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First Cup: Tuesday

  • Woody Paige of The Denver Post: "Wow. A colossal trade involving at least three teams and as many as 16 players, possibly three first-round draft selections and, yes, the Nuggets. Wow. A megadeal revolving around Carmelo Anthony. Wow. A complicated barterfest with the Nuggets evolving into the New-ggets. The wow meter approaches a 10. ... Nets general manager Billy King has become frustrated to the point of ending negotiations at times. Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, however, is so enamored with using Anthony as the kingpin of the franchise when it moves to Brooklyn in 2012 that he wants a deal, obviously at all cost. And the leverage is shifting from Anthony's advantage to the Nuggets' side. They can trade him to New Jersey or New South Wales and let the next team worry about a contract. The Nuggets just can't overcook the golden goose. If they end up with three future first-round picks -- or can flip Harris to another team -- and Favors and a couple of other young players free up more salary-cap space so they can sign quality free agents themselves before next season, get it done and don't get burned. It's the wow factor for the Nuggets."

  • Bruce Arthur of the National Post: "As it stands, the money is not the only thing Carmelo Anthony missed. While Bosh, LeBron and Wade were putting together a team which has won 21 of its last 22 games, and which I still say will win in the neighbourhood of five championships barring catastrophic injury or a misplaced meteor, Carmelo seems destined to join ... the New Jersey Nets. Great move, Carmelo. Yeah, you wanted to go to the Knicks, but they didn’t have the trade assets after razing the village in a doomed attempt to grab LeBron. After an awfully drawn-out trade negotiation -- the possible fruits of which are detailed here -- it’s New Jersey. Which means that Carmelo Anthony would make a lousy general manager, too. ... Say what you will about LeBron and Bosh and Wade, and Lord knows everybody has, but they’re trying to forge a dynasty. For Carmelo, meanwhile -- well, forget winning, forget good teams, forget championships. It’s the shallow end of the NBA pool, is what it is, and someone should convince him different. But good advice, it seems, can be hard to find."

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "The Kevin Garnett watch will have to linger for at least one more game. The forward missed his seventh game with a strained right calf, though he may take part in his first full practice today. It all depends, per usual, on the trainer Ed Lacerte’s opinion. 'I’ve just seen KG shooting, and he looks fine,' Rivers said. 'He’s not sliding great yet. The only thing I told Eddie, it can’t be at the risk of any other thing. The one thing when we have a shootaround, if you’re not going to play that night then we tell you to go to the other end, because we need to deal with the guys who are going to be on the floor.' To wit, Garnett didn’t take part in the morning shootaround. Tomorrow night’s game against the Sacramento Kings is the next possibility for a Garnett return."

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "Amar'e has said all the right things and for the most part has conducted himself like a true superstar and professional. I say for the most part because the one blip on the radar is Amar'e skipping Saturday's practice to remain home in Phoenix. I'm not going to blame Sunday's loss to theLakers on Amar'e or even claim that the 'excused absence' is responsible for him shooting 1-for-10. But the fact remains, he should have been in Los Angeles on Saturday with his teammates. Barring a family illness, death or legal problem (none was given in this case), there is no excuse for the absence. A leader leads all the time; in games and in practice. It was a bad precedent and whether or not Mike D'Antoni suggested it or Amar'e asked for the day off doesn't really matter. A Hall of Fame coach once said: 'Leadership is an every day in every way proposition. You have to do right by the team at the expense of what's right for you.' I believe that. I also believe -- or hope -- that this is a one-time only thing. Amar'e wanted to be the No. 1 guy on a team and he's got that. The Knicks are his team and he's been terrific. Except last Saturday when he should have been with his team in Los Angeles."

  • Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times: "Deep teams, quality ones built to win championships, have strong frontcourts or at least one overpowering force. They pose problems for a player the caliber of Amar’e Stoudemire, a natural power forward. The Knicks’ lack of size exposes their weakness. In four games against the Miami Heat, the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers, the Knicks were outrebounded, 207-150. 'We have a lot more parts than I thought entering the season that would be the core of the team going forward, but we need other parts,' the Knicks’ president, Donnie Walsh, said Monday in a telephone interview. 'If something comes along to make the team better, I will. If not, I know we still have free agency, I know we still have trading in the future and I’m happy to let this team continue to compete. I never thought this thing would get built overnight and we’re in really the first year of putting the team together again, and I’m very pleased with where we are.' It is unlikely that Walsh will overhaul a roster that has exceeded expectations at 21-15, and the chances of the Knicks acquiring Carmelo Anthony seem slimmer with each passing day."

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Zach Randolph picked up the first Player of the Week honor of his 10-year career Monday when he was named the Western Conference's best for games played Jan. 3-9. Randolph hopes he's making the case to follow up another first with an All-Star encore. Last season, the Grizzlies power forward became an All-Star for the first time. Randolph said another alignment with the NBA's brightest stars would be just as special. 'I think I'm one of the leading power forwards in the West,' Randolph said. 'It would mean a lot for me to go back and have the coaches recognize what I'm doing. I think they are. We just have to win some games.' Randolph averaged 28 points and 14.3 rebounds on 56-percent shooting while leading the Griz to a 2-1 record."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "There’s a certain kind of power forward who makes Boris Diaw miserable. He’s inordinately long and has better touch than most. They aren’t necessarily the best power forwards, they just have a certain mix of size and touch. Zach Randolph is one and Detroit’s Charlie Villanueva is another. Coach Paul Silas told his team it had to turn the Grizzlies into jump-shooters -- contested jump-shooters -- to win. That’s tough -- Memphis leads the NBA in points in the paint -- and Diaw made Randolph miserable by pushing, bumping and coaxing him out of the post. ... In basketball, throwing the ball into the post and making the other team react is comparable to a power running game. The Bobcats held the Grizzlies to 39 percent shooting Monday, three weeks removed from losing in Memphis by 33. The biggest single reason is what Diaw did to get Randolph out of his sweet spots. If you’re gonna trade this guy, you better get something good for him, because he finds a way to make himself valuable -- pimples and all -- to whomever coaches him."

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "When LeBron James departed, Cavaliers coach Byron Scott wouldn't allow those left behind to feel sorry for themselves. When the team was hammered on the road early in the season at Toronto, he wouldn't use the absence of Anderson Varejao and Mo Williams as an excuse. Now that Varejao is done for the season with a torn tendon in his ankle, the roster has been ravaged by injuries and even Christian Eyenga was walking around practice Monday with his right foot in a boot, Scott still won't use injuries as an excuse. It's the way Magic Johnson taught him as a rookie with the Los Angeles Lakers, so it's only fitting Scott stands by that same principle now as the Cavaliers prepare to face those Lakers tonight at Staples Center. ''Magic told me my rookie year, 'When you put that purple and gold on, we don't hear what's hurting or what's wrong. You better be ready to perform,' '' Scott said. ''I've kept that all my life. I want them to feel the same way. No matter who we have in uniform, put it on and go on that floor. There's no excuses, and I expect you to perform.' "

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Of the 12 games John Wall has missed this season because of injuries, the Wizards' 116-91 loss to the Sacramento Kings was one of the most upsetting to sit out because it also delayed his first professional matchup against friend and former Kentucky teammate DeMarcus Cousins. Wall and Cousins talked after the game, but the usual playful banter was somewhat muted because the No. 1 overall pick was injured. 'I'm mad. I'm disappointed I missed the game up there, but I didn't want to force myself to play when I couldn't,' Wall said. 'The Miami game, Sacramento game, all of them. [Sitting out against the Kings on Dec. 8] really was devastating because in the beginning of the season, I was playing with energy and being myself. Now I'm still doing a little bit, but it's not the same. I'm not as explosive, so I have to change it up, how I play.' Wall and Cousins, the fifth overall pick, will finally square off for the first time as the Wizards (9-26) host the Kings on Tuesday at Verizon Center. Both players have experienced considerable challenges in their rookie seasons - Wall, with injuries, and Cousins, with occasional immaturity - and dealt with more losses than they have ever experienced playing basketball."

  • Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Andre Iguodala wants to get back playing. The 76ers surely want him in the lineup. Yet this non medical reporter gets the impression that there is a twinge of uneasiness about his return from Achilles tendinitis, especially from Iguodala’s standpoint. Sixers coach Doug Collins said Iguodala could be suiting up as soon as Tuesday’s game at the Wells Fargo Center against the Indiana Pacers. Much will depend how he feels at Tuesday’s shoot-around.When asked if Tuesday would be the big day for his return, Iguodala gave a big shrug. ... Nobody wants to be out on the court more than he does. Yet he continues to say things like he’ll have to fight through things, which is admirable, but not the easiest way to go about matters in the NBA. He’s been out for more than two weeks, wasn’t able to run until taking part in half of Monday’s practice and now he should be expected to guard Danny Granger? Iguodala is a terrific athlete and competitor and we’d put nothing past him, but that would be a tough task. Collins said the team would be careful monitoring Iguodala’s minutes. That’s good because this is the third time that Iguodala is returning from the injury."

  • Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe: "Three-time slam dunk contest champion Nate Robinson won’t defend his crown this year in Los Angeles, and even though he said he was fine with watching the All-Star Weekend event from the sideline, it didn’t sound like it wasn’t entirely his choice. “I don’t know what the NBA’s doing, man,’’ Robinson said yesterday. “You’ve got to ask them.’’ ... Robinson said he was invited to dunk along with the Clippers’ Blake Griffin, Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings, Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka, and Washington’s JaVale McGee at Staples Center, but with a rising star like Griffin on display, it was clear to him the league was trying to usher in a new era. 'It’s time to basically let Blake Griffin win, because that’s what they want,’ Robinson said. 'Hopefully the young fella can go on and get it done.’ Robinson has gushed over Griffin’s dunking ability throughout the season. 'I love how he’s dunking,’ Robinson said. 'I’m saying, they’ve got to give him some more competition though. Ain’t nobody in it. Brandon Jennings, what? I don’t think he’s got three dunks in his NBA career ... I thought you had to get dunks in the game to be in the contest. Blake Griffin got enough dunks for everybody.’ "

  • Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times: "After a high-spirited Clippers practice Monday, Blake Griffin said, in his usual low-key manner, that he was looking forward to his first game against LeBron James. 'Anytime there is a big marquee game like that, a team like that comes to town and everybody gets up for it,' Griffin said. 'There's going to be a lot of people there. It's going to be a lot of fun.' Last January, James went to the Clippers bench and sought out the injured Griffin, giving him a hug and offering the kid with a bad knee some words of encouragement. 'Stuff like that stays with me. I just remember what he said,' Griffin said. 'He said, 'Don't let this injury affect the rest of your career. You're going to have a good career.' ' Apparently Griffin is a good listener. 'I tried to,' he said."

  • Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News: "Some fans have suggested perhaps not starting Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap together, but both players say they prefer to start. Millsap waited patiently on the bench for four years behind Carlos Boozer, getting just 49 starts in 322 games before finally becoming the full-time starter this year. He said he prefers to start, but adds, 'You've got to play your role no matter what it is.' Jefferson said he enjoyed coming off the bench his first two years in Boston, but has started the last four-plus years and likes it. 'Everybody would rather be a starter,' he said. Sloan also pointed out that some players don't do as well off the bench, so he might be reluctant to take certain players out of the starting lineup. 'That's another thing,' he said. 'You can change starters, but sometimes guys don't play well off the bench. It's a crapshoot sometimes to decide who to start and who to play.' Sloan acknowledged he doesn't have all the answers, but is open to ideas of who he should start. 'Who would I start? I'm waiting for that advice.' "

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: "With the New Orleans Saints’ season coming to an earlier-than-expected end Saturday, the New Orleans Hornets -- with three high-profile opponents on their upcoming home schedule -- could experience a much-needed attendance spike before a Jan. 31 benchmark deadline. The Hornets must average 14,915 fans at the New Orleans Arena in the next five home games to meet the 14,735 attendance benchmark. If the attendance requirement isn’t met, the Hornets could opt out of their lease with the state, but they would have to pay a $10 million exit penalty to leave before 2014, when the lease is supposed to expire. New Orleans’ next home game is against Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night. Other home games before the deadline are the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 17, the Memphis Grizzlies on Jan. 19, the San Antonio Spurs on Jan. 22 and the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant on Jan. 24. Sources said if the benchmark isn’t met, the Hornets and the NBA would intensify their negotiations with the state to improve the team’s revenue streams rather than exercise the opt-out clause."