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First Cup: Thursday

6/16/2011
  • Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times: "With an expected NBA lockout looming, Clippers point guard Mo Williams was already planning for the future the other day, suggesting a solution for the (potentially) homeless NBAers. He teased Neil Olshey, the Clippers' vice president of basketball operations, saying that they should just leave the door unlocked at the team's fancy Playa Vista headquarters. The players could sneak in under the cover of night, do their work and leave. 'You wouldn't call the police on us, would you?' Williams said, joking. Alas, the Clippers players will be doing their work elsewhere starting July 1, barring a stunning labor breakthrough. That reality has worked to produce action on a couple of levels. First, the Clippers have been showing up, en masse, for daily workouts under the direction of Coach Vinny Del Negro and his staff. Rookie of the year Blake Griffin took his expected five-minute break and was back at it in early May. Others started filtering back to the area and then the training facility, one by one. Star shooting guard Eric Gordon, who usually spends most of the off-season in his native Indiana, dropped by for a look and came back for an extended visit before leaving for China this week and will return later this month. One notable absence has been center Chris Kaman, who has been and will be the subject of continuing trade rumors because of his expiring contract. Kaman traditionally does not start his off-season workout regimen until July."

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "The national perception of the Grizzlies continues to change. ESPN the Magazine recently released its ninth annual Ultimate Standings, and the Griz ranked ninth among 122 teams in the major four professional sports leagues in North America. ... Among NBA teams, the Griz trailed only the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Ultimate Standings. 'The strength of the relationship between Grizzlies fans and the organization helped the entire city of Memphis believe, and for this bond to be recognized by ESPN the Magazine is truly special for us,' Griz president of business operations Greg Campbell said in a statement. 'Our commitment to providing our MVP Season Ticket Holders and all of our other fans with the best value in all of sports is at the core of what we do, and we will strive to continue to give back to our fans as much as they give to us.' Memphis finished No. 1 overall in ESPN’s rankings in two categories: the hottest teams in all of sports and as the franchise that provided the best bang for the buck for their fans."

  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: "The Jimmer Fredette circus arrived Wednesday in Salt Lake City. The show was packed; the scene was a riot. And Fredette again stole the spotlight. Building off strong performances during four previous NBA Draft workouts, the former Brigham Young guard accomplished exactly what he set out to do weeks ago when initial plans took shape for a highly hyped session with the Jazz. Fredette got his long-desired matchup against ex-Connecticut star Kemba Walker, holding his own against a player many consider to be a lock for a top-10 pick in the June 23 draft. Fredette also drilled shots he was expected to sink, while drawing praise for his sharp passing and improved defense. In turn, the undersized combo guard who entered the five-week buildup toward selection day facing numerous questions and serious doubts ended Wednesday’s session by making more believers. 'I thought it was one of my better workouts. I really did. I thought I played very well,' said Fredette. ... Fredette’s peak position is likely Sacramento’s seventh pick. Phoenix (13) could also land the ex-Cougar, and there is growing sentiment that the Jazz could call out Fredette’s name next Thursday if the organization holds on to both its picks and takes a big man such as Kanter at No. 3. Fredette has long been scouted by the Jazz, and key personnel were already high on him before his draft stock started rising. Whether Fredette eventually fulfills the local dream and ends up wearing a Jazz uniform is a week away from being determined. But he definitely didn’t hurt his chances Wednesday, and he only aided his desire of soon becoming a top-15 pick."

  • Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times: "Let me preface my thoughts on an NBA draft prospect with these words: There will never, ever be another Reggie Miller. Miller was one of the most incredible shooting guards the world has ever seen. His repertoire of shots was simply mind-boggling. In the eyes of many pro hoops observers, there was only one better shooting guard during Miller's era in the NBA and I think we all know who that is. Which brings us to that draft prospect: Klay Thompson. He's a shooting guard from Washington State and, yes, he reminds me a lot of Miller -- at the same stage in their careers. ... After Thompson worked out for the Bucks Wednesday at the Cousins Center, I couldn't help but tell Thompson how he is, in so many ways, similar to Miller. Much to my surprise, and delight, Thompson said I was the second person in recent days who had favorably compared him to Miller. That other person, Thompson said, was none other than the man who drafted Miller for the Pacers. 'Donnie Walsh told me that, too, after I worked out for the New York Knicks,' Thompson said of the Knicks president and general manager. 'I shot the ball pretty well in their workout and, because we have similar builds and similar size, Donnie told me how I really, strongly reminded him of Reggie Miller.' "

  • Eric Koreen of the National Post: "Your average draft workout has as much buzz surrounding it as a typical high-school basketball game. Team executives, a few hangers-on and a handful of reporters take in the proceedings, but the gym can feel awfully empty. Wednesday afternoon brought the opposite feel. Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, was on hand. So, too, was Leo Rautins, the head coach of Canadian men’s national basketball team. And there were enough media members to cover a whole month’s worth of draft workouts. Some -- gasp! -- had not even discussed a player’s wingspan before. This is what happens when Brampton’s Tristan Thompson and Pickering’s Cory Joseph come to work out for the Toronto Raptors. Safe to say, things have been not like this in Houston or Milwaukee. 'Uhh, no,' Joseph responded. 'There are a lot of cameras right now,' Thompson added. 'It’s definitely humbling to know that everybody back home is really looking at what me and Cory and Myck [Kabongo, University of Texas point guard] are doing down there. It is humbling, and we just feel blessed.' The scene was bizarre. Ro Russell, the founder of the Grassroots Canada AAU program who guided the two players to Findlay Prep in Las Vegas and then to the University of Texas last year, watched on proudly."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "Joe Abunassar was an assistant basketball coach at the University of Wyoming in the mid-1990s when he started to get the itch to do something different. 'I didn't enjoy the recruiting,' Abunassar said. 'I enjoyed the player development side.' So, he left coaching to dive headfirst into training players full time. Out of that career switch came Impact Basketball, a facility he opened here in 2001 that includes several basketball courts and training tools. There are also Impact Basketball facilities in Florida and California. Abunassar's goal is to help players improve in all areas, from their on-court performance to their strength and conditioning, even their nutrition. 'It actually created a little niche for me because I was one of the few basketball guys that knew about the strength, the conditioning, and kind of created this whole program to grow it this way,' Abunassar said."

  • Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: "Mustapha Farrakhan Jr. has lived under the microscope since childhood, so it was no surprise Wednesday that he walked out of the Knicks' practice court in Greenburgh saying all the right things about his NBA opportunity, and about his controversial family. The former Virginia guard and NBA draft hopeful is the grandson of Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam. But as he tours NBA cities for predraft workouts - hoping against mock drafts that his name will be called one week from Thursday in Newark -- Farrakhan is just trying to fit in. It's the story of his life. 'I just tell everybody, 'How your grandfather is, that's how my grandfather is,' ' he said. 'It doesn't feel any different or weird to me. It's just family.' The 6-4 guard is still a practicing Muslim, but his preference is for basketball sneakers, not bow ties. Despite raising his scoring average seven points to 13.5 in his senior year, Farrakhan is not projected to be picked in either round of the draft, nor does he place that aspiration above "working hard." His workout Wednesday was his fourth in this predraft cycle."

  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: "Robert Horry was lucky. Everyone saw it. He kept moving from Hall of Fame big man to Hall of Fame big man, until he had won more championships than anyone except for the 1960s Boston Celtics. Dirk Nowitzki is six rings behind him. LeBron James is seven. But that’s just what everyone saw. In his private life, Horry faced the kind of misfortune that makes people ask, 'Why me?' Along the way, he learned about sorrow, and he learned about what mattered. No one would call this luck -- but maybe this impacted his NBA career more than anything. This week should remind everyone of the frailties of the rich and tall. There will be a memorial service today for another former Spur, Mike Mitchell, who passed away at the age of 55. And Horry’s 17-year-old daughter, Ashlyn, died Tuesday after a lifelong struggle with a rare genetic condition. 'People forget this sometimes,' Avery Johnson said Wednesday, 'but we aren’t exempt. We go to weddings; we go to funerals. Maybe because we play a game, fans don’t think our lives are just like theirs.' Avery knew Mitchell, but he was closer to Horry. Their families lived in the same Houston neighborhood, and Avery had a close-up view of Horry’s challenge. 'Heartbreaking,' is how Avery termed it."

  • Dale Kasler of The Sacramento Bee: "Sacramento's new downtown sports arena is barely a dream at this point, with no financing in place. But already a political fight is breaking out over who would get to build it. A business group is pushing a pair of ballot initiatives attacking 'project labor agreements' -- umbrella contracts that effectively steer the bulk of the work on construction projects to union contractors. The initiatives would prohibit such agreements on taxpayer-funded projects, including the new arena, in the city and county of Sacramento. A similar ban was approved last summer by Placer County supervisors. The arena 'is one of our major targets for doing this,' said Eric Christen, an anti-union activist whose group is called Fair & Open Competition Sacramento. A city consultant has pegged the arena's cost at $387 million. Christen's group, in its press materials, says the price could jump to $450 million if unions 'get a monopoly to build it.' "

  • Kyle Neddenriep of The Indianapolis Star: "A self-admitted 'homebody,' Eric Gordon is back in Indianapolis this summer and for the third consecutive year hosting the Eric Gordon Youth Basketball Camp at the Arthur M. Glick Jewish Community Center on the Northside this week for boys and girls grades 1-10. Gordon grew up playing basketball at the JCC, and his mother, Denise, said it was 'a home away from home' for her three boys. ... Gordon continues to prepare for the NBA season despite the possibility of a lockout. The current collective bargaining agreement ends June 30 and, according to reports, the owners and players haven't made much progress on the main issues. 'I don't really know what's going to happen and I don't think the player representatives know much yet,' Gordon said. 'All I know is that they are working hard for us to have a season next year. It's never a bad idea to stay in shape, so I'm working like there is going to be a season coming up.' Several current and former North Central players are helping at Gordon's camp this week, as well as former IU teammate D.J. White, who split last season between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Charlotte Bobcats."

  • Frederic J. Frommer of The Associated Press: "Memphis Grizzlies guard Greivis Vasquez is in Venezuela this week as part of a State Department 'sports diplomacy' effort at a time of icy relations between the two countries. Vasquez, a Venezuelan citizen, is teaming with former NBA player Darvin Ham and former WNBA player Kayte Christensen to hold basketball clinics for kids and meet with local sports officials. 'We want to help young kids understand life is more than basketball. It's more than sports,' Vasquez said in a telephone interview from Venezuela on Wednesday. 'I want kids to understand that with hard work, everything is possible.' He said he had approached the U.S. Embassy in Caracas when renewing his visa about doing some work for the community. Vasquez declined to comment on whether the trip could help relations between the two nations. 'I'm an athlete. I don't have any connection with the politics at all,' Vasquez said. 'It's a good sport to unite people. ... The political side I can't control.' "