First Cup: Thursday

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "A visibly irritated Andre Miller was still seething Wednesday afternoon about the suspension the NBA handed out to him for his actions during the Trail Blazers’ victory over the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday night. The Blazers' starting point guard was suspended without pay Tuesday for 'making excessive and unnecessary contact' with Blake Griffin in the fourth quarter of a game against the Clippers at the Rose Garden. Miller said he believes the punishment, handed out by NBA Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Stu Jackson, did not fit the crime. 'I took two shots,' Miller said. 'I took two shots and I gave a shot. So I told the ref out there, ‘We can call that even now.’ He didn’t make the call and he was looking right at it. So I get suspended for that? I’ll take a flagrant foul. But a suspension? It wasn’t justified at all.' ... Miller said the suspension “shows how soft the league is” and confirmed that “the rules don’t apply for everybody.” The 12-year NBA veteran was upset for several reasons — the disrespect shown to him by the league and the 'favoritism' given to young players chief among them -- but admitted the suspension was especially tough to swallow because it snapped his consecutive games played streak at 632. 'There was no consideration for what I’ve accomplished in this league,' Miller said."

  • Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times: "The NBA suspended Andre Miller on Monday, and also sent the players some reading material. It was said not to be a direct result of the particularly chippy Clippers-Trail Blazers game Sunday. 'The league did send out a memo to us and we had to read it, about foul play,' the Clippers' Ryan Gomes said. Gomes was teased that it should have been called: 'The Andre Miller Memo.' 'I think so,' Gomes said. 'They'll probably put that rule in at the end of the season.' Miller had taken issue with Griffin's physical play, leading to his decision to take matters into his own hands. 'He's a point guard, and Blake's a power forward,' Gomes said. 'When little guys come in the paint, bigger guys have to use their strength to get them off you because they're good with their hands. It's physical when you get in the paint. They let a lot of things go.' Plus, there's another factor. 'Blake finishes above guys and he has a lot of highlights, and I'm sure a lot of guys don't want to be caught on those highlights,' Gomes said. 'And that's why they're trying to grab him early.' "

  • Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe: "George Karl is a smart guy. He listened and learned. He sought advice and he was able to reshape himself into one of the best NBA coaches of the past 30 years, a man whoentered TD Garden with his Denver Nuggets last night in search of career victory No. 1,000. But this Martin Scorsese version of George Karl has almost nothing in common with the George Karl who coached the Cavaliers against the Celtics in a surprisingly competitive playoff series back in 1985. He was young, excitable, almost volatile, if you want to know the truth. ... George Karl is 55 pounds lighter than he was when the radiation and chemo began, and that’s OK because the important thing is that he’s here to tell the tale. Here’s the difference between the young George and this Hitchcock version: 'Losing bothers you, but it doesn’t defeat you.' You’d be philosophical, too, if you went through what George Karl has had to endure. His priorities are quite clear: 'God, love your family, and kick cancer’s ass.’ Winning a thousand games is nice, but getting out of bed one more time is even better."

  • Ian O'Connor of ESPNNewYork.com: "The New York Knicks told Raymond Felton they were getting rid of him the very minute they signed him. The contract covered a mere two seasons, making Felton nothing more than a rented tux to be returned in the summer of 2012. He was hired to be fired, and Felton understood the terms of engagement when he signed the papers. 'It's a business, man,' he said as he was lacing his dress shoes Wednesday night. A lucrative business, yet one that can be unforgiving and cold. 'I wanted play in New York and I wanted to play in this system,' Felton said. 'So I took the deal.' Two years and fifteen million bucks before handing the ball to Deron Williams or Chris Paul. Felton was among the consolation prizes when LeBron James didn't sign. He was supposed to be a game manager, a playmaking upgrade on Chris Duhon charged to do a credible job as a temp. You know, protect the ball, play some defense, throw some alleys for Amare Stoudemire's oops. Only on another December night in 2010, Felton did not look like anyone's idea of a stand-in. The kid who played his high school ball in South Carolina and his college and pro ball in North Carolina hardened his standing as the best quarterback in New York. Felton took 25 points and 11 assists into the final possession of a 110-110 game with the Toronto Raptors, with the Madison Square Garden crowd standing and chanting for the Knicks' sixth straight victory and 11th in 12 tries. The point guard had 20 at the half, and had missed seven of his eight shots across the third and fourth quarters."

  • Terry Foster of The Detroit News: "Things are not going well for Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. The Spartans are 6-3 and aren't playing like a Final Four team. But at least he is not the Cleveland Cavaliers' coach. His decision to stay at MSU looks better every day, even though Izzo is not thrilled with the way his team is playing at the moment. At least his team hasn't been blown out five straight games, like the Cavs -- giving up triple-digits in all five. Cavs coach Byron Scott yelled at his team during halftime of a listless 117-97 loss at Philadelphia on Tuesday night. The Cavs (7-14) have given up 100 or more points in 14 games and are 2-12 in those games. ... It could be Izzo steaming, not Scott. He was courted by Cavs owner Dan Gilbert to take over after Mike Brown was fired. It was not an easy decision for Izzo, trying to figure out if he should stay in East Lansing and coach a potential Final Four team or gamble that LeBron James would stay in Cleveland. Izzo guessed right. But he probably got the hint that the Green and White was better for him when James refused to return his phone calls."

  • Jodie Valade of The Plain Dealer: "Byron Scott doesn't classify it as a desperation move. Not yet. But the lineup changes the Cavaliers coach made for Wednesday's game against the Chicago Bulls was intended to open some eyes, shake things up and inject some emotion into a group he says is "feeling sorry for themselves" after losing five straight games. Antawn Jamison, a starter for all but one season of his 13-year career until this year, and Daniel Gibson both found places in the starting lineup, while Jamario Moon, the starting small forward for the season opener, was inactive Wednesday. The three-guard starting lineup meant 6-6 Anthony Parker slid to the small forward slot. More than anything, Scott said he was hoping to see some life in a team that simply hasn't shown effort in five losses that have come by an average of 22.2 points."

  • Frank Burlison of the Long Beach Press-Telegram: "The tag 'competitor' can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, basketball coaches included. And the Clippers coach has no problem tagging it on Kobe Bryant. 'I mean ... Kobe is one of the best players, per se, of course,' Vinny Del Negro said Wednesday night. 'Of course, he is a competitor. He has that killer instinct and the ability to back it up, the system to back it up and the players around him to back it up. So that makes it easier.' Del Negro is, undoubtedly, just one of three or four dozen NBA coaches who've articulated the same observation. 'You'd be hard-pressed to find a better closer,' Del Negro continued, 'or a better guy who wants the ball (in crunch time), a better guy to take difficult shots and to make them look easy. That's why he's been one of the top players, if not THE top player, in the league for a long time now.' "

  • Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune: "We have established that it was hasty for an old scribe to offer this opinion after watching Kevin Love play an exhibition for the Timberwolves in October 2008: Love was slow, undersized and would have minor impact as an NBA power forward. This has proven so inaccurate that the other premise of that treatise also has been negated: Trading shooting guard O.J. Mayo to Memphis for Love was another scarlet letter on Kevin McHale's résumé as the Wolves basketball boss. The deal made on June 26, 2008, was the last major transaction for McHale, and has succeeded to the degree that the Hibbing legend deserves an upgrade in assessing his performance for this franchise."

  • Jeff Rabjohns of The Indianapolis Star: "Roy Hibbert is trying to put it out of his mind. The Indiana Pacers center knows he has put himself in the running for the NBA Most Improved Player Award -- it even helped fuel him in the offseason -- but he only wants to think about it when the season is finished. 'During the summer, that was one thing I was working toward,' Hibbert said Wednesday prior to the Pacers' game against the Bucks. 'When I was getting better, that award was on my mind, but throughout the season, it's on the back burner. People are talking about it, but I try not to think about it too much.' In his third NBA season, the 7-2 center has improved in every area. He's averaging 15.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.9 blocked shots. As a rookie, he averaged 7.1 points and 3.5 rebounds, and last year those numbers were 11.7 points and 5.7 rebounds. Being mentioned as a candidate for the award, he concedes, is a compliment. 'But at the same time, you have to block it out. There were times I would be thinking about it and kind of psyche myself out that I'd have to score or do this or have this amount of stats. Last game I said to myself that I'm not going to look at that anymore.' "

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: "The Warriors have now lost 10 of their past 11 games. Forward Vladimir Radmanovic thinks the skid has as much to do with the team's poor practice habits as its tough schedule. ... 'We're struggling right now, and we need to find ways to get back to a winning streak,' Radmanovic said. 'After being in the league for 10 years and playing on teams that have won and teams that have lost, I have experienced what it takes to win. Bottom line: You have to come to practice and work on aspects of your game that are not clicking.' Radmanovic started all 21 games during the Lakers' championship run in 2008. He said he started to notice the Warriors' slacking in practice right about the time their slump began. 'Nobody likes to practice,' Radmanovic said. 'We all wish we could just play in games, because that's where it's fun. No practice, no game. That's the message I was trying to say to the guys.' The post-practice message was met with mostly knowing nods, but Monta Ellis took exception to the speech. After a quick retort, the guard said 'Forget it.' 'I understand that there are a few guys who are playing a lot of minutes, and it's hard for them to come to practice and stay motivated,' Radmanovic said. 'At the same time, those are the guys who are carrying this team, and we're all depending on their success to win games.' "

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "The legend of Kyle Lowry's jump shot remained, like the best stories and tall tales, unseen by most. Recent members of the Rockets mentioned it in conversations, not knowing it wasn't public knowledge, but quickly let the subject change. Even when Lowry had his breakthrough season, earning a four-year, $23.5 million offer sheet from the Cleveland Cavaliers that the Rockets rapidly matched, that purported shooting touch rarely ventured out to where it could be seen. It remained more of an urban legend spoken of around the Toyota Center practice court. 'He's been hitting them in practice for a couple of years now,' Aaron Brooks said to laughter, though he was perfectly serious. He's the best practice shooter on the team,' Kevin Martin said last week, 'trust me.' Lowry's 37 percent 3-point shooting this season, though an improvement from his 27.6 percent career 3-point shooting, is far from legendary.He quickly pointed out his December accuracy has lasted all of eight days. But in the past four games, he has made 11 of 19 3-pointers, averaging 18.5 points and 9.5 assists. The Rockets have averaged 112.3 points with Lowry driving the offense in his customary ways, along with his sudden spate of sharp-shooting."

  • Tania Valdemoro of The Miami Herald: "The Miami Heat's LeBron James has bought a three-story mansion overlooking Biscayne Bay in Coconut Grove for $9 million. The sale closed on Nov. 12, county records show. The transaction was first reported by real estate broker Alex Shay on Nov. 19 on his Miami Real Estate Blog. Shay said a previous owner of the home had contacted him after he heard that the basketball star bought the property. The 12,178-square-foot estate, at 3590 Crystal View Ct., has six bedrooms and eight and a half bathrooms and boasts water views from every room. There's a wine cellar, library, home theater, three-car garage and guest house."