First Cup: Wednesday

  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "As if his coming back to AmericanAirlines Arena to be reminded what he's not a part of wasn't bad enough, Michael Beasley's night was made infinitely worse when he landed hard on his back and hip. He tried to walk off the injury but it quickly became obvious that his left leg wasn't responding. He was assisted off the floor, dragging his leg behind him, wincing in pain, and he never came back out to the floor. It seems the kid just can't win when it comes to Miami. He was a disappointment before he ever got here because he wasn't the No. 1 pick. He wasn't Derrick Rose. He was a disappointment in his first playoff appearance, then was so infuriating in his second postseason that Wade didn't even want to discuss Beasley by the end of it. And in his first chance to come back in the middle of the Heat frenzy and make an impression, to show what Miami gave up and what he still could become, he leaves with a hip bruise so bad he couldn't even stand up to shoot his own free throw. 'That's one of my partners in crime,' Timberwolves forward Kevin Love said. 'It was hard to see him go down.' Even if you didn't feel it at the start, you had to sympathize with Beasley by the end."

  • John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "After watching Bulls point guard Derrick Rose carve up the defenses of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Detroit Pistons in the first two games of the season, the Portland Trail Blazers decided to try a different approach Monday. Whenever the Bulls set a pick for Rose, the Blazers sent both defenders to trap him. Portland was intent on not letting Rose put up a big scoring number and double-teamed whenever possible. The strategy was a success in this regard: Rose, who entered averaging 33.5 points, was held to 16. The game plan, though, was an absolute failure in the only area that matters -- the scoreboard. With so much attention on him, Rose turned playmaker, dished out a career-high-tying 13 assists and directed the Bulls' offense to 110 points on 43-for-71 (60.6 percent) shooting in a comfortable win. ''It's important to make the right play,' coach Tom Thibodeau said. 'The responsibility of a primary scorer is when the second defender comes to hit the open man, and he's done that. When he's been in single coverage, Derrick has attacked, and he's been very effective.' "

  • Paola Boivin of The Arizona Republic: "Jared Dudley signed a five-year, $22.5 million deal that will benefit both parties. It was a deal few, including the principals, thought wouldget done because of looming labor negotiations. .. His new contract illustrates how far Suns management has come. Just days ago, Dudley was convinced his days in Phoenix were numbered. The Suns, understandably, were stuck on a three-year deal. Imminent discussions about a new collective-bargaining agreement had everyone nervous. As Dudley drove home from practice Monday, his agent, Mark Bartelstein, called and said the Suns were willing to go four years, $16 million. Dudley was encouraged. It wasn't what he wanted, but it was an effort by the Suns to get something done. He liked that. 'My agent asked me, 'What's most important to you?' ' Dudley recalled. 'I said, 'security.' For me, it wasn't as much about the money as it was the years.' Dudley went home and spent much of the evening on the phone. At least four calls were from Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver. Sarver wanted Dudley to know he was valued and also wanted to get a sense of where the player stood. When both felt they had reached a deadlock, they joked that they should play poker to resolve the discrepancy."

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Mike Conley wasn't thinking about pressure as he prepared to play his first game after signing a five-year, $40 million contract with the Grizzlies. He admitted the deal was a bit of a bombshell but said his play shouldn't surprise anyone moving forward. ... His message to skeptics wondering if he can keep this up after three up-and-down NBA seasons? 'I forget the past very quickly. I'm all about what I'm doing right now,' Conley said. 'This year is different for me. I'm a different player. This year is going to be a big year for me and the Memphis Grizzlies. Now, I know that they believe in me. They trust me. I believe I belong and they believe that too.' Conley will receive what is perceived to be market value on the front end of his contract. He'll earn roughly $6.5 million next season. With 10.5-percent raises, Conley's deal will pay him more than $9.6 million in the final year of the deal."

  • Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Tuesday, the Hawks announced Al Horford has agreed to a five-year extension worth $60 million. This news isn’t deserving of a punchline -- it’s deserving of a parade. Horford is more than just a talented player. He is an All-Star center even though power forward is his stronger and more natural position. He is a building block unlike any building block the Hawks have had for several years. He is a leader. He has substance. Josh Smith and Joe Johnson both can be great players. Neither are great leaders. That, along with Johnson’s side swipe at Hawks fans during last year’s second-round implosion against Orlando, is why so many fans were angered by the team giving him a six-year, $124 million contract (the largest current package of any NBA player). .... Team work, toughness and consistent work ethic are three things new coach Larry Drew is trying to bring to the Hawks. (So far it’s working: The Hawks are 3-0.) Horford exemplifies all three. This one, the Hawks got right."

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "LeBron James and Wolves forward Anthony Tolliver met on the court for the first time since he spoofed James' 'The Decision' television program with his own Youtube video. When asked if the subject was brought up Tuesday night, Tolliver said, 'Nah, no. Just said, 'What's up,' and kept moving.' "

  • Justin Rogers of Booth Newspapers: "It's only the fourth game of the season, but the Detroit Pistons are already at a major fork in the road. After suffering three close losses to start the 2010-11 campaign, the Pistons were outplayed in every conceivable way during a 109-86 loss to the Boston Celtics. No area was the difference between the two teams more striking than the point guard matchup. The Celtics' offense is a well-oiled machine, powered by the strong play of Rajon Rondo. His ability to set up his teammates, often for easy baskets in the lane, is what makes him one of better, if not the best, passing point guards in the NBA. Anyone that says differently is in denial. You don't rack up 17 assists, while not turning the ball over once, without being a special player. In fact, it's the third time he's dished out 17 or more helpers in four games this year."

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: "Considering the characters and malcontents on the 1996-97 Portland Trail Blazers, the team he broke in with as a 17-year-old, it’s a wonder that Jermaine O’Neal is still here, sitting at the gym at Detroit Country Day High School, reflecting on his 15-year career. The plethora of questionable influences in that locker room -- Isaiah Rider, a young Rasheed Wallace, Kenny Anderson, Dontonio Wingfield, Rumeal Robinson -- easily could have stunted O’Neal’s potential. O’Neal played just 211 games in his four seasons with Portland, as coaches P.J. Carlesimo and Mike Dunleavy made excuse after excuse as to why the talented but green 7-footer wasn’t playing. In the 10 seasons that followed his welcomed trade to Indiana -- one that changed the course of his career -- O’Neal started 628 of the 652 games he played in, including all 70 with Miami last season. Last night against the Pistons, O’Neal made his first start as a Celtic, replacing Shaquille O’Neal, who stayed at home with a bone bruise in his right knee. He played 21 minutes in the Celtics’ 109-86 victory, with a season-high 12 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 blocks. The opportunity to start was something O’Neal spent the past couple of days savoring, as he recalled those days on the bench in Portland and realized that at 32, it is something that no longer can be taken for granted. O’Neal seemed to finally stop pressing in his desire to impress his new teammates."

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "It must be the nine-hour time difference between Israel and California, the limited exposure or the grainy nature of those European telecasts. But Omri Casspi pulled a fast one on the NBA. He can dunk. He can really dunk. Since beating out Donté Greene for the starting small forward position two games into the Kings' 3-1 season -- and it feels awkward just typing a winning record -- Casspi is rotating defensively, swiping passes and deflecting balls, then sprinting downcourt for an assortment of flushes. Left hand, right hand. He uses both. Partly because he has small hands for someone 6-foot-9, he probably favors the two-handed stuff. Yet what distinguishes his style -- and what continues to impress his coach, who was a tremendous dunker in his day -- is the explosiveness of the motion and the ability to quick-jump off one leg. 'I can't explain it,' Paul Westphal said with a grin, shaking his head. 'I had to gather before I could dunk.' ... If he had that deer-in-the-headlights look late last year, this year he's just a deer. Running and spotting up for threes. Running down loose balls that save possessions. Running and dunking. Running, dunking, defending, and forming excellent on-court chemistry with youngsters Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins."

  • Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun: "In his earlier days in the NBA, the thought of engaging in any kind of trash talking with a veteran was the last thing on Reggie Evans' mind. Times, as they say, have changed, which is why Evans was taken aback by the antics of rookie DeMarcus Cousins in Monday's tip in Sacramento, where the Kings would prevail. 'He put his arm around me and made a comment,'' said Evans. 'I basically told him this is the wrong tree you want to be barking up. I would never have done that to a player like Karl Malone.' Malone was a staple with the Jazz, executing the pick and roll with John Stockton to perfection. ... In the big picture, Evans' exchange with Cousins is minor, but it does speak to the nature of today's young ballers. 'I like his game,'' Evans said of Cousins, who got into early foul trouble but scored 10 points in the fourth quarter. 'He has a bright future.' After the buzzer sounded, Cousins did approach Evans. 'It was all cool.' "

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "Long before the Trail Blazers polished off the Milwaukee Bucks in impressive fashion Tuesday night, the makings of this 90-76 victory were being groomed. It happened in Tuesday's early morning hours, when the Blazers' bus rolled into Milwaukee from its 90-minute commute from Chicago, and a dejected and frustrated team checked into its downtown hotel. Only thing is, two players didn't make it to their rooms. Wesley Matthews and Armon Johnson went to play one-on-one basketball: Matthews to clear his head of frustrating thoughts and Johnson because, well, because somebody was playing basketball and he didn't want to be left out. It paid off as Matthews broke out of his early-season slump with a game-high 18 points and Johnson continued to carve his niche on this team and into Blazers' fans hearts with an impressive 10-point, five-assist night that came with his customary in-your-face defense. 'In my opinion, they were the players of the game,' said Marcus Camby, who had 13 rebounds. 'But I didn't even know that they went and played. What great work ethic.' "

  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: "Thunder coach Scott Brooks said there's nothing complex in his team correcting its defensive problems. 'It's about as simple as it gets. You have to stop the ball,' Brooks said Tuesday. All-Star small forward Kevin Durant agreed. 'Just help,' Durant said. 'It's all about helping each other out, man, and giving a second effort.' The Thunder is without defensive standout Nick Collison, a power forward who is still on the mend from a lower left leg stress reaction, but Brooks didn't use that as an excuse. 'Nick is one of our better defensive players but, nah, that's not the reason,' Brooks said. 'We've just got to do a better job of manning up. You've got to guard your man. We've had too many breakdowns where we're not real focused stopping our man. That's unacceptable. The good thing about it is we're getting some steals out of it (second in the league at 11.3 per game), but we might be getting too courageous on our steal attempts.' Collison, second in the league last year in charges taken, remains out indefinitely."

  • Ron Green Jr. of The Charlotte Observer: "As comforting as a new three-year, $12 million contract is to Anthony Morrow, he's in no mood to relax. 'I'm used to being the guy looking over his shoulder so that nobody catches up to me and that's something I'm going to continue to do,' said Morrow, whose Nets will host the Charlotte Bobcats Wednesday night. To understand Morrow's drive, it's necessary to understand his path. After a steady but unspectacular college career at Georgia Tech, he wasn't drafted. He caught the eye of Golden State Warriors coach Don Nelson during a 2008 summer league game in Las Vegas and played his way onto the Warriors' roster. Though he scored 37 points during his 10th NBA game, Morrow didn't get a guaranteed contract with the Warriors until midway through his rookie season. Over the course of two years, he established himself as one of the NBA's most proficient 3-point shooters -- statistically soon to be the best ever - and when Golden State finalized a sign-and-trade deal that sent him to the Nets with a rich new contract, he finally had a sense of stability."

  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "He was about to label it a calling, but the wrinkled brow revealed that he thought it sounded corny or ecumenical, and he stopped short. So Devin Harris explained it this way: The capacity to do good is in everyone, he suggested, but when you’re a professional athlete, your name recognition is such that you’re more likely to hold people’s attention a little longer when you have something to say or promote. So using your influence in ways that could benefit the public good is ... what? An obligation, perhaps? 'I wouldn’t call it an obligation,' the Nets captain said. 'No, it’s something you should feel you want to do -- otherwise, you’re just doing it for the wrong reason. Because when you want to do something, you pour your heart into it. But not everyone is obligated -- it doesn’t work that way. It might not be how you were raised, or how your DNA is configured. And that’s fine. That’s your prerogative. I just can’t be that way.' He’s been in Jersey for only 33 months, and we all know him pretty well by now. That remark above is basically what Harris is about, which is what makes him different from some public figures. We all like sports, yet too often we feel let down by the sportsman. Harris is the kind of kid who restores your faith. He not only likes people, there is a palpable humanity about him."