<
>

First Cup: Wednesday

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "In the blink of a wide eye, it seems, the kid made Lakers history Monday night, setting the franchise career scoring record against Memphis, passing the great Jerry West in his 14th season, Mr. Clutch outdone by, well, Mr. Clutch. It was a monumental achievement in an organization where greatness is an expectation, and there are more championship rings than fingers. It was a third-quarter fastbreak dunk that provided first an exclamation point, then a question. Does this make Kobe Bryant the greatest Laker ever? Spoiler alert. No. Scoring the most points doesn't make Bryant the greatest Laker any more than driving in the most runs makes Steve Garvey the greatest Dodger. It is about more than that, and Bryant may get there yet, but he's not there now. He may be the best player in the current NBA, and could wind up as the best player in NBA history, but amid the rich history of his own team, Bryant remains third. Magic Johnson is first. His five championships are one more than Bryant has won, his revolutionizing of the assist changed basketball, and his leadership in community business development has changed several inner cities. All this while serving as a worthy pioneer in the battle against the former stigma and shame associated with HIV. West is second. He won only one championship as a player, but then as club executive helped build eight more. As a player, he was such a solid presence, the league's logo is a drawing of his silhouette. As a general manager, he's the one who brought Bryant here in the first place. Bryant is third, barely ahead of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Elgin Baylor. It's third with a bullet. It's third with still no stop in sight."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "Ever since J.R. Smith's misbehavior in the Jan. 23 game -- and ensuing one-on-one talk with George Karl -- the coach thinks he has a better perspective on how to relate to the volatile guard. Yes, Karl relies on numerous assistant coaches to communicate with Smith, but 'after our meeting, I felt that some of his angst toward me was that I didn't touch him enough -- communicate, touch, tell the truth -- and that's part of coaching,' Karl said Tuesday. 'One, I would get tired (and think to myself) -- he should know by now. And sometimes you don't have enough energy to say it in the right way, so you stay away from it. J.R. is a testy guy. Maybe I got callous to it. You can't say I shut down, but I wasn't as involved. So lately, I've tried to get J.R. involved.' "

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "It is easy to talk about it now because Shaq is playing wonderfully, including his 13 points and 13 rebounds Tuesday against the Grizzlies. He is looking spry, he's shooting at a high percentage again and he's fitting into theoffense and defense perfectly. The company line has been that the plan all along was to bring the big man along slowly and then let him turn it up later in the season. That process was sped up when Mo Williams and Delonte West went down with injury, it is often said. Mike Brown takes the blame for Shaq not making the All-Star team because he said he purposely held him back. All of that may be true. The Cavs have closely watched his minutes and worked to keep them down. But there's little doubt that there was significant concern back in December after Shaq returned from his shoulder injury. He wasn't making shots, which was one problem, but even though he was in pretty good shape he wasn't affecting the game much at all. After this game, LeBron James pretty much gave it away talking about how well O'Neal has been playing. You can tell by the quote that he was concerned at some point as well. 'He had a different mindset than we all thought. We all thought he was playing slow and he was just saving it,' James said. 'He tricked all of us, I guess.' "

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "I'm not going to sit here and rave about the Pacers ending their three-game losing streak because it's only one game. A troubling trend that's been going on for more than one game is Danny Granger's shooting. Granger is far from the player he was last season. It seemed like every shot Granger took last season was going in. That's not the case this season. Now you wonder how bad he's going to miss when he takes a shot."

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "Ben Wallace’s normal routine is to grab a quick shower after the game before talking to the media. But considering those tight deadlines, Wallace made an exception tonight when a reporter asked him to talk about become the shortest player in NBA history to record 2,000 blocked shots for a career. 'It was a great feeling,' he said as he sat at a stool in the visitor’s locker room after the Pistons’ 97-93 victory. 'But you know it was more important to get a win. I would trade a couple of those blocks for a couple more wins.' The moment came at the 4:33 mark of the first quarter. The victim was Nets point guard Devin Harris. Wallace finished with eight points and six rebounds. For his accomplishment, Wallace got a game ball. 'It was just one of those things,' Wallace said. 'You go out and play hard every night and play at a high level and good things happen for you.' "

  • Josh Robbins and Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "In January, Vince Carter averaged 8.7 points per game and shot just 28.4 percent from the field. Is that why Lawrence Frank, Carter's former New Jersey Nets coach, attended the Orlando Magic's shootaround on Tuesday? Is that why Frank is spending the week with the Magic? 'No, no, no, no, no, no,' Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. 'It has nothing to do with that. I just wanted him to come down and just share some knowledge with us and some thoughts and some different perspective.' Van Gundy said he invited Frank to spend some time with the team after the Nets dismissed Frank in November. Van Gundy explained that Frank wasn't able to visit in December and couldn't visit in January because the Magic spent much of the month on the road. Frank said he believes Carter will snap out of his shooting slump. 'Vince will be fine,' Frank said. 'Jason Kidd went through it during the playoffs one year, and if a guy like Jason can lose confidence, anybody can.' "

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Last February, Derrick Rose punctuated his dominant victory in the Skills Challenge at All-Star weekend with a nifty double-pump reverse dunk. Look for any possible encores to be fundamental, not fabulous. 'I'm worn out now,' Rose said, laughing. 'I'm just going to get layups.' Rose was joking, but he was seriously happy the NBA took his Rookie Challenge appearance off his plate Tuesday. The Tribune reported Rose wouldn't play in the game last week. 'If I would've had to do that, it would've been a lot on me,' the second-year guard admitted. Rose spoke favorably of his experience in the Rookie Challenge last year. But with Rose earning reserve status in the Feb. 14 All-Star Game and also defending his Skills Challenge title on Feb. 13, the Bulls lobbied the league office to remove the Feb. 12 game from his schedule."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "When Jared Dudley was the biggest kid on his Little League team, he would tell his mother and brother that he was going to steal second base if he got a single. Much to their amazement, he always did. When Dudley was a sophomore on his high school's junior varsity team, he told the varsity coach that he would be starting on varsity by the end of the season. Dudley did just that. Admittedly often out of his league athletically in the NBA, Dudley is given defensive assignments once pegged for Shawn Marion in Phoenix. Cover Baron Davis, then Kevin Garnett. Cover Kobe Bryant, then Dirk Nowitzki. 'I don't understand it,' Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. 'I really don't. It's crazy. Some kind of way, he finds a way to get it done. He doesn't always play well but you know you're going to get your best from him every night.' Dudley is indispensable to the Suns, turning a situation with no playing time as recently as a year ago into a role as sixth man in which he often finishes games, guards top players, keeps the locker room upbeat and helps spread the offense with a 3-point percentage (47.0) that, entering Tuesday night, ranked second in the NBA."

  • Dan Weber for The Press-Enterprise: "The Lakers lost only 17 games in 2008-09, but Charlotte accounted for two of the losses: 117-110 last Jan. 27 at home, and 94-84 March 31 in Charlotte. 'Like Portland, they play hard, they slow the tempo, they make it uncomfortable for us,' Pau Gasol said, 'but that's not an excuse.' Phil Jackson added, 'They grind things out and come with a certain sense of how to attack our personnel.' The balanced Bobcats, led by shooting guard Stephen Jackson's 21.2 points a game and small forward Gerald Wallace's 19.2, have six players averaging at least 9.9 points a game. That may have been why Jackson ran his team through a full practice Tuesday, a decision that surprised some Lakers staffers given the team's late return from Memphis in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. 'We always say the first game back is the hardest,' Gasol said."