First Cup: Monday

  • Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal: "At 32 years old and with several checkered spots on his 13-year resume, Antoine Walker isn't exactly meeting infamous expectations. So the Grizzlies should stop wasting everyone's time and give Walker his freedom. A contract buyout should come about soon, especially in the wake of the Griz signing 27-year-old forward Darius Miles to a non-guaranteed deal over the weekend. ... He's been humbled. There's no more shimmy in his shake. He's been nothing but a good teammate and someone that's routinely dialed into the coaching. If Walker has been on his best behavior just to compel the Griz to release him, well, so be it. But all I've discerned from numerous conversations with Walker is that he simply wants to play. He wants to contribute somewhere and end a respectable playing career on his terms."

  • John Canzano of The Oregonain: "The Memphis Grizzlies signed Darius Miles to a non-guaranteed contract. First Memphis took Bonzi (Wells), now Rev. Head Bop. What's next? Ruben Patterson stopping by the Beale Street precinct to join the sex-offender registry? Pass the beer nuts. Why is it that this Miles story feels less and less relevant the more the Blazers seem to have it together? Bad move for Memphis, in my opinion. But oh well. Nobody should root against Miles, but then again, can you find a good reason to root for him? Keep an eye on whether or not Miles can play 10 NBA games, and stick it to the Blazers. But also, don't be surprised if Portland keeps Raef LaFrentz's expiring contract, and holds onto the cap room. I'm not sure the trade value for that gorgeous piece of paper pre-Feb. deadline is going to be as valuable as the space the expiring contract creates when it comes to free agency in summer 2009."

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: "Knick coach Mike D'Antoni said his ballyhooed Phoenix return tonight at US Airways Center feels like the anticipation of Christmas. 'Not the presents, but the anticipation up to it,' D'Antoni said yesterday. 'Whatever happens, happens. It [could be] disappointing. You don't get what you want. Getting to the game is what I'm looking forward to.' If Knick fans would like to send a Christmas card to the Valley of the Sun, address it to Sun owner Robert Sarver, whose lack of appreciation for D'Antoni led to a bitter divorce and D'Antoni's Knick hiring."

  • John Gonzalez of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "You can fire Mo Cheeks, but you can't fire the guy who updates the standings. Last place. That's where the Sixers sit in the Atlantic Division. A coaching change can't hide that fact, and it certainly can't make the fans interested in the Sixers again. You can debate all you want whether it was time for Cheeks to go. But the organization has bigger troubles than which guy stands near the bench in a well-tailored suit. The Sixers threw a bunch of money at Andre Iguodala, and even more at Elton Brand, in an attempt to win games and energize the fan base. What a difference a 10-14 record makes. The only thing flatter than the Sixers are the attendance numbers. They're 26th in the NBA, averaging just under 14,000 fans per game. That's thousands fewer than the number of people who will show up at the same arena to watch fat men gorge themselves during Wing Bowl."

  • Don Seeholzer of The Pioneer Press: "Kevin Love isn't tearing up the NBA like Memphis' O.J. Mayo, the guy he was traded for, but Kevin McHale said the Wolves are quite happy with their rookie forward. 'Kevin's a 20-year-old rookie,' McHale said. 'He really brings a lot of stuff: great energy, a nice basketball feel. He's learning all the time. With all these kids, there's a learning curve that goes into it and you've got to be patient while he learns.'"

  • Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: "We wondered if Quentin Richardson ever thinks about what might have been had the Suns kept that 2004-05 core together and let it ride. We only had to ask once: 'The most amazing thing is that most of us are still tight to this day. Every time we go to Atlanta, I go over to Joe's house. When they're in New York, he'll come hang out. In the summer, I'll go to Atlanta. Joe will come to Chicago. We'll see Shawn (Marion) all summer, and we'll hang out with Stat (AmarĂ© Stoudemire). No matter where we are, we always talk about that - 'Why did they have to do what they did?' ... If you look at it, we were really just a healthy Joe Johnson away from being able to compete with San Antonio. It's unfortunate, but sometimes that's the way the NBA is. They think they have to do this or that to fix something, when the reality is if you give us another one or two or three years with our same core group of guys, we would have won a championship.'"

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "We're just six weeks into the NBA season, and five coaches already have been fired. What is this -- hockey? The NHL traditionally has changed coaches early and often. Now basketball has the quick trigger finger. 'It's just a matter of you don't know the date -- and you can't worry about it,' Orlando Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said. 'I think those guys who went didn't worry about it. You try to win games. And you realize that's the way it's going to go in this profession. You just do your job and when the time comes ... somebody else will do your job.'"

  • Brian Hanley of the Chicago Sun-Times: "The popular theory is the Bulls will go only as far as rookie guard Derrick Rose will take them this season. Then again, some say the Bulls will cash in on a playoff berth only if big-money players such as Luol Deng earn their pay. But after watching Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah come off the bench Saturday to help key the Bulls' 113-104 victory over the New Jersey Nets, Ben Gordon cast his vote for those two as the players who will dictate the team's fate. ''Those guys are going to determine how well we do this season and how far we can go,'' Gordon said. ''The more they can play like that, the better we'll be.''"

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "Eddy Curry was being touted the next Shaquille O'Neal when he entered the NBA. It was an unfair label and one that the Knicks' center has been unable to live up to. 'He hasn't come close,' O'Neal says. 'I don't want to say anything that is going to hurt his feelings, but I don't know what is going on with him. In this league, when you're touted as something and in your mind you don't think you're that, then you either got to put up numbers or you got to play the game.' O'Neal added that he is rooting for Curry and hopes that he can salvage his future, either in New York or somewhere else. 'What I like about him he's strong and aggressive,' O'Neal said. 'But I want to see him get up against the big names. If you wa
    nt to be somebody you've got to kill everybody. When I was young it took me a while to get up for everybody. When you're an okay center that's trying to be good you got to get up for everybody every night.'"

  • Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun: "In yesterday's matinee against the visiting New Orleans Hornets, Jay Triano matched wits with Byron Scott, the league's reigning coach of the year. The Raptors lost 99-91, but it hardly was Triano's fault. In time, and perhaps time isn't on Triano's side, officials will begin to respect Triano as a head coach and calls will begin to go Toronto's way. There were at least two calls that went the way of the Hornets that could have changed yesterday's outcome. The NBA is a star-driven league where the game's marquee players get favourable calls, especially in crunch time. It also works with coaches and clearly Triano hasn't earned the respect of the whistle-blowers. Equally obvious is that Triano doesn't have much to work with when he looks down his bench and needs someone to step up."

  • Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times: "When swingman Mickael Pietrus, who was drafted and nurtured by the Warriors, visited central Florida as a free agent this summer, coach Stan Van Gundy told him things would be different for him with the Orlando Magic. The Magic showed how much they wanted him with a lucrative contract offer. He was told he would be a starter in the backcourt. Magic owner Rich DeVos told him he was family. 'I never heard that before,' Pietrus said. 'I love it. For me, it's like a family. My teammates give me a lot of respect for what I can do for my team. They treat me like a star here. That's what I was looking for, to have confidence and to play my game.' Pietrus, who once longed for a specially carved spot in the Warriors' starting lineup, finally has found the embrace he'd been seeking. Thus, he said there will be no animosity in his first trip to Oracle Arena since the Warriors let him walk in July. Hard feelings have no room in his heart, which he said is as full as it's ever been."

  • Fran Blinebury of the Houston Chronicle: "The sinking economy has been felt in even the richest of pocketbooks as Tiger Woods needs a new endorsement ride after Buick bailed out and LeBron James lost his Internet connection with Microsoft. But so far, the two biggest marketing names on the Houston sports scene -- Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady -- have not felt the pinch of corporate cutbacks. 'So far as I know, nobody's Tigered me or LeBroned me yet,' said McGrady, who according to industry estimates, earns roughly $6 million a year in endorsements in addition to his $21.1 million salary from the Rockets this season. Estimates for 2008 have Yao earning $36.5 million, of which $21.5 million comes from various endorsement deals. His current endorsement packages from multiple sponsors total $150 million, Newsweek reported. 'As far as we go and how the economy has affected us and athlete marketing, it's really stemmed the tide of future deals more than affected current deals,' said Bob Myers, the marketing representative for McGrady with the Wasserman Media Group. 'I do think we're going to see an impact on deals going forward, the ability to generate new deals in a lot of different marketplaces.'"

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "Paul Pierce was at the center of another photo shoot before yesterday's practice, this time proudly posing with his shirt off as part of a promotion for an in-depth interview with ESPN's Tom Rinaldi. That piece, and a recent story by Sports Illustrated's S.L. Price, prove the Celtics captain is receiving the most national exposure of his career. So what better time to showcase his new fitness regimen, highlighted by his ability to lose approximately 10 pounds between the end of the NBA Finals and the start of training camp? Pierce, through his foundation P2, plans to launch a children's health and nutrition initiative next summer. 'I thought it would be a good idea because of what I've done with my own eating habits,' he said. 'You hear about diseases like diabetes on the rise that affect young children. It's great to get something like this going -- it's great to affect people's lives.'"

  • Adam Sparks for The Tennessean: "MTSU (4-3) plays host to UT Martin (2-5) and NBA prospect Lester Hudson, an electric 6-foot-2 guard. 'I've never had so many requests from NBA scouts to come to a game, and it's because they're coming to watch Lester Hudson play,' MTSU Coach Kermit Davis said. 'He can make shots, and he's a really, really good passer. He's got good freedom in that offense, and he just scares you to death if he can really, really get it going. He's had some really good games, but I don't know if he's really got it going like he did against Memphis or Vanderbilt last year. He's a talent who could very easily be a first-round pick.' Fourteen NBA scouts had reserved a spot at Murphy Center tonight."