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First Cup: Friday

  • Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer: Now in his 12th season, LeBorn James is feeling his age of 30. He knows the time to win is now. It's hard to have patience with a rookie head coach in terms of NBA experience, It's obvious that James and some of the other veterans have not fully bought into Blatt. His success in Europe means little to them. Furthermore, he has had several rookie head coaching moments in terms of handling time outs and other game issues. I also have been a persistent critic of Blatt playing James too many minutes, because I feared all the wear-and-tear on his legs. In the last five seasons, no NBA player has played more minutes (including playoffs) than James. This roster is a very different from the one first inherited by Blatt -- and it's no surprise that the ride has been rocky. The problem for Blatt is that he has to prove himself to the key players -- rather than the players needing to show the coach what they can deliver. ... If needed, the Cavs have two viable head coaching possibilities on their own bench right now in Drew and Lue. All of this puts Blatt in a very precarious position, and he needs the team to quickly turn around (they are 5-5 in the last 10 games) to keep his job.

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Hawks’ success this season has been built on a foundation of defense. DeMarre Carroll is the unquestioned defensive stopper on the team. While his selection to the NBA All-Star game is the longest shot of the Hawks’ starters, a case can be made for the small forward. Carroll routinely guards the opposition’s top non-big offensive threat. With his versatility, he has guarded point guards, shooting guards and small forwards. “We talk a lot about the only way we are going to be good is if we are good on both ends of the court,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “DeMarre really sets the tone for us defensively, gives us our spirit and our identity. I just think that end of the court isn’t appreciated enough, isn’t given enough accolades and attention. We’ve got a long way to go defensively, but where we are, he plays a huge role in that.” Carroll makes no secret of his desire to an All-NBA Defensive team. The All-Star game is known to be an offensive showcase, with scores routinely reach 150 points. So why not throw a little defense into the exhibition?

  • Mark Strotman of CSN Chicago: Derrick Rose was listening throughout Thursday's game as Denver Nuggets coaches instructed their players in-game on how to guard the former MVP. So when Rose, whose shooting slump had continued much of the evening, pulled up from 21 feet on the left wing - right in front of the Denver bench - and buried a jumper to give the Bulls a five-point lead with 24.2 seconds left, he looked back and stared down the Nuggets bench. What he's said all year remained true in a fourth quarter in which he scored 13 points: Derrick Rose is not going to stop shooting. "I’m not going to let anyone dictate the way that I play," Rose said after the Bulls' 106-101 victory, their tenth in the last 12 games. "They’re giving me shots, I’m going to take them. Shots that I normally make, I’m going to keep taking them. I could care less about what anyone says or talks about my game. They’re giving me shots, I should be able to make them shots." Rose entered Thursday's game in one of the worst shooting slumps of his career. Following a 5-for-6 start on Saturday against the Pelicans, he had made 10 of his last 47 shots, including a 5-for-20 outing in Indiana and a 2-for-15 performance in a loss to the Nets on Tuesday.

  • Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post: It's no secret that Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried opened the eyes of those who got to see him up-close playing for Team USA last summer. One of the coaches who has become a big Faried fan is Chicago's Tom Thibodeau. Thibodeau was asked about Faried before the Nuggets and Bulls met Thursday night at the United Center. "He's very talented and a great worker," Thibodeau said. "He's as good as it gets in terms of rebounding and his quick reaction to the ball. He sprints the floor offensively. He has great hands. He has really worked hard at his shooting and has improved in that area as well. His energy is a great talent. It's really off the charts. He's had some big games for them. You're talking 25-point, 25-rebound games. Those are pretty special performances. This summer, he was terrific. He was a big multiple-effort guy who can cover a lot of ground defensively. His intensity is special."

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Kings coach Tyrone Corbin wants to go back to how the team operated to start the season when it comes to playing defense. The Kings began the season with a strong emphasis on defense, but with the coaching change to Corbin on Dec. 14, the focus has been on offense and the defense has lost its edge. Corbin has tried to put his own touch on what the Kings do on both ends of the floor but is prepared to back off that plan on defense. “We’ve tried to change a couple calls,” Corbin said before the Kings played the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday at Target Center. “We’re probably going to go back to where we were before. The communication has slacked up some (with) the miscommunications in some pick-and-roll coverages. It’s just to clarify some things and make sure we’re on the same page there.” In the first eight games since Corbin took over for the fired Michael Malone, the Kings allowed 112.3 points per game and have given up season highs for points twice and surrendered several other season highs.

  • Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press: Scoring is not the only solution. That's the message for Timberwolves second-year forward Anthony Bennett and other young players who believe shooting is the best way to affect a game. "That's the biggest thing for them to overcome mentally: making shots is part of the game, but it's not the main part," Wolves coach Flip Saunders said. Instead, Saunders has implored Bennett to be consistently aggressive, communicate efficiently, rebound with grit and play solid defense. "We need someone that does dirty work for us," Saunders said. "We have a lot of guys that are more finesse-type players. We need some dirty-work-type players."

  • Fred Kerber of the New York Post: Brook Lopez is set on any follow-up Star Wars movies. He really wants to be a Wookiee. And he may have an in. “My friend works on the set,” Lopez said. “I don’t want to jinx it, but pretty good so far.” Wookiees are hairy 7-foot critters that tear enemy arms from their sockets. But do they have love interests? “I hope so,” Lopez said. “Are there blonde Wookiees? I wonder.”