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First Cup: Thursday

  • Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post: "Don't get me wrong, I'm not a Gilbert Arenas hater. In fact, as a columnist I've found him to be completely engaging, often delightful even after losses or in difficult times. Last summer we stood in Nordstrom in Chicago and talked for an hour, about everything and nothing. It's too bad about the legal troubles and the various dramas because Arenas was once a top-10 player in the NBA and a guy who behaved quite neighborly. But that was then. It's come now to something that appears to be untenable. I believe Arenas can be a productive player in the NBA again . . . just not here in Washington. There's too much history to overcome, too much disappointment. You can come back from injury, from a bad season or a tough playoff loss. But in Arenas's case the disappointment defines his time here. The playoff losses to Cleveland, the unfortunate injuries, the hardheadedness when it came to rehabilitating after the first surgery, the decline in play, the felonious gun charges, the long NBA suspension. When is the last time something good happened to Arenas professionally? Great athletes beat odds all the time; it's what drives them and in a great many cases obsesses them. But they almost always need a boost from a change of scenery."

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: "Hasheem Thabeet grabbed the rebound, drew the foul, then stepped to the line and tossed in two free throws. That gave him 10 points and five rebounds with a minute left in the first half. Yes, the first half. Eat your heart out, Tyreke Evans. Read it and weep, Stephen Curry. Ten points! In a half! Did I tell you the guy was improving or what? Thabeet says he has been working with Bob Lanier during the summer. If I hadn't known better, I'd have guessed Pete Maravich. Thabeet scored 10 points in his first 9 minutes and finished the game with -- OK, he finished the game with the same 10 points. But, hey, it was fun while it lasted. 'You can't do everything in one night,' Thabeet said after the game was done. Words to live by, Grizzlies fans. The Grizzlies opened up their 10th preseason with an 87-85 victory over the Indiana Pacers at FedExForum on Wednesday night. If it wasn't elegant, it was at least interesting. In some cities, the preseason might be dull because the starters don't get much time. In this city, the preseason is enthralling precisely because the starters don't get much time."

  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: "Orlando forward Rashard Lewis apparently wasn't thrilled about the Magic's trip to Hidalgo last night. Lewis, a Houstonnative who is somewhat familiar to the South Texas city, told John Denton of Orlando Magic.com that he had some trepidation about playing against Houston last night near the United States-Mexico border. 'I remember playing there when I was with Seattle and we played the Rockets,' Lewis said. 'The hotel that we stay at is right on the border and if you go out on the patio, the border is literally like 15 feet away. I didn't leave the hotel because the border was too close. This time, I'll stay in the room and watch whatever kind of cable that they have because I'm not going outside there.' Something tells me those are the kind of globalization quotes that David Stern likes to see as his league spreads the basketball gospel across borders. Although I did notice that Stern was nowhere near Hidalgo, either."

  • Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe: "The Celtics don’t travel any farther west than Toronto this preseason, and if you’re looking for the reason, blame Hidalgo, Texas. The Celtics made a one-here-one-there deal two years ago with the Houston Rockets. The Rockets played an exhibition in Manchester in 2008, and in return the Celtics had to fly to Hidalgo, two hours away from Houston. 'That’s when I instructed management, we don’t want to play any West Coast teams, because if they come to our place, eventually we’re going to have to pay it back,’ Doc Rivers said. 'As far as I’m concerned, in the preseason, you shouldn’t go an hour away from your home to play. If it was me, I think we should just play New York, New Jersey every game and just go back and forth.' "

  • Craig Stouffer of the Washington Examiner: "Effective would only start to explain how Kirk Hinrich was a team-best +27 with 9 points, 4 assists and a pair of steals in his 28 minutes on the floor in Washington’s preseason opener at Dallas on Tuesday. 'The main thing is Kirk has fun playing,' said Flip Saunders. 'He says, ‘Let’s have fun doing the things we do.’ ' Hinrich is the glue -- the term Saunders used after Tuesday’s win – and he comes very cheap since the Bulls paid the Wizards an additional $3 million as part of a predraft trade that cleared salary cap space and was part of a failed strategy to lured prized free agents LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to the Windy City. There are other factors, too, that effectively set up the Wizards to have Hinrich cost them far less than his full $9 million salary. But the 29-year-old’s veteran presence and keen basketball understanding could play a bigger role this season than any cost savings Washington garnered in the deal. Much has been said about the mentor role he played with Derrick Rose, but Hinrich’s best attribute is that he leads by putting his head down and playing to win. If Wall gets that message, Hinrich has done his job."

  • Tim Buckley of the Deseret News: "Until recently, Raja Bell wouldn't have known Wesley Matthews from Walter Matthau. But after Matthews left Utah for Portland as a restricted free agent last offseason, paving the way for Bell to return for a second stint with the Jazz, the veteran swingman became curious. 'The few (Jazz) games I saw (last season), he wasn't fully in the rotation yet,' Bell said. 'I did get a peek at him in playoffs a little bit, and so, more than anything, I've asked a lot of people just how good he was, because he was a prized free agent his summer that I really didn't know about.' What Bell learned was that Matthews' loss last July was a painful one for the Jazz. And with Matthews in town with the Trail Blazers for tonight's 2010-11 NBA preseason opener at EnergySolutions Arena, what was then bad news bears repeating now: Utah very much wanted to retain its prized undrafted rookie, one who became its starting shooting guard by season's end. But the Jazz deemed it neither wise nor financially feasible to match the five-year, $32.5 million offer sheet -- with more than $9 million payable up front -- that Matthews signed with the Blazers. With a void to fill, then, Utah turned to lower-cost alternative Bell."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "When Shelden William arrived in the NBA in 2006, he was asked to do one thing first -- don't look for his shot. It was the message in Atlanta, which drafted him fifth overall, and again in stops with Sacramento, Minnesota and Boston. But that will change this season. The offensive-minded Nuggets want Williams to tap back into his aggressive scoring talent, telling the 6-foot-9, 250-pounder not just to defend, rebound and set screens, but to look for his shot as well. It's different, exciting and invigorating for Williams, who is very much looking forward and appreciative of the opportunity to be a part of the offense. 'I haven't been in that position since college where the ball comes to me and they expect me to shoot it,' Williams said. 'So I have to kind of get back to how I used to be and get comfortable with that and build confidence. I haven't felt like this in a long time.' ... Denver coach George Karl likes what he has seen out of Williams so far and has no issues with asking him to look for his shot. 'The way we play basketball, we want everybody to be attacking,' Karl said. 'Reading and trying to attack. I don't think you can have a player out there that can't be aggressive. It helps us that everybody has the same attitude about reading build-outs, spacing the court, attacking gaps and passing the ball."

  • Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: "When playing for Poland, Marcin Gortat is the man. His teammates look to him almost every trip down the court, feeding him the ball near the hoop and out near the perimeter. Jumpers, post-ups, cuts off the pick and roll; Gortat shows off a versatile offensive repertoire when playing for his home country. Then Gortat returns to Orlando, where his role is simple: rebound, defend and run the floor. Stuck backing up the league's best center, few plays are called for Gortat. On offense, he's little more than a pick-setter and boards-crasher. When Gortat does try to showcase his offensive game with the Magic, he gets talked to by the coaching staff. And that adjustment has not been easy for the 26-year-old big man. 'There are days when I'm about to explode and just say a couple of things or go to the coach and tell him what I want to do,' Gortat said. 'I feel like I'm one of the guys who has to sacrifice a lot to adjust to this team. I can tell you that it's not easy.' The Orlando Magic, meanwhile, are not overly concerned about Gortat's desire to play more offense. During the team's 3 1/2- hour meeting last Monday, his teammates told him they wanted him to focus on his role of defending, rebounding and running the floor. They weren't interested in any offensive flash from Dwight Howard's backup."