Giants WR Steve Smith and Fox NFL analyst Michael Strahan Thursday both suggested that if NFL players "have to miss paychecks, it will be difficult to keep their group together." Smith said, "I think it'll be tough once guys are losing game checks, losing actual money. I think that's when it's going to get tough and we'll see what guys are going to do." Strahan: "Financially, we all know that the owners can outlast the players. That could be one of the keys. The union is tight now, the players are in it together, but if it goes into the regular season and you start to miss some serious checks ... I think that's one of those interesting times. You'll see just how strong the players are and how much they'll be able to hold together." On Long Island, Tom Rock writes while players "may be unified now, the longer the lockout lasts, the more they're likely to start bickering and falling apart." Strahan added, "I would be afraid of Twitter. Guys say things on Twitter as if they're talking to their best friend" (NEWSDAY, 4/1).
WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS, STAYS IN VEGAS: The NHL Thursday announced that it will return to Las Vegas this year for its annual awards show. The '11 NHL Awards will be held at the Pearl Concert Theater inside The Palms Hotel, the third straight year the NHL has hosted the event at The Palms. The NHL Awards will be broadcast by Versus in the U.S. and by the CBC in Canada (NHL).
EMPIRE STATE OF MIND: CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger cited a source as saying that the NBA "plans to investigate contact" between Nets investor Jay-Z and members of the Univ. of Kentucky basketball team on Sunday after UK advanced to the Final Four. Jay-Z's visit was "documented in photos and videos showing him congratulating players in the Kentucky locker room," which would seem to be "comparable to Celtics GM Danny Ainge sitting with Kevin Durant's mother during the 2007 Big 12 tournament." The NBA fined Ainge $30,000 (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/29). In N.Y., Stefan Bondy notes "based on precedents, the expectation is the Nets will avoid serious punishment." It is "likely to be a slap on the wrist for the Nets and a warning to Jay-Z to not do it again." The NBA "may also take under consideration that Jay-Z has little to do with the Nets' basketball operations" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/1).
A THINKING MAN'S GAME: In Toronto, Doug Smith noted the NBA does not have a league-wide policy to deal with head injuries, but league officials "now say it's something that has to be addressed." NBA Senior VP/Basketball Communications Tim Frank said, "The NBA Team Physicians Society has been studying the issue of concussion management for several years and each team follows its own treatment and return-to-play protocols. In addition, the league is working with a consulting neurologist concerning the possible adoption of a league-wide protocol" (TORONTO STAR, 3/31).