First Cup: Wednesday

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "The NBA’s Board of Governors met Tuesday in Dallas and heard a report on collective bargaining from Spurs owner Peter Holt, chairman of its labor relations committee. The league wouldn’t reveal if the board officially authorized locking out the players once the clock strikes midnight Thursday, the end of the collective bargaining agreement that’s been in place since 2005, but it doesn’t matter. As commissioner David Stern has warned already, such a vote is a mere formality and can be conducted by any means at any time. The first lockout authorization via text message may be mere hours away. Holt’s committee will meet with the negotiating committee of the National Basketball Player’s Association on Thursday, but no last-minute breakthrough is expected. Here’s the truly bad news: Once the lockout begins, the standoff is going to get nastier. According to NBA executives familiar with the league’s strategies, once the lockout is in place, the owners will push for a hard salary cap of $45 million, the elimination of guaranteed contracts and ask that the players swallow a 33 percent salary cut. The concessions made in recent weeks, including the 'flex cap' of $62 million and a guarantee of $2 billion in annual player payroll, will be off the table. If this seems certain to guarantee the loss of the entire 2011-12 season, it is because there are owners who think it is necessary for the long-term viability of the league."

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: "Barring a miracle -- a dramatic breakthrough in negotiations that nobody expects -- the NBA owners will lock out the players starting at midnight Thursday. I think I speak for Memphians everywhere when I say: Did it have to be this year? Couldn't it have been 2008-2009, when the Grizzlies won 24 games? Or either of the seasons before that, when they won 22? Couldn't it have been any of the Mike Fratello years? Did it have to be now? Nobody in the city would have missed a year without Darko Milicic, Casey Jacobsen or Hasheem Thabeet. But a year without Zach Randolph, Tony Allen and Marc Gasol? Say it ain't so. ... Whenever the NBA resumes play, the Grizzlies will still be the Grizzlies. Mike Heisley isn't going to be selling any of them off. Indeed, the Grizzlies may be better off than a lot of NBA teams. At least they're riding a wave into what could be a long offseason. They've already sold more than 2,200 new season tickets for next year. Their marketing campaign was that crazy playoff run. If Stern and the owners can somehow forge a system that gives smaller market teams a better chance to compete over the long haul, that's even better for the Grizzlies. As long as the entire season isn't wiped out - a result that would be crushing for everyone involved - it's probably worth the short-term pain. So keep the faith, Memphians. The situation may not be as grim as it first appears.'

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "For the past four summers, guard J.J. Redick has made the Orlando Magic's training facility his second home. He spent much of July, August and September working out with trusted assistant coaches, strength-and-conditioning specialists and athletic trainers. But Redick and his teammates almost certainly won't have that luxury in the days and weeks ahead.The NBA's current collective bargaining agreement is scheduled to expire at 12:01 a.m. Friday, and owners are expected to respond by locking out players from team facilities. 'It's kind of a scary thought,' Redick said. The potential lockout not only threatens to change how players approach their offseason training, but it also would prevent team officials from monitoring their players and making sure they arrive at preseason camp in shape. Employees of NBA teams -- even athletic trainers -- would be barred by the league from having any contact with players. A lockout would set the stage for the ultimate test of professionalism: Will players continue to train aggressively without Big Brother watching? 'In any profession there's people that are self-motivated and then there's people that only work hard in front of other people, and I don't think that's any different in basketball,' Redick said. And anyone who slacks off might face an uphill battle to get back into shape. The last prolonged work stoppage proved that."

  • Tony Bizjak of The Sacramento Bee: "The Sacramento Kings' season ticket sales have already surpassed last year's total, team officials said this week, thanks to NBA marketing assistance and a newfound ardor among fans after the team nearly left town this spring. But that bonanza could slow, starting Friday. The NBA's collective bargaining agreement expires at midnight Thursday. If the league and players don't come to a new agreement by then, a lockout may ensue, and with it the possibility that the upcoming season will be shortened or canceled entirely. That untimely drama creates new questions about the team's future in Sacramento. Can the team owners, who have struggled financially, handle months of lost momentum as they try to rebuild fan and corporate support in Sacramento? Can Mayor Kevin Johnson and local political leaders continue progress toward a do-or-die March 2012 deadline to finance a new sports and entertainment arena downtown? Kings officials refused this week to discuss the possibility of a lockout, or its potential financial effect on the team. National Basketball Association officials, however, emailed The Bee a statement saying that ticket buyers face no risk."

  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: "The NBA is close to heading into a lockout that would stem much of the momentum from a recent banner season. Even with all that uncertainty approaching, the league apparently is moving forward with its plans to release a league-sponsored champagne. It is believed to be the first time that a league logo has ever been featured on an alcoholic beverage. Robin Leach of the Las Vegas Sun -- yes, that Robin Leach -- reports that the new NBA-sanctioned Les Jeux (The Game) French champagne was distributed at Shaquille O’Neal’s retirement party over the weekend in Las Vegas. O’Neal received a magnum of the new product. These bottles will have the NBA insignia logo on its label. The owners of the wine company told Leach they plan to launch the win in Las Vegas with several NBA star player appearances. Considering the backswell of public sentiment that I’m expecting once the lockout hits, I wouldn’t bet we’ll be seeing this product in our neighborhood Don and Ben’s anytime soon here in San Antonio. But those of you heading to Las Vegas in the near future, you might want to sample a taste or two."

  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: "Many Raptors fans were in hysterics when Jonas Valanciunas’ name was called at the NBA Draft last Thursday because they had never seen him play. A whole bunch of them got their first look at the big Lithuanian on Tuesday afternoon and it was hard not to be impressed, even if he wasn’t exactly going up against Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell. Valanciunas was the best player on the floor as Lithuania humiliated the United States 108-75 in a tuneup for the FIBA under-19 championship, which gets underway on Thursday in Latvia. The fifth overall selection by the Raptors imposed his will on the smaller Americans, compiling a game-high 23 points and 11 rebounds, along with two blocks and a steal. Valanciunas is rail-thin and must pack on 15-25 pounds before he can compete effectively in the NBA, but against those his own age, he has consistently dominated. Previously, Valanciunas was named MVP of FIBA’s under-18 and under-16 tournaments."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "It's a new life for Beno Udrih, the 28-year-old guard who played a key role for the Sacramento Kings during the past four seasons. New team? Check. That would be the Milwaukee Bucks, who traded for Udrih and Charlotte guards Stephen Jackson and Shaun Livingston in a major draft-day deal last week. New bride? Hey, that, too. Udrih revealed Tuesday that he's marrying fiancĂ©e Michelle Wiley on July 16 in Los Angeles. But same old Udrih? That would be just fine with the Bucks, who acquired the 6-foot-3 Slovenian to play the point behind Brandon Jennings and also spend some quality time at shooting guard. Udrih's skill set could be just what the Bucks need to fortify their backcourt and in particular the point guard position. He's noted as a high-percentage shooter, a player who can spot up for a jumper or take it all the way to the rim to finish a play. According to one statistical measure of efficiency, Udrih has hit 70% of his shots at the rim over the past two seasons, a very high number."

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: "The Pistons had significant conversations at the trade deadline, most involving longtime Pistons Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince. But the kind of deals they could explore was limited, due to the pending sale. After Pistons patriarch William Davidson passed away in March 2009, his widow never truly seemed vested in running the team. Rumors began almost immediately of her desire to sell the team, and it didn't take long for Palace Sports and Entertainment to go on the market. Joe Dumars would never admit Karen Davidson barred him from making moves. But with all of the drama from the 2010-11 season -- from the discord between then-coach John Kuester and his players to the constant losing -- Dumars didn't say much publicly. Now, the tables have turned and he's ready to be proactive, even as the NBA's labor situation is murky. Most expect a lockout after the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires Friday. That hasn't dampened Dumars' optimism to at least have the freedom to conduct meaningful conversations with other teams. 'So to be able to do whatever's necessary now to be good again -- yeah, it's a really good feeling,' Dumars said."

  • Justin Rogers of MLive.com: "Brandon Knight might develop into a great player some day, but don't expect the Detroit Pistons' rookie point guard to set the world on fire next season. Over the past decade, 17 point guards have been selected in the top 10 picks of their respective drafts. The rookie numbers for those players suggest expectations should be tempered for Knight's first professional campaign. Sure, there are players that have come out of the gate firing. Derrick Rose, John Wall, Stephen Curry and Chris Paul are among the recent rookie point guards who have made an immediate impact. But there is a consistent factor among that group – each entered a situation where he was able to play major minutes. Those four averaged at least 36 minutes per game. Knight will not be called upon to play that many minutes as a rookie. With the Pistons' crowded backcourt, he will have to earn his playing time. Unless the team moves both Richard Hamilton and Ben Gordon, playing time will be limited. At this time, it's difficult to imagine a scenario where Knight will average more than 25 minutes. ... Looking back at the 17 point guards, 12 of them coughed the ball up at least 2.3 times per game their rookies seasons. All factors considered, Knight is set up to post average numbers as a rookie. It's not hard to see his final stat line coming in around 23 minutes, 10 points, four assists and two turnovers while shooting 40 percent. Those may not sound exciting, but Pistons fans should take comfort in the fact that these numbers will be normal."

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "A recurring theme for the Hawks last season was coach Larry Drew’s efforts to coax his players to get tougher. Drew said they needed to play with a “physicality” and implored them to develop a 'blue-collar mentality.' At one point Drew said he feared the word was out around the NBA that the Hawks would back down when pushed. The Hawks showed some resolve in the postseason, but they never were the consistently rugged defensive team that Drew envisioned. Eventually Drew realized he may not get this group of players to play that way no matter how much he talked about it. ... With the roster for 2011-12 lacking such players, the Hawks are looking to add some defensive toughness to a team flush with offensive talent. One intriguing defensive prospect at the team’s minicamp this week is free-agent guard David Lighty. Lighty, 23, was a four-year starter at Ohio State, where he set a school record with 128 victories. Playing on Buckeyes teams that featured future lottery picks Greg Oden and Evan Turner and first-rounder Kosta Koufos, Lighty found his niche as a dogged defender."

  • Fabian Lyon of The Miami Herald: "Washington Wizards 6-11 forward Andray Blatche is taking a break from a summer training session he believes will yield his first All-Star selection to assist school children in Jamaica. On Sunday, Blatche and a traveling party of NFL players Frostee Rucker, Raheem Brock, Shaun Smith, Rudi Johnson, Ryan Wallace along with Jamaican expats Byron and Ingrid Bachelor – a husband and wife accounting team that runs the RuJohn Foundation – arrived in Kingston for a three-day goodwill mission. Blatche said he was inspired to make the return visit by the resilience shown by students dealing with substandard classrooms, among other challenges, when he, Johnson and Celtics guard Delonte West toured the island two years ago. 'It was mind blowing to see some of the conditions that these kids have to learn under,' Blatche said. 'I saw it with my own eyes what little they have. For them to deal with those circumstances really impressed me. My family and I are trying to help out in whatever way we can.' "

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "With about 40,000 Lego blocks detailing everything from his scraggly goatee to his admittedly embellished muscles, a life-size statue of Dirk Nowitzki was unveiled today at the Legoland Discovery Center at Grapevine Mills Mall. The statue, made completely of Lego building blocks and an accompanying replica of the NBA championship trophy, made from about 4,000 yellow Legos, were shipped in from Germany, then reconstructed by Cal Walsh, the master model builder at Legoland Discovery Center. Like the real Nowitzki seemed to be during the NBA playoff run, the Lego Dirk is steel-rod reinforced and will be on display for an indefinite run. The replica is outfitted in a royal-blue Mavericks' uniform that was rigged with a zipper to make it easy to get on and off the figure without having to take arms and/or legs apart. Every part of Nowitzki's body is a complete Lego block, Walsh said. No cutting of pieces was needed. It took about 20 hours to put together the figure."