First Cup: Monday

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: By the next day, when Daryl Morey listed the Rockets’ trade deadline acquisitions without mentioning Fisher at all, then refused to answer any questions about him, it was clear that when Dragic took a seat, Fisher would not be getting up. By Saturday, Fortson was playing with a 10-day contract and the Rockets were wrapping up negotiations with Fisher on a buyout of the $3.4 million option for next season. Yet, when Fisher’s publicist confirmed the buyout Sunday night, it sounded as if the Rockets would have brought Fisher in. ... That’s a convenient spin, but if the Rockets wanted badly enough Fisher, Fisher would be with the Rockets. They did not have to pay him to play for someone else. NBA rules are clear. Players get 72 hours to report after they are traded. Many players don’t want to go to the team that acquires them in trades, but teams make deals expecting the players they pick up to play for them. The Rockets might have “absolute professionalism,” but they are not running a YMCA team. If they wanted Fisher they would not have been so generous. With the Rockets struggling and seeming very worn out with the starting backcourt out again in Sunday, the decision might be crucial to their success, or at least will be at issue if the fill-ins with Lowry out don’t work out.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Going a year without the NBA playoffs in Phoenix is foreign enough, but some of the Suns have longed for the postseason even longer. Now that the Suns are back in the playoff race entering the final third of the season, some Suns' walks through the basketball desert has them salivating at this chance. In seven previous NBA seasons, Sebastian Telfair never has played in a playoff game but has been part of the turnaround in Phoenix. ... Guard Shannon Brown is the only Suns player who participated in the 2011 playoffs, doing so with the Los Angeles Lakers. For his Suns backcourt benchmate, Michael Redd, the playoff drought goes back to 2006 when he was with Milwaukee. Two knee surgeries played a role in a six-year absence. ... Suns forward Josh Childress has been away from the playoffs since 2008, when Atlanta lost a seven-game series to Boston, because he spent two years in Greece and one in Phoenix.

  • David J. Neal of The Miami Herald: The Heat has split this season’s four games with its possible future playoff opponent, losing the two games in central Florida and winning the two at AmericanAirlines Arena, where it has won 13 in a row. “When you play the Orlando Magic, you have to stay the course,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You know at times, they’re going to knock down some threes. No matter up or down, there are going to be some highs and lows.” In the 400th consecutive game of double-figure scoring by LeBron James, his scoring might have been the least of his contributions. While scoring 14 points on only 4-of-14 shooting, James grabbed five steals, had 12 rebounds and fed teammates for seven assists. “We needed him to fill up the boxscore,” Spoelstra said. “And that’s who he is. He can impact the game in so many different ways. He was in two places at once the entire night. There’s not a statistic for it, but the loose balls, the 50-50s, he was coming up with extra possessions; [what] he was giving us [was] invaluable.”

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Jameer Nelson is perhaps the Orlando Magic's most crucial "X Factor" as the team prepares for the playoffs. The diminutive point guard and Hedo Turkoglu initiate the bulk of the team's offense. As coach Stan Van Gundy has said on numerous occasions, if both Nelson and Turkoglu are playing well, so are the Magic. If just one of them is playing well, the Magic still have a chance to compete. But if both of them are struggling, the Magic have little chance. Nelson entered the Magic's game against the Heat on one of his best streaks of the season. In his previous three games, Nelson had averaged 21.0 points on 61.5 percent shooting and 5.7 assists. One of the reasons: Nelson has rounded into better physical shape. It's no accident when players shoot well. To make jumpers consistently, a player needs consistent form. And to keep your form consistent, you need to be in good shape. "A lot of it has to do with conditioning," Van Gundy said. "He's gotten in a lot better shape. He's quicker, he's got more energy and he's got more legs into his shot."

  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: Steve Blake started his second straight game as the Lakers' point guard, with Ramon Sessions serving as his backup Sunday against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center. It's likely to stay that way for the rest of the season, coach Mike Brown said. At least that's Brown's plan, anyway. "Right now, Steve Blake is my starting point guard, and he's my starting point guard for the foreseeable future until there's a time I think I need to make a change and right now I don't see a time right now, but who knows?" Brown said. Is that because Brown likes Blake as his starter or Sessions as a backup? "Both," Brown said. "Basically, Steve Blake has taken Derek Fisher's spot and Ramon Sessions has taken Steve Blake's spot," Brown added. ... It's no secret the reason the Lakers acquired Sessions from the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday and traded Fisher to the Houston Rockets was to match up better with point guards like Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Wouldn't sitting Sessions behind Blake defeat the purpose of the trades? Brown said he envisioned splitting the minutes between the two players, or he might even decide to use one of them as a backup to shooting guard Kobe Bryant.

  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: With a recovering Watson in uniform but stuck on the bench against Los Angeles, Tinsley was again Utah’s primary backup man. Corbin acknowledged that even when Watson returns, he’ll try to find more time for Tinsley. "It’s on me. The guy deserve to get more time on the floor," said Corbin prior to tipoff against Lakers. "And when I find time, I’ll try to get him out there." Tinsley didn’t deny his increased action felt good. He’s spent the entire season preparing himself to play, despite spending the majority of the season watching instead of reacting. Entering Sunday, Tinsley had earned minutes in only 18 of Utah’s 44 games. But rather than indulging in an I-told-you-so mentality, Tinsley, who spent the 2010-11 season out of the NBA and started 2011-12 with the Development League’s Los Angeles D-Fenders, said he’s simply enjoying a life only getting better with age. "It’s just a blessing to be back in a [good] situation. The Jazz gave me an opportunity to be here; the L.A. D-Fenders called me up, and I’m just taking advantage of it," Tinsley said. "When I’m healthy, my game speaks for itself."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Fisher and the Rockets are in the process of finalizing a buyout and, once completed, Fisher will be an unrestricted free agent. Thanks to the NBA finally closing a loophole that for years had allowed players to re-sign with the team that had traded them after only 30 days, Fisher can't return to the Lakers. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, Fisher must wait until July 1 to re-sign with the Lakers, which means if he wants to play this season he'd have to sign elsewhere. And according to reports, the 37-year-old is interested in signing with a contender and continuing his career. That puts the Thunder right in the mix. Miami, Chicago and San Antonio would be natural destinations as well, and all four could use Fisher. ... Dallas and Orlando could be darkhorse candidates for Fisher. And don't forget about that other team in Los Angeles, the Clippers. Fisher wouldn't have to uproot and just might be able to go farther with the Lakers' co-tenant at Staples Center. But the Thunder should absolutely make a run at Fisher. For 3 1/2 seasons, Oklahoma City has opted to grow organically, to build through the draft and develop from within. But now that a championship is within reach this season, it should be a no-brainer for the Thunder to take a one-year flier on Fisher.

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: So the Blazers (21-24) return to Portland, with eight of their next 10 games at the Rose Garden and a newfound optimism in their back pocket. They lost to the best team in the Western Conference, and two players and their head coach did not survive the self-described "make-or-break" trip. But the ones who did survive insist that the "quit" the team once had is gone. When Matthews was asked how he would describe the Blazers' trip that no doubt will go down as one of the most forgettable in franchise history, he was talking so animatedly, he flung his hand forward and knocked the recording device out of a reporter's hand. It crashed to the floor, but no batteries popped out and it continued to record, unscathed. "The trip was a lot like that," Matthews said, chuckling. "Put that in (the story). We had some mishaps, there were some bumps. But we're still alive, we're still rolling. Your mike is still working, we're still working. There are not moral victories in here, but we felt like we played well enough to win. We competed."

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Gilbert Arenas will work out on Monday for the Memphis Grizzlies, who are looking to bolster their backup point guard position. "That's the plan," Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said before tonight's game against Washington Wizards, Arenas' former team. Arenas ended last season with the Orlando Magic after he was traded earlier in the season for Rashard Lewis. He averaged 8.0 points in 49 games after the trade, but shot only 39 percent from the field. The Magic waived him in December through the new amnesty clause so his salary wouldn’t count against the cap or luxury tax. Arenas averaged 21.2 points and 5.4 assists during his nine-year career. Memphis has been looking for someone to spell starting point guard Mike Conley much of the season. The Grizzlies have tried rookies Jeremy Pargo and Josh Selby with little success. In recent weeks, backup shooting guard O.J. Mayo has been getting minutes at the point.

  • Michale Lee of The Washington Post: Nene passed his physical on Sunday, clearing the final hurdle to make official the three-team trade deadline deal involving the Wizards, Denver and the Los Angeles Clippers. Brian Cook, whom the Wizards also acquired in the deal that sent Nick Young to the Clippers and JaVale McGee to the Nuggets, will be available when the team plays the Memphis Grizzlies tonight at FedEx Forum. The Wizards will also sign Edwin Ubiles to a 10-day contract before the game. Nene isn’t expected to make his Wizards debut until Wednesday in New Jersey. The Nuggets didn’t waste any time reacting to the development and waived Ronny Turiaf, allowing him to become a free agent when he clears waivers. Turiaf, who was sent to Denver along with McGee in exchange for Nene, is expected to attract interest from Boston and Miami, among others. He averaged just 1.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists in four games with the Wizards this season. He hasn’t played since breaking his left hand against the Celtics on Jan. 1.

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: All the Hawks needed was one good quarter out of Joe Johnson. They got that – and more. Despite being thinned by injury, coach Larry Drew was cognizant of putting too much stress on Johnson’s troublesome left knee. However, the All-Star scored 13 of his game-high 28 points in the first quarter en route to a 103-87 victory over the Cavaliers Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena. By the end of the first 12 minutes, in which Johnson played every one, the Hawks had built a 12-point lead. Johnson was 4 of 5 from the field, including hitting all three 3-pointers, and had four assists. He scored the Hawks’ first seven points after the Cavaliers scored the first four points of the game. It would be their only lead. The lead grew to as much as 17 points in the second quarter with Johnson on the bench for a good portion resting the knee that recently cost him six games with tendinitis. The Hawks would lead by as many as 19 points, before withstanding a third-quarter 18-5 Cavaliers run that saw their advantage trimmed to six points. Johnson answered with two straight baskets as the Hawks went on an 8-0 run and pushed the lead back to double-digits.

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: Byron Scott has been friends with Bill Walton a long time, and so he has known the newest Cavalier, Walton's son Luke, most of Walton's life. Sunday, the Cavaliers' coach did Walton, 31, a favor by not sharing any of those cute kid stories. "I don't think he wants me to release any of that stuff yet," Scott said with a smile before the matinee loss to Atlanta at The Q. But he was happy to talk about why he thinks Walton might be able to help the Cavs -- even though he'd fallen out of the Lakers rotation before Thursday's trade to Cleveland. ... How soon the 6-8 forward gets on the floor is a bit of a question. He was sick before he got traded, and has battled a bad back, although he said Saturday his back was as good as it has been in three years. Rookie point guard Donald Sloan, signed on Friday out of the D-League, has had two practices compared to Walton's one, so he's a bit ahead in conditioning and knowledge of the system, and saw 81 seconds of action on Sunday.

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: Their playoff dreams slipping away with each loss on this elongated March road trip, discontent bubbled over in the fourth quarter of the Timberwolves' damaging 115-99 loss at Sacramento. That's when Wolves two-time All Star forward Kevin Love and reserve guard J.J. Barea had to be separated by teammates during a timeout confrontation. Barea stepped toward Love while the two exchanged words and Love rose from his seat on the bench until Luke Ridnour ushered Barea away and Martell Webster did the same with Love. By then, the Wolves' third consecutive loss was all but assured, six days after they began this seven-game, 13-day road trip with a victory at Phoenix. Love and Barea both put the same name to an afternoon when they briefly turned on each other. Meanwhile, the struggling Kings ran away to a 20-point fourth-quarter lead and a 115-point total two days after they put 120 points on the scoreboard and beat the Boston Celtics by 25. "Frustration," Barea said.

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: The postgame locker room was buzzing about two dunks by the Kings that they hoped would make the national highlights. The first came in the second quarter when Donté Greene followed a missed three-point attempt by Jimmer Fredette by catching it off the rim and finishing with a reverse dunk. "I jumped wrong," Greene said. "That's the only reason why I dunked backwards. I mean it worked – it looked good." The second came with 4:02 left in the game when Tyler Honeycutt dunked over Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley. Greene said his dunk should be the top play on ESPN SportsCenter on Sunday night.

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: Nick Young arrived Sunday at Staples Center thinking he was going to watch another Clippers game in street clothes. His playing status remained uncertain pending physicals of other players involved in the trade that brought him from Washington to Los Angeles on Thursday. That all changed 30 minutes after he got to the arena when a team official told him he was cleared to play Sunday against the Detroit Pistons. "I had to immediately change my mindset," an ecstatic Young said. It was the best adjustment he could remember making. Young, the former Cleveland High and USC star, has been on cloud nine since escaping Washington for his hometown Clippers. The Clippers, in fact, were targeting Tuesday's road game against Houston as Young's debut date and figured Nene, who was moving from Denver to Washington, wouldn't complete his physical in time for Young to play sooner. But when word reached Los Angeles early Sunday that Nene was given a clean bill of health the Clippers happily gave Young a uniform and told him to get on the court two hours before tip-off for a quick once-over on the team playbook.

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Stuckey was unable to beat the Clippers' Nick Young to an errant pass from Brandon Knight, and when Young was fouled by Knight going to the basket, Stuckey walked slowly to the Pistons' bench and slumped down in a chair. He labored all game with a sore left big toe. He had a good seat to watch his team drop an 87-83 decision to the Clippers, and it was obvious that the Pistons missed him at both ends of the floor. "I just wanted to make sure," Stuckey said after he soaked his left foot in an ice bucket. "I tried, but at the end of the day, it just kept getting stepped on, and when I moved it was just hurting, man." The injury comes during arguably Stuckey's best stretch of basketball in his five-year career. Going into Sunday, Stuckey had averaged nearly 19 points per game in 22 games since Feb. 1 and was averaging 29 points, seven assists and shooting 6-for-11 from three-point land in the first three games of the team's five-game trip.