First Cup: Thursday

  • Dale Kasler of The Sacramento Bee: New NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gave the design for the new Kings arena a ringing endorsement Wednesday and said he has no doubt the venue will get built despite a possible public vote on the project. “No worries from the league office standpoint,” Silver told reporters at halftime of the Kings-Toronto game at Sleep Train Arena. “I’m absolutely confident it’s going to get done.” Standing next to Silver, Kings Chairman Vivek Ranadive all but dismissed the possibility that Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork, or STOP, could somehow derail the project. “We’re going to be on schedule with this arena,” Ranadive said. “I know they’re called STOP, but this is a ‘Go.’ ” ... The new commissioner said he will see the downtown location on this visit, although it wasn’t clear as of late Wednesday when that would happen.

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Somewhat overlooked in the reemergence of center Greg Oden from more than four seasons of inactivity has been the play of Chris Andersen as backup center to Chris Bosh. "He's been a consistent force for us, with his energy, his toughness," Spoelstra said of the player known as Birdman. "The two Chrises now have a symmetry together. They feel very comfortable and they're productive together. What you're seeing now is Bird is healthy. A full training camp, a better understanding of what you're doing and it's making him even quicker and more active."

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: It's true. Nothing's shocking anymore. The Lakers were seemingly down to four players but beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, 119-108, with help from an obscure rule that kept Robert Sacrein Wednesday's game after he picked up his sixth personal foul. The Lakers started with only eight players in uniform, lost two because of health reasons (Nick Young, Jordan Farmar) and then another two because of fouls (Chris Kaman, Sacre). So referee Jason Phillips saved the Lakers' day at Quicken Loans Arena. He informed them that Sacre could stay on the court despite picking up his sixth foul on a drive by CJ Miles with 3:32 to play. The only remaining Lakers were already on the court — Wesley Johnson, Ryan Kelly, Steve Blake, Kendall Marshall — and a team cannot drop to four players if there are no other options. Sacre was allowed to keep playing, a technical foul was assessed for the infraction and Cleveland made the free throw. The Lakers were ahead at the time of the foul, 111-101. "That was the craziest game I've ever seen," said Kaman, the 11-year veteran.

  • Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com: Portland Trail Blazers All-Star guard Damian Lillard has accepted the league’s invitation to participate in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star Weekend in New Orleans, a league source informed CSNNW.com. We reported a few days ago that Lillard was pondering the idea of displaying his ups on the grandest stage and now we’re told he is all in. It doesn’t stop there, however. The NBA has broached Lillard with an attractive, unprecedented opportunity. They’ve asked him to consider the Three-Point Shooting Contest as well, another source relayed to CSNNW.com. So far, the reigning Rookie of the Year is committed to defending his Skills Challenge title; he’s competing in the Dunk Contest, the Rising Stars Challenge and the All-Star game. No player in the history of the game has ever competed in all five All-Star Weekend events in the same weekend. The NBA will announce those participating on Thursday.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Nobody from the Thunder will say it. For them, it’s just another win, just another night that was used to get better. But don’t let the company line fool you. This was a big win. Not because of the opponent, or because of how it was done. This win was monumental because it was the Thunder’s 40th this season. OKC became the first team this year to hit that 40-win mark, a number that 40 percent of the league probably won’t see this year. And the Thunder did so four games before the All-Star break. Chalk that up next to the rest of the evidence that shows just how powerful this team is. No James Harden. No Kevin Martin. No Russell Westbrook. No problem. The Thunder just keeps on winning, developing in all the right areas while trucking along and making hardships look like a joke.

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: The Dallas Mavericks have been a poor rebounding team more often than not this season, but that trend is slowly starting to reverse itself. Wednesday’s work on the glass was proof that they have finally realized just how crucial that aspect of the game is to their success. It’s been a major focus for them over the last couple weeks and the numbers have shown that their efforts are paying off. After getting whacked on the glass by 39 over a three-game stretch in mid-January, they won the rebounding battle by an average of 3.3 boards per game over the next six games, including a 35-32 advantage against Memphis on Wednesday night. The Grizzlies are one of the toughest rebounding teams in the league. “We’ve done some better things on the boards the last week or 10 days,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’ve been seeing a lot of very good rebounding teams. It’s a heightened challenge.” One they have been rising to collectively.

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Vitor Faverani’s ping pong existence between the Celtics and Maine Red Claws may be a little disorienting from the non-stop commuting, though the rookie center said yesterday that he’s appreciative of the playing time. But there may now be a slight pause in the schedule. Faverani rejoined the Celtics yesterday morning with a sore left knee after scoring 27 points in Maine’s loss to the Delaware 87ers in Newark, Del., on Tuesday night. He will have an MRI taken on the knee today, and said he had trouble moving the joint yesterday. That doesn’t make the Brazilian big man any less willing to make the extra travel. On Tuesday that meant practicing with the Celtics in Waltham, flying with the team to Philadelphia, taking a side trip to Delaware for the game, and riding back to Philadelphia later that night. In a pure basketball sense, the travel has been worth it. In four games with the Red Claws, Faverani has averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds over an especially vital 32.5 minutes per game. “It’s my job. I’m a basketball player,” he said.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: The most important draft in rookie Victor Oladipo's life, of course, was the 2013 NBA Draft when the Magic selected him second overall. But on Thursday night, he'll be involved in another draft when Turner Sports NBA analysts Grant Hill and Chris Webber select players onto teams for the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star weekend. Oladipo is one of 18 first- and second-year players who have been selected for the exhibition. The Rising Stars Challenge draft will be held on TNT's pregame show. Oladipo didn't know about the draft's day and time until it was mentioned to him on Wednesday morning. "I didn't even know that it was going on, but it'll be interesting to see who I'm going to be playing with and playing against," Oladipo said. "It should be fun." Players from the exhibition's winning team will receive $25,000 apiece. Players from the losing team will receive $10,000 apiece.

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: And shooting guard Eric Gordon has also made among the fewest trips to the team's bustling infirmary so far, missing just three games with a badly bruised right hip he sustained in a fall against the Sacramento Kings two days before his 25th birthday, which is also Christmas Day. Heading into Wednesday night's 105-100 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, Gordon had played a team-leading 1,435 minutes, the most he has logged since being traded to New Orleans in Dec. 2011. Eric Gordon, iron man. Dogged by knee, back and ankle ailments through his first two years here, which limited his on-court appearances to 51 of a possible 148 regular season games, Gordon will pass that collective two-year activity threshold next Wednesday in Milwaukee when the Pelicans meet the Milwaukee Bucks. Gordon likely will soon accumulate more minutes this season than he has in the last two combined (1,574). Provided, of course, he doesn't find his name on the ballooning list of injured Pelicans

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: A clever, multi-skilled offensive player, Boris Diaw has been about what the Spurs were hoping for when they picked the portly Frenchman up on waivers near the start of the 2012 playoffs. He’s the hoops equivalent of salsa: Not meant to be the main course, but makes everything else taste better. The surprise has come on the defensive end, where Diaw’s apparent lack of physical tools — little height or length, minimal athleticism, the physique of an overindulgent relief pitcher — mask the skills of a stopper. Or at the very least, a suitable container. Love. LeBron. Griffin. Nowitzki. Aldridge. OK, scratch that last one; it seems that nobody in a Spurs uniform has any hope of guarding Portland’s stud power forward. But otherwise, Diaw generally holds his own no matter what the matchup. ... So as far as defense goes, he’s somewhere in the middle: Surprisingly solid in individual matchups, but lacking in the bigger picture thanks to his physical limitations. On any given night, that’s good enough to meet the Spurs’ needs.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Rockets rookies Robert Covington and Isaiah Canaan, on the Rockets roster for very different reasons, said they’d like to play in the NBA Development League All-Star game in New Orleans next week, but both would have to be sent back to the D-League to be eligible. Covington was called up when the Rockets were overrun with injuries, but could be sent back to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers this week. Canaan was called up on an injury rehab assignment. “It would be a great thing, but I would like to play and get my feet back wet since I haven’t played in a couple games,” Covington said. “If they send me back down, I’ll be fine with that. (Playing in the All-Star game) would be something to do and go have fun. Not too many people are selected to do that and get called up in that time frame. It’s a blessing.” Covington said he would not have an issue with going back to the D-League. Canaan said he hopes to be cleared to practice sometime next week. The Vipers have two games remaining this week, but do not play again until after the All-Star game.

  • Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post: Smiles. At the end of the day, it’s the interaction that matters most. Genuine interaction. It’s Kenneth Faried holding an athlete’s hand and helping him to dribble. It’s Timofey Mozgov lifting a kid up to a rim eight or nine feet waaay up there to dunk a basketball. It’s the smile on coach Brian Shaw’s face as he took moments to step back and watch it all unfold. The Nuggets are one of the few teams in the NBA that holds a full-team participatory Special Olympics event. Tuesday was that day this season, a basketball skills clinic, following the team’s late morning practice. And, as usual, it was a smash success. “To have the entire Nuggets roster out here to do an exclusive hour-and-a-half clinic for a 125 of our athletes is really special,” said Amy Turner, Special Olympics VP of Communications.