First Cup: Wednesday

  • Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post: "As much as Abe Pollin changed the landscape of D.C. by building the arena on 7th St. NW, it was Michael Jordan's presence at the beginning of the new century that created a nightly buzz that D.C. simply hasn't had before or since. I wonder how things might have turned out differently if Jordan and Pollin had forged the kind of relationship that Magic Johnson and Pollin had. The recent history of the franchise would be so totally different. Anyway, Magic has gone on to have as great an impact in business as he had in his Hall of Fame basketball career. It's been 27 years, give or take a few months, since he cold called Abe Pollin and invited him to lunch. But the news of Pollin's death hit him hard yesterday afternoon as he sat in his Los Angeles office. 'I cared about this man and he cared about me,' Magic said. 'He meant so much to the NBA and so much to Washington, D.C. I just wish Gilbert [Arenas] and those guys could have gotten to know him the way I did, not just as the boss, as the guy who signed the checks.' "

  • Jodie Valade of The Plain Dealer: "In Cleveland, LeBron James was asked about a recent TV report concerning his movie production company, and the Akron native shrugged off the notion that he is becoming wary of the media -- either locally or nationally. 'It is what it is,' he said. 'I know who I am. I respect what you guys do, and I respect what I do. But at the end of the day, I'm going to protect myself, protect my family and protect my team. I've never been wary about what I say and how the media turns it upside down. It happens. I'm OK with it.' "

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "Just to be clear on this, Allen Iverson is not walking through that door. But the possibility is something the Celtics have considered -- and could revisit. Danny Ainge always has been a fan of Iverson, and he tried very hard to get him here in the summer of 2006 and the season that followed. A number of times, the Celtics president of basketball operations was in talks with the 76ers before Iverson was shipped to Denver. Now, after parting ways with Memphis, Iverson is a free agent. The Knicks were said to be interested but decided against it. To acquire Iverson, the Celts would have to cut or trade a player, but they haven’t gotten close to that question. 'We have had internal discussions about (Iverson),' Ainge said yesterday, 'but a decision like this has to be unanimous, and it wasn’t.' "

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Just when you wonder if his well of creativity, athleticism and instincts is evaporating at age 35, Steve Nash taps into new ways to amaze. He leads a Suns team to a surprising 11-3 start. He plays like that two-time MVP of four years ago. He makes a pass he never has before. 'How does anybody see that?' Suns General Manager Steve Kerr said. 'That was a shocking play.' With Shaquille O'Neal out of his lane and court spacing restored, Nash has been as good as ever. He is averaging 11.6 assists, matching his career-best average, and shooting 52.4 percent, the second-best rate of his career. With a burning desire to improve, Nash drove himself to college basketball, the NBA and future Hall of Fame status. Five years ago, the worth of his six-year, $66 million contract at age 30 was challenged. He became MVP and the Suns surprised the league. Extending that deal to 2012 with $22 million more was questioned this year, until the team turned NBA darlings again. 'I feel just as good as I've ever felt,' Nash said. 'I'm not sure if that's true or not. Maybe I'm fooling myself but I don't know where the difference is, if there is one.' "

  • T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times: "When Kobe Bryant declared himself a free agent a few years back, Donald Sterling went after him. At one point, Mike Dunleavy told Sterling he had worked out a deal to sign Bryant. 'I drove from my house in Malibu to the Four Seasons in Newport Beach to meet Kobe and Kobe said I didn't need to say anything because he was going to be a Clipper,' Sterling says, a day later learning Bryant had been convinced by Jerry Buss to remain with the Lakers. Sterling says he remains committed to winning, despite the black cloud that seems to hang over the organization, calling it 'sad and embarrassing,' the fact his team has enjoyed only two winning seasons in the 25 it has been in L.A. 'I can visualize a Clippers parade,' he says. 'I'm telling you, I will win. I promise you that. I will find the combination. How long am I going to live? Forever? I will do whatever it takes. I think the Clippers can pay more than any team in America. We have unlimited resources. I'd be thrilled to pay [$121 million as the Lakers will do this season] and do it tomorrow, if I could only sign quality players who warranted it.' Told most fans would never believe such a thing, he says, 'I will pay for quality but not reward journeymen. I'm always asking the coach, 'Is there anyone special out there we can get?' ' "

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Scott Skiles cautioned that Jennings' great start is just that. Jennings leads all rookies with a 24.2-point scoring average and also leads in assists at 5.7 while playing 34.6 minutes per game. 'We're an eighth of the way in, so I don't think it's time to be handing out any medals right now,' Skiles said. 'Having said that, he's been very, very good. I don't want to downplay it, but at the same time we've got to keep it in perspective.' Jennings has continued to work hard and clearly has established himself as one of the league's top rookies, along with Sacramento's Tyreke Evans, Golden State's Stephen Curry, Minnesota's Jonny Flynn, New Jersey's Terrence Williams and New Orleans' Collison and guard Marcus Thornton."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "It's an unconventional time to write this, but anybody overly concerned about the Bulls getting blown out by the Lakers, Nuggets and Trail Blazers in succession shouldn't be. Oodles of legitimate concerns surround the Bulls: John Salmons' shooting percentage; Derrick Rose's limited penetration; injuries forcing heavy minutes upon a shortened rotation. It's possible coach Vinny Del Negro had a hair out of place at Monday's morning shootaround too. But losing to teams that clearly are above the Bulls' class shouldn't be that alarming. This -- pick a verb -- may bother, annoy, frustrate the most diehard of Bulls fans, but this season isn't going to end with an NBA Finals at the United Center. And a 6-7 mark with one starter injured and Rose only recently showing flashes of attacking the rim consistently because of his own health issues isn't that surprising for a team that, after all, finished .500 last season. The Bulls have played the second-toughest schedule in the NBA thus far, with opponents winning more than 60 percent of their games. And upcoming games against the Jazz, Bucks and Cavaliers will do nothing to alter that trend."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: It appears the Indiana Pacers were teasing people with their early-season defensive success. In recent games, they appear to be trying to outscore opponents instead of making stops. The Toronto Raptors put the Pacers' defensive flaws in the spotlight again in handing Indiana a 123-112 defeat at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night. 'We played with no force. We did nothing with any deal of defensive intensity, so they had their way,' Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said. 'We came out and played with defensive intensity in the third quarter, but you can't bring it 25 percent of the game.' "

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Before the Grizzlies won 50 games during the 2003-04 season, Hubie Brown divided the 82-game schedule into five-game segments. The expressed goal was to win three out of five contests. Hollins, an assistant under Brown, has adopted the same strategy for these Grizzlies with a modest twist. He's shooting for two wins out of every five games in hopes of guiding the Griz toward at least a 10-game improvement from last season. ... Although hardly anyone would consider the Griz a serious contender for one of the Western Conference playoff slots, Hollins continuously reminds his squad that they are just two games back from the eighth and final seed. 'I'm trying to keep them focused,' Hollins said. 'I want them to understand that even with all of this horrendous stuff going on, we're still within the range of where we wanted to be to start the season. Our teams in Phoenix did the same thing. Hubie did it, and he was shooting for 40 wins. It's a long season.' The Griz are now required to operate with short-term memory. 'Players sometimes think too much. It's easier to set smaller goals and achieve them,' center Marc Gasol said. 'We have a lot of young players. We have to just go game by game.' "

  • Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press: "Some front-line scoring would help the Pistons' backcourt, which has carried the load so far this season. Off-season acquisition Charlie Villanueva is about the only scoring threat in the post for the Pistons, who get a bulk of their points from guards Ben Gordon, Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum. Ben Wallace (3.6 points) isn’t supposed to score. His assignment is to play defense, rebound and set the tone with his energy. Rookie Jonas Jerebko isn’t much of an offensive threat. Kwame Brown has been getting limited minutes and Jason Maxiell is an effort guy off the bench and not a true scorer. Gordon, Stuckey and Bynum combine to average 51.3 points per game -- 55% of the team’s offense. 'We obviously have talented guards,' Villanueva said. 'I don’t think that’s the problem. I think we need to concentrate more defensively.' "

  • Jeff Shain of The Miami Herald: "Watch the game tape, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra points out, and one would hardly discern that Jason Williams took a year off from the NBA. The same quickness that Williams displayed during his three years in Miami. The same court vision. The same passing savvy. 'It looks like he hasn't missed a beat,' Spoelstra said Tuesday. 'He's turning the corner and making all the plays right now.' Only Williams now plies his trade in Orlando, where the Magic hasn't missed a beat since Jameer Nelson was lost to knee surgery. In three games as a starter, Williams has averaged nine points and 4.7 assists while the Magic stretched their winning streak to five. 'J-Will is doing what he's supposed to do,' Dwyane Wade said. 'He's looking for his shots, but he's also getting the ball to other guys, which he also did great for us. At times I miss him here doing that.' "

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: "Shannon Brown, a Lakers reserve guard, hasn't been invited to participate in the 2010 All-Star game slam-dunk contest in Dallas -- yet. But the more the acrobatic, high-flying Brown throws down the electric dunks that have made him a YouTube sensation and a staple of ESPN highlights, the bigger the groundswell grows for him to be included in the contest. His teammates are in awe of his dunks and are pushing hard for him. Lakers fans go berserk when Brown defies gravity with elevates his 6-foot-4 frame before a dunk. As for Brian Shaw, he couldn't help but chide Brown about his dunking exploits. Shaw told Brown about his former Boston Celtics teammate Dee Brown (1991) and former Miami Heat teammate Harold Minor (1995) winning the dunk contest. Shaw even told Brown about his former Orlando Magic teammate Darrell Armstrong (1996) failing to win the dunk contest. 'When I had Dee the first year, he won it. Harold, I said, 'Every team I've been on, somebody won the slam-dunk championship.' He held up his end of the bargain,' Shaw said. 'Baby boy [Armstrong] kind of let me down a little bit. So I'm trying to get back on track.' "

  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: "Guards Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry and Anthony Morrow. Forwards Anthony Randolph and Vladimir Radmanovic, and center Mikki Moore. That's all it took, six players, for the Warriors to score their biggest win of the season, a 111-103 upset of the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night. Six guys, an assistant coach in the big chair and a spirited, unified brand of basketball. The Warriors came back from nine points down with just over six minutes left in the game to post their first winning streak of the 2009-10 season. That's four straight impressive performances since trading swingman Stephen Jackson to the Charlotte Bobcats. 'This win went out to our man in charge,' said assistant coach Keith Smart, who filled in for pneumonia-ridden head coach Don Nelson. 'Our guys pulled together for him. ... Coming into this game, we had nothing to lose. We were loose. We could play the way we needed to play. Worst case scenario, they blow us out and we move on to San Antonio.' "

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: "These days, Leonard Robinson is a Kings assistant coach who has quickly become a well-liked addition to the staff. As a player, Robinson didn't want people to hear the name 'Truck' and think he was a bully. But his style of play began to match the nickname. 'At first, I didn't like (Truck), but later on I was getting away with stuff at my size that I shouldn't have been getting away with, just with that name,' Robinson said. 'I'd never been in fights or anything like that in the NBA. You just get a reputation. New guys come in the league, young guys, and I'd see their eyes from watching me on TV, and they'd say 'That's the Truck.' When I went to the hole, guys would just move out of the way.' Robinson, however, didn't stay in the NBA simply on a nickname. He averaged 15.5 points and 9.4 rebounds in 11 NBA seasons (1974-85), with stops in Washington, Atlanta, New Orleans, Phoenix and New York. Robinson was an All-Star in 1978 while playing for the New Orleans Jazz and in 1981 with the Suns."