First Cup: Monday

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Stan Van Gundy now has coached the Orlando Magic for 215 regular-season games and another 34 playoff games, and in all that time, he says he's never seen his team play a better quarter than it did in the third period Sunday afternoon against the Boston Celtics. He'll receive few arguments from the Celtics -- not after the Magic needed a little more than seven minutes to erase an 11-point third-quarter deficit and build a commanding 14-point lead. Orlando then hung on down the stretch to leave TD Garden with a 96-89 win and a victory in the regular-season series over Boston. 'I'm quite sure a lot of people picked us to lose, but we picked us to win,' Magic point guard Jameer Nelson said. 'That's all that matters.' It also mattered that Dwight Howard played the entire second half after he sat out most of the first half because of foul trouble. As the team walked into its locker room at halftime, Vince Carter took Howard aside and said, 'Take over and dominate.' Howard responded to the challenge. In the second half, he scored 14 of his 16 points and collected 10 of his 13 rebounds to fuel the Orlando comeback."

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "Lost in yesterday’s collapse to Orlando was the return of Paul Pierce following a foot injury-induced two-game absence. The Celtics captain, not moving particularly well, finished with 13 points and as many turnovers (three) as he had steals. He lasted for 30 somewhat belabored minutes in the 96-89 Garden loss to the Magic. 'The foot was a little bit sore, but I don’t think it restricted too much of my movement,' said Pierce. 'Like I’ve said, it’s soreness on the top part of my foot, so as far as my lateral movement up and down, it really didn’t matter.' Pierce had said following Saturday’s practice that he wouldn’t make a decision on appearing in next weekend’s All-Star Game until he had a better read on the condition of his foot. The Celtics play one last game before the All-Star break, Wednesday in New Orleans. Pierce also is expected to take part in the 3-point shootout."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "I know there has been a lot of talk lately about the Wizards being reluctant to move Antawn Jamison to Cleveland given the bad blood between the two franchises. The apprehension is believed to be rooted in three hotly contested playoff series, and Larry Hughes's departure in the summer of 2005. The prevailing sentiment from people around the league is that President Ernie Grunfeld has no desire to help Danny Ferry and the Cavaliers win a championship by giving them Jamison. But I had a recent conversation with an Eastern Conference executive who made a very interesting point. The executive said the Wizards should only be concerned about interest of the organization -- not what Jamison could do for the Cavaliers -- and used Memphis as an example. Around this time two years ago, the Grizzlies traded Pau Gasol to the Lakers for Kwame Brown, Marc Gasol, Javaris Crittenton and two first round picks. The move was roundly panned around the league, with Grizzlies General Manager Chris Wallace credited with 'gift-wrapping' a title for the Lakers. ... Jamison's dreams of winning a championship are not going to be met in Washington. Holding on to him doesn't really help either side. Of course, Cleveland also has to be wiling to give the Wizards a deal as sweet as the one Memphis received for Pau Gasol. Some reports have the Cavaliers offering Zydrunas Ilgauskas's expiring deal, J.J. HIckson and a first-round pick, but I heard from a league source that the Wizards have not been offered that much. The Wizards, according to the source, have made their demands known to Cleveland, which so far has been unwilling to budge."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Following Tyrus Thomas' verbal tirade at coach Vinny Del Negro on Friday in Atlanta, that's three disciplinary actions taken by management in four seasons for Thomas, the soon-to-be former Bull. Whether the Bulls find a taker for the forward by the Feb. 18 trade deadline or simply renounce his rights this summer, Thomas either will or won't reach his tantalizing potential elsewhere. The Bulls will say the steady play of rookie Taj Gibson is why Thomas is no longer the starting power forward after missing seven weeks with a fractured radius in his left forearm. And Gibson unquestionably has been a steal of the draft, a fundamentally sound, reliable player. But part of successful coaching is managing personalities. When Thomas came off the bench to average 16 points, 10.3 rebounds and two blocks in 30.3 minutes in his first three games back from injury in late December, the time to start him and allow him to play through some mistakes arrived. Instead, Thomas came off the bench to play just 15 foul-plagued minutes on Jan. 2 against Orlando. He has played more than 30 minutes just once since -- on Jan. 20 at the Clippers -- and tallied 18 points, six rebounds and three blocks while doing so. Gibson may be a rookie, but he's 14 months older than Thomas. Rightly or wrongly, he has proved he's mentally strong enough to handle starting or coming off the bench. Just as rightly or wrongly, Thomas has proved you lose him if you don't start him."

  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: "Hedo Turkoglu's extra layer of protection wasn't as bad as he expected. Reluctantly wearing a mask to protect the broken bone beneath his right eye, Turkoglu spent a good portion of his afternoon strapping and unstrapping his much talked- about mask, but in the end it came down to doing what needed to be done. ... Through it all, Turkoglu managed 16 points and five assists and, while he did wind up fouling out late in the fourth quarter, even that wasn't such a bad thing as it gave the announced crowd of 18,007 the opportunity to give him his own round of applause. ... On Friday afternoon, Turkoglu surprised the team and those around it when he announced he would not be wearing the protective mask for the game despite being advised to do so by team doctors and management. A day later, after numerous phone calls from friends suggesting he do the smart thing and wear the mask, and a harder sell from management and its doctors on the necessity of the protection, Turkoglu relented."

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "As the Spurs return to Staples Center tonight, they are still coming to grips with how to contend with Pau Gasol at the center of a potent Lakers lineup. Including the 2008 playoff series, the Spurs are 3-7 against L.A. since Gasol showed up, though that record could be tested tonight if Kobe Bryant (ankle) and big man Andrew Bynum (hip) can't play. 'It was a huge change for them,' Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. 'They didn't give up much, and they got an All-Star back. It changed them from a very good team into a great team.' The Gasol trade also sparked a new arms race in the West. The Spurs' acquisition of Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess has its roots there, as did Phoenix's failed dalliance with O'Neal. Memphis general manager Chris Wallace, once vilified for the deal, has since been vindicated. One of the pieces he acquired -- Gasol's younger brother Marc -- looks like an All-Star in the making. Another player Memphis signed with salary-cap room created by the trade -- Zach Randolph -- already is one. Still, the biggest beneficiary of the deal was undoubtedly the Lakers, who only months before were on the verge of collapse."

  • Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News: "I can't tell you I hear everything, but I do hear some things. We all have 'sources;' some are more reliable than others. I have a handful that I trust implicitly. Still, I can't guarantee the information is totally pure, but here is some of it: While the speculation revolving around Andre Iguodala has been most prevalent lately, one of my sources who is familiar with the situations of the Sixers and the Houston Rockets suggests that the Sixers 'are not prepared to break up their team.' Could be. But I believe the Sixers have had conversations with Cleveland, which apparently is interested in giving LeBron James one more significant piece. There have been stories that the Cavaliers have focused, in some order, on Washington's Antawn Jamison, Indiana's Troy Murphy and Iguodala. Oh, and there have also been Iguodala mentions in Sacramento and Dallas. I thought the Cavs would have a dilemma with Iguodala, who has 4 years and $56.4 million left on his contract. How, exactly, would they feel if they acquired Iguodala to help James, and then -- after the season -- James decided to leave in free agency? How would they then feel about having Iguodala's contract? I'm told by a source familiar with the Sixers' thinking, 'Teams around the league are not put off by that contract.' "

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "The worst-kept secret in sports is that LeBron James, a pending free agent, is the Knicks' primary target starting July 1. The best thing the Knicks have to offer is Madison Square Garden and endless marketing opportunities -- although James appears to be doing pretty well in the marketing department while wearing a Cavs uniform. Cleveland is also providing James with the best chance to win, which James says is his top priority. The Cavs have now won 11 straight games and are on pace to lock up the NBA's best record for a second straight year. The Knicks have to root for Boston, Orlando or Atlanta to knock off Cleveland during the postseason because a second trip to the NBA Finals would likely result in James re-signing with the Cavs. 'That's what we're thinking,' said one Cavs official. 'You never know what could happen but I think he'll stay.' The Cleveland franchise is cautiously optimistic that James will spend the prime years of his career - or at least the next three - in his home state. But they also understand the lure of New York City."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Steve Nash has averaged 17.6 points, 11.8 assists and 1.6 turnovers during the win streak and is at 18.4 points and 11.1 assists for the season. Besides Nash's 2006-07 season, the only NBA player to have those averages for a season in his 30s was Magic Johnson, who did it at 30 and 31. 'If we were a little bit better record-wise, they would be talking about him for his third MVP,' Gentry said. 'Unfortunately for us, we've let some games slip away, and we don't have a record of a Cleveland or the Lakers or a team like that, so those are the guys that they're talking about. Overall, he's had his best year since I've been here.' Gentry and Nash joined the Suns in 2004, but Gentry favors Nash's performance this season over those in 2004-05 and '05-06, when the point guard won back-to-back NBA MVP Awards. 'He's had his best year just from the standpoint of the way he's shot the ball, the way he's taken over game, the way he's delivered the ball to guys,' Gentry said. ... Nash said he would not have thought he would still be playing, had he been asked five years ago. 'I can't play forever, and to be 36, feel good and be part of it with a group of guys you enjoy playing with is a lot of fun for me,' Nash said. 'I feel lucky.' "

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "LeBron James is one of nine current Cavs who wear orthotics in their shoes for games and practices, extending a trend in the NBA in recent years. As little as 10 years ago, players who wore the custom inserts were the exception. More and more, it has become the rule as players have found the devices provide support for arches and help ease common cases of plantar fasciitis and prevent stress fractures. They do a wonderful job correcting angles and gaits,' said Dr. Richard Hofacker, who has been the Cavaliers podiatrist since the 1980s, when only a couple of players wore simple insoles. 'Does everyone need glasses? No. Does everyone need orthotics? No. And there is a placebo effect where people feel better having them,' Hofacker said. 'But they do so many things for athletes, from proper arch support or decreasing plantar fasciitis to preventing stress fractures. But often it isn't that serious -- they help our players to lessen the blisters and calluses, and that is a day-to-day relief to these guys.' Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who has become a bit of a foot expert because of the troubles he had earlier in his career, practically could be a spokesman for orthotics. Most of the Cavs' big men use them, including Shaquille O'Neal and Anderson Varejao, because their feet take extra abuse. Ilgauskas swears by his orthotics, and he wears them in all of his shoes, even when he's not playing. He has encouraged teammates over the years to use them."

  • Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle: "They acquire talent that Don Nelson falls in love with, and then falls out of love with as though he were some modern-day Henry VIII. The fans rave about the upsides of players who are in the doghouse a month later -- and injured a month after that. The Warriors do this with draft choices, they do this with free agents, and there is no reason to think that they would treat the fruits of expiring contracts any differently. The problem is, as it always seems to be, that their choices are limited to the same sorts of mistakes they've made before - the classic definition of insanity, with the Lakers as the shimmering house on the hill they cannot visit. So whether it's Anthony Tolliver or Speedy Claxton's expiring contract, it matters not. Until the Warriors show us they want to do something different, something that actually addresses shortcomings rather than reinforces them, something that actually works, no roster development will mean anything. As the philosopher says, same as it ever was, same as it ever was."

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "A reception for Casspi originally scheduled for Saturday night was canceled because the timing conflicted with the Kings' arrival that evening. The United Jewish Federation of Greater Toronto, which sponsored the event, had placed ads on its Web site, charging $10 per person and $25 per family for 'An Evening with an Israeli King.' Nonetheless, Casspi received a warm ovation during introductions. The Raptors share a history with Maccabi Tel Aviv, Casspi's former Israeli team. At one point during their careers, former Raptors Anthony Parker, Will Solomon, Maceo Baston and Nate Huffman played for the Israeli powerhouse."