First Cup: Thursday

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Before the season opener in Dallas, Arenas said Coach Flip Saunders told him not to let the 'outside world' dictate how he should play. With Saunders's offense placing the ball in his hands and forcing him to make decisions, Arenas deftly balanced his duties as a distributor and scorer. He committed just three turnovers and shot 10 of 21 from the floor. Arenas noticed that the Mavericks were 'weak' on pick-and-roll defense and exploited it to his advantage, first by setting up Brendan Haywood for three easy dunks, and next by penetrating into the lane for driving baskets -- runners off the glass and winding, whirling shots in traffic. He missed 9 of 15 shots from beyond 15 feet, but after hitting two shots from just inside the three-point line late in the second quarter, he backpedaled and cocksurely shook his head at Dallas's Jose Barea. 'There is no question that Gil brings that swagger,' Saunders said.' "

  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "Tim Hardaway's career wasn't defined here, but it was completed here. His signature move wasn't developed here, but it was shown off a few times here. His courage wasn't discovered here, but he was at his most courageous here. The legacy of Tim Hardaway was a cross-country creation that started on the South Side of Chicago, continued south in Texas, moved west to California and settled here in Miami. This wasn't Hardaway's last stop, just his most significant. So it's here that the legacy was fortunate enough to be celebrated with Wednesday's jersey retirement ceremony. Fortunate because Hardaway is simply one of the most unique, special players in the history of basketball."

  • Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star: "It's one game. Jose Calderon, the Raptors point guard, said it again and again and again Wednesday night. 'It's one game.' And it was. But the Raptors' resounding season-opening win over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, a 101-91 roller-coaster in front of a raucous sellout crowd, was an awful lot of fun to watch. And it probably said a lot about what you can expect from the local hoopsters this season. You can expect a team that's going to thrill and disappoint in quarter-game intervals, a squad that, as the Raptors did Wednesday, squanders a 21-point lead to deflate the building, only to pump the place back up with an impressive game-sealing rally. You can expect a team that's going to get a tireless effort from its contract-year cornerstone, Chris Bosh, who had 21 points and 16 rebounds. And you can expect a team that's going to be tricky to beat on evenings when Andrea Bargnani, the mercurial Italian 7-footer, provides the kind of inside-outside presence he displayed on Wednesday, when he racked up 28 points and five rebounds, scoring on the drive and on the jumper, and making a 37-year-old behemoth named Shaquille O'Neal look like a past-due slowpoke."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "The mood within the locker room following the loss was mostly stunned silence. They know they are not very good right now and that is something they understand, but the amount of work they're going to have to do to get where they need to be is sinking in. Mo Williams said it was like being on an 18-hour drive and being in the seventh or eighth hour, knowing how much more is ahead. I like the analogy but disagree with the timing, I'm not sure the Cavs have hit the first rest stop yet. They have, however, hit the first speed bumps."

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The Hawks weren’t smashing in their opener. They yielded 65 points to tepid Indiana in a half -- is Willie Martinez coaching basketball? -- and trailed in the fourth quarter. They held -- wrong word, I know -- Danny Granger to 31 points. But they won pulling away, and en route they dropped powerful hints that this might well be the best Hawks team in … oh, two decades."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "The official report will read that the Orlando Magic opened the season by trouncing the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night. The Magic actually won this particular game this summer. General Manager Otis Smith didn't break a sweat in the Magic's 120-106 victory at Amway Arena, but the moves he made this offseason showed up in the franchise's first meaningful game since they trudged off the floor as NBA Finals runner-ups. They especially revealed themselves in the second quarter, when new players on a second-team run reflected the Magic's impressive depth. Point guard Jason Williams (15 points, five assists) power forward Brandon Bass (eight points, four rebounds) and small forward Matt Barnes (seven points) provided the push needed to pull away from Philly and seize a 70-47 halftime lead, sending a sellout crowd home happy and hopeful. 'Successful organizations just don't pick players willy-nilly,' Coach Stan Van Gundy said."

  • Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe: "Two games into the 2009-10 season and we’ve already had two great staple games of Celtics Past. 1. The big road win over Cleveland on Opening Night. 2. Last night’s 92-59, pick-the-wings-off-the-fly destruction of the Charlotte Bobcats. And to answer your question, no, the Celtics aren’t that good, at least not yet. What we saw last night before the usual TD Garden sellout crowd of 18,624 is what happens when a middlin’ team minus its two best shooting guards (Flip Murray and Raja Bell) and with a pair of starting big men easing themselves back into the lineup from the ranks of the injured (Tyson Chandler and Boris Diaw) shows up to play a very good team. But it’s still the NBA, and even the no-names have a great deal of skill. It wouldn’t be asking too much of the Bobcats to break 60, would it?"

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "I'm not picking on Boris Diaw, who pretty much remade this team last season with his passing. But until those two factors -- Assist/turnover ratio and rebounding -- improve, this team is in deep trouble. You can say the Bobcats finished with more rebounds than the Celtics (46-44), but that's skewed by how quickly this game got out of hand in the second half. The Celtics ran out of scrubs to put in the game."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "What's with all the routs on Wednesday? Is this the new NFL? I really don't have a theory. It's probably just an early-season thing, with teams still working on their games. A lot of works in progress out there, I guess. But it is pretty odd."

  • Dave Krieger of The Denver Post: "Here's a quiz only longtime Nuggets fans are qualified to answer: Quick, who's the fastest guard in franchise history? Michael Adams? Robert Pack? Earl Boykins? Allen Iverson? How about Fast Eddie Hughes or little Kenny Higgs or even, taking a trip in the wayback machine to the days of the Denver Rockets, the venerable Larry Brown? Judging by the team's opener Wednesday night, the answer is none of the above. In his first pro game, rookie point guard Ty Lawson was a blue-and-white streak. Lawson did what former Nuggets coach Doug Moe always wanted a jet to do: He changed the nature of the game when he checked in for the first time with 1:12 left in the first quarter."

  • Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times: "This game, the Clippers' home opener, was circled as one of the more winnable ones in the early schedule. Injured rookie forward Blake Griffin, in an unfamiliar role without a basketball in his hand, did what he could, using a microphone before the game. 'What's up. Clipper Nation?' said Griffin, who made a point of thanking fans for their support, and added, 'And hopefully give you a season you won't forget.' Unfortunately, it was a result for the Clippers to forget. Two games in, they've already had a habit of fading in the fourth quarter. On Tuesday, they were trailing the Lakers by a point heading into the final quarter, and against the Suns they led by two after the third and built a seven-point lead in the fourth. They were also damaged by a shoddy performance at the free-throw line, making 15 of 27, and Gordon and Camby were a combined six for 13 from the line."

  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: "One of the personality traits of first-year Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis is his calm demeanor. He doesn't yell or scream or throw things when he's upset. But Rambis knows how to push buttons with choice words. The word Wolves players remembered the most during Rambis' halftime critique Wednesday night was 'soft.' 'I'm a man, and I don't like being called soft,' Wolves forward Al Jefferson said. Apparently, the rest of the Wolves felt the same way, locating their pride in the second half to pull out a dramatic 95-93 victory over the New Jersey Nets in the NBA regular-season opener for both teams at Target Center. A crowd of 18,358 saw Damien Wilkins grab Jonny Flynn's missed jumper in the closing seconds and flip it in off the glass just before the final buzzer. Wilkins' shot avoided overtime and provided a positive start to the franchise's new era under Rambis and Flynn, the rookie point guard Rambis has entrusted to lead the Wolves."

  • Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: "Stephen Curry's challenge is easy. All he has to do is become Tim Lincecum in short pants. On Wednesday night, the Warriors lost their opener to the visiting Rockets 108-107, but it would appear that they have found something valuable: a genuine NBA-caliber point guard. And potentially the most exciting young Bay Area athlete since Lincecum. Superstardom is somewhere in the future, but Wednesday night Curry started, played 36 minutes, had 14 points, seven assists, four steals and two turnovers. How did Don Nelson feel about having the ball in a rookie's hands as his team made a comeback run? 'I love it,' said Nelson, alleged hater of rookies and all things youthful. 'If he's our best passer and playmaker, we feel real good about (having the ball in his hands).' "

  • Sam Amick of The Sacramento Bee: "Omri Casspi was ecstatic that this game was history, but not in the way one might think. Though the rookie small forward became the first Israeli player to participate in an NBA regular-season game, he was happy to put the Kings' 102-89 loss behind him. There was no silver lining because of his achievement, Casspi said as he sat at his locker shaking his head. Nor was there solace that he was the only bright spot, scoring 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting in 19 minutes off the bench. 'We didn't play well at all, and I don't know what's the reason for it,' said Casspi, who had 13 of his points during nine minutes in the second half after a quiet first half. 'We need to find a solution, because we just can't play like this. If we're going to look like this, we're going to lose a lot of games this season.' "

  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: "At the end of Wednesday's practice, several Bulls stuck around to hoist extra shots. Most of them wore a T-shirt or even long sleeves beneath their practice jerseys. Center Joakim Noah, in contrast, kept his arms bare. Maybe that was intentional, better to show off his vastly improved physique. There's no way to miss it. Two years ago, Noah was a scrawny rookie with little hope of holding his ground against NBA centers. Now he actually has bulging biceps, along with a few veins popping. 'I felt like in that (playoff) series against Boston, that's one thing I needed to do better,' said Noah, who estimated he added 10 pounds over the summer. 'I felt like I was getting pushed around a little bit too much. It was important for me to lift a lot of weights. I feel stronger. I feel like I put on good weight, because I'm still running the floor well.' Noah will have his work cut out this week, since he figures to guard San Antonio's Tim Duncan and Boston's Kevin Garnett the first two nights."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "In what qualifies as the least surprising move of the season for the Spurs' player personnel department, the team on Wednesday exercised its option to keep guard George Hill on the roster for the 2010-11 season. Hill led the Spurs in scoring in the preseason, averaging 15.3 points and emerging as a solid backup for All-Star point guard Tony Parker. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said it was an easy decision to pick up the third year of Hill's rookie-scale contrac. 'Yeah, that's a no-brainer,' Popovich said. 'If someone is your favorite player, you ought to extend him, whether he can play or not.' Popovich declared Hill his favorite Spur early in the preseason. He has reminded Hill -- and his Spurs teammates -- often during practice sessions. 'I'm sure he's embarrassed and humiliated every time I say it, six or seven times in every practice, just to give him a little static and twist it a little bit,' Popovich said. 'Humor is good.' Hill can take a joke."