First Cup: Wednesday

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Gilbert Arenas was asked after the game what he feared more, law enforcement or David Stern? 'Stern is mean,' Arenas said. 'I think he may make his decision before [the legal process plays out]. Most likely he's getting a lot of pressure, because of all the stories going around, to act. ... I've looked at some of the charges brought against other people and they were [suspended] three to five games.' The stiffest gun-related penalty Stern has handed out was a seven-game suspension for Stephen Jackson, who pleaded guilty to one count of felony criminal recklessness after firing five shots in a dispute outside an Indianapolis strip club. Arenas said it is easy for him to stay calm through this tumultuous period. 'If I really did something wrong, I would feel remorse in what I did, but I didn't do anything,' he said. 'You can slander me, or whatever, it doesn't matter. I'm still alive. I'm playing basketball. I'll take all the hits right now. The truth is there; there is no point in getting angry and mad,' Arenas said. 'At the end of the day, all that I want is a sorry. It can be small print. Maybe just one person do it, for slandering me. Because you guys have no idea.' "

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: "OK, Larry Bird. Your mess, your time to clean it up. Everybody knows Bird, the Indiana Pacers president, has absolutely no desire to leave his office and coach the motley collection of talent he has cobbled together for this lost 2009-10 season. But he has no real choice, not as his team continues to circle the drain, losing by 20 points, playing with neither pride nor passion. ... Bird needs to fire coach Jim O'Brien now -- even though, truth be told, this isn't completely O'Brien's fault. Bird needs to install himself as the coach. His mess, his cleanup. Larry, bring your ShamWow and some extra bleach. This isn't going to be pleasant."

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Stan Van Gundy's search for answers has begun. The Orlando Magic coach says he'll consider playing different guys. He'll look at putting different combinations on the court. He'll try to figure out how to ignite his team's offense. He reached that conclusion as a horrid road trip ended Tuesday night with his Orlando Magic losing 97-90 to the lowly, injury-ravaged Indiana Pacers. 'Look, we're just playing terrible,' Van Gundy said. 'Offensively, it's just really bad right now. We can't score. We cannot score. I don't know. I need to look at everything.' Winning on the road in the NBA is supposed to be tough, but not this tough. Not when your opponent was missing key contributors Danny Granger, Troy Murphy, Jeff Foster and Tyler Hansbrough because of injury or illness. Not when your opponent entered the night having lost nine of its last 10 games. Not when just 11,119 fans showed up at Conseco Fieldhouse."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "No, this is not the same Skip to My Lou who so energized the Heat in 2003-04, when he played as a backup point guard to a certain rookie by the name of Dwyane Wade. And he still can take the wrong shot at the wrong time. But he has been itching for a South Florida reunion ever since signing that free-agent contract with the Raptors in 2004. Is it fair to Arroyo? No, probably not, based on what the Heat has done since he has been elevated into the starting lineup. But it would leave Chalmers as the backup to a short-timer, still with the opportunity to eventually reemerge as a starter. From the moment the Heat signed Arroyo, there were no guarantees. He certainly has been the good soldier."

  • Phil Miller of the Star Tribune: "Brian Cardinal has earned nearly $40 million in the past decade playing basketball, and this season makes $82,000 per game, mostly watching from the inactive list. It's a fantastic gig, and he knows it. Everyone does. 'Every player in the league would tell you, [the paycheck] is unimaginable,' Cardinal said. 'It's the best job in the world.' One with some odd trade-offs, however. Several players around the league are being reminded of that as Sunday's deadline for players' contracts to be guaranteed for the rest of the season approaches. Once a player signs that contract, that piece of paper essentially becomes his identity. These days, it seems, the majority of NBA trades are about shuffling salaries and swapping contractual burdens. Which can be a jarring reality. 'Coming out of college, you feel like everything is about the team, like it's a family,' said guard Alando Tucker, traded to Minnesota by Phoenix last week as part of the Suns' effort to reduce their luxury-tax bill. 'When you get into the league, you have to understand you're just a commodity. You have to numb your feelings to it.'

  • Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News: "The look on Ben Wallace's face was priceless. It's as if he had just sipped a warm glass of sour milk, as Wallace pursed his lips, shifted his eyes and his body twitched and recoiled. A reporter had just asked Wallace about the fragile state of the Pistons. Ben Wallace, for one, may be a lot of things but he's not fragile. And Wallace doesn't like the team he plays for to be thought of as fragile. 'Fragile,' repeated Wallace, the word sinking in. 'You keep using the word fragile. I don't really understand fragile. When I see that word it's on a shipping package, this side up.' Using the word fragile in association with the Pistons these days is understandable. A lengthy losing streak, slipping out of the playoff picture, and a roster in transition will do that. But Wallace, one of the bedrocks of the organization, isn't having any of it. 'We just have to get out and be consistent and play basketball,' Wallace said in his no-nonsense approach."

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "For the Pistons, the beginning of the end of an era came Nov. 4, 2008, when team president Joe Dumars orchestrated a point-guard swap with Denver. Billups became a Nugget. Allen Iverson came to Detroit, in an ill-fated experiment to determine how many ball-dominating shooters a team could employ at once. Also sent to Denver -- briefly, and for bookkeeping purposes -- was McDyess. McDyess didn't play a game for Denver, accepting a buyout and re-signing with Detroit for the balance of the season. But the Pistons as he'd known them were no more. Detroit snuck into the playoffs as the eighth seed, only to be swept by Cleveland in the first round. A few months later, McDyess and Rasheed Wallace left for free agency. With the Billups deal, McDyess said, Detroit 'broke up all chemistry.' 'I really didn't understand the logic of that trade,' he said. 'I guess they were in a rebuilding stage, and it's showing now.' Asked if he would still be in Detroit if Billups were still there, McDyess said, 'I think I would.' "

  • Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star: "With Jarrett Jack as the starting No. 1, the Raptors, for various reasons not excluding a favourable schedule, have carved out a win-loss record of 8-5. True, their grasp on near-respectability is tenuous. But Jose Calderon, if he made the moment about himself, could make the argument, as Ford did, that he shouldn't lose his starting gig on account of an injury, and he'd have a point. He didn't make the point. Jay Triano, the Raptors coach, said he won't start Calderon in Wednesday's game against the Magic – 'I'm not going to disrupt the unit that we have right now,' the coach said – and Calderon wasn't exactly fuming. 'It's Jay's call. I'm ready to help the team, and keep winning games,' said Calderon on Tuesday. 'If I've got to be coming from the bench the first two, three, four, five games, or whatever, it's Jay's call. He's the coach.' Both Calderon and Jack spent Tuesday saying all the right things, that it's the coach's decision, that they'll do what's required. Far more telling, of course, will be the on-court performance of the group as Calderon works his way back into the fold."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown doubts his team would have won this game a month ago. His players didn't see that as an indictment of what they were, but rather an endorsement of what they are - confident, cohesive, resilient. 'We have more control,' Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace (32 points, nine rebounds) said after a 113-108 home victory against the Chicago Bulls. 'There's not so much panic, not so much anxiety. When they make a shot, we expect to go down and make a shot. And then make a stop.' "

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "The Daily News has learned that Magic Johnson's request for comp tickets to a Knicks game last month was rejected due in part to his criticism of Isiah Thomas, the team's former president and head coach, who remains close to Garden chairman James Dolan. The Knicks would neither confirm nor deny that Johnson was told that they wouldn't provide him with a ticket to the team's Dec. 7 game against Portland. A person close to the team says that when the Knicks didn't respond to Johnson's request immediately, the Hall of Famer later called the club to let it know that he had made other plans. A league source, however, contends that the club was reluctant to give Johnson a ticket because the Knicks were upset with the former Laker and didn't want to create a media firestorm at the Garden in the wake of his controversial comments relating to Thomas. In the recently released book about Johnson and Larry Bird entitled 'When the Game Was Ours,' Magic reveals that he was partly responsible for keeping Thomas off the 1992 Olympic Dream Team."

  • Jim Peltz of the Los Angeles Times: "Nine is enough -- and surely 10 is too many. Or so the Clippers believe as they try to end a streak of nine consecutive losses to the Lakers when the teams meet tonight at Staples Center in a Clippers home game. The Lakers swept all four games from the Clippers in each of the last two seasons, and the reigning NBA champions also won on opening day this season, 99-92, on Oct. 27. But the Clippers trailed by only one point through three quarters of that last game. And several Clippers said Tuesday that they're confident they can finally topple the Lakers if they play to their full potential, even though the Lakers have the best record in the league. 'We can beat anybody, we can beat the Lakers,' center Chris Kaman said after the Clippers practiced at their Playa Vista training facility. 'The thing is, we have to play our best, we have to play our game the way we're capable of playing it,' he said. Clippers point guard Baron Davis said the key to defeating the Lakers is 'heart.' "

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "Joel Litvin, the league’s president of basketball operations, said, 'we don’t separate player from agent.’ It is an interesting new twist in the N.B.A.’s longstanding rules on player speech -– one the union is contesting. But the league considers this a practical matter: If agents are free to make trade demands, rip referees or criticize coaches, then the N.B.A.’s player-conduct rules are rendered meaningless. ... If Nate Robinson wants to blame someone else for the fine, he should talk to Shaquille O’Neal, Vince Carter, Baron Davis, Tracy McGrady, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Peja Stojakovic and Ruben Patterson. All issued trade demands during the 2004-5 season, and the league considered it an embarrassment. So league officials took the matter to the bargaining table in 2005, notifying the union that trade demands would now fall under a player misconduct provision in the N.B.A. constitution. 'Our view is that a player who goes public with a trade demand negatively affects the identification of fans with the player’s team,’ Litvin said."