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First Cup: Friday

  • Sean Meagher of The Oregonian: The Portland Trail Blazers will be without leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge for the next 6-8 weeks as the three-time All-Star will have surgery on a torn ligament in his left hand. The Blazers, who have lost five of their last six games following Thursday's 90-89 loss to the Boston Celtics, refuse to feel sorry for themselves despite a rash of injuries (which included Nicolas Batum re-aggravating a sore wrist) over the last month. "I don't want to get into not having LaMarcus and I don't want to get into having Nic out there," head coach Terry Stotts said after the game. "Everybody knows what Nic can bring and what LA brings, so we have to figure out different ways of scoring and sometimes different ways of playing." "We've got to hold down the fort," added guard Wesley Matthews. "We've got to figure it out. We've got to find ways to win and continue to play basketball the right way."

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: Forward Brandon Bass replaced center Tyler Zeller in the Celts’ first five, because with LaMarcus Aldridge (left hand) and Robin Lopez (right hand fracture) out, Portland spreads the floor more, and, said Stevens before the 90-89 win, “We’ve got to be more mobile and a little more versatile defensively, I think.” The Celtics also have to be more prepared for change, which follows quite naturally considering all the trades the club has made recently. “I told our guys this, we can be pretty fluid on some of this stuff and not say anything is set in stone, because, you know, our team’s not in position to have things set in stone,” Stevens said. “We’re not accomplished enough to say we have to have one starting lineup right now.” The trading of Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green has taken two locks from the starting lineup. “I think it puts more on the guys that are in the locker room to become older than they are in some ways,” said Stevens. “It also puts a lot more onus on our older players."

  • Mark Strotman of CSN Chicago: Confidence was something Derrick Rose did not have just three days prior. With a stone-cold look on his face, Rose spoke of the Bulls needingto communicate better, needing to show effort and needing to produce the way they had during their winning streak in December. Rose's postgame interview in Cleveland sparked enough attention that the Bulls called a team meeting on Tuesday in place of practice. And though Rose admitted after Thursday's game that the meeting was positive, the Bulls still needed to show they could reclaim their spot among the East's elite on the floor. "You can say whatever you want to say until you step on the court. It’s all about action. What are you going to do when you’re on the court?" Rose said. "Tonight everyone was focused and everyone took everything serious that we said in that room." And what was said at Tuesday's meeting? "Do anything for the team. Give yourself up for the team," Rose recalled confidently. "It’s only one goal, and that’s to win a championship." Thursday night, led by Rose, the Bulls inched closer to that goal.

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: Spurs guard Danny Green on Thursday finally got to pay an on-court tribute to his friend Stuart Scott, the ESPN broadcaster who died Jan. 4 after a lengthy battle with cancer. Green’s tribute to Scott, a fellow alumnus of North Carolina, came in the form of a specially made pair of shoes emblazoned with “Stu” on one side and “Booyah,” Scott’s signature call as anchor on “SportsCenter,” on the other. Green had planned to wear the shoes in Tuesday’s game against the Nuggets, but required approval from the NBA did not come in time for that game.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Giannis Antetokounmpo smiled when asked if he is taking part in the All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk Contest in New York in mid-February. The Milwaukee Bucks second-year forward did not confirm or deny a published report that he has been invited to be part of the dunk contest, to be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Feb. 14. But his smile may have given him away. "I would take the challenge," Antetokounmpo said Thursday night after the Bucks fell to the Utah Jazz at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. "It would be a nice experience. I'm just going to go there and have fun. It's not the day to talk about it. We had a bad loss, so we've just got to focus on another game." ... Asked if he would go to the drawing board to find a creative dunk, Antetokounmpo said, "I will figure out something." An official announcement from the league on the dunk participants is expected in early February.

  • Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune: Imagine this: Trey Burke crosses his man over at the top of the key. He gets into the lane and encounters Utah Jazz teammate Rudy Gobert in the paint, then tries to shoot a floater that Gobert sends into the stands. The scenario is not far-fetched. Recently, the NBA changed its format with the rookie-sophomore game on All-Star weekend. Now, the world team will play against the U.S. team, putting Burke and Gobert potentially on opposing teams. "It's a good idea," Gobert said. "Especially this year. The international team has a lot of talent, a lot of guys who can play. So it will be interesting." Between the rookies and sophomores, the Jazz have four guys who can potentially make the game: Gobert, Burke, Dante Exum and Joe Ingles. All have played significant roles this season. Gobert and Burke seem to be good bets to make it, as both have put up good numbers. Exum is one of the glamour draft picks of a ballyhooed rookie class, and his ascent into a starting role on Thursday could propel him into the mix over the next few weeks. Ingles seems like the one who could have the most difficult time making the team. "I think this is definitely a good idea," Exum said.

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: Doc Rivers said he has reached out to free agent Ray Allen to let the guard know the Clippers would like for him to play for Los Angeles. "Yeah, I'm very interested," Rivers said. "He's good." But Rivers also knows he has competition for Allen, who played for Rivers in Boston when the Celtics won the 2008 NBA championship. There was a report that when Cleveland forward LeBron James was in Miami recently rehabilitating his back and left knee, he met with Allen. "Yeah, that's going to be tough to beat," Rivers said.

  • Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: The parallels between the Clippers and Nets, once deep, have dwindled to the long-standing obvious: They are the second-class citizens of their respective basketball markets, overwhelmed by the fans of their ingrained, historic neighbors. From there, the Clippers are the enviable contrast to Brooklyn and its mistakes, as illustrated by a 123-84 drubbing Thursday night so emphatic that both teams emptied their benches halfway through the third quarter. Jay Z, Beyonce and Floyd Mayweather Jr. (with his enormous bodyguards) had a front-row seat to Brooklyn’s embarrassment, by far the worst performance (or non-effort) of the season. Layup by layup, dunk by dunk, the Nets allowed the Clippers to run amok in the paint. Los Angeles built a 33-point lead in the first half, outscoring the Nets 36-14 in a second quarter that sealed Brooklyn’s defeat. The enormous deficit swelled to 45 in the third quarter, and 46 in the fourth, as bored fans turned their attention to Mayweather and chanted, “We want Pacquiao.” The Nets flirted with surpassing the worst loss in franchise history — a 52-point defeat to the Rockets in 1978. But Brooklyn’s reserves made sure the humiliation wasn’t record-breaking. “Our game plan was obliterated by their play,” Nets coach Lionel Hollins said. “Glad it’s over.”