First Cup: Monday

  • Chris McCosky of The Detroit News" "Like the Lions, the Pistons remain perfect on Sunday -- perfectly winless, 0-6."

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "LeBron James was asked when he started tossing up rosin before games. 'I always put the chalk on my hands, for whatever reason, to get my hands ready for the game,' James said. 'I don't know why I started throwing it up, but it's definitely trademarked.' James has a new Nike commercial where he tosses the rosin in the air. 'We have a really, really good, deep relationship (with Nike),' he said. 'It's not an endorsement deal. It's a partnership. We feed off of each other. Things that we think can be hot and people can relate to, we feed off of that.'"

  • Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal- Constitution: "Go ahead, close your eyes and count to 10 and then open them. It's not a mirage. That's your Hawks sitting in the fourth slot in the Eastern Conference standings with Christmas just a couple days away. I know, I know. You didn't see this coming did you? You didn't know they'd get here this fast did you? But are you watching this franchise renaissance take place before your very eyes? The Falcons aren't the only ones that can rise from their own ashes (and kudos to the other birds for giving their haters the business and the gas face and making the playoffs -- I'm never mad at anybody for proving their haters wrong). The Hawks want in on this thing, too."

  • Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal: "Pau Gasol remains the most consistent player to wear a Grizzly uniform. Consistency is what defines true professional athletes. It's why Patrick Ewing (then a Seattle SuperSonic) received a bone-chilling reception during his return to New York, and why Bobby Jackson's return to Sacramento as a Grizzly created shivers. With apologies to the still greatly embarrassed Shane Battier, no one is asking Memphis to bestow poster-sized appreciation on Gasol. Just a show of thanks for another good guy who made the Grizzlies relevant."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "A year ago, when Yi was with the Milwaukee Bucks, there was a sense of occasion when they met for the first time in an NBA game. Available live on networks throughout China, it was hailed as the most watched basketball game ever. There were news conferences and photo ops. There even was fun to be had in the novelty of a game that featured players from six continents -- Asia (Yao and Yi), Europe (Dan Gadzuric), Australia (Andrew Bogut), Africa (Dikembe Mutombo), South America (Luis Scola) and North America (everyone else). The whole thing was reprised later in Milwaukee. A season later, Yao seems barely to have noticed. 'I don't think the game the same way as the others,' Yao said. 'Others will think this is a game between two Chinese players, but I am thinking how to win this game as a team. Devin Harris and Vince Carter are the main players of New Jersey, so they will be our main focus. ' That might seem like typical Yao, but it might also represent the declining novelty of the occasion. Yao was not the first Chinese player in the NBA (Mengke Bateer and Wang Zhi Zhi came before him, and he seemed more nervous for the first NBA meeting with Wang than Yi). Yi is not the last, with Sun Yue having taken a place on the Lakers' bench."

  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "Brook Lopez looked up at the locker room ceiling and did the math in his head: Only 10 months to go. 'Oh, God, let's see ... it's going to be about Oct. 29th of next year?' he asked. 'Then I'll be a second-year player. That'll be great.' Yes, sir -- no longer a rookie. No more taking unnecessary abuse from veterans, who command you to fetch them a beverage whenever the mood strikes. What else? 'It means not getting bashed in the face, and getting a whistle,' Lopez said, with both amusement and exasperation. Right. That too."

  • Kyle Hightower of the Orlando Sentinel: "What's indisputable is that Jameer Nelson was right and the doubters were wrong when Nelson decided at the end of November that resting a sore hip flexor would pay off in the long run. Since returning to action he has been on one of the best scoring streaks of his career with team centerpiece Dwight Howard's scoring hampered recently. Heading into tonight's game with Golden State, Nelson is averaging 23.2 points per game over his last five outings, including a big 27 in the Magic's 106-103 win over the L.A. Lakers. It has pushed his season scoring average to 16.8, well above his career average of 12.0."

  • Tom Powers of The Pioneer Press: "Timberwolves fans, get a grip. You don't ask a kitten to pull a plow, and you don't ask an old, gray mare to curl up in your lap. The Wolves are what they are. Don't fight it. Embrace losing. Losing is your friend. Just remember that defeats equal pingpong balls. And perhaps the next general manager will know what to do with a high draft pick. Besides, we are on the verge of a historic event. These Wolves can make history, and you can say you saw it. The lads are just four defeats away from a franchise-record 16 in a row. Chances are fans never will see another Wolves team in position to attack the record book so ferociously, assuming Glen Taylor cleans house in the front office next season. Minnesota lost its 12th in a row to the Houston Rockets on Saturday night. Afterward, coach Kevin McHale had that same tortured look previously worn by Randy Wittman."

  • Chris Perkins of the Palm Beach Post: "Antoine Walker considers himself fortunate today on two fronts: No. 1, he got a contract buyout from Memphis on Thursday; and No. 2, he didn't have a gun handy that summer day in 2007 when he was duct-taped and robbed at his Chicago home. 'I think sometimes not having a gun helps a situation,' the 13th-year forward said. 'I came out of it and wasn't harmed in any physical way. Everybody is not that lucky.' Walker isn't anti-gun. 'If you have a permit and have one in your house it's not that bad,' he said. But he thinks if he'd have pulled a gun at that particular time on that particular day, 'it would have been a bad situation. It turned out being a better situation.' Walker, a key contributor on the Heat's 2006 title team, is hoping to find a better situation with a playoff team or title contender."

  • Chris Tomasson of the Rocky Mountain News: "It's tough to tell who's more excited about Dick Vitale coming to Denver, Vitale or Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony. 'My man, Vitale,' Anthony said. 'I've always liked him, just how much fun he brings to the game.' The ESPN analyst did Anthony's first college game, a 70-63 loss to Memphis in November 2002 at New York's Madison Square Garden. And, thanks to an ESPN maneuver in which college and pro announcers switch places for a night, Vitale will work Denver's Jan. 7 home game against Miami. 'I'm
    looking forward to doing my first NBA game in two decades,' Vitale, a former Pistons coach who last did one in 1984, said by phone. 'Let's have some fun. Carmelo vs. Dwyane Wade. Great collegiate duo. Now, superstars at the pro level.'"

  • Michael Hunt of the Journal Sentinel: "In the NBA, only the Celtics, Trail Blazers (10), Suns (nine) and Knicks (eight) have retired more numbers than the seven sent to the rafters by the Bucks: 1 (Oscar Robertson), 2 (Junior Bridgeman), 4 (Sidney Moncrief), 14 (Jon McGlocklin), 16 (Bob Lanier), 32 (Brian Winters) and 33 (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). Even so, Glenn Robinson once campaigned to have his No. 13 retired. ... The decision to retire a number apparently rests with a one-man committee, owner Herb Kohl, who was very fond of Robinson. No doubt it broke the senator's heart when the Bucks were put in the position of having to trade him, not only because of the bad publicity from the arrest but also because Robinson's career was in decline. Time has a way of softening the past. But as for Robinson's play, it would have to be on scoring alone because the rest of his game was limited at best. Had he made that open shot against Philadelphia to get the Bucks to the 2001 Finals, maybe it's a different conversation. A better conversation for the Bucks is how wide, or limited, the field should be. If Robinson, why not Ray Allen? Better yet, why not just add No. 8 and No. 10 and keep it to that for the foreseeable future?"

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "Kevin Durant will unveil his first signature shoe, the Nike KD1, in his hometown of Washington, D.C, on Saturday against the Wizards. Durant's shoe won't officially be launched until All-Star Weekend in February, but Durant is planning to wear the shoe a few more times before then."