First Cup: Wednesday

  • Jennifer Garza of The Sacramento Bee: "During his recent whirlwind stop in Sacramento, Jimmer Fredette made a point to speak with some of his biggest supporters: local members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Along with the usual questions about basketball, they asked the Kings draft pick about his plans as a church member. Fredette said he would become active in his ward. He said he'd speak at Sacramento area church youth group meetings. He told them his faith is an important part of his life. His audience liked what they heard. ... Though he has yet to knock on anyone's front door, Fredette, 22, has been called the greatest Mormon missionary in the world. He may some day become the face of the Kings franchise, but he is already one of the most visible faces of his faith. ... Many hope Fredette brings attention to the faith. Fredette was unavailable for comment, but his father, Al Fredette, said he's focusing on basketball, despite the NBA lockout, and being a good church member. 'That's the way he has always been.' "

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "The sounds of sneakers squeaking, basketballs swishing through nets and dunks rattling rims were supposed to fill Amway Center's practice court this week. Not anymore. The NBA lockout forced the cancelation of the AirTran Airways Pro Summer League, one of Central Florida's signature annual sporting events. Though closed to the public, the week of exhibition games has helped rookies transition to pro ball, has given others a chance to earn training-camp invitations and has provided a relatively small, but welcome, economic boost to local businesses. Ralph Oliver, the chef and managing partner of Kres Chophouse in downtown Orlando, learned Tuesday that the summer league was slated to be relocated from RDV Sportsplex to Amway Center. Oliver obviously would have welcomed any additional business from exhibitions at the arena -- even if it meant just a few more full tables each night."

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: "This notion that NBA owners should punt the WNBA to cut the losses the NBA's owners continue to claim in support of this lockout, well, it should be dismissed out of hand. Whatever an owner like Herb Simon loses on the Fever, it is an absolute drop in the bucket compared to what he loses on his Pacers. Consider: The current NBA salary cap is $58 million.The current WNBA salary cap is $852,000. That amount won't buy you Josh McRoberts. The average NBA player's salary is seven figures; in the WNBA, it's five figures, so humble that most players spend their winters playing for better wages in overseas pro leagues. 'People are always comparing our league to the NBA, but you think about where the NBA was 15 years in, we're leaps and bounds beyond them,' Fever star Tamika Catchings said before Tuesday night's game against Seattle at Conseco Fieldhouse. ... Like any other business venture, the market ultimately will decide whether the WNBA survives or perishes. It's wrong, though, to dismiss it after just 15 short years, operating in this difficult economy. And it's wrong to connect the NBA's larger claims of poverty to any smaller losses incurred by the WNBA. My guess is, when the league celebrates its 30th birthday, we'll still be writing the same thing. How much longer can this league survive?"

  • Monte Poole of The Oakland Tribune: "In his moment of ultimate professional glory, after a lifetime of dedication, the man with all the basketball answers was uncharacteristically indecisive. Always knowing precisely where the ball should go, who should get it and when it should arrive, Jason Kidd, newly crowned NBA champion, was utterly flummoxed. The kid who grew up on East Bay basketball courts didn't know where to turn or what to do. He had no clue about protocol. His teammates had no idea, either, and for once, Kidd, the oldest and most accomplished among them, could not assist. '(It was) surreal in the sense that we won a championship, and we really didn't know how to celebrate in the locker room,' is the way Kidd describes it now, still digesting the evening his Dallas Mavericks ousted the Miami Heat in six games to win it all. ... Not until the fourth season of Kidd's second stint in Dallas, with his Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame credentials established, did he capture the elusive ring. 'It's like a dream,' Kidd says. 'People have asked, 'How does it feel?' It's hard to explain because I've never had a championship in the NBA. The closest thing I could try to compare it to is high school. It's a dream come true.' "

  • Jon Machota Special contributor to The Dallas Morning News: "Dirk Nowitzki has lived in the United States for nearly 13 years, and a lot has changed since he first stepped on American soil. Nowitzki has gone from an unknown German basketball star with a struggling franchise to the face of an NBA champion. During a recent interview with Spiegel Online International, the 33-year-old discussed the journey of becoming one of the most recognizable sports figures in the U.S. ... The lengthy interview included questions about how Nowitzki’s life has changed over the last month. Lucrative sponsorship deals and gifts from celebrities have been among the highlights. Nowitzki was thrilled to receive an autographed boxing glove from Muhammad Ali. The gift included the inscription 'You are the greatest.' Nowitzki said he sent Ali a golden basketball 'with a similar inscription.' As far as the endorsement deals, Nowitzki doesn't sound interested. 'There certainly isn't a shortage of offers,' he said. 'You wouldn't believe how many watch manufacturers have sent me their models. Just like that. I give them all away. I am satisfied with what I have. How crazy do you have to be when you can afford everything but still clutter up your life with all sorts of advertising appointments? No thanks.' "

  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: "And we just thought the rivalry between the World Champion Dallas Mavericks and the former champions, the Los Angeles Lakers, was simmering. First, we had the dust-up late in the regular season between Jason Terry and Matt Barnes. Throw in Andrew Bynum’s clothesline and resulting suspension for waylaying J.J. Barea at the end of Game 4 in Dallas’ four-game sweep in the Western Conference semifinals. And now, even backup Dallas center Ian Mahinmi is getting into the act of throwing dirt on the old champs. Despite the tumbling reputation of Miami’s LeBron James, Mahinmi told Basket USA.com (hat tip to Hoops Hype.com) that the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant remains in a class by himself as the NBA’s most arrogant player. 'Kobe is super arrogant but everybody loves him,' Mahinmi said. 'To me, Kobe is more arrogant (than LeBron James).' Something tells me those comments will be relayed to Bryant between now and the end of the lockout. And it will just make that first game between the Lakers and Mavericks that much more intriguing and highly anticipated once it ends."

  • Baxter Holmes of the Los Angeles Times: "Sometimes his conversations with strangers are brief. They'll say they know him from somewhere and, in turn, he'll wish them well and walk away. If he did anything outside of basketball it wouldn't matter. But he has been in the game almost 40 years. First, as a player — eight seasons in the NBA with the 76ers, Clippers and Rockets -- then as a coach, with the WNBA's Sparks and in Japan. Now, Joe Bryant is back with the Sparks as an assistant. For all his travels, Bryant has never escaped his son's shadow. Is he OK with that? 'Yeah, because he's my son,' he says. ... Bryant says he hopes for a chance in the NBA but doesn't believe he has anything left to prove. 'The people in basketball know Kobe's good for a reason,' he says. 'It had to come from his dad.' What makes the elder Bryant happy? Making his 120 shots. His son. And what else? 'Watching players improve after I spend time with them,' he says. So says the self-proclaimed 'Philly guy' whose black SUV still has Pennsylvania plates."

  • Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star: "There’s a strong possibility that Sonny Weems, one of a handful of U.S.-based pro hoopsters conjuring profitable career choices in the midst of an NBA lockout, will spend the coming season playing in Europe. Sources say Weems is expected to sign a one-year deal to play with Lithuania’s BC Zalgiris in the coming days. ... Weems, who turns 25 on Friday, could come to regret the deal should the NBA and its players association come to a quick agreement and begin the NBA season on time. But given the apparent gulf that lies between the sides, Weems is more likely to look like a prescient planner if, come the winter, NBA players remain without a collective bargaining agreement while he continues to hone his game overseas. What does Weems’s change of address mean for the Raptors? It won’t alter his status as a restricted free agent in the NBA, meaning that whenever he makes his return to the league — and the plan, by all accounts, is for him to be back in the NBA in 2012-13 -- the Raptors, who tendered him a qualifying offer last month, will retain the right to match any NBA offer he receives. Though NBA clubs are currently barred from having contact with players, it’s safe to say the Toronto front office would be in favour of Weems playing in Europe; while the club is hardly sold on Weems as a long-term contributor to the cause, newly installed coach Dwane Casey is said to be intrigued by Weems’s potential as a defensive specialist with considerable scoring punch. Weems could raise his NBA stock if he shows the maturity required to thrive in Europe."

  • Woody Paige of The Denver Post: "There is big news involving Nene, and I don't mean his decision last week to opt out of the final season of a contract with the Nuggets that would have paid him $11.6 million. The 28-year-old Brazilian is to become a father very, very soon, and a well-informed source close to the situation gave me the scoop: The baby will be a boy. And he will not be named Nene Jr. ... His wife is from Fort Collins, and Nene has friends, followers and charitable organizations he supports here. He enjoyed playing with the new Nuggets, without Melo, after the trade. And he could be a power forward (the position he prefers) next season in Denver. And he and Lauren are about to have a son. But NBA teams from Oakland to Miami are slobbering over the possibility of signing Nene. I've narrowed the field to five challenging cities that have wishes for a worthy player up front, cap room, direct flights to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Fogo de Chao restaurants. But Denver is the best place to raise a child, I know, and where Maybyner Rodney 'Nene' Hilario will remain, I believe."

  • Bob Ford of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Every time it seems the Sixers are about to catch a break, they catch a porcupine instead. That's the case again as they finished an improved season only to have the NBA come to a complete halt at the worst time for them. Whatever momentum was gained as new coach Doug Collins dragged the team to a .500 record is going to be sapped during what promises to be an extended lockout. If the owners are serious about instituting a hard salary cap - and if the proposed cap of $45 million is even close to accurate - this thing is going to take a while. It is even-money that the league loses a full season, as hockey did when it wrestled its own cap issues to the ice and beat them senseless. For the Sixers, the suspended animation of the lockout comes at a terrible moment, for both the corporate end of things and for the soldiers down at the battlefield level. Comcast-Spectacor, which has been trying to move this dog for nearly a decade, was on the verge of selling the franchise to billionaire Joshua Harris for somewhere in the vicinity of $300 million. ... Because of the pending sale and lockout, they aren't free to improve the team and are sitting on their hands instead. You can just hear the air escaping from the balloon. Holmgren wouldn't like that. He'd probably trade Iguodala anyway, for a 43-year-old winger or a bottle of Russian dressing. It's the summer, and the only way to stay cool is to keep moving. That's what the Phillies are doing, too, and what the Eagles promise will happen just as soon as the gate opens. And then there are the 76ers. There's always one in every crowd."

  • ZachMcCann of the Orlando Sentinel: "The 2012 NBA All-Star game, which Orlando is hosting, could be canceled if the lockout extends into December or January. If that happens, Orlando will get an all-star game at some point, NBA commissioner David Stern has promised. 'Once a game is in the rotation, it’s in the rotation,' Stern said while visiting Orlando in October. 'We’re coming to Orlando for an all-star game.' When the all-star game will ultimately come to the Amway Center, however, is unclear. During the 1998-99 shortened season, the league decided to cancel Philadelphia’s all-star game in December, about two months before the game. Philadelphia eventually hosted an all-star game -- but not until 2002, three seasons later. The all-star weekend, which pumps millions of dollars into its host city’s economy, is set for Feb. 24-26. The exhibition game is Feb. 26, about two weeks later than usual. The later date may have been set with a lockout in mind. It’s unlikely Central Florida will simply host the next all-star game in 2013 if the 2012 game is canceled."

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "DaJuan Summers decided not to wait around for a solution to the NBA's labor woes. Summers, a former Pistons forward, agreed to a two-year deal over the weekend to play for Montepaschi Siena, a team in Italy's top professional league. 'Siena is one of the top teams in all of Europe,' Summers' agent, Todd Ramasar, said Tuesday. 'It gives him an opportunity to play at a high level and gives him an opportunity to stay active during the lockout.' ... Ramasar said he wasn't surprised when the Pistons declined to extend Summers a qualifying offer last month -- cutting ties with Summers and making him a unrestricted free agent. With the current lockout of players, which began Friday, expected to be protracted, Summers and Ramasar decided to go for some certainty. No matter when the lockout is settled, Summers will play overseas for at least one season. He can opt out of the deal after one year if an opportunity arises in the NBA."

  • Joe Kemp of the New York Daily News: "A newly minted sportscaster for the New York Knicks was arrested for drunken driving after he was pulled over for speeding down a Hamptons street, authorities said. Spero Dedes, 32 -- who just replaced Mike Crispino on ESPN 1050 radio -- was pulled over by Southampton Town police on Sunday near Tuckahoe Road and Country Road 39 about 4:15 a.m., authorities and his lawyer said. Dedes, driving a 2006 BMW, was then busted for DWI. 'We anticipate a complete dismissal of the charges due to problems surrounding Mr. Dedes' traffic stop and ultimate arrest,' said his lawyer Colin Astarita. Dedes was released on $500 bail."