First Cup: Thursday

  • DwightJaynes.com: "I thought by now we were finished with all this garbage. But it looks to me as if it’s still Brandon Roy vs. Andre Miller -- with Coach Nate McMillan caught somewhere in the middle. And frankly, this is ridiculous stuff coming from the captain of your team. It’s one thing for Roy to want the ball more -- in my experience, the stars always do But point No. 1 is this: I’m not sure, in the long run, that’s what’s best for this team. We’ve seen it in the playoffs now two years in a row -- you run those isolations for Roy in the postseason and it’s pretty easy to stop. And Portland is suddenly lost. Point No. 2 is even more serious: Even if Roy is justified, I think it’s very wrong for a player in a leadership position to bring this up to the media. If he’s not happy with his touches, I don’t think Oregonlive, Blazers Edge or any of the local TV stations can do much to help him. That isn’t stuff for public consumption. But spreading his concerns to the media -- and through them to the fans -- opens the door for controversy, something this team doesn’t need. And Brandon Roy has been around long enough to know better."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "While LeBron James' injury kept him off the court against Chris Paul, it still afforded an opportunity to spend time with one of his closest friends. 'My relationship goes beyond basketball,' James said of the Hornets All-Star point guard. 'He's the godfather of one of my kids. He was at the birth of both of my kids. We go all the way back to 11th grade in high school. I spend a lot of time in Winston-Salem, where he's from, and coming to Akron, Ohio, where I'm from. We've got a very, very close bond. We talk every day.' There had been offseason rumblings of Paul eventually trying to place himself in his own Big Three, similar to what James has found on the Heat with Wade and Chris Bosh. 'His situation in New Orleans is good. I can only wish him the best,' James said. 'It's a great city for him to be in.' "

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "Wednesday night was a warm-up, a friendly first date between Amar'e Stoudemire and hisadoring new audience at Madison Square Garden. It was a promising start to the relationship between the desperate fan base and the $100 million star. Stoudemire, who joined the Knicks in July with a big contract and a big proclamation, began fulfilling his vow. He dunked a little, preened a little and smiled a lot, scoring 30 points in his Garden debut, as the Knicks lost to the Boston Celtics, 104-101, in a preseason game. It was Stoudemire’s third game in a Knicks uniform, but his first in New York. Stoudemire said he was not trying to put on a show -- 'just playing hard, trying to win' -- but he could sense the anticipation in the building, most of it directed at him. 'They’re waiting for a good product on the basketball court,' he said, 'and I think so far, so good.' "

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: "Unquestionably, the 2008 championship and Finals MVP award changed the perception of Paul Pierce throughout the NBA and especially in Boston. The only drama he presents now involves his occasional dramatic reactions to injuries and swift comebacks. This summer, he married longtime girlfriend Julie Landrum and returned to Boston in a reflective mood. With another NBA Finals appearance on his résumé, Pierce has taken a step back, inhaled, and understands his place in a city that celebrates its legends, especially those who never left. Pierce is in the same category as Tom Brady, whose career has been defined by his loyalty and accomplishments. Perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence both signed lucrative extensions within months of each other, securing their places in team and city history. 'It means everything to me,’ Pierce said. 'When I cement my legacy in the game of basketball, just staying with one team, that’s everything for me. I’m happy for the opportunity. Not a lot of players get a chance to do it, especially in this era. I’ve been expressing it the past five, six, or seven years that I wanted to be here for life, and now I have the opportunity to.’ The youngest of the Big Three has learned from Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. He no longer needed to be the lone face of the franchise. Sharing resulted in winning, and more personal respect."

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "If the guard known as the Brazilian Blur does nothing else this season other than teach young teammates how to best use their athleticism, it will be fine with Jay Triano. 'Sonny (Weems) and DeMar (DeRozan) have (the speed) but they don’t have the experience that Leandro has in chasing and getting up and pressuring the basketball,' Triano said. 'That’s kind of one of the things hopefully they learned from playing against him and learn from watching him do. I think that they both have the talent to do it, they’re both working at it.' They will have to go a long way to match what Barbosa has. Despite the coach’s suggestion, the 6-foot-3, 175-pounder is by far the quickest Raptor today and may be the fastest in team history. He logged 35 minutes in Wednesday’s game, finished with 16 points and six rebounds and was as fresh at the start as he was at the end. 'His speed is the thing and he has been in that situation before,' Triano said of the seven-year NBA veteran."

  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Nine years filled with brilliant passing, praise-worthy defense and loaded statistical lines. Nine years’ worth of mood swings, confidence catastrophes and mental shakeups. Nine years. One team. Andrei Kirilenko and the Utah Jazz have been inseparable since 2001. Question marks and injuries have nearly divided them. Superlatives and the unforgettable knowledge that there is no one quite like AK in the NBA -- haircuts included -- have united them. But after nine long, unpredictable years, Kirilenko and the Jazz are still together. And despite being near the center of a chaotic 48 hours less than three weeks ago -- when Kirilenko was rumored to be on his way to Denver as part of a blockbuster trade involving the Nuggets’ Carmelo Anthony -- the 6-foot-9, 227-pound forward from St. Petersburg, Russia said that Salt Lake City still feels like home. Moreover, Kirilenko acknowledged that the Jazz will receive top billing once his contract expires at the end of the 2010-11 season. 'I grew up here as a man,' said Kirilenko, who is set to make $17.8 million this year. 'My kids grew up here. I know everything -- there is no sense to change.' "

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "Ben Gordon has a unique an unusual perspective on the NBA’s new technical foul rules. ... 'I’m all for it, and I think it will make the game go a lot smoother,' Gordon said when he was asked about the new guidelines after Tuesday’s practice. 'There are times when guys are complaining a bit excessively. It kind of slows the game down. It messes with the flow of the game.' Gordon even said it might help him. 'I won’t struggle with it, but I’m hoping some guys who are used to arguing with refs and trying to beg for calls and stuff, hopefully it will affect their game a little bit more,' Gordon added. “It will give me an extra edge.' The league also has upped the ante when it comes to fines. The first five technicals cost $2,000 each, then it’s $3,000 for the next five and $4,000 for Nos. 11-15. At 16, a player is suspended one game for every two technicals and receives a $5,000 fine."

  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: "Center Omer Asik is a player. Since drafting Toni Kukoc in 1990, the Bulls haven't had great success with international big men (see Dragan Tarlac, Dalibor Bagaric, Martynas Andriuskevicius). So when the team billed Asik as the equivalent of a 2010 lottery pick two years ago, some reporters might have been slightly skeptical. Well, the early signs have been promising. The 7-foot Asik, who started for Turkey at the FIBA World Championships last month, has been tall, mobile and ready for NBA competition. In the last two games, Asik has averaged 9 points and 9 rebounds in limited minutes. His free-throw shooting (41 percent) has room to improve, but overall the Bulls have reason to be very encouraged. 'He's hungry to become a big-time player in this league," teammate Joakim Noah said of Asik. 'As long as he stays humble and hungry and driven, I think it's going to get a little scary when he's right.' "

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Under construction for years, Otis Smith made the declaration on Wednesday. 'We've changed the culture now,' he told me. 'You have to recognize when it's built and stop and back away.' Smith's work is done. Well, at least the hardest part, the part many general managers never manage to pull off, much less get right. Here we have the unveiling of a winning atmosphere, the Magic way of doing things, a culture that can breed championships. How to work, how to play. I know what Magic fans are probably thinking: OK, Otis, show us the title! And you know what? Otis wholeheartedly agrees. 'Now we need the title,' he said. 'We have the culture. We have enough talent. We have zero excuses.' What's the big deal about the environment? Only everything. It's the difference between the Yankees and Mets, Patriots and Raiders, Celtics and Clippers, Charlie Sheen and Charlie's Angels. Players come and go --- and the clueless ones should go first in your long-range blueprints. Winning cultures endure, from the telegraph to Twitter. And that's what Smith feels he has at long last accomplished in HIS building."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Toronto fans have a lot of disdain for Hedo Turkoglu, never feeling a connection with him last season. But his explanation of the back stiffness that sidelined him Tuesday for Phoenix seems relatable for the everyman. 'It happens sometimes when I watch TV in the wrong position, laying on the sofa or couch,' Turkoglu said. 'It just stiffens up. It got hit (Tuesday) and I was on the bench. It just got tighter. Maybe if I tried to loosen up a little bit, maybe I could've gone too. They just didn't want me to force it. (Wednesday), I tried in the morning and I was feeling better.' Turkoglu expected to play in tonight's preseason game at Utah, where Alvin Gentry plans to again use some of a real-look rotation."

  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: "Perhaps no one is in a better position to evaluate Warriors guard Monta Ellis than teammate Andris Biedrins. He has seen Ellis at every stage of his career and seen him mature from a rookie who hardly spoke to the boisterous presence he is now. Biedrins is amazed by the difference. 'He's been changed,' Biedrins said. 'He's totally different. He's happy about the team. He's really stepped it up. I'm really happy about him. It's just a joy to be his teammate.' Is this really Monta Ellis, the same disgruntled player from last season who was the subject of monthly trade rumors and closed-door meetings with management? Ellis insists his demeanor is no big deal, even if it's obvious how big a deal it really is. For the first time since he can remember, Ellis is at ease. For the first time in his NBA career he has nothing to worry about, no reason to complain, no drama robbing his attention. Ellis is at peace. On the court and off. 'It's a new beginning,' he said. 'It's a new feel. A new vibe. Back to having fun.' Perhaps most of the credit goes to his wife, Juanika, whom Ellis married in July."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Think no good comes from being swept out of the playoffs? Larry Brown and his players disagree. Keep in mind, Charlotte Bobcats coach Brown is no false optimist. He certainly wasn't sugar-coating the experience of losing all four playoff games last season to the Orlando Magic. But he says all that will be valuable in ways both obvious and subtle. They got extra practice, they saw what it would take to beat an elite team in the post-season, and their flaws were illustrated in a way more telling than any scouting report could. The Bobcats play the Magic again Thursday night in Orlando, and obviously the stakes have diminished. This is a preseason game. That was the Bobcats' first playoff appearance. Brown compared the Orlando series to a young college team reaching the NCAA tournament. 'If you're Duke or (North) Carolina, that's every year,' Brown said. 'You get an extra four weeks of practice, every game you play is a meaningful game and you're playing against great teams. So whatever weakness you have, they're gonna take advantage of it. You understand what it takes to get to the next level.' "

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "The Thunder's fourth exhibition game in 2010 will go down as the franchise's first ever preseason game against an international opponent. It's sandwiched in the middle of Oklahoma City's seven-game exhibition schedule and will be the Thunder's first game played inside the soon-to-be-renamed Ford Center this season. So how did tonight's contest come about? In a nutshell, the game represents one small step the NBA has taken to continue to build its brand beyond the boundaries of the United States. The league opened an office in Moscow last month, making its location one of 16 offices in markets worldwide. The ribbon-cutting ceremony came on the heels of Mikhail Prokhorov this summer becoming the first Russian NBA owner when he acquired principle interest in the New Jersey Nets. CSKA Moscow, which Prokhorov previously owned, has come to the U.S. for a three-city exhibition tour, concluding its trip at Cleveland on Saturday. For the Thunder, the game presents an opportunity to branch out of the norm."

  • Janet Cho of The Plain Dealer: "It was horrible timing by a company called Perfect Timing Inc. The Wisconsin company printed and shipped a 2011 Cleveland Cavaliers calendar featuring LeBron James on the cover -- then James quit the Cavs in a live ESPN broadcast July 8. Needless to say, the $14.99 calendar is not selling in Cleveland. Not even collectors -- people who might value an unopened James calendar -- are buying his merchandise here. But James' brand remains marketable in other parts of the country, where he's become an even larger national figure, said Tina Facca, assistant professor of marketing at John Carroll University's Boler School of Business. 'Some collectors may still want to revel in the team's heyday,' she said. 'Those products will still sell' -- just not in Cleveland. Perfect Timing quickly revised its Cavs calendar to feature Mo Williams on the cover, but the original Turner Licensing NBA calendar is still for sale in several stores."