First Cup: Wednesday

  • Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com: "Vinny Del Negro stood in front of the microphone at his postgame news conference in a daze. He stared at the numbers on the sheet in front of him and couldn't believe what he was seeing. Nets 103 Bulls 101. The Bulls head coach didn't speak for a few moments. What was he going to say? How was he going to explain that his team had just lost to the worst team in the NBA? How could he explain that the team's best player didn't get the ball when the game was on the line? What about his job security? The problem with a loss like the one the Bulls suffered on Tuesday night is that it's the kind of loss that brings all these bad questions to the forefront. It's the type of loss that sticks with a team for a while. And, most importantly, it's the type of loss that can get a coach fired."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "The Rockets' Chuck Hayes agreed with Bulls center Joakim Noah's complaints that LeBron James' on-court dancing exhibition last week was inappropriate. He also had an idea about how to handle it. 'Yeah (it was wrong), but if Joakim Noah and the Bulls have a problem with it, beat him, he won't dance,' Hayes said. 'I notice that the Cavs, they do all their sideline acts in the game when they're up big. When it's a close game, they don't do that. Make them respect you and they won't do it. To showboat another professional, it's disrespectful. If you feel disrespected, do something about it within the game, nothing dirty. Eventually, all the dancing and acting will stop. They only do it when they're up big.' Shane Battier, however, had another theory about why James danced. 'Dancing With The Stars is quite the platform to launch a career,' Battier said. 'Maybe, he's trying to launch a career. LeBron's a smart businessman. I wouldn't put anything past him.' "

  • Julian Garcia of the New York Daily News: "Dwindling playing time has Nets rookie Terrence Williams in a Twitter. And the result could be an even more diminished role. Williams, the Nets' top draft pick out of Louisville, used his Twitter account to voice his displeasure over his shrinking minutes and playing for the Nets in general, posting a message on Monday about what it would have been like had he been drafted by another team instead. 'How would it be if Mr. Stern called my name 10 min earlier,' tweeted Williams, who was chosen at No. 11 in June's draft. '#9 or 5 min later #12 hmmmmmmmmm to bad I can't live off what ifs.' .... In a different message, Williams wrote, 'Up early to the gym before practice to practice before practice, because NOW practice is my games.' Although there could be more serious consequences, Williams has already paid a price for exercising his right to free speech, taking a guided foot tour of the United Center with assistant coach Doug Overton Tuesday morning while his teammates shot around on the court. Williams jogged up flights of stairs and through sections of seats before being put through a series of sprints on the court."

  • Terry Foster of The Detroit News: "Tonight's Pistons game against the 76ers marks the 100-game anniversary of what can described as the best bad trade in team history. The formerly old and tired Pistons have a future. How bright? That remains to be seen. The recent additions of Charlie Villanueva, Ben Gordon and Austin Daye are creations of the Election Day trade that shocked Detroit and split a locker room. That was the day team leader Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess went to the Nuggets for guard Allen Iverson. The Pistons haven't been the same since because the trade was a disaster. But there could be a rainbow in the future -- if team president Joe Dumars can sign a big man to complement his talented guards and young forwards. Detroit faces Iverson tonight in his second game back from retirement when it travels to Philadelphia. On Thursday, Detroit hosts Denver and Billups. This trade marked disaster on the court but gave the Pistons financial flexibility to transition into the future by signing free agents Gordon and Villanueva and handing the point guard duties to Rodney Stuckey. 'We had gone on a seven- or eight-year run. That's an eternity in sports,' Dumars said. 'As much as we like to keep teams together for ten or 12 years that's not possible. You can start making those changes a little early or you can wait until it is too late. What I wasn't willing to do was wait until it was too late.' "

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "Oklahoma City was cold, San Antonio hostile, and none of those road hazards mattered. The Celtics thrived. But hit them with a supportive crowd and the benefit of home, and the Celtics play like uncomfortable guests. Then just as they appeared ready to pack their bags again, the Celtics pulled out their eighth straight win with last night’s 98-89 run past Milwaukee. This time they featured some unlikely moves -- namely, a 20-footer and 5-of-7 shooting from the line in the fourth quarter by Rajon Rondo, a player with issues in both areas. The Bucks were so aware of these perceived weaknesses, Charlie Bell appeared to intentionally foul Rondo with 4:42 left in the game, and the score tied at 86. Rondo hit both free throws -- a rarity unto itself -- and the Celtics broke out with a 7-0 run that included Rondo’s open jumper. 'Tonight was the first time I saw hack-a-Rondo,' C’s coach Doc Rivers said. 'That was an intentional foul, and he made them. He’s driving. It’s not like early on, when I thought he was driving and avoiding contact. He’s driving now and getting to the basket, whether or not he gets fouled.' "

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "The Knicks have won three straight games, all with Robinson on the bench. They are 0-9 when he plays at least 19 minutes and 7-6 when he plays 12 or fewer. The team’s success without him, and Coach Mike D’Antoni’s comments, suggest that Robinson’s status will not change anytime soon. It will surely come as a disappointment to some fans, especially younger ones, who have enjoyed watching Robinson dunk, shimmy and block shots of players a foot taller. There was a reason for the raucous, if ill-timed, 'We want Nate' chants during the Knicks’ victory over the Nets on Sunday. But winning trumps everything. There were no audible chants Monday night, when the Knicks soundly defeated the Portland Trail Blazers -- the third winning team they have knocked off in the last week. For the first time since early last season, the Knicks are showing signs of respectability and, not coincidentally, stability."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "The Mavericks' offense had been a complete dud for two games. So in walked fresh gunpowder in the form of Josh Howard. Howard's return from a month's absence to strengthen his surgically repaired left ankle was an unqualified success as his 20 points helped spring the Mavericks, and then Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki carried them to a hard-fought 102-101 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night at American Airlines Center. The Mavericks ended a two-game losing streak and sent the Suns to their fourth loss in five games. ... Mavs coach Rick Carlisle called Howard 'invaluable.' 'He's a remarkable athlete,' Carlisle said. 'He's put in an unbelievable amount of work the last month, and this shows you how important he is to our team. And he showed a lot of guts.' "

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Milwaukee dropped its eighth game in the last nine despite a 25-point, 14-rebound effort from center Andrew Bogut, who broke out of a three-game slump. But Bogut was upset about two late turnovers he committed as the Celtics finally pulled away behind Rondo and power forward Kevin Garnett, who finished with 25 points and nine rebounds. 'I played pretty decent but turned the ball over twice in crucial possessions and probably gave away the game,' said Bogut, who had seven of the Bucks' 20 turnovers. 'We battled for three quarters and the fourth quarter got away from us.' ... 'I think we're a good team,' Bogut said. 'We need to keep persisting. Michael Jordan is not going to come out of retirement to play for us or LeBron James is not going to be traded here. The group we've got in this locker room is the group we've got. There's no excuses; we're not waiting on anybody. We need to go out there and perform, and I think we'll turn a corner. We just need to keep working.' "

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "The offense, which has been so good lately, completely let them down tonight. The defense had trouble in the second half, giving up 53 percent shooting. But part of this was the easy baskets they allowed off all the turnovers. Also, frankly, Randolph and Mayo made some tough shots. They are good players and they deserve some credit. It was my opinion that once Gasol got his fourth foul and Hollins left him in the game early in the third quarter, the Cavs tried too hard to feed Shaq and it disrupted the offense. I asked Mike, LeBron and Shaq this question and they disagreed with me. Perhaps I am wrong, but what I saw was a lack of creativity in trying to get him the ball yet a laser focus on forcing it. It allowed the Grizzlies to devote three men to handle two players -- Shaq and whoever was trying to pass him the ball. Sure, Shaq eventually went to the bench but the dye was cast. The offense had stopped moving and all the turnovers -- Mo had three just trying to get Shaq the ball in various ways -- made them tenative."

  • Michael Wallace of The Miami Herald: "When it comes to age and experience on the Heat's roster, Dorell Wright is sort of a statistical anomaly. Eleven of 15 players on the team are older than Wright. Yet only two have been in Miami longer. If you have to be reminded that Wright was even a member of the Heat's championship team in 2006, you're not alone. That's part of the reason veteran power forward Udonis Haslem jokes that Wright, who celebrated a birthday two weeks ago, might be the oldest 24-year-old in the league. 'When you think about all he's been through and all of the years he's been here, it's hard to believe he's that young,' Haslem said. 'He's been down with injuries for a while, but I definitely see he's getting it back. The rebounding, dunking, blocking shots are there. Now, it's a matter of doing it all consistently.' "

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel: "They have been teammates for seven years, longer than any previous Heat players. As long as Russell and Cousy were teammates in Boston. Longer than Frazier and Monroe were teammates in New York. Longer than Gail Goodrich and Jerry West shared time in the Lakers' backcourt. When they entered the NBA as rookies in 2003, they never envisioned such a lasting relationship, not with pedigrees so different, power forward Udonis Haslem the longshot from the French League, guard Dwyane Wade the No. 5 lottery pick from Marquette. Yet, as they sit here, alongside one another on adjacent wooden stools at the Heat's practice court at AmericanAirlines Arena, it is clear they are more than teammates. They are partners, friends, family. They know each other so well. Based on their laughter, banter and smiles, perhaps too well. As they answer questions about their bond, additional Heat staffers begin to draw closer. The candor between these teammates is rare, refreshing, revealing."

  • Ken Sugiura of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "When Mike Woodson watches the Oklahoma City Thunder, he sees the Atlanta Hawks. Young, athletic and stockpiled with first-round picks, the Thunder may not yet be ready to compete in the stacked Western Conference. Woodson hopes they get the chance. 'You see teams a lot of times that panic and give up too soon and they trade all their young players away to try to win now,' Woodson said. 'I've seen that happen, but that hasn't happened here.' Since Woodson's hire in 2004, the Hawks have given fans plenty of opportunities to panic, if not lose all hope. They lost a team-record 69 games in Woodson's first season, misfired in the draft and saw their postseason drought extend to eight seasons before breaking through in 2008. Woodson acknowledges he 'could have easily been sent somewhere else.' However, the Hawks have stuck with their plan to keep and develop an athletic core of young players, starting with guard Joe Johnson, forward Josh Smith and center Al Horford. At 14-6, they have the team's best record after 20 games in 12 seasons and have racked up wins over strongholds such as Boston, Portland and Denver. Saturday, they won in Dallas for the first time since Woodson's hiring. The Hawks have demanded the NBA's attention."

  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: "The Lakers have won nine consecutive games and will try for their 10 th in a row when they play host to the Utah Jazz tonight at Staples Center. 'I don't know if it's a bellwether game,' Derek Fisher said. 'It might be a weather game. I don't know about a bell game. It got awful cold pretty freaking quick,' The snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains served as a reminder Tuesday that the early part of the season is history and more significant games are looming ahead. The Lakers have been challenged only once during their nine-game streak, pulling out a one-point victory over the Miami Heat on Friday, when Bryant banked home the winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. Otherwise, it's been a gentle glide recently."

  • Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "With the snow that greeted them on the drive to practice Tuesday morning, the Jazz could be forgiven for feeling as if they couldn't wait to get on the plane to Los Angeles later in the day in advance of tonight's game against the Lakers. Whether they'll be just as ready to head home, however, after facing the defending champions remains to be seen. Having eliminated the Jazz from the playoffs the past two seasons, the Lakers (16-3) provide a towering measuring stick. They fortified their lineup with the free-agent signing of Ron Artest and are riding a nine-game winning streak dating to a Nov. 15 loss to Houston. 'You look at our league,' Carlos Boozer said, 'they've got to be at the top of the charts for a team that you play against that you get a chance to see if you're a championship-caliber team or not. We had an early test like that against Boston that we failed miserably up there. This will be our second chance to play one of the last two champions and see how we measure up early in the season, which for us is a huge test because we know how much we've got to continue to improve whether we win or lose.' "

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "If Spurs coach Gregg Popovich thought there was any truth to disgraced referee Tim Donaghy's allegations that NBA whistle-tooters routinely let personal bias rule their on-court judgment, he would walk away from the game. 'A lot of people have worked very hard over the years to bring this sport to where it is right now,' Popovich said. 'For anybody to think that it is not on the up and up really is offensive. If I thought it wasn't on the up and up and I didn't have any control over outcomes, I wouldn't be doing it. It would be kind of a waste of time.' This is precisely the ongoing problem David Stern and the NBA have with the league's image since Donaghy was revealed as a ref who bet on games. Far too many of the NBA's fans believed the refs were crookedbefore his conviction on federal felony charges. For Donaghy now to feed those fears with allegations he made on '60 Minutes' and ESPN's 'Outside the Lines' makes some fans believe the games are wasted time."

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "According to Rasheed Wallace, the NBA won’t have to wait until the Mayan calendar’s prediction of 2012 for its apocalypse. He believes the wagering on games by convicted referee Tim Donaghy is part of a larger problem that will rock the league. Donaghy has said he knows of no other official who bet, but noted he received information from fellow refs and made his selections based on what he knew to be their tendencies. 'I always said to myself and had the thing that there’s no way that the things that he did he could do them by himself,' Wallace said. 'I always said that. It’s virtually impossible. The things that he’s been accused of, there’s no way, to me, in my opinion, he could have done those things by himself.' Asked if he thinks other officials were betting, Wallace said, 'Possibly.' ... Wallace has been watching Donaghy make the rounds to promote his book, noting the disgraced ref’s claims are what 'I’ve been saying for years.' In an ESPN interview, Donaghy said Wallace, the single-season record-holder for technical fouls, has been a target for referees. 'Everybody thought I was a liar and a militant,' Wallace said. 'but now the truth is coming out.' "