First Cup: Monday

  • Jill Painter of the Los Angeles Daily News: Lakers coach Mike Brown is not caving under the pressure that has put him on the hot seat in early November. Not even after the Lakers lost their first three games. It was a woeful beginning not seen since 1978, but if you're thinking Brown is going to ditch the Princeton offense, that's just wishful thinking. The Lakers finally found a reprieve from their losing ways as they crushed a young Pistons team 108-79 Sunday at Staples Center. They needed this. Fans gave a standing ovation over the final seconds and purple and gold streamers came from the rafters. This wasn't a playoff game, no. Just Game 4 of the regular season. Hey, a win is a win is a win is a win. More important for the Lakers, it wasn't another loss. "Some may look at as a relief, but I look at it as a good win because we needed a win. But it's not whew," Brown said, mimicking the noise surely many fans made. "It's not one of those. I'm excited about the way we played the game."

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: For the Pistons, surely they aren't as bad as they displayed. This performance was reminiscent of many during their disastrous 4-20 start last season, raising the question of whether Pistons coach Lawrence Frank will consider changes to the lineup or write this game off as a lethargic or ineffective effort. "It was total domination," Frank said. "Their first 15, 18 points were in the paint and they were shooting 62 percent. They scored 80 points basically in the first 32 minutes constantly taking the ball to the net." Rodney Stuckey continued his struggles, part of which could be attributed to migraine headaches he's getting treatment for. He hasn't made a basket on this trip, missed all six of his attempts Sunday and for the season, is 1-for-23. His backcourt partner, Knight, wasn't much better, either. The second-year point guard had trouble initiating the offense and had five turnovers. The Pistons shot 37 percent from the field, allowing the Lakers to shoot 62 percent in the first half, as garbage time came into play early.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: The worst thing that can happen to this Thunder season is something that’s reared its head in every single game thus far. That’s egos creeping in and causing players to believe they’re better than. Tonight, much like the first two nights of the 2012-13 season, there was a ton of barking amongThunder players. At the end of the first quarter, Thabo Sefolosha and Russell Westbrook had to be separated from exchanging words as they walked to the bench. It was a show of anger that surprisingly was also seen from the same two as they walked off the court at halftime Friday night. Later, Durant chewed out Serge Ibaka for failing to grab a rebound. And of course there was the usual head-shaking between Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins whenever the paint went left unprotected. The problem is everyone has an opinion and everyone is sharing it. It can’t be that way. There should be two voices on the court. Durant’s. And Westbrook’s. Everyone else needs to fall in line. What’s happening now is that everyone is acting like they know best, almost like they’re the reason for the team’s success, like their poop doesn’t stink and the man’s next to them does. And you can’t help but wonder how much of the attitude has to do with last year’s success and whether it will soon subside or only fester and grow fangs.

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Lou Williams signing looks pretty darn good right about now. The Hawks did what few thought was possible on Sunday. They entered one hostile environment and stared down the defending Western Conference champion Thunder. Oh, and did we mention they did so without star Josh Smith. Williams had a run of 10 straight points late in the fourth quarter as the Hawks defeated the Thunder 104-95 silencing a once raucous sellout crowd of 18,203 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Williams scored 14 of the Hawks’ final 23 points. DeShawn Stevenson hit a 3-pointer with 1:28 remaining that put the Hawks up 100-91. Williams then hit four free throws in the final seconds to ice the victory and end a Thunder mini-run. “Over the past four or five years of my career, the fourth quarter has probably been my best,” said Williams, who finished with 19 points.

  • Nate Taylor of The New York Times: There was no pregame speech from Carmelo Anthony to the home crowd, no emotional rush with the opening tip-off and no sign of the defending champion Miami Heat, as there was on Friday. Instead, the Philadelphia 76ers, who finished a game back of the Knicks in the Atlantic Division last season, were at the Garden for the noon game. Although it would not look as impressive, Coach Mike Woodson knew a victory against the 76ers would be just as important. The Knicks withstood every push from the 76ers in the second half to secure a 100-84 victory and start a season 2-0 for the first time in 13 years. Their performance had all the elements Woodson wanted: solid defense, ball movement and offensive production from the reserves. Though it is early, the Knicks have demonstrated a formula for success. “Our blueprint is to play defense, move the ball to the open man and keep playing hard,” said J. R. Smith, who had 20 points and 9 rebounds off the bench. “We have confidence in each other.”

  • John N. Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer: Doug Collins often has bemoaned the presence of photographers along the baseline, and on Sunday, when he lost shooting guard Jason Richardson to a sprained left ankle in the first quarter against the New York Knicks, the 76ers coach had yet another reason to complain. However, it was Richardson, not Collins, who did the talking. "They really don't belong down there - you see what happens," said Richardson, who suffered the sprain when he stepped on a cameraman's foot at Madison Square Garden. "It creates all kinds of problems for players. There's got to be a better way." Richardson was hurt less than two minutes into the game with the Sixers trailing, 5-2. X-rays of his ankle found no broken bones, but he left the arena with his foot in a walking boot. In Monday's rematch with the Knicks at the Wells Fargo Center, Richardson likely will be replaced in the starting lineup by Nick Young.

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: There may not be a bigger compliment that Dwane Casey can give. He is a basketball coach who appreciates work ethic above all, a guy who loves players who compete and do what’s asked and when the conversation got around to Alan Anderson after the Raptors’ first win of the season, Casey trotted out a superlative that might mean more than any he could use. “He’s a man,” Casey said of Anderson, who had 18 points off the bench as the Raptors beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 105-86 before an announced crowd of 16,754 at the Air Canada Centre. “He played like a man.” Anderson does possess all the attributes Casey holds dear to his heart and that fans should appreciate. He’s not flashy but he’s tough. He’s not gifted but he grinds. He’s not selfish but he can make teams pay when they ignore him. He’s a pro who knows how to play.

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: Fearless Timberwolves point guard J.J. Barea doesn't remember much about the second-quarter play that knocked him out of Sunday night's game at Toronto. But he does know one thing after he left the game because of what a team spokesman called "concussion-like symptoms." "My face hurts," he said after a 105-86 loss in which his team already was without injured stars Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. "I got a couple cuts in my mouth, but other than that, I'm all right." Actually, the NBA will determine that, perhaps as soon as Monday. Barea must pass NBA tests that are part of the league's new concussion policy before he is cleared to play again. The Wolves face the Nets in Brooklyn on Monday night. Barea took two tests Sunday night at Air Canada Centre. "I think I failed the first and passed the second one just now, so we'll see," he said after scoring nine points before being sidelined after playing less than eight minutes. "I'll probably play [Monday]."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: They crushed Phoenix 115-94 to remain unbeaten Sunday night, spotting the Suns two starters to boot. One of the fill-ins was DeQuan Jones, a training-camp long-shot who made good. Who drew up this operations plan? The directors of Rudy? Was this a Disney movie? The Magic are going off-script. They had no business winning against Phoenix, considering who was on medical leave. No Jameer. No Hedo. (And, oh yeah: No Dwight). The Magic could have easily justified falling to the Suns in this matchup of rebuilding teams and not be accused of tanking by the NBA, FCC, Congress or the Better Business Bureau. Not one guy in the lineup was a full-time starter last season. Instead, they took their postseason battle cry from last season — "We All We Got" — seriously. … Time for fans to start working as hard as these players, don't you think? Break up the Magic! Oh, that's right. They already did. And apparently, these guys are reveling in it.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Like any team, the Suns had optimism. But they have to be stunned about being 1-2 after games against franchises that are supposed to join them for the June draft lottery. “Surprised? Upset,” Suns forward Michael Beasley said. On a day that began with the best quarter of their young season, the Suns turned embarrassingly inept at both ends during a 35-point turnaround to an injury-depleted Orlando team. The Magic used a 32-8 run over the third quarter’s final 8:07 to wind up blowing out the Suns 115-94 at Amway Center. Within two hours of play, the Suns went from a team that finally had its offense catching up with continued defense to a team that looked like it has more issues than a newsstand. Over a six-minute stretch of play, the Suns managed one defensive stop, and that was only because Glen Davis, the Magic player who was killing them with a 14-point quarter, happened to miss a jump shot.

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: Robert Pera said he wants to make FedExForum the most technologically advanced arena in the country. He said he wants to use advanced analytics to evaluate players, like the sort used in "Moneyball." He said he wants to build a player-centric culture in Memphis, so players will think of Memphis as a destination. And, yes, at this last one, I rolled my eyes, too. But that's the thing about youth. It tends to dream big. That's supposed to be a good thing, isn't it? Besides, Pera doesn't come across as rash and impulsive, but thoughtful and deliberate. He picked Levien to essentially run the franchise, on the business and basketball sides. The two of them won't make any decisions about Chris Wallace, Greg Campbell or Lionel Hollins until they have a chance to see how the team operates. … The guy doesn't think he has all the answers. He just wants to find them all, soon. So today should be a big day for the city, and for Pera, too. Asked how he expects to feel, Pera gave the answer of any jacked up 34-year-old. "Awesome," he said.