First Cup: Friday

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "Everyone seems to be forgetting something: Some of the players are close to being broke. They live paycheck-to-paycheck, just like many of us do. When they start losing paychecks — their first check is scheduled for Nov. 15, I'm told — that's when this is going to hit home with the players. This time last week, the tone of the negotiations seemed to change. There was actually some optimism. Maybe the NBA season would start on time. Then they met this week, and that optimism went down the dumper. Some players — no names please! — are starting to freak out. They need money to survive and continue to live their lavish lifestyle. There's a lot of money at stake. The owners want to prove their point and make sure they get the upper hand. That's why there's a good chance games will now be lost. The owners better be sure they know what they're doing. Public opinion is not necessarily on their side. Many owners don't care if there are games played this year. That's never a good thing."

  • Tom Reed of The Plain Dealer: "Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert used his Twitter account last night to angrily respond to reports that he helped derail potential progress in the NBA labor negotiations. In the process, it appears he also invented a word to describe his online detractors. 'Some of these NBA 'bloggissists' flat-out make stuff up and then try to dupe readers into believing their fiction is real. Sad & pathetic,' Gilbert wrote. An ESPN.com story, citing anonymous sources, stated that Gilbert and Phoenix's Robert Sarver expressed discontent with many points of a proposal from the players union during a meeting Tuesday in New York."

  • Dave Seminara of The New York Times: "A look at the scoring leader board at the European championships reveals some familiar names — Deng, Bargnani, Parker and Gasol, to name a few. But sitting fourth, averaging 20.9 points a game, is a previously obscure player from New Orleans playing for Macedonia — population two million — which earned a highly improbable berth Wednesday in the tournament’s semifinals with a 67-65 win over host Lithuania. That man is Bo McCalebb, nicknamed Borche McCalebbovski after attaining national hero status with a 27-point performance in a preliminary round upset of Greece, which has effectively blocked Macedonia’s entry into the European Union and NATO in a dispute over the country’s name. On Friday, McCalebb, 26, will lead Macedonia into a David vs. Goliath matchup against Spain, the defending European champion, which is led by Pau and Marc Gasol. But how did a guy from New Orleans end up starring in what could be the sequel to 'Hoosiers' in an obscure former Yugoslav republic? 'I was playing in Serbia last year and I got a call from the Macedonians — they asked me to play for them,' explained McCalebb, who grew up in the Algiers section of New Orleans and went on to play at the University of New Orleans. He bounced around professional leagues in Turkey and Serbia before signing a contract with an Italian club, Montepaschi Siena, last summer. 'I didn’t ask any questions about the place,' he said. 'I just said, ‘Yes,’ and I got a plane for Skopje the next day.' Three days later, Bo McCalebb had morphed into Borche McCalebbovski, a newly minted citizen of a country he was previously only vaguely aware of."

  • John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News: "It has been nearly 2 1/2 months since the owners locked the players out on June 30 and the NBA effectively stopped doing business, but it's barely registered a ripple on the sports radar. On those rare occasions when someone has actually mentioned the NBA, the general consensus has been, 'Who cares? We'll see you if you get back.' Most people seem resigned to the idea the 2011-12 NBA season will be shortened and actually could be canceled. But the general public doesn't appear to be all that distressed. ... Except for die-hards, no one gives their undivided basketball attention to the NBA until after March Madness. And then of course at that time, baseball is starting up again and the NHL is gearing up for the playoffs. Under the best of circumstances, it's easy to overlook the NBA for large stretches of the sports calendar. The longer the Association continues its lockout, the easier it will be to say, 'Out of sight is out of mind.' "

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "When my summer camp took on the rival camp down the road, we wore matching t-shirts, too, and if memory serves, we were pretty unified in our goal to win basketball games so the NBA players must be in line. Of course, it might have been more of a show of force if more than 40 or so players attended the meeting, especially with it held in Las Vegas where nearly twice that many players are participating in the Lockout League and where far more players like to go. This is not to question the unity of the union. But that was the purpose of the meeting, to rally to the troops and provide a show of force. The owners likely are counting on the players crumbling, but even the owners could not expect that right after the meeting and in September, before games and paychecks are lost. ... The owners still want a hard cap, the player still insist they will forever oppose a hard cap and both said they speak with one unified and determined voice. It’s little wonder they have come no closer to agreement, or no one feels like celebrating the league’s new deal with the referees."

  • Alan Hahn of Newsday: "Chauncey Billups has 14.1 million reasons to push Derek Fisher and the National Basketball Players Association to take whatever deal the league puts on the table just to ensure the season starts on time. For the Knicks point guard, who turns 35 Sept. 25, his 14th NBA season is supposed to produce the biggest payday of his career. But if the lockout cuts into the regular season, that $14.1-million salary, in the final year of his contract, slowly will disappear every two weeks, each time the check is missed. 'I don't want to lose that money,' Billups told Newsday by telephone from his home in suburban Denver. 'Nobody wants to lose the biggest payday they are ever going to get. I'm never going to get another payday like that again. However, I've got to look at the big picture and say, 'Is it about me, selfishly?' Say, 'Just strike a deal, I don't care what it is, because I just want to get my money?' Or do I care about all these young guys who have 10 to 15 years to play?' ... 'Man, I wish the collective bargaining agreement was two years from now,' Billups said. 'I just want to get in here and have a camp with our team and really show New York City and the rest of the league the special team that we can be. I'm really looking forward to that.' "

  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: "Instead, determining whether Ron Artest improves next season points to different areas. His workouts: will those sessions give him enough mobility and energy to keep up with younger and faster scorers? His shooting: will his endless practicing also entail altering his stroke so he's more consistent? His role: will Artest be ready to embrace and understand any role Coach Mike Brown has in store for him? So for now, enjoy all of Artest's Twitter rants, television appearances and various charity efforts. It won't provide a distraction, except for all of us in what could be a prolonged NBA lockout."

  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: "James Anderson has been turning heads at the early games of the Impact Basketball workouts in Las Vegas with strong work. After a fast start in preseason camp last season, Anderson’s stress fracture effectively ended his season. He struggled to earn his way back into the rotation after Gary Neal developed into a strong perimeter threat as the season continued. But according to Project Spurs.com, Anderson’s numbers in Las Vegas have been astoundingly good. In his first three games with Team Royal, Anderson is averaging 21.0 points per game while shooting 76.5 percent from the field. Those numbers are a huge improvement over last season, when Anderson was among a handful of NBA players who had better shooting percentages from beyond the 3-point stripe as they did from the field. It’s unclear how much defense is being played at the Impact games. But 76.5 percent from the field and 21 points per game would be impressive if Anderson was throwing up Nerf balls. So it’s a good step for Anderson and his improvement heading into his second season."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "The Indiana Pacers aren't letting the grim news that the NBA season likely won't start on time stop them from trying to improve. Many of the players plan to get together for a four-day minicamp in Indianapolis next week so they can be as prepared as possible once the lockout ends. 'It wasn't good to hear the news (that Tuesday's labor negotiations between the NBA and the players' association produced no progress), but it's important for us to get together and have as much continuity as we can when the season does start,' center Roy Hibbert said. 'It's upon us to stay ready and focused on what we need to get done.' Training camp is scheduled to start Oct. 3 and the regular season Nov. 1. 'I'm 90 percent sure the season won't start on time,' forward Danny Granger said. 'I didn't think it would when the lockout started because the demands the owners are asking are beyond normal common sense.' "

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel "The Orlando Magic are about to lose a key member of their basketball operations staff. Charles Klask, the Magic’s scouting information manager, has accepted a job with the Detroit Pistons. 'Charles was our statistics guru,' Magic General Manager Otis Smith told the Orlando Sentinel on Thursday. 'He really delved into the numbers for us and broke down the numbers for us — a lot of breaking down the teams from a statistical regard, helping Stan formulate his game plans from a statistical perspective. He was huge to our staff.' ... But it does appear that Klask is moving up the ladder. And he’ll also be going home. Klask is a Michigan native. 'He’s paid his dues,' Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said."

  • Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: "Speaking of the NBA and the aforementioned Charles Barkley, we came across a journal item on severnapark.patch.com from bicyclist Karey Harris. She is one of about 300 cyclists on the Road2Recovery ride, which began Sept. 11 in New York goes to the Flight 93 crash site in Pennsylvania and ends Sunday at the Pentagon Memorial in Washington, D.C. The ride is raising funds to build custom bikes for wounded soldiers. Turns out Barkley joined in for about 10 miles in Philadelphia (crashing only once). 'Today, I almost ran over Charles Barkley. Yes, the NBA player,' Harris wrote. She said Barkley 'came to wish us all well and thank us for raising money for such a great cause. He rode a bicycle with us to Valley Forge, which was about 10 miles from our start point - The 'Rocky' stairs!' She reports Barkley 'took a spill' going up a hill, but climbed back on and kept riding with the group. 'Nice job, Charles Barkley,' she added. Couldn't agree more."