First Cup: Tuesday

  • Jerry Brown of the East Valley Tribune: "After watching a few of Shaq's thunderous dunks during a personal workout Sunday and in practice Monday, some of his new teammates have strongly requested that the team reinforce the apparatus currently supporting the two baskets at the team's practice court. Brian Skinner and Sean Marks are the players who now have the task of guarding O'Neal in practice and would be the first ones in the path of any possible falling debris. 'Basically, they've said they don't have the confidence to be under those baskets right now,' one Suns official said. 'And I can't say I blame them.' After watching one of Shaq's slams during his personal workout Sunday, guard Leandro Barbosa shook his head and said 'Man, that thing is coming down.'"

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "A coach can rip into his superstar, but making a habit of it does not bode well for his job security. We will see if the Magic -- GM Otis Smith in particular --- have Stan Van Gundy's back in his taffy-pull with Dwight Howard. If not, Stan will be spending time with his family again should anything develop beyond a family-like tiff. Superstars always win the ego battles between coaches. Ah, it was refreshing to see quite frankly to see Van Gundy's rant, because maybe Dwight was getting too big for his britches, living the NBA life as 22-year-olds tend to do."TrueHoop First Cup

  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "On some level, Vince Carter knows that people -- fans, teammates, coaches -- expect this from him all the time, not once every five or six games, which is the rate he's producing now. On some level, he knows that he can't use a bad ankle as an excuse once they return from their four-day vacation next week, even though it has clearly reduced the altitude at which he is accustomed to playing. And on some level, Carter understands that the upheaval the Nets have experienced this season is about him -- at least some of it, anyway -- and that Jason Kidd's stated desire to split is partly about Kidd's unstated discontent that Carter isn't living up to his résumé."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "Who Carmelo Anthony is as an NBA player -- who he should be and where he is going -- may always be one of the most debated topics surrounding the Nuggets. No matter where anyone thinks Anthony stands, those in and out of the organization this season say they have seen a change in how he approaches basketball. It has not only benefited the Nuggets, but put an added polish on Anthony's game. He is regarded as being solely concerned with scoring, but that is changing. 'This year, he understands it's a team concept, and it takes all of us to win ballgames,' center Marcus Camby said. 'He's buying into the team system when easily he can go out there and have nights like he did against Washington (career- high 49 points Friday).'"

  • Sam Donnellon of the Philadelphia Daily News: "... the Sixers have creeped to within one-half game of the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Their brand of fast-paced basketball, pushing the ball at every opportunity, tossing in some irksome fullcourt pressure on travel-weary foes like the Mavs, makes for exciting play - even if so very few are watching. You might even call it a college-style game, the kind we say we love. It's messy at times, and there's a whole lot of learning going on out there, too. But watching their 31-year-old point guard position them around, watching an entire team hit the floor for balls and take full-bore charges in the second quarters of games ... well, it's the kind of effort we always said we wanted to see in the NBA. And Miller's the kind of guard we all said we'd be if we only had NBA talent. Unselfish. Unassuming. Smart, solid, steady."

  • Phil Sheridan of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Just five of the East's 15 teams have winning records. There are Boston, Toronto, Cleveland, Detroit and Orlando, and then there is the abyss. If the season ended today -- and few would complain if it did -- the Sixers would be on the cusp of the eighth and final playoff spot. 'It's not that hard to make the playoffs in the East,' Sixers point guard Andre Miller said. And that brings us neatly to the second difference, which is more about the Sixers than the league they play in. It's pretty basic: You couldn't get these players to tank it if you begged them."

  • Carol Slezak of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Larry Brown? That's the most intriguing speculation about the Bulls to have surfaced since the Kobe talk died down. The team could use a great coach. And general manager John Paxson could use a little help in the front office, too. The way I see it, Brown could be the full-time coach and part-time GM, and the organization would be the better for it. We've been talking for months now about ways Paxson can improve his team. Trades, free agents, the draft. Well, here's a free agent who could immediately help the franchise. Brown is interested. I hope Paxson is listening."

  • Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Gerald Green has mixed emotions about getting the chance to soar in front of the country. In fact, he finds it difficult to think about Saturday's competition when he's trying so hard in practice to earn more playing time. 'It's very difficult,' he said. 'Especially when I feel I should be playing. It's very difficult. But I have to go out there and do [the contest] for my fans and my family and my friends. They want to see me perform. Right now, honestly? That's the last of my worries, to tell you the truth, being the two-time dunk champ. That's fine, I would love to be there. But if I could trade that in for something else, I would.'"

  • Tom Enlund of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "According to Larry Krystkowiak, the Bucks are splintering as a team because they are being torn apart by personal agendas. ... 'I'm not going to sugarcoat it,' Krystkowiak said. 'We've got some agendas creeping in and good teams don't have that. There's a lot of sacrifices that people make (on good teams). At this point ... because we're not winning, it's really easy to second-guess what we're doing as a coaching staff offensively and defensively.'"

  • Chris McCosky of The Detroit News: "As you watch the Pistons' young bench players grow and mature before your eyes, as you praise Joe Dumars for drafting or otherwise acquiring them and Flip Saunders for his patient but insistent development of them, don't for a minute undervalue the impact of Rasheed Wallace. Whether it is with a young frontcourt player like Amir Johnson, or the rookie backcourt of Rodney Stuckey and Arron Afflalo, Wallace has been in turns either in their ear or on their backs, constantly prodding them to, as he says
    , 'Just play.' 'I am just trying to get them to play instead of them being so mechanical,' he said. 'They are out there like, 'If I make a mistake I am coming out.' Nah, just go out and play. Be yourself and play your game. If you make a mistake or take a bad shot, it's not the end of the world. Just play through it.'"

  • Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer: "Coach Sam Vincent hasn't been able to push the right buttons. You have to wonder if the buttons even exist this season. Vincent's frequent lineup changes remind me of what the first Bobcats coach, Bernie Bickerstaff, once said about one of his own player shuffles: 'They say a drowning man will grab a razor blade.'"

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "After playing third wheel for so long, sidekick can be awfully appealing. 'When I first came in as a rookie, I had Backcourt 2000, J-Kidd and Penny Hardaway,' he says. 'I've had to adjust to everybody I've played with. I think Dwyane and I can develop that.' While some question Marion's notion of feeling under-appreciated, there is an overwhelming amount to appreciate."

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Aaron McKie instantly gives the Griz someone who can instruct and relate to this generation of players, much like Damon Stoudamire did before he left for San Antonio. It's no coincidence that McKie took up residence in Stoudamire's old locker between second-year swingman Rudy Gay and rookie point guard Mike Conley. 'Learning is a skill. Being a student is a skill,' Iavaroni said. 'You have to seek out wisdom. You have to take notes. You have to set goals. Certainly, (McKie) is a great model.'"

  • Steve Springer of the Los Angeles Times: "It is well known that Magic Johnson owns a little under 5% of the Lakers. What is not generally known is that he is not a silent partner. While everybody else was in the headlines during a stormy summer and heated preseason -- Kobe Bryant with his on-again, off-again trade demands, owner Jerry Buss saying he'd entertain trade offers, General Manager Mitch Kupchak doing just that -- Johnson was pleading for calm. 'I was on the phone with Mitch every day, every day,' said Johnson after watching the Lakers beat the Miami Heat, 104-94, on Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena. 'Everyone needed to calm down. Nobody needed to overreact. We needed to speak with one voice.'"

  • Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle: "A solid week was devoted to the lamentable exclusion of Baron Davis from the All-Star Game. Just lately, the tortoise and the hare -- Chris Webber and Monta Ellis -- have dominated the conversation. But there's no question about the soul of the Warriors. It's a role that Stephen Jackson savors, and he staged a vintage performance Monday night."