First Cup: Monday

  • Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times: "A person close to Gilbert Arenas who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to disrupt a relationship said Arenas used practical jokes to combat insecurity. Arenas used what he considered slights -- he was lightly recruited by college coaches before accepting a scholarship to Arizona and was drafted in the second round -- as motivation toward his development into an All-Star. He pleaded no contest to misdemeanor weapons and vehicle charges in 2003 after being charged with carrying a .40-caliber handgun and driving without a license during a traffic stop in California. 'If someone should have bad things to say about him, I’m the jilted agent,”'said Dan Fegan, Arenas’s former agent. 'He’s immature. He’s always been quirky. Everyone knows he’s a practical joker. But if he gets into an argument, he’ll probably joke about it. And it’s probably the result of a practical joke gone awry.' The N.B.A. tightened its anti-gun policies as part of its 2005 collective bargaining agreement after the Golden State Warriors’ Chris Mills was accused three years earlier of brandishing a gun on the Portland Trail Blazers’ team bus following an argument with Bonzi Wells. The revamped policy stated said N.B.A. personnel could not transport weapons onto league property, sites or charitable events."

  • Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star: "When Chris Bosh swished the 17-foot jump shot that made him the Raptors' all-time leading scorer on Sunday night, he betrayed barely a hint of emotion. Teammates joked that he'd secretly shed some tears of joy upon surpassing Vince Carter's franchise points record. But if you watched Bosh closely you know that he neither cried nor smiled. And even when the crowd of 18,323 rose in unison to offer the all-star forward a standing ovation for his seven seasons of knee-buckling effort, Bosh scarcely acknowledged the fuss. It was only after it was over -- after the Raptors secured a 91-86 win over the San Antonio Spurs to punctuate their best player's record-setting evening -- that Bosh finally acknowledged the relative gravity of the moment. No, there wasn't a championship banner or a retired number heading to the rafters at the Air Canada Centre, but Sunday's milestone was certainly a once-in-a-career accomplishment."

  • Dave Krieger of The Denver Post: "The video montage showed the usual A.I. (Allen Iverson) magic, driving the NBA forest, slicing through the trees, somehow getting the ball up through the branches and in the net, time after time after time. Out of the timeout, the crowd rose to serenade him back onto the floor. To the full house at the Pepsi Center, it was like he never left. The fans seemed to have no trouble cheering for the Nuggets and Iverson at the same time. Considering he played only 135 games for the Nuggets, less than two seasons' worth, it is an extraordinary bond. In fact, that ovation was one of his happiest moments since the Nuggets traded him to Detroit for Chauncey Billups. It's been a tough intervening 14 months for the future Hall of Famer. The same trade that launched the Nuggets' best season in a generation forced Iverson into a transition from a headliner on a playoff team to an unhappy bench player on a team going nowhere."

  • Tim Buckley of the Deseret News: "By now, Jerry Sloan figured he'd have a handle on lineup matters, combination questions and personnel issues. Instead, his 2009-10 Jazz seem to some like a horror story not even the coolest Kindle can make easier to read. Yet the morning after a disastrous loss to a Denver team missing injured stars Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, one marking Utah's fourth loss in six outings, Sloan again warned the worrywarts. 'It was like a doomsday (Saturday) night, with the questions I thought I had to answer -- you know, 'the season's over,'?' he said. But apocalypse, Sloan promised Sunday, is not upon his Jazz. Certainly not just one game into 2010, with another coming tonight at EnergySolutions Arena against Chris Paul and a New Orleans Hornets club that's lost six straight in Utah. 'There's a lot basketball to be played,' Sloan said."

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "The Grizzlies are earning more respect around the NBA with a collection of improbable yet impressive victories. Their biggest fan admitted Sunday he's even taken aback by the Grizzlies' recent play. 'They have surprised me a bit,' Griz owner Michael Heisley said. 'It's still early. But if we don't get hit with injuries, we have an outside chance of making the playoffs.' Memphis (16-16) owns a .500 record this late in the regular-season for the first time since 2005-06, when former coach Mike Fratello patrolled the sidelines. Under Lionel Hollins, who was Fratello's assistant back then, these Grizzlies are coming on strong. Winners in 15 of the past 23 games, the Griz entered Sunday just 11/2 games out of the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot."

  • John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "This is the team we expected to see this season -- point guard Derrick Rose relentlessly attacking the basket, an improving defense and a deep roster with multiple players contributing to the collective effort. But it's not what we were seeing two weeks ago, when the Bulls blew a 35-point third-quarter lead at home against the Sacramento Kings and instantly turned up the heat on Vinny Del Negro. So what changed? ''It's several things,'' Del Negro said. 'I give the players a lot of credit. I think their approach to things has been very good. The flexibility we have now with more bodies, with Tyrus [Thomas] coming back and Kirk being in the lineup. Being able to practice with more bodies is good. I give Brad [Miller] and John [Salmons], two veteran guys, a lot of credit for coming off the bench and handling that professionally and being factors in the game every time. 'A lot of things have come together. That's why it's a team game. Everybody has to know what their job is, go out and execute, be a good teammate and be committed to what we're trying to do.' Like Del Negro alluded to, the biggest difference is that the Bulls finally are healthy and have a full complement of players. It's not a coincidence that the winning streak began when Thomas returned Dec. 26."

  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: "The Bulls have a remarkably loyal following, having led the NBA in attendance the last decade despite making the playoffs just four out of 10 years. These players will make millions no matter what city they call home, but the sports climate in Chicago is duplicated in few places. American Airlines Arena in Miami was rocking when the Heat contended for championships a few years back. Now it's back to a lower bowl that's barely a quarter full at tipoff and dark curtains blocking off portions of the upper deck. Joe Johnson and Dwyane Wade, who figure to be the Bulls' leading targets, will head into free-agency with different perspectives. Wade is already a national star with high-profile endorsements. Moving to Chicago won't do much for his star power and he'd give up several million by leaving Florida, with its lack of state income tax. His decision will most likely depend on whether he has a burning inner desire to play for his hometown team or if he wants to live closer to his children. The only players Miami has under contract next season are Michael Beasley and Daequan Cook, so the Heat will have enough cap room to completely rebuild its roster. Johnson is still relatively anonymous among NBA stars. Moving to Chicago could do wonders for his national profile and off-the-court earnings potential."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "Shaquille O'Neal has been 'The Big Diplomat' since joining the Cavs. He's been a perfect teammate. He's been a leader in the locker room, bench and on the floor. He's never hinted about any issue with his role on the team or within the offense. He's helped the Cavs win some big games and he hasn't outwardly been bothered by the giant reduction in his role compared to the rest of his career. So allow this beat writer to be his advocate. Yes, his offensive skills have diminished and everyone knows it, even the big guy. He can't get up in the air, move laterally or finish like he used to. But he's still way more efffective than the Cavs are letting him be."

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "Tony Allen hasn’t felt this good since, well, the most traumatic point in his career, that one-month stretch before tearing up his left knee in January 2007. Then, the Celtics guard emerged in a series of 20-point performances as a dynamic scorer on a bad team. Only now, three years later on a great team that is temporarily shorthanded, does the oft-injured Allen rediscovering that old form. That, at least, is the way he senses it. 'I haven’t felt a flow like this since the time I tore my ACL,' Allen said after a 14-point, seven-assist performance that did much to drive the Celtics’ 103-96 undermanned win over Toronto on Saturday. 'It feels good, man, it feels good, it feels good.' Allen was trying not to fly over the top with his excitement, but that’s difficult for a player who has been hurt so often, most recently in a slow recovery from ankle surgery. His attempt at a return to this season’s rotation was so erratic -- the play of now-injured Marquis Daniels made it easy to forget him -- he drifted off coach Doc Rivers’ radar."

  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "Dwyane Wade has been exasperated with the season and isn't saying much at all. The other leader, Haslem, is now coming off the bench and plugging away, but he's not necessarily in position to be the primary voice. Jermaine O'Neal isn't vocal by nature. Richardson is, but he's in his first year with the team and can't exactly assume that role. That means it's Michael Beasley's turn to have a crack at this. And why not? Pat Riley's approach to the 2010 free agency season means Beasley, most likely, will be a part of this in the long run. So there's no need to wait until next year to define yourself. And don't be afraid to tell your teammates about it, either. This isn't to suggest that there are any internal issues between teammates -- just that Beasley can't internalize the star in him. He needs to unleash it, just to make sure it's there. His hair was more than a sign of boredom. It was a sign of advancement. Let's see if this new attitude is the change he and, more important, the Heat needs."

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "At this point in their careers, Dante Cunningham and Jeff Pendergraph should be earning their chops in the NBA Development League or, at best, learning the NBA game by watching from the end of the Blazers' bench. Instead, the duo has developed into a dependable combination at forward by doing the unglamorous dirty work. Pendergraph, who didn't play in his first NBA game until Dec. 22, will make his second consecutive start Monday night, when the Blazers visit the Los Angeles Clippers. And Cunningham, who started a game in December, has been a rotation player off and on for most of the season. 'They don't know how to play the game yet,' Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. 'But you can bring energy and you can bring hustle and scrappiness and they are and that has turned into something positive. (They're) rebounding, they're taking charges, they're getting loose balls. They are making some mistakes, but because they are so aggressive, they really haven't made many mistakes.' "

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: "When asked for his thoughts on guard Allen Iverson being the second-highest vote-getter in the Eastern Conference for the Feb. 14 All-Star game in Dallas, coach Eddie Jordan said: 'I don't pay attention to it.' Jordan did offer a comment when asked if he thought the team would keep Iverson for the rest of the season, thus guaranteeing him a contract: 'I expect him to [stay]. Nothing's been etched in stone, but I think it's gonna happen. His performance has been very good for us, on the floor and off the floor, in the locker rooms, in the huddles. He's been great for us, he really has been.' The Sixers have until Wednesday to decide whether they are going to keep Iverson around. It would be surprising if they didn't. The diminutive guard gives the team a presence that seems to be much needed."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "Chicago’s course now seems to serve as the chief cautionary case for the Thunder, which faces the Bulls at 7 tonight inside the United Center. The Bulls, despite defying their 1.7 percent 2008 NBA Draft Lottery odds and landing No. 1 overall pick Derrick Rose, are once again stuck in mediocrity. Chicago enters tonight’s game 14-17 and is reportedly on the verge of firing coach Vinny Del Negro after just 1 1/2 seasons. Del Negro already is the eighth coach the franchise has had since 2000. But the Bulls’ issues have run deeper than poor coaching. Since Michael Jordan left town, Chicago has confronted everything from contract disputes to cancer players to chemistry problems."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "I hear Bob Johnson is serious again about selling the team. If that's so, then perhaps he's gotten realistic about what it's worth in this economy. A lot of fans will rejoice at the prospect of Johnson's departure. Certainly he's made numerous miscalculations and gaffes. But anyone who thinks Johnson selling is a panacea is missing the real issue. The Bobcats are well over the salary cap this season and will be again next season. Meanwhile, they're losing tens of millions annually. If you think new ownership will start spending like the Cavaliers or Lakers, while facing the same limited revenues, you're dreaming."

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "The Orlando Magic know all too well just how easily NBA players can injure their ankles. The team received another reminder Saturday night, when Vince Carter sprained his left ankle for the second time this season. The injury occurred as Carter drove to the hoop; as Taj Gibson was guarding him, Carter's left foot stepped on one of John Salmons' feet. Carter said the injury is not serious and said he expects to play in the Magic's next game on Tuesday night against the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis. ... He's not the only star NBA player who has battled ankle injuries since training camps opened in late September. Chicago's Derrick Rose, New Orleans' Chris Paul and San Antonio's Tony Parker all missed time either in the preseason or the regular season. ... Tom Abdenour, the Golden State Warriors' head athletic trainer and a member of the National Athletic Trainers' Association Hall of Fame, said 85 percent of all ankle sprains among basketball players occur to the outside of the ankle. 'That's classically the one where you're going up for a jump shot or a rebound and as you land, you step on someone's foot and roll your ankle to the outside,' Abdenour said. 'Anyone's that's played basketball at any level has probably sustained one of those.' "