First Cup: Wednesday

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: Can we trust Greg Oden? I wondered about that on Tuesday while we sifted through the Oden fallout. Certainly there was disappointment in learning that a high-profile professional athlete would be dumb enough to put himself in the position Oden ended up in. Also, there was embarrassment for the Blazers. And, too, there were cries of 'Trade Oden!' from a few self-righteous fans who couldn't see the virtue buried in Tuesday's developments. Ask some college students you know if it's cool if you sift through their cellular telephone photographs and I'll bet you get a look of horror in return. It's called 'sexting' and, gasp, it turns out that Oden, 22, does it too. Call him foolish. Call him immature. But this error by Oden isn't dog fighting, or smoking pot in a yellow Hummer, or being caught with drugs by an airport metal detector. And if you can't tell the difference, you need to educate yourself. Oden got a painful education on Tuesday. He learned the difference between himself and the rest of America's 22-year olds who aren't celebrities."

  • Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post: "It's one thing to lose at home by double digits to the signature team from Los Angeles, the champion Lakers. But there's no way to justify losing at home by double digits to that other team from Los Angeles, the perennial loser Clippers. The all-star break is three weeks away and already the Wizards are in need of a miracle run just to make the final spot in the playoffs. This means, ladies and gents, we've reached that point of the season where the primary reason to attend Wizards home games is to go and see the opposition, the other guys' all-stars, the icons, the LeBrons and D-Wades and CP3s. They used to market the team this way, in the early 1990s when the Bullets were hopeless. You'd open the morning sports section and the Bullets would be pushing a ticket package that invited you to come and 'See the Dream Team,' which means paying to watch Michael and Scottie, Stockton and Malone, Patrick and Charles. The Lakers' visit on Tuesday night meant coming to see Kobe Bryant, who fortunately for the local ticket buyer treats every night like the theater, like he is expected to give a supreme performance and does, regardless of the circumstances. Half of the 20,173 in attendance at Verizon Center seemed to be cheering for the Lakers. Nearly one-quarter seemed to be wearing Kobe jerseys. 'I'm sure they thought that they were playing at home, as loud as it was sometimes,' Wizards Coach Flip Saunders said."

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: "Since that start, the Grizzlies have gone 23-11, a winning percentage of .676. Only three NBA teams -- the Los Angeles Lakers, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics -- have a season-long winning percentage better than that. Right now, the Grizzlies might be the fourth-best team in the NBA. So never mind Zach Randolph in the All-Star Game. I say he should get votes for MVP. No, he won't win it. He's not as gifted as Kobe Bryant or LeBron James. But has either of them stopped an entire country from laughing? Has either of them turned hilarity into high-fives? Has either of them put a franchise on his back and transformed it in the course of nine astonishing weeks? The Grizzlies used to be losers. Now they're winners. They used to be soft. Now they're tough. On Tuesday, I asked Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace if he'd ever been part of an organization that had been changed so quickly by the addition of a single player. 'In my career?' he said. 'No. Nothing like this.' "

  • Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe: "Ray Allen, who will be a free agent at season’s end, reiterated how much he would like to stay in Boston, acknowledging that his role would change and that he would have to take less to do so. 'Whatever this team ends up being centered around, I can fit right in,’ he said. Allen’s name came up in trade rumors involving Golden State’s Monta Ellis, though the Warriors shot them down yesterday. 'I can’t say I get worried, because it’s not like they’re saying you’re being traded and you have to move to Mars,’ Allen said. 'I’ve been there before. I’ve been in situations where I wasn’t expected to be traded and I was traded, so I don’t worry about it.’ "

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Before the game, they were a fun-loving team. The players noticed something looked a bit different about their coach: Mike Woodson’s eyebrows were shaved. There was some chatter and nervous laughter among players until forward Josh Smith finally said what everyone else was thinking: What happened? 'I think everyone else was afraid to ask,' Smith said. As his players doubled over in laughter, Woodson kept a straight face and refused to explain. Later, Smith affixed some Velcro eyebrows to Woodson’s face, and that’s how the coach appeared for the pregame meeting. When asked for the story behind the eyebrows, Woodson wasn't divulging anything. 'They got me doing all kinds of crazy stuff. There is no story. It’s just a win.' It’s still unclear exactly why Woodson’s eyebrows were missing -- theories ranged from Woodson shaving them off at his barber’s suggestion to his losing a bet on the Vikings in the NFC Championship game -- but Smith said the effect of Woodson’s new look was to relax the team before an important game."

  • Chris Perkins of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "In the final 41.2 seconds Dwyane Wade, who finished with 32 points, missed two free throws, committed a costly turnover when he attempted a behind-the-back pass to forward Udonis Haslem, and then missed a potential game-winning 20-foot jumper as time expired. 'No matter how many times somebody says, 'Man, you know how many times you've done it?' as a competitor you want to do it every time,' Wade said. Wade seems intent on making the Heat's opponents on its three-game trip -- the Toronto Raptors (Wednesday), Detroit Pistons (Friday) and Milwaukee Bucks (Saturday) -- pay the price for his pain. He began to vent his bad vibes by apologizing to his teammates in the postgame locker room Monday. After he left the locker room, Wade spent part of the night exchanging text messages with coach Erik Spoelstra. 'I pride myself in certain moments of games,' Wade said. '... That turnover was very costly I gave up. Yeah, I took it hard because I'm a competitor. I'm going to continue to take it hard. I'm going to move on from it and look to the Toronto game. But it's still going to be in the back of my mind. It's what drives you, and continues to drive you.' "

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "The gold standard for LeBron James' play were his performances in the two Eastern Conference Finals series he's played. His efforts against the Detroit Pistons in 2007, when he scored 29 of the last 30 Cavs points in a memorable Game 5, are legend. The show he put on last year against the Orlando Magic -- when he averaged a stunning 39 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and hit a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in Game 2 -- may be his greatest display ever despite losing the series. But when it comes to the regular season, there is a case to made that what James has been doing recently for the Cavs -- who have surged to the best record in the NBA at 35-11 as they return home to face the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night -- is at the top. During January, James is averaging 32.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.8 assists on 52 percent shooting and the Cavs are 9-3 despite having played seven road games. He's twice made the winning free throws in one-point games and twice made defensive stops that won games. He did both against the Heat, scoring 32 points and making the winning free throws with 4.1 seconds left after he'd stolen the ball from rival star Dwyane Wade seconds before. 'I've played some great basketball in my career,' James said. 'I don't know if this is the best, I don't really look at how I'm playing. I just kind of do it.' "

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Coach Rick Adelman said the changes to his Rockets rotation, with Trevor Ariza coming out of the game in the first quarter of Monday's Atlanta game and not playing at all in the fourth, were particular to the matchup with the Hawks, and not necessarily an ongoing change. 'I think he's just lost a little bit of confidence,' Adelman said. “Every player is different in how he gets through it. We've had a number of guys struggle recently, be up and down. Trevor has to play with more aggression and be more positive. With Trevor, there are so many ways he can help us win. It's not just shooting the ball. He can be a very good rebounder. He can be active defensively. He can be a facilitator with the ball. There's other ways to do it and not put so much pressure that you have to score. I believe in giving a person a chance and you have to stick with him.' "

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "There were snickers when the Suns drafted Goran Dragic 45th in 2008 and said they had him rated as the second-best point guard in the draft behind Derrick Rose. In their eyes, that put Dragic ahead of D.J. Augustin, who Charlotte had taken with the ninth pick and had been more universally hailed. Less than two seasons into their careers, Dragic is just warming up with two recent career highs and is averaging more points and assists than Augustin, who went scoreless Tuesday night. Dragic scored 12 points."

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "Doc Rivers still is cringing at talk about Glen Davis’ nickname change from Big Baby to Uno Uno, in honor of his uniform. 'How about Glen?' the coach suggested. 'That would be nice instead of Shanaynay or Mookie or Spooky. Just call him Glen.' "

  • Mike Balwin of The Oklahoman: "Elias Sports Bureau discovered the Thunder is the first team in more than a decade to have four consecutive losses by a combined five points or less. The Indiana Pacers, in 1999, were the last team to have three 1-point losses and another by two points. It’s the first time it’s happened in the Sonics/Thunder’s 42-year history. 'We won’t win all the close games, but when we put ourselves in that position we gain valuable experience,' Scott Brooks said. 'One day we’ll be solid with every possession at the end like the elite teams. What I like is we compete every game. I can’t remember the last time we weren’t in a game.' The last time OKC didn’t have a chance to win the final four minutes was a road loss Dec. 14 at Denver."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "When the season began, the question was whether the Orlando Magic could go back to the NBA Finals. Forty-five games and 16 losses later, the question has been revised: When are the Magic going to at least return to the Eastern Conference race? The next stretch could be telling: Eight of the Magic's next nine games heading into the all-star break are against conference opponents, including dates against Boston (twice), Cleveland and Atlanta. The defending East champs (29-16) currently have the fourth-best record, trailing the Cavaliers (35-11), Celtics (29-13) and Hawks (29-14). Orlando lags a game behind Atlanta in a division (Southeast) it has won the past two seasons. And if the playoffs started today (yes, it would be way too early), the Magic would draw Stan Van Gundy's old Miami Heat team in the first round -- and Miami is 2-0 against Orlando this season."

  • Patrick Hayes of Mlive.com: "Pistons fans know simply by watching that Ben Wallace and Jonas Jerebko have been the team's two biggest (only?) bright spots this season, but it's interesting to see just how impactful they've been. This also continues a Joe Dumars pattern of mixing questionable moves with really solid ones. Signing Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva is not looking great right now, but signing Wallace and finding Jerebko in the second round of the draft are two of the better moves of the offseason for any GM."

  • John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Derrick Rose has been so impressive that I would be surprised if he's not among the Eastern Conference reserves when the rosters for the All-Star Game next month are announced Thursday. The reserves are selected by the coaches in each conference, and no one knows better than an opposing coach how much of a handful Rose has become. Despite being ill, he pumped in a game-high 27 points on 13-for-23 shooting against the Spurs. He scored on drives and floaters in the lane, but the majority of his points came on perimeter jumpers -- supposedly the main weakness in his offensive game. But his confidence in his jumper has been growing daily. Rose even made a step-back three-pointer against the Spurs, something I've never seen him attempt before. ''Derrick's jump shot, we just keep working on that,' Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said. '[Assistants] Dave Severns and Randy Brown are doing a fantastic job with Derrick on that jump shot.' "

  • Al Iannazzone of The Record: "Chris Douglas-Roberts didn't go home after the Nets landed Sunday from Utah. He went to the Nets' practice facility to work out after the winless West trip. The Nets were off Monday, yet he was back in the gym with personal trainer Jerry Powell for what Douglas-Roberts called 'peace of mind.' The second-year small forward is as disappointed with his performance as he is in the play of the 3-40 Nets and said he needed to stop being affected by everything around him. 'I let things get to me a little bit when I shouldn't have,' he said after practice Tuesday."

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "Kurt Rambis was the Knicks’ third-round pick in 1980, the 58th selection over all. He was in New York just long enough to have his picture taken. He was cut in training camp, setting in motion the events that pushed him to Los Angeles, where he found modest fame and fortune with the Showtime Lakers. The anomalous photograph resides on Page 132 of the Knicks’ media guide, on the team page for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are coached by Rambis. He laughed when he heard about it, then requested a copy. 'I don’t remember even taking that photo,' Rambis said with a chuckle Tuesday before the Timberwolves played the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. 'I don’t even remember wearing No. 4.' "

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Famed Houston attorney Rusty Hardin, who has long represented sports stars in Houston including his recent high-profile representation of former Astros pitcher Roger Clemens, is suing J.R. Smith for nonpayment of legal fees with a process server expected to serve Smith at tonight's game. Hardin said he represented Smith in 2007 when Smith was accused in a civil lawsuit of assaulting another player in a summer basketball game at Fonde Recreation Center in Houston. In the lawsuit filed Tuesday by Hardin's attorney, Dale Jefferson, Smith is accused of not paying remaining legal fees of 22,753. ... 'I've never sued a client before over legal fees,' Hardin said. 'When we represented J.R. Smith in a civil lawsuit, the case was settled in mediation. ... He was sued for breaking a guy's jaw in an incident in Fonde. He never paid. It's the principle. He has a multi-million contract (worth $6,171,426 million this season) and refuses pay his bill.' "

  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: "It has been 16 years since NBA commissioner David Stern forced the Ontario Government to take the NBA off it’s Pro-Line betting cards, making it a precondition of the league granting Toronto a franchise. Apparently his disdain for any gambling associated with his league is wearing off. The first indication of such a shift came back in 2007 when the league took it’s all-star game to Las Vegas. Rui Brum, a spokesperson for the Ontario and Lottery Gaming Corporation confirmed Tuesday his group is presently in talks with both the NBA and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd, which owns the Raptors, regarding the return of NBA games to the Pro-Line lottery. Brum said the OLG was 'very hopeful' of a resolution in the near future but declined to provide any more details."