First Cup: Monday

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: "No basketball over here, we'll go over there. That's the stance. No paychecks over here, no problem. Europe and Asia pay good money, if not necessarily dollars, for jump shots that swish the net. Sounds good in theory. But sorry. Doesn't pass the smell test. There's no accounting for Williams, who isn't who we thought he was anyway, having torpedoed the stately Utah Jazz last season. Write off Williams as the exception to the rule. The curious cases of Durant and other superstars smack of pure negotiating bluster. Stars cast a wayward eye overseas, owners grow antsy. Well, that's better strategy than giving David Stern a wedgie, but not by much. ... This season, for the first time, the players' share did not exceed the percentage, thus the players get their money back. A minimum-wage player will get $37,888. An average-salaried player will get $456,000. A player making $16 million would get $1.28 million. So even if these guys haven't been financially prudent, they're about to have some change in their pocket. They don't need Real Madrid to tide them over. Add it all up, and the talk of signing contracts outside the NBA is lockout bluster."

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "Having purchased the Spurs along with a group of 21 investors in 1993, and claiming a majority share in 1996, Holt is one of the league’s more tenured owners. He’s also one of the most widely respected. 'He runs the tractor business,' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich once said of his owner, 'and we run the basketball.' Though it could be surmised Holt would support a new collective bargaining agreement favorable to small-market teams — since he owns one — the Spurs chairman is generally considered to be one of the more reasonable voices at the labor negotiating table. There is hope, when talks resume, Holt might act as a buffer against a hardline faction of small-market owners, believed to include Phoenix’s Robert Sarver and Cleveland’s Dan Gilbert among others, bent on bleeding concessions out of the players’ union at any cost. All of this will play out behind closed doors in the coming weeks and, most likely, months. The league office has prohibited its rank and file from making public comments on the lockout, by threat of seven-figure fine. Though Holt is a respected voice with a powerful place within the NBA’s ownership ranks, he doesn’t have the power to end the lockout on his own. In a manner of speaking, however, the path toward ending the league’s latest labor stoppage runs through San Antonio. Through the guy who runs the tractor business."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Amid all the misleading, deceptive and ambiguous talk of locked-out NBA players taking their talents to south Europe, it actually is not far-fetched to think Steve Nash could play there instead of Phoenix this year. Nash travels the world like a wave.He is a South African-born, America-residing Canadian with British parents, a Paraguayan ex-wife and a Chinese shoe deal. Only Australia and Antarctica aren't covered. An inquiry into his interest found him dining with ex-Suns teammate Boris Diaw ... in Paris. 'I'd love to play overseas,' Nash wrote. 'It may be difficult with three kids but I'd love to do it.' Besides Nash's worldly nature and interest, what makes the possibility more intriguing is that Nash has a British passport. Players with passports or dual citizenship help European teams around the limit of two American players. 'He'd be ready to roll,' Nash's agent, Bill Duffy, said. 'I've talked to him about it in the past. He's a worldwide traveler and maverick. He's committed to playing for the Suns but it's not up to him. If it looks like the season's going to be shut down, everyone's going to be looking for work.' What might be more plausible for Nash is playing in China, where he has ties. Nash left Nike this year to endorse shoe company Lu You, although he can still wear Nikes in games. Nash's agency has represented Yao Ming, who named a school he built in China after Nash."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: 'Pat Burke says players such as Deron Williams are in for eye-opening experiences. 'You have to live it to understand it,' he said. Pat lived it, often loved it and often loathed it. 'I saw a lot of NBA guys come and go. It's their attitude. That was the biggest thing,' he said. 'Any guys going overseas have to really adjust their thinking. It's one of the biggest sacrifices you'll ever make.' Williams has become the first NBA star to go international if the lockout lingers, signing a $5-million contract with a Turkish team. Williams' decision was surprising, but it wouldn't be surprising if he doesn't last long. ... Along with the culture shock and inconveniences facing players, Burke says NBA players must change their style of play. 'No fade-away jumpers, no running down shooting 3s. You have to work for shots,' he said. 'NBA guys who didn't like that were on the next flight out.' "

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "There are companies all over America who have been decimated financially the past few years, yet the majority of them have found ways to keep their employees. Furloughs and slight pay cuts have become common paths to save jobs everywhere but not in the NBA, where David Stern made a reported $23 million last season. How many of those affected workers’ salaries would’ve been covered by just $2 million out of Stern’s annual checks? How much was needed to save all 114? Surely less than half, which would’ve left Stern to try to get by on at least $12 million. All of this brings us to the Cavaliers, who are coming off one of their best seasons financially because of last season’s low payroll and high gate receipts. Dan Gilbert is already the most admired sports owner in town for his passion to win and the aggressive spending habits to get there. But if Gilbert really wants to be revered and admired, he’ll take it a step further and pay the workers at Quicken Loans Arena who will be out of jobs this fall through no fault of their own. All of the ticket takers, beer vendors and souvenir sellers who rely on those 41 home dates would forever be grateful to a boss who understands the situation enough to pay unemployment. It’s not even a matter of covering 100 percent of their income. How about 60 or 70 percent? Sure beats nothing at all, which is what all of them are staring at today. In a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Shaquille O’Neal said the general public doesn’t understand the fight between the millionaires and the billionaires. He’s right. If the owners and players want to inflict pain on each other through this labor struggle, that’s fine. But it’s time they stop hurting those who actually work for a living."

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: "The Heat has strong interest in Samuel Dalembert, a better rebounder and defender than Curry, but Miami will be in the mix for Dalembert only if there’s a mid-level exception in the new labor deal. Regardless, the Heat again will check on Curry after the lockout, then decide whether to offer him a minimum-salary deal. ... Regardless of whether James Jones re-signs (and there’s mutual interest), we hear forward Shane Battier will be very much on the Heat’s radar after the lockout. The Houston Chronicle, after interviewing Battier, said 'don’t be surprised' if he signs with the Heat or Bulls. The Heat long has admired Battier and fellow free agents Tayshaun Prince and Grant Hill, but the question is if any will take less money to sign here. Hill told The Arizona Republic 'it would be nice' to re-sign with Phoenix. Detroit wants to keep Prince."

  • Terry Foster of The Detroit News: "Ben Wallace wants to be the first friendly face a troubled youth sees when he is on the wrong side of the law. He'll be dressed in his best blue suit with briefcase in hand, ready to tackle another case in court. When Wallace hangs up his basketball sneakers, he wants to go to law school. ... Wallace not only wants to represent clients, he wants to tell them his long-shot story and make them realize their lives are not over despite youthful mistakes. Wallace is doing plenty of research now into law schools. The thought has been brewing for years, and he even spoke to former Pistons coach John Kuester about it three years ago when Wallace played in Cleveland. ... Wallace knows he will hear snickers when folks find out he wants to be a lawyer. People won't believe the big man with the shrinking Afro can make the transition from the basketball court to the court of law. Nobody believed Wallace would make it in the NBA as a raw player out of Virginia Union, either. But Wallace worked out fervently and consistently, and found a path to success in the NBA with defense and rebounds — the things many players do not want to do. He still remembers leaving his Alabama home for Cleveland, where he played two seasons at Cuyahoga Community College. He was told he'd better make it in basketball because there was nothing for him back in White Hall. ... Wallace is not na├»ve enough to believe he can stop crime in Virginia or Alabama. But he does believe he can touch one life at a time. He wants to provide guidance and hope. 'It's a tough job,' said Wallace, who's played eight years here. 'But it's something I can do.' "

  • Tom Moore of phillyBurbs.com: "The 76ers’ new ownership group is going to make changes. Joshua Harris and his group, which has agreed to buy the Sixers from Comcast-Spectacor, are certainly no exception. ?But since it could take months for the NBA to officially approve the sale and, with the likelihood that the lockout will still be going strong at that point, those changes may not become apparent for quite a while. In the meantime, keep an eye on the front office. Team president Rod Thorn and general manager (and former president) Ed Stefanski are the top two guys in the current regime. With Harris associate Jason Levien waiting in the wings, that’d make three. And everybody knows three’s a crowd. Levien has been a player agent — highlighted by securing a $71 million, six-year contract extension for the Bulls’ Luol Deng in July 2008 — in addition to serving as an assistant GM, general counsel and senior VP for the Kings before he left Sacramento. It’s fair to wonder if Levien will assume Stefanski’s role as Thorn’s right-hand man. That Yahoo! Sports has reported Stefanski is a candidate to become GM of the Toronto Raptors could be a sign which way the new ownership group is leaning. Harris could think Levien is ready to run a team, which would mean taking over for the 70-year-old Thorn. It’s possible."

  • Randy Youngman of The Orange County Register: "Why was Maloof making a high-profile appearance at a dinner benefiting The Eli Home for Abused Children, in the same city where his family planned to move the NBA franchise until bowing to pressure and remaining in Sacramento another year? Was Maloof trying to stir up controversy? Was he trying to send a message back to Sacramento that the team still has options if plans for a new downtown arena aren't finalized by March, as stipulated by the NBA? Was it merely a goodwill gesture to the City of Anaheim, a way to thank public officials and Honda Center executives for all they had offered during the protracted relocation negotiations? None of the above, Maloof insisted during a private conversation before the dinner, cautioning not to read anything sinister into his presence. He said he learned during the relocation 'process' about this charity from Councilwoman Lorri Galloway, who also serves as executive director of The Eli Home, and wanted to show his support. 'I just felt a special connection to this charity; that was the reason,' Maloof said. 'We also felt (that) the city was so welcoming to us, we wanted to give back. Wherever we are, we give back. In Sacramento, we've given back millions of dollars to the community charities. We're used to doing that. That's why I'm here.' Maloof also revealed another reason of which very few people are aware. He says he's 'very familiar with Anaheim and it has a special place in my heart,' because his parents once owned the Sheraton-Anaheim on Ball Road."

  • Tom Enlund of the Journal Sentinel: "Last December, Brandon Jennings suffered a left-foot injury that required surgery and forced him to miss 19 games, which snapped a streak of 114 straight games (including playoffs) in which he had started. That injury left a lasting impression on Jennings and is part of the reason he has taken a determined, no-nonsense approach to his off-season workout program. The team's hope is that Jennings will become a stronger player fundamentally this summer. 'I'm just getting back to the basics of basketball,' said Jennings, who worked out regularly at the team's training facility before the NBA lockout was imposed July 1. 'Just working on my fundamentals. Getting set back last year with the injury made me have a different approach to the game. It's not (taken for) granted. Next year will be my third year and I need to establish myself as one of the best point guards and one of the best players in the game. It's just trying to get better and better every day. Working with Scott Skiles (before the lockout), getting in the weight room, dedicating the summer to strictly basketball. It's going to be my third year, so it's time to become an all-star.' Shortly before the lockout was imposed, Jennings was asked if he had been working harder than he normally would at that time of the year. 'I haven't worked this hard since I was 18,' said Jennings who will turn 22 in September."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "When the Thunder re-signed Nazr Mohammed to a contract extension last month, many wondered what that meant for center Cole Aldrich. Some viewed Mohammed's deal as a reflection of the organization's opinion of Aldrich. But there is no correlation between the two. Mohammed is a savvy veteran who provides leadership and experience in addition to underrated offensive and defensive ability. Aldrich, on the other hand, is a still-wet-behind-the-ears big man who is expected to blossom in due time. But the plan for Aldrich hasn't changed. Expect the rising second-year center out of Kansas to be in town for the foreseeable future. ... If anything, though, Mohammed's presence should speed Aldrich's development rather than delay it. But because Aldrich was limited to 18 games and only 7.9 average minutes in his rookie season, it becomes easy to view Mohammed's return as a detriment. A better way of looking at Mohammed's re-signing, however, is to focus on the impact he can have on a young player. There is no guarantee that Mohammed remains ahead of Aldrich in the rotation. It's possible Aldrich bumps Mohammed next season and becomes the full-time backup center to Kendrick Perkins. But even if Aldrich doesn't crack the rotation, he'll have Perkins and Mohammed, as well as Nick Collison, to learn from in practice. And Aldrich has proved to be a willing learner."

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: "Gary Forbes, 26, spent a few years playing in the Philippines, Venezuela, Israel, and Italy, and is not against returning to international basketball if the lockout lingers. Forbes will receive added exposure playing in the FIBA Americas next month. 'I’m pretty much used to [playing overseas], I’ve been there before and it would be nothing different for me,’ he said. 'I thought about it. My agent is working on some good situations and hopefully if the lockout ends before that I will be getting ready to put on a Denver Nuggets jersey next year. As far as next year goes, it will be different just having the whole year without having any distractions.’ Regardless of what happens, the undrafted Forbes is a success story, and holding his first basketball camp in his hometown has special significance. It wasn’t long ago that Forbes was in the same position as his campers, a teenager with NBA aspirations. 'It’s been great, there’s been a buzz around Brooklyn and the city and it feels good to give back,’ he said."

  • Pete Thamel of The New York Times: "When the 7-foot-4 center Sim Bhullar walks through airports, people flock to him and ask him to pose for pictures. When he recently visited India, where his parents were born, so many approached him at the Sikh shrine known as the Golden Temple that he was ushered into an office. People hung on the bars of the office windows to catch a glance. Yet only a few who follow college basketball recruiting actually know who Bhullar is: a 17-year-old from Toronto who orally committed to play for Xavier. Recruiting gurus also know his brother Tanveer, 16, another college prospect at 7-2 and 260 pounds. But as untrained eyes from airport terminals to religious landmarks have shown, Bhullar’s basketball potential is obvious. No matter what level he rises to, Bhullar is poised to become the world’s first prominent men’s basketball player of Indian descent. 'I think it would be a blessing,' he said, 'to be the first from an entire country to go to the N.B.A. and be a role model.' The Chinese star Yao Ming, a former No. 1 pick, is retiring from the Houston Rockets, so it is easy to infer that Asia is ready for its next great basketball ambassador. Although Bhullar does not yet show the potential to be a top N.B.A. pick, his size, his hands and the need for big bodies make it very likely that he will have a professional career somewhere. Along with all the eyes drawn to him, Bhullar will also feel pressure from millions of supporters. Coverage of his games appears in Toronto’s Punjabi newspaper, Parvasi, and Sports Illustrated India has contacted Bhullar. ... 'Like Yao for China and Dirk for Germany, he’s along those lines,' said Paul Biancardi, an ESPN recruiting analyst, referring to Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks. 'He could help populate the game and spark interest in that country. But first, he has to emerge here. And he hasn’t done anything yet.' "

  • Lawrence Buser, Kristina Goetz, Jason Smith of The Commercial-Appeal: "Last week, as the first anniversary of Lorenzen Wright's murder loomed, his grief-stricken father coached 16-year-olds at the Nike Peach Jam basketball tournament in North Augusta, S.C. In the middle -- wearing a white Youth of Memphis Competitors Association jersey -- stood his son's namesake, Lorenzen Wright Jr. Herb Wright demanded the team play harder and with a sense of urgency, likely the same instruction he gave his own standout son years ago after Lorenzen moved from Oxford, Miss., to Memphis to live and train with his father in preparation for his senior season at Booker T. Washington High. 'I can't handle it,' Wright said when asked about Lorenzen. 'I'm trying to suppress it, trying to stay busy and focus on my grandson and the team. I'm a tough old bird, but that was my oldest boy. I can't even talk about it.' Deborah Marion, Lorenzen Wright's mother, has become something of an amateur detective. Since her son's killing, she has sought to keep the case alive by pestering police detectives and local politicians more times than she can count. No tip or snippet of information is too off base to check. She is confident Wright's killer will be found if by her sheer will alone. 'It's never going to be a cold case with Lorenzen Wright's name,' Marion said. 'I'm not going to let them give up. I'll die in my grave first before I'll let them. Believe that.' "