First Cup: Thursday

  • Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com: "Even Kevin Garnett admits he can seem robotic on the basketball court, a win-at-all-costs mercenary with little care for anyone in opposing colors. But he's suggested, on occasion, that there's a heart beneath that seemingly tin No. 5 Boston Celtics jersey, telling reporters last week, 'I know I've got a bar code over the back of my neck, but I am human.' So Garnett couldn't help but be stung Wednesday when pundits attacked his on-court judgment after Detroit's Charlie Villanueva said via Twitter that Garnett coldly called him a 'cancer patient' amidst trash talk during Boston's victory over the Pistons Tuesday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Garnett didn't even offer his side of the story -- he issued a statement late Wednesday afternoon suggesting his words had been misunderstood by Villanueva -- before many of the icy on-court actions from his 16-year career were dragged into the national spotlight. All of which left Celtics coach Doc Rivers concerned about his player's mental mindset entering Wednesday's game against the Milwaukee Bucks. 'I know Kevin well, obviously, and I was telling my coaches before the game, this could be a tough night because he's such an emotional player that when he has an emotional day, it usually affects his play,' said Rivers. ... He's made himself one of the great players in NBA history by displaying an unparalleled intensity. ... Beneath that steel frame is a heart. It endured some pain Wednesday, but Garnett refused to let it break him on the court. He may be human, but there is that bar code on the back of his neck."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "After George Karl's valiant bout with throat and neck cancer last spring, he has become the NBA's face of cancer survival. Asked about Garnett, Karl said: 'My initial response is: it's disappointing and crossing the line. I don't know if cancer is an epidemic in our country, but we accept it as a problem and it's a very dangerous part of life for everybody. Making fun of it, that's part of (some people's) sarcastic side of trash talk. ... I also believe that competition makes us do things that we don't have our total mental morality (in check). We act like children at times, even coaches.' "

  • Peter May of ESPNBoston.com: "He knew. The game was in overtime, every possession was magnified, focus was at a premium -- and Paul Pierce knew. He dropped a free throw with13.3 seconds remaining, then raised his arms as the TD Garden crowd gave him a standing ovation. Twenty-thousand points. He knew he needed 23 to get there, and this was No. 23. Somehow, amidst all the clamor, he knew. Don't think for a minute these guys don't know what they need to reach a certain milestone, be it 20,000 points or a triple-double. They do. 'Players know,'' said Pierce, who ended up with 28 points in a hard-fought, beauty-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder, 105-102 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night. 'Whether they admit it or not is another thing. But they know.' ... He's now in the company of Bird and Havlicek, and, as he noted afterward, 'Just to be mentioned in the same sentence with them is pretty special.' He's had a long, sometimes painful and occasionally bizarre history in Boston. But he belongs in any conversation of Celtics all-time greats. He did it the old-fashioned way. He earned it. Maybe that's why he knew after all."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "And while searching for answers -- for the most putrid perimeter shooting night of his career and his team’s second consecutive collapse -- Kevin Durant stopped in mid-sentence, conceded confusion and suddenly stormed out of his postgame press conference. Durant had just watched the previously winless Los Angeles Clippers reduce his purportedly powerful Thunder to something of a pushover. L.A. led by as many as 22 points before sealing an unsettling 107-92 win. 'We just didn’t show up -- I didn’t show up,' Durant said. 'I’m the leader of this team. Everybody follows me. I didn’t show up. The team didn’t show up. That’s why we loss.' For the fourth straight game, the Thunder dogged it on defense and looked oblivious on offense."

  • Jamie Samuelsen for the Detroit Free Press: "Joe Dumars absolutely should not fire John Kuester because it would just reinforce the immature behavior from his players and keep spinning that revolving door in the coaching seat. And with the pending sale of the team, Dumars probably feels that he’s helpless to do anything anyway because he has no idea of he or Kuester will even be around in the near future. What Dumars can do and should do is back up his coach. He should step forward and announce that Kuester is the man, and no change will be made. The cliché here is that the inmates are running the asylum. But the Pistons are beyond that. The inmates think they have absolute power of every single thing that happens at the asylum. And they shouldn’t. A bunch of overpaid whiners mail in a game to the Celtics. The coach has the gall to point this out to the media. And the sniping begins. Pathetic."

  • Justin Rogers of Booth Newspapers: "With Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford shooting free throws early in the third quarter, Detroit Pistons coach John Kuester attempted to get Rodney Stuckey's attention by calling out his name. Stuckey didn't flinch. Kuester got up and called out twice more, a little louder in case his point guard didn't hear him the first time. Stuckey continued to look straight ahead, appearing to ignore his coach's summoning. Not willing to tolerate the apparent insubordination, Kuester subbed Stuckey out and glued him to the bench for the remainder of the game. As the situation was unfolding, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Gordon looked on, shaking their heads in disappointment. Whether they were upset at Stuckey, Kuester or both remains unclear."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Bucks coach Scott Skiles said he believes his single-game assist record of 30 will be broken, and he wouldn't be surprised if Celtics guard Rajon Rondo is able to do it. 'There have been a lot of guys get up in the 20s and then you need a little luck at that point,' Skiles said. 'Guys have to keep banging shots. He (Rondo) is such a good player. It wouldn't bother me at all if he got it.' "

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "The Wolves last summer guaranteed Darko Milicic $16 million for the next four seasons because they considered him a mobile 7-footer who could anchor the defense. But he's got to make a shot sometime ... doesn't he? Milicic has an 14.3 field-goal percentage (4-for-28) and didn't make a shot in games against Milwaukee, Miami or Orlando (0-for-6)."

  • Zach McCann and Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "On Tuesday, Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said James should be considered for the NBA's defensive player of the year award. Magic GM Otis Smith chuckled and said that everybody in the NBA should be considered. Responded Van Gundy: 'That's a quick rise to prominence defensively. I think it's a bit early to start the campaigning.' "

  • Kate Fagen of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "What's the solution to this problem? Nothing simple, that's for sure. It sounds as if many people want to trade Andre Iguodala to increase minutes for Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner. The idea behind this thinking is clear: "We know what we have in Iguodala, his contract is hefty, and we don't feel it's worth the price," PLUS, "We don't really know what we have in Turner and Young, their contracts are entry-level, and we need to decide what those players are worth as we move forward in building a winner." Another line of thinking is that Iguodala unfairly bears the burden for this team. He's often given the ball with only a few seconds left on the shot clock, forced to take a difficult shot, and that includes end-of-game situations. He has no post presence allowing him to penetrate to the basket, so the first step for the Sixers should be to acquire a dependable, scoring center, which could highlight Iguodala's game (and the game's of all the remaining players). The question: Should the Sixers trade away a known quantity (Iguodala) for an unknown? The Sixers need to evaluate their entire roster and see what trades/moves can be made. Yes, that includes Iguodala. But it's not limited to him, either, because this combination of players is not a winning combination."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Pacers forward Danny Granger said he didn't take it personally that 76ers guard Andre Iguodala started over him for Team USA during the World Championships over the summer. Iguodala played ahead of Granger because he's a better defender. Granger averaged 9.7 minutes a game for the gold medal-winning team. 'The style coach (Mike) Krzyzewski wanted to play was to pressure the ball full court,' Granger said. 'Andre's better than me at that. That's not something I do. He plays the passing lanes. We don't play passing lanes here. We're just two different players. I can play good defense in the half court. If you want to pressure full court, I can do it, too, but I don't know if I'll be able to do it the whole game.' "

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "John Wall has quickly joined some elite company. He became just the fourth player in NBA history to have at least 20 points and 10 assists in his home debut, joining Hall of Famers Isiah Thomas and Oscar Robertson and former NBA champion Norm Nixon. And through his first three NBA games, Wall has 71 points and 31 assists, which makes him the only player besides Robertson to have at least 70 points and 30 assists through three games (Robertson had 72 and 30 as a rookie for the Cincinnati Royals in 1960-61). 'That's a great accomplishment, to be honest, but Oscar Robertson's the only player to ever average a triple-double in a season so that's something that's hard to do. It's great to be in a category with him, but he already proved himself on this level and did everything,' said Wall, who is averaging 23.7 points, 10.3 assists and league-leading four steals. 'I'm still working, the first three games, that really doesn't mean anything. I still have 79 games, so I have to prepare myself for every game.' "

  • Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times: "In a single bound, Michael Jordan could dunk on an opponent, savor a good cigar, sign another endorsement deal and insult Jerry Krause. Physicists told us that it was an illusion, that Jordan had no more hang time than any other player with the same vertical leap. Hey, we saw what we saw, OK? If physicists tell us that Derrick Rose doesn't get to the height of his jump quicker than anyone else in the NBA, I'm giving up on physics. I see what I see. The first thing I see is the Bulls guard blowing past whichever poor guy has been given the unfortunate task of trying to stop him. On Monday night, the Trail Blazers' Andre Miller was filling the role of The Poor Guy. There is no shame in that; he's the latest in a line that will extend to the Pacific Ocean by the time Rose's career is done. Then I see Rose zoom into the lane with a ridiculous burst of speed. And then I see him lift off like a guided missile. There is nothing like it in the NBA. This is where he separates himself from other guards. He goes from 0 to 3 feet in a blink. He'll take on any big man at the basket. He doesn't care, with one exception we'll get to later."

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Hawks radio voice Steve Holman called his 1,800th consecutive game for the team Tuesday at Cleveland. Holman has worked every game for the past 25 years, but considers his streak to have started when John Sterling left to do Yankees broadcasts in March 1989 and Holman started doing Hawks games solo. 'I’m proud of it,' Holman said. 'I’ve been able to stay healthy, and they’ve let me continue to do it all these years. I look forward to every game like it’s my first night, and I really mean that.' "