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First Cup: Thursday

10/6/2011
  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: "Kevin Durant’s following on Twitter has more than tripled since the two-time NBA scoring champ arrived in Oklahoma City in July of 2008. At the moment, he is roughly 40,000 followers short of 1 million, a mark reached by only eight other NBA players, two of whom are retired (Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). A movement is afoot in Oklahoma to get @KDTrey5 to seven figures, asking all non-followers to start following. KD helped put OKC on the NBA map, the least his fans could do is put him over the 1 million mark on Twitter. Consider it a 'Million Twitter March,' a connotation which Durant no doubt can appreciate, being born in Washington D.C."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Saturday's NBA lockout exhibition at Florida International University might wind up as just part of a South Florida showcase for the players involved. While a union spokesman said Wednesday there are no plans for a formal union meeting in conjunction with the South Florida All-Star Classic being presented by the Miami Heat's LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, it is possible that union chief Billy Hunter visits with the players at the event. Saturday also is the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, making negotiations in New York unlikely with NBA Commissioner David Stern. In addition, the union confirmed that South Florida is on the players' association short list of sites for potential lockout training facilities if the stoppage continues. Under such a scenario, the union would pick up players' training costs."

  • Alan Hahn of Newsday: "Derek Fisher was one of the last players to file into the conference room after Tuesday's collective bargaining talks broke down. He was impeccably dressed, as usual, and as he reached the podium, he patiently prepared his notes before starting his address. Fisher has been, without question,the most impressive part of the NBPA throughout this entire process. While the union's lawyers linger and mingle with the media after each meeting, eager to offer their input, Fisher makes intelligent points, offers level headed perspective with genuine sincerity and then quickly departs. There is no propaganda from him, no posturing and no act. Fisher, a widely respected veteran and five-time champion, may be all that is keeping this union together right now. There is a reason why David Stern threatened a $1 million fine for any owner or team employee who spoke publicly about the lockout. The mission is to keep everyone on the same message, even when there are disagreements behind closed doors. And if you don't think the owners have had their own spats about decisions Stern has made, you're being naive. But in negotiations over billions of dollars, the slightest sign of weakness can be used as leverage. This is why some agents, while intending to take the wheel from the reeling executive director Billy Hunter, have really only given Stern and the owners more fuel by publicly criticizing the union for what is viewed as conceding too much in negotiations."

  • Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle: "We get it that many don't pay attention to the NBA until the Christmas Day games. Others stay away until after the Super Bowl, and some don't really get excited about an NBA season until the All-Star Game. But aren't there enough true NBA fans for the owners and players to care about? ... The fact NBA players are the highest-paid in pro sports - with some guys who have as much chance of contributing on the court as you and I reaping the benefits of a system that pays the average player $5 million a year - doesn't help them garner much sentiment. All might not be good for the NBA, but there is far more good than bad. Let this lockout last as long as the one in 1998, or go NHL and lose an entire season. Then the stewards of this head-turning game, coming off a head-turning season, might be unpleasantly surprised at how many people don't bother to give the league another glance. That is the state of the NBA. Are the players and owners paying attention to the state of their union?"

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: "In the NFL, where careers are extinguished in the blink of an eye, contracts are not guaranteed beyond the signing bonus. In the NBA, where injuries are far less prevalent, contracts are fully guaranteed, to the point where the Indiana Pacers are only now getting out from under the millions they had to pay Jamaal Tinsley. The point being this: The players' union has to stop fighting over 2 percent or 3 percent of the basketball-related income and get back on the basketball court. I realize this is a lockout and not a strike, that this whole thing has been planned and perpetuated by owners who too often need to be saved from themselves. But the NBA business model is broken. Part of that is the fault of owners who need to increase the revenue sharing numbers and help out the likes of the Pacers and Sacramento Kings. But part of it is, times have changed, the economy has gone in the tank, and the players have to be willing to give back more to make their league work. We can argue all day about exactly how many teams are losing money and how much they're losing, but even Forbes magazine acknowledges that enough teams are struggling to make change necessary for the health of the league."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Robert Sarver is only one voice in 30 so his impact on this lockout is far less than what his image problem's impact could be on the Suns after the lockout. Once he is able to publicly defend himself, Sarver and the Suns front office will have to repair some perceptions with players and agents, particularly when it comes to free agency. The latest Sarver bash from a national perspective came on a local airwave. Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski, a lockout reporting beast like cbssports.com's Ken Berger, had the following comment about Sarver on 'Chuck and Vince Live' on KDUS-AM (1060) this morning. Read it here or hear it here: 'I think Sarver's been the most difficult. He has been really the last couple years in this. I quoted an owner, an ownership source, the other day in a story that he talks so much and says so many outlandish things in these meetings, people tune him out. You know him in Phoenix. He can erode his credibility by just opening his mouth very often. While he is the hardest line of the hard-liners, he is not going to dictate where this goes ...' "

  • Tom Couzens of The Sacramento Bee: "The league says the first two weeks of the season are in jeopardy, too, if the ongoing labor dispute isn't resolved by Monday. That would mean the Kings would lose about eight games if the league sticks with the current schedule. We say bring it on. In fact, canceling eight games isn't nearly enough. How about canceling 20 games – permanently? And some playoff games, too? There has been a lot of offseason chatter online about the NBA 'contracting' – reducing the number of teams from 30 to, say, 28 or even 26. If the NBA is going to cut back, we'd rather see them cut games. Who needs a bloated 82-game season, especially when 16 of the 30 teams make the playoffs?"

  • Mike Wise of The Washington Post: "Before Stern and union chief Billy Hunter and their entourage of blazers trim more games and move toward the endgame, they really need to ponder hard the detonation of a season and realize a simple fact before the button is pushed: The only thing worse than millionaires and billionaires unable to agree on a piece of the pie in this sorry American economy is an overinflated sense of your own worth. No one outside the NBA bubble gives a damn about your fight — or, in some places, whether you even have a season. You’re not merely courting financial doom; you’re courting something even more costly to a sport’s long-term growth: lasting apathy. Before they become the first major North American sports league to detonate a season since the NHL in 2004, memo to players and owners: There is no worse time to be playing chicken with each other."

  • Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times: "On Tuesday labor talks broke down. The NBA canceled the preseason and said it would also cancel the first two weeks of the regular season if there is no collective bargaining agreement in place by Monday. With the NBA lockout in its fourth month, first-year players are wondering when they will finally get to cash their first checks and trade in their budget lifestyles for five-star hotels, chartered jets and catered postgame meals. Newly minted Lakers rookie Darius Morris soon could be among the lucky few to enjoy a taste of NBA life. The former Michigan and Los Angeles Windward High guard said he was on the verge of signing a sponsorship deal with Nike that could help sustain him financially until the lockout ends. In the meantime, Morris might take his talents … to Mexico City. It would be part of a two-game exhibition tour this month in which NBA players would also teach basketball skills to children."

  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: "Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said Wednesday he’s unwilling to commit to playing for Italian team Virtus Bologna during an extended NBA lockout – yet. Ginobili practiced with the Argentinian college team Weber Estudiantes earlier on Wednesday. While there, he described the offer to Buenos Aires journalist German Beder in remarks that were translated by Sportsando.net. Ginobili said he is intrigued by the offer, but still unwilling to commit with the team — whether or not Kobe Bryant joins them. It would mark his return to Italy after playing in Bologna before joining the Spurs. 'I did not go to Italy in the last six years and it could be a nice thing to return there,' Ginobili said. 'But right now I need to rest. I cannot give them an answer today.' Because of that lag, Ginobili said the Italian team should consider adding other players instead of him."

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "Coach Lawrence Frank will be the featured guest at Detroit Mercy's annual coaching clinic Sunday. Hired in August, he will make his first appearance at the event that has seen Pistons representation in past years. But there will be a new wrinkle this year, because of the NBA labor impasse. Per lockout rules, NBA personnel aren't allowed contact with college players, so Frank won't be able to use Detroit Mercy players during his part of the clinic. When college basketball practice begins later this month, NBA scouts must stay away. Normally, scouts attend early practices to evaluate players and see how they interact with coaches and teammates. Because of the lockout, Frank will have to use other coaches when he gives his presentation on pick-and-roll defense and offense."

  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: "The Jazz are expected to soon name Sidney Lowe as an assistant coach, The Salt Lake Tribune has learned. Lowe's hire is not 100-percent finalized. It is expected to go through, though, and could be announced as soon as Thursday. If hired, Lowe would round out Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin's staff, joining assistants Scott Layden and Jeff Hornacek, who are expected to return once the NBA lockout ends Corbin has not operated with a full staff since taking over Feb. 10 as Utah's coach. ... If the Lowe hire becomes official, Utah will have added two widely respected basketball names during the lockout. The Jazz hired Rich Sheubrooks on Sept. 12 as executive director of global and professional scouting. Utah might also add a player development coach in the future."

  • Bob Wolfley of the Journal Sentinel: "Bucks guard Brandon Jennings is the subject of a feature story in this week’s Sports Illustrated (Oct.10). The story (headlined 'Sooooo where is everybody hooping today??? #LA') is about Jennings playing in pick-up games in Los Angeles during the lockout. Jennings uses Twitter to find out where games are being played, picks one to attend and then tweets the location, in case anyone wants to drop by and watch. Jennings has become the union’s underground ambassador, appearing in more pickup games than Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson,' writes Lee Jenkins of the magazine."

  • Tony Bizjak of The Sacramento Bee: "Sacramento city officials described their initial arena meeting with the NBA on Wednesday as constructive. The meeting, held in Dallas, is expected to be the first in a series of discussions between the National Basketball Association and the city as the two sides attempt to agree on financing and development plans for a new sports-and-entertainment facility in downtown Sacramento. In a joint statement, Mayor Kevin Johnson and City Manager John Shirey said the conversation focused on making progress before the end of the year."

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "While the NBA and its players' union negotiate to end a lockout that has led to the cancellation of the entire preseason schedule, Grizzlies season-ticket holders can decide whether they want a refund. The Grizzlies sent their customers a letter Wednesday updating them about the labor dispute with a reminder that they can be refunded money for games missed or keep an account with the franchise and accrue interest. Memphis' regular-season home opener is slated for Nov. 5 against Charlotte. There are eight games scheduled for FedExForum in November. Season-ticket holders who opt for a full refund will receive their money with 1 percent interest. The Griz will mail refunds to season-ticket holders upon request at the end of each month that games are missed. Customers who prefer to receive an account credit will receive an additional 5 percent in interest when games are lost."

  • Phil Vettel of the Chicago Tribune: "I'm old enough to remember the day the Chicago Bulls drafted Michael Jordan, and to remember that it was not a universally praised draft choice. The belief among some was that the Bulls already had guards; why did they need another? In the same way, the arrival of Michael Jordan's in the InterContinental Chicago had a few people questioning the redundancy, wondering if Chicago would support yet another steakhouse. To which I will answer: No matter how many steakhouses a city might have, there will always be room for a great one. And Michael Jordan's is going to be a great one."