First Cup: Monday

  • Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune: The Wolves reportedly also will receive a protected 2015 first-round pick. Will they keep that or include it in another trade, possibly for Philadelphia’s Thaddeus Young, a veteran forward who could fill Love’s spot? That lemonade would taste more like champagne if that happens. Some people will love this trade, some people will hate it, but it’s hard to assign a final grade until we see how the entire picture looks once the carousel stops spinning. Left unknown at this point is whether Saunders can unload J.J. Barea and/or Luc Mbah a Moute. Through no fault of his own, Saunders inherited an unsalvageable situation that forced his hand. And let’s reiterate one important point here: This trade is not happening because of a growing perception that Love is an immature jerk. This trade is happening because David Kahn refused to give him a maximum contract. Love desperately sought that fifth season, but the Wolves undervalued him. That decision looked like a gross miscalculation then, and it looks even worse now. But that’s done, and Saunders has shown the right amount of patience in handling this delicate situation. Saunders didn’t rush into a trade on draft night, instead allowing the LeBron James sweepstakes to play out in order to get an accurate gauge on potential trade partners.

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Question: The No. 1 topic that has dominated the entire off-season has been Greg Monroe. What are your thoughts on the contract impasse? (Monroe is a restricted free agent.) Tom Gores: “We think Greg is a great player. First of all, he’s done a really great job of establishing himself as a player in Detroit. He’s shown great respect to the city and as a young man he’s really done everything we could ask of him. With Greg we just believe in him. I’d like Greg to really get excited about being in Detroit because he deserves it. He’s really been good to the city. You’ve seen him. He’s good to the city. Stan is going to have to figure out exactly everybody’s role, but we’re believers in Greg Monroe. He’s not just a great player; he also has a good basketball character. I know it’s been a lot of the off-season stuff, but I’m a believer in Greg Monroe.” Q: There’s a pretty substantial offer on the table (slightly better on a per-year basis than the four-year, $54-million deal Josh Smith signed last summer). Is there any disappointment that it hasn’t resolved itself and he hasn’t taken the offer yet? Tom Gores: “Of course we would like him to do that, but the fact is Greg has to decide what’s exactly right for him and he has great people representing him. We’d like Greg to get on board, but he’s got time to think about it and we should give him that time.”

  • Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post: Last week, Nuggets coach Brian Shaw was immersed in the non-safari side of Africa. But his family? All safari, all the time. "They did all of that," he said. Shaw, however, got a glimpse of some of the NBA players of the future — those who make it that far, anyway — when he helped put top African talent through drills in South Africa as part of the NBA's Basketball Without Borders program. The program could boast having this year's No. 3 pick in the NBA draft, Joel Embiid, as a player participant a few years ago. African players have had a growing impact in the league, though there haven't been a ton of them over the years. That has been changing. "Being a global league and a global brand, the more that the NBA can get out and get to some of these places that they've expanded to in the last 20 years, I think it's only going to add to that," Shaw said. "Especially when these young players, as they start to see players from their own country or their continent on the floor, representing, playing in the NBA — such as a Joel Embiid, a Serge Ibaka, a Dikembe Mutombo and a Hakeem Olajuwon. The nice thing about it is that some of those guys I've named while they are playing, they are coming back to the places where they are from and sharing their knowledge."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: The biggest confession of Kevin Durant’s career went largely overlooked this week. When the basketball world began dissecting his decision to pull out of the 2014 FIBA World Cup, debating whether it was due to Paul George’s gruesome injury, pressure from a potential sponsor or pure disinterest, they missed the meat of the man’s announcement. I’m tired! That’s essentially what Durant told the world in a written statement on Thursday. It was the first time Durant has publicly conceded that his mind, body and soul no longer could subscribe to ultra-effective marketing slogan he had helped create: “Basketball Never Stops.” The admission made waves only because of what it means to USA Basketball this summer. Overshadowed is what it will mean for the Thunder next season. After that carefully-crafted, 97-word statement, the Thunder seemingly has no choice but to better manage its biggest star’s minutes.

  • Ben Standig of CSN Washington: Point guards Derrick Rose and Stephen Curry are considered Team USA roster locks. That left John Wall, Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving, who played at Duke under Krzyzewski, competing for 1-2 spots. As the odd man out, Wall now has a new source of motivation heading into the upcoming season. "Yeah, definitely, always. You want to make every team you try out for. When you don’t, it’s more motivation for me. Not even (against) just those (Team USA point guards), but the NBA, period. I guess I’m overlooked again. I guess have to prove myself one more time."

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: Arron Afflalo is optimistic that the Nuggets can become a factor after a difficult season in Orlando. “I’m excited, I think a lot guys I played with for years, they are definitely highly motivated this year,” he said. “It’s always good to be in an environment of success. [Last year] had some positives and some negatives — I shouldn’t say negatives but learning lessons. No one likes to lose, period. But you understand with a young group that I was playing with in Orlando, it takes time to develop, just as it has for me in my career. I’ve always respected the process but I’m getting up there now.” Afflalo, who turns 29 in October, played three seasons for the Nuggets after two rather uneven years with the Detroit Pistons. His scoring numbers have increased each of his seven seasons — from 3.7 as a rookie to 18.2 last season. He said he’s primed for a breakthrough season. “I learn a lot every year, I try to improve my leadership skills, I try to improve my body and my game,” he said.

  • Allan Brettman of The Oregonian: LaMarcus Aldridge, dressed for a day at the beach, stands on a mound of sand inside a Northwest Portland photo studio. About a dozen people in addition to the photographer and star basketball player fill the set. A dog not much taller than Aldridge's ankle scurries around the room. Aldridge, the Trail Blazers' three-time NBA All-Star power forward, is fulfilling his role as pitchman for coconut water brand Vita Coco. The recent photo shoot was part of Vita Coco's Athlete Program that features Aldridge, Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks, Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Manti Te'o of the San Diego Chargers, Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons and Giovani Bernard of the Cincinnati Bengals. All the athletes have yearlong deals that will feature them on outdoor billboards and in print, digital and in-store marketing programs. Okay, it's coconut water – perhaps not the sexiest endorsement product in the world. But Vita Coco is still a national brand, and Aldridge is happy to have the work. For high-profile professional athletes, endorsement contracts frequently pay more than their day jobs.

  • Des Bieler of The Washington Post: Instagram user “bellamilagroserrano” was at a club, and ran into someone she didn’t know at all, but as she put it, “They told me he was famous,” so she took a photo with him and posted it. Of course, if she had just asked any sports fan in the immediate vicinity who that guy was, she would have gotten the answer: The Answer, Allen Iverson himself. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. In case anyone else needs a clue, Iverson had a 14-year NBA career, during which he went to the all-star game 11 times, was the 1997 rookie of the year, was the 2001 NBA MVP, and finished seventh all-time in points per game (at 26.7). So, kind of a big star. However, he hasn’t played in four years, and the women appears to be fairly young, so maybe we should cut her some more slack than others on social media are doing. On the other hand, is it asking too much for someone who knows she is taking a photo with someone “famous,” to ascertain the identity of said famous person before broadcasting her ignorance of said famous person to the world? This almost certainly wouldn’t be Iverson’s advice, but when it comes to Instagram, perhaps this young woman needs a little more practice.