First Cup: Thursday

  • Terry Foster of The Detroit News: "Michael Jordan will go into the Hall of Fame next week (Sept. 10-12) as perhaps the greatest and most marketable player of all-time, but he won't go in as a friend of the Pistons. The rivalry between the Pistons and Bulls was so intense, bitter feelings lingered for years and probably kept Pistons point guard Isiah Thomas off the 1992 Olympic Dream team. You always knew Jordan was a Hall of Famer. He simply needed to overcome the Pistons and make teammates better to become great. The Pistons eliminated the Bulls in the 1988, 1989 and 1990 playoffs on their way to three consecutive NBA Finals appearances. Even though Jordan lost to the Pistons in the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals, he was on his way to being great. The Bulls lost that series in seven games and Jordan had a meltdown after the Game 2 loss, throwing chairs and refusing to speak to teammates for three days before Game 3 in Chicago. The Bulls responded and the series ended up being one of the greatest of all-time."

  • Jerry Briggs of the San Antonio Express-News: "A little more than a year later, David Robinson threw out his back, then broke his foot, forcing him to sit and watch for the last 31/2 months of the 1996-97 season. A frightful, 62-loss disaster ensued. 'Ridiculous,' Robinson said, recalling the year in which most of the Spurs' front-line players went down with injuries. 'It was a mess.' It was also the start of something divine. The Spurs won the lottery in 1997 and claimed the No. 1 draft pick, power forward Tim Duncan. Duncan has since led the Spurs to four NBA titles. Robinson, who evolved from a big-time scorer to defensive stopper after Duncan arrived, won his long-coveted championships in 1999 and 2003. In that sense, Robinson's misery in his lost season was nothing more than a mirage. 'That was a loss that was a win,' former Spurs guard Avery Johnson said. 'It's amazing when you lose and you're winning at the same time. When you're going through it, you don't even recognize it.' Former Spurs guard George Gervin said it was 'almost like fate' that Robinson, down and out of the game temporarily, would suddenly get the help that he needed to win his first championship. 'David is a faith-believin' man anyway, a very spiritual guy,' said Gervin, the franchise's first Hall of Fame player. 'As the old saying goes, 'God works in mysterious ways,' and it kind of fits into his character, because of his faith.' "

  • George Panagakos of The Examiner: "Being a Washington Wizard is tough, and no, I'm not talking about the cloak-wearing, wizard-hat-owning, wand-totting, dice-rollers either. I'm talking over 1,000 jump shots a day during the offseason, playing a fourth of the season with a herniated disk, and trying to prove your legs are still fresh after a series of three knee surgeries. So what does it take to be a Wizard? Daily exercise, weight training, practice, a little luck, and a check on your diet. Recently Caron Butler, synonymous with straws and sodas, said he finally gave up those carbonated drinks. Another famous case of diet is reserve guard Nick Young, whose 'Bean Burrito' nickname is in keeping with the man's supposed off-court diet of fast food, something Wizards.com highlighted in a digital locker room flash back last February. Obviously, diet is important, but in the NBA, weights and practice reign supreme. After all, Caron was still drinking those sodas when he made the Top 10 last season."

  • Justin Rogers of MLive.com: "Ron Artest is a strange dude, there's no doubt about it, but this story is downright classy. Artest, a controversial figure around these parts based on what we affectionately know as the 'Malice at the Palace' recently used the powers of Twitter to track down the instigator of the fiasco, John Green. Green, for those who may not remember, tossed the cup that hit Artest in the chest and caused the former Pacer to charge into the crowd. Artest was suspended the rest of the season for the incident and Green was banned for life from attending games at the Palace. In a radio interview KHTK-AM, Artest explains how he contacted Green and how quickly the two patched over their past differences. ... 'A long time ago, a year ago or something like that, I was looking for John Green, the guy who threw beer at me in Detroit. And, I was talking to Dave, and I'm like, 'Yo, we need to find this guy and interview him,' and my team, my personal business management team, they got real nervous, like, 'Don't do it. It's only gonna 'cause controversy...' So, after a couple years, I'm like, 'People would love to see me talk with John Green after all these years...' It won't be crazy, it'll be historical, and it'll be something for people to understand when you fight with one another, you can always become friends, you don't have to hold a grudge for the remainder of your life... So, I found him, through my Twitter friends, I had a twit saying, 'I need to find John Green's number. Anybody who can help me find John Green's number, I can take you to lunch.' So, one guy helped me find it... So, I called John Green's house and I say, 'Excuse me ma'am, can I speak to John's please?' She says, 'Who's this?' I said, 'Ron.' 'Ron who?' I said, 'Ron Artest.' She says, 'No! You can't be serious...' Then, I spoke with John, and me and John spoke like we knew each other. I said, 'Hey John, what's up?' He said, 'Hey Ron, how you doing?' It was like immediately we kinda vibed... So people are gonna have a chance to see, we're actually gonna come on Dave's show and do a live interview for the world to hear, the first time Ron and John speak. It was a great conversation, all we were talking about was ways to reach out to inner-city kids and even suburban kids' "

  • Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press: "In the end, the dark forces got to Ricky Rubio. They whispered in his ear. They planted doubts in his mind. Their tactics, if not illegal, certainly were less than wholesome. Among the cast of characters involved in keeping Rubio in Spain for two more years: A 'family lawyer' who undermined David Kahn and the Wolves at every opportunity. A couple of players from the Regal FC Barcelona team who got in Rubio's ear and told him of their bad experiences in the NBA. Rubio's own parents, common folks, really, who feared they would lose their social status if Ricky left the Spanish League for the NBA. The fact that Kahn, president of basketball operations, got as close as he did to getting Rubio to come over now is something of a miracle. But there were just too many forces pulling in the opposite direction for the result to be anything different."

  • Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: "After signing his contract in August, Brandon Roy approached his parents. 'I said, 'Mom and Dad, we're going to move to Portland. Would you want my house, or would you like me to buy you another house?' ' Roy says. 'And they said, 'We love your home.' So they're living there now. It made me fee
    l good to be able to do that.' The enormity of the new contract has sunk in. But it hasn't changed him, Roy insists. 'A lot of people ask how it feels,' he says. 'I mean, I'm thrilled. I would never deny that. But money has never defined me as a person. It has motivated me, because it helps me take of my family. I have a deep bank account now. But it hasn't changed much in my life. My motivation for wanting to be the best is the same. I'm going to be in the gym, trying to work as hard as the 15th guy on the roster. I'm still the same Brandon Roy. I want to be the best player I can be and the best person I can be.' Roy pauses for a few seconds, then continues. 'When you come into money, you get placed under a microscope,' he says. 'People wonder, 'Has he changed?' My mom said, 'Just continue to be yourself.' The main thing is, I still want to be the best. I want to win a championship. I want Portland to win a championship. That drives me to this day.' "

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Many people have wondered whether the Grizzlies would employ a 'big man' coach with so many centers on the roster. Who would teach nuances of patrolling the paint to Marc Gasol, Hasheem Thabeet and fantasy all-star Hamed Haddadi? In the short term, the answer is Wayne Monte 'Tree' Rollins. Yes, that Tree Rollins. The 7-1 center who retired from the NBA after 18 seasons and stints with the Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic. Rollins is in town this month as a coach during informal workouts in FedExForum. It's possible his stay will be extended through training camp in October. Rollins seems to be a good fit given he was primarily known for his defensive prowess on the glass and with his shot-blocking ability."

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "One of the most excited people in Poland right now is a 6-foot-11 center who plays for the Orlando Magic. Marcin Gortat is preparing to play in EuroBasket 2009, which is being held in Poland for the first time since 1963. Gortat arguably is the most indispensable player for Poland's national team, which will play its first tournament game on Monday against Bulgaria. 'The group of people that we have right now is probably the strongest team we've ever had in the basketball history of our country,' Gortat told the Orlando Sentinel in a phone interview. 'That's going to be a huge, huge chance for most of us to win something in our life. We had a discussion with our coach, and he told us that there's going to be only one chance -- one life chance -- when we're going to have an opportunity to play in front of our own crowd.' "

  • Al Iannazzone of The Record: "Anyone who wants to see LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant and some other superstars play in New Jersey, there are two things you should know: plenty of tickets are available and you can get a free reversible jersey for their games. The reversible top isn't a Nets' home and away jersey, though. It features Devin Harris or Brook Lopez on one side and a star from the opposing team on the other. It's called the Match-Up Plan. Certain rules apply. Contact the Nets for more details. The concept is interesting and innovative, but shows how bad things are in sales and that trying to create a home-court advantage isn't as important as making sure people are in the seats. That's part of the sales department's job and no one works harder than people in the Nets' organization at trying to stir interest, which isn't easy in this economic climate and with outside expectations of the team lower than they have been in more than a decade. But as bold and creative as this plan is, there's also something fundamentally wrong with it. People will come to see LeBron, Kobe and Wade regardless, but you're inviting fans of the opposing team to openly cheer for them and wear their jerseys in your building to boot."

  • Paul Egan of The Detroit News: "Former University of Michigan and NBA basketball player Robert 'Tractor' Traylor could face prison time for allegedly breaking the terms of his probation from a 2007 tax conviction. Traylor has been summoned to appear before U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn Sept. 14 after the probation department complained he had violated three terms of his probation, according to federal court records filed today. Traylor hasn't paid more than $175,000 in taxes, interest and penalties he owes the Internal Revenue Service, has not set up a payment plan as ordered and has not filed his 2008 income tax returns, U.S. Probation Officer Shawn McElroy said in a report. 'This is a nonstory,' said Traylor's Detroit attorney, Steve Fishman. 'Mr. Traylor has been in contact with the revenue agent, and we expect to have this matter resolved in a short period of time.' "