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First Cup: Thursday

7/14/2011
  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: "With NBA lockout in effect, did Mark Cuban break rules by standing on stage w/ Mavericks players at ESPYS?"

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: So, does Mark Cuban get a $1 million fine for shaking hands with JKidd & Dirk? 'You do right the checks, so you can pay the fine' - Kidd"

  • Staff of The Dallas Morning News: "Dirk Nowitzki may not have won the NBA’s MVP award for the 2010-2011 season, but his postseason heroics were enough to give him the nod as 'Best NBA player' at this year’s ESPY awards. The German bested Kobe Bryant , Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Derrick Rose to win the award Wednesday night. Instead of giving a heartful acceptance speech during the pre-show, when he was announced as the winner, Nowitzki spent the majority of the time with Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic defending a few of his post-victory faux paus: his redention of "We are the Champions" and his way-too-high first pitch at a Rangers game. ... After winning the 'Male Athlete of the Year' award, Nowitzki joked that he'd 'like to thank Mark Cuban, but he wasn't allowed to speak to him. So I just want to say hello.' Nowitzki and the rest of the players are barred from speaking to coaches and ownership during the NBA lockout. The Mavericks were also named 'Team of the Year,' which allowed Cuban and the players to do something unprecedented during the lockout: speak to each other. Even though the players talking to Cuban during the lockout was a no-no, the Mavericks' owner joked he'd 'pay the fine.' "

  • Jeff McDonald of San Antonio Express-News: "It is the basic rule of thumb for NBA players and coaches when it comes to drawing technical fouls. If you’re going to get teed up, make sure to get your money’s worth. A tech, after all, results in a fine of at least $2,000. Then there’s Chad Buchanan, the new general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers, who nearly got his team fined $1 million for saying one word. 'Yeah.' ... While the NBA lockout is in effect, the league office has dictated that team employees refrain from publicly talking about any aspect of it. That, apparently, includes agreeing with someone else’s observation. No word yet on how high the fine might have been if Buchanan had simply nodded his head at the Portland Tribune reporter. Or winked. Or offered a pre-arranged series of elaborate hand gestures ('Three claps means, ‘Yeah.’ ') In the end, it appears the Trail Blazers weren’t actually assessed the $1 million fine. It was just David Stern’s friendly way of reminding team employees to keep their traps shut. All this is to explain why you won’t be hearing so much as a peep from the Spurs front office for as long as the league’s labor impasse lingers. Not exactly the most gregarious types when it comes to discussing their roster plans with the media, general manager R.C. Buford and his band of mystery men are probably happy to have Stern prohibit them from conducting press briefings for the time being. As far as we can tell, however, TV analyst Sean Elliott is free to continue to complain about officiating while on the golf course."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Ever since he was fined $100,000 for comments he made about possible changes to the NBA’s salary structure to a group of local business leaders last September, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has been very careful about what he says for fear of the Wrath of Stern. And, with the NBA on Day 13 of what is expected to be a protracted lockout, Leonsis made sure he wouldn’t receive any phone calls from NBA Commissioner David Stern, or anyone from the league office, for anything he said during a 30-minute speech and a question-and-answer session on Wednesday at a luncheon with the National Press Club on 14th Street NW. He even made sure it was announced that he was prohibited from talking about collective bargaining for the NBA or NHL before he stepped to the podium. ... When asked about the difference between building a contender with the Wizards compared to the Capitals, Leonsis deftly explained his rebuilding plans for the basketball team without ever mentioning the cornerstone of those efforts, John Wall. ... Leonsis was asked what his message would be to Wizards fans on the fence about forking over money for season tickets, especially if there is a prolonged work stoppage on the horizon. He said, 'I’m afraid I can’t comment at all.' "

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Don't expect Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan to yell 'fore!' if an errant tee shot heads Deron Williams' way.... And MJ won't be hugging Jason Kidd after making a long putt. Jordan has been cleared by the NBA to play in the American Century charity golf tournament this weekend. But under NBA lockout policy, Jordan can have no interaction with the four current NBA players also participating in the event. The NBA has threatened stiff fines in these situations, and Jordan would be no exception. Williams, star point guard of the New Jersey Nets, said he'll say hi to Jordan if he encounters him, but won't be offended if Jordan can't return the gesture. 'It’s just the rule. It’s what the owners want,' Williams told media Wednesday. 'He’s an owner. It’s his rule. It’s not the players. We didn’t lock the owners out.' "

  • Lacy J. Banks of the Chicago Sun-Times: "No, I don’t feel sorry for NBA players, who were locked out by owners July 1 and will remain out of work until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached. How can we feel sad for guys earning an average of $6.5??million a year? But I am concerned and curious about how badly this lockout, which could cancel next season, might damage these guys. Two years ago, a Sports Illustrated report said 60 percent of NBA players are broke five years after retirement. Former NBA stars such as Kenny Anderson, who earned $60 million during his career, Antoine Walker ($110 million in 12 years), Latrell Sprewell ($50??million), Derrick Coleman ($87 million in 15 years), Scottie Pippen ($110 million over 17 seasons) and Allen Iverson ($150 million in 14 seasons) reportedly went broke after retirement because of exorbitant spending, gambling, drugs, bad investments, thieving agents or atrocious financial advisers. Randy Brown, who helped the Bulls win three titles, got so desperate after declaring bankruptcy that he auctioned his championship rings. Billy Hunter, lead negotiator for the players’ union, told me his staff had warned players to stockpile money because he feared this lockout would come. 'Our players know what the situation is,’ Hunter said, 'and they’ve assured me that they’re prepared.’ That remains to be seen."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "So the union wants its players to put millions at risk for mere thousands overseas as a means of gaining leverage against the owners?"

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: "Last month’s disaster against Dallas still stings Dwyane Wade, who addressed several topics Wednesday exactly one month and one day after the Mavericks won the NBA Finals on the Heat’s home court. 'The sting is always going to be there when you lose,' he said, taking a brief break during his three-day camp at Nova Southeastern University in Davie. 'It was obviously my first time ever losing a Finals.' Wade said, 'I haven’t watched ESPN in a long time. Sorry ESPN. I love the network and all. It’s still hard to watch basketball… But you’ve got to move on. We’ve got a lot more basketball left in our lives and we’ll get another crack at it.' Trying to put the season in perspective, Wade said, 'We wanted to win a championship. We understand that it was a failure. It was a failure for the Miami Heat and for every team that didn’t win. Outside of the Dallas Mavericks, everyone else failed. But the things we did aren’t erased. We had a good year. We had a darned good year. If we had won the championship, it would have been a pretty amazing year. It wasn’t pretty amazing, but it was pretty good.' For the second time in six days, Wade said he would consider playing overseas if the NBA lockout stretches into next season."

  • Staff of The Oklahoman: "The Thunder's Nazr Mohammed spoke out on Twitter Tuesday in the wake of a report that the Charlotte Bobcats are laying off employees because of the NBA lockout. 'Everybody wants loyalty from the athletes in sports but no one says anything when teams don't show any,' Mohammed tweeted. 'Team trade players and uproot their families. People are losing their jobs bcuz of lockouts. But when a player chooses to sign somewhere else then he's not loyal. Teams r firing people & not renewing contracts becuz of a lockout, that they imposed. Is that loyal? These people have families & bills too. It's not just about the athletes. The only loyal people in sports are the fans for the most part. If u want loyalty then 1st u must show some loyalty. The lockout should be between the athletes and ownership. It's already sad that fans & other entities are going to suffer but loyalty needs to be shown to someone. Firing people who were doing a good job to save money during a lockout u imposed is not cool.' "

  • Matt Steinmetz of CSNBayArea.com: "So, Don Nelson is intrigued by the Minnesota Timberwolves' young talent and interested in being their head coach. Of course he is. What a perfect situation that would be for him. Think about it. Nelson could walk into a situation in which his team won just 17 games in each of the past two seasons, yet does have a little something to work with -- with the emphasis on 'little something.' Still, that's right up Nelson's alley -- a team with low expectations. Over the course of Nelson's career, that's when he's done his best work -- with talent-challenged teams and little pressure. ... Is there any doubt Nelson could/would do a better job than Kurt Rambis? Of course not. He'd win a ton more games than Rambis did. Now, how Nelson might end up leaving the Timberwolves' franchise once it's time to move on is another story. He's been known to leave a franchise or two in tatters. ... Anyone who knows Nelson knows he's into poker. Really into poker. And the NBA is like a big poker game to him. He wants back in on the action, plain and simple, and Minnesota is as good as anyplace to jump back in. Still, the idea of a Don Nelson-David Kahn (Nelson's name first on purpose) tandem feels so wacky you just might be able to see it happen. And if it does, let me tell you who will be the happiest man in all of the Midwest: Anthony Tolliver."

  • Kate Fagan of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Now that the details of the sale are understood, the immediate question becomes how the ownership swap will affect the team's basketball side. Considering that one of the new owners, Jason Levien, was once an NBA agent and spent two seasons as assistant general manager of the Sacramento Kings, it's not a stretch to say there could be certain plans a-brewing. Rod Thorn and Doug Collins have had conversations with members of the new ownership group, but no one has revealed any sort of insight into the new regime's long-term plans; at this point it will likely require a few months behind the wheel before even the owners know what direction is best. As of today, though, a feeling exists within the team that at least a small amount of change will occur. Ed Stefanski, whose contract with the Sixers will expire soon, is somewhat of a redundant presence considering that Thorn is now officially in charge of personnel decisions. Couple Stefanski's role with Levien's and Thorn's, and that's like three quarterbacks hovering over center. Something must give, and something will. Collins' leadership is respected and required, as it should be. The new ownership group understands that his insight and expertise were the most crucial factors in last season's resurgence. Absolutely zero plans exist to tamper with Collins' position. The current NBA lockout, which will not be resolved anytime soon, will slow the revelation of how Harris and company plan to run the Sixers. But for now, understand that organizational dynamics - and possibly even front-office personnel - are about to change."

  • Terry Hutchens of The Indianapolis Star: "Brian Shaw's title on the Indiana Pacers staff will read 'associate head coach.' A detailed job description has yet to be finalized, however. Shaw said Wednesday that he is merely one of three assistants. Coach Frank Vogel, though, said Shaw will be the top aide. 'Brian will be the lead assistant, and he and I will sort of coach this team together,' Vogel said. 'He'll be my No. 1 sound board. He'll coach this team if I get kicked out or if I'm unable to go. He'll have a larger role in practice, although everyone will be involved. He's just a guy who is a step under being head coach.' Shaw was introduced to the media Wednesday as the team continued to fill out its staff. Longtime Pacers assistant Dan Burke will stay on as one of the other two assistants. Vogel said an announcement is imminent about the final member of his staff. ... Vogel said will he will use an 'old school' approach with his assistants. Instead of five assistants as the Pacers had last season, Vogel will employ three. 'The way the NBA used to be was that you had three assistant coaches and everybody did everything,' Vogel said. 'That's what I love about this staff that we've put together. Everyone on this staff is strong in all areas. These guys are complete coaches and we're going to run it as a team staff.' "

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Elston Turner agreed to a two-year contract to be the Suns' 'defensive coordinator,' an assistant-coaching position being added to a full staff to improve last season's defense, which was ranked 26th in the NBA last year, and league-worst rebounding. With full empowerment to lay out a strategy, Turner has some film to study. But it is clear the annual goal to improve the defense has teeth this time, with a commitment to 40-minute defensive sessions to be run by Turner during each practice. 'The emphasis is going to have a tremendous increase,' Turner said. 'It's something that is going to be constant, and we're going to get better.' Turner, a 14-year NBA assistant, held similar responsibility for Rick Adelman's teams in Sacramento and Houston for 10 years. Houston was not far ahead of Phoenix last season in opponent field-goal percentage (22nd) but finished second and fifth in 2007-08 and 2008-09, when it had Yao Ming playing (with Dikembe Mutombo behind him), Shane Battier and Ron Artest. ... Turner said Gortat can be a defensive and rebounding force and added that Nash is not so different from most point guards in that he needs help to stay in front of quick point guards. 'You can't single out Nash, because of his age, and say, 'Stay in front of the quickest guys in the league,' ' Turner said. '(Backup point guard) Aaron Brooks will have trouble staying in front of most guys. The whole thing is based upon help. Some need it more than others.' "