First Cup: Thursday

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith are unrestricted free agents with no guarantees either or both will return; Nene has one foot out of the door; and now Wilson Chandler is going to China, where because of a contract without an NBA-out clause, he definitely will not be part of next season’s squad should the lockout end and games are played. And while the lockout continues on, there’s nothing the Nuggets can do about any of this. With question marks throughout the roster, it promised to be a busy free agency regardless. Now, the Nuggets must use the lockout time to work on plans B, C and maybe D and beyond. ... This has been a bit of a curveball summer for the Nuggets, certainly more than what they anticipated. How they adjust to this tricky pitch will determine how long it takes for them to get back among the NBA’s elite."

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "Spurs center/forward DeJuan Blair has a contract negotiated and ready to go that would allow him to spend the NBA lockout in Russia, his agent said Wednesday. Happy Walters says Blair is likely to make a decision on whether to play with Krasnye Krylya, located in the Russian city of Samara, 'in the next couple of days.' “I would say we have a contract negotiated,” Walters said. 'If he signs it, then he’ll go. The ball is in our court.' If Blair accepts the offer, he will leave for Russia next week, Walters said."

  • Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News: "Deron Williams sounds as if he'll be reporting Thursday to Turkey, as he promised back in July when he became the biggest signing in the history of European basketball. But how long will he stay? It's a fair question, since even the Nets' star playmaker admitted just thispast weekend that his surgically repaired right wrist still isn't fully healthy. He had three bone fragments and scar tissue removed in April and it's been a slower rehab process than expected. He was told recovery would be no longer than two months, which should have had him ready to roll in July. 'I've still got some strengthening and breaking up scar tissue,' he said. 'That's the process with any surgery.' But his recovery has been closely watched because several NBA team executives think that his wrist issues will give him a perfectly legitimate excuse to bail on Besiktas, a second-tier team, if he finds that living in Turkey isn't for him. The countdown for his return to the U.S. will start in earnest the first time he gets hacked on the wrist. Williams is supposed to get upwards of $3.5 million for the 10-month Turkish league. For now, all systems are go."

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: "As I dug into Crittenton’s Lakers days, a couple other things came to light that I didn’t include in the column: The Lakers didn’t exactly have their best night in taking Crittenton with the 19th overall pick in that 2007 draft, even though you can’t quibble with the net result of getting Pau Gasol by virtue of having Crittenton to trade to Memphis. After the Lakers took Crittenton, eight of the next nine picks wound up good enough still to be contributors in the NBA last season: Jason Smith, Daequan Cook, Jared Dudley, Wilson Chandler, Rudy Fernandez, Aaron Brooks, Arron Afflalo and Tiago Splitter. (Lone exception: Morris Almond, taken 25th by Utah.) Also, one of the interesting issues the NBA and players’ union need to settle to end the lockout is whether the league will raise the age limit to 20. Crittenton was 19 when the Lakers drafted him after he went to Georgia Tech for a single season. It’s all speculative, but how would things have changed for him if he’d been required to stay another year in college instead of jumping into NBA life?"

  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: "Lamar Odom can thrive wherever he's put on the court, but the rest of his teammates don't operate that way. While Odom could give the Lakers an unstoppable triple-tower lineup, the Lakers would be less equipped in other areas. They'd lose Artest's presence in stopping the team's best player. The Lakers would be less suited in defending outside shots. Opponents would be more inclined to pack the paint, testing whether the Lakers truly can hit three-pointers. Who will be equipped to lead the Lakers' reserve unit? Nothing against Odom, but he won the NBA's sixth man of the year award for a simple reason. His versatile skills allowed him to thrive in any position, at any role and in any situation. There's no point fixing something that isn't broken."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel "Sitting out the session was union secretary-treasurer James Jones, the Miami Heat forward. 'We're very far apart,' Jones said on a Wednesday appearance on WQAM. 'There's always a chance of a deal being reached, because these things can moved fast, especially as you start to get up against the clock. I think football showed everyone.' Still, Jones was not optimistic about a quick fix, with training camps, which were scheduled to open Oct. 3, now in jeopardy, as well as the preseason. The Heat are scheduled to open the regular season Nov. 2 at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks. 'We're polar opposites right now,' Jones said. 'Unless something serious happens, I expect for us to miss some time.' As for his own free agency, Jones said he is leaving the door open on a possible return to the Heat."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Trevor Booker’s contributions can easily get overlooked in a regular season NBA game with structure and set plays, so a streetball exhibition probably isn’t the best place for the undersized but energetic power forward to have an influence on the outcome. ... But Booker didn’t decide to book a flight to Baltimore for one day — two days after Goodman League commissioner Miles Rawls called to extend an invitation — to put up big numbers. He just wanted to be back on the court again, playing against elite competition. Booker broke his right foot in March, right around the time when Flip Saunders had decided to give him some quality minutes, and his season ended prematurely. ... 'My foot feels pretty good,' Booker said after the Goodman all-stars lost to the Melo all-stars, 149-141. 'We had some good competition out here and I definitely needed that.' ... Booker decided to sign with Bnei HaSharon of the Israeli Basketball League earlier this month, becoming the first Wizard to take his talents overseas as the NBA and the players’ union try to settle the labor dispute. He has an opt-out clause that will allow him to return to the NBA when the lockout ends."

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "Jonas Valanciunas carried Lithuania’s under-19 basketball team to a world junior championship earlier this summer with an MVP-winning tournament. He spent a lot of time watching his senior teammates start the European championships on Wednesday. The 19-year-old first-round draft pick of the Raptors played just four scoreless minutes as the host Lithuanians beat Great Britain 80-69 in their opening game. It’s not surprising that the 7-foot Valanciunas would spend a lot of time being a spectator in his senior team debut. He is the youngest player on a deep, talented Lithuanian team that’s seen as a legitimate contender for one of two Olympic berths available at the 24-country European championships."

  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: "Unfortunately for Canada’s senior men’s basketball team, games last four quarters, not three. Canada battled hard through three, but fell apart in the final frame on the way to a 69-57 loss to Brazil on Wednesday. It was a tough way to open the FIBA Americas Championship. Canada shot the ball poorly and lacked creativity, but played solid defensively and on the boards in Argentina. Trailing 33-28 after a low-scoring first half which saw the team shooting 28% from the field, Canada rallied to take the lead in the third, before eventually heading to the fourth down by a point. A 15-0 run by Brazil banished any further thoughts of a Canadian rally."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "Spurs guard Manu Ginobili made only three baskets in Argentina’s 86-51 thumping of Uruguay on Thursday, but Spurs fans will be delighted to know two of them were emphatic dunks. The spring appears to be back in Ginobili’s legs, even after a hard, month-long training camp. 'I’m feeling great,' Ginobili said. 'The team is doing good. We had a long month of training camp where we practice twice a day almost every day. I am feeling good and in great shape. The team is rolling, so I have no complaints.' All three Spurs-connected players in the event were in action on the second day of the FIBA Americas tournament, which will qualify the top two teams for the 2012 Olympics in London. Center Tiago Splitter helped Brazil hang on for a 69-57 victory over Canada, with Spurs draftee Cory Joseph playing 24 minutes for Team Canada."

  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Jazz rookie center Enes Kanter scored a co-game high 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting and pulled down seven rebounds Wednesday during his debut in the 2011 EuroBasket tournament in Panevezys, Lithuania. Kanter also clocked a team-high 21 minutes, 58 seconds for Turkey, which defeated Portugal 79-56 during a first-round game. Kanter ran the court smoothly and shot a perfect 6 of 6 from the field during the first half. He did not see much action during the second half, and ended the game with three personal fouls. Jimmer Fredette and Kemba Walker matched up against each other June 15 during a pre-draft workout for the Jazz in Salt Lake City. Now, the duo will team up for two charity events based in Utah while the NBA is stuck in a lockout. Walker was confirmed Wednesday to participate in two exhibition games hosted by Fredette."

  • Kate Fagan of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Andre Iguodala said that, while he thinks it's a longshot that he'd play overseas this coming season (assuming the lockout drags on), he'd listen to any offers. Considering the bulk of his remaining contract, and the cost of insuring that contract against injury, it's unlikely we'll see Iguodala playing overseas if the NBA remains locked out. He's spending most of his off season in Chicago, although he's already made trips to China, Paris, L.A., etc. He doesn't have any remaining big trips planned, but the team is expected to hold a similar gathering/team workout session in Atlanta at the end of September (which might give you an indication of the likelihood that training camp starts on time). Iguodala on organizing the weekend in Los Angeles: 'We were always talking about it during the summer, but we couldn’t figure out where. Lou, Elton, and I pretty much knew we were going to do it. Elton said, ‘Well the times are looking like this.’ And I was supposed to go to Paris last week, but I switched my dates around so I could be in L.A. I went to Paris earlier because that was the weekend everyone could go to L.A.' "

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "T.J. Ford has needed to find a new address for quite some time. Ford and former coach Jim O’Brien spent about 60 seconds on the same page during their three years together. O’Brien raved about Ford’s speed and ability to get to the basket shortly after the Pacers acquired him from Toronto in the summer of 2008. O’Brien wasted little time in complaining about Ford holding onto the ball too long. O’Brien wanted constant ball moving. Ford is best when he has the ball in his hands. ... Ford never complained throughout the process. He said all the right things to the media and he never caused any problems in a locker room that was dysfunctional at times. I think everybody, including Ford, would agree it’s time for him to find a new team."

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "Lawrence Frank, 41, was hired last month to replace John Kuester, who was fired after two woeful seasons. With the NBA lockout in effect, he is prohibited from contacting or commenting on players. But he has been busy assembling a coaching staff. He said he had talked to roughly 30 candidates for four spots. Frank offered no timetable for when he will announce his staff, and there's no huge rush to do so, considering the labor dispute doesn't seem close to being resolved. 'The big project is putting together a staff and putting together a staff that everyone embodies those core values that we talked about back at the press conference -- but guys with different backgrounds and different experiences,' Frank said. 'I don't want all the same guys. We want to have a staff that brings different perspectives to us. It's been a great process.' "

  • Staff of The Commercial-Appeal: "The Memphis Grizzlies’ mascot, Grizz, has reason to do extra back flips before the NBA season begins. Grizz was named the 2011 NBA Mascot of the Year, an honor voted on by his peers at the league’s annual mascot meetings in Milwaukee. It marks the first time Memphis’ mascot has won the award. 'The NBA Mascot of the Year Award is a tremendous honor for Grizz, the Grizzlies organization and members of Grizz Nation across the world,' said Greg Campbell, Grizzlies president of business operations."