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First Cup: Friday

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "With the goal of trying to save an NBA season that would start on Christmas Day, representatives for the league and its locked-out players will meet today to resume negotiations that secretly began Monday. Whenever a deal is struck, Grizzlies free agent forward Shane Battier is convinced that both sides share blame for the league's work stoppage. 'It's disappointing on all sides,' Battier told USA Today this week. 'When we look back at this, there's blood on everybody's hands. I don't think there's one group to blame. In the information age we live in, the communication is the issue which I think is ironic. Communications between owners and players, players and players, owners and owners. I believe there could've been clearer channels of communication to cut off some of the miscommunications that seem to occur. ... Both sides were dealing with things that could've been addressed earlier in the process, but there's a whole new set of rules with the litigation.' "

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Unlike during the 1998-'99 season, Sam Perkins believes this year's group of NBA players are more together than the crew from 13 years ago. Now an assistant coach with the NBA Development League's Texas Legends, the 50-year old Perkins averaged 11.9 points and 6.0 rebounds during a 17-year career that ended in 2001. He also won an NCAA title at North Carolina in 1982, and was the co-captain of the 1984 USA Olympic gold-medal winning squad. Perkins shared his opinions with on several topics, including the NBA lockout, which has put the season in jeopardy. (Q): You were involved in the NBA lockout during the 1998-'99 season. What do you think is the difference in that lockout and this year's lockout? (A): I think it's now in the hands of the players, because they stood firm and collectively as opposed to '99, where agents were involved and we separated a little bit. So we had disparity in some cases. But I think this year you don't have that. So you have a lot of guys inclined to stick together."

  • Deron Snyder of the Washington Times: "The NBA lockout is hurting a lot of 'little people' right now, from ushers and vendors to bartenders and waiters to bellhops and drivers. But if the labor dispute continues much longer, some tall people might be hurting, too. It could happen next week when the 'Homecoming Tour' tips off in Akron, Ohio. Or during the 'Obama Classic' on Dec. 12.Or another of the myriad charity/exhibition/pickup games NBA players have staged since summer. I’m concerned about some participants in the fundraiser for President Obama’s re-election campaign. Among the confirmed players are Magic Johnson, Doc Rivers, Patrick Ewing and Dikembe Mutombo. Maybe they’ve forgotten, but the NBA used to stage an old-timers game during All-Star weekend. It’s no longer part of the festivities (replaced by the Rookie Challenge) and for good reason: Retired All-Stars David Thompson and Norm Nixon suffered major injuries during the 1992 Legends Classic, a ruptured patella tendon and a ruptured quadricep tendon, respectively. Thompson at 37 and Nixon at 36 were the youngest players in the game. The aforementioned geriatrics will be the oldest players in Obama’s fundraiser. ... The threat of injury goes hand-in-hand with another reason these games are risky propositions for the players. Watching too much freestyle basketball dulls the fans’ senses and makes the games dull. There’s a limit on our tolerance for get-out-the-way defense, streetball dribbling tricks, unstructured play and monotonous one-on-ones. We can only take it in small doses, specifically, once a year each February. But if every game is like the All-Star Game, no thanks."

  • Wendell Maxey for The Oregonian: "It's been seven months since the 6-foot-8 Batum departed Portland for France after a season in which he averaged a career best 12.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. While the NBA lockout jeopardizes the 2011-12 regular season and Batum's return to the Rose Garden, he's undergone a transformation beyond what his 22-years shows. It began in September playing with the French National team at the 2011 European Championships in Lithuania. It continues today where Batum stars for reigning French League champion SLUC Nancy, which also competes in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague. No longer is Batum the 20-year old shy kid who arrived in Portland in 2008 as the 25th overall selection in the NBA Draft. He has matured from a boy to a man and into a team leader for Nancy. 'I grew up,' Batum said when asked how he's changed since last season in Portland, his words reverberating with confidence. 'People have shown me respect -- the coaches, the players, the refs. I've gone through some great experiences this summer with the national team and now here. When the game is on the line I want the ball. The game is in my hands. That is very good for me. This is different because this is my team.' ... Batum may have grown up on and off the court the last few months in France, but Portland is never far from his mind, or his game. In a matter of seconds, Batum jogs down the hall and into the locker room and retrieves one of his size 16 red and white adidas basketball shoes. There it is -- the Blazers pinwheel logo screen printed onto the shoes' tongue with 'Batman 15' scrolled on the side. 'I don't forget,' Batum said with a smile. 'I don't forget Portland.' "

  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: "John Stockton drives left, hurriedly pulls up while the clock races downward and drills a 3-pointer with no time remaining to send the Jazz to their first-ever NBA Finals. Jerry Sloan rushes the court like a madman, waving his arms and beaming as he races along the hardwood. Karl Malone delivers, time after time after time. Thanks to the magic of television, the Jazz have been one of the premier teams in the league during the 147-day lockout. While modern stars such as LeBron James have become faceless during the work stoppage, relegated to random charity exhibition games and promotional appearances, the NBA has lived through its storied past. Some say the best way to live life is not to look back. But that’s often all the lockout-out league has been able to do, as days have turned into months and a work stoppage that began July 1 pushes toward December."

  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: "Like many professional athletes, coaches and executives, Jay Triano quietly gives back to his community. The former Raptors head coach, now the special assistant to GM Bryan Colangelo, was recognized recently for his good work. Triano was given the first Humanitarian of the Year Award by the Angel Foundation for Learning, which has worked for the past 25 years to assist underprivileged students in the Toronto Catholic District school system. Triano told QMI Agency he had good mentors growing up and likes to help out where he can. 'It goes back to (his friend) Terry Fox, he tried to make a difference,' Triano said."