First Cup: Tuesday

  • Tom Sorensen of The Charlotte Observer: When I write about the Charlotte Bobcats, or write that on most nights I enjoy watching the Bobcats play, I hear this: The team is terrible, has no future, past or plan, and would lose to the Washington Generals, albeit in overtime. Sure. But it’s ludicrous to expect the Bobcats to come back from a season such as the last one, when they had the worst winning percentage in NBA history, and suddenly contend. The Bobcats have the worst record in the NBA and probably are the worst team. So why show up at Time Warner Cable Arena? You show up for a night like Monday, when Charlotte beat the Boston Celtics 94-91. … With 14.8 seconds remaining, and a one-point lead, Kemba Walker went to the line. He squeezed the ball, bounced it once, paused, and bounced it twice. He hit both free throws. Boston missed two more shots and Charlotte rookie Jeffery Taylor grabbed the final rebound. If you’re a fan of the home team, or of the sport it plays, this is the reason you show up. This also is the reason you return.

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: After bathing in the satisfaction generated from their triple-overtime win over the Denver Nuggets Sunday, the Celtics had to get back to reality Monday against the Bobcats. Doc Rivers was faced with some interesting decisions after the 118-114 victory, a game in which Paul Pierce equaled his career high by playing 54 minutes, Kevin Garnett, age 36, logged 47 minutes, and Jason Terry played 43. With his three 30-plus-year-old veterans logging season-high minutes, Rivers decided to play them all against Charlotte but kept keen eye on how they fared during their stints and all three were in the game down the stretch of the 94-91 loss. Pierce, Garnett, and Terry all played in the 29-minute range Monday but fatigue was obviously a factor as the Celtics shot 41.6 percent for the game and 38.5 percent in the second half. “Really I thought all game we just never got back and matched up,” Rivers said. “You could see they were really trying to push the pace. We just didn’t have [the energy]”

  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: If Tim Duncan’s knees are willing, he will play in his 14th All-Star Game on Sunday. That’s a remarkable achievement. Nearly as remarkable is that he has never played in this event in San Antonio. Duncan was celebrated as an All-Star twicein Los Angeles, and this would also be his second time in Houston. He played one even in a non-NBA city, Las Vegas. But San Antonio, with the weather and the convention resources, has never hosted an All-Star Game over the span of his long career. Why? The Spurs don’t see enough in it for them. “It’s a shame,” a longtime NBA staffer said Monday. He’s been here for Final Fours and NBA Finals, and he repeated what so many have said about San Antonio before. “Is there a better place for this kind of event?” The timing could be better. The same rodeo that sends the Spurs to the road this time of year takes the AT&T Center out of the equation. Still, that’s not much of an excuse. San Antonio hosted the 1996 All-Star Game with the rodeo going on, using the Alamodome.

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: In a Sunday profile in the New York Times, former Bulls guard Jay Williams claimed ex-teammates smoked marijuana before games. All six players reached for comment denied they used marijuana and emphasized it wasn't a widespread problem on the team. Williams' comments were made in a comprehensive article detailing his physical and emotional recovery from the June 2003 motorcycle accident that ended his Bulls career after one season. "I like Jay, but when you make blanket statements, you incriminate everyone," said Rick Brunson, currently a Bobcats assistant coach. "You have to look in the mirror first: 'Did I contribute to some of those things?' Your career didn't go the way it should've gone. Let it go. You're doing a great job on ESPN. You should be honored and blessed the Bulls paid you." Despite violating his contract by riding the motorcycle, Williams, currently an ESPN college basketball analyst, received $3 million from the Bulls in a goodwill gesture buyout from Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson. Team sources told the Tribune at the time that the Bulls also paid some of Williams' medical expenses.

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic's life became a lot easier -- and his night much more productive -- Monday night when his team made shots from all over, particularly from three-point range. On Sunday in Memphis, Pekovic took five shots, and just one in the second half, and scored eight points in a lopsided loss when he wasn't a factor all night. In Monday's 100-92 victory over Cleveland, he returned to his double-double ways with a 16-point, 10-rebound night in which he got 14 shots from the field. "The one thing that hurts him is when we shoot the ball poorly, they're going to pack it in on us," coach Rick Adelman said, referring to opposing defenses that collapse on Pekovic. "We've shot the ball poorly and it limits his touches." The Wolves didn't shoot poorly at least for one night Monday. They shot 52 percent and went 8-for-14 on three-pointers. "For me, it's easier when we make some open shots," Pekovic said.

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: The challenge has been issued. Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said he challenged point guard Kyrie Irving to a 3-point shootout after practice on Tuesday at Cleveland Clinic Courts. Scott wouldn't say if the media would be invited to this must-see event. Irving has been invited to the Three-Point Contest during All-Star weekend in Houston. Scott competed in the event twice — a last-place finish in 1987 and a third-place performance in '88. "I challenged him today," Scott said. "We'll go around twice. He's talking a lot. I think I have a good shot at (beating him). My only problem is if I get tired." It's almost turned into an endurance test. Sixty seconds of constant shooting is more than people realize. "We'll have fun," Scott said. "Basically, it's to show him how the contest is done." Irving said he read where Scott challenged him. "That's something a third-place winner would do, go behind my back and challenge me," he said. "The challenge is supposed to be tomorrow. I'm looking forward to it. I'm getting up early and doing my pushups."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Monday night, in his second game since returning from injury, Beal proved to be the answer to the Wizards’ road woes as he came off the bench to score a season-high 28 points and lead his team to a 102-90 victory over the Bucks at Bradley Center. “It was just a few seconds worth of pain, but you’ve got to fight through that,” Beal said. “I was able to shake it off, so I was okay.” The Wizards (15-35) won their season-high fourth game in a row — all against teams contending for playoff spots — and snapped a four-game road losing streak. Three of those road losses came with Beal sidelined, but he helped the Wizards rally from a 10-point first quarter deficit, take the lead.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee Bucks coach Jim Boylan could sum up his team's latest loss in a just a few words. "Our defense was terrible," Boylan said. The Bucks continued to slip and slide in a 102-90 defeat to the Washington Wizards, losing for the fourth consecutive time and the sixth time in their last seven games. Rookie Bradley Beal came off the Wizards bench to score a career-high 28 points, and Nene contributed 21 points, 13 rebounds and six assists as Washington won its fourth in a row. "We're in a losing streak right now, but somehow we have to find a way," Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova said. "We just have to play much better defensively." The Bucks (25-25) allowed 56.8% shooting by the Wizards, the top percentage an opponent has shot against Milwaukee this season. … The Bucks clearly are missing the defensive presence of center Larry Sanders, who missed his third straight game after injuring his back in Denver last week. Samuel Dalembert started at center but instantly was in foul trouble. He had a difficult time defending Nene, the Brazilian center who hit 10 of 13 shots while playing 37 minutes.

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: Appearing to be in a mid-season slump, Davis missed all seven shots and was held to one point. He didn’t play the entire fourth quarter, but Davis was much better defensively, blocking four shots and getting a steal. But he couldn’t bounce back from a dismal first-half performance. Davis overshot the basket on a baseline drive when nobody was in his path to the basket. Later in the second quarter, he also air-balled a 21-foot jumper. Coming into Monday, Davis had averaged just 6.0 points and shot 37.5 percent from the field. During pregame warmups, he looked determined to get back on track, intensely taking shots. In Sunday night’s 102-89 loss to the Toronto Raptors, Davis was held to two points on one-of-six shooting.

  • David Mayo of MLive.com: It may be one of strength and conditioning coach Arnie Kander's stranger rehabilitative techniques but Andre Drummond walked around the practice facility carrying a two-foot-deep bongo drum because playing the bongo supposedly engages the core. On the other hand, Drummond can't sit for extended periods because of the stress fracture in his fifth lumbar vertebra that is expected to sideline him until mid-March. Since a bongo traditionally is played sitting, with the drum clenched between the knees, at least no one will have to endure the one-man jam sessions for long stretches.

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Trading Josh Smith would serve to bring an end to this team's long-running Smoove Saga, but that's no reason to make a bad deal now. The Hawks have lived with him for nearly nine seasons; they can manage another few months. And would exactly would Humphries/Brooks bring? Humphies is a tad smaller and much less skilled than Al Horford, which means he wouldn't be the long-sought True Center, and the Hawks already have a slew of guards. (True, a few of them are on expiring contracts.) To pry Smith from the Hawks over the next 10 days, it'll take more than that. But you do wonder what the Nets are thinking: That Josh Smith/Joe Johnson partnership wasn't the most seamless, and they want to revive it in Brooklyn? Good luck with that.

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: They don't have anyone participating in NBA All-Star Weekend for the first time since 1993. But the Dallas Mavericks will still be represented during the festivities in Houston. That's because Mavs rookie center Bernard James will be honored Saturday night at the Toyota Center during the NBA Cares moment for his six years of military service. "I'm flattered and it's pretty cool," James said before Monday's game against the Atlanta Hawks. "I just feel blessed that I was able to do what I did before I got here and that I'm being recognized for it." Because he saw no future in the tough Savannah, Ga., neighborhood in which he grew up, James dropped out of high school after the 11th grade to join the Air Force, then spent two years each servicing in Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar. The NBA took notice and decided to show James appreciation for what he did for his country.

  • Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: The Nets entered last night’s game against the Pacers with losses in three of their previous four games and six of their last nine, the first slump the team had endured since interim coach P.J. Carlesimo took over for Avery Johnson in late December. The NBA trade deadline is just over a week away (3 p.m. on Feb. 21), but Nets general manager Billy King doesn’t feel pressure to make a deal. “I think we’ve had our peaks and valleys, our ebbs and flows, and right now we’re definitely in an ebb,” King said before last night’s 89-84 overtime win over the Pacers. “Can we correct it? Yes. Do I believe this group can regroup and play well? Yes. Are we going to make a trade? I’m not going to make a trade just to make a trade.” The Nets will undoubtedly monitor the landscape of the league over the next several days until the trade deadline passes at 3 p.m. on Feb. 21. But they may lack the resources to land an impact player. After their summer spending spree that committed more than $330 million in future salaries to upgrade their roster heading into the team’s first season in Brooklyn, the Nets have two primary assets to move: Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks.

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: Danny Granger will be a starter, sooner rather than later. And that’s the proper approach by Frank Vogel and the Pacers’ brain trust. This idea that Granger should be a high-scoring sixth man, this notion that the Pacers shouldn’t mess up a good thing by moving Lance Stephenson back to the bench. Naaaah. An hour before the Pacers’ 89-84 overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets Monday night, Vogel said he’s initially going to use Granger off the bench in order to get his legs back under him, but once he’s in basketball shape – that should take a week – he’ll be back in the starting lineup. And that’s that. Because the stats here don’t lie: Once George Hill took over the point guard spot late last season, the Pacers had the most productive starting five in the NBA. They’ve been very good with Stephenson – check out my new favorite website, 82games.com, to see the numbers – but they were the best in the league with the old starting five. The best.

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: Everyone, it seems, wants Lamar Odom to score more. His Clippers teammates encourage Odom to be more aggressive on offense. Fans, the media and his critics want Odom to stop being so passive on offense. But Coach Vinny Del Negro said he doesn't really have an issue with Odom's lack of offense because his versatile forward supplies so much more. "I've talked to Lamar about that," Del Negro said. "He understands that. Lamar has to pick his spots out there where he's comfortable at. He's doing a good job in a lot of areas for us. But when he's open, he's got to make shots for us and make plays off the dribble and get to the rim." Odom had only four points against Philadelphia on Monday night. He took only three shots, making two. But Odom did have eight rebounds, four assists and one blocked shot.

  • Tom Moore of phillyBurbs.com: Andrew Bynum is experiencing some pain in his left knee and said he might not be able to play by the end of this month. Speaking to the media prior to Monday night’s game against the Clippers, Bynum said he “worked hard for two days on the court and then I got a lot pain, so we backed down a little today. I’ll probably go on (the anti-gravity machine Tuesday).” While Bynum added he’s “not really optimistic,” the pain “limits” what he does and shows he’s “not ready yet,” he also claimed Sunday’s pain doesn’t signify a setback. “I hope it’ll keep going like that and I’ll be back soon,” Bynum said. “When I get on the court, that’s when I want to be ready. I’m trying as hard as I can. It would suck to play through pain, but sometimes you have to.” Bynum said he’s “been losing weight,” but is still at 305 and hopes to get down to 285-295. The Sixers have 31 games after the all-star break — five in February, 17 in March and nine in April (the finale is April 17 at Indiana).