First Cup: Friday

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: "Saturday is O.J. Mayo bobblehead night at FedExForum. Of course it is. Now, with extra bobble! Note the bigger than usual head! True fact: Last year, when the Grizzlies gave out Hasheem Thabeet growth charts, Thabeet had just been sent to play for the Dakota Wizards in the D League. With this franchise, it's always something. The latest something is the NBA suspending Mayo for 10 games for testing positive for a substance known as DHEA. ... It's too bad, honestly, for Mayo, for the Grizzlies and for the fans. Mayo may not be playing his best, but the Grizzlies are certainly better when he's available. The team needs all the help it can get to deliver on Mike Heisley's three-year playoff plan. Meanwhile, Heisley continues to insist that he's not going to trade Mayo unless there's equal value coming back. But why would other teams believe that? And what's equal value for a guard who gets in a fight with a teammate, is relegated to the bench and has to sit out 10 games for taking a pill that's aimed at geezers? Ahhh, the Grizzlies. The team that luck forgot. Sometimes, all you can do is shake your head."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Still not sold on why LeBron James has to be force-fed in the low-post. Does he have to be able to do it all? It would seem a game like this would only sour him on future attempts with the approach. Yes, he got good looks, but there is so much more to his game."

  • Alan Hahn of Newsday: "Amare Stoudemire is only a half-year into his five-year, $100-million contract, but he's already playing himself into the franchise's history book on the Big Man Mount Rushmore with Patrick Ewing and Willis Reed . A five-time All-Star in the West during his career in Phoenix,Stoudemire earned the fewest votes (1,674,995) of the five East starters, but what matters is he finished with more than the Celtics' Kevin Garnett (1,407,601). But the Knicks need to learn a lesson from the Ewing era, in which he spent most of his career as the lone star on a team with a hard-working supporting cast that came close but couldn't win a championship. At least the Knicks can say they have the first piece in place. When LeBron decided not to take his talents to Midtown South, Stoudemire initially was viewed as a consolation prize in the long-anticipated 2010 free-agency sweepstakes. But he's put forth a performance not even Kanye would dare to interrupt."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Given how much stress Derrick Rose has caused opposing defenses this season, the whirlwind that was Thursday for the indispensable Bull shouldn't surprise. First, near 1 p.m., Rose revealed he is suffering from two stomach ulcers that have his availability for Friday night's showdown with the Magic in question. Later, just after 6 p.m., came the expected news that Rose will be an Eastern Conference All-Star starter, the Bulls' first since Michael Jordan in 1998. Given that Rose spent a quiet Thursday night at home with his mother attending to him, guess which storyline most consumed the ubercompetitor? 'If anything, she'll be happier than I am,' Rose said of his mother, before the official announcement. 'Things like that really don't get to me. That's not the type of thing that would excite me. I'd be happy for myself, but it's nothing like I'm going to have a party over it or have a bunch of people over and celebrate. I don't know why. That's just the way I am.' "

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "The Timberwolves have unveiled their public-relations campaign aimed at getting Western Conference coaches to vote Kevin Love into the All-Star Game. It's a spoof on those silly, pompous fragrance ads. This time, the product is: 'Numb#rs, a Fragrance by Kevin Love. Part of the 612 All Star Collection.' Shot backstage at Target Center in artsy black and white, it features Love, dressed in black with a contrasting scarf wrapped around his neck, contemplatively walking down a lit runway with adoring fans, including a dapper Crunch surrounded by the ladies, clamoring silently in the background. The only sound is some moody piano music and Love's voiceover at the end that says, 'Who has the numbers? You tell me.' Interesting timing here: Love's promotional campaign was unveiled the same day that the NBA suspended Memphis guard O.J. Mayo for 10 games for violating the league's anti-drug program after he tested positive for DHEA, a steroid precursor that Mayo says he mistakenly got from an over-the-counter supplement. Remember when everybody went nuts on draft night 2008 after Kevin McHale traded Mayo's rights for Love's in a big, late-night deal? Give the big guy credit for doing something right."

  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: "At some point tonight, Kobe Bryant probably will swish a jump shot that will account for his 11th and 12th points against the Sacramento Kings, enabling him to tie Hakeem Olajuwon for eighth place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. It's anyone's guess how many points Bryant might score tonight against the lowly Kings. It might not be all that many because the Lakers might be way ahead and he might not play in the fourth quarter. But it's a good bet Bryant will score at least 12 points and catch Olajuwon, who scored 26,946 during his Hall of Fame career. It's also likely that Bryant will continue his climb, with an eye toward becoming the highest-scoring guard in league history. Michael Jordan is the only guard ahead of him, sitting in third with 32,292. 'Typically, big guys have been the ones to dominate the game and dominate the ball,' Bryant said Thursday, hours before he was selected as a starting guard for the Western Conference All-Star team. 'The game goes through them. The big guys on that list are obviously all-time greats. I guess there's a couple of little guys that are feisty, me being one of them.' "

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Mark Cuban doesn’t give any credence to Forbes Magazine’ recent story listing the value of NBA teams. The Dallas Mavericks’ owner gave the story absolutely no value. 'That’s just useless,’ Cuban said before Thursday’s game against Houston. 'There’s nothing useless as evaluation than what Forbes does. It’s worthless, it’s meaningless and worthless. You can quote me on that.’ Forbes listed the Mavs as the sixth-most valued team in the NBA at $438 million. The top five included New York ($655 million), the Los Angeles Lakers ($643 million), Chicago ($511 million), Boston ($452 million) and Houston ($443 million). Cuban bought the Mavs from Ross Perot Jr. on Jan. 4, 2000 for $285 million. But he said when teams are bought and sold, what Forbes writes doesn’t factor into the equation. 'No one ever looks at buying or selling a franchise based off of Forbes’ numbers,’ Cuban said. 'You might as well go to a second grader and ask him how high can they count.’ "

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Players and coaches gathered at midcourt and sat in a circle with Managing Partner Robert Sarver and President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby. Each took a turn sharing what he and the next man could do better to help this 20-24 Suns team. 'Keep plugging away and keep trying to get better, compete a little bit harder,' coach Alvin Gentry said of the messages. Something must change. The Suns failed to take advantage of the soft part of their schedule and now face Boston, the East leader, Friday and New Orleans, the NBA's hottest team, on Sunday. Given how the Suns lost seven of their past 13 games against teams with losing records, facing elite opponents is cause to circle the troops. This season has become a vicious circle. When the Suns have fixed league-worst rebounding, their 29th-ranked defense has let them down. When they defend better, they lose their identity as high scorers with poor shooting or piles of turnovers."

  • Andrew Aragon of the Deseret News: "In his actions and with his words -- or lack thereof -- Jazz guard Raja Bell has shown he's clearly frustrated with Utah's six-game losing streak. In the Jazz's last two games, Bell has had words with the Lakers' Andrew Bynum and the Spurs' DeJuan Blair, and been issued two technical fouls. After the loss to San Antonio, Bell, a consummate professional, quickly left Utah's locker room without speaking to reporters. Bell said those incidents aren't a reflection of his frustration level. But make no mistake about it, his frustration meter is currently off the charts. 'I'm pretty down,' Bell said. 'It's alright though. It's a long season, so you try not to get too high with the highs or low with the lows, but when you're in the middle of something like (a six-game losing streak) it's hard. You want to do well.' Bell would be the first to say that he isn't doing all that well right now. He has lost his shooting touch during Utah's six-game losing streak. He hasn't scored more than five points in the six defeats. In the Jazz's last six games, he is shooting 7-for-30 from the field. Bell, a career 40.9 percent 3-point shooter, said he isn't concerned about finding his shot. Not impacting games in any type of way is what's mostly troubling him, and something he wants to change when the Jazz host the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight. 'It's the whole performance, I think,' Bell said."

  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: "Warriors rookie Ekpe Udoh was the No. 6 overall pick in the draft in June. Yet, he is often glued to the bench, playing 20 minutes or more just three times. So, what does that mean? He's not ready? He was the wrong pick? 'We've not seen much of him,' general manager Larry Riley said, 'but I'm comfortable with what he's doing. We're not even concerned that he's going to eventually prove his worth. We're not disappointed with what he's doing when he's on the floor.' Fans and media are calling for more Udoh. Some even suggest the 23-year-old rookie from Baylor should start at center with Andris Biedrins struggling. Biedrins has just two points and six rebounds in his past 43 minutes. But Udoh, Riley and coach Keith Smart are all preaching patience. Perhaps it's hard not to expect immediate returns from Udoh with other rookies -- ones the Warriors could have taken -- contributing to other teams. Big man Greg Monroe, who many thought the Warriors should have taken back in June, has already started 12 games for the Detroit Pistons. And he's produced: 9.8 points and 8.2 rebounds in 31.3 minutes per game as a starter. ... the politics of NBA does play a role. More minutes for Udoh likely means less for the $9 million-a-season-starter in Biedrins, or Lou Amundson, signed as a free agent to be the Warriors' big man off the bench. And don't forget the matter of winning games. Co-owner Joe Lacob stated he wants to be at .500 by the All-Star break and is holding out hopes for the playoffs. That leaves Smart little leeway for enduring Udoh's inevitable rookie mistakes."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "This isn’t a story about a beer-commercial bro-mance. It is a story about stereotyping and unintended messages. But mostly it’s about Boris Diaw and coach Paul Silas discovering something in Kwame Brown that even Brown gave up on long ago. Scoring. Think back to when the Bobcats signed Brown to a free-agent contract this summer. Remember the snickers, the talk-radio chortling? Brown was Michael Jordan’s folly, a wasted No. 1 pick of a decade ago in Washington. Who needs that stiff? The Bobcats needed him. For his size, for his defense…and most improbably of late as their best post scorer. Check out the numbers: The victory in Phoenix Wednesday was Brown’s fourth double-double (points and rebounds) in his last seven games. In those four games, he averaged 13 points, 14.5 rebounds and shot 17-of-30 from the field. Now, compare that to Brown’s last two seasons, both spent in Detroit. He went all of last season without a double-double and scored 10 or more points just twice. He had two double-doubles the previous season. He’d been on the shelf so long, his expiration date came and went."