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First Cup: Monday

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "Jack Ramsay, the legendary coach of the Trail Blazers who led the team to its only NBA Championship, said he had a chance to say goodbye to Maurice Lucas a couple of weeks ago when he visited Portland. Lucas, one of the greatest Blazers ever, died Sunday after a more than two-year battle with bladder cancer. 'I was so happy that I saw him,’ Ramsay said. 'He sensed then that he wasn’t going to make it, you know. So we had a long chat. It was very nice. I really feel blessed that I had that time with him. I’m doing games (on the radio) for ESPN, and we have a game in Portland on Dec. 9. As I was leaving, I told him I was planning on seeing him then. 'He said, ‘OK. Let’s do that,’ ' Ramsay recalled on Sunday. 'But that’s not gonna happen.’ Ramsay said Lucas should go down as one of the best Blazers, simply because he was the driving force, with Bill Walton, on the 1977 Championship team. 'He was the strength of the team,’ Ramsay said. 'He was The Enforcer. He was really the heart of that team. And he liked the role. He enjoyed it. He really liked being the enforcer-type player.'"

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: "Maurice Lucas wasn’t around the Blazers much in the last couple of years. He was in and out of the hospital, visiting with doctors, enduring chemotherapy. For a while there, even as we knew Lucas had cancer, we all expected 'The Enforcer' would kick its butt. It's what Lucas did. And Darryl Dawkins knows what I’m talking about. Lucas lost his battle on Halloween. I won't ever think of the holiday the same way. The Blazers media relations department made the call they’ve been dreading for weeks, one by one, reaching out to pass the message to the public. And while I’ve covered the Blazers for eight seasons, and seen some disappointing things, this is the worst news I’ve ever had to write about. Losing a game stinks. Losing a legend is unspeakable."

  • Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald: "Part of the theory on how to defeat the Heat is to zone them, make them shoot jumpers and just make sure you outrebound the Heat. Well, the Nets played zone. The Nets outrebounded Miami, particularly working the offensive boards, getting a 19-5 edge in that stat. And yet the result was the same as Friday's against the Magic, a lead never smaller than 19 points in the fourth quarter. Granted, it was just the Nets, but if it's height that people think will be the Heat's downfall, it's clearly not going to be something the team can't overcome. For two games in a row, a quality big man put up impressive numbers in the first half, first Dwight Howard then Brook Lopez, then did little to nothing in the second half."

  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "There was a moment as the team bus rolled down Mulberry Street Sunday morning that LeBron James claimed to have turned to Chris Bosh andobserved, 'This was the (place) where we could have ended up,' noting that if Dwyane Wade took the early bus, he would have mentioned it to him as well. Ah, yes. The road not traveled. Heartwarming. Titillating. That should give the blathersphere its latest reverie, or inspire hopes and dreams about that opt-out in 2014. And if you believe that, he has an urgent business offer from a guy in Abu Dhabi that he believes might interest you. It’s not really relevant anymore whether James and his mercenary allies considered taking their show to Newark, but Newark’s first reaction to this Miami circus Sunday was noteworthy, as we’re guessing that it represents the reception the Heat will receive at every NBA station over the next six months. Basically, James gets booed on every touch. Loudly. Then he gets cheered whenever he does something else, whether it be good, bad or indifferent. It sounds like 17,000 people on clozapine, or some other antipsychotic: They’re peeved, then pleased; they’re chagrined, then cheered. And so on."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "When Yao Ming was last on that floor for a game that mattered, he left it limping, heading to surgery that would cost him all of last season and leave him and the Rockets pining for the day he would be back. But three games into the season, two with Yao playing, bringing him back has proved more complicated and challenging than they might have imagined all those months waiting for his return. Yao has progressed steadily, averaging 11.5 points in 23 minutes per game, making 46.5 percent of his shots. But the Rockets often seem caught between their split personalities, between the up-tempo, open-court team they had to be without Yao and the halfcourt, low-post team they can be with him. 'We're just not really close to being there in how to play with him,' coach Rick Adelman said. 'We're almost to the point where you have to have certain people on the court with him to take advantage of him. We're a work in progress right now.' Adelman has insisted he wants the Rockets to attack quickly, as they did when at their best last season, even with Yao on the floor. That also could help Yao by forcing defenses to take on the initial thrust, rather than load up to battle Yao."

  • Harvey Araton of The New York Times: "That Marcus Camby has lasted long enough to become a tenured dean of enforcement is something of a cruel irony for the Knicks after a lost decade we can’t be officially certain is over. When they traded him in his prime to Denver along with the seventh pick of the draft -- the burly Brazilian center/forward Nene -- the rap on Camby was his inability to stay on the court. Alas, after all these years, Camby is still what the reconstructed Knicks do not have, an interior defensive presence that will not soon be addressed, and certainly not by Carmelo Anthony. How less profligate would the decade have been had the ruinous trade for Antonio McDyess (thank you very much, Scott Layden) never been made and the paint had been patrolled by Camby and Nene? Or consider this fateful mindbender: what if Layden had kept Camby and had the vision to draft the mercurial leaper out of high school, a fellow named Stoudemire, who went ninth that year to the Suns?"

  • Kate Fagan of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Often, an NBA game mirrors this pattern: In the first quarter, as each team warms up and attempts to set a tempo, speed and athleticism can be just as important as skill and execution. But at some point, the game is squeezed into a smaller space. It's in these chunks of time that the Sixers' skills -- running, dunking, jumping, filling lanes -- are virtually worthless, easily trumped by an opponent with a go-to low-post presence, or a highly skilled wing player, or an effective point guard. Or some mix of the three. Right now, when the game contracts to the half court, and then sometimes further inside the three-point line, the Sixers are unsure, back on their heels, ill-equipped to counter an NBA team's defense with poise and precision. And it's in these 'bad stretches' that the Sixers go from competing for the win to competing for respectability. There are solutions -- none as effective as a change of personnel, of course -- which Doug Collins will attempt to implement. He'll simplify the offense even further."

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "O.J. Mayo didn't get much of an opportunity to dream about the Grizzlies' potential last week after their season-opening loss. You see, Mayo couldn't sleep that night. He stayed awake thinking about his passive performance in a depressing defeat to the Atlanta Hawks. 'I wasn't even tired after that (Atlanta) game,' Mayo said. 'I didn't give it all I had in me, and I don't want to feel like that ever again. From now on, I've got to leave it all out on the floor so I can sleep at night.' If there was a tinge of concern about Mayo because of his slow start to the regular season after subpar shooting during exhibition play, then Griz fans can rest easy. Mayo sure seems to have entered a comfort zone. And it's not just that the third-year, 6-4 guard averaged 24.5 points over the past two games -- both Grizzlies victories. The pep in Mayo's step was noticeable."

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: "Eddy Curry was excluded during Saturday's elaborate player introductions during the home opener -- the lone Knick not presented. But the embattled center still plans to make his return to practice today. Curry has not practiced since the second day of training camp when he strained his hamstring. A Knicks official said Curry was in the locker room during intros and the game. It is unclear whose decision it was to not be introduced. The other 14 players were introduced separately amidst a laser-light production. Curry, whose expiring contract is a trade asset, likely would have been booed heavily."

  • Chris Iott of Booth Newspapers: "It is tough to imagine a way for an NBA team to lose three consecutive games to start a season in a more deflating manner than the Pistons did in losses to New Jersey, Oklahoma City and Chicago. The Pistons have played very well at times. Gordon and Rodney Stuckey have been bright spots. Their aggressiveness has been the centerpiece of an offense that promises to provide fans with more excitement than last season. But all the positives have been overshadowed by the manner in which they have suffered all three losses. Pistons coach John Kuester preaches taking it one day at a time because it is a long season, but the Pistons need to pick up a victory as evidence that their hard work is paying off."?

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Most of the problems James Johnson created in his inconsistent rookie season were because of poor play. Thanks to Johnson's dominant fourth quarter in Saturday's victory over the Pistons, the second-year forward has created a positive pickle. Specifically, how to fit him in the rotation? 'It's kind of hard on Thibs,' guard Derrick Rose conceded of the decision facing coach Tom Thibodeau. The Bulls' coach had sat Johnson down before the season opener in Oklahoma City to tell him he wouldn't be playing following a solid preseason. One game later, with the Bulls trailing Detroit by 20, Thibodeau inserted Johnson and rookie Omer Asik in an attempt to find any energetic combination. Eight points, nine rebounds, three blocks and several solid decisions later, Johnson obviously ran with his opportunity."

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: "Those who counted the Jazz among fallen Western contenders were rebuffed Sunday night. The Jazz took the Thunder to the woodshed, 120-99 in a game that was a blowout the entire second half. Just because America has fallen hard for the Thunder, anointing our heroes as the chief threat to the Laker reign, doesn't mean the Blazers and the Nuggets and the Spurs and the Mavs and the Rockets and the Suns and the Hornets are on board. The Jazz, who arrived in town 0-2, hasn't signed the petition, either. 'They still have Coach Sloan, right?' asked Thunder coach Scott Brooks. 'They're going to be successful.' "

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "Spurs coach Gregg Popovich doesn’t need a crystal ball or a flux capacitor to predict what his team might look like in three years. All he needs is a copy of the current roster. 'You’re looking at it,' Popovich said. 'That is what it will look like.' The announcement Saturday that All-Star point guard Tony Parker had agreed to a four-year extension worth nearly $50 million was the latest stanza in a seven-month shopping spree meant to lock down the core of the team for the immediate future. Since April, the Spurs have also given multi-year extensions or new deals to guard Manu Ginobili, small forward Richard Jefferson and backup center Matt Bonner, all of whom are already in their 30s. The Spurs’ front office, headed by Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford, places a premium on continuity. To them, it is comforting to know the team that returns to Staples Center tonight to face the L.A. Clippers will look awfully similar to the team that will take the floor for years to come. 'Continuity and corporate knowledge have always been something that’s helped us over the years,' Popovich said. 'We obviously think it’s very important. That’s why we did it.' "

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel "Earl Lloyd politely objects when people call him 'the Jackie Robinson of basketball.' But Lloyd shattered a color barrier. On Oct. 31, 1950 Lloyd became the first black person to play in a regular-season NBA game. Lloyd played forward for the Washington Capitols against the Rochester Royals in Rochester, N.Y. 'The game was nondescript almost,' Lloyd says. 'What you have to understand is that the NBA in 1950 did not enjoy the notoriety that the game is getting now. The league was only four years old. We were still babes in the woods. I guess people expected to see the Ku Klux Klan there with ropes and robes. It never happened.' NBA Commissioner David Stern refers to the 82-year-old pioneer as 'a precious resource,' especially for young players who don't know the history of segregation. Few sports fans know about Lloyd's accomplishments, even though the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame enshrined him as a contributor in 2003."