First Cup: Monday

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: "League sources said Sunday night that the NBA would purchase 100 percent of the Hornets, including the 65 percent owned by George Shinn and the 35 percent owned by Gary Chouest. It’s possible -- but a long shot -- that Chouest could turn around and purchase 100 percent of the team from the NBA. Three-time All-Star guard Chris Paul, the face of the Hornets’ franchise, seemed unconcerned Sunday night about the transfer of ownership to the league. 'I’m trying to figure out how we got beat so bad by the Spurs,' Paul said after a 109-84 loss. 'I control what I can control. And that’s how our team plays. I’m just trying to figure out how we can win another game.' Forward David West, the senior member of the team who has been with the club since 2003, can opt out of his contract with the club next season. He said he’ll make that decision based on firm business principles, not unsettled ownership. 'I have every intention of finishing this year out and making a good, personal business decision after that,' said West, who added the off-court distractions should not filter into the team’s performance. 'That’s just the best way I can put it. Honestly, it’s a mess. During the summer, we felt like it was going one way and then things started changing. Who knows? It’ll be an experience for us, I imagine, the coaching staff, all parties involved. Issues we’re having now are on the basketball court. I don’t think you can factor in outside stuff (in losing six of the last eight games). I try to be optimistic at all times, try to see the positive side of things. Something good will come out of this one way or another. From a player’s standpoint, we can’t focus on that stuff. It’s out of our control.' "

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "Nine hundred ninety-nine down. One more to go. George Karl is set up for one big party. Sunday night, his Nuggets moved him to the precipice of his 1,000th victory, but they may have made him age 10 years to do it. Stress levels reached overload status before the Nuggets were able to make enough plays to get a 108-107 win over Memphis, their seventh consecutive win. So now Karl not only goes for 1,000 on Tuesday, here's how perfect that night sets up. It's in North Carolina, against the Charlotte Bobcats. Karl's beloved college coach, Dean Smith, will probably be in the house. Current UNC coach Roy Williams might be there, although his team plays at Evansville the next night. And Karl will coach for the milestone against the last person to do it -- fellow North Carolina alum Larry Brown. 'When you sit back and really think about having 1,000 wins, it's a lot of wins,' Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony said. 'You sit back and think about how many seasons, how many wins you have to have in each season -- and that's a lot. So we want to get it done for him. I would love to be part of that; keep the win streak going. I know he'll be happy. He's back home in Carolina. I know all of the alumni are going to be there. I know he's excited about that.' "

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "I can't even attempt to count the number of times that I've seen Steve Nash play in person, but the guy never ceases to amaze me. Over the past fiveyears, the league has been overwhelmed with talented, fast and electrifying point guards -- Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry and now John Wall. But even at 36, after a series of injuries, thousands of miles on his wheels and the loss of Mike D'Antoni and Amare Stoudemire, it's impossible to knock Nash out of the discussion of the league's top five point guards. Try as you might, you just can't. He still has enough speed, and much more intelligence, which makes him a difficult cover. He carved up the Wizards on Sunday with the precision of a surgeon; dropping those passes that make you just shake your head in wonderment. 'He's been banged up, back, leg, ankles,' Suns Coach Alvin Gentry said, 'but when he's feeling good, he's played as well as any guard in the league.' "

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "Acknowledging an on-court struggle that had resulted in sub-par play in four of the Spurs’ previous five games, point guard Tony Parker said the solution to his problems was simple: Rediscover the aggressiveness that made him one of the league’s best point guards through the Spurs’ first 14 games. ... Parker has endured the public scrutiny associated with the breakup of his marriage to actress Eva Longoria. Both have filed divorce petitions, with the accompanying tabloid publicity. The effect on Parker’s game was most pronounced in Los Angeles, where he scored only two points in a loss to the Clippers after reportedly meeting with Longoria at the team hotel before the game. After scoring 19 points and handing out six assists in just 26 minutes and 46 seconds of the Spurs’ 109-84 victory over the New Orleans Hornets at the AT&T Center on Sunday, Parker said he believes he has returned to the productive level of play that characterized the first weeks of the season."

  • K.C. Johnson, Tribune of the Chicago Tribune: "We interrupt the well-deserved lionization of Derrick Rose to address what could be an intriguing storyline moving forward in this Bulls season. Will Taj Gibson be Carlos Boozer's late-game defensive replacement? For the first time as a Bull, Boozer displayed his longstanding offensive versatility, dropping 25 points in just 30 minutes on the Rockets. Yet at the start of overtime, coach Tom Thibodeau went with Gibson, and Boozer might not have even played if not for Joakim Noah fouling out. Thibodeau was uncharacteristically frank in addressing why afterward before tossing in the softening caveat that, in just Boozer's third game, he also wanted to monitor minutes. 'Carlos still has to -- and we do as a team -- have to work on our defense, particularly our pick-and-roll defense,' Thibodeau said. '(The Rockets) were running the high pick-and-roll and we were having problems with it. Taj had been doing pretty well defending it. I was also concerned a little about his minutes.' Let's pause here for some perspective: Boozer admittedly isn't in total game shape yet. He also couldn't play as much as he did for Jerry Sloan unless he mastered solid team defensive principles. But there's a reason why Thibodeau made clear on the eve of Boozer's return from his hand injury that Gibson would still play major minutes: He's the Bulls' best interior defender."

  • Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune: "The Utah Jazz are getting defensive, which partly explains why they have risen to third in the Western Conference standings. Heading into Monday night’s game against Memphis, the Jazz have held 10 straight opponents to 97 points or fewer. Utah is the only team in the NBA that holds its opponents under 43 percent shooting. The Jazz, of course, haven’t always been able to hang their hat on defense. Just two seasons ago, they allowed 100.9 points per game. ... Two changes in the Jazz’s starting lineup have probably been factors. Veteran Raja Bell starts at shooting guard instead of then-rookie Wesley Matthews, who signed a free-agent contract last summer with Portland. Meanwhile, Paul Millsap starts in place of Carlos Boozer, the offense-first power forward who signed with Chicago in the offseason. 'We’re definitely a better defensive team,' Deron Williams said. 'I think we’re putting a lot more effort into it. ... We realize if we want to be an elite team, we’ve got to do it on the defensive end first.' "

  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: "Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Reggie Miller are among a select group of players who have had memorable performances in the Garden against the Knicks. Is Timberwolves forward Kevin Love next on the list? After Love's 31 points and 31 rebounds against the Knicks on Nov. 12 at Target Center put him among the NBA's elite for single-game performances, Knicks fans will challenge Love to see if he can deliver a similar effort in their house. 'Knicks fans remember a guy who made history against them,' said Wolves guard Sebastian Telfair, a native New Yorker. 'The team remembers it, too.' Love is preparing for extra attention from the Knicks and their fans in tonight's rematch. Ever since Love became the first NBA player in 28 years to have a 30-point, 30-rebound game, opposing teams have made him a priority in game plans. It is unlikely Knicks center Amare Stoudemire and forwards Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov will allow Love as much freedom under the basket as he had at Target Center."

  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: "One night Derek Fisher is likely to be chasing an elite point guard around the court of an NBA arena and trying to stop him by any means necessary. The next day he's liable to be plotting another kind of strategy in a far different role. As the starting point guard for the two-time defending NBA champion Lakers and also the president of the players' union, the 36-year-old Fisher holds two of the most important jobs any player could have in the league. For the record, Fisher said the other day he remains optimistic the union and the league's owners can strike a deal before the current collective bargaining agreement expires June 30 and avoid a lockout that impacts the 2011-12 season. 'There's a challenge there, but not n the form of a distraction, more in the form of making sure I'm managing my days effectively and in the right way and doing the things I need to do,' he said of his double duties. 'It's a necessary evil,' he said of the negotiations. 'I find it intriguing. I find it rewarding in a sense ... humbling. We're all working together here to do something that's not just good for the guys now but is good for the game going forward.' Then, glancing around at a group of about 100 children from a nearby boys and girls club who participated in a clinic at the Lakers' training facility, he added: 'One of these kids could be part of the Lakers one day. Things I'm involved in now could impact them five or 10 years from now, so that part of it I enjoy a great deal.' "

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "On Thursday, Damien Wilkins was shooting baskets with regular guys at a gym. By Saturday, he was facing down LeBron James, the NBA's reigning Most Valuable Player, with a frenzied crowd at American Airlines Arena expecting James to put on a show. The circumstances weren't impossible to imagine since Wilkins had played 390 NBA games before the Hawks signed him on Friday. The result, though, was remarkable. Wilkins effectively harassed James to help spark Atlanta's comeback attempt in the third quarter. The Hawks lost 89-77 but if Wilkins' debut is any indication, he's well suited to meet coach Larry Drew's desire for an energetic and tough wing defender. Wilkins showed those qualities when he closely guarded James during stints in the first and second halves. James seemed annoyed that he couldn't shake Wilkins, who wouldn't allow him much space to start one of his dynamic drives to the basket. 'I didn't even want to feel that way, because the minute you feel comfortable is when he goes by you for a spectacular dunk,' Wilkins said."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Eight months removed from their first playoff appearance, the Bobcats have devolved from a physically-tough, confident group to a team that, as Wallace describes, adopts a different style each game. In three remarkably candid interviews Saturday night, Brown and captains Jackson and Wallace discussed all that is troubling this team: To hear Wallace and Jackson tell it, the departures of point guard Raymond Felton and centers Tyson Chandler and Theo Ratliff threw this team for a loop. 'No disrespect to anybody, but I think everyone was more focused on doing their jobs last year,' said Jackson. 'We had such professionals last year. We had Theo and Tyson, and when Tyrus (Thomas) first came here, he had a lot of energy. And Raymond led this team.' Felton is a Knick, Ratliff a Laker and Chandler a Maverick. That means D.J. Augustin became the starter at point guard and power forward Thomas is growing into a larger role off the bench. Wallace notes a key difference between Felton's intensity and Augustin's more deferential personality. ... 'D.J. doesn't have the fight. Not to compare them as far as abilities, but D.J.'s personality is not as high as Ray's was as far as aggression and attitude on the court. D.J. is more laid-back.' "

  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: "Warriors guard Stephen Curry finished with 39 points and six assists. He shot 14 of 20 from the field, 4 for 7 from 3-point range and 7 for 7 from the free-throw line. Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook drew the unenviable task of guarding Curry. 'Oh, he's a great young guy,' Westbrook said of Curry. The 22-year-old Westbrook paused and corrected himself. 'I'm talking about young. He's older than me,' Westbrook said with a chuckle. Curry actually is six months older than Westbrook. Asked to explain why he thought Curry was younger, Westbrook said: 'I don't know. Maybe it's because he looks younger, but he's older than me.' "

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "Shawne Williams is the reclamation project within the reclamation project. He's the guy who went from first-round pick to flop to in trouble to out of the NBA and back again. He's the same guy who became a villain for beating out the son of a New York legend for the final roster spot. And apparently he can play a little as well. Williams, once a forgotten man on so many levels, scored a season-high 13 points in 21 minutes to help the Knicks beat New Orleans, 100-92, on Friday. The win was the Knicks' sixth straight on the road heading into Sunday's matinee against the Raptors. Perhaps the only thing more surprising than their 11-9 record is the resurgence of Williams, a humble and determined player who is getting a chance to repair his career and image. 'Right now, I wouldn't trade this place I'm in for anything in the world,' Williams says. 'I'm playing ball. I love what I'm doing, and I'm with a great group of guys.' "

  • Vince Ellis of Detroit Free Press: "Pistons coach John Kuester was asked why the pick-and-roll is so tough to defend, and he started talking about some of the top players of the past 10 seasons. He mentioned former Piston Rasheed Wallace. He talked of Heat superstar LeBron James, who he coached in Cleveland. Then he remembered the time he was around Kevin Garnett while an assistant coach on an All-Star team. Kuester's point? 'All three are good communicators, and that's the key to defending the pick-and-roll,' Kuester said before Sunday night's win against the Cavs at the Palace. 'Your ability to communicate as the pick occurs, your coverage of the pick-and-roll, knowing how you are going to do it is so important, but communication is the biggest aspect of it.' "

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "If Grant Hill maintains his average (14.1 points per game entering Sunday), he would become the sixth player to average at least 14 at age 38 or older. The others are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Reggie Miller and Robert Parish."