First Cup: Wednesday

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "The issues with Terrence Williams have been well documented. Bad attitude. Huge ego. Poor shot selection. Avery Johnson had enough, banished Williams to the D-League where he tore it up for three games and then was happy to tell him to stay home from Tuesday's game. This is why the Rockets got him, or more precisely why they could get him. If not for those issues, there is no way they get Williams, as they will when they officially complete the trade, sending a lottery-protected first-round pick to New Jersey for Williams, the 11th player taken in the 2009 Draft. The pick is lottery protected through 2017 when if the Rockets are still in the lottery, it would become a second rounder. If not for the attitude problems -- and yes, red flags -- Williams is all over the Nets' plans. He was habitually late. His shot selection can be so bad that in China, we were betting on how many seconds it would take him to launch shots. His talent, however, is obvious. The Rockets are very willing to gamble on talent, wagering they will cash in a payoff far greater than a pick they at least hope will be in the last third of the 2012 first round."

  • Dave Krieger of The Denver Post: "Picture a poker table. Carmelo Anthony is sitting there. So is Masai Ujiri, the Nuggets' general manager. So are Billy King, the Nets' GM, and Donnie Walsh, his counterpart with the Knicks. In the fifth seat are Denver's basketball fans, expressing decidedly mixed feelings. Some chant 'Me-lo' while the cards are dealt. Dissidents chant 'Dude from New York' with requisite rhythmic clapping. King, the Nets' GM, upped the ante Tuesday, even as the Nuggets were beating Orlando for their 11th win in 12 home games, maybe their most impressive yet. There was a certain reserve in the home crowd, which did not come close to filling the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets have been very good at home, but everyone knows their leading scorer could be gone any day. By acquiring two more first-round draft picks and Sasha Vujacic's expiring contract in a three-way trade that cannot be announced until today, King put the Nets in a position to make the Nuggets a more generous offer for Melo. In addition to their own picks for 2011 and 2012, only one of which can be dealt under NBA rules, sometime today they will have control of three other future first-rounders, even if one of them, the Lakers' 2011 pick, isn't worth much. Deal the cards."

  • Dave McMenamin of the ESPNLosAngeles.com: "It was almost six months to the day since Andrew Bynum dragged his right leg up and down the court in Game 7 of the NBA Finals back in June. That day, pushing hissteadily declining knee for a month after injuring it in the first round of the playoff, Bynum played 19 minutes and went 1-of-5 from the field to finish with two points, six rebounds and his second championship ring. In Tuesday's 103-89 win over the Washington Wizards, Bynum had an eerily similar line -- 17 minutes, 1-of-5 from the field, seven points, four rebounds and two blocks. He didn't finish with a ring, of course. The only thing the Los Angeles Lakers earned on a freezing December night in the nation's capitol was the momentum of a two-game win streak that they'll take into Indiana on Wednesday. But Bynum finished with some promise that he can be a contributor as the Lakers go for a third. 'I feel light years better than back then,' he said."

  • Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com: "As the hype surrounding Wednesday's showdown against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden starts to ramp up, the Boston Celtics playfully chided their Atlantic Division brethren by decrying the use of 'rivalry' too soon. 'It's a rivalry?' Celtics captain Paul Pierce asked with a big grin. 'Man, y'all are letting me in on all the new stuff, all the talk. I didn't know we had a rivalry going.' With the Knicks, winners of eight straight, playing inspired ball and sitting a mere four games back in the division -- about as close an opponent has managed to stay in the Big Three era -- the 'r' word is being tossed around freely after years of lying dormant. 'Hey, if that's what y'all want it to be, if it'll sell more tickets and get more viewers, then I guess so,' Pierce said. '[The media makes] up the rivalries, we don't. To be honest, New York is playing well, they're in our division, and both teams are streaking, so it's going to be an exciting game.' But the Celtics cringe a bit at the suggestion of a rivalry considering it hasn't been much of one in recent years. 'I don't know what it is, this rivalry thing, it hasn't been one,' said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who played for the Knicks from 1993 to '95. 'We both were bad for a while. Now we've been good for a while. The two teams haven't exactly matched up for a long time. You know when they do, it will be great.' "

  • Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post: "It is different now. You don't need to look at the marquee tonight, or on Friday night, because the opponents are incidental. They are also terrific, make no mistake: the Celtics and their 10-game winning streak (and conference-best 19-4 record) tonight, the Heat and what will almost surely be their own 10-game winning streak Friday. But the true drawing card, for once, for the first time in nearly a decade, is the team on the other side of the hyphen in these games. That would be the Knicks. Owners of their own eight-game winning streak. Winners of 13 out of 14, including a feel-good victory Sunday over a Nuggets team that has won more games than it's lost, allowing the Knicks to enjoy the win without swallowing the asterisks they've been asked to digest while piling on against patsies. The Knicks enter the game 16-9 and humble, mostly because the man most responsible for all of it demands humility. 'We've got to make our mark first before we start any rivalries,' Amar'e Stoudemire said. 'We're really just getting started, starting to regain some respect here as a team. We've got no room to start rivalries right now.' "

  • Jodie Valade of The Plain Dealer: "In the midst of an eight-game losing streak, teams learn to find improvement in the little things. In the Cavaliers' case, Tuesday brought a spirited practice. They were having fun, coach Byron Scott said. No one was hanging their heads at the consecutive losses that have come by an average of 20 points. They studied film. They dissected what they are doing wrong in surrendering 47.9-percent shooting to opponents, fourth-worst in the NBA. And they prepared for a rematch against a Miami Heat team Wednesday that was the turning point in magnifying all that has gone wrong with Cleveland this season. Since that game two weeks ago, the Cavaliers have lost seven straight, a grand total of eight. The Heat have won eight in a row, for a total of nine."

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "There are 47 steps that lead to the front entrance of the glistening American-Airlines Arena, which also sits nestled along Biscayne Bay. It's dark inside as Phil Collins' In the Air Tonight begins to hum through the half-empty arena. The king is the first player introduced before Monday's victory over the New Orleans Hornets and the fans politely cheer their new star. Chris Bosh, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Carlos Arroyo also receive ovations before Dwyane Wade emerges. The crowd roars. This is LeBron James' new home. As the Cavaliers meet their former star tonight on his turf, James seems ready to do it again. He demolished the Cavs two weeks ago, hammering them for 38 points when he could've scored 50, but sat the entire fourth quarter because the Heat were well on their way to a 28-point victory. James' point total -- and his mouth -- rarely stopped moving in his return to Cleveland. He doesn't expect Wednesday's rematch to be any different, although he has made it clear he wasn't joking around with them then and won't be now, either. No joking matter. ''I joke sometimes during the game, but there wasn't no joking,' James said Tuesday. 'The allegations of me and Daniel [Gibson] joking, it wasn't joking. If it was, then I was doing a good job getting them out of their game because I was in full focus. But there wasn't any joking and I'll probably be talking to them [tonight] -- again.' "

  • Matt Calkins of The Columbian: "His knees serving as the executioner, Brandon Roy's future as a top-tier NBA star is dead. So in typical human fashion, he's traverses the stages of grief. The only problem is, he doesn't seem to understand the order. It started with acceptance -- Roy admitting a little more than a month ago that his most athletic days were behind him, that his body requires fewer minutes and that 'it's time to adjust.' He followed that statement with depression -- a reporter murmuring 'depressing stuff' after said confession, to which Roy replied 'tell me about it.' A couple days later, however, he veered toward bargaining -- confidently expressing that if he gives his knees proper rest, he can return to the Brandon Roy of old, citing other players (though not by name) who have adjusted under similar circumstances. But yesterday he made sure to give blame and denial ample time in the spotlight, which to me suggests he's just as unsure about his role with the Blazers as anyone. Let's start with blame: 'I don't know how people want us to play, because this is the personnel we have,' Roy told Jason Quick of the Oregonian. "I wasn't that slow until you put a guy who is kind of slow next to me. I've always been kind of slow.' If that wasn't a shot at Andre Miller, Paul Allen spends his mornings cutting coupons. Miller's value to the Blazers has always stemmed more from his head than his legs, and Roy has taken passive-aggressive blows at the point guard before, once expressing his desire for things to return to how they were 'before 'Dre got here.' But Roy had also successfully stuffed any antagonism toward Miller in the vault since mid-October. To bust it out again just comes across as petty."

  • Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press: "Didn't the Shock leave town? You wouldn't have known it based on the crowd at the Palace on Tuesday night. I'm not joking. There might have been 5,000 in the seats at halftime -- and that's a charitable assumption. Please don't insult my intelligence with the bad-weather cop-out. That explanation doesn't work a day after thousands of souls braved worse weather to stand in line at Ford Field for 30,000 free tickets to an NFL game that didn't involve their downtrodden Lions. If the Pistons offered free tickets for a game between the Atlanta Hawks and the Chicago Bulls at the Palace on Tuesday night, they might have attracted three times as many people as the Pistons vs. the Hawks did, regardless of the traffic concerns. The general public now has something in common with Pistons ownership: Neither cares about the team. The Pistons did snap a four-game losing streak against the Hawks, 103-80, in what might be remembered as their most complete effort this season. But the rarity of such a performance only magnifies the overall disappointment of the season and the disconnect with the public."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "There weren't many smiles at practice, and that was a good sign to those eager to see how the end of the Mavericks' 12-game winning streak impacts this team. Are they really different from the past? Is their defense the real deal, despite having it been exposed by Milwaukee during a dismal six-minute finish to Monday's game that halted the long run of victories? Those are questions only the Mavericks will answer over the coming weeks and months. And fans aren't the only ones interested in seeing how the Mavericks handle themselves after proving they can put together a monster winning streak but still look completely ordinary for a night. 'Right now, I'm curious with how we respond,' coach Rick Carlisle said. 'With better teams coming in, I want to see. This is a key stretch for us. Homestands are important. With two [games] left, the competition is getting better, and we've got to be prepared.' Asked if it was possible that a little boredom had crept in after the wins mounted into double digits and the Mavericks went up by 20 points on Milwaukee in the first half, Carlisle said: 'You hope not. Is it possible? Yes. Is that what's happening? I hope not. But again, every team in this league is a threat. We left too much to chance and Milwaukee took advantage.' "

  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: "Long before his nasty fall to the court captured the concern of Bulls fans, Derrick Rose set a personal milestone Monday against Indiana. He received the first technical foul of his NBA career from Jason Phillips at the 4:53 mark of the second quarter. 'That was my first one ever,' Rose said with a laugh. 'High school, grammar school, college ever. It hurt.' Ever since he joined the Bulls, it has been a mystery how Rose can drive to the basket as often as he does and be rewarded with so few free-throw attempts. He shot just 3 against the Pacers, but maybe standing up for himself can pay off. The first time he drove to the basket after the technical, he got a whistle and 3-point play. 'I said it was some b.s,' Rose said. 'It took them awhile to give me the tech. I thought it was over with. I guess it got to him. I'm running back down the court and he called it.' "

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis says it isn't so, but Jonny Flynn recognizes how the team's offense has evolved from the more regimented one that he led in April. Flynn struggled often in his rookie season with a complex passing system unlike any he had played in before. On Tuesday, he made his season debut after July hip surgery caused him to miss the season's first seven weeks. While he watched from the sidelines, Flynn says, he saw how Rambis has adjusted to a team clearly more talented than last season's 15-victory team. ... Flynn sees more freedom for players to be themselves. The Wolves appear to have added the traditional pick-and-roll play more to their early offense and have created more isolation opportunities for a player like Beasley to create. 'There's nothing along those lines that we weren't doing last year,' Rambis said. 'Some little adjustments have been made since he has been out, but the foundation of it is the same.' Still, Flynn says he sees the changes. 'There's more pick-and-rolls, more situations coming off screens and just playing,' he said. 'I think the offense has definitely evolved, and as we stay and grow together you're going to see him to put in a lot more wrinkles.' "

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Scott Skiles sent backup center Jon Brockman after Dallas big man Brendan Haywood in the fourth quarter Monday, and Brockman's mission was clear. Catch Haywood in the backcourt and foul him. Brockman was successful twice, and Haywood did a dance to elude the Bucks player on one other attempt at taking an intentional foul. But the strategy worked nicely as Haywood, a 26% foul shooter entering the game, went 0 of 4 as Milwaukee began a game-changing 14-0 run. This time it was the Bucks executing the strategy instead of sweating it out as they did when Andrew Bogut was fouled five consecutive times in a recent game against Orlando (he went 3 for 10). 'We were starting to teeter a little bit,' Skiles said of his rationale in fouling Haywood. 'We got a couple extra possessions. 'We wanted to take a swing at it in the first half when he was in the game, but they weren't in the bonus yet and we didn't want to put them in the bonus.' And Brockman chasing Haywood in the backcourt did provide a few humorous moments. 'That's the problem,' Skiles said. 'It almost gets silly if the guy starts running away from it.' "

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "The Thunder is just 2-7 all-time against Houston, which makes its second and final visit to the Oklahoma City Arena Wednesday night. The Thunder's only wins against the Rockets have come at home, where OKC won by 18 last season and 17 earlier this year. On the road, the Thunder has lost four straight against the Rockets and have dropped 11 straight dating back to 2005 when the franchise was located in Seattle."

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Doug Collins got on an elevator once with Jack Nicholson. It was crowded, so Collins and Nicholson had to face all the people already stuffed inside. When the elevator stopped, Nicholson got off, saw a dime on the ground, reached down and picked it up. 'Dougie, my boy,' the legendary actor said, 'the rich get richer.' The 76ers coach brought that story up last night before his team's 82-77 win over the New Jersey Nets, relating it to the Phillies' acquiring free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee. The rich get richer. 'How about those four starters? Cole Hamels as a fourth starter, are you kidding me?' Collins said. 'Cole Hamels as a fourth starter is going to be a 20-game winner. Awesome.' Though there was a game to be played, the buzz was about Lee surprising the baseball world by deciding to become a Phillie. Again. Sixers swingman Jason Kapono has been a baseball fan all his life, following his home teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Angels. 'It's huge, it's unreal,' Kapono said."

  • Chris Iott of Booth Newspapers "Magic Johnson spoke about the Pistons during a taping for the 'Homecoming with Rick Reilly' show, which was aired Tuesday night on ESPN. Johnson did not have kind things to say about the team. 'Too many individuals,' he said. 'You have to get back to what made them great, and that’s defense and rebounding. ... What we see now is a team that’s soft. People from Detroit and Michigan can accept losing, but not the way they’re losing.' "