First Cup: Thursday

  • John Branch of The New York Times: "For the founders of a fledgling athletic-shoe company, there is only one thing better for business than having an N.B.A. star endorse your new shoes: have the league say the shoes will not be allowed on its courts at all. That is what has happened to Athletic Propulsion Labs, maker of a $300 shoe that the company says allows basketball players to instantly jump higher, thanks to a springlike device hidden near the front of the shoe. 'In terms of marketing, this is probably the greatest thing that could have happened to our company, because it basically blew us up overnight,' said Adam Goldston, one of the company’s 23-year-old twin co-founders. 'And it validates the claim,' added his brother, Ryan. According to the N.B.A., league rules forbid equipment designed to give a competitive advantage, and that would include a spring-loaded shoe. The league said it notified the company last week that the shoes would not be permitted. 'No player has asked to wear these shoes, so it’s a nonissue,' the N.B.A. spokeswoman Kristin Conte said. 'However, we determined that they don’t conform to our rules, based on the company’s representation of what they do.' Just like that, Athletic Propulsion Labs had the answer it wanted. On Tuesday morning, it sent out a news release titled, 'NBA Bans Basketball Shoes by Athletic Propulsion Labs Based on League Rule against ‘Undue Competitive Advantage’ That Increases a Player’s Vertical Leap.' Within hours, word of the N.B.A.’s 'ban' of the shoes spread across countless media outlets online, like Yahoo, Sports Illustrated and ESPN. The Associated Press wrote a short article. The Los Angeles-based company sold as many shoes in one day as it did in the previous month, the Goldstons said (without revealing numbers). The company’s Web site, AthleticPropulsionLabs.com, crashed from the demand."

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: "Magic Johnson, who created a buzz this week by selling his minority stakes in the Lakers and Starbucks, said he did those deals because they were good business decisions. Johnson said Wednesday he will "look at every opportunity" in the future to become a majority owner of a sports team, but that he hasn't joined forces with anybody yet. However, Johnson said he wants to play a role in bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles. As for the NBA, Johnson said he has not talked with his hometown Detroit Pistons, although the club is for sale. Mike Ilitch, who owns the Tigers and Red Wings, is negotiating to buy the Pistons and has reached out to Johnson, the former Lakers star said. Johnson also said he recently sat down with the group that has reached a deal to buy the Golden State Warriors, but 'nothing came out of it,' Johnson said. And Johnson said he hasn't had any discussion with the Dodgers, saying, 'No, I won't be buying the Dodgers. I talked with Golden State. I will talk with [Ilitch about] Detroit,' Johnson said. 'Just because you talk, that doesn't mean you are going to do a deal. But I'll be looking at every opportunity because I'm a businessman and that's what I do. I look at deals every day.' When asked whether he had interest in buying an NFL team, Johnson laughed."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "By all accounts, Tom Thibodeau has been more a teacher than screamer in his first training camp as an NBA head coach. That changed at the 9 minute, 19 second mark of the first quarter Wednesday night against the Raptors. Upset with a casual start that featured turnovers, poor transition defense and bad decision-making, Thibodeau burned a 20-second timeout and blistered his team. 'He expects a lot out of us,' Luol Deng said of the timeout. 'And we were letting him down.' Despite playing without Joakim Noah, Kyle Korver and obviously Carlos Boozer, the short-handed Bulls responded with a 110-103 victory at Air Canada Centre. With less than a week until the regular-season opener, it's time to get serious."

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "This is the Knicks’ new reality. For two years, they operated under the shadow of LeBron James. Now they are dealing with the specter of Carmelo Anthony. A shaky preseason has only made a trade look more urgent. The speculation will end only when Anthony is finally traded, wherever the destination may be. 'It’s just talk,' Coach Mike D’Antoni said before the Knicks’ 118-91 loss to Philadelphia 76ers. 'And I’m not going deal in it. I don’t deal in it.' Asked about the impact on his young team’s psyche, D’Antoni said: 'Hey, you’re in New York -- put on a winter coat and let’s go. If you want to be here, this is part of the deal. And handle it.' Talks have been going on between the Knicks and the Nuggets since the summer. But the Nuggets have never been enamored of the Knicks’ players."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Though Rockets center Yao Ming hasn't had any issues with his surgically repaired and altered left foot, he said he hasn't gotten over the concern about traffic in the lane, especially after teammate Chuck Hayes sprained his ankle Tuesday while stepping on Yao's foot. 'It's still a little bit (of a concern for) me, honestly,' Yao said. 'I get into (physical situations with) a lot of guys in a small area. I'm a little bit afraid people will step on me or I will jump in the air to try to get a rebound and land on somebody. That gives me a little to worry about. That goes slightly away day-by-day. I have a size 19 foot. That happens. I step in the paint; a quarter of the paint is full. Honestly, I already got a couple in the China Games. You see me fall on the ground. It was not because I really fell. I stepped on people's feet and shifted the stress. I was rolling my body on the ground to shift my weight.' Coach Rick Adelman said the concern is natural but Yao must overcome it."

  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: "To this day, members of last year's Thunder roster struggle to explain how they felt after Game 6, when their magical season ended abruptly with a 95-94 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the opening round of the Western Conference playoffs. Even more inexplicable is what happened roughly 30 seconds after the final horn sounded inside the Ford Center on April 30, 2010. ... Already on their feet and wearing the complimentary blue T-shirts that adorned each seat upon their arrival, the 31st sellout crowd of the season began to cheer. The noise quickly built to a crescendo, as if Russell Westbrook's jumper from the corner actually had gone in and forced Game 7. Thunder players couldn't believe their ears. They broke their huddle, turned around, raised their hands and gave a wave of thanks. Several players applauded the crowd. It was a raw sports moment that couldn't possibly be choreographed -- disappointment, followed by emotion, followed by gratitude -- a sequence rarely experienced by any team whose season ends with a loss at home. ... 'I've never seen a response like that,' said Thunder coach Scott Brooks, who played in the NBA for a decade and has coached for another. 'That never happens. It was heartfelt and our guys appreciated it.' Brooks paused and searched for more words. 'That's, um... not common,' Brooks said. 'That's not common, but there are so many things we love about Oklahoma City. Our fans are so loyal to us. They had tough times early on (a 3-29 start in 2008-09), but hopefully those times are behind us.' Backup point guard Eric Maynor hails from North Carolina, the Bible Belt of college basketball, and still shakes his head at what he witnessed. 'Fans stuck around after a loss,' Maynor said. 'I've never seen anything like it.' "

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "What separated the Suns from the playoff pack last season was the bench. Five reserves comprised a unit with a distinct style and personality, giving the Suns a 10-man mix and a wave of unselfish, energetic game-changers who eased the load on veteran starters. The Suns again turn to a five-man bench to carry the middle of each half and ride hot hands to the finish. As it was prior to last season, success off the bench this season is no sure thing -- mainly due to a lack of familiarity. When Goran Dragic runs the second unit, Hakim Warrick and Josh Childress give him a new look to handle. Now, Childress is indefinitely out with a broken right index finger, and Channing Frye feels behind with 'heavy' legs and shots falling short. 'It's still more of an athletic team with Josh,' reserve Jared Dudley said. 'Defensively, we have the potential to be there but Channing and Warrick have to help us out, just because bigs are crucial in the NBA. It takes time and that's why chemistry is going to be huge. We're trying to copy last year's format but in a way. We kind of can use some of it but some is new players. Hakim is not Lou (Amundson). Josh is not LB (Leandro Barbosa). We have to figure out their style into our second unit. Pushing the ball is definitely going to be a key.' "

  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: "One of the Timberwolves' key offseason objectives was to improve their outside shooting. The results have been quick and surprising. After seven exhibition games, the Wolves lead the NBA in three-point shooting, hitting 59 of 133 attempts for a .444 percentage. Perhaps the most significant factor in the Wolves' early success is that four of the team's top six three-point shooters were not on last year's roster, a group that ranked 26th in the league in long-range shooting. Newcomers Martell Webster, Anthony Tolliver, Sebastian Telfair and Wesley Johnson have made a combined 32 three-pointers, validating the efforts made by Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn and coach Kurt Rambis to upgrade the team's perimeter play. 'Our three-point shooting has changed our whole identity,' said Wolves forward Kevin Love, who ranks sixth in the league (13 of 22, .591) during the exhibition season. 'It doesn't allow teams to just pack it in the paint on us. It opens up a lot of aspects to our offense. Teams will have to play us different.' "

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The problem for the Hawks, of course, wasn’t that they couldn’t beat Orlando. It’s that they couldn’t compete with them. Clearly that’s the reason Woody is no longer the coach. Rick Sund could have gone further and sent away some players, too. But the 53 wins and the 11-9 record last season against the other teams Sund considered elite–while no reason to throw a parade–also helped convince him that dismantling the team would be premature. He said he learned from Jerry West and Wayne Embry not to blow up a good core too soon. 'Fans may not understand and media certainly wouldn’t understand because they like the hype of all the moves in the summer,' he said. 'But when you look at our club, we’ve got a pretty damn good club and a good nucleus given that we [operate] under the luxury tax.' "

  • Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger: "The meeting in Avery Johnson’s office manifested itself into an impromptu film session centered around Terrence Williams’ play in China. The worry, Johnson said, was an over-abundance of shots -- 38 in two games as a reserve. The two outlined certain plays where Williams should have looked to distribute more, where drives to the basket sucked in defenders and left teammates open. Williams had the games in his iPad, dissecting them on the plane ride home, already anticipating a shakedown from Johnson. In his coach, Williams has found stability, one coach instead of the three he had last year, with a specific plan laid out for him. A detailed role that doesn’t leave him believing he’s better, or worse, than he is. Now, the texts from his friends -- the ones that say 'when’s (coach) gonna stop playin’ and start you?' -- don’t get to him anymore. Now, he responds like this: 'It’s great,' Williams said. 'This coach for this team is the best decision the Nets have made in like the last 15 years. Nah, I’m playing, but honestly he helps me out a lot.” eager to grant Anthony’s wish to play in New York.' "

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune via Twitter: "Well you don't see this every day: Larry Bird standing on N 7th St, smoking on the sidewalk on a Wednesday afternoon."

  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: "All right. I'll never be known for my sartorial flair, but I do consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of sports uniforms. As such, I found a lot of interest in a recent slideshow created by NBCSports.com that details the ugliest uniforms in professional sports history. The list was heavily tilted to the NFL, but the NBA was included. Some of their NBA selections included the Atlanta Hawks , the old-time Denver Nuggets (which I'm sure will break Mike Monroe's heart), the Golden State Warriors road uniform encrusted with the outline of California, the Houston Rockets' uniforms with vertical stripes and my personal choice of the old Toronto Raptors' road uniforms with the dinosaur on the front. The Spurs' silver-and-black ensemble ranks in my opinion as one of the classiest in the NBA, along with Boston Celtics' home uniforms and the Los Angeles Lakers' gold and purple home and road uniforms."

  • Neal Rubin of The Detroit News: "More than 300 people registered to try out for the Detroit Pistons' new 50-person spirit section, the Power Plant. Exactly 11 of them showed up at the audition Wednesday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills, which is not very peppy. But this is a cheer squad, so you have to look on the bright side:Those 11 people have a very, very good chance of making the cut. And are the Pistons giving up? That wouldn't be very peppy, either. The Pistons Power Plant is designed to be a professional version of Michigan State University's Izzone -- a core group of diehards whose sworn duty is to get the rest of the crowd standing, shrieking, frothing and rending their garments. What that will do, in theory, is assure the Pistons of a whopping home court advantage. In return for their assistance, the Power Planters will each receive a free lower-level ticket for all 41 games -- with the requirement they show up for every single, solitary, Oct. 29-through-April-11 one. The people who didn't make it to the audition do not have great promise in that regard. But you get the feeling that the 11 who showed up would arrive for every tipoff even if they had to walk."