First Cup: Monday

  • Kyle Neddenriep and Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Greg Oden's high school coach, Jack Keefer, said he had planned on attending Wednesday's game at Conseco Fieldhouse. 'Doggone it,' Keefer said Sunday. 'I'm just really disappointed for him because he'd been playing so well. He was doing the things he does well -- blocking shots, playing defense and rebounding.' Though Oden's NBA career has been plagued by knee injuries, Keefer said he can only remember him missing one game in high school. 'That's the thing,' Keefer said. 'It wasn't like this in high school. I can just remember him missing that one game with an ankle sprain. It seemed like this year he was really starting to play with a lot of confidence.' ... 'It's tough on him,' said Clippers guard Eric Gordon, who played on Oden's AAU team in Indianapolis. 'I remember when we were 8 or 9 (years old), he was having injuries because he was growing so much. Now he's had some tough injuries since college. It looked like he was playing a lot better this year. Now, it's almost a disaster for him.' "

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: "On Sunday, the Trail Blazers announced that Greg Oden underwent successful surgery to repair his fractured left patella. And a few minutes later, the organization organized a conference call to answer questions. Just one here. Will you make the playoffs? More on that in a bit. ... Let's sift through the wreckage for a moment. Owner Paul Allen is battling non-Hodgins lymphoma. Assistant coach Maurice Lucas has cancer that is no longer in remission. Nic Batum (shoulder) is gone for the season. So is Travis Outlaw (foot). And Rudy Fernandez has nerve pain (back). And the practice before Oden went down for the season head coach Nate McMillan jumped into a practice drill due to the shortage of players and ruptured his Achilles tendon. As general manager Kevin Pritchard said Sunday: 'Sheesh.' Which brings me to my single question. The one that the Blazers must answer today and every day for the rest of the season -- can you do it? Because the Blazers must make the playoffs in spite of all that's gone wrong. Falling short of qualifying for the postseason would be disastrous considering all the organization has overcome to get here."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "Allen Iverson is expected to make his season debut for Philadelphia tonight, which could have a familiar feel. In March 2008, the Nuggets were there when Iversonreturned home. Tonight, the Nuggets will be there when Iverson returns home again. The uniform, however, will be different this time around. Iverson is back where his legend began. He told Philadelphia reporters that tonight's game is 'more for the fans.' The arena is indeed sold out. Iverson jerseys, which for two years were relegated to throwback status, are new and relevant again. And if there's anyone that knows how much fun a first game back home can be, it's Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups. 'It's going to be crazy,' Billups said. 'I'm looking forward to it. I'm happy for Allen that he got to go home. But at the same time, we're on a mission, and we're going to try our best to get the win.' Said Carmelo Anthony: 'I'm real happy. I'm glad that's the decision he made. I'm glad Philly decided to pick him up. That's where he started. He had to wander a bit to come back home.' The problem for the Nuggets is what they're walking into. Philadelphia's Wachovia Center is usually a sleepy venue that doesn't give too much of a home-court advantage. That won't be the case tonight. It should be rocking with the return of their beloved Iverson."

  • Kate Fagan of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Yesterday on the 76ers' practice floor, a ring of media surrounded Allen Iverson. As Iverson spoke, Lou Williams, in street clothes, walked out of the gym at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine without interruption. It was an odd moment considering that two weeks ago, the Sixers were Williams' team and he was the one answering questions. Iverson practiced with the Sixers for the first time since officially rejoining the team Friday. Williams suffered a broken jaw Nov. 24, sidelining him for eight weeks, which facilitated Iverson's return. Tonight, Iverson is expected to start for the Sixers against the Denver Nuggets at the Wachovia Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 7, and as of last night, ticket availability was 'limited.' After practice, Sixers coach Eddie Jordan said he anticipated having Iverson in the starting lineup."

  • Michael Hunt of the Journal Sentinel: "There is never a good time to be outscored, 29-0, during an 11-plus-minute chunk that spanned the first and second quarters before a reasonably expectant home crowd. But against a marquee opponent and the chance to showcase their relative worthiness, Sunday was a particularly bad time to go down, 101-86. Yes, it was one of 82 and all that, but the opportunity to win friends and influence people doesn't come around that often for this franchise. But the Bucks did it to themselves by treating the 11-0 start in the most inappropriate way possible, by throwing up bad jumper after rim-clanking jumper."

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "After all the losing and all the chaos, discontent now comes more easily than satisfaction to Knicks fans -- even, it seems, when their team is winning. As the Knicks cruised toward their second straight victory Sunday -- a 106-97 defeat of the Nets -- fans at Madison Square Garden entertained themselves with periodic chants of 'We want Nate!' They did it when the Knicks were trailing by 6 and when they were ahead by 9. But Nate Robinson stayed affixed to the bench, his warm-ups zipped tight, for the third straight game. Coach Mike D’Antoni showed a little chagrin, but he held his ground. The Knicks (6-15) have won three of their last four games, their best stretch of the season, so he is unlikely to alter the rotation based on a voice vote. 'I felt real good,' D’Antoni said, referring sarcastically to the chants. 'It’s not going to change anything.' "

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "I know Flip Saunders said that he was most disappointed after the Wizards lost to the Toronto Raptors on Friday, but what happened on Sunday in Auburn Hills, Mich., was borderline shameful. At least the Raptors have an all-star power forward in Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu, who was a borderline all-star the past few years in Orlando. The Detroit Pistons basically had Rodney Stuckey, who is pretty good but nothing special yet, Charlie Villanueva, and a bunch of role players. Seriously. Their starting lineup was Stuckey, Chucky Atkins, Ben Wallace, Jason Maxiell and Jonas Jerebko. Not to belittle those guys, because they are earning checks in the NBA, but the Wizards shouldn't get schooled by that outfit. ... What does it say for the Wizards that Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison were both outscored in the fourth quarter by Jerebko? And Jerebko scored one point. ... They have the talent -- or at least the names -- but they still appear to be dealing with a prolonged feeling-out process. Players don't seem to understand their roles or to be willing to accept whatever Flip Saunders is asking of them. You have to wonder when -- or if -- it's going to click."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "The Bulls' offense is so bad that they're going to invite Jay Cutler to have the honorary game ball presentation intercepted. The Bulls' offense is so bad that Dragan Tarlac called and asked for a 10-day contract. The Bulls' offense is so bad that the notoriously long-winded Hubie Brown, who was the color analyst forFriday's game in Cleveland, ran out of talking points. The Bulls' offense is so bad that it rivals the above lame attempts at one-liners. Rim shot, please, indeed. Anything better than the boring, predictable high screen-and-roll and slow ball reversal that, lately, has resulted in air balls. Let's get the ugly numbers out of the way first: The Bulls score 90.4 points per game, 28th in the league. They shoot 43.2 percent, 27th in the league. They rank 24th in 3-point shooting at 31.1 percent and only Utah and Memphis take fewer 3-pointers than the Bulls' 11.8 per game. The Bulls have surpassed 100 points and shot 50 percent just once in 18 games. On the bright side, the Bulls (unofficially) lead the league in heavily contested long 2-pointers jacked from just inside the 3-point line."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Trevor Ariza set the record straight. Shane Battier had said that he and Ariza came to blows over breakfast last week over who would have to defend Golden State's Monta Ellis that night. Never happened. Rather, Ariza revealed, if they are ever to fight over pancakes, it would be who gets to match up with the stars. To be an elite defender, he said, one must want those challenges, to seek the pressure and dare fate. 'We're both competitors,' Ariza said. 'We don't care who we have to guard. It's not a discredit to anybody. It's just that I don't care who I play against.' He wanted a match up with Brandon Roy Saturday night, turning down Battier's offer to switch assignments. Unlike Wednesday against Ellis, when Battier shut down the high-scoring Warriors guard early and Ariza stopped him late, Roy scored the Blazers' final 10 points Saturday, including a twisting drive past Ariza and around Chuck Hayes with three seconds left for the game-winner. Ariza's defense on Roy grew tighter with each play, with Roy hitting a turnaround jumper before his game-winning drive, forcing Ariza to face the reality of the job. 'I think I played great defense,' Ariza said, 'but it was better offense.' "

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "The Griz arguably are the most talented since their last playoff appearance in 2006, so a case could be made for them living up to expectations. One could argue that the Griz should have been even better over the first quarter of this regular season. Yet in keeping track of team building, player development and coaching, the Griz are making discernable strides. The Griz won three of their past five contests, which included victories over a pair of opponents with a .670 winning percentage in Portland (away) and Dallas (home). Memphis takes a two-game winning streak and a season-high level of confidence into Tuesday's home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. 'If we play together we can play with anybody in the NBA,' second-year guard O.J. Mayo said. 'We're healthy and everyone is feeling good. We're going to continue to play hard and continue to win together.' "

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "The most important player on the Thunder’s roster through 19 games has been Jeff Green, the still unheralded third-year forward whose play the Thunder has either rallied behind or fallen flat because of. A simple deduction can now be made entering tonight’s game against Golden State. When Green plays well, the Thunder generally wins. When he underperforms, so too does OKC. In the Thunder’s 10 wins, Green is averaging 17 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists. In the team’s nine losses, Green has underwhelming averages of 11.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists. Green’s shooting percentages from the field, 3-point line and free throw line also are markedly better in wins. Only Green’s blocks and turnovers are better in losses. The statistics show Green, for better or for worse, has now evolved into the all-so important sidekick to Durant that he was projected to be when the franchise selected him fifth overall in 2007."

  • Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: "You learn something new every NBA game. On Saturday night, I learned that Dwight Howard spits on the ball. Every time a Warriors player went to the line to shoot two, after the first free-throw try, the Orlando Magic's massive center asked the ref for the ball, spit on it and flipped it back to the ref. Seriously. 'I'm just blowing on it,' Howard fibbed with a smile when I asked him about it after the game. 'I'm putting a spell on them.' The Warriors should have had coach Don Nelson spit on the ball when Howard went to the line. Nelson has pneumonia germs the size of house cats, but Typhoid Nellie started feeling better and better as his shorthanded Warriors hung with the mighty Magic before losing 126-118. It was a game Nelson enjoyed profoundly. The fans loved it, too, rocking Oracle Arena. Even though the Warriors played with a skeleton crew - or maybe because they played with a skeleton crew - they showed the team's true identity: This is a novelty act. Fast and furious, putting on a great show even while sitting well below .500."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "For more than 37 years, Al McCoy has spoken to Suns fans about their team. Suns fans have spent some of their more joyous and trying moments hanging onto the words of "The Voice of the Suns," and they have made him a family friend and local legend. Yet, they frequently have questions about his broadcasting career, including how he got his start, how he joined the Suns and how he came up with his catchphrases. 'Maybe this book will answer some questions,' he said. McCoy wrote the answers in 'The Real McCoy,' an autobiography expected to be sold at Fry's, Walgreens, Bashas' and the Suns' team shop at US Airways Center. Proceeds of the $24.95 book will go to Phoenix Suns Charities and the public library in Williams, Iowa, which is McCoy's hometown."

  • Tom Knott of The Washington Times: "The notion advanced by David Stern that a woman possibly will be playing in the NBA in the next 10 years is far-fetched if you consider the high level of strength, athleticism and skill that is required to advance to the game's highest rung. Yet the NBA commissioner told Sports Illustrated: 'I think that's well within the range of probability.' He did not mean a woman in the NBA as a publicity stunt, either. He meant one as a viable competitor. All this goes with Stern's forward-thinking approach to the game. He has pushed the game overseas. He has embraced the foreign imports to the NBA, the high number of which today would have been dismissed as unthinkable only a generation ago. And he introduced female referees to the NBA. Stern's political antenna always has been acute. But this potential offering is beyond the reality of the women's game. The women's game lags considerably behind the men's game. You do not have to watch more than a few minutes of a WNBA game to gauge the pronounced differences in size, speed, quickness and jumping ability."