First Cup: Thursday

  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Friday will mark the one-year anniversary of 'The Decision' -- the first misstep that LeBron took during the last 12 months, culminating with the ultimate fall -- losing in the NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks. It was a team effort, of course. He was only one of a collective 12 Miami Heat players. But he will remain the fall guy unless he eventually leads the Heat to an NBA title. ... LeBron can be the most charitable player on the planet. He can make a gazillion dollars for the rest of his career. He can get as many tattoos as he wants complimenting himself. But the demonization will continue unless he wins an NBA title. Don't blame the haters and media moguls. Blame LeBron James. He told us he is the Chosen One. We choose to think otherwise. Witness 'The Frozen One' label. Or 'King Without a Crown.' 'LeChoke.' The mocking will continue unless James musters up the energy to deliver on all his arrogant promises.' "

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "That citation former Heat forward Michael Beasley received last week for possession of marijuana? Strictly a legal issue, nothing more. An NBA spokesman confirmed Wednesday to the Sun Sentinel what logic would have dictated anyway: In the void of an NBA collective-bargaining agreement, there is no substance-abuse policy currently in place. None. 'The anti-drug agreement -- including testing and penalties -- is not in effect during the lockout,' league spokesman Tim Frank said in an email. Hmm, so that’s why no one is in a rush to get back to the negotiating table amid the current lockout. Talk about your ultimate amnesty program. Steroids? Banned substances? Pot? All legal issues at the current moment, nothing more."

  • David Hanners of the Pioneer Press: "Michael Beasley, who had hoped to put marijuana issues behind him when he came to the Timberwolves last year, was ticketed June 26 for allegedly speeding and having marijuana in his car, according to police. Beasley, who told police that the marijuana belonged to a friend, according to the police report, appears safe from any potential action by the team or the NBA with the league in lockout mode. But a prosecutor said Wednesday he'll take Beasley back to court after the 22-year-old allegedly violated terms of an earlier plea deal. Beasley had been placed on probation for a year in March in Hennepin County but agreed to a deal to dismiss the charges if he could go 12 months without a traffic violation. ... If this were deemed his third violation of the league's marijuana policy under the old CBA, Beasley could face a five-game suspension. The No. 2 draft choice in 2008 for the Miami Heat was kicked out of the NBA's rookie seminar for alleged marijuana use. He spent 30 days in a Houston rehab clinic in the summer of 2009 for substance abuse."

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: "If you don't feel good about Frank Vogel and his new, full-time gig as the Pacers head coach, there's a pretty good chance you lack a beating heart. Don't we all love a good underdog story? Don't we like it when somebody takes a leap of faith, like the one a young Vogel took when he left Division III Juniata to talk his way onto Rick Pitino's Kentucky staff, and makes it work? Isn't there something to be said for coming into an adverse circumstance, doing an audition when nobody thinks you'll get the part and absolutely nailing it? 'Interim" is actually a Latin term meaning, 'You'll just keep the chair warm while we look for a more established guy like Rick Adelman.' But Vogel didn't conform to the role of temporary caretaker. He walked onto the big stage and talked almost immediately about changing the team's personality and making the playoffs. He acted like he had nothing to lose, and he walked away the biggest winner of all."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "A very interesting New York Times blog post by Nate Silver on Tuesday titled 'Calling Foul on NBA’s Claims of Financial Distress' not only disputed the league’s claims of hardship, it called the league 'fundamentally a healthy and profitable business.' Silver based his conclusions on data estimated by Forbes and Financial World magazine. ... The NBA issued a detailed response refuting the conclusions in the blog post and the data upon which they were based. ... By Wednesday afternoon, Forbes’ Maury Brown put out his own blog entry analyzing audited net income rather than operating income and estimating that the NBA lost $1.5 billion over five years. ... Any revelations that the league has found ways to claim losses it is not actually suffering won’t make a difference other than potentially fortifying the resolve of the players or causing damage with fans. The players, however, already have ample resolve, particularly since most won’t miss a paycheck until November. And fans never were going to care about the plight of NBA owners, anyway. It is clear, however, that none of the hubbub the past few days would push the league any closer to a deal. At this point, little could until the threat of missing games becomes more immediate."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "When the 1998-99 lockout ended, the league played a 50-game season that was crammed into little more than three months. The Spurs played 11 sets of back-to-back games and one instance of back-to-back-to-back games. The starters then were 33-year-old Avery Johnson, 35-year-old Mario Elie, 33-year-old David Robinson, 30-year-old Sean Elliott and 23-year-old Tim Duncan, introduced to the business realities of the league in just his second season. Average age: 30.8 years. ... Winning 19 of their final 22 games, the Spurs went into the playoffs sizzling, going 15-2 in a playoff run that was capped off with a five-game domination of the Knicks in the NBA Finals that produced the franchise’s first championship. If there is a 2011-12 season, the Spurs’ starting lineup figures to be Duncan, 35, 29-year-old Tony Parker, 34-year-old Manu Ginobili, 31-year-old Richard Jefferson and 26-year-old Tiago Splitter. Average age: 31.0 years. Remove 32 games of wear and tear from the load Duncan and Ginobili would take into next spring’s playoffs, and the Spurs of next spring may well be in better shape for the postseason than the Spurs of this past April."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "The NBA lockout, which started Friday, has severed ties between players and their teams for the foreseeable future. It means basketball trainers such as Tony Falce at the Hax Athletic Club in Harbor City, Calif., and Joe Abunassar at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas are in a spotlight now unlike any other year. They face their busiest summer. For teams wanting their players to stay in shape and stay sharp, those two -- and others such as John Lucas, who trains players in Houston, and Tim Grover, who does so in Chicago -- are more important than ever. 'We'll have a lot more guys,' said Abunassar, who estimated he will see 100 or more players. 'And I think that the coaching staffs are actually appreciative of these types of places because they know their guys are working. No one's going to be here not working.' The lockout prohibits players from having contact with team personnel. They can't work out in the teams' arenas or practice facilities. But where the indelible images of NFL players organizing themselves for workouts have become the video diary of that sport's work stoppage, the NBA will be a tad different. Cameras might find players working out across the country, but unlike the NFL, this is well within the normal rhythm of the NBA's offseason. Still, these satellite gyms figure to have the big clientele load in August and September."

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "The lockout abruptly turned JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore back into civilians last week after they barely had time to taste the Celtics [team stats] life. But that doesn’t mean the two rookies now have to wait by the phone for team president Danny Ainge’s call once the padlocks are removed with a new collective bargaining agreement. The agents for both players are exploring overseas options that could find either or both in a foreign league next winter. 'It’s all over the board right now, but some Euroleague teams we’ve talked to are interested,' said Mark Bartlestein, who represents Moore. 'It’s a day-to-day thing. We really don’t know yet.' It makes sense to these agents, though. Bill Duffy, whose agency represents Johnson, said last week that he is looking into the international option for all of his young players, who may have a unique appeal to foreign teams."

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "Former Piston DaJuan Summers, made an unrestricted free agent when the Pistons declined to extend a qualifying offer last week, decided to sign a two-year deal over the weekend with an Italian club. Is that a possibility for promising Pistons forward Jonas Jerebko? Doug Neustadt, who represents Jerebko, said this week that an overseas assignment was not being considered. 'Jonas views himself as an NBA player,' Neustadt said. 'We are not looking to go over there. If something comes up we will look at it, but we are not actively looking. We are not going over there just to go over.' ... Jerebko, a Swede, played four seasons in European leagues before coming to the Pistons."

  • Eric Koreen of the National Post: "Jonas fever is sweeping Raptors fandom. Valanciunas, indeed, has been wonderful for Lithuania at the FIBA Under-19 World Championships in Riga, Latvia. Through six games, he is averaging 20.6 points per game on 59% shooting from the field, and bringing in 13.3 rebounds per game. He leads the tournament in both scoring and rebounding, while shooting nearly 83% from the free-throw line. And yes, Raptors fans are abuzz, and with cause. Draft guru Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress tweeted that Raptors fans should be “elated” with Valanciunas, and that is exactly what has followed. It is all Valanciunas all the time for devout Raptors followers. By way of an example, seven of the last 10 posts on The Score-affiliated Raptorblog are about Valanciunas. (This is not a criticism, as there is simply nothing else going on at the moment. Valanciunas is infinitely more interesting than players who can’t play or coaches and executives who can’t talk about their players. And page views do not stop mattering, even if the games and transactions stop happening. Lockout 2011: Catch the fever.) At this point, Raptors writers would be best served to start up all-Jonas blogs. (Two suggestions that were tweeted at me: The Jonas Bloggers and My Blog Is Jonas.) ... The NBA will come back at some point, though, and two things should be remembered before a world of pressure is put on the 19-year-old centre’s shoulders. First, remember who he is dominating. Second, remember how much Raptors fans need someone to believe in. If that context is kept in mind, a little hope is not a bad thing."

  • Chris Tomasson via Twitter: "After not playing in the NBA last season, Adam Morrison is working out at Gonzaga and eyeing possible overseas offers.'

  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: "Phil Jackson could raise the hackles of Spurs Nation better than any opposing coach. Like the time he said the Spurs’ 1998-99 championship deserved an asterisk because it was played with only 50 regular-season games. Or when he called Gregg Popovich and his coaching staff 'The Simulator Crew' because of their lack of NBA playing experience. But it’s true that the NBA will be a little less interesting without Jackson around next season. His old friend and one-time assistant on his Albany Patroons staff, Charley Rosen, had an interesting story in Atlantic Magazine about Jackson and his unique coaching style. Jackson had a way of directing his team that was decidedly his own. Like using smoldering leaves of white sage to cleanse his locker room of negative energy. Or beating a tom-tom to attract positive energy. Or his meditation exercises that were meant to identify his team’s personal 'safe' spots on a bench. We won’t see any of this from Popovich, Doc Rivers, Rick Carlisle or Erik Spoelstra. And the NBA will be less interesting because of it."

  • Staff of The Dallas Morning News: "Shawn Marion may have earned some sought-after jewelry last month when he and the Mavericks won the NBA title, but he recently set off to Las Vegas on a quest for some more prestigious bling -- a World Series of Poker bracelet. And while the Mavericks forward ultimately came up short in his goal of winning the no-limit holdem tournament and the gold and diamond encrusted bracelet that comes with it, he did have a very solid showing. Marion outlasted more than 2,500 of the 3,389 players who entered the event, which was the 56th 'preliminary' event of the World Series of Poker. For a $1,500 entry fee, the winner of the event will earn a cool $777,928 -- or about 11% of the $7.05 million Marion made last season for the Mavericks. Marion was eventually eliminated in the 10th level of play -- the final level of play during Day 1 of the tournament. Each level lasts one hour, so counting breaks, Marion was competing in the Las Vegas poker tournament for nearly 12 hours."

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: "New Utah Jazz center Enes Kanter has agreed to play for his national team this summer and will represent Turkey at the upcoming EuroBasket tournament in Lithuania, according to eurobasket2011.org. Turkish basketball federation president Turgay Demirel confirmed that his country's rising star and third overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft will join that nation's top squad. 'He has been a good player for our junior program -- for our junior national team he played very well,' Demirel told the website of the 19-year-old big man. 'I think in the EuroBasket he will help the team.' Demirel also pointed out that Okur was not participating because of his injuries, not because of the NBA lockout.However, Kanter's teammate and fellow compatriot, Jazz center Mehmet Okur, will not play for Turkey this summer while he continues to rehab the back and Achilles issues that plagued him last season."

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "Canton will be the site of the Cavaliers new NBA Development League team. The Cavs have called a noon news conference today in Canton to formally announce the move. While the selection of Canton is a bit of a surprise -- Youngstown had been the rumored site -- it was clear the Cavs were going to try their hand at running their own team in the D-League after the Erie BayHawks, the Cavs' D-League affiliate since 2008, recently signed an exclusive agreement with the New York Knicks. Such exclusive agreements have become popular recently, with a number of teams preferring a one-on-one partnership. The Cavs shared the BayHawks affiliation with the Toronto Raptors. "

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram via Twitter: "First it was Robert 'Tractor' Traylor, then Mike Mitchell. And now Armen Gilliam.Some things in life are more important than a darn lockout!"

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Armen 'The Hammer' Gilliam, probably known as much for his funky 'Gumby' hairstyle as for a bruising style of basketball that made him the second overall pick in the 1987 NBA draft and a 76er for more than two seasons, died Tuesday night at a fitness center in suburban Pittsburgh. He was 47. Gilliam spent two-plus seasons with the Sixers from 1990 to 1993, averaging 14.7 points and 7.1 rebounds in 211 regular-season games. ... 'He was a really, really good guy,' said Jim Lynam, Gilliam's coach for the first two seasons with the team and general manager for the last. 'I was a fan. He was a really good player who wasn't a very good athlete, so to speak. He was a little ahead of his time. He was a strapping guy. He could use his left hand as well as his right hand to score around the basket, and he could score the ball.' "

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Gilliam, nicknamed 'The Hammer' for his physical play, averaged 14.8 points and 7.9 rebounds as a rookie in the 1987-88 season and was named to the All-Rookie first team even though the Suns went 28-54. Gilliam averaged 15.9 points and 7.3 rebounds during the Suns' breakthrough 1988-89 season, when they went 55-27 with the additions of Tom Chambers, Kevin Johnson, Mark West and Tyrone Corbin. He was Armon Gilliam as a Sun but later changed the spelling of his first name because of how many people mispronounced it. 'I know he was a guy who had his life in order,' said Eddie Johnson, a former Suns teammate. 'To die doing something to keep yourself in shape and that you've been doing your whole life is brutal. He was an excellent teammate and a great person. He was a quiet guy who went about his business and a skilled offensive player. He loved the game. He had a tremendous smile. We joked that he was 'The Chisel' instead of 'The Hammer' because he had an easy-going nature. But on the basketball court, he had a very physical presence.' "

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "Armen Gilliam wasn't like most professional athletes I've covered. In the early 90's you would often find him before games reading a book. He could talk politics, business and occasionally basketball, although I always felt the latter bored him to some degree. Armen didn't want to be thought of as just a basketball player or, worse yet, a dumb jock. He certainly wasn't dumb and he was more than just a well compensated NBA player. He was a thoughtful, sweet person. ... As the No. 2 overall pick out of UNLV, Armen had a decent NBA career but one that was hardly memorable. He bounced around the league and never really found a home. Armen could score but he wasn't very athletic, nor was he a great defensive player. Armen was okay with that. And that's because he was always more than just a basketball player. He was a good man. And that's how I'll always think of him."