knicks got any cap space left?" The fact that he tagged it #TBT (i.e., Throwback Thursday, a weekly excuse to tweet out pictures of oneself from years gone by) — plus the fact that he’s missing several forearm tattoos — confirms this as a lighthearted use of an old photo. But it is true that Howard, while obviously a standout soccer player, was also a very good basketball player at North Brunswick Township high school.

  • Phil Jackson with Hugh Delehanty of the New York Daily News: It’s good to be back in New York. Although the city has changed dramatically since my first trip here as a rookie forty-seven years ago, it still feels like home to me. I love the energy, the intelligence, the pace of life in the city. In L.A. you can hide in your own bubble for weeks on end. But in New York you have shoulder-to-shoulder contact with the whole world everywhere you go. It’s invigorating. No question, I have a big job ahead of me. Now that we’ve hired Derek Fisher as the new head coach, we need to bring in a some new players to complement Carmelo (who has decided to stay with the Knicks), change the team chemistry and give the team more of the grit and character New York is famous for. Derek was an exceptional leader when he played for me on the Lakers and I’m certain he’ll inspire the players to meld together and play the game the right way. Soon, the honeymoon will be over. I can already sense the sharks circling in the water. But that doesn’t bother me. What matters now is waking up every morning and getting a chance to do something I’ve always dreamed of: re-awakening the team that Red Holzman built, the team that changed my life forever.