First Cup: Tuesday

  • Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Can we talk? Can we ask whoever insists on asking Maurice Cheeks to compare the arrival of Elton Brand with the arrival of Moses Malone in 1982-83? There is no comparison. None. When the Sixers acquired Malone from the Houston Rockets, they had lost three times in the Finals: In '77 to the Portland Trail Blazers, in '80 and '82 to the Los Angeles Lakers, all in six games. They were, then, one step from a championship. Their roster included Hall Of famer-to be Julius Erving, All-Star guards Andrew Toney and Cheeks, good soldier Marc Iavaroni, All-Star defender Bobby Jones and solid bench players Clint Richardson, Franklin Edwards and Earl Cureton. Moses was the final piece. Brand, as talented as he is, as much as he brings to the current Sixers, is simply the next piece. The Sixers won 40 games last season. They made it to the playoffs for the first time in four seasons."

  • Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star: "The Raptors are playing host to CSKA Moscow, the defending Euroleague champions, tonight at the Air Canada Centre. And if the names on the roster don't intrigue you, understand that the visiting coach is an icon of the international game. He is Ettore Messina, the 49-year-old Italian, a six-time champion in Europe's top league. And whenever his name is mentioned on these shores, there are always those who wonder aloud: How long will it be before Messina or one of Europe's handful of perennial sideline winners gets a job in the NBA? 'It's not a matter of if it's going to happen,' said Bryan Colangelo, the Raptors GM, 'it's when it's going to happen.'"TrueHoop First Cup

  • Michael Grange of The Globe and Mail: "Leaving Europe would likely mean a pay cut, especially if the coach spends a season or two as an assistant coach while learning the nuances of the NBA game, since assistant jobs top out at about $700,000. 'Myself and the other top coaches in Europe are in very good situations,' Messina says. 'We have excellent contracts, excellent players, we play to win something every year. So at 49, do I want to start over a new life?' It's good question. Sooner or later, Messina or one of his peers will provide the answer."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "It took only three months for Nuggets coach George Karl's edict to have a sleeker basketball team to become an on-court reality. And as a result, Karl said, 'The thing I'm seeing is we are quicker and faster than we've ever been.' So what does that mean in terms of pounds? Six Nuggets -- Nene, Kenyon Martin, Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Anthony Carter and Chris Andersen -- lost a combined 76 pounds since the beginning of the summer. They are thinner to the eye, and on the court they have displayed fleeter feet than they did last season. ... The biggest losers have been Nene and Andersen. Nene, who is expected to be the Nuggets' starting center, checks in at 264 pounds, down from 278 in the summer. Hess said Nene will play this season at 258 pounds. Andersen can get back to his high-flying ways now that he has shed 18 pounds, going from 250 to 232."

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "Pistons practices are noted for how Hamilton and Afflalo go after each other. Hamilton works hard to free himself from Afflalo's tight defense and a little pushing and shoving is known to ensue. But Hamilton, entering his 10th season, is trying to make the pupil tougher and give the younger player confidence in his abilities. Afflalo came into the league out of UCLA as a stopper, but Hamilton likes Afflalo's potential on offense and encourages him to look for his shot. 'When you come in as a defender, people always label you as a defender,' Hamilton said. 'But Arron can play offense, too. I tell him, when you're on the offensive end, don't run away from the ball. You can go out there and make some plays and be great offensively, too. He showed that last game.'"

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "Many have wondered how the loss of veteran big man Joe Smith would affect the Cavs. After starters Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Ben Wallace and top reserve Anderson Varejao, the Cavs could be a bit thin up front. Because of the way Coach Mike Brown might divvy up the minutes, it might not matter. The Cavs might cover up for that possible weakness by having LeBron James shift over from his customary small forward spot to power forward for a few minutes a game. 'We have 96 minutes for those two spots,' Cavs coach Mike Brown said. 'LeBron could slide over to the '4.' If LeBron's minutes are really limited, we might be able to get someone else a few minutes. That's a fine line that we'll walk. We ran into that a lot last year trying to play four bigs.'"

  • Chris Perkins of the Palm Beach Post: "The winless Heat (0-3) returned to Miami from its two-stop European trip Monday. And the team might be worse off than when it left. Miami still has no definite backup center because Jamaal Magloire sustained a broken left hand against New Jersey in Thursday's game in Paris. He is expected to be out at least six weeks. 'It's unfortunate what happened,' coach Erik Spoelstra said. 'He was just starting to get into his rhythm.' Joel Anthony, a 6-foot-8 second-year shot-blocker, and David Padgett, a 6-foot-11 undrafted rookie free agent from Louisville, are available. But neither is ready to be a full-fledged backup to starter Mark Blount."

  • Melody Gutierrez of the Sacramento Bee: "While the NBA announced larger layoffs than originally anticipated Monday, the Kings have their own means of battling the tough economy. The Kings will play an exhibition game in Stockton on Wednesday as a way to solidify and geographically expand their fan base. 'We want to bring Stockton into the fold,' said Mitch Germann, the Kings' vice president of business communications. ... The Kings are not planning to make any layoffs, Germann said."

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: "Tyson Chandler and Chris Paul have a rapport that is difficult to challenge. 'We just kind of play,' Chandler said. 'We just play basketball out there, and it's kind of freelance. It's not something that we set up. We just kind of have a feeling. When we see the opening and opportunity, we both connect and we know it's coming, maybe three or four seconds before it happens. It's just chemistry. It's being on the floor playing and figuring each other out. For the first while in camp, he was throwing me the ball, and I wasn't expecting it. Then I started being ready for it and telling him how I like passes and from there, it was just money.' Paul and Chandler, as well as Byron Scott, are all quick to point out that the other three starters, David West, Morris Peterson and Peja Stojakovic, are somewhat responsible for this center-guard connection."

  • John Denton Florida Today: "The Orlando Magic are just three games into the pr
    eseason, but head coach Stan Van Gundy is already tweaking point guard Jameer Nelson about his inconsistent play and wavering energy levels. ... 'He was fantastic in training camp, but I don't think he's played up to his capabilities in the exhibition games,' Van Gundy said. 'I think when Jameer is attacking and penetrating he's a very hard guy to guard, but he hasn't played much like that in the preseason. He hasn't been as aggressive as I'd like. The same thing on the defensive end, I think he's one of the stronger, tougher guards, and he has rebounded well, but other than short spurts he hasn't taken the defensive challenge.'"

  • Frank Dell'Apa of The Boston Globe: 'There were some strong signs of Kendrick Perkins's return to practice yesterday. 'Perk fouled a couple people hard,' said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. 'He threw a couple elbows. I saw three or four people grabbing their face and saying, 'Wow, Perk must be back.' So that's what he does. Obviously, he was winded, but I was still impressed with how he got up and down the floor. He looked pretty good.' This was Perkins's first full-speed training session since the Celtics opened preseason camp Sept. 29, and his recovery from right shoulder surgery has been encouraging enough to make him a likely starter against Cleveland in Pittsburgh tonight."