First Cup: Tuesday

  • Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times: "The Nets were once considered the odds-on favorite to get James, possibly the game's most transcending player. He is a close friend to the rapper Jay-Z, a part-owner of the Nets. But the team's planned move to Brooklyn is at a standstill, which could significantly lessen the chances of James becoming a Net. That is the view of Sonny Vaccaro, the former shoe executive who keeps tabs on his former ABCD campers, James included. Vaccaro said he thought James would end up with the Knicks. 'LeBron's relationship with Jay-Z will go on regardless,' Vaccaro said. 'He'll be an international celebrity in New York. If the Nets aren't in Brooklyn, he's not going over there for even $200 million. They're putting pieces together. They're doing the right things. They're just living in the wrong building.' ... No matter the Cavaliers' efforts, Vaccaro said he thought James was destined to leave Cleveland. 'LeBron is this generation's personality,' said Vaccaro, not one to shy away from hyperbole. 'Even though Cleveland has done everything right, you don't get to Mount Rushmore from Cleveland. He has to go to New York or Los Angeles. There's no question. The money will be available anywhere. But this is about his persona.'"

  • Aaron J. Lopez of the Rocky Mountain News: So far, it's a second-marriage made in heaven. Chauncey Billups just hopes the honeymoon continues through the spring. Billups on Monday was chosen the Western Conference Player of the Week after leading the Nuggets to a 3-1 record, including a road win against the defending champion Boston Celtics. ... Because of the individual and team success, playing in his hometown has been everything Billups thought it would be -- and more. 'It's been awesome. Everywhere I go, people welcome me home,' he said. 'Winning games is the ice cream on the top of the cake. Hopefully I can keep living this dream because it's been awesome.'"TrueHoop First Cup

  • Peter Vecsey of the New York Post: "Any reasonable person who has viewed the tape of Rodney Stuckey getting blasted from mid-air by Shaq has identified it as a merciless foul, far beyond 'excessive,' the NBA's code word that automatically leads to ejection and, in many cases, suspension for a game or more. League VP of Violence Stu Jackson judged otherwise, fining O'Neal 25G for abusing the refs and not leaving the court in a timely manner. I used to pretend I got it but I don't even pretend to get it anymore. Unreasonable decisions like that does David Stern's unceasing crackdown on beastly brutality a disservice, as does describing such cold-blooded force as merely excessive. While football glorifies violent tackles of unprotected targets -- somehow managing to shrug off a perpetual procession of paralyzed pass catchers -- it is not part of the NBA's game." Video of the flagrant foul.

  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: "Kobe Bryant went the Tiger Woods route Monday afternoon. 'You're not getting anything out of me but plain vanilla,' Bryant said after the Lakers practiced at their training facility. 'I'm not saying anything. I learned from my man Tiger. My mouth is locked.' Derek Fisher threw back his head and laughed long and hard. 'That's my response,' Fisher said. Phil Jackson was far more expansive. After all, he was the man Shaquille O'Neal blamed for the creative tension that inspired a rather public feud between O'Neal and Bryant when they played with the Lakers earlier this decade. When someone asked about O'Neal's comments, which pinned the blame for 'everything' on Jackson, the Lakers' Hall of Fame coach smiled his wry smile and said, 'Even his (notoriously poor) free-throw shooting?'"

  • Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star Tribune: "This woebegone operation needs credibility. Firing Randy Wittman and replacing him with Fred Hoiberg as coach offers none. Firing Wittman and continuing to cede all personnel power to McHale offers none. It's time for Glen Taylor to call Medina and make this offer to a coach with a .597 winning percentage in the NBA: Flip Saunders, you come back as coach, Hoiberg gets the GM title but you make the roster decisions, and we let McHale save some face as a 'special adviser' -- with no advice needed. What do you say, Glen? Bury the hatchet and put a breath of life back in your franchise."

  • Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Thaddeus Young is savvy enough to understand this won't last, but through the first 10 games of the season he is the Sixers' leading scorer, putting together averages of 16.3 points and 5.5 rebounds, shooting 51.5 percent from the floor and 39.4 from three-point distance. 'Well, that's shocking [that he's the leading scorer],' Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said yesterday. 'But I think if he had two points he would still have an impact on the game. It's not like he's got to score 20 points to have an impact. His impact is just based on the things that he does. No flash -- offensive rebounds, runs the floor, beating people down the floor.'"

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Derrick Rose's teammates talk to him about everything from knowing opposing personnel to getting his rest to performing rookie tasks like carrying bags. But they've been suspiciously silent on one subject: the annual extended November trip to make way for the circus at the United Center. 'If it was good, people would've been telling me,' Rose said. 'But nobody has been talking, so I don't even want to know.' The Bulls are quiet because talking about a 6-52 mark since Michael Jordan left town is painful. And this season's task is no easier with a brutal schedule that begins with back-to-back games against the defending Western Conference champion Lakers on Tuesday and up-and-coming Portland the next night."

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: "Pete Newell died Monday. And so I began to type a text message on my cell phone to his son, Pete Jr., whom I've known for a decade. I typed. And erased. And typed. And erased. Because what do you text when someone's father dies? In the end, I sent this: 'I heard about your dad. Great man.' It wasn't enough. Newell was a Hall of Fame basketball coach. He won an NCAA championship at California in 1959. And he won an Olympic gold medal in 1960, coaching Oscar Robertson and Jerry West. His obituary will tell you that he coached 14 seasons at San Francisco, Michigan State and Cal before doctors convinced him that the stress of coaching would kill him if he didn't give it up. He gave up coaching. But he never stopped teaching."

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: "Near the end of an extended full scrimmage, forward/guard Rasual Butler and guard Morris Peterson exc
    hanged words and eventually had to be separated. When practice ended, forward David West and point guard Chris Paul left without speaking to anyone. And forward Peja Stojakovic still appeared to be flustered from his 1-for-5 shooting performance for three points in Saturday's 91-82 loss to the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center. 'None of us enjoy losing,' Peterson said. 'Once you get used to winning, you just want for it to continue. We're not in a state of emergency, but we are on the edge and went at each other hard in practice.'"

  • Frank Dell'Apa of The Boston Globe: "To Celtics teammates, Sam Cassell is like a guru emerging from the mists of a time before cellular phones and Jumbotrons. They have seen him impose his will on a game, conjure up shots, cast a spell on the ball and opponents, his good-natured trash talking in practice the chanting of a high priest of point guards. But Cassell hasn't always been the elder statesman. Nobody reaches the NBA level without having world-class athletic ability, and younger Celtics might be surprised to know he was once known as 'Slam' Cassell because of his dunking ability. As Cassell reaches a milestone -- he turns 39 today -- there is symmetry in the fact that he is concluding his career on the banks of the Charles, 20 years after first arriving in New England, a homesick teenager taking the first major step on the road to becoming a professional athlete."

  • Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle: "In his first NBA start, Anthony Morrow scored 37 points, more than any other player making his inaugural since the 1971-72 season, as far back the Elias Sports Bureau tracks such stats. Not just more points than any other rookie or any player bypassed in the draft. More than any No. 1 draft pick. More than any ABA defector. More than any sterling sixth man who finally got his name written into the starting lineup. Saturday's performance doesn't guarantee that he'll be in Golden State for years. Just look at what happened to DeMarcus Nelson, a starter for Don Nelson's team in its first five games and a development-league player as of Friday. But Morrow has definitely proven that, despite the draft-day snub, he is eminently employable and probably won't be skipping off to Ukraine without paying off his lease or car loans."

  • Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: "Today, the Glendale City Council is expected to approve a new training center and administrative headquarters for USA Basketball, the organization led by Jerry Colangelo that assembles our national teams, including the U.S. men's and women's Olympic squads. The center would include a training complex; office space; sports-medicine facilities; and fitness, education and entertainment components. It means we're likely to see guys such as LeBron James and Chris Paul hanging around the Valley a lot more, too."

  • Kyle Hightower of the Orlando Sentinel: "Who said Polish guys can't jump? In a discussion with fellow Magic European-import Mickael Pietrus (originally from French Guadeloupe), Polish-born Marcin Gortat boasted after a recent practice his ability to dunk from the free-throw line -- like Julius Erving. Doubtful of his skills, Pietrus bet Gortat an unspecified sum that he could, drawing a full post-practice audience that included several barefoot players and even Coach Stan Van Gundy. With a full-court run-up, the 6-11 Gortat successfully pulled off the dunk twice after the first one was disputed by Pietrus, who questioned his takeoff point. Said Gortat, as he walked into the locker room mobbed by teammates: 'I'll take my payment in Euros.'"