First Cup: Wednesday

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: As slogans go, it’s not quite Grind House. But the fundamental spirit is the same. It’s what this team is, once again. It’s how it has survived and thrived. The Grizzlies defeated the Philadelphia 76ers at FedExForum Tuesday night, 89-76, lifting their record without Zach Randolph to 18-12. Yes, 18-12. Six games over .500. Raise your hand if you thought that was possible when Randolph was felled against the Bulls. I know, the Grizzlies had done it before. They went on their playoff run after Gay went down. But this was Z-Bo. This was a completely different deal. Or not, as it has turned out. The Grizzlies just went back to work. And if that can sound cliché, it’s also true. The NBA is obsessed with individual stars. More than any other professional league. See Linsanity. See LeBron or Kevin Durant. Small wonder the Grizzlies have once again receded in the national consciousness. They don’t seem to give a flip about any of that. In a world of glitz and glitter, they’re still grit and grind.

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: Speights played in his 28th game for the Grizzlies last night, getting his 26th start. He scored 12 points in 21 minutes. He has been a key cog for a team that is missing forward Zach Randolph with a torn right medial collateral ligament, averaging close to nine points and just under seven rebounds in 23 minutes. ... Much like Speights needed to get out of Philadelphia. "Everything has been great here," Speights said. "They've welcomed me, the fans welcomed me and the coaches and players. I just go out there and play my basketball. I can't be another [Randolph]. He does what he does and I do what I do. It just gives me a chance to come out here and do what I do to help win games." Unlike Philadelphia, Memphis is using Speights primarily as a power forward instead of a center. It is, he said, a more natural fit for him. "I can stretch their offense, get more bigs on the floor. This is a hard-defending team so I just go out there and do the things that I do - take charges and rebound. That's my natural position, power forward, because I can put the ball on the ground and shoot it and all that. But when guys come in like Thaddeus Young and players like that, then I'd rather play center. [In Memphis], I'm usually playing with another big guy."

  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: Sure, the 11-game winning streak was fun while it lasted. But the NBA is all about positioning for the playoffs. And playing starters for extended minutes in February doesn’t make much sense, particularly when injuries and back-to-back games start piling up during the most difficult road trip of the season. Gregg Popovich can’t be faulted for resting Tim Duncan andTony Parker in his team’s 137-97 blowout loss Tuesday night at Portland. The Spurs are already struggling without Tiago Splitter, Manu Ginobili and T.J. Ford. Those injuries led to Duncan playing nearly 79combined minutes in his last two games. You don’t ask a 35-year-old player to play those minutes and then demand much on the back end of a back-to-back. During the month of February, Parker has played at least 38 minutes in five games. His minutes in the last two games ranked among his top 11 games of the season. It made sense to give him a chance a night of rest on Tuesday night, too. “Those guys are out and I can’t run our other guys into the ground,” Popovich told reporters after the game. “When it’s time for them to rest based on the schedule and the time they’ve been playing, that’s what’s got to happen if you want to put some money in the bank for later.”

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: The score was lopsided, the game uncompetitive at the Rose Garden on Tuesday, a big Trail Blazers win thanks to the calculated resting of San Antonio stars Tim Duncan and Tony Parker by coach Gregg Popovich and the suddenly hot shooting of Portland guards Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton. But behind the scenes, another game was being played Tuesday, and it was quite the nail-biter for Blazers management. The game is the competition for the services of free agent center Joel Przybilla. According to agent Bill Duffy, who spent halftime sitting courtside with team president Larry Miller, Przybilla is expected to make a decision Wednesday between signing with Miami, Chicago, Milwaukee or Portland ... or remaining idle at his home in Milwaukee, where he is an All-Star father to his two sons. "I think Portland is always the sentimental favorite for obvious reasons," Duffy said. "Joel has a home here and he had the best years of his career here. And at this particular time, it looks like he is needed, too." The Blazers have made an offer to the 32-year-old center for the remainder of the season. Now they are waiting. Hoping. Wondering.

  • Tom Reed of The Plain Dealer: Fourth quarters are supposed to belong to veteran players, men who have learned over time to harness their emotions as the possessions grow few and consequences for mistakes escalate. So what 19-year-old Kyrie Irving is doing in his rookie season almost defies logic and -- in the case of his no-look, over-the-shoulder pass to Alonzo Gee -- description. He is becoming one of the kings of late-night basketball and his band of Cavaliers teammates are only too happy to tag along. Irving led another furious fourth-quarter rally as the Cavaliers stunned the Detroit Pistons, 101-100, before 13,459 fans in The Q. The first-year point guard scored 17 of his 25 points in the final period to erase an 11-point deficit. Irving and Gee combined for 30 of the Cavs' 35 points in the quarter. It marks the fifth time this season the Cavs (13-17) have come back from 11 or more points to win. They trailed by as many as 17 points late in the third quarter Tuesday night.

  • Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press: It's ridiculous ripping on the Pistons for winning those precious few games in a season that ultimately gets defined by where they'll eventually fall in this spring's draft lottery. Worse, it's hypocritical. Those upset that the Pistons' recent success might cost them a top-five pick in what some consider the deepest NBA draft since 2003 -- when LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade went in the top five -- need to look at the calendar. An anniversary's approaching. It's nothing worth celebrating, but certainly remembering. The mutiny wasn't simply an embarrassment for the Pistons, it remains a popular reference point for those fed up with the perceived inmate-run, ego-driven asylum that has become the NBA. Several Pistons deliberately blew off the morning shoot-around in Philadelphia on Feb. 25, 2011, in an orchestrated protest against coach John Kuester. The players involved were justly criticized for their unprofessionalism and for basically not caring what people thought about them. If that outraged you, then these Pistons playing like they actually care and respect the game should be a source of modest pride -- even if it won't get them to the playoffs and eventually costs them a realistic chance at an impact player in the draft. You can't have it both ways.

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: Former North Central High School and Indiana University star Eric Gordon will experience free agency for the first time in his four-year NBA career this summer. The soon-to-be restricted free agent has no idea where he'll play next season, but he knows his hometown team, the Indiana Pacers, is on the list of teams he finds intriguing. The New Orleans Hornets will be able to match any offer made to Gordon this summer. "It's going to be interesting," Gordon said Tuesday. "It's all about whatever happens, happens. Coming back here would be a lot of pressure, but I think it would be good for the fans. We'll see. You never know where this summer will take me." Gordon has been on the minds of most Pacers fans since he and the Hornets failed to agree to a contract extension last month. The Pacers could use a scorer like Gordon, but it's unknown how aggressively they would pursue him. He's averaging 18.1 points in his career. The Pacers will have salary cap space but do not have a history of pursing restricted free agents. The other issue is that Gordon has had a difficult time staying healthy. He has played more than 62 games in a season only once.

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: Although the Hornets listed him as having a bone bruise on his right knee, guard Eric Gordon admitted Tuesday his injury was more serious, involving cartilage damage. Gordon said arthroscopic surgery was performed last week to remove cartilage debris from his knee. Before Gordon gave details Tuesday, Hornets officials had only disclosed that a surgical procedure was performed to clean up his right knee. “First off, you can label it as a bone bruise, or say so,’’ Gordon said. “Of course, it was a little more serious than that. It was a little bit of cartilage damage that came about, but nothing more serious than that. “I had a little cartilage debris. That happens when you have damage to a cartilage, and that was that — and I needed it. I’ve never had surgery before. All you can do is listen to the doctors as far as moving forward, and I know the timing sucked, but no one knew how serious it was. We went through multiple doctors, and the only way we could find out is (to) go in there.’’ Gordon also admitted he first experienced pain his right knee when he still was with the Los Angeles Clippers, before a blockbuster trade that sent him to the Hornets, with Al-Farouq Aminu and Chris Kaman, in exchange for All-Star point guard Chris Paul. “At that time I thought it was nothing serious because I was fine and nothing was swollen,’’ Gordon said. Gordon has not played since Jan. 4, against the Philadelphia 76ers.

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: The Jeremy Lin effect: Ticket of America’s Michael Lipman said courtside seats for Thursday’s Knicks-at-Heat game are selling for $6000 behind the basket, with one sideline courtside seat going to a rapper for $12,500 – both double what Lakers-at-Heat and the Celtics-at-Heat home opener commanded. Those sideline courtside seats cost $1500 to $2000 for most games. One went for $20,000 in the NBA Finals.

  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: Spoelstra has resisted all Lin questions of late, and his players had grown weary of them. Now they know they can't avoid them. Spoelstra acknowledged that Thursday "will be a game that won't require a lot of motivation by either team." Chalmers admitted that he was "definitely excited about a matchup like that, especially with the media hype." But Wade said he wasn't losing sleep over it: "It's not the Finals or anything." There might be a special guest. President Barack Obama has a fundraiser scheduled at the University of Miami on Thursday afternoon, and Heat officials are preparing for the possibility that he will attend. With seven rebounds, including one on a one-handed putback dunk that brought Wade out of his seat and onto the floor, Haslem passed former center (and current DJ) Rony Seikaly to become the second-leading rebounder in Heat history. "Eventually, he will be the mayor of this town," Spoelstra said. Wade laughed at speculation in New York that he will be distracted Thursday by the All-Star party he's hosting in Orlando after the game. "That's hilarious. I don't even know what to say about that one. I think I've shown that I'm a pretty focused guy, I know how to focus on the task at hand. I had way more things going on than a party, with big games."

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: It's hard for Isaiah Thomas to enjoy nights like Tuesday. For the second game in a row, the Kings rookie guard set a season high in scoring. He finished with 24 points, highlighted by a third quarter in which he tied the team record for three-pointers in a quarter with five and scored 20 points. But the Kings lost to the Miami Heat 120-108 at AmericanAirlines Arena. It was Sacramento's sixth straight defeat, its longest skid of the season. The Kings' ability to stay close to Miami – with All-Stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh – for most of the night didn't console Thomas. "It's pointless," Thomas said. "You're doing good, but you're not getting over the hump. Somehow, some way we've got to get over this hump. We're in games for long periods of time, and then with the good teams, they go on a 10-0 run, and that hurts us. We've got to figure something out and try to stop that." The last King with 20 or more points in a quarter was Kevin Martin, who scored 24 in the fourth quarter Feb. 23, 2009, against New Orleans. Thomas' 20-point outburst was the biggest by a Heat opponent in a quarter this season and, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the biggest by a Kings rookie in a quarter since at least the 2000-01 season.

  • Tony Bizjak of The Sacramento Bee: National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern on Tuesday said the Sacramento Kings owners have agreed to make a substantial contribution to the city's $387 million arena deal, but he did not disclose how much. Stern said he expects negotiations between the league and city to continue into the weekend. "There is a lot of discussion going on," he told TNT. "We're hoping by the March 1 deadline there will be a financing plan that makes sense." Asked what will happen if there is no deal by that deadline date, he said, "We'll see. Here we go again." During the interview with TNT's David Aldridge, Stern, however, indicated he considered any contribution to the arena from the probable arena operator, AEG, to be a team contribution.