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First Cup: Wednesday

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "During the lockout, NBA teams can't execute player transactions, communicate with or even comment on players. But league scouting departments still are busy at work, and the past several weeks in Europe offered fertile scouting ground for teams, including the Pistons. FIBA, the world's governing basketball body, conducted the under-19 world championship and under-20 European championships. The U-19 event took place in Riga, Latvia, and Team USA finished fifth. The best player for Team USA was Connecticut shooting guard Jeremy Lamb, who impressed with his shooting and willingness to take the big shot. Center Jonas Valanciunas, the fifth pick of Toronto in June's draft, took MVP honors in leading Lithuania to the gold medal. Chicago Bulls draft pick Nikola Mirotic was MVP of the U-20 event as he led Spain to the European title."

  • Vincent Goodwill Jr. of The Detroit News: "As the euphoria over the NFL ending its lockout rolls on (with no real damage), the NBA obviously isn't paying much attention to the compromise of its counterparts. The owners and players haven't had a meaningful meeting since a couple days before the lockout started on July 1, which leaves many wondering about the urgency of the owners wanting to get a deal done. The loudest voices? The big-time agents, who want NBPA Executive Director Billy Hunter to press the Big Red Button: De-certification. ... Hunter is reportedly hesitant to go that route, because it would lessen his power as head of a union which would dissolve. However, it's said he's slowly warming up to the idea. No one knows how the owners would react to such a tactic, or whether the court system (most likely in player-friendly San Francisco or Boston) would rule in the players' favor, but one thing is for certain. Sitting idle will only lead to a longer, more contentious lockout, and something must be done to expedite a slow-moving process."

  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: "Timberwolves forward Kevin Love is the latest NBA player to consider employment options during the league's lockout, though Love's plan appears to be taking him to the beach. The NBA's leading rebounder last season has agreed to play in USA Volleyball's professional beach series.Love tuned up for a major event in August with a practice round Tuesday on a man-made beach in New York City's Times Square. Love competed with pro beach players John Hyden, Sean Scott, Jess Gysin and Christal Engle. Displaying a new Mohawk hairstyle, Love uploaded pictures of himself from Tuesday's competition on his Twitter page. 'I'm trying to look at it as a new endeavor,' Love said of his volleyball interest during a live interview Tuesday morning on ESPN's 'First Take'. 'I'm having fun with it.' Pro beach volleyball consists of a circuit with two-player teams comprised of one male and one female. Love plans to compete in the $200,000 Manhattan Beach Open in southern California on Aug. 26-28 but needs to find a teammate. The Manhattan Open is recognized as one of the world's top beach volleyball tournaments. Love has been visible during the lockout, which began July 1 when league owners and the players' union failed to settle on a new labor agreement. Last week in Los Angeles, he mingled with celebrities before and after his appearance on the ESPYs, the sports world's version of the Oscars televised live on ESPN."

  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: "They are perennial losers. General Manager David Kahn appears obsessive about leaking trade rumors. And he handled the firing of Kurt Rambis in the worst way possible by dragging out the process and delivering conflicting statements on Rambis' status. But in this case, the world has flipped upside down. Regardless of whether you think the Lakers made the correct choice in hiring Mike Brown, they handled it pretty poorly by failing to consult with Kobe Bryant, whose relationship with the head coach will significantly determine how successful the new staff becomes. The Timberwolves, meanwhile, are involving UCLA product and NBA All-Star Kevin Love in their coaching search. ... That surely juxtaposes how the Lakers handled the coaching search with Bryant, who had made it clear he wouldn't interfere with the process but would have been glad to give feedback, including endorsing Brian Shaw. Instead the Lakers didn't notify Bryant about the hire firsthand, leading him to refuse to comment on the hire publicly and cause Jim Buss to backtrack after the fact to The Times' T.J. Simers that the organization made a mistake."

  • Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: "Even while promoting his Disney cartoon at Comic-Con in San Diego — surrounded by Wolverines and Batmen and Darth Vaders — Superman couldn’t avoid the questions about his future. Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard was peppered with several fan questions surrounding his free agency while on a panel for 'Kick Buttowski,' the Disney XD animated series in which he voices the character of Rock Callahan. For the record, Howard said he’ll 'never' play for the Heat and when asked about the Lakers he responded, 'That’s everybody’s question. I am wearing purple … but that’s Rock’s outfit.' Beyond those few free-agency questions — which Howard is asked all the time — it was a fun weekend for Howard, who continues to branch out further and further into the world of pop culture. He deepens his voice to play Rock Callahan in Kick Buttowski, which airs its second season this year. Callahan, a recurring character in the series, is modeled after Howard with big muscles and a fun-loving personality. It was Howard’s first trip to Comic-Con, a setting where his he thrives interacting with fans. He’ll surely be back again in the future."

  • Paola Boivin of The Arizona Republic: "Aaron Brooks will never be Nash but with confidence and more time in the system he can make sure the Suns have one less hole to address. Part of the problem, of course, is that all point guards who go through Phoenix are compared to Nash. It's a no-win approach because few are as adept as Nash at improving everyone else around them. He'll be gone soon. And the Suns need to figure out ways to make the segue less painful. 'Despite how things went, I think Phoenix is a good place for me,' Brooks said. 'The players, management, fans; everything about the team I liked. That's not something you always find.' An unstable labor situation has complicated the issue. If there is a season, the team will have contend with salary cap limitations, not to mention staying young with Nash and 38-year-old Grant Hill on the roster. If Brooks stays with the Suns, he needs to embrace the opportunity. Much can be accomplished in the off-season. Brooks should have his nose in the proverbial books."

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "Now, Garrett Temple is headed to Italy, signing a one-year deal that will keep him out of the NBA free-agent pool if the lockout ever ends. What does this mean for the Spurs? If you haven’t noticed, and some of you have, the Spurs have a clear and present opening behind Tony Parker at backup point guard. George Hill is in Indiana. Chris Quinn is headed to Russia. It is assumed newly drafted Cory Joseph might begin his rookie season in the Development League. Gary Neal is all but certain to get some run at point next season, but he is unproven at that position. Assuming Gregg Popovich doesn’t plan to give Parker the Monta Ellis treatment — 48 minutes a night — the Spurs are going to have to find a backup lead guard on the free-agent market, whenever it opens for business. Had he been available, Temple — who can play and guard three positions — likely would have been on the Spurs to-call list. He has experience running the Spurs system, had still had some high-ranking fans in the Spurs organization. He also would have come at the right price for a No.2 or No. 3 point guard (i.e., veteran minimum). As it stands, Temple will be doing his balling en italiano next season, with no opt-out clause in case the lockout ends. And the Spurs’ pool of potential backup point guards just got one man shallower."

  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: "Tim Duncan and Michael Phelps were teammates on the 2004 United States Olympic team. Phelps was a little bit more successful, earning six gold and two bronze medals for his swimming. Duncan’s basketball team earned a bronze medal. And Duncan might have been a swimming trailblazer for Phelps if Hurricane Hugo didn’t damage his pool in the Virgin Islands and turn his athletic emphasis from swimming to basketball in 1989. Despite the change, Duncan probably appreciates being a point of comparison between Phelps and fellow Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte in a recent Washington Post story. Lochte is much more flamboyant in his athleticism than the methodical Phelps. Hence, it was an easy comparison to link Phelps and Duncan by Austrian swimmer Markus Rogan in a summation of the two styles of the two world-class swimmers. 'Ryan is the personality. Michael is the machine,' Rogan said. 'It’s such a dramatic difference. Ryan is more like a Dennis Rodman. Michael is more like a Tim Duncan.' "

  • Marcus Fuller of the Pioneer Press: "Trevor Mbakwe played against LeBron James at the LBJ Skills Academy in Akron earlier this month -- and even guarded him a couple times. But Minnesota's senior forward didn't try to dunk on James because he noticed the Miami Heat star was holding back. Mbakwe was joined by a group of college stars James invited to attend his summer camp. But it appeared that James wasn't going to put himself in a situation like he did two years ago when former Indiana and Xavier guard Jordan Crawford was filmed dunking on him. 'We had a chance to play against him because he had his own team,' Mbakwe said about King James. 'He was just kind of taking it easy. He was playing hard but I could kind of tell he hadn't been playing for a while. He wasn't his old self. He wasn't jumping or going after anything.' Mbakwe said James spoke to the players for 45 minutes about the hard work it takes to reach the highest level of basketball. He also answered questions from the audience."