First Cup: Wednesday

  • Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle: "First of all, Bud Selig would never have issued an ultimatum. Are you listening, David Stern? Baseball's 16-year labor peace has come about, in part, because Selig insisted the lines of communication remain open. At some of his sport's darkest hours, he simply would invite baseball union chief Donald Fehr for a walk around New York. Away from the tension of the bargaining room, the two men exchanged ideas on drug testing, revenue sharing and other hot-button issues. ... At a time when the NBA is in the middle of a bruising labor dispute that could wipe out an entire season, it could learn some lessons from baseball's painful past. Coincidentally, Major League Baseball is working to finalize a new labor agreement in the next few days. It'll be met with a collective shrug. These days, MLB players and owners have learned to work together. What a concept. Now they quietly reach agreements on everything from drug testing to international initiatives. ... Nothing - repeat, nothing - ever gets done in court. When a deal finally gets done, it'll be because the two sides sat down and kept talking until they found common ground. Once upon a time, baseball made all the mistakes the NBA is now making. Baseball eventually wised up, and so will the NBA. Someday."

  • Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News: "This was David Boies Day for the NBA labor tussle. The super-lawyer popped up on the players’ side yesterday–today, he was the voice of the anti-trust lawsuits filed in the Bay Area and Minnesota. But he also sounded like all negotiation talks, if there are any, now funnel through Boies on the players’ side, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher sure weren’t getting it done. And David Stern was running such a win streak that it was hard for the owners to cut a deal when they were getting zero resistance from the union/trade association leadership. My view on Boies is that, in such a late and dramatic situation, he’s like the way playwrights view the unveiling of a knife on stage: If you show the knife, the knife must be used. That’s the role of the knife. And for Boies in this situation. There’s going to be some kind of counter-flow to the Boies interjection, we just don’t know it yet. He could change everything. He could make it all worse. He could get the initiator of a deal. That’s what Act III is all about, and it’s starting now."

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "A general wisdom has crystallized among several sources close to the NBA labor contretemps. It states that both the players and owners made foolish missteps along the way to the middle of November, allowing hubris and shortsightedness to cost all of them money and forcing the game to dig out of a public relations hole if/when the games resume. Fortunately, there is a way out of this mess that would seem fairly direct and simple. There is, however, one slight problem. 'These people are crazy,' said a source with intimate knowledge of the labor-management relationship through the years. And while this same person believes the players have handled themselves poorly, in this instance he was talking about the owners. 'The goal in this used to be to get a deal, but these guys want blood,' he said. 'It’s mainly the new guys, but there are few older hard-liners, too.' The source then hit on a point we’ve been discussing here for a while. It’s the fact that David Stern has a much more difficult task controlling his own room than he used to. Many of the low-maintenance owners are out of the league. The commissioner always had to battle certain people — even those who were around before he took office — but when Stern told them it was time to make a deal and this was the deal to do, he could get it done. 'That isn’t the case anymore,' the source said. 'It isn’t that simple.' ... Word is strong that Stern doesn’t want a missed season tarnishing his sterling legacy. So he should call in Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher or their proxies for a talk, offering them coffee, croissants and conciliation — the latter in the form of a more equitable mid-level exception and better escrow plan. Then the commissioner should shake hands, announce the deal and dare his owners to reject it. It’s time for the crazy to stand down."

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "Keep your All-Star Game, NBA. We don't want it. At least not this year. You've already ruined the mood and killed the buzz. This is not the time and Orlando is not the place to hold a massive celebration of all things NBA. That's why David Stern and NBA ownership needs to assure our city amid this cumbersome, contentious NBA labor dispute that we will get another All-Star Game at a more appropriate time. Even if the dispute is settled sometime soon, Orlando should not be stuck with an All-Star Game during what would be a dreary, lockout-shortened NBA season. 'I would think they [the NBA] would have a moral obligation to give us a second All-Star game since we wouldn't be getting the All-Star game in the fashion that it was promoted to us,' Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer acknowledged. Let's face it, no other city in the league will be more impacted by this year's lockout than Orlando, which quite possibly could see its long-awaited All-Star Game and its most-beloved sports star — Dwight Howard — disappear in one foul feud over basketball-related income."

  • Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News: "The commissioner is a bully and the owners are arrogant and piggish. The union is incompetent and the players are greedy and clueless. There! I summed up the NBA work stoppage for you. You're welcome. Now, consider the unspoken truth in this mess. Both sides are so entrenched in ego and drenched in animosity, it's no surprise they're missing the point. The big question isn't whether the season will be canceled, which certainly is a possibility. The big question is, why don't more people seem to care? ... The game isn't healthy, and the impasse is a symptom of deeper sentiments, ultimately stirred by James' ballyhooed move. That showed owners how quickly one player can devalue a franchise. As the winter months loom, fans' apathy might lift. The playoffs last season provided terrific entertainment, setting up compelling storylines. But too much in the NBA is viewed as a personal affront — between players and refs, players and coaches, players and players, owners and owners. It's no secret small-market owners want Stern to bargain even tougher. Why don't more fans care? Because neither side in the squabble respects the other, and in the process, neither side is respecting a game that needs fixing."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "As the Miami Heat's lone representative at the Monday meeting that led to a hardened players' stance in the NBA lockout, James Jones insisted he did not stand alone. Instead, as secretary-treasurer of what formerly had stood as the players' union, Jones said Tuesday that he cast the Heat's vote against the NBA's latest proposal after canvassing almost the entire roster. 'I spoke to the majority of the guys, just about all of 'em,' Jones told the Sun Sentinel. Jones said at no point in the process, which ended with the union electing to file a 'disclaimer of interest' and disband, did he act against the interest of any of his Heat teammates. 'Our players elected our team officials and our reps to go up there and speak on their behalf and that's what I did,' Jones said. Forward Chris Bosh, who attended Tuesday's University of Miami-Rutgers game and spoke to a pair of South Florida reporters during the first half, said he also understood the Heat's vote to be unanimous. 'I don't like it,' Bosh said of the nasty turn in the negotiations that led to the filing of antitrust complaints Tuesday in Minnesota and California. 'I don't think anybody likes it. But sometimes when you're doing business it's so hard to kind of draw the line and work together.' Bosh praised Jones' efforts, but said it still is difficult to comprehend an entire season could be lost. 'It's still kind of weird not playing, because I've always played in November,' he said. 'So it's feeling real out of place.' "

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "Forget the 2011-12 NBA season. Please. If you think the lawsuits filed Tuesday by the trade association formerly known as the NBPA is going to soften the stance of hard-line owners, someone needs to break the bad news to you about the tooth fairy. The owners’ goal, all along, has been to crush the union and remind the players that they are merely employees. Blame who you choose, but get over that quickly, too. It will just make you angry and depressed. Some Spurs fans couldn’t sleep Monday night because they were so upset about the likelihood they won’t see their heroes for a full season. They also were worried about the effect the missed season might have on the team. Renowned attorney David Boies, representing plaintiff players, including Spurs draftee Kawhi Leonard, announced the filings and said settlement talks can begin at any time and 'might be a pathway' to agreement. I can begin a column tomorrow that might be a pathway to a Pulitzer prize. Does moving the battle to the courtroom give fans reason to believe there will be NBA games this season? Only if they enjoy serial disappointment."

  • Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer: "I'm convinced, is that both sides are letting testosterone and ego get in the way of common sense. They may lose the entire 2011-12 season - and a whole lot of fans - as a result. It's become a high-stakes game of chicken for both sides, with each determined not to swerve out of the way first. Better to get a lot of people hurt than to show any sign of weakness. That seems to be everyone's motto. The fact is that NBA players are ridiculously overpaid. Even after another labor deal is finally struck - and that looks like it's a long way away after the players turned down the owners' 'final' offer and started breaking up their union Monday - they will still be ridiculously overpaid. So the owners are asking the players to take a modest pay cut. So what? Many of us have taken pay cuts at one time or another in our careers. I have. It beats not having a job."

  • Dan Bickley of The Arizona Republic: "The Suns are in transition. Their owner has been ridiculed by the national media. At this point, they don't have that much to lose. And when an agreement finally is reached, the organization will be able to spin it forward, framing it as the beginning of a new era of competitive balance in the NBA. Besides, around here, no one is that much of a hurry to see Mark Cuban and Shawn Marion get their championship rings. But if the season ultimately is canceled, or if the lockout lingers into 2012, all bets are off. Fans will become more attuned and incensed by the nonsense, by billionaires haggling with millionaires. The feuding parties better find a way to lower the heat, close the gap and finish the deal before we push away from the Thanksgiving table. And maybe Tuesday was a pivotal turning point in negotiations. It was the day that players missed their first paychecks."

  • Doug Robinson of the Deseret News: "Congratulations, NBA players, you've killed the golden goose, at least for the near future and perhaps the entire season. You've entered what commissioner David Stern calls, to reach for hyperbole, 'nuclear winter.' It's a season on the brink — of having to get a real job, and good luck with that in today's economy. This day has been a long time coming. We all saw it, even if you didn't. Call it a market correction. Or a reality check. Remember, for the rest of us, it's not as though this is something truly important, something upon which the nation depends — like the NFL. You've got to hand it to the players, don't you. They pulled off quite a feat. In this day of Wall Street protestors and attacks on the rich, they've managed to turn the owners — rich tycoons all — into the good guys.'

  • Steve Politi of The Star-Ledger: "The mood in most NBA cities this week is a cross between funereal and outraged. But here in Brooklyn, which could very well be the next place the Nets play a game, it is something else entirely. Lockout, schmockout. 'Who wants a Teeeeeeee-shirt?!' That’s right, there was a T-shirt toss outside the steps of borough hall this afternoon. The Nets dancers were here, too, along with Sly the Fox mascot and a deejay blasting out music more suited for a Sweet 16 party. Yes, right smack in the middle of David Stern’s nuclear winter, the Nets threw themselves a celebration. They were unveiling their mobile 'Experience,' a special trailer that promises to sell tickets and make noise wherever it parks in the borough for the next few months. ... The Nets have said the right things about being disappointed over the work stoppage, but it’s hard not to watch them and think otherwise. They are one of five teams, according to Forbes.com, that would actually lose less money with no season. In the meantime, they can dedicate all their time to making inroads in Brooklyn without the pesky distraction of another 60 losses."

  • Rich Calder of the New York Post: "Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is crying foul over the Nets’ new marketing slogan. During a Nets event at Borough Hall yesterday, the bombastic Beep goofed on the Brooklyn-bound club’s 'Jersey strong. Brooklyn ready' campaign. Markowitz jokingly questioned why club officials would dare mention Brooklyn and New Jersey in the same breath, adding that basketball is one of the last things he thinks of relating to the Garden State. 'When I think of Jersey, I think of those beefsteak tomatoes,' said Markowitz, a key catalyst in getting the Nets to agree to move into the under-construction Barclays Center beginning Fall 2012. Nets officials later said the slogan was created strictly for the team’s final season at the Prudential Center in Newark — which is in danger of being cancelled because of the standoff between the NBA and its players association over a new collective bargaining agreement. Responding to Markowitz, Newark Mayor Cory Booker said he’s 'confident Newark will be home to another NBA team after the Nets' leave."