First Cup: Tuesday

  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: "Years removed from his public sparring from Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal proclaimed since then that the feuding served nothing more than a motivational tool between the two teammates and nothing more than a marketing tool for the general public. O'Neal attempted saying that with a straight face when the two formally ended their feud in 2006, when they reunited for the 2009 NBA All-Star game and when he retired this offseason. Not that any of us believed it, but we can now say for sure that O'Neal still harbors ill will toward Bryant. 'Shaq Uncut: My Story,' his autobiography written with respected hoops writer Jackie MacMullan to be released Nov. 15, makes it pretty clear how Bryant's pending sexual-assault case and O'Neal's uncertain NBA future ultimately led the Big Fella to threaten Bryant during the 2003-04 season."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "As expected, the NBA lowered its lockout hammer Monday on Micky Arison for offering opinions on the ongoing work stoppage on his Twitter account last Friday. NBA spokesman Tim Frank confirmed to the Sun Sentinel that the league has fined the Miami Heat owner. Yahoo reported the sanction was $500,000. NBA Commissioner David Stern had issued an edict before the July 1 start of the lockout that team and league personnel would not be allowed to comment on the lockout beyond the confines of league-approved media sessions. Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan was fined $100,000 in September for comments made to an Australian publication regarding the lockout. At that time, the league only acknowledged the sanction, not the scope of the fine. Such was the case again Monday."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "What fans must remember about this labor impasse is to not hold it against the players. If there was a fault meter in this lockout, the players would be holding steady near the bottom and the owners' needle would flick and rock past the red line.It's not the players' fault that they have been receiving 57 percent of the basketball-related income for years. And the economic climate shouldn't merit a drastic drop down to 50 percent or lower. If the owners are trying to break the players' union and get them to cave into a deal that guarantees profits for all teams, all they should have to do is prove that all their other business ventures have built-in profits. Somehow, that seems unlikely. As fans, you have to try to remember Dirk Nowitzki's greatness, Jason Kidd's cool demeanor, J.J. Barea's gigantic heart and Tyson Chandler's screams. Forget about the dollar signs for now. Just take comfort in the knowledge that basketball will return at some point. And when it does, those rings will be waiting for the Mavericks."

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: "Knicks owner James Dolan is frustrated the lockout rages on and the club’s season opener tomorrow against the Heat at the Garden has been wiped out. But Dolan, part of the owners’ negotiating committee, is content about one of the agreed-upon aspects of a new collective bargaining agreement: the size of the salary cap will not go down. More than any team in the NBA, that will benefit Dolan’s big-market Knicks the most, ironically. According to multiple sources, one of the resolved issues in a new CBA is the 2011 cap will remain at the level as it was in 2010 -- $58 million. ... Economic projections from sources say the salary cap will then grow to about $60 to $61 million in 2012 -- when the Knicks will have the largest cap space in the league and have room to woo either Chris Paul, Deron Williams or Dwight Howard, who are slated to become free agents. The Knicks could be at least $20 million under the projected 2012 cap. Ironically, Dolan has been seated across from Paul, who is the Knicks’ top priority, during many of the labor bargaining sessions because Paul is on the union’s negotiation committee. According to a players source, Dolan has been the least combative of the owners and often serves as a mediator during contentious moments."

  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: "Sean Elliott felt physically fine about a dozen years ago. The NBA’s opening night was cancelled, just as it is tonight, but Elliott kept working to stay ready. 'I was anticipating some type of season,' he said Monday. He got some type of season, all right. The lockout crunched 50 games into three months. Then, in March of that shortened 1999 season, Elliott’s kidneys began to fail. He not only survived, he did so while playing all the way to the Finals. And that’s why he thinks a compacted season is not only tolerable for today’s players, it will also be telling of them. 'We will see who is serious about it,' Elliott said. 'And who has been out there messing around.' Elliott reports his health remains good. Monday was the birthday of his brother and organ donor, Noel. And asked if he told his kidney “happy birthday,' Sean laughed. 'Every year,' he said."

  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: "The majority of system-based issues have already been agreed upon, according to multiple national media outlets. Thus, much of the framework for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that will end the work stoppage and kickstart a stalled 2011-12 season is technically in place. So why wait? And what’s to be gained from a mutual hardline holdout that will result in missed games and millions of dollars in lost revenue — all at the risk of alienating fickle sports fans already dealing with a shaky economy? A lot. For owners: a clean sweep that returns the NBA’s power back into their hands, resetting the hierarchy of a kingdom that swayed last season while superstars such as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony dictated the futures of multiple franchises at once. 'You still essentially come down to the people that own the league saying, ‘We’re worried about the next 10 years, not the next six months … and there’s a desperate need for a long-term correction,’ ' said Tom Penn, an ESPN analyst and former NBA small-market executive."

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "In an ideal world, the Cavaliers would be busy preparing for the 2011-12 season opener Wednesday in Boston. The media would be talking about Cavs guard Kyrie Irving's NBA debut or center Anderson Varejao's return to the court after his ankle surgery last season. Instead, there's very little chatter. Just a lot of apathy."

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "The longer the hardwood stays in hiding, the more teams risk a critical breaking of habit. Teams know that many people renew their season tickets each year because, well, it’s just what they do. Fans might give a stray thought to pulling back when they see the bill, but after a while, the games become part of their routine. After a while, it’s harder to imagine their winter without the games. NBA folks are concerned about making it all to easy for fans to get used to missing the games. And this is where the confluence of a prolonged lockout and the current economy could mushroom into a nasty financial hit. In the one marketing course we took in college, the difference between inelastic and elastic demands was learned. Groceries are in the former category; tickets to sporting events are in the latter. You might want to go to the games, but you don’t need to go. That point could be brought home when suddenly you can’t go. It is your resulting reaction that most frightens salespeople and owners around the league. The fact the purchasing public might be forced into NBA withdrawal is an unwanted unknown."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "But before anyone gets prepared for the Wizards to slash $22 million from the payroll – or about $18 million, if you include money lost from the cancellation of the season’s first month – there are a couple a reasons why it makes sense for the Wizards to keep Lewis through the 2011-12 campaign. ... If the players agree to a 50-50 split of revenues, the salary cap would likely be close to $51 million, with a luxury tax level set for about $62 million. So keeping Lewis for another year wouldn’t hurt the team financially and waiving him could actually create more problems: if the Wizards’ payroll drops below $30 million, the team would be forced to pay other players — possibly for more years — in order to meet a potential minimum salary. Wizards owner Ted Leonsis is going to have to pay Lewis at least $32 million no matter what. So, would he rather pay Lewis to play for him or simply pay him to leave to join the contending team of his choice? Lewis was plagued by injuries last season and won’t ever return to his all-star form of three seasons ago. But he is healthy again, still has some game left, and could provide a veteran presence for a team that otherwise has Andray Blatche – or Young, if he comes back – as the oldest player on the roster. ... It probably is a slam dunk that the Wizards will eventually cut Lewis, but it doesn’t have to be immediate."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Coach Tom Thibodeau and his staff have been logging normal business hours at the Berto Center, albeit not working out players who are prohibited from using team facilities. John Paxson, Gar Forman and basketball management have been performing background on potential free-agent targets and preparing for various scenarios they can pursue once they receive the new collective bargaining agreement rules. ... Grant Hill, Caron Butler, Tayshaun Prince, Jamal Crawford and Jason Richardson are among the intriguing wing players who will be unrestricted free agents should they fit in the Bulls' salary structure. Given that a maximum extension for Derrick Rose also is on tap, it's unlikely they'll be major players especially because they likely will be over the salary cap and only able to offer veteran's minimums. Sources familiar with management's thinking said there are no plans to use the amnesty clause on any current Bull. As for the business side, team sources said the Bulls not only haven't laid anybody off, but team Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has paid full salaries to the basketball operations staff. League sources said several teams have reduced salaries of assistant coaches and scouts. Other teams have let scouts go."

  • John Powers of The Boston Globe: "As long as the season ends by the beginning of July, there’ll be time to get the players in camp for the tournament that begins July 29. And if there isn’t a season, the US still can use any of the three dozen players in its pool, which includes all but a couple of members of the Beijing gold-medal team and last year’s world champions. 'We’re autonomous,’ said USA Basketball board chairman JerryColangelo. 'We’re not part of the NBA.’ What’s encouraging is that the players’ agents want their clients at the Games. 'They’ve reached out to me to say they’re in, that they’re playing no matter what,’ said Colangelo. There are two compelling reasons for the Jameses and Wades and Durants to don their star-spangled suits. If there’s no NBA season, they will have gone more than a year without performing. And if they win the gold medal, they’ll be seen as patriots instead of pampered prima donnas. What’s crucial, though, is that the “A’’ team does sign up. Whenever the US has sent second-tier pros, it has finished third or worse. And sending anyone else would be a fool’s errand."

  • Michael Lee and Peyton M. Craighill of The Washington Post: "After years of disappointment, though, the Wizards have their work cut out for them. Just 29 percent of NBA fans in the region named the Wizards as their favorite team in the Post survey, which was taken in August shortly after the NBA locked out its players. A surprising 14 percent of the region’s NBA fans list the Los Angeles Lakers as their No. 1 team, while 9 percent name the Boston Celtics and 7 percent the Miami Heat. ... By contrast, 72 percent of the region’s NHL fans name the Capitals as their favorite team, 48 percent of the NFL fans list the Redskins and 42 percent of the soccer fans say D.C. United is their No. 1 pro team. ... An obstacle for the Wizards, the poll suggests, is finding a way to attract the region’s newer residents. Fans living in the area for at least 10 years are more supportive of the Wizards. Among those who care at least a little about the NBA, 36 percent of long-time D.C. residents name the Wizards as their favorite basketball team, but only 9 percent of newcomers say the same. The franchise has done a lot to reconnect with longtime fans by associating the club more closely with the Bullets’ legacy. The Wizards have established a player alumni association and in May unveiled new uniforms with a red, white and blue color scheme and a horizontal stripe that harkens back to the old design popularized by Bullets Hall of Famers Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes. And the team’s new 'D.C.' logo echoes that of the Bullets before the franchise changed its name. Winning on the court would help as well."

  • Rick Westhead of the Toronto Star: "When is a front-row seat not a front-row seat? Perhaps when it’s for a Toronto Raptors game. A Raptors season-ticket holder alleges the team’s owner, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, treated him 'like dirt' by installing a new row of premium seats directly in front of his $915 courtside seats. MLSE says the aggrieved fan is a dishonest and cunning scalper. A judge will settle the clash. After a flurry of court filings, unsuccessful mediation and a lengthy discovery process over the past four years, Toronto businessman Mark Michalkoff’s complaint against MLSE is heading to a courtroom. A trial over the dispute is scheduled to start Nov. 15 in Ontario Superior Court in Toronto and is expected to last a week."