First Cup: Monday

  • Diane Pucin of the Los Angeles Times: "Bob Costas, the television sports analyst widely considered one of the best in the country, was no different from many athletes, sports fans and basketball experts 20 years ago Monday when Magic Johnson held a news conference to tell the world he was HIV-positive. 'I was stunned,' Costas said, 'and my immediate thought was, knowing what we thought we knew about HIV, we would watch Magic Johnson die a public death, that he would waste away. This was what we thought we understood about the virus, that his days were numbered.' Now the number of days Johnson has ahead of him seems limitless when the strong, healthy-looking basketball great, onetime coach, voluble television commentator and successful businessman puts on his smile and optimism and shakes your hand."

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "Somewhere along the way, the bait and switch was pulled. To wit: We came to Manhattan to cover a basketball labor negotiation, and a session of Congress broke out. The NBA: Where Washington happens. ... The NBA and Players Association have essentially drawn lines in the sand here. And while the numbers would appear to be close, they may not, in fact, be on the same beach. That’s because of the Washington Effect. While commissioner David Stern and union president Derek Fisher may have their personal opinions as to what constitutes a fair and equitable arrangement, they are not speaking for themselves. Like D.C. party leaders, they negotiate with the Damoclean sword of 'Can I get the votes for this?' hanging over their heads. And as in Congress, they are being tugged toward the strong-minded edges. ... And with a season hanging in the balance, the more strident members are formulating plans to veer in this direction. One would think more moderate types would step forward and prevent a season from being lost when neither can justify such a catastrophic result. But one would think they would have understood that before they got to Nov. 7 without NBA basketball."

  • Craig Stouffer of the Washington Examiner: "The emergence of Michael Jordan as the face of a hard-line faction of NBA owners seeking to bury the players association has prompted a fierce backlash. Players apparently thought he was one of their own and couldn't help but feelbetrayed in a seemingly hypocritical move by the greatest player of all time. Nick Young might have made the loudest statement about what Jordan represents now -- and he wears Nike shoes. 'im not wearin jordans no more cant believe what i just seen and heard from MJ,' Young tweeted. '#ElvisDoneLeftTheBuilding and i didnt delete it' Jordan famously told late Wizards owner Abe Pollin during the 1998 labor negotiations, 'If you can't make a profit, you should sell your team.' Young will be cheered for showing solidarity as players weigh an ultimatum delivered by NBA commissioner David Stern during negotiations Saturday. It said they have until Wednesday to accept the league's current proposal or the next one will be far more lopsided in the owners' favor."

  • Bob Young The Arizona Republic: "The truth is Michael Jordan is closer to Wall Street than the kids on the street who wear his shoes. Lose them, and what's left? Selling boxer shorts to the country club set? When a Twitter follower of Stephon Marbury's tweeted Sunday, 'Hearing Mike Jordan is going real gangsta on the players,' Marbury had an interesting response. 'Mike has never been with the real. Mike lives up there in the air up there. He can't come down,' Marbury tweeted. Marbury also tweeted of the labor fight: 'The money will be for the kids coming in the next 10 to 20 years. That's the sacrifice!' It's a sacrifice Jordan doesn't understand and one he never had to make."

  • William C. Rhoden of The New York Times: "Shame on the league for not pushing for true partnership, but shame on the players for not insisting that equity in the league become a nonnegotiable plank in the labor talks. Instead, the currently stalled negotiations have involved the same wage-based scuffles between employer and employees: we give you a piece of the pie, and we’ll fight over the size of the slice every few years. The N.B.A. and the players are engaged in another season-threatening battle over the distribution of what has become about $4 billion a year in revenue. This is not what a partnership looks like. If the N.B.A. and the players were actually partners, with players having an ownership stake in the league, we might be watching basketball instead of owners against players, owners against owners and players against players."

  • Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: " 'I’m never for decertification,' veteran agent Aaron Goodwin told me Sunday night, 'but I’m afraid it’s going to go to that, because the owners are not negotiating fairly. Their offer is not a good one at all.' With due respect to Goodwin — whom I’ve known for many years and have always respected — the players are being sold a bill of goods. I have read attorney Jeffrey Kessler’s comment that 'the players will not be intimidated,' and that 'they are not going to sacrifice the future of all NBA players under these types of threats of intimidation.' 'The way the talks are headed, I think the decertification thing is coming,' Hawes told me before Sunday’s exhibition. 'What we give up (in negotiations), we’re not going to be able to get back. It’s been give, give, give by us so far. It’s not just about this year. It’s about the future, the next five, 15, 20 years.' Hold on now. The average player salary was $5.8 million last season. Were the players to accept the deal on the table now, it could fall to the $4.5 million range. That’s still a truckload full of greenbacks. The future looks pretty secure to me — unless the players are foolish enough to press the issue and lose the season."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "Spurs forward Matt Bonner, a member of the National Basketball Players Association’s executive committee, said Sunday the union’s leadership has scheduled a conference call for Monday to discuss its next move. ... Bonner described the frustration of Saturday’s session, which was conducted under the guidance of George Cohen, head of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. 'Saturday sucked,' he said. 'The way we saw of saving the season and getting a deal was by saying the system was more important to us, BRI more important to them; we can compromise on BRI if they can come more to us on the remaining system issues. That’s what we were hoping would get a deal and we really thought the approach we took was going to get it done. But when George came back after taking our offer to the owners, what he came back with was five or six changes in system things, and all but one were what the owners wanted. It was basically their deal.' ... The threat of decertification and the uncertainty that comes with it could give the union the leverage it needs to coax a better offer from the league than the deal it rejected Saturday. 'I’m sure we’ll talk about everything on the call,' Bonner said."

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: "One of the teams won 164-157. People cheered. Players sweated. Kevin Durant led all scorers with 47 points. Bam. There's your Rip City Classic basketball game, presented by LaMarcus Aldridge. And I have to say, when last call came, everyone in the joint was smiling. Now can someone hurry and get us an NBA game? Because as wonderful as it was to see Durant and Aldridge run around, and as cool as it was to see a parade of dunks, and lots of game-operations entertainment, the most memorable moment on Sunday came in the second half when 5,000 fans began chanting, 'Let's go Blazers!! ... Let's go Blazers!!' ... This was plenty of action for one evening. And the Blazers front office could learn something about game operations, promotion, and the deep hearts of fans on a night like this. But ultimately, everyone knows these sideshow 'night club' games are no substitute for 19,980 at the Rose Garden on a Sunday night in a meaningful display of the best athleticism and basketball coaching on the planet. The owners are dangling a 51 percent split with a Wednesday deadline? Sign the deal, players. Sign it now. Lock it up. Get it done. Or risk finding out how a public that enjoyed a one-time night of dunking and three-point shooting would soon stop showing up with passion and enthusiasm. It doesn't take stones to be stubborn and ignorant. It takes real courage, though, to look around on a night like Sunday and realize that a sideshow isn't a show at all. Again, great event. But one a year is plenty."

  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: "Greed. Ego. Stupidity. Stubbornness. Self-defence. Blame all of those things and more for the mess the NBA currently finds itself in. Amazingly, despite the current state of the world’s economy, despite the fact that the league brings in billions of dollars annually and is coming off of one of its most intriguing seasons in years, all signs point to the 2011-12 campaign getting obliterated entirely. Commissioner David Stern has set a Wednesday afternoon deadline for the National Basketball Players Association to accept the owners’ latest offer. Failure to do so would yield a far less appealing offer, Stern warned. It is hard to believe it has come to this. Most expected a few games to be wiped out, but few anticipated total annihilation. Not after the NHL lockout, which evaporated the 2004-05 schedule and resulted in the NHLPA finally taking a deal in July of 2005 that was by all accounts worse than what they could have accepted seven or eight months earlier. ... What’s the answer? The owners need either to offer more in the way of basketball related income, or back up a tiny bit from that scary hard cap-sounding cliff, and when they do, the players have to take the deal. Otherwise they will be settling next summer, with empty wallets and with an even less appetizing deal."

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "When the Cavaliers traded LeBron James to the Miami Heat last summer, they included language that went largely unnoticed at the time, but could come into play as this labor battle drags into its fifth month. As part of the sign-and-trade, the Cavaliers have the right to swap picks should the Heat finish with a higher selection in the 2012 draft. It was scoffed at and dismissed at the time of the deal, since the Cavs are rebuilding and the Heat are one of the elite teams, but it becomes much more intriguing if this entire season is abolished by the lockout. If the players follow through on recent threats to decertify the union, there is a legitimate chance this entire season will be lost. Messy, lengthy antitrust lawsuits will inevitably follow and a deal that was so close to completion only a week ago will crumble. If that happens, it will send the logistics of next summer’s draft into limbo. ... When the entire 2004-05 NHL season was lost to a work stoppage, every team was included in the following draft lottery. In order to be diplomatic, teams’ cumulative records from the previous three seasons were used to factor draft odds. The NBA certainly doesn’t have to adopt that same system, it’s simply a viable example. It’s also a scenario that would cripple the Cavaliers, since they finished with the league’s best record the two years prior to James leaving. But they could be aided by the Heat, who were a middle-of-the-pack playoff team for two years before James’ arrival and would have slightly better odds at a higher pick than the Cavaliers using the NHL’s example. Should the Heat find good fortune with a higher pick in the draft, the Cavs can snatch it away."

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Rick Rubio has talked with pal Kevin Love since he’s been here in the U.S., but hasn’t spent time with any other new Timberwolves teammates while he’s been in L.A. ... He did play with a bunch of them – Love, Beasley, Randolph, Derrick Williams, Wes Johnson, Martell – for a week around draft time at Target Center. Included in that time was two days spent working with Randolph. ... He has played with a variety of NBA players – everyone from Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Nick Young and Ryan Hollins – in workouts, whoever shows up that day to train. He said he needed to come here this fall so he could see, feel, watch how NBA players play and understand how the game is different than the European game. 'In the end, it’s basketball,' he said. 'But here, it’s different. Here, it’s more physical. The contact here is more allowed. Not more allowed, but harder. The hands are quicker and you have to be ready when you penetrate to protect the ball.' One guy he hasn’t seen but would love to play with and against: Steve Nash. 'I never played with Steve Nash,' he said. 'I would love to play against him. I think I can learn a lot of things from him.' "