First Cup: Tuesday

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "They play soccer on Thursdays, Denver's melting pot of footballers from Brazil, Argentina, Peru. It's a hodgepodge of muscular men, lithe ladies and one 6-foot-11 dude who somehow seems to fit in like he is 5-foot-11 — except when there's a header battle. Then, yeah, he's definitely 6-11. 'I'm like a normal person,' Nene said. 'Everyone is the same. I'm not special.' For the big Brazilian, soccer is his national pastime. And the longtime Nuggets center has been playing pickup matches in Denver parks this summer, a man-child playing his favorite childhood game. 'I feel more close to Brazil (when I play),' said Nene, a native of São Carlos, Brazil, who joined the Nuggets in 2002. 'I miss it so much, and my friends live there. But I can come here and play soccer and enjoy it. It's a sport I love. I grew up playing soccer. And I just get to have some fun.' Last Thursday, Nene was in two natural habitats. He was playing soccer — while posting up a smaller, scrappy defender and demanding the ball near the goal. It was a beautiful night for what they call the beautiful game. The air cooled as the sun slowly crept behind the mountains. Players shouted strategy to teammates in mutual languages, as if they were inadvertently talking in code to deter defenders."

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "And I’m hearing at least some of the 6 ½ candidates are expecting an answer this week. That last time around looking for a coach, Kahn traveled around the country interviewing close to a dozen candidates before narrowing it down to those final three. This time, candidates came to Minnesota, where the process involved a full day spent with Kahn, owner Glen Taylor and CEO Rob Moor as well as minority partners and other franchise personnel at times. I doubt they’ll bring finalists back to town a second time for more chat or send Taylor out to see them. The question is: How long will it take to make up their minds? And…who’s it going to be? Just one man’s take here: If it’s Sam Mitchell, Taylor shaped the decision, opting for a candidate with whom he's most personally comfortable. If Kahn still has the loudest voice in the room, I’m betting it’s going to be Don Nelson or Bernie Bickerstaff. Why? Two years ago, Kahn hired Kurt Rambis, an owner of eight NBA championship rings as a player, assistant coach and front-office employee but who was unproven as a head coach. And we all know how that turned out. This time, look for him to want a guy who has truly proven himself to coach such a young team."

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "Donnie Walsh, 70, is currently working as a consultant for the Knicks. He attended a reception in Manhattan on Sunday to celebrate Mullin's induction into the Hall of Fame. During his induction speech inSpringfield, Mass., on Friday night, Mullin made a point to mention the brilliant leadership Walsh demonstrated with the Pacers. When asked Monday if the Knicks will miss Walsh, Mullin replied: 'No question. You got that right.' Mullin also addressed questions about Walsh's health. Walsh had three surgeries in three years with the Knicks, including a hip replacement last November. Walsh was upset over whispers that he was in declining health. 'He's getting healthy,' Mullin said. 'He was never as bad as people let on.' Mullin reiterated that his hope was to work with Walsh. 'With Donnie Walsh, that's the guy I consider the right person for use,' he said. 'It really never got that far along. But knowing him like I do and the respect I have for him and his success at that level ... he's been a great executive.' "

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "This is, as Ray Allen admits, quite a dead period. The Celtics guard is trying to get a feel for how the NBA lockout should affect his preparation — whether he should kick workouts into high gear, whether he should start getting teammates together for independent workouts at UConn. He doesn’t know if the increase in doomsday predictions — the belief that there will not be a 2011-12 season — actually means something. But Allen doesn’t believe a lost season would end the Big Three era, even if he and Kevin Garnett have only one year left on their respective contracts. 'I don’t think so,' Allen said yesterday before teeing off in his charity golf tournament at the TPC River Highlands. 'They’re not going to send us away because possibly we miss a season. We’re not going to say we’re done and we’re not going to play any more. I still have a lot left in me and I’m sure that Kevin feels the same. At this stage of the game, I’m sure he’s rejuvenated and he’ll be ready to go.' "

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Los Angeles businessman Alex Meruelo recently agreed to purchase a majority interest in the Hawks and the Philips Arena operating rights from the Atlanta Spirit Group. There now will be one owner making decisions for the Hawks rather than several. But how else will Meruelo's pending ownership of the Hawks be different than ASG's? Circumstances prevent Meruelo from answering that question in much detail. For one, the sale still must be approved by the NBA's Board of Governors, and an NBA spokesman said he couldn't provide a timetable on the vote. More than that, though, the owners' lockout of players in a labor dispute muzzles Meruelo. He's not officially an NBA owner yet but already he's faced with the league-wide threat of hefty fines for personnel commenting on league matters. Once Meruelo officially takes control of the team, he will have some major questions to answer. How involved will Meruelo be in Hawks' basketball decisions? ... What happens to Rick Sund? ... How much is Meruelo willing to spend?"

  • Benjamin Hochmanof The Denver Post: "So, which team will Ty Lawson play for this fall? He didn't even know how to pronounce it. The answer is a Lithuanian team called Zalgiris Kaunas. The reality of the NBA lockout is hitting home as Lawson — one of the Nuggets' top players — said Monday he agreed Sunday to play for this team, which also features former Nuggets teammate Sonny Weems. 'It's the best situation for me to go out there,' Lawson said by phone. 'Being at home, I'm not saying I'm a lazy person, but I want to be in the gym. And plus, it's a new experience going out to Lithuania, so why not? It was a no-brainer.' A source confirmed that Lawson's Lithuanian salary will be 'seven figures.' He is still on his rookie contract with the Nuggets and is expected to make $1.6 million this coming NBA season. 'And as soon as the lockout ends, I can come right back and be with the Denver Nuggets?,' said Lawson, who will fly to Lithuania on Aug. 28."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Wizards first-round draft pick Jan Vesely will wait until the end of August to decide where he intends to play basketball this fall, according to his agent, Alexander Raskovic. ... 'We are looking for the developing of the lock out situation, and by the end of the August we will make decision where he will play in Europe, or no,' Raskovic wrote in an email on Monday. 'Jan may wait for the end of lockout with no playing in any of the team]s] in Europe.' Vesely said on the night of the draft that he hoped to make basketball more popular in the Czech Republic, which has produced two other NBA players in Jiri Welsch and George Zidek. But Vesely elected not to play for his national team as it played a series of exhibitions this summer. The Czech Republic did not qualify for the European championships, which will be held in Lithuania from Aug. 31 to Sept. 18. 'He did not play for the national team by his mutual agreement with the national team’s coach,' Raskovic wrote. 'There was no important games so they did not need him to be in the national team.' "

  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: "Tony Parker had been presumed to be the most likely of the Spurs’ 'Big Three' to seek a playing opportunity overseas if the lockout stretched for several months and regular season games were missed. Most thought Parker would return home to play in France or nearby in Europe if he had the opportunity during the lockout. But it may turn out that Parker could be heading to the other side of the world to play very soon. ... Kobe Bryant reportedly has been offered $1.5 million per month to play in China. Sources indicate that Parker’s potential contract could be about $700,000 per month. But one huge hurdle remains in the way. Chinese Basketball Association officials will likely pass a rule in the middle of this week forbidding the signing of players with NBA opt-out clauses. Chinese officials are adamant about derailing the prospect of rent-a-players coming to their league during the lockout. Those players who came would have to commit to playing a full season in the Far East. And if the lockout ends, those players couldn’t return to the NBA until the Chinese season ends in mid-March."

  • Mike Tokito of The Oregonian: "Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge is coming back to Portland next week for a series of skills camps for young players. But he'll need to be careful about crossing the street. Aldridge will give one-day clinics Aug. 23, 24 and 25 for middle school and high school boys and girls. The first will be for players in grades 6-8 and will be held at Club Sport in Tualatin. That facility is right across Southwest Childs Road from the Blazers practice facility. Because of the NBA lockout, Aldridge is not allowed to walk across the street and enter what is basically his home away from home. Aldridge also will hold a clinic for players in grades 9-12 on Wednesday, Aug. 24, at Lakeridge High School in Lake Oswego, and another for grades 6-12 the next day at Fort Vancouver High School in Vancouver, Wash. ... Blazers guard Brandon Roy and two former Blazers -- Phoenix's Channing Frye and the Lakers' Steve Blake -- have been invited to take part, according to a release."

  • Bob Wolfley of the Journal Sentinel: "Bucks coach Scott Skiles and his newest assistant, Sidney Moncrief, spoke to the members of the Milwaukee media on Monday afternoon at Klement’s Sausage Haus at Miller Park, where the team was holding an event for its patrons. Skiles was asked why he hired 53-year-old Moncrief, who played 10 seasons with the Bucks and was an all-star selection five times. 'I told many people over the years that the most important year in my career was my rookie year, even though I was not a contributor or anything,' said Skiles. 'But to be around that group of guys, Sid, Cummings, Pierce, Hodges, Pressey, Jack Sikma - the list is a long list and all of them – Mokeski. I learned an awful lot. Sidney was leader of that group. It felt like the right time. He has had NBA experience as a player. He has had NBA experience now as a coach. He was around our team at the end of (last) season. He knows some of the things we do. It’s a good fit right now.' "