First Cup: Tuesday

  • Monique Walker of The Boston Globe: "One week from today, the Celtics will receive the crowning symbol of their championship season. Their ring ceremony will be held before the season opener against Cleveland, a team the Celtics defeated in the Eastern Conference semifinals last spring. It will be a moment to remember and move forward, Paul Pierce said. 'It's going to be a great night,' Pierce said. 'Finally, once we accept our rings, we can put last year behind us and really focus on defending the title.'"

  • Alan Hahn of Newsday: "When he arrived as the new Knicks coach, one of the first players Mike D'Antoni named as someone he believed would thrive in his system was Jamal Crawford. Five games into the preseason, it appears Crawford hasn't found himself in this new style. 'I don't know if there's anything specific,' D'Antoni said of Crawford, who had four points in 26 minutes and missed five of his six field-goal attempts in a 114-106 win over the Nets last night. 'Maybe get him involved more to get him going, and he needs to be more aggressive to find out where he fits in. Obviously, he's going to get more touches and more looks and get more involved.' Crawford's struggles are enough of a concern that D'Antoni might consider replacing him in the starting lineup with Stephon Marbury in tonight's preseason game against the Celtics at the Garden. Marbury had a strong second half last night, finishing with nine points and six assists."TrueHoop First Cup

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "In a Western Conference that will be even more competitive this season, anyone expecting the Mavericks to slide to the end of the playoff bracket, or even out of the playoffs altogether, is making a bad mistake. Under Johnson, the Mavericks emerged as a true rival for the Spurs. Cuban stoked the rivalry with insults about the dirty San Antonio River. He was smart enough to understand that antipathy is a marketable commodity. Now there is another reason San Antonians can despise the Mavericks. Cuban fired one of their all-time heroes. But there is even greater reason to fear the Mavs: Nowitzki is smiling again."

  • Matt Steinmetz of The Examiner: "I went to Warriors practice on Monday to try to find out more about why the organization would want to extend Stephen Jackson's contract even though it doesn't seem like there is any strategic reason to do so. Well, here's the gist of it: The Warriors' relationship with Jackson, and vice versa, is about a lot more than basketball. The bottom line is the two sides have formed a sincere and mutually beneficial relationship. The organization has reached out to Jackson in a very personal way, and he has responded by going above and beyond nearly every time something of him is asked. The Warriors have seen their human touch work firsthand with Jackson. Fewer than two years ago, he came to the Warriors and was probably the second-most despised player in the league behind Ron Artest. Since then, Jackson's reputation has soared, both as a person and player."

  • Brian Hanley of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Toni Kukoc, the retired 6-11 forward who played with the Bulls from 1993 to 2000 and helped them win their last three championships, spent time after practice Monday giving post pointers to Luol Deng and Roger Powell and three-point shooting tips to Thabo Sefolosha. 'That's my buddy -- Toni and I were roommates when we played together in Italy,' Del Negro said. Kukoc simply was visiting from his nearby Highland Park home, but the players appreciated his help. 'It was really good,' Deng said. 'Just trying to ask him a few questions, what he thinks about some stuff, how I could be more effective out there, stuff like that. He's been through it. He's a great player.' Deng said he is working on his three-point shot, a consistent strength of Kukoc's."

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "The Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers could star in another episode of 'Family Feud' at 7 tonight at the Wachovia Center. All eyes will be on the point guards. The Cavs' Mo Williams was ejected just six minutes into Saturday's game for excessive talking to the Sixers' Andre Miller. Official Sean Corbin heard enough and sent Williams packing. He'll be fined an automatic $1,000 by the NBA for the ejection. He said he's had bad blood before with Miller when he played in Milwaukee. He joked that maybe Miller 'needs a hug.' Miller, who was drafted by the Cavs in 1999 and spent three seasons in Cleveland, was charged with an offensive foul with 6 minutes, 27 seconds left in the first quarter. He then uncharacteristically tossed the ball at Williams, which he called a 'bonehead' play."

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "We Atlantans had come to regard two words -- 'the draft' -- with the fear and loathing Bostonians held for Bucky Dent. We watched as Aundray Bruce and Bruce Pickens and Adam Keefe and Ed Gray became, albeit briefly, part of the local landscape. We saw the Falcons trade up to get Reggie Kelly. We saw Billy Knight snag Williams after Williams but not, alas, Deron Williams. But now, for one shining moment, we have arrived at a point in Atlanta sporting history when all, draft-wise, is bliss. When last the Falcons picked, they took Matt Ryan. When last the Hawks picked, they landed Al Horford. Both were the No. 3 selections overall. Neither was a sure thing: Some wanted Mike Conley Jr. instead of Horford, and many preferred Glenn Dorsey to Ryan. Happily, both No. 3s are better than we dared dream."

  • Peter Vecsey of the New York Post: "Gerald Green's response was positively bizarre. Instead of blaming the Celtics, Timberwolves and Rockets for his exile, he committed to strengthening his weaknesses. Providentially, he found a coach willing to throw him a profession preserver. Green had played well against some of Rick Carlisle's teams; his hiring by the Mavs coincided with Dallas' craving a player or three with more bounce to the ounce. 'The dunk contest hurt Gerald,' Carlisle said yesterday by phone. The same can be said for Harold (Baby Jordan) Minor, who prevailed twice, in 1993 and '95. 'People looked at (Green) more as a side show than a real professional basketball player. He realized that and was willing to do something to change the perception. He was ready to do what had to be done.' At the beginning of last summer, Carlisle defined what that entailed. Green hungrily co-signed the project, to upgrade his defense -- footwork, balance and strength -- and develop a practiced approach to the game. 'Gerald always shot well. It's just that his jumper got overlooked because everyone was concentrating on his jumping,' Carlisle said. 'He lacked consistency in other areas. To this point, that's what I'm seeing.'"

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Asked why he came back to the Magic
    if he knew his place in the plan, Adonal Foyle said, 'It's a very good team and they wanted me back here. That showed the kind of commitment that I like. This was the better place for me; there weren't a whole lot of teams [interested] and that was the other thing. My desire has to be constantly wanting to play and the moment that is no longer true, that is the moment I should hang it up.' Foyle is thinking about it. His interests outside of basketball (he founded Democracy Matters, a political organization) have been well-documented. 'I'm 33 years old ... maybe two more years, a year. You do think about it. Those are the decisions you can't wait until you retire to make; you have to do them as you're going. It's constantly in the back of my mind. If this is it, what am I going to do? What's my exit strategy? This has been my job, my career, my existence, everything I have was because of this sport. It's never going to be easy to let it go.'"

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: "Don't look now, but the Hornets are threatening to go unbeaten. In the exhibition season, that is. Coupled with a jump-start to their preseason, thanks to last week's trip to Europe and a regular-season mentality, New Orleans has won all five of its tune-ups heading into tonight's game against the Indiana Pacers at the New Orleans Arena. ... 'We're just playing,' said forward David West, who has watched the team's past two games from the bench while reserves have seen playing time in Coach Byron Scott's system. 'We just go out and try to play hard. I think the teams we've played against, the fact we started a week before everybody else, gives us a little bit of an advantage in the preseason. We're clicking a little better and are probably a little bit further ahead of schedule.'"

  • Janny Hu of the San Francisco Chronicle: "Baron Davis has his money and fame now that he's back in Los Angeles. What he doesn't have is enough time. 'It's still work,' Davis says. 'Moving, finding a house, establishing a routine. You still have to deal with that when you move to a new city.' It has been almost four months since Davis left the Bay Area, and the Warriors' former point guard is the new face of the Clippers. He says the transition hasn't been what he expected -- 'I thought the road would be a little easier, painted with gold,' he laughs -- and it's hard to tell whether he's joking or not."