First Cup: Thursday

  • Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Times: "In an unofficial poll, broadcasters Don MacLean, Michael Eaves and I decided it had to be the greatest quarter in Clippers history. Of course, in other teams' histories, they keep track of seasons, not quarters. After that, what figured to happen, happened. The Heat got control of the runaway Clippers offense, holding them to 24 points in the second quarter and 18 in the third. Midway through the fourth quarter, Miami cut it to 97-95 when James drove, had the ball batted away by Al-Farouq Aminu, fell out of bounds, got up limping, hopped back onto the floor, found himself trapped in the corner with the ball and the 24-second clock running out … and knocked in a three-pointer. Then something amazing happened. The Heat was spent. The Clippers had more left, especially in the way of hunger. So now, as the Clippers look around, who else's world can they shock? Oh, they play the Lakers here Sunday."

  • Bud Shaw of The Plain Dealer: "If you're keeping track of this poker game, LeBron James just saw Dan Gilbert's Hindu reference and raised him a deity. Both messages, Gilbert's and James, were spiteful and self-serving. Both claimed a higher power -- the universe, God -- were doing each's bidding. I wish these guys would agree to a third-party mediation, preferably with Dr. Phil. My guess is Gilbert doesn't mind James' latest shot as much as resentful Cavaliers fans do. James' tweet absorbed some of the anger more deservedly directed at Gilbert's team after the worst performance in franchise history."

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "When will this tete-a-tete end? Dan Gilbert might be 5-foot-5, but he is not about to back down from the 6-foot-8, 250-pound oaf from Miami. ... The Cavs are at their lowest point in years. Hopefully, that was rock bottom. It can't get worse, can it? They've become the laughing stock of the league. Jay Leno has already started making jokes about them on the 'Tonight Show.' David Letterman can't be far behind. Do we really need James to pile on? It's needless, silly and petty. The Cavs' recent play is more than enough to bring a gag reflex to many fans. Doesn't James have enough to keep him busy building his dynasty in Miami? Just butt out, LeBron. We're tired of you. Please, just go away. You're not the same person who was once adored in the past."

  • Terry Foster of The Detroit News: "Let's cut to the chase. LeBron James is a jerk. That became clear when James threw dirt on his old team -- again. While the Cavaliers were getting destroyed, 112-57, by the Lakers -- the franchise's worst loss in the shot-clock era -- James couldn't help himself. Through cyberspace, James wrote: 'Crazy. Karma is a (bleep). Gets you every time. It's not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything.' His venom appeared to be directed at Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who criticized James when he left to sign as a free agent with the Heat. After James made a public spectacle of his move, humiliating his home state, Gilbert questioned the player's character and hinted James quit during last year's playoff series against Boston. As for the team James left, well …The Cavaliers are 8-30, having lost 11 consecutive games and 21 of 22. They've been decimated by injuries."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Finding a practice spot closer to their team hotel that did not involve the trip downtown, the Heat practiced at the Bel Air home of sneaker mogul Steve Jackson, chairman of L.A. Gear. There, the Heat worked on a regulation court painted in Los Angeles Lakers colors, with a Lakers logo at center court, a near perfect replica of the court where Jackson holds eight courtside seats.The estate also features a bowling alley, a tennis court, game room and a movie theater, with the Heat also taking in a video session during the visit to the gated community at the top of Moraga Drive. The lavish layout has been utilized by eight NBA teams for practice sessions, with Lakers game jerseys on the wall above one baseline and replica Lakers championship banners on the opposite baseline wall. Also featured is a piece of the wooden floor from the Forum, the Lakers' former home, signed by Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Heat players posed afterward for pictures with the Jackson family, with a team picture taken in front of the Lakers' centercourt logo. Coach Erik Spoelstra said there was no sense of giving in to the enemy, with the Heat playing the Clippers on Wednesday night. 'We're not playing the Lakers today, but it's a beautiful gym,' he said, as he stood by a replica scorers' table. 'It's a nice drive out here. I think it was a good change of pace for the team. We were still able to get our work in and our film work. They had nice chairs.' "

  • Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times: "Over the summer, Wilson Chandler underwent nose surgery, sports hernia surgery and, finally, arthroscopic ankle surgery. He returned to a gym for the first time in July, started running full speed in September and started soaring in November. Now he is blossoming and sporting a diverse game that is perfectly suited for Mike D’Antoni’s offense. ... Chandler’s maturation has created a significant issue for the Knicks as they weigh their potential role in the everlasting trade talks surrounding Denver’s Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks know they are Anthony’s preferred franchise, but there is a serious debate within the organization about how much of an upgrade Anthony would actually be if the Knicks have to hand over Chandler and, say either Landry Fields or Danilo Gallinari, as part of any deal to acquire the Nuggets forward. Would the Knicks be doing too much damage to their emerging core of young players if they made such a deal? It is a hard question to answer, for fans, for analysts, even for the Knicks’ president, Donnie Walsh."

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "Back in the Rick Pitino era, the coach had taken a particularly long time getting to the interview room after a bad loss, of which there were many. Most of the Celtics had taken the cue to dress quickly and get out of Dodge, so when the media finally made it to the locker room, things were fairly barren. A young Paul Pierce was at the threshold of the inner room heading out when he turned and saw what was happening. 'Somebody’s got to answer for this,' he said. So the man who would one day be captain reversed course and stood in front of the cameras, microphones and pens. The Celtics didn’t skip the room after Monday’s ugly loss to Houston, but there was Pierce for the early postgame rush, standing grim-faced and taking the inquisitive heat. There are many brilliant numbers that will accompany Pierce into the Hall of Fame one day, but there is, perhaps unfairly, no corresponding statistic for the fact he is a stand-up guy. Then again, as admirable as this slice of his character may be, it’s not something one enjoys. In fact, Pierce hates having to chat after nasty losses so much that he did everything in his considerable power to avoid it last night."

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: "Phil Jackson had an answer to why All-Star Pau Gasol was still on the floor in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ 55-point blowout of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night. Jackson said he doesn’t consider anything around the 30-minute mark to be even more exertion than a team practice. Gasol played 31:21, the only Laker to play more than 30 minutes. Jackson also said he likes to keep players in their regular rotations, which usually is a run of about eight or nine minutes at a time. By comparison, Gasol played 32 minutes Wednesday night against Golden State before the fourth quarter even started. He had enough energy left despite playing the previous night to score 12 points in nine second-quarter minutes, shooting 5 for 6 from the field in that time."

  • Kirkland Crawford of the Detroit Free Press: "Richard Hamilton, who's in the center of red-hot trade rumors, suited up but did not play. 'I think that’s the first time in my career that I’ve put on my jersey and didn’t play,' he said. 'No one warned me about it. I was completely surprised. Do I think it was a level of disrespect or unfair or anything like that? I’ll leave that to y’all.' Tayshaun Prince, whose locker adjoins Hamilton’s, chipped in with his own opinion. 'Buffoonery,' he said to the media surrounding Hamilton. 'Do you all know what that means?' 'I can’t control that, just like I can’t control my playing time,' he said. 'I’m just going to keep doing the same thing I’ve done for nine years -- get ready to play for the Pistons. If they don’t play me, or they trade me, there’s nothing I can do about that.' Pistons coach John Kuester said that Hamilton wasn’t held out because the trade was imminent. 'Don’t read anything into that,' he said. 'We shortened the rotation and changed the lineup. That’s it.' "

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "The decision to start Alexis Ajinca didn't create shock waves, at least not numerically. But it was an unequivocal success for the psychological boost it gave the Mavericks. By starting Ajinca, coach Rick Carlisle got the wheels in motion for when Dirk Nowitzki returns, which could be this weekend. The move pushed Shawn Marion to small forward, where he figures to spend the rest of the season as a starter, although he still will play some power forward when Nowitzki isn't in the game. That allowed DeShawn Stevenson to return to shooting guard and Jason Terry to come off the bench, where he was very effective against the Pacers. ... By doing so, the process of returning closer to normalcy began, even though it came in another loss. It'll take another step when Nowitzki gets back on the court."

  • John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Despite all of the debate about whether Keith Bogans should remain the starter at shooting guard, Bogans was only averaging 17.7 minutes before the Bulls played the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night at Time Warner Cable Arena. Even though he has come off the bench in every game this season and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, Ronnie Brewer is the de facto starter at the position. He was averaging 23 minutes before Wednesday, but has seen his playing time increase of late. In the previous five games, Brewer has played at least 27 minutes. He played 32 minutes Monday against the Detroit Pistons. '[Brewer is] playing at a high level,' Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ‘He’s a catalyst for the team, and he makes a lot of things happen. His defense has been really good. Offensively, he does a lot more than run the floor and cut. He’s an excellent midrange shooter. If he’s open at 17 feet, it’ll go in. He’s developing more confidence. The corner three is a shot he can make, and [against the Pistons] he hit one from the wing. He’s provided a lot of energy, and he’s done a terrific job.' "

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Paul Silas has always had this gift for making people believe in themselves. That’s what’s going on with D.J. Augustin, who needed that more than any Bobcat. So Augustin’s best game as a pro – 22 points, 12 assists and a single turnover against one of the NBA’s best, Derrick Rose, is a direct result of Silas’ psychology. Let’s say you were trudging along through a valley and unexpectedly encountered a mountain. Larry Brown’s approach would be to study the mountain, search for hidden trails and plot the most efficient path. Paul would look at you with that big, goofy grin, spit on the ground and say, 'Man, isn’t this hike gonna be fun!’ Totally different guys doing the same job."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "For those that wonder why Daryl Morey is still chasing a trade for Carmelo Anthony when it is such a long shot, the Thunder's fourth-quarter combination of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant should offer a vivid example of what the Rockets lack. The Rockets did not lose because they lack stars. They lost because they lack defense. The Thunder won, however, because they do have stars. It is extremely unlikely -- though plausible -- that the Rockets somehow come away with Anthony. If they do, they would have enough left to put around him and their prospects would change dramatically. That is unlikely, but deals that seem impossible do get made. About two weeks before the Rockets landed Ron Artest, there was nothing working for them and the Kings. They spoke a lot in Las Vegas that summer, but the Kings were determined to get a proven veteran, were close to a deal for Josh Howard and did not want to move Artest for a prospect. Roughly two weeks later, they traded Artest to the Rockets for Donte' Greene."

  • Jennie Carlson of The Oklahoman: "Come to Oklahoma, Sir Charles. See our city for yourself. Stroll around Bricktown. See the Memorial. Go to a game at the Ford Center. And you agreed to visit. NEWS 9 anchor Kelly Ogle made the official pitch at the All-Star Game in Houston. He'd been critical of you in one of his 'My Two Cents' commentaries, but he brought a gift basket and an invitation to come to Oklahoma. 'I'm going to come there,' you said at the time. 'I've got to look at the schedule, see when (the Hornets) are there for a weekend.' Did we mention it's been five years since then? I mean, we were willing to give you a pass back then. Right at the end of the season, you were elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and with that came a lot of responsibilities. Press conferences. Appearances. But a TNT spokesman told us then that you planned to visit early the next season. Still waiting. We know that you're aware we have an NBA team of our own now, too. You were talking about it less than a week ago. ... You know about having a reputation, don't you, Chuck? People always say that you're as much a comedian as a commentator, that you're more rabble rouser than deep thinker. But you never pull punches, never shy away from speaking your mind. You're always honest. So, I know you'll appreciate this truth -- you said you'd come to Oklahoma City five years ago and you still haven't. You promised. We're waiting."

  • Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail: "There is no point in saying DeMar DeRozan is the next ‘this’ or the next ‘that,’ any more than this Toronto Raptors season was meant to be judged at any point other than at its conclusion. But let’s just say this: in a city whose hockey team has turned the phrase 'first-round draft pick' into an expletive deleted (or, at least, expletive traded to Boston) the progress of DeRozan, last year’s first-round pick, is notable. That he has been able to refine his game -- to do a better job of handling the ball in tight quarters, make nice wide runs down the wing and increasingly find his mid-range jumper -- while becoming enough of a factor that he has separated himself statistically from the bulk of the sophomore pack, is all to the good. DeRozan is for the Raptors in many ways what Luke Schenn is to the Maple Leafs: the guy you’d like to think will really be something when the team can make it count."

  • Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Sixers rookie Evan Turner will attempt a first on Friday: scoring in double figures in three straight games. He has had back-to-back games in double figures four times this season. On Saturday, he scored 19 in the Sixers' 112-109 overtime loss against the Detroit Pistons. He added 14 points against the Pacers. It has been a frustrating season for the No. 2 overall draft pick, who is averaging 7.3 points per game but has been playing better recently. Turner has scored in double figures in four of his last seven games. 'I have one good game, and then maybe do not do well the next three,' Turner said. 'I want to be consistent.' Twice this season, the rookie earned DNPs: did not play, coach's decision. 'I don't know how many young players at his draft status would have two DNPs,' Doug Collins said. 'And he has grown so much, I am really, really happy.' "

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: "The Warriors know they like big man Ekpe Udoh, but they're not sure exactly what they have in the rookie just yet. In limited minutes during his first 14 games, Udoh has shown equal glimpses of developing into a center who can block shots on defense and a power forward with a nice face up game on offense. So what will he become? 'We don't know yet,' coach Keith Smart said. 'We might have a better idea if he had played summer league or preseason. Right now, he's still a developing, young inside big. We're trying to find out what he can do. What his niche will be in the NBA, that's going to take a process to figure out.' "

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: "Daniel Snyder said Tuesday, speaking at a team-owners summit in Washington, D.C., that he's matured since buying the team. He acknowledged that he's made awful errors. And he said that while he signs the paychecks, Washington is 'the fans' team.' I'm hoping other owners heard the message, but especially Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen. Because I think the Blazers big boss could learn a little, and should probably take the microphone himself at some point soon and speak to the fans who have carried the organization through some dark and shaky days under Allen's ownership. ... The organization's most valuable asset is a forgiving fan base. It's fans in Portland, and not Allen, who own this team. They buy tickets. They show up at the arena. So the Blazers belong to fans, not the team's billionaire owner who, like Snyder, has been controlling, inconsistent and misguided himself. ... Allen should take the floor and spend a few minutes helping Blazers fans understand him. He's owned the team since 1988 and hasn't won a championship. In fact, he feels far away from one. And fans deserve to know what's being done to make sure that drought ends. Again, the message from Allen cannot come from president Larry Miller or general manager Rich Cho, or with softball questions handed from Allen's public relations team to the Blazers broadcasting team. It has to be done with transparency if it's going to mean anything at all. Is this organization his "basketball hobby" as it's been called by some around him? Does Allen want to turn a profit or win a championship? Does he have a plan? And just how involved is Allen in scouting and making personnel decisions? Real answers. Honesty. Not rhetoric. Allen has been silent too long."

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: "Wednesday was the one-year anniversary of the 7.0 earthquake that devastated Haiti. Kings center Samuel Dalembert has spent much of his free time since trying to raise funds and help his homeland recover from the damage. Dalembert said the lack help getting to the people is discouraging. He said he has clothes that have been donated in storage but can't ship them because there isn't sufficient space for storage in Haiti. Dalembert said even with his mind on Haiti he remains intent on helping the Kings as one of the veterans even as the season hasn't gone well. 'You're frustrated and that's not much you really can do and that's when the tough part comes down ,' Dalembert said. 'Other than that I continue to keep playing and stay positive.' "