First Cup: Tuesday

November, 17, 2009
11/17/09
8:29
AM ET
  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "On a recent night at Madison Square Garden, the camera focused on Mike D’Antoni as he plopped himself on the bench. D’Antoni looked down, clasped his hands, took a deep breath, puffed out his cheeks and let out a sigh so powerful that his bottom lip fluttered. He glanced toward midcourt and blinked several times. The scoreboard read 0-0. The game, against the Utah Jazz, had yet to begin. Since that moment, the Knicks have lost three more times, dropping them to 1-9, the worst start in franchise history. D’Antoni, the celebrated coach who came to New York last year to usher in a new era, is showing the strain. It is evident in his anguished gaze and in postgame explanations, which grow ever shorter. His hair looks grayer, too. The franchise is in Year 2 of a messy rebuilding effort. The roster is a jumble of veteran role players and unpolished youngsters, without a star among them. The Knicks were supposed to be bad, but not this bad."
  • Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News: "It's kind of sad that the Knicks are thinking of signing Allen Iverson. He'd be good at the box office and would help a team that can't shoot, doesn't play hard on most nights and needs players who can score. Trouble is, he'd be arriving about 10 years too late to make a difference. But if he were to come to the Garden, it would be particularly sad for Iverson. The Knicks wouldn't be a much better fit for the Hall of Famer than the Memphis Grizzlies. And how did that work out? So well that Iverson is free to negotiate with 29 other teams. The same 29, incidentally, who did not want any part of his services over the summer. ... Of course the Knicks will look into bringing him in on a one-year deal. It's the politically correct thing to do. Iverson's agent is Leon Rose, who also represents LeBron James. The Knicks don't want to cross Rose and ruin their shot to get LeBron, however long that might be. So give Iverson No. 3 and maybe he can fill the Garden to the rafters, once again. Either way, it's kind of sad."
  • Michael Wallace of The Miami Herald: "Yes, this Heat team still has some holes. And Allen Iverson, now available again, still has some game left. But Miami is still 7-2 and in position to match the best 10-game start in franchise history thanks to the moves Pat Riley didn't make this summer. Sure, break down the record and you'll find two wins against the woeful Wizards, a pair against Big Apple-area busters and another against an Indiana team that put the 'H' in horrible on the eve of Halloween. But, as Wade said recently, 'We're winning the games that we're supposed to win. Especially at home. Now, we'll find out a lot more about ourselves once we go out on the road.' More important, Miami is winning relatively headache free. Now, there probably isn't one team that supports its coach or cares about chemistry in the locker room that would truly touch Iverson at this point. So I guess that leaves the Warriors, Nets, Knicks and Clippers among potential suitors. And anything's possible in Golden State."
  • Tom Sorensen of The Charlotte Observer: "Larry Brown says he knows how to deal with troubled players. All he has to do, he says, is 'be straight with them.' Let's be straight then. If Stephen Jackson becomes loudly unhappy, he will undo a harmonious team. And his three-year, $28 million contract, which does not kick in until next season, will undo Brown's ability to add anybody else of quality. Let's be even straighter. The Bobcats had to make this trade. They had become unwatchable. In this, their sixth season, they finally have a star. If Jackson cares about his legacy, he can establish it here. Brown will be a tremendous resource. Jackson says he admires Michael Jordan. If he and Jordan are ever in town at the same time, Michael can be a resource, too."
  • Cam Inman of The Oakland Tribune: "It's not sad that swingman Stephen Jackson left the Warriors as part of a four-player trade Monday with the Charlotte Bobcats. It was worse when Baron Davis skipped town. Or when Jason Richardson was dealt. Or perhaps even the combined departures of Mickael Pietrus, Matt Barnes and Al Harrington. Stop wondering whether to get sentimental about Jackson, whether he symbolized the last remaining piece of the 2007 'We Believe' playoff era. He didn't. So don't bother shedding a tear. He certainly didn't. Jackson wanted to bail on this perennially chaotic franchise. He just didn't make a smooth exit. He lost favor with Warriors fans by asking out way too soon after agreeing to a three-year bribe to stay here. For the post-Jackson Warriors to take shape and move on to their next playoff generation, more change is needed. A change of ownership? There's a chance, so keep praying. But more likely is the eventual departures of two other Chris Cohan employees. Specifically, when do coach Don Nelson and point guard/shooting guard/selfish guard Monta Ellis leave, too? When do they tell the far-too-generous Warriors brass to take their jobs and shove it? Can't be long now. Can't. Just can't."
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "The division race Monday became that much more challenging for the Heat. No, Charlotte likely won't contend for a playoff spot in the East, even with the addition of Stephen Jackson. But considering that the cost of acquiring Jackson (and Acie Law) from the Warriors merely was Vladimir Radmanovic and Raja Bell, the Bobcats are more competitive. Now you have Gerald Wallace and Jackson on the wings, with Boris Diaw to facilitate. Considering four games against Charlotte remain for the Heat, that makes the challenge inside the Southeast that much tougher."
  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Before Monday’s game, someone mentioned to Mike Woodson that his team, wonder of wonders, had just ascended to the top of Marc Stein’s NBA power ratings on ESPN.com. In case you missed that, let me repeat it: The Atlanta Hawks are, at least for this week, regarded as the finest basketball team in the best league in the world. The … Atlanta … Hawks. 'That’s pretty nice,' said Woodson, smiling as he spoke. And Woodson, as you know, is frugal with his smiles. But think about where this franchise and this coach have been, and where they are now: From 13-69 in 2004-2005 to No. 1 after Week 3 in November 2009. (And not just according to ESPN. The power ratings by John Schuhmann of NBA.com likewise have the Hawks at the top. Can the BCS be far behind?) 'I didn’t know that,' said Josh Smith after being informed of his team’s new lofty perch. 'It’s just Week 2, though,' counseled Randolph Morris, who was seated alongside. (Actually, it’s Week 3. But close enough.) 'We want to be there at Week 50.' "
  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Al Jefferson returned to the Timberwolves on Monday morning, four days after he left the team bound for Florida to see his grandmother one last time. 'I got the chance to see her before she died,' Jefferson said after Monday's practice. 'She died 30 minutes after I got there. That was good for her and me. She told my auntie four days before she died that she was just waiting on me.' Annie Bell Randolph died Thursday afternoon in Fort Lauderdale. She was 83. 'Luckily, I got there just in time,' he said. "Thanks to my team, my coach, my GM for understanding and making me feel really comfortable, because at first I didn't want to leave. I was going to wait until Sunday, when we had the day off. Coach let me know it's real important that family come first. It made me feel good about leaving. I'm glad I did.' "
  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Give Vinny Del Negro credit for shooting down the tired theme of whether the long trip can bond the Bulls. 'We're bonded enough,' he said. 'We went to London.' "
  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: "Really, there is no reason for Bulls center Joakim Noah to ever think about what goes on at the United Center while the team heads West for the annual November road trip. There was a funny moment at Monday's practice, though, when the third-year center asked why this is called the 'circus' road trip. 'I don't understand what's so circus about the trip,' Noah said. 'Everybody always says it's like a circus trip, but it's just a good team bonding (experience). We spend a lot of time together on the road.' A sympathetic reporter filled Noah in. It's called the circus trip because the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus moves into the United Center for two weeks every year, forcing the Bulls and the Blackhawks to hit the road. 'That's why they call it the circus trip?' Noah said with a laugh. 'I was like, 'Why do they always call it the circus trip? What's so circus about it?' I didn't even know that.' "
  • Frank Dell’Apa of The Boston Globe: "Kevin Garnett said the Celtics have gained motivation from the recent defeats. 'I wouldn’t call it slippage,’' he said. 'It’s kind of weird, because one thing leads to another, which leads to another thing. Slippage is when you stop being disciplined, when you stop being consistent with what you started with, and I don’t think we’re that. You give guys free rein or confidence, anybody can score in this league. We got outrebounded both games. You can’t win like that. Are we as crisp as we could be? No. I think that’s what I’ve always been saying. We are not that team, as polished as we can be. We worked on some things, polished some things, we’re getting back to our principles.' "
  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "Statement-making makes 'SportsCenter.' A teeth-clenching, clutch 3-pointer. A chest-to-face dunk. A shot swat to the second row. But sometimes, a statement is made amid the basketball whirlwind -- a statement so strong, yet so brief, even fervent and focused fans miss it. Such was the case Friday night at the Pepsi Center, when Nuggets guard J.R. Smith entered the game against the Lakers and went right at Kobe Bryant -- as a defender. 'His very first play he fronted Kobe, instead of waiting for Kobe to kick his butt,' Nuggets coach George Karl said of Smith, who slithered in front of Bryant and prevented the all-star from receiving the ball in the low post. '(Smith) knew that he would have to do some work early.' Smith's statement that night to the Lakers -- and to his coaches and teammates -- was that he's willing to fight on defense. For years, Smith was a defensive matador, waving the red flag, allowing players to pass. Now he's a defensive matador who utilizes his sword, so to speak."
  • Michael Grange of the Globe and Mail: "Ten games into his seventh NBA season, Bosh has continued a more physical approach earned in a no-frills weight room in a former department store on the outskirts of Dallas during the off-season -- and the result has been the best basketball of his career. 'It’s really helped me out, I just need to keep it going,' Bosh said of his added strength. 'I like the way things are going. I’d like to win more games, but I think that’s going to come in time, so I’m going to try and keep my play to the highest level I possibly can and just continue to be aggressive.' Tonight, in Denver against the Nuggets, Bosh will be trying to keep up what is shaping up to be a career-best season: He’s averaging 27.7 points and 11.6 rebounds a game, both of which would be career-highs if he finishes the season at that level."
  • Tom Moore of PhillyBurbs.com "In the aftermath of Marreese Speights' knee injury, which is expected to sideline him for six to eight weeks, Elton Brand is likely to get more than the 27.1 minutes he's averaged in the Sixers' first 10 games. Brand, the starting power forward, worked as a center with the second unit during Monday's practice, which could lead to additional time in second quarters with Speights out. Brand said he believes he's ready to return to the 38 minutes that allowed him to average 20 points and 10.1 rebounds coming into his 11th season. 'Absolutely,' Brand said. 'I haven't been - with 20 minutes, 18 minutes (of late). The minutes are there. People look at stats and stuff. It's about minutes.' "

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