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First Cup: Wednesday

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "For George Karl, every day is Thanksgiving -- so imagine how special the actual Thanksgiving will be. This past year, Karl beat cancer -- again. This bout was the toughest, a grueling, fatiguing heavyweight slugfest with throat-and-neck cancer. But the Nuggets coach won and is looking forward to sharing the holiday with his family. 'It's the best American holiday, and it starts the best six weeks of the year,' Karl said. 'The right things are said and done then, more often than not. 'It will be a great day -- a special day -- and most of my family will be there, except for Coby.' His son, Coby, is playing basketball overseas. He had been on the Nuggets' roster last spring and on the squad during the summer league."

  • Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "The Heat has consecutive losses to Memphis and Indiana. It's Erik Spoelstra now on the Stan Van Gundy Hot Seat. And Spoelstra knows the rules. He's a big boy and a good coach, no matter what anyone says today. But you don't get handed the keys to a team like this without the wild expectations that come with it. Of course, that previous sentence is part of the dilemma itself. This team has significant holes, especially with Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller on the shelf. At the crux of the question Phil Jackson raises is this: Do superstars in the NBA, the most diva of sports leagues, need to be coached by superstars? That's why Jackson was brought to Los Angeles with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. It's also why Van Gundy got run out of Miami by his own players, mainly Shaq, even if modern legend claims it all Riley's doing. ... Fast forward to today's Heat and the problem isn't just the losing, though that's the crux of it all. The comments are interesting, too. Bosh once said players didn't want a two-hour practice the next day, preferring to 'chill.' (Careful, fellas. With Riley, those two-hour practices would be four hours.) The more alarming comment came from James after Monday's loss. He said he wasn't having any fun. It shows in his play, too. Where's the energy, the passion, that he was known for in Cleveland?"

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "If you turned the channel when Marreese Speights made a layup to give the Philadelphia 76ers a 15-point lead with about eight minutes left, or when 76ers rookie Evan Turner stepped to the foul line for two free throws andthe Wizards trailing by three with eight seconds left, then you are probably disappointed that you missed the end of this one. But if you stuck around for all 53 minutes -- sometimes excruciating, other times incredibly enjoyable -- you were treated to yet another thrilling, John Wall-inspired overtime victory for over the 76ers. The Wizards really had no business winning the game, 116-114, but Wall's determination combined with a series of boneheaded plays by the 76ers resulted in yet another overtime victory and settled any lingering debate -- if there was any -- about which player should've gone first overall. Coach Flip Saunders summed up exactly how the 76ers -- and Coach Doug Collins, in particular -- should probably feel after yet another bizarre finish that saw Elton Brand take JaVale McGee out of midair, Trevor Booker force a critical turnover, and Wall force overtime after one of the silliest fouls at the end of regulation. 'You better keep all sharp objects away from Doug,' Saunders joked, 'because he's come in here twice, they've had two games where they've been right there, and they've played very well.' The major difference in each game was Wall, who showed up Turner for second time in two meetings. After scoring 29 points with 13 assists and nine steals in a 116-115 overtime win on Nov. 2, Wall served as hero once again, as he scored 25 points -- all after halftime -- and used his savvy ability to coerce Jrue Holiday into fouling him just inside halfcourt and hitting three free throws to force overtime."

  • Kate Fagan of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Even if you watched, you still wouldn't believe it. It was really quite remarkable. It wasn't the kind of remarkable that made you stand and cheer. It was the kind that had you watching in stunned silence. On Tuesday night inside the Verizon Center, the 76ers lost in overtime to the Washington Wizards, 116-114. The Sixers were ahead by 17 points in the third quarter, 15 points in the fourth, and 11 points with 5 minutes, 7 seconds remaining. It was the kind of loss you had already penciled into the win column, that's how assured this victory seemed. The Sixers dropped to 3-11. The Wizards, led by JaVale McGee's 24 points and 18 rebounds, improved to 5-8. 'It's almost like, 'Let's find a way for something else dramatic to happen,' ' said Sixers coach Doug Collins."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "One didn't need to see Joakim Noah's halftime exchange with Denzel Washington and Rahm and Ari Emanuel to know the starpower that Staples Center typically houses. There's always plenty of it on the court, too, and despite Derrick Rose taking another step in writing his legend, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers prevailed 98-91 on Tuesday night. Rose finished with 30 points, eight assists and countless oohs and aahs solicited from the star-studded crowd. Facing constant double-teams down the stretch, Bryant settled for 20 points and five assists, with Shannon Brown and Lamar Odom leading the Lakers with 21 points apiece. ... The Bulls led 81-79 when Joakim Noah dropped in a jumper with 8 minutes, 48 seconds remaining. That's when the Lakers flooded the floor with shooters in a small lineup and ripped off a 17-2 run."

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: "The notion that the Chicago Bulls could survive the tough Eastern Conference and threaten the Lakers in the NBA Finals would be much more interesting if the Bulls had sought out a certain Windy City native in the offseason and signed him to go head-to-head with Kobe Bryant at times such as these Tuesday night. Shannon Brown was available in the offseason -- when he wasn’t holed up in the gym working on his skills -- as a free agent but wound up re-signing with the Lakers to be Bryant’s backup. The Bulls have Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer, two defensive-minded shooting guards who’ve guarded Bryant in the past. Bryant had his way with Bogans early in the game Tuesday night and drew Bogans’ second foul less than three minutes into the game. Brewer replaced him but had just four points in 18 first-half minutes. Brown, on the other hand, had 18 points in 14 first-half minutes to continue his torrid shooting so far this season. Bryant was the only other Laker with more than seven points; Bryant had 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting against the defense of Bogans and Brewer."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Now that their force field of arrogance has been shattered, the Heat wobble into Amway Center at a ho-hum 8-6, misfiring on offense and missing some spare parts ( Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller). All their woes place a ton of pressure on the 9-4 Magic tonight for Orlando-Miami II. What do you make of the Magic if they can't beat the reeling, luke-warm Heat and square the series? 'What happened to us in Miami is in the back of our heads,' point guard Jameer Nelson said after Monday's loss in San Antonio. "And it should be. We take it as a challenge.' The Magic said that the Spurs game was a measuring stick. If that was a barometer, isn't the Miami rematch, especially after Orlando was embarrassed Oct. 29 in South Florida? Absolutely. If the Heat aren't vulnerable now, then when? At least against the Spurs, the Magic played well until the final minutes when they kicked the ball around. They could leave Texas feeling upbeat. It's no wonder Nelson and teammates have nightmares of their 96-70 loss to the Heat, visions of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh shutting them down in mismatches. They left Miami's building feeling deflated, not only wondering if all the hype about this South Florida steamroller was warranted but whether they'd stand a chance at playoff time. Other teams have poked holes in the Heat hysteria since then. The Magic need to join them, particularly since they are playing at home."

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "After taking a deflating beating from the Celtics on Monday, Hawks players said they talked out their issues in the locker room and vowed to show more determination at New Jersey the next night. It all sounded good, but before the Hawks played the Nets on Tuesday, center Al Horford wasn't ready to say if it would make a difference. 'We’ll see,' Horford said. 'I’d rather hold all of my thoughts until once we get out here and play. We can talk about certain stuff, but we have to go out there and do it on the floor.' The Hawks competed, but couldn't finish. They lost 107-101 to the Nets for their third consecutive defeat and are 2-7 since starting the season 6-0. 'You don't fragment; you stick together,' Hawks coach Larry Drew said. 'You are going to have bumps in the road, but these are the situations that make you tougher, especially mentally.' A road game against a struggling opponent could have ended the Hawks' funk. The Hawks had posted a 5-0 record in that circumstance by regularly making key plays late, but couldn't do it this time."

  • Eric Koreen of the National Post: "Going from New Orleans to Toronto is not like hitting the basketball jackpot. Putting aside the very differing fortunes of the Hornets and the Raptors, going from The Big Easy to The Big Smoke ensures you are in line for a few legitimate, unyielding months of winter. And New Orleans is one of the great party cities in the United States, although, as Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock pointed out, Toronto is 'White Vegas.' But for very different reasons, new Toronto Raptors Jerryd Bayless and Peja Stojakovic are welcoming the move north. 'I told [general manager] Bryan [Colangelo] and I told Coach [Jay Triano] I couldn’t be more excited,' Bayless said after his first practice with his new team. 'This is the opportunity of a lifetime, I think. Playing with these young guys and growing with them is something I’ve wanted to do since I’ve been in the league.' 'I know there are a lot of people from Serbia,' Stojakovic said of Toronto. 'I know there are a lot of people from Greece, where my wife is from. Just a lot more international flavour. Every time I came here, I felt like I was coming home. I already feel so good.' "

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "I’ve started to receive a number of emails and Twitter messages asking if I’ve changed my mind on what I think about the Pacers’ playoff chances. It’s still very early in the season, but I’ll go ahead say it, the Pacers will make the playoffs this season if they continue to play as hard as they’re playing now, play as a team and avoid any major injuries to key players. I’m not ready to guess where they’ll finish in the East, which currently has nine teams with a losing record. The Pacers can say they’re not one of those teams. On a different note, I’m surprised at how empty Conseco Fieldhouse has been this season outside of the home opener against Philadelphia. Fans have spent the previous few seasons saying they want a team that’s going to compete every single game. The Pacers are finally doing that again and fans still aren’t showing up. That hasn’t gone unnoticed by some Pacers officials, either. Guess fans are taking a wait-and-see approach with the Pacers."

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "I'll give Byron Scott this: He is a patient man. While some coaches would have gone ballistic after their teams rolled over like the Cavs did on Tuesday night at Conseco Fieldhouse, Scott chalked it up to experience. 'I still know we’ve got a lot more game in us as a basketball team,' he said. 'But I also realize it’s only the 13th game of the season, too. We’re in November. I would be a little bit more worried if this was March and guys still haven’t gotten it. We’ve got so many more games left and we have guys in there that are doing a good job. We just have to get everyone on the same page. That’s the bottom line. I’m still very confident we’re going to do that, we’re going to achieve that goal. It’s just a matter of hoping it’s going to happen a little bit sooner than later.' This is a coach that has built programs at New Jersey and New Orleans, so he has to know what he's talking about, right? One reporter wondered out loud on Tuesday whether the Cavs had regressed. It's hard to say. Their first two losses in their three-game losing streak came at New Orleans and San Antonio, which have the two best records in the league. But if the Cavs aren't getting worse, it surely doesn't feel as if they're getting better."

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Twice within a week, the Timberwolves watched fourth-quarter leads slip away, an occurrence that creates a pertinent question now that they have returned home from Oklahoma City to play the 12-1 San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday at Target Center: Can you teach poise? 'It just comes with experience and being out there,' Wolves veteran point guard Luke Ridnour said. 'The more and more situations you're in, the more and more you'll see how to execute.' So you can learn it, but the youthful Wolves have discovered that can be a painful process."

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "Kevin Garnett can often be heard raging at ghosts, but if that’s what he needs to compete, then coaches and teammates aren’t going to question his manic nature. But then there are nights like Monday in Atlanta. KG, so riled by the Celtics first losing streak of the season that he brought the terrors of Mount Doom down on the Hawks, later spotted a female reporter kneeling on the edge of a scrum of media types, attempting to take notes. 'Don’t y’all have any manners?' he asked the men in the group while pulling over a chair and signaling for the woman to sit next to him. He had turned into gentleman Kevin. For many who have followed Garnett this season, that side -- off the floor, it should be stressed -- has been more apparent. Shaquille O’Neal, the theory holds, has accentuated KG’s sunny side. Some don’t buy it. Or maybe they hope it isn’t true. 'I think Kevin will always be Kevin,' coach Doc Rivers said. 'You can put Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy next to Kevin and he’s going to be Kevin Garnett. He loves the game and he’s going to compete every night. That’s who he is all the time. Anybody who talks about Shaq making Kevin less angry is a little delusional. I don’t think that holds any water, honestly.' And yet Garnett, when asked about the Shaq effect, turned uncharacteristically flowery. He likened the 38-year-old O’Neal’s presence to, well, fresh laundry. 'Shaq is like paradise, man,' he said. 'You ever wash your sheets and then go outside and hang them out, and the sun dries them? You ever smell the sheets? 'That’s what Shaq is, Shaq is like,' Garnett said before breathing in deeply, like he was inhaling fresh air."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel "Bucks forward Drew Gooden, who played on the Cavaliers' NBA Finals team in 2007, admitted it would seem strange to play at Quicken Loans Arena without LeBron James in a maroon and white uniform. 'It's going to be a different atmosphere,' said Gooden. 'Cleveland fans are great. They were always great to me. I'm just surprised to see what kind of welcome I'm going to get, being back only once or twice. LeBron is gone now so maybe I'm one of those guys to be on the only Finals team in Cleveland history, so they might show me some love.' "

  • Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Times: "I don't know how Lucas Tang fell to his death from a third-level luxury suite after Sunday's game. The only thing I know about Lucas himself is he was 2 years old. What else do you need to know? A 2-year-old died at a Lakers game. It's one of those moments that puts everything in perspective ... That's what we always say, after which life goes back to the way it was, with everyone in Staples living and dying with Lakers' fortunes. Today, like all days, you can go online and see athletes trashed, denounced and cursed and fans raging at each other on the athletes' behalf. It's what we call 'passion' and it lights up our lives. I make a nice living out of it myself. I write stuff like that all the time ... people living and dying with their teams, the passion lighting up their lives ... and it's total bull. We just saw living and dying. It has nothing to do with winning a game or an NBA title. So we have moments of silence, as the Lakers had for Lucas before Tuesday's game. We promise never to forget him and dedicate this and that to his memory. It doesn't change the fact that Lucas' life ended, and his loved ones are living the nightmare of everyone with loved ones."