First Cup: Monday

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "For a moment, I thought about putting on a plastic poncho and borrowing a pair of Kirk Hinrich's goggles for fear of getting soaked with a champagne shower. But after the Wizards finally won their first road game of the season -- and ended a 26-game road losing streak dating back to April 9 of last season -- the locker room floor didn't need any protective covering. It was filled with relief, laughter -- and jokes about needing to have a championship-caliber celebration. 'Where's the champagne?' reserve Hilton Armstrong joked as reporters entered the locker room after the Wizards dismantled the Cleveland Cavaliers, 115-100, at Quicken Loans Arena. There was none, but the Wizards had a right to be excited about the win, no matter that it came against one the most talent-deficient teams that I've seen, because the slide is over. After 26 games, John Wall can finally say that he knows what it feels like to win away from Verizon Center; Nick Young could enter a pressurized situation and deliver with a string of incredible, heat-check-worthy jumpers; and veterans Josh Howard and Kirk Hinrich could show the Wizards the type of attitude and resolve that's required to win on an opponents' floor. ... 'At least, now, the guys can watch ESPN again,' Flip Saunders said. "They didn't want to watch ESPN because you kept hearing about 0-24 and 0-25. Now, there's nothing for them. More important, not just winning, it's how we won.' Said Young, 'We can finally got that road win and we can look on ESPN tonight and see some good things.' "

  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "Chris Bosh spoke for everyone in the Heat locker room when he said, through clenched teeth and a phony smile, 'I really hate losing to those guys. We just have to wait a little bit longer.' This was supposed to be the end of the wait. This was supposed to be what the Heat, now excuse-free, had been waiting for since November: a chance to smack back the team that owns the entire Eastern Conference but has taken particular pleasure in beating the star-studded team from Miami. Instead, it was the Celtics doing all the smacking -- still. 'This is classic, typical, bigger brothers,' Wade said. That’s just what it feels like. Only big brother can get away with this. ... Needless to say, Sunday’s game wasn’t the one that changed anything. The Celtics still stand firmly in the Heat’s way and won’t budge. On Sunday, the prevailing thought was, 'If not now, when?' The Heat’s only answer is, 'soon … hopefully.' "

  • Ron Borges of the Boston Herald: "Everyone on both sides denied, to varying degrees, that a statement had been made, of course. Maybe it wasn’t a statement, but it at least was a message. 'I don’t know to be honest (if a message was sent),’ said Kevin Garnett. 'They’re competitive. But we don’t fear anybody.We’re going to compete, man. We’re going to compete for 48 minutes.’ That was not to say the Heat didn’t but, hey, they’re 0-3, so you decide who competed. You decide who gave up the 20-3 run. You decide who missed the key foul shot (James) and who made two (Davis). You decide who missed the open jumper at the most critical time (Bosh) and who made one (Garnett). No need to make statements about that. The facts did that without anyone saying a word. 'We can’t expect to come to Boston and turn the ball over 12 times in the first half,’ James said. 'We also can’t afford to come in the third quarter and not have our motor going. They go on a 20-3 run to start the quarter and I feel 10 times out of 10 times we’re going to lose those games.’ Well, three times out of three times they have. Like mutual funds, past performance in the NBA does not guarantee future returns, but if you play someone three times and lose three times, including when a goodly number of the Celtics were nonexistent, including Paul Pierce, you have to admit it means something. For the Miami Heat it means trouble."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "The Magic are no longer part of the national debates involving the Lakers, Celtics, the new Heat and the new/old Spurs. Even the Bulls might have lurched ahead of them in playoff talks. Sunday at Amway Center, in front of a record 19,193 that deemed the game as important as the players did, the Magic offered a reminder that they are at least still on the lead lap. I don't know if thumping the Lakers signals an epiphany for the Magic or started a push to reclaim seating at the adult table, because playing killer defense and getting the ball to Dwight Howard all game can't be revelations. What's troubling is the Magic didn't offer up their 'A game' -- as Magic fan Tiger Woods once called it -- until their season was on the cliff's edge and the champs were in town. ... The Magic out-rebounded and out-worked the Lakers, whose length haunts every team. They kept Kobe in check -- and Phil Jackson helped, too, not re-inserting Bryant until the Magic finished their tell-tale run. They won despite Howard The Magnificent having the only big game again. Brandon Bass recorded more rebounds than shots. Jason Richardson was saluted for his defense. Van Gundy whistled show tunes. It felt like we were in a parallel universe. Now it's up to the Orlando Underdogs to return to a place -- and a status -- they are accustomed to."

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: "After earning their keep, for the most part, in the first half against the Orlando Magic, the Lakers essentially knocked off for the rest of the afternoon. They scored just 34 points in the second half, when they were done in by Dwight Howard, whose dominating performance led the Magic to an 89-75 victory at Amway Center. Howard had 22 of his 31 points, eight of his 13 rebounds and all three of his assists after halftime. Meanwhile, the Lakers were making only 38.9% of their shots in the second half, leading to their first defeat on their annual 'Grammy trip,' a seven-game, 12-day sojourn that had begun impressively with four consecutive victories. 'I told the players since they took part of the day off [Sunday], maybe [Monday] we can get after Charlotte, just redeem ourselves against them,' Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. ... The Lakers were down 15 points and Bryant has a history of competing until the end, he was reminded. 'Yeah, I subbed myself out,' he replied. Bryant was asked if he was disappointed to come out. 'I was mortified,' he said. 'Are you serious? ... Ask me something serious.' Perhaps it was to save Bryant's legs because the Lakers play the Bobcats on Monday night in Charlotte, and it will be their fourth game in five nights. The loss Sunday left the Lakers with a still-respectable 4-1 record on the trip, but it also left a bitter taste. 'It was a frustrating loss, because I don't feel like we made those guys beat us,' Odom said."

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: "There will be a resolution to the DeMarcus Cousins-Donte Greene incident sometime Monday. Cousins is still in Sacramento where he will meet with basketball president Geoff Petrie. Officially, Cousins was not suspended for Sunday's game against the Phoenix. Here's the full response from Kings coach Paul Westphal when I asked him about Greene being available for the game even though he was part of the altercation: 'First of all nobody has said there's a conclusion to this. I'm not commenting at all on what happened after the game. Obviously something happened. Obviously this is not DeMarcus' first time with any kind of incident and there are no prior incidents with Donte'. So in our preliminary dealings with this situation we felt that it was appropriate to handle it the way we have. We want all the facts, to do all the homework and be completely fair with everybody and if there's appropriate further action involving anybody we can take it at that time. But we don't want to shoot first and ask questions later. We want to make sure we're doing everything in the right order.' Greene said he was fine and ready to move on from the incident. He assured me he was fine and that too much was being made of the situation."

  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: "This was one of those games that, for Warriors fans, brings as much frustration as it does excitement. Golden State knocked off one of the best teams in the Western Conference on Sunday, topping Oklahoma City 100-94 at Oracle Arena. The Warriors did it by controlling the boards. They did it with dominant guard play. They did it by playing solid defense. But Sunday's victory could make one wonder: Why can't the Warriors play like that every game? 'We're a good team,' point guard Stephen Curry said. 'We just have some slip-ups where we don't perform as well.' The same Warriors who have beaten Utah twice, Chicago and now Oklahoma City also have lost to losing teams such as Charlotte and Houston at home. Just last week, Golden State lost twice to Phoenix, at team that's been at or below .500 most of the season. A game such as Sunday's can make you wonder how."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "The Thunder fell to 2-7 in Sunday games following its 100-94 loss at Golden State. The only other day of the week that Oklahoma City has a losing record is Tuesday, a day in which the Thunder is 1-2. 'Maybe we're not meant to play on Sundays,' Scott Brooks said."

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "There were plenty of times this season when the Grizzlies confounded like a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle with no picture to go by and the task of putting it all together in the dark. Well, clearly the light is on and the only people desperately trying to figure out the Griz these days are their opponents. The Denver Nuggets left FedExForum Sunday scratching their collective heads after the Griz came back from a 17-point, third-quarter deficit to pull off a 116-108 victory before a crowd of 15,398. Memphis (30-26) won its third straight game, and each happened in similar fashion. The Griz wiped out a double-digit lead behind Tony Allen-inspired, tenacious defense and the hot hand of a different player each time. 'We’re digging ourselves in a hole early, and we’re finding ways to win,' forward Darrell Arthur said after leading the Griz with a career-high 24 points. 'It shows how tough we’re getting.' Arthur aptly pointed out that the Griz began to wither and their playoff hopes started to fade at about this time last season. They are showing no signs of that this time around. The Griz are instead cruising toward the All-Star break, having won 11 of their last 14 games. This is the earliest the Griz have reached 30 wins since the 2004-05 season, which ended in the franchise’s second trip to the postseason."

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: "LaMarcus Aldridge is man on fire, and after Sunday's performance in Detroit becomes the first Trail Blazers player in history to go back-to-back-to-back with 36 or more points in three straight games. He was also great in a lengthy and candid interview on the radio show this week. I always say that the big interviews are the best part of the radio show. (That and the smart callers, of course). And Aldridge was more comfortable and forthcoming than I've ever heard him in an interview, and at some point, it felt like he forgot that he was on the radio and was just talking. As a host, you're always trying to get fresh material, and take the interview to a place where listeners can learn something, get to know the subject and be entertained. Aldridged delivered all that. He talked about his teammates, and his outlook on coming up short in the All-Star chase, his mother, Twitter, and about everyone needing pillow cases and sheets."

  • Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail: "It just seems as if the most eagerly-awaited return in Toronto sports is Phil Kessel’s scoring touch. Bah. A mere minor detail, compared to Chris Bosh’s return to Toronto on Wednesday. Call it anti-Valentine’s Day, because as much as Vince Carter quit on the Toronto Raptors and the city, at least Carter didn’t have access to social media to gloat about it. It’s up to the Raptors fan base to decide the validity of general manager Bryan Colangelo’s suggestions that Bosh was a different guy after the all-star break last season (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) but there should be no love at the Air Canada Centre for Bosh when he and the Miami Heat visit. And here’s hoping the Raptors don’t adopt the goofy, little brother approach of the Cleveland Cavaliers on LeBron James’s return. If they want to build their own identity, throwing CB4 around a bit would be a start."

  • John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "In matchups with All-Stars Deron Williams of the Jazz and Chris Paul of the Hornets, Derrick Rose kept solid pressure on the ball throughout and didn’t allow either player to get in an offensive groove. He didn’t make many spectacular defensive plays but simply made sure he stayed in front of Williams and Paul as much as he could to force them to take contested shots. It’s evidence of how far Rose has come this season defensively -- and why the Bulls are so much better. Whether coincidence or not, Rose’s two excellent defensive games came after he was burned by Andre Miller for 27 points (7-for-11 shooting) and 11 assists in Portland and criticized by the Blazers’ Nicolas Batum for not being a good defender. Rose laughed off the comment at the time -- and Batum quickly backed off, saying his words were misconstrued -- but Rose wasn’t in a joking mood after Saturday’s 97-88 win in New Orleans, when he was reminded his solid defensive games came after getting torched (on the court and verbally) in Portland. ‘I’m not even paying attention to what whatcha-call-it said,’ Rose said. ‘I know that our defense, we over-help on everything, so if one guy is out of place, our whole defense is out of place. We just have been getting on the right page right now, getting in the right rhythm. If a guy is driving, we’re stepping in front taking charges or trying to go for the block.’ That’s true -- but it’s also true that the Bulls’ defense wouldn’t be very good regardless of what anyone else was doing if a point guard such as Williams or Paul was able to get past Rose consistently. With so many accomplished point guards in the NBA, on-the-ball defense is crucial."

  • Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle: "It is possible, actually likely, the Rockets will have Adelman for just two more months. He came here to take over a team featuring two All-Stars that could compete for a championship. Saturday's loss to the Mavericks was Adelman's 301st game as Rockets coach. Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming were on the court together for 72 of those contests; none in the past two seasons. Unless they kidnap Carmelo Anthony tonight at Toyota Center, the Rockets won't have a player in the All-Star Game. They didn't have one last year, either. This is not what Adelman had in mind when he replaced Jeff Van Gundy four years ago. Should Adelman, who has the highest winning percentage of any coach in Rockets history, receive interest from a team with more talent, he would have to consider leaving. If he doesn't, not coaching might be a better option than another year with a middle-of-the-pack team. 'I have no idea what the team is thinking. I'm not worried about that,' he said. Losses won't make him stop. Some have given up on this collection of Rockets; the coach hasn't. ... With a career record of 927-607 Adelman is nine wins from passing Dick Motta to move into the top 10 in NBA coaching victories. Yet, as badly as he wants to win a title, Adelman said he wouldn't leave the game thinking there is a huge hole in his résumé if he doesn't. 'There are a lot of guys who have rings that I wouldn't classify as winners,' Adelman said."

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The Hawks have become that strangest of creatures -- a team with a good record that almost nobody takes seriously. They’re on pace to win 51 games, down two from last season, but where that aggregation was seen (at least by some, this writer included) as a threat, this one isn’t regarded as even a nuisance. The reason being: This team is essentially the same as last season’s, and we saw in Round 2 against Orlando how threatening those Hawks really were. They played four games, winning none, losing by an NBA-record aggregate of 101 points. All that has changed is that Jason Collins, who can’t really play, plays a bit more, and Larry Drew is the coach, though to call him a new coach is to ignore his six seasons as Mike Woodson’s chief assistant. What we see is a team that has shown us its limits but has been kept together anyway. ... They are, in a word, stuck. The Hawks have proved they’re talented; they’ve also proved they’re not so talented as to be competitive beyond Round 1 of the playoffs. They’re last season’s team without last season’s promise."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "Before Avery Johnson signed on as head coach of the New Jersey Nets last June, the team’s new owner promised he would make the franchise a preferred destination for free agents. Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov also vowed his team would win an NBA title within five years. Then, Johnson had reason to believe his first roster might include an ‘A-list’ free agent. Prokhorov and Johnson had been promised an audience with LeBron James before he made The Decision. It was as close as they would get to a major offseason acquisition. Nearly eight months later, the Nets have won but 17 games. That has caused Johnson to fall back on a philosophy he learned when he played five seasons for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, beginning in 1996, on his way to seeing his number retired at the AT&T Center. 'Our season is a perfect example of pounding the rock,' said Johnson. The rock Johnson hammers each day seems the size of Gibraltar, fitting for a team that plays in The Prudential Center. ... The truth for Johnson comes in understanding the process is a daily grind, that disappointment will outweigh success. And when the process bogs down, when the rock seems to be winning, Johnson still hits 'Pop' on his cell phone speed dial. 'Coach Popovich,' he said, 'is an unpaid coaching consultant to the New Jersey Nets.' Tonight, however, Popovich won’t be taking any calls from the 973 area code."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Perhaps fittingly, Kurt Thomas had to be reminded on the recently concluded road trip that he will become the 96th player in NBA history -- 104th with ABA experience included -- to play in 1,000 games on Tuesday night. For Thomas, his 16-year career never has been about individual accomplishments. Again fittingly, though, Thomas, with a nod to Joakim Noah's injury, will reach this milestone as the Bulls' starting center. Every time that Thomas has been counted out -- a popular trend in his injury-plagued first few seasons -- he has returned to defy and deliver, often with a well-timed elbow thrown into some opposing player's rib cage for good measure. ... Thomas credited teammates like Glen Rice, Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway in Miami and Larry Johnson and Patrick Ewing in New York for teaching him the NBA ropes and says helping younger players now is his way of giving back to the game. 'I had a number of great ballers who paved the way for me, taught me how to approach the game and be professional,' Thomas said. 'I just try to let these young guys know to respect the game. But even though I'm 38, I feel just as young as them.' Derrick Rose was 6 when the Heat selected Thomas with the 10th overall pick of the 1995 draft. He has played for the Heat, Mavericks, Knicks, Suns, Spurs, SuperSonics, Bucks and Bulls, starting games for all but the Mavericks."

  • Shannon Owens of the Orlando Sentinel: "Ah, love is in the air. Or, if you’re Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian, love is in a perfume bottle. The couple launched a unisex fragrance 'Unbreakable' at the Florida Mall Saturday. Currently, Orlando is the only city carrying the fragrance but it will be distributed nationwide within the next few months according to reps. Over 300 bottles were sold during the promotion last weekend. Suddenly, Cameron Diaz’s popcorn feeding with boyfriend A-Rod seems like small beans. You can expect plenty of Lakers opponents to tease Lamar Odom’s 'unbreakableness.' After all, the teasing has already started in the Lakers locker room. 'I think anytime you seeing an athlete doing something totally different, so, you’re a little taken aback by it,' Lamar Odom said during his fragrance launch. 'But in the locker room it’s all fun and games.' 'I say that’s guys,' Khloe interjected. 'Guys always tease each other.' 'Anything that’s a little too different we laugh about,' Odom said. Lamar Odom and wife Khloe, who were filming the launch event as part of their pending E! reality show, said they have plans to launch more fragrance ventures together."