First Cup: Thursday

November, 15, 2012
11/15/12
5:53
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: The Lakers, the Clippers' co-tenants at Staples Center, ran the triangle offense with great success in Phil Jackson's two stints as their coach. Then they ran the Princeton offense so poorly this season that it got Mike Brown fired as coach. So, what do the Clippers call their offense? Does it have a name? "Yeah, Chris Paul," Del Negro said, referring to his All-Star point guard. "All these names and all that stuff - you just put the ball in the best player's hands. I'm sure the ball is going to be in LeBron's hands. - You just try to get the guys to buy into what you're trying to do."
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: The concern was the bulk the Heat lacked. Instead, it was another point guard imposing his will, this time Chris Paul at the end of the third quarter. And he even did it against LeBron James during that fateful Clippers surge. LeBron again was good. But not great. On this night, great again was needed. It's becoming needed a bit too much. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade spent most of the night matching each other miss for miss. Bosh closed 3 of 13. Wade 2 of 10. And that was something that even solid nights from Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen couldn't overcome. The free-throw woes continued: LeBron shot 1 of 4 from the line in the first half to drop to 25 of 41 for the season. It reached the point where LeBron bypassed a technical free throw in favor of Bosh in the third quarter.
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: After getting ejected late in the fourth quarter, Thunder center Kendrick Perkins and Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph had their altercation spill over into the locker room area, according to multiple eyewitnesses and other nearby arena and team employees who overheard the commotion. It was the culmination of a night of frustration for Oklahoma City, which saw its five-game winning streak come to a screeching halt following its second lackluster home performance on the early part of this season. Memphis pushed pass OKC in a dominant second quarter that saw the Grizzlies outscore the Thunder 36-15 and turn a 10-point deficit at the end of the first quarter into an 11-point halftime lead. It was all downhill from there. The Thunder never wrestled the lead back and went on to trail by as many as 16 points in the second half before falling to 6-3 and 4-2 inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Scott Skiles had some advice for his team before its 99-85 home-court victory over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night. "It's something Coach was preaching before we went out there," Bucks guard Brandon Jennings said. "He said we've got to take it to them early and they'll shut down and that's basically what they did." The Bucks heeded their coach's words and spurted to a 27-9 lead before extending it to 60-34 at halftime, helped by a strong early effort from center Samuel Dalembert. Milwaukee (5-2) then scored the first six points of the third quarter to build a 32-point lead, and it was far too much for Indiana (3-6) to overcome.
  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: Making a trade is almost laughable because David West’s expiring contract is about the only asset the Pacers have these days. Sorry, I’m not giving up on Paul George. It’s too early to throw in the towel on him. It’s time to tinker with the starting lineup. Start D.J. Augustin at point guard and slide George Hill to shooting guard to go with George, David West and Roy Hibbert. I’m not saying Augustin has earned the starting job, but this will allow Hill to be more of a scorer. It may even help Augustin’s confidence. … So instead of trying to figure out a way to score and run the team, let Hill play shooting guard where his primary job will be to score. He can play point guard when he’s on the court with Lance Stephenson. Or make Ben Hansbrough the backup point guard.
  • Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle: Royce White, who has general anxiety disorder, has said a lot on Twitter, too much really. But he still hasn’t answered, at least not clearly, the question at the heart of the matter: Why has he not come to Toyota Center the past few days? It is almost impossible to weigh in on the subject without sounding as if you have no sympathy for White’s problems. Well, I do. I may have questions about his actions, but other than the Internet rants, which have not helped his cause, I’m not sure White has done anything wrong. Unless you think calling in sick is immoral. I’m not a doctor, and I’m certainly not going to play one in this space. One thing I can say with certainty, though, is that White needs help. He knows it and has admitted it. The Rockets know it. The team’s demand that he see a specialist of their choosing may not seem unreasonable to some of you, but White seems to think it is. Shouldn’t he be allowed to make decisions concerning his health?
  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Center Brandan Wright wasn't bothered at all when he was replaced in the starting lineup Wednesday by Chris Kaman. "Chris was brought here to start," Wright said. "He's been starting in this league for a long time, he's a big established guy, he's a center you can throw it down to in the blocks. "I wasn't offended at all. I knew it was coming eventually." Wright started the previous eight games and averaged 10.3 points and 4.6 rebounds while shooting a healthy 64.8 percent from the field. Meanwhile, Kaman has been brought off the bench -- except in the Nov. 7 game against Toronto, when Elton Brand was in New York for the birth of his daughter. Despite that solid showing by Wright, the five-year veteran knew the inevitable was going to occur.
  • Mike Wise of The Washington Post: And to think, we all thought it was Andray Blatche’s fault. Remember when Flip Saunders allegedly didn’t command enough respect? Surely after the Wizards jettisoned that softy of a coach and ’Dray’s lazy bones, the losses would be fewer, less hideous — right? Ha. You really thought someone hamstrung with a Quad Cities roster and one halfhearted player was the problem? These are the Wizards, people; they take their losing very seriously. They are the only winless team in the NBA. At 0-7, the Wizards are within hailing distance of matching last season’s 0-8 break from the gate, which is the worst start in franchise history. Missing Wall and Nene until at least next month, we all knew they were going to be bad out of the chute. We just didn’t know how bad, how irrelevant to the NBA conversation they’ve become a mere two weeks into the season.
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Charlotte Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap saw former Connecticut star Walker play pre-NBA a lot more than most NBA coaches, since he was an assistant at Big East rival St. John’s. Dunlap has often said Walker’s greatest talent is the ability to make “incredibly hard shots.’’ Wednesday defined that ability. That Walker waved off Tyrus Thomas’ pick-and-roll option, simply breaking down 6-foot-6 Alexey Shved for that 19-foot game-winner with less than a second left, was impressive. There’s no maybe anymore that power forward Byron Mullens has bought into defense. Look at his numbers Wednesday: 15 rebounds and four blocks to go with 12 points. Dunlap had a funny line about changing Mullens’ mindset: “We found out a long time ago with Byron that threats work.’’ Yes, that was intended to be funny, but I can tell you Mullens is intensely concerned with not letting down Dunlap. He told me as much a week ago. I asked Dunlap in the post-game about Mullens trying so hard to please. Dunlap replied that bond was established firmly in the off-season.
  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: The Timberwolves' surprising start heading into their game Wednesday night, Nov. 14, against the Charlotte Bobcats at Target Center has led to a significant jump in merchandise sales for the team. According to Fanatics.com, a leading online retailer of officially licensed sports merchandise, the Timberwolves experienced a 96.9 percent increase in merchandise sales for the week of Nov. 5-11. The increase over the one-week period is third-highest in the NBA behind the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers. Most of the Timberwolves' merchandise sales involve jerseys, T-shirts and other products featuring point guard Ricky Rubio and all-star forward Kevin Love.
  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: "Bucket man, that's who y'all are talking to." The voice? Greg Monroe. Bucket man? Rookie Kyle Singler, who stepped in in place of starter Rodney Stuckey (flu) on Wednesday night and showed not only does he belong on the NBA level but also made a case that he belongs in the starting five. Singler scored 16 points and added four rebounds in the Pistons' first victory of the season, 94-76 over the 76ers. He played impeccably as a starter, scoring 13 in the first half and being aggressive but staying in the flow of the offense. "I thought he played well," Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. "I thought there was really good harmony and karma on the court. We played no-agenda basketball. Philly wasn't having one of their better nights but our intent, spirit and effort, it was a oneness out there. That's how we have to play." When he was pressed on the prospect of Stuckey being "Wally Pipp-ed" by the second-round pick from 2011, Frank sidestepped the matter. "You're on the East Coast but you can't ask New York City questions," Frank said. "Let's just give credit where credit is due and continue to figure out what we need to do for the team."
  • Tom Moore of phillyBurbs.com: The 76ers followed a disappointing home loss to the Bucks with an even more disheartening defeat. Wednesday night’s 94-76 drubbing by the previously winless Pistons at the half-filled Wells Fargo Center gave the boobirds something to do in the second half before many of the fans cleared out midway through the fourth quarter. The Sixers (4-4) dropped to 0-2 on their five-game homestand at the hands of the 1-8 Pistons. Sixers coach Doug Collins said he talked to team president Rod Thorn, GM Tony DiLeo and owner Josh Harris right after the game and they said for “one of the few times since I’ve been coach, this team played with a lack of effort.” “I have no idea why,” Collins said. “I really don’t. We had a great practice (Tuesday). We were in slow motion. I don’t know how many times I asked the coaches sitting on the sideline, ‘What’s going on?’ ” The Sixers set a floor record by shooting 29.8 percent (25-for-84) in a building that opened in 1996, which was Allen Iverson’s rookie season.
  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: Warriors forward Harrison Barnes acknowledged he's noticed what other rookies are doing, and some of the big numbers they're putting up. On Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks, it was his turn: 19 points and 13 rebounds in Golden State's 92-88 win. "Obviously, I'm competitive," Barnes said after his first career double-double. "But at the same time, it's about wins." It was Barnes' rebounding that played the biggest part. His 13 boards were the most by a rookie this season and helped the Warriors dominate the glass (44-29). … "I had a conversation with him and let him know what I was going to need from him," coach Mark Jackson said. "I told him I was going to play him some more minutes, but he had to earn them. I'm not going to just hand them to him. I thought he was very aggressive. Most importantly, 13 rebounds. He went and got the ball."
  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: The safe answer is a happy medium, and despite coming from a pedigree that has been stat-heavy, coach Tom Thibodeau walked that happy medium Wednesday when the topic came up. “Stats are important,’’ Thibodeau said when discussing the idea of having shooting guard Richard Hamilton and point guard Kirk Hinrich on a minutes watch for the early part of the season. “We’ve always used stats; they just weren’t called advanced metrics as far back as the ’90s. Now it’s taken on a whole different meaning. I think stats are important, but I also think the trained eye is more important, and usually the numbers will confirm what you’re thinking or make you look at something a little differently.’’ … Thibodeau wouldn’t go into detail about the minutes watch. Instead, he explained it away as just a way to keep both of his starting guards healthy for the second half of the season.
  • Paul Coro The Arizona Republic: Michael Beasley has made 20 of 71 shots in the past five games. If a guy is taking 14 shots per game and shooting 28 percent, he ought to be playing great defense. He is not. But P.J. Tucker is. The Suns once again emerge from the depths of blowout range largely because of what Tucker’s intensity on defense and the boards does contagiously for a team. Paired with Sebastian Telfair, no team’s lead is safe.
  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: It’s hard to believe eight games into the Celtics season that Leandro Barbosa was a free agent into October, waiting for calls. A dispute with former agent Dan Fegan and a seemingly anonymous aura kept the phones quiet. Barbosa is a valuable commodity but disappeared during his years in Toronto and was thrown into a difficult situation at the trade deadline last season with the Pacers, for whom he was expected to be a reliable bench scorer for a playoff team. In his humble style, Barbosa spoke with coach Doc Rivers about his potential role after the sides agreed to a contract. And as he does with every veteran acquisition, Rivers promised nothing but an opportunity. Ten years in the NBA provided little equity. … Rivers doesn’t use players on reputation. The Celtics signed Jason Collins and Darko Milicic as backup centers and both have played sparingly. The fact Barbosa has secured minutes off the bench is a testament to his talent and versatility. “He’s earned it. I tell everybody, ‘Listen, we sign you, and you come, and there’s no guarantees that you’re going to play,’ ” Rivers said. “But if you earn it, you get to play. And he’s earned it. He deserves to play.”
  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: Knicks coach Mike Woodson vowed last season to make J.R. Smith “more professional’’ and a better player and better person. Mission accomplished. Woodson said Smith is surging in all areas. Last spring, Woodson got on Smith about wearing his “sagging’’ jeans — a hip-hop look in which his underwear shows — to the arena. There was Smith late Tuesday night in the visiting locker room in Orlando, donning a suit, his baby daughter in his arms, showing her off to teammates. “You see how he dresses when he comes to the games now,’’ Woodson said Wednesday. “He looks very professional. He’s in a suit. It’s beautiful to see, man. That’s not to say he doesn’t wear jeans and do some of things he was doing. That’s a start. I like everything about him. There’s something there I like. I’m going to make sure he’s successful.’’ Smith, who came to New York with a reputation as a troublemaker and lived up to it with his tweet of a naked woman in his hotel room last season, is on a serious tear as the Knicks’ sixth man. He is averaging 18.2 points, has scored 20 or more in three of the last four games and is an unconscious 13-of-18 from 3-point land.
  • Roderick Boone of Newsday: Break out the litmus paper. With the exception of their game against the Heat last week, the Nets haven't faced many high-caliber opponents during their first six games of the season. So that's why Thursday night's nationally-televised game against the Celtics represents something more, and they can sense it. It serves as the perfect setting for the Nets (4-2) to gauge themselves against the team that's captured the last five Atlantic Division crowns, something they're extremely eager to do. "It's definitely a big game," Joe Johnson told Newsday after Wednesday's practice at the Barclays Center. "Believe it or not, we just want to try to come out and try to make a statement. Obviously, we went down to Miami and lost to a great team. Now, we have another great team coming in our building and we've got to control tempo and pace."

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