<
>

First Cup: Monday

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "This was why Trevor Ariza came to Houston, for nights like these. It was not that he wanted to beat the Lakers, though he seemed to enjoy that as much as a very classy pregame ceremony in which Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher gave him his championship ring and the Staples Center crowd gave him a standing ovation. It was the way the Rockets played, the way they battled and competed, that drew him to them when the glamour teams had recruited him after the Lakers chose Ron Artest instead. Artest played well on Sunday and with the exception of some strong defensive turns on Kobe Bryant, Ariza did not. But before the game, when Ariza was describing the Rockets to the gangs of L.A. media that circled him, he nailed it. 'I definitely think so,' Ariza said when asked if the Rockets will be a playoff team. 'We play hard, compete every night. Our heart and determination and will to win pretty much makes up for what we lack.' "

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "To put the Heat's reliance on Dwyane Wade in perspective, consider that he is averaging 16.1 more points than the team's second-leading scorer, center Jermaine O'Neal. Of the league's top-five scorers, no one else faces such a huge disparity. Kobe Bryant, who leads the NBA with a 31.4 average, averages 10.7 more points than Lakers' No. 2 scorer Andrew Bynum. Beyond that, Carmelo Anthony, the league's second-leading scorer at 29.7 points per game, has an 11.7-point lead over Nuggets second-leading scorer Chauncey Billups. Following Wade's No. 3 standing among the league leaders, Chris Bosh is at No. 4 at 28 points per game, just 8.4 more than second-leading Raptors scorer Andrea Bargnani. And No. 5 overall scorer LeBron James, at 27.5 points per game, is 9.1 points better than No. 2 Cavaliers scorer Mo Williams. It is among the reasons why Wade twice over the past 11 days, including Saturday, has been called upon to play the entire second half."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "One thing stood out on Brandon Jennings' remarkable 55-point night. The Milwaukee Bucks' 20-year-old rookie truly wasn't being selfish while taking 34 shots in a wide-open game with the Golden State Warriors. He was just doing what his coach and teammates wanted him to do in an effort to hold off the red-hot Warriors, who shot 56% but still were on the wrong end of a 129-125 score Saturday night. The Bucks were missing shooting guard Michael Redd, still out with a knee injury. And center Andrew Bogut had to sit out late in the game because Golden State was playing 6-foot-6 Corey Maggette at the center position, causing severe matchup problems. So who were the Bucks going to call? Who else but Jennings, the 10th pick in the draft and already a leading candidate for the league's rookie of the year award."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings is at the top of the list, without question. Ty Lawson, however, is playing himself into any conversation there may be going forward in the race for NBA Rookie of the Year. And yes, the small-in-stature, large-in-heart Nuggets’ point guard has thought about it some. 'I’m a rookie, of course I want to be rookie of the year,' Lawson said. 'But right now I’m focused on the team. We’ve got big things we can do right now, so I’m focused on the team.' At 10.3 points per game, Lawson is tied for fourth in scoring among rookies with his former North Carolina teammate Tyler Hansbrough -- although Hansbrough has only played in three games."

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Timberwolves followers already all too familiar with their team's draft history certainly couldn't have missed Milwaukee rookie guard Brandon Jennings' 55-point performance Saturday night, the most points scored by an NBA rookie since Earl Monroe scored 56 in a game 41 years ago. Wolves rookie Jonny Flynn might have noticed, too. Jennings has flourished in the freedom allowed by Bucks coach Scott Skiles' point-guard-oriented offense. With No. 1 overall pick Blake Griffin sidelined so far with the Los Angeles Clippers, Jennings has established himself as the early frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, and not just because he didn't score a point in the first quarter Saturday against Golden State ... and still scored 55. Flynn, meanwhile, has labored to adapt to Kurt Rambis' firm guidance and complex system based on the passing triangle offense. ... Rambis says it's unfair to compare the two players selected four slots apart -- Flynn sixth overall, Jennings 10th -- in last summer's draft because Jennings 'has a lot more freedom than Jonny has' and because 'I'm asking Jonny to do a lot more things.' "

  • Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun: "Where Amazing Happens is the catch-phrase the NBA has embraced the past few years. As a kid growing up in Compton, Calif., Raptors rookie DeMar DeRozan saw plenty of amazing feats produced by Brandon Jennings, who posted the season's most eye-popping moment by going off for 55 points in Milwaukee's win over Golden State on Saturday. 'When I was told what Brandon did, I wasn't surprised,' DeRozan said. 'He's capable of doing that easily.' DeRozan and Jennings were on the same youth team in Grade 6. They each came into the NBA this past June. 'I've seen him do a lot of amazing things,' DeRozan said. 'I remember one game where he had 27 assists. For him to score 55 points, that's just Brandon.' "

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Remember when Derrick Rose drew the headlines for wreaking havoc with a record set by Lew Alcindor? Rose's scintillating performance in Game 1 of the Bulls' first-round playoff series against Boston last April, in which he scored 36 points to tie Alcindor's 39-year-old record for scoring in a rookie playoff debut, is a distant, if pleasant, memory. The fresher memories are from Saturday night, when Rose posted his second seven-turnover game of the young season and Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings smashed Alcindor's 40-year-old franchise mark for rookie scoring by dropping 55 points on the Warriors. Currently, Jennings is getting the national love reserved for Rose last season. Closer to home, the Bulls are still trying to get Rose back on track. 'Three or four of his turnovers were plays he usually makes,' coach Vinny Del Negro said. 'We'll continually work with him on that stuff. He threw this one pass over the top on this pick-and-roll and we've been working with him to step through. Those floating passes get picked off. We can't have that many turnovers.' "

  • Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News: "Ben Gordon's final stat line: five points on 1-for-16 shooting, 0-for-6 from 3-point range, and 3-for-6 from the foul line. 'I had a good look. I just wasn't able to knock it down,' Gordon said of the potential tying shot. 'I just wasn't able to knock any down. My team was confident in me and they got me some decent looks. I just wasn't able to convert. They (shots) didn't feel good and didn't look good. You have games like that every once in a while.' Despite Gordon's struggles, coach John Kuester drew the final play to go to Gordon. 'Are you kidding me? I wanted him to have the last shot,' Kuester said. 'I have the utmost respect and confidence in Ben Gordon. He said he felt good and he had some great looks. All the shots he took, I was fine with.' "

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: "Kevin Durant was having one of those nights when he seemed capable of drop-kicking the ball through the hoop. Durant scored 19 points in the third quarter, when he went 6-of-7 from the field and 6-of-6 from the foul line. Yet he got no shots in the four minutes that decided the game. And while some of that falls on Westbrook’s quarterbacking, some of it falls on Durant himself, who seems content to stay within the flow of the offense. 'I was totally comfortable with those guys taking the shots,' Durant said of Westbrook and Jeff Green, who combined to go 1-of-5 those final four minutes. Here’s the problem. Games tighten up in crunch time. Defenders grow fangs. No team in its right mind will give Durant shots in the final minutes. The Thunder will have to make it happen."

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "Anthony Parker, 34, rarely ventures near the basket. He's finding his niche on the Cavs by playing defense and shooting 3-pointers. Forty-eight percent of his shots this season have come from behind the arc (37 of 77). He's shooting 72 percent from 3-point range (13 of 18) in his last five games. The 6-6, 210-pounder was particularly lethal in Saturday's game. 'A.P. was unbelievable,' LeBron James said. 'Even J-Moon came in and made some 3s. Guys aren't turning down shots.' Parker is a player who fits the Cavs' system. 'He gets his offense off the other guys on the floor,' Mike Brown said. "He's OK with that, even if he goes four or five possessions without getting a look. You need those guys when you have talented guys like Mo (Williams), Shaq (O'Neal) and LeBron.' "

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: "Most disconcerting about the defeat at Indiana was the number of open shots created by the Pacers’ ball movement. Friday night, Jamal Crawford destroyed the Celtics by swishing open jumpers and Saturday Indiana scored just 32 of its points in the paint. So perimeter defense has become an issue. Indiana canned nine 3-pointers, six by Danny Granger, one of the league’s best marksmen. Celtics coach Doc Rivers said the defense was 'awful,’' and the decline is even surprising the players. 'That’s what we live on,’ said guard Ray Allen, who scored 24 points Saturday night. 'To not adjust to what they are doing, it’s boggling to my mind. We’re the team everybody thinks is the team to beat.’ "

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: "The Kings have shown a style of play during their four-game winning streak that's hard not to admire. The effort of the Kings is already winning over the coaching staff. The wins are important, but there's a pleasure the staff has in watching young players begin to understand what's being asked of them and doing it in a game. 'That's really one of the main reasons our staff is here,' said Kings coach Paul Westphal. 'I look at Coach (Pete) Carril. When he sees them really moving the ball or diving on the floor or just laying it on the line he almost gets a little tear in his eye. And I'm not being melodramatic. Coaches love to see effort and teamwork. And I think fans do too.' "

  • Peter Finney of The Times-Picayune: "The worst thing that can happen to this NBA franchise is losing the services of Chris Paul. I say this because the first order of business, once the Hornets' hierarchy was all but certain Byron Scott should be fired, should have been having Paul called in and given the feeling he was part of ownership. Instead of being stunned by the move, it would have been a lot smarter having your most valuable player asked to express his opinion before a final decision was made, to feel part of the process. Have Paul sit and listen to ownership's side, why ownership feels Scott's departure would be a positive move. Have him listen to team president Hugh Weber say, 'We found the players we felt would help us compete and yet the team is broken.' Have ownership listen to Paul's response, all the while making him realize how vital he is to the future of the Hornets. Face the facts. At the moment, the jury is out as to the Hornets' immediate future."

  • Ken Sugiura of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Ten games into the season, the 8-2 Hawks have the best record in the Eastern Conference and were tied with Phoenix for the best record in the NBA as the Suns went into Sunday night's game against Toronto. Among the team's conquests are road wins at Boston, Portland and Sacramento and a home win over Denver. The start marks the team's best record after 10 games since 1997-98, when the team started 11-0. 'I think we can do something special,' said forward Joe Smith. 'We have to continue to get better as a group and continue to understand where we can go. The sky's pretty much the limit for us if we believe in each other and believe in what we bring to the table.' "

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "On a night that none of his teammates had the long shooting range, Channing Frye became the first NBA player to make six 3-pointers in a game for the third time this season. All three games have come at home, where he is 21 of 32 on 3-pointers. He is 11 of 36 on 3-pointers on the road. 'It feels good to be home,' Frye said. 'I hadn't made junk on the road. I was calm out there. Last year, I would've never sent he court at the end of the game. This year, I made a game-winning stop.' "