First Cup: Tuesday

  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: "A year ago, in this game, Manu Ginobili did some negotiating. First, he stuck 43 points on the Magic. Then he lamented he might not be doing this much longer for the Spurs. 'I played eight years here,' he said. 'It may be the last one.' That night was about the time the Spurs’ front office said, well, maybe the guy is worth another contract. The franchise extended his contract shortly after. But what Ginobili did against Orlando, and in a stretch of games last spring, also told the brass something else. If Ginobili could still play like this, and if Tony Parker could return to what he had been, then there was another way to win even as Tim Duncan began to wind down. The next time Orlando came to town, on Monday, confirmed all of it. Monday also confirmed this matchup should have been saved for Charles, Ernie and a more prominent telecast. The Spurs and Magic, exchanging 3s and energy, put on a show in November meant for June."

  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "There's very little you can say to excuse that kind of performance. Yes, the Heat was missing Haslem, but Udonis is not that much of a difference. Yes, the Pacers were making a ton of 'lucky' shots early, but that doesn't excuse the awful defense during other stretches or the unimaginative offense on the other end. Yes, Dwyane Wade was not his normal self, but 77 points? At home? Against the Pacers? This feels like a game the Heat assumed it would win -- even as the deficit was starting to get into double figures -- and didn't play desperate basketball until it was too late. ... At some point, things have to turn around. Starting to wonder when that will be. And Erick Dampier, who appears to be the next signing, won't be the answer. Not by himself, at least. Not until everyone who's already here fixes this temporary mess."

  • David Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Forget about wanting your money back after the Heat's latest loss Monday night. I want my words back. I wantthe rational thoughts I've had over the past several weeks about patience and process and it only being November and how Pat Riley would never, ever, cross-Stan-Van-Gundy's-heart return to coaching. What sounds crazier today? The downtrodden, lackluster Heat getting blown out at home by an Indiana team that hasn't made the playoffs the past four years, 93-77? Or Riley returning somewhere down the line if this doesn't change? You'd say Monday was one of those nights that happen to good teams. Except the Heat just had one Saturday in Memphis. You'd say Indiana got lucky. Except the Heat didn't come within seven points in the second half. You'd say it was hangover from Udonis Haslem's injury. But come on."

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "It took the Hawks six years to stop listening to Mike Woodson. It has taken one month for them to tune out his successor. To say the effort the Hawks gave against the Boston Celtics on Monday night was amateurish is to discredit the concept of amateurism and to distort the meaning of 'effort.' Said Larry Drew, the head coach: 'Very embarrassing. Very, very embarrassing. Very embarrassing. If I had to sum it up in one word: Embarrassing.' Drew’s team trailed by 26 points after one quarter. The Celtics, who played Sunday in a different country and who started four men who’d been in the NBA for at least a dozen years, scored 39 points in 12 minutes and made 18 of 25 shots. If you’ve ever wondered how a basketball game would look if one team was prohibited from guarding the other, here it was. 'Embarrassing,' said Josh Smith, invoking the word of the night. Then: 'It was like they hit us with one knockout punch and we had the glass jaw in the fight.' The Hawks are 8-6 after starting 6-0. They’ve lost five home games. (Since you asked, their first home loss of last season came on Thanksgiving night.) Of those eight victories, none have come against a team that holds a winning record. Once the Hawks started playing somebody capable of beating them, they pretty much stopped playing. On Monday they stopped trying."

  • Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times: "He floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee, and Blake Griffin isn't even a boxer. Los Angeles' newest superstar-in-waiting is in a strange place. He plays for the Clippers. He is 15 games into a career that has marquee promise. Saturday, he had 44 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists. It was the kind of monster game upon which careers are built and legends begun. But he plays for the Clippers. In his monster game Saturday, he made a couple of dunks that gave SportsCenter several highlight reels. In one, he looked like Jack and the guy guarding him looked like the beanstalk. Some guys elevate. Griffin's nickname ought to be Otis. Monday night, he got a loose ball in the first two minutes of the game and the crowd yelled in anticipation as he headed for the slam. Already, they expect some dazzle, and he gave it to them by slamming one home. In a city of glitter that demands such things, Griffin can be a one-man showtime. But there is a problem. He plays for the Clippers. ... In a stunner Monday night, the Clippers beat the New Orleans Hornets (11-2). Griffin had a key rebound and basket to tie the score late, and he looked near tears when the final buzzer sounded. He told the media after Saturday night's huge game that his individual stuff mattered little if they didn't win. Griffin finished with 24 points, 13 rebounds and four assists Monday. This time, in a victory. Which is the only thing that really changes a team's culture."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "The quirkiest guy in the NBA, and maybe on this planet, ate sloppy Joes in the pregame locker room Monday, after, of course, he perfectly spiked his mohawk. And when Chris 'The Birdman' Andersen walked past George Karl, doing a pregame interview, the Nuggets' coach quipped: 'Nice mousse,' at which Andersen walked up to the video camera and deadpanned: 'It's not mousse. It's glue.' The Birdman just makes basketball fun, and he's back at it. The reserve big man returned to action at Golden State. Andersen had been out all summer and fall while rehabbing from knee surgery. As for his return to the rotation, Andersen said: 'I just want to get up and down the court, play some good defense, block some shots. My whole body is sore from practicing, but that's when I play my best basketball -- the pain pushes me. I'm anxious to get out there.' "

  • Matt Calkins of The Columbian: "A good basketball player practices his fakes, no doubt. But does he also fake his practices? While there are no official accusations or implications here, the conflicting reports regarding Brandon Roy’s level of participation in Monday’s Blazers practice were a tad bit perplexing. ... So what constituted his workout Monday? Did it move him any closer to a return in three days? 'I just did some 3-man weave. Mostly stuff with the weight room. I didn’t do much with the team. Did some shooting with the guards,' said Roy in sweat-drenched T-shirt. 'I’ll talk to the doctor and hopefully he gives me clearance to practice Wednesday. And if he does that, then I’ll feel much better about Friday.' ... how come when Blazers coach Nate McMillan was asked about Roy’s practice Monday, he said this? 'He went through most of the practice, some scrimmaging,' he said. 'He went through some live. ... He looked OK.' McMillan’s description confused some reporters, who had trouble reconciling how a player still waiting for a doctor’s clearance would partake in live drills.When pressed as to whether Roy’s workout included contact, McMillan repeated: 'He got some work in.' The ostensibly divergent stories may very well be the byproduct of misinterpretation and not deception. McMillan said Roy only went live in half-court sets, and perhaps Roy didn’t think that was enough to be considered actually practicing. Or, is it possible Roy just wants to minimize expectations pertaining to his return and level of play upon coming back?"

  • Terry Foster of The Detroit News: "My guess is the Pistons have tried to trade Richard Hamilton but there are no takers. That is why Sunday's 115-110 victory over the Wizards was so significant. Hamilton scored 27, including 12 of the Pistons' 13 points in overtime. It was a wonderful audition for teams to see the man still has game and can be an offensive heartbeat. But what will it get him here? A few more wins? Maybe the Pistons can squeeze into the playoffs only to be eaten alive by Miami, Orlando or Boston. It makes no sense to stay. It doesn't do anybody any good. 'I don't listen to any of those trade rumors,' Hamilton said. 'I only hear about them when you bring them up.' ... Hamilton is 32 and keeps himself in terrific shape. But he also is having his worst season as a Piston. He is fourth on the team in scoring and averaging just 13.5 points. Hamilton said his job isn't to score much in the Pistons new system. If I were in charge, I would give him the green light. It is important for two reasons: If you want to keep the guy, he's proven that he can score and help teams win; and if you want to trade the guy, then let other teams see what he can do. The Pistons need to tell Rip to let it rip, and do his thing on the court. You just might spark a dying team, or you might find somebody willing to nibble and bring in expiring contracts. You never know unless you try."

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "Raymond Felton has his own theory on why the Knicks' offense suddenly kicked into gear on the West Coast. 'We had to (lose) six,' Felton said, 'before the light bulb finally hit us in the head.' That mixed metaphor also applies to Felton, the veteran point guard who may be finally adjusting to Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo system. Felton has scored 71 points during the team's three-game winning streak and is developing a strong chemistry with Amar'e Stoudemire. He's also picked a good time to be playing at a high level. Over the next 48 hours, the Knicks play a home-and-home with the Charlotte Bobcats, Felton's former club that elected not to re-sign him despite Felton leading the franchise to its first-ever playoff appearance. 'I look at it like a business and don't dwell on the reason,' Felton said Monday. 'All that stuff that happened this summer isn't relevant any more.' "

  • Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com: "It was about 16 years ago in Saint Joseph's gym in Philadelphia, where a talented high school player first met an assistant coach for the Philadelphia 76ers. On Tuesday, for the first time since that meeting, the two meet while at the top of their professions as Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers host first-year head coach Tom Thibodeau and the Chicago Bulls. 'He was crucial. He was with me when I was 16 or 17 years old,' Bryant said. 'Just doing drills and just working on ballhandling and just teaching me the game. He was there from Day 1.' ... Having coached against Bryant and the Lakers many times, including in last season's NBA Finals, Thibodeau is familiar with the evolution of Bryant's game. 'His greatness is, you can play great defense, you just try to make him work, and he still has the ability to score big,' Thibodeau said. 'He's gotten to the point now where he can beat you a lot of different ways. It's not only scoring points, he can beat you with the pass; he can beat you with his defense; he can beat you with his rebounding. I thought in Game 7 [of the 2010 NBA Finals], what gets lost on people, [Boston] was badly outrebounded, and he didn't have a particularly good shooting night, but he had a great rebounding night and that probably was the difference of the game.' The respect is mutual. 'I think his defensive schemes themselves as a whole are fantastic,' Bryant said. 'He's a lab rat. He'll stay in there and figure things out and figure percentages out, and who's doing what. He's really focused on that task.' "

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Griz coach Lionel Hollins offered another theory as to why the Griz haven't cleaned the glass as well as last season thus far: gang defenses geared toward slowing down the Griz frontline. 'Zach's not the dominant rebounder he was last year because they're beating the crap out of him,' Hollins said. 'He's banging with two or three guys just to get near the basket. We need our perimeter people to be better rebounders. It's simple: You've got three on one, then you've got to have the two without anybody (guarding them) come and get a rebound.' Randolph still puts the onus on himself to reverse the trend. 'I know I can score with the best of them. But that rebounding is a huge thing,' he said. 'It's what separates you.' "

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Jason Kidd is the only active player with more triple-doubles than Grant Hill, whose 29th and final one came in 1999. Hill flirted with the idea of skipping a decade and getting one at age 38 for a bit Monday night, when he went to halftime with 10 points, five assists and four rebounds. Hill still would not have been the oldest player to register a triple-double. Karl Malone got one at 40. Regardless, Hill is playing as consistently well as anyone on the team."

  • Tom Enlund of the Journal Sentinel: "It’s challenging times like these that can test the mettle of an NBA team and the Bucks are no exception. Their loss to Oklahoma City last Saturday at the Bradley Center was their third straight. Statistically speaking, they are the worst offensive team in the league. Beginning with Wednesday’s game at Cleveland, the Bucks will play four of their next five on the road. After practice on Monday, coach Scott Skiles was asked about his team’s level of mental toughness when it came to fighting its was through adversity. 'We’ve got a ways to go,' he said. 'We definitely have to get tougher with our play and get tougher mentally. It’s no different than a lot of teams. We’re trying to work on that. Sometimes that can come quickly and sometimes it takes awhile. We’re putting ourselves in a position defensively where we’re able to hang in these games so there’s a level of toughness there for sure. It’s just that we have to be a little more aggressive offensively, a little sharper, a little more physical offensively in the way we screen and run the floor. Things like that. There’s toughness in that as well.' The Bucks are averaging 91.4 points on 41.1% shooting and are last in the league in both categories."

  • Bill Lubinger of The Plain Dealer: "Ryan Hollins, the Cavs' 7-0, 240-pound center, isn't known necessarily as an enforcer, but his two recent flagrant fouls threaten to remake his reputation. Neither were intentional, he said, just a byproduct of the game. Not that he's backing off from setting the tone with physical play underneath. 'Definitely, as a five-man that's your job to protect the middle and not give up layups,' he said. 'I feel like I can definitely do a better job of that and, me being thin ... maybe my size surprises people, but I'm going to get down there and bang and hit with people.' "

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "Rookie DeMarcus Cousins finished with 18 points and nine rebounds but is clueless offensively. He missed two jumpers that fueled Utah's second-quarter run. He persists in putting the ball on the floor, inviting the strip. Worst of all, he seems to be buying into the collective mind-set, namely that whoever has the ball dribbles and shoots it."

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: "Days later, Utah Jazz assistant trainer Brian Zettler still smiles but will not comment about getting called for a technical foul Saturday at Portland. The team's equipment manager is about the only one on the team not talking about it, though. 'Yeah, that was funny,' a chuckling Jazz point guard Deron Williams said Monday morning. 'I don't know what B.Z. said, but he says some pretty crazy things, so I'm surprised this is his first one.' A couple other factors made this technical story surprising as well. For one thing, Zettler was sitting on the baseline by the end of the Jazz bench when, according to Andrei Kirilenko, the well-liked trainer told official Bill Kennedy, 'Call the foul!' No cussing, vulgar or derogatory remarks were made. Kennedy did call a foul -- it just happened to be of the 'T' variety. No warning was given, either. And, initially, the veteran ref assessed the Russian small forward with the infraction that comes with a $2,000 penalty. A visibly stunned Kirilenko pleaded his case and won -- for himself, at least. ... 'Don't worry,' Kirilenko said. 'We've got him covered.' Williams credits the incident for eventually helping to spark the Jazz to their come-from-behind 103-94 win. C.J. Miles' five fourth-quarter 3-pointers didn't hurt, either. 'It was good. It ignited us,' Williams said. 'Coach (Jerry) Sloan wasn't there to get one, so he took it upon himself to get one. It changed momentum.' "