First Cup: Monday

  • Staff of CSNNE.com: Does Rajon Rondo want to take his talents elsewhere? In a behind-the-scenes clip from ESPN's Around the Horn, Jackie MacMullan said Rondo doesn't want to stick around for the rebuilding process. "It will happen because he's told them, he wants out," MacMullan said in the clip. "No one believes me, but that's the truth." Sean Grande joined Sports Sunday to discuss MacMullan's Rondo's reported desire to leave Boston. "Has anything changed involving Rajon Rondo? Absolutely not," said Grande. "Is it a worthwhile topic? It is, because it's going to go on over the course of this season. Grande points out that he has seen this situation unfold in the past. "Those who study history are doomed to repeat it," explained Grande. "When you get to be old enough, you've lived through the history. I seem to remember 8-9 years ago we went through the exact same thing with Paul Pierce. With the Celtics in a transitional phase, is Paul Pierce going to stay here for the long-term?

  • Harvey Ararton of The New York Times: Ask Mike Fratello how in the world he became the coach of Ukraine’s national basketball team, and a history book opens. It doesn’t rewrite the consensus belief that N.B.A. globalization began earnestly with the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. It does provide a supplemental context that the growth of the game wasn’t all Magic, Larry and Michael. How interesting that Fratello — of the Hackensack, N.J., Fratellos — was on the phone last week from Bilbao, Spain, where the first Ukrainian senior team to qualify for a world championship tournament since the country’s 1991 independence from the Soviet Union made its debut on Saturday with a 72-62 victory over the Dominican Republic in what is now called the FIBA World Cup. Fratello, who coached Atlanta, Cleveland and Memphis in the N.B.A. before settling into a broadcasting career, said: “With everything that’s been going on, anything our players can do that’s positive would be a reminder of what the country earned 23 years ago. I hope they realize that. I think they do.”

  • Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman: Stephen Curry bolted for Under Armour last September. Damian Lillard chose Adidas in a $100 million-plus bidding war that concluded in April. Historically, Nike has allowed some of the NBA’s rising stars to trickle down to other apparel companies. But the league’s transcendent figures? Some of the world’s most marketable athletes? Those don’ttypically escape Nike’s grasp. And that’s why Kevin Durant will remain an endorser of the company that controls more than 90 percent of the basketball apparel market. Under Armour made a strong push, offering up a deal reportedly in the $265 million to $285 million range, plus incentives, over 10 years. But on Sunday morning, ESPN reported that Nike decided to match it. Durant is now under control through the start of the 2024 season. “Excited and humbled to sign back with the Swoosh,” Durant tweeted late Sunday night. ... Over the next two seasons, the Thunder owes Durant $41 million. His new Nike deal will pay him far above that. The base salary of his apparel deal – likely somewhere in the $24 million to $28 million per year range – will be the highest of any NBA player. When adding royalties – Nike endorsers get 5 percent of the gross retail sales – LeBron will likely pull in a bit more. But Durant’s value has skyrocketed. His marketability is at an all-time high. His brand has never been more popular. And Nike clearly recognized that.

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: A source close to the situation confirmed Sunday night to the Sun Sentinel that assistant coaches Ron Rothstein and Bob McAdoo no longer will be part of Erik Spoelstra's Miami Heat primary coaching staff. "As far as being on the bench, they no longer will be," said the source, who said the two have been offered the opportunity to remain with the team in other capacities. "The staff is evolving." ... The moves continue a shift toward a clear delineation of Spoelstra's staff from previous Heat staffs under Riley and Stan Van Gundy. ... With the moves, David Fizdale emerges as the clear lead assistant of Spoelstra's staff. Fizdale, who formerly had worked in the Heat's video department, was hired by Spoelstra when he was named coach in 2008. He has turned down outside overtures in recent years to interview to become a head coach elsewhere, citing loyalty to Spoelstra.

  • Mike Sielski of The Philadelphia Inquirer: Courtney Witte, the 76ers’ director of player personnel and a fixture in their scouting department for more than a decade, is leaving the Sixers to join the Los Angeles Clippers, two sources confirmed Sunday. Based on information provided by these two sources within the Sixers’ organization, it does not appear Witte was fired. Rather, he and general manager Sam Hinkie seem to have reached a mutual agreement to have Witte take a scouting position with another team. The rest of the Sixers’ scouting staff will remain intact, one source said. Witte, who played college basketball under coach Bob Knight at the University of Indiana, had spent 11 seasons with the Indiana Pacers before the Sixers hired him in 1998 as a video coordinator and advance scout.

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: That wunderkind’s name was Schea Cotton, and while Kevin Garnett’s Celtics teammates were chiding him for the magazine story, Garnett made a statement that has stuck with Cotton the past decade. "Y’all don’t understand,” Garnett told his laughing teammates. “This dude was LeBron before LeBron." Indeed, Cotton was LeBron James before we ever heard of St. Vincent-St. Mary. He was a powerfully built forward who was 6-4 and 220 pounds by his freshman year at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif. He was tabbed the best freshman, sophomore, and junior player in the nation. But he never played an NBA game, spending just one year at the University of Alabama before a 10-year sojourn around the world in a quest to make the big time, getting as close as the Orlando Magic summer league team in 2000. Nearly two decades later, the 36-year-old Cotton is at peace with his place as one of the greatest players of his generation never to make it to prominence. He has his own basketball academy in Southern California and is also coaching an AAU team of 11-year-olds.