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First Cup: Thursday

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The Hawks won their 10th game of the nascent season Wednesday night. In 2004-05, this franchise managed 13 victories over 82 games. A team once so far down it had to improve to get lousy is now, with the same coach and same power forward, tied with Phoenix for the NBA’s best record. Said Mike Woodson, the coach in question: 'I’ll never forget those 13 wins. I’ll never forget walking into the locker room and seeing those faces, knowing we couldn’t win many games.' We knew the Hawks would improve. When you’re 13-69, you can get no worse. But did anyone expect the Hawks to get better in quite this way? Jamal Crawford didn’t. A pro since 2000, he saw those Hawks firsthand. Did he foresee that woebegone bunch becoming the team that has become the league-wide talking point of the 2009-10 season? 'I’d be lying if I said I did. You knew they’d get better. You just didn’t know it would be that fast.' "

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "The Indiana Pacers have enjoyed a five-game winning streak during the past two weeks. Not so coincidentally, it was their hottest streak since the 2004-05 season, a campaign wrecked by one horrible night in Detroit. Five years ago today, in the final minute of a blowout statement victory over the defending champion Pistons, former Pacer Ron Artest fouled Ben Wallace, who then shoved Artest. Rather than retaliate, Artest retreated to the scorer's table -- until Pistons fan John Green hit Artest with a beer cup. What followed shook the NBA, destroyed the Pacers' realistic championship hopes and contributed mightily to the revamped roster you see today. ... 'That was the beginning of the end of things for the organization,' former Indiana Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh said. 'It set things in motion.' "

  • Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times: "It's amazing how things sometimes work out in pro sports. Remember when the Green Bay Packers incredibly saw quarterback Aaron Rodgers do a free fall on draft day when all the talk before the draft was how Rodgers would likely be one of the first players chosen? The Milwaukee Bucks now seem to have been the beneficiaries of Lady Luck as well. For starters, in the weeks leading up to the NBA trading deadline last February, the Bucks and Memphis Grizzlies had trade discussions. The Bucks coveted Mike Conley, a quality young point guard. If the Bucks had been able to consummate that trade, Conley undoubtedly would have been their point guard of the future and there wouldn't have been any need for them to draft Jennings. The Bucks also explored trading the 10th overall pick, the one they used to select Jennings, who last week scored a franchise rookie record 55 points against the Golden State Warriors. .... Based on conversations with Warriors officials, the Jennings' camp was led to believe Golden State was going to draft Jennings with the seventh overall pick. But that didn't occur, I'm told, because Minnesota, which had the fifth and sixth picks, surprised the Warriors and most NBA officials by taking two true point guards: Ricky Rubio and Flynn. Suddenly, Curry, who put on a stunning shooting display at the pre-draft camp in Chicago a few weeks earlier, was available for the Warriors, who quickly drafted him instead of Jennings."

  • Kate Fagan of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Elton Brand might not have been the star of the win -- that title goes to Andre Iguodala, who scored 25 points -- but he was at least auditioning for the role. On a night when Sixers coach Eddie Jordan considered benching him, Brand played his most active game of the season, finishing with 19 points, 11 rebounds, 6 blocks, 3 steals, 2 assists. He also played a season-high 41 minutes. It marked Brand's first double-double since Dec. 12, 2008. After Monday afternoon's practice, Jordan said he did not believe Brand could play effectively for 40 minutes. 'Obviously Elton was really, really solid for us, and what did he play -- 40 minutes?' said Jordan, smiling, in his postgame news conference. 'I was wrong and he was right.' "

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Grizzly newcomer Jamaal Tinsley made his debut Wednesday night, albeit a quiet one. Actually, the veteran guard signed to a one-year, free-agent contract Saturday received an ovation when he entered the game with 4:09 left in the first quarter. Tinsley's night was relatively quiet after that. He logged just six minutes and didn't score or hand out an assist. Griz coach Lionel Hollins said he just wanted to get Tinsley on the court after sitting out 11/2 years. 'I wanted to give him a chance to play,' Hollins said. 'The game is really fast, you just have to get acclimated again.' Tinsley picked up two quick fouls, but the veteran was limited mainly because of his unfamiliarity with the plays."

  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: "The Timberwolves' 11th straight loss generated a new level of concern for coach Kurt Rambis. In his easygoing, mild-mannered style of communicating, Rambis might have delivered his most scathing criticism of the Wolves after a 97-84 loss to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night at Target Center. 'A true professional brings it every night,' Rambis said. 'It's not my job to provide them with a Knute Rockne speech every game. It gets old. On a day like this, it was their job ... their responsibility to be ready to play.' Here's what bothered Rambis the most about the loss: The Wolves (1-11) hadn't played since Saturday at Memphis, while Houston put up a spirited battle Tuesday night at home against Phoenix before losing by six. Rambis believed his team, not Houston, should have had more energy and more focus, particularly in the fourth quarter when the game was within reach for the Wolves with nine minutes remaining."

  • John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Point guard Derrick Rose is so disgusted with his play, he could pull his hair out. Check that. He apparently will take the opposite approach. 'I probably won't get a haircut,' he said Wednesday after practice. ''I might get a lineup, but I'm not touching my hair until I get back on track. I'm just trying to change something; there has to be something that I'm doing wrong.' Roughly 15 hours after another subpar effort -- 10 points on 2-for-12 shooting -- in the Bulls' 101-87 victory at Sacramento on Tuesday, Rose was still obviously upset. ... ''We're winning right now, so I don't care anything about my game,' he said. 'But if we weren't winning -- I'm playing terrible. I'm not going to the hole the way I used to. It seems like, to me, I'm not that aggressive. 'But it's gonna change [tonight]. I know that I'm gonna have to be aggressive from now on.' "

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "The scene before the game was pretty amusing. Tracy McGrady had picked Wednesday for his 'target date' to make his season debut. The Rockets have been steadfast since September that they were not going to even consider a timetable until an MRI Nov. 23, but he had said something about the 18th and they had repeatedly shot it down. So McGrady went through his now familiar pregame workout. He looked pretty good, too. Then while Rick Adelman was doing his pregame interviews outside the locker room, McGrady walked out in uniform, as if he really was going to play. Adelman had already said nothing has changed, even saying again there is no timetable. Though the Rockets only dress 11 players these days, McGrady remained on the inactive list. Before long, McGrady was back in the locker room, changing back into his jeans and a sweater, and after the game, laughed at himself for putting on the uniform as if it were a Halloween costume. 'I just wanted to see what it felt like,' he said. 'It's been so long.' "

  • Patrick Hayes of MLive.com: "The Pistons have a problem that many teams would love: two young, promising point guards, both who have experienced some NBA success, both who should continue to get much better. But who's the guy? This is probably something team executives don't really worry about right now, but it's pretty clear that many fans are hugely behind Will Bynum while perhaps being a tad harder on Rodney Stuckey while he goes through growing pains that every young player does. ... The Stuckey/Bynum debate is going to rage on the entire season. I compared career numbers above, simply because with this season only 11 games old, I felt like the sample size is way too small. But let's be real: to this point in the season, Bynum has out-played Stuckey by a wide margin. That could certainly even out as the season progresses, but to this point, it's been pretty glaring to anyone who has watched the team. Who knows how the Pistons truly envision Bynum. It makes perfect sense to keep him in the role he's in, as a ball of energy off the bench who changes the pace of the game, who fearlessly attacks the basket and whose effort can never be questioned. But at the same time, if you're Will Bynum, you certainly want the chance at a starting job in the NBA, right?"

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: "From what information Wyc Grousbeck has deciphered, the league’s financial state is uneven. Commissioner David Stern has said that half or even as many as 20 of the 30 teams are in debt. 'Financially, not every team is very happy this year,’ Grousbeck said. 'The league is posting results that are better than I probably thought they would be, leaguewide, but on the other hand, there are still some trouble spots. It isn’t the happiest picture; it isn’t the best picture I can think of. It could be better. It definitely could be better leaguewide, and we’ve got some issues we need to address.’ He is happy to report that the Celtics aren’t struggling, primarily because the organization is being financially responsible. There are teams looking to dump veterans with lengthy contracts on the Celtics -- veterans such as Andres Nocioni, who could help this season. Team president Danny Ainge indicated that the Celtics will refrain from acquiring long-term contracts that may prove to be anchors on future salary caps."

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Coach Stan Van Gundy, tongue planted firmly in cheek, on all teams reporting their players undergo 'successful' surgery: 'Grant Hill had five successful surgeries. Somehow he could never play after them, but they were called a success. They're all called successes and that means the guy lived through it, which is a success, I guess.' "

  • Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times: "The question is, will Mike Dunleavy still be coaching the Clippers when the kids, Gordon and Griffin, ride to the rescue? Recent NBA history would suggest that won't be the case. Eight teams fired coaches last season, and this season, New Orleans pulled the plug on Byron Scott rapidly, dismissing Scott last week. That was only days after the Hornets crushed the Clippers. The wild card, of course, is Clippers owner Donald Sterling. How much does he take into account the litany of injuries, and does Sterling extend his patience and see what Dunleavy can do with the tools at his disposal when Griffin and Gordon return? You might say there is a better chance of success at the slot machines than trying to predict Sterling's next move and timing here. That isn't the only ambiguous question. What ails the disconnected-looking Clippers on the court has the players searching for answers. 'Nope. No answers,' said Baron Davis. 'We're not unified. We're not all on the same page. We have to find a way to get in sync and get on the same page. It's tough. Last year, you could blame it on the talent, blame it on the chemistry. ... It's disheartening.' "

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "The Suns are back to running! The Suns are back to running! Well, not so fast. NBA fans are falling for Phoenix's high-scoring ways all over again. The system that made the Suns everyone's second-favorite team has returned and shocked the shoelaces off the NBA, leading to a tie with Atlanta for the league's best record at 10-2. But the story line has a new twist. The Suns actually do not run like they once did. In fact, they are an ordinary running team. Phoenix ranks 12th in the NBA in fast-break points, scoring 12.8 per game. They rank lower when factoring what percentage of their offense comes from fast breaks: 11.8 percent, which ranks 18th. That's behind Thursday's opponent, New Orleans, a 4-8 team that offers the Suns a chance to snap a 14-game losing streak on TNT (including preseason and postseason)."

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: "Following the Utah Jazz's 104-91 win over Toronto, Eric Maynor was welcomed into the locker room by a loud fan club. 'E-May!' bellowed Carlos Boozer. 'Yo, dog! I'm trying to give you some love.' The love Boozer gave -- in a glowing postgame comment -- was well-deserved. Yet again. 'He continues to impress me,' added Jazz point guard Deron Williams. 'He's playing great, composed. He's making plays. It takes a lot of pressure off a lot of people.' Especially, lately, off of Williams."

  • Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: "For a team that just committed something in the neighborhood of $143 million in salary to two players, the Trail Blazers are well-positioned for the future in terms of payroll. That doesn’t mean Portland will have salary-cap room to land a big-ticket free agent next summer. Still, the franchise that once paid $100 million in luxury taxes has its financial act together now. This season, the Blazers’ payroll is $56.2 million for their 15 players – an average of $3.75 million per player, under the salary cap ($57.7 million) and well under the luxury-tax threshold ($69.92 million). Portland is 27th among the 30 NBA teams in payroll, ahead of only Memphis, Minnesota, Detroit and Oklahoma City. Not bad for a team coming off a 54-win season and a Northwest Division co-championship. Of the bottom 16 payroll teams this season, only three -- Atlanta, Detroit and Portland -- made the playoffs last season."

  • Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post: "Nuggets advance scout Chad Iske has the NBA at his fingertips. ... Iske doesn't simply get raw statistical data. He can also pair the data with video clips of every player and every play. And it's all available online within half an hour after each game ends. The service is provided by Synergy Sports Technology. It is basketball scouting for the digital age, and 26 of the NBA's 30 teams use Synergy. The company even offers a way for a team's coaching staff to prepare a set of video clips that can be downloaded to an iPod and given to players. 'It's very efficient, and it takes a lot of the legwork out of it for us,' said Iske, who has been with the Nuggets for 11 years. 'The change is amazing. When I first got here, we didn't even have enough VCRs to go through tape. Now we can go to our laptops, click on Synergy's website, and we get the information we need.' "