First Cup: Thursday

  • Bob Ford of The Philadelphia Inquirer: What's wrong with Evan Turner? At least until this game against the Celtics, there has been something wrong with Turner, according to longtime Daily News writer Stan Hochman. On WIP-FM (94.1) Wednesday morning, Hochman said he had information that Turner has a problem, something that would make his relative lack of playing time and relative lack of effectiveness understandable when it finally comes out. On-court, off-court? Physical, mental, family-related? Animal, vegetable, mineral? Hochman, who has been among the most dependable journalists in this city, wouldn't say. Before the game, Turner said he couldn't imagine what Hochman was referring to, and coach Doug Collins refuted the rumor so vehemently that it left little room for later backtracking. Hochman issued an apology last night for saying what he did publicly, but his statement also didn't contain anything that could be construed as a retraction. "I have felt for some time that Turner was taking an unfair beating in the media and I hinted that there was an undisclosed explanation for his inconsistent performances," Hochman wrote in the statement sent to the Daily News. "That was unfair to Turner and to the Sixers organization and I want to apologize to all concerned," the statement continued. "Sixty-six games crammed into 123 days takes its toll on everyone. I will not reveal my source, nor the nature of what I was told, but it was wrong to say what I said."

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: At least the way Doc Rivers sees it, the Celtics are going to stand pat at the trading deadline and allow the Big Three one final run. The deadline is March 15, which comes in the middle of their critical eight-game road trip, and the recent five-game winning streak may have skewed some thinking regarding the breakup of the Big Three. With a division title within reach and 28 games left, Rivers said he doesn’t anticipate any major moves. “I’m sure there will be more rumors, there’s nothing you can do about that,’’ Rivers said. “We pretty much know what we want to do. Like I said a week ago, I’d be surprised if we did anything. Obviously, if we find someone out there who wants to give us a player, we’ll take them.’’ The Celtics have the expiring contracts of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Jermaine O’Neal to offer in trade, but according to an NBA source, they will not give away those commodities for other teams’ unwanted contracts or young players with uncertain futures.

  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: Tim Duncan won’t leave San Antonio as Peyton Manning did Indianapolis. For one, Duncan won’t wear a suit and tie and field questions on live television. He’d play until he was 60 to avoid that. But he also won’t face what Manning did Wednesday, because everything is different for Duncan. From his sport to the economics to his franchise. The Spurs will be careful this summer —when Duncan is as free as Manning is now. The Colts made the right move this week. Various contractual and salary cap implications made Manning’s return to the Colts tricky, and Andrew Luck made it illogical. ... Months ago during the lockout, before anyone was sure there was even going to be a season, the Spurs were already thinking about this summer. Duncan’s contract is something they have to get right, and they’ve already been trying to get a sense of what he deserves. A starting point: More than half what Duncan was scheduled to earn this season. Duncan wouldn’t want to leave. This is all he’s ever known and, besides, he would have trouble finding another coach like Gregg Popovich. Not everyone gets ejected with a 22-point lead, as Popovich did Wednesday. Manning didn’t have any choice, but he won’t have trouble finding another job. Soon he’ll be a Dolphin or a Cardinal or — if Houston is lucky — a Texan. And that’s the difference between these men and their careers. When Duncan leaves the Spurs, he won’t be going anywhere.

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: Anthony scored 27 points — his highest output since Jan. 20 — and occasionally dazzled in a fourth-quarter rally Wednesday, only to have his team get routed, 118-105, by the San Antonio Spurs. The loss was the Knicks’ third in a row and their sixth in nine games, leaving them three games below .500 and as confused as ever about how to regain their February magic. “It’s hard to believe,” Anthony said of the team’s 18-21 record. “On paper, we’ve got a lot of guys on the team — on paper. It’s a matter of putting it together on the court and winning some basketball games.” The Knicks are deeper than they have been in years, but they have struggled since Anthony, J. R. Smith and Baron Davis joined a crowded rotation two weeks ago. The success and the good feelings inspired by Jeremy Lin’s sensational run last month have all but faded. Anthony in particular has struggled to find himself and has hardly hidden his frustration.

  • Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger: Jordan Farmar wasn’t afraid to say why tonight’s game against the Clippers was sold out. He was just happy to see a few more faces than usual at the Prudential Center. "I think the fact that the Clippers drew a big crowd and, there was a home court environment, it felt like a big game, it’s fun to play in those," Farmar said after hitting the winning shot in the Nets' 101-100 victory. "When it’s dead in here and there’s not that many people in the crowd it gets tough at times, especially when we don’t play well. It’s hard to get that energy, get back in the game." For just the third time this season, the Nets sold out at the Prudential Center and with a long stretch of home games coming after tomorrow’s trip to Charlotte, the team was hoping some momentum could carry over, eliminating the dreariness that comes along with an empty stadium.

  • Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald: If you haven’t noticed, Dexter Pittman’s temperament on the court fits into the classic mold of big men who have played for Pat Riley through the years. He’s tough and not afraid to throw his weight around the paint. Thanks to hard work off the court, Pittman has had a chance recently to show off his aggressive side during games. He recorded the first double-figure scoring game of his career Tuesday to go along with a career high in rebounds. Pittman’s increase in minutes has come after impressing coaches with his dedication to losing weight and getting in shape. “He’s about where he was when he left last year, which was the best he has been in his life,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And so now he’s getting his opportunity on the court. He’s earned this.” Slowly, Pittman is chiseling out a reputation in the league as a no-nonsense big man. It didn’t take long last season for the Heat to realize how quick Pittman was to lose his temper.

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Hawks talked pretty big after an L but I’m willing to give them a pass. The Heat sent out at least two and probably three better players than the Hawks, got their fair share of their favored run-outs, saw LeBron James score 31 points on 20 shots and had 25 free-throw attempts to Atlanta’s nine. The Hawks made a game of it with their depth, defense and toughness. “No moral victory,” Jerry Stackhouse said. “But I think that team is aware of us. We came down here early in the season [to win] and now we are competing with some main pieces out. I am pretty sure they are aware if we see them in the playoffs we are a formidable foe.” “I don’t fault our effort, not one bit,” Larry Drew said. “We played last night, we got in at 1:30 this morning and we come in and play against one of the hottest teams in the league. Our effort was there. They did a phenomenal job in fighting every possession. We had an opportunity and we kind of let it get away.” That last part is true, and it had nothing to do with Miami’s advantage in free-throw attempts and everything to do with the unforced errors that ignited the Heat’s third-quarter surge. The Hawks got rattled and were sloppy with the ball.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Yes, that was Nick Young leading a fast break, flipping a pass ahead to Trevor Booker for a layup rather than pulling up for a jumper. Yes, that was Roger Mason Jr. camped out in the corner, whirling around screens, burying three-pointer after three-pointer and confidently strutting down the floor. Yes, that was Kevin Seraphin soaring high above the rim to catch a missed layup by Shelvin Mack to dunk with two hands and swing on the rim. And, yes, that was the Washington Wizards — a team known to cower under large deficits — staging an improbable comeback, rallying from a 21-point hole with 20 minutes remaining to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers, 106-101, before a sellout crowd Wednesday night at Verizon Center. ... Wall had a relatively quiet night, scoring just four points but he had a game-high nine assists, including a pass to Seraphin from half court that Seraphin dunked to give the Wizards a 102-99 lead late in the game. Asked afterward if he thought the Lakers knew who he was, Seraphin smiled and said, “I don’t think so, no.” They probably do now.

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: He has won two championship rings and played in two other NBA Finals. Luke Walton doesn't know what to do these days. "This is my ninth year, and this is probably the toughest one," the Lakers forward said. He's the forgotten man of the Lakers, idling at the end of the bench in the first year of the Mike Brown era. The Lakers have played 39 games. Walton has appeared in nine, lowest on the team. "The last couple of years, my back's been hurting so I couldn't really complain about [playing time]. My back actually feels good this year," he said. "Not having an opportunity to help the fellas has been real tough. When we practice and I can hang out with the guys, and travel, everything's great. It's game days where I find it real hard to fall asleep at night. That's when it gets difficult. "But it's out of my control." Walton, who turns 32 later this month, is averaging 1.3 points, 1.6 rebounds and 7.2 minutes. He approached Brown about his minutes a "couple of times," Walton said.

  • Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times: Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau looks like Sir Georg Solti when he orchestrates even the most ordinary of defensive possessions, with multiple options to address every possible nuance that might make a difference. But when the Bulls have the ball, the game is tied and 18 seconds are on the clock, he has the easiest job in America. ‘‘This is the play: Get the ball to D-Rose, and everybody else get out of the way,’’ Carlos Boozer said. ‘‘And it works every time.’’ Maybe not every time. But it worked Wednesday night, when Derrick Rose dribbled down the last 18 seconds of the clock in a tie game with the Milwaukee Bucks before pulling up to make a 20-foot jumper over Brandon Jennings at the buzzer that gave the Bulls a 106-104 victory before another partisan Bulls crowd at the Bradley Center. Rose’s first true buzzer-beater in his NBA career capped an MVP-caliber effort against the star-crossed Bucks and coach Scott Skiles, who answered every challenge the Bulls presented, only to lose when they gave Rose the last at-bat.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Ilyasova set a career best with 32 points on 14-of-18 shooting and added a team-high 10 rebounds. Ilyasova topped his previous best of 29 points set in February against New Jersey, when he had a 29-25 (rebound) game. The 6-foot-10 power forward has excelled in the final year of the three-year, $7 million deal he signed with the Bucks in the summer of 2009. "He's doing a much better job of taking what the game gives him, not forcing it," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "And the rebounding is one of the main things. "Ersan has struggled in the past; he was pump-faking when he was open. Most of that is gone. He's just shooting the ball when he's open. When people are running at him he's able to put it down (on the floor). Just those split-second judgments, he's been much better at this year." Asked before the game if he had any trouble getting Ilyasova to take higher percentage three-point attempts this season, Skiles said with a wry smile, "No, he's in his contract year."

  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: After the Wolves' impressive 106-94 victory over Portland on Wednesday night at Target Center in front of 17,118 fans, Wolves coach Rick Adelman alerted his players to a symbolic achievement. Houston's 116-98 loss at Toronto on Wednesday moved the Wolves (21-19) into a tie with the Rockets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Yes, the Wolves still have 26 games to play, including an ominous seven-game, 13-day road trip that starts next week. But for one significant night, acknowledging a potential playoff berth seemed appropriate. "We're talking about it," Adelman said. "We're talking the fact that we're relevant right now. We've made a run to get into this position. There's no reason we should be any different than anybody else in these spots."

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: In the first game of a self-described “make or break” seven-game road odyssey, the Trail Blazers were dealt a humbling 106-94 defeat by the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night at the Target Center. It was the Blazers’ eighth loss in the last 12 games and the team — and the season — is starting to feel a whole lot like a sinking ship that can’t stop taking in water. So much so that the Blazers’ always glass-half-full locker room showed a glimpse of acceptance after losing to the Timberwolves for the second time in five nights and dropping to 19-20 in a season that is quickly slipping away. “Yeah,” Gerald Wallace said, when asked if it felt like he was aboard a sinking ship. “And it can sink real fast on this road trip. This was one of those must-win games for us ... We’ve got to improve, we got to get better. I feel like we’re not doing nothing right. It just seems like everything is going bad for us.”

  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: In its 115-104 comeback victory over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena, the Thunder once again assaulted the NBA record book for individual achievement. OKC had three players score 30-plus in Russell Westbrook (31), Kevin Durant (30) and James Harden (a career-high 30), while Serge Ibaka had 20 rebounds. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it marked the first time since Nov. 18, 1969, that three players had 30-plus points and another player had 20-plus rebounds in the same game. The Baltimore Bullets did so in a 142-138 victory against the San Diego Rockets with Mike Davis (40 points), Earl Monroe (30 points), Gus Johnson (30 points) and Wes Unseld (23 rebounds).

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: There is one NBA player left in the Chinese Basketball Association, and his rights belong to the Suns. Point guard Aaron Brooks is the star of the Guangdong Southern Tigers, who are a victory away from reaching the CBA Finals. Once the four-time defending champions' season ends, Brooks would be free to sign with Phoenix, but only about a month of the regular season would remain. As a restricted free agent, Brooks was eligible to receive an offer sheet from other teams through March 1, but he remained under contract in China, where deals forbid players from leaving for the NBA until their teams' seasons ended or a release. If the Suns signed Brooks for the remainder of the season, he would be an unrestricted free agent in July. If the Suns do not sign him, he would be a restricted free agent in July, but the Suns would not have sign-and-trade rights because he did not end the season on the roster and they might not match another team's offer to him. The Suns can give Brooks a multiyear contract this month, but that would cut into the salary-cap space they have awaited for this summer. The Suns also must consider whether they consider Brooks part of the future after a disappointing impact last season. They traded Goran Dragic and a first-round draft pick for Brooks to make a playoff push, which did not occur.

  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: Now 39 games into the season, Casey has a pretty good feel for what he has and what he doesn’t and without mentioning any names, gave a pretty good indication of what he is going to be looking for in the off-season when Bryan Colangelo taps into that $17 million or so he has at his disposal in free agency. First and foremost Casey wants guys who knows the league and aren’t shy when things get physical. “Experience along with the young guys coming in is going to be important,” Casey said. “I don’t think we can bring in a lot of young guys in next season and expect to make the big steps that we want to make next year. I think we’ll be looking for experienced guys, guys who are tough, battle tested and been through the wars, I think that is important and I know Bryan has his eye on some guys who are going to be free agents next year.” So forget the young improving guys. Casey already has those. He wants tried and tested.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: A game after he was benched for missing Monday’s practice, Terrence Williams returned to the Rockets’ rotation, playing 11 minutes and showing flashes of the increased ball movement that Rockets coach Kevin McHale wanted. Williams had not played meaningful minutes in 29 games when he was moved into the rotation on Sunday. After missing the next day’s practice, he was held out on Tuesday in Boston. McHale would not say if that was because of the unexcused absence, but Williams believed it was. He had a good stretch in the first half against the Raptors, with McHale making a point to show that he was pleased after Williams was replaced. He struggled in the second half, finishing with two points, three rebounds and an assist. “Terrence is out there trying, doing stuff,” McHale said. “You get behind, I think everybody presses. We tried to do too many home run things sometimes as a team, not just Terrence.” Williams, however, was more effective in the first half than the statistics would show.

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: The Cavaliers owner has developed a reputation for his statements, from the letter he composed after LeBron James left to the email he sent Stern complaining of a trade that would’ve sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers in a three-team deal. “I like Dan a lot,” Stern said prior to Wednesday’s Cavs-Denver Nuggets game. “In my pastoral role, I’ve suggested that he should always do a first draft and then put it in a drawer for a while or show it to his wife before he lets it go, but other than that, you’ve got to love him. And actually because of that, you’ve got to love him.” Gilbert’s flaw in sending the email was that he also sent it to a number of the league’s other owners, including the Houston Rockets owner, and the Rockets were the third team involved in the original trade. There are a number of people within the Cavs organization who believe the Rockets are the ones who leaked the email to Yahoo! Sports, which published it late at night. Gilbert learned the following morning the email was leaked and called Stern, who was sound asleep and went scrambling for his cell phone. “I told him, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, I haven’t seen it,’‚ÄČ” Stern said. “I said, ‘Just a minute … Oh my God! You sent me that?’ It was like a missile in the air. You didn’t know where it was going to land. I think Dan is going to be more prudent in his reactions, but I’m very happy for him. He’s so committed to Cleveland and I think that’s the well from which these communications spring. He cares deeply about the team and the community and he wants to put on a good game.”

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: Wednesday was Purim, the Jewish holiday that commemorates the Jews' salvation from an evil leader. But, really, it was more like Passover, which commemorates, in part, the parting of the sea — because there was Kyrie Irving, basketball's best Moses since Malone, parting the Nuggets' lackadaisical defense for the winning bucket. "You can't let a guy drive 84 feet and get a layup without him making a pass at the end of the game," Nuggets coach George Karl said after Denver's 100-99 loss to Cleveland. "It just can't be done. It's impossible to be done. Our defensive pride is what I'm disappointed in." Down one, Irving drove all the way down court while being defended by Arron Afflalo. But toward the free- throw line, the point guard escaped Afflalo and entered an essentially wide-open lane, because Ty Lawson and Nene did not fully leave their men to get in the way of Irving. The layup with four seconds remaining left Denver a chance to win, but Lawson couldn't make a layup — in part because of acrobatic defense by, yep, Irving.

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: The Charlotte Bobcats didn't activate forward Boris Diaw for Wednesday's game against the Utah Jazz, and based on the tone of coach Paul Silas' comments, Diaw might never play here again. "I think if he had played all out, the way he should have, it would have been a much, much better club," Silas said, when asked why Diaw has fallen out of the rotation entirely. Diaw was active, but didn't play vs. the Orlando Magic Tuesday, breaking a string of 384 consecutive game appearances. Diaw's agent has contacted the Bobcats about a buyout, but the team would only consider that after the March. 15 trade deadline. ... Asked if Diaw would ever play again for the Bobcats, Silas replied, "We just have to wait and see."

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: Thomas' learning curve continues along on a surprisingly upward angle. Sort of like the recently approved arena proposal, he came out of nowhere. Since being the last player selected in the 2011 NBA draft, the diminutive point guard has been named Rookie of the Month (February), moved into the starting lineup, emerged as a fan favorite, and late Wednesday made the steal that secured the Kings' 99-98 victory over the New Orleans Hornets. The fact that he stands only 5-foot-9 (maybe), has the cherubic features of the Boy Scout next door, performs like an ornery spitfire and has embraced his adopted community – siding with Sacramento over his native Seattle – only furthers the relationship. When Mayor Kevin Johnson went searching for a Kings presence to attend the hearing – during which the tentative arena proposal passed 7-2 – he knew exactly who to text. "The mayor thought it would be a good idea for me to show to the meeting," the rookie recalled, with a grin. "He sent me an email when we landed from Denver, with the times of the meeting, and said it would be a good way of showing people your support. So I said, 'Sure, I'll be there.' "