First Cup: Tuesday

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: I say Kevin Durant planned this. I say he planned the whole thing. I say he had his Thunder teammates toy with the Hawks for 3 1/2 quarters on Monday night only to captain a rousing comeback just to give himself some sort challenge while he’s ripping the league to shreds. No? OK, maybe not. But would any of us be surprised if he did? Durant’s been phenomenal enough to pull it off. The Slim Reaper (I still don’t love it, but it’ll do) just keeps on finding ways to outdo himself. One night it’s a 54-point explosion. Another night it’s a 46-point outburst. One night it’s a triple-double. The next it’s another 41 points. It’s gotten to the point that the passing of each performance leaves you wondering what on earth KD will do next.

  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: Amidst trade rumours last month, Lowry had a pair of big games in a back-to-back against the Knicks. An ESPN report Monday mentioned the Raptors would prefer to move Lowry than keep him and though that’s up for debate, He played like he had something to prove Coaches sent in their votes for the all-star reserves on Sunday. The picks will be revealed on Thursday. Though Lowry has an iron-clad case to head to New Orleans where numbers are concerned (Washington’s John Wall is considered a lock, but Lowry has equal or better stats than Wall in a number of categories), politics and reputation usually comes into play where the voting is concerned. Coaches can’t pick their own players, but usually try to make strategic selections that will increase the chances of their guy making it. Lowry also has had combative relationships at times with a couple of coaches over the years and the NBA’s bench bosses know all about the reputations of players, fair or not. It’s clear where Patterson stands on the issue. “I’ve known Kyle since my rookie year in Houston. That’s what I expect from him every night,” he said. "... I would love it if he’s an all-star. I feel like personally he should make it.”

  • Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: It happened so quickly. The Nets were in control, closing in on another victory in their rejuvenated January. And then Deron Williams threw the game away. Confused and out of timeouts, the Nets fell after an errant pass from Williams that dramatically shifted the direction of Monday night’s 104-103 loss to the Raptors at the Barclays Center. The point guard’s in-bounds pass into the backcourt fell neatly into the hands of Toronto’s Patrick Patterson, who after a series of passes drained a game-winning jumper with six seconds remaining. “I turned it over, didn’t have any timeouts,” said Williams, who committed two turnovers in the final 22 seconds. “I pretty much saw everybody was covered on the first couple of options, kind of saw Joe (Johnson) open but just made a bad pass. It’s tough. It definitely hurts, but we got three days (before our next game) to think about it, that makes it worse.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: A debate about whether Goran Dragic is playing like an All-Star is unnecessary. He indisputably is. Look at where Dragic has put the shocking Suns and held them up in Eric Bledsoe’s absence. Look at his membership in the 19-point, six-assist, 49-percent club — him, MVP LeBron James and nobody else. Look at his perpetual effort with determination that turns into fire-breathing Dragon hot streaks. The issue is whether Dragic did enough to convince head coaches from a loaded Western Conference to vote him as one of seven West All-Star reserves. If he is not announced in that group Thursday night, the next issue is whether incoming Commissioner Adam Silver would pick him as a replacement All-Star should injured Lakers guard Kobe Bryant not play (a likely scenario) or injured Clippers guard Chris Paul not play (he plans to play). Dragic’s dream chances are more a matter of logistics than statistics. ... Dragic’s confidence remained so high that he had an annual All-Star bonus negotiated into the contract that he signed to return to the Suns in 2012. If he cashes in on that $1 million bonus this season, Dragic would have a check to match his smile.

  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer: Lorenzo Brown participated in his own day-night doubleheader. The rookie point guard went down to the 76ers' NBA Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, on Monday morning. He played in a 99-87 victory over the Austin Toros at the University of Delaware's Bob Carpenter Center. Then Brown rejoined the NBA team in time for the game against the Phoenix Suns on Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center. "AAU all the way. It's crazy," said Brown, jokingly comparing Monday to when he played in several games in Amateur Athletic Union tournaments as a teenager. Brown finished with 12 points, 10 assists and 6 rebounds for the 87ers. The 6-foot-5, 195-pounder has appeared in eight games with the D-League team, averaging 18.4 points, 6.9 assists and 6.0 rebounds. He was averaging 3.1 points in 18 games with the Sixers heading into Monday's contest. Brown knew that he would be assigned to the Sevens at times after signed with the Sixers. But "not like this," he said of his trips back and forth. "It's fun, though."

  • Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times: There’s something that people need to get out of their minds and probably won’t: Rose’s practicing with Team USA will not be a gauge of his loyalty to the Bulls or of his grit if he sits out the NBA season. The Bulls announced in November that Rose was done for the season. Not everybody believes them, even now. That’s because he hasn’t ruled out a return. He’s in a no-win situation. If he comes back this season and gets hurt, critics will say he came back too quickly. If he doesn’t come back, he’s selfish and soft. In the meantime, we’ll have several months to hear from everyone on the topic. Coach Tom Thibodeau will say Rose is making progress in his rehab. TV sports anchors will comment on footage of Rose shooting free throws at Bulls practice. Unnamed teammates will report that Rose looks dominant in scrimmages. And you know what that means. “Groundhog Day, the Sequel” (and Sequel and Sequel and …). Not again. Yes, again.

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: After listening to Wolves center Nikola Pekovic talk about the pain he’s been trying to play through – the pain in his right Achilles tendon that ultimately forced him out of tonight’s game midway through the first quarter – it’s hard not to think this injury might linger for a while. There was no tweaking of the injury tonight. Pekovic said the pain – he called it a bruise – has been bothering him for a week or more, growing worse by the day. The back-to-back games Friday and Saturday really got to him. “It got really, really bad,” he said. “It just hurt all the time. ... I tried to play tonight, but I couldn’t.” Pekovic will see a doctor Tuesday morning for more tests. It’s possible a tentative timeline for his return could be set then. Meanwhile, in his absence, Ronny Turiaf had his best scoring night in three years. He was actually kind of amazing tonight.

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: Chris Paul got in a good, strong workout before the Clippers played the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night. Paul got in a good sweat shooting jumpers and runners. He got in a good sweat running up and down the court after he shot. But Paul still is a ways away from playing because of a separated right shoulder. The original timetable had Paul out up to six weeks, meaning he would be out another three weeks, returning sometime in mid-February. "No one said there were any changes or a deadline or anything," Coach Doc Rivers said. "But he feels great. I still think it's All-Star break, in that area. I don't think that changed." ... Rivers said the final decision on when Paul will return will be up to the Clippers' team doctors and head athletic trainer Jasen Powell.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Clipper guard J.J. Redick truly never fit with last season's Bucks team after arriving at the February trade deadline. The Bucks had high hopes they could move up in the playoff seedings, possibly to the sixth spot. But instead they slumped at the end of the season and wound up eighth. Brandon Jennings expressed reservations on the first day after the Bucks acquired Redick in the deal with Orlando, one that sent promising young forward Tobias Harris to the Magic, along with Doron Lamb and Beno Udrih. ... Redick declined to call the Bucks a dysfunctional team last season but admitted it was a struggle after he arrived in late February. "From a team standpoint, I think everybody embraced me and I got along with everybody," Redick said. "To me, it was kind of a perfect storm ... there was some redundancy on the roster. Jim (Boylan) was trying his hardest. An interim coach is always in a tough spot. A lot of guys were in their free-agent years. "It was a challenging situation for a lot of guys to work through some stuff and I was no different." Redick said he still thought the Bucks could have done better.

  • Brad Rock of the Deseret News: A few fans still wear BYU replica jerseys when Jimmer Fredette returns to Utah. They still occasionally call for their coach to put him in. But just like Tebowing, Jimmermania is finally quieting down. The media contingent waiting for him after warm-ups Monday at EnergySolutions Arena consisted of one. Fredette wouldn’t go so far as to say it was a relief, but clearly he wasn’t disappointed. “Yeah. No, I mean it’s definitely good, but I just try to focus, come in play to the best of my ability,” Fredette diplomatically said. “Hopefully we can get all distractions behind and get out and play and have a good time and get a win.” ... A source close to the Jazz says they wouldn’t have picked him even if he had been available with the 12th pick. Either way, Fredette needs a change of scenery, and he’ll likely get it since he’s a free agent next summer. But that won’t drastically alter the picture. ... Turnovers, defense, trouble getting open … the story doesn’t change. Fredette is in an uneasy place. But he can shoot. The question is whether more shots will ever come his way.

  • Tony Bizjak, Dale Kasler and Ryan Lillis of The Sacramento Bee: The Sacramento Kings unveiled final drawings of their planned $448 million downtown arena Monday, depicting a see-through building they say captures what is quintessentially Sacramento, without looking quite like anything else that has been built here. Following their vow to create an indoor-outdoor building that does justice to Sacramento’s warm climate, team architects gave the arena a half-block-long front entry dominated by five glass aircraft hangar doors that can fold upward to create a five-story opening, allowing people in the arena plaza and even motorists on nearby J Street to see directly into the facility. The structure’s facade is a distinctive silvery-white series of vertical panels made out of patterned glass, perforated, see-through aluminum, and Sierra limestone. The adjacent public plaza is envisioned as a microcosm of the region’s agriculture and outdoor lifestyle, with tomatoes growing in hydroponic gardens, an outdoor grandstand or grassy amphitheater facing the arena’s open face, and a sunken area, called a “bosque,” lined with almond trees. The arena’s facade patterns – or fritting – will depict leaves and trees.