First Cup: Tuesday

  • Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News: "It does not seem to matter that Allen Iverson is 35, that his best days are behind him, that he struggled last season in three games with the Memphis Grizzlies and 25 with the 76ers. All that matters is, Allen Iverson is coming. In true Iverson fashion, he was supposed to be there Saturday, to be greeted by throngs of people, to sign autographs, to be introduced to his new teammates with Besiktas. But he missed his flight, supposedly because he arrived at the airport without his passport. (Where, oh where, have we heard something like that before?) He is holding a 2-year contract worth $4 million, but the celebration was delayed until yesterday, when he was surrounded (mobbed?) by dozens of photographers and media members at Ataturk Airport, with giddy fans singing what seemed to be fight songs. He wore a jersey from his new team - with the No. 4 because European basketball rules forbid anything lower - and a red Phillies cap, and put on his flashy earrings once he cleared security. In various photos and video clips, he seemed almost dazed. The welcome party will continue today with a light and music show, the team said. ... Former Sixers teammate Aaron McKie feels a certain sense of sadness in seeing Iverson pursuing his career overseas rather than in the NBA. But no NBA team tendered an offer this season, and Iverson clearly wanted to continue playing. ... But if there is a tinge of sadness in seeing Iverson, unwanted in the league in which he grew up, going to Turkey to play, there is another positive aspect. 'He can bring excitement,' said Eric Snow, a former teammate and now the Sixers analyst for Comcast SportsNet. 'If he's well-conditioned, he can bring excitement to any team in any league. He can bring an audience. People love to watch him play.' "

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "And when the man of the hour stepped on the floor, his signature long strides taking center stage just after 3:30 p.m., he entered to a chorus of applause from a small crowd of children. Kevin Durant couldn't have been further from the big-time. Yet this makeshift moment served as the scene from which Durant would promote his latest endorsement deal, a partnership with Degree Men. The event exemplified how Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder's franchise player, has bucked the allure of big cities and bright lights -- which often lead to big dollars -- and instead has seized sponsorships in small-market Oklahoma City. 'I always told myself if I play the game the right way, if I always get better, things like this are going to come to me,' Durant said. 'I don't have to go other places just to get this. I don't want to sound like a prima donna. But if companies want to come out here and be a part of what I have going on, they're going to have to come to Oklahoma City.' That's precisely what's taking place before our eyes. ... has turned down marketing opportunities out of concern that certain endorsements would take too much attention away from his Thunder teammates and the organization. 'I didn't get into the game of basketball just to get endorsements,' Durant said. 'I always want to put basketball first and that's what I'm doing. And stuff is starting to come my way now.' "

  • Manny Navarro of The Miami Herald: "Both times the Heat has lost this season, two of the NBA's elite point guards -- the Celtics' Rajon Rondo and Hornets' Chris Paul -- have shredded them. Is it just a coincidence? Or are dangerousdistributors the kryptonite for a team with three Supermen built to win a championship? The answer could reveal itself in the next 11 days when the Heat faces three of the best point guards in the business -- Utah's Deron Williams, Rondo and Phoenix's Steve Nash -- during its six-game homestand. First up: Williams and the Jazz (3-3), which visit AmericanAirlines Arena at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. 'We'll see if it's a trend or not,' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. 'I don't know. The New Orleans game [last Friday] -- I can't even say that's who we were, particularly in the first quarter when we were disjointed. The Boston game [Oct. 26] was a while ago. But it certainly wasn't who we've become. [This is] a new game, a new challenge. Our guys understand that and [Utah] is certainly not a one-man team. [Williams] is a dynamic, world-class point guard that can really put your defense on its heels. He can do it all. He can shoot it. He's great in transition, he can post it, he can break it down, he can get into the paint. We have to prepare for that.' "

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "There's talk around the Pistons that there have been other clashes between the two (Rodney Stuckey and John Kuester) -- specifically during the team’s workouts, which are closed to the media. Such friction points to a larger issue facing this franchise: The Pistons are caught between trying to move to their next phase while also paying proper respect to the past era, which produced the 2004 NBA title. The team needs to play its young core -- yet veterans Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace have done a lot for this franchise. Of course, they also can help the team win now, as evidenced by Hamilton’s 27-point night against the Warriors. Not to mention that it’s hard to trade Hamilton and Prince if they're sitting on the bench. Caught in the middle of this situation is Kuester, who probably would admit privately that he has navigated the minefield clumsily at times. Still, that’s no excuse for a player to openly ignore his coach. The underlying tension on the team probably will flare up again -- unless it can build upon its small, much-needed winning streak."

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: "Zach Randolph gets the ball on the block just long enough to draw the double team, then finds O.J. Mayo for the jump shot. Mayo misses. So Randolph hauls down the rebound and puts in himself this time. 'Z-Bo!' yells the little girl behind me. She keeps this up pretty much the whole game. She yells 'Z-Bo!" and "Zach!' and 'Zach Randolph!' Then she yells, 'Daddy!' and Randolph waves. The little girl is his 5-year-old daughter, MacKenly. 'I like coming to the games when my daddy plays,' she says. Out of the mouths of babes, eh? Grizzlies fans -- and coaches and players -- like it a lot, too. The Grizzlies evened their record at 4-4 Monday night, defeating the Phoenix Suns, 109-99, and looking a lot like the team fans hoped to see when the season began. ... Randolph finished with 23 points and 20 rebounds. You don't have to be related to the guy to go crazy over that. "

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Larry Drew told his players to forget the close loss to Phoenix the previous night, and never mind they had no healthy small forwards. He said don't believe they can't beat the Magic after the numerous lopsided defeats in the series. 'We wanted to be able to show the Orlando Magic we can come in and make a game out of it and not just hand them the game,' Hawks forward Josh Smith said. The Hawks accomplished that goal but still couldn't end their futility against the Magic, who won 93-89 for their 10th victory in their last 11 regular-season and postseason games against Atlanta. The Magic's previous nine victories in the series were by an average margin of 23 points. This time they had to come back from a 13-point deficit in the first half and take back the lead in the final five minutes. It was a stark contrast to most of Atlanta's nine previous losses to Orlando, which included a four-game sweep by an NBA-record margin of 101 points in the Eastern Conference semifinals last spring. 'There is no consolation to coming up short just because we came close,' Drew said. 'I thought our guys competed. That was something, to be honest, I was a little concerned with at the start. I thought there would be an emotional letdown after last night but I thought we came out and performed and played hard.' "

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Though Yao Ming took just two second-quarter shots Sunday, the Rockets considered the stretch among his best this season as a consistent force inside, with the Timberwolves unable to defend him without repeatedly fouling. 'I think he did a good job of kicking it out and then re-establishing himself,' coach Rick Adelman said. 'He was aggressive in getting to the basket. It's going to be something we have to keep working on. Shane (Battier) and Kevin (Martin) … did a nice job finding him. But Yao said he did not do anything special. He had 11 points in the second quarter. He made three of five shots for 13 points in 17 minutes in a 120-94 win over the Timberwolves. 'I think that's what I always did the last couple years, not including last year,' Yao said. 'That's the game I know: post up; try to back down people; if they double me, kick it out; re-post; rebound.' "

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Flip Saunders was the first to arrive at practice on Monday, so excited about preparing to correct the mistakes that have led to the Washington Wizards' disappointing 1-4 start that he showed up more than three hours early. But Saunders was also the first to leave practice, when he watched his players lethargically push through a scrimmage while complaining to assistants about every call, rather than communicating with each other. With about 30 minutes still scheduled before practice ended, Saunders got up from his chair on the main court at Verizon Center and stormed to the locker room, shouting, 'If you want to get better. Come back at 4.' ... A seven-year veteran, Josh Howard added that he had never seen an entire team kicked out of practice but understood Saunders's decision based on how the Wizards have performed to start the season. 'I told some of the guys. 'We getting ready to get a paycheck on the 15th.' For right now, they getting a paycheck for nothing,' he said. 'I can honestly say that. I don't think guys are really buying into this. If anything, we need to work for this paycheck.' "

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "Long after the formal portion of practice has concluded, after most of the players have vacated the floor, J.J. Hickson remains. He is working with assistant coach Chris Jent, who is instructing him where to stand, how to cut and where to go next in this sometimes complex Princeton offense. Over and over, they run the same drills. Jent moves Hickson off to the side, then demonstrates where to catch a pass, how to return it and how to make a hard cut to his next spot on the floor. These are the extra tutorial sessions required of Hickson if he is to become a top power forward in this league. After coach Byron Scott ripped his focus and lack of knowledge of the offense late in the preseason, the study sessions seemed to increase. 'He's been a lot better,' Scott said after a recent practice. 'He understands a little bit of what I was talking about. I'm always going to be hard on him because I think he has a lot of potential. He can be even better than he has been through the early part of the season.' And thus far, Hickson has been really good. As the Cavs prepare to face the New Jersey Nets tonight, Hickson is the second-leading scorer (behind Mo Williams) at 16.5 points per game. He set a career high with 31 points last week against the Atlanta Hawks, and his mid-range jumper seems to get better with every game."

  • Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News: "Terrence Williams threw down the challenge Saturday when he put his shoulder into a flagrant foul on LeBron James. Monday, Brook Lopez and the rest of the Nets picked it up. After being manhandled by the Magic and embarrassed by the Heat, the Nets focused on toughness. 'It was way different. A lot more fouls today,' Williams said of practice. 'We've played six games now and I think guys are kind of taking offense at what other teams and players think of us around the league. Hopefully it changes and we just go from there.' Williams is not the only one who expects a more rugged Nets team Tuesday night when they host the Cavaliers in the first game of a back-to-back, home-and-home series. Monday, the practice was long and physical and William's teammates seemed to buy into the idea. It began, however, with the Nets having to face up to their soft reputation. To do so, Avery Johnson said he played 'a long horror movie,' the video of their loss in Miami. And then the coach played it again. 'Avery was talking about tissue paper the whole film session,' Lopez said. 'He was practically looking at me.' "

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "The wait is finally over for Indiana Pacers swingman Brandon Rush. After more than two months of dealing with the embarrassment of failing three drug tests and having to sit out an NBA-mandated five-game suspension, Rush will make his season debut tonight against the Denver Nuggets at Conseco Fieldhouse. 'It wasn't fun,' Rush said. He will come off the bench as part of the four-man rotation on the wing with Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavy and rookie Paul George. 'I think he's anxious to play,' coach Jim O'Brien said. 'He feels bad for what happened. He should feel bad. He's excited because this is his opening night. He knows he's improved over the summer. He's improved on his decisions off the dribble and finishing at the basket. Mentally he should be in a good place.' O'Brien thought about starting Rush in place of the struggling Mike Dunleavy tonight but decided against it because he likes how well the starting unit has played defensively. Rush's return allows O'Brien to decrease Granger's playing time by about nine minutes game."

  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: "Gary Neal clearly isn’t a typical rookie. His three seasons of overseas experience has proven to be beneficial in his early assimilation with the Spurs. Neal’s big game off the bench helped jump-start a struggling San Antonio offense and helped boost the Spurs to a 97-93 victory over Charlotte. He was described in the Associated Press account of the game as 'surprising rookie Gary Neal.' The Spurs coaching staff thought they had an underrated player in the 26-year-old Neal when they signed him after a blistering shooting display in Las Vegas this summer in rookie camp. But I bet them didn’t think they had a player who would average 9.5 points in 14 minutes, shooting 50 percent of his threes like Neal has done in games this month. Neal’s offense and a strong finish by Manu Ginobili helped the Spurs improve to 5-1. It’s their best start in three seasons and is a nice beginning to two winnable games later this week that will include games against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday and Philadelphia on Saturday."

  • Hannah Sampson of The Miami Herald: "The Miami Heat starts a string of five home games Tuesday against the Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Phoenix Suns and Charlotte Bobcats -- and all those visiting teams have to stay somewhere. Traveling NBA teams are big business for downtown Miami hotels. A team on the road might need more than 40 rooms, which could add up to more than $15,000 a night depending on the place. Some of the area's newest hotels have consulted with the Heat to find out how to make their rooms as attractive as possible for professional athletes, who might bang their heads in the shower or knees on the vanity in a room made for regular folks. With taller-than-average guests in mind, Miami's riverfront Epic Hotel at 270 Biscayne Boulevard Way, across from the Marriott, was built with high rain-style shower heads, roomy ceilings and raised vanities. ... According to the Heat, teams also have spent time at the InterContinental Miami, Ritz-Carlton on Key Biscayne and Four Seasons Hotel Miami on Brickell Avenue over the past several years. Four Seasons marketing director Tony Rodriguez said Heat competitors from the Atlanta Hawks to the Washington Wizards have stayed at his property. Teams can be superstitious, he said, sticking with a hotel if they've had success and switching if stays have coincided with losses. He recalled the 2006 playoffs, when the Dallas Mavericks stayed at the Four Seasons -- until the Heat kept winning."