Monday: First Cup

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "Beset by nothing more supernatural than a rash of injuries and plain bad basketball, the Spurs' 1-4 start isn't exactly a problem of Biblical proportions. The way forward Bruce Bowen sees it, that doesn't mean it can't be overcome by the most Biblical of all solutions. Faith. 'This is a time where you really have to trust in the coaching staff,' Bowen said. 'It's kind of like the Israelites traveling through the wilderness. We know where we're trying to get, but if you start second-guessing, it starts to get disruptive.' The Spurs already were scuffling without star guard Manu Ginobili, who has yet to play this season while recovering from ankle surgery. Now, with fellow All-Star Tony Parker expected to miss as many as four weeks with a sprained ankle of his own, the Spurs are officially in trouble. Normally, November is not a time for hand-wringing or scoreboard-watching. Yet in a power-packed Western Conference, in which 48 victories were not enough to assure a playoff spot last season, the Spurs can't afford to dig too deep a hole while awaiting reinforcements."

  • Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press: "How does a team add Allen Iverson and score 29 first-half points? You know, if you add chili peppers to the recipe, you figure you might burn your tongue, and maybe you'll get indigestion, but at least you'll taste the meal. So, yeah, this was a strange sight. But it was also Day 4 of the A.I. Experiment, and the Pistons were facing the defending champion Celtics, and my understanding is that if a columnist makes a big deal of an early November NBA game, you can legally shoot him. So I'm not going to make that mistake."

  • Terry Frei of The Denver Post: "Soon, Antonio McDyess will be free to sign with another team -- and perhaps return to the Pistons. Any system that can allow this to happen is ridiculous. Although speculation about a McDyess buyout began almost the instant news of the trade broke last Monday, Chapman continued to indicate that the Nuggets had hopes of getting McDyess back into a Denver uniform. 'Oh, sure, we made the deal with that in mind,' Chapman said. 'We're living in a different NBA today, and you have to kind of roll with the punches, so to speak.' The examples of professional athletes being rewarded for petulance, for becoming so toxic that teams will pay them to go away, are legion. But this is bizarre. ... The short-term savings of buying McDyess out versus paying the remainder of the contract made this palatable, or maybe even desirable? It was win-win for the Nuggets to trade for a guy and then, in essence, reward him for his distaste for the franchise? McDyess' agent, Andy Miller, is making it sound as if every pro team except the Oshkosh All-Stars is lining up to try to sign him after he gets that $6 million buyout from the Nuggets. It's madness."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "I hear, from people connected to Michael Jordan's inner circle, that he can extract himself from the ownership group, for whatever he paid, at certain junctures in the agreement he signed with Bob Johnson. I'm also told one of those junctures is the end of this year. And I wonder if that makes way for Jordan to either seize some sort of succession plan, or move out. The real question might be what the team is fairly worth right now. I doubt anyone would make Johnson whole, which would mean paying him more than $330 million. Jordan is used to buying things at a discount and having his way. But he's more engaged in the Bobcats' success than ever before, so let's see what transpires."

  • Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Rick Sund talked of the marathon that is a NBA season, and how important it is to remember that the measure of a team can't be taken (good or bad) just a week, or two or a even a month into this thing. Inevitably the same cosmic wave a team rides to 5-0 (or more) will crash at some point and that same team will live through a stretch on the flip side. That's just the reality of what we're dealing with. And that's sound advice from a man who has seen his fair share of NBA starts (good and bad) in nearly 35 years of action in the league. But after years of looking for goats around here, it might be time to start dishing out a little praise (even if it is still early) for jobs well done."

  • John Denton of Florida Today: "With a victory tonight against Portland, the Orlando Magic can rebound from their shocking 0-2 start to the season in a historical way. Having already toppled Sacramento, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington during the past eight nights at Amway Arena, the Magic can close out the first 5-0 homestand in the 20-year history of the franchise by beating the Blazers. ... 'Winning all five at home would be really big for us,' said Keith Bogans, Orlando's top reserve all season. 'We lost that first one at home, but since then we've realized how important that it is to win at home. I always think that you should win them all at home and get as many as you can on the road.'"

  • Mike Jones of The Washington Times: "Washington has lost its first five games for the second consecutive season, but this year is different. Last year, the Wizards' slow start was attributed to installing a new defensive system in training camp and devoting so much time to learning it that the offense lagged. This season, the Wizards believed they had progressed defensively. They believed continuity on both ends of the floor would help them get off to a better start despite the absences of guard Gilbert Arenas and center Brendan Haywood. So much for that. This season, the Wizards have given up 108.8 points a game, compared with the 104.2 they allowed in last season's 0-5 start."

  • Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News: "But 2-4 is 2-4 is 2-4. It's not the start either the Sixers or their fans anticipated. So, is this too early to be concerned? 'Not in Philly, it's not,'' Willie Green said. 'That's good, though. Fans should worry, fans should be concerned. But as long as we're calm and collected, as we always have been, that's all that matters. I'm sure that by the season's end, we'll be where we want to be.' Most coaches and general managers tend to use the first 20 games of a season as a barometer. 'I think it's a little too early, but as time unfolds you'll see us play a little better basketball,' Cheeks said. 'I told our guys, we're so much better than the way we have played.'"

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: "Knicks fans are dying for a winner and the standing ovation with which the Madison Square Garden crowd showered coach Mike D'Antoni's team in the final seconds of yesterday's 107-99 statement win over the previously unbeaten Jazz spoke to their longing. Read it and believe it. The Knicks are 4-2, winners of three
    in a row after knocking off the powerhouse Jazz (5-1). It's the first time the franchise has been two games over .500 since the 2004-2005 season. 'They outplayed us,' Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. 'This win says something,' Jamal Crawford said. 'They were undefeated, playing great basketball.'"

  • Jeff Caplan of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "While Los Angeles exhaled over its first win in seven games, Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki stewed over his team's 2-4 start and, after scoring 33 points, 20 more than the next high scorer, challenged his teammates' effort. 'If you don't compete hard, it's not about X's and O's. You can run whatever play you want. You can have all the schemes you want defensively. We've just got to push ourselves to play harder,' Nowitzki said. 'I don't know what it is. I don't know what's going on. We don't leave it all out there and that's what you've got to do, especially in the tough Western Conference. 'There are no teams you just walk over and just get the win, especially the way things are going right now for us. We've got to be the team to hit first and play hard, scramble more, be feistier, make things happen that way.'"

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "The Rockets might never be the Showtime Lakers, but they can be considerably better than this. And it's not a matter of struggling with the 'Adelman offense,' as is so often thought. They are not running basic NBA sets well these days, often standing around and watching as they take turns going one-on-one. Sunday's rout might have demonstrated more about the Lakers and just how well they are playing than about the Rockets. But the Rockets know they really did not play well in the preseason and usually have called their wins 'ugly' (with the glaring exception of the night in Dallas) and saying, 'a win is a win.' To some degree, they will get things together offensively. They will defend well, and still usually do. They will get Shane Battier back, who has never looked more valuable. For now, they tried to measure up to the Lakers and came up very short. The Lakers look great. The Rockets will get to work on looking good."

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: "The first elbow upset him, but all Pau Gasol did was look toward the referees for help. The second elbow that immediately followed angered him, but this time Gasol stood up for himself. Gasol got in the face of Houston's Carl Landry, stared him down and exchanged words, letting the physical forward know he wasn't going to be pushed around. From that point on late in the second quarter Sunday night, Gasol refused to back down to Landry and he became a force for the Lakers. Gasol scored all eight of his second-quarter points after Landry's elbow smacked him in the face. That was the spark Gasol seem to need. 'At least as far as my aggressiveness,' Gasol said. 'I think it really raised my level when I got hit a couple of times in my face. That kind of got me going a little bit inside, because I wasn't being very sharp. It was a good wake-up call.'"

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Dwyane Wade may well stand as the league's face of frustration. Saturday's game against the Hornets marked the sixth time over the past two seasons he has finished with at least 30 points and 10 assists in a loss. According to Elias Sports Bureau, all other NBA players have combined for only nine such losing 30/10s over the same span."