First Cup: Wednesday

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "How are you going to build a franchise around a player who has spent six years here without one defining moment? The answer is, you can't. And when the Lakers responded to Tuesday's Internet buzz by saying they would never trade Bynum to Denver for Carmelo Anthony, I was struck with one more question. Why not? If they want to slip another championship or two under the closing window of Kobe Bryant's career, this is their best chance. If they want to lay down a new foundation to begin the rebuilding process after Bryant leaves, this works. Bynum, a great guy who has been victimized only by his own brittle body, has thus proven to be neither kingmaker nor cornerstone. At the Lakers' current pace, they're not going to win this year's title with him, and history says he won't be sound enough to lead them to future ones. You say Bynum is only 23. I remind you that Anthony is only 26."

  • Woody Paige of The Denver Post: "Here's what will happen: The Nuggets and the Knicks do a deal, or the Nuggets will keep Anthony and hope for the best for the rest of the season. Dolan, Jimmy the Geek in New York City, will attempt to become the leading man and rescue his reputation by accomplishing what the Russian Rasputin, Mikhail Prokhorov, couldn't -- getting Anthony. Dolan already has hired former Nuggets' vice president Mark Warkentien to help with the details of the trade. (Warkentien pulled off the Iverson-Chauncey Billups swap.) The Nuggets would give up Anthony and receive Wilson Chandler from the Knicks, Corey Brewer and a first-round choice from the Timberwolves, and demand one more first-round pick. If they can't consummate that trade, the Nuggets will keep Carmelo, do a sign-and-trade in the offseason for a first- and a second-round pick, allow Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith to go in free agency and let the major renovation begin. Which will happen first -- the closing of 'Melo-Man' in Denver or the not-so-grand opening of 'Spider-Man' in New York? Sir Walter Scott's answer would be: 'Oh, what a tangled web they weave, when the Nuggets decide to deceive.' "

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "The wave of collateral damage claimed another team Tuesday, with ESPN.com reporting that the Los Angeles Lakers could swap Andrew Bynum, their talented young center, for Anthony. That report, as with so many others, was quickly picked apart and dismissed, classified as a warmed-over discussion from last summer or a means of provoking the Knicks into making a better offer. Yet the questions now hover over the Lakers. Would they really part with the 23-year-old Bynum, who is already one of the top centers in the league? Can they win a third straight championship without at least one bruising 7-footer? Are they so concerned about Kobe Bryant’s durability that they feel compelled to add another high-volume perimeter scorer? If Internet polls are any indications, fans say the answer is yes, to all of the above. Some 77 percent favored the trade in a poll on ESPN.com’s Los Angeles site. An LATimes.com poll yielded similar support. The Lakers’ interest is understandable. Four of their top players -- Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher -- are over 30. Bryant is in his 15th season. At some point, they will have to replenish the lineup and find a new star to build around. But giving up Bynum now, as the Lakers make their last run before Coach Phil Jackson retires, seems foolish. The Boston Celtics, their finals opponent in 2008 and 2010, are loaded with big men -- Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, Shaquille O’Neal and Glen Davis. The Lakers’ top rivals in the West, San Antonio and Dallas, are also well stocked."

  • Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: "Honest, the Denver Post's website ran a banner advertisement across the top of its sports page that read: 'Click here for today's deal from www.denverdailydeals.com.' Below the banner ad? A photo of Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony. OK, it only seems as if there's a different deal for Anthony in the news every day. But the story that has been dubbed 'The MeloDrama' is picking up steam as the Feb. 24 NBA trade deadline draws near, and an Anthony trade could have ramifications for the Suns or possibly their former teammate. ... We also hear that Amar'e Stoudemire is willing to part with his apostrophe if it gets the deal done. It's not clear whether it would go with E'ddy or to Core'y. Anyway, Stoudemire has been campaigning for Anthony to join him in New York since he signed. But we wonder if it would make Stoudemire happy in the long run. After all, New York has fully embraced him. The Knicks have built every bit of their marketing campaign around him. He is, at last, the man. Anthony, however, led Syracuse to a national championship. He was born in Brooklyn. He's got that marketable smile. And if the Knicks were to win a championship at some point, where do you suppose the credit would go?"

  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "Who knew getting revenge on the Pacers would require this much? The Heat, which lost to Indiana by 16 in November, needed an MVP performance from LeBron James, a furious defensive effort in the final quarter and a critical five-second violation in the final seconds to secure a 117-112 win over the Pacers. That makes seven consecutive wins for the Heat, which is now just a half game back of the Celtics for the No.?1 spot in the Eastern Conference. It started out as an attempt at payback. It turned out to be a reminder of what will be required of the Heat to win at a high level. 'At some point you figure it out, like, ‘let’s do this,’?' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after his team overcame a 14-point deficit to end the Pacers’ win streak at four games under interim coach Frank Vogel. James scored 41 points with 13 rebounds, eight assists, three steals and a blocked shot for the Heat, which shot 53 percent from the floor and still had to sweat out a win. That’s because the Pacers seemed to hit every shot they took in the first three quarters."

  • Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: "Almost everyone at the Amway Center was focused on the Los Angeles Clippers’ superstar rookie power forward Blake Griffin, making his one trip to Orlando this season. Griffin is known for his SportsCenter-leading, YouTubable dunks, usually with a victim or two below him. On Tuesday night, however, the Orlando Magic’s defense on Griffin stole the show. The Magic threw constant double-teams at Griffin in the post, rotated soundly on pick-and-rolls and dared Griffin to shoot outside jumpers. The result was the worst offensive showing of the Griffin’s career, scoring just 10 points and making four field goals, both of which tied season lows. Griffin made just 4-of-12 shots, and outside of one alley-oop over Ryan Anderson in the third quarter and a wide-open dunk on a broken play in the first quarter, he was fighting off two or three Magic defenders at all times in the paint. The Magic didn’t allow him to get a full head of steam toward the basket at any point -- thus keeping themselves off the highlight reels -- and did a good job boxing Griffin out to limit put-back opportunities. It was the blueprint for holding down Blake Griffin -- and amazingly, the defensive charge was led by Anderson and Earl Clark, with Howard roaming on the weak side."

  • Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "They are one loss away from tying the longest losing streak in the history of professional sports, owned by the 1976-77 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who lost the franchise's first 26 games. That team prompted one of the most infamous lines in sports. Asked about the execution of the Bucs' offense, coach John McKay said, ''I'm in favor of it.'' The Cavs can avoid joining that pitiful company on Wednesday night at home against the Detroit Pistons. ... Perhaps the Cavs need to achieve their place in infamy, need to pass the Bucs, before they can move on. But we all know they're not great at moving on. Some might argue they're still battling the effects of the worst hangover in NBA history, one that dates back to July 8. I'm not blaming James for this, too. But I do agree with coach Byron Scott, who believes the Cavs took winning for granted and didn't realize the effort it required when they were the James Gang. If the Cavs do need a game or two to get over the hump, let's hope the miraculous victory comes before their Feb. 17-22 All-Star break. That might seem counterproductive, stepping back just when they seem to be stepping up. But on the other hand, a few nights of sweet dreams might be perfect timing indeed."

  • Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News: "It doesn't get much bigger than this. You thought the Pistons wouldn't play a momentous game or face any real tension this season? Ha. Here they were Tuesday night, battling the best team in the league as their possible new owner, Tom Gores, watched from a luxury suite. There was their one-time star, Richard Hamilton, watching again from the bench as the Pistons lost to the Spurs, 100-89. And now here comes the big one smack in the middle of a tumultuous season, and I'm not even kidding. The Pistons travel to Cleveland to face the worst possible opponent tonight -- ignominy. The Cavaliers possess it, riding a league-record 25-game losing streak. That's astonishing and humiliating. And to every team that plays the Cavaliers, it has to be terrifying. The Pistons certainly don't need to add the shame of ending the longest losing streak in NBA history -- they're already thoroughly scrambled. Hamilton was back on the bench Tuesday night with what he called a sore groin. (There's no indication anyone in Pistons management kicked him there, although some might consider it)."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Minutes after delivering the Declaration of Dwight on Tuesday morning, an irked Dwight Howard said this to me about the rumors surrounding his future in Orlando: 'It's nobody's business.' I'll give Dwight the benefit of the doubt for that aside, considering he had just told the media he was 'annoyed' over the speculation. Make no mistake, though: What Dwight does is everybody's business here. He knows this. He is just getting his first real dose of what being a superstar with a ticking contract is like in an age of superstar pacts -- and it's testing his maturity and good nature. Outlets from the Sentinel to the New York Daily News, ESPN, Yahoo! and CBSsportsline have all talked to people close to him, fueling the intrigue. They haven't reported he'll be a Magic player forever. If Dwight thinks the speculation is swirling now, wait until next season. See, Anthony, Carmelo. Howard can opt out of his contract in the summer of 2012."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Celtics guard Ray Allen is expected to pass Indiana Pacers great Reggie Miller's record for career 3-pointers when Boston takes on the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday. Miller will be on hand to see it, too. He will be an analyst for TNT's broadcast of the game. 'We had this game on the schedule for Steve (Kerr) and I to call months ago,' Miller said during TNT's All-Star conference call Tuesday. 'Now who would've thought that it would come down to Ray Allen being able to tie and break the record in our presence? To me, there is such a thing as a 'basketball God.' ' Miller made 2,560 3-pointers during his 18-year career with the Pacers. Allen, who is in his 14th season, has made 2,559 3-pointers. 'I am excited,' Miller said. 'This is going to be wonderful. It's not very often that you get to see history being made. We all know Ray very well. He's a very humble guy, a family man. I'm excited to be a part of history being made.' Allen said in December 2009 that one of his goals is to break Miller's record."

  • Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer: "Grow up, Stephen Jackson. The world is not out to get you. And NBA officials don't make up their mind before each game to mess with you. You've gotten three technicals in the past two games, including two against the Boston Celtics on Monday night that got you thrown out in the second quarter and caused you to miss one of the best wins in Charlotte Bobcats franchise history. You're up to 13 technicals now for the season and about $180,000 lost in salary and fines because of your consistent referee abuse. If you get to 16 technical fouls, you will be automatically suspended for one game by the NBA (which will cost you another $102,000). ... You wrote an open letter to Bobcats fans two months ago. You sounded contrite. You promised better behavior. It worked -- for about a month. Now the bad behavior is back. I asked you Tuesday: Is it time for another open letter? 'I think you're being sarcastic,' you said. I wasn't. I'm serious. You need to do something besides not talk about your behavior, which is what you did Tuesday. When I asked you for your explanation of your back-to-back technicals Monday night for complaining about another call, you said: 'I don't have one. It happened. I ain't got nothing to say about it.' ... You are 32 years old. The Bobcats are paying you huge money not just to score, but also to lead and to win. I know your childhood was difficult and that your passion is partly why you are here today. I respect the way you clawed your way into becoming an elite NBA player. But it's time to grow up."

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Jason Williams says his only problem this time around will be with terminology. He'll have no issues with playing time, coaches or the media. 'I just need to know what they call the plays,' he said. 'That's what I'm concerned about.' Williams was all smiles Tuesday night when the Griz activated him for the first time since he signed a minimum-salary contract for the remainder of the season. So what can people expect from the 35-year-old who is remembered for being as mercurial as he was gifted with the basketball during his first stint with the organization? 'It'll be different,' Williams said. 'I'm just totally different. I'm just trying to help these young guys. I want to tell them what I know. I've done some things the wrong way. I've done some things right. So if you're going to do it the wrong way, I can let them know what's going to happen. I'm not here to take anybody's minutes.' Still, Williams said he came to Memphis to play. He's looking to play two or three more years in a backup role. The Griz obviously believe he can, given that they gave him a contract with a player option for next season."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Carlos Boozer made two All-Star teams in six seasons here, helped the Jazz reach the 2007 Western Conference finals and earned a spot on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team. Yet myriad injuries, clashes with management and occasional self-serving comments about contractual issues sullied his stay. That's why Boozer found himself surrounded by a crush of local media after Tuesday's practice at his former stomping grounds, answering questions about fan reaction and legacies left. 'Little do they know haters motivate,' the always amiable Boozer said. 'Guys like me take that in stride and use that as fuel.' The returns of fan favorites Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer were dwarfed by the attention focused on Boozer, who smiled as he revealed his plan in case the reaction is all boos. 'It's all 'Booz' to me,' he said. Boozer spoke fondly of his tenure here, saving his highest praise for longtime coach Jerry Sloan. 'He's one of them real dudes,' Boozer said. 'So many people out there are fake. They say one thing to your face. They say something else behind your back. Jerry wasn't that way. Jerry told you like it is right in your face and the same thing to somebody else behind your back.' "

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "Peja Stojakovic is only 33, which is not exactly ancient by modern NBA standards. He just feels ancient. His surgically repaired lower back will ache forever. The steel rod in his once-shattered right leg forecasts rain and snow more accurately than radar. His balky left knee is the latest challenge to his career, to when it ends, and on what terms. Does he make the decision or does his body dictate the finale? After 12 seasons, the former Kings star still has dreams and aspirations, but he offers no promises. When he returns to Arco Arena tonight -- in his second game as the starting small forward of the Dallas Mavericks -- it could be his final appearance in Sacramento. 'I understand the tradition, and I know where I'm at,' Stojakovic said from his cell phone Tuesday afternoon. 'I just want to complete the season on a good note, see if I can stay healthy and help the team with spacing and shooting. And then who knows? I love being around the game. I sometimes think … about the many injuries that took away part of my basketball career. It changed everything.' "

  • John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "After criticizing Derrick Rose’s ability to play defense after the Bulls’ loss Monday night in Portland, Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum apparently had a case of trash-talker’s remorse Tuesday and backed off the comment. But that wasn’t before the harsh words -- reported by multiple Blazers beat writers -- lit up the Internet. 'We know that Derrick Rose is a good offensive player,’ Batum was quoted as saying in the Oregonian. ‘But you have to play defense, too. He can’t guard [Andre Miller]. You gotta play defense. He can’t play defense, so that’s why we put ’Dre inside and try to attack him. He did a great job.’ After the Bulls’ practice session Tuesday, Rose laughed off the comments. ‘Ah, man, he threw me under the bus, didn’t he?’’ Rose said with a smile. ‘‘No, everybody has their opinion. I know that I can play defense. It is what it is.’ "

  • Chris Tomasson of FanHouse: "One publication has dubbed Shane Battier the smartest player in the NBA. So it seems appropriate he envisions one day standing in front of a classroom. The Houston forward is 32, and has gotten to the point where he's thinking about what he might do when his playing days are over. The 10-year man, who becomes a free agent this summer for the first time, figures he's got three or four seasons left before he embarks upon a new career. 'I've always loved to teach,'' Battier said in an interview with FanHouse about what he might do after basketball. 'I could see myself as a teacher helping young people in some capacity. ... I've always thought about teaching a life skills class. There's so much common sense that kids never learn these days, like how to balance a checkbook, how to look over a mortgage agreement or an auto lease. ... Teach them skills that would really make a difference in their lives.'' Battier said it would be high school students he might like to teach. And how would he want to be addressed in class? 'If I get the teaching degree, I'll be Mr. Battier,' he said."

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Long-time popular color analyst Bob Ortegel and the Dallas Mavericks are going their separate ways. Citing a need for a fresh voice, Mavs owner Mark Cuban has decided to remove Ortegel from the team's television broadcasting booth and replace him on a rotating basis with Derek Harper and Brad Davis. Ortegel's last game was Jan. 27 against Houston. Reached at his home Tuesday, the 70-year old Ortegel said: 'I'm grateful and I'm thankful for the 23 years that I've had with the Dallas Mavericks' organization.' Ortegel said he was given an opportunity to stay with the Mavs and work as a color analyst on the team's radio broadcast. But he decided that wasn't a good fit for him. 'Bob has been an amazing part of the Mavs for the past 23 years,' Cuban wrote in an e-mail. 'We wish him nothing but the best.' "