First Cup: Thursday

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "The beginning of the end for Larry Brown as Charlotte Bobcats coach might have been an interview he gave on the eve of training camp. Even by Brown standards, this was remarkable bluntness. He said then that he 'died' the day the team chose not to re-sign point guard Raymond Felton. He said his roster got worse as most of the Bobcats' Eastern Conference rivals improved. Second-guessing the boss seldom enhances your job security. So when Brown's players stopped listening to him - he acknowledged as much recently - the end came suddenly. Wednesday, after a morning practice, Brown met with Jordan in early afternoon. Though the Bobcats' announcement suggests Brown left by mutual agreement with Jordan, several sources close to Brown say emphatically that the entire coach staff was fired by Jordan, whose only statement on the decision was in a press release."

  • Tom Sorensen of The Charlotte Observer: "I respect Paul Silas as a man and as a basketball coach. He's honorable, he's strong and his players will listen to him. If you've seen film of him going after a rebound, you would, too. But the team Silas will inherit is so dysfunctional that he might miss George Shinn, who fired him as coach of the New Orleans Hornets. Michael Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, hired Silas Wednesday after firing Larry Brown and his staff. I have no idea whether Jordan will be a decent owner or judge of talent. He gave Brown an inferior team that Brown failed to inspire. The Bobcats don't rebound, score or defend, and they don't consistently play smart or hard. ... I ask general manager Rod Higgins during a conference call Wednesday night if anybody could win with this collection of players. Higgins is in a sunny-side-up mode. With change comes hope. 'You have to believe that you can get this thing back on track with our team,' he says. Bob Johnson, the majority owner until he sold to Jordan last season, is the worst owner any Charlotte team has ever had. Basketball fans were thrilled when Jordan supplanted him. Jordan is famous, and he isn't Johnson. He brought star power and stability. The star power is intact."

  • Alan Hahn of Newsday: "The news of Larry Brown stepping down Wednesday as coach of the Charlotte Bobcats was something one of his closest friends, Donnie Walsh, never saw coming. 'That surprised me big time,' Walsh said before last night's gamebetween the Knicks and Thunder at the Garden. That Brown lasted barely a quarter into his third season in Charlotte isn't a surprise, as he is known for short tenures in his long and nomadic coaching career. Brown lasted just one season with the Knicks in 2005-06. Before that, he was with the Pistons for two seasons. Brown's longest stint with one team was the six years he spent with the 76ers from 1997-2003. He spent the previous four seasons working for Walsh with the Pacers. 'He's had a great, great career,' Walsh said. 'Knowing him, it probably hasn't ended. He doesn't see himself in any other way than as a coach.' "

  • Peter May of ESPNBoston.com: "Celtics coach Doc Rivers probably is counting down the minutes until the team's plane leaves Thursday morning for Orlando, so he can go home and rest on the hammock. His team won its 14th in a row, improving to 23-4, and what you can take away from that is that good teams usually find a way to win when they're (A) playing bad, (B) playing inferior teams and (C) playing at home. Those three factors had to converge like the celestial bodies in a total lunar eclipse. They did -- and the Celtics took advantage. Good teams do that. 'We weren't very good,' Rivers said. 'But we won the game. And that's the only thing you'll take from this game -- is that we won. Our group is so used to grinding out games, and they won. Other than that, I thought Philly did everything right to win the game.' Shaquille O'Neal is fond of saying that the Celtics really haven't lost any games -- they've thrown four away. (Or, as Robert Parish used to say, 'donated four to the cause.') Well, the counter can be true, as well. Some of those 23 wins could be construed as, well, presents under the tree. The Sixers feel two of them fall into that category: Wednesday night's game and the Celtics' 102-101 victory in Philly on Dec. 9, secured on a late Kevin Garnett lay-in."

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "In a lot of ways, this was Ben Wallace's night. It was the 1,000th game of his career, which was why he drew a crowd of reporters at his locker before the game, and for 20 minutes he looked back at a career that started when he tried to make the Celtics as an undrafted free agent out of Virginia Union. 'I just try to take all the good advice people gave me,' Wallace, 36, said. 'Try to work hard, play hard, enjoy the game and live in the moment, and I try to do that. And 15 years later, everybody thought I'd be gone by now, but I'm still here.' Wallace joins Avery Johnson and Moses Malone as the only undrafted players to reach the 1,000-game milestone. Malone was drafted by the ABA."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Kyle Korver didn't want to comment on Phil Jackson's claim that 'Christian holidays don't mean anything to (the league office) anymore' because of the plethora of games on Christmas. But as the son of a minister, Korver did say his first career Christmas game Saturday against the Knicks would be a little odd. 'When I was growing up, it was hard for me to play in a basketball league on a Sunday,' Korver said. Korver's issues were more for scheduling than religious reasons. 'I would rather not play on Christmas Day for sure,' he said. 'It'd be one thing if we could play a noon game and fly home and have Christmas at night with our family. But we have to fly to Detroit and play the next day too. For Thanksgiving, we had four games in five days and had the off day in Denver. And we have New Year's Eve and New Year's Day games. It feels like we're getting picked on a little bit.' "

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: "Not only will Amar'e Stoudemire play on Christmas Day when the Knicks play host to the Bulls, he will debut two NBA-produced commercials during ESPN's/ABC's five-game holiday slate. Stoudemire and Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant are the two NBA players who will debut commercials for the league's new ad campaign called 'Encouragement' that feature documentary-style commercials of each player. Stoudemire's inclusion is another example of his rising national stature and notice of his MVP-caliber start. Stoudemire has been on David Letterman and also has appeared on the cover of a national sports magazine -- naked. Stoudemire's 'Encouragement' commercial features footage from his formative years, playing high school ball in Orlando."

  • Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: "Nothing like being thrown right into the Heat. The Suns, for the second time already this season, begin indoctrinating three new players Thursday, and oh, by the way, two of the new guys get to make their debut against the Miami Heat and its trio of rock stars: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. 'Obviously it's going to be a great test for us playing Miami in the first game with the new guys,' said playmaker Steve Nash, who has plenty of experience working in new teammates. 'We're not going to have too much time to get up to speed before playing a good team. But nobody feels sorry for you.' Center/forward Marcin Gortat and swingman Mickael Pietrus are expected to see their first action since a six-player trade with Orlando that also brought Vince Carter to Phoenix. Carter is being treated for inflammation in a strained quadriceps tendon that is causing swelling in his left knee and is not expected to play."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "There is a reason why the Mavericks are some people's default setting when it comes to trade rumors. Their history makes them an easy direct-connect to players who are openly on the market, like Denver's Carmelo Anthony. Mark Cuban rolled his eyes and totally discounted a recent piece of speculation that linked the Mavericks to Anthony, even though the Internet report gave no specifics and even said no offer had been formulated as of yet. Yeah, that sounds like the Mavericks are right on the lip of the cup of an Anthony trade, doesn't it? In truth, the Mavericks probably would love to get Anthony. As soon as the Nuggets agree to accept Alexis Ajinca and DeShawn Stevenson, they'll make the deal. ... The Mavericks aren't going to end up with Anthony, which might not be such a bad thing. Too many players who need the ball on the same team often lead to nothing but trouble. This is the first of what is no doubt going to be a lot of mindless jabber about the Mavericks. Many of their competitors will do whatever they can to poison their well, just like the Mavericks have done that in the past to their rivals. Believe all of it at your own risk."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "There are a few things to keep in mind amid the Carmelo Anthony trade rumors. The Rockets would dearly love to get involved. They would offer whatever they had to offer to turn the Nuggets' heads in their direction. They would even take their chances dealing for Anthony without a signed extension, gambling that they could win his confidence and/or he would eventually choose the much greater contract that would come from an extension compared to as a post-lockout free agent. Nothing is going that way. For whatever reason, the Nuggets won't rise to the bait. They have put out mixed signals on if the Nets' Derrick Favors truly is the prize they want. That would make sense since they are insisting on top young prospects and he is the name that to many the Rockets could not match. For whatever reason, they have never shown interest in the Rockets roster. There was even some talk that they just don't want the deals out there, but will keep talks alive to see if they can drive up the price. They seemed very close to a move on Tuesday, however, which would argue against the notion that they are posturing. Either way, the Rockets seem to be stuck on the outside."

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: "Brandon Roy is 26. And right about now, I'm thinking every regular American who has played a pickup basketball game in which they discovered they couldn't quite get to a loose ball like they used to or rebound as high can relate to Roy. If you haven't had this experience, it's sheer horror, people. Trust me. So here comes Roy, who is dealing with a pair of knees that look 40ish. Due to a series of injuries and surgeries, the guy has no meniscus, which leaves him bone on bone. And he's currently shut down by the team to determine if his knees will 'quiet down' with some rest. I told Roy Wednesday: 'You know what it's like, it's like you're 40.' Roy said: 'I thought about that. I see what older guys are going through.' He's tried to adjust his game, just like aging men everywhere. He's relying more on his outside shot. He's trying to play smarter and more efficiently. But he's not playing pick-up games in some gymnasium, rather, Roy is competing against the finest, most athletic basketball players in the world. They're making him look old. Understand. None of us are paid $83 million over five years to carry our children up the stairs. Or to play pickup games in the local gym. But what we have here is a rare moment in which the surreal world of a star athlete mimics a bit of real-life stuff."

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: "In the midst of Tuesday's meltdown I missed the DeMarcus Cousins choke gesture, taunt....whatever you want to call it. ... In writing the story for (Thursday's) newspaper some valid points were raised for and against Cousins being fined and taken out of the starting lineup. When I spoke to Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie, he raised a valid point: What if Cousins would have been called for a technical foul? A close game gets even closer. Petrie supports Westphal's decision. Cousins made the point that had the Kings won the reaction would not have been as harsh ... I'm not sure that would matter with the organization, but it would with public opinion. There are plenty in the 'Westphal came down too hard on Cuz Camp.' There are also plenty saying he's getting what he deserves. There's also the opinion Cousins is an easy target for discipline on a team that needs a lot more discipline from others in running the offense and helping prevent meltdowns like the one that happened Tuesday. What I do expect is for Cousins to play well Thursday night. The last Cousins was in the middle of disciplinary action that was made public was last month when Westphal kicked him out of practice. ... And until Cousins exhibits 'professionalism' he'll be having all his good games off the bench."

  • Colin Stephenson of The Star-Ledger: "Avery Johnson would never admit to being hurt or disappointed over not getting the job as New Orleans Hornets coach last summer, of course, but the way things turned out, coaching the Nets probably offer a little more in the way of stability right now than coaching the Hornets would. The Nets, of course, are owned by Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov, the richest owner in the NBA. The Hornets are owned by the NBA, which is running the club for now after a planned transfer of ownership from longtime owner George Shinn to former minority partner Gary Chouest fell apart earlier this month. And while the Nets are planning to move, two years from now, to a promised state-of-the-art palace in Brooklyn, the Hornets could soon be moving as well, under very different circumstances. So no wonder Johnson, a New Orleans native, returned to his hometown Wednesday night as coach of the Nets, talking about how happy he was to end up in the job he ended up in. 'I am in a great situation,' Johnson said before the Nets played their final game before a four-day Christmas break. 'I wouldn’t want to be working for any other ownership group (and) Billy King and I, our relationship as a general manager-coach’s relationship is really strong. These young men that I get a chance to work with every day, it’s just been a joy.' "

  • Justin Kubatko for The New York Times: "A little over two years ago, Mark Titus, then a seldom-used reserve forward for the Ohio State Buckeyes, started writing a blog that quickly became an Internet sensation. Titus and two of his bench mates named the blog Club Trillion as a nod to the games in which they would play one minute and register zeros in every other box score category. Although Titus’s blog brought the Trillion to a larger audience, the term has been around for quite a while. According to the longtime Philadelphia 76ers statistician Harvey Pollack, the former N.B.A. player Scott Hastings came up with the name in the 1980s. Hastings’s definition of a Trillion allowed for more than one minute played, and Pollack later amended the definition, writing in his annual statistical yearbook that 'a committee voted to allow a player to join the club if he only had a personal foul.' For the purposes of this column, players with more than one minute played will be considered, but players who had a personal foul will not. ... Among active players, Steve Novak of the Dallas Mavericks, a fifth-year forward out of Marquette, is the career leader with 39 Trillions. He has registered a Trillion in 19.5 percent of his career appearances, the highest rate among active players with at least 10 Trillions (the runner-up, Darnell Jackson, is well behind, at 14.4 percent). While Novak is undoubtedly the current president of the Trillion Club, he does not have the 'largest' Trillion among active players; that somewhat dubious honor belongs to Chris Duhon. On Jan. 20, 2007, Duhon, now with the Magic, played 10 minutes for the Chicago Bulls versus the Utah Jazz without recording another box score statistic."