First Cup: Tuesday

  • Editorial page staff of The Times-Picayune: "Mr. Stern and the league played an important role in the Hornets' return to New Orleans post-Katrina. The league also brought the NBA All-Star game to New Orleans in 2008, and metro residents are thankful for that support. The league is appointing Jac Sperling, a native New Orleanian and vice-chairman of the NHL's Minnesota Wild, to run the Hornets. But the new ownership raises questions as to the team's future, especially as the current lease expires in 2014. Mr. Stern Monday said that the team's future 'really is going to ultimately depend on both a combination of the business prospects for the team and the assistance that can be gotten from the state and the city.' That's not as reassuring a position as metro residents wanted to hear. Already there are news reports that Seattle, which lost its NBA franchise in 2008, may view the NBA's ownership of the Hornets as a chance to lure the team away. New Orleanians hope Mr. Stern will show the same vision and resolve that then-NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue had after Katrina, when he was instrumental in ensuring the Saints' long-term future in our region. 'Once we were there, once we're some place, we try to stay there,' Mr. Stern said. That's what Hornets' fans expect. "

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "LeBron James was asked if he could relate to Brett Favre's situation in leaving the Green Bay Packers for the Minnesota Vikings. 'I guess so,' James said of relating to Favre. 'He had great years in Green Bay. Anytime you have a great competitor like that leave, no one wants to see it. They've done a great job of regrouping with Aaron Rodgers, and I believe Cleveland will do the same.' "

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "In one night the Hawks finally figured out how to beat the Magic and win a tight game against a good opponent, and do both without injured All-Star Joe Johnson. The Hawks defeated the Magic 80-74 on Monday night at Amway Center to end a six-game losing streak in Orlando. The Hawks had lost 10 of their last 11 games against the Magic, who swept them in 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals by an NBA record margin of 101 points. Considering that ugly history, this was more than just a routine December road victory for the Hawks. 'I ain't even going to lie to you,' Hawks forward Josh Smith said. 'After losing in the playoffs by like an average of 30 points and playing good enough to win last time but coming up short, we was [sic] just determined to get a win here.' Determination is what it took for the Hawks, who lost 93-89 at Orlando on Nov. 8 after they led with five minutes to go.This time, the Hawks were up 54-53 entering the fourth quarter and never gave up the lead. It was just Atlanta's fourth victory in its last 14 trips to Orlando. The Hawks lost won here on Oct. 29, 2008, when the Magic played in a different arena."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "You don't get to 1,000 wins without the first one, and coaches worry about every game along the way. George Karl can get to 1,000 tonight, but dampening the occasion just a tad is a team not playing the type of basketball he would like to see. The occasion may cause some to let it slide, but not Karl. You don't win at this level without sweating the details. As the Nuggets get set to face Charlotte, he would like his team to pay better attention to the little things. 'I'm pretty sure 13-6 is pretty good for where we are right now, but we've got to play a little better basketball to win on the road,' Karl said. 'We've got to be a little smarter, a little tougher, and I think we'll be tested in all of these games.' "

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "Ron Artest didn't like being asked about it, repeating his mantra about his reduced role in the Lakers' offense this season. ... Only when the media crowd thinned out did Artest open up. What he said fell somewhere between entertaining and enlightening, as usual. 'Guys got better,' he said. 'Shannon [Brown] got much better. It's his time to shine. Steve [Blake] is averaging more than Jordan [Farmar] last year and then Matt Barnes is probably averaging more than Luke [Walton]. So if you take all those points, those are points I probably could have had. But those are team points. When people start talking about numbers, I think realistically they're trying to sabotage the team and they're trying to get negative feedback from a player to be against his team. If somebody says, 'Ron Artest is not playing as well,' they're trying to take away from the team. That's how I take those questions. People are trying to cause friction.' Artest is averaging 8.2 points a game this season, easily a career low if it continues, and shooting only 39.5% in 27.1 minutes a game. His numbers last season: 11 points and 33.8 minutes a game, 41.4% shooting. He has played 120 games with the Lakers, so the triangle offense is no longer a new concept to him. But Artest often gets stuck lingering at the three-point line, reduced to a spot-up three-point shooter, especially in games when Kobe Bryant takes a larger-than-expected share of the shots. Artest shrugs it off, saying his offense will have to happen 'naturally.' 'The sun comes out when it's going to come out. You can't just force it,' he said."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Tracy McGrady will be back in Toyota Center for the first time since he was traded to the Knicks. As with the Rockets game against the Pistons last December, McGrady will make his first Toyota Center appearance of the season, but this time it will be with the Pistons and will be his only Toyota Center appearance. ... The Rockets will treat it as just another game. There is nothing special planned. It is not as if Carl Landry, the recipient of a long video tribute in his first game in Toyota Center after the trade, is back in town. It will be more interesting to see how he is greeted. Rockets players were unsure. McGrady said he did not know and also did not care, which is as about as true as when he said he was 100 percent last year. The 'just another game' angle, however, might have some validity. This is not the time for reunions. The Rockets are six games below .500, four games off the playoff pack. They play four-consecutive games against teams with below .500 records and just two Rockets opponents this month have winning records."

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "As inconceivable as it would have sounded uttered in New York City anytime last season -- or in Minnesota as little as a month ago -- the Timberwolves' lament after Monday's 121-114 loss to the Knicks centered on Darko Milicic's absence rather than on their propensity once again to commit too many turnovers or allow too many open three-point shots. Darko? Yup. The guy who spent last season eating cheeseburgers before Knicks' games he'd never play in became Monday's mythical figure. His absence perhaps was as central to the evening's storyline as were Kevin Love and his sincere 33-point, 15-rebound attempt to match last month's historic 31/31 night or New York center Amare Stoudemire and his fifth consecutive 30-point game for a Knicks team that now has won 10 of its past 11 games. For the second consecutive game, the Wolves couldn't miss early, when the evening for the first eight minutes seemed like all Darko, all the time. He outscored Stoudemire 10-4 early when he probably took a knee to his leg and soon could barely walk because of a bruised quadriceps muscle that suddenly ended his night. ... On Saturday, Milicic became the first Timberwolves player since 2001 to record a plus-40 plus- minus rating in a game. On Monday, he was a plus-eight and the Wolves led by 10 points when he went to the bench after collecting two fouls and soon discovered his leg locked up."

  • Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: "If given another chance with the Nets - which seemed increasingly likely following his recent statements on Twitter -- Terrence Williams would show up on time with a renewed focus, according to Rick Pitino, his mentor and former coach at Louisville. 'He'll do exactly what's expected of him. It won't happen again,' Pitino said. 'He'll learn his lesson. He's embarrassed by it. He's a young man with unbelievable pride. And when he lets himself down, lets his friends down, he really feels it. And he doesn't let it happen again.' Williams, the 11th draft pick in 2009, was demoted last week to the Nets' D-League affiliate, Springfield (Mass.) Armor, for repeated tardiness. Ending a Twitter hiatus Monday, Williams declared that his minor league stint is serving its purpose. He professed his love for the Nets in capital letters and acknowledged his problems with punctuality. While serving his punishment, the 6-6 combo guard has averaged a triple-double in three D-League appearances."

  • Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: "Playmaker Steve Nash isn't taking his 20-point, 17-assist, two-turnover, perfect-shooting night as a sign that his body is back to normal. 'I don't want to be foolish in thinking I'm past it,' he said of his spate of ailments. To make sure, Gentry is keeping Nash's practice time to a minimum, allowing him more time for rest and rehabilitation. Nash said he and his teammates are starting to sync up, an unexpected benefit of being banged up. 'I haven't felt good physically, so I haven't been shooting as much or been as aggressive trying to score,' he said. 'I've been trying to find other ways to get the offense going. I think it's better for our team if I don't have to score as much. When everybody is scoring, it makes us more difficult to defend and keeps everybody engaged. So I think it's better that way.' "

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "As the Cavaliers complete their disappointing three-game road trip tonight at Philadelphia, Antawn Jamison is back in his familiar role as team spokesman. He has been the most vocal about what ails the Cavs, and he tried carrying them to victory Sunday at Detroit. He scored 22 points against the Pistons, was encouraging teammates during timeouts and pleading with them on the court to keep their heads up and keep the floor spaced. There have been times when it seems like a losing battle. The Cavs have lost four in a row, all by double figures. The effort and intensity were better Sunday, but it was still another loss against another last-place team. 'I don't know how many guys have been through this before,' Cavs coach Byron Scott said. 'There's a lot of guys in that locker room who have been here the last five or six years who haven't been through anything like this. So they're not used to this.' Jamison is one of those who can relate. In addition to the problems last year in Washington, he was part of those Wizards teams that routinely were eliminated by the Cavs in the playoffs. Now after so many years of the Cavs dominating the opposition, those teams are doing it to the Cavs."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Shaun Livingston's play the last six or seven games is much more what the Bobcats anticipated when they guaranteed him $7 million over this season and next. The raw numbers aren't so impressive - 5.4 points per game and 1.4 assists. But consider how efficient he is -- 49-percent shooting from the field and 91 percent from the foul line -- in the minutes he's getting. Livingston played 20 or more minutes just once in the first 11 games. He's played 20 or more four times in the last nine games, including 28 each in Milwaukee and New Orleans. And he's attempting more post-ups and crossovers, moves that suggest he trusts his knee. 'For me, it's about endurance,' Livingston described. 'My output is definitely a lot more: I can practice longer. I can play at a higher level for longer periods of time.' The rest of Livingston's basketball career is a continuous calculation - based on what his body tells him, how long can he practice? How long can he play? 'It's really the reaction afterward,' Livingston said of when he knows he's overdone. 'How does it feel? Is there any swelling? That lets me know how to pace it and where to go from there. The swelling will always be there. But the pain modification is the biggest factor.' "

  • Terry Foster of The Detroit News: "Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince may as well drag out their winter attire from the closet. They aren't headed any-where. The Pistons remained in a holding pattern Monday as the firm handling the sale of the Pistons told potential buyers the deal won't happen before February. Until then, president Joe Dumars' hands are tied -- he can't make a major change to the roster. And that puts Dumars in a bad spot. Let's say the Pistons are sold in early February -- possibly not until the All-Star Game, Feb. 20 -- and everything is in order. The issue is, the trade deadline is Feb. 17, which means Dumars would have little to no time to formulate a deal. And, with the Pistons likely all but eliminated from the playoffs, who's to say the new owner(s) would keep Dumars around? That means what you see on the court now is likely what you'll see the rest of the season. No big man coming to save the day, such as Philadelphia's Elton Brand. No power forward like Memphis' Zach Randolph. And no travel bags for Hamilton or Prince. ... The bottom line is, the Pistons won't be able to retool and get enough help to salvage this season. And that's bad news for just about everybody."

  • Ken Belson of The New York Times: "The last five minutes of basketball or hockey games is often the most valuable time for any advertiser to get its message to viewers, who are most likely to stay glued to their seats in the arena or on sofas at home while the game is on the line. That is why Foxwoods Resort Casino will announce on Tuesday that it has signed a deal to be the exclusive advertiser during the last five minutes of professional basketball and hockey games at Madison Square Garden and on Knicks, Rangers, Liberty, Devils and Islanders home games broadcast on MSG’s cable sports networks. MSG and Foxwoods say that the 'Final Five' sponsorship is the first time an advertiser has bought commercial control of a specific time during professional sports games in the arena as well as on television."