First Cup: Thursday

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: The Lin phenomenon crossed the border Tuesday, when he beat Toronto with a last-second 3-pointer and won ovations from Raptors fans. He is stirring passions in China, Italy, Germany and anywhere basketball is played, watched or read about. That includes the White House. On Wednesday, President Obama was raving about Lin on Marine One, according to his spokesman. “Yes, he’s very impressed and fully up to speed,” the spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. “I know he’s watched Lin play already, and he’s seen the highlights from last night’s game.” Lin said he was “very honored an very humbled” to hear it. “I mean, wow, the president,” he said. “Nothing better than that.” Locally, Lin received the ultimate homage when Shake Shack named a shake after him: the Lin-Mint. And it seems inevitable that the N.B.A. will find a way to include Lin in All-Star weekend Feb. 24-26 in Orlando. The league has not yet chosen players for the skills competition, which seems a likely event for Lin.

  • Jim Baumbach of the Newsday: Jeremy Lin had a reputation for missing shots, and not one team took a chance on him in the NBA draft. So, how did Lin go from poor shooter to shooting star? Meet Doc Scheppler. He's the man who helped the Knicks ' sensation become a scoring threat by improving his jump shot and proving everyone else wrong. "I laugh now when I hear people say he's not a very good shooter," said Scheppler, a 58-year-old girls basketball coach at a private high school in northern California. Scheppler said he spent some 400 hours in the gym with Lin last fall. And it paid off. The results were on display Tuesday night in Toronto , where Lin swished a go-ahead three-pointer with .5 seconds remaining, continuing his remarkable streak as the Knicks ' new point guard. Last night, as the Knicks stretched their Lin-ning streak to seven games, he scored only 10 points in limited minutes in a 100-85 blowout of the Sacramento Kings after averaging 26.8 points during his first six games.

  • Ken Belson of The New York Times: Like about 2.5 million Time Warner Cable customers throughout the state, residents in places like Confucius Plaza, a 44-story apartment building in Chinatown, have been unable to watch Lin — an international phenomenonand the nation’s most prominent Asian-American athlete — because the cable company has been in rancorous dispute with MSG Network, which televises Knicks games. So network executives invited the neighborhood to a hastily arranged all-you-can-eat dim sum party to explain their side of the dispute. There were translators and plenty of food, a life-size cardboard cutout of Lin, and because the restaurant had a different cable provider, there was an actual live, legal telecast of the game on television. There was not, however, a whole lot of peace and understanding. Instead, it was just another night of paradox and frustration: New York fans with perhaps the strongest affection for Lin unable to see him perform in their own homes. ... Vincent Lau, a Time Warner customer, heard about the event at the restaurant from his wife, and quickly ran over to be heard. “It doesn’t make sense,” said Mr. Lau, 28, “for a New Yorker to not be able to watch their home teams.”

  • Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle: Had David Stern not nixed the trade that would have brought Pau Gasol to Houston, Lin would be a Rocket today. Remember, backup point guard Goran Dragic was in that agreed-to deal. Add the free-agent signing of Nene, which probably would’ve happened after the Gasol trade, and the Rockets squad Morey has been working to get since he took over in 2007 would be among the best in the West. It didn’t happen. But Morey’s open admission that not keeping Lin was a mistake shouldn’t be taken as a foreseeable blunder. Such a judgment would be based on what Lin has shown in the last couple of weeks, not what he showed before then. This isn’t the Astros trading future Hall of Famer Joe Morgan. This isn’t the Rockets moving future Hall of Famer Elvin Hayes. This isn’t even the Oilers letting future Hall of Famer Warren Moon go for a couple of middle-round draft picks. About the only way Morey’s career will be defined by his releasing Lin is if the Harvard grad leads the Knicks to the NBA title. While not Linpossible, it would be Lincredible.

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Mark Cuban didn't exactly say New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin wouldn't be receiving wall-to-wall national attention if he were black. However, Cuban did say: "People, I don't think, would have made as big a deal about it because it would have fit more of the profile. It'll probably get me in trouble, but it's true. "It's just reality. For better or worse, we profile people."

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Jeremy Lin was apparently on the local radar well beyond his old friends at Harvard. According to a source, the Celtics were poised to claim the Knicks sensation off waivers when he was cut by Golden State prior to the start of the season, but Houston chose ahead of them in the waiver order. When Houston later released him, the Celtics were ready to make a move again, only for the Knicks to take Lin off the wire. No one, of course, had an inkling that Lin would eventually emerge as the point guard the Knicks needed so badly. “I’m sure we looked at him, but Danny (Ainge) would have to answer that,” coach Doc Rivers said before last night’s 98-88 loss to Detroit. “I thought (Harvard coach) Tommy Amaker and I were friends. Maybe not. He never told me.”

  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: It was the equivalent of a cold call. The agent from San Antonio sent the Harvard coach some literature, and the Harvard coach passed it on to the family of the player. That’s how it started. No one put in a good word. The family interviewed a number of agents, and he was one. They had a conference call, then a Skype interview, then a personal meeting. Few others in basketball thought much of it. The agent was as nameless as the player. What followed, then, isn’t just about the rise of Jeremy Lin. The agent, Roger Montgomery, talked about this as he walked to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night to watch his client dish out 13 assists and get another win. Montgomery said he and Lin planned to squeeze in a dinner after the Knicks-Kings game, but he hadn’t seen him yet. “Those days of just hanging out are over,” Montgomery said on his cell. They aren’t always together anymore, but they are on parallel trajectories. Montgomery, 41, a native of Los Angeles, who had played professionally in Poland, who had been working in San Antonio for almost 10 years, is as stunning a story in his field as Lin is in his. Montgomery has had a number of clients over the years. His only current NBA player, besides Lin, is former UT Longhorn Maurice Evans, now with the Wizards. ... According to reports, Nike will soon announce a new promotional campaign built around Lin. “We’re ready,” Montgomery said. He said he’s assembled a team to maximize the opportunities, and, ever smart as an agent, he praised Lin on this front, too. “Jeremy is going to take his time,” he said. “He’s grounded. He’s not trying to own the world.”

  • Mitch Stephens of the San Francisco Chronicle: Before Linsanity, Peter Diepenbrock was leading a rather tranquil and domestic life, teaching four P.E. classes at Palo Alto High and devoting the rest of his days to wife Janet and 6-year-old son John. "Peaceful," was how he summed things up. These days, the 48-year-old is frantically juggling national media spots, jetting across country and hobnobbing with Spike Lee. "Out of control," is how he described his life Wednesday. "One thing after another. Completely turned upside down." What do you expect when you're a confidant, friend and former high school basketball coach of the world's most talked-about athlete, Jeremy Lin? Oh, Diepenbrock expected the interview requests when Lin began his head-spinning transformation of the Knicks. But front-row seats at Madison Square Garden? Sitting next to Lee? "No, that's definitely not something I ever envisioned in my lifetime," Diepenbrock said.

  • Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News: If and when we can siphon out the politics, the prejudices, the agendas and the money, sports competition is pure, which is why we love it. And what Lin is doing is the purest form of all that. Players play. The best ones win, whoever they are. Lin is winning. It's special, it's dramatic, it's storybook, it's a tale for the ages, absolutely, and it has so far carried on through seven games. It was elevated yet one more level by Tuesday night's game-winner in Toronto. But when I watched Lin pull up over Jose Calderon and bury that 3-pointer, I didn't instantly think of his Taiwanese heritage or his ecstatic fan base of all races and creeds. I thought: This is what Derrick Rose does; this is what Larry Bird used to do; this is what Jeremy Lin is now doing. And I thought: The greatness of this is the incidentalness of his race on some levels. Race didn't matter -- not for Lin, not for Calderon (who is Spanish), not for Lin's teammate Landry Fields. The purity of the play is what mattered. How powerful is that?

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: The Pistons are doing a horrible job of setting up that lottery pick for the June NBA draft. The lottery still is their likely destiny, but lottery-bound teams mess up their lottery chances by doing things like beating the Celtics at TD Garden for the first time since March 2009. And that's exactly what the Pistons (9-22) did Wednesday night in pulling away from the Celtics (15-13) in the fourth quarter on their way to a 98-88 victory for their fifth win in seven games. Ben Gordon, with strong memories of his epic 2009 first-round playoff series against the Celtics, was hot in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 points on his way to a 22-point night as the Pistons outscored the Celtics, 25-16, in the final period. "He has a history of doing it. I just think the key is everyone kind of finding their niche here and finding that consistency with it so every night you know what you are going to get from each other," coach Lawrence Frank said. "That's how you start to build a good team with reliability and consistency. But I thought Ben was obviously very good tonight."

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: Five minutes into Wednesday's game, Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving ventured into the lane and attacked the basket with a vengeance. When he scored over the 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert of the Indiana Pacers, the Cavs knew right away he didn't have any lingering effects of his concussion. "I'm 100 percent," Irving said. "Because I had a concussion, it doesn't mean I'm going to change my game in any way." His game-high 22 points helped the Cavs snap a two-game losing streak in their 98-87 rout of the Indiana Pacers before 12,712 at Quicken Loans Arena. "We've always known from Day 1 he has no fear," Cavs coach Byron Scott said. "It wasn't surprising to me that his first shot was going to be an aggressive, attack-mode type shot."

  • Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune: Point guards Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea agree they have to cut down on turnovers. But, perhaps, each has to approach that task from a different angle. The sudden rise in turnovers was a big reason for the Wolves' four-game losing streak. "We have to control the ball," Rubio said. "We have to run the right play. Sometimes we run the play but we don't care about the ball." Said Barea: "Me and Ricky, we're just trying to put too much pressure on ourselves to create for others and for ourselves." So what has to change? In Rubio's case, he said teams have made it more difficult to pass out of the pick and roll, but said there were things he could do to counter that. The Wolves prepared for Wednesday's game by working on getting into pick and rolls out of movement, hoping that would make it more difficult to defend. Ultimately, though, Rubio said he has to keep attacking the rim when the opportunity presents itself. For Barea, the key might be attacking the basket less. Coach Rick Adelman mentioned that Tuesday, and Barea, who had eight assists and no turnovers in 26 minutes vs. the Bobcats, agreed. "No question," he said. "I haven't shot a midrange shot yet, at least in a while. I kind of forgot about it. My three-point shot is going in, I'm getting to the hoop, now I have to mix it up."

  • Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times: Bulls center Joakim Noah takes friendly shots at coach Tom Thibodeau whenever he can. Noah dismisses Thibo-deau’s Division III playing career, for example. And when asked about how the defensive-oriented Thibodeau will handle coaching the Eastern Conference in the wide-open All-Star Game later this month, first came the infectious grin, then the needle. “He’s got the personality for it,” Noah said sarcastically. Seconds later, when Thibodeau walked into the locker room after the victory Tuesday night over the Sacramento Kings, Noah was the first to congratulate him for gaining the All-Star nod. His sincerity illustrated the depth of the relationship Thibodeau has with his ¬≠players. That relationship goes to the heart of the team’s success. The one-dimensional coach fans and the media see isn’t the same “Thibs” players know behind closed doors.

  • Paola Boivin of The Arizona Republic: The Suns have spent much of the past year collecting and analyzing data about NBA teams in transition. They've crunched the numbers, scrutinized the results. Despite the roller-coaster ride of this season's group, management wants you to know it has a vision for the future. Let's hope that's true, because it hasn't done a great job communicating its plan. Lance Blanks might be the least-visible general manager in the NBA, and owner Robert Sarver, too, has been heard from less this season. Reports of behind-the-scenes frustration have leaked, but that's not uncommon in the professional ranks, especially with executives Blanks and Lon Babby in roles they never held before being hired in 2010. To their credit, Sarver and President of Basketball Operations Babby were forthright in laying out their plan. Among the highlights: Steve Nash isn't going anywhere, unless he chooses to leave. The organization has no interest in a full-scale "blowing up" of the team, because its research shows that process can take from eight to 10 years and it has no interest in waiting that long. It believes a return to being an elite team will come from better drafting, wise personnel moves via trades and free agency, and taking advantage of the significant amount of salary-cap space it will have available next season.