First Cup: Tuesday

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: After all these years, all the failed arena attempts, all the angst of that wrenching night last April – with the Lakers of all teams visiting for what appeared to be the Kings' Sacramento finale – this is the earth moving, the ground shaking. This is really happening. The Kings are staying, winning that seventh game. David Stern called the plays, Kevin Johnson hit the free throws, and Joe and Gavin Maloof were clutch when they absolutely needed to be, as they swore they would be. An tentative arena deal. A legitimate partnership. A workable, viable, believable plan to present next to the City Council. The Kings – and the community – are on the verge of writing one of the most improbable, memorable and sappiest stories in modern professional sports. Seriously, look around the NBA. These threatened relocation sagas rarely end happily for the home team. Once the dynamic sours among the fans, owners, business leaders and politicians, recovery usually requires flight to a more welcoming market and, in these intensely competitive times, into a sparkling state-of-the-art facility. But, hey, too bad for Anaheim. Sincere condolences to Seattle. Go steal a team from a city that doesn't care. This is Sacramento. These are the Kings. ... Monday, Feb. 27, 2012. Mark it down. It was a historic day for Sacramento.

  • Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: It was fascinating to me, the juxtaposition. In one moment, with one hard foul, Wade had verified his basketball DNA as one of aggressiveness, killer instinct and strutting, give-me-the-ball machismo – even though the reality is that physical play hardly is his nature. Wade has taken one defensive charge all season. He hasn’t fouled out of a game in three years. In one very different moment, with one shot not taken, James had invited an opposite interpretation of his own mental makeup – even though the reality is that anyone who would associate James with timidity might be a fool. There is no less subtle or more impressive five seconds in all of sports than when James is bulling the length of the floor, shouldering through defenders like a locomotive and finishing with a tomahawk slam and then that nodding, yes-I-did stare of his. Sunday did this and nothing more: It reminded us that D-Wade and LeBron make Miami not only the best team in the league, but also the most interesting.

  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: Bryant remains a competitor, after all, and will seek revenge on Sunday, when the Lakers host Miami, by lighting him up. An enforcer, such as Metta World Peace or Matt Barnes, might play extra tough defense on Wade because of it, too. But that's exactly the point. Bryant will retaliate in a contest that matters. An All-Star game doesn't. Oh, it should spark competitive juices. It explains why Bryant stayed in the game to ensure he broke Michael Jordan's record to become the NBA's all-time points leader in All-Star games. It explains why LeBron James has taken rightful criticism for passing up the game-winning play, after dominating for most of it. It explains why Bryant and Kevin Durant initially appeared in a scoring race to win the All-Star MVP. Yet, it remains clear pro athletes follow a specific code in these showcase games. Put on a show. Have fun. Play little to no defense. And by all means, don't get hurt or hurt anyone else. Instead, Wade acted otherwise.

  • John DeShazier of The Times-Picayune: Just as players have been auditioning for President Hugh Weber, General Manager Dell Demps and Coach Monty Williams, those three men possibly will be auditioning for a new owner. ... It doesn’t have to be fair. It certainly won’t be if the Hornets’ higher-ups and coaches wind up paying the price because they can’t cover for errors that were made by Stern and his advisory group, who might as well be Moe, Larry and Curly for all the good they’ve done the Hornets. And it won’t be the best thing to happen to the Hornets this season. But it won’t spark any protests, not if it’s initiated and carried out by the new ownership group. After what the Hornets have become on the court under the league’s supervision and wisdom, a new regime and approach will be extended every courtesy.

  • Matt Calkins of The Columbian: As the media cluster formed a half circle around the Trail Blazers' backdrop at the team's practice facility, a writer quipped "All this for Joel Przybilla? We must live in Portland or something." That about sums it up, because had the 7-foot-1 center who averaged 1.8 points per game last year signed with any of the other 29 NBA franchises over the weekend, it's doubtful the interest would be so high. But Przybilla means something to Portland, and the city means something to him. So despite garnering interest from title-contending teams such as the Bulls or Heat, the 32-year-old chose to return to the place he felt most welcomed. "Sometimes you make decisions with your head, and sometimes you make decisions with your heart," said Przybilla, who signed with the Blazers after passing his physical Sunday. "This is me. Portland is me. What this city represents, it's what I'm all about."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: What's up with Wilson? That's the common question from Nuggets fans heading into the rest of this NBA season — will the Nuggets lock up Wilson Chandler to a long-term deal? The forward is a restricted free agent, but if Denver signs him for just this season, Chandler would become unrestricted this summer — and then the Nuggets could possibly lose their valuable asset for what was basically just a few-months rental. A one-year deal is out, his agent, Chris Luchey, confirmed Monday. Chandler has until Thursday to receive an offer sheet from another team — he met with Toronto last week but hasn't been made an offer. After Thursday, the only NBA team he could play for this season is Denver. So if Chandler doesn't sign a long-term deal with the Nuggets, he won't play in the NBA until next fall. At that point, Chandler will have either re-signed long term with Denver in the summer or ended up elsewhere via a sign-and-trade deal or an offer sheet that isn't matched. Luchey said "we're considering all options" and that it's realistic that Chandler could sign with a professional team in Italy this spring, in order to stay in shape and make some money. Chandler played in China during the NBA lockout and returned to the States this month.

  • Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times: Coach Tom Thibodeau said that keeping Derrick Rose on the bench Sunday in the fourth quarter of the All-Star Game was something the two had “predetermined” before the game, which may well have been the case, although nobody told Rose. “At times I wanted to get in there, but Thibs just didn’t put me out there,” Rose said. “I think he was worried about my back. I didn’t know, and I didn’t ask him.” It’s obvious Rose wants to quit being asked questions about the back spasms that sidelined him five games. He insists he has recovered and said he didn’t receive treatment during All-Star Weekend. “I don’t have any pain — nowhere,” Rose said. “I feel good.”

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Questions about Dwight Howard's future loom over the franchise. Howard said during All-Star weekend that he has "a very difficult, tough decision" to make about his long-term future. Will he re-sign with the Magic? Will he push hard to be dealt before the March 15 NBA trade deadline? Will he keep the Magic on his short list if he decides to test free agency this summer? Team officials will seek answers from Howard soon. Once team officials speak with their superstar center about his future, CEO Alex Martins and General Manager Otis Smith will plot a strategy and most likely take that plan to Chairman Dan DeVos and owner Rich DeVos. Team officials want to keep Howard, and they say they will do everything they can to convince him to stay. But the team might face a scenario in which they will have to trade him to ensure they receive some assets in return. The problem is that Howard's two preferred trade destinations, the New Jersey Nets and the Dallas Mavericks, have limited trade assets.

  • Colin Stephenson of The Star-Ledger: Nets fans who worry that point guard Deron Williams might walk as a free agent this summer and sign with his hometown Dallas Mavericks won’t get any reassurance from Williams’ comments after the Nets’ practice Monday at Southern Methodist University. “I always like playing here,” Williams said when asked about his thoughts on playing in Dallas’ American Airlines Center, where the Nets will take on the Mavericks tonight. “It’s probably my favorite (arena) to play in. I just enjoy playing here — I enjoy playing in front of my friends, family. It’s always good they get the chance to come and see me play.” Williams could play in front of his family and friends 41 times a year if he signs with the Mavericks this summer, and Nets coach Avery Johnson admitted he realizes that is a very real possibility. For me personally, working for Mark Cuban, he’s a threat, okay?” said Johnson, who coached the Mavs 2005-2008. ... Asked about his future Monday, Williams delivered what has become his standard response: “You know, I’m just trying to play out the season and look at my options after the season.” He repeated that answer two more times in the interview, with a playful smile on his face. Williams was asked whether he likes the arena itself, or just the idea of playing home. “Home,” he said.

  • Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune: When I saw newly-crowned NBA slam-dunk champion Jeremy Evans prior to Monday afternoon's practice, I jokingly asked if he was still talking to the local media or if you needed to be a national guy to get an interview. "Oh, man. Come on," said Evans, who won his title on Saturday night in Orlando. The Jazz's second-year forward called his participation and victory in the slam-dunk contest "a dream come true" because "... not many people get this opportunity." According to Evans, the globally-televised win has made his life "... a lot different. Everybody recognizes my face now. I thought it wouldn't happen like that, but it has." Asked how his Utah teammates reacted to his slam-dunk title, Evans smiled and said, "They are just happy for me. They're glad I came back with the win. ... They're just proud of me." Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said, "We're happy he won. He's demonstrated he has a lot of skill in that area. ... We see his athletic ability on a daily basis. It's great to see the league and the world get the chance to see him." So far this season, Evans averages 5.6 minutes in 16 games. He plays behind Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter in the Jazz's big-man rotation. Will the slam-dunk title translate into more minutes for Evans? "I'll have to talk to him and see what he wants," Corbin said, laughing. "... If you're the slam-dunk champion, I guess you get a voice."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: The consensus after Pacers practice Monday night was that Paul George should have won the Slam Dunk competition on Saturday. George dunked over teammates Roy Hibbert and Dahntay Jones with his first dunk. He wore a glow-in-the-dark uniform and shoes and made a dunk (that was hard to see on TV) with the lights turned off with his second dunk. Then after several failed attempts, he made his third dunk while putting a sticker of Larry Bird on the backboard. Still, George had to watch Utah’s Jeremy Evans win the competition. ... “(Not to) take nothing away from the dunk contest, (but) it was a joke,” George said. “I guess whoever had the biggest celebrity involved in their dunk was going to be the winner. I guess I should have tried to reach out to some people. If you leave it up to fans, they probably wouldn’t have known who Larry was. I think I was destined to lose it.” ... George said he believes they should bring back actual judges instead of allowing fans to vote. He also thinks some of the league’s marquee players should take part in the competition.

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: The Clippers begin the second half of the NBA season with a 20-11 record, third-best in the Western Conference and tops in the Pacific Division, 1 1/2 games ahead of the Lakers. The Clippers play Tuesday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center. Then comes the brutal schedule in March, the month that can either leave the Clippers weary or still on top of their division. They have a six-game trip, including a pair of back-to-backs. Then after a spell of home games, they hit the road again. That trip includes their last set of back-to-back-to-back games — at Indiana, Oklahoma City and New Orleans. All in all, the Clippers play six sets of back-to-back games next month and they play five games in a week twice. They play nine games on the road in March. "That's crazy," was Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro's description of the gantlet.

  • John Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer: The 76ers will be without the services of center Spencer Hawes at least for another two weeks or more. Hawes, who has missed 20 games this season and 19 of the last 20 with a strained left Achilles’ tendon, will have the walking boot on his left foot but at the urging of his California specialist, Dr. Richard Ferkel, will not play for at least another two weeks from this Friday, according to the Sixers. The Sixers, leaders of the Atlantic Division (20-14), play at Detroit on Tuesday. Hawses visited with the Ferkel over the All-Star break. In his place the Sixers will most likely continue to start rookie Lavoy Allen at Center. The Sixers, losers of five games in a row heading into last weekend’s All-Star break, played their last two games heading into the break without Hawes and starting power forward Elton Brand. Hawes has had X-rays and at least one MRI of his ankle, which came back negative.

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley remains in the bidding process to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers despite a published report to the contrary, according to a source close to the negotiations. The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that Heisley's group, along with another suitor, had been eliminated. But Heisley had not been told that his bid had been rejected. Heisley is still among at least nine Dodgers bidders, according to a source who cited a meeting Heisley's group has scheduled for Wednesday with a committee that will include Major League Baseball officials. It is conceivable Heisley could officially be eliminated after that presentation.

  • Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News: Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said that forward Lamar Odom did not participate in today's late-afternoon practice _ the Mavericks' first workout since the All-Star break. Carlisle said that Odom is still dealing with a family matter that Mavericks officials decline to specify. Odom missed last Wednesday's game against the Lakers for the same reason. The Mavericks did, however, welcome Roddy Beaubois back to practice, which Carlisle said is critical as Dallas enters a stretch of nine games during the next 12 days. Beaubois left the team after the death of his father prior to the Feb. 15 game against Denver. Carlisle declined to discuss a potential timetable for Odom's return, although Odom's lack of practice time would seem to make it doubtful he'll be available for for Tuesday's home game against New Jersey.

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: Anderson Varejao is expected back from his broken right wrist, hopefully before the end of March. But the trio of Semih Erden, Ryan Hollins and Samardo Samuels is not cutting it. Scott is reduced to playing whichever one of the three has upset him the least. More than once he's gone to a fourth option -- rookie Tristan Thompson. If the Cavs decide to go for the playoffs, one of these guys either has to step up or Grant is going to have to try to make a move. That's easier said than done, of course -- and no, Dwight Howard is not an option. On the other hand, if the Cavs decide to go for the draft pick, Scott should just stick with Erden and at least the Cavs will see what they've got.

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: With the exception of a four-game stretch in January where Daye averaged 15.5 points, he's been virtually nonexistent, unable to crack coach Lawrence Frank's rotation. He hasn't played the last five games, and no one knows if that'll change soon. Daye knows he hasn't played well, but wants to make a mark. Chances are he'll get another shot, but he must take full advantage. He tends to dwell too much on miscues and missed assignments. Perhaps playing without a conscience is the best — and last — solution for the talented 6-foot-11 forward. Villanueva is a question mark, but for a different reason. His ankle injury and slow recovery have prevented him from competing for playing time. There were even whispers he might miss the entire season before he declared he would be ready shortly after the break. But where do either of them fit in the current rotation?

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: To put it bluntly, this has been a terrible season for Andray Blatche. The 6-foot-11, seventh-year forward is shooting a career-low 38 percent, averaging just 10.3 points, has been hurt or playing hurt pretty much the whole time, and gets lustily booed at home games. For the first time in his career, Blatche will fail to improve on his scoring and rebounding production from the year before. ... The Wizards have aggressively tried to deal Blatche in advance of the March 15 trade deadline, according to multiple league sources, but struggled to find any takers. Blatche is certainly open to a change of scenery, according to a person close to him. The team discussed dealing Blatche to Charlotte last month for Tyrus Thomas but were rejected, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. Blatche is still owed nearly $23 million after this season, and rival teams have expressed concern about his conditioning and character.

  • Hunter Atkins of The New York Times: Andre Emmett was shooting jumpers in an empty arena at the edge of Nevada when the N.B.A. came calling two weeks ago. Practice had ended for the Reno Bighorns of the N.B.A. Development League, but Emmett, 29, had retreated to his “comfort area,” the court, a source of salvation and frustration for him. He was nearly seven years removed from his last N.B.A. game, and now the Nets were making him an offer: a contract for 10 days. Ten days to make an impression. Ten days to redefine his life. N.B.A. teams use these contracts to fill spots on their benches. But the commitment is painfully meager: the player is signed for 10 days but can be released after one. If he lasts, he can be offered a second 10-day contract. When that ends, he must be signed for the rest of the season. Or just released. It is a tightrope, a lonesome reality show, an almost cruel audition far removed from the world of N.B.A. All-Stars, who gathered last weekend in Orlando, Fla., to share their good fortune. Of about two dozen players who signed 10-day contracts last season, a third were signed for the rest of the season. But Emmett was not complaining. ... On Sunday night, an hour before tip-off of the All-Star Game, Emmett was told his contract would not be renewed. The Nets had concluded they needed a player with more size. Exactly two weeks after he packed up everything, full of hope, Emmett would be headed back to Reno to work on his game, to wait for another call.