First Cup: Monday

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "I heard from several people after the Pacers beat the Heat in Miami last week. 'I need to see them do it more once for me to start believing in them,' one person said. 'Besides, the Heat aren’t as good as people think.' I think it’s about time that this person and whoever else doesn’t believe in the Pacers to change their tune. Hey, I’m the same person who said they would have a difficult time making the playoffs. The Pacers continue to gradually change my thought about their playoff chances as each game passes (I still say they have to stay relatively healthy). The Pacers took care of business in South Beach last week and then they went out and handled things by beating the back-to-back NBA champions in L.A. Pacers sideline reporter Stacy Paetz called this game. She told me before the game that she thought the Pacers would beat the Lakers."

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "As the doors to the visiting locker room at the Prudential Center swung open following another demoralizing Trail Blazers defeat Sunday evening, there were sweaty uniforms, crumpled up warmup pants and dirty socks laying everywhere. An overflowing bag of trash rested in the middle of it all, next to used bags of ice, ankle braces and shin pads. Some players had to climb over the heap of stuff to get from the postgame showers to their lockers, using caution not to slip in their wet shower sandals. In a sense, the room served as a fitting metaphor for the Blazers' season through 16 games: messy, challenging and tough to watch. The Blazers suffered their third consecutive loss Sunday night, falling 98-96 to the lowly New Jersey Nets before 11,448. The loss was the Blazers' fifth in the last seven games, dropped their record to 8-8, and was so disturbing that it sparked a players-only meeting afterward."

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "One of Stan Van Gundy's former college players attended a recent Orlando Magic game and couldn't believe what he was seeing. The former playersaw Van Gundy clapping after the Magic made even the most basic plays. Indeed, the normally combustible Van Gundy has changed his sideline demeanor noticeably after Nov. 12, the night the Magic lost to the Toronto Raptors 110-106 at Amway Center. The coach has, for the most part, attempted to rein in his disappointment after miscues. Now, when a Magic player throws a pass out of bounds, Van Gundy likely crosses his arms, purses his lips and turns his head. Before, Van Gundy's gestures were far more dramatic. Van Gundy credits Magic President of Basketball Operations Otis Smith for the change. Smith watches every game, home and away, from just beyond a corner of the court, and during the loss to the Raptors, he noticed Van Gundy yelling and displaying clear frustration. Van Gundy acknowledged that Smith spoke with him following that defeat."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "With the schedule for his return still uncertain, Yao Ming said the Rockets must begin making up ground now, rather than waiting for him and Aaron Brooks to come back from injury. If Yao can come back in the minimum projected time, it would be at the end of the week. But he still has not been cleared to work out on the court. 'We just cannot keep saying this is a long season,' Yao said. 'We're going to keep saying that everyday and pretty soon you are going to see that we are almost at the playoff season. We need to make an adjustment now. I'm more than just worried or concerned, sometimes it's not understandable (and I'm) a little bit angry about where we stand at, but still I try to be positive. I think right now it's not just a one or two (players) can come back and help the team right away. There are some other reasons we are where we are right now.' "

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "The Heat, Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers all made sales pitches to LeBron James in Cleveland before he decided to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. But the Wizards actually were able to use James in a different way to build a team around Wall - by taking advantage of teams that told their fans that they would chase James. They were officially removed from the James sweepstakes when they acquired Kirk Hinrich and No. 17 pick Kevin Seraphin in a draft-day deal with Chicago that inhaled the cap space that could've been used for James. They later acquired Yi Jianlian from New Jersey. 'So we benefited. We were smart. We were astute. And bluntly, we were honest,' Leonsis said. 'I could've made a lot of headlines and been, 'Oh, sorry. He wanted to go to Miami.' But I think time will show that by being truthful and legit, if you will, we did the right thing.' James has maintained a relationship with Leonsis since meeting him a few years ago and wrote a testimonial for Leonsis's book, 'The Business of Happiness,' which was released last February. It said: 'Ted Leonsis is absolutely correct that money can't buy you happiness, but it can buy you Ted's book, which will bring you happiness -- and success.' "

  • Chris Iott of Booth Newspapers: "While most predicted greatness for the Heat when LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami over the summer, Tracy McGrady said he knew they were bound to struggle. They have. The Heat are just 9-8 and sit fifth in the Eastern Conference standings. They recently lost three consecutive games, and they held a players-only meeting Saturday night after a 106-95 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. 'It's what I expected,' McGrady said of the Heat's struggles Sunday after the Pistons suffered a double-overtime loss to the Knicks. 'You've got two guys (James and Wade) that really don't mix. I mean, they're the same type of player. They just don't complement each other.' ... McGrady compared the Heat's three main players to Boston's threesome of Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. 'If you look at Boston's big three, they're traditional guys,' McGrady said. “You've got a true shooting guard, you have a true small forward and you have a true power forward. You've got a shooting guard that doesn't need the ball. In their case, both of those guys need the ball. They're not great outside shooters, so they just can't stand out there and wait for one to pass the ball and knock down an open shot. That's just not their game. They've got to have the ball to make plays and catch a rhythm that way.' "

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "Chris Jent always had a great shot during his playing days at Ohio State. But when he was out job hunting during the summer, he was doing a whole different kind of shooting. After working closely with LeBron James for the past four years, Jent spent his summer shooting down the idea that he was simply James' personal shooting coach. It was a long, grueling fight. Jent spent the past four years on Mike Brown's staff. When Brown was fired and James left for the Miami Heat, suddenly Jent's coaching future was very much uncertain -- and he didn't like what he was hearing around the league. A self-admitted poor networker, Jent contacted nearly every team in the NBA to gauge its interest in him. The responses were all the same: He had been labeled as James' guy. 'It was a myth I had to dispel,' he said. 'People were saying, 'Were you even employed by the Cavaliers?' So yeah, I was worried about that.' James returns to Quicken Loans Arena with the Miami Heat on Thursday, but Jent is thrilled to still be on staff in Cleveland. He was never contacted by the Heat about a position -- 'it was never an option,' he said. As far as his career is concerned, that's probably a good thing. He needed to get away from James to really have a coaching career in the NBA."

  • Josh Goodman of The Miami Herald: "Dripping with sweat during a pregame workout, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told reporters Saturday that he offered forward LeBron James and James' friend and manager Maverick Carter some perspective before James decided to sign with the Heat this summer. 'Before he made his decision, what I told him was, and what I told Maverick, was that no team had ever blown up their team ... and then added a couple free agents and won a championship,' Cuban said. 'It's always taken someone coming from a good team to make it better and put them over the top. That's what I told him, and that's what I told Maverick.' Cuban has been critical of the Heat ever since James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami. Recently, Cuban called the Heat's slow start to the season 'glorious.'' James said Saturday that Dallas was one of the teams he considered this summer before signing with the Heat. 'This is definitely one of the teams I looked at, being a veteran ball club,' James said."

  • Sarah Talalay of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "If there's one thing that has met expectations for the Heat this season, it's late-arriving fans. Despite the team's Fan Up, Miami! campaign, which urges fans to arrive in advance of game time -- even offering discounts on concessions to early birds -- and occupy their seats from tipoff to the final buzzer, Heat fans are still straggling into AmericanAirlines Arena. ... Heat President of Business Operations Eric Woolworth said the team did not expect to alter fan habits overnight and considers Fan Up an ongoing program. 'We have committed ourselves to a long term project of trying to get the fans of South Florida to understand, no matter how much we love them and appreciate them, that the rest of the country enjoys taking pot shots at them for what is generally perceived as their lackadaisical attitudes about fandom in general and about arriving to games in a timely manner in particular,' Woolworth said."

  • Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com: "After years of hearing about the Bulls past failures on the 'Circus Trip,' Luol Deng wore the look of relief as he stepped out of a cramped visitor's locker room in the bowels of Arco Arena late Saturday night. For the first time since the 1997-98 season, the Bulls earned a winning record (4-3) and proved to any doubters that they are, in fact, for real this season. There are plenty of reasons as to why the team is having so much early success, but Deng feels that there is one particular reason that is going unnoticed. 'I think a lot of people in the NBA just overlook [how a] team [is] getting along together off the court,' he said. 'I think a lot of times you try to put a bunch of individuals together because of what they're capable of doing on the court, but I just think our chemistry on and off the court has just been unbelievable and this trip was great for that.' For anyone who watched the Bulls this trip, it's easy to understand what Deng is talking about. The team has completely bought into Tom Thibodeau's system. The players seem to throughout enjoy playing with, and hanging around, one another. And they truly believe they can beat anyone."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "An increasingly inexplicable trend the Thunder has developed has been dominance on the road and mediocrity at home. After a 99-98 loss at Houston on Sunday, the Thunder is 6-2 away from home and just 5-4 inside Oklahoma City Arena. What gives? 'I have no clue. That's baffling me,' said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. 'We got great crowds, and it has nothing to do with our fan base because they bring it out every night. I don't know. I've been trying to figure that out. We just have to keep plugging away, and working and hopefully that turns around.' Brooks then cited toughness as a potential factor."

  • Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe: "An inevitable truth about many of the rookies that have come along in the Celtics’ latest Big Three Era is that they’ve generally been relegated to the role of the middle child in a TV sitcom, disappearing without notice for long stretches, occasionally making garbage-time cameos. ... Which leads us to Avery Bradley. The Celtics took him with the 19th pick this year, but because of an ankle injury, he missed summer league, most of training camp, and all but two preseason games. He made his debut last Monday in Atlanta, playing six fourth-quarter minutes after the Celtics had just about beaten the Hawks into submission. But with circumstances being what they are -- Rajon Rondo playing with a sore left hamstring, Delonte West out indefinitely with a broken right wrist, and Celtics president Danny Ainge saying he doesn’t intend to make a roster move (the Celtics are more than $13 million over the luxury tax threshold) -- Bradley may have to be an option."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "Denver's Carmelo Anthony made his 14th game-winner Friday. Karl, coaching his 23rd season in the NBA, was asked if Anthony is the best clutch shooter he has ever coached. 'I think Melo would be one. Ray Allen (from Milwaukee) is pretty good. In Seattle, we won with our defense than with big-time shooters. Sam Cassell and Glenn Robinson were pretty good in Milwaukee too. And Chauncey.' Karl was asked this hypothetical: his team has every player he's ever coached. They're playing the Klingons for world supremacy. Karl's team has the ball, down one, game on the line. Who shoots? 'Carmelo. I'd like to have Chauncey (also) to make sure he gets the ball. Sam wouldn't have given it to him.' "

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Long ridiculed by fans for everything from being overpaid to being soft to not being Carmelo Anthony, Luol Deng is averaging 19.3 points and 6.9 rebounds and leads the team in minutes played. That's the surest sign he has Thibodeau's trust as both the starting small forward and backup power forward. The latter minutes will drop when Boozer returns, but Deng is a different, happier player this season. 'I'm having so much fun,' Deng said. 'We have great team chemistry and guys have each other's backs.' "

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: "Fifteen games into the season with a 4-11 record, players are frustrated, especially after the Kings scored a season-low nine points in the fourth quarter of their 96-85 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday -- a game the Kings led by 16 points. The frustration hasn't led Kings coach Paul Westphal to believe the players have stopped listening or trying to carry out the game plan. The Kings have shown their share of faults, but Westphal doesn't see a lack of effort. 'I think the message is getting through,' Westphal said. 'Our players are playing hard and they don't like to lose. But (the coaches) have to show them how to overcome it, not just say, 'Oh you messed up.' We have to say this is what we have to do and this why we have to play together. … It's more of a learning thing, and everybody's frustrated.' A lot of the frustration has to do with the offense. The Kings are averaging 81.4 points over their past five games. The scoring has soured especially in the second half of the past two losses."

  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: "Three days after suffering a mild heart attack, Wolves television analyst Jim Petersen was back on the job for Saturday night's telecast on Fox Sports North with play-by-play voice Tom Hanneman. Petersen, 48, was rushed to a hospital Wednesday afternoon after complaining of tightness in his chest and excessive sweating. 'I was told I had 100 percent blockage of my artery,' said Petersen, who spent two nights in the hospital. 'About an hour after I was brought in, they did a procedure to clear it up.' Petersen said he was at his home in Wayzata when he called Wolves team physician Dr. Sheldon Burns to ask for advice when the symptoms developed. Petersen said Burns urged him to call for paramedics but that he told Burns it wasn't necessary. Burns insisted and Petersen was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital."