First Cup: Wednesday

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Tony Allen says he would always rather grab a steal than electrify the crowd with a monster dunk. The Grizzlies' veteran guard simply places more value on getting the team extra possessions. Lately, though, Allen has manufactured more points than the Grizzlies are accustomed to getting from their dean of defense. Allen continued his hot-shooting month by tossing in a season-high 19 points Tuesday night when the Griz earned a 108-101 victory over the Sacramento in FedExForum. Allen made 8 of 12 shots and increased his shooting percentage to .652 over six games in February. "I've just been taking advantage of what the defense has been giving me," Allen said. "Early on, I was forcing the issue. I calmed down and realized that we're an inside-out team and (center) Marc Gasol has been helping me get a lot of my shots. … Plus, every day I work on my shot."

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Neither Levien nor the Kings have spoken publicly about his diminished role with the team that led to his departure. During his time in Sacramento, Levien didn't always see things the same way basketball president Geoff Petrie did . Levien supported the Kings drafting Ricky Rubio in 2009. Instead, they chose Tyreke Evans, who won the Rookie of the Year honor. Rubio has shown flashes of being a star for Minnesota. But things have worked out well for Levien, who has gone from agent – he represented Kevin Martin, Udonis Haslem and Luol Deng, among others – to a top executive. "My perspective has sort of evolved because I had the chance to be a player agent for about a decade, representing the players and getting an insight into different organizations through that window," Levien said. "Then being in Sacramento in management, looking at the basketball operations and the business operations side and seeing things that worked and were very successful and seeing things that maybe can be improved."

  • Eric Koreen of the National Post: At this point, it is almost surreal to think that Dwane Casey started his NBA coaching career as an assistant under George Karl. Casey has spent his two seasons in Toronto preaching playoff-style basketball — a grind-it-out defence and a patient offence capable of executing its halfcourt offence. Karl’s Denver Nuggets, meanwhile, like to push the pace and, in Casey’s words, are “defensively impatient” — this was not meant as a criticism, but as an acknowledgement that Denver tries to create turnovers with impunity. So, on the surface, there does not appear to be much Casey picked up from Karl in his time in Seattle. Karl is praised consistently for being innovative, while Casey is on the traditionalist end of the spectrum. “Some of it’s called job security,” Casey said before his team’s 109-108 win over the Nuggets, explaining Karl’s mindset. “If you’ve got job security, you can think out of the box and think ahead and say, ‘You know, it just didn’t work.’ You have to do that and really believe in it. George has always done that. That’s what I’ve learned from George: I don’t coach to keep from getting fired. I don’t. You’re talking about job security: If I didn’t have another year on [my contract], I would still coach the way I coach.” Tuesday night was a bit of a wacky aberration, as the Raptors’ fully embraced the Nuggets’ frenetic pace. With three of Denver’s swingmen out of the lineup, the Nuggets went frequently to a two-point guard lineup, and the Raptors matched. The result was a sprint of a fourth quarter, with three-pointers launched from all angles.

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: The forgotten Nugget. That's what Anthony Randolph had seemed to be. He had played 122 minutes all season. But in Tuesday's game, with four key players out, Randolph played 27. And there he was at the foul line with 42.6 seconds left and his team down one. On the road. He made them both. Yes, Denver lost 109-108 at Toronto, but Randolph's efforts were valiant — 16 points, seven boards, a game-high three steals and a team-high plus-10. "Anthony was the surprise," coach George Karl said. "He played a game I thought we could win with him playing." The 6-foot-11 forward was on the court in crunch time. Yes, he made some mistakes. His defense was shaky at times. But he made a positive impact. "We've seen it in practice all year, and today he got a chance to show it," teammate Ty Lawson said.

  • Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune: After playing well over stretches against Chicago here, except for the one stretch that mattered most — the last one — and then going on the road to embarrass themselves against an outfit in Sacramento that has dropped twice as many games as it has won, the Jazz were looking for, among other things, a unifying cause, a challenge that could bring them together in effort and purpose, a great opponent they could beat on a home floor where supportive noise and good comfort had aided them against quality teams in the past. Kevin Durant wasn’t impressed by that last part, saying of ESA: "It’s not even as loud as an empty Oklahoma City arena." He was impressed, however, by Utah’s focus and fight. "They kicked our ass," he said. Nearing the All-Star break, the Jazz wanted and needed a meaningful win. "We’re desperate," Paul Millsap said beforehand. Desperate enough to take victory, 109-94. Afterward, Tyrone Corbin didn’t want to make too much of the happy result, but just enough for it to be useful: "It’s one win ... it gives us a sense of how we can play against everybody." He underscored two words: urgency and aggression.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Russell Westbrook simply walked off. The temperamental team captain got fed up with a reporter’s question and suddenly turned his back and ended the interview before walking away. The exchange was as follows. “Russell, did you guys lose this game, or did the Jazz win this one?” Westbrook: “Whaaaaat? Bro, what are you talking about, man? I’m out man. Y’all n***** trippin’.” Westbrook’s sound bite was good for a quick laugh and easily makes his top three all-time interview quotes. But what was sad about the exchange is that everyone on the team, players and staffers included, simply supported him. They came to his defense even after he lost his patience, snapped on a reporter, prematurely ended an interview and used offensive language. It’s one of the reasons Westbrook will always be Westbrook. Nobody seems to hold him accountable, on the court or in front of the cameras. A pretty generic question, one that players get asked all the time in every sport, caused him to erupt. But by now, that behavior is just what you expect out of Westbrook. Westbrook’s top three sound bites: “No more questions for you, bro.” … “Whaaaaat? Bro, what are you talking about, man? I’m out man.” … “If that’s what you say, bruh.”

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Mark Jackson wanted ‘old school.’ He got old schooled. There were no hard fouls, though there were plenty of every other kind. There was nothing approaching a 3-point shooting record. But the Rockets did what teams did in the old days the Warriors coach celebrated a week earlier in Houston. They played through pain, and scored the way they did in the 80s. James Harden took care of the pain part. He began the night with his left knee aching only on the occasions he ran. Or jumped. Or moved. Then things got worse. He stepped on David Lee’s left foot, and hobbled to the locker room, limping through the rest of the game before clinching the Rockets’ 116-107 second-half surge past the Warriors with a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer in the final minutes. With the offensive roll, the Rockets have scored more than 108 points for nine-consecutive games, their longest streak since the 1985-86 season.

  • Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle: As encouraging as things looked for the Warriors in the Western Conference standings just two weeks ago, there's a bit of concern at the break. The No. 6 Warriors are just 1 1/2 games ahead of No. 7 Utah and two games clear of No. 8 Houston. No one's expecting this team (30-22) to collapse, but those final two slots are to be avoided at all costs; chances are they translate into a first-round matchup against Oklahoma City or San Antonio. "I've got a young team that has tasted some success, and for the first time, adversity has set in," Jackson said. "We will not panic. We will not be tricked into feeling sorry for ourselves. We will hold ourselves accountable, but right now it's time to get away from all this. Whether it's kids, wives, girlfriends, mom and dad, let 'em know how much you love 'em. Embrace the good things you've got."

  • Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald: It was a homestand like no other in Heat history: five games; five victories; four nights and one Sunday matinee of LeBron James and the Heat at their absolute best. James and the Heat seemed to play better with every game and peaked Tuesday with a wildly entertaining 117-104 victory against the Portland Trial Blazers. Miami (35-14) has won six consecutive games overall, eight in a row at AmericanAirlines Arena and 11 of its past 13. If this is what the Heat looks like at the All-Star break, then the rest of the league might be in trouble in the last few months of the regular season. James, shooting recently with the efficiency of a world-class rifleman, was marvelous again, going 11 of 15 from the field, 1 of 3 from three-point range and 7 of8 from the free-throw line for 30 points, six rebounds and nine assists. James is the only player in NBA history to score at least 30 points in six consecutive games while also shooting 60 percent. “I know the history of the game and I know how many great and dominant players have come through, through the years, and to be able to have this streak, to be able to have it where we’ve won and to be efficient … it means a lot,” James said of his scoring and efficiency record. In his past six games, James is 66 of 92 from the field (.717) for 185 points.

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: Damian Lillard bores me. I mean, when is the kid going to provide some drama around here? Some intrigue? After the worst shooting night of his career Sunday in Orlando - when he made 1-of-16 shots - the Trail Blazers rookie sensation on Tuesday stifled any discussion, any drama, any doubts about his rookie legacy. He made 10 shots. And 10 free throws. And scored 33 points against the defending NBA champion Miami Heat. In other words, he did exactly what everyone in this organization expected. … Where’s the fun in that, Kid? How about some juicy shooting slump? Some defense you can’t figure out? Some chink in your armor? Something to get the locals riled up and talking. No? All we get is this same steely demeanor? This composure befitting of a veteran? The same steady stare, which makes it impossible to determine whether you are having a good game or bad game? Whether the Blazers are winning or losing?

  • Janis Carr of The Orange County Register: The Lakers have won eight of their past 11 games, including Tuesday's 91-85 victory against Phoenix, which should be a reason to celebrate. But few have noticed the mini milestone amid the constant sideshows. "There are so many distractions, it's hard to think about the team," Coach Mike D'Antoni said before the game. "All you think about are the distractions." The Lakers were back in town for about 24 hours after their two-week Grammy trip before their season was interrupted again by more negative comments, this time by former Laker Rick Fox. Fox is the latest to single out Dwight Howard for much of the Lakers' troubles. During a radio interview, he not only questioned Howard's long-term commitment to the Lakers, but also the center's dedication to winning. "I would like to see more of the actions that tell me that winning is the most important thing to him, and him being a Laker and I don't get that yet. I haven't gotten that," Fox said. "Maybe in another city he could fool people with that, but unfortunately being in Los Angeles, you have got a legacy of great players who have shown the city what it looks like, what commitment looks like, what championship play looks like, what championship talk looks like." Fox said Howard feels entitled and wants to be the No. 1 option in the offense, much like it was when he was in Orlando.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: One thing remains unfamiliar about Steve Nash on the basketball court. It is the style Nash is playing. After nine years of conducting an offense that allowed him to control the ball most of the time, Nash now must frequently defer. “It’s hard at first, just trying to get a rhythm for it,” Nash said. “I’m trying to embrace it. Just do what I can to help the team in different ways. I feel like I’m getting better at it and helping the team. I’d like to obviously have a bigger impact on games. I feel like I can, but at the same time, we’ve got to massage all the pieces. To be too authoritative in that can be really disruptive. I’m just trying to help how I can, embrace and be effective in an adjusted role and try to enjoy it.” The changed role and a 39th birthday have again prompted a perception that Nash is deteriorating and deserves some of the blame for the Lakers’ 24-28 mark entering Tuesday’s late start. Nash, an All-Star a year ago, was shooting 52.1 percent entering Tuesday but is taking his fewest shots per game (8.6) since 1999-2000. His 43.8 percent 3-point shooting is his best in four years. With four consecutive free throws made, he can retake the NBA career free-throw percentage record from Mark Price. The change is with 7.4 assists per game, his fewest since 2002-03. He shares the initiating and playmaking with Kobe Bryant.