First Cup: Tuesday

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Grizzlies center Hamed Haddadi, the first NBA player from Iran, and Omri Casspi, the first Israeli player in the league, met at midcourt and shook hands before the game. Haddadi had never faced an Israeli player on the court because teams from Iran, which does not recognize the Jewish nation, are not allowed to play Israel. Haddadi, who didn't play even though Casspi did, has said none of that bothers him. 'It's just a sport,' Haddadi said."

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: "Omri Casspi's frustration was evident as he sipped on a sports drink. He had to watch the final 5:37 of the Kings 116-105 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum from the locker room after picking up his second technical foul. Casspi had gotten tangled up with Memphis guard Jamaal Tinsley and the officials ruled Casspi used too much force to break free of Tinsley. The call angered Casspi, who had to have his teammates escort him toward the bench and not toward an official for an explanation. 'That's the first time in my life to get ejected from a game,' Casspi said. 'I hope it's not going to happen again. I'm just sorry it happened.' Kings coach Paul Westphal had the decision explained to him by the officials. 'The official said they got tangled up and he thought (Casspi) did too much arm swinging,' Westphal said."

  • Kate Fagan of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "If you listen to Gilbert Arenas - and sometimes it's hard not to - this 76ers season might be like trying to fit a round basketball through a square rim. After yesterday's Washington Wizards practice, Arenas, Washington's all-star guard, spoke with reporters about the offensive system of Sixers coach Eddie Jordan. 'You need five passers, five shooters,' said Arenas, who played in Jordan's system for five-plus seasons. 'Athletes don't work in that offense, to be honest.' And if you're honest, right now, that's what the Sixers have: athletes. ... So the question for the Sixers is not whether the offensive system should be working already -- it seems there's enough evidence proving it's too early -- but whether the Sixers have five passers and five shooters. That is, if we are to believe Arenas' assessment. The Sixers are 5-8, and appear to need a few more shooters."

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Timberwolves boss David Kahn made move after move last summer intended almost exclusively to provide his new team salary-cap flexibility and position it for next summer's much-anticipated free-agency period. So with the Wolves losers of 13 consecutive games after Monday's loss to the Clippers, how does he keep his players from feeling they've been asked to walk the plank this season until help theoretically arrives next summer with potentially multiple first-round picks and abundant cap space? 'They're not,' Kahn said. 'We should be really clear about that. We're not the only team in the league that starts this season admittedly with the playoffs not a likelihood, but we are one of the few teams that starts with an opportunity to really build something. ... I don't want them to think for one minute that what they're doing this year is an exercise in waiting or just finishing out a year and getting to the next step. This year is really important for establishing a new culture with hard work and attention to detail."

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Back-to-back games are the NBA's equivalent of a one-two punch -- a commonplace, but taxing, reality of the sport. Back-to-backs test more than a team's athletic skill. They also test a team's physical stamina and its mental toughness. These next few days will be especially demanding for the Magic, who will host the Heat on Wednesday, immediately fly to Atlanta and then face the Hawks on Thanksgiving night. The weekend then will offer another double-whammy. Orlando will play at Milwaukee on Saturday night, fly to New York City and face the Knicks in Madison Square Garden on Sunday -- all within a span of 21 hours. 'I think that's the toughest part of the job,' said Magic shooting guard J.J. Redick. 'It's the travel. We'll be in four cities in five nights. It's going to be challenging.' It's a challenge the Magic had better get used to handling, because they will play a total of 38 games this season on consecutive days."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "In two games in place of Quentin Richardson, James Jones is 3 of 10 from the field, 1 of 7 on 3-pointers, with eight rebounds and five assists. In his two starts, before he was sidelined with his back spasms, Richardson, amid dwindling minutes, was 3 of 6 from the field, with five rebounds and two assists. And in the two games Richardson has missed, Dorell Wright has played in only one, with two rebounds in five scoreless minutes Friday in Toronto. In those same two, Yakhouba Diawara was available but failed to get off the bench. As for the Michael Beasley-as-a-three experiment, the minutes there have been relatively minimal, with Jones playing 34 and 39 the past two games. In other words, the supposed wealth of riches at small forward hardly have produced much of a payoff."

  • Chris Beaven of the Canton Repository: "Shaquille O’Neal does his best to have fun during an interview, with Monday being the latest example. When asked what percentage of health his shoulder was at, O’Neal quickly deadpanned, '27 percent.' Later, O’Neal made it clear in his own way that a fast or slow start to an NBA season is meaningless by the postseason. 'It’s not how you start the date,' O’Neal said, 'it’s about how you finish the date. And all the fellows know what I’m talking about.' O’Neal was asked if the Cavs were the first team to refuse him a cortisone shot to play through an injury. 'No comment,' was his response."

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "It takes an almost telepathic connection for the play to work, a feeling, maybe a sideways glance, some impeccable timing. It's not something that comes overnight but as the Raptors are showing every now and then, it's coming and it adds another weapon to an impressive offensive arsenal. It's a lob pass from point guard to a backdoor-cutting forward racing along the baseline and as Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems are showing every now and then, it can be an electrifying moment that shifts momentum in a game. ... It's simple to say that Calderon should have been throwing the pass more often but when the recipient would have been Anthony Parker or Jason Kapono or even Jamario Moon (who was always reluctant to leave the corner of the court), it's also dead wrong to lay it at the hands of the point guard. But now, with exponentially more athleticism on the wings, it's something fans may see more of as the season progresses."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "The team had more L's than Lollapalooza. The coach would drive toward the parking lot for practice, but just couldn't muster the strength to turn in. 'I would drive straight by for a mile or two,' said George Karl, whose 1984 Cavaliers started 0-9 in his first year as an NBA coach. 'I'd turn around and say, 'OK -- I can get this done.' ' Lawrence Frank is still driving. His New Jersey Nets are 0-13 heading into tonight's game in Denver against Coach Karl's Nuggets (9-4). Karl has seen both sides of games like these, and he knows what could happen if the Nuggets start playing like they're New Jersey. 'I mean, yesterday my (hometown) Steelers lost to Kansas City,' Karl said Monday. 'Every team in pro sports is not very far from the best team. Usually the best teams are the best at not losing their focus. Great teams dominate the simple, good, basic things at a higher level than the average team. I trust my team.' "

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Like a team exceeding expectations, Phoenix is the NBA's top 3-point shooting team at 44.4 percent and is on an NBA-record pace of 10.4 makes per game. Of the 42 NBA players making at least 40 percent of their 3-pointers, seven are Suns. They ended last season with only Steve Nash at better than 40 percent, not counting pre-trade Raja Bell (46.8) or Amar'e Stoudemire (3 for 7). In 2007-08, only Nash and Bell hit 40 percent. This group did not figure to be the Suns' best 3-point shooting team, but it is beating them all. Jared Dudley was a career 33 percent 3-point shooter and is the team leader at 49 percent, ranking eighth in the NBA. Channing Frye made 20 3-pointers in four seasons with a 29 percent clip but is now at 44 percent, with 38 made. Goran Dragic ranked 11th in the NBA at 46 percent after making 37 percent as a rookie. 'We do have a lot more weapons from 3 than we thought,' Nash said."

  • Tim Buckley of the Deseret News: "The Jazz have five games still to go in a six-game homestand that continues with Tuesday night's visit from Oklahoma City, and they're three games into a favorable stretch with 11-of-14 being played at EnergySolutions Arena. They've won a season-high three straight, including Saturday night's overtime victory over Detroit. And, at 7-6, they're above .500 for the first time in the still young 2009-10 NBA season. Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, however, is quick to warn against Thanksgiving-week complacency. 'There's no guarantee of anything,' he said. None of the Jazz's next three opponents -- the Thunder, the Chicago Bulls and the Portland Trail Blazers -- has a losing record, and Sloan knows it."

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "For a night, at least, order was restored within the Trail Blazers. Brandon Roy was back at shooting guard and controlling the pace and precision of the offense. Andre Miller, steadfastly saying he is accepting the reins of the second unit, played perhaps as hard and determined as he has all season. And the inside combination of Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge was dominant like never before. The Blazers didn't just beat Chicago on Monday, they overpowered them -- dunking over, cutting through and stepping all over the Bulls during a 122-98 victory in front of 20,383 at the Rose Garden, its 79th consecutive sellout."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "One day after producing a career night against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, Thunder rookie Serge Ibaka took his performance in stride, insisting he’s focused not on minutes but on continuing his surprisingly rapid development. 'I played (against the Lakers) because the team needed me, and the coach needed me,' said Ibaka, who filled in for an injured Nick Collison. 'So for me it was very important to play well. Maybe next game I play five minutes or zero minutes. For me, that is no problem. For me, the (goal) is to focus every day and work hard every day. That’s very important for me and when my time comes to be prepared.' The biggest question after Ibaka’s showing Sunday is why hasn’t he seen more time? Ibaka, the 6-foot-10 Congo native who the Thunder drafted 24th overall in 2008 but kept overseas for one season, proved once again he’s ready to receive extended minutes. Against the Lakers, he recorded 11 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots in 32 minutes off the bench, serving as the Thunder’s lone bright spot in its 101-85 loss. It was only the third time Ibaka has played more than 15 minutes."

  • Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times: "With age, basketball players -- especially wing players like Kobe Bryant who rely on athleticism and speed -- must start to redefine themselves or lose their relevance. During Bryant’s long N.B.A. tenure, injuries detoured similar players before they reached that point, players like Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady. Others, like Vince Carter, have indeed lost something from their games as they have grown older. Even the great Julius Erving and Clyde Drexler were on the downward slopes of their careers by the time they had played as many minutes as Bryant, who entered the N.B.A. directly out of high school. And then, of course, there is Michael Jordan, who when he temporarily retired after winning his sixth championship with the Chicago Bulls in 1998, had logged 43,367 minutes in the regular season and the playoffs, not that much more than Bryant’s current total. Jordan, too, adjusted as he got older, playing less in the air and more on the ground. When asked if he still had room to grow as he got older, Bryant said: 'I do. I do. I think there’s so much more to understand. A lot of it just has to do with winning. When you first come into the league, you’re trying to prove yourself as an individual, do things to assert yourself and establish yourself,' he added. 'But then once you’ve done that, there’s another level to the game that’s more complex than figuring out how to put up big numbers as an individual.' "