First Cup: Thursday

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: The Lakers are in town and that means Kobe Bryant holds court with the assorted Los Angeles and Boston media today at the TD Garden. Among the nuggets from the interview is that he said he had never formally met Celtics legend and current Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird. Bird gave Bryant some gracious compliments this week, saying he would have loved to have Bryant as a teammate. Bryant has mutual admiration but said he has never had a chance to express it. "That means the world to me because I looked up to him and his worth ethic," Bryant said today. ... Although Bryant played against Bird-coached Pacers teams in the late 1990s and in the 2000 NBA Finals, there has never been a formal conversation. Bryant said the two have never talked. "I never met him because I never see him," Bryant said. "During the All-Star Game in Cleveland (in 1997) our paths never crossed. It's crazy." Bryant also said he fully plans to play in the 2012 Olympics in London and that the torn ligament in his wrist has healed. He said he is healthy.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: When the Wizards get trounced at home, the fans at Verizon Center usually to hit the exits early or send them to the locker room to a chorus of boos. But after the Wizards’ disconcerting 107-93 loss on Wednesday against the undermanned New York Knicks, most of the 17,376 fans in attendance stuck around, stood up and applauded — Jeremy Lin and the Knicks. It was a troubling scene for the woeful Wizards, who haven’t given their fans much to rally behind and allowed their home arena to morph into Madison Square Garden South. The Wizards are used to feeling like guests when the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston, Chicago and now Miami Heat come to town. But even as Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose have heard “MVP!” chants, nothing compared to the reaction of the audience with the Knicks — and especially, everybody’s favorite underdog, Lin — in town. You’d think fans would be upset that Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire were gone and want a refund for their tickets. Instead, they only booed when Lin picked up his second foul in the first quarter and was forced to head to the bench with his second foul. Other than that, the Wizards were simply a distraction until the next Lin layup or high-rising bank shot, Tyson Chandler dunk or Steve Novak three-pointer. It was entertaining — and embarrassing for the supposed hosts.

  • Al Iannazzone of Newsday: The Lin phenomenon continued in our nation's capital, where the undrafted point guard from Harvard received chants of "Jer-e-my Lin" and lifted the Knicks to a 107-93 victory over the Wizards Wednesday night. Lin, who also had scratch marks on his right arm, registered his first career double-double, finishing with 23 points and 10 assists, as the Knicks won for the third straight time after dropping 11 of 13. It was the third straight game Lin scored at least 20 points and the third consecutive time he established a new career best in assists. "He has the ability and he has the talent to play like this every night," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "I think it's real." Lin is making people forget the Knicks still have Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire on the roster. They were without Anthony (strained groin) and Stoudemire (death in his family), and for the second straight game the Knicks were in command most of the night. "Without [Lin] right now, who knows where we would be," Jared Jeffries said.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Orlando Magic owner Rich DeVos made two things clear Wednesday night: His family wants to remain owners of the Magic "forever," and he is trying to convince All-Star center Dwight Howard to remain with the team long-term. "Our goal is to keep the team in the family, as far as I know, forever," DeVos said before the Magic faced the Miami Heat at Amway Center. "This isn't a franchise where we expect to dump it and get a bunch of money. If you do that, what do you do with the money? The team is great entertainment and a great satisfaction for a family. It's also a way to keep your family together. All of our children and grandchildren rally around the team, and that rallying point is worth the price of a team." DeVos, 85, visited the Magic locker room before tipoff, spoke to a few players and then granted a rare interview. As Dwight Howard sat at his locker perhaps 10 yards away, DeVos acknowledged that he is trying to convince the superstar center to remain with the team for years to come. "We love him, and he respects us, so we talk," DeVos said. ... DeVos also dispelled the notion that — if the team's front office determines it must trade Howard — he would veto a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers because the Lakers signed Shaquille O'Neal to a free-agent deal years ago. "I don't have any emotion on that," DeVos said. "I never talked about where he would go because I don't want him to go. I don't discuss where he might go."

  • Adam H. Beasley of The Miami Herald: Now 73, Oscar Robertson is long retired. But last spring, the former star with the Cincinnati Royals and Milwaukee Bucks faced his fiercest, most lethal foe: Stage III prostate cancer. But after minimally invasive robotic surgery in Florida, the cancer — along with his entire prostate — is gone from his body, which is surprisingly strong, given his age and his medical history. As for his mind — it’s sharp as ever. In a wide-ranging interview with The Miami Herald, Robertson took time to talk about his health scare and hold court on the state of the NBA. The abridged version: The Miami Heat still doesn’t have enough firepower to win it all. Robertson on the Heat’s title chances: “I want LeBron to win. It felt like the whole country was against him last year. But I’ve always said this: To win championships, you need to have a center who can get you 12 points, 10 rebounds. The Heat don’t have that.”

  • John N. Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer: Something about Wednesdays and point guards doesn't work out well for the 76ers. Two weeks after Deron Williams torched the Sixers - and three after Andre Miller did the same thing - Tony Parker scored a game-high 37 points, the most any player has scored against the Sixers all season, to carry the San Antonio Spurs to a 100-90 win Wednesday night in front of 18,070 at the Wells Fargo Center. "Tony Parker was amazing tonight," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "He had the ball on a string, and we were trying to do our best to keep him corralled, make him shoot jump shots. And we just never, never could get him under control."

  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: He says the pronunciation of his name is closer to Che-ago, not Tee-ago. And he says something else. “Tony Parker is the only one who gets it right,” Tiago Splitter said, smiling. The French in Parker has a sense of the Portuguese in Splitter, and it’s telling of a global relationship that is enhanced near the rim. Manu Ginobili was always the one who made his teammates better, yet here is Parker, still scoring like the All-Star he should become today, connecting as he rarely has before. Credit Parker, who has taken yet another step. And credit Che-ago. The Spurs’ chemistry will change over the next few days as Ginobili returns. And as Ginobili walked out of Wells Fargo Center to get on the team bus, he joked about this. “Why should they want me back?” he said. After all, Ginobili and the Spurs had spent most of the past 10 years losing in Philadelphia. Wednesday was something else. Parker, with an even 100 points over his last three games, was the reason. “He had that ball on a string,” 76ers coach Doug Collins said afterward.

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: NBA commissioner David Stern said Wednesday that Hawks ownership has committed to pay the luxury tax should they exceed the league’s salary cap. Stern said he remains confident in the Atlanta Spirit following the group’s attempt to sell the Hawks and the operating rights to Philips Arena that fell through last year. “They’ve committed to pay the luxury tax, which not many teams in our league do these days,” Stern said. “They are committed to hire the personnel to demonstrate to the fans that this is a franchise worth supporting. I think they are committed to Atlanta, and I’m committed to them.” Stern said the sale of the Thrashers, the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement (including revenue sharing of which the Spirit will benefit) and joining the league-wide credit facility make the Hawks “a desirable asset.” “It could be sold if they were interested in selling it,” Stern said. “But without naming names, they are well down my list of current worries. ... They are doing pretty well on the court and I do know, because we talk about it a lot, they are committed to give it the business support.”

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: Danny Granger or Roy Hibbert? Those are the two likely candidates to be named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team as a reserve Thursday. But only one – if any – will likely be selected. Granger leads the Pacers in scoring, but his slow start this season will probably cause him not to make the team. Hibbert’s been consistent for the most part this season and the center spot is wide open after a certain player named Dwight Howard. ... The one thing that could work against Hibbert is if the coaches vote for a power forward who can also play center. I’m giving the edge to Hibbert over Granger.

  • T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times: DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin are acting as if they were raised together; Chris Paul's spreading around the goodwill as much as he does the basketball; and Caron Butler's comeback story is beyond inspirational. The Clippers seemingly had something special going, but maybe there's some doubt now with Chauncey Billups going down for the season. At the very least, it's the wrong time for Mo Williams to remind everyone how wrapped up he is in himself. It's time for the Clippers to take a stand as a team to overcome such a hit, but instead Williams is saying, "I just want to know where I stand with the Clippers." Translation: He's looking for a contract extension. Me, me, and me, he's saying, as we sit down to talk about life without Billups, and why am I not surprised? He was upset when the Clippers acquired Paul and Billups, two future Hall of Famers to buoy a long-lost franchise. Everyone is talking about what it might mean to have the Clippers improve so quickly except for Williams, who wants to know, what about me? "I want to play," he says in explaining his attitude, but what he really means to say is, he wants to start. But aren't Paul and Billups better players? "I'll let you decide," Williams says. "They are teammates of mine, so I won't say." I help him out: They are much better than you are.

  • Tom Reed of The Plain Dealer: These Cavaliers, considered by many a draft lottery lock before season's start, are proving to be a tough out for many opponents. Even their public address announcer, Olivier Sedra, removed from The Q on a stretcher Saturday with an apparent back injury, was behind the mic again on Wednesday calling Daniel Gibson's critical 3-point basket with 1:20 remaining. "You can respond one of two ways," coach Byron Scott said. "You can feel sorry for yourself and say one of our best players is out and go in the tank or you can respond like we did." The Cavaliers (10-14) toppled one of the Western Conference elite on a night they learned Irving would miss the game about 40 minutes before tipoff. They stood up to the physical Clippers and Blake Griffin, showing a brand of resilience that endeared them to 17,100 fans in attendance.

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: The Mavericks are hoping forward Dirk Nowitzki will make the All-Star Game on Feb. 26 for an unprecedented 11th consecutive season when the Western Conference's seven reserves are announced. But if he doesn't, Dallas will become the first reigning NBA champion not to have a player in the ensuing All-Star game. "There are a lot of people that think he doesn't have a chance," coach Rick Carlisle said before Wednesday's game against Denver. "I don't necessarily feel that that's the case, but we'll see. Of course we'd love to see him on the All-Star team. I'm not going to get into my own opinions on it because this is not the time to editorialize about things like that when we're having our own struggles we've got to concentrate on." Guard Jason Terry is adamant that Nowitzki will be a participant in this year's midseason classic. "He'll be in there, no question," Terry said. "I don't care how good somebody's playing, somebody will make a way for him and then we'll see what happens. But I really think he'll be there. He's still playing well enough to be there."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: The therapy session lasted 4 minutes, 56 seconds. George Karl, as blue as his brethren in North Carolina, answered Wednesday night's first media question for nearly five minutes, spilling his emotions about how and why his Nuggets lost, again. "I'm exasperated from losing," said Karl, whose team lost 105-95 to the Dallas Mavericks, the Nuggets' fourth consecutive defeat. "The weight of losing is definitely in our locker room." He talked about poor rebounding and poor shot selection, a lack of confidence and a lack of a poise, saying that point guard Ty Lawson "needs to be our stud, our responsible dude with the ball." Entering Wednesday, the Nuggets were the only NBA team not to have a four-game losing streak since 2006-07.

  • Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times: Somehow, comic actor Will Ferrell looked right for the part at center court as the guest of the 4-22 New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night at New Orleans Arena. Ferrell, in town to shoot a movie, ‘‘Dog Fight,’’ also starring Zach Galifianakis, introduced the starting lineups for the Bulls and Hornets, adding his touch to the proceedings. ‘‘At forward, No. 5, he still lives with his mother … Carlos Boozer.’’ ‘‘He collects rare birds and has a pet dolphin named Chachi … Luol Deng. ‘‘He’s a Scorpio and a horrible dancer … Joakim Noah. ‘‘He once ate 20 hot dogs in an hour … Ronnie Brewer. ‘‘And at guard, No. 1, his favorite movie is ‘‘The Notebook’’ … Derrick Rose. Ferrell had a front-row seat at center court and seemed to enjoy the game, even though the Hornets are short-handed without guard Eric Gordon and struggling since the trade of star Chris Paul.

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: Monty Williams said the Hornets waived DaJuan Summers and New Orleans native Squeaky Johnson on Tuesday because they wanted more flexibility to play their younger players. If both had remained on the roster after Tuesday, their contracts would have been guaranteed for the remainder of the season. Williams didn't rule out Johnson or Summers coming back if they are not claimed by another team by Friday. "DaJuan did some decent things, we just felt like we needed that roster spot in case we bring someone else in,'' Williams said. "We're not sure what we're going to do. Certainly appreciated what they brought to the table. "Squeaky being a local guy, it was tough to let him go. He was really gracious when he left, something I don't think people understand. Usually when you tell a guy when he's cut, you almost brace for a fight. Squeaky was asking questions on what he can do to get better.''

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Best win of the season. It wasn’t always pretty, though when it was, it was stunning. It got unnecessarily dicey. But the Rockets were staring in the face of a crushing defeat. They had led by 19 and the lead was wiped out entirely. The Rose Garden’s 20,350 did not walk out when things got tough, they raised the volume and when things got rolling, raised the roof. One of the league’s best defenses was applying the clamps. And Kyle Lowry was in the locker room with a painful right elbow, strained on a third-quarter pass. Lose that game and the Rockets would be facing the second half of the season’s longest road trip off a brutal defeat that, when coupled with the 19-point lead, would have them shaking the next time a team made a run like the Blazers’ on Wednesday. Instead, the bench played with confidence in the face of everything going against them.

  • Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: In the first 13 home games, Gerald Wallace was averaging 15.7 points and 5.9 rebounds, while shooting .564 from the field, .306 on 3-pointers and .780 at the line. Wallace’s average playing time is virtually identical – 34.5 minutes on the road, 34.4 minutes at home through Monday’s overtime loss to Oklahoma City. Why the incredible disparity in performance? Wallace isn’t sure. The 10-year NBA veteran says he doesn’t think he has been a home warrior/road weakling throughout his career. The stats bear him out, to some extent. His theory about this season has to do with style of play. “We play different as a team at home than on the road,” he says. “I feel more connected at home. Sometimes I get lost on the road. I don’t understand my position or place. It’s different. “We play two styles of ball. At home, we’re more into the open court, running, attacking the basket, which is perfect for me. On the road, we’re at a slow pace. It’s walk-the-ball-up, halfcourt offense. That goes away from what I do best.”

  • Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: It's too bad the NBA doesn't still play a Legends Game as part of its All-Star Weekend festivities. Steve Nash might have been the first guy ever selected to play in the All-Star Game and the Legends Game in the same year. The Suns' 38-year-old playmaker continues to defy the calendar, and if he is selected to his eighth All-Star Game when the NBA announces reserves Thursday, he would be among the oldest players named to the mid-season feature. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was an All-Star at 41. Michael Jordan played in an All-Star Game eight days before his 40th birthday. Karl Malone was 38 when he was named to the 2002 game, although he didn't play. A legend? With two NBA Most Valuable Player Awards and arguably the best all-around shooting statistics in the history of the league -- more on that later -- Nash qualifies. But unlike the players mentioned above, Nash's numbers are even better over the second half of his career than the first half.

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: There was a telephone conversation. In his quest to learn everything possible about Larry Bird, Tug Coker has driven to French Lick and Terre Haute, and he has spoken face-to-face with people on the Celtics Hall of Famer’s home ground in Indiana. Coker has read every book and is especially thankful for NBA video. The actor’s scouting assignment has been everything Bird, everything that can provide further insight into an icon not known for allowing many people inside. Several generations of Celtics fans, at least those who played basketball, grew up rubbing their hands on the soles of their sneakers. After all, if Larry did it for a better, grimier grip, then it must work better than glue. So Coker is running his own palms along the bottoms of his sneakers now. Part of cracking the Bird persona is the ability to re-create his mannerisms. Coker, who is about to play Bird on Broadway in the NBA production of “Magic/Bird,” is attempting to slip into the skin of one of the sport’s most enigmatic figures. The play chronicles the rivalry and eventual bond between Bird and Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.