First Cup: Tuesday

  • Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon-Journal: Byron Scott planned to talk to Varejao Monday, as did star point guard Kyrie Irving. Irving said at least two players have visited Varejao. “Losing him already was bad enough for us. The news got worse today,” Irving said. “We’re all going to be there for him morale-wise. That’s all we can do right now.” As for the chances of acquiring another center, Grant was evasive. He might be content to let Zeller’s trial by fire continue as the struggling Cavs improve their odds in the draft lottery. “We’re constantly looking at those opportunities,” Grant said. “There’s always a positive to these type of situations and for this it’s our other guys get a chance to play. We’ll look at different options, at the D-League and approaching the trade deadline, we’ll keep our eyes open.” Grant was asked if the Cavs had interest in ex-Ohio State star Greg Oden. “All players that are out there we’re going to do our updates and understand and know what their current status is,” Grant said. “But we’re not going to get into internal discussions we’re having with anybody along those lines.”

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Isaiah Thomas doesn't want to see the city that has embraced him go through this. The Kings point guard grew up in Tacoma, Wash., as a Seattle SuperSonics fan and remembers the team's final days there. So when the news broke Monday that the Maloofs had agreed to sell a controlling interest in the Kings to Chris Hansen's Seattle-based group, Thomas reflected on what it was like to see the Sonics move to Oklahoma City in 2008 and how it felt as a fan. "It was tough for the fans there," said Thomas, who also played at the University of Washington. "I don't wish that on any city, especially for a team that's been there for a while. It's hard. For a city like Sacramento, where all they have is a basketball team, it's tough, so I feel for them." The Kings lost to the New Orleans Hornets 114-105 at New Orleans Arena, but the agreement to sell the franchise dominated the conversation.

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: Speculation that the proposed new owners of the Kings franchise will seek to pry R.C. Buford away from the Spurs when, and if, the purchase is approved and team moves to Seattle has been met with bemusement within the Spurs’ organization. A source within the organization saidthat the Spurs’ general manager “is not going anywhere. “He loves living in San Antonio and loves what we have built here,” the source said. “You could probably find about 25 of the other 29 franchises that would like to have R.C., so the speculation is understandable, but he’s staying with the Spurs.” A group led by Seattle hedge fund manager Christopher Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer reached an agreement for the transfer of controlling interest in the Kings from the Maloof family. The transaction “is subject to the approval of the NBA Board of Governors and has been referred to the Board’s committee process for review,” the league said in a statement. Spurs owner Peter Holt is chairman of the NBA’s Board of Governors.

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: In town all week with practices scheduled Tuesday and Thursday, coach Tom Thibodeau said Derrick Rose is "very close" to being cleared for full contact. Thibodeau said "it could" happen this week, another step in Rose's recovery from last May's left knee surgery. Knicks guard Iman Shumpert, who tore his ACL the same April 28 day as Rose, made his season debut on Jan. 17, nine days after he was cleared for full contact. It's unlikely Rose's timeline to game action will be that fast. "It's not going to be one or two days of contact and he's going to be out there," Thibodeau said. "That's not going to happen. He's showing great patience. Everybody else has to. He has to continue to focus on his rehab. When he's ready, whenever that is, that's when he comes back. Our doctors have been on top of it since day one. And Derrick's done great."

  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News: Despite admitting dissatisfaction over his new bench role, forward Pau Gasol maintained he wants to stay with the Lakers. "I'd love to and I want this to work for us," Gasol said following the Lakers' 95-83 loss Monday to the Chicago Bulls at United Center. "I feel like I'm a part of this team and part of this franchise. I love to play here for as many years as possible because I identify myself with the team. I want it to work." Gasol has two years left on his contract, worth $38.3 million. Though he became the subject of many trade rumors last year following the nixed Chris Paul deal, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said last week not to expect the front office to become "active" leading up to the Feb.21 trade deadline.

  • Harvey Araton of The New York Times: Certainly the N.B.A. is a fairer place than the league Woodson broke into with the Knicks as a player in 1980. For years, black players would nag white teammates not to forget them when they ascended into head-coaching jobs or the front office. Currently one of 12 black head coaches, Woodson is an increasingly rare N.B.A. coach who can remember the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968. “I think I was 10 years old,” he said. “I didn’t understand the dynamics of it, but I think he was fighting for all the people, not just African-American people. He’s probably the reason I’m in the position I’m in today and a lot of people.” Even Carlesimo, in a sense, despite the very real racial undertones of the 1997 incident in which he was attacked and choked by Latrell Sprewell when they were feuding coach and player at Golden State. Stern’s league has navigated many such minefields, emerging stronger for them. “Things have changed,” Woodson said, though not in conclusion. “Hopefully, they’ll get better.”

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: This will not rank as some kind of news blast or Deadspin.com-worthy eye-opener, but the Indiana Pacers want David West, and they want him for the long term. Now, before you say, “Duh-h-h, he’s just been one of their two most invaluable players this season,” remember, he will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. And if there was any doubt they wanted to keep him, or any doubt he wanted to stay in Indiana, there would be ample discussion over whether they should trade him at the Feb. 21 deadline and try to get something in return before he flies the coop. There won’t be any of that discussion. None. “We want David West,” team President Donnie Walsh was saying the other day in a little anteroom at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. (It used to be Walsh’s smoking room, but, to his great credit, he quit smoking.) “He’s a big part of what we’re doing here.” And here’s the better news. All things being equal, West wants to stay in Indiana. It has been the perfect locker-room fit for a grown-up man among younger souls. “Sure, I’d like to stay and continue to make this my home,” said West.

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: Somewhere, Griz owner Robert Pera was doubtless watching. Somewhere, he must have been having some interesting thoughts. Like, say: "Yeah, I know that Mike Conley and Marc Gasol asked me to keep this team together when we had dinner the other day. But why would I possibly do that?" Exactly one month before the NBA trade deadline, the Grizzlies lost to the Indiana Pacers at FedExForum, 82-81. There is no shame in losing to the Pacers, of course. The Pacers are an excellent team. But at what point is it reasonable for Pera to watch games like Monday's and conclude that the Grizzlies just aren't good enough as presently structured? At what point is it reasonable for him to conclude that his new team might actually be improved by the right deal? … None of this means that Pera and the Grizzlies should ship Gay off for a sack of potatoes, or anything. My position on that remains the same. Memphis fans would never forgive a pure salary dump. If the Grizzlies deal Gay before the deadline, it can only be as part of a trade that improves the team, not just going forward, but this year. Is such a deal possible? There's no way to know for sure. But at halftime, Aaron Neville might have been foreshadowing when he sang, "A Change is Gonna Come."

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: Warriors center Andrew Bogut on Monday made the most obvious strides yet in his attempt to come back from left ankle surgery, running full-court sprints at maximum velocity during warm-ups. "In all honesty, I don't really pay attention to it as far as if he's getting closer," head coach Mark Jackson said before Monday's matinee against the Clippers, which celebrated MLK Day. "He's on the floor. I look forward to the day he's in uniform. There will be no pressure on him. He'll continue to have treatment, continue to go through his rehab, continue to work his way onto the floor, work his way into practice and all of that, but I don't get caught up in it as a coach.”

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Welcome back, Jannero Pargo. The guard, signed to a 10-day contract hours before tipoff, scored 14 fourth-quarter points to lead the Hawks to a 104-96 come-from-behind victory over the Timberwolves on Martin Luther King Day Monday at Philips Arena. Pargo hit four 3-pointers in the final quarter as the Hawks erased an 18-point first-half deficit to get the much needed victory. “I’m very surprised,” said Al Horford, who had a season-high 28 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. “Straight off the couch to be able to come here and do what he did is very impressive.”

  • Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: There was little doubt overtime was just around the corner as Jordan Crawford took an in-bounds pass and turned to fire up something between desperation and a prayer. Then something between desperation and prayer actually happened. The reaction was instantaneous after Washington’s reserve guard launched a fadeaway 3-point rainbow over Wesley Matthews’ outstretched arm that kissed only twine as time expired, giving the Wizards a 98-95 victory over the Trail Blazers Monday night at the Rose Garden. The Blazer coaches looked on in disbelief. Those in the announced crowd of 17,336 stood in a hushed gloom. The Wizards turned the court into a mob scene, burying a laughing Crawford in celebration. … Crawford’s howitzer was a cruel blow to the Blazers (20-21), who are past the point of being tired about losing close games. It was their season-high sixth straight defeat, all by six points or fewer. Never has that happened in the franchise’s 43-year history.

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: Turning 31 on Feb. 9, he knows what he's facing in the next phase of his career. And he has news for the doubters --- again. Jameer Nelson hopes to be able to play until he's 40. "God willing, yeah," he said. "I hope my body holds up until I'm 40." It's a legitimate concern, considering the way he still plays. Never a conventional, textbook point guard, Nelson is built like a fullback -- and plays like on too. He's collided into much bigger bodies, creating space and sometimes costly turnovers while dribbling. He's endured surgeries on his shoulder and bicep, and knee, and missed a total of 113 games in eight-plus seasons.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Suns Ring of Honor member Dan Majerle will not resume his role as assistant coach for the second half of the season. Majerle was in his fifth season as a Suns assistant coach but had stopped working with the team Sunday when Lindsey Hunter was selected as the interim head coach in place of Alvin Gentry. Hunter was selected Sunday over lead assistant coach Elston Turner, assistant coach Igor Kokoskov and Majerle, who had been the suggestion of many Suns players to General Manager Lance Blanks during interviews Friday and Saturday. When Blanks called Majerle to inform him of the decision Sunday morning before practice, Majerle left US Airways Center and did not participate in Sunday’s and Monday’s practices. Majerle had been willing to return to the staff if Turner was selected. Majerle will receive his full salary for the season. … Elston Turner, who was the second-year lead assistant coach, also had not participated in Suns practices Sunday and Monday after not being selected for the interim head coach job. His future with the team remains undecided heading into more discussion Tuesday with the front office.

  • Tom Moore of phillyBurbs.com: After participating in his first shootaround of the season earlier in the day, Andrew Bynum told the media he’s continuing to improve and still hopes to make his 76ers debut around the all-star break in mid-February. “The knees feel good,” Bynum said prior to Monday night’s game against the Spurs. “I’m not feeling any pain. It’s just all good. Everything’s picking up.” Speaking for the third consecutive Monday, Bynum said that, while he’s pleased with his progress, he’s wary of pushing too hard and jeopardizing how far he’s come. “I want it to go smoothly,” Bynum said. “I don’t want any setbacks. I’m going to let the team and the doctors tell me exactly when to take the next step because if I go out there, I’ll do something stupid.”

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: On the day after Doc Rivers placed a symbolic Sword of Damocles above the Celtics’ heads, threatening to “get some guys out of here” if things didn’t improve, Danny Ainge’s displeasure was more measured. Perhaps it’s because, as president of basketball operations, his job is to take a calmer approach. Perhaps it is because he has to consider the longer-term effects. Or maybe it’s just because Ainge was more than 600 miles away from Sunday’s 103-88 loss to the Detroit Pistons in Auburn Hills, Mich. But first things first. “Realistically, I don’t see major changes coming,” said Ainge, well aware that market factors and the Rubik’s Cube difficulties of finding a transaction that meets the needs of two teams at the same time conspire against blockbuster trades. “Of course we’re trying to get better, and any deal that was available that could help us, you obviously do that. But we’re not just trying to make any deal. We’re not selling the team off or anything like that. We’re trying to win with what we have right now. That’s got to be our first objective.”

  • Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman: As our buddy Ben Hochman, Nuggets beat writer at the Denver Post, wrote of Westbrook, “He's one of those guys you either hate or you hate.” It's hard to argue that Westbrook has become one of the most detested players in the league. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He struts around the court. He does things that no one else has even thought of attempting. (See, blocking a mascot's shot.) And that's just how Thunder fans like him. The whole thing gets under everyone else's skin, but it works great for Westbrook. Look at what he did after goaltending Rocky late in the fourth quarter. He scored or assisted on 10 of the Thunder's last 13 points of regulation. Without him, there's no way the Thunder could've tied the game and forced overtime. Then, of course, he had the 3-point attempt at the end of regulation. Who didn't see the block of that shot coming? That OKC-Denver rivalry looks to be heating up again. The first-round playoff series when George Karl called Scott Brooks cocky and the Nuggets complained all the way to elimination seems so long ago. But now with Westbrook's antics, the fire has been stoked. A rivalry with Denver will suffice until the Kings move to Seattle, the Sonics begin anew and the Thunder has a rival like no other.

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: With the NBA trade deadline less than a month away, expect the Dallas Mavericks to take their customary spot and be right in the thick of things. But don't expect the Mavericks to make a trade unless an opportunity presents itself. "I don't think we're going to rush into anything simply because the longer things go the more opportunities present themselves," owner Mark Cuban said. "We'll be opportunistic if we can, but it'll be interesting -- as some teams struggle and other teams get better -- just to see what goes on. "We're not going to do something just to do something. Like we always are, we're going to be opportunistic." Cuban's plan is to capitalize on teams looking to unload salaries as their playoff hopes vanish. Those, he said, are where the bargains lie.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: As much as Rockets general manager Daryl Morey evaluates the data of past performances to predict the future, there will always be exceptions. He, Morey insisted, will likely be an exception. Morey has never let a trade deadline pass without a deal. But one month before the 2012-13 trade deadline, Morey said he is more unlikely to make a deal than he has ever been, with the seven-game losing streak the Rockets bring into Monday’s game against the Bobcats not changing the long-term plan or revealing much they did not know. This, Morey said, could be the year he sits out, even if his history argues otherwise. “There’s a few reasons,” Morey said. “Everyone (on the roster) is tied to the future. They’re all 23-ish, pretty much all our guys. We’d like to grow together. And we have a clear and present way to upgrade without trades with all the cap room. All those things add up to us being more stable.”

  • Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times: One can only imagine what could have happened if the Milwaukee Bucks didn’t wait so long to change head coaches. After four mostly underachieving and problematic seasons in which internal strife reigned, the Bucks finally jettisoned Scott Skiles two weeks ago. Since then, the Bucks, under new coach Jim Boylan, have flourished. They have gone 5-2 and are coming off a rare successful trip in which they won three games. That hasn’t occurred since 2001 when the Bucks barely missed advancing to the NBA Finals. That recent trip also included a long-overdue victory over the Suns in Phoenix, something that hadn’t been done since Feb. 21, 1987.