First Cup: Friday

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "Lead negotiators for the N.B.A. and its players union will hold a bargaining session next week — just the second since the lockout began — with an unofficial deadline fast approaching to save the start of training camps. Four people involved in the talks said the sides planned to meet in New York, although the day and the location were still being arranged. They might not be in a conciliatory mood when they arrive. Union leaders are still steaming over comments made by Commissioner David Stern in a recent podcast with ESPN.com’s Bill Simmons. In the interview, Stern insinuated that players were not well informed on the issues. He also framed the economic debate in terms that the union considered misleading — most notably an assertion that players were being asked to take a pay cut of just 8 percent. 'It’s not true,' Maurice Evans, a member of the union’s executive board, said Wednesday in a telephone interview. He added, 'Blatantly, it’s just lying.' "

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Amid offseason analysis about whether the overlap between their games has reduced their individual productivity as teammates, Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade insisted Thursday that chemistry with LeBron James is a non-issue. 'We figured it out. I think we did a very good job,' Wade said during an appearance on ESPN Radio, as he promoted his charity event this weekend in his native Chicago. 'It didn't hurt. LeBron was still third in the league in scoring. I was still like fifth in the league in scoring.' Wade actually finished fourth, with the two helping the Heat advance within two victories of an NBA title before falling in the NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks. 'It really didn't change much of our ability once we got comfortable,' Wade said. 'Me and him are very good friends. We're two guys who want to make it work, who wanted to make it work for our teammates to be successful, so we did.' When that collaboration continues remains in doubt, with the NBA in the midst of a lockout and more than a month having transpired since the last round of negotiations. Talks reportedly will resume next week."

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "In his quest to become a better free-throw shooter, Dwight Howard has turned to a man who bills himself as the 'Shooting Surgeon General' and the 'Free-Throw Master.' Howard is working with shooting coach Ed Palubinskas, anAustralian sharpshooter who played in the 1972 and 1976 Summer Olympics and is the career free-throw percentage leader at LSU. Palubinskas has worked with Orlando Magic power forward Brandon Bass and also briefly worked with Shaquille O'Neal. A photograph of Palubinskas working with Howard on Thursday was posted on Facebook by Bright House Sports Network's David Baumann. Palubinskas had attempted to work with Howard for at least a year. In May 2010, Palubinskas sent an e-mail message to the Orlando Sentinel in which he said that he had written and called Howard to offer his services but had received no response. 'I will completely change his numbers in less than one week and you won't recognize him,' Palubinskas wrote then."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "Kevin Durant loves to engage his fans on Twitter. But often times, the Thunder star likes to avoid basketball talk. So what did Durant do yesterday? He showed off his NFL acumen. It all started when @waldorfsfinest posted his opinion of the top five quarterbacks today. His list, in order, was Michael Vick, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton. Three minutes later, Durant blasted the guy for his rankings. It stirred a spirited social media debate between the two about the game’s best quarterbacks, along with their analysis on the skills each player has. Durant listed his top five QBs as Brady, Manning, Philip Rivers, Rodgers and Drew Brees. He then said Newton is nowhere near the top 10. And like any good sports debate, the player’s stats, awards and accolades quickly entered the discussion as a means of proving or disproving a point. Durant disregarded pro bowl appearances and other achievements such as Vick being the first quarterback to have his own signature shoe (is that accurate?). Durant instead focused on such things as Super Bowl wins, touchdown passes thrown, passing yards and QB rating. He did give Vick credit for being the premier athlete of the bunch and listed the Eagles’ dual threat as No. 8 on his list."

  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: "In less than 24 hours, the transformation for Ron Artest may finally take place. He may officially become 'Metta World Peace.' According to a person close to Artest who wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the matter, however, Artest doesn't plan to attend Friday's name-changing hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. at Los Angeles Superior Court. The attorney who filed the proposal, Jill Rubin, will be in attendance. Though it hasn't become official, Artest's proposed name change has already gained plenty of traction since June 23 when he filed the paperwork. Although court records indicate Artest wanted to change his name for 'personal reasons,' he's shared in multiple interviews that it brings greater awareness toward world peace and mental health issues."

  • Baxter Holmes of the Los Angeles Times: "Former UCLA Bruins star and current Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star forward Kevin Love made his pro beach volleyball debut Thursday at the Manhattan Beach Open, but it didn't last too long. Love and his partner, Hans Stolfus, were knocked out in straight sets, 21-16, 21-15, by the top-seeded team in the tournament, Sean Scott and John Hyden. 'It was a very, very good experience,' Love said. 'I look forward to keep playing.' Scott and Hyden are Olympic hopefuls and took it easy on Love and Stolfus, the lowest-seeded team in the tournament."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "The Chicago Bulls announced their television schedule on Thursday, even though the NBA lockout continues to leave many pessimistic a full, 82-game schedule will be played. The Bulls are currently scheduled to appear on national television 48 times, the most since the 1997-98 championship season. That includes 19 games on WGN America, nine appearances on both TNT and ESPN, six games on NBA-TV and five games on ABC. The schedule would have to be redone if the lockout causes the cancellation of even one game."

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins will spend tomorrow delivering backpacks donated from his successful Bowling for Backpacks outing last weekend. ... Hollins started The Lionel Hollins Charities’ Bowling for Backpacks event in 2003 and has provided nearly 5,000 backpacks to local youth since its inception. Hollins is the winningest coach in Grizzlies history after guiding the team to its first postseason berth since 2006. Memphis won its first seven playoff games last season."

  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: "Canada's senior men's basketball team got off to a rough start at the Tutu Marchand Cup in Brazil on Wednesday, losing 88-70 to the host Brazilians. Tired after the long trip, Canada fell behind 24-2 after a quarter and could not get back, despite outscoring Brazil 52-43 in the second half. Newfoundland's Carl English scored a game-high 17 points, while Toronto's Denham Brown and Jevohn Sheppard added 16 and 14, respectively. Cory Joseph did not play for Canada which will take on Puerto Rico on Thursday and the Dominican Republic on Friday. Canada opens its Olympic qualifying at the FIBA Americas in Argentina on August 31 against Brazil. The top two finishers there qualify for the London Olympics while teams 3-5 will fight for another berth at a last-chance tournament next year."