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First Cup: Wednesday

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian "In a game that was equal parts depressing and exhilarating, the Trail Blazers overcame yet another significant injury to a key player to secure one of the most impressive victories this franchise has seen in a long time. After losing Joel Przybilla for the game -- and perhaps the season -- in the first quarter, the Blazers defeated the Dallas Mavericks 85-81 Tuesday night with pure will and grit before 19,683 at American Airlines Arena. Przybilla suffered a ruptured right patellar tendon and patella dislocation and is out indefinitely. He is scheduled to fly back to Portland today for further testing and, eventually, surgery, after which doctors will determine how much time he will miss. ... The injury was eerily similar to the one Greg Oden sustained Dec. 5 against the Houston Rockets. 'I knew it was pretty severe when it happened,' said Przybilla, who was smiling and positive after the game. 'My leg was stuck in a funny position. It really didn't hurt, but I could tell something wasn't right.' For the Blazers, who entered the game with just 10 healthy players because of a rash of injuries, losing Przybilla is a surreal and disheartening blow. 'We just couldn't believe that someone else went down,' LaMarcus Aldridge said. 'We all stopped and said, 'Please tell me this ain't real.' "

  • Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "After a summer in which he asserted that the Jazz had agreed to trade him, named Miami as one of his preferred destinations and called playing with Dwyane Wade 'a beautiful thing,' Carlos Boozer returns to face the Heat tonight. It is not, however, so much the past and present as it is the future that is most intriguing for Boozer. Not only will the former All-Star forward be a free agent this summer, but the Heat will have the salary-cap space needed to sign him outright. The Heat project to have between $15 million and $19 million in cap space, even as Wade is expected to opt out of his contract and become a free agent. For his part, Boozer was asked Tuesday if Miami would be on his list of top teams this summer. 'We'll see when the time comes,' Boozer said. 'I think that'll take care of itself at that point in the season. They're a good team trying to get better, we're a good team trying to get better. That's where I think both teams are right now.' "

  • Tim Buckley of the Deseret News: "The Jazz on Tuesday traded rookie point guard Eric Maynor and veteran forward Matt Harpring's expiring contract to Oklahoma City for the rights to a forward from Germany who has never played in the NBA. The cost-cutting trade will save more than $10 million for the Jazz, who are well in excess of the NBA's team payroll salary cap and luxury-tax threshold. 'It's good for Oklahoma City, because they get a good young player (in Maynor),' Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said today. 'And it's good for us, because it allows us to address our financial situation. Basically the reason we did that was to relieve ourselves of some luxury-tax responsibilities ... and to do that we had to give up an asset,' he added. 'It was a difficult decision. We're disappointed that we had to do that, but in these economic times we saved a great deal of money and we're able to be aggressive, still, going forward.' The trade -- essentially a salary dump of Harpring's burdensome contract, at the cost of 22-year-old Maynor -- reduces Utah's roster count from 14 to 12. But the Jazz do plan to get back to the league-required minimum of 13 by adding another point guard in the near future. They have two weeks to do so."

  • Mike Baldwin of The Oklahoman: "Thunder coach Scott Brooks said if Eric Maynor passes a physical, as expected, the rookie point guard will join the team today in Phoenix and should play tonight against the Suns. 'There’s no question it’s going to take him some time to pick things up,' Brooks said. 'We have to learn things about him and vice versa. From what I’m hearing, he’s a very cerebral point guard who understands the game. He’ll be able to pick things up. How soon? We don’t know. We’ll limit him to four or five things and hopefully those four or five things work because we really don’t have any other options. I hate to say it like this, but point guards are smart. (Laughing) If it was a big guy you’d be a little more worried about it.' "

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "With heavy criticism swirling that he didn't try anything to stop the bleeding in Monday's 35-point collapse to the Kings -- a double team of Tyreke Evans, an extended rotation -- Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro changed a lot Tuesday against the Knicks. He benched John Salmons and Brad Miller to start the second half. He played nine players in the first quarter. 'I probably could have gotten somebody in there a little earlier (Monday) night when we had the lead,' Del Negro said. 'It's something to learn from and get better at. We've also struggled when we've had leads, so I always want to go with our better players. 'But managing that a little better is something I need to do. I need to find ways to get some other guys minutes so maybe we do have an extra burst in the fourth quarter.' "

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "The Nuggets are one of those high school exam questions that made you wonder about the strength of a GED. When the Nuggets pass more, they win more. But their offense is built around attacking the rim more than any other NBA team, and leading scorer Carmelo Anthony gets to the line more than every NBA player not named Dwight Howard. How can the Nuggets stick to their offensive philosophy but also make sure the team comes first? Tricky, huh? Such is the delicate issue that coach George Karl, his coaches and players face. 'There's no question that the pass and our offense go hand in hand,' said Karl, whose Nuggets are 19-9. 'Maybe we have to make more adjustments to get the gaps more open, to get the spacing better and to continue to try to get 30 layups and 30 assists (per game).' "

  • Paola Boivin of The Arizona Republic: "Cleveland stormed into town and gave a reality check to not only the Suns but to their fans, too. Can you live with the truth? The Suns are not a championship contender. They're gritty, overachieving and more entertaining to watch than most. But they are not among the NBA's elite, as a good old dose of Cavaliers lockdown defense proved. Can you live with it? I can if these things happen: Management gives us reason to believe they're trying to build off this season. The Suns play hungry every night. It sounds cliché, but the truth is they're not good enough to win if they don't. The Suns morning-after practice Tuesday was interesting. Amar'e Stoudemire started with an apology to the media after refusing to talk after the Cavaliers game. 'I lost a little sleep last night,' he said."

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: "Credit Michael Beasley for how maturely he has handled often being on the bench late in close games: 'I'm used to it. If that's the lineup, I'm perfectly fine with it.' Defense is one reason why Udonis Haslem plays more late in games than Beasley. 'Sometimes it's the flow of the game or the matchups,' coach Erik Spoelstra said. 'It's a lightning rod topic. More people ask me about Michael than anyone else.' According to 82games.com, in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter (or overtime) when the Heat is ahead or trailing by no more than five points, Haslem has played 79 percent of the time, and the Heat has outscored teams by 22 with Haslem on court in that situation. Beasley had played 32 percent of those minutes, with the Heat being outscored by nine."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Well, you can't say the Magic's point-guard scenario lacks drama. Tonight against the Houston Rockets, Jameer Nelson is expected to be back in the lineup, meaning the projected starting five for the Magic will be together for just their second game of the season. Rashard Lewis had rejoined Nelson, Mickael Pietrus, Dwight Howard and Vince Carter on Nov. 16 against Charlotte after missing the first 10 games because of a suspension. But the lineup made just a cameo appearance as Nelson was hurt late in the game. He missed 16 games before coming back Monday night against the Jazz. The intrigue could come with the other two point guards. Nelson's return will send Jason Williams to the backup role --- for how long, only coach Stan Van Gundy knows. Williams is no lock to continue as Nelson's back-up as Van Gundy has not been hesitant to play Johnson if Williams struggles."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "The frustration is building in Dirk Nowitzki. He sees his team holding opponents to 85 points and not winning. He's not happy about it. 'It just feels like, at home, I've got to make every shot down the stretch to win,' he said. 'That's how it feels. ... So we got to figure out something.' There were too many people misfiring for Nowitzki's impressive night to cover up. Jason Terry, Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd were a combined 3-for-26. No way that translates into a win. Whether it's up to the players or the coaching staff, Nowitzki knows the Mavericks are wasting good defensive efforts by shooting 30-some percent too often. He knows Terry will come around. But until the offense perks up, Nowitzki feels like there's just not enough help."

  • Phil Miller of the Star Tribune: "Kurt Rambis had a pained expression on his face as he dissected the Timberwolves' 112-87 bellyflop loss to the Hawks on Tuesday night at Target Center. Perhaps it would make him feel better to know that Atlanta coach Mike Woodson used to wear that same grimace a lot, too. In other words, the Hawks aren't just Minnesota's conquerors. They're the Wolves' role models. 'We started with a bunch of babies six years ago, 18-, 19- and 20-year-old kids, and they've grown,' Woodson said after Atlanta walloped Minnesota for the seventh consecutive game. 'Our core guys have been together now for four years, and it makes a big difference.' "

  • Jeffrey Martin of the Houston Chronicle: "The Twitter-verse was buzzing after Tuesday's revelation that TMZ.com, the celebrity gossip Web site that went mainstream with its coverage of Tiger Woods' indiscretions, would launch a sports site in 2010. 'That's the last thing we need as athletes,' Shane Battier said. Battier told a reporter he was welcome to follow him around, but cautioned there wouldn't be much dirt to be dug. But Battier recognizes he might be the exception, too. 'The way I look at it is, people want to have the experience of being an athlete or being a rock star,' he said. 'Being on the inside ... That's what pro sports have sold, be it helmet cams or cameras in the locker room. It's become a very, I think, dangerous thing, trying to mess with the integrity of the sport when you allow too much access. It's unfortunate – I think it takes from our job, the sports side of it, and it makes more of a reality show.' He was asked if the situation was frustrating, and Battier said it wasn't."