First Cup: Thursday

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Brandon Jennings admitted he was in awe playing at the Palace on Wednesday night. But that feeling quickly faded for the Milwaukee Bucks' rookie point guard, as he was tossed into the fray for 27 minutes in the team's second pre-season game. Jennings faced a tough task trying to guard Detroit's Will Bynum, and the Pistons backcourt dominated in a 113-104 victory over the Bucks at the Palace of Auburn Hills. But the 20-year-old Jennings also showed some progress with a team-high 18 points, six assists and six steals, despite five turnovers. 'I was out there playing a lot and I was a little fatigued,' said Jennings. 'I just had to play through it and keep playing. I'm not going to lie; I was a little nervous today, playing in the Palace and Detroit basketball. A lot of players came through here, guys like Isiah Thomas. I felt I just had to come out here and run the team and focus on the defensive end.' "

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "There is a tendency around the Trail Blazers to be careful about what is said about Greg Oden. Nobody wants to apply pressure on the 21-year-old center. Nobody wants to raise expectations any higher than they already are for the former No. 1 pick. But on Wednesday, after the Blazers second preseason game this season, nobody needed to say anything about Oden. The play of the new-look center is speaking volumes. With a lighter frame, and a brighter outlook, Oden continued his resurgent comeback campaign with 20 points and 12 rebounds during the Blazers' 89-86 win over Sacramento at Arco Arena."

  • Terry Foster of The Detroit News: "The real treat was Will Bynum (23 points, six assists), who runs the point better than anyone for the Pistons and that includes Stuckey -- the man they want to run it. Bynum is not an elite point guard, but he gives the Pistons exactly what they want. He is an unselfish player who can get into the lane and make good decisions."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "The Orlando Magic did not draft a shooting guard and sign another two-guard like they did the season before. No, this season the Magic just made a trade to acquire an eight-time all-star who plays shooting guard ( Vince Carter). Welcome to J.J. Redick's world. At least he can keep his sense of humor. 'Hey, I'm still here,' Redick laughed before the Magic's ragged 90-86 preseason win against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night at Amway Arena. While the Magic keep putting other two-guards between Redick and more playing time, he actually has closed in on defying doubters after three seasons."

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "The NBA is a watered-down product. The salary cap slowly has whittled benches across the league down to faceless entities, punchless sparring partners in practice and fill-ins who hope not to undo the work of their betters at gametime. But the Celtics went into last night's preseason opener against the Rockets with a modern-day anomaly. The reserves have dished out as much as they have absorbed during the first part of training camp. The second unit of Rasheed Wallace, Marquis Daniels, Glen Davis, Eddie House and Brian Scalabrine beat the starters in a scrimmage last Saturday in Newport, R.I., and figure to win a lot more. 'It's crazy,' Kendrick Perkins said of the burgeoning rivalry between the starters and reserves. 'They make us work every practice. We have no slack on the backup side, so every practice is really like a game. They're good. They have a lot of shooters. They have Eddie House, he's 10 years (in the league), Rasheed 15, Marquis seven, Baby three, Tony six, so they have a lot of experienced guys on their team.' "

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Nick Young entered this season determined that his name would not be preceded by the word 'backup,' stating before training camp that he hated sitting on the bench and was going after the starting job. That was a bold declaration coming from Young, who carried a happy-go-lucky demeanor his first two seasons in Washington. It also followed a summer in which the Wizards improved their back court with the additions of Mike Miller and Randy Foye, and DeShawn Stevenson returned from a back injury. Young feels that he squandered an opportunity last season, when injuries provided an opening for playing time that he was unable to fully take advantage of. He didn't believe he had any more time to waste. 'I always wanted to be a great player. This is the year to get it rolling,' Young said after scoring 11 points with four rebounds during the Wizards' 101-92 win against Memphis. 'It's my third year. It's time for me to grow up and get my name out there. This is the game I love and I just want to get better every year. I didn't want to be forgotten.' "

  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: "Brian Cardinal has a receding hairline that makes him look more suited for a 50-and-over league. He admits he is not good enough to be a starting power forward in the NBA, yet he is approaching his 10th season in the league. Cardinal has been a backup with each of his five NBA teams, including the Wolves last season. He has never averaged more than 9.6 points in a season, but his value is measured more in work ethic and a lead-by-example attitude. 'I can't dunk on anybody, but the game is far bigger than being the greatest athlete or having a muscled-up body,' Cardinal said. 'It's about playing smart and doing the right things. That's why I've been fortunate to play this long.' Even if Cardinal makes the Wolves' final roster, he knows most of the playing time at power forward will be divided between Al Jefferson and Kevin Love. Jefferson was a freshman in high school when Cardinal was drafted by Detroit in the second round of the 2000 NBA draft. Love had yet to reach high school."

  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: "One of the coaches stood in the locker room late Tuesday night, marveling about DeJuan Blair. Then he paused and changed direction. 'I love Ian Mahinmi,' he said, 'but ...' The coach roots for Mahinmi, as does everyone in the Spurs organization. Mahinmi has done everything the Spurs have asked. Still, on this night, the coach couldn't help but see the contrast. Blair turned 20 in April, and this is the first time he's ever lived more than a block from home. And yet: He showed more basketball instincts in his first NBA game than Mahinmi had in four years. It's October, and there are no guarantees Blair will be getting minutes in November. Still, his undeniable skill was on display. Blair had 19 rebounds in the first 22 minutes of his pro life, and this is something that works in any arena in any city."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston
    "We just watched 75 fouls and 102 free throws in one basketball game. OK, it's preseason. If you pay full price to watch these games, you're not too picky, anyway. But just as the teams learn all that must be corrected in time for the season, so must the league. 'Replacement refs' should become a euphemism for 'preseason refs.' The league cannot go through real games like this."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "The Suns' annual propensity for giving up second-chance points undermines the defense and slows the pace. The task becomes tougher with Shaquille O'Neal gone and Robin Lopez out six to eight weeks. The Suns were 30-12 when they outrebounded their opponents last season and 12-24 when they did not. Outrebounding foes more often is misleading because, as the NBA's top shooting team, the Suns had fewer misses for teams to rebound. The Suns were 22nd in defensive rebounding percentage and gave up the fourth most offensive rebounds. 'It's a pretty heavy task of us, knowing we're a small team, but we should be able to do it,' Stoudemire said. 'For the most part, we have to rebound as a team. We also have good defensive guards. Grant (Hill) is a great rebounder for his position. Even Steve (Nash) gets in there and mixes it up. The big thing is us big guys have to grab those big boards.' "

  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: "A new team and fittingly a new locker-room. Well, not really new, just dressed up. Immediately upon entering the Raptors' inner sanctum, and before you even get to the actual dressing room, the first thing you see is a tight, enlarged photo of the Raptors' hands coming together in a pre-game huddle that will be repeated every time they take the floor. It's one of those shots that catches the eye because it's a little different but it's the message it sends -- togetherness -- that is the real point. On the opposite wall is the word Raptors spelled out with the initial letters in the words Respect, Accountable, Proud, Together We Shall Prevail, Organized, Responsible, Standards, all things the team is expecting their players to be. Venture further in and more words to live by adorn yet another wall. This one reads: Do the right thing. Do it the right way. Do it that way all the time. The room itself where the players lockers are remain unchanged -- other than the nine new name plates above those lockers. At least Rasho Nesterovic got his old locker back."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "His memories of Nov. 29, 2008, are vivid. It was a Saturday night. Newly named interim coach Scott Brooks had just told him he would be starting his first career game, against the Memphis Grizzlies. And that's when the knots started forming in the pit of his stomach. 'Oh it's a whole lot different,' Russell Westbrook said of his nerves just before the Thunder opened its preseason schedule. 'I'm so chill now. I'm so calm and cool.' Westbrook then went out and proved it, backing up his claim with a near perfect floor game in the Thunder's 99-91 loss. His final stat line -- five points, 10 assists, four rebounds -- wasn't jaw-dropping. But considering he turned the ball over only twice, took just four shot attempts and could have had 15 assists had his teammates knocked down a few more shots, Wednesday's opener was about as good as it gets."

  • Ron Green Jr. of The Charlotte Observer: "Charlotte Bobcats rookie Gerald Henderson was on the court in Cleveland Tuesday night in the first semi-official minute of his NBA career when he found himself with the ball. Henderson, the former Duke All-American, came off a screen and turned the corner, the basket in his sights. From the corner of his eye, he saw Shaquille O'Neal coming his way. Even rookies know certain things. 'I was, like, this isn't going to be good,' Henderson said. O'Neal swallowed Henderson's dunk, fouling the rookie hard in the process. Henderson made one of two free throws, and the first of what will likely be several professional baptisms had occurred. 'It was one of those welcome to the NBA moments,' he said."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "The team won't admit it publicly, but any way it's viewed, the Cavs are short a point guard. Add the continuing uncertainty surrounding Delonte West and it is only clearer. At the moment, it may not be a fatal flaw. If everything goes to plan, it may not even matter. But if there is one sure thing, it is that things rarely go to plan -- as West is currently proving. West began a second leave this season Wednesday, this one excused, to handle personal matters. He had not played in either the open scrimmage or first preseason game. There's no denying that is worrying. 'We're concerned about the state of Delonte because we want him here,' LeBron James said. 'You want your full team to see what your full potential is, but at the same time we're going to give him time.' James didn't say he was concerned about the point guard situation, but deep down he and his teammates must be to some degree."

  • Tribune newspapers: "If this had happened a month ago, the San Francisco Chronicle and city officials would have joined the list of parties skewered in Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame induction speech. The newspaper published photos Tuesday of Jordan smoking a cigar during a practice round at Harding Park, despite the city's ban on smoking on public golf courses. City officials asked the PGA Tour to remind Jordan he can't smoke while being an honorary assistant at the Presidents Cup. 'It was sort of a gentle nudge reminding them that smoking is illegal and that we would appreciate their support,' Recreation and Park general manager Phil Ginsburg told the Chronicle. As for enforcing the $100 fine on Jordan? Matt Dorsey, the spokesman for City Atty. Dennis Herrera, remains unsure how that will play out. Said Dorsey: 'But don't expect me to ask him for it.' During a Q&A on Monday, Jordan said, 'I'm not even supposed to be smoking, but this was a practice round and no one said anything.' Jordan still had his cigar Wednesday. He simply chewed on it without lighting up."