First Cup: Monday

  • Ivan Carter of The Washington Post: "When Barack Obama makes history tomorrow, the Washington Wizards will be in the Bay Area hoping to catch a glimpse of his inauguration on television in their hotel rooms. The Wizards open a four-game road trip against Golden State this afternoon and will miss the festivities that have been taking place only a short walk from where they earn a living at Verizon Center. Coaches and players are seldom excited to pack their bags and hit the road for a long trip, and that is especially the case this week with so much going on back at home. 'There certainly is a sense that, boy, it would be nice to be here and participate and see this event, but at the same time, it's the NBA and you have a job to do,' interim coach Ed Tapscott said. 'When you aren't winning, the good thing about the NBA is that you'll always have another opportunity in the next game, so it's mixed feelings. Obama or winning basketball games? That's a tough choice.'"

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Ben Gordon disclosed Sunday he was so nervous for his taped tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which aired over the scoreboard at Saturday's game, that he typed his comments into his iPhone and practiced repeatedly. 'I just wanted to make sure I did him justice in the few minutes I had to talk about him,' Gordon said."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "The corners of Kobe Bryant's mouth curled into a smirk as he shook his head and let out a semi-annoyed exhale. Lakers practice was over Sunday afternoon and his hometown Philadelphia Eagles were locked in a battle with the Arizona Cardinals for a Super Bowl berth and he wanted to be watching. Not to mention his team was coming off back-to-back narrow losses. So he wasn't really interested in talking about his sure-to-be hyped matchup with LeBron James and the Cavaliers tonight at Staples Center. 'Just leave me alone about this stuff,' Bryant said. 'I'm dragging my feet coming over here because I could've answered the questions before [the media] asked them.' It is understandable Bryant doesn't want to get into the rhetoric. Neither did James, who skipped talking about the game all together before the Cavs boarded their jet to head west for the start of a four-game road trip. It is also understandable because for all the comparisons between the two and the guaranteed national television dates set up around their meetings, it simply hasn't been much of a rivalry. At least, not quite yet."

  • Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Times: "LeBron's time may extend for a long time, but whether it's his turn to win a title remains to be seen. His Cavaliers almost took out Boston in last spring's second round and are better now. On the other hand, both the Cavaliers and Celtics have matchup problems with Orlando's ever-more-dynamic inside-outside game. Then, for whoever gets out of the East, there might be the Lakers waiting. It's what makes being LeBron so exciting. Something great always seems to be waiting, maybe even now."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "'Change is coming!' bellowed Dwight Howard, who sounded more like James Brown -- or Eddie Murphy imitating James Brown -- than Barack Obama. 'Change is coming -- with the Orlando Magic!' Maybe change is coming to the NBA hierarchy. It really won't play out until playoff time, still half a season away. But there could be a seismic shift, given the tremors produced by the Magic, a team currently so hip (Howard, the all-star vote-leader, is attending Obama's inauguration) and hot (winning 33 of its past 39) that it should play in fireproof designer jerseys. As the glowing reviews steadily trickle in the Magic expect to find themselves in the crosshairs of heightened media attention after presenting the latest evidence of their transformation."

  • Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star: "How did it go so wrong, so quickly? Clearly the summertime trade that brought O'Neal to Toronto for T.J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovic and a first-round draft pick, panned in this corner as it happened, is a failure. Colangelo spoke before the season of his belief that O'Neal would fill a hole in the club's defence and rebounding corps – but they're as bad as they've ever been in both categories. Colangelo figured O'Neal would complement Chris Bosh, the resident all-star, but O'Neal, when healthy, has largely been an older, slower duplicate to Bosh. And though O'Neal is a public-relations genius who unfurls a yarn with the skill of 100 spin doctors, you can't help but think that his unwillingness to play through pain and his diva-esque demeanour have been at least partly responsible for the palpable lack of chemistry on this season's squad. So it's agreed: unloading O'Neal before the trade deadline, which comes one month from today at 3 p.m., is a necessity."

  • Janny Hu of the San Francisco Chronicle: "Monta Ellis will not be playing, but it's a big day for him nonetheless. Ellis' agent, Jeff Fried, said he is scheduled to meet with team officials today, and though neither Fried nor the Warriors are publicly going into specifics, it's likely they'll be looking to close the book on Ellis' punishment for his August moped accident. After all, Ellis has been practicing for more than a week now, and the Warriors already were taking promotional shots of him in uniform just a few days ago."

  • Michael Hunt of the Journal Sentinel: "Not long ago the Milwaukee Bucks commissioned a Web page on behalf of their first-round pick, Joe Alexander, to promote him for the dunk contest that is a part of the NBA's all-star weekend frivolities. It's a fun, playful site, where the enormously athletic Alexander can be seen, among other things, touching his nose on the rim. It's called seejoedunk.com. That's fine. But on the whole, you'd rather see Joe play. The first half of the 6-foot-8 forward's rookie season was largely spent as a non-contributor. That Alexander is suddenly more involved - averages of 13 minutes and eight points off the bench in the last three games - is relevant to a lot of things, not the least of which is a disastrous first-round history this decade that is partially responsible for the hole the Bucks are trying to escape."

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "Trail Blazers guard Rudy Fernandez has won a fan vote to compete in the 2009 NBA Dunk Contest at All-Star Weekend in Phoenix on Feb. 14, The Oregonian has learned. For the first time, the NBA this season opened a slot in the contest for a rookie, who would be chosen by a fan vote. Fernandez won the voting over Milwaukee's Joe Alexander and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook. ... The selection of Fernandez will be annou
    nced at 12:30 p.m. today at a news conference at the Blazers practice facility in Tualatin."

  • Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News: "There has been significant skepticism among fans and the media surrounding Elton Brand's return, which figures to be soon, but not necessarily today. Tony DiLeo again described Brand's status as 'day-to-day, a game-time decision.' But, within the organization, there remains nothing but unbridled optimism about the two-time All-Star power forward who signed a 5-year, $79.8 million contract in the summer. DiLeo knows that the early games with Brand, with him adjusting to a new team, with many of his teammates on the court with a legitimate post player for the first time, were difficult. He firmly believes things will be far easier the second time around. '[It was] because we were trying to integrate him into our team so much, because Andre Iguodala wasn't playing at the level he's playing now, because Andre Miller wasn't playing at the level he's playing now,' DILeo said. 'Everybody was trying so hard to get Elton so involved that it took us out of what we do the best, which is play defense and get out in the open court.'"

  • Melody Gutierrez of the Sacramento Bee: "Donté Greene said there are many day-to-day similarities between the NBA and the D-League, including scouting reports and watching film. Traveling, however, provides a stark contrast. 'I definitely miss my charter flights,' said Greene, who traveled commercially to Boise, Idaho, to play the Stampede on Thursday. 'We went on Southwest.' The luxury of the NBA may make many players cringe at the thought of playing in the D-League. Greene, however, was hesitant to say he's glad to be back with the Kings. 'We'll see as time moves on,' said Greene, who has played in 24 games for the Kings, averaging 4.5 points and 14.1 minutes. 'If I'm not playing I would love to be back down there. I was enjoying it. This is my personality. I don't look at anything negative. I look at everything as with a reason.'"

  • Steve Ballard of The Indianapolis Star: "When the Harlem Globetrotters first tried to honor Hallie Bryant in 1998, he respectfully declined, not because he didn't believe he deserved it, but because he felt someone else deserved it more. ... Today, almost exactly 11 years later, Bryant will take his turn and join the likes of Wilt Chamberlain, Meadowlark Lemon, Curly Neal, Connie Hawkins -- and Gardner -- as the 28th player in the Globetrotters' 83-year history to be added to their ring of legends. 'I feel better about it now,' said Bryant, who will be honored at halftime of the 2 p.m. game at Conseco Fieldhouse. 'Willie and I were like brothers and I felt good about him getting his dues. I don't want to take credit for being some goody-goody, but it was the right thing to do.'"