First Cup: Monday

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "Fate can have a crazy, cruel side. When in a nasty mood, it sends wicked twists. Caron Butler won't let karma break him, even though his knee buckled in front of his family, friends and a couple of hundred kids he bought tickets for at the Bradley Center on Saturday night. Don't weep for Butler. He wouldn't want it that way. Yes, he's gone, probably for a significant portion of the season, maybe all of it. And he becomes a free agent on July 1. The timing of this injury was horrible for the Mavericks and disastrous for Butler and his family. He was on his way to a nice season and would have been an in-demand free agent. Now? Who knows? But what Butler, his family and everybody else should keep in mind is what a great career he's already had – one that brought with it a five-year, $45 million-plus contract that's ending with this year's $10.5 million salary. Of greater importance if you dig down deep in the heart of any Maverick – and particularly Butler's – is that this casts serious doubt over a season that quietly was building toward championship contention. Special seasons don't come along very often. Dirk Nowitzki knows this. It happened in 2006, and he had it ripped away. This season was showing some of the same attributes. But the Mavs must now overcome a major injury loss, something they didn't have to do in 2006."

  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: "The Lakers continued their meandering ways Sunday night at Staples Center, wandering off course far too often to defeat a team, the Memphis Grizzlies, they probably should have dispatched with only a minimum of effort. And perhaps that's the biggest problem with the Lakers these days. They're relying too much on reputation and swagger and not enough on the blood, sweat and tears it takes to be a championship-caliber team. They're not fooling anyone, not their opponents, not their fans and not themselves. The Grizzlies certainly didn't seem to care about the Lakers' superior pedigree while running circles around them en route to a 104-85 victory. The Lakers committed 20 turnovers, which the Grizzlies turned into 18 points. 'Refund, refund, refund,' a few grumpy souls chanted with the Lakers down by more than 20 points and the backups mopping up the mess with only a few minutes remaining in a loss that matched their widest margin of defeat in 2010-11. ... 'It happens to the best of us,' Lamar Odom said when asked about the booing. Since starting the season by winning their first eight games, the Lakers are a pedestrian 15-11. They also fell to 11-5 at home with Sunday's loss, which raised the hackles of fans accustomed to seeing their team win with ease and flair. 'This is a telltale week for us,' Phil Jackson said. 'We want to get on a roll. I thought we had a start (after victories over the New Orleans Hornets and the Philadelphia 76ers last week), but we didn't and we went back to square one.' "

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: "Well, January just started with another wreck, and Bryant now seems to have the full context: The team not only is resting on the past, it is waiting for the future. 'We're looking too far down the road,' Bryant said after the loss to Memphis on Sunday night, 'instead of looking just at the game that's right in front.' That, in a nutshell, is the story of the Lakers' season of slippage. They're on the brink of their 12th loss of the season here in early January. Last season, they didn't lose their 12th game until their first game of February. The year before that, they didn't lose their 12th game until their first game of March. Obviously, these Lakers need a spark, and what we've learned is that Bryant remains -- undoubtedly, unconditionally, somewhat unbelievably -- the character around whom the whole Lakers' story revolves. This is not the traditional sort of platform on which an NBA MVP's candidacy is built, but it's true nonetheless: These Lakers are showing in their struggles that they still need Bryant's drive as much as ever."

  • Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com: "On a night Rajon Rondo returned from a seven-game absence to hand out a team-high eight assists, allow us to be mesmerized by the playmaking talents of one of his teammates who matched that total. Starting his second game in place of the injured Kevin Garnett, Celtics forward/center Glen Davis quietly flirted with a triple-double, posting 15 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists over 39 minutes of action. The fact that he was even in striking distance of a triple-double that included assists is astounding. Consider this: In 231 career regular-season games, Davis' high for assists was four, something he's only done twice. In fact, he's only registered three assists or more in five games for his career (add in the playoffs and he doubles that total). His previous career high for assists was six in a playoff win over the Bulls in 2009. Or look at it this way: Entering Sunday's game, Davis had 166 career assists in three-plus NBA seasons. Rondo picked up his 166th assist of the 2010-11 campaign in Game 12 on Nov. 19 against Oklahoma City. What's more, Marquis Daniels had logged nearly 300 fewer minutes than Davis this season and entered Sunday's game with one more assist (35)."

  • Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times: "For Ronny Turiaf, Sunday’s game was part basketball, part wrestling. He had his eye poked, his ribs elbowed and his shoulder tugged against the Indiana Pacers. In between the bodily damage, Turiaf blocked enough shots to provide a spark and nudge the Knicks to a victory. The Knicks will never be mistaken for the defensive-minded Boston Celtics. But they are showing signs of transitioning away from the turnstile defense of their recent past, with Turiaf leading the effort from the bench. The Knicks lead the N.B.A. in blocked shots, and Turiaf accounted for half of the Knicks’ 12 on Sunday as they outlasted Indiana, 98-92, at Madison Square Garden. 'That’s just what I do, my man,' Turiaf said, smiling afterward. He could have been referring to his blocks or to launching his body into the opponents’ way."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Is time and circumstance catching up with Gerald Wallace? There’s a football-born premise that each human body can take only so many collisions. Wallace has had more than his share. I think back to Daryl Johnston, a fellow Syracuse grad, who spent about a decade ramming into various defenders as a Dallas Cowboy to spring Emmitt Smith free. I can’t imagine how much abuse Johnson tolerated to make all that happen. I’m glad, when I see Johnston doing television, that he doesn’t walk with a limp or talk with a lisp; I suspect he could have ended up much worse off than he did. And that brings us back to Wallace. Sunday I was observing practice, and Wallace took a pass from D.J. Augustin. It was nothing odd, not even a collision, but his body failed him as he went to the rim. He crumpled, laying on the floor for 10 minutes, before two teammates carried him off the court. I’ve been watching this for six years and I wonder: When does the big one happen? That’s the expression people in hurricane-prone areas use, describing the storm that will knock over their houses. When does the indestructible Gerald Wallace become destructible? That’s a subject Bobcats management should discuss before they regret that they didn’t."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "When the Spurs arrive at their hotel in midtown Manhattan late this afternoon, they will bring with them the NBA’s best record and the numbingly efficient point guard Knicks fans hoped they might see in blue and orange before season’s end. Tony Parker shattered some New York hoops dreams when he signed a contract extension on Oct. 30 that tied him to the Spurs for four more seasons and took him out of the summer’s free-agent pool. Here’s the hardest bite to swallow for filmmakers Spike Lee and Woody Allen and the rest of Knicks Nation: Parker admits the Knicks would have been his No. 1 free-agency option had the Spurs not stepped up in October and put an end to the speculation about his future. 'Right now, I’m very happy with my decision,' Parker said before joining his teammates for the trip to New York that begins a three-game, four-day Eastern Conference road swing. 'I always felt the Spurs are my family, and my first option was San Antonio, but if they didn’t want to keep me, New York was definitely my first option.' Parker knows tabloid journalism. His pending divorce from actress Eva Longoria played out on the covers of supermarket magazines for several weeks earlier this season. Avoiding another round of blaring, back-page headlines, this time about his basketball future, provides the 28-year-old native of Paris the serenity to focus on his Tuesday matchup against Knicks point guard Raymond Felton."

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Tonight, the 76ers will end their longest road trip of the season with their eighth straight game away from the Wells Fargo Center, and for the most part it has been a successful voyage. The team has compiled a 3-4 record, which might not seem to be reason for celebration. But it's certainly respectable when you consider some of the tough opponents the Sixers have faced - Orlando, Chicago, Boston, Denver, Golden State, Phoenix, the Los Angeles Lakers -- and those they have beaten -- Orlando, Denver, Phoenix. They also lost by four points in the games against the Celtics and Lakers, the teams that were in the NBA Finals last season. In all, a good road trip."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "One week ago, in a game against Denver, we saw glimpses of what could soon become the newest dimension in Thunder forward Kevin Durant's growing offensive arsenal. His latest weapon originates from the left block. Against the Nuggets, it started with a post-up against guard J.R. Smith. Durant gave Smith a bump, dribbled once, turned over his right shoulder, rose and swished a smooth jump shot. Durant then duplicated the quick move against Arron Afflalo. It marked the makings of Durant's post-up game. 'It's coming along well, I think,' Durant said. The move Durant displayed against Denver is one he took from Boston forward Kevin Garnett. It's Garnett's footwork from the baseline and his nearly indefensible high release that Durant wants to incorporate. When Durant gets it down pat, it could have a wide-ranging effect on the Thunder's offensive attack. Durant, for one, could become an even more efficient scorer through getting higher-percentage shots from in close. As Durant blossoms on the block, the Thunder will find it's a more reliable means of scoring compared to what is currently primarily a jump-shooting squad. And with Durant already commanding double teams, his passing out of the post to spot-up shooters and cutters should create more open shots."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "The Wizards weren't necessarily looking to turn around the season when they dealt away the former face of the franchise, Gilbert Arenas, to Orlando for Rashard Lewis on Dec. 18; the primary goal was to better clear the slate in order to rebuild around John Wall. So while the team's 2-6 record since making the trade is still unsettling, the dramatic changes on the defensive end have been startling. In the past eight games, the Wizards (8-24) have allowed just one opponent to reach triple digits after their foes scored at least 100 points in 16 of the first 24 games. The Wizards are surrendering just 91 points per game since the trade, compared with giving up 105.8 before. To put that in perspective, the Wizards have essentially gone from being the Golden State Warriors (who rank 27th in the league at 106.1 points allowed per game) to being better than the Boston Celtics (who surrender a league-best 91.1 points per game)."

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "Whether the latest locker room grumbling about a lack of adjustments from the coaching staff was a catalyst or not, coach John Kuester felt it was time to remind the players of his open-door policy when it comes to input. If a player thinks something will work better than what Kuester is calling, feel free to suggest it. 'It's a game of communication,' Kuester said after the team's Sunday practice at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix. 'We got to make sure we continually communicate the whole time. That's the importance of this game because defensively it's a game of reaction, and we're not communicating the way we're capable of, and that makes a difference whether you're reacting to get a loose ball or you're reacting to get a rebound and reacting on a break itself, and that's why we got to communicate the whole time.' They have talked about lack of adjustments for a good part of the season, with the latest grumblings coming after the team suffered a rout at the hands of the Suns on New Year's Eve."

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: "Remember those sappy financial commercials where random people stuck their heads out of windows and screamed: 'It's my money and I need it NOW!' Well, Francisco Elson does. No doubt, J.G. Wentworth -- and Utah Jazz management -- would be proud of how the backup big man drew upon that ad as an analogy of how Utah players need to be proactive in demanding and getting what should be their's while reaching their max potential. 'We need to have something like that,' Elson said of the message in the commercial. 'Us not having that state of mind, even though we're two months or three months into the season, is going to kick us in the long run.' And the man teammates have recently started calling 'Sensei' believes the Jazz need to imitate that ad, perhaps by yelling at themselves something to the effect of: 'We need to fix something and we need to fix it NOW!' Slow starts. Lapses of focus and concentration. Allowing opponents to dictate the flow. Not playing aggressively. Falling behind by double digits. Missing 13 free throws by letting your mental guard down (which they did Saturday night). You name it, it's gotta be fixed or the talented Jazz risk just being a middle-of-the-pack playoff team, or worse, instead of a championship contender."