First Cup: Monday

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: "When Kevin Durant strolled into the Pyramid, a hoodie covering his head, his eyes glued to the floor, the fans here for the Drew League-Goodman League exhibition affair began to stir. Durant was on the campus of Long Beach State representing the Washington-based Goodman League along with such players as John Wall (Washington Wizards) and Rudy Gay (Memphis Grizzlies) to face South Los Angeles-based Drew League players such as James Harden (Oklahoma City Thunder), Brandon Jennings (Milwaukee Bucks), Trevor Ariza (New Orleans Hornets) and Matt Barnes. They have been locked out by the NBA for 101 days and have been staging these games all over the country, this one Sunday in front of a packed house. ... By the way, the Drew League got the payback, winning 151-144, behind Harden's 48 points. Durant, an All-Star with the Thunder, finished with 50 and Wall had 55. 'I like playing in these games because it shows the fans how much we appreciate them and that we want to play games,' said Durant, who played in an exhibition game Saturday night in Miami. 'But we want to play and not be locked out.' "

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "On the night before the N.B.A. was to begin canceling games, league and union officials gathered one more time Sunday night, but once again parted without an agreement, or any overt signs of progress. The hastily called meeting began at 6:30 p.m. in Manhattan and ended just before midnight. The only news either side would share was that they will continue meeting Monday afternoon. Presumably, Commissioner David Stern will wait until after that meeting to decide whether to cancel the first two weeks of the regular season, as he had indicated he would do. A person briefed on Sunday’s talks said the parties did not discuss the most contentious issue, the division of league revenues. Instead, the focus was on so-called system issues, such as the salary cap, the luxury tax and the length of contracts."

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: "Marc Ganis, president of SportsCorp, a Chicago-based consulting firm, said the Hornets are in a better position to absorb lost regular-season games than other smaller-market franchises. 'They are in a unique position because they are owned by the NBA, so they can absorb a reduction in the regular season,' Ganis said. 'But there’s also a negative because if a satisfactory agreement is not reached with the players, the potential for contraction exists. The first team contracted will be the one owned by the league.' Despite the work stoppage, the Hornets have sold more than 9,000 season tickets, and they have strengthened their corporate sponsorship base with Chevron and Entergy coming on board in August. Hornets President Hugh Weber said they are $4 million ahead of where they were at this time last year. The franchise also continues to have productive discussions with the state on a new lease agreement. Unlike several franchises, the Hornets have announced no layoffs as a result of the lockout."

  • Tom Couzens of The Sacramento Bee: "The NHL opened its season Thursday with the great Bobby Orr and other members of the 1972 champions helping the Boston Bruins celebrate their sixth Stanley Cup title. Speaking of titles, will this be the year the Sharks finally bring the Cup to Northern California? While the NFL, baseball and the NHL enjoy the spotlight, where's the NBA? As each day passes without a resolution to the labor dispute, more and more fans are being turned off. And if regular-season games are canceled, many fans might never tune back in."

  • Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: "The NFL lost half a season to a players strike in 1982. Labor discord canceled the World Series in 1994. The NBA cut its regular season from 82 to 50 games because of a lockout. Two stubborn sides erased an entire NHL season in 2004-05. This stuff happens occasionally, and leagues and sports always survive. So will the NBA. But get this straight: Life goes on without you quite nicely, owners and athletes. You all stand to lose more than the fans, after all. So please come back soon, NBA, but if you don’t, well, the people you think of as fans are also people with real lives, people too busy to indulge your continued silliness and greed. Play or don’t. We will be fine either way."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "And perhaps before the first basketball bounces at AmericanAirlines Arena following the conclusion of the lockout, Miami Heat President Pat Riley steps up to a microphone and does what only would be right: Extend the contract of coach Erik Spoelstra. Debate all you want what happened during those fateful first two weeks of June against the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals, of how Rick Carlisle seemingly pulled all the right strings with his insertion of J.J. Barea into the starting lineup and Brian Cardinal into the rotation. And ponder, if you choose, the lack of an immediate response, with Mario Chalmers not moved into the Heat starting lineup until the series-ending Game 6 loss. But what we have here is a coach who guided his team to the NBA Finals not only coming back in the final year of his contract, but, for the second time in his brief four-year tenure in the position, seemingly working in the midst of a pay cut."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "James Harden, you are the biggest loser. No, we're not talking about pounds shed. This is about a possible promotion spoiled. The third-year guard looks to be the Oklahoma City Thunder player who stands to lose the most in this NBA lockout. Now that training camps have been postponed, and the entire preseason schedule wiped out, Harden could lose out on the starting shooting guard spot many believe should now be his. Only time will tell which direction Thunder coach Scott Brooks goes in. But with the training and exhibition portions of the schedule axed, and the first chunk of the regular season possibly being canceled Monday, time is not on Harden's side. If we've learned anything about Brooks, it's that he's huge on consistency and continuity. And keeping Thabo Sefolosha in the first five offered Brooks those two luxuries. They became his safety net."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "There should be some great ball in China this winter. The Nuggets players will likely put on a show, though the competition level is more Joel Anthony than Carmelo Anthony. To put it in perspective, the top scorer on the CBA's top team last year was American Quincy Douby? — and not many folks have even heard of Quincy Douby. But why, of all the countries with pro ball, did the Nuggets' trio choose China? Sure, they are getting paid millions, but the CBA doesn't allow opt-out clauses in their contracts, meaning all three guys will be in China until mid-February or even later in the spring, pending a playoff run. So, if the NBA has even part of a season, these guys won't play until late in the spring, if at all. Why play in a league that does allow an opt-out clause? 'I think for a player who's chosen to go to China, they may be banking that the lockout may continue for an extended period of time,' said Lee Melchionni?, a player agent for Wasserman Media Group, which represents players such as Denver's Danilo Gallinari. 'And from a brand standpoint, you're able to familiarize yourself with the Chinese culture. If you're a true superstar, you really have an opportunity to expand your brand.' "

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "It sounds like a Thunder fan's worst nightmare. Kevin Durant loses all his talent and mysteriously morphs from an NBA scoring champ into having the skills of a teenage scrub who's so bad he can't make his high school squad. Ah, but fear not, Thunder faithful. It's only a movie. Durant is only acting out that transformation in his upcoming release 'Switch,' a family friendly film in which Durant will play himself and an unsuspecting kid (Disney star Taylor Gray) receives Durant's skills and becomes ‘The Man' at his high school. The film, which is produced by Warner Bros., has been granted license to use NBA property, meaning Durant will actually star for the Thunder rather than some generic professional basketball outfit."

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "A group of area basketball coaches skipped late afternoon NFL action Sunday to listen to Pistons coach Lawrence Frank give the finer points on pick-and-roll defense and offense. The event was Detroit Mercy's fourth annual men's basketball coaches clinic, hosted by Titans coach Ray McCallum, and it has become customary for Pistons representation to be in attendance. And since Frank, hired in August, is the new guy in town, Sunday marked his first appearance at the event. After being introduced by McCallum, Frank talked about how the pick-and-roll has become more prevalent in the last 10 years. And although he said he was a 'defense-first coach,' he started with pick-and-roll offense. Unable to use current UDM players because of NBA lockout rules, Frank used former college players, including UDM's Desmond Ferguson, to demonstrate his concepts."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Remember back last summer, when sports-talk radio took such glee in mocking the Bobcats' signing of Kwame Brown? The joke was on them; a bust when Michael Jordan originally drafted him with the Washington Wizards, Brown was the Bobcats' most cost-effective player. For about $1 million, he was a fine low-post defender and a surprisingly effective scorer. Now he's an unrestricted free agent, and in his absence, the Bobcats have no healthy true center. It could be expensive to bring Brown back, but the good news is he wants to be here. Brown feels a debt of gratitude to Jordan for bringing him to Charlotte after what happened with the Wizards."