First Cup: Monday

  • Joe Drape of The New York Times: It was not until September 2012 that Rich Paul told LeBron James he was ready to strike out on his own. Ten days later, Klutch Sports Group was open for business, and its first client was the most coveted in all of sports: LeBron James. Thompson and Bledsoe, along with San Antonio guard Cory Joseph and Washington Wizards forward Kevin Seraphin, signed with Paul as well. But the doubts and badmouthing among the tribe of 4-percenters were immediate and nasty. The griping dismissed Paul as merely a frontman for James. Critics questioned how someone with only a high school diploma could become a certified agent, and they wondered how hard it could be to represent LeBron James. Paul shrugs it all off. He insists that Klutch is all his and that he is off James’s payroll. The N.B.A. Players Association does not require a college degree, and most agencies bring on legal teams to handle the contracts, as Paul has. (Paul has brought in the veteran agent Mark Termini to oversee contract negotiations, and he works with the lawyer Fred Nance, once a finalist for the N.F.L. commissioner’s job, and a battery of lawyers at his firm, Squire Patton Boggs.) And to the question of how hard is it to represent LeBron James: “Ask the other two guys he had,” Paul said. No one was surprised when James chose to become a free agent this summer. What few people knew was that James wanted to come home. ... James has been lauded for his faithfulness to his roots. But Paul deserves some of the credit for making the return possible. “The organization wants to win a championship for the city and Northeast Ohio, and LeBron wants to win more championships,” Griffin said. “But we wouldn’t be where we are today if Rich hadn’t handled things the way he did.”

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: The 2015 Basketball Hall of Fame Class won’t be determined until April, but Robert Horry’s case will be very interesting in the next few months. Horry won seven titles as a player with three teams, tied for the seventh most in NBA history. Horry won more championships than Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan and had an uncanny ability to make monumental shots in postseason games. Horry told the Globe two years ago he felt as if he was a Hall of Famer. Although Horry never made an All-Star team and was never the best player on his team, his Hall of Fame case could make for great debate.

  • Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer: While Marion is 36, he has only missed an average of five games per season over the last five years. He averaged 31 minutes a game in that span. His strengths are passing and defending, along with shooting 36 percent from 3-point range. But the Cavs also like his durability. Starting with the 2010-11 season (the first for James in Miami), James has played the most minutes in the NBA. This is according to ESPN's Tom Haberstroh, and it included the playoffs. That makes sense because James has been in the last four NBA Finals. As he approached the age of 30 and starting his 12th season, James wants to cut back some of his minutes -- especially in the regular season, where he averaged 37.7 minutes. That's why Marion is important. Here's something else to consider, and a peek into the big-money world of the NBA. Why would Miller take less money from Cleveland than Denver? According to Basketballreference.com, Miller has already been paid $76 million during his NBA career. As for Marion, it's $133 million for his career. Ray Allen is at $184 million. Yes, that's before taxes -- but it's certainly enough money to give these men plenty of options. And that is another reason why Miller and Marion have followed James to Cleveland -- and perhaps, why Allen may eventually do the same.

  • Max Cohen of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Wherever we're together, it's home," Markieff Morris said. "We just go out there and have fun. The game isn't the same when we're apart." But soon, they will arrive at a crossroads. Their rookie deals expire after the 2014-15 season and free agency will present challenges. The twins want to stay together, but will an NBA team accommodate them? "It's a unique situation," Marcus said. "We're just trying to do enough so teams can see us as players, as players, and as a tandem." The twins aren't necessarily tied together during free agency. They haven't yet contemplated specific destinations and said they haven't considered a return to Philadelphia. Marcus said they would be willing to negotiate separately if the need arises, but the top priority is to make teams eager to sign both players. They can help do that this season by accomplishing their goal of helping the Suns make the playoffs. But after that, the pursuit of their long-term goal will continue. "That was our dream growing up - it's our life dream to play with each other in the NBA," Marcus Morris said. "We're together now. We try to make the best of it. Hopefully, we retire together."

  • Tom Moore of The Intelligencer: Michael Carter-Williams isn’t 100 percent, but expects to be ready for the late September start of 76ers training camp. During a five-minute interview Sunday at the Michael Carter-Williams Basketball ProCamp, he said he hasn’t scrimmaged, though he’s shooting and working out, and his right shoulder “still gets a little tight here and there” from the May 13 surgery to repair his labrum. He estimated the shoulder is “probably 80, 85 percent.” “It’s going great,” said MCW, noting he won’t play fullcourt ball under he’s medically cleared. Carter-Williams looked OK shooting free throws with some of the 250 campers at Competitive Edge Sports during the second and final day.

  • Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press: Andre Drummond’s days on the U.S. men’s national basketball team might be numbered. Despite a knee injury to DaMarcus Cousins and the defection of Kevin Durant because of physical and mental fatigue, the Pistons’ center never got off the bench Saturday night in a 95-78 Team USA victory over Brazil at the United Center in Chicago. While Derrick Rose made a triumphant return, playing in front of his home fans for the first time since November 2013, Drummond sat, not even garnering mop-up minutes. Apparently Mason Plumlee, a former Duke center under Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski, is a better fit for the team than Drummond at this point. Plumlee played 15 minutes and hit all three of his shots from the field. ESPN reporter Marc Stein said Drummond is the 15th man on the roster. The final 12 will be selected before the team leaves for Spain for the Basketball World Cup, which starts Aug. 30. With Plumlee playing well Saturday and Anthony Davis and Cousins almost locks to make the team, Drummond appeared to be the odd man out.

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Derrick Rose and USA Basketball traveled to New York on Sunday, setting up their base for a week of preparation that includes two more exhibition games in advance of the FIBA World Cup in Spain. Rose did know and mention that travel itinerary, no small detail for a player who claimed last week not to know the Bulls opened against the Knicks and Cavaliers and that he played the entire third quarter of Saturday's exhibition victory over Brazil at the United Center. Whether such moments were focus or feigned ignorance matters not. What matters moving forward is that Rose, a surefire starter for Team USA, continues to stay healthy, build his conditioning and hit the ground running come the Bulls' training camp in October. "It's piling up, but I'm used to it by now," Rose said of Team USA's schedule.

  • Nicki Jhabvala of The Denver Post: As of mid-June, Nuggets guard Nate Robinson was on track to return to the team for the start of training camp after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in January and undergoing surgery. “Hopefully August,” Robinson told The Post. “I’m trying to sway the doctors to give me a little more leeway.” Well, based on an Instagram video posted to his account Saturday, it seems he wasn’t messing around. Robinson, all 5 feet and 9 inches of him, is back to throwing down dunks, this one on his outdoor court at his home in Seattle.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Meanwhile, the Thunder let starting shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha and mid-season acquisition Caron Butler walk in free agency, while also losing Derek Fisher to retirement. In the draft, OKC selected promising big man Mitch McGary but also came away with two players who are headed for the Development League in Josh Huestis and Semaj Christon. None are moves that will get the Thunder over the hump. But take a moment to compare the Thunder’s summer to the rest of the conference. You’ll see that few West competitors found the success that allegedly eluded OKC. And, remember, with the exception of defending champion San Antonio — which has had an even quieter summer than the Thunder despite battling injuries and an increasingly aging roster — everyone else is playing catch up. ...No team supplanted the Thunder as the conference’s most talented team this summer, which is why last week ESPN.com predicted Oklahoma City to secure the No. 1 seed in the West next season. Championships, of course, aren’t won in the regular season. But the Thunder didn’t do anything to take itself out of contention in the offseason. And that’s the most important thing.

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: If the cap rises as much as projected, the Heat would have enough to sign one max-caliber player and a pretty good player (or two good but not max players) in 2016 to complement Chris Bosh and Wade. But signing two new max-caliber players would be unrealistic because max contracts would rise significantly if the cap rises. Cap expert Larry Coon said max contracts will increase from $3.8 million to $5.3 million per year (depending on years of experience) if the cap jumps by $15 million in 2016. That would make James and Howard eligible for potentially $27 million in 2016-17. And with teams flush with cap space in 2016, there would be little incentive for a Horford or DeRozan to take substantially less to sign anywhere. Besides Bosh at $23.7 million and Josh McRoberts at $5.7 million, the Heat’s only other cap commitments for 2016-17 are Shabazz Napier (team option at $1.3 million) and James Ennis, if still around, with a non-guaranteed $980,431. The Heat’s flexibility will depend, to an extent, on whether Miami adds any long-term salary next summer (probably not much, if any) and whether Wade --- who’s curious to see what he can command with a higher cap --- would take another big cut from the $16.1 million he’s due in 2015-16. Another factor: Will Bosh and Wade still be top players at that point, to the point that other stars want to join them here?

  • Staff of The Sacramento Bee: The Kings signed New Mexico State center Sim Bhullar on Friday, making him the first player of Indian descent under contract to an NBA team. “Dreams do come true!” Bhullar posted on his Twitter account. “Officially signed my first NBA contract with the @sacramentokings!!” Bhullar, a 7-foot-5, 360-pound center, was on the Kings team that won the summer league title last month in Las Vegas, but he averaged just 2.5 minutes in four games. He will compete in training camp to back up starting center DeMarcus Cousins but more likely will play for the team’s NBA Development League affiliate in Reno, where he would get more playing time to develop his skills. “I’ve long believed that India is the next great frontier for the NBA, and adding a talented player like Sim only underscores the exponential growth basketball has experienced in that nation,” Kings principal owner Vivek Ranadive said in a statement.