First Cup: Friday

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: Timberwolves two-time All-Star Kevin Love made his season debut in a stealthy attack launched under the cover of darkness as night fell over Target Center on Wednesday. Now, as funny as it might seem, a Wolves team that played defense so passionately and moved the ball so freely in building that 5-2 season start and now is .500 must learn again how to play with him. … Now Adelman must integrate Love back into a team that learned for a month to play without him, starting when the Wolves begin a four-game West Coast trip on Friday at Portland. And just when Adelman does that, he'll have to do it over again once Ricky Rubio returns from last March's knee surgery. Yes, you can call those good problems to have, even if it likely will leave 2011 No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams on the outside looking. With Love back and Adelman preferring the experience provided by forwards Dante Cunningham and Lou Amundson, Williams went from starting power forward to not playing a second Wednesday night.

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: Not just one doctor, but multiple doctors have told Roy that he should stop playing basketball. His knees are getting worse by the day. By now, at 28, he has had so many surgeries, so many treatments and seen so many doctors, he sounds like a specialist. He explains that he has degenerative arthritis, which erodes and eventually eliminates cartilage, with the same precision and ease that came to define his run of three consecutive All-Star appearances. And with the calm that made him one of the game's best finishers, he explains that his knees have reached Level III arthritis. There are only four stages. "Level IV," Roy says fearlessly, "is when you get a knee replacement." So why do this? He doesn't need the money. He doesn't want the attention. He doesn't need the validation. Why risk his long-term health? Why endure the pain? Why? Two reasons, Roy says. When he walked away from the Blazers and the NBA, he felt it wasn't on his terms. And as a result he lost himself. This comeback, then, is not about rediscovering glory, or proving doubters wrong. He is searching for himself. Searching for peace.

  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: Too little, too late. The NBA admitted on Thursday to missing a foul on the decisive play of Toronto's loss to the Bobcats a day earlier. … Credit the league for admitting the error, but it won't do much for the Raptors. The ninth loss of the season (against three victories) stays on thebooks and the disappointment remains. The team, citing league rules, declined to comment on the explanation. What was there to say? The team already knew referee Ed Malloy -- standing close to the play -- blew the call. … This isn't the first time the Raptors sent tape in to the league. This isn't the first time, according to multiple sources, that the league admitted it got something wrong involving the Raptors this year. But what can you do? The officials aren't perfect and they are far from the only reason Toronto is losing close games. The team hasn't found a closer yet. Someone to take control and hit tough shots. Kyle Lowry might be that guy, but he is also so supremely confident that he often makes bad decisions late -- either dribbling into the opposition or hoisting up bad shots (like the one that hit only backboard, just before Walker's and-one play).

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Jeremy Lin knows that the spotlight will be focused on him again tonight, with his first meeting with the Knicks in one of those games that others circle as soon as the schedules are released. (He said he never looks at the schedule and was unsure of the date of his return to New York on Dec. 17.) The first meeting since the Knicks’ decision not to match the Rockets’ back-loaded, three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet comes with his former club holding the NBA’s best record and Lin struggling as he never has before. In a sense, that makes it easier for Lin to ignore the circumstances of today’s reunion. Making just 33.3 percent of his shots this season and just 22.9 percent of his 3-pointers without making even one 3-pointer in his past five games, he has more pressing concerns. “I know I’ve been exposed a lot early in the season and I have a lot to work on,” Lin, 24, said. “I’m young. I probably started 30-something games (37) in my entire career. That’s what I have to keep in mind, even though I want everything to happen the way I want it to now.”

  • Nate Taylor of The New York Times: J. R. Smith, who joined the Knicks when Linsanity was at its height, was as blunt as Felton as he looked ahead to Friday night. “I don’t really care about Jeremy’s situation,” he said. “He doesn’t wear the Knicks uniform anymore. “We have all the pieces we need. I love my team and the people we have around us.” So, Happy Thanksgiving, Jeremy Lin. See you Friday night.

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: Still astounded to see Tim Duncan’s run of 13 consecutive All-Star appearances end last February, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich already has begun stumping for his star big man three months ahead of this season’s game in Houston. Step one of the campaign appears to be to remind voters — and fellow coaches who select reserves — of last season’s snub. “I thought he played well enough in the West to be on the All-Star team,” Popovich said. “I thought that was a big mistake, and I thought a lack of respect for how well he played last year. He’s done the same thing this year.” The sample size is small, but 12 games into his 16th NBA season, Duncan is turning in numbers that would rival the best seasons of his All-Star prime. The 36-year-old is averaging 18.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game, while shooting 51.6 percent from the field. His player efficiency rating, as tabulated by ESPN.com stats guru John Hollinger, ranks third in the league behind only Miami’s LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant. Whether Duncan can maintain that pace — and whether it makes a difference at the All-Star ballot box — remains to be seen.

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: Kobe Bryant put all three coaches in context recently by saying there is one broad commonality between D'Antoni and Jackson (and, by implication, not Brown): Bryant said both D'Antoni and Jackson are skilled in their ways of "not micro-managing the team." Brown believed just as strongly in his basic defensive blueprint as D'Antoni does in his offensive one, but Brown's overall confidence in what he knew just didn't translate into trust in him from his players. D'Antoni might sound like a slick salesman at times, but you know that he totally believes in his product. It's just the latest demonstration of how the most important thing about coaching a professional sports team is being able to inspire.

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: He's back. Grizzlies forward Darrell Arthur is expected to make his regular-season debut Friday night but insists he was ready the first time he participated in practice. Doctors and the head athletic trainer cleared Arthur for contact workouts last week. He stepped onto the court and soon caught a lob pass from teammate Josh Selby. When Arthur threw down the alley-oop dunk, he removed any doubts about his recovery. … Arthur had been preparing for the season following eight months of rehabilitation from an Achilles injury when he suffered a leg fracture during a September pickup game. With the small, non-displaced fracture healed, Arthur is ready to roar with the Western Conference-leading Griz, who host the star-studded but underachieving Los Angeles Lakers in FedExForum.

  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: There’s little doubt that fourth quarters have been a failure for the Bulls during the annual circus road trip. … So the obvious question is whether the Bulls are playing the wrong lineup in the fourth quarter or the poor performances are due to an inability to execute. “We’re a team that’s always been great at executing down the stretch and we’re not in the right position,” Joakim Noah told reporters in Houston, according to espn.com. “It’s frustrating.” The most obvious lineup suggestion would be to try playing veteran guard Richard Hamilton more. He’s rarely played in the fourth quarters this season. … Everyone knows why Carlos Boozer doesn’t get the call very often in the fourth quarter. Coach Tom Thibodeau prefers to stick with defensive lineups and it’s difficult to argue with his success in three years on the job. The biggest problem right now might be the inability to combine the skills of point guards Nate Robinson and Kirk Hinrich. … Should the Bulls try to accelerate Marquis Teague’s development? He has the athletic skills to shine in this role and had a strong fourth quarter against Boston on Nov. 12. Anything seems worth a try with the Bulls riding their first regular-season three-game losing streak of Thibodeau’s tenure.

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: Improvement was demanded by owner Tom Gores and the roster, on paper, is better. … The pressure could begin to mount, especially when one considers Frank's history of slow starts dating back to his days in New Jersey. They seem to be his hallmark, and although this team rebounded to finish with a respectable .500 mark in the final 41 games last season, circumstances and expectations are different now. Frank has turned it around before, in New Jersey and here. Players often credit him for his preparation. But the pattern of losing games after halftime is alarming. Gores has said he's patient about the process of pro sports but also that he's impatient, as billionaires are wont to be. The question is, how long will he give Frank to turn it around?

  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: Imagine the fan reaction Friday in TD Garden if former Boston Celtics center Kendrick Perkins crouched down and started defending close friend and ex-teammate Rajon Rondo in the backcourt. Several times this season the 6-foot-10, 262-pound Perkins has defended the Thunder's opposing point guard. He does this to temporarily disrupt the other team's offense, which presumably hasn't spent much time prepping for Perkins defending the point. “Get them out of their rhythm,” Perkins explained. In addition to the shock value, Perkins does this to ignite his internal fire.

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: With Thanksgiving off, the Celtics could only reflect on their mistakes, not work on them. They will have a shootaround Friday to sharpen some things before facing Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. But the numbers show that the Celtics can play defense — when they want to. In their six wins, the Celtics are holding opponents to 42.1 percent shooting and 91.5 points. In their six losses, those numbers balloon to 50.4 and 107. That’s what has Rivers so angry, the fact that the Celtics are showing up to play defense when they have the energy and passion. But every other night, they don’t.

  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: Ray Allen, 37, is in his 17th season but most Heat fans are watching him night after night for the first time, and they may have taken notice of something, if it hasn’t been too swift to miss. No one anywhere appears to get shots up quicker than the Heat’s new sixth man. Some of this is perception – fellow sharpshooter James Jones argued that Allen’s tendency to jump on his shot, and then shoot much flatter than Jones or Mike Miller, “gives you the sense that it comes out a lot faster than it actually is, because the time from his release to the time he makes a basket is (snap).” And yet, as Miller added, “Your ball flight doesn’t mean your release is necessarily faster. But in his case it does. Boom boom.” As releases go, only one South Florida sportsman has been clearly faster, and that man spent 17 seasons wearing No. 13 and slinging for the local NFL representative. As was the case for Dan Marino, there’s some science behind the speed. “There’s huge science,” Allen said. So how does that start? “I think it’s more body positioning than anything, knowing when to get your body in a certain position, and then the minute the ball comes, you only have one motion to make,” he said. “And that’s going up to release it. It’s like, keep your feet ready. Because, if you notice, people catch the ball and then they set their feet. I try to set my feet before, so when the ball comes, it’s up in the air.” Allen, who is compulsive about his craft, has practiced this “ad nauseam” during his career. But it’s not just about practice. It’s about understanding game situations.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: His return was somewhat unexpected and his contributions were greatly accepted, but after making his season debut Wednesday night, Nene was dejected. All season, the Washington Wizards’ big man had to be the one to console his distressed teammates after disappointing losses, providing encouraging words to keep them motivated. But after the Wizards suffered a heartbreaking 101-100 overtime loss to the Atlanta Hawks – a gut-wrenching defeat in which they led with 7.3 seconds left before Hawks guard Kyle Korver hit a go-ahead three-pointer, and led again after time expired before referees waved off a Martell Webster tip-in at the buzzer – Nene had little to say. … Nene was hoping that his premature return on a bum wheel could inspire a win. Instead, he contributed to the most agonizing loss of the season. In the final two minutes of regulation, Nene stole the ball from Josh Smith and drew an offensive foul on another drive, but he also missed a free throw and committed a foul that allowed Devin Harris to tie the game at 90.

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: Forget all the extra time C.J. Miles put in, all the extra practice he took at night, all the extra shots he put up with the coaches, all the advice he sought -- and got. "I think the reason he broke out was he finally cut his hair," Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said after the slumping Miles scored a season-high 13 points in Wednesday night's 92-83 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers at The Q. "To hear everybody else in the locker room tell it, that's what it was," the newly shorn Miles said, laughing. He could laugh Wednesday, but it was clear just how much the slump was weighing on him. He came into the game shooting 21.8 percent. "I felt like I took the building off my shoulders, along with my hair," Miles said.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: A sluggish start to the season has Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova feeling a bit perplexed. This wasn't the way it was supposed to happen for the 25-year-old Ilyasova after he signed a four-year, $32 million contract during the off-season. Instead of picking up where he left off last spring when he finished second in the league's most improved player voting, the Bucks starting power forward has struggled with his shot and his confidence. His minutes are down and he has not been able to reprise his role as a gritty rebounder and accurate three-point shooter. "It's hard to explain," Ilyasova said. "Sometimes those things happen. You just try to fight through it and find a way, just help my teammates any way I can." … Skiles clearly is concerned about Ilyasova's play but isn't panicking about it. "Ersan just flat has to play better," Skiles said. "He's letting his missed field goals affect him a little bit, it feels like. That's human nature.”