First Cup: Friday

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: The Heat, for the first time in the franchise's 26 seasons, have scored at least 100 points in each of their first six games. "The efficiency is something we hope continues to get better," Spoelstra said, "less throwaway shots, more poise." And this time less LeBron and more Wade. :It's a no-pressure offense," James said. "No one cares who shoots." Coming off a day off and opening a four-game homestand, the Heat offered the type of big-game effort they typically muster in these nationally televised games, especially against an opponent viewed as their next great challenger.

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: Last season, the Clippers had one of the best benches in the NBA, a group of reserves who averaged 40.1 points a game. This season, the Clippers' bench has struggled. Other than Jamal Crawford, the rest of the Clippers' second unit hasn't been very good. Led by Crawford's 14 points against the Heat, the Clippers' second team scored 31 points. But the Heat's second team scored 33, meaning the Clippers' second unit has been outscored in five of the six games so far. "The injuries are the No. 1 [problem] and we just haven't figured it out yet," Rivers said. "The continuity hasn't been good. Jamal is playing well. But really, after that, it's just up and down.…I think about after 15 or 20 [games] we'll talk." Backup center Byron Mullens and backup point guard Darren Collison each scored six points against the Heat.

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: Steve Blake was the Lakers' hero, hitting a wide-open three-pointer with 1.3 seconds left to prevent the Lakers from falling to the Rockets on the court after losing to them in free agency. Last July, Rockets executives wined and dined Howard, piling into a Mercedes-Benz with him in Los Angeles on the first night of free agency before eventually winning the Howard sweepstakes. Howard had 15 points and 14 rebounds Thursday but also an 0-1 record against the Lakers since signing a four-year, $88-million contract with Houston. The Lakers were jubilant on the court, hugging under the basket after Patrick Beverley missed a 27-foot three-point attempt at the buzzer. Then they returned to the locker room to find something else. Kobe Bryant smiling broadly. "He was in a good mood," Pau Gasol said. "He shook everybody's hand when we got in the locker room." Bryant 1, Howard 0. ... Some Lakers fans would call the free-agency loss of Howard a success, though the Lakers undeniably chased him. Funny thing, though. Even without Bryant, the Lakers are only one game behind the Rockets in the standings.

  • Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle: It’s too early for James Harden to hear the MVP chants that became familiar at Toyota Center last season. But on Thursday night, he played like one. In a game that saw the Rockets struggle to get their offense going while at times doing little to slow down the Lakers, Harden was a bright spot. His 35 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four steals were highlights in a sluggish overall performance by the team. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, and the Rockets suffered their first home loss of the season, 99-98 to the Lakers. ... Although the loss was a tough one for the Rockets, Harden said they would be able to use it going forward. They play again Saturday, when they host the Clippers. “This was a tough home loss, but we have another one Saturday against a good team,” Harden said. “That’s the beauty of this league. We have to protect our home court on Saturday.”

  • Terry Frei of The Denver Post: Brian Shaw took calls, texts and other expressions of support through his first regular-season week as an NBA head coach. "Everybody's calling and saying 'Hang in there, if it was easy, everybody would be doing it,' and all of that," Shaw said before the Nuggets hosted Atlanta on Thursday night. "That's nice, but it's not really what I want to be hearing." Interestingly, given it only tangentially was connected to the question, from there Shaw reprised his stance of recent days, contesting the notion that he's trying to get the Nuggets to slow down significantly from their approach under George Karl. "This team doesn't have Andre Iguodala, doesn't have Corey Brewer, who were two of the more elite lane runners in the league," Shaw said. "So the guys we have filling those positions don't have the speed and the ability to get up and down the floor like those guys did. "Obviously, Ty Lawson can still get up and down the floor and Nate Robinson can as well, but in terms of elite lane runners the team has had in the past, we don't have that anymore."

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Kyle Korver extended his streak to 78 consecutive games with a 3-pointer, tied for the third-longest in NBA history with Dennis Scott. He is one behind Michael Adams for second place on the all-time list. ... Despite the Nuggets entering the game without a victory, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said he most concerned with his team. “No matter what the situation or circumstance we are trying to make the focus on us,” Budenholzer said before the game. “We do what we do. I think maybe that is some way helpful to them but in the heat of the moment, in the heat of the battle, a lot of those things (don’t matter).” The Hawks concluded the three-game western road trip 1-2. They return home to play the Magic Saturday.

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: C Nik Vucevic played for his homeland of Montenegro in the EuroBasket tournament this summer, gaining even more experience. "I like to play and represent my country ... playing with guys I grew up with," he said. But Vucevic's experience clearly wasn't all a pleasure. After a break-out year last season with the Magic, Vucevic didn't have the role he envisioned with Montenegro. "I don't want to talk about it," he said before Thursday's Magic practice. Montenegro finished 2-3 in the first round while failing to advance. Vucevic averaged 7.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in just 15 minutes per game. He shot just 39 percent. Asked to elaborate what had happened overseas this summer, Vucevic again said, "I don't want to talk about it."

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: Buried deep in the newest Texas poll from Public Policy Polling is an interesting little tid-bit that will probably irritate Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to no end: Thirty-eight percent of all respondents claim the four-time champion Spurs as their favorite NBA team. That’s nearly twice as many as the Mavericks, who were in a virtual dead heat with Houston at 22 percent to 21 percent. (No telling about the remaining 19 percent, but we’re assuming they alternate bandwagons between the Lakers and Heat, or have the grave misfortune of not being fans of the Association.) This despite, at 28th, trailing well behind Dallas/Fort Worth (No. 5) and Houston (No. 6) on Nielsen’s national market rankings. It’s just another reason for Cuban to hate the Spurs, joining that “ugly-ass, muddy-watered thing” we call a River Walk and the fact the Mavericks have had a better record in just two of the 14 seasons since he purchased the team in 2000.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: The Thunder has added longtime executive Maurizio Gherardini to its staff as a senior adviser/international affairs. Gherardini is best known for his 14 years as general manager of Benetton Treviso, where he established himself as one of the brightest minds and administrators in the history of European basketball. During his tenure with Benetton Treviso, Gherardini helped to turn the Italian club into one of the most familiar and successful clubs outside of the NBA. Under his guidance, Benetton captured four Italian League championships, seven Italian Cups, three Italian Supercups and made four appearances in the Euroleague's Final Four. Since 2006, Gherardini has held the position of vice president and assistant general manager for the Toronto Raptors.

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: In what likely will be last visit before he officially retires in February, NBA commissioner David Stern will be in New Orleans on Friday to see the new-look New Orleans Pelicans play the Los Angeles Lakers at the renovated New Orleans Arena. Before he hands the reins of running the league to his hand-picked successor, Adam Silver, the current deputy commissioner, Stern will get his first up-close look at the team's new uniforms, nickname, logos, new mascot and other changes that was part of owner Tom Benson's rebranding push at the end of last season. Appointed in 1984 to lead the league, Stern is the NBA’s longest-serving commissioner. In New Orleans, Stern is remembered most for his persistence to not give up on pro basketball in the city, especially after the franchise was temporarily forced to relocate to Oklahoma City for two seasons after Hurricane Katrina. Stern is expected to be honored by Gov. Bobby Jindal, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Benson on Friday.

  • Stan Hochman of the Philadelphia Daily News: Doctor J took the playground game indoors. Took it to a higher level. Above the rim. Flew like a condor, stung like a scorpion. Found wealth and fame in that thin air. It was different at ground level, both feet on the shifting terrain. All that gloom. All those people he loved, dying young. He has written his autobiography, with considerable help from Karl Taro Greenfeld. Calls it "Dr. J" when it could have easily been called "Julius Erving." Slice it and balance the parts, sadness outweighs joy 60-40. When he played he was a knight in glistening armor. Elegant, graceful, kind. Nobody knocked Doctor J. Until now. Now, he wants the world to know he was a cheating husband; an overmatched, overindulgent father; a naive businessman. And, oh, yeah, as a player he chose greedily from the smorgasbord of arrogantly perceived entitlement, grabbing fistfuls of available women from column A, while spurning column B, equally available drugs and booze.