First Cup: Monday

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: The Oklahoma City Thunder forward is too brilliant a ballplayer to have not taken his rightful place among the game's all-time greats. On Sunday, in the 61st NBA All-Star Game, Durant did just that. The same silky smooth shooting stroke that fans inside Chesapeake Energy Arena have become accustomed to seeing, coupled with growing ability to get to the rim, powered Durant to Most Valuable Player honors as he led the Western Conference to a 152-149 victory over the East inside Amway Center. ... “MVP is something that you want to get in this game, and I'm glad I got it,” he said. “It made me feel better (that) all the guys congratulated me. It's just crazy right now that I can hoist this trophy.” Durant barely could stop smiling as he sat atop the dais in his postgame interview. Of all his awards and accolades, and there have been plenty, Durant clearly took great pride in this one. “It's right up there at the top,” Durant said. “As a kid, you dream of playing in an All-Star Game. But to be MVP is another level. I keep saying it, but I'm excited I got it and I'm glad I get to celebrate this with my family and my teammates and everybody in Oklahoma City. “We'll see if I get another one down the line.” This, too, we know is only a matter of time.

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: LeBron James had Kobe Bryant in the crosshairs and the game plus the MVP award within his grasp. But when the moment of truth arrived, James passed. Twice. James passed on two chances to take the potential game-winning shot in Sunday night’s All-Star Game, conjuring memories of last year’s NBA Finals when he played brilliantly — except in crunch time. In fact, his turnover with 1.1 seconds left sealed the West’s 152-149 victory. “I definitely wish I could have that one back,” LeBron said. Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, who could end up meeting James and the Miami Heat in June, captured his first MVP award by scoring 36 points. James also scored 36 but passed up two shots in the last 10 seconds. Heck, even Jeremy Lin would have shot once.

  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: On a night where Kobe Bryant became the leading scorer in NBA All-Star game history, he hardly looked like the best player on the court. In a game that could have featured a Bryant game-winner, he offered none. At a time where he could have showcased highlight reels, Bryant didn't have any. But that's fine. The Western Conference's 152-149 victory Sunday over the Eastern Conference doesn't mean anything. It just confirmed never-ending story lines that are ingrained in our minds. LeBron James' 36 points on 15-of-23 shooting and numerous dunks revealed his tremendous talent. Yet, his last-possession turnover sparked more punch lines about closing games. Kevin Durant's 36 points on a 14-of-25 clip earned his first All-Star most valuable player award and showcased his continual improvement as an elite player. Andrew Bynum's first All-Star appearance shows he's reaching his potential. But his six-minute stint because of right knee soreness sparks health concerns, even if his procedure this weekend was routine. As for Bryant, his 27 points on nine-of-17 shooting surpassing Jordan's All-Star scoring record with 271 points through 13 All-Star game appearances showcases his longevity. But his failure to surpass Hawks forward Bob Petitt with five All-Star MVP awards shows the emerging talent around Bryant. He has bigger things to worry about, though, than going on a scoring spree after Dwyane Wade gave him a bloody nose in the third quarter. An innovative procedure on both his surgically repaired right knee and sprained left ankle this summer ensured a healthier and more productive campaign where he's leading the league in scoring (28 points per game). But other signs show Bryant must pace himself for the remaining 33 regular-season games.

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: What kind of a Celtic would Paul Pierce be if he didn’t capitalize on an opportunity to chide Lakers guard Kobe Bryant? Pierce took full advantage while sitting on the bench last night during the final moments of the West’s 152-149 victory over the East. With the Eastern Conference squad looking to foul while trailing by 1 point with 18.1 seconds left, Pierce encouraged teammates to foul Bryant. The East fouled Bryant and he missed the second of two free throws, allowing the East a golden opportunity to tie or take the lead. New Jersey’s Deron Williams missed an open 3-pointer in the final seconds, but perhaps Pierce was key to giving the East that last possession. “I was just heckling him, that’s all, just a good friendly heckle going on between two rivals,’’ Pierce said. “I was having fun. It’s the All-Star Game. That’s all it is. Just a little heckling, trying to get him to miss the shot, he missed the shot. It gave us a chance.’’ Pierce and Bryant have faced each other in two NBA Finals over the past four years, and both are known for their on-court banter.

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: Timberwolves forward Kevin Love rocked a tuxedo to his second consecutive NBA All-Star Game appearance on Sunday night because it was, after all, a very special night. "It's Oscar night," he said. "I had to look my best." The Western Conference's surprisingly tense, suddenly entertaining 152-149 victory over the East ultimately proved he was dressed perfectly for the occasion. "It's show business," Love said. And Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, Miami's LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant, among many others, put on the show on a night when the West team led by 20 points with eight minutes remaining but by just one with 22 seconds left. Owner of a four-year contract extension to stay in Minnesota but an L.A. guy at heart, Love chased his first All-Star double-double only to finish three rebounds shy on Sunday night with his 17-point, seven-rebound game.

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Derrick Rose: For the second straight season, Rose refused to participate in pregame frolicking, looking stonefaced and serious as other Eastern Conference starters danced and smiled. Rose finished with 14 points and three assists in 18 minutes, 17 seconds, sitting out the second and fourth quarters entirely and playing the least of East starters. He did sport some striking orange shoes in the first half and switched to blue for the second. ... Tom Thibodeau: In perhaps the most hilarious moment of the night, the screaming, gyrating pop artist Nicki Minaj gave way to the serious-minded coach during pregame introductions. Then, Thibodeau -- wait for it -- actually sat down while "coaching." Thibodeau knew his role: "Dole out the minutes and get out of the way," he said.

  • Mike Tokito of The Oregonian: The highlight of LaMarcus Aldridge’s NBA All-Star Game debut might have come at the start of the second quarter. Aldridge, who did not play in the first, entered the game to start the second. As he went in, he caught the eye of his mother, Georgia Young, who had come back from cancer and for whom seeing her youngest son make his first All-Star Game meant so much. “My mom looked at me and she smiled when I checked in,” Aldridge said. “She seemed happy that I was checking in. That was a real good moment for me.” Sunday was not a long night for Aldridge, who played 9 minutes, 48 seconds, but it was a victorious one as his West team defeated the East 152-149. Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant was voted the game’s MVP after he scored 36 points.

  • Tom Reed of The Plain Dealer: His All-Star commitments complete, Kyrie Irving spent Sunday as atypical teenager going to an amusement park, hopping roller coasters at Universal Studios. The wildest ride, however, awaits him. After three days of fun and exhibition basketball, Irving and his fellow Cavaliers rookie, Tristan Thompson, resume their pursuit of a playoff berth. The Cavaliers (13-18) host Boston on Tuesday and travel to New York the following night to face the Knicks. These are critical games as the opponents are immediately ahead of them in the standings. "We've had a good first half and probably surprised a lot of people," Irving said. "But we've got some important games right away after the break and we have to be ready." Thompson put it more succinctly: "We have a lot of unfinished business."

  • Kyle Veazey of The Commercial-Appeal: Do the math: Being selected to an NBA All-Star team is a lofty accomplishment. Only two dozen players each year make the rosters. Given the nearly 400 players that play in the league, it’s only natural that it could lead to a loftier self-evaluation of a player’s abilities or worth. Which, in turns, has pitfalls like comfort and complacency. So enter the Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol, selected to the team for the first time and a 14-minute, four-point player in Sunday night’s 152-149 Western Conference win here at Amway Center. Does being selected to such an elite circle make him think he’s reached a peak, make him think he’s achieved — with no incentive to do more? No, he said. And as usual, he answered with a reflection to how he’s only here because he makes his teammates better and is part of a winning team. But then he allowed himself to entertain the notion that All-Star status could make him feel too comfortable — if only to illustrate that he realizes its dangers. “If I would,” Gasol said, “I would be in trouble.” Instead, Gasol says he’s looking forward to boarding a flight this morning bound for Memphis. The playoffs are in sight, as he reminded a reporter after the game, and that’s the goal at hand. Not a goal of making more and more of these All-Star games.

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: And, now, the time has come for the Magic to turn out the lights on the spectacular Dwight Howard era. Orlando has dreaded this day, but now it's here. All-Star Weekend was nice way to forget about it for a while – sort of like two divorcing parents having one last Christmas together. Dwight and the Magic put on a happy face for friends and family, but it was all for show. Dwight was a great host, smiling widely, saying all the right things, even taking the microphone before the game and thanking the All-Star fans for coming to "my city, my home." The Magic and the NBA had that home – the sparkling, spectacular Amway Center -- decorated beautifully. But now it's time to take down the lights and tell the kids Daddy's leaving. Unless Dwight does an about-face, takes his mother's advice (she reportedly told TNT's courtside reporter Craig Sager she wants him to stay in Orlando) and commits to signing an extension, the Magic must deal him and get something of value. "That's my mom's opinion," Dwight said afterward when asked about Sager's report. "… I don't want to talk about that stuff right now." Obviously, he will need to talk about it with the Magic very soon because they must identify the best deal they can and make it before the March 15 trade deadline. Team CEO Alex Martins insisted Sunday night that the team has not made a decision about whether they will trade Howard. The Magic apparently are holding out hope they can hold onto him until the end of the season and convince him to stay.

  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: The NBA has been without a good old-fashioned feud for a while. Reggie Miller’s Pacers against the Knicks and Michael Jordan’s Bulls against the Bad Boys happened a long time ago. AAU basketball and summer leagues have made the NBA too friendly. It’s time for the Bulls and Heat to turn back the clock. For a weekend, it was jokes and fun. Starting Tuesday, weapons up.

  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: Athletes are still figuring out this whole twitter thing. During Saturday’s dunk competition, ex-Raptor Jarrett Jack took to twitter (like many of us did) to publicize his disgust for this year’s event. Jack took particular aim at Minnesota rookie Derrick Williams calling him out for riding on the back of a motorcycle that he eventually (and lamely) jumped over. He also made reference to Williams “cash register mouth” an apparent dig at the rookie’s underbite. Williams responded in kind first pretending he didn’t know who Jack was and then suggesting “All I know is come draft night. That team lookin for a point guard.” Williams checked himself after that saying he had to chill out. Jack eventually suggested Williams had to stop taking things so seriously, that he was only having some fun. But it didn’t sound like fun for either.

  • Frank Fitzpatrick of The Philadelphia Inquirer: With the 50th anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game on March 2, 1962 almost here, that long-ago night in Hershey has been dissected more thoroughly than a crime-show corpse. Details of the historic event - the ball, the broadcast, the fans, the absence of sportswriters, Wilt's pregame arcade exploits, his postgame ride home, the badly embarrassed Knicks, the thoroughly cooperative Warriors - have become so familiar that the enormity of the accomplishment seems somehow diminished. But sometimes interesting questions about that game and its implications arise: What happened in Chamberlain's next game? Why hasn't any NBA star come close since? How many others at any level have scored 100? And what became of them? ... So why has no one else approached 100? Well, the pace of NBA basketball, with its penchant for isolation offense, has slowed considerably since 1962. And defenses have gotten much tighter. The 316 points the Warriors and Knicks combined for on March 2, 1962, would be inconceivable today. This season, at least at this point, just three of the NBA's 30 teams even average 100 points a game - Miami, Denver, and Oklahoma City. It was 44 years after Chamberlain in Hershey before someone even got to 80 points. Kobe Bryant scored 81 on Jan. 22, 2006, in the Lakers' 122-104 win over Toronto. No NBA player has ever finished in the 90s. That means the two top scoring performances in NBA history have come from native Philadelphians. Aside from Bryant, only two others have topped 70 in the half-century since Chamberlain's 100. David Thompson hit for 73 in 1978 and David Robinson scored 71 in 1994.

  • Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: Bill Schonely is getting his place among the media greats who have covered basketball and the NBA. The Trail Blazers' beloved founding broadcaster has been honored with the 2012 Curt Gowdy Media Award by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. "I am absolutely stunned. This is something I've only dreamed about," Schonely said. Other winners of the award, which was first presented in 1990, include Marty Glickman, Chick Hearn, Johnny Most, Dick Enberg, Marv Albert, Dick Vitale, Bob Costas, Hubie Brown, Dick Stockton, Jim Nantz, Rod Hundley, Doug Collins, Al McCoy and Joe Tair. "To be included with the talented individuals who have won this award in the past is an honor I can't begin to put into words," the 82-year-old Schonely said.