First Cup: Friday

  • Michael Wallace of The Miami Herald: "Dwyane Wade must be a Coke guy. Because his teams just can't seem to get anything accomplished at the Pepsi Center. Denver remains the only spot in the league where Wade has yet to experience a victory in his seven NBA seasons. The drought continued Thursday, when the Nuggets simply pummeled the Heat 114-96. The up-and-down play continued for Miami (10-8), which followed its most complete victory of the season Tuesday in Portland with perhaps its most uninspired game of the year against the Nuggets. This was the equivalent of a varsity team schooling the JV. Chauncey Billups' experience, swagger and veteran play simply made Mario Chalmers vanish. Billups forced Chalmers into early foul trouble and did whatever he wanted in the matchup. It was almost sad how bad of a mismatch it was."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "The human and the Birdman leapt toward the basket simultaneously, the human armed with a basketball, the Birdman with wings. Michael Beasley (human), clutching the Spalding and false hope, soared to the basket for a dunk, but Chris Andersen (Birdman) hammered the ball from his hands, scooped up possession, whipped it down court and watched from his perch in the opposing paint as J.R. Smith swished a 3-pointer. The Nuggets didn't just win Thursday. They slaughtered. The 114-96 outcome against Miami detailed Denver's offensive defense. By halftime, the Nuggets led 58-42 and the Heat was shooting just 34.9 percent."

  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: "With an almost completely revamped roster and a difficult, road-heavy early schedule, the Raptors were supposed to be scuffling a bit 20 games in, but the wretched defence displayed by the 7-13 team is downright shocking. Just how terrible has the defence been? Well, for starters, the club is on pace to be the worst defensive team since 1977-78. A little-known but telling statistic called defensive rating has been kept since that season. The rating measures how many points-per-100 possessions a team gives up and the lowest in history, shared by three teams, is 114.7. The Raptors, losers of five in a row and 11 of 15 following Wednesday night's 146-115 slaughter at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks, have a defensive rating of 118.3."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "It's not by accident that the Milwaukee Bucks are shooting three-pointers at a higher percentage this season. Bucks coach Scott Skiles said he and general manager John Hammond were intent on acquiring players who could knock down the three and stretch opposing defenses. The season is not quite to the one-quarter mark, but the early results are encouraging for the Bucks, who rank fourth in the league in three-point percentage (39.1%), fourth in three-pointers made per game (8.76) and fifth in three-pointers attempted per game (22.41). And they have done it without sharpshooter Michael Redd, who has been sidelined for all but five games with a left knee injury. ... One of the biggest surprises in the Bucks' perimeter game is first-round draft pick Brandon Jennings, who struggled with his shot during the preseason. But that changed dramatically when the regular season began. Jennings has attempted a team-high 84 three-pointers and has converted 40 for a glittering 47.6% mark, tying him for ninth in the NBA in that category."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "In one simple answer, Derrick Rose mastered the art of political correctness and understatement. Asked if he would like to play with LeBron James, who heads the most stellar free agent class in NBA history next summer, Rose managed not to offend the Dwyane Wades and Chris Boshes of the world while also lauding James in quite the hilariously obvious manner. 'Any one of those superstars needs to come here,' Rose said. 'I wouldn't mind playing with any of them but especially a guy like him. He would make the team better.' You think?"

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "Celtic Marquis Daniels and Chris Johnson, the Tennessee running back who leads the NFL in rushing, went to the same high school in Orlando, Fla. Their friendship led to a tweet by Johnson, essentially saying that according to Daniels, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo wants to race him for $2,000. 'That’s easy money,' Johnson wrote on Twitter. Rondo was having none of it during yesterday’s morning shootaround, saying with an unconvincing smirk, 'I don’t use Twitter, so I don’t know about that.' A smiling Ray Allen, who does use Twitter and has tweeted his curiosity about such a race, was a little more forthcoming. 'It’s a good question,' he said. 'If they can get (referee) Dick Bavetta in a footrace against Charles Barkley, then why not this? They should make it an event for All-Star weekend.' Daniels had a good laugh at the mention of the whole affair. And Rondo’s obvious speed aside, Daniels’ money would have to go on the other side. 'Rondo’s fast, but this time it would be a race between fast and lightning,' said Daniels. 'I love Rondo, but Chris Johnson is as fast as ever. It’s funny. I’ve just heard a lot of talk and speculation about it.' "

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Shawne Williams has gone from being a celebrated first-round NBA draft pick to someone who may as well adopt the nickname Casper. He's suddenly become a ghost in the basketball world. The Dallas Mavericks employ Williams. He's officially on their roster. The 6-9 forward is earning more than $2 million. But Williams is not mentioned in the team's game notes. You won't see the former University of Memphis standout on the Mavs' bench when they visit the Grizzlies tonight. 'He was asked to leave,' Mavs owner Mark Cuban wrote in an e-mail. 'Can't get into it beyond that.' Cuban gave the Dallas Morning News a more blunt response: 'We got Shawne Williams and took a chance on him. It didn't work out and we put him out to pasture.' What ever happened to Shawne Williams? The 23-year-old Memphian out of Hamilton High, whose hoops dream got interrupted by some incidents, finds his career on hold. He's literally being paid to stay away from the Mavs."

  • Ken Sugiura of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "For some of their biggest games in December, though, the Hawks will become the team that gets pushed. It starts with their game in Dallas on Saturday, following a home game Friday against New York. 'Your body reacts a little different, especially if you're playing 40-plus minutes the night before and then come into a back-to-back,' guard Joe Johnson said. 'It's always tough. We know our hands are going to be full against a great team like Dallas, who gets up and down the floor, and they can score the basketball as well.' Given coach Mike Woodson's goal to go somewhere from 8-6 to 10-4 in the month, the Hawks' second games in the back-to-backs will make that an estimable challenge. All four are on the road against teams that won big at home last season. Dallas was 32-9. Chicago, the Hawks' opponent Dec. 19 the night after a home game against Utah, was 28-13. Denver, where the Hawks will play Dec. 23 after an overnight flight from Minnesota, was 33-8. Cleveland, whom the Hawks will play at home Dec. 29 and at Quicken Loans Arena on Dec. 30, was a stunning 39-2. The games will test the Hawks' ability against the NBA's elite as well as their mettle."

  • Chris Iott of MLive.com "Eventually, when several key players return from injuries, some Pistons players will see a major reduction in minutes. But Jonas Jerebko will not disappear to the end of the bench even though Tayshaun Prince will get the majority of the minutes at small forward. 'He's going to get an opportunity at the four position also,' Kuester said. 'He's too valuable to our team right now and brings so much to the plate that he's going to find some time some way in that four position.' "

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: "The Kings are one of the biggest surprises in the NBA after 17 games. Sacramento's 9-8 record isn't eye-catching to the casual fan, but considering the Kings won 17 games all of last season, their start could be considered impressive. Wednesday's win over Indiana was the Kings' fourth in a row and gave them an 8-2 record at home. In spite of calls for the cowbells to return to Arco Arena, the building isn't filling up. Perhaps fans need to see more before paying to see the Kings in person. The announced crowd of 10,021 that saw the Kings beat the Pacers was the lowest in the franchise's Sacramento era. 'I think that this city loves the Kings,' said coach Paul Westphal. 'And for whatever reason, whether it's the economy, they're not quite believing what's happening yet. I don't really know. It's probably the economy more than anything else.' "

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "And they thought the road was tough. The effect of traveling like a circus for the NBA season's first five weeks finally showed up on the Suns with feeble efforts leading to blowouts at New York and Cleveland, Phoenix's first consecutive losses in a 14-5 season. They offered little fight in New York and Cleveland, and the latter was a glimpse of the tougher competition ahead. Starting with surging Sacramento (9-8) at home Saturday, the Suns will play 10 more games against winning teams this month, including top teams such as the Lakers (twice), Dallas, Orlando, Denver and Boston. They did not appear ready for the elite race Wednesday, when Cleveland took a 39-14 lead, and the Suns' 29-point first half was the franchise's worst scoring first half since 2000. 'We're a team that wasn't picked to make the playoffs and we're not contenders yet,' said Suns guard Steve Nash, although most prognosticators did have the Suns as a low playoff seed. 'This was bound to happen to us because we're a relatively new unit. We've got to beat the teams we're supposed to beat, steal a few wins and learn to beat the good teams. It's not a situation where we have to run the table and get first place.' "

  • Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune: "The best part about the Jazz's dressing in their old road uniforms is that sometimes it is worthwhile to remind everyone how bad they used to be. And how good they became. In green, they went from horrible to acceptable, from a joke of a franchise to a model organization. So when the Jazz celebrate their past today by playing Indiana at EnergySolutions Arena in the first of 10 games this season in the throwback unis, there should be considerable appreciation of how far they had to come, and how consistent they became. It is fitting that the Los Angeles Lakers' visit next week is also part of the NBA's 'Hardwood Classics' series. Opposing teams such as the Lakers and Celtics often were the bigger attractions in the Salt Palace, a sign of the Jazz's struggles to become relevant and respectable. That's what the Jazz's green era represents. Just becoming decent seemed like an achievement at the time, and it truly was. The Jazz went through 20 players during that first season of 1979-80 in Utah -- in the days of a 12-man roster -- with the unhealthy combination of a veteran coach (Tom Nissalke) who wanted to win right away, a rookie general manager (Frank Layden) who was struggling to establish some kind of organizational philosophy and an ownership group that was interested mostly in saving money."