<
>

First Cup: Friday

  • Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: From the moment he embarked down this trailblazing path, Jason Collins has said that he’d turn the other cheek when faced with ignorance, accepting that he can’t control the words and actions of idiots. He was tested once during his first month with the Brooklyn Nets, although the NBA’s first openly gay player understandably doesn’t want to give attention to the “knucklehead” or his comments. After all, most everything else about his groundbreaking experience on the court and in the locker room has been positive. And Collins handled the negativity like he anticipated with a silent disregard. “One player, one knucklehead from another team,” Collins said in an interview with the Daily News. “He’s a knucklehead. So I just let it go. Again, that goes back to controlling what you can control. That’s how I conduct myself just being professional.” Collins is bringing that mind-set into his first trip through multiple Bible Belt states this season, when the Nets leave Saturday for games in Dallas, New Orleans and Charlotte. He understands the insinuations when the trip is brought up as potentially worrisome, but Collins seems to be assuming the best while prepared for everything else.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Drew Gooden wasn’t taunting, just flaunting, when he decided to celebrate his big shots with shoulder shrugs over the past two games. His post-bucket antics have attracted some attention – both positive and negative – but Gooden said Thursday at the Wizards’ morning shootaround at Moda Center that the shrugs are more about getting himself going than showing up anybody else. “That ain’t the MJ,” Gooden said, referencing Michael Jordan’s infamous shoulder shrug in the 1992 NBA Finals. “It’s kind of like, ‘What I got to do? What else I got to do?’ ” Gooden still hasn’t made it clear to whom he is asking for a response. But he said Thursday that he might have to find a new way to express himself after his go-to move inspired a furious performance from Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins in the Wizards’ disappointing 117-111 overtime loss on Tuesday at Sleep Train Arena. Cousins scored 19 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter as the Wizards squandered an 11-point fourth-quarter lead – and a five-point lead with 24 seconds left. He also grabbed a critical offensive rebound in the final seconds that set up a three-pointer by Isaiah Thomas. “We got to get away from the shrug because guys coming in scoring 19 in the fourth quarter,” Gooden said. “If that fueled him, then we got to try something else."

  • Erik Gundersen of The Columbian: Portland's Thomas Robinson, for the first time in his NBA career, feels like he's settled in somewhere. "I'm just comfortable. I feel like this is it," he said. "This is what it is. I'm going to be a Blazer, I'm a Blazer. Now it's all about focusing and winning games and helping my team besides 'am I going to get traded?' So I can be here." Although the playing time has been scarce at times, he's been playing more without LaMarcus Aldridge in the line-up. In March, Robinson's minutes have gone up slightly but he's been more efficient while still maintaining his rebounding. Another positive for Robinson as of late that has troubled him in his early career is that he isn't getting his shots blocked as he hasn't had any blocks made against him according to NBA.com. Now that the feeling of being a Blazer is sinking in, Robinson just wants to find consistency.

  • Diamond Leung of The Oakland Tribune: Warriors coach Mark Jackson insisted that beating the Bucks was a good win. The reason? His team had struggled against such Eastern Conference teams at home before, and frankly, these aregames the Warriors might have lost in the past. “As a coach, you’re not going to be satisfied with giving up 35 points in fourth quarter, but I’m also not going to nitpick,” Jackson said. “The bottom line is we made progress because we beat two teams that we were supposed to beat in our building (Orlando and Milwaukee this week).” The Warriors of course didn’t want the game to be such a close one. But Jackson noted that Milwaukee, a team with nothing to play for, played loose and had something to prove just like it did when it took Portland to overtime before losing two days earlier. The Warriors tried to deliver knockout blows, but simply couldn’t do it until the final minute when Klay Thompson hit a big 3-pointer. The Warriors are now a season-high 18 games over .500, something the team hasn’t achieved in 20 years. Jackson, said.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Nate Wolters seemed indestructible. But even the rookie guard fell victim to an injury on Thursday night when he fractured his left hand in the Milwaukee Bucks’ 115-110 loss to Golden State at Oracle Arena. It was the latest injury added to the insulting season the Bucks are having. They dropped their sixth straight game to fall to a 13-56 record, despite another gritty performance against a superior opponent. Wolters hurt his hand on one of the first plays of the game and actually returned and played a few more minutes before realizing that throbbing he felt was something serious. X-rays taken in the locker room revealed the fracture. It’s not certain if the former South Dakota State player will be able to return this season but he is out for the remainder of the western trip and will be examined by team physician Michael Gordon.

  • Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle: For the second straight game, center Omer Asik started in place of Dwight Howard, who is out with an ankle injury. And for the second straight night, Asik had a big impact as the Rockets defeated Minnesota 129-106 on Thursday at Toyota Center. Asik finished with 12 points, five rebounds and four blocked shots. His teammate, guard Jeremy Lin, isn’t surprised. He played alongside Asik last year when the two started. Lin said he is happy Asik wasn’t traded after early season rumors swirled about the big man’s fate in Houston. “If we didn’t have him, we wouldn’t have a center," Lin said. "Thankfully, he stayed with us past the trade deadline. He is a very big part of what we are trying to do." Lin, who comes off the bench this season, said he hopes Asik is seeing how important he is to the Rockets’ success.

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: Yes, Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman confirmed it before Thursday night’s game at Houston: That indeed was a floater point guard Ricky Rubio lofted over a Dallas defender during a Wednesday performance when he delivered his third career triple-double with a 22-point, 15-assist, 10-rebound night. So did Rubio himself. "Yeah, it was," he said. "It was." Rubio has struggled to score around the basket all season, but he attacked aggressively from the beginning of Wednesday’s 123-122 overtime victory over the Mavericks. Included in his repertoire was that a seldom-seen running floater used to counter approaching shot blockers. “He definitely has to develop that shot,” Adelman said. “He has to learn how to get shots off when he gets into that area because when their big guys are there, he has to get over them. [San Antonio point guard] Tony Parker developed that shot and it makes him so difficult to guard. We’ve worked on that with him, but it’s got to come in the games. It’s got to translate into the games." Rubio said he has studied Parker’s shot, and he is working on his own.

  • Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman: It may not be mid-January, when Kevin Durant was snagging headlines with legendary performances and outrageous scoring totals. But of late, KD has been equally as impactful and nearly as statistically dominant. This month, he’s averaging 33.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists. And in the past two games — two solid and needed road wins — Durant has compiled 70 points, 23 rebounds, 11 assists and only one turnover. With LeBron and the Heat struggling, KD is starting to create some separation in the MVP chase. And while doing so, he’s nearing another scoring milestone. Durant’s streak of 25-plus points has hit 33 games, only seven away from Michael Jordan’s 40 — the longest in the past 50 years.

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: Dion Waiters was waiting for Mike Brown in his office after the coach finished with his postgame press conference Thursday. The two chatted with the door closed for a few minutes. No idea what the meeting was about, but Waiters took responsibility for the Cavs’ inability to rebound affectively. You’d think that would fall on the center who failed to grab a rebound during his first 25 minutes on the floor, but Waiters took the blame after grabbing two in 41 minutes. “I have to get back down there and help the bigs rebound. I can’t always depend on them to get the rebounds. I take blame for that tonight,” he said. “As guards, we have to rebound too and I don’t think my focus was as good as it should’ve been on rebounding.” He can blame himself for rebounding if he’d like, but Waiters was terrific scoring the ball on a night they really needed it. This was his third career 30-point game and second this season. His other one came in that embarrassing loss at Atlanta. In fact, the Cavs have lost in all three games Waiters has scored 30 points or more.