First Cup: Friday

  • Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe: "Big Baby got into a fight with a friend at 4 a.m., broke his thumb, and won’t be able to play until at least December. He is young and foolish and he hurt the team. The Celtics owners are mad at him. Fans are mad at him. It’s not a good situation. But let’s not throw Big Baby out with the bathwater. This stuff is as old as dirt. Young athletes have been doing goofy things at odd hours since before the days of the original Big Baby, George Herman Ruth. It even happened to Larry Bird. That’s right. Larry Bird. On the night of May 16, 1985, in the middle of the Eastern Conference finals between the Celtics and Sixers, Bird was involved in a scuffle that started at a now-defunct bar called Chelsea’s and spilled out to the corner of State Street and Merchant’s Row. After the altercation, Mike Harlow, a bartender/former Colgate football player, claimed he was sucker-punched by Bird. Nick Harris, a man who was with Bird and Quinn Buckner on the night of the incident, was treated at Massachusetts General Hospital’s emergency room that night. There was a lawsuit and a settlement. The Celtics told Bird to stay away from Harris. None of the parties ever talked about it. Ever."

  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: "To me, the highlight of Thursday’s season-opening win over San Antonio was the post-game hug between Brad Miller and TNT analyst Cheryl Miller in the Bulls’ locker room. I’m sure there’s an explanation beyond the last name they share. There really isn’t much need to dissect the 92-85 victory. The Bulls showed nice balance and played good defense – the same positive trends from preseason. Luol Deng (17 points, 9 rebounds) looked very much like his old self, while Derrick Rose (13 points, 7 assists, 7 rebounds) showed that his ankle problem should be history."

  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: "It's obvious that Courtney Lee was not an easy guy to say goodbye to as the Magic retooled their roster for this season. Count owner Rich DeVos among those with serious reservations about giving him up in the deal for Vince Carter. 'Courtney Lee was a tough conversation,' Magic GM Otis Smith said. 'And I equally agreed I didn’t want to give him up either. But we had an opportunity to improve our team.' FInally, as Smith's insistence, DeVos signed off on the deal. Like most people in the Magic organization, I agree that it's tough to let such a great prospect go. But Carter is a proven commodity. I think it will turn out to be a good move for the Magic."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "There are plenty of theories and potential targets of why the Cavaliers have struggled in the first two games of the season, but there is clarity on one issue. The Cavs miss Delonte West. Having a player out of action is a regular occurrence with any basketball team and West, who has missed all 10 games the Cavs have played this season including the preseason, missed 18 games last season with injury. In fact, if you go to West's bio page on NBA.com, he's listed as being injured though technically he's on the Cavs inactive list for personal reasons. But the loss of West seems to be taking a toll on the Cavs that is greater than if he was sidelined with a sprained ankle. He's practicing with them, he's traveling with them, he's warming up with them. Then he disappears into the locker room and the Cavs struggle on the floor in areas where he could certainly help."

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: "In a recent interview, Dallas owner Mark Cuban suggested that Ron Artest joining the Lakers could become an issue. The two will see each other tonight for the first time since Cuban's comments. 'I think he'll add some character to that team,' Cuban said in his recent interview. 'Whether it'll be positive or negative will be interesting to see.' Phil Jackson stood up for Artest. 'I like a lot of Mark's comments. He's done a lot for the league, he's done a lot for that franchise,' Jackson said. 'But when he attacks players, that does get to your family and you just don't want to have him talk about your family.' "

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: "Heat center Jermaine O'Neal isn't ready to declare himself back to his dominant form, but his performance in the regular-season opener proved he's on his way."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Chuck Hayes' duties as a Rockets co-captain along with Shane Battier have been limited. He had to answer a question about being a captain. 'I'm a captain?' he said. 'I didn't know I was. That's news to me. Wow. I can't remember the last time I was a captain. I guess as far as the captain is concerned, I'm more of the Robin to Shane's Batman.' There was, apparently, no ceremony. There was no vote. There will be no ‘C' stitched onto uniforms, hockey style. For Hayes, there is not even a pregame chat with officials. That falls to Battier. 'Shane does that, and I get the layups ready,' Hayes, 26, said. 'I guess I'll second whatever he says. I'll let my voice be heard, but I don't know how to take it. I guess I'll be more vocal.' Battier, 31, was nearly as unsure how to view the honor. 'I think my captaincy is by default,' Battier said. 'We (he and Hayes) have been here the longest, so I think they thought we'd do it.' But with that, rookie Chase Budinger could stay silent no longer. With the candor of youth, Budinger, 21 and a particular subject of Battier's leadership, jumped in. 'See now, he's just being humble,' Budinger said. 'He deserves to be captain.' "

  • Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News: "Ben Gordon can score. That's indisputable. The Pistons needed more scoring and less nonsense, also indisputable. So Gordon is here with a five-year, $55 million deal, asked to fill the role Allen Iverson rejected, to stand out and fit in at the same time. He doesn't start, although he might in the home opener tonight against Oklahoma City because Richard Hamilton has a sprained right ankle. In the three-guard rotation with Hamilton and Rodney Stuckey, new coach John Kuester considers Gordon a de-factor starter anyhow. And here's one way you already can tell these Pistons are different: Gordon doesn't mind. 'I'm a basketball player, and I might not get you in the beginning, but I'm gonna get you at the end,' he said Thursday. 'It really doesn't matter if I'm out there from the start. It's never gonna affect the way I approach the game.' "

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "Welcome back to another season of Mavericks newsletters. And another season of basketball, too. Personally, I think they play the games simply to give us a reason to have a newsletter and get all these juicy questions about what's wrong with the Mavs. But before we get to the weekend and an 0-3 team (oops, did I write that out loud?), let me stress that you folks should not overreact to a crummy start to the season. Hey, everybody wants to start out 9-0. But reality intervenes. Last season, the Mavericks began 0-4 at home and 2-7 overall. They finished 50-32. They'd rather not put themselves in a similar hole this season, but if it happens, it's not the end of the season."

  • Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star: "The cautious optimism emanating from Raptorland is not misplaced. Last year, you'll remember, the Raptors got off to a 3-0 win-loss record and won all of 30 more games in the remaining 79. And as great as Bargnani played in putting up 28 points on 11-for-15 shooting Wednesday – and the beauty was in the many ways in which he scored, by slashing and jump-shooting and posting up – he did have his traditional dalliance with foul trouble. Still, Bargnani, who turned 24 on Monday, displayed a patience and an ease that seemed revelatory, albeit anecdotal. What's different this year? Don't discount the importance of the presence of countrymen Marco Belinelli, the guard who was acquired in the off-season and who had the option on his contract extended by the Raptors through the 2010-11 season on Thursday, and Francesco Cuzzolin, Toronto's new-this-year strength and conditioning coach, who has worked with Bargnani since the player's early days with Italy's Benetton Treviso club."

  • Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The numbers stayed on the dry-erase board in the Hawks' locker room for three full days as a reminder. Last season's home record (31-10) was written in bold across the top with the road record just as bold right below it (16-25). Hawks coach Mike Woodson wanted to make sure his players understand that while the top batch of numbers are fine and the bottom batch need serious work, there's no room for slippage on either side. It turns out it wasn’t a necessary motivational tool. His players already had such things on their minds. 'Don't think we haven’t gone back and detailed the games we should have won but didn't,' Hawks captain Joe Johnson said. 'That's just human nature. At the end of a season you're going to go back and examine things and figure out your strengths and weaknesses. We were [dang] good at home, and we were sketchy at best away from home.' "

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "In Nathan Jawai's native Australia, he has been dubbed 'Baby Shaq' simply because, like Shaquille O'Neal, he's a big fella: Approaching 6-10 and probably 300 pounds. On these shores, that has been modified to the Australian Shaq. 'Or Outback Shaq,' teammate Ryan Gomes said. 'I've heard that one, too.' Just don't call him any of those things to his face. 'Don't call me that name again,' Jawai said Thursday as the undefeated Wolves (1-0) prepared for the winless Cavaliers (0-2). 'I hate that name. That's not my name. That guy is a future Hall of Famer, so why compare me to him? I don't know, people in Australia started calling me that. We don't have similar games. He's more of a scorer. He's a dominant force.' O'Neal also is at least three inches taller and a good 40 pounds heavier or more. 'Go ask him yourself,' Jawai said when asked how much height and weight he might give up against O'Neal. 'I'm big, but I'm not even as big as him. I've stood next to him. I'm not his size. We have different games. People who know basketball know we're totally different.' "

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "The Pacers were being manhandled on the boards when Danny Granger approached a teammate, whom he wants to keep anonymous, grabbed him by the jersey and told him that he had to do a better job boxing out. 'That was really the first time that I had done anything like that,' Granger said. 'But something had to be said. It's difficult to do something like that, especially since I'm the quiet type.' It's going to take moments like that from Granger because the Pacers have a relatively young roster. Feelings might be momentarily hurt, but the point must be made. '(Leadership) doesn't just mean being the best player or most vocal person or loudest voice on the team," Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. "It also means knowing what to say, how to say it to certain guys and when to say it. It's something I had to grow into until it was my time.' "

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "The Portland faithful painfully climbed the Rose Garden stairs, a few folks occasionally peered down at the court, as if maybe, just maybe, it didn't actually happen. But it did -- down one point to Denver with 4.6 seconds left, Greg Oden missed two free throws, and the Nuggets proceeded to win Thursday's thriller, 97-94. It's not even November, and the Nuggets have notched what could be the biggest win of the season. Consider this: It was against arguably Denver's toughest division foe. It was the second game of a back-to-back, after the Nuggets arrived at their Portland hotel at 4 a.m. Denver played without suspended sharpshooter J.R. Smith. And it was a road win at the thunderous and thorny Rose Garden. Things are getting real fun, real fast. 'I told them after the game, 'You have an amazing way of figuring out how to win games,' ' Nuggets coach George Karl said."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "In AmarĂ© Stoudemire's past two visits to play the Clippers in Los Angeles, he has posted a 42-point game in February and a 16-point effort Wednesday. He made one perimeter shot to score 42 in February. He did not make a shot in the lane in Wednesday's 109-107 Suns win. In between, there were three eye surgeries and weeks of inactivity to put him in search of his swagger. ... 'He's not where he wants to be or where we think he'll get but we think he'll get there,' coach Alvin Gentry said. 'His timing is still a little bit off.' ... 'Everyone knows that we've seen AmarĂ© look much more dominant physically,' Steve Nash said. 'But I would expect him to be somewhat less than his best after the layoff he had and after facing all the injuries he has throughout his career, in particular, the latest one with his eye. We have to be patient with him. All things considered, he's doing fantastic.' "