First Cup: Thursday

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial Appeal: "Who will get more shots: Allen Iverson, Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay or O.J. Mayo? Which player will get in trouble faster: A.I. or Z-Bo? Oh, it's going to be wonderful theater. Starting as early as today. The Grizzlies have invited the whole city to Iverson's introductory press conference at 11 a.m. at FedExForum. It may draw more than a typical Tuesday night game. It'll be more entertaining, too. With Heinsley and Iverson together again. Heinsley may thank Iverson for choosing Memphis. Iverson may thank God for sending him. You at home may thank God for giving you a reason to watch a game this year. No, it's not the same as having an actual NBA franchise to follow. But considering the alternative to Iverson was Marko Jaric, let us say it together sports fans: God is good."

  • Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times: "It was fall 1995. We were going to play a game of one-on-one at the Berto Center, after practice, and it would be filmed and edited by SportsChannel to promote 'The Sportswriters on TV' show I was doing on that station with Bill Gleason, Ben Bentley and Bill Jauss. I'd guard Jordan, he'd guard me. He'd do his thing, annihilate me, of course, and then at the end, using a mini-trampoline, I'd fly over him for a monster jam. The dunking part was my idea. Partly, I wanted to see what it was like to come down from six feet in the air. The other part was: how cool to jam over MJ! That he grudgingly agreed to participate -- 'You'll do that when I'm not here,' he harrumphed when I first explained the dunk concept (me literally flying over his head) -- says a lot about the kind of star Jordan was. He was devious. He was competitive. He was confident. He was cocky. But he was always playful. The other amazing thing about Jordan, particularly in the early days, was that he actually liked sportswriters. Going back to the mid-1980s at the Chicago Stadium, there were nights when Jordan would sit by his locker and shoot the breeze in that easy way he has, and simply enjoy the give and take with Chicago scribes."

  • Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune: "For 18 seasons, the Utah Jazz operated successfully on a rock-solid foundation provided by coach Jerry Sloan and perennial All-Stars John Stockton and Karl Malone. Two of them are soon-to-be Hall of Famers. While Sloan and Stockton are scheduled for induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday in Springfield, Mass., however, Malone will have to wait at least another year. To be eligible for the Hall of Fame, a player must be retired for five years. Because Malone played one season after Stockton retired, his first chance for enshrinement comes in 2010. Will he make it? Only the Hall of Fame honors committee can decide, but if anyone is a shoo-in, it's probably Utah's most famous Mailman. The No. 2 scorer in NBA history and a two-time Most Valuable Player, Malone worked his way to the top of his profession, according to those closest to him. 'He made himself a Hall of Fame player,' said Sloan. 'He did all the things he needed to do to make himself better.' "

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "For now, however, the question that leaps to mind is whether Luis Scola can do for the Rockets what he did for Argentina. Averaging 23.3 points in a FIBA-length game is pretty remarkable, but the Rockets would be thrilled if he could give them the 16.2 points and 56.9 percent shooting (in 33.3 minutes) of his first-round series against the Trail Blazers last season. That might be within reason. It could be tough to shoot that well. He burned the Blazers' determination to keep Yao surrounded after Yao's perfect Game 1 and the Rockets' rout. But if the Rockets operate their offense so well that they finally get defenders on the move and if they run the way they plan, Scola should be able to average 16, 17 points and hit half his shots. That might not quite what he did to carry Argentina, but it would be a good start for the Rockets. Either way, they are thrilled to have seen him do it again."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Michael Redd is back on the court, and that is good news for the Milwaukee Bucks. The 30-year-old shooting guard is encouraged with his progress six months after undergoing surgery in early March, to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Redd worked out with teammates at the Cousins Center on Wednesday and said he 'could see the light.' He suffered the injury in a Jan. 24 game against Sacramento and played in just 33 games last season. Redd underwent surgery on March 3. The Bucks were 17-32 without him in the lineup on the way to a 34-48 record. 'It was dark that first week after surgery, that first night,' Redd said. 'I've been working hard every day, knowing there is more for me to explore, there's another chapter in my career.' "

  • Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News: "This was the summer of 2008, and Rodney Carney -- through no fault of his own -- became a pawn in the 76ers' chase to sign Elton Brand. The Sixers had cap space, but not quite enough to fulfill a package for Brand, an unrestricted free agent from the Los Angeles Clippers. That led Sixers president/general manager Ed Stefanski to a complicated deal in which he sent Carney, Calvin Booth and a future first-round draft choice to the Minnesota Timberwolves. That gave the Sixers the final chunk of space they needed to acquire Brand. One season later, the Sixers have brought Carney back, not as a pawn, but as an intriguing piece in new coach Eddie Jordan's pass-and-cut Princeton offense. At 6-7, with terrific athletic skills, a streaky perimeter game and supposedly improved defensive skills, he seems to have at least some of what the Sixers need. 'It's a little weird to be traded away and then to come back,' Carney said after agreeing to the terms of a 1-year contract. 'They seem to be pretty full at the wing positions, but they want to run and that's my game.' "