First Cup: Thursday

  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: "Warriors coach Keith Smart said before the season opener that his team's calling card would be teamwork. The reason, Smart said, was the Warriors 'don't have that dominant guy.' Wednesday night, however, guard Monta Ellis begged to differ. So might the Houston Rockets. Ellis scored 46 points, tying his NBA high, while leading the Warriors to a 132-128 season-opening win over the Yao Ming-less Rockets (0-2) at Oracle Arena. 'I'm just happy we got the win,' said Ellis, who made 18 of 24 shots. 'It was just one of those games where shots were going in early on and they just kept falling.' Wednesday marked Golden State's first season-opening victory since 2005, when it routed visiting Atlanta under then-coach Mike Montgomery. The Warriors had lost their previous four openers, including a one-point loss to visiting Houston last year."

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "I have covered the Cavaliers since 1996, and I'm not sure I've covered a more important game that their 95-87 victory over the Boston Celtics on opening night Wednesday night at The Q. If they had lost, we'd all have written, well, it's the Celtics after all. Defending Eastern Conference champions and all that. But to be able to rally against the Celtics and prove to the fans -- and to themselves -- that there really is life -- and success -- after LeBron James was major. I know the Celtics are old and that they played the night before. But that's missing the point. The Cavs are young. They're still learning this offense. They're going to have to play hard every minute because, on most nights, other teams are going to have better -- and often taller -- talent. They are going to take their lumps. But from an emotional standpoint, they had to have this victory to get over the summer-long hangover. Byron Scott admitted the team was nervous and anxious in the first half. That was exactly how their fans felt. But now everybody can exhale and get on with things. It was loud in The Q on Wednesday night. It was fun. Life goes on and, finally, the Cavs can get on with it."

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: "The Celtics were force-fed a valuable lesson in humility last night at Quicken Loans Arena. The Celtics arrived in Cleveland still buzzing from their impressive and emotionalvictory over the new-look Miami Heat Tuesday night, and believing a mediocre effort against a lesser team would be enough. And deep into the third quarter, they were correct. The Celtics dominated the first few minutes of the second half, built an 11-point lead, and waited for the LeBron James-less Cavaliers to fold. But in the final 15 minutes of the game, the Celtics’ arrogance came back to haunt them. The predominantly jump-shooting Cavaliers began finding a rhythm. Daniel Gibson, relegated to a bench player the last two years, knocked down a pair of 3-pointers. And finally, the Celtics lost their composure and eventually the game, 95-87, in front of a sellout crowd of 20,562 eager to see the Cavaliers move on without James. .... Doc Rivers already has seen enough in two games to determine that the Celtics are a very good team, but lack consistency. 'When we got a lead, you could see us relax, you could feel it,’ he said. 'It’s more the mental toughness part as a group. I didn’t like the way we played for a lot of the game. We’re a better team than that.’ "

  • Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Even by the second quarter, the fan holding the sign, 'Cleveland Will Never Forget,' couldn't sustain the venom. When LeBron James entered the game, the fan held the sign a few seconds then dropped it to his side. Spent. Done. Bored. It's all so temporary, this typecasting of James as America's villain. The booing of him in Boston Tuesday night had no hatred behind it. The booing Wednesday night in Philadelphia was pro forma treatment of an opposing superstar. In other words, it's already time to move on to the fascinating subject about LeBron: LeBron as point guard. 'Man, he's Magic [Johnson], isn't he?' Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said after the Heat's 97-87 win. 'That's who he reminds me of.' That's the name Heat President Pat Riley invoked this summer upon meeting James, the same meeting Riley set a sack of championship rings on the table and said, 'Try one on.' "

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "The Heat certainly aren't bending over backward to LeBron James. Sources say trainer Mike Mancias and former Cavs liaison Randy Mims, who followed James to South Beach, aren't allowed to fly on the Heat's team jet to away games. Neither was hired by the Heat."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "Part of George Karl's desire to not overdo things this season is handing off more tasks to his assistant coaches. That started before Wednesday night's season opener against the Jazz, when he allowed assistant Chad Iske to write the game plan on the dry erase board in the Nuggets' locker room at the Pepsi Center. 'It was the first time in my life I didn't do the board,' Karl said. 'I think I write a lot on the board, (but) I want you to know Chad Iske destroyed the board. Talk about taking opportunity and grabbing it.' "

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "In a variety of ways Wednesday, Blake Griffin made you believe. During a brief welcome speech before the game, he flashed a huge grin for the fans. After a brief lockup in the third quarter, he angrily stared down Andre Miller. Griffin was more than strong, more than skilled, he was also entertaining, and when is the last time the Clippers have had someone who could even make you smile? He was so much fun that even his teammates became giddy, as evidenced by a second attempted alley-oop pass thrown to him by Davis -- from the other foul line. When he left the floor in the final moments of the first half, several fans even gave him a standing ovation and, yeah, we've all sort of been waiting for this."

  • John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Sure it was only one game, a game the Sixers lost, but Evan Turner's performance in his first real NBA game afforded Sixers fans an opportunity to exhale. Fair or not, there have been concerns about Turner, the second overall pick in the 2010 draft. And then there was his disappointing performance in the Orlando Summer League. And much of the talk coming out of Sixers training camp has been about the struggles Turner has had making the transition from being a primary ball-handler to playing without it in his hands. ESPN the Magazine recently lit up Turner in its NBA preview, with four of its five experts tagging him as the biggest bust in the draft. Criticism has been a bit harsh on a kid who hadn't played a meaningful game since Ohio State was eliminated from the 2010 NCAA Tournament. One night isn't likely to change many minds, but when that one night is the first night of Turner's NBA career, it has to ease some concerns."

  • Jason Jones of the The Sacramento Bee: "Midway through the fourth quarter, the Kings looked as if they were about to falter, as they did in many of their 57 losses last season. There were plenty of reasons to do so. They were on the road. They didn't have Tyreke Evans to save the day. And they were missing free throws at a rate that could have led to another close loss. But things were different during Wednesday's season-opening game. The Kings threw the ball inside to their prized draft pick, DeMarcus Cousins, he made plays, and the Kings beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 117-116 at Target Center. The Kings trailed 100-98 with 5:32 left when Cousins came through with two free throws to tie the score. He scored five points in a little more than a minute to help stabilize things and allow the rest of the Kings to get going again and eventually put away Minnesota. 'DeMarcus has fantastic poise,' Kings coach Paul Westphal said. 'The tougher it gets, the more faith I have in him. His mind wanders a little bit early in the game or when he's not challenged. But he really makes plays when you need him the most.' "

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "Talk about a tone-setter. Somewhere in the Oklahoma City Thunder's film room should be a special spot for Game 1 of the 2010-11 NBA season, a place so prominent it sits on display like a trophy piece. Because what transpired in the final 12 minutes of the team's 106-95 season-opening victory over Chicago could very well serve as the definitive blueprint for this club's success this year. And it started with one simple edict. Just before the start of the fourth quarter, Scott Brooks huddled his team around and commanded it to do something it couldn't do all night. The Thunder coach ordered three straight defensive stops. Mind you, the Bulls spent the first three quarters shooting 50 percent while bullying the Thunder on the offensive glass and watching their star point guard deliver a superb performance that the Thunder couldn't seem to counter if the game stretched eight more quarters. But when the horn sounded for the start of the final period, the Thunder's defense came alive. One by one, Thunder players pitched in."

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The Hawks turned back Memphis' third-quarter rally with just enough defense and all kinds of offense and went on to a dominating 119-104 victory. It was an impressive debut for under new coach Larry Drew, whose goals include developing the Hawks into a team that can win big away from Philips Arena. 'I always look at it as a real time to grow as a team,' Drew said. 'Playing at home there is a slight tendency to let your guard down because you fall into a comfort level. When you go on the road, it's you against the road. It kind of forces you to grow up.' No doubt the Hawks won't always look this good for their remaining 81 games. But in their debut they showed few shades of the disorganized, mentally suspect team that regularly squandered second-half leads on the road last season."

  • Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com: "When he has fresh legs, the old man is still a premier point guard. Jason Kidd proved that during Wednesday night’s 101-86 season-opening win over the Charlotte Bobcats. He stuffed the stat sheet with 12 points (5-8 FG), 18 assists, three steals and only one turnover. But Kidd’s favorite number in his line was the first. He played 31:46, and he hopes that’s the beginning of a trend. 'If I’m playing 31 minutes and we’re winning, maybe we should have tried that a long time ago,' said Kidd, a 37-year-old who was out of gas in the playoffs after averaging 36.0 minutes per game last season. If Kidd keeps playing like this, it’ll be a lot easier for coach Rick Carlisle to limit his minutes. He can rest comfortably on the bench for the final few minutes when the Mavs have a double-digit lead. However, the Mavs will have to get better play from their bench for that to happen on a regular basis. They outscored the Bobcats by 30 with Kidd on the floor. The Mavs were outscored by 19 with J.J. Barea playing point guard."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Someday, the housing market will recover. Someday, they’ll produce a car that runs on tap water. And maybe someday ... The Charlotte Bobcats will beat the Dallas Mavericks. Make that 0-13 all-time versus the only NBA team still undefeated against the Bobcats. A brutal third quarter did in the Bobcats for good in a 101-86 loss at American Airlines Center. Whenever the Bobcats beat the Mavericks, it figures to be after Jason Kidd retires. Kidd controlled this game as few point guards could, finishing with 12 points, 18 assists, three steals and a single turnover."

  • Michael Grange of the Globe and Mail: "As a third-year coach heading into the final season of his contract with a losing career record and scant chance of that changing this year, Jay Triano would seem to have as much riding on this season as anyone. It’s only his career, after all. But there is no one better positioned to benefit from what every major publication predicted would be either a really bad season for the Toronto Raptors (out of the playoffs) or a horrible one (last in the Eastern Conference). Last night’s 98-93 loss to the New York Knicks wasn’t an ideal start, but Triano’s team scrapped, and when you’re coaching a bad team, moral victories count. After all, there are only two sure ways to prove that you’re making an impact in a job with as many dependent variables as coaching in the NBA: Make like Phil Jackson or Gregg Popovich and win championships with established stars, or take a team with weak talent and elevate them. Since the first scenario is clearly not happening, Triano can count himself lucky to have little choice than immersing himself in the time-honoured tradition of coaching them up."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Jim O'Brien has no problem with the NBA suspending swingman Brandon Rush five games for failing the league's mandatory drug test three times. The Indiana Pacers coach also doesn't have a problem with Rush losing nearly $115,000 in salary for the suspension. The problem O'Brien has with the situation is the Pacers have to pay the price for Rush's inability to leave drugs alone. The Pacers can dress only 11 players a game during Rush's suspension. 'I understand them suspending the player and withholding his wages for five games,' O'Brien said. 'The nature of the situation is that we're not informed a player has failed the drug test the first or second time, and we're not told he has a problem. Then they turn around and penalize a franchise. I don't understand where that comes from, frankly. If we were the ones drug testing and we were the ones that knew and were responsible to get him back on track after the first one, I understand that, but I can't follow this.' Rush can travel and practice with the team, but he's not permitted to attend games. He is eligible to return to the lineup Nov. 9 against Denver. 'There's no way of sugarcoating it: This is a disadvantage, especially with our group,' O'Brien said."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "How frustrating has rookie center Tiago Splitter's absence from the court been since he strained a muscle in his right calf a month ago? He doesn't even enjoy a post-workout massage. 'I've never met anybody who didn't enjoy a massage, so I figure he's pretty frustrated,' Gregg Popovich said. Popovich believes Splitter may be ready to make his Spurs debut -- he didn't play a single minute of his first preseason -- next week. 'I think after New Orleans he's got a good shot to be ready,' Popovich said. 'He's been playing three-on-three now, and he's been in contact in competitive situations. If we can get another practice or two in, five-on-five and get up and down and see how he comes out of that, I think he'll probably be ready. I wouldn't expect him for Saturday, but after that I think he'll be beating my door down.' "

  • From NBA.com "The Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., has been selected to host the 2011 NBA Draft, scheduled for June 23, 2011, NBA Commissioner David Stern, Chairman and Managing Partner, Devils Arena Entertainment, Jeff Vanderbeek, and the Honorable Cory A. Booker, Mayor for the City of Newark, announced today at the Prudential Center before the New Jersey Nets' home opener against the Detroit Pistons. This marks the second time the NBA Draft is being held in New Jersey. 'We are delighted to bring one of the NBA's premier events to Newark,' said Stern. 'The Prudential Center is a state-of-the-art, multi-purpose arena that will be a great host for another exciting NBA Draft.' "