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First Cup: Thursday

  • Benjamin Hoffman of The New York Times: As great as Jeremy Lin has been, as fantastic of a story his life is, the Linsanity phenomenon may have reached its apogee when talk began of adding him to the United States Olympic roster. Lin has shown himself to be quite a talent, but the argument against his inclusion is fairly simple: Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook. Those four players represent the finalists for the point guard position on the team. Lin has averaged 25.6 points and 8.1 assists a game over his 11-game run. Those are fantastic numbers that largely justify the media storm they have created. But Rose averaged 25 points and 7.7 assists for an entire season last year while earning the N.B.A.’s Most Valuable Player award. Williams averaged 18 or more points and 10 or more assists in four consecutive seasons before this year. Paul is considered one of the best passing point guards in the N.B.A., if not the best, and Westbrook is averaging 23.4 points a game after finishing with averages of 21.9 points and 8.2 assists last season. To say that Lin is not yet in this company is hardly an insult. John Stockton would probably have a hard time cracking this unit and he was a member of the 1992 Dream Team.

  • Kimberley A. Martin of Newsday: Coming off the bench suits Baron Davis just fine. After more than 12 years in the NBA , the veteran point guard isn't looking to fight for more playing time or the spotlight. Six months ago his future seemed uncertain as he weighed the prospect of retirement against returning -- once again -- from injury. But although he's far from playing like the Baron of old, Davis knows he made the right decision. The court is where he belongs. And though the productivity isn't there just yet, the fire remains. And in time, Davis believes the Garden fans will witness his passion translate into more points and more assists as the Knicks grow together as a team. "When Coach [ Mike D'Antoni ] looks to the bench, we want to come in with that fire," said the backup point guard, who had one point and six assists in 13:56 during last night's 99-82 win over Atlanta. "And just really change the tempo of the game and push that lead up and really make a difference."

  • Allan Brettman of The Oregonian: Turns out Oregon-based Nike had an endorsement deal with Lin long before the 23-year-old Harvard graduate leapt from National Basketball Association benchwarmer to starting point guard for the New York Knicks to biggest story in the sporting world. But Parker, who recounted his mom's phone call during aninterview Wednesday in Manhattan, says even Nike executives were taken by surprise when an international media spotlight descended on Lin seemingly overnight. Surprising or not, Lin's rise is welcome at Nike and at Portland-based Adidas America. Both have significant growth plans in Asia, and some analysts had been concerned about the NBA's prospects in the region in the wake of Chinese star Yao Ming's retirement last year. Both companies, in different ways and to different extents, stand to benefit from Lin's instant celebrity status. ... Could a Jeremy Lin signature basketball shoe be in the works? Or a Lin line of clothes? "One of the questions is, 'what are you going to do in terms of product?'" Parker acknowledged. "I think you'll see more things happening there. I mean, there's a real interest in him and in his story and I think that creates opportunities for him and for Nike." Nike and Adidas have targeted China for meaningful portions of their revenue growth in the years ahead. Lin's surprising appeal in China -- Taiwan and China share a tense political history -- clearly has the marketing wheels spinning. "We've all been thinking about that," said Denson, who estimated that half of the interviewers he talked to after an Olympics-themed product launch this week wanted to ask at least as many questions about Lin as the new shoes and uniforms.

  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: It may not always seem possible, considering the careful and considered way that he conducts himself, but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was a kid once. For an instant Wednesday, he was again, after he was asked to summon a comparison to Jeremy Lin, the point guard who has averaged 24.6 points and 9.4 assists in his nine starts for the New York Knicks. Spoelstra was suddenly a kid back in Oregon, in 1979, pulling for the Portland Trail Blazers and their shooting star. "Billy Ray Bates," Spoelstra said. The coach said it with a smile, then a story. "He came from the CBA, he was a nobody, Portland signed him on a flyer mid-season," Spoelstra said. "This guy absolutely exploded onto the scene. "Put the team on his back, pandemonium in Portland, the amount of attention and hysteria about Billy Ray Bates. And he created this legend. And he came from nowhere." But Bates' brief stardom in the Pacific Northwest hardly compares to Linsanity, which arrives Thursday night in South Florida when the Knicks face the Heat. Tickets are averaging more than $600 apiece and dozens of reporters passing through town prior to Orlando's All-Star Weekend will chronicle the TNT game.

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: Magic Johnson still cares. Obviously. He sold his 4.5% ownership stake in the Lakers two years ago but still has plenty to say about the franchise he drove to five NBA championships. "I'm proud of Kobe [Bryant] for being a good teammate and being a good leader and voicing his opinion," Johnson said, referring to Bryant's decision to challenge the front office. Johnson also challenged Lakers management Wednesday. In addition to saying team executive Jim Buss needed to update Bryant more often on the team's plans, Johnson said the Lakers must make "one or two trades" before the March 15 deadline. "They can compete for the Western Conference championship," Johnson said. "But if they don't [make a trade], I don't think they'll compete. I think Oklahoma City is better. San Antonio is also playing better than the Lakers right now." Johnson remains on the Lakers' payroll as a vice president. He is also an ESPN analyst and spoke to reporters on a conference call Wednesday. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban heard about the Lakers' drama. He wasn't sympathetic. "I could care less," Cuban said before the Lakers beat the Mavericks, 96-91, Wednesday at American Airlines Center.

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: It was Monday morning, at his home in Wisconsin, when Joel Przybilla awoke with clarity. It had been an entertaining Sunday evening, one where he took his wife and two kids to a WWE professional wrestling event in Milwaukee. His 6-year-old son, Anthony, was having a blast. And his wife, Noelle, was smiling. Something inside of him turned. This, he thought seeing his family together and happy, was what life was all about. "At that moment, I realized I want to be with these guys," Przybilla said of his family, which also includes son Jayden, who is almost 2. "I didn't want to leave them." He internalized that thought as he went to bed. And he thought about it into the night. When he awoke, he faced his wife and shocked her. "I looked at her and said, 'Let's go back to Portland,'" Przybilla said. "And I could see a smile on her face." So it was done. Joel Przybilla was coming back to the Trail Blazers to be a backup center despite the recruiting efforts of the Miami Heat, and repeated phone calls from the Chicago Bulls.

  • Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: On Monday, NBA commissioner David Stern suspended Rajon Rondo two games for throwing the ball at a referee. On Wednesday, he named him to the All-Star game. Too bad Rondo didn’t also throw a shoe, or he might’ve clinched the MVP award. Who gets jobbed again? Josh Smith, of course. On the same day Hawks guard Joe Johnson pulled out of All-Star weekend in Orlando, Stern, who makes the call on replacements, picked Boston guard Rondo over Smith to replace him. It’s the second time Smith got bypassed as an Eastern Conference reserve. I guess he should just get used to the fact that nobody likes him. Smith should have been named to the squad two weeks ago. He had a case for playing in his first All-Star game either of the last two seasons, but his exclusion this season was the biggest pratfall of all. This seems to be a case of conferences coaches, who chose the reserves, still having this vision of the immature Smith who has made all of us slap our foreheads over the past several seasons.

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: Doc Rivers yesterday confirmed what Rajon Rondo has been keeping to himself the past two weeks. Rivers said Rondo was bothered by being left off the All-Star team, and it led to a noticeable increase in his production and perhaps his two-game suspension. On his 26th birthday, and while serving the second game of his two-game suspension last night while his teammates faced the Thunder, Rondo learned that he had been added to the Eastern Conference roster, replacing Atlanta’s Joe Johnson, who has a sore left knee. ... “He clearly thought he should have made it, and so did we, but the injury, honestly, he was just injured at the wrong time,’’ said Rivers. “Right when people were voting. It’s good that he’s on it. I think it bothered him. He came back and we were rolling, so I think that drove him to want to play better than who was on the team.’’

  • Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times: Derrick Rose said an internet report claiming he gave management his blessing to trade Carlos Boozer and perhaps another player to the Lakers for Pau Gasol is false. “That’s something I would never say to anyone, that I need someone to come to this team, trying to get rid of someone on this team,” Rose said before Wednesday night’s game against the Bucks at the United Center. “That’s all false. It’s something I would never do.” Rose said he talked to Boozer and that Boozer agreed that Rose wouldn’t say something like that. “I’m good with the teammates I have,” Rose said. “I’ve been saying that. We’ve been winning games. We’re not in position to trade anyone right now.” Rose said his back is feeling fine after returning to the team Monday after a five-game absence because of back spasms. He said he will continue to see a chiropractor for the rest of the season and will also continue with the stretching program that he says has helped keep him loose.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Everywhere he looked Wednesday night, Dwight Howard saw people who desperately want him to join the Brooklyn-bound New Jersey Nets. He saw the fans in Section 22 of Prudential Center who clutched oversized pictures of his face. He watched kids waive signs asking him to join the franchise. And he caught a glimpse of rapper Jay-Z, a part-owner of the Nets, sitting courtside. "I just had fun with it," Howard said afterward. "It's a humbling experience. I wish more people could see how it feels to go into another arena and have big faces [of themselves] and posters. It's a humbling experience. It's a blessing." Howard sounded moved, but he and his teammates showed the Nets and their fans no mercy. The Orlando Magic dominated the Nets early and played them about even the rest of the way to win 108-91. ... Asked after the game whether he had been swayed toward or away from the Nets in recent weeks, Howard retreated to his stock answer: that he is only focused on playing for the Magic and nothing else.

  • Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press: That's it, folks. The basketball world has shifted on its axis. Nothing ever will be the same. Wednesday night at Target Center, it was as if Dr. James A. Naismith looked down from atop his celestial peach basket and declared: We've tormented this poor franchise enough. It's time for the Minnesota Timberwolves to be allowed to breathe. After wackos like J.R. Rider and Eddie Griffin, busts like Rashad McCants and Ndudi Ebi, and coaching lightweights along the lines of Kurt Rambis, the Wolves deserved a break somewhere along the line. But what happened Wednesday night was astonishing. After playing sluggish basketball for more than three quarters, after standing around flat-footed, missing free throws, allowing dozens of easy shots and falling behind by 16 points in the fourth quarter, they won the game. "You never know what's going to happen," coach Rick Adelman said. Well, I thought I knew. Experience tells us that the Wolves accept their beating and we all rush home hoping to catch a rerun of "Storage Wars" and salvage the rest of the evening. (Or "Twin Peaks" or "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." This has been happening for a long time.) But not on Wednesday. Adelman has been around the track more than once. He's not the type to turn a cartwheel over a single basketball game. Yet he seemed as incredulous as the rest of us. After the Wolves' improbable 100-98 victory over the Utah Jazz, Adelman was using words like "unbelievable."

  • Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News: Kobe Bryant was in a playful mood after Wednesday night's 96-91 victory over the Mavericks. Standing in the visiting locker room at American Airlines Center , the Los Angeles Lakers superstar, who was held to 15 points on 4-of-15 shooting, was asked about a comment he made regarding his fadeaway jumper being "sexier" than the one belonging to Dirk Nowitzki. "He knows it's true," Bryant said with a smile. "His shot's ugly. It is. It looks terrible. Anybody in Dallas that says Dirk has a pretty fadeaway is lying through their teeth. It just looks disgusting. "But it's extremely effective." Bryant voiced the original comment to the TNT broadcast team in the middle of a game against Portland on Monday night. "Dirk does it well, I do it better," Bryant said after attempting the fadeaway. "Mine's a little sexier."

  • Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail: On the list of missions accomplished in the first half of the Toronto Raptors' schedule, getting Jose Calderon to play up his trade value must surely be at the top. Yet when general manager Bryan Colangelo and head coach Dwane Casey and his staff do their blue-skying for next season, and figure out the point-guard ‘what-ares’ in the upcoming draft, the trade ‘might-be's’ and free-agent possibilities, they may well reach an obvious conclusion: the Raptors might be best-served keeping Calderon. “We’re trying to hold on to him and keep him, but he has played his way into a very high status as a point guard,” Casey said Wednesday. “A lot of teams have been calling and wanting him.” ... So if the Raptors do end up in the lottery any point guard they’d take would be a horrible reach. Trade for a point guard? With what? Calderon – another point guard? Free agency doesn’t offer a great deal either. Deron Williams isn’t coming here. Beyond that? There isn’t much. Calderon’s bought what Casey is selling. And perhaps Wednesday, Casey was doing some selling of his own – to his boss. “That is why we need Jose,” said Casey. “That’s the argument for him. He gives us stability. You need that leadership.” Calderon has gone from being an inhibitor to a facilitator. What once seemed so clear-cut is no longer the case. Full credit to Jose Calderon.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Amid what could be the greatest shooting season of his career, Suns guard Steve Nash is having more trouble with the unguarded straightaway 15-footer than usual. Nash entered Wednesday night with 87 percent free-throw shooting. That was 13th-best in the NBA, but it is Nash's worst clip since the lockout-shortened 1999 season, when he made 82.6 percent of his free throws. "I just haven't had a great rhythm at the line and just missed more than I usually would," Nash said. "That's it. I don't really worry about it because I feel like I could get hot, so to speak, and make a bunch, but it's been a little bit of a struggle for me." Nash has passed Mark Price four times for the NBA career free-throw percentage record but needed 24 consecutive makes entering Wednesday to get it back. Price shot 90.4 percent from the free-throw line for his career, and Nash entered Wednesday at 90.3 percent. Golden State's Stephen Curry, at 90.0, is a potential threat. ... Nash told the Associated Press that he "definitely would re-sign with the Suns," meaning he would consider the possibility after he becomes a free agent in the off-season. But he said if the Suns do not want to pay his worth, they would be doing so "at their own peril."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: After the Carmelo Anthony trade last February, Karl often was asked by the media to describe the differences in Denver's pre-Melo and post-Melo teams. Kenyon Martin apparently didn't like what Karl said. "Man, listen, George needs to keep his mouth shut, first and foremost," Martin told SI's website. "Melo don't play there no more. So Karl shouldn't be commenting on Melo. If George was such a great coach, then Melo would want to stay. He wouldn't want to leave. "If the organization was ran right, he wouldn't want to leave, so it ain't Melo. With Melo, not one time when he was there did he bring that in the locker room when all that stuff was going on. Not one day. Everybody made it a bigger deal than it had to be. That's a good kid." Karl's response before Wednesday's game: "Trades and guys leaving a team, there's always going to be some good and some bad that comes with that. ... Kenyon was a big part of our success. And Melo was a huge part of our success. I have tremendous respect for both of them."

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Want to get a heated argument started in any barbershop within the Detroit city limits? Just bring up the name Rodney Stuckey. On one side you will have vocal defenders of the talented -- yet mercurial -- combo guard from Eastern Washington who is through 4 1/2 seasons with the Pistons. They see the speedy 6-feet-5 frame and think it's only a matter of time before he becomes a force in this league. On the other side you have those who think Stuckey is just a talented tease. They also think Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars lost his mind when he re-signed him to a three-year, $25-million deal before the regular season. Well, the skeptics got some ammunition Wednesday night when Stuckey was held scoreless in the Pistons' 103-93 loss to the Raptors. And he wasn't much help defensively as his Raptors counterpart DeMar DeRozan went off for 23 points. Pistons coach Lawrence Frank, seeing he couldn't expect much from Stuckey this night, played him only 18 minutes.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: There will be tough times ahead, too. McHale will take those losses hard and he will share exactly how he feels. But the Rockets took major strides in the final games before the break at becoming the sort of tough-minded team he wants. That began with the sleepless night after the loss to the Timberwolves and the day that followed. “It’s exactly what it’s been in my NBA career as a player or a coach,” he said. “I slept like an hour after the Minnesota game, watched it like five times, had myself so worked up at 3 o’clock in the morning, I was calling people. Then I know I lost my mind. Nobody wants to talk to you at 3 o’clock in the morning. The worst thing is I was trying to call people on the East Coast so it was 4. I was so pissed. “I couldn’t sleep when I played poorly. That game bothered me so much I couldn’t sleep. Finally, I woke up the next morning and I made a pot of coffee and said ‘I’m going to stew for three or four hours and sit here.’ I honestly wondered, ‘What am I doing? Why did I take this job? I got to be out of my mind.’ Then the guys battled back. They respond and you go ‘I love coaching.’ That’s why I love it. That’s why the heart beats. That’s why you know you’re going to feel like I do right now, which is really good. Or you know you’re going to feel like death warmed over, but you’re alive, I can tell you that much. One way or another, you’re living.”

  • John N. Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer: After their great start to the season, this is not the way the 76ers envisioned themselves going into the all-star break. Scoring has become laborious. Free throws, when they actually are rewarded with them, have not gone down easily. And then on Wednesday night, it was their defense in the fourth quarter, something that has been there all season when all else has failed, that contributed to their 93-87 loss to the Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center in front of 12,820. The defeat leaves the Sixers (20-14) entering the break with five losses in a row, their longest losing streak since they lost five straight in November 2010. They go into the break as a team that has not scored 100 points since tallying 103 against Washington on Jan. 25. "That's something that we have to correct soon," said Thaddeus Young. "That has to change."

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Jimmer Fredette said there's no need to worry about his brother criticizing coach Keith Smart on Twitter anymore. Fredette's older brother, T.J., tweeted after Tuesday's loss at Miami in which Jimmer did not play: "can we please get rid of this interim coach who should be an assistant at best and bring in a real head coach!!" Fredette said that's something that won't happen again. "When I got aware of it, I definitely talked to him about it," Fredette said. "He obviously regrets it. He's sorry and I'm sorry on behalf of him as well. It's something that will never happen again. It will be controlled, and he realizes that. We just apologize to everybody, coaches, teammates and everybody." Smart declined to discuss T.J.'s tweet or talk much about Fredette's playing time.

  • Dale Kasler and Tony Bizjak of The Sacramento Bee: In a show of unity and optimism, Sacramento and the NBA say a deal is within reach on a new downtown arena for the Kings. Mayor Kevin Johnson and NBA Commissioner David Stern issued an unusual joint statement Wednesday expressing confidence on the $387 million arena – while outlining a hectic two-week calendar crammed with negotiations and other maneuverings. The parties will meet at the NBA All-Star Game this weekend. The city and NBA said they hope to announce they have reached a financial "term sheet" by the league's March 1 deadline. The term sheet, essentially a non-binding framework, would go to a City Council vote March 6. That's a week later than originally scheduled, but city officials said it's not a sign that negotiations are stalled. Rather, they said, it gives the City Council five days to digest the plan. "We're really close to pulling this off," Johnson said at a City Hall press conference. "We're closer than we've ever been before."

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: Remember where you were. If history truly does predict the future, this might not happen again for a while. Monta Ellis scored a game-high 26 points, including a difficult shot with one second remaining as the Warriors beat Phoenix 106-104 on Wednesday night at the US Airways Center. It marked the first time they won in the desert in seven years and the first time they beat the Suns in a season series in 17 years.