First Cup: Monday

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: If it looks only now like Erik Spoelstra is developing a role for Michael Beasley, you're not too far off. The Miami Heat coach acknowledged Sunday that it wasn't until after training camp that he began formulating a plan for the Heat 2008 first-round draft choice. Before that, he said it was just about creating a fit with the versatile forward who had split the previous three seasons between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns. "With Michael," Spoelstra said, "it was more about, initially, we felt he was part of our family. We drafted him. We spent a lot of time with him, not only during those two regular seasons, but during the offseasons and we just wanted to open up our arms back into our family. That was our initial thought when we talked to him. I didn't even talk role. I didn't even talk specifics about anything. I didn't talk about, 'Hey, you're going to learn from these guys.' It was, 'Hey, come back to the family,' and just get back into the routine and we'll take it from there. After training camp, that's about the first time I really started to talk about a possible role with him." Spoelstra said it was more about allowing the Heat's locker-room culture to envelop Beasley, who returned on a one-year, non-guaranteed, veteran-minimum contract.

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: Pelicans second-year power forward Anthony Davis, the team's most valuable player so far this season and it's front-running All-Star candidate, sustained what was described as a non-displaced fracture of his left hand near the end of the first quarter of Sunday's game. He was in obvious pain on the bench and went into the locker room, returning before halftime with a wrap on his hand and wrist. Judging by the cast on his left hand, the fracture is either in the fourth or fifth metacarpals because the last two fingers on the left hand were completely wrapped. That, of course, is only speculation. He'd recover more quickly from a non-displaced hand fracture than a non-displaced wrist fracture. It's worth noting the injury is on Davis' non-shooting hand. A timetable for Davis' return has yet to be determined, but a non-displaced fracture is the least serious type of break. If Davis misses any length of time with this injury, it's going to be difficult for the Pelicans to compensate for his absence. Davis is the team's final line of defense at the rim when he's on the floor and his absence quite likely will open up the paint for opponents. The Pelicans are also thin in the frontcourt, especially in the middle, with center Greg Stiemsma out with a left knee injury. Davis missed his only appearance in his hometown of Chicago last season with a concussion. New Orleans travels to face the Bulls in Chicago Monday night.

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: As the victories continue to pile up, as the standings continue to reflect the unexpected, as the Trail Blazers continue to forge ahead as the NBA’s early-season darling, the narrative is changing. Opposing teams are no longer entering a game against the Blazers with a ho-hum demeanor, poised to pummel a pushover. The vibe of, “Oh, this team is off to a nice little start,” is evolving into, “Oh, this team is pretty darn good.” “We’re getting team’s best shots,” Blazers shooting guard Wesley Matthews said. “People are getting up to play us now and we’re demanding team’s best and we have to have ours at all times. We’re not a cool team. Some teams are cool teams. We don’t have cool players. We have dogs. And we have to play like that at all times.” The dogs flashed a little bite Sunday night in Los Angeles, where, despite blowing two sizeable leads, the Blazers won yet again, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers 114-108 before a sellout crowd of 18,997 at the Staples Center. The entertaining victory moved the Blazers (14-3) into a first-place tie with the San Antonio Spurs (14-3) in the Western Conference. It’s only 17 games into a long season, but every win reinforces the idea that this scrappy, fun-to-watch Blazers team might be for real. And the best news for Blazers fans? They remain a work in progress, unsatisfied with their play.

  • Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star: Paul George has many fans in Los Angeles — as a Palmdale native, he had several family members and friends at the game. However, George has a big fan in the Clippers coach. “I don’t think anyone knew he’d be this good,” said Rivers. “He’s good. The old-school thought on Indiana was that they were a really good basketball team but they didn’t have an outlier. They didn’t have that one guy that took guys over. Now they do, and now they’re great.” Rivers also offered a bold prediction for George, who scorched the Clippers for a game-high 27 points to go along with six rebounds and five assists. “Can you win Most Improved and Most Valuable Player? Has that ever been done,” Rivers asked reporters after another inquiry about George. “It could be done. He won’t win Most Improved because he’s done it before, but to me, the jump that he’s made from last year to this year … is the Most Improved Player in the league, and the Most Valuable Player right now.”

  • Holly MacKenzie for The Denver Post: After scoring 23 points Sunday in the Nuggets' 112-98 victory over the Toronto Raptors, Nate Robinson wanted everyone to know that he's just getting started. As coach Brian Shaw walked by while Robinson was addressing the media, Robinson put everyone on notice. "I ain't did nothing yet," he said. "I'm heating up. Let y'all know." Robinson heated up at the right time Sunday, scoring 18 points in the fourth quarter. That included four 3-point shots. "I'm just have fun playing basketball," he said. "Honestly, man. It's just playing ball. I love it. It's the best game on earth and I love playing it. I try to play as hard as I can, and hopefully it rubs off on the next guy. Kind of like in NASCAR driving, you get that little wind that's like a little slingshot, I just try to get everybody going." Closing out the game alongside Ty Lawson and Andre Miller in a three-guard lineup, Robinson was given the green light to shoot. "I compare him to a football player," Lawson said. "He's always aggressive. He'll come in, hit 3 after 3. He's a terror on both ends. To have him on our team, finally, it's huge for me."

  • Terry Foster of The Detroit News: The Pistons were all smiles Sunday after an easy, 115-100 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers at the Palace. ... So what does this all mean? In the grand scheme of things it matters little. The Pistons smacked around a Sixers team that has given up an average of 112.7 points in a nine-game road losing streak. After a hot start the Sixers (6-12) are taking their rightful spot as one of the NBA’s bottom feeders. The Pistons will be right along with them unless they can grasp two things. They must play better defense and they must figure out the fourth quarter shutdowns that have prevented this dismal season from being better. The key word is “effort.” The Pistons say they must learn to close out games. I beg to differ. They must figure a way to prevent teams from imposing their will on them. The better teams do it. The lesser teams usually don’t. The Pistons are 7-1 against teams with losing records. They are 0-9 against teams that are .500 or above. Let’s throw a challenge to the Pistons. They play three road games this week. Two are against the Chicago Bulls (7-8) and Miami Heat (13-3) and the other is against Milwaukee (3-13). The Pistons won’t win in Miami. But I challenge them to win in Chicago and Milwaukee. That would help right this ship and establish this as a playoff team.

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: Reggie Jackson admits he had his hopes up. Let himself believe he could step into the James Harden/Kevin Martin role. Become a Thunder sixth man extraordinaire. Then Sam Presti and Scotty Brooks and everyone else started talking about how the Thunder rotation didn't have to be the same. The Boomers didn't have to have an instant-offense guy off the bench. Maybe it's time to reassess. Jackson is producing like he most definitely could handle such a role. Jackson scored 18 points in 23 1/2 minutes Sunday night as the Thunder beat Minnesota 113-103 to raise its winning streak to seven. And Jackson's offense came in bunches. Seven points in a 53-second span of the second quarter after Brooks had Russell Westbrook at the scorer's table, waiting for a whistle so he could replace Jackson. Seven points in a 70-second span of the fourth quarter, during which the Thunder expanded a one-point lead. “Any role I'm put in, I'm just ready to go out there and compete,” Jackson said. “I always believe in myself and think the sky's the limit.” The sixth man role? “Don't really think about it,” Jackson said. “Can't get too caught up in it.” Everyone else should. During the Thunder's just-concluded six-game homestand, Jackson averaged 13.7 points on 55 percent shooting. For the season, Jackson is up to 10.6 points a game.

  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: The Warriors' best chance at living up to expectations is by letting their star shine. He is the Golden State weapon that makes defenses quiver. He is the frontman off which the rest of the band experiences the good life. Yes, he has his flaws. He turns it over too much (he had seven against the Kings). He doesn't get to the free throw line enough. You can go at him on defense and have success. All true. But stars aren't judged by what they can't do, instead milked for their greatness. No one's taking the mic from Adam Levine because he can't sing bass. The Warriors will only be as good as Curry plays, only go as far as he takes them. That is especially true in close games. So the onus is on Mark Jackson and his staff to maximize his strengths not just hide his weaknesses. And if Curry can't carry this team, then its time to blow the roster up anyway. So, at worst, you find out early if he's the top 10 player many experts peg him to be. "I hope I can," Curry said with a smile. ... Golden State has its eye on another playoff run. As it experienced in the spring, postseason games often come down to the final minutes. Now is the time to groom Curry for those moments. It's clear he's the one for them.

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: There’s increased concern these days about NBA coaches (and coaches in general) potentially interfering with game action by stepping onto the field of play. Someone asked Spoelstra about that before the game, and he offered a funny story: That he was so far out on the court in one Finals game that the NBA showed video of it three straight years at the preseason coaches meeting. Spoelstra said he asked the league to stop using him as an example of what not to do.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: The Wizards’ locker room is again a fun place to be, with the team going 8-8 in November, its most wins in that month since 1984. The franchise has been .500 or better in November only five other times in the past 30 seasons — in 1984, 1986, 1993, 2004 and 2005 — and four of those teams reached the playoffs. Just two weeks ago, the Wizards’ season appeared to be in shambles, with the team possessing the Eastern Conference’s worst record at 2-7. It had lost small forward Trevor Ariza to a strained right hamstring, Nene demanded that the young guys “get their heads out their butts” and speculation about Coach Randy Wittman’s job security intensified. “I think everybody [else] panicked,” Wall said after Saturday’s 108-101 win over the Atlanta Hawks. “We didn’t panic because we know we have a good team and we know we have a team that’s capable of being in the playoffs. We know we got off to a rough start . . . but we figured out a way to win.”

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: A shouting match with Carmelo Anthony and rookie Tim Hardaway Jr.’s breakout game may have pushed Iman Shumpert closer to the door. Hardaway is fighting for playing time with Shumpert, who got into a heated rant with Anthony on the Knicks bench during a third-quarter timeout. Anthony didn’t look at him as Shumpert raved. Shumpert, who was then benched for the fourth quarter of the 103-99 loss to the Pelicans, called his tiff with Anthony “a miscommunication’’ on defense. “Of course I wanted to play," Shumpert said. “Tim was making shots. J.R. [Smith] had it rolling. We were just trying to get a win." ... Anthony declined to talk about Shumpert, who has been on the trading block since the middle of last month. Trades usually pick up Dec. 15, because free agents signed over the summer and draft picks can be dealt.