First Cup: Tuesday

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "It’s almost fitting that news broke of an impending meeting between the Nets and Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony in the city of the Alamo. Consider this the Nuggets’ and Nets’ last stand. They can only hope it ends better than that did for the Texian Army in 1836. Anthony doesn’t want to sign an extension with the Nets. If he did, this teeth-pulling exercise probably wouldn’t be necessary and he would have done so long ago. Anthony’s reluctance to give a definitive verdict -- or the two organizations’ reluctance to accept one to the negative -- has kept the Nets portion of the trade saga going. This is probably the week we reach a final ruling one way or another on a trade that involves Anthony and 13 or more other players, one of which is Chauncey Billups who’d rather stay in Denver. This is certainly the best deal for the Nuggets. They would get a young, promising player in Derrick Favors, draft picks and salary relief. It’s a trade worth fighting for. But after this week, if Anthony has stood his ground after hearing the biggest and best pitches and presentations from both teams, you’d have to believe it’s time for everyone to move on."

  • T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times: "The kid (Blake Griffin) is just 21 with limited life experiences. But he has the game of an All Star. Throw in the flair with which he plays, and there is the expectation everything he has to say later will be just as entertaining. But 'it's all about execution,' as he will tell you, 'his teammates doing a good job,' and everyone 'just taking one game at a time.' He's not quite Nuke Laloosh, but not far removed. As good as he is, he's going to be interviewed plenty, so for everyone's benefit I told him just how boring he comes off. 'I didn't know I was boring until I was told I was boring,' he says with a grin. He says he's never read his own comments in the paper, undoubtedly afraid he might dose off. As he continues to dominate, he will become the team's top salesman on and off the court -- much like Elton Brand. 'I don't try to be boring,' he says, nodding when told it must come naturally. 'I'm just kind of laid-back, talk slow and grew up listening to my dad, who uses clich├ęs.' "

  • Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com: "Call him The Subtle Ticket. In his first game back after a nine-game absence, Kevin Garnett didn't put up any gaudy offensive numbers (19 points on 7-of-13 shooting) and he didn't inspire the Boston Celtics toplay the sort of lockdown defense we've come to expect when he's on the floor. But Garnett did all the little things, the sort of stuff that blends harmlessly into the box score but might have made the difference in Monday's 109-106 win over the Orlando Magic. ... Garnett made the play sound so much simpler than it was. Across the hall in the visitor's locker room, Nelson told reporters that Garnett, operating with five personal fouls, was probably the only player who could have swiped the pass the way he did. To be sure, Garnett displayed rust from a near three-week absence. He turned the ball over four times and, after grabbing six first-quarter rebounds, hauled in only two more caroms the rest of the night. He looked gassed after his initial nine-minute shift. But Garnett still found a way to leave his mark, even if it was just his typically bombastic voice, alternating between shouting out defensive assignments to barking at Brandon Bass and Turkoglu to screaming at the Boston bench to get his teammates pumped up in the second half. 'They all talk, but no one talks like Kevin,' Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. 'He's the best talker in the league, when you're talking defense.' "

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "Ray Allen, after going 3-for-4 from downtown in a 26-point performance last night, now has made 2,533 career 3-pointers. He needs 28 to break Reggie Miller’s NBA record. On a team of players with Hall of Fame numbers, there’s little doubt that this mark will top the list if Allen does the expected and passes Miller by the end of the season. 'I’ve noticed it,' Paul Pierce said. 'Ray is adding to his legacy. He’s a Hall of Fame player, a champion, and this would just be the icing on the cake for him. If he continues to play well, he’ll be a top 25, top 50 player when he retires.' Perhaps the most impressive aspect of those numbers, though, is Allen’s timing. Last night he buried his last two treys in the final 4:25, including a bomb for the lead (102-101) with 2:16 left."

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "The Orlando Magic now know what they need to improve: their first-quarter starts and their defense. Both were woefully lacking in their 109-106 loss Monday night to the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Again. Following an all-too-familiar pattern, the Magic spotted the Celtics an early 10-point lead and allowed the hosts to shoot 60.0 percent from the field. 'We've got 41 games left to get ready to play at this level, and those two things are going to have to change,' Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. ... Van Gundy estimates the Magic haven't played well to start a game since they beat the Celtics on Christmas Day at Amway Center. The numbers confirm that assertion. In its five previous games, Orlando trailed Houston by nine points, Dallas by nine, New Orleans by six, Oklahoma City by 12 and Minnesota by 15."

  • Harvey Araton of The New York Times: "In the second decade of the 21st century, there are nights -- not every night -- when the N.B.A. feels a little too much like a pickup game, right down to the part where superstars choose up sides, another troublesome trend. Is it possible that the Denver melodrama is affecting the Knicks as much as it is the Nuggets and the Nets? The Knicks’ president, Donnie Walsh, has grown fond of sighing when asked about his team’s chances of landing Carmelo Anthony. But on whether the Anthony episode in the aftermath of the LeBron James summer circus is good for the league, he did acknowledge, 'When it becomes public like this, every day, every hour, it becomes disconcerting, even to the player.' And the longer it continues, the more the N.B.A. leans toward reality television rather than pure competition, which is what fans ultimately clamor for."

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "The chant started late in the first quarter from a smattering of fans at the Palace on Monday. 'We want Rip!' fans yelled as Richard Hamilton was on his way to sitting out a fourth straight game. Never mind that the Pistons improved to 3-1 since coach John Kuester has sat Hamilton, including Monday's 103-89 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. But whether it was sentimentality or blind loyalty, some fans sprinkled the chant throughout the game -- the only silence coming when the Pistons blistered the Mavs with 34 third-quarter points. Hamilton, who is a part of the holding-pattern, three-team deal with the Nets and Nuggets that will send Carmelo Anthony to Jersey with Hamilton, acknowledged the chants afterward. 'It's not a thing that you want in a way because you want to be out there playing,' Hamilton said. 'You want them cheering for you out there playing, and things like that. It's just a thing they appreciate you, and I appreciate them so much for the last nine years that I've been here, and they've been incredible to me. They just want to see me out there, but it is what it is, so you just try to stay patient and try to keep a smile on your face.' "

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: "DeAndre Jordan, along with three other Clippers big men and assistant coach Marc Iavaroni, were toiling away at one end of the classroom -- also known as the Staples Center court Sunday -- working on a variety of spin moves, jump hooks and catch and shoots on the block. A persistent coach, a handful of willing players and just some good old-fashioned teaching and learning. The course was Building a Big Man 101, and professor Iavaroni was drilling his pupils on the finer points of basketball inside the lane. The graceful spontaneity of the NBA deceives us into false impressions, as if the game is unfolding before our eyes. The reality is it's a tedious journey mapped out, tweaked and perfected in de facto classrooms like the one Iavaroni set up inside Staples Center. This is where players are honed and developed, and Jordan is a case in point. We know him as the capable replacement to injured Clippers center Chris Kaman, a big, rugged 6-foot-11 post player with astounding athletic ability who's emerged seemingly out of nowhere to provide a much-needed inside presence. This has been in the works for quite some time, with Iavaroni, whose past work with NBA big men has earned him some vital street cred among players, taking Jordan under his wing and helping him become an inside force. 'Look, (Iavaroni) worked with Amare Stoudemire, and Amare is an All-Star,' Jordan said. In other words, Jordan is all ears."

  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: "Point guard Russell Westbrook, who missed Saturday's practice with a bruised right foot, participated in Monday morning's shootaround session at Santa Monica High School and started against the Lakers. He showed no ill effects in the first half, scoring 18 points and handing out five assists. By starting, Westbrook kept alive his streak of consecutive games played at 205 and consecutive starts at 187. Westbrook has played in every game as a pro and hasn't missed a start since cracking the starting lineup 18 games into his rookie season."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Most players come into the Phoenix Suns talking about what Steve Nash can do for them. Vince Carter wants to help Nash too. And he is, becoming the go-to scorer the Suns need to relieve the burden of where Nash would find offense in this Suns remix. With each game, Carter's comfort and production grows. On Monday, Carter had a 29-point, 12-rebound game that was his best Suns scoring effort for the second consecutive game. In the Suns' 129-121 win at Madison Square Garden, Carter also passed the 20,000-point career scoring mark to become the 37th player in NBA history to do so. 'My shot was falling,' Carter said. 'I just wanted to be aggressive. They beat us pretty good the first time. Being one of my first games there, I felt like I could've given this team more. Now I feel comfortable. I see where I can take shots and make plays for this team more than anything. My aggressiveness has gone up because of it.' Carter is averaging 18.9 points and 5.2 rebounds in 10 Suns games since he took over the role previously held by Jason Richardson, who averaged 19.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game for Phoenix."

  • Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News: "For no sensible reason, the in-house confetti guns at Oracle Arena were shot off Monday after the Warriors beat New Jersey. Please. There should be a strict no-confetti rule following victories over the Nets. They are the NBA's version of paramecium, simple organisms swimming through scummy water with no hope of evolving into something grander. Which brings us to the Warriors. Maybe you are like me. Maybe you are still waiting for reasons to be really excited about the Warriors' vaunted change of ownership. It has been more than two months since the dynamic dribbling duo of Joe Lacob and Peter Guber officially took control of the franchise, wresting it from the evil clutches of Chris Cohan. And so far ... so what? Give small credit to the Warriors for reaching the 40-game mark with a 17-23 record. That's five more victories than they owned after 40 games last season. 'Only five?' guard Stephen Curry said. 'It feels like more.' No, just five more. That puts the Warriors on a pace to improve by 10 victories over 2009-10. Which is not close to being acceptable. According to whom? According to Joe Lacob."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Wait, was that really JaVale McGee working a give-and-go with Andray Blatche and collecting an assist? Was that really Blatche chasing down Raja Bell to slap a layup off the glass? And was that Nick Young shrugging off the defense of Bell and Andrei Kirilenko to score 22 points in the second half? It was a strange afternoon at Verizon Center, where the Washington Wizards beat the Utah Jazz 108-101 and recorded their first win over a team with a winning record this season. But the biggest surprise isn't just the final result over a team that arrived in Washington tied with Oklahoma City for the third-best record in the Western Conference. Check this out: The Wizards led the game for all but 72 seconds. ... When asked if this win could be called the best of the season, Nick Young smiled and said, 'You can. We got a lot more to go. We're playing with confidence, playing with chemistry. We got to continue to stay on this run. Hopefully, we can continue this winning streak and get more wins.' "

  • John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News: "It's way too early for Evan Turner to start evoking images of Marvin 'Bad News' Barnes, Shawn Bradley or the trade of Keith Van Horn for Tim Thomas and Anthony Parker. Yesterday, in the Sixers' 96-92 overtime victory over the Charlotte Bobcats, Turner had only six points in 32 1/2 minutes, but he pulled down 11 rebounds and was strong on defense. Still, it's hard to ignore the Sixers' poor history with the second pick. Even beyond the boundaries of South Philadelphia, the No. 2 pick often has disappointed as a consolation prize. Whether it's been due to injury, bad judgment and in one case, death, the second overall pick historically has yielded considerably more heartache than joy. ... Thus far, the 21st century hasn't been great, having already yielded confirmed flops in Stromile Swift (2000) and Darko Milicic ('03). The jury is still out on guys such as Emeka Okafor ('04), Marvin Williams ('05), Michael Beasley ('08) and Hasheem Thabeet ('09). Kevin Durant and, maybe, LaMarcus Aldridge ('06), are the only ones who have shown perennial All-Star potential. It's way too soon to start determining what Turner will be as a No. 2 overall pick. In the end, he will be the one who will forge his greatness or lack thereof. Still, history seems to be lined up against him."

  • Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "It’s only a January game but the Hawks are forever looking to measure themselves against the league’s elite. That’s one reason Larry Drew’s head exploded Monday. Despite the impressive 27-15 record, the Hawks haven’t earned the right to cruise against anybody. He watched his players follow a dreadful game against Houston with an even worse defensive effort against the Kings, which was finishing a six-game trip. They trailed by 10 in the second quarter. Parties broke out in Sacramento. Drew peeled paint at halftime, blistering the team. It was until the fourth quarter that the message sank in. Afterward, the coach called his players that dreaded four-letter word: soft. 'We came out soft,' he said. 'We played soft across the board. If you play like that, you get a reputation around the league. ‘When you play the Hawks, you can bang them.’ We can’t have that.' There was also this: 'I told the guys that was embarrassing. Not playing with a sense of urgency, not giving that team respect.' Motivation shouldn’t be an issue against Miami. The Hawks played Miami tough Dec. 4, despite missing Johnson. 'You get up for these games, especially the way we lost down there,' Jamal Crawford said. ... Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said Wade (ankle) is probable the game, but James (ankle) is a game-time decision and Bosh (knee) is doubtful. 'I’m sure they’re all gonna play,' Al Horford said. 'And if they don’t, too bad for them.' Regardless, the Hawks need something they didn’t show Monday. An early pulse."

  • Jodie Valade of The Plain Dealer: "At this point, after losing 13 straight and 23 of their last 24 games, the Cavaliers are approaching the future with the best possible outlook. They are thinking positively. That's the only way to handle the losing, and the only way to break free from the curse of pessimism that has plagued them in this season of rebuilding. Take it from someone who knows. Red Klotz is the founder, owner, and longtime player and coach of the losingest basketball team ever -- the Washington Generals. You think 13 in a row is tough? The Generals, the team that always faces the Harlem Globetrotters, lost somewhere around 10,000 games in a row before topping that squad of entertainers in red, white and blue. Globetrotters' owner Abe Saperstein chose Klotz to run the Generals about 60 years ago because Saperstein knew Klotz would push his club to play its best without upstaging the stars of the show, the Globetrotters. Klotz has spent a lifetime losing. He's now 90 years old, still playing half-court hoops, and, because he identifies with them, rooting for the Cavaliers."

  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: "Designer Michael Enn Sirvet of Washington, D.C., was commissioned by Michael Jordan to craft a dining room for his penthouse home in Charlotte. Sirvet nailed that desire like Jordan used to sink game-winning 3-pointers back in the day. His wish was to develop something that would be visually appealing that would stand apart. So he proposed a table drilled with a hole for every point Jordan scored in his basketball career, totaling 32,292. Needless to say, His Airness was smitten with the idea. 'He flipped out. He was speechless,' Sirvet told the design blog TBD.com. Jordan liked it so much that he’s commissioned an additional piece of Sirvet’s work for his decor. Knowing Jordan, I bet he personally revels in every small hole in the piece of furniture -- but particularly the ones that represent his memorable game-winning hoops over Craig Ehlo and Brian Russell from back in the day."