First Cup: Friday

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: Go get Andrew Bynum. Enough of the "exploratory'' stuff. Go get him. Now. You think I'm nuts, don't you? You think Bynum is a physical mess and a mental midget who has pouted his way out of Philadelphia and Cleveland. All of that is true. So why is everybody ready to freak out if he ends up in Miami, where the Heat desperately need a big man who can handle Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert in the Eastern Conference finals? The sense I get is the Pacers, who are now an otherworldly 31-7 after a 117-89 victory Thursday over the New York Knicks, would not make that particular move simply to ensure he doesn't end up in Miami. They would only do it if Bynum has a chance to make the Pacers better. That's fine. But what's wrong with ensuring he doesn't end up in Miami, where the sleeping giant might awaken when presented a chance to compete for a title? Call it a nice side benefit. "That's all rumor," Larry Bird told The Indianapolis Star's Candace Buckner when asked about Bynum. "But I'm going to do what I think is going to make us better. I live this. The moves I make might be the wrong moves, but whoever it is, if I think it's going to make us better, I'll bring him in. That's what I get paid to do."

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: J.R. Smith’s one-game benching ended on Thursday, but while he returned, the Knicks may have lost three others. Amar’e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin both sprained their left ankles during the 117-89 loss to the Pacers, and neither forward will be available for Friday’s home game against the Clippers. There is a strong possibility that Stoudemire and Martin will miss multiple games. Also, rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. re-injured his surgically repaired left wrist but indicated that he will play Friday. X-rays came back negative. The more immediate concern is the health of Stoudemire, who has played well over the last three weeks, and Martin, one of the Knicks’ top defenders. “Amar’e sprained his ankle really bad,” Carmelo Anthony said. “Kenyon said his ankle felt different than it did before. We lost two of our big guys. We’ve got a couple other big guys out there that we’re going to have to utilize.”

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: Carmelo Anthony, rejected emphatically again by center Roy Hibbert, called the rout “embarrassing" and then called out Mike Woodson for not making any adjustments to counteract the Indiana onslaught. The Pacers, with the best record in the NBA at 31-7, including 20-1 at home, outclassed the Knicks after the orange and blue built an early eight-point lead. Anthony didn’t understand how it got away so quickly as Pacers coach Frank Vogel did all the right things after the opening period. Woodson, for his part, called it “a total team disaster." ... “They made adjustments the way they played the pick-and-roll, the way they packed the paint and stayed with our 3-point shooters," Anthony said. “They made that adjustment. We didn’t make the adjustment back to it." ... It was widely reported Woodson got outcoached by Vogel last May in the second-round series loss to the Pacers. And Woodson did nothing Thursday to prove he has caught up to Vogel. "When we went to the bench, they just hit us and we didn’t respond," Woodson said.

  • Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: The Russian billionaire, making his first appearance around the Nets since the season opener, predictably backed coach Jason Kidd and threw in his usual witty one-liners. But Prokhorov changed his tone, if only briefly between jokes about a Soviet author and carrier pigeons, when asked about whether he’ll attend more games in Brooklyn. The Moscow-based businessman went to several games last season after being a no-show for the entire 2011-12 campaign. “Frankly speaking, there’s a lot of criticism that I am not in Brooklyn. But I just have a question for you: Do you really think you need me sitting in the arena to see a game?” said Prokhorov, noting that he has been busy preparing for the Winter Olympics in Sochi as the president of Russia’s Biathlon Union. “My friends, we are living in the 21st century. And in spite of the fact I have no computer, I still have a subscription for NBA games and, for me, it’s like enough to even have a look on the stats so you can understand what is going on. ... So like I’m full in, I’m all in for this team and I think it’s the only way how to reach championship.” ... On Friday, Prokhorov was more cautiously optimistic than brazen, though clearly encouraged by the latest stretch. He also seemed to back away from his light-hearted guarantee that he’ll get married as punishment if the Nets don’t win a championship by 2015, saying, “Time will tell. We’ll see in a year.”

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Hawks are one of several teams that have expressed an interest in signing Ivan Johnson once he finishes his season in the Chinese Basketball Association, according to a person familiar with the situation. The CBA regular season ends Feb. 16. The Hawks have inquired about Johnson’s availability and willingness to return to his former team. No agreement has been reached and no deal is imminent. Several NBA teams have inquired about Johnson getting out of his contract with the Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls prior to the end of the Chinese season. However, the forward has elected to play out his contract before considering a return to the NBA. The Hawks chose not make Johnson a qualifying offer following last season, making the forward/center an unrestricted free agent. After getting interest from the Bulls, Knicks, Pacers and Clippers, Johnson signed a lucrative deal to play in China.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Kevin Durant tried to act as though he hadn't seen or heard LeBron James' latest comments about him. "What he say?" Durant asked, rhetorically. "How can I not see it? It's been on CNN. It's been on ABC, FOX Sports. Man, it's been everywhere. Ya'll blowing that out of proportion, man. I mean, I'm pretty sure, matter of fact, I'm 100 percent sure LeBron can do whatever he wants." The Miami Heat star made headlines earlier this week when he told ESPN.com that he is "jealous" of Durant's freedom to shoot until his heart's content. ... James is averaging a career-low 16.2 shot attempts but shooting a career-high 58.7 percent from the field. He's purposely dedicated himself to being a more efficient scorer over the past two seasons, and he still sacrifices shot attempts to orchestrate the Heat offense and get teammates involved.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: As the Rockets tried to wrap their minds around a game unlike any other in NBA history, the numbers hit them harder than all those missed second-half shots crashing the rim. Never had a team gone so far from one extreme to another, never had a Rockets team – on a night they had rolled through their best offensive half of the season – scored few points in a second half. The Rockets could list all that had gone wrong on the way to a 104-92 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, feeling the stunning turnaround from a 14-point halftime lead to a crushing loss. The collapse, however, was so complete is stretched credulity. “We had less than 20 points in the second half?” Chandler Parsons said. “In the entire half? That’s terrible I didn’t know that. It doesn’t surprise me because we played really bad in the second half. Nineteen in the whole half? That’s crazy.” The disparity from the Rockets 73 points in the first half and 19 in the second was the greatest in NBA history and might have been most vivid in the way they fired 3-pointers before and after switching ends of the floor. The Rockets had made 12 of 20 3-pointers in the first half. They missed all 14 they put up in the second half.

  • Zach Braziller of the New York Post: Lance Stephenson has gone mainstream. The Coney Island product, enjoying a breakout season with the Pacers, became the latest NBA star to produce a funny video asking for votes for next month’s All-Star Game in New Orelans. It was a side of Stephenson we’ve never seen before — a funny, humorous side. Playing the role of “Sir Lancealot,” he dons a shabby wig, an oversized bowtie, horn-rimmed glassed, suspenders he frequently snaps and pants he tucks into his socks to go along with loud exclamations such as “He can hold the ball like…” or, after a highlight of a dunk down the lane, “Like the Q train to Coney Island!” But Stephenson’s is far from the first entry in the video genre of NBA players campaigning for All-Star votes. The Nuggets recently produced a video for point guard Ty Lawson.

  • John F. Burns of The New York Times: The Nets-Hawks game here on Thursday was also the occasion for another N.B.A. landmark, the last news conference, as he pronounced it, of David Stern’s 30-year tenure as commissioner, which will end with the 71-year-old Stern’s retirement on Feb. 1. Seated beside Adam Silver, his 51-year-old successor, Stern struck an upbeat note about the N.B.A.’s future, saying that the league’s finances were buoyant and that Mikhail D. Prokhorov someday might not be the sole non-American owner of an N.B.A. team. Wealthy groups in China, the Middle East and Latin America are all potential investors in N.B.A. franchises, Stern said. He said the ultimate aim was to have a European division with perhaps five teams in major cities like London, Berlin and Paris, although that remains, for now, a distant goal, requiring more games like Thursday’s to build the necessary support among fans and sponsors. As for fears that foreign billionaires could set off the sort of upward spiral in player salaries, ticket prices and television subscriptions that have characterized England’s Premier League, he said he believed the N.B.A. could absorb the inflationary pressures.