Chad Ford ranks the summer for each team (Insider): “The Thunder are the “it” team among NBA junkies, who have a crush on Sam Presti for quickly turning a bad team into the best young team in the league. Kevin Durant is a superstar in the making. Russell Westbrook could be special. And Harden is a nice addition — a savvy guard with an old-school game who will be fine playing third fiddle to Durant and Westbrook. If you factor in that last year’s other draft pick, Serge Ibaka, has been looking pretty good in summer league, and that Mullens has enormous potential, the Thunder appear to be bursting at the seams with talent.”
The Blazers are planning to make a “generous offer” to Paul Millsap: “After a series of trades fell through this week, the Trail Blazers have settled on their next target: Utah power forward Paul Millsap. Although Millsap is a restricted free agent, meaning the Jazz can match any offer, the Blazers are preparing what one source called a “toxic” offer designed to exterminate interest from other teams.”
The Cavs will re-sign Varejao: “Cleveland is committing to Anderson Varejao long term. Sporting News’ Sean Deveney has learned Cleveland agreed to a six-year, $50 million contract with the free agent forward after passing on several sign-and-trade proposals. Deveney also reports the Cavs likely will make Varejao their starting power forward, giving them a frontcourt of Varejao, LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal.”
And the Hawks re-signed Zaza Pachulia: “The free-agent center agreed to terms with the Hawks on a new four-year deal worth an estimated $19 million, according to two people familiar with the situation. His deal comes a day after the Hawks agreed to terms on a three-year, $18 million deal with veteran point guard Mike Bibby. That puts two of the Hawks’ coveted free agents from this past season back on the roster. Forward Marvin Williams, a restricted free agent, and guard Flip Murray, an unrestricted free agent, have yet to come to terms on new contracts, though it’s unclear as to whether the Hawks plan to pursue a future with Murray.”
Darnell Mayberry on yesterday’s game: “The first thing I noticed about Livingston – because I didn’t catch Monday’s first game and he didn’t play Tuesday – is he is no longer wearing the bulky brace that once covered most of his left leg. Now, Livingston is wearing only a sleeve over his rehabilitated left knee. I’m not sure whether this is just something he’s doing for summer league or if he will bring back the brace during the season. But if he’s shed the protective gear, it’s a good sign that his knee is closer to full strength and bodes well for his prospects of regaining some of the explosion that many believe he’s forever lost.”
Celtics Hub: “The Celtics fell again today in Summer Ball play this afternoon in Orlando 94-82 to a talented Thunder squad featuring Russell Westbrook among other potential rotation candidates for Oklahoma City. As could be expected, the C’s had a number of up and down performances from their young prospects.”
The AP recap: “Some words to describe Russell Westbrook include; electrifying, passionate and smooth. It’s becoming more and more evident why the Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t draft a point guard like some thought they would with their third pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. Westbrook is clearly the answer for OKC, and the franchise recognizes he can be the one to lead the Thunder up the mountain. The former UCLA standout recorded 26 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field and added five assists as the Thunder coasted past the Boston Celtics, 94-82, on Wednesday at the 2009 Orlando Pro Summer League. “I’m very motivated,” he said. “Right now I’m just trying to work on some things to be ready for the season.”
P, L & T: “The thing is, during his first two games in Orlando, on the heal of news that he would join the team during the 2009/10 season, Ibaka actually lived up to some of the hype. Personally, I expected an extremely raw, but athletic, kid who would look lost on the floor but occasionally do something spectacular athletically…kind of like Saer Sene used to do. Instead, he looked somewhat polished … If his legend turns out to be more fact, I may end up eating the words I wrote about Sam Presti as a talent evaluator from last week.”
It just really seems like Thunder management is on top of things: “Thunder management thought so highly of the job they did with Ibaka in Spain that they invited Ricoh Manresa coach Jaume Ponsarnau to be a part of their Summer League staff in Las Vegas starting next week. Ponsarnau will help ease the transition for Ibaka, who arrived in Oklahoma City only a few weeks ago.”
Take 2? The Hornets are shopping Tyson Chandler: “The Hornets could make a trade with a team under the new $57.7 million salary cap. Under that scenario, they can trade a player such as Tyson Chandler and obtain draft picks instead of having to acquire players with contracts within 75 percent of his salary. The nine teams under the salary cap are Charlotte, Sacramento, Minnesota, Portland, Toronto, Atlanta, Oklahoma City, Detroit and Memphis.” And actually, only one team has enough cap room to bring on Chandler’s big deal. Guess who….
The salary cap could lower as far as $50.4M next year and Henry Abbott took a look at the positives of that: “One of the biggest effects this could have will be on players who are soon to come off rookie deals hoping for max contracts. Think about someone like Brandon Roy. The maximum contract for veterans like LeBron James or Dwyane Wade is calculated as a percentage of his previous year’s salary — basically, they can get a 5% raise. So they’re largely unaffected. But Roy is still earning rookie scale, and is looking for much more than a 5% raise. His maximum is based on the league’s basketball-related income, which has gone down and could go down further.”
Berry Tramel looks at what it could mean for OKC: “What does all that mean? Less money to spend on free agents, and since franchises already have the advantage in signing their own free agents – with longer contracts – the news should play well into the Thunder’s plans. The Thunder would do everything in its power to keep Durant and Co., but the price might not be driven as high under the current economic conditions.”
Ross Siler writing for TrueHoop: “Shaun Livingston never has watched a replay of the breakaway that nearly ended his career, though the grotesque video from February 2007 of Livingston dislocating his knee and tearing three ligaments has been viewed more than 184,000 times on YouTube. Livingston has no plans of watching it, either, at least not until his playing days are done. There are enough reminders already, from the brace on his left knee to his new position on the floor to his new home in Oklahoma City.”
And another story about Livingston. The better he does, the more we’ll see.
I wanted to toss up these two interview videos because 1) They’re interesting and 2) They have really clear, high-quality footage from the Summer League games. You can clearly see Serge Ibaka’s jumpshot, James Harden’s hand kiss and get a really good look at the action. (For a bigger video, click here.)