First Cup: Thanksgiving

  • Dan Rasmussen contributing writer for The Times-Picayune: "New Orleans Hornets Coach Monty Williams warned this would happen. Back when the Hornets were in the midst of winning 11 of their first 12 games, Williams said if his guys didn’t kick some of their bad habits -- like turning over the ball too often, stagnating on offense and playing soft on defense -- the winning would stop. It now has. The bad habits have continued, and now the Hornets have lost two games in a row. Two days after falling on the road to the 2-13 L.A. Clippers, they were eventually run out of the building against the Utah Jazz. The Hornets (11-3) committed 19 turnovers, including six in the fourth quarter; they stagnated on offense and let the shot-clock wind down on way too many occasions; and they allowed Utah to shoot 49 percent from the field. Add it all up, and it amounted to a 105-87 loss to the Jazz (11-5) on Wednesday night at EnergySolutions Arena. 'I’ve said this for about six or seven games now that we were playing out of character, but we were winning games,' Williams said. 'It comes back to bite you. When you mess with the game, it comes back and messes with you. This started a while ago. So we’ve got to get back to work, and do some things that we were doing before to get back.' Atop the list of to-dos presumably would be limiting turnovers."

  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: "There had been remarkable comebacks and major letdowns. Brilliant individual play and selfless teamwork bordered by battles with inconsistency and focus. But out of everything the Jazz had accomplished, overcome and endured this season, one accomplishment had yet to be attained: 48 full minutes of real, true basketball. Utah downed the New Orleans Hornets 105-87 Wednesday night at EnergySolutions Arena before a crowd of 19,237. And the Jazz came very close to accomplishing the feat.... The marquee outside ESA read 'Williams versus Paul' prior to tipoff. Point guard against point guard. All-Star, Olympic athlete and face of the franchise vs. a highly similar counterpart. The matchup easily delivered on its promise, as the duo did everything from trade handshake greetings to smoke each other every time an opportunity arrived. But Williams was the most charged and won the battle. He pumped a fist when he gained a momentary edge; he snapped a towel, punched the air and loudly growled when the Paul-led Hornets made a brief third-quarter run to pull within 67-62 with 7:11 remaining in the period. 'We always have fun playing each other,' Williams said. 'We are good friends off the court. But on the court, we always like to battle.' "

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "The city of Miami always has looked down its nose at Orlando, painting it as an unsophisticated hayseed town. Like we don't know how to use a spittoon or something. But who are the rubes now, huh? Spit. Ding!I reckon it's the Heat, hoss. Have you seen the Heat's new and ill-advised marketing campaign, begging fans to come to the games on time and providing instructions on how they should act? It's called 'Fan Up, Miami!' Embarrassing is what it is. It's an act of desperation by a franchise that only a few months ago gave us The Greatest Team Ever Assembled. Are you kidding me? You have to plead with Miami fans to come see the Three Wise Men -- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh? Tell me Pat Riley didn't approve this message, please (although Riley signs off on almost everything.)"

  • Alan Hahn of Newsday: "If the Knicks find themselves ahead by double figures in the second half on Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks, the Garden should refrain from encouraging videos and motivational music and instead play this simple refrain from the groundbreaking Mortal Kombat game from the early 1990s: FINISH HIM! For five straight games the Knicks have held a double-figure lead in the second half only to see it dwindle to almost nothing. The optimist says what Mike D'Antoni said after Wednesday's 99-95 win over the Bobcats: 'As long as we correct mistakes and win, that's a great way to do it.' A realist says there's only so many times you can get away with this kind of game. I thought it would happen on this night, when the Knicks let a 14-point lead with 1:11 left in the third evaporate to a 95-94 deficit with 1:29 left in the game after that three-point play by Tyrus Thomas. It took some clutch plays -- which was bigger: that block by Amar'e Stoudemire on Stephen Jackson or Raymond Felton's strip of Thomas on the rebound of Landry Fields' free throw miss? -- and clutch free throws to pull out this fifth straight win."

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "In the company of more athletic teammates, guys who score points and make the highlight reels and provide the 'oohs' and 'ahs' on a nightly basis, it was a workhorse who was singled out. 'Reg-gie, Reg-gie, Reg-gie' they yelled in appreciation for an honest night’s work from a guy who’s not about glory. Reggie Evans set a new career high for rebounds in Toronto’s 106-90 shellacking of the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, grabbing 22 of them and further endearing himself to a fan base that loves effort as much as it does success. 'I was just really doing what I normally do,' said Evans, who tied franchise records for rebounds in a quarter (10 in the first) and a half (14 in the first) as part of his big night. 'That was the main thing, I wasn’t focused on any career high. Just taking advantage of every opportunity that came my way. Coach was saying we need you to do what you normally do.' What Evans has done consistently since the season began is give the Raptors a decided advantage on the boards and fuel an offence that thrives in transition."

  • Hayley Mick of the Globe and Mail: "Jerryd Bayless wears No. 5 for the Raptors, although he could’ve nabbed No. 4, which Chris Bosh abandoned. Bayless wore No. 4 when he played for the Portland Trail Blazers. So did anyone talk him out of it? 'Didn’t even think about that,' Bayless said. His rational? 'Three plus two,' Bayless said, referring to the No. 32 jersey he briefly wore with the Hornets. 'Fresh start.' "

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Sometimes the most innocuous questions illicit the most interesting answers from Bobcats coach Larry Brown. Someone asked him Wednesday what he thought of playing the same team on back-to-back nights. The same opponent wasn't the issue to Brown. 'I hate back-to-backs,' Brown replied. 'The Lakers only have 12. Does anybody write that? Go figure that one out. I think we have over 20, and I think the majority of the teams in the NBA do.' The Bobcats have 22 sets of games on back-to-back nights this season."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Wow, it sure was lonely in that Bobcats locker room, post-game. I would say that by the time the media was admitted to that locker room, following the second loss in as many nights to the New York Knicks, the ratio of media to players was 3-to-1. Many of the people you’d most want to interview -- Gerald Wallace, Tyrus Thomas, Nazr Mohammed -- were out of there before we ever came in. Now, I’m not suggesting anything nefarious. Maybe they all just dressed fast and coincidentally some scooted out the back exit. Maybe it was the Thanksgiving holiday. And in Thomas’ case, it was about getting treatment for painful arches. But here’s my intuition, based on 20-some years covering the NBA: Some people see the potential for this season crumbling, and saying the wrong thing can only add to the misery. It’s not often Wallace doesn’t make himself available for interviews. He’s naturally candid, so I take it for granted he’d worry when he’s really troubled about saying something he’ll regret. His productivity is down and coach Larry Brown made it clear a factor in that is teammates not finding Wallace enough on the break."

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "Mo Williams accomplished something he had never done since coming to the Cavaliers in 2008: Attempt a last-second shot. He drilled a 15-foot jumper at the buzzer to shock the Milwaukee Bucks, 83-81, on Wednesday before 20,562 at Quicken Loans Arena. After having so much success, one has to wonder why he hadn't done it before. 'We had this other guy here,' Williams joked, referring to the since-departed LeBron James."

  • Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune: "You kept thinking: Can this keep happening? Could the San Antonio Spurs, owners of an 11-game winning streak entering Wednesday's game against the Timberwolves at Target Center, league leaders in three-point shooting, keep missing? Would the Wolves, up by 21 early in the third quarter but watching that lead slowly dwindle, show the poise that had eluded them recently? The answers: No and no. The Spurs kicked it into veteran mode. The Wolves fought, clawed and made some big shots late but also had late breakdowns. Forced into overtime, they ultimately lost 113-109. Another great, big almost. ... So much to like, so much to rue. The Wolves shot 47.2 percent, hitting half their three-pointers. Love went for 32 points and 22 rebounds, while center Darko Milicic had 22 points, eight rebounds and five blocks. At one point, in the fourth quarter, the Spurs gave Tim Duncan help with a double team. Really. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said one of his assistants asked him if Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was out there."

  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: "The Lakers hold their annual Turkey Trot today. The big guys scrimmage against the little guys. 'Instead of a serious practice, we have a fun practice,' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said of today's workout. 'We have the big guys playing guard and the guards at center. We let them play roles they never get to play. They still have to work it out.' On one side is everyone on the roster who stands taller than 6-foot-4. On the other, everyone is 6-4 and under. It's become a Thanksgiving tradition for Jackson's teams, dating to his days as coach of the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s. Sometimes he has called the game the Foons, Goons and Fairies. Or maybe it's been Fairies, Foons and Goons. Whatever it's called, it's a contest between the big guys and the smaller ones. 'Last year, the Fairies scored 120 points,' Jackson said. 'And our Foons scored about 25, so it was really tough. We don't have any Goons outside of Pau (Gasol, a 7-footer), and he's not playing, so we don't have any guys big enough. It's all Foons.' "

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "For veteran NBA players like Josh Smith, who already are among the best in the world, improvements in their games usually are gradual and often somewhat predictable. That's why it has been surprising to see Smith, a poor jump shooter over his previous six pro seasons, suddenly make longer range baskets at a dramatically better rate. According to shot location statistics at Hoopdata.com, Smith never made more than 34 percent of his shots from 16 to 23 feet in his five previous seasons. So far this year, he is shooting 40 percent from 16 to 23 feet, which is about the league average for all players. After shunning 3-pointers -- he took only seven attempts last season -- Smith is back to shooting them. A 27 percent 3-point shooter entering this season, he's made eight of 20. When weighted for the increased value of 3-pointers, that computes to an effective field-goal percentage of 58. Smith worked on his jump shot before the season and so far, it's working."

  • Justin Rogers of Booth Newspapers: "Wednesday was another rough night for Richard Hamilton. He missed his first five shots from the floor, failing to register his first points until the third quarter. Then as he was starting to heat up, Rip picked up his second technical foul for unnecessary complaining after a whistle. This is the second time Hamilton's been ejected for multiple technical fouls in a game this season. He's quickly turning into a poster boy for the NBA's 'Respect the Game' rule. At the time of the second tech, the Grizzlies had jumped out to an 11-point lead and appeared well on their way to pulling away, but it's disappointing to see one of the team's veteran leaders getting tossed while the result was still in question."