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First Cup: Wednesday

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: "The story here is team president Larry Bird, who will carry this draft like an albatross until he shows he can turn around this franchise. As much as some of us like what Bird has done this summer, ridding the team of virtually every last remnant of the TrailPacers, that 2006 draft will remain on his record. He took Shawne Williams at No. 17. And he moved up in the second round to take James White with the first pick in the second round, then gave the kid an unnecessary guaranteed contract, only to see him fail to get out of training camp. 'Which,' Bird acknowledged the other day, 'we knew would look bad.' ... The 2008 class of Brandon Rush and Roy Hibbert better be the real deal, or Bird will be back on the golf course sooner rather than later."

  • Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal: "Now, in his second season with the Griz, Darko Milicic is back working mostly at his natural position at power forward. Newcomer Marc Gasol has stepped in as the man in the middle. And while Milicic promises 'to do whatever they want me to,' he admits not knowing what to think of the Twin Towers concept. Griz head coach Marc Iavaroni is taking a serious look at the combination. The pair of 7-footers started the past two preseason games together, and the idea is more than a fleeting experiment. Iavaroni is trying to strike the right balance with his starting unit as conventional wisdom suggests at least three positions have been solidified. The question midway through training camp appears to be what is the right power forward-center combination to go alongside the Grizzlies' talented perimeter trio of Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay? The upside of a Gasol-Milicic combo is their sheer bulk, defensive prowess and high basketball IQ that could help offensive flow."TrueHoop First Cup

  • Woody Paige of The Denver Post: "Beat Utah. Beat Utah. Beat Utah. Beat Utah. Beat Utah. Beat Utah. Beat Utah. Beat Utah. If that wasn't clear enough, maybe this is: BEAT UTAH. The Nuggs must beat the Jazz nine times. And I'm not talking about tonight's neither-here-nor-there, beside-the-point, not-worth-worrying-about exhibition at The Can. The Nuggets must beat the Jazz in the four regular-season games, for first place in the final NBA Northwest Division standings, and in four playoff games. Beat Utah, and the Nuggets can win a postseason series. It's not a cheer, a call to charge or a command. It's the Nuggets' challenge."

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: "BYU faithful remember him for being an NCAA-tournament-time Cougar-killer. Many hoops fans recall him being Carmelo Anthony's point guard on Syracuse's 2003 NCAA championship team. TV viewers, however, might recognize Gerry McNamara as being that guy who resembles the doll on Dwight Schrute's desk on the hit show, 'The Office.' And indeed he does. McNamara's hometown is Scranton, Pa., which happens to be where the popular comedy is based. After graduating from Syracuse in 2006, the minor-league Scranton Red Barons gave out 6,000 bobblehead dolls in McNamara's likeness. The hometown hero's shaky toy head eventually ended up as a TV prop through his brother's friend who does promotions for the show, the NBA hopeful told the Jazz PR crew."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "While I think it makes sense to keep Ronald Dupree because he's got NBA experience and is more polished, I am getting a sense that the Cavs are really considering giving local product Jawad Williams a chance to stick. Several members of the coaching staff/front office have commented to me, unprompted, at how good he's looked in practice. ... I know that Tarence Kinsey keeps getting praised by the coach, but he's been pretty unimpressive to me so far."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "It has been more of the same from [Shaquille] O'Neal at the free-throw line in the preseason, with eight misses in 12 tries. And it might be more of the same 'Hack-a-Shaq' approach this season for the career 52.4 percent free-throw shooter. The NBA reviewed the rule allowing intentional fouls away from the ball without penalty until the final two minutes but did not alter the rule to protect a weakness. 'I was fine with that,' O'Neal said. 'It doesn't work. It may work in a series, but it's not going to get you to the championship. San Antonio tried it, but they went home a couple weeks after we went home. I just have to go to the line and make them pay. And I will. The only thing I call cowardly is when you're up by 10 and do it. That's a cowardly move. I didn't say nothing last year, but that's a coward move. They should really do something about that. When you're down, I can see using it as a strategy, but when you're up 10 to 15 points, there's really no need for that.'"

  • Steve Adamek of The Record: "Eddy Curry stepped onto the Garden floor with 2:45 left in the first quarter Tuesday night to a chorus of indifference. Once upon a time, he mattered. But as the Knicks fell to the 76ers, 116-109, in Mike D'Antoni's (and his system's) home preseason debut, Curry took the floor for the first time this exhibition season not as the 'franchise player' that Isiah Thomas and Larry Brown once ordained him, but as an afterthought."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "I buy that Adam Morrison didn't play against the Atlanta Hawks and Matt Carroll played little Monday because Bobcats coach Larry Brown needed to get another look at Andre Brown and Shannon Brown before trimming the roster. However, that's probably not the whole story. Brown has made it clear he has an over-abundance of jump-shooters and is short of players who think defense-rebounds-loose balls first. The two reserves best equipped to do that, based on the preseason so far, are Jared Dudley and Andre Brown. ... So I'm thinking if Dudley and Andre Brown can get back the ball, they'll be rewarded with minutes. And those minutes figure to come from Morrison, Carroll and starting power forward Sean May."

  • Matt Steinmetz of The Examiner: "After going back and forth, and giving it all way too much thought, I'm making my 2008-09 prediction for the Golden State Warriors: 37-45. First off, the Warriors won 48 games last season, an admirable total in the Western Conference. But now they are without Baron Davis and will be without Monta Ellis for at least the first two months of the season -- maybe longer. That drops the Warriors down by about 12 wins in my book. I know that's a lot but there's a reason for it. Not only did the Warriors lose Davis, but no matter who replaces him, there will be a monumental drop-off at the position. Which, I happen to believe, is the most important position in basketball."

  • Martin McNeal of the Sacramento Bee: "Kevin Martin the man is becoming more comfortable with rev
    ealing his personality. Now the young fellow is sporting a Mohawk as a tribute to his grandfather, who wanted him to style one before. 'My grandmother was on me because I didn't shave down the sides lower,' he said. 'I'm dedicating this season to my grandfather, who died this summer. It's funny because a guy came up to me in Las Vegas and said he liked my Mohawk because it had waves. He said my stylist had skills. First of all, I don't have a stylist.'"

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "Channing Frye returned to Trail Blazers practice Tuesday, roughly three weeks ahead of his projected return date, and you know what that means: The Northwest-loving, glass-half-full, down-to-earth personality of this revitalized franchise was back. Post-practice interviews turned into Night at the Improv. On his speedy recovery from Sept. 8 surgery to remove bone spurs from his left ankle: 'There's been a lot of prayers and a lot of milk,' Frye said, laughing. 'Hopefully I can get a milk contract.'"