First Cup: Monday

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "Kenneth Faried plays basketball the way he lives his life -- unwavering, headstrong and proud. And he comes to town carrying an amazing life story in his gym bag. ... The Nuggets' Chris Jackson found solace by becoming a Muslim, but soon decided to take a stand by not standing. He protested our country's national anthem, which to this day still leaves a bad taste in the mouth of many Nuggets fans. For some, sports are the only connection to other people of certain faiths or backgrounds. Faried is here to play basketball. But he could teach a little along the way about his religion, just by showing up to work. ... Faried's parents -- all three of them -- were his role models, but Allah was his guide. At a young age, Faried went to a Baptist church with his father, but young Kenneth ultimately became a Muslim like his mother and her partner, Mashsin Copeland. 'I try to follow my faith to a T,' said Faried, who turns 22 in November. 'Sometimes it's hard, but I'm just happy that Allah gave me a chance to be in the position I'm in — and gave me this talent, this hustle, this heart. And the parents I have and the great people around me to push me. . . . Allah helps the people who help themselves and people who are good-willing and give back. And that's what I try to do -- give back to the people who help me.' "

  • Staff from The Dallas Morning News: "The Mavericks didn't make a splash in this year's draft with a high-profile rookie selection, but they did find a way to turn the 26th pick into a proven guard in former Trail Blazer Rudy Fernandez. But could their new player be ready to bolt for the chance to play in Spain? As Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo reported on Sunday, Real Madrid is set to take advantage of the NBA lockout by offering Fernandez a chance to come back home to Spain with a proposed six-year deal for roughly $4.35 million a year. Fernandez was set to $2.2 million next season before becoming a restricted free agent with an option of $3.2 million for 2012-13. Based on the numbers, it would make financial sense for Fernandez to leave Dallas for Spain. But the report says he'd honor his deal with the Mavericks when the lockout ends, and then leave the NBA and head home after this year, meaning fans shouldn't get used to seeing him in a Dallas uniform."

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "Amar'e Stoudemire would consider joining Kobe Bryant's barnstorming tour through China if the NBA lockout extends into the regular season. According to a person close to the Knicks' All-Star power forward, Stoudemire would only playif he can be insured in case of injury. The Knicks signed Stoudemire last summer to five-year, $100-million contract despite being unable to get the contract insured because Stoudemire has a pre-existing knee problem and has had surgery for a detached retina. After Stoudemire signed, he honored the Knicks' request to withdraw from the U.S. national team in order to rest his body for the upcoming season. Stoudemire also suffered a back injury prior to Game 2 of the Knicks' first-round series with Boston in April and is still not 100%. The Knicks are not permitted to have contact with their players during the work stoppage but they would get word to Stoudemire - likely via his agent Happy Walters - that they would prefer if one of their top players didn't travel to Asia for non-sanctioned NBA exhibitions."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "Thunder forward Serge Ibaka is considering playing in Europe if the NBA's lockout drags on. While vacationing in Spain, Ibaka recently told a radio station that he would be open to returning to Spain, where he played for two seasons prior to officially joining the Thunder. 'If there is a lockout, and there are not many complications to play in the CBA, I would like to return here to play,' Ibaka is quoted as saying. Ibaka is the latest in a long line of NBA players who have expressed an interest in playing overseas in the event of a prolonged lockout. Former Thunder center Nenad Krstic, who was traded to Boston at the deadline, recently signed a deal with CSKA Moscow in Russia. But Krstic's contract had expired. Ibaka, however, has two years remaining on his contract with the Thunder, and there is uncertainty with whether he or any other NBA player under contract can legally sign on to play for another professional team. Earlier this year, FIBA spokesman Florian Wanninger addressed the possibility of NBA players attempting to look for work overseas. ... The question is whether NBA players' contracts are considered valid during the lockout, when even players under contract are not receiving their salaries."

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "A number of fans seem to dismiss the lottery-protected draft pick the Cavaliers obtained from the Sacramento Kings in the J.J. Hickson deal and worry it will amount to nothing more than a second-round pick. It’s true that the pick depreciates into a second-rounder if it isn’t executed by 2017. In its simplest terms, that means the Kings would have to miss the playoffs every year for the next six years. Since they’ve already missed the playoffs each of the past five seasons, it means they would have to go 11 consecutive seasons without making the playoffs. Only twice in league history has a team gone that long without making the playoffs – the Buffalo Braves/San Diego Clippers/Los Angeles Clippers (15 seasons, 1977-91) and the Golden State Warriors (1995-2006), according to Elias Sports Burea. The odds are certainly in the Cavs’ favor."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "No matter when 2011-12 starts, the overriding theme will be LeBron James' pursuit of legitimacy through an NBA title. But how valid would a championship be if it comes in the wake of a lockout-shortened season? Phil Jackson took great pleasure in ensuing years in belittling the championship the San Antonio Spurs won in 1999 after a regular season shortened to 50 games. Should James make his championship breakthrough in the wake of anything less than the typical 82-game marathon, figure on more than just Charles Barkley piling on. As much as any player, perhaps even more, LeBron needs a complete schedule in order to complete and legitimize his quest."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "In reality, we all know that this labor battle doesn't officially start until around Nov. 15. That's when players will miss their first regular-season paychecks. That's when Dwight Howard will not receive his roughly $1.5 million salary every other week. That's when Daniel Orton won't be getting his $92,000 every two weeks. Until Nov. 15, everything else is a show of moxie and muscle by players and owners. I mean, what would we really be missing during July, August, September and October? Summer leagues (in which the play is largely unwatchable)? Exhibition games (eight of them…. ugh)? Well, we would miss much of the preseason Year 2 hype surrounding the Miami Heat (oh, please, if there is a God….). We would miss a prolonged free-agency/trading period (where 98.2 percent of the rumors are wrong). I don't care how much money players make. The idea of forfeiting any amount is tough on the ego for these pseudo-businessmen. So I'll guarantee you that Howard has no plans to toss all $17.8 million out the window in lost wages this season. The union can parade players around wearing T-shirts that read 'STAND' and put up a united front in late June, but come Nov. 15, things will change if a CBA isn't signed. Resolve is tested, especially among the rank-and-file. All the owners have to do is wait and squeeze."

  • Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News: "Eddy Curry could be the new poster boy for one of the owners' major crusades in locking out the players. They're insisting that the new CBA features smaller salaries and thereby protects them from throwing away millions of dollars on players like Curry who notably fail to produce. When the league imposed its second lockout in 13 years last week, over a contract dispute that won't be resolved anytime soon, that particular issue was mentioned several times by commissioner David Stern and his deputy, Adam Silver: They're calling it pay for performance. 'When we had our first meeting two years ago with the players, we said, 'we don't believe we're distributing the $2 billion among the 450 players in the most efficient way right now,' ' Silver said during the news conference to announce the lockout. 'We think we can do a better job matching pay for performance.' It's an old bug-a-boo for the league, with Curry being only the latest prime example of how teams throw away their money. Due to assorted minor injuries and his failure to get into shape, he played only 10 games over his last three seasons in New York, while earning more than $31 million. When you do the math, it's astounding that Curry made in excess of $3 million a game."

  • Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News: "David Lee fans get mad at me for a lot of things, where they’re probably right is that I often neglect to say that Andris Biedrins’ remaining $27M over the next three years is a worse burden. But Biedrins is a center, who has been known to play some defense. And he’s still only 25. I sometimes forget, but we’re always reminded that young centers have value in this league, even when they’ve stunk and been hurt for a few years. Lee is 28. He’s not a center. And though his supporters do not like this subject, it’s a fact that he’s a poor defensive player. He’s also not the easiest guy to partner with on the low post–the other big man MUST play great defense, he’ll never get defensive help from Lee, and he has to get out of Lee’s way when Lee wants that rebound. Not easy to find that good partner. Lee’s supporters say he was pulled down when he had to play next to Biedrins. I say Biedrins suffered almost as much or more in that bad partnership."

  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: "Bill Nielsen, vice president of sales for the Scarborough Sports Marketing Group, said the Spurs have traditionally dominated his company’s measurements of fan awareness and support in the NBA. And because of that support, Nielsen doesn’t believe that a lengthy lockout will erode local support and interest for the team. Scarborough’s most recent list indicates that 61 percent of thousands of fans interviewed in the San Antonio area have either watched a Spurs game at the AT&T Center, listened to a Spurs game on radio or watched a Spurs game on television in the last year. That figure is the best of the 29 NBA American markets the company surveys. Toronto isn’t included in the Scarborough list. 'That’s a very healthy number when three out of five persons in San Antonio have that kind of contact with the team,' Nielsen said. 'In layman’s terms, it indicates that if you live in San Antonio, you are going to be a Spurs fan.' Because of that broad-based community awareness and support, Nielsen said the Spurs shouldn’t feel a lockout-related pinch that might be inflicted on other NBA teams once the league’s labor differences are settled. ... The Spurs ranked at the top of Scarborough’s most recent list of NBA franchises, which was generated for the first half of 2011."

  • Paola Boivin of The Arizona Republic: "Way to go, NBA. Just when you had our attention with an entertaining season and good vs. evil showdown, you spoil the party by hitting the full-of-yourself punchbowl too hard. Don't take us for granted. This lockout business is serious. You have more to lose than the NFL, where fan forgiveness will follow the first coin flip. You? You're a different animal. We view the leagues differently. We see the NBA as a collection of individuals - Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, David Stern - the NFL as a group of teams - Packers, Bears, Giants. Tolerance comes easier without a face to blame. The NBA's disconnect with fans is greater, too. An older generation struggles with the game experience. Emcees, high-volume club music, endless videos and airborne t-shirts. The younger generation, sucked dry by a beaten economy, struggles to justify the cost. The average price of a non-premium NBA seat in the 2010-11 season was $48, according to sports business outlet Team Marketing Report. ... It is clear changes need to be made, especially if what the NBA is reporting is true, that 22 of its 30 teams are unprofitable and that the league lost about $300 million last season. We get it. There are problems that need to be fixed. Just don't take too long. And don't take us for granted."

  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Utah is entering the great unknown with open arms. The Jazz are expected to have 11 players under contract whenever the 2011-12 season tips off, with a payroll totaling about $62 million. That amount is set to dip down to about $49 million in 2012-13. Then the Jazz hit financial nirvana. Barring extensions, everyone from Jefferson and Harris to Millsap and Raja Bell come off the books in 2013-14. At the same time that the NBA is reorganizing its economic structure -- toughening the salary cap; leveling the playing field with increased revenue sharing -- a small-market Utah franchise that struggled to get over the hump from 2006-10 has the potential to again be a major player. The Jazz will have multiple options, and Kevin O’Connor could be looking at a view he and the organization have long desired: a level, even playing field."

  • John Niyo of The Detroit News: "Detroit Don't feel bad if you're not losing any sleep over this NBA lockout, which officially began Friday. Because it sounds like some of the key players in this labor showdown were nodding off as well. Kevin Durant, arguably the league's brightest young star, told reporters earlier this week he didn't even realize the league's collective bargaining agreement was set to expire Thursday night. He knew the lockout was coming, of course. Everyone did. But Durant told the Associated Press he was so busy with offseason travel and his own youth basketball camp, among other things, that he'd 'lost track of time.' Taken literally, and out of context, that's a bit alarming. He's the players' union representative for his team in Oklahoma City, after all. But be honest: It's not exactly surprising, is it? And that's part of the problem for Durant & Co., fair or not. That's the perception they'll be fighting in the weeks and months to come as they fight to keep what's theirs. If they don't care, why should the fans?"

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Nick Young said he has been keeping tabs of his current and former teammates on Twitter, especially JaVale McGee, who has taken to calling himself Pierre this summer. 'He’ll probably try to do what Ron Artest did and change his last name,' he said with a laugh (Artest has decided to legally change his name to Metta World Peace). The lockout has made this offseason different than previous ones, but Young said he will continue to work on getting better and also try to get his weight back down after bulking up in order to play some small forward last season. He won’t get too worried about the labor dispute with the usually start of training camp still months away. 'I’m going at it like it’s the same summer. Until October or something, that’s when we’ll really know,' Young said. 'You never know what can happen. Once everything is really settled, we’ll see and we know where I’m at with everything. Hopefully, I’ll be in a Wizards jersey…or somewhere else. I’m still excited about where I’m at. Let’s just get something done. I’m sticking with the players and the union, to get something done.' "

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Unlike the 1998 negotiations, when much of the league leadership had bought in before the dramatic increase in franchise values, the league is filled with owners such as Boston's Wyc Grousbeck, Phoenix's Robert Sarver, Cleveland's Dan Gilbert and Golden State's Joe Lacob who bought into the league at elevated team prices. Six owners are also NHL owners. Wizards/Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said the NHL is in better financial shape than the NBA because its CBA prevents owners from taking 'stupid pills.' "

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "Based on e-mails and Twitter postings, Pistons fans are showing a little impatience when it comes to the coaching search. You would expect that, considering the cachet placed on the position and the fans' belief that a good coach means a championship -- no matter how the roster is constructed. But there are those with more real-life reasons for wanting a quick conclusion. Pat Sullivan, an assistant under the past two Pistons coaches Michael Curry and John Kuester, saw his contract end Thursday and he -- along with fellow assistants Darrell Walker and Brian Hill -- is without a team. Adding more stress to the situation is the NBA lockout and the fact that Sullivan is still a newlywed, having married a woman with a young son last summer. But this is the life Sullivan picked when he decided to become a basketball coach, and the reality is that this comes with the territory."