First Cup: Monday

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: "NBA training camps usually start the first full week in October, and that time is rapidly approaching. During the last lockout (1998), the NBA started cancelling exhibition games on Sept. 10, and two weeks later, not only were more preseason games postponed but training camp was delayed indefinitely. The result was irreparable damage the league struggled to recover from, and a shortened 50-game season, saved at the last minute by Stern and union head Billy Hunter. ... Due to the nature of the recent proceedings, no one truly knows where things stand, but details could come very soon. Lakers guard Derek Fisher, the union's president, plans to meet with the players in Las Vegas this week. To make things more interesting, the players began receiving escrow checks this week. Per the last Collective Bargaining Agreement, 8% of salary was withheld in the event the league didn't cross certain revenue thresholds. It did, and a total of $161 million was dispersed among the league's 350 players. So while it's feasible to discern progress has been made, the two sides still appear far apart on the most important issues: how the money is split and the creation of either a hard salary cap or soft salary cap. It will be interesting to see if either side budges off its initial principles anytime soon."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "We have reached the point of the NBA lockout where things either will move quickly or not at all. For months, plans have been set in motion for the not-at-all eventuality. Overseas contracts. Barnstorming tours. Pro-am leagues, such as the upcoming one in Las Vegas. But now, after three recent negotiating sessions and major rounds of talks this coming week first between the league and union, and then large-scale sessions by the players and owners on Thursday, the endgame could be at hand. And that means there finally might be clarity on the work rules going forward. For the Heat, with their high-profile roster, the stakes are significant, with each nuance of a new collective-bargaining agreement dictating where the collaboration of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh might be headed."

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: "Derek Fisher’s work as president of the players’ union continues this week with more highest-level meetings with NBA officials in New York, but he is scheduled to get some basketball work in when he is in Las Vegas on Thursday for a larger meeting with the players he represents.Fisher is listed on one of the eight teams put together for Impact Basketball’s upstart two-week summer league in Las Vegas. That league of NBA-level players begins play Monday, although Fisher won’t arrive till Thursday for a planned meeting to share details of negotiations with union members. Fisher text-messaged some players last week to report progress, according to Sam Amick of SI.com, and encouraged them to be ready in case the season started on time. One of Fisher’s teammates in the Vegas league will be Derrick Caracter, who is under non-guaranteed contract for another season with the Lakers but might not be back with the team."

  • Staff of the Detroit Free Press "Will Joe Abunassar who hails from the Detroit area and has become a trainer to NBA players, deliver his series of high-level basketball games in Las Vegas the next two weeks? You can find a partial answer on your computer late this afternoon. Abunassar, who runs Impact Basketball, intends to hold four games today involving locked-out NBA players at his training facility not far from the Vegas Strip. The games, slated to tip at 4:30 p.m. Detroit time, are supposed to be streamed on Abunassar's Web site, www.impactbball.com. Abunassar intends to train players in the morning and play games in the afternoon most days through Sept. 23. Pistons Austin Daye and Terrico White are listed as likely participants, along with former Piston Chauncey Billups, one of Abunassar's best-known clients."

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: "Q: What do think caused LeBron James’ flameout in the Finals against the Dallas Mavericks? Shaquille O'Neal: 'I don’t think pressure got to him. Surely he took a lot of shots, but he’s not solely in charge there. He’s a great player, but in the Finals, it’s damn if he do and damn if he don’t. He thinks about that too much. It’s a lot of pressure on him, but everybody had that pressure. Michael Jordan had the pressure, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade and myself. LeBron has always been a team-player-first guy. In the Finals, I think he was trying to get everybody else involved rather than take over the game. Somebody from upstairs is going have to say there has to be a one, CEO No. 1, and a vice president between the two of them (Wade). A lot of people are trying to compare them to Scotty Pippen and Jordan. That isn’t Scotty and Mike. It’s more like Mike and Dominique Wilkins. They both took shots and scored.' "

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "By the final five minutes of Sunday’s FIBA Americas championship game, Spurs guard Manu Ginobili had a thick band of tape covering a gash on the bridge of his nose. His teammate, Houston Rockets power forward Luis Scola, had a butterfly Band-Aid covering a cut on his left eyelid. His legs so rubbery from having played six games in seven nights, Ginobili missed three of four from the free-throw line in the final 16.6 seconds, a rarity for the 90 percent shooter that the Spurs trust on the charity stripe in the final seconds of tight games. When Scola finally secured an 80-75 victory for Argentina over archrival Brazil by making two free throws with less than a second remaining, Ginobili and the rest of the Argentine team found the energy to join their countrymen and sing along in a raucous chorus that filled the arena. Translated, the refrain went: 'Go, go Argentina; go everyone to win; this group ? never stops supporting you.' "

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "For all of Serge Ibaka's incredible improvement in his first two seasons, a pair of hands that at times seem made of stone continue to hinder his development. Ibaka often struggled with simple catches last season, and Sunday's bobble in Spain's 96-69 route of France proved the Thunder's starting power forward still has a ways to go. As a member of Spain's national team through naturalization, Ibaka, a native of the Republic of Congo, has displayed his usual head-turning skills. He's surprised guards with chase-down blocks. He's gobbled up rebounds. He's canned midrange jumpers. But when it comes to catching dump-off passes, Ibaka has shown little improvement. It's an area Ibaka has concentrated on throughout his first two seasons and one that he desperately needs to return more comfortable in."

  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Jazz rookie center Enes Kanter's time in the EuroBasket 2011 tournament is over. Turkey fell to Serbia 68-67 Sunday during a second-round contest in Vilnius, Lithuania. The loss eliminated Turkey from the tournament and ended the team's hope of qualifying for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Kanter scored a co-team high 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting and grabbed five rebounds. He averaged 9.6 points and 3.9 rebounds during eight games, ranking sixth overall during the tournament in field goal percentage (59.2). Former Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko continues to excel. He led Russia in rebounds (eight), assists (five) and steals (two) during the team's 83-67 victory against Greece on Saturday. An undefeated Russia squad will face F.Y.R. of Macedonia on Monday."

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Elton Brand spends his summers at his home in the Los Angeles area. He calls it his 'vacation spot,' though he rarely allows himself to kick back and chill. Brand, who will be 33 in March, knows that the end of his NBA future is like an oncoming wave at the beach - it can't be stopped. He does his best each summer to stall the inevitable - riding his bike for endless hours and miles, swimming lap after lap after lap in the pool and working on his basketball game at a local gym. He wants to squeeze as many seasons as he can out of his body, and that is why the potential of losing this season to a lockout is so bothersome. 'It is frustrating,' Brand said of the lockout. 'It's not the finances, it's the game. I don't want to lose the momentum that this team had last season, the momentum that I had. I want to show more. I want to be a part of keeping the city excited about the the Sixers. I don't want to lose a season because of this. I've lost enough games over the past few seasons. I don't want to lose more.' "

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "We didn’t know for certain that Shaquille O’Neal wouldn’t become a playoff factor for the Celtics until he broke down again in the series loss to the Miami Heat. But, according to O’Neal, the club may have had a strong inkling in this direction well before. O’Neal claimed in a Q?&?A with the Times-Picayune of New Orleans that he advised Celtics president Danny Ainge not to trade away Kendrick Perkins, citing O’Neal’s Achilles tendon problems. At the time of the February deal that sent Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder with Nate Robinson for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic, Ainge was asked directly by the Herald if he was certain O’Neal would be coming back in the current season. Ainge answered in the affirmative. But O’Neal seemed to indicate otherwise when he was interviewed on the occasion of his statue being unveiled in Louisiana. ... Asked by the Times-Picayune when he knew it was time to retire, O’Neal said, 'I’m so used to playing at a high level, and I hated reading articles of me playing at a regular level.' "

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "After determining that he had yet to truly turn his potential into more than flirtations of production, Andray Blatche has taken some steps toward getting better. He recently hired powerful agent Andy Miller after going without representation for all of what turned out to be a difficult season — even after he had secured a lucrative extension with the Wizards. And he also decided to separate himself from people who weren’t interested in his personal development. Blatche has been more visible with his community projects this summer. He spent most of his offseason working out in Miami, with the hope that the results will be noticeable in the upcoming season. 'I’m 25 years old,' said Blatche, who celebrated his birthday last month with John Wall, Hamady Ndiaye, Josh Howard and Trevor Booker in South Beach. 'I’ve been in the league six years now. I know my goal. I want to be an all-star. And to be an all-star, I have to make changes, and those are the changes that I have to make now. I took the time to cut back on some friends and some people, and built myself around better people that know what’s best for me,' he said. 'I’m sorry that it took so long for me to realize it, but it’s all about growing and maturing and that’s basically what I’m doing.' "

  • Randy Youngman of The Orange County Register: "Well, that was the plan — to unveil The Plan on how to finance a proposed $387 million arena to be constructed downtown on city-owned land. And it was hoped the Maloofs — brothers Joe, Gavin and George, the team's majority owners since 1999 — would be so blown away by the 'Nexus Report,' as the task force calls it, that they would smile for the cameras, shake hands with all of the politicians and, of course, thank Stern for forcefully dissuading them from moving the franchise to Anaheim earlier this year. Except the Maloofs didn't show up for the announcement. Nor did the NBA send anyone to show its support for the arena plan. (Stern is very busy trying to settle the NBA lockout, but surely he could have sent an emissary, if he thought it was important.) Then again, maybe the Maloofs and the NBA suits were notable no-shows because they had already seen the report and there wasn't much of substance on which to comment. Or maybe they weren't happy. The Kings did release a statement saying the financing report was a 'very positive step,' but it seemed hollow in their absence. ... The Nexus Report will be delivered to the Sacramento City Council on Tuesday. Here we go again?"

  • David Wharton and Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times: "Alex Meruelo has gone about his business in relative anonymity, raising his family in a $9.5-million home in Newport Coast, the same ritzy neighborhood where Kobe Bryant lives. He knew that buying an NBA team would raise his profile considerably. 'Do you understand what you're getting yourself into?' he thought over and over. 'Do you understand the exposure you can't avoid anymore?' It seemed that relinquishing this cherished privacy was a reasonable price to pay. So did acquiring a franchise that needs to boost attendance and revenues. Sports business analysts believe Meruelo has found another bargain in the Hawks. He plans to commute to Atlanta by private jet — he also owns an aviation company — to keep an eye on his investment. The kid who once rented tuxedos is savvy enough to know that team ownership is serious business. But the grin on his face tells another part of the story. This could also be a dream come true."