First Cup: Thursday

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Credit the Thunder's Kevin Durant for honesty. Durant recently told the Daily Thunder, a blog website, that he is sometimes reluctant to toss up a half-court heave before the buzzer sounds to end a quarter. The reason is obvious -- it protects the shooting percentage. It has been an inside joke for years among media and fans, and Pistons guard Brandon Knight admitted the thought is widespread. "I can't tell you guys all the tricks, but definitely you think about that depending on how you're shooting," Knight said at Wednesday's morning shoot-around. "If you're 1-for-7 and you're all the way back here and it's 0.3 seconds left and you got a chance to get a shot off, what are the chances of you making that in 0.3 and messing up your (shooting percentage) and making your stats look worse than they are already are. He has a point, and I can tell you a lot guys do definitely think about that." … Coach Lawrence Frank thinks it's ludicrous that any player would worry about his shooting percentage in that situation. "You've taken 1,800 shots, so that three misses is really going to skew?" Frank said. "I'm not a math major, but I don't know what those eight shots are going to do ... especially if you're a really good player, you may make some of those." Knight said players can't be obvious but often will get the shot off right after the horn. "You make it look right for TV and for Coach," Knight said.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings said he's not worried about what the next week will bring leading up to the NBA trade deadline. Several reports circulated Wednesday about the possibility of Jennings being dealt before the Feb. 21 deadline. He will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, meaning the Bucks can match any offer for his services. "Whatever happens, happens," Jennings said. "But I'm not even thinking about it." Jennings entered Wednesday's game against Philadelphia as the Bucks' leading scorer at 18.5 points a game and also was averaging 6.1 assists and 1.90 steals. An ESPN.com report cited sources as saying Jennings is frustrated and has "irreconcilable differences" with the club. "As long as I'm in a Bucks uniform, I'm going to play every night for the Bucks," Jennings said while seated at his locker before the game against the 76ers. "I'm trying to get out of this shooting slump that I'm in. Every player goes through it. Look at the Lakers. Look at Boston in the beginning, the Brooklyn Nets. I guess we just hit our slump for a minute and this is the time it's over with." … He left Bill Duffy and BDA Sports Management and is expected to officially sign soon with Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports Management after a waiting period required by the players union. "Just because I got a new agent, that doesn't mean I'm trying to leave Milwaukee or I'm unhappy," Jennings said. "That has nothing to do with it.”

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Kevin Garnett said last night that his 14th All-Star Game appearance on Sunday in Houston will also be his last, though the Celtics forward stopped short of saying he was retiring at the end of the season. Garnett, realizing he had just set off an alarm, then turned cryptic. He has two years remaining on his contract. “This is definitely my last All-Star Game,” he said. “Ya’ll don’t know what I know. I’m more than grateful, and I’m not going to act like I have more All-Star Games in me. I’ll enjoy this one with friends and family. That’s what I meant.” Garnett added he simply plans to enjoy himself this weekend. “I’ll have no feelings whatsoever,” he said when asked about Sunday. “I always enjoyed each All-Star Game. I’m not a guy who is going to show too much emotion at that time. The All-Star Game for me is more for friends and family. You always have that wild-assed uncle who shows his ass, you always have that friend you always have to pull to the side and have that little conversation (with). It’s a fun time.” Garnett admitted to feeling the wear and tear on the inside this season.

  • Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News: Vince Carter, 36, continues to defy age. He scored 26 points Wednesday night, making a season-high six 3-pointers. He closed the third quarter by making three straight 3-pointers, culminating with a trey with 2.9 seconds left that enabled him to pass Larry Bird for 29th place on the NBA career scoring list. Bird scored 21,791 points. Carter now has 21,796 points. Carter also became the 11th player in NBA history to reach 1,600 made three-pointers. After one of his 3’s, Carter gave a similar sheepish shrug that Michael Jordan did during Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals against Portland. Jordan scored 39 points that night, making 6 of 10 3-point shot attempts. Carter said he didn’t realize he shrugged until several people mentioned it after the game. “It was one of those, in the moment I looked down, I realized how far I shot the 3,” Carter said. “I was like, ‘Well, I knew we were rolling. The rim looked like a lake a couple of times.”

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: The Spurs were ahead by one point with 2.9 seconds left Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena, but facing a situation that has been instant death for teams facing the Cleveland Cavaliers this season. The ball was in Kyrie Irving’s hands with the game on the line. This time, Tony Parker made sure Fourth Quarter Kyrie couldn’t deliver. The Spurs point guard pressured his young Cleveland counterpart, who slipped coming out of his break and was forced to throw up a stumbling 21-footer as time expired on a 96-95 Spurs victory. “We just wanted Tony to pressure him as far as he could,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “We didn’t want him to have the three he’s been shooting. We wanted him to have to drive it in some way, shape or form and have the help there. Fortunately for us, he slipped.”

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: New Orleans Hornets shooting guard Eric Gordon missed Wednesday night's game against the Portland Trail Blazers after spraining his right hand during the team's morning shootaround at the New Orleans Arena, team officials confirmed. The Hornets did not announce Gordon would sit out until 35 minutes before tipoff. He was not available for comment and was not on the bench with the team during the game. Gordon also was not seen in the locker room afterward. … It was the first time this season Gordon missed a game not involving injury complications involving his right knee. Without him, the Hornets routed the Trail Blazers 99-63 in their final game before heading into the All-Star break. Rookie Austin Rivers started in place of Gordon and scored seven points in 34 minutes.

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Hawks’ lead grew to as many as 38 points in the third quarter. The Hawks led 90-56 by the end of the period with Josh Smith (30 points) and Al Horford (26) combining for the same point total as the Magic. The duo combined to score 27 of the Hawks’ 33 third-quarter points. They rested the entire fourth quarter. “There have been situations where we have come out flat,” Drew said. “I thought tonight’s game the setup was perfect for that. I was concerned. We were playing a team that has had some struggles. We’ve beaten them a couple times. We were coming off a big win against Dallas. I just thought there were things not in our favor from a mental standpoint. The last thing I said to the guys as we broke the huddle in shootaround this morning was ‘Prove me wrong. Prove me wrong that we are a team that we can deal with a big win, that we can come in here and not deal with a mental letdown.'” Smith’s 30 points were one shy of his season high, set Dec. 26 against Detroit. He added 10 rebounds and five assists. Horford added 12 rebounds and five assists. “A little reverse psychology,” Smith said of Drew’s challenge. “It worked. We had an understanding with each other that we were not going to take this game for granted, that we were going to play aggressive on both ends of the court.”

  • Cathal Kelly of the Toronto Star: Clearly, Dwane Casey has built a time machine, and spends his days moving back and forth between the future and the present. In a largely unwatchable game that reeked of Friday afternoon lethargy ahead of the all-star break, Toronto’s offence plumbed historic lows. The defence wasn’t much better, but the Knicks were helpfully awful on that score. Thanks in large part to New York’s wretchedness and the three-point shooting of Alan Anderson (6-for-8), Toronto won its fourth in a row, 92-88. Casey saw the distracted effort coming. The team plane was heading home nearly empty. As many as 10 Raptors were staying over in New York and moving on from there. As a mood setter ahead of the stretch run, this game veered from “depressing” to “baffling” to “hopeful” and just kept cycling through.

  • Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune: The Jazz’s biggest issue, as they head into the All-Star break after Wednesday’s game at Minnesota and anticipate the NBA’s Feb. 21 trade deadline, is what to do with Jefferson. His expiring contract will make him a free agent in July, creating options for the team. How the Jazz’s management addresses the Jeffersonian Dilemma is central to the franchise’s immediate and long-term future. It’s complicated, that’s for sure. The answer is not as simple as saying the Jazz should trade him just to get something in return before he walks away. Any deal they make next week must genuinely advance their rebuilding process, not merely bring them some temporary assets that the other party wants to unload. … the D-Will deal should be somewhat of a model for any trade of Jefferson. It actually would make more sense for the Jazz to trade Paul Millsap, as popular as he is, because Favors is better prepared than Kanter to assume a bigger role right now. For the sake of their future, the Jazz have to commit themselves to Kanter, at some point. I’m just not sure that time is next week.

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: There is no simple explanation for the Nets’ season to date, a 53-game stretch in which they have looked both dominant and listless, resilient and inept, with long winning streaks, long losing streaks, 25-point losses and sudden, random shifts in personality. Who are the Brooklyn Nets? Who knows? “We’re a little hard to figure at this point,” Carlesimo said Wednesday, during a nearly four-minute response. “I don’t think we’ve settled into what we are.” There is time yet to figure it out, and the Nets felt better about their identity Wednesday night, after routing the Denver Nuggets, 119-108, at Barclays Center, in the final game before the All-Star break.

  • Curt Cavin of The Indianapolis Star: That Danny Granger (injured knee) didn’t play in the Indiana Pacers’ game tonight against Charlotte wasn’t a surprise. That David West didn’t participate was unexpected. West took a swipe to his left eye in Monday’s loss to Brooklyn, and it was still swollen when he met with coach Frank Vogel this morning. Making the power forward inactive was the only decision to make. “His eye is still not in very good shape,” Vogel said at 11 a.m. “He could barely open (his eye).” Flu-like symptoms dogged Granger, but Vogel said Granger would have been held out of the game anyway to give him more time to get comfortable. Granger has had only two full practices since being removed from the rotation in early November. “It’s really just sharpness on the court,” Vogel said of Granger. “He has appropriate soreness in the knee (after practicing), not in the injury part, but he has appropriate soreness.

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: In hindsight, Jamal Crawford and the Clippers acknowledged that the reserve guard probably shouldn't have played in a few games after he was injured during their eight-game trip. But he gutted it out because of the respect he has for his teammates and the team. At the time, Chris Paul (bruised right kneecap) and Chauncey Billups (tendinitis left foot) were still out because of their injuries. Then Crawford broke his nose against Toronto and also suffered a sore right shoulder. Instead of resting, Crawford played in the next two games at Boston and Washington. And Blake Griffin went down with a strained left hamstring before the game against the Wizards started. Crawford finally shut it down for one game, against the Orlando Magic, before playing the last three games on the trip. "Like I said, if you don't have that camaraderie and that family atmosphere where guys are like, 'Well, I'm out too. I'm hurt,'" Crawford said. "But with this team, you'd do anything for them. And we're all like that. It's not just me."