First Cup: Thursday

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "Playing their most complete game of the young season, the Cavs looked like a cohesive, deep and tough unit in dismantling the Orlando Magic, 102-93 Wednesday night. LeBron James picked up right where he left off last time the teams played, scoring a season-best 36 points with eight rebounds and four assists. But the rest was far from the same. The preface is this: It is early, the Magic were missing two of their key players including one of their stars in Rashard Lewis and Orlando was playing on the second night of a back-to-back while the Cavs had four days off. All of those factors impacted the game on some level. But here is the core of the night: The Cavs never played the Magic this effectively for more than a single quarter last season, the addition of Shaquille O'Neal instantly seemed to affect the matchup with Dwight Howard and the Cavs now have won five of their last six games as they continue to show development."

  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Dwight Howard should forget all this talk about old-school Superman versus new-school Superman, and instead focus on shredding his own personal Kryptonite: You can't be a superhero if you can't hang with humans. His team needs him on the court, not on the bench as the world's tallest cheerleader. That's not going to happen unless he stops complaining about all those big bodies banging on him so hard, starts playing smarter and avoids foul trouble. Check out his stats Wednesday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers: Eleven points on only three field-goal attempts, seven rebounds and five fouls ain't gonna cut it. Howard logged too much pine time early in the game, a fact that coincides with Orlando's 102-93 loss to the Cavaliers. Playing before a prime-time audience on ESPN, the Magic wilted under the bright lights. They were never in the game."

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: "The thought is tantalizing: The Heat's Dwyane Wade and Cleveland's LeBron James playing alongside each other as teammates. Wade said Wednesday 'it really could' happen, though he cautioned the odds are against it even though both can be unrestricted free agents next summer. If it did, it would be more likely to happen in Miami than in Cleveland -- because the Heat has the cap space to sign two maximum-salary free agents (Wade and another player) in 2010, and Cleveland could sign only one maximum-salary player unless it can dump multiyear contracts. 'It's something we've talked about, of course,' Wade said of playing together. 'No question, it's a long shot. He's put in position in Cleveland where he has the opportunity to compete for a championship now. I'm in Miami, where I've won a championship and this is where I love to be. So it's not like we're both looking over our shoulders saying we want to get out of here. So it's a long shot. But at the end of the day, it is a shot.' "

  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: "With his right hamstring tightening in the second half, he didn't drive. He ran the offense, trying to find holes in the Dallas zone. Jefferson, with 29 points, earned his salary. 'I don't want to miss any more games,' Manu Ginobili said, smiling. 'I'm a little paranoid.' This is the biggest part of the contract equation. If there were any guarantees that he would remain healthy, the Spurs would sign him today. This is a sticky negotiation for the Spurs, too. The Toronto game suggests Ginobili's package of skills remain, and a few moments against Dallas said the same. He put together back-to-back 3-pointers in the second quarter when the Spurs began to pull away. And at the end of the half, with Jason Kidd pressuring, his 3-pointer fell as the buzzer sounded. The Spurs know what this guy means to the franchise, and they know how the city would react if he leaves. Herb Rudoy seems to understand the leverage he will have. 'If Manu becomes a free agent,' he said, 'I will be getting phone calls on July 1. Of that I am certain.' The Spurs can sign him anytime until then. So now everyone waits, and the same player who squeezes through painful cracks to make plays, who gambled with his future in Beijing and who likes winning will remain the same player."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "The 9-for-27 shooting only tells part of the story. It was a rugged night all the way for Nowitzki -- and everybody else -- because of the Spurs' defense. But in the end, it still looked like the Mavericks were asking for too much from their star. ... It's like Jason Kidd said a week earlier when Nowitzki had 29 fourth-quarter points against Utah. If the Mavericks ask him to do that regularly, he'll be used up by Christmas. Nowitzki is willing to put it all on him. But when the Mavericks fall behind like they seem to every game, at some point, isn't all this other depth and talent supposed to kick in?"

  • Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times: "Jamal Crawford carries the N.B.A.’s scarlet letter as its longest tenured player without having played in the postseason. Spending a large chunk of your career with the Knicks will do that. The Knicks traded Crawford to the Golden State Warriors in a salary purge last season, and he was again jettisoned this summer, to Atlanta. 'My only regret is that I was here for the roughest times,' Crawford said, adding that the Knicks would have made the playoffs last year had they kept the roster intact. 'I just wanted to be here when things turned around.' "

  • Tom Enlund of the Journal Sentinel: "Through the first five games, the Bucks led the league in rebounds per game (47.6), were tied for first with 33.6 defensive rebounds per game and were second with 14.0 offensive rebounds per game. Does that mean that the Bucks have rebounded well or were missing a lot of shots? 'One of the things that that's helped us defensively is our offensive rebounding,' coach Scott Skiles said before Wednesday's game. 'We've been able to at least get some offensive rebounds on some of the bricks we've thrown up there and that helps your transition defense. If you look at all of our numbers ... No. 2 in points per game, third in field-goal percentage, second in most (forced) turnovers, first in D-boards ... all those things, they're great. But it's only been five games.' "

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "John Salmons' case is the most puzzling. So reliable down the stretch of last season and through the playoffs, the career 44.5 percent shooter is down to 30.6 this season. 'Just keep going to him,' coach Vinny Del Negro said. 'It's a long season. As long as he plays hard and gets after it defensively, he's too good a player not to make shots eventually. A couple of games ago, he had a big night for us. We need his scoring. His shot will come around and we need it to.' Asked if the slump is affecting him personally, Salmons, who is quite religious, paused. 'I mean, I'm human,' he said. 'It's not a good time. It's tough to deal with, shooting the way I'm shooting. Have to stay with it, keep working and keep focusing on my faith. That's the only way.' As for the shooting woes, point guard Derrick Rose said, 'We're taking good shots, they're just not going in.' "

  • Tom Power of the Pioneer Press: "One thing I wondered was why Al Jefferson wasn't flopping and drawing more offensive fouls. After all, he's working in practice with assistant coach Bill Laimbeer. And nobody could draw an offensive foul like Laimbeer when he played for the Detroit Pistons. Opposing players just had to enter Laimbeer's ZIP code and they'd get whistled for a charge. That's because Bill would be on the floor writhing. 'We're working with a lot of players on a lot of different things,' Rambis said, again missing the humor in the situation. My bad. I should have known better. There's nothing to laugh about right now. A couple of these younger guys eventually will understand the program. With luck, they'll stick around long enough to teach a few more guys. And on and on it will go until there is something in place here. Meanwhile, maybe it will be better to concentrate on the referees. They never leave the court."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Danny Granger made a point to walk by press row and say, 'Shooting slump? Yeah, right,' during the first half. The best way to get out of shooting funk, which Granger was in, is to get easy shots. That's what he did. Granger went from standing behind the 3-point early in the game to attacking the basket. The end result was 31 points on 12-of-24 shooting. He was also active in other areas. He grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds and blocked two shots. 'I tried to switch it up and take it to the goal,' Granger said. 'I got a lay up, hit a few midrange jump shots. I tried to stay away from a lot of 3-pointers.' "

  • Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe: "What sticks out most in the comparison between Jazz point guard Deron Williams and Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is their body type. Rondo is a slim, 6-foot-1-inch, 178-pounder, while Williams is 6-3, 203. And in a sense, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, Williams is a throwback to Rivers’s playing days. 'Everybody was big back then,’ Rivers said. 'And slow, for that matter. But now it’s a quickness thing. When you can get a big point guard with quickness and speed, that makes it tougher. That’s why Chauncey [ Billups] is so tough to guard and Deron. [Derrick] Rose is not as tall, but he’s powerful. It makes them all tough to guard. Magic Johnson was obviously his own breed, but Derek Harper, Rod Strickland, Kenny Smith, Nate McMillan, Alvin Robertson, and a young Gary Payton, all had size. The hand check was so important back then, and they’ve taken that away, and that’s basically what’s brought back the small guard and it’s probably a good thing. I kid with Rondo, there’s no way he could have played in our era. We would have beat the hell out of him.’ "

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "With Ty Lawson coming off the bench, and all-star Chauncey Billups running the point for major minutes, the Nuggets are dynamic at the point. It's as if the Nuggets are a football team with two styles of running backs. 'It's like the Cowboys,' said Kenyon Martin, a proud Dallas native. 'Chauncey is Marion Barber -- he's a finisher. We know in the fourth quarter, that's who he's going to be. He's going to get the tough stuff done for us. Hard- nosed. Ty is Felix Jones -- speedy guy, opens up the court, make plays in space. You have to game plan for it. You have to know that when Ty comes into the game, that he's pushing the ball up and down the court right at you. Your transition defense has to get better.' "

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: "Maybe this Anthony Randolph-playing-center thing has some legs. The second-year former forward had 17 points, a team-high 13 rebounds and two blocked shots against Indiana on Wednesday. Randolph is averaging 14.2 points and 7.8 rebounds since moving to center five games ago. In his two games at power forward, he averaged 10 points and 5.5 rebounds. 'With all the struggles he had at power forward, center is probably a natural position for him and he's doing very well there,' coach Don Nelson said. 'He'll make it possible, when he gets a little older, to do quite a few creative things through him because he can pass, drive and shoot that 16-footer. It's kind of exciting to watch him mature and grow.' "

  • Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star: "Excuse Toronto's basketball fans for their rare moment of raise-the-rafters ecstasy Wednesday night. No league championship was won. No division-winning banner was raised. But DeMar DeRozan, Toronto's rookie swingman, did jump and hang and throw down an actual, highlight-reel-worthy slam dunk at a key moment in a 99-89 win over the Chicago Bulls. And given how long it's been since the Air Canada Centre witnessed that kind of baseline-commanding statement from a high-flyer on the rise – given the Raptors' recent employment of rosters favouring jump shooters to the exclusion of high jumpers -- DeRozan might as well have brought home a world freaking title."

  • Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Deron Williams' day started on the sidelines at the Jazz's pregame shootaround, included a two-hour session with a local chiropractor and ended with a missile shot fired from his Twitter account. 'We got to change something bc [because] what we doing ain't working right now!' Williams wrote. 'Don't know what but something?????' If there was any positive from the Jazz's 19-point loss to the Celtics, it came with Williams emerging from the game unscathed."

  • Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times: "In 'The Art of a Beautiful Game,' published by Simon & Schuster this month, Chris Ballard devotes a chapter to the dunk and a passage to Jason Kapono’s career without one. But Kapono is hardly alone in the N.B.A. Every year, a handful of forwards and centers go the entire 82-game season without dunking for reasons that range from to restrictive offenses to aging bodies to a basic inability to jump very high. Danny Ferry, who is 6-10 and now the Cleveland Cavaliers’ general manager, did not dunk in at least the final six years of his career, starting in 1997-98, when the statistician Harvey Pollack started tracking such information. The former Knicks forward Charles Oakley, who is 6-8, went three seasons without one. Last season, the Clippers’ 6-10 Steve Novak, New Orleans’s 6-7 Morris Peterson and San Antonio’s 6-10 Fabricio Oberto and 6-9 Kurt Thomas did not dunk, according to Pollack."