First Cup: Tuesday

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: "On the other side of the globe from Coney Island, former Knicks star Stephon Marbury made his debut in China yesterday and told The Post he was suffering from major jet lag. Marbury scored 15 points and had eight assists as his new team, Shanxi lost 102-101 to Dongguan Marco Polo. He had four steals and four rebounds, but shot 0 for 6 from 3-point range, according to China Daily. 'The time difference is a big problem,' Marbury told The Post via Skype yesterday. 'I wake up early, in the middle of the night, and stay up most of the day. It stinks. I have not played since the last game against the Magic [in the second round of the playoffs last May]. So I was tired. I played 28 minutes, all of the fourth quarter. Talk about being tired. Wow. It was fun being out there though.' "

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: "Ron Artest rose and fired. 'Everything stopped for a second,' said Marc Gasol, as the ball spun through the air. It missed. Bounced harmlessly off the rim. And then everything started once again. The noise, the jubilation, the streamers. The Grizzlies celebrated a 95-93 win. 'It kind of shows what kind of team we are,' said Rudy Gay. A good team. A resilient team. A team that can lose a crusher to New Orleans Saturday and then come back and and beat the world champion Lakers two days later. And, yes, I know, no game in an NBA season is more important than any other game. Head coach Lionel Hollins says it all the time. But this one sure felt more important, didn’t it? More vital to the Grizzlies’ season and cause?"

  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: "Pau Gasol scored 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting and Andrew Bynum had five points on 1-for-3 shooting in the Lakers' 95-93 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, hardly good use of their 7-footers. Gasol is averaging 17.2 points on 53.1 percent shooting in 32 games, and Bynum is averaging 15.4 points on 56.8 percent shooting in 47 games. They are the Lakers' second- and third-leading scorers. 'Obviously, we were not making a conscious effort to pound the ball inside,' Gasol said, sighing heavily about the lack of touches for the Lakers' big men. 'So, we settled a little bit too much. It's not like they were double-teaming us a lot. It happens.' Gasol, asked if the Lakers are a better team when they get the ball inside more often, said without hesitation, 'A hundred percent.' Asked if everyone on the team realizes that fact, he said, 'I'm not sure.' "

  • Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com: "While the Celtics certainly weren't pleased with their collective effort in dropping their three previous games to a triumvirate of the league's elite in the Magic, Hawks and Lakers, coach Doc Rivers said Boston wasn't quite ready to fold its hand on the 2009-10 season -- even as some prognosticators were writing them off. So while some some have suggested that Kevin Garnett will never be the same player he was, and that Ray Allen was destined to be traded, the Celtics simply maintained their course and started their recovery process with a monster win in the nation's capital. Rivers even mocked the panic a bit, noting that both the Orlando and Los Angeles games came down to the final possession, and had the Celtics' final shots fallen, Boston could just as easily have been 3-1 after this four-game stretch. 'But we're 1-3 and the sky is falling,' said Rivers, shaking his head. 'It really isn't.' "

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "The Cavs are at the start of the mother of all homestands, their longest in 15 years and, in terms of days, the longest in team history. Tuesday the Cavs play the second game, against the Memphis Grizzlies, of a seven-game homestand. Because of a number of off days and the All-Star break, the Cavs will go a record 20 days between road games. 'When the schedule came out I did wish that things were a little more balanced,' coach Mike Brown said. 'But after everything we've been through, now I'm glad to be home for three weeks.' This stretch, especially in the number of days, once was rare. But it seems to be part of a unannounced league-wide trend this season. ... Renjun Bao, an engineer who teaches at Cleveland State, has examined this process deeply. Last year he got his doctorate in Industrial Engineering at Cleveland State and his thesis was 'Time-relaxed round-robin tournament and National Basketball Association scheduling problem.' In short, Bao is an expert in mass scheduling and using computers to help in the outrageously complex process. His work, he said, was the first major research done on the topic involving the NBA since 1977. 'There are many factors involved, some of them are subjective,' said Bao, who also works with a professor at Carnegie Mellon University on the Major League Baseball schedule each year. 'Given the current economic condition, teams are putting having weekend home games first instead of worrying about road trip arrangement.' Weekend games are often in the highest demand. Because some teams are having trouble selling tickets, maximizing the amount of weekend games affects the way schedules are made."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "Tim Duncan has been a part of seven previous rodeo road trips, the extended journey that makes tourists of the Spurs while the AT&T Center is filled with the twang of country music and the tang of equine excrement. Not once has the Spurs captain felt a more compelling need for the team to use the trip to turn around its season. And with good reason: Never have the Spurs arrived at embarkation day with a worse record. Aware that no rodeo road trip has produced a losing record and each has been an attendant jump-start to the season-ending push, Duncan agreed that this year's seven-game trip -- which begins Wednesday in Sacramento after a six-game homestand produced only two victories -- is the most important yet. 'Yeah,' he said, 'and we hope the results of the past are what we get now. We need it. We need to turn that corner.' Game 1 of this season's trip will begin with the Spurs at 27-19 (58.7 percent). No previous rodeo trip began with such a poor winning percentage. The previous low came in 2004, when they headed to Salt Lake City for Game 1 of a seven-game, 20-day trip at 31-18 (63.2 percent)."

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "The Timberwolves beat New York Sunday night at Target Center. They don't play again until Friday at Dallas. That's a rare four-day break in the schedule. It doesn't mean the players themselves get a break because coach Kurt Rambis has practice scheduled every day until Friday. And that's something that has Wolves forward Ryan Gomes hankering to speak to a higher power. 'I think we've got to talk to David Stern and Stu Jackson,' Gomes said, referring to the NBA commissioner and executive vice president of basketball operations, 'and make sure they don't give us this long of a break in the schedule right before All-Star break.' "

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: "As a simmering Larry Hughes left the visitor's locker room late Sunday night in Minnesota sporting a new beard, he said his facial hair growth was related to his banishment from the rotation. When will he shave it? 'When I get out of jail,' Hughes cracked. Hughes' release from coach Mike D'Antoni's prison could occur this month -- even if the Knicks can't trade his expiring contract at the Feb. 18 deadline. Hughes, who played a total of just 15 minutes in two games in January, is more ticked off than ever at his status and is hoping something comes down at the trade deadline in two weeks. 'I'm looking at it, I'm looking at it,' Hughes said, indicating his agent, Jeff Wexler, is in discussions with team brass. If Hughes, who is in the final year of a contract that pays him $14 million this year, is not traded, Hughes appears willing to take a buyout so that he can restart his career elsewhere. 'We're talking,' Hughes said. 'We'll figure this thing out. Hopefully sooner than later and move forward.' "

  • Jeffrey Martin of the Houston Chronicle: "Trevor Ariza won't be deterred -- not by ghastly statistics nor the objections of Rockets fans. Sure, he's only making 37.8 percent of all of his attempts and just 30 percent of his threes, and his average has dwindled to 15.5 points. It doesn't matter, the first-year Rocket forward said. 'I'm going to shoot it,' Ariza said. 'If it's not there, I'm going to try to do something else. But if I get left open, I'm going to shoot it -- definitely.' "

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: " In a season that has been about buying time until 2010 free agency, time might be running out. Falling for the second consecutive game to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Miami Heat returned to .500 for the third time this season with Monday's 97-81 loss. The previous two times the Heat fell to .500, it was able to right itself. This time, at 24-24, the task might prove overwhelming for a team teetering on the brink of falling out of a playoff seed. 'Needless to say,' coach Erik Spoelstra said, 'that was a very tough evening for us. We're going through a little bit of a funk as a team. It is a trying time for us.' Not only are eight of the Heat's next nine on the road, but its next two games are a back-to-back road set against the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers."

  • Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Paul Millsap continues to do a masterful Carlos Boozer impression. In his second start for the injured Boozer, Millsap finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots in the Jazz's 104-92 win over Dallas on Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena. Millsap dueled the Mavericks' perennial All-Star and MVP candidate, Dirk Nowitzki, to a near standoff. Nowitzki finished with 28 points and eight rebounds -- not nearly enough to prevent Millsap & Co. from posting an energy-filled win. 'It's fun to watch guys play hard,' said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. In the first quarter, Millsap scored 12 points on 4-for-4 shooting. His teammates were a combined 5-for-14, so Millsap's quick start prevented Dallas for taking early control of the game. 'He was really alive,' Sloan said. Significantly, Millsap's four field goals in the first quarter came on a layup, an 8-footer and a pair of 18-foot jumpers -- the kind of shot he might not have made earlier in his career. 'I've put in extra time, working on it,' Millsap said. 'The coaches have confidence in me to go out and shoot it, and my teammates have confidence in me to pass me the ball. All that goes hand-in-hand, and now, when I get it and have an open look, I'm going to shoot it.' "

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Steve Nash was on his way to the worst turnover month of his 14-year career until he closed it with some of his most pure passing ever. Nash averaged 4.4 turnovers in January, bringing down the average Sunday at Houston with a 16-assist, no-turnover game after an 11-assist, two-turnover game Thursday against Dallas. He did not make a turnover Monday until the third quarter. Since 2005-06, a player has posted at least 16 assists in a game without a turnover four times. Nash has three. Utah's Deron Williams had the other."

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "Practice was over and Amir Johnson was going to work, soliciting aid and advice from the most prolific NBA scorer associated with the Raptors today. And for a good 15 minutes or so, assistant coach Alex English stood there with the Toronto big man, from both sides of the court to both low-post blocks, helping hone an offensive game that's coming along quite nicely. Johnson made drop-step moves, jump hooks and short jumpers, with both hands, no more than eight feet from the basket, moves that are coming far more easily than many thought possible earlier this season. Every now and then, English would make a little suggestion, telling Johnson to go a bit more quickly, get a little bit closer to the basket, urging him on and coaching him. After all, English scored more than 25,000 points in a Hall of Fame NBA career and if the 22-year-old Johnson is going to learn offensive moves from someone, why not someone like English. 'He just gives me different counters,' said Johnson. 'Every time I go to the basket, I can take a dribble or a pullup or one dribble and take that jump hook. Alex English was a great, great scorer and I know he knows his stuff, so I just listen to him all the time.' "

  • Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press: "Ben Wallace's next blocked shot will give him 2,000 for his career. Listed at 6-feet-9, he will become the shortest player in NBA history to reach the milestone. Sixteen players have done it, but only five were under 7 feet: 6-foot-10 Alonzo Mourning (2,356), 6-11 Tim Duncan (2,196), 6-11 Marcus Camby (2,083), 6-11 George Johnson (2,082) and 6-10 Larry Nance (2,027). 'I've been around for a while,' said Wallace, specks of gray showing in his hair. 'I've been lucky -- lucky to have been around for a while. Nobody has gotten tired of me and sent me home yet. It's a milestone. It's not something that I said I wanted to set out and do. You go out and play hard, good things will happen, and that's just one of the things that happens when you play hard.' "

  • Justin Rogers of MLive.com: "In case you haven't been paying attention, New York Knicks forward David Lee is tearing it up this season. He's averaging nearly 20 points, shooting well over 50 percent from the floor and is fifth in the league in rebounding, pulling down an impressive 11.5 boards per game. Lee is set to be an unrestricted free agent this season and seems likely to field offers between $12-14 million per season. Those numbers are obviously well beyond what limited funds the Detroit Pistons will have to spend. Had the Pistons been interested, the time to strike would have been this past offseason. Lee was a restricted free agent, meaning that the New York Knicks could match any contract offer. But with New York spending the last few years positioning itself to be a player in the 2010 free agent market, it's highly plausible they wouldn't have matched a lucrative, multi-year deal for Lee. Let's be honest. If the Knicks were that intent on keeping Lee in New York long-term, they probably would have signed him to more than a one-year contract. By allowing him to test the market as an unrestricted free agent this summer, Lee seems likely to sign with another team by the time the New York is making their desperate pitch to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the other marquee names on the market."

  • John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "If you search long enough, chances are you can find a statistic to support almost any position on any subject. Still, there's no disputing this simple statistical fact: The Bulls are winning more games because they are scoring more points. Before Dec. 26, the Bulls played 28 games and scored at least 100 points only three times. They were near the bottom of the NBA in most offensive categories and had a 10-17 record. Since then, they are averaging a robust 103.3 points -- which would be seventh-best in the league over the course of the season -- and have scored at least 100 nine times. The Bulls are 13-5 in that stretch. It's almost as if coach Vinny Del Negro received a Christmas gift of a better offense. So what happened? '(The scoring improvement) is a combination of things, and they're confident now,' TNT analyst Doug Collins said. 'They were totally out of sync offensively. Their defense has really been very good all season long, but they couldn't score and all of a sudden they got into rhythm offensively, and it starts with Derrick Rose having that ball in his hands.' "

  • Bill Livingston of The Plain Dealer: "Clothes once made the man, but now they make the bucks. In search of new revenue streams, the Cavaliers have unleashed a geyser of new jerseys in the last two seasons. They are not a threat to the 384 ghastly color combinations in helmets, jerseys and pants from which the University of Oregon football team can select, often, apparently, by throwing darts at a color wheel. Sports apparel giant Nike, the Ducks' Uniform Fairy, has given a disbelieving public conglomerations of white, lime green, lemon yellow, black, steel and carbon. The last two shades are where 'gray' goes when it wants a friskier synonym than 'leaden' and a more optimistic one than 'ashen.' But, given Nike's central role in the Cavaliers' franchise as sneaker company to the King, LeBron James, the Cavs are probably working on their own Quack Attack. If college football won't institute the eider sanction, the NBA won't stop the madness either. ... New jerseys have one function, to sell more merchandise. It's the way of the world these days, although it seriously reduces the value of a single brand as a coherent team identity. Think of the Steelers, Packers and Yankees. The Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals and Browns (unless they wear the chocolate pants) are also instantly recognizable."