First Cup: Wednesday

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: Other than ditching his crutches and getting a haircut, Mike D'Antoni didn't do much to commemorate his first game on the sidelines Tuesday as the coach of the Lakers. The man who replaced Mike Brown - and more importantly, the memory of Phil Jackson - knows better than most the uniqueness of the journey he's embarking on, so to do anything out of the ordinary beforehand would have been a bit too much. "You're coaching the Lakers at Staples Center," he said at his pregame news conference. "It doesn't get any better than this." Enough said. Besides, after sitting the past four games while recuperating from recent knee-replacement surgery, D'Antoni was just looking forward to the comfortable routine of coaching a basketball game again. It didn't hurt the Lakers held on for a 95-90 victory against Brooklyn. "Well, first of all, it's great to be out there," D'Antoni said. "Great to be with the guys and that's what you coach for." Even if he did have to grimace through the lingering post-surgery pain and probably scale back his sideline intensity to accommodate the still-mending knee. "I'm 61 years old; I haven't been pain-free since I was 30," he said, as if this wasn't anything new.

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: So much had gone right for the Nets until the game’s final, critical minutes. They contained the Lakers’ ultrapotent offense, which produced 233 points in its previous two games. They withstood nearly everything Bryant and Dwight Howard threw at them. They had a 6-point lead with 5 minutes 22 seconds to play. But the Nets (6-3) made only one field goal the rest of the way and lost in thoroughly frustrating fashion. Joe Johnson missed two 3-pointers, one of them an air ball. Wallace missed an open 22-footer, and Deron Williams followed with another missed shot from beyond the arc. The Lakers tied the score at 86-86 on a dunk by Howard, then went ahead for good on Pau Gasol’s free throw with 2:37 left. Bryant, who had been quiet since the first quarter, sealed the game with six free throws in the final 17.1 seconds. At the final buzzer, Williams threw one last 80-foot heave, striking the opposite backboard. “We missed shots,” he said flatly. “They went to the free-throw line. And that was it.” Not entirely. Coach Avery Johnson was rankled with the officiating down the stretch.

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: Carmelo Anthony was so efficient and so lethal Tuesday night that anything seemed possible. “Honestly, I thought he was going to score 50,” Tyson Chandler said. Anthony definitely had that look, but ultimately the Knicks were too strong, and the undermanned New Orleans Hornets so defenseless that Mike Woodson used the last 16 minutes of Tuesday’s 102-80 victory to rest his superstar forward in advance of Wednesday’s game against Dallas. “It could have been a great night. Who knows?” Anthony said. “It’s kind of hard to tell. We’ll see. I’m pretty sure there’ll be nights like that again.” Anthony finished with 29 points in 28 minutes as the Knicks began their second three-game road trip in consecutive weeks with a victory. At 8-1 they own the NBA’s best record and perhaps its best player at this very moment.

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: The Hornets couldn’t avoid another bad start in Tuesday night’s 102-80 loss to the New York Knicks. They were outscored 29-17 in the first quarter. They had the same problem last Friday against the Oklahoma City Thunder when they got outscored 36-18 before getting routed 110-95. ``I think there has been a lesson from the last four games,’’ Hornets center Robin Lopez said. ``I think we just need to be as aggressive as we are in practice, play with that emotion and I think we’ll be Ok.’’ The Hornets (3-6) are hoping for a turnaround when they face the Indiana Pacers (5-7) Wednesday night at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse. After the Pacers, the Hornets play the Phoenix Suns on Friday before facing Denver Nuggets on Sunday and Los Angeles Clippers this upcoming Monday. The Hornets will likely have to play without having rookie forward Anthony Davis for the second consecutive game Wednesday night. He suffered a stress reaction in his left ankle during Monday’s practice.

  • Jason Wolf of The News-Journal: Andrew Bynum’s agent is apparently not ready to share details of the knee ailments that have kept the 76ers’ center sidelined indefinitely. Dr. David W. Altchek of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, Bynum’s longtime personal orthopedist, said late Tuesday night that agent David Lee does not want him discussing his client’s knees with reporters. Earlier in the day, Altchek agreed to speak with The News Journal about specifics regarding the injured All-Star center’s “mystery” knee condition, pending approval from the team. Sixers officials waited until shortly before tipoff of their 106-98 victory over the Raptors on Tuesday night before indicating that only Lee could approve such a request. One of the top orthopedic surgeons in America, who is not involved in Bynum’s treatment and has not seen his MRIs, told The News Journal on Saturday that all of the publicly available information points to a probable diagnosis of osteochondral lesions, a condition that may keep Bynum out for the season. If this is the case, the surgeon said, there is a small chance the condition may heal on its own within four to six months, but that will likely keep Bynum out of action until late March or April, at the earliest.

  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: Kyle Lowry played the role of rusty saviour in his surprise return to the Raptors lineup on Tuesday and was none-too-pleased afterwards. Lowry missed five of eight free throw attempts and the Raptors (3-8) shot just 69% from the line, blowing a fourth-quarter lead in a 106-98 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers (7-4). "Personally I was not happy with the way I played. A lot of the things (that contributed to the loss), I just put on myself tonight," Lowry said. The Raptors led by seven after three quarters, but Philadelphia went small — as it had in a win at the ACC earlier this season — and Toronto again could not match up. Jrue Holiday absolutely carved the visitors, constantly breaking down the defence and finding open teammates for corner three attempts. Lowry is not yet healthy enough to cover fleet point guards, so Jose Calderon was saddled with the chore and had little help behind him.

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: If the Maloofs are remotely interested in sustaining the Kings in Sacramento, tabling the new arena vs. renovated arena conversations at least for a few more days/months/years, they need to issue one sure, swift, franchise-shaking statement. Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie has to go, and he has to take the entire basketball operations staff with him. This just isn't working. The pieces still don't fit. Sleep Train Arena – once the home of league sellout streaks and colorful, chanting and knowledgeable Kings fans – has become a half-empty building in crisis. We can talk all day about bad trades and the chronic tendency to fill roster spots with players of similar skills and sizes. We can discuss terrible coaching hires all night. We can argue about draft choices – many of whom were excellent during the Jason Williams, Peja Stojakovic, Hedo Turkoglu and Gerald Wallace era but that have been far less impressive in recent years. … It was a great run while it lasted, and Petrie ran a great operation for a while. But it's over. Sleep Train Arena is not the Pentagon. It's time to rid the building of its paranoia and negativity, to change the culture and, yes, weave the Kings back into the fabric of the community.

  • Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: The Thanksgiving holiday means Haslem gets to have a few slices of his grandmother's caramel cake, a recipe unknown to most in the family. Haslem only knows it's made from scratch, and "straight from Perry, Ga." Still, a day before he digs in, Haslem is expected on the receiving end of something perhaps even sweeter. He needs just two rebounds Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks to pass Alonzo Mourning and his Miami Heat career rebounding record of 4,807. The moment could actually spoil Haslem's Thanksgiving meal. "The memories are what I'll save," Haslem said. "Hopefully, I won't get old or Alzheimer's or something and (forget) that I was the rebounding champion. The memories are what I'll really hold on to, what are dearest to my heart."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: While Dirk Nowitzki delivered some disappointing news today, saying he doesn’t expect to be in uniform until mid-December, he will not allow his competitive drive to get the best of him. In other words, he’ll resist any urge to take a shortcut in his rehab in order to return even the slightest bit before he’s fully recovered from right knee surgery. The reasoning, he said, is that he has a bigger picture in mind. It’s not only this season or next – the last two on his current contract. He said he is looking at hopefully having more productive years beyond that. … That game plan would take Nowitzki’s career through 2016. If that’s the case, being prudent now is the smart attitude to have. But that doesn’t make it easy. “It’s been learning to be patient the last couple weeks,” he said.

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: Robin Lopez is the New Orleans Hornets' starting center. Seven-footer Andrea Bargnani plays more than 34 minutes per game for the Toronto Raptors. Forward Michael Beasley averages 30 minutes for the Phoenix Suns. And the Milwaukee Bucks' Ersan Ilyasova averaged 8.8 rebounds per game just a season ago. All four of these players average fewer rebounds per game this season than Kenneth Faried averages in offensive rebounds. The Nuggets power forward is grabbing 5.7 offensive boards per game, best in the NBA. And teammate JaVale McGee averages three, the second most of any player not averaging 20 minutes. Add it up and the Nuggets lead the NBA in offensive rebounds (16.8 per game), more than two ahead of the second-place Los Angeles Lakers (14.1). … Oh, and the Nuggets lead the league in total rebounding, too, as might be expected. In nine of their first 11 games, Denver (5-6) has outrebounded its opponent. Since the start of the 2010-11 season, the Nuggets are 68-21 when they win the rebounding battle.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: The comparison would seem flimsy at best, particularly coming from someone so devoted to considering every detail and measuring every word. Tom Thibodeau, however, can offer no greater compliment, which was deliberately his intention. Omer Asik was Thibodeau’s kind of defensive bulkhead, which is praise enough given the Chicago coach’s much-celebrated devotion to defense. But after two seasons with Asik as his backup center with the Bulls, Thibodeau looked past his performance and potential to the qualities that make both possible. “In a lot of ways,” Thibodeau said, “he is like Yao Ming.” In a lot of ways, he is quite different. Yao, who worked extensively with Thibodeau with the Rockets and in the offseasons in China, was blessed with an uncanny shooting touch and well-honed offensive moves. Asik is the backbone of the Rockets’ defense, largely on the strength of quick feet for a 7-footer, but has a relative lack of offensive skills. Yet a day before Asik was set to face the Bulls for the first time Wednesday at Toyota Center, Thibodeau, who spent four seasons as a Rockets assistant, saw what Asik and Yao had in common. “Very, very bright,” Thibodeau said of his former big men.

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: Clippers forward Matt Barnes spent a good portion of Monday’s game complaining to officials — and anyone else within earshot — about Manu Ginobili’s errant elbows. The Spurs guard was briefly whistled for a flagrant foul in the third quarter for elbowing Barnes, though the call was downgraded to a run-of-the-mill offensive foul upon review. “I know when I go against him, I always have to have my head turned,” Barnes said. “He hit me with a good elbow. I just told him not to elbow me again.” It was not the first time this season Barnes had a dust-up with Ginobili. The two had to be separated during a Clippers win over the Spurs on Nov. 7 in Los Angeles. Despite their differences, however, Barnes said he has no running beef with Ginobili.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: When the Los Angeles Clippers walk into Chesapeake Energy Arena on Wednesday, they'll roll in red hot, coming to town atop the Western Conference at 8-2, with a league-best six-game winning streak and the NBA's last unblemished road record. In other words, the Thunder's worst nightmare has gotten even scarier. For all the talk about how the new-look Lakers are destined to dethrone the defending Western Conference champions, it's the Clippers who loom as the Thunder's biggest threat. The Clippers, historically, just haven't been a good matchup for the Thunder, and this, the first of three regular-season meetings, will be our first glimpse into whether anything has changed. The Thunder can only hope so, as the Clippers are shaping up to be among the teams Oklahoma City must go through if it intends on making a return trip to the NBA Finals.

  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: Warriors guard Klay Thompson did everything he could to appear "fine" after another rough performance. He shrugged his shoulders, kept a straight face, talked matter-of-factly. But when asked about the potential game-winner he missed in Monday's win over Dallas, his facade cracked. "That one hurt," he said, wincing as if his bricked 3-pointer with 16 seconds left just replayed in his head. "It didn't feel like it was good. It felt off to the right." It was the most recent example of Thompson's struggles this young season, one that has raised the question: What happened to Thompson's shot? It's been a steady diet of bricks since his meltdown in the home loss to Denver on Nov. 10, in which he was 9 of 26 shooting and made a crucial mistake down the stretch that contributed to the defeat. In the four games since that Denver game, after which Thompson reportedly left the arena in his uniform, Thompson is shooting 23.4 percent from the field. He's made just three of his past 20 from 3-point range (15 percent). … He's been known to shoot in the evening at the team's facility. In practice, according to several, he appears to be the usual Thompson, which is why few are concerned. But what if Thompson's woes are more mental than technical? What if he's thinking too much, forcing it too much, or even doubting himself? What if Thompson's struggles are because he's not as good under the pressure of meaningful games and with opposing scouts keying on how to stop him? The thought of that is laughable to coach Mark Jackson.