First Cup: Friday

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: The new Carmelo Anthony wants to be the consummate leader this season. And according to his trainer, that’s what has spurred his startling offseason transformation. Idan Ravin, Anthony’s personal trainer since he left Syracuse after winning the NCAA title 11 years ago, said his client’s dramatic offseason weight loss stems from his desire to lead the Knicks vocally and by example. Ravin, like Anthony a product of the Baltimore area, said the hiring of Phil Jackson as Knicks president also has inspired his longtime client. But Ravin also said in an interview with The Post Thursday his offseason work with Anthony is not done and there’s not always assurance weight loss will translate into greater basketball performance. “Amazing people have been hired over there and he wants to come in as the leader and a top-three player in the world," Ravin told The Post, adding Anthony wants the Knicks to follow his lead. “If [he’s] being meticulous, you should not just follow [his] word, but follow [his] actions."

  • Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post: The Wizards are banking on Joseph Blair taking that success into this season after exchanging the rights to Emir Preldzic, a 2009 second-round pick, for Blair last month as part of a sign-and-trade deal. Listed at 6 feet 7, 265 pounds, the undersize Blair joins a deep front court that also includes Nene, Marcin Gortat, Kris Humphries, Drew Gooden, and Kevin Seraphin. “I was very excited when I got the news. It was like a dream come true,” said Blair, who is signed to a three-year contract worth $6 million. “Last year, I saw what type of team they had. The youth, the big men coming up, the ingredients around the team. And I think I’ll be a great addition.”

  • Zak Keefer of The Indianapolis Star: Last season, they entered the year as the leading candidate to topple Miami in the East. This season, with Paul George sidelined by a crushing injury, and Stephenson defecting to Charlotte? It's anyone's guess. Will the fans fill Bankers Life Fieldhouse as they have the past few years, when Indiana enjoyed an attendance surge on par with the team's sharp ascent into the league's elite? "I don't think there's any sense of doom and gloom," said Bill Benner, the Pacers' senior vice president for corporate, community and public relations. "We're not having people bail on us. The immediate reaction from our season ticket holders was that they're rallying behind this team." Before George's injury, the team saw a season-ticket renewal rate of 90 percent, according to Benner, and they expect that figure to be among the top 10 in the NBA. Benner added that since the season is still months away, the team could not provide additional numbers. "I think we're still looking at really good sales," he added. "You look at the popularity of NBA basketball overall. Cleveland is a good example. They weren't a marquee team before. Now, they very much are."

  • Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press: Greg Monroe is expected to sign a qualifying offer of $5.479 million for the 2014-15 season by October and can’t be traded without his consent once the deal is signed under the league’s collective bargaining agreement. But with agent David Falk in his corner and a bushel full of teams needing a big man, if Monroe doesn’t want to play for the Pistons beyond next season, it would be in their best interest to trade him to get some type of value for the 6-foot-10 power forward. It might be one of the biggest decisions Pistons president of operations and coach Stan Van Gundy has to make this season. ... Allowing Monroe to walk away without compensation would be a major setback for a struggling organization. If Van Gundy could make Monroe happy and see the vision of the organization, he might have until the trade deadline to persuade Monroe’s camp to stay. The Pistons could still pay him more than any other team, but another losing season could sour Monroe on the organization and taking less money could be a way out of a losing culture.

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: But seeing Paul George on his back, his right tibia and fibula fractured and his 2014-15 NBA season over before it began, won't deter Derrick Rose from his commitment to USA Basketball and his own comeback. The Bulls star stated as much on Thursday following Team USA's practice at Quest Multisport, Rose's first public comments since George's horrific injury cut short an intrasquad scrimmage in Las Vegas on Aug. 1. “I have no fears, I have faith,” Rose said. “I know that I'm going to be fine. I know that I busted my ass the entire two summers — you can say two seasons — to get back to where I am right now. Just try to keep it moving, stay positive every day, do everything consistent like I've been doing. “I think everything will go my way.” The Bulls certainly hope so. They see the positives this summer's commitment offered for a player who has logged just 10 NBA games since April 2012. They know the last time Rose participated in international competition, he followed it up by becoming the youngest most valuable player in NBA history.

  • Erik Horne of The Oklahoman: Some interesting quotes came out of Chicago today from USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo. ... You can read into “contractual situation” about 100 different ways, from an ongoing endorsement battle between Under Armour and Nike, to some contract we don’t even know about. But what’s interesting is that Colangelo said that Durant “found himself in a situation where he had no choice.” ... The sentence “I could not fulfill my responsibilities from a time and energy standpoint” doesn’t quite jive with Colangelo’s “contractual situation” reason for Durant dropping out. Also worth noting: The “contractual situation” mentioned can’t involve the Thunder because the NBA isn’t allowed to keep players out of international competition (unless it’s in the case of “reasonable medical concern,” as it was with San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili).

  • Mike Tokito of The Oregonian: The Portland Trail Blazers are one of three NBA teams that have never been given the opportunity to host the league's All-Star Game. The franchise took a major step toward changing that Thursday, submitting a bid to host the 2017 or 2018 game at the Moda Center. Team president Chris McGowan, who spearheaded the bid, said the game, along with the numerous activities that surround it, would be a major high point in the state's sports history. "It's going to be the biggest event from a sports perspective hosted in Oregon's history, I think," McGowan said. Earlier this year, the NBA sent out a memo saying it was opening bidding for the 2017 and '18 All-Star games. The 2015 game will be played at New York's Madison Square Garden, co-hosted by the Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, and the 2016 game has been awarded to Toronto, with the Raptors hosting for the first time. McGowan said the league sent teams bid packets that asked for information on hotel availability, arenas, airports, sites that could host events and other data. "It's very comprehensive," McGowan said.