First Cup: Thursday

  • Phil Sheridan of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Three years ago, the 76ers and the suits at Comcast-Spectacor spit Allen Iverson out like a piece of gum that had turned from sugary-sweet to flavorless to bitter beyond tolerance. After a decade of enabling and covering for their superstar, the folks who worked in the Wachovia Center offices freely shared their horror stories, giddily relieved that the reign of terror was over. Now Iverson is back, and Sixers president Ed Stefanski says he'll be a good influence and, furthermore, will play defense. 'He's going to have to buckle down, too, because we all have to play defense,' Stefanski said in a conference call with reporters yesterday. 'It's not just about scoring.' Oh, my. Such charming naivete. Stefanski kept using the phrase 'basketball decision.' With Lou Williams out for somewhere around 30 games, Stefanski said, the Sixers simply had gotten the best available free-agent guard to take his place. No one can argue that anyone more talented or accomplished than Iverson was available. But there's no way to make what is purely a 'basketball decision' on Allen Iverson. Not in Philadelphia, there isn't. There's just way too much history."

  • Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "The signing yesterday of Allen Iverson may not yet help the 76ers in the standings, but it definitely caused the team to do brisk business at the box office. 'What I didn't expect today was the overwhelming response from the fans,' said Peter Luukko, the president and chief operating officer of Comcast-Spectacor, owners of the Sixers, in a phone interview last night. 'The fans were so positive and there were relatively few negative calls and they are buying tickets.' How many tickets? The Sixers have a policy of not releasing exact numbers, but Lara Price, the team's senior vice president of business operations, said that more tickets were sold yesterday than on Oct. 10, the day the team put individual tickets on sale for the entire season. Price said that the big seller was for Monday's 7 p.m. game at the Wachovia Center against the Denver Nuggets, when Iverson is expected to make his debut with his new and former team."

  • Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Later, Eddie Jordan said, 'I would like to, without really seeing him on the floor, I would like to compare him to Brett Favre. A guy who people think is too old to play and he's almost having an MVP year. I woke up and thought maybe hecould do that. It's not a big maybe. I think he could be that.' Ed Stefanski said, 'We're not bringing Allen Iverson in as a guy to add to the depth or as a practice player; we're bringing him in to play basketball.' Amazingly, basketball people still refer to Iverson as 'this kid.' 'This kid has a legacy here in Philadelphia,' Stefanski said. "He's arguably one of the top players to ever play in this city. If he doesn't get back in the NBA and play the way we want him to, and the way he needs to, it's not going to help him. He wants it; he wants it badly, to show that he is [still] an NBA player and who he is, especially coming back to Philly. This is a low risk for the organization and a [potentially] high reward.' If he can't make it here, he can't make it anywhere."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "Zydrunas Ilgauskas asked the organization not to celebrate him breaking the games played record, though the fans gave him plenty of applause anyway. Then after the game he just made a statement and didn't take any questions for a third consecutive day. It was, essentially, accepting the honor under a protest. He deserves a lot of praise for what he has accomplished, it was a personal achievement to get through those injuries to get to this point. During that time he has been given an incredible amount of money, more than $130 million. He took losing his starting job to Shaq like a pro and never complained outwardly. And he had a right to be upset by not playing last Saturday and even a right to be upset about a few things that happened behind the scenes over the last couple of days. But he needs to get past it. He is making it linger and it is not good for the team. He's not over it and it is clear to everyone on the team. His feelings have been expressed, he has the general public on his side and his coach said he's sorry both privately and publicly. The only damage being done now is by him."

  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "The guy who put New Jersey on the NBA map -- a guy who one day may look back and call those days when 'Nets' ran across his chest as the best of times in his career -- now makes it sound as though this place is as close to his heart as New Caladonia. Of course, one can hardly blame Jason Kidd: Who wants to be associated with an 0-18 team in any way whatsoever? 'It doesn’t pain me,' Kidd said, after engineering the Mavericks’ 117-101 rout of the Nets, which set the record for most consecutive losses to start a season. 'I wish those guys luck to turn this thing around. There were whispers this was coming. You could see it coming, but you know, they’re going to turn it around.' "

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Hard to say what was more unlikely when this season began for the Washington Wizards -- that with a team boasting three former all-stars, Coach Flip Saunders would draw up a deciding play for 5-foot-5 point guard Earl Boykins; or that Boykins would step to the foul line in the closing seconds, with fans at Verizon Center chanting, 'MVP! MVP!' But Boykins has been the difference for the Wizards during their recent run of success the past two weeks, and he came up with another huge fourth-quarter performance on Tuesday as the Wizards defeated the Milwaukee Bucks, 104-102."

  • Terry Foster of The Detroit News: "Let's officially launch the 'Bring Chris Kaman to the Pistons' campaign. Kaman, the 6-foot-10 low post center from Central Michigan, is exactly what the Pistons need. He has no chance of winning a title -- OK, winning at all -- with the L.A. Clippers. And how's this for trade bait? Tayshaun Prince, when he gets healthy. Prince is from Compton, Calif., so he'll be going home. And Kaman is from Grand Rapids. Makes sense. Still, you might have to find a third team to make it work or wait for Kaman to become a free agent in 2013. So, how would Kaman feel about the proposal? 'That would not be bad,' he said last week when the Clippers were at The Palace. 'I have always thought about it, but I thought it might be a nightmare with ticket requests for every game.' "

  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: "The real drama came at the 6:24 mark of the first quarter when fans reacted to the first entry of ex-Bulls guard Ben Gordon. Some fans came to praise the Bulls' four-time leading scorer. Others chose to boo his every move. When Gordon first stepped onto the court, some appreciative fans seemed determined to out-cheer the jeers. But the boo-birds lingered all night. 'I wasn't surprised,' Gordon said of the boos. 'I kind of expected that, just seeing how past players who have been here and went to another team. The crowd is always going to back the home team. It wasn't like I won a championship while I was here or anything. I just had a couple good years.' ... Inside the Bulls' locker room, the players weren't happy about the mostly negative reception for Gordon. 'Honestly, I didn't like it,' Luol Deng said. 'I thought when BG was here, he played hard and he really committed to the game. I know he's not here (anymore), but there's a lot more to it. When he came in, I thought they were going to cheer for him. I was a little disappointed about that.' "

  • Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star "Maybe Sam Mitchell was bored: On the eve of the one-year anniversary of his firing as Raptors coach, Mitchell spent his Wednesday night watching his former team play his hometown Hawks. He found out soon enough that little has changed for the better since he left. With the former coach sitting in the second row across the court from the Toronto bench, the listless, fight-less Raptors lost their fifth straight game in a blowout, 146-115. Meanwhile Mitchell's successor, Jay Triano, awoke Thursday morning on the one-year anniversary of his promotion to head coach facing his first public crisis on the job. After an unconscionable defensive effort that saw the Raptors surrender the second-most points in franchise history, more than one player openly criticized the coach's schemes in the game's solemn wake."

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: "The development of Kenrick Perkins could be the key to the Celtics’ long-term success. The more he scores and rebounds during the season, the less labor there is for Garnett, Pierce, and Ray Allen, so the more they are rested for the postseason. Add to that Rondo’s emergence as an elite point guard, and the Celtics have a loaded lineup. 'I’m just doing my job,’ Perkins said. 'Guys are just finding me. A lot of teams help off of me and I feel like I have to do a better job of diving to the rim. I just feel like guys are finding me and I got to make sure to try to be consistent and do something when I get the ball.’ Perkins’s work in the paint is being noticed around the league. He is a formidable center, perhaps not in the class of Dwight Howard or Pau Gasol, but he is demanding respect from opponents. 'The kid’s gotten better; they have done a wonderful job with him,’ Charlotte coach Larry Brown said. 'He knows his role. He defends his position. He’s gotten better offensively.' "

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "Swagger can't be forced. It's a natural feeling of unnatural confidence. Swagger is John Travolta strutting in 'Saturday Night Fever' or Kanye West rapping 'My swagger is Mick Jagger.' Swagger is also Chauncey Billups, 5:15 p.m., game night, the Pepsi Center. 'There's definitely a certain swagger and certain pride I feel when I pull up in my car and am walking into the arena, thinking, 'This place is absolutely going to be rocking,' " the point guard said. Swagger, it seems, is contagious. All the Nuggets have it at the Pepsi Center, where the team has won 18 of its past 19 regular-season games, scoring 110 or more points in 16 of those victories. With an 8-1 home record this season, on the heels of a 33-8 mark last season, the 'swaggerific' Nuggets -- that's Carmelo Anthony's word -- have made the Pepsi Center one of the toughest home draws in sports. 'Our focus is much different than previous years, in taking care of our home court,' Anthony said. 'This is a place that can be real good to us.' OK, but there are many loud crowds across the NBA. Why has the Pepsi Center, of all the Centers (and Centres), become a court where winning streaks go to die? The answer is attitude and altitude."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "Antonio McDyess called Rasheed Wallace’s decision to sign with the Celtics, a team Pistons fans loved to hate, a bit of a shock. 'The things (the Pistons) had going with Boston the last couple years, I was surprised he signed there, and not only me,' McDyess said. 'A lot of the other guys on our team in Detroit were surprised. It wasn’t genuine dislike between us and the Celtics, but when you compete so hard against a team, well, it would have been like Reggie Miller going to New York from the Pacers. You know the guys on his team would have been saying, ‘Oh, you want to go to New York?’ ' The Spurs’ low-key approach was perfect for McDyess, who said he would not have known what to make of a big Spurs contingent on his front lawn. 'I’m no Rasheed Wallace,' he said. 'If I was a Rasheed Wallace, the Spurs’ approach might have been different. But the Spurs are low-key, and they wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m the type of player who fits in this organization. I’m a low-key type person. I ain’t all out there. That’s how I feel this team is -- just low-key.' "

  • Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times: "The Clippers couldn't defend the perimeter, giving up 12 three-point baskets while making only one, and had difficulty containing Houston guard Aaron Brooks. A speck of a player generously listed at 6 feet, Brooks turned in a gargantuan effort with 22 points on nine-for-11 shooting. And he didn't even play in the fourth quarter. Chants of 'Fire Dunleavy!' could be heard after Houston's Trevor Ariza made a jumper to give the Rockets a nine-point lead with less than five minutes left, and they intensified as the Clippers' deficit reached 20 points. After out-rebounding the Rockets by 12 in the first half, the Clippers grabbed 14 fewer rebounds than their opponent after intermission. 'The whole second half we didn't play with the aggressiveness we needed to play with,' said Clippers center Chris Kaman, who made five of 16 shots and had 10 points. 'We just didn't finish the game.' "

  • David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune: "Forget Oprah or Larry King or Mike Tirico. If Tiger Woods has more to add about the most erratic drive of his career, David Letterman is the perfect guy to interview him. This national obsession with Woods' bedroom is a joke anyway, so why not inject some levity with a late-night comic who's an expert on infidelity? Book ESPN's Steve Phillips as a guest. Get Michael Jordan to do the Top 10 list, 'Things Cheating Men Shouldn't Say On An Answering Machine.' And the No. 1 thing cheating men shouldn't say on an answering machine ... 'Will you help me improve my lie?' Be like Mike indeed, Tiger. Lessons from Jordan: America will forgive your imperfections the quicker you remind them you are the closest thing to perfect anybody has ever seen in your sport. And like a good golf follow-through, keep your head down and everything soon straightens out."