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First Cup: Monday

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: "This was the owner's call, pure and simple. This was Herb Simon rolling into team president Larry Bird's office last week and telling the Hoosier legend that a head coaching change must be made. The Indiana Pacers will try to sell it otherwise, and even Bird tried to sell it Sunday afternoon as his decision, but that's a complete fabrication. Simon wanted coach Jim O'Brien gone after the team's winless West Coast trip, and when that didn't happen, Simon insisted upon O'Brien's ouster after Wednesday's miserable home performance against Orlando.'Mr. Simon was out there on the West Coast trip and at the time, I told him I was comfortable with Jimmy,' Bird said Sunday. 'But I wanted to see how we played on the trip. Then we came home against Orlando and the game was over after the first three minutes, so that's when I really started to think we needed to do something. And I called Mr. Simon up and told him and he said, 'Whatever you want to do.' So here we are.' Hmmm. Let's just say the bull droppings left at the fieldhouse Sunday weren't all left by the Professional Bull Riders event. That said, it was the right move, the overdue move. This was the right time to make it, with plenty of time to turn this thing around and make a playoff run, and with season-ticket renewal deadlines quickly approaching."

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "The Cavs lost to the Orlando Magic on Sunday 103-87, giving them a franchise-record 20-game losing streak in a single season. They've dropped 23 in a row on the road (also a franchise record) and 30-of-31 overall. The redundancy in the script, particularly lately, is as boring as it is painful. The Cavs fall behind big early, then the opponent loses interest as the Cavs fight back. The opponent plays hard in spurts just long enough to put the game away, the Cavs players shower, dress and head for another new city to watch it happen all over again. 'We're playing some real good teams right now and we obviously have less talent with all the guys we have hurt,' coach Byron Scott said. 'The guys we have playing, some of them are hurting. It's a matter of figuring out how to stay close in the first half.' Facing playoff-caliber teams and carrying a roster with significantly less talent makes that nearly impossible to do. Injuries have wrecked what wasn't a very good team to start. Just as the medical wing started to clear, Daniel Gibson checked back in with a nagging left quad bruise that refuses to go away. Scott said his left leg is black-and-blue and Gibson kept trying to play through it, but simply can't anymore. He'll probably be forced out of tonight's game at Miami, which won't sit well with him because he was one of the more outspoken over LeBron James' antics earlier this season. This is the worst possible time for the Cavs to be facing James and the Heat. They keep trying to prove to their ex they've moved on, but with a roster featuring undrafted rookies, a journeyman point guard and a center playing out of position, it's a tough sell. 'We knew when we were healthy we had to outwork the better teams,' Antawn Jamison said. 'Look at what we've been facing lately.' "

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "The Celtics, in their first visit to the Staples Center since their Game 7 loss last June, this time got the better of their stretch execution in yesterday’s 109-96 win against the Lakers in a game that refunneled every drop of energy from that NBA Finals. Kobe Bryant got the better of theindividual shootout with 41 points, but Paul Pierce, with 32, nailed down what eluded his entire team here last June. Two days after that ugly loss in Phoenix, the C’s returned to the efficiency that’s made them the best-shooting team in the league. They’re the only squad in the NBA shooting over 50 percent (50.1). ... Rajon Rondo, with the help of better defensive rebounding and awareness of where to deliver those outlet passes from his teammates, parlayed a one-assist first half into 16 by game’s end. He outdished the entire Lakers team by six, though that may have been a function of the channeled Bryant taking 29 shots. But with the Celtics setting up earlier in the shot clock, the quality of second-half looks improved dramatically. The C’s ultimately closed out the Lakers by shooting 70 percent (14-for-20) in the fourth quarter, as well as 69.4 percent (25-for-36) in the second half."

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: "The Lakers believe they'll be prepared to defend their title come playoff time. But nothing they've done this year convinces us they will be up to the challenge. Sunday was supposed to be a litmus test, a marker. The Lakers would show they still could rise to a challenge and meet it. But they failed on all accounts, complete with a total meltdown in a second half that should serve as a major red flag moving forward. When it came time to distance themselves from the Celtics, win a statement game at home and ease some of the concerns, they completely fell apart. They didn't just play bad. They were careless, outhustled, lethargic offensively and downright embarrassing defensively. The Celtics took complete advantage and literally laughed at the Lakers as they hammered them over the final few minutes of the fourth quarter. 'When you don't execute you leave yourself open, especially against a team like this,' Lamar Odom said. The second half, especially."

  • Jeff Miller of The Orange County Register:"After being bullied again in their own home Sunday, this time by Boston, a team that could eventually end their season, the Lakers sighed and shrugged and Derek Fisher took the composed stance a step farther, to the edge of the absurd. 'Somebody has to define for me,' he said, 'what concern means.' Well, Fish, in this context it means don't you think at some point this season your team should resemble one capable of winning the NBA title, your stated goal? So, no, there is no panic button in Laker Land. But there needs to be a pause button. And now is the time for the Lakers to push it. It's time for them to hammer the thing, hammer it the way Pau Gasol's inadvertent elbow bloodied -- but fittingly couldn't knock out -- Kevin Garnett. Pause this season that can't find a grip. Pause this losing that has gone from an occasional trip to a repeated trend. Pause this journey that feels like it's edging closer to sinking than soaring. Sunday, with everything slipping away late, it was vintage Lakers when at their big-game, ABC-televised worst. It was Bryant firing shot after shot while his teammates -- in PhilJackson's words -- 'backed off.' A rematch against the hated Celtics, a renewal of the greatest rivalry in sports, a desperate fourth quarter with America watching, and all the Lakers but one 'backed off?' ... We'll agree with the Lakers. It's not time to panic. But it is time to pause, pause now while there's still time, pause before the next thing they lose is their very cause."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "Video replay showed Kevin Durant starting to walk away before Chris Bosh began talking. Durant then stopped and barked back. 'I was talking to my teammate and he decided he wanted to put his two cents into it,' Durant said. 'I’m a quiet guy, a laid back guy. But I’m not going to let nobody talk trash to me. He’s on a good team now so he thinks he can talk a little bit. But it’s a lot of fake tough guys in this league and he’s one of them.' Rarely has Durant gotten in an opponent’s face as he did Sunday. The fourth-year forward typically plays the role of peacemaker. But this time, Durant was sending a message to the suddenly star-studded Heat. He wasn’t backing down. 'I’m no punk,' Durant said. 'I wasn’t even talking to him, first-off. He decided to butt in. I’m not just going to let that slide, especially in our house. He’s not one of those guys that I look at and say he has a rep for talking back to guys or always getting into it. He’s a nice guy. He’s not one of those guys. So I’m not going to let that type of person say something to me like that.' Durant said he and Bosh don’t have a history of bad blood, even calling the Heat forward a 'cool dude.' 'But once I step on the floor, all that stuff goes out the door,' Durant said. Bosh had no hard feelings. 'He stood his ground,' Bosh said. 'I respect that.' "

  • Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald: "This one was special. Make a note for future reference. File it away. Remember Heat 108, Thunder 103 on a Sunday afternoon at Oklahoma City Arena when the playoffs roll around. It was an example of the Heat realizing its full potential. 'They’re not all the same,' said Heat forward LeBron James, who finished with 23 points and 13 assists. 'This was a good win for us. We’ve been struggling as of late because we have different lineups but to come against a very, very good team, a very athletic team and just get a road win -- it’s a huge, big game for us to win.' All things considered, Sunday’s nationally televised victory was one of the Heat’s best performances the season. Miami was two of seven entering the game -- including four consecutive road losses. There never was a sense of panic but there certainly was a sense of urgency. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade returned from injury slightly ahead of schedule to play in the highly anticipated game inside festive Oklahoma City Arena, a venue quickly becoming one of the league’s best for big games. However, it was reserve guard Eddie House who made the biggest shot of the game when he hit the winning three-pointer with 22.2 seconds left. House made the shot after receiving an assist from James."

  • Chris Melchiorre special to The Denver Post: "When asked about his attitude toward tonight's game with the New Jersey Nets, Chauncey Billups could only shake his head and laugh. 'Man, I'm so over that,' he said. The Nets were interested in a deal that would bring Billups and Carmelo Anthony to New Jersey. The Nets, though, recently quashed the trade talks. Since then, anticipation has been growing over the Nuggets' matchup with the Nets tonight in New Jersey. 'I don't know what to expect,' Anthony said. 'But personally, I'm just looking to go in there and get a win.' Before Sunday's game against the 76ers, George Karl noted that talk of Melodrama has turned into a laughing matter in his team's locker room. 'We joke about it,' he said. But, according to Karl, keeping that state of mind won't be easy tonight. 'We have to play an intense, playoff-style type game against New Jersey, and I think we're capable of doing that,' Karl said."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Celtics coach Doc Rivers hid $2,500 in the Staples Center visitors' locker room last season, with plans to pick up the cash when the Celtics returned for the Finals. He said he did not leave anything behind Sunday, though it would seem foolish to say if he did. As the next team to use the Staples Center visitors' locker room, the Rockets said that if Rivers left buried treasure, it wouldn't be waiting for him this time. 'I'm going to be the one,' said forward Luis Scola. 'I'll find it. If there's money in there, I'm going to get it.' Others, however, thought rookie Ish Smith would be most likely to be enriched. 'I think Ish will find it. He finds all kinds of funny little things,' said Courtney Lee, to which Smith agreed."

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "The long, frequently frustrating search for a productive, skilled big man led the Knicks to a dozen dead ends before ending, finally, back where it began: in the Russian-speaking quarter of the locker room. Necessity called, and Timofey Mozgov -- his English and his game improving in lockstep -- provided a bold reminder of why the Knicks found him so intriguing in the first place. He ran hard, dunked harder and took care of all the loose ends Sunday night, leading the depleted Knicks to a 124-106 rout of the Detroit Pistons at Madison Square Garden. For Mozgov, a soft-spoken rookie, there was quiet satisfaction as he posted career highs in points (23), rebounds (14) and minutes (40). For the fans, there was happy delirium, and chants of 'Moz-gov!' after he scored his final points on a 19-foot jumper. For the Knicks (25-22), there was relief. They needed this victory over the woebegone Pistons (17-31). And they need an imposing, hustling, rebounding 7-footer to fill out this rotation if they hope to make any noise in the postseason. Mozgov, 23, had not played in the previous 10 games, and hardly at all since mid-November, when he lost the starting center job. There is no keeping him out now. 'Twenty-three and 14?' Coach Mike D’Antoni said, chuckling. 'I think I’ll try it again.' "

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "The Grizzlies have expressed a strong desire to acquire point guard Jason Williams. The only question now is whether the feeling is mutual. Williams was released Wednesday by the Orlando Magic -- the Grizzlies' opponent tonight in FedExForum. Williams cleared waivers last weekend but has yet to sign with another team as an unrestricted free agent, and he appears in no hurry to join the Griz. Memphis (24-24) wanted to claim Williams off waivers and assume the one-year contract he signed with Orlando before the start of this season. But Williams asked the Grizzlies to not claim him, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. Memphis obliged, and Williams apparently will consider suitors with stronger postseason possibilities before agreeing to terms with the Grizzlies. Memphis is willing to sign Williams for the remainder of the season. Griz general manager Chris Wallace declined to elaborate on the situation. He would only acknowledge that the Griz contacted Williams' agent. The Griz are looking to sign the 35-year-old point guard at the behest of team owner Michael Heisley, who is a fan of Williams' ability."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Once upon a time, Keith Bogans scored. And scored and scored and scored. You don't join Adrian Dantley as the only four-year letter winners at powerhouse DeMatha High in Washington or rise to fourth on Kentucky's legendary all-time scoring list without knowing how to do so. Now, Bogans' job is to defend. Not only a typically high-scoring opposing shooting guard as the Bulls' much maligned starter at that position, but also himself from critics who want Bogans to be like, say, Ben Gordon and score. 'People always seem to get mad because I'm not producing offensively,' the amiable Bogans said. 'They need to understand that's not why I'm here. I'm on the floor with Luol (Deng), Derrick (Rose), Carlos (Boozer) ... there aren't a lot of shots for me and Kurt (Thomas). I'm not saying that's a bad thing. People saying I shouldn't be starting motivates me. I love playing here. I love Chicago. I love the Bulls. It's all fun for me.' And don't look now, but Bogans' 3-point percentage has risen to 33.6 percent after a slow start, near his career mark of 35 percent. In fact, Bogans is shooting 43.8 percent from beyond the arc in January. And then there's this: The Bulls are 12-0 when Bogans scores six points or more, which he has done in three of the last five games."

  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: "So much for keeping that 'no national respect' tag Spurs Nation has liked to use as a unifier during the team’s earlier championship runs. The Spurs’ record-breaking 40-7 start was a prime topic of conversation on ESPN’s 'The Sports Reporters' on Sunday morning. The panel of John Saunders, Mike Lupica, Bob Ryan and Judy Battista spent a complete segment on San Antonio’s quick charge this season. It was the first NBA discussion they had on this week’s show, coming after their breakdown of Super Bowl XLV and Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s injury. The timing was interesting, considering the NBA will have a showcase late-afternoon rematch of the NBA Finals Sunday afternoon between Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers. And still, the national talking heads were breaking down the Spurs’ fast start rather than talking about the game between the two glamour franchises later in the day."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Bucks guard Brandon Jennings appreciated the support from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who showed up at the Bradley Center to see Milwaukee's 91-81 victory over New Jersey on Saturday night. Rodgers does have this Super Bowl engagement next Sunday, so he's a little busy right now. But the Packers star has been a regular courtside spectator at Bucks games and returned with Brewers slugger Ryan Braun. Of course, the pair got a huge ovation when introduced before the fourth quarter. And in a classy move, Braun stood up and pointed to Rodgers as if to say, 'Here's your Super Bowl hero.' After the game ended, Bucks players Keyon Dooling and Jon Brockman went over to Rodgers and shook his hand and wished him well. Then Jennings came over and chatted briefly with the quarterback., who will be heading to Dallas with the rest of the Packers on Monday as they prepare for their Super Bowl XLV matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers. 'He's a California guy; he's up north,' said Jennings, who is from Compton in southern California. 'He's good in my books; he's from California. I think they're going to go down there and take care of business, of course, and bring back home the (Super Bowl) title.' "