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First Cup: Tuesday

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "But Wyc Grousbeck is about to pull a page out of the Dave Gavitt playbook here. He wants to keep the new Big Three in green for the rest of their respective careers, just as Gavitt once decided to milk the latter years of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. Only Parish changed uniforms, and Gavitt's ploy never did produce another title. Bird and McHale were too ravaged by injuries for a last hurrah. Grousbeck, however, believes this is the way to perpetuate greatness. 'I love the Celtics end of this (business),' he said. 'I was a history major in college, and I love the greats. And we have some of them here right now. I want another championship from the Big Three. Every minute of watching them can be memorable and historic. There's no question that we want these guys here. Even before we brought in Ray and Kevin Garnett, I wanted Paul to spend the rest of his career here in a Celtics uniform. The Big Three deserves more than one title between them.'"TrueHoop First Cup

  • Robbi Pickeral of The News & Observer: "After losing in last season's Final Four, North Carolina coach Roy Williams waited more than 10 weeks to know for sure whether four of his top six scorers would return. If the Atlantic Coast Conference has its way, he would have to wait only 10 days. The ACC plans to propose NCAA legislation that would force men's basketball underclassmen to decide whether they are in the NBA Draft within 10 days after the NCAA title game. ACC officials are considering submitting the proposal in time for an NCAA Board of Directors meeting on Thursday. If they wait, officials said Sunday, they will propose the idea next July. Under the proposal, 'there would be no grace period -- either you're in or you're out,' said Karl Hicks, the ACC's associate commissioner for basketball operations. 'We feel that's what would work best for the student- athletes and that's what would work best for the coaches.'"

  • Chris McCosky of The Detroit News: "Can Michael Curry save the Pistons? Forgive him for chuckling a bit at that. Save the Pistons? In 1999, Curry helped save the NBA players association, the 1999 season and, in a way, the NBA. ... Don't believe it? Ask Billy Hunter, executive director of the players association. He was asked if the union or the league would have been irreparably damaged had Curry not stepped into the fray in the final days of the league-imposed lockout. ... 'We don't know for sure, obviously,' said Hunter, 'but it very well could have been.' Curry, at that time, was an NBA journeyman on his fourth team and in the middle of his first guaranteed contract. He wasn't exactly a household name, nor was he an officer of the union. He simply was one of 20 players on the union's negotiating committee. Yet, it was Curry who went into a large meeting room in a Manhattan hotel Jan. 5, 1999, armed with the support of a majority of mid- to low-income level players he had brought together, and convinced the small minority of some 40 high-salaried players who ran the union to empower Hunter to negotiate alone with commissioner David Stern. Had that battle not been won and Hunter not allowed to negotiate with Stern in an all-night session ending just hours before the deadline to cancel the season, by all accounts no deal would have been struck, the season would have been lost and an industry that was enjoying immense popularity would have been in peril."

  • John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Kirk Hinrich was the final player announced much of the previous four seasons and probably will be again for the regular-season opener tonight against the Bucks. Truth be told, though, the Bulls haven't had a player truly worthy of that honor since Michael Jordan left more than 10 years ago. Derrick Rose, the heralded rookie from Simeon High School and Memphis, could change all that. Even though he has yet to play his first official NBA game, he already has displayed the skill and court command that led the Bulls to draft him with the first pick in June."

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "'Orlando is the place to be.' That six-word declaration from Jimmy Hewitt to Pat Williams is why we are now celebrating the 20-year anniversary of the Orlando Magic. Without those six simple words of civic pride and passion, Orlando might still be a no-horse sports town whose idea of professional sports would be the occasional monster truck extravaganza or Wednesday night 'rasslin show. Jimmy Hewitt will go down in history as a successful businessman and one of Orlando's favorite sons, but over here in the sports section we consider him a father -- the father of the Orlando Magic. He not only conceived the idea of the team, he hatched it, nurtured it, supported it, protected it and, yes, put up his money to help pay for it."

  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Write this down: Erik Spoelstra will be a successful leading man on an NBA sideline. It may not happen immediately for the 37-year-old, not after inheriting a pittance compared to what the Lakers bequeathed to a 36-year-old Pat Riley in 1981. You need players. Riley's 67-loss swan dive (er, song) was proof of that. This misshapen roster still lacks a proven post presence, a playmaking point guard and, after James Jones' injury, a sure-fire shooter. As former NBA coach and current TNT analyst Doug Collins said, 'They are a very, very undersized team.' It is an inexperienced team, too, beyond Dwyane Wade and two forwards (Shawn Marion, Udonis Haslem) who could still be traded. Spoelstra's own inexperience will lead to errors as well. Yet you have to like his grooming: son of an NBA executive, protege of an NBA legend."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd will be asked to lead these Mavericks wherever it is that they are to go. If they are championship contenders, it will be because of this pair. They'll need help, of course. Josh Howard, Jason Terry and others will have to be good. But Nowitzki has to be great. As does Kidd. Nowitzki has no problem with that. In fact, he believes he's learned from so many experiences in his career, even those comparisons to Larry Bird. 'I thought it was a little unfair at the beginning to be compared to one of the top three legends of the game,' he says. 'I always thought you don't want to be compared. You want to go your own way and build your own reputation. And I still think my best years are in front of me.'"

  • Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post: "It's been years since the NBA opened a season with such a high approval rating. For too long it was one embarrassing episode after another dominating the news approaching opening night. Just last year, the start of a new season was obscured by a referee scandal. ... But the 2008-09 season begins with an infinitely brighter mood. It would be difficult for the NBA to be be
    tter positioned to start a season than it is tonight. Much of the credit for that goes to the members of the U.S. Olympic team, who endeared themselves to the American basketball public by winning the gold medal and behaving like ambassadors for the sport. Beyond that, the league has its best stable of stars, particularly those 25 and younger, since the early 1990s. European, Asian, South American and African stars -- themselves Olympians -- aren't just tolerated; they're warmly received and firmly established."

  • Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The Hawks season opens Wednesday, but for Mario West, Othello Hunter and Thomas Gardner there was cause for a quiet celebration Monday. The opening day roster had to be turned into the NBA office and their names were on it. Knowing he wouldn't have to clean out his locker after a grueling month of training camp and preseason led to the first unfettered smile on West's face since last season. He pulled this same stunt a year ago, you know, making the Hawks roster then as an undrafted rookie free agent. Now he and his fellow undrafted free agents can all revel in the fact that they secured their jobs the old fashioned way -- they earned them. 'I'm just excited and glad to have that [Hawks] name across my chest,' West said after practice Monday. 'It's a wonderful feeling. And I'm just as happy now as I was last year. It's like I'm re-living the whole process all over again. I have another opportunity to live my dream and it's a great feeling.'"

  • Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun: "No issue is too sensitive and no topic is too controversial for Jermaine O'Neal to offer an opinion. O'Neal never went to college, but the school of hard knocks and self-education have allowed the newest Raptor to expand his horizons off the hardwood. O'Neal doesn't just provide sound bytes for the electronic media or convenient quotes to fill a print reporter's note pad. When he is asked a question, regardless of its nature, O'Neal is as insightful as any NBA player. When the league invoked an age limit for incoming players eligible for the 2006 draft, O'Neal was among the most vocal opponents, arguing the rule was driven by race. 'Before you speak, you must first understand what the issues are all about,'' O'Neal confided. 'Believe in what you say. Don't go in front of a camera to make yourself look good. Only speak when you want to be heard. You want people to know exactly how you feel.'"

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "As November approaches, our state remains divided. From Broomfield to Castle Rock, the opinions vary, but all are fervent. Indeed, we all want change. But what kind of change? Some believe the hype; others believe it will just be the same old, same old. Yes, the Carmelo Anthony debate continues. (What else could we be talking about?) In interviews with 20-plus fans who were asked their opinion of Denver's star forward, results were astonishingly split. Some fans love him, some fans hate him. Some think he is the answer to the Nuggets' problems, some think he is the problem. Some think he's a role model, some think he needs a role model. It's fascinating that one player -- a 24-year-old Olympian and all-star at that -- can spark such contrasting responses."

  • Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "There was nothing the Jazz could do once Jerry Sloan's 20th anniversary game was scheduled for Dec. 9 at Minnesota other than hope that Sloan's 1,000th victory as the team's coach could be celebrated at EnergySolutions Arena. That's where things start getting interesting. If the Jazz can open 5-0, Sloan's 1,000th victory would come Nov. 7 at home against Oklahoma City. If not, it will have to wait for the team's five-game road trip the second week of November. 'I'm sure that's at the front of his mind,' Kyle Korver said, laughing. 'We'd obviously love to get that for him at home. I'm sure the fans here would love that, too. But I think he'd rather be 5-0 to be 5-0 than to get that at home.' Only five coaches -- Sloan included -- have won 1,000 games in their career, but none has reached that milestone with a single team. 'That's not why I'm here,' Sloan said. 'I just hope our team can win and have fun doing it.'"

  • Dan Bickley of The Arizona Republic: "Steve Kerr has a golden image. It will be tested in the coming months. As the Suns brace for a new season, it is his reputation on the line. 'A lot of people warned me when I took the job,' said Kerr, the Suns' general manager. 'They said, 'There are only two places you can go. You can take the next step to the top, or the team goes down and you're the goat.' I'm aware of that. And I'd be lying if I told you that it didn't enter my mind from time to time.'"

  • Percy Allen of The Seattle Times: "Nate McMillan, the man they used to call Mr. Sonic, advises NBA fans in Seattle who are missing the Sonics to make the journey south as he did several years ago and jump on the Trail Blazers bandwagon. 'What's going to end up happening, I think, is Sonics fans are going to connect here with what we're doing,' McMillan said. 'Over a period of time, it will supersede any rivalry that was once there because you can connect quicker with us than you can with any other team.' After receiving permission from the NBA, the Trail Blazers are slowly venturing into the Seattle-area market. 'Portland is going to be vying for the affection of fans in an adjacent state,' commissioner David Stern said last week during his preseason address."

  • Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Daily News: "So here are a couple of numbers to focus on as their new season gets underway tonight: 131-92. That would be the final score from their last appearance on hardwood, a beatdown by the Celtics that hopefully resonated throughout their short summer. By a Celtics team that was hungrier, played superior defense, received better bench play from its veterans than the Lakers from their youth, and was generally tougher. The numbers should be written across their lockers, seared into their memories, used as motivation every time the legs grow heavy and the will begins to flag. One hundred thirty-one to ninety-two."

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonain: "When the season finally arrives tonight, with the Blazers play at the defending Western Conference champion Los Angeles Lakers, Roy is eager to see whether he, Aldridge and Oden are just youngsters or indeed something worthy of a nickname. 'The Big Three will come when we produce on the floor,' Roy said. 'It's going to come against the Spurs. It's going to come against the Suns. We are going to have to deliver. Can we do it right away? Who knows? But it's all going to come down to how we lead this team, this year. Right now, I don't think we are there yet. But by next year at this time, hopefully we will be The Big Three. Right now, we are building toward it.'"