First Cup: Thursday

  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "For most, being left open on an NBA floor is the result of an offensive play properly run. Udonis Haslem sees it a bit differently. To him, being left unaccounted for is dismissive. He used to consider that so insulting that he once berated Don Nelson and the Warriors' bench for ignoring him time and again -- even though Haslem was benefiting from it with a huge game. 'It gets old after a while,' Haslem said. 'Basketball is supposed to be 5-on-5. People mix all those junk defenses. To me, I feel like that's kind of cowardly. Just play ball.' He will take the wide-open shot. But that doesn't mean he has to like it. It is kind of a difficult concept to grasp, but it helps to better understand Haslem. If it comes too easy, it just doesn't feel right. It might help to explain why, when faced with the toughest task of his six-year NBA career, he is off to the best start."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "The Suns have spent most of their 40 years looking up at the Los Angeles Lakers, but that changed for three years. The Suns won Pacific Division titles in 2005, '06 and '07, outplaying the Lakers by a total of 56 games. The Pacific tide shifted last season when a lopsided trade put Pau Gasol with the league's Most Valuable Player, Kobe Bryant. The Lakers reached the NBA Finals. Tonight, as they come to Phoenix for the first time this season, they are the Western Conference favorite. In a rivalry stoked by coaches' barbs and attacks on Bryant from Raja Bell's arm and Shaquille O'Neal's rapping mouth, the Lakers can rap their own tune: 'Suns, tell us how second class tastes.' O'Neal and co-captain Steve Nash concurred that the Lakers (8-1) are the team to beat in the West, and coach Terry Porter said 'it's going to be a good challenge to see exactly where we're at.'"TrueHoop First Cup

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "The last few days, Phil Jackson found himself answering to O'Neal's latest views on the Bryant conflict. The Lakers coach also launched a mild rebuttal to O'Neal's assertion that 'it was all designed by Phil, because if you think about it, Phil never called us into the office and said, 'Both of you all, shut ... up.'' Said Jackson on Tuesday: 'I think we did one time. It was maybe after the first championship. It was just about, 'We're about winning, right?' In an unpredictably weird twist, the Suns center on Wednesday denied he criticized Jackson. 'America, don't always believe what you read,' O'Neal told reporters in Phoenix. 'It just wouldn't be right to say that now, 10 years later. On the record, Phil has always done right by me. Great guy, he always took care of me. We won championships and it would be idiotic of me to say something bad about him now.' O'Neal also added his latest take on Bryant, going against the historically backed belief that they feuded. O'Neal said Wednesday he and Bryant could have won 'probably eight' championships together and that they 'never had a bad relationship.'"

  • Melody Gutierrez of the Sacramento Bee: "Kings coach Reggie Theus, in light of recent comments made by team owner Joe Maloof that sparked talk about his job security, said there was one thing he wanted to get out there: He essentially agrees with Maloof. 'Joe's right in the sense that we have to get better,' said Theus, who is on the hot seat as the Kings hold the option for next season on his three-year deal worth $6 million. 'My job is to find a way to get better. ... (The) last six or seven games, if you just take the time to look at the defensive numbers, they will tell you this team has gotten a lot better defensively from the start of the season.'"

  • Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press: "Nobody knows yet exactly what we're seeing from these new-look Pistons. They're still figuring out one another, gradually gaining more familiarity with their new, more energetic personality. But it's ridiculous suggesting that the Pistons 'sent a message' with their 96-89 comeback victory over Cleveland on Wednesday night. They've now beaten two hot teams in the past six days, ending the Cavaliers' eight-game winning streak and handing the Lakers their first home loss of the season last Friday. And it all means ... nothing. 'It's early, but it's exciting,' said Allen Iverson. Yes, it's early."

  • Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News: "When it became apparent during the summer that he (Ed Stefanski) had an unexpected chance to sign unrestricted free-agent Elton Brand, he needed to do everything possible to create sufficient space to appease David Falk, Brand's agent. When he needed just a little more space, he traded Rodney Carney and Calvin Booth to the Minnesota Timberwolves, ostensibly for a second-round draft choice. He even agreed to continue to pay Booth's salary and about two-thirds of Carney's salary. 'It was kind of weird,' Carney said. 'I was sitting at home when [the Sixers] called and said I had been traded. I asked who I got traded for and they said they couldn't tell me. The way I look at it is, I got traded for them to get Brand. I got traded for money.'"

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "The neophyte Knicks are atrocious defensively, and when their shots aren't falling they can look as bad as anyone. Plus, they were still dominated in the paint even though Kevin Garnett was serving a one-game suspension. There is plenty of room for improvement, but at least the mentality of the team is changing. The players care about the results and want the rest of the league to take them seriously. 'We've got a long ways to go to change the perceptions of our organization,' Richardson said. 'This is just the beginning of us doing this.' You can already sense that Knicks president Donnie Walsh and head coach Mike D'Antoni are changing the culture. One Eastern Conference general manager cited D'Antoni's decision not to play Stephon Marbury and said that the controversial move 'has galvanized the locker room.'"

  • Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe: "Kevin Garnett gave reporters two options yesterday. They could talk about the game or they could talk about what he called nonsense. Because lately there's been a lot of it. So with the Pistons in town tonight, Garnett chatted a little about Allen Iverson. Then, since he didn't want to get too far ahead of himself or the Pistons, he brushed off talk about his return to Minnesota this weekend. And, finally, one reporter asked Garnett about his one-game suspension. He hopped out of his chair like it had an eject button, 'That's it,' he said. 'Y'all take it easy.' And as he walked away, 'I like that try, though.' Rather than feed the 'nonsense,' Garnett chose to ignore it, something the Celtics have had a hard time doing. Teams have been in their ears all season. The problem is the Celtics haven't been able to keep from talking back. Doc Rivers has the remedy. 'What do you need to respond for? Just play

  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: "With 2:50 remaining in the third quarter Wednesday night, Thunder fans no longer could contain their frustration. So they did the unthinkable. They booed. For two full seasons while hosting the displaced Hornets, local NBA fans never booed the home team. With the Los Angeles Clippers in the midst of a 42-12 run that required less than 12 minutes, Thunder fans broke their silence when coach P.J. Carlesimo called for a timeout. There were more groans than boos, but undeniably, there were boos. Philly fans boo Santa Claus, but Oklahoma City pro basketball fans don't boo anything that's theirs. Until Wednesday."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "When Magic PG Mike Wilks came out of surgery on Wednesday morning in Orlando and was asked his name, he groggily answered, 'Barack Obama.' 'Mike said that,' Wilks' agent, Bill Neff, said. 'He did not know where he was.' Neff said that Wilks' surgery went well. Wilks is expected to need about six months to recover from a torn ACL he sustained in his right knee during a preseason game."