First Cup: Thursday

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: So can Davis and Prince make up for the loss of Gay? Let's go right to the "ESPN Trade Machine." It's a gizmo at ESPN.com which enables you to come up with your own trades, plug in players, see if the salaries match and even get adjusted win totals according to a program devised by former ESPN and current Grizzlies employee John Hollinger. According to Hollinger, the trade boosts the Grizzlies win total by three. It cuts the Raptors win total by six. You can dismiss this kind of statistical mumbo-jumbo if you like, but it is, at the very least, revealing. Beyond that, the Grizzlies shed $37.2 million in salary over the next three years. That will give them the ability to keep Tony Allen (which would have been impossible otherwise) and add additional pieces. Remember that trade exception that the Griz picked up from Cleveland? They now may be able to use it. So, no, I don't hate the deal. I absolutely understand the reasons for it. If the new ownership is willing to use the increased flexibility to continue to improve the team, I suspect even the most skeptical Memphis fans will eventually agree with me.

  • Eric Koreen of the National Post: Try as everybody might, any attempt to put Bryan Colangelo’s latest home-run swing in a box is foolish. Is Colangelo trying desperately to save his job? Is he merely trying to improve the team’s overall talent level, particularly the forever-barren small forward spot? Is he trying to sell high on burgeoning power forward Ed Davis? Is he trying to set the franchise up for a series of moves to come? The wisest answer: yes, to all of the above. About the only thing that can be definitively said about the deal, that will send Rudy Gay to the Raptors for Davis and Jose Calderon is that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment has no problem with spending money well into the future. Everything else is a bit of a blur.

  • Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press: There's a graphic montage of the 2004 NBA champion Pistons in their practice facility, honoring all the contributions from that blue-collar, superstar-devoid anomaly. The image ofTayshaun Prince captures his lanky arm swooping up from behind an unsuspecting Reggie Miller, swiping away what should have been a game-clinching lay-up for Indiana in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals in Indianapolis. "The Block" shifted momentum in the Pistons' favor. It was fitting that Prince's long career as a Piston ended Wednesday at the site of his signature moment. The Pistons parted with Prince and Austin Daye in deal with Memphis and Toronto that landed them point guard Jose Calderon -- and more important, his expiring $10.5-million contract. Prince represents the last link of the "Goin' to Work" Pistons era highlighted by the 2004 championship as well as six consecutive trips to the conference finals. It's always a difficult decision parting with someone so deeply intertwined with an identity that paid many dividends. But it was a move that was long overdue. The Pistons finally have closed the chapter on that period.

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: Dwight Howard flatly ruled out shutting himself down or turning to surgery for the labrum injury in his right shoulder, even though he said the pain from this aggravation was the greatest since he first got hurt. “Just got to deal with it as much as I can,” he said late Wednesday night after the Lakers’ loss to Phoenix. Howard said that the shoulder pain on previous occasions has abated the day after, which he hopes will be the case again. Accordingly, the Lakers are expecting him play Friday in Minnesota, and Kobe Bryant said the labrum issue is one that will go on all season but with which Howard can learn to deal. “I’m going to try as much as I can, but I don’t want to cause more damage to my shoulder,” Howard said. Asked about possibly resting the shoulder for a week, which he did after the initial injury, Howard said: “I don’t want to, but we’ll see.”

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: DeAndre Jordan stood with his back against a wall, looking intently at Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro, the two of them talking after practice Tuesday at the team's practice facility. Basically, Jordan said, Del Negro told the 6-foot-11 center to "stay ready." The conversation seemed to have paid off for the Clippers and Jordan, his double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds and two blocked shots a big key in their 96-90 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night. Jordan even played in the fourth quarter, something he rarely does these days. "Yeah, it was a good talk that I needed," Jordan said.

  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: Jarvis Varnado can take a breath. Chris Andersen is still working to get his wind. The Heat made moves to extend the stays of both backup big men Wednesday, signing Varnado for the remainder of the season and giving Andersen a second 10-day contract. “It’s been a long, long, long journey for me, man,” said Varnado, a 2010 second-round pick. “But I never got discouraged. And I knew I was going to be in the NBA one day, it just had to be the right time and place. I’m glad that the team that drafted me, signed me.” Andersen, meanwhile, said he is still working to break old habits and learn the system, and do so with limited practice time. “Just trying to be prepared and be ready for whenever Coach calls my name,” Andersen said. “I want to keep improving my conditioning, so I can be relentless when the time comes.”

  • Haoward Beck of The New York Times: The Miami Heat dealt the Nets a blow so forceful, so profoundly humiliating, it might have knocked them right back into the doldrums of December. The final score was 105-85, but the gap seemed twice as wide, and the psychic damage perhaps even deeper. Most of the Nets’ players left the locker room before reporters arrived. Those that remained wore dull expressions, except for Gerald Wallace, who was simply seething. “Typical Nets basketball,” Wallace said. “We don’t play together. Careless turnovers. We don’t execute offensively. And defensively, we don’t do anything. We don’t defend. We don’t guard the ball. We don’t help each other out. It’s the same story as it’s been all season.”

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Courtney Lee said that he’s mystified by a recent report by Grantland.com’s Zach Lowe, who said that, according to a source, the Celtics guard was not happy in Boston, and was upset with Rondo’s tendency to dribble the ball while setting up the offense. Lee tweeted a rebuttal, and expanded on his problem with the report. “Not true at all,” Lee said. “And what else did (Lowe) say? That I hated playing with Rondo because he dribbled too much, and this and that? These last two weeks I was the one going in and (relieving) Rondo. I was backing him up. So I don’t know who his source is, or if there even is a source, what he was thinking with that.” Lee added that he has never been in contact with Lowe.

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: The latest Dwight Howard injury to his shoulder should send a message to the Mavericks. And that message is that they should do whatever it takes to make their play for Howard now, regardless of how serious (or minor) his injury is. There’s a very real possibility they could be buying low, as they say in the stock-market. For those who went to bed too early to see the end of the Phoenix win over the Lakers, Howard went down when he was hacked on the way up to the basket. He quickly grabbed his right arm and left the game. He had an ice bag on the shoulder for the conclusion of the game and in the locker room. Nobody knows if this is a serious injury or not. But either way, the Mavericks have to take the Andrew Bogut approach. Golden State dealt for Bogut last season even when the Warriors knew it was going to be a full year (or close to it) before they got his services. There’s nothing wrong with that philosophy, especially when dealing with a center who is still young and has a lot of years left ahead of him.

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: Uno! Due! Gallo! The Italian Danilo Gallinari hit three key 3-pointers, two of them back-to-back, in Wednesday's crazy fourth quarter, and the Nuggets did it again. Make it a dozen. The Nuggets won their 12th game of January in the final game of the month, and fifth straight overall, 118-110 against Houston, a team Denver also beat one week ago. … In four of the past five games, Lawson had put up a big number, scoring 18, 26, 21 and 29 points. Even before the game, Karl was asked about his team's frightening ability to blow late leads, seen in January games against Portland, Oklahoma City and Indiana. "In the NBA, every night someone blows a lead. And it's like we're surprised," Karl said. "It happened last night; it will happen tonight. I'd like to finish off games better, and we had a little bit of a film study with our starters about where our lack of mental intensity has shown up. But you can overlook the 40 minutes of good basketball, and we're still in the process of growing up as a basketball team."

  • Curt Cavin of The Indianapolis Star: Sometimes a coach’s chat can light an athlete’s fire, and that’s apparently what has sparked Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson. Coach Frank Vogel said he had such a meeting with the still-young pro last week after a pair of poor games on the Western Conference trip. “We just talked about his value on this team,” Vogel said after Stephenson helped key a 98-79 victory over Detroit on Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, a win that ended the team’s three-game losing streak. “He’s not a guy who’s just filling in for somebody; he’s a big reason for our success this year on both ends of the basketball floor. He’s an in-your-face defender who’s improving with his discipline. He’s a beast in the open court offensively. He’s just a freight train, so we want him being extremely aggressive. When he’s at his best, we’re awful tough to beat.” After 20 points in Monday’s loss in Denver, Stephenson registered his first NBA double-double: 12 points with a career-high 11 defensive rebounds, with five assists thrown in and no turnovers in 32 minutes.

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The 10-day contract of Jannero Pargo expires Thursday. The Hawks have not decided whether to re-sign the guard to another 10-day contract. Pargo told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that as of Wednesday morning he has yet to be contacted about another deal.

  • John N. Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer: Jason Richardson, who has battled various injuries this season, was not with the 76ers for Wednesday's game against Washington. He was in Colorado getting a second opinion on his left knee. Richardson has missed the last five games. He had fluid drained from his knee on Jan. 17. He played 27 minutes the next day in a loss to Toronto but has not played since. "He wants to make sure that everything is OK," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "It's precautionary." Richardson said Monday that he thought he might be able to return in time for Friday's game with Sacramento. However, the pain had not subsided and he decided to get a second opinion. In early November, the 32-year-old Richardson missed four games with a left ankle sprain. On Dec. 26, Richardson did not play in a win over Memphis because of a lower-back injury.

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: The longest consecutive games streak of Carlos Boozer's 11-year career is over. Boozer, who played in every game last season for the first time in his career, succumbed to a sore right hamstring that he suffered in Monday's victory over the Bobcats. The forward had started 123 straight regular-season games, last sitting with a sprained ankle on March 18, 2010. Boozer said he suffered the injury in the first quarter on Monday, even though he placed the exclamation point on the victory with a left-handed dunk over Bismack Biyombo with 1 minute, 24 seconds remaining. "I played through it, but it got a little tight (Tuesday)," Boozer said. "It's already feeling better, so I should be fine soon."

  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: J.J. Redick shouldn't have to look at the Orlando Magic management team and plea, "call me, maybe." … This is a simple deal, and a critical one for the home team: Re-sign J.J. Redick. He's a keeper. I get the fact that he's not a franchise player. And that the Magic are going to have to make a tough call on investing around $16 million a year in two shooting guards, since Arron Afflalo has three more years in his current deal at an estimated $7.5 million. And that the Magic are trying to collect as many young'ns as possible in hopes of climbing out of the rebuilding mode. But here's the flip side: The Magic can only go so far with this "please be patient we are remodeling" thing. It's unreasonable to keep asking fans to be patient while putting an inferior product on the floor at non-discount prices. So you need a more tangible marketing asset than "just wait a while." Redick is it, by a long shot.

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: It’s never a goal for Gregg Popovich or his players, but now that Popovich has been officially installed as coach for the Western Conference All-Star team, the veteran of 16-plus seasons on the Spurs’ bench admits he looks forward to a weekend with some of basketball’s best players. Popovich earned his spot because the Spurs are guaranteed a better record than the Clippers on Sunday, the deadline for determining the coaches for the Feb. 17 showcase at Houston’s Toyota Center. While it is still possible for Oklahoma City to have a better winning percentage than the Spurs, Thunder coach Scott Brooks isn’t allowed, by league rule, from coaching because he led the West at the 2012 All-Star Game in Orlando. “It will be just like it has been in the past: a heck of an opportunity to enjoy amazing talent,” Popovich said after his team’s 102-78 victory over the Bobcats. “That’s not just a B.S. or trite statement. It’s true. When you’re around those guys, you look around the room and you can’t believe you’re in the same room with them. It’s a huge honor just to be a part of it.” Popovich also coached the West All-Stars in 2005 and 2011.

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: Louisiana native Paul Millsap came to the defense of the new nickname that his home state's NBA team will adopt beginning next season. Well, Millsap sort of came to the defense of the Hornets-turned-Pelicans. "That’s the state bird," he said, smiling, after being asked for his opinion on New Orleans' impending name change. "I mean, it’s the state bird." Millsap, a Grambling, La., product, who played for Louisiana Tech, was asked if he has pride in the pelicans. "I’m from Louisiana, so yeah," he said, chuckling. That must mean he likes the new name then, right? "It’s the state bird," he said for the third time, laughing. It was news to Jazz center Al Jefferson that New Orleans' moniker is getting a reboot. "I really haven’t thought about it," he said. "I really don’t care, to be honest with you." Jefferson paused as it sank in what he'd just been told. "What!?" he asked, incredulously. "Change it to what!?" Pelicans. Millsap's state bird. "Whatever floats their boat," Big Al said.