First Cup: Wednesday

  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: "It’s been a fashionable topic of discussion this season about how far Tim Duncan’s performance has dropped this season. Considering that Duncan will go down as one of the top 10 players in NBA history, a decline from his top efforts would be noticeable. But before we write the “old guy from the Virgin Islands” off just yet, we might consider his game Tuesday night as a statement he still has a little basketball left in him. Duncan showed much energy early in the game and his big game just built on that success as he finished with 15 points, matched his season-best with 18 rebounds and matched his career-high with 11 assists. It added up to his first regular-season triple-double since March 14, 2003, and helped boost the Spurs to a 118-98 victory over Golden State. It put a capper on one of the most memorable months in team history. The victory boosted San Antonio to a 14-1 November record and cemented their hold on the lead for the Southwest Division."

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: "It’s fun to watch the Laker fans leave the building in a mope. It’s fun to see the 'Dresden' Grizzlies exact their revenge. It’s fun to watch the Grizzlies play the way they did Tuesday, which is to say, like a team. Rudy Gay had six blocks in this one. Yes, that’s correct. The last of the six clinched the win. Six Grizzlies scored in double figures. Four got there before Zach Randolph, who had just 13 points but four critical assists. Hasheem Thabeet drew a charge on Kobe Bryant. At one point, the Grizzlies defense pestered Bryant into 11 straight missed shots. So, no, it doesn’t get much funner than that. Especially if you’re the point guard who was drafted too high and now makes too much cash. All hail, Mike Conley. Even his teammates wanted to make sure he got his props on this night. 'You’re waiting on Mike, right?' said Gay, to the cluster of reporters waiting near their lockers after the game. 'I hope you are,' said Gay. 'Gotta give him some love.' If you don’t love Conley after what he did against the Lakers, you never will."

  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: "Suddenly, the Lakers have serious issues. Their defense isn't as tight as it should be, which means they're tradingbaskets with opponents instead of stopping them and building and nurturing leads. Their offense isn't clicking because they're playing from behind instead of from ahead. What's more, some of their best players are playing too many minutes because of injuries and lack of experience. A string of close games has underscored the Lakers' lack of depth behind center Pau Gasol and power forward Lamar Odom. So, in hindsight, it hasn't been a surprise to see the Lakers struggling recently. Their 98-96 loss Tuesday night to the Memphis Grizzlies was their third consecutive defeat, only their second three-game skid since Gasol was acquired Feb. 1, 2008."

  • Ian Begley Special to ESPNNewYork.com: "Knicks-Nets may not be much of a rivalry on the basketball court, but it's alive and well in the teams' front offices. The Knicks recently released a radio ad tweaking the Nets, stating 'Hey Nets. You can walk like us, you can talk like us, but you ain't never gonna be like us.' On Tuesday morning, hours before the Nets traveled across the Hudson River to take on the Knicks at the Garden, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov responded to the radio spot. 'I don't think we want to be like the Knicks. I think we'd more like to resemble the Lakers,' the first-year owner said in a statement released by the Nets. 'The Knicks seem to be spending a lot of time thinking about us lately,' added Nets CEO Brett Yormark. 'They must have seen the steel rise at the Barclays Center last week.' The back-and-forth between marketing departments has been going on since early July."

  • Harvey Araton of The New York Times: "Based on their pedigree, or draft position, we might have envisioned Terrence Williams to be a Nets starter by now and the Knicks’ Landry Fields to be an apprentice in the N.B.A. Development League. But scouting reports are not the most effective indicators, given their preoccupation with vertical leap and 3-point range. Hence, the Nets hit Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night to play the reconstituted Knicks without Williams, the 11th pick of the 2009 draft, and the Knicks were wondering who blessed them with Fields, their starting off-guard, who was selected in the second round with the 39th overall pick in 2010. 'Have you met him yet?' Donnie Walsh, the Knicks’ president, asked a reporter before the Raymond Felton and Amar’e Stoudemire-led Knicks went over .500 with a 111-100 victory. 'Let me tell you something: he’s the real deal.' At 6 feet 7 inches, Fields is not the second coming of Michael Jordan -- or, for that matter, Scottie Pippen. Pound for pound, he may not even be as talented as Terrance Williams, currently of the D-League’s Springfield (Mass.) Armor. But there is something in the way Fields, a quietly efficient rookie from Stanford, conducts himself that encourages you to risk heresy charges and categorize him as downright Holzmanesque."

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "Cavs owner Dan Gilbert knows better than anyone how high the emotions will run Thursday night when LeBron James returns to Quicken Loans Arena, but he's hoping fans in attendance won't do anything to get themselves in trouble. 'You don't want to see anything stupid happen,' Gilbert said during halftime of the Cavs-Celtics game on Tuesday. 'I'm sure a lot of them will make their feelings known, but as long as everybody plays by the rules and doesn't go over the top, I think everything will be fine. I really believe that Cleveland people will do the right thing.' ... Much like everyone else, Gilbert isn't sure what to expect when James steps on the floor Thursday night. But he isn't expecting a historic revolution. 'I'm sure it'll be loud and exciting and people have a lot of pent-up emotion,' Gilbert said. 'But I don't think it's going to be anything that's outrageous, extraordinary that we haven't seen in sports history.' Gilbert deferred to the fans when asked if a victory Thursday would mean a little more than the rest. 'I'm sure with the fans, with the great support we've gotten, if it means a lot to them, then it means a lot to me,' he said. 'I just want the win, regardless who we're playing.' "

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: "Many NBA followers are eager to see LeBron James' return to Cleveland when Miami players there Thursday. Not Phil Jackson. 'That's not of interest to me,' he said. 'I hate to listen to the Cleveland broadcast. Their announcers are so loud on the court. It's just an obnoxious place.' But almost everybody will be watching on Thursday. 'That's my night off,' Jackson said, smiling."

  • Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer: "From one Cleveland villain to another, Albert Belle hopes LeBron James and Cavaliers fans can play nice Thursday at the Q. 'My advice to LeBron is to take the high road and act professional,' said Belle. 'I hope the fans do the same. I don't want them to embarrass themselves on TV. I'd like to see everybody hug and kiss before the game and then the fans can boo the heck out of LeBron during the game.' Belle knows what the wrath of Cleveland feels like. He was a bad-tempered, power-hitting hero with the Indians for eight years before signing a then-record five-year, $55 million free agent deal with the rival White Sox after the 1996 season. When Belle returned to Cleveland for the first time on June 3, 1997, he was the enemy. Playing left field at Progressive Field, fans showered him with fake and real money from the home run porch. It was a windy night, with dark clouds hovering over the ballpark, and the money swirled behind Belle on the warning track."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "The Nuggets -- playing all season without Kenyon Martin, dealing with injuries to Nene and Chauncey Billups and weathering the cloud that is an expected trade of Carmelo Anthony -- have won 10 games. The Miami Heat -- with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh -- has won 10 games. Funny how the same thing can look so different. There is no hotter story in the NBA than the Heat (10-8), a de facto all-star team predicted by some to win upward of 70 games that for now is flirting with .500. In Denver, the Nuggets (10-6) have their own perspective about what is happening on South Beach. 'Maybe I was a little surprised that they don't have a little more wins, but I also know the process of becoming a champion -- and it's not just names,' said Billups, a former NBA Finals MVP. 'It takes time to work, man, it takes time. We're 16 games into the season. It's early, and everybody is going crazy that they lost some games. They have a lot of new faces and a lot of alpha males on that team, and it takes a lot of time to bond.' "

  • Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press: "The Pistons revert back to obscurity Thursday, but tonight in Florida they can contribute to the delightful dysfunction that has become the Miami Heat. Excuse me, I forgot. It's now officially the Miami Hate. I find it amusing, especially since many misguidedly have branded yours truly as one of the chief nabobs of negativity, always looking for the dark cloud on the sunniest day. Yet how many self-ordained purveyors of positivity out there openly root for disaster in Miami? How many of you passionately hope that LeBron James' grand scheme of pairing three stars spontaneously combusts for no other reason than that it will provide some warped form of vengeful satisfaction?"

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "My perception is that Joe Johnson simply has missed a lot of good, open shots, particularly spot-up 3-pointers. Those are the kind of shots that tend to have little to do with forcing things. By definition, they don’t require J.J. to create his own shot. A teammate already has already made the play to create space; all J.J. has to do is catch the ball in rhythm, square up and make an open shot. I think J.J. just hasn’t been able to do it consistently this season, but that’s just my perception. So I turned to the Synergy machine, which smashes false perceptions with the cold facts of shot-type statistics and video evidence* And the numbers confirmed what I’ve perceived: Joe has attempted 54 spot-up jump shots and made just 11 (20.4 percent), including 9 of 46 on 3-pointers (19.6 percent). J.J.’s shooting percentage on spot-ups is worse than his shooting percentage on every other type of halfcourt play: isolation (24 of 62, 38.7 percent), pick-and-rolls (14 of 44, 31.8 percent), post-ups (11 of 23, 47.8 percent), off screens (9 of 20, 45 percent), handoffs (7 of 15, 46.7 percent), and cuts (18 of 23, 78.3 percent). It seems there is some merit to the idea that J.J. is slumping. (He’s questionable to play against the Grizzlies due to a sore elbow that apparently has nothing to do with his shooting slump but developed overnight Monday.)"

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "With Monday's blowout loss in Dallas, the Rockets fell to 5-12. They have brought worse records into December in only five seasons. Mingling with that frustration, tonight's game with the Lakers reminds of where the Rockets were two seasons ago. They seemed on the upswing when taking Los Angeles to seven games before the Lakers won the first of consecutive championships. And they seemed poised for a good season when they opened in Los Angeles, losing in the final minute. The emotions that come with the Rockets' unexpected struggles could become stronger . But Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said he will not make moves to seek immediate improvement unless they help with larger goals. 'Every move we make is very long-term (oriented),' Morey said before last week's loss in Charlotte. 'The most we might focus is medium term, but we still keep the long term in mind. You have to (ignore the record). Our goal is to win a championship. It's not to be 7-7 versus 4-10. We have to maintain our championship hopes. Obviously, some of that is maintaining a winning approach. Maybe that's where (seeking immediate improvement) creeps in. But I think everything we do move-wise is focused on how do we get closer to being a championship roster.' With that in mind, the Rockets don't seem likely to sell off long-term assets during the season to kick-start rebuilding. They have players -- Yao, Shane Battier, Chuck Hayes, Jared Jeffries -- with expiring contracts, keeping the window to make changes open while potentially alleviating urgency to rebuild."

  • From SportsDayDFW.com: "Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was interviewed on KRLD-FM (105.3 The Fan) on Tuesday to chat about Tyson Chandler’s impact on the Mavs ... Q: 'Chandler’s performance so far for the Mavericks has been incredible. How much of the reason he’s playing so well is he’s healthy or because he’s in a contract year?' ... Cuban: 'Yea, I went and sought him like that. I’ll tell you the whole genesis of Tyson coming here. The Bobcats had a trade with Jose Calderon in Toronto and that fell apart. I called Michael Jordan and said, 'Look, we have [Erick] Dampier’s contract; we really like Tyson; would you be interested in basically swapping it? But because of the money involved, you’d have to take back Eddie [Najera] and Matt Carroll.' And he called me back 45 minutes later and we had a deal. What we didn’t tell him was that guy who really deserves all the credit for the trade was our trainer, Casey Smith. Casey is the trainer for the U.S. Olympic team and so he’s been with Tyson this whole summer and I caught up with Casey and said, 'What do you think…tell me about Tyson: about his health and about Tyson the guy.' And he said two things: one, he’s healthy. He’s got his explosiveness back and having gone through everything on the medical side, we don’t see any immediate risk; not that he couldn’t hurt himself again but no immediate ongoing risk from his previous injuries. But then he said something even more important and this kind of goes to your contract year-type thing. He said, “You know what? Tyson doesn’t get a lot of minutes on the USA team but he’s the most vocal and inspiring guy in the locker room. And that’s something that Donnie and I have felt we always needed to coach. And also, we needed someone who was vocal in the locker room; someone who is up off the bench and loud and exciting and getting the guys motivated and when I pulled all those pieces together, it was a no-brainer to pull the trigger on the trade.' "

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "It's officially time to press the panic button, Rip City. The Trail Blazers suffered another demoralizing defeat Tuesday night, falling 88-79 to the woeful Philadelphia 76ers in a game that raised a host of questions about where this team is headed and whether it can honestly consider itself a playoff contender. 'Right now, we're tying to figure out what's going on,' LaMarcus Aldridge said. 'And we better figure it out quick before this season gets ugly.' Too late. The Blazers (8-9) have lost four in a row and six of eight to fall below .500 for the first time, and their once-promising season is quickly snowballing into a disaster. ... It's one thing to lose to Utah and New Orleans. It's another to lose consecutive games to New Jersey (6-12) and Philadelphia (5-13), two of the worst teams in the NBA. 'We're losing in ways I've never seen before,' Wesley Matthews said. 'I didn't know it was possible to lose games the way we are.' "

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "DeMarcus Cousins is like the big kid smothered at the bottom of a scrum, the oversized, obvious target who invites and absorbs a majority of the jabs. He is taking blows to the gut and to the ego. He has been fined, benched and berated. He has spent most of his young career in foul trouble. On Monday, the 6-foot-11 rookie lashed back and smart-mouthed his coach, which was really not very smart. And all that got him was thrown out of practice. Cousins said late Tuesday that he reacted out of frustration. 'It was a good lesson for me,' the rookie said. 'I'm mad and I'm frustrated about losing, and in my opinion, I think different strategies should be in the game. But I was being selfish. I'm a big part of this team, and coach (Paul) Westphal has been saying it. I've been terrible. It's the truth.' 'It's not a perfect world,' Cousins' mother, Monique, said Tuesday afternoon from Mobile, Ala. 'These kids are used to instant (gratification) and they come into the league so young. It's hard. They have to learn. We preach this: 'Just don't say anything!' He'll get better, you'll see.' "

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Dwyane Wade has spent some time with Gilbert Arenas the past two summers in Chicago, where they both train with Tim Grover, and knows how hard he pushed himself to get healthy again. But Wade was understandably concerned when Arenas arrived at training camp looking despondent and distant. 'Gilbert's dealt with a lot of things on the basketball court, but off the court as well. You always like to see a guy who comes through adversity, especially when it looked like earlier in the year, he wasn't there mentally with the team,' Wade said. 'He decided to get into the fight and have some great games for them.' With his 23-point game on Monday, Arenas moved ahead of John Wall as the Wizards' new leading scorer at 18.1 points per game. Ever since he returned to Chicago on Nov. 13, Arenas has been playing at a different level, beginning with his 30-point outburst against the Bulls. In his past nine games, Arenas has averaged 21.6 points and 6.2 assists. He had a season-high 31-point game in a loss to Orlando on Saturday and handed out a career-high 16 assists against Detroit. 'He's one of the best talents we have in the game,' Wade said. 'He's a guy that defenses fear, because you never know what you're going to get from him. He puts pressure on you all the time.' "

  • Fred Mitchell and David Kaplan of the Chicago Tribune: "Joakim Noah and John Elway in a steam room together? 'Kind of awkward,' said the Bulls center. During the Bulls' recent 'circus trip,' the team spent Thanksgiving in Denver. 'I was in the (hotel) steam room by myself,' Noah said Tuesday, 'just focusing and enjoying the day off and Thanksgiving. And (Elway) just came in. I don't know too many football players, but I know him. It was kind of weird, but it's a true story. … It was a weird moment, kind of awkward. I was going to say something, but I thought maybe he just wants to spend some time alone to just chill.' "

  • Hayley Mick of the Globe and Mail: "Nobody claims life in the NBA Development League compares to the glitz of the big show. Buses usually do the job of a private jet. Destinations are often unglamorous. Players sleep in motel rooms, not luxury suites. Even Thanksgiving dinner can be lacklustre. 'I never thought I’d eat Thanksgiving at IHOP,' Raptors rookie Ed Davis said after spending the last week with the D-League’s Erie Bayhawks. So it’s no surprise that Davis, who hurt his knee before the 2010-11 season began, is anxious never to go back. On Wednesday, the No. 13 overall selection in the draft last June will make his regular-season NBA debut against the Washington Wizards. Even if the Air Canada Centre is only half-full, he’ll play in front of a crowd five times larger than the one that watched him average 10 points and five rebounds in two games for Bayhawks. (The Raptors sent him to Erie to get some playing time as he made his transition back to club.) 'I don’t ever want to go back down there again,' he said."

  • Justin Rogers of Booth Newspapers: "When Ben Wallace grabbed an offensive board over Nelson in the third quarter, it was the 10,000 rebound of his career. He joined Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan as the only active players to reach the plateau. Not bad for an undrafted rookie out of Virginia Union."