First Cup: Wednesday

  • Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: "The gleaming Maserati, so gorgeous in the showroom, so perfect to look at, hit the road for the first time Tuesday night, and the engine hiccupped a little, and the brakes squealed some. The ride is going to be fine. Needs some tinkering and tuning, that's all. If anything, Miami's 88-80 loss to the Boston Celtics verified the Heat's awesome potential more than cast the least bit of doubt on it. See, the Heat is good enough to come this close being that bad. Miami shot a rusty 36.5 percent, and apart from LeBron's game-high 31 points, nobody sparkled. Wade, evidently not yet 100 percent past his hamstring ailment or in harmony with his timing, clunked to 13 points on 4-for-16 shooting. Bosh added a tepid eight points. ... Erik Spoelstra calls his team 'a group that's not afraid of the lights,' calls them 'big-moment players.' They didn't always look like that in Tuesday's opener, especially early. Bet big they'll look like it soon, and often."

  • Jackie MacMullan of ESPNBoston.com: "The Heat need time to establish an offensive rhythm, and yes, they missed a slew of easy shots in this game, and they will undoubtedly finish the season as a dangerous team, but there's another reason they shot 23.5 percent in the first half: The Celtics played championship-caliber defense. Remember the Celtics' defense? It's their lifeline, the epicenter of their culture, the glue that keeps them in the conversation among the league's elite. Last season, the chink in that defensive fortress was rebounding. The Celtics were among the worst teams in the league off the glass, so they went out and imported size: Shaquille O'Neal, Jermaine O'Neal, Semih Erden. Tuesday night, the big boys cleared the boards, clogged the middle and, in the case of Shaq, established a low-post presence that was fleeting at best in 2009-10."

  • Jill Painter of the Los Angeles Daily News: "Most people think the Big Three means LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Around here, the Big Three refers to three-peat. The Lakers are two-time defending champions, even though the center of the basketball world has somehow movedto South Beach. Miami couldn't even win its season opener with its high-priced free agents on the road. There's no shame in losing in Boston, but if you can't win in Boston, the Heat won't be raising banners in Miami. Boston lost to the Lakers in NBA Finals, and the Lakers have the past two trophies and ticker-tape parades. Miami arrogantly took out its trophy from 2006 for LeBron and Co. to drool over before Tuesday's game. James crowned himself King and it seems as if Miami already has crowned itself champions. The Lakers were all smiles and laughs before the game against the Houston Rockets. Players took turns introducing their teammates who were a part of the championship in June. That's because everyone contributes on this team. The Lakers are so much more than just a few players and have the sleek black boxes with rotating, sparkling rings to prove it. They received contributions from everyone, including their bench. Miami doesn't even have a victory this season yet."

  • Dave Krieger of The Denver Post: "Carmelo Anthony insists he does not have a bag packed just in case, at a moment's notice, he has to fly off to a new job in New York or someplace. 'Nah, all my stuff is in my closet,' he said Tuesday. 'I'm cool.' In fact, Melo has become a high-profile symbol of his team, much of which could be elsewhere by this time next year. So the NBA season that begins with tonight's opener against Utah looks like a last hurrah for the current roster. And with Anthony on the trading block, the changes could start anytime. How does an alleged playoff contender deal with such uncertainty? 'Just don't think about it,' Anthony said on the eve of the opener. 'I was always told, if it's not harming you, then you don't need to think about it, you don't need to worry about it. I don't need to worry about that stuff right now. It's easy for me. It's basketball.' "

  • Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: "The basketball turf war has moved from midtown to Brooklyn. In a marketing move that Nets CEO Brett Yormark described as a 'defensive maneuver,' the Knicks hung up a billboard of Amar'e Stoudemire near the construction site of the Nets' new arena. The billboard -- which is much smaller and lower than the Nets' billboard that overlooked the Garden -- has Stoudemire posing in front of the Manhattan Bridge with 'Brooklyn Represent' written underneath. 'I'm glad to see they know where Brooklyn is,' Yormark said. 'Clearly, they know what's coming.' Yormark added, 'I encourage them to do this. It heightens the awareness for us and basketball in the area and ignites our fanbase. I thank them because it's only going to help us in the long run.' The Knicks declined to comment about the billboard that hangs on the side of a storage warehouse, although they put up similar ones throughout the tri-state area."

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "Can hope for the Raptors be found in the 'Ewing Theory'? ESPN 'Sports Guy' columnist Bill Simmons first advanced the theory in a column nearly a decade ago. Summarized, its premise consists of two parts: a) A star athlete gets a great deal of attention -- even though his teams don’t win 'anything substantial.' b) When that player leaves his team, the team is at once declared dead in the water for the next year. The 'Ewing Theory,' according to Simmons, happens when the team actually goes on to win without its superstar, defying expectations. It’s named after former New York Knick Patrick Ewing. As an illustration, Simmons cites the Knicks going on to win the Eastern final in 1999 only after Ewing tore his Achilles tendon. If the theory holds, the Raptors should be a better club without Chris Bosh. Unfortunately for the team, the author of The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy, has a caveat: 'He doesn’t qualify for the Ewing Theory,' Simmons told the Star’s Dave Feschuk on Tuesday night in Boston. 'He’s not a superstar. Donovan McNabb in Philly is a good example. Drew Bledsoe in New England. Bosh was someone who never took his team anywhere.' "

  • David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune: "It is too early to know for sure whether the Bulls are in good hands with Tom Thibodeau, but will clenched fists do? I'm not saying Thibodeau leaves the impression he never stops coaching players 24/7 but I wonder if every Bull this season was issued a uniform, shoes, socks and Excedrin. 'You do what you feel you have to do to get your team to perform,' Thibodeau said in a quieter moment. Seriously, it seems like Thibodeau is on more than your boss's Blackberry. As happily as Thibodeau will discuss various methods of defending the pick-and-roll, it suggests that his idea of the big picture is a 42-inch plasma. These aren't necessarily bad things in a basketball coach. It just made the surprise bigger hearing Brian Scalabrine, who knows Thibodeau best, seek to paint a more accurate picture of the guy who would lead the NBA in minutes if they kept such a category for head coaches."

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "So on Nov. 5, 2009, Lionel Hollins asked everyone in a Los Angeles gym to leave practice. That included visitors such as former Griz president Jerry West. Hollins then got something off his chest. In front of the team, Hollins demanded that Allen Iverson conform to the team's philosophy, understand his role and respect his teammates. Several key players say it was an essential move by Hollins, for the sake of the team. ... Hollins is entering his second full season with a new three-year deal and a fresh challenge tied to earning the franchise's first postseason appearance since 2006 with the same approach. He's the unadulterated leader of the Grizzlies -- a team still devoid of a superstar player and strong locker room voice. Fact is, the Griz remain one of the NBA's youngest teams, so Hollins' leadership will go a long way toward the Griz satisfying owner Michael Heisley's guarantee of making the playoffs."

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The Hawks never found their rhythm during the preseason because of nagging injuries, makeshift lineups and a gradual adjustment to new coach Larry Drew's philosophies. None of that should obscure what is one major positive for the Hawks as they open the regular season Wednesday at Memphis. 'We made it through the preseason with no major injuries,' Drew said Tuesday. So the Hawks are in good health to start the season, which always is key in the NBA. But are they ready otherwise? Even they acknowledge there's some uncertainty after a 2-5 preseason that left some unanswered questions about the team. 'We still have work to do, but I am confident,' Hawks forward Josh Smith said. 'Preseason is preseason. You can go 7-0 [in the] preseason, but when it is all said and done it is 0-0. You have just got to be ready and geared up. I think we will be OK.' "

  • Tim Buckley of the Deseret News: "Al Jefferson can't help it. He simply cannot mask his giddiness over the start. The beginning, that is, of a new NBA season -- tonight, at Denver, against the same Nuggets team the Jazz eliminated from the first round of last season's playoffs. The first official outing in the third chapter of his professional life, one he hopes holds more ups than the plentiful downs of the other two. The launch, really, to a new Jazz basketball era -- the first in six seasons without Carlos Boozer in Utah. 'I was super-excited for training camp,' said Jefferson, whom the Jazz acquired in a July trade with Minnesota shortly after two-time All-Star Boozer left for Chicago via free agency. 'So just imagine how I am for (tonight). Yeah, I'm real excited. I'm ready to get going. It's something special here, man. You know, this team -- it's a great team. It's real deep. We've got … guys coming off the bench who are just as good as the starters, in my opinion. I think it's gonna be really special.' Just how extraordinary depends in large part on how well Jefferson clicks with point guard Deron Williams, adapts to the Jazz system and acclimates himself to Utah. So far, so good. Jefferson averaged a team-high 14.5 points while playing in all eight preseason games."

  • Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times: "Baron Davis, who is heading into his third season with the Clippers, said the chemistry is evolving. That is no small issue considering there are eight newcomers on the roster, including four rookies -- Blake Griffin, Eric Bledsoe, Willie Warren and Al-Farouq Aminu -- and a new coach in Vinny Del Negro. With all of the soaring optimism around Griffin, the bottom line is that Davis will determine the Clippers' fortunes this season, by virtue of his position and personality. 'I always tell everybody, Baron is kind of the key to this team,' Clippers center Chris Kaman said. 'He's been, the last two years, the key to this team. We kind of go on his pace and he sets the tone for this team and that's why he's so important. I think he realizes it. If he doesn't, then he's going to figure it out sooner or later. We kind of play off him.' Davis has been more subdued this preseason. The coaching staff said he needed to get in shape and said so publicly. How far he has come in that regard will be clearer, starting Wednesday."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Darren Collison does not need to be reminded about the situation he's stepping into with the Indiana Pacers. The team's new starting point guard heard and read about the revolving door of players at that position as soon as he was acquired from New Orleans in August. Five years, five different players starting the final game of the season for the Pacers. The Pacers believe that streak is over. They hope Collison is the point guard they can build around, citing his quickness, which allows him to streak past opponents, and his defense, which disrupts the other team's offense. 'I don't look at it as pressure because I've never had expectations from people,' Collison said. 'Not coming out of high school, not coming out of college. I wasn't the top point guard in the draft. That's why I don't see pressure in anything.' "

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "Perhaps the only advantage the Cavaliers have in tonight's season opener is their ability to run the floor. Other than guard Rajon Rondo, the Boston Celtics don't want to play transition basketball. The Cavs, on the other hand, want to run at every opportunity. Unfortunately, their running game might be a bit limited. Mo Williams, who missed five days of training camp attending the funeral of his father-in-law in Mississippi, is questionable for the Celtics at 7 tonight at Quicken Loans Arena. 'The only way to counter (Boston's) size is with speed,' Cavs coach Byron Scott said. 'One of my messages today to the guys is we'll do ourselves a disservice if we don't run with every miss, every turnover, every loose ball and every make. We want to put them in a running game for 48 minutes. If we face their halfcourt defense every time down, it's going to be tough. They have one of the best defenses in the league.' "

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Andre Iguodala is not the superstar player who can lead a team to a title, or far in the playoffs. He is, quite frankly, the biggest band- aid on this Sixers team that is filled with smaller ones. It is a roster that doesn't fit together very well, is void of a dominant inside player and will have a 20-year-old running the point, Jrue Holiday. ... Iguodala will earn $13.7 million this year, a figure that will go up about $1 million in each of the next three seasons. But for Sixers fans, or anyone else, to view him as a player to build around, well, that is just a gross mistake. So if Iguodala is not an upper-echelon star to build around, then do the Sixers have enough other pieces to make them a contender in an Eastern Conference which has changed dramatically from last season? It just doesn't appear so."

  • John Niyo of The Detroit News: "Austin Daye sounds ready -- eager, even -- to take the abuse, which is probably a good thing. Because the question isn't whether this rebuilding Pistons team -- the one with the 'For Sale' sign out front and the 'Help Wanted' sign in the window -- is going to take its lumps. It's whether they'll be able to handle the beatings -- like it or not, they're coming -- and keep fighting. So as Detroit prepares to tip off the season tonight at New Jersey, here's a more hopeful sign: The lanky, 6-foot-11 Daye, who'll start at power forward in the opener, isn't just expecting the aches and pains. He's welcoming them. 'I mean, he kind of honors his war wounds,' laughed Arnie Kander, the longtime Pistons strength and conditioning coach. 'He'll come in and say, 'Man, my shoulder' or 'my back' or 'my hip' -- almost like it's a badge or something -- and I'm like, 'Good for you!' "

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "City officials and Orlando Magic employees have spent weeks making sure that Amway Center will be ready for its first NBA regular-season game this Thursday. But even after countless dry runs and four preseason exhibitions, no one can definitively answer a fundamental question: Just how loud will the new arena be when the Magic play a game that counts? The home preseason schedule offered few clues. The Magic won their exhibitions at Amway Center by an average of 33 points. While some moments elicited loud cheers, the games lacked drama and, therefore, didn't produce sustained noise. Most courtside seats emptied by the middle of the fourth quarters. 'I don't think we've observed a true game situation yet in terms of the noise level the building could produce,' Magic President Alex Martins said. The $480 million new building features so many amenities -- including a full-service restaurant called Jernigan's, touchscreen TV sets for loge-level patrons and a kids' zone named after the team mascot -- that fans will be tempted to divert their attention away from the court."

  • Jodie Valade of The Plain Dealer: "Cavaliers Hall of Fame radio announcer Joe Tait underwent a pre-operative heart catheterization Tuesday at The Cleveland Clinic, the team announced late Tuesday evening. He is slated to undergo surgery at an yet-to-be determined date next week, when he will undergo a double bypass, as well as replacing the aortic valve. The team said there was no specific timetable for his return, but looks forward to his return to the microphone this season."