First Cup: Monday

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro said he owed it to Kings fans to be aggressive after years of suffering through relocation discussions and cost-cutting moves. The Kings took a bold step away from the frugal ways of the last ownership group by agreeing to acquire forward Rudy Gay as part of a seven-player trade Sunday. Gay, 27, comes from Toronto with a $17.9 million salary this season and a player option for $19.3 million next season. The Kings will send Chuck Hayes, Patrick Patterson, John Salmons and Greivis Vasquez to Toronto as part of the deal. Sacramento also gets forward Quincy Acy and center Aaron Gray. ... D’Alessandro has been struggling to accept another possible year of futility for the Kings. Sacramento is 5-13, the second-worst record in the Western Conference. Already, the Kings have had losing streaks of six and five games. It’s a reason D’Alessandro has been actively pursuing deals – this is his second of the season. The Kings dealt Luc Mbah a Moute to Minnesota for Derrick Williams on Nov. 26. The moves also show that D’Alessandro has no problem dealing players after short stints with the team; Vasquez and Mbah a Moute were both acquired in July. The deal also drastically alters how the Kings will look on the floor. Isaiah Thomas figures to assume Vasquez’s role as starting point guard, with Jimmer Fredette and rookie Ray McCallum vying for playing time behind Thomas.

  • Eric Koreen of the National Post: It took just over 10 months, and a new general manager, to determine that Gay did not make the team better, and that he could not. A few hours before tipping off against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Raptors agreed to trade Gay to the Sacramento Kings, a source confirmed to the National Post. Colangelo’s replacement, Masai Ujiri, swung the deal with Sacramento general manager Pete D’Allesandro, who was Ujiri’s assistant in Denver. ... In the end, the move amounts to nothing more than a salary dump. Of the four players that the Raptors are receiving, only Hayes, scheduled to make nearly US$6-million, has a fully guaranteed contract next year. John Salmons’ US$7-million can be bought out for US$1-million, while the other two players will either become restricted or unrestricted free agents, depending on whether the Raptors extend them qualifying offers. The Raptors believed Gay was very likely to exercise his US$19.3-million player option for next season, based on his marginal effectiveness and what similar talents received last year. ... Kyle Lowry, the Raptors’ current starting point guard, figures to be the most likely player to be traded. Ujiri, to be sure, is not done.

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: It was a night of basketball immortality and human frailty. It was a night of loud cheers and quiet shudders. It was a night when the perception was as torn as Kobe Bryant's Achilles tendon last spring, an injury from which he returned Sunday amid both undaunted hopes and unsettling fears.Bryant's aura was back, but his athleticism was not. His court presence was dramatic, but his court effectiveness was spotty. Fans showered him with two hours of love, but his teammates couldn't get comfortable around him. He gritted his teeth and pumped his fist and shouted inspiration as the fans chanted both "Ko-be'' and "M-V-P." Yet he also missed seven of his nine shots, committed eight turnovers, and rarely left the ground on offense. And, oh, by the way, a makeshift six-win Toronto Raptors team that had just traded away leading scorer Rudy Gay beat the clearly distracted Lakers, 106-94. "I guess it's a start," said Bryant afterward with a weary sigh. "A start is good." ... The night could perhaps be best summed up by one play midway through the first quarter when Bryant was thrown the ball at the top of a fast break in a one-on-one situation with the Raptors' Kyle Lowry. But instead of taking it to the basket, instead of even jumping, Bryant shoveled the ball underhanded to Steve Blake, who then threw it to Wesley Johnson, who dunked it instead. "It's a matter of trusting certain things, experimenting," said Bryant. So it went on a night that, while billed as a comeback, was less an ending than a beginning. Of what, nobody is certain.

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: They still call the place Madison Square Garden, but the joint was more a theater of the absurd yesterday. Certainly things can get out of hand and numbers can multiply quickly in an NBA game, but wrap your head around this: The team that is trying to make the playoffs and came into the season believing it had a shot at a long postseason run lost by 41 points. The Celtics, on the other hand, have now won three straight and 4-of-5 after a 114-73 thrashing of the ne’er-do-well Knicks. The club that stripped its roster of two no-reservations-needed Hall of Famers in the offseason and has yet to get its remaining current All-Star on the court is teaching lessons to the high and mighty on the benefits of simply playing hard and as a team. Greenhearts may curse every win as a diminished chance at lottery success, but the Celtics are reveling in their “take that” triumphs. Rajon Rondo laughed when asked if the Celts are trying to get their coach fired or something. “Nah, man,” Rondo said, “We’re just in a groove.” One that Rondo, the rehabbing All-Star, would love to join. Rondo’s eyes have widened as he’s watched young people in green willing to run the floor and big men throwing crisp outlet passes.

  • Peter Botte of the New York Daily News: Is orange the new black hole for the Knicks? As Carmelo Anthony pointed out, it wouldn’t have mattered what the Knicks wore during their 114-73 eyesore loss Sunday to the Celtics at the Garden. But it certainly was a hot, if misguided, topic on Twitter — and even on the MSG postgame show — after the Knicks fell to 0-6 this season in games they’ve worn their alternate orange uniforms. “No, I’m not a superstitious guy. I won’t blame it on the 12 o’clock game, I won’t blame it on the orange uniforms. Regardless, we could’ve been in the white uniforms today, it’d still been the same thing,” Anthony said after what he described as “an embarrassment” of a game. The orange jerseys mistakenly were hanging in the team’s lockers before Friday’s game against Orlando, and Raymond Felton joked that he “complained” after seeing them upon arriving at the Garden. The Knicks wore their white uniforms that night, as planned, and pounded the Magic by 38 points. “It doesn’t matter. It was just a little simple joke we had two or three days ago. But it is nothing to joke about right now. I am not in a joking mood,” said Felton, who scored zero points in 20 minutes. “I am not superstitious about anything. You play whatever you play in, whatever jersey, whatever color, whatever shoes. I am not superstitious.”

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: The rest has produced results, so Dwyane Wade again sat out the second night of a back-to-back set Sunday, when the Miami Heat faced the Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills. "It's just a plan that they have set and I'm trying to stick to it," Wade said of his sixth absence of the season, as he works his way back from offseason knee shock-wave therapy. It is the third time in the Heat's four back-to-backs this season Wade has been held out of the second night of such a set. He said trainer Jay Sabol made this latest decision. ... The big picture largely has been effective, with Wade increasingly productive coming off his rest periods.The on-and-off pattern could continue for another month, or even longer. "I'm looking for this next month, month and a half, when they told me the pain's supposed to lessen," he said. "And I'm looking to see, hopefully, it gets to that point, and it'll be more consistent." He is expected back for Tuesday's showdown against the Indiana Pacers, the final stop of this four-game trip.

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: If there’s one player who can relate to Andre Drummond’s plight — if you want to call it that — of being a big kid in a man’s body and a man’s game, LeBron James would be the clearest example. ... Drummond had 19 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks in the Pistons’ 110-95 loss to the Heat Sunday, and 10 points with 18 rebounds in the Pistons’ 107-97 win in Miami last Tuesday. “Each and every game he continues to grow. His confidence is building,” James said. James made perhaps the biggest statistical leap from his rookie season to his second year, while a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2004-05. His scoring jumped from 20.9 to 27.2, his rebounding from 5.5 to 7.4 and assists from 5.9 to 7.2, so he knows the value of familiarity, seeing the league the second time around. Drummond is averaging 18.4 points, 16.8 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and two steals in his last five games, and the Pistons have gone 4-1 in that stretch.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: This was the best win of the year. And it may not be close. The Spurs game is up there. The Timberwolves Part II is up there. The Mavs performance is up there. But given the quality of the opponent, Indiana’s strengths and the Thunder’s subsequent start-to-finish smackdown, you have to rank this at the top of the list. The key to the game was a little known game within the game. It was Kevin Durant versus Paul George. There were tons of other things, of course, that enabled the Thunder to pull out this authoritative victory. But that matchup was the most significant. “He’s getting tired of hearing about Paul George,” Kendrick Perkins said of Durant on Saturday when I asked about George. And, as I wrote for Monday’s paper, Durant came out and played like it. Durant typically defers to Russell Westbrook in the first half. Not tonight. Durant was going at George and the Pacers from the start. KD took nine shots in the opening quarter, scored 14 points in the period and added three assists. Rarely did he pass up an opportunity to light up the Pacers. I don’t know if Durant feels threatened by George, views him as the new kid on the block that’s coming for him or just doesn’t care for the dude. Either way, we saw a side of Durant tonight that we rarely see.

  • Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star: Every day, Pacers center Roy Hibbert must use an inhaler to combat his exercise-induced asthma. Sunday was no exception. So an hour before the Pacers faced the Thunder, Hibbert sat in front of his locker stall, brought the inhaler to his lips and took a slow, deep breath. In spite of his asthma, Hibbert has continued to plug Indiana's defense and pile up the blocks. Before Sunday, Hibbert had 65 blocked shots through 20 games, the most by any Pacer in that span since the 1985-86 season.

  • Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle: Rockets forward Terrence Jones has continued to impress his coaches and teammates since he became the team’s starter a month ago. On Sunday against the Magic, Jones had 16 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. He was also the source of an energy spark late in the game when the Magic were making a small comeback. “Terrence was very good tonight,” Coach Kevin McHale said. “There’s been a couple of games that I have talked to him about the his energy level and what he has to do for our team and he did those things.” Jones said that he is still just trying to soak in everything he can and grow as a player. “I’m trying to play with confidence and do the little things to help us win,” he said. “It is important that I keep learning.” McHale said that while Jones has some lessons to learn, his future is a bright one.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Sunday’s matchup against Howard’s Rockets lacked the intensity and venom that typified the Magic’s games against Howard’s Los Angeles Lakers last season. With Nik Vucevic out with a sprained left ankle, Davis guarded Howard one-on-one for much of the Sunday night and helped limit Howard to six baskets. After the game ended, Howard and Jameer Nelson, his former Magic co-captain, smiled and chuckled a bit at center court. “It’s always fun to see the little midget and play against him,” Howard said, repeating the pet nickname he used for Nelson during the Magic’s 2009 run to the Eastern Conference title. “I wouldn’t say it’s a rivalry or anything like that. I’ll always love what the city did and also the Magic for giving me the opportunity of drafting me number one. I don’t know what else to say about it.” In the visitors’ postgame locker room at Toyota Center, Nelson sounded more worried about the Magic (6-14) than about the implications of playing against Howard.