First Cup: Monday

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "By now, the video has flown around the world, which is more than can be said of one of its stars. The bat that Spurs guard Manu Ginobili swatted from midair during Saturday's game at the AT&T Center won't be flying very far anytime soon. The supposed snuff film, however, lives on. Yahoo.com's NBA blog had the video up within minutes. Web surfers from Buenos Aires to Beijing have downloaded the clip on YouTube. Ginobili's random act of pest control was the talk of the national highlight shows. 'When you can't dunk anymore, you've got to find some way to make it to the news,' Ginobili said. In a bizarre turn of events, Ginobili -- one of the NBA's top trick-shot artists -- has re-emerged as an Internet sensation, not for his basketball chops, but for his extermination skills. ... Perhaps bracing for the inevitable PETA protest, Ginobili swears he didn't mean to kill the bat, and doesn't think he did. He said afterward the bat was still moving when he scooped it up. 'I just stunned him,' Ginobili said. Reports conflict as to the ultimate fate of the bat. Saturday night, multiple arena sources confirmed the animal's demise. Sunday afternoon, team officials reported the bat had actually recovered and flown away."

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "Gino’s Disco Garbagetime was cancelled last night due to an opponent with a little game. Yes, the Celtics had to exude some fourth quarter sweat before winning their fourth straight game with last night’s 97-87 decision over the Hornets. The duel between Rajon Rondo and New Orleans counterpart Chris Paul lived up to the anticipation. Both players even had to be separated during a second quarter beef that led to a long string of trash talk. Rondo went into double figures in assists for the second straight game, this time with 10, and now has 26 dimes over the last two games. Paul had 22 points, eight assists and what appeared to be a lot of relish when it came to attacking Rondo. But Doc Rivers was not thrilled by the sideshow. The Celtics coach felt that, for the first time, his team took the eye off the ball, and the dust-up may have merely been the most noticeable example. 'I told our guys that so far this year we’ve done a great job each game of building and improving, but this was not one of those nights,' said Rivers. 'It was good to get the win, but we absolutely didn’t improve tonight. We’re going to have nights like that, but we’re better than this.' "

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Dwyane Wade thanked Heat fans in a brief pregame speech and later dissed the United Center rims, so he's staying in South Florida for sure, right? Such silly speculation will exist until July 1, when Wade will become an unrestricted free agent. 'That's a long way away,' Wade said. 'When we get there, we'll see. Right now, I'm focused on my team and getting better here in Miami.' Wade has faced media from New York and Chicago -- two teams with projected salary cap space next summer -- and, at least on Sunday, clearly is having fun with the situation. 'I really don't love the rims there,' Wade said of the United Center. 'But I've had some good games there too.' Wade said he's oblivious to any buzz for him to return home, which reached a new level of speculative absurdity when he purchased a town house in the River West neighborhood over the summer. 'Didn't even get that memo,' he said."

  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "We all hear the sob stories about professional athletes feeling disrespected and, frankly, they're almost all repetitive and boring and, most of the time, wildly exaggerated. Udonis Haslem's story isn't much different. It's just a tad more obvious. Haslem is the only remaining Heat player other than Dwyane Wade to actually have contributed to the 2006 championship team. He's the hometown product, the underdog story, the ultimate teammate. And entering the final year of his current contract -- a year after which many assume his time in Miami will be over because the Heat is expected to throw max dollars at the premier players next summer -- Haslem is asked to come off the bench so his successor at the position, Michael Beasley, can develop. It looked like multiple slaps to the face of one of this franchise's most beloved figures. Leave it to Haslem to turn that into positive -- for him and for his team. Three games into this season, which has begun 3-0 following Sunday's 95-87 win against Chicago, Haslem has looked more effective than ever."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "The Bucks are now facing a Monday deadline on whether to extend forward Joe Alexander's contract, after the NBA extended the time period for teams pondering whether to exercise options on rookie-scale deals. The original deadline was Oct. 31. If the Bucks don't pick up the $2.76 million option for the 2010-'11 season, it's an admisssion that something went wrong when they drafted Alexander with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2008 draft. Players picked that high are expected to be regular contributors, and general manager John Hammond said as much at the end of last season. After a disappointing rookie season, Alexander worked hard during the summer to try to put himself in position to challenge for regular playing time in his second year. But he suffered a strained right hamstring during an informal workout in late September, just before training camp opened. He missed all of camp and every preseason game, and aggravated the injury while testing his readiness in October. Now he is not expected back until some time in December at the earliest."

  • Tom Knott of The Washington Times: "This is the Gilbert Arenas the Wizards have been waiting on the past two seasons. This is the Arenas who is justifying the $111 million contract that he was awarded in the summer of 2008. This is the Arenas who makes all the pieces around seem so much more capable than they otherwise would be. This is what it means to have a healthy franchise player. When all else fails around him, with the shot clock ticking down, the franchise player can manufacture a shot and make good on a shabby possession. That 19-win team is now a distant memory, gone forever. The Wizards may not put together the kind of season they want, but they now can imagine all the wonderful possibilities. That is what the presence of Arenas means to the team. It is not just about his impressive numbers, essential though they are. It also is about the emotional lift that only he can provide to the team."

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "Nobody is ready to declare Greg Oden a leader yet. Not after one game. But what transpired here Sunday could be the start of the season's most important development. It could be when Greg Oden came out of his shell. When he became a little nasty. Very much intimidating. And an immensely powerful force on this team. It was so startling, so different, that Roy and Travis Outlaw were taking turns imitating Oden's deep growls at teammates during the game. 'TRAV! KEEP PLAYING! COME ON!' Outlaw said, mustering all the baritone he could from his stomach. 'MAKE YOUR FREE THROWS; LET'S GO!' Roy said, his voice deep and gravelly. It started before the opening tip. Oden went separately to Steve Blake and Roy, reminding them of last year's 102-93 loss here in a game that was out of hand by halftime. Then as the team took the court for the opening tip, he extended his hand into the chest of LaMarcus Aldridge to stop the Blazers power forward. He spoke closely to Aldridge, demonstratively pointing his finger at the court, at one point saying 'We can't have it!' "

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: "Tossing the ball through the hoop from every corner of Oklahoma County seems to come natural for Kevin Durant, but Sunday night he couldn’t have hit a Del Rancho chicken fry if you’d have spotted him the gravy. 'It got to the point where I would shoot the ball, it would look like it was going in and bounce right out,' Durant said. 'Seven or eight times in a row. Never happened to me before.' Never? 'Nope,' he said. Not on the D.C. playgrounds or in Austin pickup games or in that rookie season in faraway Seattle? 'Nope.' Believe him. That’s a Cleveland Browns quarterback percentage, 14.3 percent. That’s an A-Rod World Series."

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Only three regular-season games into his return from February knee surgery, center Al Jefferson isn't back to the player Timberwolves fans recognize from the past two seasons. But if Sunday's 120-112 loss at Phoenix is indicative, he's getting there. The game at U.S. Airways Center matched him against Suns forward Amare Stoudemire, another star searching his way back from season-ending injury a year ago. Jefferson showed visions of his old self early on, and Stoudemire did so late on a night when the Suns used three three-pointers in a 9-0 third-quarter run to remain unbeaten in their first three games. Jefferson made five of eight shots in the first quarter, one of eight in the second, none of three in the third and three of four in the fourth to finish with 21 points and eight rebounds, statistics far closer to his season average last year than either of his first two games. 'Same shots I'd been getting the first two games,' Jefferson said."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "After giving himself a pep talk following the frustration in Toronto, Mo Williams started playing more on feel and aggression. It resulted in two strong games that helped the Cavs right the ship. In the two victories, he made 15 of 29 shots and averaged 22 points. That included his 24 points in the victory over the Bobcats on Saturday. Working with LeBron James, the two went back to their roots from last season when they would often operate in an unscripted two-man game, slipping into floor space created by the other's movements. James assisted on three of Williams' five 3-pointers against the Bobcats, a night after they each scored more than 20 points setting each other up against the Wolves. 'We've played a lot of games together now,' Williams said. 'We're getting better and better and acclimated and we can read each other. We can do things without talking, it is a bond. You can't explain things like that, you just have to play together and have confidence in each other.' That bond and Williams' personal creativity might have to carry the team offensively for a while. The Cavs are still struggling with how to effectively play with Shaquille O'Neal, where the pressure often falls to Williams and James to set up the offense and get O'Neal the ball in the right positions."

  • Anthony Cotton of The Denver Post: "How does it happen? One day you're a beloved, iconic figure, playing in a city where you were once the star of stars in the NBA All-Star Game, literally the answer to a team's basketball and box-office woes. The next day you're shipped to a place where the whispers began almost as soon as you got off the plane. Where you weren't an exclamation point, but rather a question mark — with things deteriorating to the point that, at playoff time, you're simply asked to just go away. And now, exactly a year later, you're thisclose to being one of the most cringe- worthy phrases in sports — a journeyman — perhaps even lucky to land a deal in Memphis, expected to be one of the most cringe-worthy teams in the league. Allen Iverson, this is your life. 'I didn't expect this, but then again I never had let my guard down either,' Iverson said early Sunday afternoon. 'I understood that it could happen because it had already happened before. Leaving Philadelphia was something that I never thought could happen, but when that happened (Iverson was traded to Denver in 2006 after more than 10 years with the 76ers), I've always thought that anything could happen, so I always prepared myself for the worst.' "

  • Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: "Funny thing about the NBA: Sometimes players are labeled or forgotten because of where they play and how they're used. Put them in the right situation, and they flourish. Channing Frye is just that sort of player. Where other teams might have seen an undersized big man, the Suns saw a player who can spread the court with his perimeter shooting. He's exactly the opposite of Shaquille O'Neal - which is exactly why he's the perfect fit for this team."

  • Melissa Rohlin of the Los Angeles Times: "Popular video games such as Electronic Arts' NBA Live and Visual Concept's NBA2K9 are getting closer to reproducing the actual speed of the sport, with more realistic moves and updated rosters of the 30 NBA teams. The games, with their newest versions in release, are updated online so that if a player is injured in real life, he will be benched on the video roster within hours. Not surprisingly, some Generation Y NBA players use the video games as a tool to enhance their real-life basketball skills. Mike Conley, 22, said that when he started watching himself in NBA video games, he noticed that his virtual player had a lot more stamina. 'My person never gets tired,' Conley said. 'It made me want to be in better shape. I started working even more on my conditioning. I'd stay after practice and run an extra couple of suicides [sprint drills] or laps. It helped me be in better shape.' "

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: "Add Pistons forward Chris Wilcox to the group of players who have cut off their cornrows in favor of a shorter cut. Wilcox, who rocked the cornrows since his days at Maryland, joined Carmelo Anthony, Ricky Davis, Allen Iverson (briefly), Jermaine O’Neal, and Richard Hamilton as players who have opted for the fade haircut. Denver’s Nene is among those sticking with the hairstyle."

  • Raveena Aulakh of the Toronto Star: "Raptors Nation is getting vada – and that's a good thing. After the success of Punjabi Hockey Night in Canada, announcers Parminder Singh and Harnarayan Singh will now call Raptors games in the language of north India. (Vada means bigger in Punjabi.) 'I think this was natural,' says Parminder. 'We did one Raptors game in March and the response was terrific. It was even picked up for broadcast in California.' Starting Nov. 22, the two will call Raptors games televised Sunday on CBC. As with hockey, they'll air on Rogers, Bell and Shaw cable channels across the country."