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First Cup: Wednesday

  • Brian Kamenetzky of ESPNLos Angeles.com: "While he was able to play, Kobe was forced to help his teammates succeed, forced to again find some of the trust perhaps lost over some admittedly raggedy Pau-free games. I'm not saying the Lakers are better off without Bryant on the floor, but to some degree the reset button needed to be hit on the team's collective execution. They needed to start moving the ball and themselves, get re-dedicated to post play, and so on. The sort of stuff they do when the offense is humming and the defense is stopping the opposition. It happened in stretches on Tuesday night, under very trying circumstances. I have no idea how any of this translates to Wednesday night's game against the Mavericks, or if it even does. So much of that depends on who shows up to play, and I mean that in the most literal sense. But there was something there the Lakers can reference even when the roster is again healthy."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Asked about all the distinctions and eccentricities that assemble Stephen Jackson, Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown described it this way: 'You ask anyone in the league -- Stephen is an elite player,' Brown said. 'He's as bright as anyone I've coached. He's in that difficult category. But he gets everyone involved.' Brown meant 'difficult' as in challenging to coach. But Tuesday he was difficult to guard. No, impossible to guard. He scored a career-high 43 points, dragging the offense to the finish of a remarkable 102-94 victory against the Houston Rockets. It was remarkable because the Bobcats played perhaps their worst defense of the season in the first half, spotting the Rockets a 13-point lead. And remarkable, too, because Jackson hadn't shot well lately."

  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "If you’re still wondering why the Nets have engaged in this purge of their veterans -- alaborious but necessary process that has merely begun with Rafer Alston and Eduardo Najera -- here’s the reason: They have acquired a guy who is actually content to be here. Yes, coming from the No. 2 team in the Western Conference to the 3-34 train wreck that plays in East Rutherford. 'It’s an opportunity to play, and just make the most of it,' said forward Kris Humphries, who will make his debut Wednesday night against Boston, two days after being traded by Dallas for Najera. 'We’re trying to win games, and my attitude is to come in and compete every night. You look at this team, this team can be (competitive) next year. Some of the core guys are really good players, so I think there’s a future in some sense.' "

  • Jeff Caplan of ESPNDallas.com: "Dirk Nowitzki, 16 points away from accumulating 20,000 career points, remembers his first two like it was yesterday. 'It was the first game of my career in Seattle against [Detlef] Schrempf. There was huge hype, Germans all over the place. They organized a handshake with me and Schrempf before the game at halfcourt and it was just a mess,' Nowitzki said. 'It was like the stadium was so big, I was just in awe the whole time.' The game was played at Seattle's Key Arena on Feb. 5, 1999. Nowitzki's rookie season got a late start because of the league's labor stoppage. The Mavs lost, 92-86 in overtime, but Nowitzki's first game couldn't end soon enough. 'I was like 0-for-3 or 0-for-4 from the floor and I made two free throws, so those were my first points in my NBA career,' Nowitzki siad.'"Looking back, it was probably one of the worst games I ever played.' ... Nowitzki will get his first crack at joining the exclusive 20,000-point club tonight at home against the Los Angeles Lakers."

  • Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times: "More than a month after briefly entertaining the thought of signing Allen Iverson, the Knicks are set to face him here Wednesday night -- provided Iverson plays through knee tendinitis that has kept him in and out of Philadelphia’s lineup. Since deciding against offering a contract to Iverson on Nov. 20, the Knicks have gone 13-13, not exactly championship basketball. Then again, they have journeyed far from the meager 1-9 beginning that prompted the Iverson inquiry in the first place. In the end, Donnie Walsh, the Knicks’ president, and the organization decided against adding Iverson’s dominant personality and allowing him to take shots and possibly confidence from Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. Gallinari and Chandler are primary contributors to the Knicks’ recent uptick after they both rallied from struggles to start the season. 'This is a year for me to look at these guys and see how they fit into the picture,' Walsh said Monday. 'You bring in a guy like that and you might not see the same picture. So, that’s why I did it.' "

  • Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News: "Then, there's Tayshaun Prince. He, too, has been a top target. And, I happen to agree. Rookies Austin Daye and Jonas Jerebko are playing with as much effort and passion as anyone on the roster. Now, whether they will ever develop into star players remains to be seen. But in the short-term, one, or both, are capable of filling Prince's spot in the lineup. But here's the flip side: Finding a team to take on Prince and his $11.1 million salary for this season, and next, won't be easy. Most teams are shedding salary, not adding. His injury situation this season also doesn't help. Still, on certain teams -- championship-caliber teams -- Prince could be worth the price. He has championship experience, is a good locker room guy, plays hard, and can pose difficult matchup problems."

  • Benjamin Hochman The Denver Post: "J.R. Smith can be a game-changer with his 3-point shooting, and his presence alone sometimes spreads the defense enough to benefit his teammates. But in these nine games after the Atlanta barrage, there has been little optimism. Sure, he hit a couple key 3s, such as in last Friday's win against Cleveland, but he hasn't made more than two 3s in any of those games. 'I think most guys who like to score,' George Karl said, 'when they're in a slump, they usually force things, instead of running harder, executing harder and maybe they'll get a layup or free throw. It's hard when you're 1-for-5 and you have a wide-open shot and you don't want to shoot it but your subconscious says shoot it. I think sometimes scorers have longer slumps than other players. I would tell him to attack harder, become an attack dog on offense. I think he's gone to the jump shot at a higher percentage -- taking more jumpers than shots in the paint.' "

  • Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Ed Stefanski, the president/general manager, offered a ministate of the union to reporters late last week, but it was more like a state of disrepair and discontent. I appreciate Stefanski accepting accountability and responsibility, but Stefanski fell short of saying Eddie Jordan's job was not in jeopardy, and Comcast-Spectacor COO Peter Luukko fell equally short of saying Stefanski's position was secure. And this is a team that says it is searching for consistency? We all know that something has to change, but you can only move the roster pieces around so many times before it becomes apparent there are some pieces that just don't fit. From there, it becomes equally apparent that a trade could help. But whom to trade, whom to acquire and how to make any of it happen remain a puzzle. And since the trade deadline isn't until Feb. 18, it's unlikely that anything of significance will come into focus for at least a few weeks. But, make no mistake: This is bad. Worse than I anticipated."

  • Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star: "In the wake of Monday's dispiriting loss, Hedo Turkoglu, who went 2-of-9 from the field in a team-high 38 minutes, clarified his thesis. 'It's not like I'm (criticizing) the guys or the system or anything,' he said. 'In this situation, I can just do this, and I am trying to do my best.' What he's saying is as clear as it is disingenuous. You could be kind and call him a realist, but his 'I-can-just-do-this' act is defeatist. The idea that he can't play better than he has played on any given night, in any given system, is ludicrous. Teammates are making that point by stretching themselves, at least occasionally. One small example: Though Andrea Bargnani defines himself as a shooter, and though he missed 10 of his 14 field-goal attempts in Monday's loss, he persevered for a career-high 17 rebounds. 'I didn't play good offensively all game, so I tried to do something else,' said Bargnani, in a small revelation. There's a novel concept for Turkoglu: Try to do something other than bemoan the alleged limits of a role."

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: "Kendrick Perkins has been the rock of a Celtics frontcourt that has been hammered this season by injuries. Kevin Garnett is expected to miss another 10-14 days because of a hyperextended right knee. Rasheed Wallace missed Monday’s 102-96 loss to Atlanta because of a sore left foot. And Glen Davis was sidelined the first 27 games because of a fractured right thumb. Perkins and Ray Allen are the only Celtics starters who have played in every game. In the past five games - three wins - Perkins has averaged 15.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks. Among Eastern Conference centers, Perkins is first in field goal percentage, sixth in scoring, and eighth in blocks. He has turned into a defensive presence because of his improved conditioning and footwork."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Fine, it has to be difficult being 39 and coaching players awfully close to that age. But accountability also means forcing players to own up. These are the same players who surreptitiously call out their coach when they don't like what they're seeing, such as Jermaine O'Neal's Shaquille O'Neal-like comment Sunday about the benefits of feeding the post. At times, Michael Beasley has been held accountable, when his defense and focus are dissected. Mario Chalmers certainly was made accountable with the loss of his starting position. But, otherwise, the critique always is collective. The problem, however, is that throws players under the bus who don't deserve to be there. Udonis Haslem, for example, never stopped hustling Monday, his 12 rebounds one of the few highlights for the Heat against the Jazz. So far, this season has been about subtle additions, the pick-ups of Carlos Arroyo and Rafer Alston. But with so many lopsided losses, isn't there a flip side, about those who simply aren't getting it done?"

  • Sam Amick of The Sacramento Bee: "Kevin Martin is back -- almost. The sixth-year Kings shooting guard received his long-awaited medical clearance Tuesday, setting the stage for what could be a Friday return in Philadelphia. Martin has not played since Nov. 4, and underwent surgery to repair a hairline fracture in his left wrist Nov. 9. 'We'll see how these practices go the next couple of days,' Martin told The Bee by phone immediately following his doctor's appointment. 'It's a good thing I have been doing basketball-related workouts for three weeks so it should be real quick.' "

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "A person with knowledge of the situation said Andray Blatche sat six seats down the bench and stared at the scoreboard while coaches attempted to speak with him. On Monday, Blatche complained on his Facebook page about having no shot attempts in the game. He wrote, 'Never have I played a game and had no shot attempts, they got me all [expletive] up.' Flip Saunders addressed Blatche's concerns about shots before the morning shootaround. 'I know he says 'I didn't get a shot.' If you're 6-10, 6-11, you can get an offensive rebound. For anybody who thinks that a coach has to run plays to get you shots, that's a team that's not going to be a good team,' Saunders said. ... Blatche said he didn't say anything to the coaches about his lack of touches. He said the coaching staff told him to get in the low block on Sunday, but whenever he got in the post, 'It's like I'm invisible.' He said that's why he often drifts out to the perimeter to get the ball. After the loss on Sunday, head athletic trainer Eric Waters approached Blatche and asked him to head to the training room to check on his knee. Blatche angrily responded, 'Do I look like I care about my knee?' Blatche said he had complained about soreness in his left knee for almost a week and had never been offered treatment until he was dressed and ready to leave. 'I'm always the guy they want to make an example of,' he said."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "Mark Cashman's job with the team -- equipment manager and travel coordinator -- is often thankless but quite vital. Never more so than right now, when the Cavs are in the midst of their longest road trip of the season. They are a little more than halfway through, three games down and two to go with five more nights on the road. ... The amount of equipment the Cavs take on a trip like this one -- 11 days, five cities -- is staggering. Their traveling party, which is in excess of 30 people when accounting for the players, coaches, support personnel and team broadcasters, has more combined gear than most touring rock bands. Moving around 14 players, most of them very tall men, and bringing all the comforts of home -- the home training room, video room and even a massage room -- creates a demanding job for Cashman. It is easy to understand why when tallying it all up. On this trip the Cavs have about 160 bags, about 100 for personal clothes. There's about 60 more for uniforms, shoes and electronics. By the time their chartered Airbus jet hits the tarmac Sunday afternoon at Cleveland Hopkins Airport, though, Cashman knows that count will have grown. 'We have a day off in San Francisco, a day off in Los Angeles and the guys went to the Nike store in Portland,' Cashman said. 'This is a big shopping trip, we'll pick up some more bags.' "