First Cup: Monday

  • Gary Dzen of The Boston Globe: Celtics guard Rajon Rondo chose to avoid the media after putting up 32 points, 10 rebounds, and 15 assists in 40 minutes vs. the Bulls Sunday afternoon. Rondo's done the same thing in the past after big games, choosing to let his play do the talking. It's a tactic that doesn't endear him to reporters waiting over an hour to speak to him, but it's also one that probably doesn't irk fans either way. Rondo has plenty of reasons to be motivated lately, including an All-Star snub and a matchup vs. the Bulls today that was supposed to feature Derrick Rose, one of the few point guards in the league who is clearly Rondo's superior. After the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers was asked if Rondo was trying to prove a point. "Oh, I don’t know," said Rivers. " I’m going to let you guys be that deep. I wish I could get in someone’s head that deep. I just think he wanted to win."

  • Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times: In many ways, this one was predictable. The Bulls were playing the last game of a nine-game road trip, the third-longest in team history, and the improved Celtics had won nine of 10 before back-to-back losses to the Lakers and Raptors. What wasn’t expected was the Celtics scoring 33 fast-break points to the Bulls’ six. The Bulls had a chance at the end mostly because of Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, who combined for 38 points and 16 rebounds. The Celtics led by 14 after consecutive alley-oop plays from Rondo to JaJuan Johnson and Chris Wilcox with 5:08 left, but the Bulls had cut that lead to three when Watson penetrated the lane. His off-balance one-hander rimmed out. A few seconds later, with 27.6 seconds left, the Bulls had the ball back after a timeout. Watson quickly shot an off-balance three-pointer and missed again. It was a curious decision because the Bulls had all their best shooters on the floor and plenty of time on the clock to tie the game, but Thibodeau said the way the play was set up, Watson shooting a quick three was the first option. “[Watson] makes those shots,” Thibodeau said. “I’m not going to second-guess that. I want him to be aggressive, and he was. I didn’t have a problem with that.” With the most difficult stretch of their schedule behind them, the Bulls have more victories than any team in the NBA, but that was little consolation after the loss. “Overall, I felt they out-competed us,” Noah said.

  • Cathal Kelly of the Toronto Star: At this point, Bryant has become a meta-presence in basketball. He exists above the game, and chooses only small, interesting moments when he wants to participate. He is only barely a teammate. It would be more correct to call him a freelance contractor who happens to wear the same uniform as everyone else. As mesmerizing as he is towatch on the ball, he’s also hypnotic without it. Whether up by 15 or down by four, his expression is exactly the same — a bored-looking smirk. The body language repeats the same thing over and over again: “Call me when this gets interesting.” The only point in Sunday’s game when he seemed to be enjoying himself was as he goaded Calderon during the game’s last two possessions. He enjoys the lighthearted cut and thrust, though it doesn’t appear very lighthearted. He oozes contempt — always for his opponents and often for his teammates. The Raptors start out each game with a ritualized series of lingering, full-body hugs. The Lakers barely look at each other before they wander individually onto the court. That’s down to Bryant, who didn’t even bother to join his team on the court until after the anthems were played. That earned him a lusty cheer from his wannabe pals in the Toronto crowd. Bryant didn’t even look up. It’s more than unfriendliness. It’s verging on incivility.

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: Lakers followers cringed when Bryant sustained a torn ligament in his right wrist in December, but he is averaging an NBA-high 29.3 points. He also has taken 675 shots, far more than the next player, Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant (523). "I'm fine," Bryant said. "I've noticed a lot of people going down with injuries and I'm very proud to say that they're a lot younger than I am. "Here I am, I haven't pulled a hamstring or pulled muscles or anything like that. Over the summer, I worked extremely hard trying to stay in shape and trying to get ready for this compression." Bryant hasn't been solid in two important areas. He is shooting 44%, his lowest accuracy since 2004-05 (43.3%). He is also averaging 3.68 turnovers, the most in his career if he continued at that pace.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Rashard Lewis didn’t play in the first half of the Wizards’ 98-77 win over the Detroit Pistons and was heckled for a large portion of a game by a fan seated near the visiting team bench. During a timeout, Lewis stood up and the fan shouted, “Hey, Rashard. I came to see you! Who do I need to talk to?” During another timeout, the fan had just arrived with two beers from the concession stand and before sitting down shouted, “Rashard! Rashard! What’s up?” Lewis, who had missed the previous three games nursing a sore right knee, responded to the heckler, “I got a flat tire.” Lewis didn’t know at the time if he was going to play, or if Coach Randy Wittman would need him. He only dressed in case of an emergency and was hoping to get in at least one more practice before returning to the floor. But not only did Wittman need Lewis, but Lewis found the night to be especially rewarding, as he helped the Wizards (6-22) get their second road win of the season and joined Jason Kidd and Paul Pierce as the only players in NBA history with at least 15,000 points, 5,000 rebounds and 1,500 three-pointers made. “It feel good. I’m most definitely happy and excited about it,” Lewis said. “I’ve been playing in the NBA for a long time. This just tells me I’ve had a pretty successful career. Not a lot of people can be on that list.”

  • Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press: Center Ben Wallace, 37, tied Avery Johnson on Sunday night with the most NBA games played by an undrafted player with 1,054. Moses Malone has more games than either with 1,329, but he was drafted out of high school by the American Basketball Association. "As much as everyone has Linsanity right now, but you look at Ben Wallace, a guy who when he went to try out for the Boston Celtics 16, 17 years ago, whatever it was, they tried to put him at (shooting) guard," Frank said. "To be four-time defensive player of the year, to be such a professional he is at the end -- because sometimes the hardest guy to coach is the aging superstar because they still live in what they were. "He's been the easiest guy to coach because he gets it. He understands the circle of life, so to speak, in a professional athlete. And he gives back -- total professional. Guy's been a great, great, great player, has always embodied kind of what the city's been about: a blue-collar, earn-it-every-single-day type of mentality."

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Over the past 10 days, the Hawks have lost four times at home, and none of the losses have been close. What lifted them to 16-6 was a nice bench and a nicer schedule, but you can’t play the Nets and the Wizards every night. The Hawks are 13-1 against teams that are under .500, 5-9 against those above it. In sum, they’re better than the bad teams. And now you’re saying, “This is news?” In a way, yes. It has taken 28 games to reach some sort of conclusion about this odd crew, and the verdict isn’t necessarily damning. Without Horford, many among us had visions of a total surrender. That hasn’t happened. On most nights, they’ve hung in there. But you cannot expect a team minus its anchor to hang in against the Heat. Not that there are many, if any, like this. Wade, who’s Miami’s second-best player, destroyed Joe Johnson, the Hawks’ $120 million man, in the first half, outscoring him 21-8. Chris Bosh, third-best among the Heat, put up a first-half double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) against Josh Smith, who fancies himself an All-Star. ... On what was billed as a big night for this franchise, the crowd left early and the Heat didn’t break a sweat. The home side was outrebounded 31-13 in the first half and yielded 63 points in 24 minutes, which doesn’t speak of dedication to duty. But you know what? The Hawks could have played their best and tried their hardest and still lost by 10. For what they are, they’ve done well this season. But what they are is a cut above middling.

  • Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald: Dwyane Wade began the season slowly and then injured his ankle, which set him back further. Wade then rested his body for about two weeks, and it seems the time off served him well. In Wade’s past five games he has scored at least 25 points. “He’s back in attack mode and back to doing the moves he did before the injury,” James said. “He’s as close to as 100 percent as you can get, and that’s good to see.” Said Spoelstra: “The most important thing is that we play in an attack mentality, but the ball has to move.” Entering Sunday’s game, Wade, who was voted as a starter on the Eastern Conference All-Star team, is averaging 22.2 points, four rebounds and 5.1 assists.

  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: Coach Tyrone Corbin made a major connection with the Jazz before Utah even tipped off against the Grizzlies on Sunday night. Corbin took his team Saturday to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. The Jazz then went out to a team dinner that evening. The museum was formerly the Lorraine Motel, where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Corbin had visited the memorial several times before. But it was the first time for Utah players such as C.J. Miles, and words such as "heavy" and "crazy" were used the morning after. "It was good, man," said Miles, prior to tipoff against Memphis. "We’re a tight-knit group. But doing something like that is always fun and always good. And it’s a great exhibit, and it’s powerful stuff." With team-building activities limited on the road due to the lockout-compressed schedule, Corbin saw a free Saturday in Memphis as a perfect chance to bring his players closer together. Improved chemistry was only part of his plan, though. Corbin wanted Utah to understand the sacrifices people such as King made so others could live better and easier lives.

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Memphis seemed a stepped slow from the opening tip. “Believe it or not, I think we play our best basketball when we’re down,” Allen said. “It seems like was have more of a sense of urgency. Tonight, they were the better team because they were getting to the 50/50 balls.” The Grizzlies certainly didn’t arrive for the late start time with a shooting eye or a mindset to attack the basket. Memphis missed 11 of its first 15 shots while Utah converted 10 of its first 15 field goal attempts. That no one on the Grizzlies’ front line attempted a free throw in the first half proved to be an example of how passive the Griz were offensively. Marreese Speights missed his first six shots and Rudy Gay was being outplayed by Hayward at that point.

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: With the two teams that waived Jeremy Lin about to tip off, Warriors head coach Mark Jackson chose to clear the air about how the talk of the league was cut by Golden State. It was Dec. 9, the first day of training camp, and Lin was taken off the court with the Warriors putting together an offer for restricted free-agent center DeAndre Jordan. Jackson said that when he found out, he left practice to find Lin and thank him for his hard work with the franchise. "That's the extent of our relationship," Jackson said before Sunday's game against Houston, which waived Lin on Christmas Eve. "I got a text message from Spike Lee (on Saturday) morning, thanking me, like I had something to do with it. I never saw him do a layup, so people can stop asking me. He never practiced for us, so leave me out of it." Jackson said he was looking forward to Lin and second-round pick Charles Jenkins competing for the backup point-guard spot, and he wanted to end the conversation there - but the talk of Lin, who has scored at least 20 points in five straight games for New York, hasn't stopped - especially with his former teammates.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: With a night off in San Francisco, Kevin McHale did what fans around the country did: He watched Knicks guard Jeremy Lin. “I went and found a sports bar just to watch him play,” McHale said. “I’m really enjoying it. He’s a wonderful kid. We had him for a very short period of time. He’s a wonderful young man, fun to be around, worked hard, and was just a great guy. Everybody on our staff and I think everybody in the basketball department was like, ‘We really like this guy.’ Of course, no one saw this coming. This is unbelievable. But had there been an opening, we would have loved to have him on our team, no question.”