First Cup: Wednesday

  • Mark Billingsley Special toThe Denver Post: George Karl bristled at the suggestion from a media member that his team is struggling on the road. True, the Nuggets were 13-19 on the road going into Tuesday's game. But Karl thinks his team has been just fine away from the friendly confines of the Pepsi Center. "It's always tough to be .500 on the road and with our schedule early that probably cost us a few games," Karl said. "We've played better, a lot better than our record." When reminded that the team was 18-15 on the road last season, Karl clinched his jaw and replied, "Maybe we squeezed the most out of our orange that we could."

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: DeMarcus Cousins sat out the final 10:15, and his exit wasn't the usual jog to the bench. He engaged in a shouting match with fans seated on the baseline near the Kings' bench. "He said some disrespectful things, and I had some things to say back," Cousins said. "That was it." Cousins said he believes it was a Kings fan, "which makes it even worse." Smart said sitting Cousins had nothing to do with that verbal exchange and instead was about finding the best matchup to slow down the Nuggets (40-22). "The focus is on the game. The focus is on what we're trying to do on the floor," Smart said. "And whatever happens with someone on our team in the stands, whatever needs to be dealt with, is dealt with. These are our fans and they come out here to support us, and we've got to make sure we do the right things at all times" Asked about fan support, Smart made it clear the team's focus needs to be on the court.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Russell Westbrook continues to demolish the Lakers. And he’s only getting better and better at doing it. The Thunder point guard had a game-high 37 points, a team-high 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and just one turnover to lead the Thunder to it’s wire-to-wire win. Nothing and no one could stop him, which has been the story of Westbrook’s career against the Lakers. In four games against L.A. this year, Westbrook averaged 28.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and nine assists. Most significant, the Thunder took the season series three games to one. Westbrook scored 13 of his points in the opening period, a quarter in which the Thunder scored a season-high 37 points and opened a nine-point lead. OKC’s 71 points in the first half also were the most the Thunder has scored in a half this year. The most amazing thing in this one was the Thunder turned the ball over only twice. That ties an NBA record. The Thunder’s second turnover didn’t come until 5:04 remained in the fourth quarter.

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: The Thunder routed the Lakers 122-105 Tuesday night and showed that if the capable Lakers scratch their way into a playoff series against OKC, it's going to be a short fortnight for the Purple and Gold. Purple and Old is more like it. The Lakers still can play, especially offense, but not for long stretches of time. The Lakers are part all-star roster, part old-timers roster. They just can't keep up with the Thunder. There's no substitute for young legs. The Lakers can't put defensive pressure on the Thunder, which means no turnovers, which means Russell Westbrook (37 points) or Kevin Durant (26) or heck, even Older Than Dirt Himself Derek Fisher (10 points) is getting off a shot every time down court. … So off went the Lakers, failing to get over .500 but, at 30-31, still in decent shape to rise to the eighth spot in the Western Conference and make the playoffs. Perhaps even against the Thunder. But Oklahoma City is the last place these Lakers want to see again. They can't beat the Thunder.

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: Kobe Bryant dribbled up the court left-handed and immediately fired in a 3-pointer. The next time the Lakers got the ball, Bryant did it again. At the end of the Lakers' bench, Robert Sacre stretched his arms up and out and howled to the heavens: "Mamba!" Bryant's shot-making despite an ulnar nerve contusion to his right elbow in the opening minutes Tuesday night gave the Lakers some brief bright spots. Bryant returned to the locker room for treatment on his elbow after he hurt it trying to break free from Thabo Sefolosha's defensive coverage and aggravated it shortly thereafter committing a foul. When he returned to the game, he passed up an open jump shot to drive and miss a left-handed shot. But Bryant worked through the problem and shot 5 of 9 from the field and 6 of 7 from the free-throw line to score 18 first-half points. His defense was not stellar, however. As halftime wound down, Bryant was still massaging above, below and right on his right elbow.

  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News: The Lakers might have passed over Phil Jackson this season to make what would have marked his third coaching stint with his team. But the keeper of 11 NBA championships, including five with the Lakers, still exerts his influence. It turns out Jackson has become a trusted mentor for Lakers center Dwight Howard. "Phil, he texts me and he understands how it is to come off back surgery," Howard said. "He just said it takes a full year to recover, so you can't beat yourself up over the things that have happened this year." Jackson, who has had hip replacement and knee surgeries in recent years, also recently told Sports Illustrated Mike D'Antoni's system doesn't suit Howard's talents. "Dwight just doesn't get any touches," Jackson said. "They've basically eliminated his assets." Howard also has struggled nursing an 11-month old surgically repaired back and a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Does Howard wonder what would've happened if he returned once he felt fully healthy? "I said that plenty of times, but I don't want myself to be thinking so much on what I should've done," Howard said. "The harder I push myself every day to get better and get in shape, my body will respond. This summer, after the season, I'll get an opportunity to train and get my body right." Howard maintains zero regrets for returning in late October.

  • Janis Carr of The Orange County Register: Blake Griffin saw the comments and the NBA's reaction to Oklahoma City forward Serge Ibaka's low hit on him during Sunday's game. He didn't agree with either of them. … Although Griffin was unhappy with the league's reaction, he said he wasn't going to "cry and complain" or retaliate. "I don't really see how it can be let go, but I'm not going to do anything about it," he said. "It's not really my job to start running around punching people and hitting people because it doesn't really solve anything. It really just gets myself in trouble, and I don't want that. "When something like that happens, I feel it's best to let someone else take care of it because me going and punching somebody isn't really a part of the game." Griffin was amused by Thunder center Kendrick Perkins' Twitter post in which he said he thought the play was just a foul, not a flagrant foul, because the Clippers center has a reputation as a flopper. "I saw some of Kendrick's comments, and they didn't make sense to me, to be honest," Griffin said.

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: With Tuesday night’s 109-101 win over the Sixers making the Celtics 12-4 since Rajon Rondo tore his right ACL, some have said the team is better without him. But the Celtics say his absence created more of a sense of urgency, which has sparked their rise in the Eastern Conference standings. The Celtics began Tuesday two games from the fourth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and home-court advantage in the first round, which is stunning considering Boston was 20-23 when Rondo went down and was expected to sink in the second half. … Doc Rivers said Avery Bradley’s presence has been critical. The Celtics had improved to ninth in the league in points allowed entering Tuesday night’s game. “When the guy is on the point of the ball putting pressure, it makes everyone else kind of join in, I think that helped,” Rivers said.

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Some players defy explanation. For now, that appears to define Jordan Crawford’s wild card role with the Celtics. “(Crawford) in the open court is dangerous. I don’t know what he’s going to do, but nobody else does, either,” Doc Rivers said after the guard scored eight of his 12 points in an early 12-2 fourth quarter run in the C’s 109-101 win against the 76ers last night. “I want him to keep doing it, whatever he’s doing. He gives us another weapon.” The key indeed is for Crawford to keep doing it. … Crawford sees nothing wrong with fitting in. “I pick my spots. I’m on a new team, I’m trying to fit in,” he said. “It’s more than me not shooting. I have to find my spots. It will take time to get loose out there and find out what’s going. You don’t want to step on toes. It takes an adjustment period, but you also have to be yourself.”

  • Tom Moore of phillyBurbs.com: Doc Rivers knows exactly what Doug Collins and the 76ers are going through with Andrew Bynum. Bynum, who was expected to be the centerpiece of the 2012-13 Sixers, has yet to play this season due to bone bruises in his knees and could be on track to undergo season-ending arthroscopic left knee surgery soon. On Aug. 10, 2012, the Sixers traded Andre Iguodala, Nik Vucevic, Moe Harkless and a protected first-round pick for Bynum and Jason Richardson. Twelve years earlier, which was one season into Rivers’ tenure as coach of the Magic, Orlando traded Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins to the Pistons for Grant Hill. Ankle injuries limited Hill to 47 of a possible 328 games in his four seasons in central Florida. He appeared in just four games in the first year. “Each game he was going to play and didn’t play,” Rivers said prior to Tuesday night’s Sixers-Celtics game. “ ‘This is the week. Next week he’s going to play.’ You’re always in limbo.” … Bynum, 25, visited personal physician Dr. David Altchek in New York on Tuesday. He has been slowed by swelling in his right knee since scrimmaging Feb. 22 for the first time with the Sixers. … Arthroscopic surgery would remove loose cartilage or “wash it out,” but wouldn’t address any degenerative issues with the knee.

  • Marcos Breton of The Sacramento Bee: If the offer to keep the Kings in Sacramento equals a rival bid to move them to Seattle, how could the NBA vote to tear the franchise out of here? It's an unprecedented question for the NBA and one that is central to Sacramento's argument for retaining its only major sports franchise. The home team's campaign began in earnest Tuesday with a comparison of Seattle and Sacramento by aides of Mayor Kevin Johnson that were meant to debunk conventional wisdom that Seattle is superior. Don't laugh. Johnson has been able to change the conversation about a Kings relocation that was described as a "done deal" in the national press just six weeks ago by producing billionaire suitors who are willing to buy the team and keep them here. The presence of Mark Mastrov, Ron Burkle and their big wallets not only creates a viable scenario for local ownership, it allows Sacramento to illustrate how this situation is different from other NBA relocations. … Does Sacramento have Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks or Nordstrom within its borders? No. Seattle is a great city with wealth Sacramento doesn't have. But if the NBA votes with Seattle even if Sacramento's bid for the Kings is equal or close to the Emerald City's, the decision would feel less like a relocation and more like a hostile takeover.