First Cup: Tuesday

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "Dwight Howard put it best Monday night. 'Oh my God,' Dwight said after Vince Carter scored 48 in the Magic’s 123-117 victory over the New Orleans Hornets, 'Vinsanity is back!' We echo those sentiments. Oh my God, did you see Vinsanity Monday night? Driving to the hoop for dipsy-doodle scoops. Nailing 3-pointers. Crossover dribbles that tied defenders up in knots. Wow -- 48 points, 19-of-27 shooting and 6-of-10 from 3-point range. Just wow. This is the Vince Carter Magic fans have been waiting for ever since the deal was made during the offseason to bring Vince to town. Not that he has to score nearly 50 points to justify his worth to the team, but he does need to be able to occasionally take over games and lead the Magic to victory. Fans don’t want to boo Carter like they have recently; they want to cheer him like they did Monday night. They want to believe the Magic did the right thing when they gambled after going to the Finals last season, retooled their team and brought in Carter."

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "They did it again, indelibly, as if to show the first time wasn't a fluke. Two days after weathering a typically stormy game in Portland without Kobe Bryant (when it started) and Andrew Bynum (when it ended), the Lakers undercut a more refined San Antonio team Monday night. They played again without their two starters, but it didn't matter, in case the raucously appreciative Staples Center crowd didn't demonstrate it with a series of ovations. Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and Ron Artest took turns pushing and prodding the Lakers in a 101-89 victory over the Spurs, a testimony to their depth, 36 minutes of strong defense and a dose of hustle that isn't always associated with this team."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "On this final march to the Feb. 18 NBA trade deadline, there is no imminent Amar'e Stoudemire trade, but a deal with major franchise implications remains quite possible. The Suns' most frequently mentioned potential trade partners are Cleveland and Philadelphia. A trade prospect with Cleveland combines a financial windfall and a young, promising power forward replacement in J.J. Hickson, whom the Suns liked in the 2008 draft when they tabbed center Robin Lopez. Phoenix would stand to save several million dollars in a deal involving center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who received most of his salary up front and could be bought out to move Phoenix toward the possibility of being a luxury tax recipient rather than payer. Possibilities with Philadelphia could be stronger with two fronts, a deal between bringing in swingman Andre Iguodala for Stoudemire with perhaps young power forward Marreese Speights or a three-way deal involving Detroit with Pistons guard Ben Gordon winding up in Philadelphia and the Suns getting Iguodala and Detroit power forward Chris Wilcox."

  • John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Whether he's dealt before the Feb. 18 trade deadline or let go this summer when he becomes a restricted free agent, Tyrus Thomas' days with the Bulls are numbered. Too many in the organization have grown weary of his mood swings and petulance to bring him back. The issue for Thomas the rest of the season -- and this is an amazing statement to make about the fourth pick in the 2006 draft -- is whether he can show enough to make another team interested. General managers usually are willing to take flyers on players with as much physical ability as Thomas, but his reputation is so bad that no one might want to deal with him. After his one-game suspension for the tirade in Del Negro's office, Thomas was back at practice Monday at the Berto Center and will be in uniform tonight, when the Bulls visit the Indiana Pacers. But showing he still has a lot of maturing to do, Thomas took the back exit off the practice court and turned down a request to speak with reporters."

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "This is Jason Maxiell's second season as player rep. He shared the duties last season with Arron Afflalo. 'Myself not being very outspoken, but I will sit there and listen and understand what's going on,' Maxiell said. 'It's a great opportunity to understand ... not just what's going on the court, but behind closed doors.' Despite speculation of a lockout if an agreement isn't reached before the 2011-12 season, Maxiell chooses to remain confident as the sides appear to be far apart. 'That may be the way it is now, but toward the end, we'll be on the same page,' he said."

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "From the moment he settled in as the Knicks’ president in the spring of 2008, Donnie Walsh made salary-cap purging his top priority. Winning was important. The playoffs were a goal. But 2010 cap space was paramount, and that meant allowing the roster to atrophy. It could all be rectified in July, when Walsh will finally have the chance to spend his hard-earned cap space -- an estimated $20 million -- and dump half the roster. But there are 32 games to play first, and priorities to clarify: Do the Knicks want to make the playoffs at any cost? Or will they focus on developing their young core of Gallinari, Chandler, Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas? It is an internal debate that has been brewing for two years. Coach Mike D’Antoni has been hyperfocused on buffing up the Knicks’ record for the sake of restoring the franchise’s credibility and making it more attractive to top free agents. So he has given major roles to veterans with no place in the Knicks’ future, including Harrington, Robinson, Larry Hughes and Jared Jeffries. Meanwhile, Hill and Douglas, the Knicks’ top two rookies, have been stuck on the bench. It could all change soon. The clarifying moment will come with the Feb. 18 trading deadline."

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "With 7 minutes, 40 seconds remaining Saturday and the Timberwolves trailing Memphis by seven points, Ramon Sessions, Kevin Love and Al Jefferson combined on a three-way passing play that inspired a fourth-quarter comeback to extend their current winning streak to four games. Love's instant touch pass to Jefferson for a dunk demonstrated the pair of undersized power forwards can play together. But ... can they play together? Wolves boss David Kahn reiterated Monday he won't deal any of his top players -- 'Firm as firm can be,' he said. 'It'd be a mistake of epic proportions.' -- by the Feb. 18 trade deadline. ' But can two similarly sized players with disparate games defend the basket well enough to play together side by side for years to come?"

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Most NBA teams tend to run the same plays over and over and over, whether the coach adds a 'twist' or not. It's the execution that's everything. And yes, Dwyane was correct in pointing out Monday that the execution comes from the players. But there is one undeniable factor in all of this: The Heat is on a five-game losing streak, a slide that includes two losses to the Bucks and one to the Bulls. And that, beyond any rhetoric, is reason for concern. Losses to Boston and Cleveland are one thing; the Heat is not there yet. But Milwaukee and Chicago are something different. Yes, Erik Spoelstra is correct, a victory or two would be the perfect tonic. But there is nothing wrong, at times such as these, with accepting and acknowledging that more is needed. Because the 'approach' does matter. And sometimes, the approach has to change."

  • Fred Kerber of the New York Post: "Chris Douglas-Roberts has one word for this season with the Nets. 'Hell.' There is no way to argue with the man. Unless you want to say the Nets' 2009-10 folly really hasn't been that good. Douglas-Roberts wears his passion on his sleeve. He spoke his mind all season, ruffled some feathers and now picks his words as carefully as fresh produce. He has heard his name mentioned in trade rumors, that his will be the next ticket out -- although team president Rod Thorn said this weekend the Nets are not looking to trade the second-year wing. But all the recent developments, including a move to the bench, have affected him. 'A little bit. I'm just more cold. But all that stuff, I don't care one way or the other,' said Douglas-Roberts. 'Caring about winning? Absolutely. But everything else doesn't matter. All of this is because I want to win. I take losing bad. All of this, everything comes from me being a sore loser. I don't like losing.' "

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Trying to solve the mystery of Brandon Rush is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. His body language and expressions are the same whether he has scored 20 points or missed 10 consecutive shots. 'That's always been me. I never show too much emotion,' Rush said. 'I never show it when I get down on myself or anything like that. That's always been my personality. It's too late to change me.' His teammates have tried to encourage him only to receive an occasional cold shoulder. His coaches have basically given up trying to flip the right switch. Coach Jim O'Brien can't talk about the second-year swingman without looking flustered or throwing up his arms in annoyance. What drives those in the organization up a wall is that Rush has as much potential as anybody on the roster."

  • Eric Koreen of the National Post: "Everyone has a vice. Reggie Evans' is candy. Airheads. Mambas. Skittles. Jolly Ranchers. The Toronto Raptors forward lists them with the love and sincerity usually reserved for one's children. 'Lord have mercy. Morning, breakfast, I can eat candy, all day, every day,' Evans said after his practice yesterday. 'If I could eat candy for dinner, it would be all right. The kind of money I make, people don't know what I want for Christmas or whatever, so they give me a box of candy.' That made the last four months nearly intolerable for Evans. The bruising big man suffered a mid-foot sprain on Oct. 14. For the better part of the intervening months, Evans was not able to do any conditioning that required putting weight on the foot; as the Raptors struggled to diagnose and treat the injury, Evans' options for exercise were limited. In the interim, though, Evans did not put on any weight. 'For being a guy who was immobile,' Raptors coach Jay Triano said, 'that's pretty impressive.' Evans is expected to play tomorrow against Philadelphia."

  • Geoffrey C. Arnold of The Oregonian: "Kevin Durant's teammates will receive a package in the next couple of days. Durant said he purchased gifts, 'Beats by Dr. Dre' stereo headphones, for each of his Oklahoma City teammates in appreciation of their help in making him an NBA All-Star this season. 'My teammates mean a lot to me, because they helped me get there. They made me into an All-Star this year,' Durant said. 'They were believing in me, trusting in me. Getting me open, passing the ball to me so I can make shots. It's important to me to let them know how much I thank them.' Durant's All-Star selection is only part of an impressive season that has established him as an NBA star. In addition to his All-Star selection, the Oklahoma City forward is pushing hard to lead the Thunder into the playoffs, chasing LeBron James to win the league's scoring title and expecting to be selected as a member of the USA Basketball team that will compete in the World Championships this summer. Some even mention Durant as a Most Valuable Player candidate."

  • Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "Finding water in the arena has become more of a challenge since November, when the Cavs decided to remove all water fountains because of the outbreak of H1N1 flu. The change came as a gradual process. First the fountains were blocked off, then the water was cut off, then the fountains were removed. Complimentary 9-ounce cups of tap water are available at permanent concession stands, which excludes movable specialty carts. Signs advising patrons of this new practice have been posted where the fountains used to be. The Cavs insist the decision -- which came to light in a Monday story in the Plain Dealer -- is a cutting-edge move to improve sanitation. Team spokesman Tad Carper compares it to the installation of full-body magnetometers at the entrances for enhanced security, considered an unnecessary expense by many teams. But to Joe Fan, the removal of the fountains looks like a blatant attempt to make more money by selling $4 bottled water. And that might not be all they're hawking. Standing in line for the complimentary cup subjects fans to the temptations of hot dogs, pizza, popcorn and nachos while they wait. How many have the willpower to take that free water and head back to his or her seat otherwise empty-handed? What if your child is the thirsty one? How likely is it that you'll escape the line without at least a candy bar?"