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First Cup: Thursday

  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: "Roger Mason Jr. didn't merely make the shot. It was how he did it. Mason somehow caught a desperation fastball from Matt Bonner, and then backed up slightly. He knew he could set himself with a bump against the out-of-position defender behind him. Then, at worst, he would draw the foul. And it was whom he did it against. When it comes to last-second shots going the other way, when it comes to whistles going the other way, wasn't it Derek Fisher's turn? ... Mason not only looks like the kind of player who understands space and situation, he also brings some karma with him. Couldn't that translate in June, too?"

  • Tom Enlund of the Journal Sentinel: "The league's Feb. 19 trade deadline is still a few weeks away, but already the rumor mill is heating up. Scott Skiles said he thought most players knew how to handle the rumors so that they didn't become a distraction. 'Hopefully they know that most of that is just you guys making stuff up,' Skiles deadpanned while talking to reporters before the game. 'But (distractions) can happen, especially with younger players. I think generally, most veterans have played on other teams anyway so they understand the business. But this is the time of year from now until Feb. 19, there's something in the media every day about various players and various teams. Most teams go through that.'"

  • Chris McCosky of The Detroit News: "One of the reasons Tayshaun Prince won't, in all likelihood, be an All-Star again this year is because of the Pacers' Danny Granger. Granger, a small forward by trade who plays some at shooting guard, averages 26.5 points a game. In the two previous games against the Pistons he's scored 33 and 42 points. 'He's hands down an All-Star,' Michael Curry said."

  • Harvey Ararton of The New York Times: "Mind you, five of the career assists leaders are from New York: Jackson (2), Rod Strickland (8), Lenny Wilkens (10), Bob Cousy (14) and Tiny Archibald (19). But that was then. None of the current premier N.B.A. point guards are from New York, including the group that promises to dominate the position for years to come. Besides Paul, Derrick Rose of the Bulls is from Chicago, Deron Williams of the Jazz was born in West Virginia and attended high school in Texas, the Nets' Devin Harris is from Milwaukee and the Spurs' Tony Parker is from France. Add the established veteran stars Jason Kidd (Oakland, Calif.), Chauncey Billups (Denver), Steve Nash (Canada) and Baron Davis (Los Angeles), and the point about New York's production decline is impossible to dispute."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "LeBron James is staying tight-lipped about his new teaser ads running on television that depict him about to make a big announcement at a press conference. Informed sources say it is part of a new campaign for State Farm and will depict James as a wide receiver for the Browns, complete with a No. 23 jersey with 'LeBron' on the back. It will be a series of commercials leading to a climax, which won't be revealed here. James, a former All-Ohio receiver in high school, filmed the spots at the University of Akron's indoor football complex. He also plays with friends in the off-season. 'We've got a flag football league we play down at St. Vincent-St. Mary,' James said. 'I am a football player, it just so happens I play a little basketball, too.'"

  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "The chances of Shawn Marion remaining with the Heat for the balance of this season are quite slim. And the thought here is that it would be in the Heat's best interest to trade this bouncy All-Star forward soon. This isn't an indictment of Marion as a player. On the right team, for the right price, Marion would be a crucial contributor. But the issue here isn't only that the Heat is not the ideal fit for Marion, whose numbers will never match his career averages in this Dwyane Wade-dominated, half-court-heavy system. It's also that Marion badly wants to be traded, as well. It's hardly ideal to be putting up nearly career-low averages in a contract year. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that Marion wants out as badly as the Heat wants to move him. Marion's agent constantly is talking with management from other teams, attempting to gauge their interest. So the only lingering question is what the Heat could receive in return for a player whose stock is plummeting and whose most attractive feature is his $17 million expiring contract."

  • Fran Blinebury of the Houston Chronicle: "Don't count Dikembe Mutombo among those who are applauding Yao Ming's recent penchant for stepping in front of driving opponents to draw a charge. 'I'm very critical,' Mutombo said. 'Those are bull. I told him that. He's too tall to be taking charges. He needs to learn to play defense without using his chest. You don't block a shot with your chest. Maybe Yao is listening to Shane (Battier). Maybe he wants to be a guard or something. Maybe he's planning to lead the league in charges. So I have to stop him. I have to teach him to lead the league in blocked shots, not charges.'"

  • Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun: "The Bosh/O'Neal/Bargnani experiment lasted all of seven games with the Raptors going 2-5 during that stretch. By going big, the Raps will give themselves the best chance of winning at a time when they are coming up short. Bargnani is in such a groove that he can't be asked to come off the bench. O'Neal is not a backup and he was playing well until his setback in Oakland. He no longer has that lift to his game that made him so unstoppable, but he's tough. What the Raptors must do is manage O'Neal's minutes and ego when he does come back. What they must also do is go big or they may as well go home."

  • Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune: "After the Jazz vacated EnergySolutions Arena this week for three road games, the 'Walking with Dinosaurs' show took over the building. If you're wondering, forward Matt Harpring made the trip. At the advanced basketball age of 32, with a long medical history that includes unlikely complications from surgery this past summer, Harpring is fighting through a difficult season and looking and feeling old. He's still trying to regain strength and mobility in his right ankle, while having younger players take court time from him during an apparent phase-out stretch of his career that leads coach Jerry Sloan to observe rather coldly, 'This is a cruel business, any way you want to look at it.'"

  • David Moore of The Dallas Morning News: "Small is cute. Small can be explosive and effective in
    bursts. But it doesn't win a lot of games over the course of an NBA season. New Orleans reminded everyone how small the Mavericks have become, and not just because the home team lost its fourth consecutive game. These Mavericks are an offensively challenged bunch. They are forced to go with their small lineup late in games, especially when they are behind, because their big lineup can't score. The problem is this lineup is deficient on defense. The problem is it feeds into their jump-shooting delirium on offense."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "According to the Web site 82games.com, Kevin Durant entered last nights game as the league's 22nd best scorer in 'clutch' time. Clutch stats are defined by games in the fourth quarter or overtime with less than five minutes left and neither team ahead by more than five points. Durant averages 31.3 points per 48 minutes of clutch time, ahead of players like Andre Iguodala, Chris Bosh, Tracy McGrady, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Caron Butler and Michael Redd. But 70 percent of Durant's clutch time points are assisted, meaning he's rarely creating for himself or others. Worse, his 5.2 clutch time turnovers per 48 minutes are the 10th highest in the league. Those mistakes have been on display in the last three games, with Durant totaling 18 turnovers, four coming in the fourth quarter or overtime. ... Durant says he believes his customary post-practice shooting will help him in the future when the game is on the line. But, as Scott Brooks said, 'it's hard to simulate a late-game situation unless you've got 19,000 people yelling at you.'"

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "The day started with Sergio Rodriguez being traded to New York for Nate Robinson. It ended with Rodriguez and Jerryd Bayless up for discussion as the Trail Blazers' starting point guard tonight at New Jersey. As it turned out, the Rodriguez-for-Robinson 'deal' was nothing but a hoax, conjured up by talk radio that is too lazy to pick up a phone and determine what is real and what is not."