First Cup: Thursday

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "Mike D'Antoni pulled off a rare feat on Tuesday by calling out Eddy Curry for being out of shape and unproductive and creating his own backcourt controversy. Even at his Machiavellian best, Jeff Van Gundy couldn't stir things up like D'Antoni did. The Knicks are, if nothing else, a fragile group. Because of that, Tuesday ranks as the most significant moment of D'Antoni's brief time in New York. It is much too soon to give up on Curry and Jamal Crawford, but it will be interesting to see how two of Isiah Thomas' prized recruits respond to D'Antoni's tough love approach."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "LeBron James sat out Wednesday night's preseason game with the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Not because he's hurt or tired, but out of precaution and just to make sure he isn't overextended. This is not a new idea. James has rested during preseason games in the past, but there were other reasons for selecting this one. It is the second night of a back-to-back, but there's more to it. Coach Mike Brown said James wanted to be sure not to skip Friday's game in Columbus at Value City Arena. It's not just because that game against the Wizards is being nationally televised by ESPN. 'This is something we talked about before the preseason started, him taking a game or two off,' Brown said. 'We agreed that it was going to be this game.'"

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "The local chapter of the J.J. Redick Fan Club is either about to celebrate or perhaps storm Stan Van Gundy's office. Hold the protest marches. It appears that Redick finally has extracted himself from the bench after two frustrating seasons with the Orlando Magic. Van Gundy didn't officially announce it -- 'no need to make a big public thing of it' -- but if his analysis of Redick's play is any indication, J.J. will be in the rotation come the Magic's regular-season opener Wednesday."

  • Kurt Streeter of the Los Angeles Times: "Question: Are we unfair to Lamar Odom? Do we ask too much, expect too much, grow too frustrated when we watch him play, wondering all the while why No. 7 isn't living up to what we justknow he should be: one of the greats, the next Pippen, the purple-and-gold Robin to Batman Kobe? Answer: Yes, to all of the above. We are unfair to Lamar Odom, and that's too bad because it's something that keeps him from being fully appreciated. Odom is the Lakers' great enigma, perhaps the most perplexing, confounding, frustrating player in the NBA. One moment he's brilliant and daring (Lakers vs. Utah, second-round playoffs, 2008, with an 18.2 scoring average). Next moment he's, well, he's out there on the hardwood sort of fumbling about, timid and unsure (Boston, NBA Finals, also 2008, 13.5 scoring average partially propped-up by garbage-time jump shots)."

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "With a thunderous two-handed dunk that violently shook the entire hoop, Greg Oden delivered an emphatic message Wednesday night at the Staples Center: He's ready to G.O. Oden had his second consecutive standout performance and the Trail Blazers ensured they would finish with a winning exhibition record during a sloppy 87-75 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. And the Blazers' rookie center provided the punctuation mark in the win, when he gathered a pass from Travis Outlaw and finished that impressive dunk with less than four minutes remaining in the game, completing what has to be his most awe-inspiring play with the Blazers to date."

  • Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "As he landed on the foot of Chicago guard Derrick Rose on a three-point attempt in the first quarter of Saturday's preseason game, Deron Williams had a perfect view of what he initially feared was a season-ending ankle injury. 'I just saw it. I saw it happen,' Williams said. 'When I started to roll it, I looked down and I saw it go all the way out and then it popped and then it popped back in. I thought something slid out or I broke something. I had no clue.' Instead of dislocating his ankle, Williams escaped with a second-degree sprain. The Jazz have ruled him out for at least two weeks, but Williams said he was holding out hope he could still play in Wednesday's regular-season opener against Denver."

  • Chris Tomasson of the Rocky Mountain News: "The guy whose 27.7 average is third best in NBA history is tied with soon-to-be-cut James Mays for the 13th-best average on the Nuggets. But there's one more chance for Allen Iverson to salvage his preseason. Nuggets coach George Karl is hopeful Iverson, who has played in only two preseason games and has missed the past two because of a sprained right ankle, will play in Friday's finale against the Clippers in Los Angeles. 'I think he'll work (today) on the court and maybe play some in L.A.,' Karl said. 'That's the hope. That's the desire.' Iverson worked Wednesday in the weight room and is getting better. Still, Karl can't deny he has 'concerns' about Iverson, 33, who missed two games early in the preseason because of a sore left knee. 'But I think his history and his character show that you got to trust the guy,' Karl said. 'He might get off to a slow start. We might have to manage him a little differently. ... Just as long as he's ready for most of the marathon.'"

  • Marc J. Spears of The Boston Globe: "Larry Bird won three NBA titles and three MVP awards with the Celtics, and his No. 33 hangs in the rafters at TD Banknorth Garden. 'Larry Legend' also owns an Olympic gold medal, is considered one of the top players in NBA history, played in the NCAA championship game, and was the consensus college player of the year in 1979. But although his basketball résumé is loaded with accomplishments, as president of basketball operations of the Pacers he wants to build them back into a title contender. 'With all the things that went on here, one of the low points of my professional career was seeing this franchise take the hits it has in the press and the players do the things that they've done,' said Bird. 'Turning this around will be one of my biggest accomplishments and biggest challenges I will face.'"

  • Jim Alexander of The Press-Enterprise: "Now, officially, it's on Mike Dunleavy. The burden, the responsibility, the pressure ... whatever term you want to use, it is now squarely on the shoulders of the Clippers' coach and general manager. It is his team, indisputably. Baron Davis, Ricky Davis and the rest of those 10 new players on the roster? His, his, his, his, his ... well, you get the point. Before, it was only speculated or assumed that Dunleavy had the lion's share of control over the Clippers' basketball operation. But once the organization made it official earlier this month, pushing Elgin Baylor out the door after 22 seasons of loya
    l service, all pretense was suspended. Which means there's no more buffer, no one else to take the heat. If this doesn't work, there may come a time fairly soon where owner Donald Sterling and team president Andy Roeser are looking for two replacements, rather than one."

  • Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times: "This is going to be fun for Don Nelson, right, molding and shaping all the Warriors' young talent? Wrong. 'I'm uncomfortable simply because we have so many young players,' Nelson said. 'This is a situation where our team is very green. There are a lot of situations they can hurt you. And we understand that. A year ago, I knew exactly what I had,' he added. 'I had veterans come in who attended to business. This year, we're different. We're green and growing. We've got a lot of development to do here with our younger players. I would prefer a veteran team, you know, a (butt)-kicking veteran team that would have a chance to win a title is what I deserve at 68, I would think. But that's not what we have here.'"

  • Tom Powers of The Pioneer Press: "Poor Randy Wittman has been in charge of two awful teams during his career as a head coach -- the Cleveland Cavaliers of the late 1990s and the current Timberwolves. Someday when he's sitting in the park, a blanket over his knees, he's going to want to tell some other codger about the time his team made a run at the NBA title. So far, that story is not in his repertoire. I'm not even sure he has a vivid enough imagination to concoct such a tall tale. On Wednesday night, I spoke to Wittman before the game and told him this is going to be the year his career won-lost record starts inching up toward the .500 mark. This is going to be his year. 'Is this it?' he asked. Yes, absolutely. The Timberwolves are ready to turn this thing around. I'd swear to it!"

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "There are jobs in sports that invite unique scrutiny: Being Bill Parcells' quarterback. Being George Steinbrenner's manager. Being Larry Brown's point guard. Raymond Felton knew it was coming -- the nagging, nitpicking, foot-stomping and shouting. It's been nearly a month since he started running plays for Brown, and his response to all the fine-tuning? Keep it coming. 'It's tough love,' Felton said Wednesday. 'He's all for his point guards, but at the same time he's all over his point guards. He stays on me. He stays on D.J. (Augustin, the rookie backup) but he's harder on me. That's because I'm the starting point guard. And I can take it.'"

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "Spurs coach Gregg Popovich showed up for Wednesday's preseason game against the Wizards with his formerly flowing beard trimmed to a length certain to meet the approval of the NBA's style police. 'It was a lot longer yesterday,' Popovich said. 'I had to look halfway clean, so it wouldn't look quite so much like I was going to steal something from somebody.' Popovich showed up at training camp with a beard he had cultivated for weeks, announcing he would do with it whatever Tim Duncan requested. Duncan said he wanted the head coach to let the beard grow, but Popovich shortened it halfway through training camp. Wednesday's look, it seems, will be how he begins the regular season."