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First Cup: Monday

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "The Wizards are now 1-2 since the NBA suspended Gilbert Arenas indefinitely on Wednesday. Fans arriving at the arena were welcomed with a 'Wizards Care' banner on the Sixth Street facade of the building, replacing the one that featured Arenas. The slogan on the new banner reads: 'On your team, on the court and in the community, Wizards care.' DeShawn Stevenson honored Arenas by writing the words, 'AGENT' and 'ZERO,' in red marker on the tape around his shins and just above the tops of his shoes. 'He's still part of the team, right?' Stevenson said. 'He's my brother. I'm going to stick with him through rough times.' Jamison added that it's a difficult time for the team to be without Arenas. 'But you have to be professional about it and go out there and play the game. He's always going to come across our minds,' Jamison said of Arenas, 'and you just wish he was playing with you.' "

  • Dan LeBatard of The Miami Herald: "Arenas was wrong, period. You can't defend the dumb and dangerous. Bringing guns into any workplace, never mind an emotional one, is certainly that. I can tell you that good guy Greg Anthony admitted to The New York Times in 2003 that he used to bring a pistol into the Knicks locker room. I can tell you that since the in-home muggings of Antoine Walker and Eddie Curry, basketball players are more armed and alarmed than ever -- so scared that Antawn Jamison usually circles his neighborhood two or three times when returning from anywhere just to make sure no one is following him. And I can tell you the locker room is more like the gym or the country club than the sales guy's cubicle. But, again, there shouldn't ever be a gun there, never mind four. ... I'm just more interested in how this mess has gotten Arenas a stiffer penalty and vastly more backlash than former New York Jet Damien Robinson received a few days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when he drove to the stadium with a semiautomatic weapon and 200 rounds of ammo in his trunk. Arenas, far as I can tell, was suspended for being funny. Real guns at work? Those didn't get him punished, believe it or not. Making imaginary guns with his fingers at work? That will go down as one of the most expensive jokes in sports history."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "After Arenas was suspended indefinitely by the league, there were immediate comparisons tohow the league handled Delonte West. It was not the sort of attention the guard or the Cavs were looking for. But the alternative viewpoint is how West and the Cavs have avoided the problems that have plagued the Wizards. As a result, West's troubles have had a minimal effect on the season thus far. Arenas and the team's handling of the incident -- which included a blase attitude by the players involved and limited response by the team when the story first broke -- has highlighted how well the Cavs have managed West's situation. Specifically, the Cavs have shielded West from the media, his teammates have constantly offered a wall of support, and the organization's leadership has constantly kept one voice both in front and behind the scenes."

  • George M. Thomas of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "It's rare to hear an athlete apologize for his play. Take responsibility. Sure. Apologize? Huh? But Cavs guard Mo Williams knows how he played in Friday night's 99-97 loss to the Denver Nuggets. So he took to his Twitter account to apologize. Williams scored just 11 points against the injury-depleted Nuggets. The Cavaliers are more effective when Williams complements the play of LeBron James. They are 12-3 when Williams scores 20 points or more. ''I know 'Bron is going to do his thing and it takes stress off of him,' Williams said before Sunday night's game against the Portland Trail Blazers in the Rose Garden."

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: "On Sunday, the Cavaliers beat the Blazers 106-94 behind 41 points from LeBron James. Allen, who skipped the Lakers-Blazers game 48 hours earlier, was here for this one, watching, drooling, commenting afterward, 'LeBron is just so darned dominant.' It raises a question: Would Paul Allen someday attempt to get LeBron? Think on that. ... As long as you could sell James on the notion of being in the backyard of his primary employer, Nike, and traveling the cozy way Allen's teams travel, and having an owner redesign the franchise to fit his skill set, it's worth the Blazers doing everything in their power to keep the possibility of James to Portland alive. Even if that means toying with the idea of blowing up the momentum the franchise currently has. Miami is doing that. The Knicks are doing that. Cleveland, meanwhile, is insisting it's the forever place for James, who hasn't given any indication he even wants out. Portland should dream, too. At the very least, the business strategist in Allen, and maybe the chess buddy, too, knows that entering the 'LeBron Sweeps' would drive up the cost of doing business for whoever ends up with the star player."

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "Since the idea of the Knicks’ David Lee making 20-foot jumpers no longer seems ludicrous, maybe it’s time to reconsider another once-unthinkable notion: David Lee as an All-Star. It doesn’t take much of a leap now. Lee is averaging 19.1 points per game, making him the top scoring center in the Eastern Conference. His rebounding average (10.9 per game) is third among East centers, behind Dwight Howard and Joakim Noah. His field-goal percentage (.580) is the fifth best in the N.B.A. Yet Lee is absent from the most recent balloting returns. Part of the problem is logistical: The committee that created the ballots listed Lee as a forward, a position that is packed with established stars and big-time scorers. But Lee has started at center every game this season and should earn serious consideration there when the East coaches pick the reserves."

  • Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Times: "Pau! Come back, Pau! Abandoned like the little boy in 'Shane,' who pleads with the gunfighter to come back, the Lakers took the floor without Pau Gasol once more to see what would happen. Nothing works the way it does with Gasol and so it was again Sunday night, when they took a 20-4 lead over the overmatched Milwaukee Bucks ... let them back into it as Kobe Bryant went into launch mode ... before the Lakers reserves, of all people, broke it open in what turned out to be a (wry) 95-77 laugher. Not only do things get bumpy without Gasol, they do so in predictable patterns."

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "When you're the coach of the Timberwolves, you don't have a lot of options. That's why they're 8-30. Still, Kurt Rambis is pondering his. On Saturday in Chicago, Rambis shuffled his two best players -- Al Jefferson and Kevin Love -- in and out of the lineup. It seemed most often like out: Love played a season-low 22 minutes, and Jefferson's 27 were his fewest since November's 41-point loss at Golden State. On Sunday, Rambis reiterated what he said after Saturday's 110-96 loss to the Bulls: He's considering telling one or two starters to make a 'sacrifice' by moving to a reserve role. 'I'm just fiddling with things in my mind,' Rambis said after conducting a loose 70-minute practice Sunday afternoon in Denver. 'It's not a demotion. It's not a promotion. It's about finding what's best for the team. I'm trying to find the combination so that both units are strong.'

  • Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News: "Normally, there's a lighthearted mood around the Pistons practice facility. The laughter is as common as the bouncing of basketballs in the gym. There weren't as many smiles Sunday, though. There are probably a variety of reasons. But a 12-game losing streak, combined with a bad effort in Saturday's loss to Philadelphia, made for a lot of tight-lipped faces. 'Everybody handles it differently,' Ben Gordon said. 'Myself, I just think about it all the time, what I can to do to help the team get better. Every game is different. You can't let a 12-game losing streak, or win streak, affect the next game.' "

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: "Yesterday’s game illustrated why Danny Ainge signed Wallace, after the veteran told the Celtics’ president of basketball operations that he would have no problem accepting a complementary role, and still had enough left in the tank to dominate in stretches. In the last four games, Wallace is averaging 18 points and 6.5 rebounds, and is shooting 44 percent on 3-pointers. It’s similar to the Red Sox signing a former starting pitcher who can stabilize the bullpen and make the occasional quality start. The main reason the Celtics remain one of the league’s premier teams is not only their star power, but their abundance of dependable players. During a free agent interview, NBA teams can’t measure a player’s ability to thrive in the clutch. He can’t be afraid to take the big shot or, as in Wallace’s case yesterday, use veteran instincts to make the big steal or grab a rebound. The difference between good teams and average teams is poise and execution, and we learned yesterday that the Celtics’ depth will carry them to a lot of victories, even against younger and more athletic teams."

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Close your eyes 76ers fans, you might not want to read this. OK, here goes: If the Sixers want to win more games, coach Eddie Jordan needs to play center Sam Dalembert as much as he can. Sorry, but that just seems to be the cold, hard truth. Forget the Princeton offense; wash away the thought that Allen Iverson is the player he once was, who could carry a team on the offensive end and negate many defensive flaws. The running game has been pretty much nonexistent, mostly because the other teams are scoring at an alarming rate and, without Dalembert in the lineup, defensive rebounding is suspect, at best. ... His job is simple, but oh-so important: rebound and block shots. And for the most part this season, when he is given ample playing time, Dalembert has done just that."

  • Michael Grange of the Globe and Mail: "At 6-foot-10, it’s his (Hedo Turkoglu) ability to handle the ball in the open floor and make plays off the dribble for his teammates that made him a highly sought free agent this past summer after helping the Orlando Magic to an NBA final appearance last summer. But in a lineup that often features two point guards in Jarrett Jack and Jose Calderon as well as Chris Bosh, who quite rightly gets a high percentage of touches, and Andrea Bargnani, who takes a high volume of shots, Turkoglu is still trying to find his feet as the Raptors (19-19) approach the halfway point of the season. 'I just run on the side and expect them to just pass it to me' he said. 'For the past three years, I’ve been a point guard too, leading the team and making decisions. Still I’m going to go out there and try to do my best and hopefully it will turn around.' "

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Thirty-seven games into the season, the Magic (25-12) are still trying to adjust to Vince Carter and Carter to them. Sometimes, teammates stand around and watch Carter play. Sometimes, they defer to him unnecessarily or Carter defers to them unnecessarily. 'It's different. We weren't used to playing like that last year … Turk [ Hedo Turkoglu] had the ball, Jameer [Nelson] had it. It was pretty balanced at the end of every game. Everybody got about the same amount of shots,' forward Rashard Lewis said. And now? 'Vince is the type of player who needs the ball in his hands. He dominates the ball sometimes. That's how he became Vince Carter,' Lewis continued. 'We got to adjust to that, learn how to play with him dominating the ball. We're still adjusting to it, but he's not going anywhere. He's our teammate.' Asked who makes the changes -- Carter or the team -- Lewis said, 'I think it's a little bit of both.' "

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: "A collective groan from the home crowd could be heard Saturday night when the Kings ran 'one-four flat' in the closing seconds of their 102-100 win over the Denver Nuggets. The play calls for Tyreke Evans to beat his defender off the dribble to score or find an open teammate before time expires. Evans' basket with 0.7 seconds remaining turned the groans into "M-V-P" chants. But is it possible the Kings are putting too much on Evans? His talent is unquestioned, but he is still a 20-year-old rookie. 'I think that he's handled everything so well, you tend to heap things on him,' Westphal said. 'But it's a concern, for sure. It doesn't necessarily stop me from giving him a lot of responsibility, but it's something to think about. You wish that you had the type of team where you could take it a little slower, but we don't.' The Kings are awaiting the return of Kevin Martin, who has a doctor's appointment Tuesday that could determine when he'll be back from his broken left wrist. Francisco GarcĂ­a's return would also give Westphal another option late in games."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "Carmelo Anthony's lifetime NBA All-Star Game pass could start this season. The Nuggets star is the runaway votes leader among Western Conference forwards, which in his recent past was a group too exclusive for him to be voted into. But basketball cred is with him now, and when players establish that connection with loyal-to-the-bone fans, starting the All-Star Game is a code that is for-ever cracked. But should it be? All-star voting has become one of the hottest, most controversial issues in the NBA in recent years as more and more curious decisions are made by fans who check-mark their favorites regardless of how the players are actually playing. It has led to a growing belief among the league's players and coaches that the system should be changed. The question is: Will it? ... Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson are the hot-button players this season."