First Cup: Thursday

  • Tom Enlund of the Journal Sentinel: "What would have been an oh-so-sweet victory over the NBA-champion Los Angeles Lakers was there for the taking Wednesday night at the Bradley Center but the Milwaukee Bucks did not seize the opportunity. For any number of reasons. First and foremost was the cold-blooded 15-foot jumper that Kobe Bryant sank at the final buzzer in overtime that handed the Bucks a gut-wrenching 107-106 defeat. But as well and as gritty as the Bucks played for much of the night, they were unable to hold a six-point lead in the final 1 minute, 28 seconds of overtime as the Lakers scored the game's final points. Then were a couple of 'key, key, key plays' -- as center Andrew Bogut said later -- that didn't go the Bucks' way at crunch time. And the foul line was again a major source of frustration for the Bucks. It all added up to a bitter, bitter defeat that wasn't in the books until Bryant sank his jumper over Charlie Bell at the buzzer."

  • Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle: "If Daryl Morey can't trade T-Mac now, he's not the general manager some of us have been saying he is. Those eight minutes are all you need to know. They were gold, Jerry, gold. Did you see the way he ran the floor and hit the open man and knocked down the three? He played defense and crashed the boards, too. Not once did he loaf or pout. That's the Tracy the Rockets traded for five years ago, and the Tracy that will help some lucky NBA team make a deep playoff run. Tracy looked so good that Morey probably had a fleeting thought that he should keep him and watch him take the Rockets to the playoffs. Hopefully, he gave himself a good slap in the head and came to his senses. I mean, it was fun having Tracy around, but that ship has sailed."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "It's rare when a visiting player checks into a game and gets hugs from the Nuggets. But even they thought it was pretty cool thatT-Mac was back. Houston's Tracy McGrady played just the first 35 games of last season because of knee surgery and had missed all of this season until Tuesday against Detroit, when he played eight minutes. Then on Wednesday, McGrady entered the game, receiving hugs from Kenyon Martin and Chauncey Billups, before playing five minutes, missing his lone shot attempt. 'I'm a huge McGrady guy,' Nuggets coach George Karl said. 'I think he's one of the great talents of the game. He's been maligned a lot because of his playoff failures, but his regular-season games have been incredible. Some nights, he's been the best player in the world.' In fact, McGrady has the record for most points scored by an opponent at Pepsi Center -- 51, in 2003. But now, the two-time NBA scoring champion is slowly getting back into game shape."

  • Dirk Jerardi of the Philadelphia Daily News: "When Phil Martelli finally got Delonte West on the phone, he said: 'If you want me to be there, I will be in the hallway after the game.' ... West was hanging in the Cavs locker room a little after 5:30, dancing to some music. When he was told Martelli was in the hallway, he put down the headphones and came to see his coach. 'One day at a time,' West said when asked how he was doing. 'Baby steps, baby steps.' Martelli and West huddled for a good 45 minutes in that hallway. As they were getting ready to break up, Allen Iverson came down the hallway to greet West and ask how he was doing. Finally, West had to go change into his uniform and Martelli explained that West just was not ready for any in-depth interviews or really any interviews at all. 'He has a couple of worlds going on at once,' Martelli said. 'Certainly, the legal is weighing on him. Dealing with [his illness] on a daily basis and basketball.' The two talked about life and basketball. Which, in West's case, are very much intertwined."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "Philly is up three points in the fourth quarter and they are playing well. The Cavs were on the ropes a bit. Then, for no good reason, the crowd starts chanting 'A.I., A.I., A.I.' Why A.I.? Now I understand why the Sixers signed him and why Iverson cried when he came back. There is a love affair. Exactly 16 seconds after A.I. came into the game he threw a lazy pass toward Andre Iguodala. LeBron picked it out of the air and started toward the other end. Now, he made a great play because after dribbling it off Iguodala's foot, he recovered and drilled a 3-pointer right in front of the Philly bench to tie the game. The Cavs never trailed again. Iverson's +/- in the fourth was -10. OK, it wasn't all his fault. I just don't understand why the crowd was demanding he come back in the game when things were going fine without him. He can still play pretty well, I know."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel: "With the All-Star guard's productivity down from his breakout 2008-09 season, and his conditioning short of the 'freakish' level that coach Erik Spoelstra said Wade achieved last season, Pat Riley said the team is willing to work to get Wade back to the top of his game, even as the Heat remains a middle-of-the-pack presence due to the long view it is taking with personnel. 'He's not there right now,' Riley said in a private room at AmericanAirlines Arena. 'His efficiency is down somewhat this year, and we're addressing it with him. If Dwyane is down 10 or 15 percent from what he was last year, then, as he said in the press the other day, and I think he does this, everybody has to look in the mirror about how to make this year better.' Wade clarified following Wednesday's practice that he had been talking about getting his legs back after the rigors of the first six weeks of the season, not that he ever felt limited by conditioning. 'That's not an issue at all,' he said. 'If people have high expectations of me, that's great.' "

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "I recall some of you saying Mike Dunleavy wouldn't make that much of difference when he returned to the lineup. I disagreed with you then, and I'm disagreeing with you now. Dunleavy has made a huge difference on the court. The offense has been a lot smoother since he got back. It should get even better once his minute restriction is lifted. There hasn't been a date set on when coach Jim O'Brien can use Dunleavy as much as he wants. O'Brien doesn't hide his displeasure about having Dunleavy's minutes monitored. 'The bummer of the (offensive) flow is we have to be cautious of Mike's minutes so we can have him at the end,' O'Brien said."

  • John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "When Derrick Rose left the court and headed to the Bulls' locker room midway through the first quarter of Tuesday night's 96-87 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, he was holding his right side and had the pained look of someone who wouldn't return. But when Rose came back early in the second quarter, he appeared perfectly fine and didn't seem to be hampered by the strained muscle in his right side. After practice Wednesday at the Berto Center, Rose revealed that he received two injections for the pain during his visit to the locker room. 'I didn't want to get them,' said Rose, who has been known to be fearful of needles. 'They had to put an ice pack on my back and freeze and numb my skin. And I still felt it. They lied and told me I was only going to get one, but I felt two pinches.' Rose said assistant Randy Brown convinced him to get the injections. 'He told me one of his sob vet stories about how he had to get at least 100 shots like that during his NBA career,' Rose said. 'So I was like, 'I can get one.' 'In his face, he was looking sincere. I think he was telling the truth. But I gotta go back and ask who the trainers were back then.' "

  • John DeShazier of The Times-Picayune: "So far, for New Orleans and its All-Star forward, it's been a season of un-West. But maybe Wednesday night was the breakout that David West, and his team, has needed. 'I just found the ball, especially early, and was able to get in a good rhythm,' West said. 'I don't worry about my numbers. Whatever it's going to take for us to win some ballgames and get on the right side of .500, I'll do.' For the Hornets, that means putting up some numbers, being the West we've become accustomed to seeing."

  • Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star: "This week Rockets coach Rick Adelman lambasted the NBA for a 'ridiculous' December schedule that will see his team play four sets of back-to-back games in about two weeks. Bryan Colangelo, the Toronto GM, pointed out the Raptors played their 28th game of the season on Wednesday, tops in the NBA to this point. 'To see other coaches in the league complaining about the schedule, I kind of find that funny,' said Colangelo. 'The schedule is what it is.' The talk in the locker room, according to those who hear it, is that the Raptors were upbeat and energized during Wednesday's intermission, pumping up one another, vowing a better second half. Then the Magic turned 12-point halftime lead into an 18-point bulge about eight minutes later. And then the good-intentioned banter turned to funeral-toned lament, to hush-mumbled vows of improvement, to the same-old, same-old. 'It's always like that. We always talk, talk, talk, talk, `Come on, let's be positive,' ' said Bosh, expelling a sigh. 'It's about action.' "

  • Frank Dell’Apa of The Boston Globe: "This season has marked the emergence of the two youngest Celtics starters, Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo, according to president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. 'The young guys are kind of catching up to the stars on our team,’ Ainge said yesterday. 'They are contributing on a lot more equal basis.’ Heading into last night’s games, Perkins (.649) was leading the league and Rondo (.535) was 16th in field goal percentage as the Celtics (20-4) became the first team to reach 20 wins. Perkins, who turned 25 last month, has played in 388 career regular-season games, and Rondo, 23, has played in 259."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "No foe has proven more difficult for the Suns than TNT, which blows up on them every time as if they are Wile E. Coyote. Phoenix has lost 16 consecutive games broadcast by TNT, dating back to the 2008 playoff series against San Antonio and even including two preseason outdoor games in Indian Wells, Calif. The Suns will try to solve the NBA's most confounding losing streak tonight at Portland, the last place they won a TNT game in March 2008 when Raja Bell held Brandon Roy to six points. 'That's the funniest, most interesting fact I've heard,' Kenny Smith said. 'We get a lot of flack, especially Charles, about badgering the Suns. Now, I understand why people would think that because we're always seeing them lose. I hope the curse doesn't continue. I will take everything off the mantle.' ... 'It's bizarre,' Steve Kerr said. 'What are the chances of losing 16 in a row? I know the competition's tougher but it's not like we don't beat good teams on ESPN. There's no explanation. Let's pin it on Charles. He brings that negative vibe all the time.' "

  • Jeff Eisenberg of The Press-Enterprise: "As a result of taking a 90-mile bus ride between Chicago and Milwaukee on Wednesday morning, the Lakers achieved an NBA rarity: Three different hotels in the same day. They awoke in Chicago, spent about four hours in their rooms in Milwaukee between shootaround and tip-off and then flew to New York City after Wednesday's game and checked into their Manhattan hotel. It was the first time the Lakers have bussed between games since 2007 (Philly to New York)."

  • Terry Foster of The Detroit News: "The NBA should not allow the Tom Donaghy gambling scandal to deter thoughts of allowing NBA teams to play in cities that have a legal sports book. It's good for the economy. That means if the NBA wants to go to Las Vegas, then it should. It also would be great if casino cities such as Detroit would allow a Vegas style sports book. But the NHL, NBA and Major League Baseball are against it now, mostly because of perception. These leagues believe that having a franchise in a sports-book city will increase the chances for corruption. I don't know if these leagues realize that you can make illegal bets in any city, town and country. There's this thing called the internet and there already is betting in such places as Detroit and Portland, New York and Cleveland. Why not allow a legitimate book in these cities?"