First Cup: Monday

  • Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times: "The Clippers scored five points in the final 8.5 seconds to defeat the Celtics, 92-90, the winning shot being a fadeaway jumper by Baron Davis at the buzzer. It stopped Boston's nine-game road winning streak, marking only the second Celtics loss on the road this season. This had echoes of the Clippers' upset of the Celtics last season at Staples Center, a two-point victory in February. 'You've got to prepare your mind for it when you're getting ready to take a shot,' Davis said. 'I didn't know what Coach was gonna draw. I made it known that I wanted to get the ball and if I got it with a second left, if I can get to my fadeway over [Rajon] Rondo, at least we'd be able to get a good look.' Dunleavy confirmed the conversation."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "It was great when it happened, the night rookie point guard Brandon Jennings scored 55 points against the Golden State Warriors. But the expectations it brought have the Bucks' 20-year-old rookie wondering whether it was worth it to get 55 so early in his career, in just his seventh NBA game. 'I feel like it's a curse because of the 55,' Jennings said after the Bucks' practice session Sunday. 'It's almost a curse. Now that I've scored 55, everybody expects me to go out there and score big numbers every night. I'm just trying to find my way. Not every night is going to be easy. A lot of teams are changing their defense. So it's not as easy as everyone thinks it is.' Jennings had 10 points and took just eight shots in the Bucks' 112-97 loss to San Antonio on Saturday, the Bucks' fourth straight home defeat. He contributed eight assists and committed three turnovers while playing 30 minutes. He had scored just seven points in the Bucks' previous game, a 109-97 loss to the Washington Wizards."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Bulls fans have blamed Tyrus Thomas for everything from not beingLaMarcus Aldridge to taking ill-advised shots. That's why the reaction -- a prolonged, rousing ovation -- when Thomas checked in for the first time in seven weeks Saturday resonated. 'That was nice,' Thomas said. 'I appreciated it.' The maturity Thomas displayed on the court in tallying 21 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots -- with rarely a bad decision -- extended off the court as well. Thomas sounded downright introspective when asked what the time off did for him. 'It made me calmer,' he said. 'I try to be anyway -- on the floor, off the floor. I had a lot of time to think. You think, some guys have season- or career-ending injuries. It makes you understand what you're here to do. Just try to take advantage of the moment.' Thomas won't always enjoy such game-changing nights. But his energy and athleticism change the way the Bulls play. And that's why coach Vinny Del Negro doesn't want to change the way Thomas plays."

  • Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle: "I feel sorry for Tracy McGrady. I could scream about his selfishness, but this thing goes way beyond McGrady caring more about himself than the team. There's a real element of sadness in this deal. Yes, he bailed on his teammates this weekend. When Rick Adelman wouldn't give him what he wanted, McGrady got mad and left. In that moment, he revealed that he's only a member of a team as long as its in his own best interest. Yes, he's the NBA's highest-paid player at $22.8 million, so he's not a sympathetic figure in the way most people see sympathetic figures.But he's 30 years old and on the verge of being considered a has-been. Think of how that must feel."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "The Pacers would have been better off going straight to Chicago - or even staying home for that matter - than flying to Miami. The Heat took the Pacers out back and gave them the type of beat down where you want to go hide your face for a couple of days. The Heat had enough dunks - 13 - to make their own highlight reel for the season. They had dunks on three straight possessions against a defense that was worse than what you would find at a peewee basketball game on a Saturday morning. Members of the Miami media were cracking up as Heat players were trying to one up each other with dunks. 'This is a piss-poor effort,' forward Troy Murphy said inside a rather silent locker room. 'We got dominated in every facet of the game. This is a terrible loss, a terrible effort, a bad situation all the way around.' "

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Mike Miller was able to shoot jumpers on the strained right calf that has sidelined him the past five weeks, but was sore because the injury forced him to miss playing against two of his former teams, Minnesota and the Memphis Grizzlies, whom the Wizards play Monday night. He said the loss to Minnesota, which traded him to Washington last June, stung. 'Brutal. You want to win those games. I don't care what anybody says, people always comment that it's a regular game. It's not,' said Miller, who has missed the past 16 games after injuring himself in San Antonio on Nov. 21. 'When you play against the team that traded you, your goal is to win the game. I think people get caught up in wanting to have big numbers but how you hurt the organization that traded you is by beating them. Ultimately, they don't care about what you do as long as they win.' "

  • Larry Coon for The New York Times: "If Eddy Curry really does want to pull a Snake Plissken and escape from New York, he is going to have to make a sacrifice. We are talking about the dreaded 'B' word -- a buyout. Buyouts are a pretty standard way for teams and players to effect a divorce when they come to grips with the fact that they have irreconcilable differences. It is a club Donnie Walsh has in his bag but rarely pulls out -- the only time he has used it in recent memory was with Stephon Marbury last season. But if Curry really wants out, and is willing to sacrifice, a buyout can give Walsh exactly what he wants — more cap room in 2010. It is the only way (other than a trade) to have Curry completely off the books when the free agents hit the market next summer. The key is Curry’s player option. Curry’s contract technically ends after this season, but he has the option to extend it for one more season at $11.3 million. Since he is unlikely to command anything approaching that amount as a free agent, it is considered a no-brainer that when the time comes, he will pick up the option and guarantee himself the salary. And once he does, the salary is stuck on the Knicks’ books, reducing Walsh’s spending power by that same $11.3 million. If Curry is willing to give up his option for next season, Walsh would likely give him a buyout in a heartbeat, rushing to get it done before Curry has a chance to change his mind."

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Mike Conley regained his confidence stroke by stroke by tickling the ivory keys. The third-year point guard turned to the piano when times got tough, and to help drown out the noise of naysayers. 'It helps ease the stress,' the Grizzlies point guard said of his new hobby. 'You get home, play the piano and feel better. It's something to chill with.' ... About a month ago, Conley was walking in Best Buy with rookie teammate Sam Young. The pair stopped at a keyboard that Young began to play masterfully. Conley became impressed and interested enough that he bought a keyboard the next day. Conley has learned the piano with the help of one-hour DVDs ever since, which included about four hours on Christmas Day. 'It's something to take your mind off basketball,' said Young, a piano player since the ninth grade after picking up the talent from his blind younger brother, Michael Spriggs."

  • Brian T. Smith of The Columbian: "Jeff Pendergraph did not deny it. In fact, the Portland Trail Blazers rookie forward embraced the notion. Yes, Pendergraph said, when he is on the court, he is definitely a little crazy. And that’s just the way Pendergraph -- and the Blazers -- want it. 'I think that’s definitely a thing I bring. I bring a little extra,' said Pendergraph, following a Sunday morning workout at the team’s practice facility. 'Everybody’s tough; there’s no soft guys on this team. But I just have an abundant amount of craziness.' Pendergraph’s self-avowed crazy streak has been the perfect antidote for a Blazers season that has mixed the surreal with the macabre, as Portland has been forced to fight through a never-ending run of injuries and setbacks. ... Nate McMillan stated that some NBA players are more concerned with their image and how they look on television rather than their actual performance. But that is not the case with Pendergraph, McMillan said. Portland’s coach said the idea of an on-the-court screen test for Pendergraph has likely never entered the rookie’s head. 'Cuteness, he’s not concerned about,' McMillan said.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "The Suns are 5-9 this month, the third-worst record in the Western Conference. Their defense has been at its worst, prompting coach Alvin Gentry to call it 'ridiculous,' 'pathetic' and 'absolutely horrendous' after they allowed 132 points Saturday night at Golden State. Their offense scores big, but not when it counts in recent losses, managing to post a season-low fourth quarter (19 points) amid Saturday's season-high total (127). Bring on the Lakers and Celtics! The Suns' 14-3 start has been torched in December, and here comes kerosene with each conference's top team visiting - Los Angeles (24-5) Monday night and Boston (23-5 entering Sunday night) on Wednesday. 'To play at a high level, you have to be mentally tough, and right now we're definitely not that,' Suns forward Jared Dudley said. 'If you ask me who I'd rather play, it wouldn't be the Lakers coming off a loss. But we're at home. This team plays better at home. If we win, it might be the turning point.' "

  • Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune: "John Stockton , Karl Malone and Rickey Green are the only players in Utah Jazz history with at least 3,000 assists. Deron Williams is about to join them. After handing out eight assists in Saturday night's 97-76 victory over Philadelphia, Williams has 2,975 in his career. Williams needs 25 assists for 3,000. If he reaches his season average of 10 assists in games at Minnesota (Wednesday) and Oklahoma City (Thursday), Williams will get No. 3,000 on Saturday night, when the Jazz play Denver at EnergySolutions Arena. The game will be the 341st in Williams' five-year career. Stockton is the NBA's all-time leader in assists with 15,806. He handed out his 3,000th assist in a 107-93 win over Chicago on Nov. 30, 1988. It was the 341st game of his career. Amazingly, Williams is on the exact same pace set by Stockton -- at least on paper."

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "Spurs rookie DeJuan Blair didn't have to go far to recall his history at Madison Square Garden. On the wall outside the Spurs' locker room, alongside pictures of Bruce Springsteen and Frank Sinatra, hangs a photo of Blair as a freshman at Pittsburgh, jumping center in a game against Duke. 'I forgot that was there,' Blair said, grinning. 'It's cool.' As a collegian, Blair played at the Garden eight times, many of them Big East tournament games. In that, he played at the so-called 'World's Most Famous Arena' more times in two seasons at Pitt than some of his more veteran Spurs' teammates have in their careers."

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "The Raptors have now done something they haven't done in their 15-season history. Won a season series from the Detroit Pistons. With Sunday's 102-95 win, Toronto has beaten Detroit three straight times year, guaranteeing they'll win the four-game season series. Twice before, they've split four games but Toronto has never won three in the same season."