First Cup: Tuesday
November, 19, 2013
By Nick Borges
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Getting away from home and bonding on the road has done wonders for the Memphis Grizzlies. After causing a bit of anxiety with their fan base because of inconsistent play, the Griz have navigated through tough terrain and seemingly found smooth pavement. Their 106-102 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night in Staples Center marked the Grizzlies’ third straight victory — all on the road. After starting the season 0-3 away from FedExForum, Memphis has a chance at a perfect four-game road trip Wednesday when they play at the Golden State Warriors. Zach Randolph again powered the Grizzlies’ attack with 26 points and 15 rebounds. Center Marc Gasol flirted with a triple double for a third straight game, finishing with 23 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. The Griz handed the Clippers their first home loss this season.
- Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times: Doc Rivers didn't believe in matching brawn with brawn, a flying elbow with a smack across the face. To illustrate his plan against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Clippers coach pulled out an old boxing reference, saying he didn't want his players to be Sugar Ray Leonard in his first fight against Roberto Duran. Leonard famously abandoned his usual fly-around-the-ring style and tried to match puncher Duran blow for blow in a futile effort. Rivers wanted his players to inflict their frenetic, push-the-pace approach on the relatively slowpoke Grizzlies. Instead, they spent much of a 106-102 defeat looking more like someone stuck in Memphis mud, rarely doing their score-in-a-hurry thing Monday night at Staples Center. ... The Clippers are 7-4, and their biggest concern remains an inability to sustain quality play for more than sporadic stretches. They were slogging uphill almost the entire game after a dud of a 20-point first quarter. ... Ultimately, the Clippers couldn't execute their coach's plan. They trudged off the court like Duran after his failed rematch with Leonard with what felt like a familiar refrain: No mas.
- Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: Huddled in the corner of the visiting locker room at the Barclays Center, away from the television cameras and microphones and hoopla of another Trail Blazers victory, Earl Watson confidently summed up what everyone on his team believes but has been reluctant to say aloud. “This record is real,” the Blazers’ resident sage said, before adding. “This all came together quicker than anyone ever thought. Which is amazing.” At this point, it might not be hyperbole to call the Blazers’ early-season run amazing. They coolly and confidently dispatched of yet another victim Monday night, defeating the $103 million Brooklyn Nets 108-98 before a sellout crowd of 17,732. It was their seventh consecutive victory — the longest for the Blazers since they won 13 in a row in December 2007 — and improved their record to a surprising 9-2, their best since opening the 1999-00 season 10-1. The Blazers’ mantra throughout their early-season hot streak has been to live in the moment and stay hungry. They’ve accurately and openly talked about how young the season is and how far away the playoffs are.
- Andrew Keh of The New York Times: The Nets’ 108-98 defeat Monday to the Portland Trail Blazers, in this way, felt like a microcosm of their first 10 games. They shot out of the gates, exceeding their previous season-high point totals for a quarter and for a half, elating a sellout crowd at Barclays Center. Before the night was done, though, boos could be heard filtering from the rapidly shrinking audience, as the Nets (3-7) slunk to their fifth loss in six games. After the buzzer, it was a quiet arena and an even quieter Nets locker room. Coach Jason Kidd tried to take sole responsibility for the loss, and since a majority of the players left without answering questions from reporters, no one could rebut his sentiment, as unlikely as it seemed. “It’s just bad coaching,” Kidd said. “I take the blame for this.” ... The Nets’ locker room remained closed for several extra minutes after the game. Jason Terry — who was one of just three players, along with Livingston and the rookie Mason Plumee, to speak to reporters — said there was no organized meeting. “It was just guys reflecting, realizing we let another opportunity slip,” Terry said. “But we’ll figure this thing out.” But he said there was no timetable for that, either.
- Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Vince Carter didn’t mind reliving what he describes as two of his greatest accomplishments when a Philadelphia reporter brought it up Monday morning. It was May 20, 2001, and Carter had two very important engagements while he was playing for the Toronto Raptors. First, Carter attended his graduation exercises in Chapel Hill, N.C., that morning. Then he flew to Philadelphia for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, but wound up missing the game-winning jumper at the buzzer as the Sixers edged the Raptors, 88-87. ... Carter was heavily criticized for attending his graduation instead of giving his undivided attention to Game 7. But he didn’t understand those who admonished him because many people complain about athletes being dumb jocks who don’t care about education. “It’s one of those things you don’t forget,” Carter said. “It’s very monumental in my career. “I was able to graduate from college and miss the Game 7 shot to move on in the playoffs all in one night. So you can’t forget that.”
- Andy Friedlander for the Philadelphia Daily News: Nerlens Noel's games don't count in the standings. They aren't played in front of cheering crowds or TV cameras. But for the 76ers and their prized rookie center, they are as important as any games on the NBA schedule. The former Kentucky star is out indefinitely as he rehabs his surgically repaired left knee, and there is a good chance he won't play at all this season. But he is on the court everyday, working with coach Brett Brown and assistant Greg Foster on his shooting, a process Brown said is starting from "ground zero." ... The reason for that is that the construction project of Noel's shot is a major one. The 6-11 Noel is supremely gifted athletically, but he needs a longer-range offensive weapon, Brown said, to completely unlock his potential. ... Brown said he adds a competitive aspect to Noel's drills - giving him goals to make a certain number of shots in a row, for example - to keep him motivated. But the bottom line is that the shooting work is an investment in a player the Sixers clearly believe is their future.
- K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: If there's one thing Ben Gordon learned the last time he entered free agency and left the Bulls for the Pistons, it's to never say never. That's why, if by some minuscule chance, the Bulls come calling next summer, looking for scoring punch off the bench, he'd listen. "I had a lot of success here, had a great time here," Gordon said. "I'm not in position to rule anybody out." Of course, the Bulls would only do so with a minimum contract — and maybe not even then. But Gordon, who is finishing the five-year, $55 million deal he signed in 2009, made it sound as if money isn't his main priority — especially since he has fallen out of the rotation with the Bobcats. "I'm at the point now where I would love to win a championship before I'm done playing," Gordon said. "I won one in high school and college, so I want to put myself in that type of situation. I feel it would complete my career."
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: “They’re a pain in the butt,” Mike Dunleavy said, and he meant that in the most complimentary manner. Dunleavy was describing the Charlotte Bobcats’ new-found devotion to defense. The Bulls shot 36 percent and were held nine points below their season average, but that wasn’t enough in Chicago’s 86-81 victory at the United Center. Defense travels well, but the Bobcats’ offense, again missing injured center Al Jefferson, did not. They, too, shot 36 percent from the field, but the thing that has saved Charlotte’s scoring this season – free-throw attempts – never materialized. The Bobcats were outscored at the foul line 26-8. That simply can’t happen if this 5-6 team expects to continue bobbing around the .500 mark.
- Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: The Warriors improved to 8-3 for the first time since 1991. No doubt they left Utah a bit relieved. Their 28-point third-quarter lead was cut in half by the end of the period, turning a rout into a nervous second half. Then after they put the Jazz away early in the fourth quarter, their star point guard was lying face down on the hardwood. With just under nine minutes left in the game, Curry drove the lane and was cut off. He was knocked down trying to pass out of the trap. While Curry was on the floor, Jazz forward Marvin Williams fell on top of Curry's head, smashing the left side of his face into the hardwood. The Warriors star lay facedown on the court for several minutes, his teammates and coach Mark Jackson standing over him. Eventually, Curry rolled onto his back, then sat up. He was helped up, then walked off under his own power to the locker room with head athletic trainer Johan Wang. Curry said he never lost consciousness. But the gravity of head injuries wasn't lost on him. "I haven't had any concussion episodes before," Curry said. "When I first hit, it rung my bell pretty hard. I made sure I took my time. I didn't want to put myself in jeopardy for the next game, especially with the lead we had. ... The way it felt, it was definitely pretty serious."
- Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: Trey Burke, Jeremy Evans and Andris Biedrins have yet to wear a Utah Jazz uniform this season. That could happen sooner than later for the three players who’ve been sidelined with injuries. “I’m very anxious to get everything that we have on the floor,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. Evans is apparently the closest to returning. Wednesday’s game in New Orleans is a possibility for the 6-foot-9 forward, who has been out since injuring his rotator cuff in the preseason. ... Burke won’t be allowed to do five-on-five scrimmaging yet, but Corbin said the point guard can do limited contact drills. That is a big step forward in his progression to returning. ... As for Biedrins, the Jazz big is walking and running more comfortably now. He has been out since spraining his left ankle two days before the season opener. Corbin is hopeful the 7-footer will begin to practice again soon as well.
- Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman: As Thunder players stormed the court for warm-ups on Monday night, there was a strange sight near the OKC bench. Sitting a few seats down from coach Scott Brooks' in-game perch, two fans were decked out in Houston Rockets gear: One, a bright red Dwight Howard jersey; the other, a matching James Harden getup. And the players noticed. Kendrick Perkins was the first, eyeing the duo up and down, before Sefolosha and Kevin Durant wandered over to give them a playful lecture. Minutes later, they both took off the Rockets jerseys, with an apparent nudge from someone with significant pull. “Clay Bennett, Owner of the Thunder: ‘Lose Them,'” Hunter Leveque, one of the jersey-wearers, tweeted, later calling it a “stern suggestion,” but not an ‘ultimatum.'"
- Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post: Brian Shaw has ascended from player to assistant to NBA head coach in his nearly 25 years in the NBA. And on Tuesday night in the latest episode of "Real Sports," HBO will chronicle that rise, which included the devastation of losing his parents and sister to a car accident 20 years ago. "They called toward the middle of the summer and said they wanted to, once I got hired, wanted to do a story kind of chronicling my journey to be an NBA head coach," Shaw said. He agreed. And soon thereafter, HBO cameras became a permanent fixture in his life for a few weeks. "It's been pretty thorough, from what I understand," Shaw said. "I've been getting calls from everybody from high school administration to the college basketball department saying that (HBO) reached out to try to get pictures and video footage from me back then. I don't really know what to expect, but I like the show and what it's all about. They usually do a good job."