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First Cup: Monday

11/23/2009
  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "Nate Robinson made seven shots on Sunday, all of them in the correct basket. For that, the Knicks were grateful. Yet his performance was marred again by impulsiveness and immaturity -- the same issues that have dogged Robinson throughout his career. Twice in Sunday’s loss to Boston, Robinson celebrated while the game clock was still running. The second incident surely cost the Knicks. ... Teammates and coaches appreciate Robinson’s passion and talent, but these are the sort of thoughtless acts that drive them crazy. In Saturday’s game against the Nets, Robinson infuriated Coach Mike D’Antoni by shooting at his own basket with time expiring in the first quarter. The shot left Robinson’s hand after the buzzer, but it could have resulted in 3 points for the Nets. The play immediately became fodder for highlight shows and basketball blogs, embarrassing both Robinson and his team."

  • Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun: "Until Vince Carter offers a contrite apology for abandoning the Raptors franchise and its fan base, under no circumstance should he be honoured. Until he comes clean and airs his laundry, metaphorically speaking, there is no purpose in acknowledging his contributions to the Raps. It speaks to the team's naivete that the mere notion of honouring Carter in the Raptors' 15th anniversary season was broached. ... One day, Carter's name and number should take its rightful place in the ACC rafters and he'll be accorded the same reception that ushered in the arrival of Vinsanity in Hogtown. But that time will never arrive until he bares his soul. The ball, literally and figuratively, is in Carter's court."

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "It was a bad brunch in the Big Apple for Rasheed Wallace, who finished with more technical fouls than points. And he had just one technical. ... His last pointless regular-season game came on Jan. 31, 2007 at New Jersey - another 0-for-7, this one in 21 minutes. 'I ain’t worried about it,' Wallace said after picking up four rebounds, an assist and four steals in 15:21. 'I’m in a little slump right now, but a ‘W’ supersedes it all. Every good shooter goes through it. It’s just a matter of you can’t stop shooting; you’ve got to keep shooting. It’s frustrating a little bit, but I still don’t let it stop me from my overall game. That’s just one facet of the game, shooting the ball. I don’t let it stop me from playing defense. I don’t let it stop me from talking on ‘D’ and rebounding. I’ll make a shot one of these days.' "

  • Tom Knott of The Washington Times: "Gilbert Arenas is missing a half-step. Even when he is able to get to the basket, he does not finish in the manner he once did. That makes him more reliant on his perimeter shot, where it is more difficult to establish a shooting rhythm. Nothing establishes a good shooting rhythm like a couple of easy baskets. The Wizards, in effect, are still waiting on Arenas. You do not overcome three knee surgeries and two lost seasons in 12 games. It may take Arenas most of the season to resurrect his old self, if he ever does. The trickle-down effect of a substandard Arenas sets in motion the corrosion of the offense. He is going to get his shots, just not the kind that compromise the integrity of a defense. Sometimes there is no logic to when Arenas takes a shot. All this is understandable. Arenas is returning from an interminable rehabilitation process. He is not who he was. And getting back to who he was will not be easy on him or his teammates, not when he has the ball in his hands so much of the time."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "I'll admit that having several players looking for contracts could be a distraction, but I have a hard time seeing any of those guys as the problem right now. It's not like any of them resurrected old nicknames, are trying to get a million followers on Twitter or just established Web sites to promote their all-star campaigns. Look, Arenas is free to market himself in whatever manner he pleases -- as Angry Gil, Silent Gil, Agent Zero, Hibachi, etc. -- but the timing of all this seems pretty bad with the season slipping. He really needs to just play basketball and stop worrying about the ancillary stuff. Three and nine should lead to a change in priorities. Ultimate stardom comes with wins."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "They are short and short-handed, playing with Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady -- representing more than $39 million of annual salary -- sitting out. Yet, because they refused to consider themselves undermanned or overmatched, they cannot be satisfied with the success that has surprised others, but not themselves. 'I think we could do better,' Trevor Ariza said. 'It's not bad. It's better than everybody expected. But for ourselves, I think we expected a little more. We're not doing bad, but we're not doing as well as I thought we could.' That might be an indication of how they have won despite the challenges of the brutal early-season schedule and injury-altered roster. There have been stunning wins over their most frequent playoff tormentors, a few frustratingly close defeats and even one or two McGrady-inspired (driven) flare-ups of drama and potential distraction. They have won admiration and praise, yet cannot enjoy that because they had so trained themselves to ignore comments and expect this and more. Instead, they looked at what could have been."

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "In addition to an attitude adjustment that a players-only meeting brought about last week, the Griz discovered an efficient inside-out attack working with Rudy Gay and center Marc Gasol. Gay is averaging 26 points and eight rebounds in his last three games. Gasol averaged 16.5 points on 84.4-percent shooting in the last four outings. Controversy is no longer hovering over the Grizzlies like a cloud. Cohesion is the operative word. 'We haven't forgotten about how it was a few weeks ago,' Mike Conley said. 'That keeps us motivated. Nobody wants to see the lack of effort that we had and the distractions we had. We're trying to forget but that's what keeps pushing us.' "

  • Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press: "Staring down double barrels of a dubious losing streak, the Timberwolves sound blissfully ignorant about a possible date with infamy. With tough-to-win home games against first-place Denver and Phoenix later this week, the 1-12 Wolves are poised to establish a new record in futility to start a season unless they can defeat the hapless Los Angeles Clippers tonight at Staples Center. No Wolves team stumbled out of the gate more poorly than the 1994-95 squad that opened 1-13. However, this year's version has lost 12 straight since an opening-night victory over New Jersey Oct. 28. And they are closing on the 13-game losing streak last season's club endured Nov. 29-Dec. 23, which cost coach Randy Wittman his job. That is three games off the tragic number of 16 straight losses, which Minnesota twice skidded to in 1991-92 and over a two-season span in 1994. Point guard Jonny Flynn said Sunday he did not know about the records in jeopardy and asked reporters how long the Wolves' current skid was. Perhaps it is just as well considering the Wolves have not tasted victory in 27 days while their 106-78 blowout loss at Portland on Saturday was their eighth-straight double-digit defeat."

  • Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News: "One thing I'm noticing on the NBA beat is the schedule plays such a big role. It didn't seem as much in the NHL. It does in the NBA, and you could tell this was going to be a tough game to win from the day the schedule came out. Fourth game in six days, last game of a trip, and the Pistons wound up playing overtime Saturday in Utah. All the ingredients for a blowout loss, which it turned out to be."

  • Michael Wallace of The Miami Herald: "So this is the difference Udonis Haslem makes, huh? It's a shame that the guy has so many near-haters out there. As I've said all along, you can love Michael Beasley without having to bash on Udonis Haslem. Can't we all just get along? Haslem's jumper with 15 seconds left lifted the Heat to a 102-101 victory over the feisty New Orleans Hornets on Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena. The Heat snapped a three game skid, with Haslem missing a two of those games with a shoulder strain. No, it wasn't all about UD. He simply delivered the final dagger on a night when the Heat's balance boosted the team to a much-needed victory."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "After making his first All-Star Game start last season, Amar'e Stoudemire is turning back to viral publicity to appeal to All-Star voters again. Stoudemire spent four hours Saturday shooting an online commercial that will feature comedic actor David Spade. 'I'm really focusing on improving my game, and I go out and get the best teacher,' Stoudemire said. 'It's going to be hilarious.' Stoudemire's best help came from the ballot committee that put him at center, even though Channing Frye is the Suns' starting center. With competition such as Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony and Tim Duncan at forward, Stoudemire will fare better against centers such as Mehmet Okur, Nene, Al Jefferson and Greg Oden."

  • Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Times: "This just in: Bulls' Record in Jeopardy Again. Actually, it isn't, barring a 63-6 finish, but these are no longer last season's by-hook-or-crook champions, following Thursday's rout of the Bulls by crushing Oklahoma City's Prekocious Kids, 101-85, Sunday night to run their Awesome Streak to two. The Thunder, which took the Lakers into overtime before losing their first meeting, trailed by 27 points in this one, learning an important lesson: If this is Prime Time, they're not ready for it. The Lakers' last two games, of course, coincide with Pau Gasol's return, but perennial All-Star that he is, he's not that good. He is that important, though, like Chauncey Billups, whose arrival in Denver last season chilled out Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith, so it was like getting four players, not one. With Gasol, Bryant immediately goes from I Must Carry Us Mode, to I'll Facilitate Too, and between them, that's a lot of facilitating."

  • Mike Helfgot for the Chicago Tribune: "Ivica Dukan remembers the criticism like it was yesterday. 'He can't play in the post. He's not strong enough. He's not quick enough. He can't guard anybody,' Dukan recalls. 'And this is the sixth man of the year. Imagine how good he would have been if he could do those things.' Dukan, the Bulls' international director of scouting, was referring to fellow Croatian and former Bulls star Toni Kukoc, who was among the first wave of European players to hit the NBA in 1993. Six-foot-10 players were supposed to post up and block shots in those days, not dribble like a guard, throw pinpoint, no-look passes and shoot 3-pointers. Sixteen years later, the NBA's European explosion has impacted basketball on all levels. The Chicagoland area is full of tall perimeter players like Deerfield's Duje Dukan, Highland Park's Marin Kukoc and another 6-6 star with Croatian roots, Notre Dame-bound Alex Dragicevich of Glenbrook North."