First Cup: Thursday

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "The NBA is the ultimate what-have- you-done lately league. A day after Dirk Nowitzki's outrageous fourth quarter against Utah, everybody was still talking about it. Good thing. That way they didn't have to talk about his 4-for-15 shooting and his six personal fouls Wednesday night against New Orleans. Or his streak of 20-point games ending at 29. He finished with just a dozen, or 17 fewer than he had Tuesday – in the fourth quarter. But although Nowitzki was frustrated by the New Orleans defense, it still couldn't erase that crazy, 29-point fourth quarter he had Tuesday. Lost amid everybody trying to find adequate words to describe that game was that one of Nowitzki's new wrinkles in his game has gone mostly unnoticed. 'He's just a special player,' Carlisle said. 'What he did last night, we may not see that again in this league for a lot of years. He's gotten better every year. This year, he's made an effort to drive the ball more to his right. He's always been a very strong and natural driver left. But he's driving it right more, which I think helps keep defenses honest.' "

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "The Lakers won another game but might have lost another big man. Pau Gasol is a little closer to returning, but Andrew Bynum was injured toward the end of the Lakers' 103-102 overtime victory Wednesday over the Houston Rockets. Bynum was fouled hard across his right arm while going up for a shot and sustained a sprained elbow with 24.7 seconds left in overtime. He will be re-evaluated today in Los Angeles. 'I can't even lift my arm right now,' Bynum said. 'They just took a shot at me. That's that, I guess. It's not that bad. It just takes a little while to heal up.' Anybody ready for Lamar Odom at center? On the day that Gasol was cleared to resume basketball-related activities, the Lakers secured an overtime victory on the road for the second time in as many days, in no small part because of Kobe Bryant's 41 points and Derek Fisher's last-second steal."

  • Dan Steinberg of D.C. Sports Bog: "'Sometimes it's just frustrating,' Brendan Haywood said last week, when Caron Butler hurt his knee. 'It feels like we're cursed.' Well, that was last week. Then came Wednesday night's loss to the Heat, when Mike MIller went down with a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder--'Felt like it slid a little bit on me and went numb,' Miller said, describing the injury. Flip Saunders said he'll likely be gone 7-to-10 days. But even if it really is that brief of a recovery, this means that within the season's first six games, 60 percent of the Wiz starters will have missed at least one game with an injury. The two who have been spared are Gilbert Arenas, who missed most of the last two years with rotted knee, and Brendan Haywood, who was sidelined for 75 games last season. Does that really seem fair?"

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel: "There was a point early in Wednesday's fourth quarter, when Dwyane Wade normally goes to the bench, that he locked eyes with Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. 'He pretty much nodded his head,' Spoelstra said. The message was understood. Wade would play to the finish, play all 24 minutes of the second half on the second night of a back-to-back set that began with Tuesday's track meet against the Phoenix Suns. 'This,' Wade said after scoring 40 points in the 93-89 victory over the Washington Wizards, 'is one of those games where you have to will your team to victory.' And where there is a will and a Wade, there is a way."

  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: "Two years after leaving the Timberwolves, Kevin Garnett is still capable of getting what many NBA observers refer to as a 'hometown call.' The 15-year veteran had a significant hand in the Boston Celtics' 92-90 victory Wednesday night at Target Center, leaving the Wolves fuming and winless since the regular-season opener. Garnett heard boos from most of the crowd of 19,133 after he tied up Wolves forward Corey Brewer for a jump ball with 3.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Brewer and Wolves fans felt Garnett should have been called for a foul after he reached in to put his right hand on the ball. A replay on the video scoreboard appeared to support the claims. 'I've been waiting for a game like this when a veteran player gets a call or no-call,' Wolves rookie point guard Jonny Flynn said. 'It definitely happened tonight.' "

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Brandon Jennings said he got some instant advice from fellow point guard Derrick Rose in the waning moments of the Bucks' 83-81 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday. The words of wisdom came soon after Rose had blocked a potential game-tying shot by Jennings, while the teams were lined up for two foul shots taken (and missed) by Bulls center Joakim Noah. 'Actually, Rose told me when I came back down, 'Next time you get in a situation like that, just bring it back out and try to run something else,' ' Jennings told reporters after the Bucks' practice session Wednesday. 'Me and Rose, we go way back. We're cool. I'm still learning. He gave me a little advice. So I'm going to try to take advantage of it next time I play him.' "

  • Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "With one message posted on his Twitter account Tuesday afternoon, Deron Williams underscored the urgency facing the Jazz in the season's first week. 'On the way to the Dallas game!!!' Williams wrote. 'Need this win ... Bad.' Even if it was the first week of November, the Jazz already were playing a must-win game. By the end of the night, they had been punched in the gut, courtesy of Dirk Nowitzki and his 29-point fourth quarter. In the span of 24 hours, the Jazz swung from one extreme to another, yet dropped both games all the same -- embarrassed at home by a Houston team that had eight players score in double figures, and flattened on the road almost single-handedly by Nowitzki. Now the Jazz must regroup at EnergySolutions Arena tonight against San Antonio, in front of the same fans who booed them repeatedly only three nights earlier and didn't bother to stick around for the final horn against the Rockets. 'We haven't gave them much reason to cheer yet,' Williams said. 'We've got to get the best fans in the world up and out of their seats for a little bit, and we haven't been able to do that.' "

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "In this part of the Northeast, caring about anything in the sporting landscape Wednesday night began and ended with the World Series. The arena was sparsely populated, which allowed the Nuggets fans in attendance to be pretty much as loud as the Nets fans. But while the loudest cheers were saved for Yankees highlights, the Nuggets and Nets played a competitive basketball game. For a half. The Nuggets came to life in the second half and put away the injury-depleted Nets 122-94 at the Izod Center. 'The equalizer in the NBA is the length of the game,' Nuggets coach George Karl said. 'The length of the game usually brings talent forward, and the better teams come forward over time.' "

  • Josh Robbins and Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Magic fans probably don't want to hear about Phoenix Suns SF Grant Hill advising any Magic player about playing with injuries. But Hill said before facing his old club on Wednesday night that he did speak with point guard Jameer Nelson last season and encouraged his former teammate not to come back to play in the playoffs. 'Put that on the record. You can ask him. I told him not to play, just from my own experience,' Hill said. 'Not so much from a basketball standpoint. Maybe I shouldn't have, because you don't want to plant that seed in somebody before they're going out to play. But I said, 'Look, I've been out there when [I'm] not right and even when you are right, it's a process when you miss that much time. So, you're going to second-guess your shoulder and your confidence and all that.' Then, as you're not at that level, everybody else is at that level. Then you start to lose your confidence.' Nelson missed the last half of the season after shoulder surgery but returned to play in the Finals against the Lakers. He struggled mightily, proving Hill's point."

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Help and recover. It is one of the most common defensive laws in basketball. Through four games this season, in which they've won two, the 76ers appear to have the help part down. It's the recover part that is giving them the trouble. And that has led to an alarming number of made three-pointers by their opponents. Of the 438 points scored against the Sixers this season, 153 of them, or 35 percent, have come from shots beyond the arc. Opponents have made 51-of-113 treys, or 45 percent. In the season-opener at Orlando, the Magic drained 16 of 29. In the home opener in Milwaukee, the Bucks shot a pedestrian 7-for-23, then Halloween night in New York, the Knicks launched 41 threes, converting 14. Then in Tuesday's disastrous 105-74 loss to the Celtics, Boston canned 14 of 20. The help and recover principle goes like this: The farther your man is from the basketball, the more the defender slides to the lane for help against penetration and to cut off passing lanes. As the ball moves closer to his man, the defender also gets closer. Once the ball comes to the defender's assigned player, he should be there as the ball gets there. That's the recover."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "The Charlotte Bobcats might not be much offensively, but they're adapting to what coach Larry Brown means when he says play the game the right way. Two statistics in particular demonstrate that: The Bobcats are second in the NBA in rebounding and average dramatically more free-throw attempts than their opponents. In both cases, small forward Gerald Wallace is the key reason. Through the first four games, the Bobcats are averaging 46.25 rebounds, compared to 39.75 for their composite opponent. That's second in the league (to Memphis), both in rebounds per game and rebounding differential. Wallace is averaging 14 rebounds per game, second only to Toronto's Chris Bosh at 14.7."

  • Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: "It had to be comforting to the Warriors and their fans to see the Memphis Grizzlies and Allen Iverson arrive in Oakland on Wednesday. It was a reminder that the Warriors haven't cornered the NBA market on disaffected players or odd chemistry. Iverson missed the Grizzlies' first three games with an injury, came off the bench in Game 4, then groused that he has no intention of being a supporting actor in anybody's drama. It would seem that a detail like that would have been hammered out up-front, not after the contract was signed. Uh, Mr. Iverson, we'd like you to provide a spark off the bench. You want a spark off the bench, go hire a bad electrician. In your NBA Most Dysfunctional Team fantasy league, you are golden if you took the Grizzlies, but don't give up just yet on your Warriors."

  • Iliana Limón of the Orlando Sentinel: "Marcus Jordan stuck to his guns and wore his father's iconic Nike Air Jordans, a decision that has cost the University of Central Florida its six-year, $3 million exclusive contract with adidas. Adidas spokeswoman Andrea Corso said in an e-mail to the Orlando Sentinel, 'The University of Central Florida has chosen not to deliver on their contractual commitment to adidas. As a result we have chosen not to continue our relationship with them moving forward.' UCF Athletics Director Keith Tribble said late Wednesday that he was surprised by the statement from adidas. 'There's really not much I can say because I don't know anything about it and have not heard anything official from adidas about our agreement,' Tribble said. 'As I said before, we spoke with adidas officials throughout this process and were continuing contract negotiations with them. I have not seen anything in writing or heard directly from adidas about a change in our relationship.' "