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First Cup: Monday

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: As the NBA prepares to belatedly open team training camps Friday, there is one cautionary lockout tale that still resonates years later. Fans dread it could happen to a player on their favorite team. General managers worry it might be one of their guys. Dion Glover, the former Georgia Tech and Hawks guard who now trains local NBA players and prospects, warns his clients not to let it happen to them. “I think this is the time Shawn Kemp got big, and that pretty much hurt his career,” Glover said before owners and players reached a tentative agreement on a new labor deal. “It can happen.” Kemp was under contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers when the start of the 1998-99 season was delayed by a lockout. When he showed up in January to prepare for the 50-game season, Kemp weighed in excess of 300 pounds, some 60 more than the previous season. “He was really very honest about it,” Mike Fratello, the Cavs coach at the time, recently told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I said, ‘Shawn, how did this happen?’ He said, ‘Coach, I didn’t think we were coming back.’ "

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: In the past, Kevin Durant has blown off concerns about how a heavy workload affects his condition. He's always reasoned that he is a 20-something who just loves playing. The problem, though, is Durant has historically gotten off to slow starts. In 60 career November games, Durant has averages of 24.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 3.4 turnovers. He's shot 44.2 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from 3-point range in those games. Of those figures, his points, rebounds, field goal and 3-point percentage averages are his lowest of any full month, and his turnover average is his highest in any full month. Of course, those numbers could mean Durant is just getting his legs under him early on. But either way, that trend needs to change. Though it's much more important to play your best ball at the end of the year rather than the beginning, this lockout-shorted campaign will pose different challenges. In a compacted season that will feature a handful of three games in three nights, the Thunder needs Durant at his best with games mattering much sooner for playoff positioning.

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Come Monday, teams can advance their recruitment of free agents from talking only with their representatives to with the players themselves. This time, the Bulls come calling with only salary-cap exceptions, hoping the chance to play alongside Derrick Rose, in Chicago and for a title is attractive. Jason Richardson, Caron Butler,Nick Young, Josh Howard, Jamal Crawford and other targets from a long list already know of the Bulls' interest because talks with agents were allowed since Wednesday. That's why plans for visits — either inviting players to Chicago or going to see them — won't be as elaborate as last year. ... Kurt Thomas is a strong candidate to return for a veteran's minimum deal. The Bulls have indicated to some agents they will use the full midlevel exception. If that happens, picking up Keith Bogans' $1.73 million team option might be dicey. There are scenarios on the Bulls' board in which Bogans' salary fits into the structure and he is brought back, even in a reserve role. ... The Suns are widely expected to waive Vince Carter once the lockout officially ends. The veteran scorer could enter the picture as a fallback option if one of the Bulls' preferred targets doesn't work out.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Nick Young is a free agent for the first time in his career and may be forced to ponder leaving the only organization for which he has played. The Washington Wizards intend to retain him but realize that they will have competition from several teams, including Chicago, Denver, New Orleans, Sacramento and Phoenix, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. The Wizards, though, have the ultimate advantage because they can match any offer Young receives after tendering him a $3.7 million qualifying offer. NBA teams will have the opportunity to speak with players and make pitches to free agents starting at 10 a.m. on Monday and while Young does not have any face-to-face meetings scheduled, he is expected to speak with teams over the next few days. “Anybody loves interest and when somebody recognizes your game,” Young’s agent, Aaron Mintz, said in a telephone interview. “Obviously, he’s worked his whole life to get to this stage. It’s exciting for Nick, it’s exciting for his family and I think the interest is great. For Nick, being able to have options is nice. He wants to win. The good part of it is, with him being restricted, the Wizards can keep him.”

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: The Wolves could place Kevin Love in a newly created "designated player" category that would guarantee him a five-year extension -- one year longer than any other team could sign him starting next summer -- and a maximum salary contract that could surpass a $17 million average. "Am I worth the max?" he asked, repeating a reporter's question. "I'll let the front office answer that question." He provided more than a hint at how he assesses his value, however, when he spoke animatedly about a provision in the new labor agreement tentatively reached between owners and players. Already dubbed the "Derrick Rose Rule," it will reward overachieving rookies handsomely early in their careers. That rule will allow a team to sign a player still in his rookie contract to an extension worth 30 percent of his team's salary cap rather than 25 percent if he already has been an All-Star Game starter twice, made two postseason all-NBA teams or won an MVP award. Love seemed agitated -- albeit good-naturedly -- that sportswriters voting for postseason awards or fans voting for All-Star Game starters could make a difference. "I don't know how the owners got away with this. ... I just think they put that in there to tick people off," he said.

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: NBA teams are permitted to talk to free agents – in person or on the phone – starting Monday. There’s a possibility that former Purdue forward Carl Landry will talk with president Larry Bird and general manager David Morway on Monday or Tuesday. Guard Jamal Crawford is also expected to talk with the Pacers on Monday. The Pacers are in the running for veteran forward Shane Battier, according to NBA.com’s David Aldridge. Battier would be a solid backup for Danny Granger at small forward. It also means that Paul George would predominately play shooting guard. For those of you who ask about Josh McRoberts, the Pacers have had communication with his agent. It’s uncertain where McRoberts is on the pecking order of power forwards the Pacers are looking at. Memphis, New Orleans and the Lakers reportedly also have interest in J-Mac.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: The Rockets' pursuit of free-agent center Nene will move to a meeting Monday in Denver between the coveted center and Rockets coach Kevin McHale and general manager Daryl Morey, a person with knowledge of the meeting said on Sunday. Nene is considered the top free agent available and has indicated a desire to leave the Denver Nuggets after failing to reach an agreement on a contract extension before the lockout. The Rockets had tried to work a deal with the Nuggets to acquire Nene prior to last season's trade deadline. Morey has also been in talks with the representative of free-agent center Tyson Chandler. Morey had contacted the agents of DeAndre Jordan and Marc Gasol last week, but both are restricted free agents.

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Free agents can start talking to teams and taking physicals today, but Glen Davis is still in a holding pattern as he works out in Bradenton, Fla. For now, he doesn’t have any interviews or physicals on the docket. As a free agent he has the option of working out in Waltham, but has decided to maintain his distance until an agreement is reached, either with the Celtics or another team. “I’m getting a little crazy, being here by myself,” Davis said. “But by the end of the week somebody should be calling me and telling me to come to training camp.” He still hopes that team is the Celtics, though nothing is certain. “I wish I knew,” he said. “But I don’t know.”

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: The Knicks have until Friday to get their free agent priorities in order. That’s when training camp opens and the free agent signing period begins, so it behooves the Knicks to finalize their roster as quickly as possible, especially since they’ll open the NBA season at high noon on Christmas Day. The Knicks are fortunate that they have an owner, Garden chairman James Dolan, who isn’t intimidated by the luxury tax. However, the club wants to exercise fiscal responsibility and is looking to sign players to one-year deals.

  • Fred Kerber of the New York Post: The Nets, league sources maintain, have been among the most aggressive suitors for Nene. A power player is the Nets’ focus. They have made their calls to free-agent threes, including Tayshaun Prince, Andrei Kirilenko (whom owner Mikhail Prokhorov in 2007 tried to entice back to Russia from Utah), Grant Hill, Caron Butler (with knee injury reservations, but he is expected to meet with team brass this week, possibly Wednesday) and Boki Nachbar. The plan is to fill a power spot, then look for a starting three. The Nets could renounce Kris Humphries (and still re-sign him) to pick up $6 million in cap space, or amnesty Travis Outlaw to get $7 million. Guard Jamal Crawford reportedly will speak with the Nets today.

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: The agents for former Hornets power forwards David West, Carl Landry and Jason Smith both said Sunday that the team seems very interested in bringing all three players back for this season. However, Lance Young, who represents West, and Mark Bartelstein, the agent for Landry and Smith, said that their clients are in high demand throughout the league. NBA general managers, as well as coaches, reportedly can begin contacting players today in an attempt to recruit their services. The scheduled beginning of the compressed free-agency signing period is Friday. Bartelstein said Sunday that Hornets General Manager Dell Demps, who could not be reached for comment, also has inquired about two of Bartenstein’s other clients, shooting guards Shannon Brown of the Lakers and Nick Young of the Wizards."

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: The Clippers and free-agent forward Caron Butler will have a face-to-face meeting Monday at the team's Playa Vista training facility. "Yes, Caron is going to come and visit with the Clippers tomorrow," Butler's agent, Raymond Brothers, said in a phone interview Sunday night. ... The Clippers have about $13 million to spend wisely on a free agent because they are under the salary cap. Free-agent small forward Tayshaun Prince of the Detroit Pistons also is someone who interests the Clippers. "There's interest with Tayshaun in the Clippers, also," Prince's agent Bill Duffy said. "That's definitely the case." Duffy said he plans to talk with the Clippers "in the next few days" to see where things stand and to possibly set up a visit.