First Cup: Tuesday

  • Brad Rock of the Deseret News: "When 19th Century German author Christian Morgenstern wrote 'Home is not where you live, but where they understand you,' he clearly didn't have the Utah Jazz in mind. Here in Salt Lake, nobody understands the Jazz. They're as enigmatic as cold fusion. Hence, the Jazz are in the midst of one of the wackiest starts in franchise history. Has there ever been an early season with so much drama? So far, here are the early returns: talent and heart, but a propensity for easing up on the gas just when they're picking up speed. Monday night at ESA, the Jazz led by 12, trailed by 13 and lost by seven (115-108). If they proved anything in last week's four-game road sweep, it was that they need to take care of their own place first. Miraculous comebacks and road wins are nice, but they're also just icing. Home is where you bake the cake. All those good years in the 1990s, the Jazz were a monster in the market. 'That's, in the coaching business, what you look at the most, see ... hope it doesn't fall apart,' said coach Jerry Sloan, when asked about defending the home court. 'If guys stay together and work at it, we'll be all right.' "

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "So much has been so bad for the Oklahoma City Thunder that the last thing this team needed Monday night was a tough start. But the Thunder found itself in a nightmarish start when Utah point guard Deron Williams promptly splashed his first three 3-point attempts through the net, opening a nine-point lead less than three minutes into the game. And with the way OKC has underachieved all season defensively and sputtered at times offensively, there was little to suggest the Thunder could dig itself out of a hole in one of the NBA's toughest buildings. After securing a hard-fought 115-108 victory over the Jazz, however, the Thunder showed there is at least one characteristic from last year's lovable 50-win team that has indeed spilled over into this season of inconsistency. Pride."

  • Jeff Caplan of ESPNDallas.com: "Is it possible that the Dallas Mavericks actually enjoy playing defense, and even find themselves challenging one another to rise up when games get down and dirty in crunch time? 'I think it would be better to ask the playersthat question because we identify defense as the No. 1 variable to us being a true contending team,' Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. 'If the answer is yes, then we're making some real progress. If the answer is something else, then we've got to take a hard look at where we're at.' 'But,' Carlisle continued, 'I think our guys realize that hard, consistent defense and staying with a system is the most important part of our success and it's the most important part of continuing the success that we're having.' Monday night was another example that the answer just might be a resounding, 'Yes.' The Mavs trailed the previously unbeaten New Orleans Hornets by 10 points with 7:44 left in the game. From that point, Dallas' defense, which entered the game ranked third in the league in points per possession, allowed eight points on 3-of-16 shooting and turned stops into a 3-point barrage at the other end to pull out a dramatic 98-95 victory."

  • Kevin Spain of The Times-Picayune: "The adage, attributable to NFL Hall of Fame coach John Madden, is that winning is the best deodorant. So Hugh Weber should smell pretty good right about now. The New Orleans Hornets were 8-0 entering Monday’s game against the Mavericks in Dallas, the best start in franchise history, a start engineered by first-year General Manager Dell Demps and first-year coach Monty Williams. And, rightfully, accolades have been showered on the two rookies. But neither likely would have a job in New Orleans if it wasn’t for Weber, the Hornets’ president and the link between what appeared to be a too-long search for a head coach, and a too-quick pick for a general manager. Weber adamantly maintained he was looking for the right fit in each case. We couldn’t blame him now if he decided to issue an 'I told you so' or 50. Wisely, though, he won’t. 'The objective of building a culture can’t be evaluated in seven games, 10 games, 20 games,' he said. 'We haven’t seen how this team performs with higher expectations, we haven’t seen how this team performs under different types of challenges. But I will tell you that the mindset of Monty and Dell and the character that they bring and the preparation they bring, that puts you in step to be able to deal with those things. I don’t want the person who’s got all the answers. I want the team of people who knows how to find them, because we don’t know what the questions are yet.' "

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "It remains to be seen how this season will play out for the Pistons. But after the fireworks of Monday night, it’s safe to say it won’t be boring. After a first half that featured a confrontation between Pistons coach John Kuester and Tayshaun Prince and a whopping deficit of 32 points, the Pistons (4-7) forged a furious second-half rally only to fall, 101-97, to the Golden State Warriors. The Pistons will come home to face the Lakers on Wednesday night after a 2-2 West Coast trip, but fans will probably show up at the Palace to see if they can catch another dramatic episode. Monday’s drama started with what Prince said was a disagreement over how to defend the Warriors, who were carving up the Pistons. Prince’s man scored three consecutive baskets as the Warriors upped their lead to 25 points. Kuester called time-out at the 4:27 mark, and Prince barked at Kuester as he walked to the bench. Kuester started yelling back and the two kept exchanging words. As Kuester was drawing up a play, Prince slammed a towel on the Oracle Arena floor. Kuester stood up and walked toward Prince, then assistant coach Darryl Walker got between the pair. At the end of the time-out, Kuester walked toward Prince again, yelling at him, but Prince, a towel wrapped around his shoulders, just waved off his coach. The Pistons trailed, 65-42, at the half."

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "The clamoring for a talent infusion may only grow louder, with all signs pointing to Carmelo Anthony, a three-time All-Star who badly wants to join his good friend Amar'e Stoudemire in New York. The Broadway pairing sounds attractive. But Anthony may not solve the Knicks’ problems and in fact -- given his salary demands and style of play -- could even prolong them. Anthony is an elite scorer but a below-average playmaker and a mostly indifferent defender. He can provide 25 points a night and a go-to option in the final minutes of a tight game, but he would not give the Knicks what they need most: a player who elevates everyone around him. To get that player, the Knicks will have to wait for another antsy superstar to hit the trade market: Chris Paul. 'They need a lot of pieces,' said an Eastern Conference scout, who did not want to be named while evaluating a rival team. 'A point guard would be the first thing that I would look for.' ... 'Carmelo needs the ball in his hand all the time to be a factor,' the scout said, concluding, 'Carmelo is not the immediate answer.' It also bears noting that Anthony did not win a playoff series until 2009, after Denver acquired a great point guard (Chauncey Billups) to lead the offense. The Knicks need outside shooters and improvement at shooting guard and center, but they need a playmaker most of all. They would be better off with a short-term rental of Steve Nash (if the Phoenix Suns make him available) until they can chase Paul or Deron Williams. But it is Anthony who is available now, and it is Anthony who will stand in the Knicks’ path Tuesday night, bringing equal measures of intrigue and angst."

  • Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times: "The University of Clippers suffered a major blow to their NCAA chances on Monday night. (Well, there always is strength of schedule.) Kidding aside, when you present a starting lineup consisting of five players all still possessing NCAA eligibility, it's always going to hold an element of peril and high risk. The Clippers' starters were two 20-year-olds (Eric Bledsoe and Al-Farouq Aminu) two 21-year-olds (Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon) and one 'veteran,' 22-year-old DeAndre Jordan. So this team might look terrific in March in the NCAA tournament, but this is, for better or worse, the NBA in the opening month. And the Clippers (1-10) are off to their worst start in 12 seasons, bringing back bad memories of the 0-17 opening in that lockout-shortened campaign of 1998-99. Loss No. 10 didn't exactly come against an NBA heavyweight, as the Nets defeated the Clippers, 110-96, at Staples Center, lulling them into a slumber in the first half and rolling over them with a Brook Lopez onslaught in the second."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Luc Richard Mbah a Moute knows what he's up against Tuesday night. Just call it Kobe duty. It could be the toughest task facing an NBA player, trying to control Los Angeles Lakers all-star Kobe Bryant. But it's a challenge the Milwaukee Bucks third-year forward relishes as the Lakers make their only Bradley Center visit of the season. 'He's the best at what he does,' said the 6-foot-8 Mbah a Moute. 'I feel every team has a player like that who can score the ball. 'But Kobe does a lot of other things. He's got a motor and he gets his teammates involved even when he's not scoring. We've just got to do it as a team. He has the ability to turn it on whenever he wants to. You've got to come out and make it tough on him no matter what. Sometimes it feels like he can go 0 for 10 in the first half and 15 for 20 in the second half. Mbah a Moute and Bucks shooting guard John Salmons will be the primary defenders against Bryant, the NBA Finals most valuable player each of the past two seasons. 'You've just got to know coming in that he's going to get touches and he's going to make tough shots,' Salmons said."

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "Desperate to find a way to cure their second-half collapses, the Cavaliers have considered everything from dancers to Hollywood movie characters. The past few nights, the second half of games have played out like a horror script. One assistant coach half-jokingly recommended treating the start of the third quarter like the start of the game, complete with music, handshakes, dancing cheerleaders and a fire-breathing scoreboard. Coach Byron Scott on Monday channeled Norman Dale, the Gene Hackman character in the movie 'Hoosiers'. Scott demanded the players make four to five passes during practice before attempting a shot -- just like the legendary coach in the movie -- to get the players in the habit of creating good ball movement, making hard screens and learning proper spacing. Those have all been areas of concern that continually seem to break down in the second half lately. The Cavaliers drag a four-game home losing streak into Tuesday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers (2-8). They have been outscored in the third quarter of all but one game this season and those offensive problems have lingered into the fourth quarter of each of the past two games. 'Somehow we have to trick ourselves into thinking we're down 15 to 20 points [at halftime],' Scott said. 'We have to come out with that type of attitude. We all know we can't come out and play the way we've been playing in the third quarter, and the last two games, the entire second half.' "

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "It is what it is. Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins realizes his team's early schedule is difficult to say the least. But Hollins is asking the Griz to not dwell on the degree of difficulty. 'You've got to survive,' he said, alluding to his desire for the Griz to hover around 500 this month. The Orlando Magic presented Memphis with its ninth opponent in 11 games with a record .500 or better. The Grizzlies' seven losses have come against teams with a combined 40-18 record. Portland enters FedExForum tonight as the fifth straight Memphis opponent that has the distinction of reaching the playoffs last season."

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: "After scoring 20 points with 11 rebounds Friday in Phoenix, Carl Landry had 19 points and eight rebounds against Detroit on Sunday. Perfect, no, but even he noted that he's closer to having his confidence and feel on the court back after a slow start in training camp. Still, he's not satisfied. He may be finishing stronger around the basket and is quicker off the floor, but he said he would like to drop three or four pounds and wants to continue to improve his overall game. 'I wouldn't say I'm all the way there yet,' Landry said. 'I'm not 100 percent, but I'm still working every day.' Landry said the last time his confidence peaked was after he was traded to the Kings in February. As the key player in the deal that sent Kevin Martin to Houston, Landry flourished. After averaging 16.1 points and 5.5 rebounds as a reserve for Houston, Landry averaged 18 points and 6.5 rebounds in 28 games with the Kings. 'I was playing at a high level,' Landry said. 'I've just got to get it back. It takes repetition. It takes watching film. It takes practices. It takes playing with your teammates.' "

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: "I'm concerned that the Blazers gave Brandon Roy a max contract without looking at an MRI of his knees. They looked, right? Please tell me they did. This is a major concern for an organization that feels like it's guessing right now. This doesn't feel like a training staff issue. It feels like a management issue. Roy won't play tomorrow at Memphis, and his long-term prognosis feels iffy. I think GM Rich Cho has to seriously think about life without Roy, and start thinking about how the organization might use the expiring contracts of Andre Miller and Joel Przybilla to keep the Blazers from falling too far behind the rest of the Western Conference."

  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: "A day and night off in South Beach. Endless possibilities right? The Dolphins were in town. Miami’s famed nightlife was there to be enjoyed. So what did Jarrett Jack do? The Raptors point guard went to a 2-year-old’s birthday party. Of course this particular 2-year girl happens to have Chris Bosh for a father, but come on Jarrett, days off in the middle of the schedule in South Beach don’t come down the pike every day. Jack made it very clear he had no regrets with his decision. 'It was cool,' Jack said. 'I hadn’t been to a children’s birthday party in a very long time. I know with Chris’ schedule, him being gone so much, it was really special for him to be able to spend it with his daughter.' ... The party was held at the children’s museum across the street from American Airlines Arena, but Jack got invited back to Casa-de-Bosh afterwards. 'It’s amazing,' Jack said of Bosh’s new home. 'Very nice. It’s unbelievable, man. It’s modern, but it’s not George Jetson.' "

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "According to the NBA, Matt Bonner on Sunday became just the third non-starter in league history to be perfect on at least seven 3-pointers in a game, a slice of basketball trivia entirely appropriate for a self-described New Hampshire nerd. Of course, the backup center-forward said the submarine sandwich he consumed before Sunday’s game deserved much of the credit for his success. 'Just mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, American cheese, a good old-fashioned sandwich,' he said. Bonner was unaware he was one 3-point hit shy of Steve Smith’s club record for consecutive 3-ball hits. 'I didn’t know that,' he said. 'I definitely would have jacked more shots up.' Sam Perkins made all eight 3-pointers he attempted for Seattle on Jan. 15, 1997, and the Hornets’ Bobby Jackson went 7 for 7 on threes on Jan. 11, 2008."

  • Frank Fitzpatrick of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "In eight days, when a four-ton wrecking ball begins to pummel it like a Broad Street Bully, the Spectrum, a landmark arena that launched a sporting renaissance in Philadelphia, will crumble into oblivion after months of pre-demolition ballyhoo but almost no opposition. Its impending demise points out something contradictory about this sports-mad city: No matter how rich their history, Philadelphia venues such as Convention Hall, Connie Mack Stadium, Municipal Stadium, the old Arena, and now the Spectrum seem to be expendable in a way that more historically authentic or architecturally appealing structures often are not. While threats to old and ornate buildings or to prized works of art (remember the battles that kept Thomas Eakins' The Gross Clinic and Maxfield Parrish's Dream Garden in Philadelphia?) frequently ignite fruitful outrage, the disappearances of these urban sports palaces rarely has. Why? 'I'm not quite sure,' said Scott Doyle, director of grants and state historical markers for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. 'But there has been no concerted efforts that we're aware of to preserve the Spectrum. And there weren't any when Municipal/JFK Stadium came down, either.' "