First Cup: Monday

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "The new N.B.A. labor deal is practically done. You wouldn’t know it from the headlines, the dour news conferences or the apocalyptic rhetoric spilling from league officials. But the deal, in practical terms, is about 95 percent complete. ... But it is the last 5 percent that is ruining the prospects for labor peace and gradually eroding the N.B.A. season. Four weeks of games are gone, and more could fall, because owners and players are still fighting over how to split $4 billion in revenue. The league wants a 50-50 split. The players want 52.5 percent. In real terms, they are separated by about $100 million a year — a hefty sum, but small in the context of these negotiations. They were once 20 percent and hundreds of millions apart. The difficulty in closing the gap is psychological and financial."

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "NBA players have spoken, and they're not happy. They went to their Twitter accounts this weekend to express anger with the lockout, the cancellation of about 450 games through November and with NBA Commissioner David Stern. Oklahoma City reserve center Nazr Mohammed led the online charge with more than 40 Twitter dispatches summarizing his thoughts on the stalemate between owners and players. 'Gotta love David Stern when he says his owners were willing to concede and give us 50% when we're the ones with all the concessions,' Mohammed wrote. "I knew this would happen. He's a master at PR and negotiating. That's why he's the commissioner. Making us negotiate against ourselves....' "

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "Tom Kando wrote me in an email Saturday afternoon. 'The solution isn't rocket science.' As the professor noted and some of us have long suggested, the solution seems pretty simple. Grab the sword and split the basketball.Make it an even 50-50 division of revenue and end the labor pains. 'Surely the multi-millionaires should be able to live with that, no?' continued the professor. 'And so should the billionaire owners.' Amen to that, brother. But I will submit two other suggestions offered by a number of frustrated NBA types and another by sports attorney Steve Kauffman. The union should poll the players about a possible 50-50 split because it seems to make so much sense, because the prospect of losing paychecks is even more depressing than hanging around the house, and because as Stern reminded everyone Friday, the owners have the leverage; the offers will not improve. Additionally, there is a strong and growing suspicion that a significant percentage of players already believe that it's time to make a deal. The league should poll the owners about the prospect of bending just enough so the players can save some face, per the Kauffman idea."

  • Alan Hahn of Newsday: "Billy Hunter said the union leaders 'made it clear we could not sell a 50-50 deal to our membership.'' To which we say: Why not have a secret-ballot vote, just to be completely sure? 'I'm afraid of what the answer would be,' one longtime NBA player agent told Newsday when asked the same question."

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "Sources on both sides of the labor dispute have told the Herald it is time, as the lockout hits Day 123, to bend to the wishes of the other and reach an agreement. Two players reached said they understood the league is, in the words of one, 'putting the screws to us ... taking things back without giving up anything.' But they shared the feeling the union might essentially be cutting off its nose to spite its face the longer it holds its line. More sources within team managements believe the league’s labor leaders should adopt a more conciliatory tone and get a deal done. 'This is getting a little ridiculous,' said one."

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: "To be clear: The lockout is lousy for everyone. Both sides have done plenty wrong. But nobody has been more wrong than Micky Arison, the same owner who accelerated the current crisis by going out and buying The Dream Team. It started Friday with a fan tweeting at Arison: 'Guess what? Fans provide all the money you're fighting over you greeding (expletive) pigs.' Arison's response: 'Honestly u r barking at the wrong owner.' Nothing like being a team player, eh Micky? He'll almost certainly be fined for hanging his partners out to dry. But it was the next tweet that was revealing. A fan tweeted the following at Arison: 'Heat ratings proved that fans want to see super teams in big markets instead of a ton of small-market teams each with one st(ar).' Arison retweeted this to all his followers. Which is the same thing as saying, 'You said it, not me.' Arison thinks that fans really want to see a small cluster of Dream Teams. He thinks the stratospheric ratings of last year's NBA Finals prove this. ... This labor dispute is about a lot of things. But one of them is about the ability of smaller cities like Memphis to compete over the long haul. Arison would have Memphians sit and watch his Dream Team on TV. It's the NBA version of, 'Let them eat cake.' "

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "Four months into this staring contest, neither the owners nor the players are willing to blink. The damage is mounting, the carnage is great … and regardless of the final score, the Cavaliers will emerge from this bloody battle as big winners. ... Given what the players have already conceded, the owners are the big winners. They have already taken back more than $1 billion in salary reductions over the next six years, now they’re running up the score. From the Cavs’ perspective, they’re destined to be one of the five worst teams in the league again, and therefore another high lottery pick next spring. In a typical 82-game season, they’d have to lose 55-65 games to get there. In a lockout-shortened season of 60 games (which is a best-case scenario at this point), they’d only have to suffer through about 40-45 losses to get the same result. When the reward is the same, why go all the way to hell and back if you only have to go to Poughkeepsie? To be clear, I don’t think Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is intentionally sabotaging negotiations. In fact, I don’t think he has quite as powerful of a voice as he has been credited/blamed for having. Yet it’s clear the small-market owners are doing their best to have a seat at the table in the high rollers’ room — to the dismay of the high rollers."

  • Dan Bickley of The Arizona Republic: "At times, LeBron James might be misguided and tone-deaf. In a recent negotiating session, it was explained to James that the 43 percent of basketball-related income received by owners was not profit, rather a number that came before operating expenses. According to a source, James replied, 'Well, I have expenses, too.' What James isn't lacking is strength of conviction. He believes he's the chosen one. It's tattooed on his back. He's the king, and he's not going to bow down to anyone. Now that contract talks have broken down yet again, he's a reminder that NBA owners better be careful how hard they push. James is the leader of a new generation, and just the other day, he tweeted about a desire to play with Steve Nash in Miami, saying 'we can help each other get our 1st ring!' Let's hope he doesn't always get what he wants."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Its importance might seem far less significant with the first month of the season canceled and NBA commissioner David Stern saying an 82-game season is not possible under any circumstances, but the deadline to extend rookie contracts was set for Monday. No team will face more of those decisions than the Rockets, who have four players selected among the top 11 picks of the 2009 draft. And when the NBA opens for business with a rush of deal-making to assemble rosters for the 2011-12 season, the Rockets also will have to make decisions for the 2012-13 season. The NBA has not announced an extension of Monday's deadline. A spokesman said the league would not confirm there will be an extension until the work stoppage is settled. But teams expect to have until the start of the season to reach decisions about whether to extend those rookie contracts for a fourth season. Much of the league will not have to concern itself with extra time to make the decisions facing the Rockets. Many teams picked up the fourth-year options on players after the season and before the lockout began July 1. But the Rockets adhered to a team policy to hold off on such moves until the deadline. Though Hasheem Thabeet, Jonny Flynn, Jordan Hill and Terrence Williams are under contract for the upcoming season and are all potentially key parts of the retooling of the roster, the team had hoped to have a full training camp and preseason to evaluate each player's progress and potential before extending their contracts for the following season."

  • Jason Smith of The Commercial-Appeal: "When coach Josh Pastner hired Luke Walton in August, he said the Los Angeles Lakers forward's presence on the staff -- however short it might be -- would be of great benefit to the team, particularly Memphis' post players, whom Pastner put Walton in charge of. Now, following NBA commissioner David Stern's announcement Friday that the league has canceled regular-season games through November, the Tigers will have Walton's expertise at their disposal through a key early-season stretch that includes a talent-laden Maui Invitational. Though he's disappointed the lockout has gone on this long, Walton, who plans to return to the NBA as soon as the lockout is over, said he's looking forward to the challenge of trying to help Memphis from the coaching bench, starting with Wednesday's exhibition opener against LeMoyne-Owen at FedExForum. 'I've loved it,' Walton said Sunday."

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "Only one time has Nick Gilbert asked his dad why he'd been diagnosed with neurofibromatosis (NF), a nerve disorder that causes tumors to grow anywhere in the body at any time. He was 10 and had just returned home from emergency brain surgery. 'I told him I didn't know,' said Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cavaliers. 'I told him, 'It was just the luck of the draw. You pulled the card.' He thought for a minute and said, 'Well, I'm a pretty lucky guy. My dad owns an NBA team. There's only 30 of those cards I could have pulled.' He's that kind of person.' ... Nick's big night may not prove to be a game changer for the teen or the team, but it turned out to be a great move. Not only did the Cavs win the lottery, but through donations to his Twitter account, T-shirt and Fathead sales, Nick Gilbert helped raise more than $100,000 for the Children's Tumor Foundation. As a result, Dan Gilbert's Quicken Loans Family of Companies will receive the organization's 2011 Humanitarian Award on Wednesday in New York. Nick Gilbert will be named this year's CTF ambassador and his doctor, Roger Packer, director of the Gilbert Neurofibromatosis Institute in Washington, D.C., also will be honored."

  • Benjamin Hochman:of The Denver Post: "Jordan Hamilton followed his dreams and reached for the stars and — yes! — made it to the NBA. And there's no NBA. 'I still feel that I'm not in the NBA yet,' the Nuggets rookie said. On Friday, NBA commissioner David Stern? canceled scheduled games through November as the lockout continues with no end in sight. NBA owners and the players union are negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement. Hamilton, though, still thinks he made the right decision leaving Texas early. He has utilized his NBA fame — relatively speaking, of course — during his downtime to help raise money and awareness in poor communities."

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "A common misconception is that the Pistons' front office usually makes mistakes on draft night. Most of that stems from the selection of Darko Milicic with the second pick in 2003 in one of the most talent-rich drafts in NBA history and two other drafting misadventures in Michigan State star Mateen Cleaves (2000) and Rodney White (2001). But an ESPN article by Tom Haberstroh says payroll is an overvalued factor when it comes to a franchise's on-court competiveness. He ranks the Pistons as the sixth-most efficient team on draft night the past 10 years. ... Obviously, selecting Milicic when superstars Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were available colors people's opinions of the Pistons' personnel department. But there were successes, including Tayshaun Prince, Jonas Jerebko, Greg Monroe and even Mehmet Okur, who helped the Pistons to the 2004 title before heading to the Jazz."

  • Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: "Julius Erving is auctioning off many of his treasures and trinkets, including two ABA championship rings and one NBA championship ring - the type of booty that every athlete claims is his or her ultimate goal. Dr. J says it's unwanted clutter, but coincidentally, a bank is after him for more than $200,000. The point: What ghoulish collector would want Dr. J's mementos under these circumstances? Wow, cool ring! It belonged to Dr. J? Isn't he living in a cardboard box under a freeway? And you're wearing the ring he earned? You must be so proud!"

  • Don Walker of the Journal Sentinel: "In the mid-1990s, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce launched an ambitious and costly campaign to show doubters that the Milwaukee Brewers were important to the local economy and the region's national image. The group guaranteed that it would sell $6.15 million worth of tickets, lobbied the state to provide funding for what later became Miller Park, and lent the Brewers at least $14 million. Last week, a small group of influential business leaders and the MMAC began talking in earnest about a more modest campaign to provide support for the Bradley Center and its biggest and most important tenant, the Milwaukee Bucks. At this stage, any formal campaign in behalf of the Bradley Center is months away, according to Timothy Sheehy, MMAC's president. For now, the group is in the process of finding ways to encourage MMAC members to look for sponsorship opportunities at the Bradley Center or buying tickets or suites at Bucks' games."