TrueHoop: Streetball

First Cup: Monday

August, 26, 2013
8/26/13
5:02
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Ben Standig of CSN Washington: Further proof of Victor Oladipo's ascension from unheralded DeMatha prospect to the No. 2 overall in the NBA Draft came Sunday night at his former High School - against Kevin Durant. Look past the high-rising guard's inclusion in the Goodman League Roundball Classic. Even with several future professional peers also on the court and John Wall observing from the sideline, it was Oladipo in the game's spotlight matchup versus the Oklahoma City Thunder star. Durant is the face of D.C. area basketball, not to mention part of an incredibly short list of those considered the best in the NBA. The local products faced each other throughout, landing basketball-type haymakers via long distance shots, highlight dunks and tight defense until the final buzzer, which came without an actual winner declared. The game ended in a 116-116 tie. The mano-y-mano type scenario developed in the second quarter. On one possession, Oladipo stole the ball from Durant and quickly went into offensive mode with a fast break dunk. Moments later, the Orlando Magic rookie and supposedly suspect perimeter shooter pulled up from just inside half court and drained a 3-pointer. The 6-foot-11 Durant, who finished with a game-high 40 points, then backed down the 6-foot-3 Oladipo before fading back for a high degree of difficulty 3-pointer at the buzzer.
  • Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: The possible reasons for Deron Williams’ regression have been documented and dissected, with conclusions mostly bouncing from an extended aberration to the beginnings of an ill-timed downfall. There were injuries to blame in New Jersey, along with subpar teammates and poor fan support. Then there were more injuries in Brooklyn, extra weight, and Avery Johnson’s unimaginative offense. But new coach Jason Kidd has aggressively pitched the rejuvenation of his point guard. It’s a task Kidd seems most qualified to accomplish given his history at the position. On Sunday, the rookie coach revealed one of his goals for Williams. Not surprisingly, it concerns passing. “I’m going to push him. I want the best for him,” Kidd said after signing autographs at the Nets’ store in Coney Island. "When we sit down and talk about goals, team goals and also individual goals, I’m going to push him and I want to get him back to double-digit assists."
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: At some point, someone suggested the Thunder sends Serge Ibaka to Portland for LaMarcus Aldridge. Little by little, the idea began to spread. One prominent writer after another, it seemed, jumped on board the belief that Aldridge would be the final piece to the Thunder's championship puzzle. Their logic never really made much sense. And here's why. Ibaka, despite his shortcomings, still is younger, cheaper and more battle tested than Aldridge. Aldridge just turned 28. Ibaka will be 24 when the season begins. Aldridge will make nearly $15 million this season. Ibaka will be closer to $12 million. Aldridge has appeared in 18 playoff games and never made it out of the first round. Ibaka has appeared in 54 playoff games, experienced the conference finals twice and the NBA Finals once. At this point in their careers, Aldridge is the better player. Few would debate that. But what the popular ESPN Trade Machine can't take into account is fit. Aldridge has averaged better than 21 points in each of the last three seasons. But he also averaged at least 17 shots in each of those seasons, putting him on par with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant's volume. In Oklahoma City, Aldridge would have to adjust to being third banana after years of being the go-to guy.
  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: So 3˝ years following his final NBA game, Allen Iverson finally decided to end the waiting game. He should be remembered as an all-time great. Three years from now, we’ll be driving to Springfield to watch his induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame. He was a pioneer, ahead of his time for his game and expression. Iverson was a complex player, undefined by a position, but as his numbers piled up and the wins didn’t, the perceptions about his selfishness grew exponentially. There is a recipe for growing old successfully in this league. You work. You stay in premium shape. You mentor and you avoid delusions of grandeur. Iverson likely wasn’t capable of carrying out those tasks, and while he tried to convince anyone who listened that he had been humbled, visions of Iverson attempting to snatch away shots and attention from younger, more worthy players remained in the thoughts of NBA executives. Recent history doesn’t view Iverson fondly, but long-term history should. Eventually, if he can get his financial life in order and determine a post-career plan, he could become a coach and pass on his wisdom. It is possible he can escape from his current spiral and become a positive role model. It’s possible that Iverson will inspire in his Hall of Fame speech in 2016.
  • Stephen Haynes of Newsday: Jason Kidd thinks Jason Collins certainly has a place in the NBA and expects his friend to sign with a team before the season. But it won't be the Nets. "He wants to play still, but we have 15 [roster] spots already filled,'' the new Nets coach said Sunday. In April, Collins became the first active male athlete from one of the four major professional sports to announce his homosexuality. Kidd was among several athletes who voiced their support, and in June, the Nets reportedly had interest in signing Collins, a free-agent center. Kidd said that possibility was something the organization "talked about over the summer'' but likely won't pursue now. "His knowledge as a veteran … can help a young team,'' Kidd said of Collins, a Nets teammate for seven years. "He'll find a job at some point.''
  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: Dorell Wright signed a two-year, $6 million free-agent contract with the Blazers this summer. He's one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA, and joins a team that desperately needed depth. But if you spend any sort of time talking with Wright, what you understand first and best, is that he's a good father. This is why it was important that he arrive ahead of Blazers training camp, get moved in, and get his 5-year old son, Devin, enrolled in kindergarten. "I'm going to be there for the first day of kindergarten. It's a big, big deal. I'm here. We're here. My family is coming with me, and we're excited." Wright talked on Friday about signing with the Blazers. While he believes he'll compete for a starting position, Wright is the rare NBA player who isn't disillusioned, out of touch, or simply here to say what he thinks he's supposed to say so you'll like him. Wright said, "I know what I can do. I know what I can bring. But I see myself as a guy who comes in off the bench; knocking down threes, being a stretch-four." Does he prefer that? Nope. But Wright, who went from high school to the NBA in 2004, knows his role, and if Portland is going to find chemistry in a locker room filled with new faces, the faster they accept their roles, the more effective they'll be early.
  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer: These days, the new Sixers coach is lean and gray-haired. He's a loving husband and a father of three children: Julia, 17; Laura, 15; and Sam, 8. But back in the day, Brett Brown cut a figure in gritty South Portland. Along with his scoring average, his outgoing personality, curly blond hair, and blue eyes captured the attention of the town's young women. Paddy MacNeil, now a waitress at J's Oyster, was one of them, from a distance. "He was a cutie," she said. While his looks caught people's attention, Brown's outgoing and grounded personality made him one of the most popular teenagers in South Portland. And he's still extremely popular in the port town - perhaps even more since the Sixers hired him on Aug. 12. "A lot of people were texting me back and forth, 'Can you believe what Brett has done?' " said former Sacred Heart football coach Paul Gorham, a close friend and former South Portland teammate. Gorham now resides in Connecticut. "Everyone is happy for him," Gorham added. "That's first and foremost. And proud of him. He can do nothing wrong in South Portland right now."
  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Scratch that. Earlier this summer I predicted Chauncey Billups and Brandon Knight would be the starting backcourt for the Pistons. But that was before Knight, Khris Middleton and Slava Kravtsov were traded to the Bucks for point guard Brandon Jennings. The move also opened up two roster spots that allowed the Pistons to sign point guard Peyton Siva and center Josh Harrellson. So here’s another stab at projecting the playing rotation. STARTERS: C: Andre Drummond: Probably works better with Jennings. PF: Greg Monroe: Team hopes he fits with Drummond. SF: Josh Smith: Crowded paint still a concern. SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: Skill set better with the starters. PG: Jennings: Make no mistake — he will be the starter. SECOND UNIT: C: Monroe: Could be his best position. PF: Smith: Could lessen spacing issues here. SF: Luigi Datome: Shooting desperately needed. SG: Rodney Stuckey: Probably more effective off bench. PG: Billups: Will probably get 20 minutes per game.
  • John Coté of the San Francisco Chronicle: The Golden State Warriors' plan to build a waterfront arena in San Francisco is months behind its original schedule, and the repair cost for piers to hold the venue has increased by as much as $50 million, city documents show. The team could miss its 2017 targeted opening, and the new figure - if it holds - raises the question of who would cover the bill. The basketball franchise's representatives dispute the cost projection and downplay the delays as routine for a complex project. They maintain that the arena will be ready for the start of the 2017-18 NBA season but acknowledge their schedule is tight - and doesn't leave much room for unforeseen problems. "When we began this project, we laid out a timeline that had a built-in cushion for the natural delays that occur on a project of this size," said Nathan Ballard, a Warriors spokesman on the arena plan. "We've got a lot of work to do in a short time frame, but we are confident we can complete it by 2017."

First Cup: Monday

August, 12, 2013
8/12/13
5:04
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Percy Allen of The Seattle Times: For one afternoon, Kevin Durant belonged to Seattle once again. It was as if the lanky basketball superstar stepped into a time machine and transported back to the summer 2007 when the Sonics selected him No. 2 overall in the NBA draft. There he was Sunday, in the city where his professional career began, and the 24-year-old looked just like he did when he played his last game in Seattle five years ago. However, instead of his old green and gold No. 35 jersey, Durant wore a red No. 7. And instead of an NBA contest at KeyArena, he turned a summer-league game at the Jamal Crawford Pro-Am into a must-see event that drew manic fans to Seattle Pacific University. The crowd overflowed out of Royal Brougham Pavilion and snaked around the corner onto Nickerson Street. When Durant walked through a side door, the place went bonkers. And when he stepped on the court, the crowd of 3,000 greeted him with a standing ovation that lasted several minutes. … Durant took 62 shots — making 26 — and scored 63 points. He drained three-pointers and flushed dunks. Conroy (33 points) set him up for a thrilling alley-oop slam. Durant could have penned a storybook ending, but he missed a potential game-winning midrange jumper in the final seconds. In the extra period, the team led by Crawford (46 points), Washington Wizards guard Martell Webster (25) and former UW standout Tre Simmons (26) pulled away for a 147-141 victory. However, the real winners were the fans. “I’ve had a fun time here in Seattle,” Durant told the crowd while holding the microphone at midcourt. “I miss you guys. Thank you for the warm welcome, man. I can’t wait to come back. Thank you. I appreciate it.”
  • Bernie Augustine of the New York Daily News: There is clearly some Air left in his Jordans. Michael Jordan wowed campers at his annual Flight School camp in California over the weekend, showing that His Airness can still fly — albeit at a lower altitude — by rising up and dunking with one hand. At 50-years-old. In a pair of jeans and Air Jordans. “This still happens,” was the description accompanying the photo sent out from the Twitter account of Jordan’s camp, @MJFlightSchool.A YouTube video shows a young camper defending Jordan, and when he goes for the steal the Hall of Famer drives the lane and throws down the one-handed jam. Jordan takes the youngster to school one more time in the short clip, playfully backing him down before spinning away and sinking a running left-handed hook shot. Something has clearly gotten into the NBA stars of the 1980s and 90s this summer, as they’ve reminded a younger generation that they still have it. Or at last some of “it.”
  • John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News: Let me start by saying, I think it's a bit ridiculous that it has taken new Sixers czar of basketball Sam Hinkie nearly 3 months to finally come up with a candidate worthy enough to offer his head coaching job. Even if we know that Hinkie's "analytical" approach to managing is the exact opposite of an "instinctive" one, 3 months is a long time for dotting all of the i's and crossing the t's. … Brown doesn't have the Sixers over a barrel, but if you're Hinkie and you've waited this long to come up with the right coach, can you afford to have him turn you down? How would you then sell the next guy in line as anything more than a temporary hire or a guy desperate for any head-coaching job? That would be a humiliating confirmation of how bad people think of the Sixers' situation. Still, I like that Brown has some kind of hammer over Hinkie because at the minimum he should be able to coax out a long-term commitment as the coach. … With the Sixers expected to lose anywhere from 55 to 65 games, a one-and-done scenario could definitely be in play for the next coach If I were Brown, I'd insist on a 4- or 5-year contract from the Sixers - one that gives management incentive to stick by me through some anticipated lean times. Honestly, the next coach getting a long-term commitment also would be best for the Sixers.
  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: “I understand,” Greg Oden said. “My body is not going to be when I was 18, able to run all day and jump over people. I can’t do that now. It’s just not going to happen. My knees, the wear and tear of the surgeries, I understand that. “But I’m going to play as hard as I can, and I’m going to try to jump over people, and I’m going to try to run all day. If my body lets me, I’ll do it.” In that sense, he is grounded. That is good. His comeback, however, could be grounded, too, by the slightest slip. It might not even take a touch. That’s how brittle he is. That’s how fragile this comeback is. That’s what Heat fans need to understand. Oden’s return to game action should not be based on anything that is occurring inside the team. Bosh is getting beaten on the boards? Doesn’t matter. Chris Andersen can’t sustain last season’s success? Doesn’t matter. The team endures a losing streak of some length? Doesn’t matter. All that matters is how Oden feels about his readiness, and how the Heat feel about that feeling. In fact, even when Oden clears himself for greater responsibility, Heat decision-makers should stall him some, just to make sure.
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Kendrick Perkins himself admitted that he was displeased with his performance last season. And so he's dedicated this offseason to developing his skills and improving his game. … Perkins' motivation is twofold. The Thunder's second-round exit last season still is fresh in his mind, and he knows he didn't help the team as much as he would have liked to. As for the former, the basketball world now seems to be overlooking the Thunder going into the 2013-14 season, something that isn't lost on the Thunder. “They count us out,” Perkins said. “But at the end of the day we feel like each guy at the end of the season said we were going to come back better. So we feel like each guy just got to step their roles up a little bit more and step their games up and we feel like we can do that.” Perkins will be the first to say that he's starting with the man in the mirror. He's heard his critics this offseason, and while he isn't making any vows to shut them up Perkins is using their criticism as fuel. “One thing I learned, and I learned this from Kevin Garnett, is don't only read the good things about you,” Perkins said.
  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: One could bill next July as the Summer of LeBron II. But as far as the Cavaliers are concerned, their most pressing need might be signing All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to a contract extension. The Cavs can offer Irving an extension in July 2014, undoubtedly for maximum dollars. … "I know it's your job to ask about it, but I'm not really worried about that right now," he said. "I'm going to focus on my third year and worry about that in the summertime." … The 6-foot-3, 191-pound Irving said he's content in Cleveland. "Right now I'm a Cavalier," Irving said. "This is where I am. All that other stuff, I'm not worrying about it. I'm living in the moment right now. I want to work with the coaching staff and get to the playoffs. That's all I can do right now, give it my all. All that future stuff, I'm not really worrying about it." He wants to make it clear that rumors on Twitter last month about him not re-signing with the Cavs were false. "My job is to play basketball," Irving said. "That guy on Twitter that said that, (he's not) close with my family. I wanted to let Cleveland know those rumors were bogus and nothing to worry about."
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: “I’m so thankful for the position that I’m in,” Otto Porter said in a recent telephone interview. “There are a lot of guys who would love to be in my position, so just to see how far I’ve come in two or three years, coming from a small area to now I’m here in the NBA and it’s all happened so fast, it’s amazing.” From the moment he declared for the draft out of Georgetown, Porter has been flooded with information about what it takes to survive in a high-profile occupation. Last week, that information was condensed to a four-day session of seminars and workshops at the NBA’s rookie transition program in Florham Park, N.J., designed to educate players on the challenges that come with handling their finances, relationships and health. Porter and fellow Wizards rookie Glen Rice Jr. were among the nearly 50 players in attendance to receive frank instruction and personal tales of hardship and perseverance from former and current players such as Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, Jerry Stackhouse and Kyrie Irving and other experts in their respective fields. They also gained an understanding of the expectations that come with being part of a business that generates more than $4 billion in annual revenue.
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: The roster makeover has been significant, and this clearly looks like a more competitive team than the one that bumbled its way to a 28-120 record the past two seasons. They drafted Indiana power forward Cody Zeller and signed free-agent center Al Jefferson. They re-signed shooting guard Gerald Henderson and power forward Josh McRoberts. In two lesser moves – but ones that fill needs new coach Steve Clifford identified – they’ve added veterans Jannero Pargo and Anthony Tolliver as third options at point guard and power forward, respectively. Tolliver agreed to a one-year, veteran-minimum deal Saturday. Once he formally signs, the Bobcats will have 13 guarantees for next season, with an NBA-maximum 15 roster spots available. The Bobcats also have power forward Jeff Adrien on an unguaranteed contract and have indicated they will work out guard Seth Curry, the Charlottean and former Duke star, who went undrafted in June. With 13 guarantees, this is pretty much the roster the Bobcats will bring to UNC-Asheville for training camp in October.
  • Staff of The Dallas Morning News: Norm Hitzges: How long a contract do you suspect you'll offer Dirk once he gets into free agency this year and you start the re-up discussion. Mark Cuban: I have no idea. But I'll talk to Dirk about it. Pretty much whatever he wants. Dirk's got a no-trade deal, so whether it's one year, three years, 20 years, it really doesn't matter. He gets to sign and re-sign as often as he wants. The length of the contract is more about how long longer Dirk wants to play more than anything else. Particularly with a young kid, he's gonna want to spend time, but he's also going to want to get some sleep. I don't see Dirk walking away from the game anytime soon. Dirk really wants to come back and send a message to everybody that he's got a lot left. The thing about Dirk is he's skill driven. He's basketball-IQ driven, he's wins driven. He's not driven by athleticism. As long as he stays healthy, he could play for a long time.

First Cup: Wednesday

July, 31, 2013
7/31/13
5:12
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: The strange summer saga of Brandon Jennings finally was resolved Tuesday. The Milwaukee Bucks agreed to a sign-and-trade deal with the Detroit Pistons, inking Jennings to a three-year, $24 million contract and sending him to Detroit in exchange for point guard Brandon Knight, small forward Khris Middleton and center Viacheslav Kravtsov. … The move signaled the Bucks’ determination to start anew after a sour ending to last season, culminating in a four-game sweep at the hands of the Miami Heat in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Gone are Jennings and Monta Ellis, the starters in the Bucks backcourt all of last season and the team’s two leading scorers. In their places are the 21-year-old Knight and 25-year-old shooting guard O.J. Mayo, who signed a three-year, $24 million free-agent deal earlier this summer. … The Bucks have only five holdovers from the roster at the end of the season: Larry Sanders, John Henson, Ersan Ilyasova, Ekpe Udoh and Ish Smith. Instead of committing to a long-term deal with Jennings, the Bucks obtained a player in the third year of his rookie-scale contract. Knight will make $2.8 million next season and $3.5 million in 2014-’15.
  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: The Pistons weren’t done wheeling and dealing, as Pistons president and Louisiana native Joe Dumars returned to his riverboat gambler ways, acquiring point guard Brandon Jennings in a sign-and-trade from the Milwaukee Bucks. The Pistons traded Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton and Slava Kravtsov for Jennings and will have him for the next three years at $24 million total. Mind you, this was not too far removed from Dumars demonstratively denying any talks with the Bucks, run by good friend and former Pistons executive John Hammond. Meaning he plays poker, too. In acquiring Jennings and Josh Smith, there’s two talented but mercurial players who could be termed as “wild cards.” Chemistry is indeed a fair question, but considering the Pistons got two players for far less than they felt they’d command on the open market — Smith wanted a max contract and Jennings wanted $12 million per season — they should have two players with things to prove to the NBA at large. A willingness to silence critics should make potential sacrifices a lot easier in what’s an interesting mix of talent, youth and experience in the Pistons’ locker room. The last time the Pistons changed three starters so dramatically in one offseason was in 2002 when they signed Chauncey Billups as a free agent, traded mainstay Jerry Stackhouse for some unknown guard named Richard Hamilton and plucked Tayshaun Prince late in the first round for what was a bad 2002 draft.
  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: After the spinal tap incident sidelined Luol Deng for the final seven games of the playoffs, he mostly stayed silent, other than a few health updates on Twitter. Deng finally addressed the incident in an interview posted on nba.com. He’s currently in Ghana for one of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders events. “The end of the season was disappointing,” Deng said. “I worked hard all season, played in the All-Star (Game), and wanted to take the team as far as possible in the playoffs. But then, when I got sick, I think that we could have handled the situation better. “Obviously there are some things that you can’t handle. You can’t really handle getting sick, being taken to the ER or going to the hospital. I got the spinal tap and that’s where it went all wrong. My body didn’t react well to the spinal tap. I had some serious side effects that not only didn’t allow me to play basketball, but really put my life in danger.” No matter how you slice it, Deng’s hospital visit on the afternoon of Game 6 vs. Brooklyn didn’t go well. Due to concerns he could have meningitis, Deng was given a spinal tap. As it turned out, he didn’t have meningitis. His body began to leak spinal fluid after the procedure, leaving him in no shape to move around, let alone play basketball. After a few rough days, there was nothing to do but wait for his body to replenish the fluid. The Bulls say Deng is doing fine now.
  • Chris Herrington of the Memphis Flyer: The Mike Miller introduction felt like the peak of the late-summer momentum that seems to have firmly re-entrenched the Grizzlies as a legitimate Western Conference contender. And Joerger went into a bit of detail about how Miller can factor on the floor, not only in spacing the court for the team's power players but also using his versatility to give the team more playmaking and more small lineup options. Perhaps most intriguing was the suggestion that this second go-round could last a little while. Joerger emphasized that Miller, in Memphis, would not be seen as merely a “hired gun,” but rather as a more meaningful part of the team and community. But the suggestion went further than that. Miller talked about “being a part of this for a long time to come.” Levien followed up by mentioning a “long relationship in Memphis going forward.” Miller signed a two-year deal with the Grizzlies with a player option in the second season, the idea being that Miller thinks he's got one more significant contract left in him. Based on the team's current salary projection, Miller might need to play out both years of his current contract to get a longer-term deal for above the vet minimum in Memphis. This will make next summer interesting. But that's next summer.
  • Michael Pointer of The Indianapolis Star: Q: Despite having an outstanding season, there’s been a lot of speculation you may go back to coming off the bench this season, especially if Danny Granger is healthy and ready. Would you be OK with that? Lance Stephenson: “I’m just coming in to play hard. Whatever coach (Frank Vogel) decides to do, I think it’s a great decision. Me coming off the bench, Danny coming off the bench, either way, we’re deep. Whatever helps the team, that’s what I want to do.”
  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: Derrick Favors knows he’ll need to more than hold his own, mentally and physically, now that Paul Millsap has headed to his backup’s childhood home to play for the Hawks and Al Jefferson has signed with Charlotte. That was the message they each had for Favors on their way out of Utah: “They both just told me, ‘It’s (your) team now; it’s time to take over; do your thing out there. You’ve been learning from us the past two or three years; now it’s time to play.’” To sum up Favors’ reaction to that sentiment: FINALLY! … More than ever, Favors realizes that devotion and continual self-motivation are critical to his long-term goals. Now that he’s a few months from the golden opportunity that he’s waited for so long, Favors realizes it’s on him to be a hard worker, a defensive beast, a reliable offensive presence and a solid leader for his teammates to get that chance someday to hold the NBA’s Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. And Favors believes he will.
  • Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com: USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo has left the door open for Portland Trail Blazers All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge to represent his country if he has interest in doing so. However, Colangelo reiterates that he is not reaching out to players. He only wants players who are willing to make the necessary commitment to going through the entire process. When asked about Aldridge's chances of being added to the USA Basketball program, Colangelo's response was basically that he needed to hear from Aldridge, himself. “I am always interested in players who seek to compete,” Colangelo told CSNNW.com Tuesday night. “My phone is always available. Unless one is hungry and passionate about USA Basketball, there is little chance. “Certainly we won't solicit.” In mid-April, Aldridge informed CSNNW.com that he would participate if requested. It is unknown at this time if Aldridge will contact Colangelo.
  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: Sorry, I can’t get excited about Ryan Gomes, who apparently is signing with the Thunder. Mike Miller? Absolutely. Dorrell Wright? OK. Derek Fisher? Fine. Ryan Gomes? Nope. A 6-foot-7 small forward who is a career 35 percent 3-pointer doesn’t fit the Thunder needs. Gomes always has been a good defender, but does the Thunder need a wing defender who’s not a great offensive threat? Let’s see. Thabo Sefolosha. DeAndre Liggins. Andre Roberson. I love defense as much as the next guy — OK, I love defense way more than most next guys — but the Thunder doesn’t need four wingmen whose forte is defense. It’s not that Gomes is a bad player. You’re not going to believe what I’m about to tell you, but it’s true.
  • Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: The team is on the verge of signing Spurs free agent forward DeJuan Blair to a one-year deal. Blair would be an immediate upgrade over Elton Brand, who signed this offseason with the Atlanta Hawks. He is 6-foot-7, 265 pounds but has a big frame and can beat up people. Phsyically, he would remind you of David West, without his touch around the rim or jumper from 15 feet. When Blair was a rookie out of Pittsburgh, he looked like he had the makings of becoming a nice, bruising power forward. A guy who scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds off the bench. As a rookie in 2009-'10, Blair played in all 82 games with the San Antonio Spurs and averaged 7.8 points and 6.4 rebounds. Since then, it's been a straight ride down the bench. Last season, he averaged 5.4 points, 3.8 boards and a career-low 14.0 minutes per game. When he's "good", he can push people around, defend the low block, and grab some boards and score junk buckets. He should be in the Mavs rotation, and be better than Brand.
  • Shannon J. Owens of the Orlando Sentinel: So, a top 10 NBA draft pick, a former Orlando Magic guard, a Houston Rockets forward and a Euro Cup MVP walked into an Orlando recreation center gym the other night. I promise this isn't the start of a joke. How is this for a pick-up ball lineup? Austin Rivers, Courtney Lee, Chandler Parsons and Nick Calathes. All four gathered at the Downtown recreation center Monday night, competing together for the first time this summer in the Orlando Pro-Am league. With the exception of Calathes, who flew to Memphis to meet with theGrizzlies about potentially playing for the team, the rest of the NBA ballers came back for more rec hoops action Tuesday. "This is the best competition and best league in Orlando, so it's definitely fun coming out here," Parsons said. "The crowd gets into it, people are talking trash, so it's fun." And some of you thought all NBA players are spoiled millionaires with no love for the game. Clearly, you're not looking in the right places. Seriously, I've seen high school gyms pack with better crowds than what I witnessed Monday night as Parsons' 3 Stripes team beat 800-Trial-Pro — headlined by former UCF star Keith Clanton — 105-93 before a crowd of about 150 people.
  • Ryan Lillis of The Sacramento Bee: What began as a small group of neighborhood activists scraping for donations at a picnic in a midtown Sacramento garden has developed into a volatile political clash over whether to hold a public vote on the city's plan to subsidize a new Kings arena downtown. The debate has escalated in recent days. There have been allegations that paid signature gatherers are lying to voters, charges of doctored press releases and outrage on Twitter about claims made by both sides. In an indication of how intense the campaign has become, more than 56,000 city voters received an automated "robocall" Sunday evening extolling the virtues of a downtown arena and attacking the campaign under way to place the city's financing plan before the voters in June. Those kinds of robocalls are not unusual during campaign season. But a vote on the arena – if it comes at all – won't be held for another 10 months.
  • Richard Goldstein of The New York Times: Ossie Schectman, a Knicks guard and a onetime all-American at Long Island University in Brooklyn, played when the two-handed set shot ruled and a 6-foot-8 center was a giant. When Schectman died on Tuesday at 94, he was remembered as a central figure in the National Basketball Association’s creation tale. He scored the first 2 points in the league’s history and became something of a celebrity when the distinction was uncovered, 42 years and 5 million points later. On the night of Nov. 1, 1946, the Knicks faced the Toronto Huskies at Maple Leaf Gardens, the home of the National Hockey League’s Maple Leafs, before 7,090 fans more familiar with face-offs than jump balls. The court covered the ice surface. It was the inaugural game of the Basketball Association of America, which became the N.B.A. three years later.

First Cup: Friday

November, 25, 2011
11/25/11
6:25
AM ET
  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "With the goal of trying to save an NBA season that would start on Christmas Day, representatives for the league and its locked-out players will meet today to resume negotiations that secretly began Monday. Whenever a deal is struck, Grizzlies free agent forward Shane Battier is convinced that both sides share blame for the league's work stoppage. 'It's disappointing on all sides,' Battier told USA Today this week. 'When we look back at this, there's blood on everybody's hands. I don't think there's one group to blame. In the information age we live in, the communication is the issue which I think is ironic. Communications between owners and players, players and players, owners and owners. I believe there could've been clearer channels of communication to cut off some of the miscommunications that seem to occur. ... Both sides were dealing with things that could've been addressed earlier in the process, but there's a whole new set of rules with the litigation.' "
  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Unlike during the 1998-'99 season, Sam Perkins believes this year's group of NBA players are more together than the crew from 13 years ago. Now an assistant coach with the NBA Development League's Texas Legends, the 50-year old Perkins averaged 11.9 points and 6.0 rebounds during a 17-year career that ended in 2001. He also won an NCAA title at North Carolina in 1982, and was the co-captain of the 1984 USA Olympic gold-medal winning squad. Perkins shared his opinions with on several topics, including the NBA lockout, which has put the season in jeopardy. (Q): You were involved in the NBA lockout during the 1998-'99 season. What do you think is the difference in that lockout and this year's lockout? (A): I think it's now in the hands of the players, because they stood firm and collectively as opposed to '99, where agents were involved and we separated a little bit. So we had disparity in some cases. But I think this year you don't have that. So you have a lot of guys inclined to stick together."
  • Deron Snyder of the Washington Times: "The NBA lockout is hurting a lot of 'little people' right now, from ushers and vendors to bartenders and waiters to bellhops and drivers. But if the labor dispute continues much longer, some tall people might be hurting, too. It could happen next week when the 'Homecoming Tour' tips off in Akron, Ohio. Or during the 'Obama Classic' on Dec. 12. Or another of the myriad charity/exhibition/pickup games NBA players have staged since summer. I’m concerned about some participants in the fundraiser for President Obama’s re-election campaign. Among the confirmed players are Magic Johnson, Doc Rivers, Patrick Ewing and Dikembe Mutombo. Maybe they’ve forgotten, but the NBA used to stage an old-timers game during All-Star weekend. It’s no longer part of the festivities (replaced by the Rookie Challenge) and for good reason: Retired All-Stars David Thompson and Norm Nixon suffered major injuries during the 1992 Legends Classic, a ruptured patella tendon and a ruptured quadricep tendon, respectively. Thompson at 37 and Nixon at 36 were the youngest players in the game. The aforementioned geriatrics will be the oldest players in Obama’s fundraiser. ... The threat of injury goes hand-in-hand with another reason these games are risky propositions for the players. Watching too much freestyle basketball dulls the fans’ senses and makes the games dull. There’s a limit on our tolerance for get-out-the-way defense, streetball dribbling tricks, unstructured play and monotonous one-on-ones. We can only take it in small doses, specifically, once a year each February. But if every game is like the All-Star Game, no thanks."
  • Wendell Maxey for The Oregonian: "It's been seven months since the 6-foot-8 Batum departed Portland for France after a season in which he averaged a career best 12.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. While the NBA lockout jeopardizes the 2011-12 regular season and Batum's return to the Rose Garden, he's undergone a transformation beyond what his 22-years shows. It began in September playing with the French National team at the 2011 European Championships in Lithuania. It continues today where Batum stars for reigning French League champion SLUC Nancy, which also competes in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague. No longer is Batum the 20-year old shy kid who arrived in Portland in 2008 as the 25th overall selection in the NBA Draft. He has matured from a boy to a man and into a team leader for Nancy. 'I grew up,' Batum said when asked how he's changed since last season in Portland, his words reverberating with confidence. 'People have shown me respect -- the coaches, the players, the refs. I've gone through some great experiences this summer with the national team and now here. When the game is on the line I want the ball. The game is in my hands. That is very good for me. This is different because this is my team.' ... Batum may have grown up on and off the court the last few months in France, but Portland is never far from his mind, or his game. In a matter of seconds, Batum jogs down the hall and into the locker room and retrieves one of his size 16 red and white adidas basketball shoes. There it is -- the Blazers pinwheel logo screen printed onto the shoes' tongue with 'Batman 15' scrolled on the side. 'I don't forget,' Batum said with a smile. 'I don't forget Portland.' "
  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: "John Stockton drives left, hurriedly pulls up while the clock races downward and drills a 3-pointer with no time remaining to send the Jazz to their first-ever NBA Finals. Jerry Sloan rushes the court like a madman, waving his arms and beaming as he races along the hardwood. Karl Malone delivers, time after time after time. Thanks to the magic of television, the Jazz have been one of the premier teams in the league during the 147-day lockout. While modern stars such as LeBron James have become faceless during the work stoppage, relegated to random charity exhibition games and promotional appearances, the NBA has lived through its storied past. Some say the best way to live life is not to look back. But that’s often all the lockout-out league has been able to do, as days have turned into months and a work stoppage that began July 1 pushes toward December."
  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: "Like many professional athletes, coaches and executives, Jay Triano quietly gives back to his community. The former Raptors head coach, now the special assistant to GM Bryan Colangelo, was recognized recently for his good work. Triano was given the first Humanitarian of the Year Award by the Angel Foundation for Learning, which has worked for the past 25 years to assist underprivileged students in the Toronto Catholic District school system. Triano told QMI Agency he had good mentors growing up and likes to help out where he can. 'It goes back to (his friend) Terry Fox, he tried to make a difference,' Triano said."

First Cup: Wednesday

October, 12, 2011
10/12/11
6:39
AM ET
  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: "Amar'e Stoudemire said last night if the NBA lockout wipes out the season, he believes the players will form their own league instead of trying to catch on in Europe. 'If we don't go to Europe, we're going to start our own league, that's how I see it,' the Knicks forward said. 'It's very serious. It's a matter of us strategically coming up with a plan, a blueprint and putting it together. So we'll see how this lockout goes. If it goes one or two years, we've got to start our own league.' Stoudemire, who spoke at the 34th street Foot Locker where he debuted his new Nike Air Max shoe, declined to say if there's financial backing in place."
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Tuesday, on his Twitter account, LeBron James posted a query to ESPN NFL analyst John Clayton, 'When is the deadline for a team to sign a free agent?' Clayton responded on his Twitter account, 'LeBron, sorry to get back to you so late. Trade deadline next Tuesday 4 p.m. Free agency goes until last team is eliminated. Game on.' Clayton followed with two more posts. First, 'LeBron, because you have some time and you were a WR, the 49ers just signed Brett Swain. You might check with Buffalo.' And then, 'LeBron, don't look at the Philadelphia Eagles. You're already on a Dream Team.' James' Twitter post came a week after he worked out in full pads but without contact with the St. Vincent-St. Mary football team in Akron, Ohio, where he had starred as a prep football and basketball standout."
  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "On Monday the first two weeks of the season were canceled, and more games could be killed soon, making this an abbreviated season at best. A shorter season might actually help the Lakers. Why wouldn't they want it for Derek Fisher (37 years old), Kobe Bryant (33), Pau Gasol (31), Steve Blake (31), Matt Barnes (31) and Luke Walton (31)? Oh, and Odom will be 32 in a few weeks, followed a week later by Metta World Peace's first birthday after the first 31 were celebrated by Ron Artest. Rest during the lockout should be embraced by the Lakers the same way dancing lessons should be bought in bulk by World Peace, who somehow fared worse on 'Dancing With the Stars' than his team had on the basketball stage a few months earlier. Regardless, there's a slim line between a shortened season and an uncomfortably truncated one. The Lakers don't want the lockout to drag on too long."
  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "The growing anti-player sentiment among fans doesn't sit well with Grizzlies guard Tony Allen, who unleashed his grit and grind Tuesday afternoon with a defensive rant on Twitter. 'If I see 1 more person on my timeline thinkn! The players want more money -im gone go crazy!!' Allen wrote, using his handle, @aa000G9. Allen pointed out that the owners are 'the 1s who locked us out for more (bri_) please know the facts we play the game fans love 2 watch so why do they want 2 cut us short!!' ... Allen appeared to take offense to his Twitter followers who are against the players. 'So for now on don't @ me! About the players locking out cause it aint me and my crew!! S/o 2 the grizzlies!! On that amazing season! We had!' Allen wrote. Allen cautioned fans not to panic because the situation boils down to negotiations. 'So there is no hate!! Its just unfortunate! That the fans get left out of the loop!!' Allen wrote."
  • Lynn Zinser of The New York Times: "This being a brand-awareness age, the players are obviously conscious of being tagged greedy millionaires depriving fans of professional basketball. Their very large, and largely guaranteed, contracts make that a tougher sell than N.F.L. players had in their lockout. But the interesting part is, they are clearly aware they need to do the selling and social media gives them an outlet. But, as the public image specialist Mike Paul warns, the longer the lockout goes, the more likely that polished social media front will crack. ... Paul said he believes both the players and teams would help themselves by doing more than just managing their messages. He said he would counsel them to reach out actively to fans, create events they can attend and engender some goodwill while the lockout costs them games. 'I think they are missing a huge opportunity,' Paul said."
  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "Speaking with agents yesterday, there is the belief that the NBA has in its possession a 50-game template it can unveil if it takes a couple of more months to achieve labor peace. Also, league sources have confided now and in the past that it becomes critical to have the NBA up and running when the NFL regular season wanes. Last season was an anomaly of sorts when, after the Summer of LeBron, there was real pro basketball interest in the months of November and December, and it was reflected in the television ratings. Now, with college football and the NFL bleeding all over the weeknight lineup, the NBA won’t mind waiting until it has a less crowded stage. Particularly when it means getting the deal it wants."
  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: "Sometime down the line the owners are going to win. We just don’t know by how much. Still, will they really be victors? With the goodwill of a Dallas Mavericks win over hated — but eyeball-grabbing Miami — a faded memory? With a distracting NCAA season for the ages set to tip? With many former fans having abandoned ship due to anger, or, even worse, apathy? And what about in Toronto, a city where home attendance dropped from ninth in the league in 2008 (19,435 per game) and 10th in 2009 to 14th in 2010 and just 19th (16,566 per) last season? Sitting through a 60-loss campaign was tough for Raptors fans last season, but at least they got to know the young core. The longer they go without being reminded that DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis, Jerryd Bayless, Andrea Bargnani and the rest still exist, the harder it will be to fill the stands whenever NBA ball resumes. That’s the risk. But David Stern et al don’t seem too worried. Maybe they should be."
  • Tom Reed of The Plain Dealer: "Anthony Parker can play small forward, shooting guard, and, in a pinch, point guard. These days, the Cavaliers' veteran finds himself in an unfamiliar position – stay-at-home dad. ... 'These are not good financial times,' Parker said. 'There are a lot of families hurting and there are lot of families that depend on the industry of the NBA: ushers, parking garage attendants, people who work in restaurants near the arenas. This is not lost on us.' It's believed the Cavaliers have not laid off or furloughed any of their employees during a lockout that began on July 1. Cavaliers guard Baron Davis apologized to fans Tuesday for the work stoppage. Parker and Davis are two team members who have attended union meetings. Davis also was involved in a negotiating session two weeks ago with the league in New York. 'The issues are complex, everyone wants a deal that is fair for them,' Davis told The Plain Dealer via email. 'We as players are united in our belief that we have to do what is best for the long term, not just for the short term of the league and its players.' "
  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "Ben Gordon wasn't surprised when NBA commissioner David Stern announced Monday that the league was canceling the first two weeks of the season because of the ongoing lockout of players. ... 'I think there will be more games missed,' Gordon said when reached by phone as he was driving to Chicago. 'I expect it might be a year or two. I realized that when I was listening to both sides during the negotiations. I think there will be a lot of games missed and more money is going to go down the drain. I'm preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best.' ... 'It just seemed scripted, and they were going through the motions,' said Gordon, calling it a valuable learning experience. 'Sitting there in front of them you could tell they weren't focused on getting a deal. I still don't know the purpose of those meetings.' "
  • Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Front office employees of the Hawks have yet to hear from either impending new owner Alex Meruelo or impending lame duck majority owners from the Atlanta Spirit about whether there will be a payroll reduction — be it in the form of layoffs, furloughs or salary cuts. But at the very least, about 300-plus game-day employees — concessionaires, ushers, ticket-takers, stat crew members, security, etc. — are out of jobs. Restaurants at CNN Center and around Philips Arena already took a hit when the Thrashers were sold and moved to Winnipeg. This lockout will last as long as it takes for players to cave. The owners created this mess by giving out stupid contracts. But the economics of this league can’t support the current CBA and the players need to realize that. Until then, regular people with regular jobs will take the hit."
  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: "For now, the work stoppage will continue. As will the $4-billion chess match. And the feeling that, now that owners and players have shown their willingness to miss regular-season games to achieve their goals, the road is wide open and the ultimate destination of the 2011 lockout is totally unknown."
  • Fred Kerber of the New York Post: "As Nets coach Avery Johnson said during several appearances in the past month, coaches around the league pretty much are in review mode. 'I'm watching video. Everything for me is about last year, what happened in games, what happened in practice, how did we have shootarounds,' Johnson said recently. 'You just continue to grind and grind about how to make what we do travel-wise, practice-wise, shootaround-wise, game-wise much more efficient, even not knowing parts.' Assuming there is a season, getting those parts in place will be as hectic as 1999, when the last lockout ended. In a normal year, there is a moratorium when teams can speak to free agents. Team execs doubt there will be any such period if a deal is reached. 'If there's a new CBA,' another team GM said, 'it'll take two weeks to write it up so the guidelines are set. There won't be a moratorium after that.' One of the other execs summed it up, saying, 'No matter what, you're going to have a lesser time to sign so there will be a priority on getting things done in a really short period. Some teams only have five, six guys under contract. They are going to be in a rough way. But that's down the road. I'm really concerned because of the systemic issues. It seemed like they were getting close, then ..."
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant is making good on his promise to put on a charity exhibition game featuring his fellow NBA superstars. Details of the event are expected to be announced at a news conference Wednesday afternoon. According to numerous sources with knowledge of the event, the game will pit two star-studded squads against each other, with one side being Durant's team and the other being former Oklahoma star Blake Griffin's team. Miami Heat star LeBron James is one of several players who have been confirmed for the event. New Orleans guard Chris Paul and Heat guard Dwyane Wade also are expected to show. The game is tentatively scheduled to be played Thursday, Oct. 27, inside the Cox Convention Center, which holds just shy of 14,000 for basketball."
  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "The Cavaliers dipped into the Division I college ranks on Tuesday when they hired Alex Jensen to be Canton's coach in the National Basketball Association Development League. Jensen, 35, was an assistant coach at St. Louis University under Rick Majerus. 'Alex is a great fit for our team and organization and what we want to develop and accomplish in Canton,' Canton general manager Wes Wilcox said in a prepared statement. ... Jensen will be introduced at a news conference next week in Canton. The Canton team, which has yet to be named, will open its D-League season on Nov. 25 vs. Iowa."

First Cup: Monday

October, 10, 2011
10/10/11
6:28
AM ET
  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: "When Kevin Durant strolled into the Pyramid, a hoodie covering his head, his eyes glued to the floor, the fans here for the Drew League-Goodman League exhibition affair began to stir. Durant was on the campus of Long Beach State representing the Washington-based Goodman League along with such players as John Wall (Washington Wizards) and Rudy Gay (Memphis Grizzlies) to face South Los Angeles-based Drew League players such as James Harden (Oklahoma City Thunder), Brandon Jennings (Milwaukee Bucks), Trevor Ariza (New Orleans Hornets) and Matt Barnes. They have been locked out by the NBA for 101 days and have been staging these games all over the country, this one Sunday in front of a packed house. ... By the way, the Drew League got the payback, winning 151-144, behind Harden's 48 points. Durant, an All-Star with the Thunder, finished with 50 and Wall had 55. 'I like playing in these games because it shows the fans how much we appreciate them and that we want to play games,' said Durant, who played in an exhibition game Saturday night in Miami. 'But we want to play and not be locked out.' "
  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "On the night before the N.B.A. was to begin canceling games, league and union officials gathered one more time Sunday night, but once again parted without an agreement, or any overt signs of progress. The hastily called meeting began at 6:30 p.m. in Manhattan and ended just before midnight. The only news either side would share was that they will continue meeting Monday afternoon. Presumably, Commissioner David Stern will wait until after that meeting to decide whether to cancel the first two weeks of the regular season, as he had indicated he would do. A person briefed on Sunday’s talks said the parties did not discuss the most contentious issue, the division of league revenues. Instead, the focus was on so-called system issues, such as the salary cap, the luxury tax and the length of contracts."
  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: "Marc Ganis, president of SportsCorp, a Chicago-based consulting firm, said the Hornets are in a better position to absorb lost regular-season games than other smaller-market franchises. 'They are in a unique position because they are owned by the NBA, so they can absorb a reduction in the regular season,' Ganis said. 'But there’s also a negative because if a satisfactory agreement is not reached with the players, the potential for contraction exists. The first team contracted will be the one owned by the league.' Despite the work stoppage, the Hornets have sold more than 9,000 season tickets, and they have strengthened their corporate sponsorship base with Chevron and Entergy coming on board in August. Hornets President Hugh Weber said they are $4 million ahead of where they were at this time last year. The franchise also continues to have productive discussions with the state on a new lease agreement. Unlike several franchises, the Hornets have announced no layoffs as a result of the lockout."
  • Tom Couzens of The Sacramento Bee: "The NHL opened its season Thursday with the great Bobby Orr and other members of the 1972 champions helping the Boston Bruins celebrate their sixth Stanley Cup title. Speaking of titles, will this be the year the Sharks finally bring the Cup to Northern California? While the NFL, baseball and the NHL enjoy the spotlight, where's the NBA? As each day passes without a resolution to the labor dispute, more and more fans are being turned off. And if regular-season games are canceled, many fans might never tune back in."
  • Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: "The NFL lost half a season to a players strike in 1982. Labor discord canceled the World Series in 1994. The NBA cut its regular season from 82 to 50 games because of a lockout. Two stubborn sides erased an entire NHL season in 2004-05. This stuff happens occasionally, and leagues and sports always survive. So will the NBA. But get this straight: Life goes on without you quite nicely, owners and athletes. You all stand to lose more than the fans, after all. So please come back soon, NBA, but if you don’t, well, the people you think of as fans are also people with real lives, people too busy to indulge your continued silliness and greed. Play or don’t. We will be fine either way."
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "And perhaps before the first basketball bounces at AmericanAirlines Arena following the conclusion of the lockout, Miami Heat President Pat Riley steps up to a microphone and does what only would be right: Extend the contract of coach Erik Spoelstra. Debate all you want what happened during those fateful first two weeks of June against the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals, of how Rick Carlisle seemingly pulled all the right strings with his insertion of J.J. Barea into the starting lineup and Brian Cardinal into the rotation. And ponder, if you choose, the lack of an immediate response, with Mario Chalmers not moved into the Heat starting lineup until the series-ending Game 6 loss. But what we have here is a coach who guided his team to the NBA Finals not only coming back in the final year of his contract, but, for the second time in his brief four-year tenure in the position, seemingly working in the midst of a pay cut."
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "James Harden, you are the biggest loser. No, we're not talking about pounds shed. This is about a possible promotion spoiled. The third-year guard looks to be the Oklahoma City Thunder player who stands to lose the most in this NBA lockout. Now that training camps have been postponed, and the entire preseason schedule wiped out, Harden could lose out on the starting shooting guard spot many believe should now be his. Only time will tell which direction Thunder coach Scott Brooks goes in. But with the training and exhibition portions of the schedule axed, and the first chunk of the regular season possibly being canceled Monday, time is not on Harden's side. If we've learned anything about Brooks, it's that he's huge on consistency and continuity. And keeping Thabo Sefolosha in the first five offered Brooks those two luxuries. They became his safety net."
  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "There should be some great ball in China this winter. The Nuggets players will likely put on a show, though the competition level is more Joel Anthony than Carmelo Anthony. To put it in perspective, the top scorer on the CBA's top team last year was American Quincy Douby? — and not many folks have even heard of Quincy Douby. But why, of all the countries with pro ball, did the Nuggets' trio choose China? Sure, they are getting paid millions, but the CBA doesn't allow opt-out clauses in their contracts, meaning all three guys will be in China until mid-February or even later in the spring, pending a playoff run. So, if the NBA has even part of a season, these guys won't play until late in the spring, if at all. Why play in a league that does allow an opt-out clause? 'I think for a player who's chosen to go to China, they may be banking that the lockout may continue for an extended period of time,' said Lee Melchionni?, a player agent for Wasserman Media Group, which represents players such as Denver's Danilo Gallinari. 'And from a brand standpoint, you're able to familiarize yourself with the Chinese culture. If you're a true superstar, you really have an opportunity to expand your brand.' "
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "It sounds like a Thunder fan's worst nightmare. Kevin Durant loses all his talent and mysteriously morphs from an NBA scoring champ into having the skills of a teenage scrub who's so bad he can't make his high school squad. Ah, but fear not, Thunder faithful. It's only a movie. Durant is only acting out that transformation in his upcoming release 'Switch,' a family friendly film in which Durant will play himself and an unsuspecting kid (Disney star Taylor Gray) receives Durant's skills and becomes ‘The Man' at his high school. The film, which is produced by Warner Bros., has been granted license to use NBA property, meaning Durant will actually star for the Thunder rather than some generic professional basketball outfit."
  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "A group of area basketball coaches skipped late afternoon NFL action Sunday to listen to Pistons coach Lawrence Frank give the finer points on pick-and-roll defense and offense. The event was Detroit Mercy's fourth annual men's basketball coaches clinic, hosted by Titans coach Ray McCallum, and it has become customary for Pistons representation to be in attendance. And since Frank, hired in August, is the new guy in town, Sunday marked his first appearance at the event. After being introduced by McCallum, Frank talked about how the pick-and-roll has become more prevalent in the last 10 years. And although he said he was a 'defense-first coach,' he started with pick-and-roll offense. Unable to use current UDM players because of NBA lockout rules, Frank used former college players, including UDM's Desmond Ferguson, to demonstrate his concepts."
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Remember back last summer, when sports-talk radio took such glee in mocking the Bobcats' signing of Kwame Brown? The joke was on them; a bust when Michael Jordan originally drafted him with the Washington Wizards, Brown was the Bobcats' most cost-effective player. For about $1 million, he was a fine low-post defender and a surprisingly effective scorer. Now he's an unrestricted free agent, and in his absence, the Bobcats have no healthy true center. It could be expensive to bring Brown back, but the good news is he wants to be here. Brown feels a debt of gratitude to Jordan for bringing him to Charlotte after what happened with the Wizards."

First Cup: Tuesday

October, 4, 2011
10/04/11
6:44
AM ET
Andre C. Fernandez of The Miami Herald: "How much does South Florida miss pro basketball? Tickets for Saturday’s charity all-star game dubbed the “LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh present the South Florida All-Star Classic” at U.S. Century Bank Arena on FIU’s campus sold out quickly. The tickets went on sale at noon Monday and sold out in less than two hours. People lined up early and formed lines at the fieldhouse adjacent to FIU Stadium and at four other ticket windows. The main vending area began selling tickets 20 minutes before noon. By 1:47 p.m. all the tickets were sold. The exact amount of ticket sales was not announced Monday, but according to FIU, the arena is currently configured to hold approximately 4,000, due to some construction projects."

Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Apparently there will be no Round 2 between David Stern and Dwyane Wade. Despite a confrontation with the NBA commissioner at a collective-bargaining session last week, the Miami Heat guard, according to an NBA.com report, had been invited to return for Tuesday's round of lockout talks in New York. Wade's spokesperson, however, said that the All-Star guard would remain in South Florida with his family. Wade took umbrage to Stern's approach during a negotiating session last Friday, with Stern confirming the disagreement a day later."

Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: "Those reading the tea leaves might consider Kobe Bryant's appearance touting Nike's Italian sportswear as evidence he'll definitely wear the Virtus Bologna uniform. Remember this, though. Just because Bryant films a commercial promoting a country doesn't mean he'll end up playing there. He endorsed Turkish Airlines but declined to play for the Turkish team, Besiktas. He appeared in a Smart Car China commercial, but he didn't agree with the Chinese Basketball Federation's stance that it would sign him only if he waived an opt-out clause. Now Bryant has appeared in a Nike commercial that indicates he's playing in Milan, but it remains to be seen whether the Italian League will alter its schedule to accomodate Virtus Bologna."

Marc Berman of the New York Post: "The best-case scenario is compromises are reached to extend talks through tomorrow. But Stern revealed he is getting pressure from NBA arena operators to cancel games, so they can rebook the dates. 'If it's a short meeting, it's bad,' Stern said. 'If it's a long meeting, it's not as bad.' According to an NBA source, schedule maker Matt Winnick spent the past two months devising contingency schedules for a two-week delay, a four-week delay and so on. There are contingencies in place for a 60-game schedule and a 70-game schedule. Deputy commissioner Adam Silver said even if things go well today, a deal still can't be hatched because '100 issues haven't been addressed.' "

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "With NBA preseason games easy to ignore - and labeled by Charles Barkley as a way for owners to 'rip off' fans - few mourned the loss of the schedule's first 43 relatively meaningless tuneups. But in the communities where the NBA's preseason road show pitches its tents and offers a night with at least a glimpse of its stars, the loss has not been so easily dismissed. These were events to be celebrated, impossible to replace with another ice show or concert. 'Having the NBA come here in the Valley is for us like hosting the Super Bowl,' said Eric Blockie, general manager of the State Farm Arena in Hidalgo. 'It's a big-time sport. It sells out. We embrace it wholeheartedly.' With Monday's scheduled start of training camp lost amid negotiations in New York that Tuesday could determine if the season will start on time Nov. 1, the league appears only another day or two from wiping out the rest of the preseason schedule."

Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "In the absence of a lockout, Stephen Curry would be in the Bay Area right now, preparing for the start of training camp Tuesday. If the impasse drags into December, he'll complete three classes in Davidson's fall semester. That would put him one class and a senior thesis away from earning his sociology degree. And what if the lockout ends during the semester? 'I've had that discussion with the dean of academics here and each of my professors,' said Curry, who starred for Davidson between 2006 and 2009. 'There are no shortcuts here. There is a kind of line that if I get past it, I could finish my assignments (independently) and the semester. But I don't yet know where that line is class to class.' In the meantime he's taking that education class, a research class and a course in medical sociology. Along with all that, he's settling into a home in the Weddington area with his wife of two months, the former Ayesha Alexander. The couple plan to make that their primary residence, regardless of where basketball takes them."

Sean Meagher of The Oregonian: "Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports with a tidbit on Oklahoma City assistant GM Troy Weaver and the Portland Trail Blazers' ongoing search for a permanent general manager: Weaver, an assistant GM, had interviewed for the job in early September, and was still a prominent part of the pool of candidates, sources said. Portland officials conducting the search have failed to reach a consensus on bringing in candidates to meet owner Paul Allen, and had started gauging the interest of more established GMs in the league. Blazers officials hope that offering more money to higher-profile candidates could convince some to push their own owners to let them get involved in the search. Related: John Canzano: Four-plus months after owner Paul Allen flushed Rich Cho, Portland remains rudderless at its most important basketball-related position."

Carla Peay of the Washington Times: "Washington Wizards center Andray Blatche has avoided the traveling summer league all-star shows that many NBA stars, including several of his teammates, have kept busy with, preferring to work out and focus on his foundation activities. The Andray Blatche Foundation mainly involves working with children, but he’s expanded his focus to include the Wounded Warriors program, which helps returning veterans and their families. In partnership with the USO, and the USO of Metropolitan D.C., Blatche hosted a reception Friday for a group of injured veteran and their families aboard the USS Sequoia, the former official presidential yacht. Blatche donated $10,000 to Operation Enduring Care for the Wounded Warrior and Family Center under construction at Fort Belvoir. ... Blatche started his foundation in 2009, with the motto of 'providing an assist whenever and wherever we can.' Blatche praised the sacrifice of the veterans and the courage of their families, especially the children. 'I love working with kids. Whenever I have the opportunity to work with kids, I take full advantage of it,' said Blatche, who took his foundation work to Jamaica, New York, South Carolina and Miami this summer."

Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "The Texas Legends will look to a legendary coach to lead them this season. Savvy, 74-year-old Del Harris officially will be announced to take over the Frisco-based Legends at a news conference Tuesday, becoming the second coach in as many seasons for the National Basketball Development League team, several sources said Monday. Harris replaces Nancy Lieberman, who left the team after one year for family obligations. She was the first female coach of a men’s team under the NBA umbrella. Harris has been in coaching for parts of six decades at virtually every level of competition. He has been coaching for more than 35 years in the NBA and spent parts of 14 NBA seasons as a head coach with a career mark of 556-457. He was the league’s coach of the year in 1995 while with the Los Angeles Lakers."

Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: "The NBA lockout is not stopping the Development League from moving forward with its upcoming season. The Idaho Stampede, the Utah Jazz's new D-League affiliate, are scheduled to hold an open tryout from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the XSI Factory in Lehi. Registration starts at 9 a.m. More information can be found here. The Stampede are coached by former NBA guard Randy Livingston, who briefly played for the Jazz during the 2004-05 season. 'The season for us has been on the way for a few weeks now,' Livingston said. 'We're just having one of our free agent tryout camps, and that's one of our ways to obtain players, so we're kind of hitting that hard.' Saturday's tryout will mark the third open workout session for the Stampede, who are also affiliated with Portland and Denver."

Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: "The NBA might be mired in a nasty lockout, but Spurs forward Da’Sean Butler was able to enjoy his unexpected vacation in a manner he couldn’t have imagined if the team was in the middle of training camp. Butler returned to his old school West Virginia over the weekend to celebrate the Mountaineers’ homecoming game against Bowling Green. After earning All-America honors and scoring more than 2,000 points in his career, Butler is a certifiable WVU icon. He returned to serve as homecoming parade marshal, learning a lesson about candy tossing while he went."

First Cup: Monday

October, 3, 2011
10/03/11
6:36
AM ET
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Since Isiah Thomas' arrival in 2009 as coach at Florida International University, there has been more than a touch of suspicion from local NBA fans about what exactly the Hall of Fame guard was up to over on the west side of town. For the moment at least, there is only one response: A world of good. With his NBA ties and a ready-to-go gym, Thomas has put himself front and center at one of the biggest exhibitions during the NBA lockout, next Saturday's 7 p.m. game at U.S. Century Bank Arena, one to raise funds for Mary's Court Foundation, the Chicago-based charity set up in honor of his mother to help economically distressed children and families. It is an event that again has Thomas back in the white hat again. For now. And that's the thing about Thomas and his new South Florida home. Wasn't it only a year ago that he supposedly was serving as an unpaid agent of the New York Knicks, bidding to lure LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to Madison Square Garden? And now he's hosting the charity game organized by the three at the home of his FIU Panthers?"
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "Did something happen between Kendrick Perkins and Russell Westbrook? We don't know. But if there is some sort of rift between the Thunder's starting point guard and center, as one report recently suggested, the two must be awfully good actors. From the time Perkins joined the Thunder in late February, he and Westbrook took turns sticking up for the other. By the end of the season, it had become clear that the team's two biggest targets for criticism had developed, if nothing else, a mutual respect. When Westbrook's shot selection and decision making came under fire throughout the playoffs, it was Perkins who spoke loudest as Westbrook's biggest defender. ... On the court, Perkins and Westbrook had occasional disagreements. One of the more memorable happened in mid-March against Charlotte when Perkins appeared to chew out Westbrook following one possession of poor defense. But those were viewed more as routine spats. Was there something more? Kevin Durant admitted in a recent interview with SI.com that an argument of some kind did indeed transpire. But he classified it as normal, so much so that he said he had forgotten it happened. He then said 'everybody enjoys each other's company,' and added those disagreements will only make the team better."
  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "The league seems to be edging closer to the most inept moment in its history, which is what canceling the entire season would represent. If the owners who are OK with losing the season — Phoenix’s Robert Sarver, Cleveland’s Dan Gilbert and Boston’s Wyc Grousbeck among them — believe fans deprived of games they love will forgive a lost year, you have to wonder how they ever managed to make enough money to buy their teams. In a rocky economy, alienating customers by withholding a product they love would be lunacy. ... Spurs owner Peter Holt, who chairs the owners’ labor relations committee, is no chicken. Awarded a Silver Star for valor in the Vietnam War, it may be time for Holt to take control of the committee and demand its members recognize the tens of millions in givebacks the players already have put on the table. After all, Holt’s team has remained competitive in a small market because it has been one of the league’s smartest in managing the soft cap. Also, the fact the Spurs paid no luxury tax but still lost several million dollars in a 2010-11 season in which they won 61 games gives Holt a platform to demonstrate to the players that the plea for some form of systemic change is no semantic trick from Stern."
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "Within another 10 days or two weeks, an announcement about losing regular season games will come. All the while, the Mavericks will miss out on their first chances to be announced as the reigning NBA champions. Maybe some of the Mavericks will be working out on their own at SMU or somewhere else. And with a core of wily veterans, not going through a training camp isn't the worst thing for them. But for the sake of the game, it's a downer, to be sure. The NBA, like any other sport, can turn into an 'out of sight, out of mind' adventure in a hurry. With the Cowboys becoming increasingly entertaining and the Rangers in the playoffs, the NBA is pretty much forgotten right now in the local market. The longer that happens, the tougher it will be for the Mavericks to build on the outrageous momentum that a championship can create."
  • Lee Friedman of The Washington Post: "His public comments aside, there has been no proof that Ted Leonsis has fallen in with the hard-line crowd (Robert Sarver of the Suns, Dan Gilbert of the Cavs) of NBA owners during the labor negotiations. Those owners are pushing for a hard cap and a much smaller share of revenues going to players, and would be okay sacrificing part or even all of the season in order to protect them from, in Leonsis’ own words, 'taking their stupid pills.' What we do know is that Leonsis voluntarily bought a team in a league that by his own admission has weak financials. He’s said that the NBA needs an NHL-style salary cap (setting a historical precedent as the first and only time anyone has ever said about anything that they wished it was more like the NHL) in order to survive. While Leonsis may be a savvy businessman and marketer, buying in to a league and then holding its fans hostage because you don’t like the rules of the game doesn’t engender much sympathy from anyone. ... There are many teams in small markets who legitimately struggle and would be helped by revenue sharing — a solution that the owners must negotiate among themselves. The Wizards are not one of those teams, though. If they can’t turn a profit under the current system the fault is with the team management, not the system."
  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "Already, the NBA has delayed the start of training camps, originally scheduled to open today, through Oct. 15 and canceled 43 preseason games, including three in Portland. It's possible some, perhaps even all, of the 82-game regular season schedule will be eliminated. And though it's difficult to forecast the exact economic impact a prolonged lockout would have on the Portland area, the hit would be substantial, according to local businesses. 'The value of the Blazers team to this community is measured in the millions,' said Drew Mahalic, CEO of the Oregon Sports Authority. 'Their absence will, quite frankly, be devastating to the Portland regional community in that it impacts so many different businesses when they play.' A lot of the revenue generated from Blazers games -- gate receipts, parking dollars, food and concession funds -- pads the wallet of billionaire owner Paul Allen and helps pay for the multimillion-dollar operation of running the team. But Blazers home games also funnel money throughout the community. TriMet ridership increases on game nights. Business booms at local restaurants and bars. Hotels house visiting NBA teams."
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "If there's an amnesty clause written into the NBA's next CBA, the Magic will most likely use it to pay off Gilbert Arenas and part ways with the enigmatic, fading point guard. It's an easy call to use this mulligan, given the three years and $62 million left on Arenas' contract. With the amnesty clause, a team that foolishly overpaid for a player can pay off said player and release him, with the money this time coming off the salary cap. ... The last time amnesty was used, in 2005, the so-called 'Allan Houston rule' allowed teams to lop off a salary, but they could only subtract it from the punitive luxury tax. The bad news? The Magic have not one, but two, amnesty candidates, which says something about their roster. Slumping Hedo Turkoglu is owed 'only' $34 million over the next three seasons, but amnesty rules would allow a team to use the mechanism on only one player. Arenas could then become a free agent and shop his services to the highest bidder."
  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Surviving financially during the lockout can be tough for rookies because they haven't earned money like the veterans. Josh Selby said he's resisted the temptation of living beyond his current means. 'Money-wise, I wouldn't say it's been difficult,' Selby said. 'It would be wonderful if there wasn't a lockout. But everybody has a loan they can take out. I'm just trying to keep a budget and make sure I don't overspend. I don't need to buy an expensive car or a home. I don't need any of that.' Witherspoon said her son is still in 'hard-work, I-don't-have mode.' 'Josh has always had a support system with his family,' Witherspoon said. Until there's a new collective bargaining agreement, Selby's core will be his main resource. 'If I want to I could chill all day and not do anything,' Selby said. 'But that's not what I'm doing. I'm working hard every day. I'm very anxious to show what I can do.' "
  • Chris Singleton for the Washington Times: "Chris Singleton was selected by the Wizards with the 18th overall pick in this spring’s NBA draft. In the third of a series, Singleton shares with The Washington Times’ Carla Peay his thoughts on an NBA dream put on hold and his plans for the lockout. ... As rookies, we’re keeping up on what’s going on, but nobody has put in a call to [players’ union president] Derek Fisher. But I know he’s talked to our agents. All we can do as rookies is get ready for the season and hope this thing gets solved. We’re all just waiting for the phone to ring. Kind of like draft night. I know people are worried about not having a season, but I think we’ll have one. If I had to make a guess, I’d say we get into camp by December, maybe get the season going by January. I have heard some talk about the negotiations, about whether some of the stars should be speaking out more, but to me, the stars have stepped up, because they are all still here. They haven’t gone overseas. Maybe if we miss the whole season, some of the stars might consider that option, but it looks to me like they are staying here and fighting for a deal. My focus is still on staying here and finishing school. I won’t really think about going overseas unless we miss the whole season."

First Cup: Wednesday

September, 28, 2011
9/28/11
6:28
AM ET
  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "Within a span of four months, Rick Welts quit his front-office job with the Phoenix Suns, packed for a move to Sacramento, where his partner lives, and on Tuesday accepted a job as president of the Golden State Warriors. And by the way, Welts is gay. I want to say that again. And by the way, Welts is gay. So let's see, now. The sky didn't fall. The earth didn't shake. The Warriors weren't damned to NBA lottery eternity for hiring an executive who, earlier this year, became the highest-ranking official in men's team sports to publicly acknowledge that he is gay. Who knows? A few shrewd personnel moves, a season of fewer injuries, an impressive debut by rookie coach Mark Jackson, and the Warriors conceivably could move out of the pits of the Pacific Division for the first time since Golden State chased off Dirk Nowitzki's Dallas Mavericks in 2007."
  • Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: "The Warriors hired a gay man as their chief operating officer, and fans of the team will have some serious questions and concerns, such as: Can Rick Welts help us get a rebounder who is taller than 6-6? Will he recognize and exploit the genius of Jerry West? Can Welts save us from the $10 beer? The part about Welts being an openly gay exec in a manly-man's manly sport is interesting and noteworthy, but is it big news? Only in that it's not big news."
  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "At this simple hoop, homeless and disadvantaged youngsters of Bahia Blanca sometimes shoot baskets and dream they can be like Manu Ginobili, the most famous athlete in the history of this industrial town of nearly 300,000 in a far southeastern corner of Buenos Aires province. Most of the children know about Manu, but not necessarily because of his fame as the hero of Argentina’s 2004 Olympic champion basketball team or his status as an All-Star guard for the four-time NBA champion San Antonio Spurs. Nela Agesta, the 70-something matriarch of Mama Margarita House, makes certain the children to whom she ministers understand Ginobili is the one who puts fresh meat, fruits and vegetables on their plates on a daily basis. This, she tells them, is heroism on a plane much higher than athletic achievement. ... Though his heart never will stray far from Bahia Blanca, Ginobili now belongs to all of Argentina. From Patagonia to the far Northwest border with Brazil, possibly only Lionel Messi, the greatest of Argentina’s current crop of soccer stars, can match his popularity. ... At the Mama Margarita House, Agesta prays daily for Manu Ginobili and the work his foundation does, wherever that may be. 'Just one grain of sand on a mountain of troubles,' she says of her work at Mama Margarita House. For Manu Ginobili and his foundation, many mountains await."
  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: "Standing before a crowd of smiling kids, on top of a newly resurfaced basketball court in his old South Side neighborhood, Bulls guard Derrick Rose put the NBA’s labor issues into perspective. 'To me, the lockout is unnecessary,' Rose told the crowd at Murray Playground Park in Englewood. 'There’s no reason billionaires and millionaires should be arguing about money.' In a normal year, Rose would be getting ready to open Bulls training camp next Tuesday and build on the 62-win season of 2010-11. Instead, training camp is postponed indefinitely while the players and owners figure out how to divide a hefty pile of revenues. Rose said he’d consider playing overseas if the entire NBA season is canceled, but he made it clear that option is a long way from coming true. He has no offer, team or country in mind. He recently returned from taking his mother, Brenda, on a trip to Bora Bora, which has no professional basketball."
  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "Portland Trail Blazers legend Arvydas Sabonis suffered a heart attack while playing basketball Tuesday night in his native Lithuania, but his condition is not believed to be life threatening. Sabonis was taken to a hospital for emergency medical care and is expected to remain there for at least one week, according to international web site Sportalas.com. 'Our thoughts are with Arvydas and his family at this time,' the Blazers said in a prepared statement. 'We wish him well in a speedy recovery.' "
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "It has been 21 years since South Florida hosted an NBA All-Star Game. Because of the NBA lockout, that drought soon could change. While the real thing is not on the horizon in the league's long-range planning, a source close to LeBron James confirmed Tuesday to the Sun Sentinel that James and Miami Heat teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have plans to team up to present a lockout pro-am all-star exhibition at 7 p.m. Oct. 8 at Florida International University. ... A source involved with the planning of the event confirmed to the Sun Sentinel a participant list that includes the Heat's star trio, plus Paul, New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo, Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire, Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, Atlanta Hawks free-agent guard Jamal Crawford, Washington Wizards guard John Wall, Memphis Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay, Houston Rockets guard Jonny Flynn, Los Angeles Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe, Philadelphia 76ers guard Lou Williams, Portland Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews and free-agent center Eddy Curry, as well as Heat free-agent point guard Mario Chalmers and former Heat players Dorell Wright and Caron Butler."
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: During a break in filming, Kevin Durant sat down for a one-on-one interview with The Oklahoman, touching on topics such as the NBA lockout, his offseason workouts, potential plans for a charity game in Oklahoma and, of course, his new tattoos. ... Q: What was your reaction to people discovering you had tattoos? A: It was just like so what? I was wondering why people were so worried about me getting a tattoo. It doesn't change the type of person I am. It doesn't change how I look at things. It's just ink. And I like ink. It's something I always wanted to get. I was a little nervous of getting them because of needles. But I was going to get them sooner or later."
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "The more time it takes to solve the current NBA lockout, the less time Magic and their fans have left until Dwight Howard can shop his services. Is this the season of Dwight Lite? Or — if the entire season is canceled — are the lights turned out on Dwight’s career in Orlando? I’m not predicting Howard is flying away on the wings of free agency, not at all. Only Howard and a few in his inner circle know of his plans. It’s just that the longer the lockout goes on, the less we’ll see of the franchise center, especially if a work stoppage shrinks the NBA season to, say, 50 games like in 1998-99. ... The lockout is bad news for NBA fans, but the game eventually will be back. The Magic and their fans can’t say the same about Dwight Howard, especially if he is out of uniform for an entire season."
  • Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: "I’m still not convinced we’re going to have NBA games before January, but after speaking with a source close to the collective-bargaining negotiations last week, I’m a little more optimistic. In fact, the source feels there is a chance the league might be able to come to an agreement that would allow it to open the regular season as scheduled on Nov. 1. 'We’re a lot closer than we were,' the source says. 'I’m hopeful we don’t lose any of the season.' "
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "If the driving force behind Rudy Fernandez's goals is to pile up as much Euros as he can, then the Mavericks have no chance of keeping the Spaniard beyond this season. But this stuff about Fernandez using this season as a gauge to see whether he wants to be in the NBA with the Mavericks or in Spain with Real Madrid is a bunch of ... uh, stuff. If Fernandez begins playing with the Spanish team, which it appears he will, he theoretically will rejoin the Mavericks whenever the lockout is lifted. And smart people are still betting it will be sometime in January before games are played. That means Fernandez will have a 50-game season, or something like that, to show that the Mavericks should desperately want him for the future. But if this guy already has a multiyear contract in hand with Real Madrid, what is the Mavericks' motivation to play him? ... These are delicate situations. But you can bet that the Mavericks, and all NBA teams, do things based on what they think is best for them. And with a reserve player like this, it makes no sense to give him an important role if Fernandez isn't going to be around down the line."
  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: "Players who left college early to enter this year's draft did so knowing there was a good chance their rookie seasons could be affected by the lockout. The NBA last week postponed the start of training camps that were set to open Oct. 3 and canceled 43 preseason games. While talks between the league and the National Basketball Players Association continue, there's no sign the end of the lockout is imminent. Still, Isiah Thomas has no regrets. 'I made the decision knowing the possibility that there was going to be a lockout and all the pluses and minuses about it,' Thomas said. That means Thomas and Tyler Honeycutt, the Kings' other second-round pick, are among the many underclassmen who have found life after college basketball not too different from how they lived while in school. 'You're playing the waiting game,' Thomas said."
  • Staff of the Detroit Free Press: "There has been another Austin Daye sighting. This time the third-year Pistons forward could be seen working out on the court with Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant in Alexandria, Va. The two players were shown running through drills, working on their shots and making passes around 6 a.m. one day at Bryant Alternative High School. The practice footage is part of the second episode of Durant's '35th Hour' YouTube series. The second installment is called 'Hard Work Beats Talent When Talent Fails to Work Hard.' "

First Cup: Monday

September, 26, 2011
9/26/11
6:41
AM ET
  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Though last night's 'Battle of I-95,' pitting Team Melo against Team Philly, probably isn't the definitive measure of which city has the best ballers, it did produce a distinct winner: the nearly 9,000 fans who stuffed the Palestra to watch such mega-stars as Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Chris Paul. What was anticipated as a glorified street game actually turned into quite a competitive battle, with Philly gaining a 131-122 win at the stifling-hot Palestra. The atmosphere was more fitting for a rock concert. Though slated to start at 6 p.m., the sellout crowd patiently waited out the near 45-minute delayed start. And when the game finally got under way, there wasn't a dry eye in the house - nor a dry shirt, brow or face. You got the feeling that if there was supposed to be some kind of cooling system running through the old place, players from years gone past made sure it wasn't operational. This was not the type of basketball the Palestra is used to hosting."
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "There is no reason to expect that John Wall’s dynamic scoring outbursts in meaningless exhibitions will translate into him dominating the NBA whenever the next season comes. But his 40-point eruptions are an encouraging sign of his progress, explosiveness and improved health since his rookie season. The free-wheeling style of pickup basketball allows a player like Wall to overwhelm the competition with superior speed and athleticism. He exploited those talents again on Saturday when he got 41 with the ease of someone digging into their pockets to pull out a quarter, a dime, a nickel and a penny. As the headliner of a pro-am exhibition between the local Goodman League and Knox Indy Pro-Am at the University of Indianapolis, Wall had a triple-double with 41 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds to lead the Goodman team to a 170-167 victory. ... Until there is a resolution with the labor dispute, Wall said he would continue to be a regular at the charity games. 'It’s not all about the money. It’s about the love the game,' he said. 'I’m competitive. I love playing basketball.' "
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Far from the basketball court in a virtual amusement park in the shadow of the Las Vegas strip, the voice of former NBA coach and former Rockets guard John Lucas echoes inside a dark gym with no frills and the debatable existence of air conditioning. While roughly 70 NBA players have played in a high-profile 'Lockout league' at Las Vegas' Impact training facility, Lucas and his staff push roughly 30 players, including a handful of young NBA talents, through grueling drills and training sessions in Houston. In this throwback, Rocky III-like setting in which luxuries are limited to metal folding chairs and a few oversized fans, egos are left inside the SUVs in the Lutheran North High School parking lot, and no one dares to protest the demands. There are no highlight dunks on YouTube because there are no cameras. There are no tales of 56-point scoring bursts because no games are played. ... NBA players pay $8,500 a month for the privilege. Fees vary for players at different levels and for the predraft camp. 'I'm expensive,' Lucas said, 'but I'm worth it.' The setting and much of each day's drills are decidedly old school, but these are not scenes from Red Auerbach's old Red on Roundball series. ... 'Last year, $60 million left the gym in new contracts and coaching jobs. Not that this was the sole reason, but we felt they improved. That's why they call this the lab. We get things done.' "
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "You have to love the union's 'solidarity,' don't you? Denver players running overseas, leaving their peers back home to work out the lockout. Those are chicken Nuggets. Ugh, sorry. ... If past NBA lockout history is any guide-post to the present, the city of Orlando should know around mid-December whether the 2012 all-star game will be played at Amway Center — or canceled. In the last lockout, the league canceled the Feb. 14 1999 all-star game scheduled in Philadelphia on Dec. 9, 1998. This year's game is set a little later — Feb. 26 at Amway Center. So it could be that if this lockout continues, eating up regular-season games, the league likely will cancel Orlando's game around Dec. 15. The NBA salvaged a 50-game season in 1998-99, with games beginning in early February. The NBA did bring back the all-star game to Philadelphia — but not until 2002. The next availability for Orlando: 2014."
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "Kevin Durant's agent, Aaron Goodwin, last month announced he was in negotiations with the Turkish club Besiktas. It's the same organization that signed New Jersey point guard Deron Williams. Goodwin reportedly also has explored opportunities in Spain and Russia. Durant had previously stated his intentions to make a decision by Oct. 1. The erratic nature of negotiations for a ratified collective bargaining agreement, however, has thrown off Durant's timeline. 'I've thought about it before and I really was close to making a decision about doing that,' Durant said of possibly signing overseas. 'But I kind of stopped a little bit once I heard things were kind of moving a little better with the lockout. But one day it's good and one day it's bad. You never know.' "
  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: "Wilson Chandler does not view himself as a trail blazer or trendsetter. His decision to sign overseas was sparked solely by a desire to play basketball, something that won’t occur in the NBA until at least mid-October. ... Chandler is living in Zhejiang now, becoming more comfortable with his new surroundings and culture. The Benton Harbor, Mich., native spent his first three-plus seasons with the Knicks but was shipped to Denver in the Carmelo Anthony deal. He said he had no desire to languish in the States playing pickup up and all-star games. He wanted structure. Jim Cleamons, a former Lakers assistant who was not retained by the new staff, is the new head coach with Zhejiang. That offers Chandler some familiarity. 'It’s going great for me,’ Chandler said by phone. 'I’m just learning some different things, trying to learn the new people. Practice is cool. Coach Cleamons is a great coach so it makes things easier for me. He’s been a successful assistant coach in the past and I think I can learn a lot from him.’ "
  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "Kyrie Irving is one of those glass-is-always-full type of guys. The Cavaliers' rookie point guard should be getting ready to start his first training camp as an NBA player. The lockout has caused the league to postpone the start of camp and cancel the first week of preseason games. ... Instead, he's enrolled at Duke University and is working toward psychology degree. ... The 6-foot-2, 191-pounder said he has no interest in playing overseas. He doesn't want to risk injury, especially after suffering through an injury-plagued freshman year at Duke. 'Players have to make money at the end of the day," Irving said. "It's a business. It's a decision we all have to respect.' Irving, 19, said he took some time off after the draft to allow his turf toe to fully heal. His freshman year was limited to just 11 games in 2010-11. ... The Cavs' players are attempting to organize a workout camp sometime soon, possibly at Ohio State. 'The leaders on our team are trying to set up a workout in mid-October,' Irving said."
  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "In any other year, Timberwolves draft pick Derrick Williams would head to his first NBA training camp by the end of this week. This, of course, isn't just any other year and Williams isn't bound for Mankato. On Saturday, he instead was in Chicago, appearing for his sponsor Under Armour at a two-day camp for top prep players. ... Q: You don't know yet about life on an NBA court, but you already know all about its business side, don't you? A: 'Exactly. I just think everybody wants to play. I don't think anybody wants to go anywhere else in the world. We all want to play against the best players in the world. But there's nothing we can really do about it, just wait until whenever this thing gets settled.' "
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Of all the middling free agents in this year's class, one of the easiest to overlook is Washington Wizards forward Yi Jianlian, he of the what-has-he-accomplished four-year NBA career. Yet ESPN's David Thorpe noted this past week, 'He's still a freak athlete with great shooting range, and now that he can be a plus defender, he's a sure bet to find solid rotation minutes for a playoff team that needs shooters and defenders. General managers often ask me why he's not in Miami. After the lockout, perhaps he will be.' Based on the Heat's reluctance to employ overseas prospects, and based on some of the failures when making such bids, it would seem a longshot. But one thing about Pat Riley is that length long has carried heft in his assessments."
  • Staff of the Detroit Free Press: "Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva updated his Facebook page during the weekend to say that he had returned to Michigan and was working out with a few teammates to prepare for the NBA season, whenever it might happen. 'Now I'm back home in Detroit, working out twice a day, trying to get right,' Villanueva posted Saturday. 'Lately I've been working out mostly with Ben Gordon & Jonas Jerebko, plus a few other local guys. It's been valuable and effective. 'BG home gym is crazy!' ... Villanueva, who called the NBA lockout 'no fun,' promised his fans that he would post photographs soon from his summer activities, which included a stint with the Dominican Republican national team."

First Cup: Thursday

September, 22, 2011
9/22/11
6:34
AM ET
  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: "The executives charged with conducting the latest round of job interviews at One Center Court believe there are a plenty of options available to the Trail Blazers when it comes to filling their vacant general manager position. They're encouraged. Great, hire someone. And do it soon. ... The whisper now is that San Antonio, which granted Portland permission to interview Lindsey, is growing impatient with the process and will soon close that window. Also, there's growing activity around the league behind the scenes that has me thinking Portland better soon get someone in the big chair at the practice facility. Two NBA sources told me Tuesday that they believe there's consensus among owners on a few important lockout issues. One of those issues being an amnesty clause that would give NBA teams the ability to release one player, pay his salary, take no luxury tax liability, and also, not have that player count against the season salary cap. This is different than the last round of amnesty, which didn't give the cap relief. And if true, it would likely allow Portland to strongly consider releasing three-time All-Star Brandon Roy, creating an additional $15 million in cap relief next season. Which is only to say, the Blazers need a general manager in the chair now, as this develops, if they're going to fully maximize the advantages of making such a powerful play."
  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "This summer hasn't gone quite the way Omri Casspi had planned. Elated after being obtained by the Cavaliers from Sacramento in a trade for J.J. Hickson just before the lockout went into effect, Casspi thought he would be playing for his native Israel in the EuroBasket championships in Lithuania. Then he thought he would make his way to Cleveland to get to know his new home, including its vibrant Jewish community, and get ready to join his new team. Instead, he's working out in Los Angeles, trying to recover from a knee injury that kept him out of EuroBasket. He's disappointed that Israel was unable to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London and bummed that it looks as if the lockout will be a long one. ... Casspi, the only Israeli-born player in the NBA, explored returning to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv, but he eventually decided against it for a variety of reasons, including his injury and taxes. He said if the lockout extends into the new year, he may revisit the idea, but for now, he's just waiting like everybody else. 'I'm working out every day. I'm just trying to be in the best shape I can be in,' said Casspi. "
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "When the NBA last locked out its players in 1998, Rashard Lewis was a teenager living in his mother’s house. He didn’t know what it meant to miss NBA checks because the Seattle SuperSonics had yet to pay him after selecting him in the second round. But Lewis has much more to lose during this lockout, with a salary that would make him the second-highest paid player in the league next season at $22 million. ... Lewis believes he shouldn’t be blamed for the six-year, $118 million contract he signed with the Orlando Magic in the summer of 2007. 'Talk to the owner. He gave me the deal,' Lewis said. “When it comes to contracts, the players aren’t sitting there negotiating that contract. I’m sitting at home and my agent calls me, saying, ‘I got a max on the table.’ I’m not going to sit there and say, ‘Naw, that’s too much. Go out there and negotiate $20 or $30 [million] less.' I thought my agent did a good job of negotiating my contract, and at the time I was coming out of Seattle, averaging 23 points, playing well. It was perfect timing for me,” Lewis continued. “At the same time, I understand the owners don’t want to overpay players, but you’ve got to do better negotiating. Try your best to save money.' "
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "For the first time since they walked out of AmericanAirlines Arena after losing Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, James and Wade will find themselves on the court together in a (somewhat) competitive situation, with the Heat teammates agreeing to participate in an Oct. 1 exhibition organized by New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul at the Gaines Center at Winston-Salem State University. Also scheduled to participate in the game that will raise scholarship funds for the school and Paul's foundation are New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant and Washington Wizards guard John Wall. While it is Wade's first offseason exhibition appearance, it is part of a busy exhibition schedule for James, who will play in an exhibition Sunday in Philadelphia alongside Anthony, Durant and Paul."
  • Kate Fagan of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "As the days creep closer to Sunday’s anticipated 'Battle For I-95,' it’s only natural that rumors would begin to swirl. The latest rumbling is that former-76ers guard Allen Iverson may join Team Philly as they take on Team Melo at the Palestra. One of the most popular athletes in city history, Iverson will be in town Saturday night to host 'The Return', a VIP event at the Vault Ultra Lounge at 460 N. 2nd Street, near Christopher Columbus Blvd. When reached by The Inquirer’s Kate Fagan, game organizer Rahim Thompson said “no comment.” He also tweeted that response when asked by someone else. Iverson has the same agent, Leon Rose, as fellow game participants Carmello Anthony, LeBron James and Chris Paul. Rose’ receptionist said she had no information on that matter and directed an inquiry via email."
  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: "Whether the NBA lockout ends sooner or later, the Pistons are one of several teams with crucial decisions to make. One could argue the lockout has been a little harder on them than most. So whenever the locks are removed from the practice facility in Auburn Hills, a few things likely will be addressed: Who are the guards?, Where does Prince land?, Is Stuckey's staying?, Will center Ben Wallace return or retire? ... So, from the looks of things, the Pistons will have to explore the trade market for the first time in a long time. It all comes down to what the salary cap structure will be. The Pistons are in the bottom third in payroll ($48.2 million)."
  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "The Grizzlies just experienced their first employment casualties due to the NBA lockout. Seven people were laid off by the franchise although some workers will have an opportunity to return to work whenever the league’s labor dispute is resolved. Video coordinator Trish McGhee, assistant equipment manager Vince Ford and scouting coordinator Wendy Smith were among the workers relieved of their duties. The Griz also released a receptionist, mail clerk and members of the claim services staff. The lockout is in its 83rd day. Representatives for both sides will resume negotiations Thursday in New York."
  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "Dan Gilbert can’t be mentioned in the same financial breath with moguls Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, but the Cavaliers majority owner is still one of the richest men in Michigan with an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion. The 49-year-old was ranked 293rd in Forbes 400’s richest Americans on Wednesday. The 55-year-old Gates is ranked No. 1 on the list with an estimated net worth of $59 billion. He’s the founder of Microsoft and a noted philanthropist. Buffett, LeBron James’ 81-year-old buddy, is ranked second at $39 billion."
  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Excerpts from an interview Wednesday with Charlotte Bobcats forward Bismack Biyombo after a press conference in Provo. ... Status of contract situation?: 'I can guarantee a lot of people. There's a lot of things going on with that and we're working on that and hopefully before the season start we can get it done. I'm pretty sure [this] season I'm going to be there and I'm in my team jersey playing for Charlotte and be in the league. For sure I'll be in the league. A lot of people heard different stuff, but I guarantee people I will be in the league. We're working on the contract and everything and it'll be OK. There is no worries about it.' "
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "Mavericks' coach Rick Carlisle took his considerable music skills on tour Wednesday morning, visiting with kids at W.E. Greiner Exploratory Arts Academy and Middle School for close to three hours. The theme was how music can help a person through life and this summer has been a pretty good example of how it can. Not surprisingly, the overriding soundtrack was Queen's 'We Are The Champions.' Carlisle met separately with the sixth, seventh and eighth graders in three different sessions, all of which packed the school's auditorium. 'One thing I know,' Carlisle said of every champion's anthem, 'is it sounds better played on the piano than sung by certain people - myself included.' That, of course, was a call-back to Dirk Nowitzki's way-off-key rendition of 'We Are The Champions' on the balcony of American Airlines Center in the celebration after the Mavericks won their first title in June. ... Carlisle, a self-taught pianist who has plenty of talent when he's on the keyboard, also played the 'Linus And Lucy' song from Peanuts television shows lore."
  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has joined other local celebrities in selecting music for soundtracks to Navy Pier's Fall fireworks series. The so-called 'Chicago Celebrity Playlist' debuts this Saturday with music group Wilco having selected the soundtrack for the 10-minute fireworks show. It begins weekly. Thibodeau's soundtrack, which includes music from Bruce Springsteen and Coldplay, will be heard on Oct. 1."
  • Jeff Call of the Deseret News: "Former BYU superstar Jimmer Fredette's first professional game will take place at a very familiar venue — the Marriott Center. Jimmer's All-Stars exhibition contest tips off Thursday night (7 p.m., MT, BYUtv), featuring top college players from last season, including several, like Fredette, who were first-round picks in last June's National Basketball Association draft. Fredette, the No. 10 pick overall by the Sacramento Kings, will be joined by former Cougar teammate, Jackson Emery, and his former coach, Dave Rose. ... This exhibition game is being staged because of the ongoing NBA lockout. Due to the lockout, unsigned rookies have not been able to sign contracts. A portion of the proceeds from this exhibition game will be given to the Vestibular Disorders Association to fund a nationwide awareness campaign."
  • Bobby Bonett of Newsday: "When John Starks visits Urban Tech programs, he jokes that most of the students only know of him from videos on the Internet -- specifically 'The Dunk.' 'YouTube has kept me alive,' the former Knicks guard said. 'The dunk ... that's what they talk about quite a bit.' But what Starks is really there to talk about is the work done by the National Urban Technology Center, an educational group that provides computer training and essential life skills to students and adults through schools and community-based organizations. Starks joined the group several years ago and has been a member of their board for more than two years. He was honored with the Humanitarian Award at at Urban Tech's 2011 Gala Dinner on Tuesday night in New York City."

First Cup: Tuesday

September, 20, 2011
9/20/11
6:20
AM ET
  • Andrew Kamenetzky of ESPNLosAngeles.com: "After much waiting and anticipation, there will finally be a rematch between the Los Angeles based Drew League and the Goodman League of Washington D.C. The game will take place on Oct. 9 in Los Angeles at Cal State Dominguez Hills. The time is tentatively set for 5:30 p.m. PT. Longtime Drew League commissioner Dino Smiley confirmed the news and date to ESPNLosAngeles.com. The first meeting on Aug. 21 in D.C. saw the Goodman League squad, fueled by 44 points and a pair of clutch free throws from Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, eke out a 135-134 victory. Since then, fans and participants alike have been clamoring to see these squads meet up again. After a series of scheduling conflicts, a mutually agreeable time was finally discovered."
  • Tom Reed of The Plain Dealer: "Dan Gilbert spent three straight seasons paying into a revenue-sharing system that following the 2009-10 season was projected to be at $60 million -- or $336 million less than Major League Baseball's redistribution plan. It stands to reason the Cavs and others want the Lakers, Knicks, Celtics, etc., to share more profits from their local revenue streams. The last four NBA champions represent the second (Los Angeles), fifth (Boston) and seventh (Dallas) media markets. If the lockout continues into the season, Gilbert likely will remain an inviting target. But if the past is any guide, that's unlikely to detour his pursuits."
  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "Usually when the Celtics gather for their Shamrock Foundation golf outing, they’re taking a break from preparations for a season that is fast approaching. But yesterday when the basketball operations people came together at Weston Golf Club for the annual event, they were taking a break from ... taking a break. ... The Celts, like other clubs, have done what they can to prepare for the time when a new system is in place and they can begin signing free agents, but, as expected, things have been much slower than normal. Asked what he’s been up to, coach Doc Rivers said, 'Golf, family and that’s about it. Decompressing is always good. We’ve all done that pretty much, and we’re antsy again.' Celtics president Danny Ainge knows the free agent market will be like the Wild West once a new CBA is reached, but all he can do is prepare wish lists. 'We’ve done that,' he said, 'but we’ve done that every summer, every draft and every trade deadline. It’s the same as usual. We’ve just had a lot more time to go over things. We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’ll be prepared. We’ve just gotten organized in our scouting. We’re just more organized now.' "
  • Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times: "The assignment: rank the best current commissioners in sports, factoring in various economic, labor and field-of-play issues. The consensus of several sports business experts was that David Stern is No. 1, though with an asterisk because of the labor dispute that led him to lock players out on July 1. 'At the collegiate level right now, no one's killing it like Larry Scott is. To do what he has done with the Pac-12 is astounding,' said Scott Rosner, associate director of Wharton Sports Business initiative at the University of Pennsylvania. 'Track record, though, I think you have to give it to David. To think about where this sport was when he took over in the early '80s, so many teams losing money — the majority of the teams losing money — the Finals were on tape delay in many markets across the country, and David has brought that league to where it is. That said, if you're grading on the latest semester his grade wouldn't be as strong, obviously, with the lockout. And this is in many respects important to his legacy, but my sense is when all is said and done that the owners will score a pretty major victory.' "
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Chris Duhon, the Orlando Magic's representative to the National Basketball Players Association, isn't ready to predict whether the 2011-12 NBA regular season will start on time. 'Obviously, there's a standstill going on, and there's major points that we're not going to give up on, and there's major points that the owners are not going to give up on,' said Duhon, who attended last Thursday's union meeting in Las Vegas and regularly updates his teammates on the status of the ongoing negotiations. 'The good thing is that now we're actually trying to communicate. Now, there's communication. Obviously, the time is getting shorter and shorter, and nobody wants to miss games. So now we're communicating a little bit, but at the same time, at the end, we've got to know that the players, we're prepared. We've been prepared for two years. We've been prepared for two years to sit out a year or maybe two.' The NBA lockout, which completed its 81st full day Monday, shows few signs of letting up."
  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Griz forward Rudy Gay was cleared to resume full-contact basketball activities, seven months after he suffered a partially dislocated left shoulder, Gay's agent confirmed Monday afternoon. Jeff Austin, one of Gay's representatives at Octagon Sports, said his client met with renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla. Andrews then declared that Gay's surgically repaired shoulder has full strength and range of motion. ... Gay signed a five-year, $84 million contract before the start of the 2010-11 season. He responded by producing a career year in seven statistical categories before the injury. It is believed that Gay will return to Las Vegas to continue working out at Impact Basketball, where more than 40 NBA players are participating in a so-called 'lockout league.' "
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Rockets forward Patrick Patterson underwent ankle surgery last month but is on pace to be ready for the start of training camp should the NBA lockout end in time, Patterson's agent, Odell McCants, said Monday. Patterson had surgery to treat bone spurs in his right ankle. He is rehabilitating the ankle and training at St. Vincent Sports Performance in Indianapolis. 'He was playing through it the past couple years,' McCants said. 'He's right on schedule to be ready if training camp does start on time.' Because of the lockout, Rockets officials could not comment on Patterson's condition or be involved in his rehabilitation."
  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "In the end, Bill Bayno’s departure from the Trail Blazers’ coaching staff came down to one thing: Security. The Minnesota Timberwolves and new coach Rick Adelman offered the former Blazers assistant coach a four-year contract — three more years than the Blazers would offer — and a difficult decision became a no-brainer for Bayno. 'We talk all the time about this being a business when players get traded or coaches get fired and its no different in this situation,' Bayno said in an e-mail to The Oregonian. 'My first choice was to stay and I did everything in my power to do that. But in the end, I had to take this offer. It was too good to pass up.' As a general policy under the current management, the Blazers do not offer assistant coaches more than one-year contracts on a year-to-year basis. Coach Nate McMillan lobbied on Bayno’s behalf when the Timberwolves’ interest surfaced, but the Blazers were unwilling to budge on a multi-year offer."
  • Jason Loyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "The Cavaliers are holding open tryouts in both Cleveland and Canton for men interested in trying out for the team’s new Development League team which begins play in Canton this fall. The Cleveland tryout is Saturday, Oct. 8 and continues on Sunday, Oct. 9 at St. Ignatius. ... 'The open tryout process is an important part of our launch and a good way to evaluate additional talent on the court,' Canton General Manager Wes Wilcox said. 'It will be a great opportunity for players to make their case for an invitation to our training camp.' "
  • Langston Wertz Jr. of The Charlotte Observer: "Former Wake Forest and Charlotte Hornets point guard Muggsy Bogues is the boys' basketball coach at private United Faith Christian. He will start Tuesday. Bogues, 46, replaces Shaun Wiseman, who led United Faith to three straight appearances in the N.C. 1A Independent Schools championship game. The Falcons won the title in 2009 and 2010. 'My goal is to make sure I do a great job this year and give the kids what they need,' Bogues said. 'I'm looking forward to working with the kids and helping to build the program.' "

First Cup: Monday

September, 19, 2011
9/19/11
6:32
AM ET
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "If at any point over the past three seasons you've doubted the Thunder's chemistry and camaraderie, the events of last week should destroy all remaining disbelief. Despite the NBA lockout threatening to postpone the regularly-scheduled start of training camp, 10 of the Thunder's projected 15-man roster got together for what became a voluntary minicamp. It happened two weeks before camp is scheduled to start. It took place in Austin, Texas on the campus of the University of Texas. It lasted four days. Without a single coach, front-office or support staff member permitted to be in attendance because of lockout rules, two-thirds of the roster traveled to Texas to play pickup and, as the Thunder is fond of saying, ‘Get better every day.' No other team has shown that level of commitment this summer. ... This, more than anything, is why folks near and far love the Thunder. This, more than anything, is why the Thunder is creeping closer to a championship."
  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Marc Gasol will be a restricted free agent whenever the NBA and its players' union agree to a new collective bargaining agreement. He wants to remain a Grizzly so much that you just might see the giant Spaniard strolling around town by the end of this month or early October. 'I grew up in Memphis. I feel like it's my home,' Gasol said in a telephone interview before amassing 11 points, six rebounds and two blocks during Spain's 98-85 title win in Kaunas, Lithuania. 'They always say it's a business and there are bad sides to the business. We have to wait until it plays out. But I'm looking forward to something good happening.' The Griz will have the right to match any offers for Gasol -- a rule that is expected to roll over into the new CBA. Both sides proclaimed solidarity at the end of last week but didn't announce plans to continue negotiations. Gasol said his first order of business will be to reconnect with his American colleagues now that he's fulfilled his national team duties. He's regularly talked or exchanged texts with O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley, Tony Allen and Zach Randolph."
  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Joakim Noah and the French national team's storybook run to the EuroBasket championship didn't end in storybook fashion Sunday, with the Bulls' center fouling out late in Spain's gold-medal-winning 98-85 victory. However, Noah, who finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, applauded fans as he walked to the bench with 3 minutes, 11 seconds left, a nod to the passionate fans who attended the games in Lithuania along with France's strong run. France earned an automatic berth in the 2012 London Olympics by virtue of advancing to the championship game. ... Noah will join Bulls teammates Luol Deng and likely Derrick Rose in London. Deng's British team bowed out early in EuroBasket, however, as the host country, it received an automatic berth. Rose is a virtual lock to play for Team USA next summer in London."
  • Christopher Johnson Special to Washington Times: "While American basketball addicts are growing anxious over the NBA lockout, fans in that other hotbed of basketball — Lithuania — are in hoop heaven as they host some of the best players and action in the world at Eurobasket 2011. Joakim Noah, the French center who led the Chicago Bulls deep into the playoffs last season, calls EuroBasket 'an NBA playoff environment. It’s very similar in terms of energy.' That’s not only because of NBA Finals MVPs Dirk Nowitzki and Tony Parker playing for Germany and France. Noah, a dual citizen of France and the U.S. who was born in New York City, said that basketball might be bigger in Lithuania than even back in America. 'Lithuania’s population is probably smaller than the state of Indiana, but you see the love and passion they have for the game here,' he said after France beat Greece on Thursday to advance to the semifinals. 'Even the girl on the cover of the Lithuanian Playboy magazine has a basketball in her hand.' Many American fans have never heard of EuroBasket. But an increasing number of U.S.-based players and basketball officials, who are watching the games on ESPN3.com, are realizing that some of the most dramatic and hard-fought action is happening across the Atlantic."
  • Michael Rand of the Star Tribune: "Timberwolves boss David Kahn, as many of you know, used to write about the NBA as a sports writer and columnist for the Oregonian in Portland. This news became infinitely more interesting last week, when it was announced the Wolves had hired Rick Adelman -- a former Trail Blazers head coach who crossed paths with Kahn more than two decades ago when both were in those old roles. The curiosity factor went up another notch when Yahoo.com, citing unnamed sources, indicated Adelman 'couldn't stand [Kahn] then,' and essentially still doesn't care for him. ... In short: The evidence suggests that while Kahn hammered the Portland decisionmakers, he was almost exclusively positive in his coverage of Adelman. All we have are the words in front of us, indelible and a part of history in a way we might never expect."
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Rashard Lewis is unfairly being portrayed as the poster boy of the lockout, the symbol of a broken financial system. ... 'You can't blame the players. If anything, we don't negotiate the deal. We've got agents that negotiate the deals with the team. Y'all need to go talk to the teams and the agents.' Never has one guy been so right about what has gone so wrong. The Magic did overpay him to the tune of $118 million over six seasons – no question – and Lewis graciously accepted. But apparently we've all forgotten just when owners started losing their minds. In the maddening summer of '96, the cruel summer in which the Magic lost Shaq, the Miami Heat offered Juwan Howard an outrageous seven-year, $101 million contract — then the richest in NBA history. The deal was voided by the NBA because the Heat violated salary-cap rules (long story). But Howard still became the league's first $100-million man, re-signing with the Washington Wizards for a mind-numbing $105 million over seven seasons."
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "John Wall will return to Las Vegas for the second week of the so-called 'lockout league,' where he has been playing with teammates Rashard Lewis, Jordan Crawford, Shelvin Mack, Larry Owens and JaVale McGee. He chose to play with Impact instead of joining teammate Andray Blatche for the lightly attended workouts in Clarksville. He still thinks it’s possible to have larger team workouts, but preferably in Los Angeles over Washington. 'I think it’s better to do it L.A., where everybody is at,' said Wall, who trains at the Impact facility in Reseda, Calif., with Crawford and Nick Young. 'Most of us are based in L.A. So I think it’d be great to go out there.' Wall was back in Washington this weekend for the charity game, but he also was continuing his extended 21st birthday celebration as he threw a party at Love the Club with R&B singer Chris Brown. He has already had birthday bashes in Raleigh, Atlanta, New York and Miami, but felt he had to have another in the city he represents in the NBA. 'I’m trying to enjoy myself. You only turn 21 once,' said Wall, who earned the right to legally drink on Sept. 6. 'It’s no other place to give back to than D.C. That’s where I’m playing now and want to finish my career. I love playing here, the fans support us. I’m coming out to have a big party.' "
  • Staff of the Detroit Free Press: "Pistons forward Austin Daye is making news in Las Vegas for more than his scoring binge during the first week of the Impact Sports competitive training series. Daye and Pacers forward Dahntay Jones apparently engaged in the 'best trash-talk exchange of the week,' according to Ben Golliver of CBS Sports. It happened Thursday after Daye was arguing a call during a free-throw attempt. Jones told Daye he was 'soft' and should stop arguing. Daye didn't like the comment and raised his arms to make a gesture to the media, seated beyond the basket. 'You've got the worst game in here, ask any of them,' Daye told Jones twice, according to CBS Sports. Jones mocked Daye's arm motions, then mimicked his aggravated tone. The game resumed shortly thereafter. Several media members have reported seeing a confidence and swagger in Daye's game in Las Vegas. He's averaging 28.8 points through four games, and his team is 4-0. Daye has scored 20 points only twice in 141 career NBA games."
  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: "It’s been a difficult post-college road for the 2005 North Carolina NCAA title team. Raymond Felton is on his fourth team in six years. Sean May is out of the league after recurring knee problems and issues with conditioning. Jawad Williams is a journeyman, and Marvin Williams, who was taken second overall before Chris Paul and Deron Williams, has yet to reach his potential. As for Rashad McCants, he joins May as a flameout who couldn’t follow college success with consistency in the NBA. McCants was selected 14th overall by Minnesota and spent 3 1/2 bizarre seasons there, playing in the final two years of the Kevin Garnett era and then appearing to flourish the year following Garnett’s trade to Boston, averaging 14.9 points in 27 minutes per game. ... There was a perception that McCants was a me-first player, difficult to coach and aloof with teammates. He signed with the Rockets before the 2009-10 season but an abdomen injury caused the contract to be voided. And he was supposed to play for the Cavaliers’ summer league team last year but pulled out at the last minute. Now McCants is a forgotten man, considered an afterthought because of his lack of development and an unsavory reputation. He turns 27 next Sunday and is unquestionably talented enough to make a roster, but the question is whether the desire remains and teams will overlook his past miscues. 'Basketball was an opportunity, a means to an end after college, and I planned not to solely depend on basketball, so the lockout doesn’t affect me - I have been locked out two years,’ said McCants, who said he owns successful businesses. 'I have been blackballed for two years, so these guys are making a big thing out of the lockout. They don’t know what locked out is.’ "
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Former Rockets guard and longtime NBA coach John Lucas III is organizing a series of games in October and November featuring NBA stars in conjunction with his John Lucas Basketball Resources training camps should the NBA work stoppage continue into the scheduled start of the season. Though many arrangements have not been finalized, Lucas said he has already received commitments for some games from NBA players including stars Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin. Rockets players Terrence Williams and Jonny Flynn and Houston-based players DeAndre Jordan, John Lucas II, T.J. Ford and Damon Jones have also committed to the participate along with Baron Davis, Thaddeus Young, Derrick Williams, Tristan Thompson and Corey Joseph. Games will be held on eight-consecutive Sundays at Delmar Fieldhouse. Lucas estimates that tickets will cost an average of roughly $20 with proceeds to benefit HISD programs, local basketball charities and the John Lucas Foundation aftercare program."
  • Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Jerry Sloan, who turns 70 in March, doesn’t know what his future holds. As has been the case since he stepped away from the Jazz, he shies away from questions about a possible return to NBA coaching. 'I don’t think you can ever say, ‘No,’?' he said. 'But I’m not agonizing over it, that’s for sure. I think I’ll always be able to find something to do.' Tammy Sloan isn’t so sure. 'I just don’t see him staying retired,' she said. 'I just can’t see that happening.' And she’s not the only one. Danny Brown thinks Sloan could get the NBA itch again once all his affairs are in order. 'If the right deal came along, maybe. He might do it again,' said Brown. 'But right now he just wants to get everything gone [from the farm] and make life easier for himself and everybody else.' In fact, several NBA teams called Sloan this summer to gauge his interest in a return to coaching. Teams with job openings — all now filled — included Golden State, Minnesota, Indiana, Detroit, Toronto, Houston and the L.A. Lakers. Sloan would not confirm discussions with any team, saying, 'It’s still nice to get up in the morning and know I don’t have to do anything.' On the other hand, Sloan cherishes memories of the people side of the sport that has been at the center of his life. 'The camaraderie we had with the players and coaches all those years was special and now, all of a sudden, it stops,' he said. 'There’s a void there, no question about that. But do I miss it that much? I’d say, ‘Not really.’ But we’ll see.' "

First Cup: Tuesday

September, 13, 2011
9/13/11
7:00
AM ET
  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "The Timberwolves accomplished two things Monday you might never have imagined possible: With one patient, well-executed move by owner Glen Taylor and basketball president David Kahn, they convinced Rick Adelman to be their next coach and they got Kevin Love to talk more optimistically about his future in Minnesota. According to three league sources, Adelman agreed to replace the fired Kurt Rambis, more than two months after Adelman likely was first approached about the job. He will lead a team that is thick with young talent but has won a total of 32 games over the past two seasons. Terms of the deal were not immediately known, but Adelman was believed to have sought a five-year contract worth at least $25 million. He will be introduced at a Target Center news conference later this week -- where he won't be allowed to discuss the team's players because of the lockout -- after contract details are finalized and the agreement is signed. An experienced, proven winner in 20 seasons as a NBA head coach, Adelman's .605 career winning percentage is by far the best of the six other candidates interviewed for the job."
  • Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press: "When Kahn and Taylor hired Rambis they thought they were getting an upbeat, enthusiastic, teaching type of coach. As it turned out, they ended up with something else altogether. With Adelman there will be no surprises. He's not going to morph into something else 12 months down the road. At this point in his career, he is what he is. And what he is should be perfect for the Timberwolves."
  • Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune: "Adelman is not perfect; nor is the situation into which he steps. He's a 65-year-old man who was forced out of his last job and is taking over an historically inept operation. Better plans than this have failed. His hiring, though, offers real promise. Adelman should extract the most out of Kevin Love and Williams. He should be able to immediately double the Wolves' victory total. And if he can teach Ricky Rubio to make the occasional basket, he is destined for the Basketball Hall of Fame. Given the woeful state of Minnesota professional sports at the moment, it's not hard to see Adelman and the frisky young Wolves becoming the hot ticket in town whenever the NBA lockout ends. This organization has employed a few of the worst NBA head coaches in basketball history, including Jimmy Rodgers, Bill Blair, Randy Wittman and Rambis. Into the breach steps Adelman, who, in a year or two, might be earning faint praise as the best coach in franchise history."
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Luis Scola had scored 32 points to carry Argentina to the Tournament of the Americas title. He had become his national team’s all-time leading scorer during the tournament. He was MVP of a third Tournament of Americas event. The Rockets power forward could not retain his joy and had no inclination to try. Argentina (and Brazil) had qualified for the 2012 Olympics in London, which does offer one downside to Scola: He won’t have a qualifying tournament to play next summer. Everyone else, of course, is happy to skip that duty, but Scola remains a guy that loves to play basketball and still fully appreciates how much he loves it. He also knows how much he dislikes practicing, which is remarkable considering that through the NBA season he refuses to take a day off. Scola believes he has to compete to play his best and prefers to play to stay sharp and fit enough to compete. Scola has often cited those reasons for his determination to play every summer, but he has done this so long and often, he knows how much he cherishes moments like Sunday’s. This one, however, was special, a last time together at home, and probably a final bow for Scola, Manu Ginobili and Fabricio Oberto together with gold medals."
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Hedo Turkoglu didn’t give the Orlando Magic much reason for optimism over the last few weeks. Playing for his native Turkey in EuroBasket 2011, the Magic’s starting small forward posted statistics that were eerily similar to his subpar numbers during the 2011 NBA playoffs. Turkoglu averaged 10.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game in eight EuroBasket games. He also shot an anemic 15.6 percent from 3-point range. Those numbers sound familiar? They should. In the Magic’s first-round playoff loss to the Atlanta Hawks this past spring. Turkoglu averaged 9.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. He also shot just 23.3 percent from 3-point range. ... Turkoglu is 32 years old now. Although he made strides with his conditioning before the 2010-11 season, it’s possible that age has caught up to him. The numbers seem to indicate that."
  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: "Despite the team's website listing him on the official roster, Lakers guard Derek Fisher tweeted that he won't play in the Impact Basketball Academy's 'Competitive Training Series' that is set to begin Monday in Las Vegas because of his responsibilities as NBA Players Assn. president. 'While I fully support the Impact League and all the players, I have NOT committed to playing, nor can I at this point,' Fisher tweeted. 'My first priority is serving as president of the NBAPA. Everything else comes as a far second right now. I'd love to play, but no plans to given my schedule of meetings and my lead role in them.' "
  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: "With the NBA season on hold due to the expired collective bargaining agreement, players are balling where, and when, they can. The where is the Palestra. The when is Sunday, Sept. 25. A group led by New York Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony, will compete against a team made up of players primarily with Philadelphia ties. The Anthony team is set to include megastars LeBron James (Miami), Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City) and Chris Paul (New Orleans). The team could also include former La Salle star Gary Neal (San Antonio), Eric Bledsoe (Los Angeles Clippers), Donte Greene (Sacramento) and Josh Selby (Memphis). Slated to be headlining the Philly team is 76ers guard Lou Williams. He is supposed to be joined by Episcopal Academy grad Wayne Ellington (Minnesota), South Jersey native Jason Thompson (Sacramento) and Friends' Central product Hakim Warrick, now with the Suns. Former Prep Charter stars Markieff and Marcus Morris are also scheduled to appear, but the twins have a commitment at the University of Kansas the day before the Palestra game. Markieff was taken 13th in this year's draft by the Suns, while Marcus went with the next pick to the Rockets."
  • Craig Stouffer of the Washington Examiner: "Technically, summer isn’t over. That means there’s still time for one more NBA player-infused exhibition game for charity – and to remind us what might go missing this fall and winter should the lockout continue. The latest spectacle is set for Saturday at Coolidge High in the District, where some 10 or more NBA players are expected to take part in what is being billed as Clash of Superstars. The list: Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Jeff Green, Kemba Walker, Jarrett Jack, James Harden, Corey Brewer, Greg Monroe, Eric Maynor, and John Wall."
  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: "The final roster for former BYU standout Jimmer Fredette’s upcoming NBA lockout exhibition game has been set. Charlotte’s Bismack Biyombo, Denver’s Kenneth Faried and Washington’s Chris Singleton were among 11 players announced Monday as confirmed participants in the event, which will be held Sept. 22 at the Marriott Center in Provo. Milwaukee’s Tobias Harris, Sacramento’s Tyler Honeycutt, Golden State’s Charles Jenkins, Minnesota’s Malcolm Lee, Detroit’s Vernon Macklin, the Kings’ Isaiah Thomas, and undrafted free agents Xavier Silas (Northern Illinois) and Chris Wright (Dayton) will join previously announced participants Fredette (Sacramento), Kemba Walker (Charlotte), Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio), Nolan Smith (Portland) and Jackson Emery (ex-BYU guard)."
  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: "Brandon Knight isn't stressing over a deal being reached to salvage a full season. The owners and players met last week and are scheduled to meet again today. 'There's no reason to be anxious,' said Knight, selected seventh overall out of Kentucky. 'It's something I can't control. It could last awhile so who knows? I didn't have any expectations when I was drafted. I had no clue what would happen.' That's not to say Knight isn't concerned with the current state of affairs. But the uncertainty is a reason why he hasn't set any lofty expectations for his rookie season — yet. 'I don't have any goals right now,' he said. 'Once I know there will be a season, then I'll start setting goals, but not right now.' As for the possibility of playing overseas if the lockout continues into the season, it's not high on Knight's list. 'No, I'm probably going to stay here,' he said. 'I don't have any plans of going overseas.' "
  • Tim Tucker of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "If the NBA approves the Meruelo deal, the seven remaining Spirit partners, including Gearon, Bruce Levenson and Ed Peskowitz, will retain a sizable minority stake in the Hawks for at least a period of time, believed to be five or six years. But all ownership decisions, as well as all obligations for financial losses, would be Meruelo’s. Getting NBA approval of a sale is typically a time-consuming process that includes extensive vetting of the prospective owner, negotiation of an agreement between the owner and the league, and ultimately a vote by the league’s Board of Governors on whether to approve the change of ownership. The process is in progress with Meruelo, but a vote hasn’t been scheduled and isn’t expected until next month at the earliest. Part of the process is for Meruelo to meet with a committee of NBA owners; originally scheduled for this week, that meeting has been delayed until late this month. Meanwhile, the Spirit group remains the Hawks’ owner, although Meruelo already has been brought into the loop on major decisions -- not that there have been a lot of major decisions to be made with the NBA in a lockout and no player-personnel moves permitted."
  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: "Enes Kanter and Alec Burks won't be the only newcomers to the Utah Jazz organization this year. While the NBA remains in lockout mode, the Jazz hired Rich Sheubrooks for their new position as the executive director of global pro scouting. He'll be in charge of scouting international players and leagues. 'We feel fortunate to be able to bring someone in with as much international experience as Rich has,' Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said in a news release. 'Rich's knowledge and background can be a real asset to the Jazz organization in what has clearly become a global game.' Sheubrooks held a similar position with the Charlotte Bobcats for the past four years and with the Memphis Grizzlies the six years before that."
  • Steve Visser of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "A Buckhead tavern's practice of asking men to give up seats at the bar for women brought accusations of demands for discrimination from both sides in a federal civil-rights lawsuit Monday. Former NBA All-Star player Joe Barry Carroll and attorney Joseph Shaw contend that they were asked to give up their seats and eventually kicked out of the Tavern at Phipps because they were black; David Long-Daniels, the attorney for the restaurant, said in actuality the two men were demanding discrimination in their favor. Long-Daniels said when the men were asked to relinquish their seats they declined, and evoked Carroll's former NBA status and Shaw's profession. When told of the restaurant's long-time practice of currying favor with female patrons by having men give up their bar stools for standing women, the men repeatedly refused, implying that other patrons should forfeit their seats, the lawyer said. No other men were seated in Carroll and Shaw's section of the bar, Long-Daniels said."
  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "Children and adults alike can learn basketball drills Friday when Cavaliers coach Byron Scott and his staff scrimmage the U.S. men’s Olympic wheelchair team in Northeast Ohio. Scott, General Manager Chris Grant and former Cavs players Larry Nance, Austin Carr and Campy Russell will take on the Olympians at 6:30 p.m. at SPIRE Institute in Geneva. Fans can learn basketball drills from Scott and his staff before the game. Team USA is training at SPIRE for the 2012 Paralympics in London. Scheduled to open in the fall of 2012, SPIRE will offer residential training programs in swimming, soccer, track and field and volleyball. Lacrosse will be added in 2013."

First Cup: Wednesday

August, 31, 2011
8/31/11
6:41
AM ET
  • Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News: "Late Monday morning, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tweeted that he was going to appear Monday night on 'Piers Morgan Tonight' to 'raise some hell on politics, the economy and whatever he throws my way.' Instead, Cuban raised a little bit of hell, but mostly he smiled and answered softball questions and was a picture of contentment and relaxation in his first extended national TV interview since the Mavericks' NBA championship victory parade in June. ... On at least two occasions, Morgan hinted that perhaps Cuban should consider running for President, adding that many Americans would support him. 'Are you kidding me?' laughed Cuban, adding that the thought has 'never even crossed my mind.' "
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Interviewed on CNN's 'Piers Morgan Tonight,' choosing his words carefully amid the NBA lockout, Cuban offered his view on how the Mavericks took this past June's NBA Finals in six games, after falling behind 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. 'I'll tell you the interesting thing,' Cuban said, 'after Game 3 of the Miami series, our guys said, 'They aren't making any adjustments. We got 'em.' And so the confidence was through the roof.' ... Cuban also addressed the significance of exacting revenge against the Heat, albeit against the revised cast of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. He had mocked the Heat's chances of succeeding with such a combination during the 2010 free-agency period. 'The playoffs run 57 days,' he said. 'For me, it was 56 days, 23 hours and lots of minutes of pure anxiety. I really didn't start to enjoy it until there were about 30 seconds left in the game . . . and it finally dawned on me that we had finally beaten the Evil Empire and all those doubts.' "
  • Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: "After seeing his first game action of the summer, Carmelo Anthony declared himself 100 percent healthy. 'I'm back like I never missed a game,' he said last night. The Knicks star was plagued by chronic bursitis in his right elbow throughout last season, which kept him from playing in a game all summer, outside of some workouts in Los Angeles and New York. But he looked to be in midseason form last night, scoring 36 points and, with some help from Chris Paul and LeBron James, leading his Baltimore-based Melo League to a 149-141 win over Washington D.C.'s Goodwin League at Morgan State University. 'This is my first time coming out and actually playing [this summer],' Anthony said. 'I wanted to bring LeBron out here to actually enjoy the atmosphere ... there's nothing like it.' Despite the NBA lockout, Anthony said it was important to him to get his teammates together sometime before the season is scheduled to begin. 'Probably by early October, we'll start getting guys together,' Anthony said. 'I'll make it my duty to get guys together, whether it's in New York or L.A. ... me, coming in at a half a season, or toward the end of the season, I think it's for me to [make that happen].' "
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "About an hour before the most star-studded summer league game tipped off at Morgan State’s Hill Field House, I spotted Goodman League commissioner and master of ceremony for the night, Miles Rawls, and asked him about when his team going to have a rematch against the Drew League in Los Angeles. Rawls again mentioned that they are looking at getting together on Sept. 25, but added that the Drew League is still trying to get Kobe Bryant involved in some way. 'K.D. wants Kobe doesn’t he,' I asked Rawls, since District native Kevin Durant had already told Brandon Jennings the night before on Twitter that he wanted to see Bryant playing for the Drew League the next time the teams square off. Rawls nodded and said, 'You know K.D. ain’t ducking nobody.' Rawls words would prove to be on point later in the evening, as the late-arriving Durant eagerly accepted the challenge of being the lone all-star for the Goodman League against the all-star trio of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul that led the Melo League. ... Durant lost the game, but continued to add to his burgeoning street ball reputation, after earlier scoring 66 points at Rucker Park, then having 44 in the Goodman League’s win over the Drew League on Aug. 20. His cross-country exploits have caught the attention of players all over the league. 'Durant’s gone on a rampage this summer,' Anthony said. 'I told him to ‘Slow down.’ Because every other night I see him in a different city playing. But that’s just the love of the game that he’s got, and I respect that. I’m glad he actually showed up and played in this game, too.' "
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "One of the stranger chapters in Orlando Magic history is about to end. Gilbert Arenas says he’s shutting down his controversial Twitter account for good. Try to take a look at the @agentzeroshow Twitter feed, and you’ll find nothing. Not only has he deleted every one of the tweets he posted over the last several months, but he’s also deleted the account altogether. He’s said he’ll be done on Twitter by Sept. 1, and it looks like he’s already finished. Over the last few days, he’s said his goodbyes, then deleted them. ... The account is empty now. Some of his tweets have been saved, either in articles that have been written or in search-engine archives. And those tweets lead to perhaps the most interesting question of all. Who, exactly, is Gilbert Arenas?"
  • Janis Carr of The Orange County Register: "Brandon Jennings apparently isn’t finished dismissing Kobe Bryant. And he doesn’t know when to quit, either. First he posted a photo of himself on Twitter wearing a promotional t-shirt that read: 'NOBODY LIKES A SNAKE' (a jab at Bryant’s “Black Mamba” nickname. Jennings then tweeted about Bryant’s performance in a Drew League game: 'Kobe drop 45pts with the game winner. Yea where he at next I’m playing I need THAT! Lol.' Now, he said Bryant shouldn’t be able to play in the Drew League because he wasn’t born in Southern California. Forget the five NBA championships Bryant has helped bring to Los Angeles. Birth certificates count, not resumes, according to Jennings."
  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "Five thousand miles from Route 2, David Stern and his NBA lieutenants will sit today across a table from Billy Hunter, Derek Fisher and other representatives of the NBA players’ union and scowl as the NBA lockout approaches its third month. Ventura doesn’t understand how owners who offered big contracts they now contend have ruined their business can expect the players to save them from themselves. But nobody at the FIBA Americas pre-Olympic tournament cares much about the gloomy doings in New York. This tournament is about the love of the game, and it is about national pride, as is the Eurobasket tournament in Lithuania, where Tony Parker will begin play in a few days. There are business issues that must be resolved in New York. But when you see the passion with which Ginobili and his teammates represent the host country, you wonder how anyone can be as committed to taking meaningful basketball away from the basketball-loving world as some of the league’s owners now seem."
  • Dave Krieger of The Denver Post: "Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri would be in his native Africa this time of year anyway. He always is. But the NBA lockout has increased the visibility of basketball's global development, not least because international leagues are peeling off American players fearful there won't be a 2011-12 NBA season. ... Africa is perhaps the game's last great untapped resource. It has exported some notable stars, including Hakeem Olajuwon?, Dikembe Mutombo? and Luol Deng?, but from a continent of 1 billion people, the basketball exports to date are a drop in the ocean. 'Being from here, you see the huge potential,' Ujiri, a native of Nigeria, said this week by phone from Madagascar, site of the African Basketball Championship. 'We lack coaching, we lack infrastructure and we lack a little bit organization. But we're working hard with the national federations and FIBA (the International Basketball Federation) and the NBA to bring everything together and develop the young kids.' Thursday through Sunday, Ujiri will co-direct the annual Basketball Without Borders camp for 60 elite players ages 16-18 from all over the continent. This year, it's in Johannesburg, South Africa. ... 'This is my continent, where I come from,' Ujiri said. 'Coming back and interacting with people, you want to see how much progress has been made. It is an exciting time for me. There's a lot of raw potential and it's how much we guide these kids, it's how hard they work and what path they take. I love the potential of developing basketball in Africa.' "
  • Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times: "Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman were among a small army of NBA players who arrived in Lithuania this week for the 24-team European Basketball Championship, with no apparent need to hurry back. The NBA lockout is about to enter a third month and neither side has budged. That means the Lakers' Gasol, the Clippers' Kaman, et al., could be playing in Europe and other far-flung places next week . . . next month . . . next year. 'It's not something that's super exciting to think about,' Kaman said in a telephone interview as the 7-footer made his final preparations for Germany's opener Wednesday against Israel. 'It's good we're holding our ground and trying to get the best deal possible, but it's also not good because it hurts the product.' ... If the NBA lockout drags on, Kaman could try to sign a contract with a European team. But he's reluctant to make that move. 'I think that's a tough situation to put another team in,' Kaman said,'to say, 'Oh, I'm going to play with you and then leave halfway through the year' ' if the NBA lockout ends. Gasol appears far less resistant. He has said he would prefer to play in Spain but has not ruled out China. His ideal destination remains Staples Center."
  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: "Jonas Valanciunas toyed with the under-19 competition, leading that tournament in most categories, set a record for points by a Lithuanian player in his senior team debut this summer and had 13 points and 16 rebounds against imposing Russians Andrei Kirilenko and Timofey Mozgov last week. While he will avoid a rematch with Russia until later in the tournament, he will see star NBA big men Pau and Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka when facing Spain. Also in his group will be Turkey, which boasts Omer Asik, regarded as one of the NBA's premier defensive centres after just one season, as well as Enes Kanter, who has bested him before and was drafted two spots ahead of Valanciunas back in June. Should Lithuania advance, meetings with future teammate Andrea Bargnani (who surprisingly has grabbed 40 rebounds over his past three games for Italy), or Joakim Noah (France), Dirk Nowitzki or Chris Kaman (Germany) could be in the cards later. Lithuania has lost centre Darjus Lavrinovic to injury, so Valanciunas, once considered 50/50 to even make the squad given his youth, will likely see heavy minutes. How he fares against top flight veteran competition will go a long way towards figuring out how soon he will be able to make an impact at the NBA level."
  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "John Calipari, as American as they get, a college coach grounded in one of the more storied programs in the University of Kentucky, is the head coach and next to him on the bench is white-haired icon Del Harris, whose coaching career has truly spanned the globe. Calipari, Harris and the Dominicans cruised to a 90-60 victory over Cuba to open the 10-country tournament on Tuesday and the new coaching staff may be just the thing the team needs to get over a major hurdle. Two years, the Dominican Republic suffered a cruel blow to its chances of finally making it to the global stage, beaten by Canada in what amounted to a one-game playoff to miss a berth at the world championships by one spot. Now the team, led by NBAers Charlie Villanueva, Al Horford and Francisco Garcia, would seem to have the calm leadership it perhaps lacked at that world qualification event. It certainly has some solid international experience in Harris, an iconic international figure."
  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: "After watching Brazil’s opening 92-83 victory over Venezuela, I can understand why Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford are so intrigued with the skills of Tiago Splitter. Playing on a depleted Brazilian team missing Nene and Anderson Varejao, the Brazilian team leaned on Splitter. And he delivered down the stretch with 17 points and 11 rebounds to lead Brazil to a tougher-than-expected triumph in their first game in the FIBA Americas tournament. Splitter showed the confidence that made him one of the top international players in the world before his arrival to the NBA. He’ll need to continue that strong play to keep his team’s hopes of earning one of the two spots in the Olympics next year. Memphis guard Greivis Vasquez was the best player on the court, running the Venezuela defense with precision and finishing with 26 points and seven assists."
  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: "This is the time of year when Stephen Curry usually ramps up his workout schedule to prepare for training camp. With no end in sight to the NBA lockout, however, the Warriors' point guard is ramping up his schedule in other ways. Curry got married last month and returned from a 10-day honeymoon in Bora Bora just in time to start three courses at Davidson College that will leave only a thesis paper between him and a degree in sociology. He'll play in a golf pro-am before the culminating event of the FedEx Cup playoffs next month in Atlanta, host a charity golf tournament in San Francisco a week later and coordinate a players-only basketball training camp somewhere in between. 'I'm used to kicking it into high gear with workouts and focus on the season,' Curry said by phone Tuesday. 'I'm being optimistic about the season and hoping for the best, but you have to prepare for the lockout continuing, too.' "
  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "Tayshaun Prince, 31, had arguably one of the finest seasons of his nine-year NBA career in 2010-11. He was consistent from Day 1. He averaged 14.1 points per game, and it's hard to recall games in which he didn't contribute. But for the first time since he was drafted out of Kentucky in 2002, Prince will hit the open market whenever the NBA opens for business. First the Pistons will deal with restricted free agents Rodney Stuckey and Jonas Jerebko, so it's unknown whether the team will be able to afford Prince under the new collective bargaining agreement. Even if the Pistons are able to afford him, a Prince deal would hinder the team's ability to improve the roster. It's also uncertain whether Prince wants to spend his remaining years in the NBA as part of a rebuilding project."
  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "Byron Scott, who took part in the Cavs' charity outing last Tuesday at Firestone Country Club, has played more golf this summer than he ever has, thanks to the NBA lockout wiping out workouts and the summer league. He's down to a 6 handicap, 'but if this lockout continues too much longer, I'll be down to a 2,' he said, laughing. He has spent most of the summer in California, playing two or three times a week on courses such as Trump National, Monarch Beach and Dana Point. He belongs to the Marbella Golf and Country Club in San Juan Capistrano, the Chateau Estates in New Orleans and Oak Tree National in Oklahoma City -- all previous stops in his coaching career. He even was part of a group that was going to buy a course in New Jersey, another coaching stop, before he had second thoughts and pulled out. ... Former Lakers teammate James Worthy is responsible for getting Scott interested in the game. One year when the Lakers faced the Suns in the playoffs, Worthy got on the bus heading to practice in his golf gear, explaining to baffled teammates that he'd already played 18 holes near the team hotel in Phoenix. Scott thought Worthy was crazy, but was persuaded to give the game a try. 'I thought, 'How hard can it be?' ' Scott said, laughing. 'You hit a little white ball. It can't be that bad. Eighteen years later, I'm hooked.' "

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