First Cup: Tuesday

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: A league source confirmed late Monday night that Scott Skiles is out as coach of the Milwaukee Bucks after four-plus seasons. The source said it was mutually agreed between the two parties that Skiles would no longer coach the Bucks, effective immediately. Jim Boylan will take over as interim coach of the team beginning with Tuesday's home game against Phoenix, the source indicated. Skiles was in the final year of his contract with the team. He originally signed a four-year deal in April 2008 and had his contract extended one year following the 2009-'10 season. The final game in Skiles' term with the Bucks came on Saturday night as Milwaukee lost at Indiana, 95-80. The Bucks dropped four straight games last week to fall to .500 after they had improved to a 16-12 record with a 104-85 home victory over Miami on Dec. 29.

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: It may have been a gesture that signaled the Celtics returning to the NBA’s consciousness after two months of being an afterthought. With 45.5 seconds left in Monday night’s game against the Knicks, Paul Pierce nearly dribbled out the 24-second clock before spinning and launching a prayer of a 21-foot jumper that went in for a 6-point Celtics lead. On his way back down the court, Pierce stretched out both arms and then kissed the index and middle fingers of his right hand and waved in the direction of Knicks superfan Spike Lee. The shot essentially sealed perhaps the biggest Celtics win of the season, a 102-96 decision at Madison Square Garden without the suspended Rajon Rondo. The Celtics carried over the momentum from their previous two victories and played a brilliant game against the juggernaut Knicks, coming back after New York briefly tied the game midway through the fourth quarter.

  • Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News: After a miserable performance in which he missed 20 of 26 shots, and again showed that he doesn’t cope very well when facing a physical team that gets in his grill, Carmelo Anthony should have had the good sense to retreat to his locker room. Just call it a night and cool off before trying to explain to the media how the Knicks could lose to a Celtics team missing Rajon Rondo. But after a bad Knicks loss, 102-96, Anthony wanted more action. He first confronted Kevin Garnett when the teams left the court, by the Celtics’ locker room. Nothing physical. No punches thrown. Just lots of yelling, apparently, by Anthony. Then he later went to where the Celtics were leaving the Garden near the ramp area and tried to continue to settle a score with Garnett. Luckily for everyone, a handful of cops and Garden security got him out of there before anyone got hurt. Anthony can probably expect to hear from NBA security people Tuesday. They’ll want answers and he needs to come clean, plead guilty and then take his penalty. One postgame incident might have only resulted in a fine. But two incidents likely will get Anthony a suspension, probably for Thursday’s game in Indiana. But it should have never come to that point, where Anthony was still in a rage, even after one of those heated Celtics-Knicks games that is very much a part of the Boston-New York NBA landscape

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Bradley Beal was dragging, having logged more minutes than anyone else, and complaining during an earlier timeout that he was tired. Coach Randy Wittman saw the 19-year-old slouching and gasping but was in no position to cut him any slack with the Washington Wizards more undermanned than usual Monday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. “Coach said, ‘If you think I’m taking you out, you’re crazy,’ ” Beal said with a grin. So he played on, and with the game tied following a Kevin Durant-led ambush, Beal had the last play drawn up for him to create, and to learn what it feels like to be the hero. Beal let time whittle away until he made his move. He pump-faked to get Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha off their feet, then dipped under Perkins to nail a one-handed jumper from the foul line with three-tenths of a second remaining to deliver an improbable 101-99 victory over the defending Western Conference champion at Verizon Center. “I said, you know, ‘It’s time, for us to be on the other end. To have someone step up and make a play.’ And Bradley made a helluva shot,” Wittman said after the Wizards snapped a five-game losing streak and won their second in a row against the Thunder.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: As for how Oklahoma City ended up here — stunned for the second straight season in Washington — there simply isn't enough ink to run down the Thunder's ills from this one. Kevin Durant tried anyway. “We weren't disciplined. We weren't solid on defense. We went stretches without moving the ball,” he said. “You're playing against a team who's playing hard every game and got nothing to lose and you can be beat.” Durant said something similar before the game. At the time, it had the stench of a stale cliché. By the final buzzer, however, that message would be well reinforced.

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Specific information regarding Derrick Rose's rehabilitation from surgery on his left knee has been scarce. But from the smiles emanating from Rose, it's clear the franchise centerpiece remains on target to return at some point in the coming weeks. "We're not trying to be evasive," general manager Gar Forman said Monday. "We just have stayed true to the process of taking things step by step, knowing we have to get him back to 100 percent. Once he's at 100 percent and cleared medically, he'll be ready to play. We're optimistic that he'll be back at some point this season." Most guesses have focused on late February or early March, just after the All-Star break. Forman said there is no specific game targeted for Rose's return. "He's right on schedule with where we thought he would be," Forman said.

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: Cavaliers forward Omri Casspi had no comment on a Yahoo Sports report on Monday that he or his representatives asked the Cavs to trade him, but he said he was happy in Cleveland and would like to stay. "Of course, I like Cleveland," Casspi said before the Cavs faced the Bulls at the United Center. "Cleveland has been great to me. The fans, the city, the organization. That's where I'm focused. I don't have any other focus but help my team win. Whatever the future holds will happen." Before Monday, Casspi had fallen out of coach Byron Scott's rotation and, except for one minute against Indiana on Dec. 21, he hadn't played significant minutes since playing 12 in the victory over the Lakers on Dec. 11.

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Grizzlies' reserve guard Wayne Ellington missed only one of the 11 shots he attempted. That's what you call being in an offensive zone. Unfortunately for the Sacramento Kings, Ellington wasn't the only Griz in a good rhythm. The Griz rediscovered their offensive efficiency, execution and explosion in a big way by thumping the Kings in a 113-81 victory Monday night in Sleep Train Arena. The Griz won their second straight game. They have consecutive wins for the first time since their' last winning streak reached four games on Dec. 21. Ellington led the Griz with a career-high 26 points. He made 10 of 11 shots, including 6 of 7 from beyond the 3-point arc. Zach Randolph added 17 points, while Mike Conley chipped in 15 points and eight assists.

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: DeMarcus Cousins' new agent, Dan Fegan, attended Monday's game. Fegan was in town to meet with Kings management, including basketball president Geoff Petrie. Cousins hired Fegan last month, fueling speculation the center would try to force his way out of Sacramento via trade. The Kings, however, have no intention of trading Cousins, and Cousins has said he is not trying to force a trade.

  • Bill Oram of The Salt Lake Tribune: Al Jefferson won’t let his mind wander beyond his next game, let alone to the offseason, where he hopes either the Jazz or another team awaits with a max contract. But this is the shadow that will follow Jefferson throughout the remainder of the season, from city to city, as folks wonder if the nimble center has given any thought to a free-agency strategy. "No, actually," he said following Monday’s shootaround. "I haven’t thought about it because that’s something else that I don’t want on my mind right now. It’s all about taking care of this season right here with my teammates." Entering Monday’s game against the Mavericks, Jefferson led the Jazz with 16.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. The Mavericks have been floated as a potential destination for Jefferson if the Jazz choose not to re-sign him. With six weeks remaining before the NBA’s trade deadline, the veteran has also been included in plenty of chatter on that front. But when free agency hits, the Mavericks could offer proximity to Jefferson’s Mississippi home, and if they miss out on marquee free agents Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, the Mavswould seem likely to throw their cap space at the 28-year-old center. "The only team I’m looking at right now is the Utah Jazz as a good fit," Jefferson said, "because it’s the team I’m with right now. I don’t think outside of the box like that."

  • Gerry Fraley of The Dallas Morning News: On Dirk Nowitzki being frustrated with the Mavs roster: Fraley: “Dirk is obviously the best player in franchise history. He’s a Hall of Famer. He’s every positive you can say. It’s becoming increasingly obvious he doesn’t like what’s going on here. He’s used the word trade, not lobbying for one, twice in the last 10 days. It’s almost a passive aggressive stance. He sees what’s going on here. This team is not good. You don’t bring all these guys in here. It’s like buying lottery tickets hoping you win the lottery with these one year contracts, and it doesn’t work. Right now, this is a very bad, soft team. Nobody is going to want to come here and Dirk knows that. I think it’s going to come to a point where they are going to have to seriously consider trading Dirk.”

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: Less than a week ago, Spurs captain Tim Duncan passed Hall of Famer Bob Pettit for 16th place on the NBA’s all-time rebounds list. On Monday at New Orleans Arena, Pettit, 80, who also starred at LSU before starring with the old Milwaukee/St. Louis Hawks, watched Duncan play. Pettit, a former two-time Most Valuable Player who was a guest of Hornets owner Tom Benson, sat courtside, and Duncan stopped by to shake hands with him before tipoff. “That was pretty cool,” Duncan said. At 63, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is old enough to recall when Pettit was an All-NBA forward for 10 consecutive seasons during a career that ran from 1954-65. He never compares players, but Popovich allowed that Pettit and Duncan must be in any conversation about the greatest power forwards.

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: Newly signed New Orleans Hornets reserve point guard Donald Sloan is no stranger to being caught up in a numbers game. Sloan, signed to a 10-day contract with New Orleans prior to Monday night's game against the San Antonio Spurs, spent time with the Hornets last season on a pair of 10-day deals when starting point guard Jarrett Jack was injured, then was released when Jack was healthy enough to return. This season, after signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers following his release by the Hornets, Sloan got the pink slip again on Christmas Day after appearing in 20 regular-season games for the Cavs backing up Kyrie Irving. Sloan, 6 foot 3, 205 pounds, averaged 4.1 points, 1.9assists and 1.4 rebounds while playing just under 13 minutes a game for the Cavaliers. … His arrival in New Orleans, according to Hornets Coach Monty Williams, adds to the team's backcourt depth.

  • Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: When the Trail Blazers took Orlando into overtime, they had the Magic right where they wanted them. Portland used a 10-0 run in the extra session to go in front 122-112 en route to a 125-119 victory Monday night at the Rose Garden. The additional five (in one case, 10) minutes have been good to the Blazers, who are an NBA-best 5-0 in overtime contests this season. “We won one time (in overtime), two times, three times in a row,” said Portland’s Nicolas Batum, who scored 12 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and the overtime period. “Now, when we get into overtime, that’s when we think the game is ours. That’s just confidence.” It was the 10th win in 13 games for the Trail Blazers (19-15), who are four games over .500 for the first time this season. Even when Orlando (12-22) led 61-50 midway through the third quarter, the Blazers didn’t blink.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: People have labeled Jameer Nelson for years. He's heard it all: that he's "too small" to be an effective NBA player, that he's a "shoot-first" point guard, that he's "injury prone." People now can call him something else: record-holder. Nelson needed just two assists Monday night against the Portland Trail Blazers to reach 2,777 for his career and pass Scott Skiles for the Orlando Magic's franchise assists record. Nelson broke the record with 4:13 remaining in the first quarter when he drove to the hoop and dished to Andrew Nicholson for an easy dunk. "I'm not a guy for individual accolades, but it would definitely mean a lot," Nelson said after Orlando's shootaround Monday at the Rose Garden. "Records are made to be broken, so I'm very fortunate to be in a position to break a record in any category." Fortunate? Yes. Seven months ago, it looked like he might leave the Magic.