First Cup: Thursday

  • Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post: "We've gone too far now, the way we always go too far these days. We've made Gilbert Arenas Public Enemy No. 1, which is absurd. Look, Arenas has, by himself, brought about the trouble he's in. And in short time it could be deemed criminal behavior, having those guns in the District of Columbia. Still, is Arenas so evil that all the merchandise bearing his name and number has to be pulled from Verizon Center? And from the NBA Store in New York? And from NBAStore.com, where you couldn't even customize a jersey and have Arenas's name on it? Is what he did so heinous his likeness has to be scrubbed off of every building in downtown Washington, like he's Al Capone? I'm not about to back away from my earlier position, that if I ran the Wizards I'd try to have the remainder of his $111 million contract voided, and that I understand the league-ordered suspension for that ridiculous pregame pantomime in Philadelphia of firing pistols and his overall cavalier attitude about the offense. But don't tell me we have to go as far as Sethi saying in 'The Ten Commandments': 'Let the name of Moses be stricken from every book and tablet. Stricken from every pylon and obelisk of Egypt. Let the name of Moses be unheard and unspoken, erased from the memory of man, for all time.' Is that really what we want to do with Gilbert Arenas, which is the direction in which the ridicule seems to be taking us?"

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "You think Geoff Petrie and the Maloofs aren't thinking that, finally, after the devastating Webber injury and its debilitating impact on the franchise, that the basketball gods aren't gazing favorably on Sacramento? Not only is Griffin ailing, but Tyreke Evans was on the draft board only because Memphis selected Hasheem Thabeet, Oklahoma City took James Harden, and Petrie and Paul Westphal made the wise decision to draft the gifted Evans instead of Jonny Flynn, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings or Ricky Rubio, despite the club's obvious need for a true point guard and a charismatic personaltiy/player to boost ticket sales. There is no such thing as a Comeback Executive of the Year award, but if there were, Petrie is the leading candidate. Evans. Omri Casspi. Jon Brockman. And why do I suspect he's going to pull off one of his infamous trades by the Feb. 18 deadline? Sometimes you just have to ride the wave."

  • Dave Krieger of The Denver Post: "In the euphoria following their smackdown of the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night, it was tempting to conclude that the Nuggetscan contend for an NBA championship just the way they are. But judging by the smoke emanating from the association's rumor mill, the front office isn't buying it. In recent days, the Nuggets have been rumored to be pursuing everyone from veteran Indiana big man Jeff Foster to young Toronto star Chris Bosh as they seek another big man in anticipation of a possible rematch with the Lakers in the Western Conference playoffs. Unfortunately, a deal is more easily discussed than done. Having allowed their big trade exception from the Chauncey Billups-Allen Iverson deal to expire at the beginning of the season, the Nuggets will have to be creative to make something happen in the trade market. Their only remaining trade exception is worth just $3 million — not enough to get anything significant done. So they will have to trade a member of their playing rotation, find a team willing to take all the flotsam from the end of their bench, or construct a three-team deal in which the third team can absorb some extra salary. ... As Wednesday's powerful display demonstrated, the Nuggets are tantalizingly close to being true championship contenders. Between now and Feb. 18, they'll have to decide whether they are willing to take one more step."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "With a new preppie-style 'do, Dirk Nowitzki used an old friend, the fadeaway jumper on the baseline, to surpass 20,000 points for his career. It's something Nowitzki will remember for a lifetime. But as coach Rick Carlisle said: 'He'd rather have the win than 20,000 points. That's where the disappointment is. You got a guy who is pure basketball heart. He'd do anything to win any ball game and wouldn't care how many points he scored.' There isn't enough of that attitude showing through with the Mavericks these days. Their home record keeps slipping, now at 12-7. They had hoped Wednesday night would be the start of a multi-step process toward improving their home identity. ... Maybe it was predictable. You had to figure the Lakers weren't going to get swept in San Antonio and Dallas. After getting pounded by the Spurs, the Lakers had an edge to them. It's something the Mavericks are still looking for at AAC."

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: "Kobe Bryant was there for his team again Wednesday night, and the result for the Lakers wound up even more inspiring than if Bryant had reached into his back, ripped out his annoying spine and tossed it aside like a sweaty towel before going for 50. Bryant went for 10, and his teammates went for 90. 'Great win,' Bryant said. 'I love the win even more because it gives our bench new life. It gives them confidence; they've been struggling for awhile.' ... Lamar Odom said they were talking Wednesday afternoon about how without Pau Gasol and with a creaky Bryant, 'We were just going to go. No letting the game come to us.' The previous night, Bryant had tried to get that across to Artest while they rode the team bus away from the arena in San Antonio. When I later told Bryant what Odom had said and wondered if Bryant's sore back had actually helped Odom and Artest register what they can do, Bryant replied with surprising animation at the end of such a long day. Said Bryant: 'I thought, 'It's about (expletive) time. It's about time. What the (heck) you guys waiting for? Don't sit around and wait for me to bail your (butts) out all the time. Get going -- because it makes us a better team. Don't worry about me. You've got to be aggressive.' ' Just as those fans who admire Bryant still don't fully get him, the teammates who admire him need to understand, too. He pushes his limits for his own reasons. But he does think it should trigger more than a fleeting thought in your head: You are quite capable of more, too."

  • John DeShazier of The Times-Picayune: "Wire to wire it was a wonderful Wednesday for the New Orleans Hornets, with majority owner George Shinn having successful surgery in the morning to remove his prostate after being diagnosed with cancer in November, and his team disposing of the Los Angeles Clippers at night. One event obviously dwarfed the other in importance. From all indications, Shinn, whose prostate cancer was diagnosed early, is set for a complete recovery after his operation at Johns Hopkins Institute in Baltimore. But knowing the way Shinn feels about his team, don't doubt that the best thing the Hornets could've done for him Wednesday night is exactly what they did -- beat the Clippers 108-94 at the New Orleans Arena, giving them a 3-0 lead in the four-game season series. 'I know that's what he'd want us to do,' Chris Paul said."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plan Dealer: "The conspiracy theorists were right, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade did end up together. Only, it was by chance outside a store in San Francisco. Both the Cavs and Miami Heat were in town Tuesday night, the Cavs idling with two days off before their next game and the Heat in town early to face the Warriors Wednesday night. Out separately with teammates, James and Wade ran into each other and spent some time together talking. If anyone had a camera phone, it might have led to headlines and stories about their plans for next summer when both are expected to become free agents. 'We just saw each other around, shopping and things of that nature,' Wade told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. 'If someone took a picture, they might come out with a story, but there's nothing to it.' "

  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: "A rumor regarding Tracy McGrady received far more airplay than it deserved Tuesday. McGrady is on leave from the Houston Rockets and working out in Chicago with trainer Tim Grover, hoping for a trade. The Bulls have some interest, but only if they can increase their cap space for next summer. McGrady has an expiring contract worth $23 million. Any Houston trade would most likely wait until the Feb. 18 trade deadline with all NBA teams exploring their options in the meantime. There is no chance the Bulls would give up Joakim Noah in such a deal. A more likely package would be John Salmons, Brad Miller and Jerome James for McGrady and some filler."

  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "This may not mean much, especially since it happened when his team had already embarrassed itself inside of five minutes in its own gym, turning the rest of the game into a why-did-we-show-up-again proposition for players and fans alike. But Devin Harris, who is supposed to be far too mild-mannered to have his point-of-the-lance moment, lost his temper Wednesday night. He didn’t show it publicly -- the Nets didn’t show much of anything, other than their timid side in their 111-87 rollover against the Boston Celtics, actually -- but he was just cranky enough at halftime to get his teammates’ attention. Again, it may not mean a thing. But this team is 3-35, and very little gets their attention nowadays, so they brought it up for a reason. 'Devin was pretty upset,' Chris Douglas-Roberts said. 'It wasn’t a speech. It was just letting off some frustration, that’s pretty much it. But it was good to see. That’s the first time I’ve seen him let off some frustration like that. It was good. I’d rather see that.' Of course, when you’re trailing 71-35 at halftime, exasperation should come naturally."

  • Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News: "This was going to happen, in some form, at some time. Almost every NBA team rebuilds, eventually. But, uh, did it really have to be this bad for the Pistons? Maybe not. But now that they're heading down this path, 12-25 after ending a 13-game losing streak, it doesn't matter anymore how bad they are, as long as they have a plan to get better. Can Joe Dumars fix it? I think he can, but his next couple of moves will determine if this is a brief plummet, or something uglier. And man, he doesn't have many easy options. For now, Dumars should complete the dismantling and try to trade championship holdovers Tayshaun Prince and Richard Hamilton, although with their injuries and contracts, neither is overly marketable. The Pistons' eight-year playoff streak -- including six trips to the Eastern Conference finals -- is all but over, and there's no sense patching or reminiscing."

  • Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times: "In a position full of giants, the Houston Rockets’ Chuck Hayes stands out because he stands below them. In the 63 years of the N.B.A., few teams have had a regular starting center as short as the 6-foot-6 Hayes, and certainly none in recent decades. Hayes is a full foot shorter than Yao Ming, the injured All-Star for whom he is filling in. Dikembe Mutombo, who backed up Yao last season before retiring, is 7-2. According to N.B.A. rosters, 269 of the league’s 436 players were taller than Hayes at the start of this season. That included 45 players, many of them Hayes’s center counterparts, who are at least 7 feet tall. Somehow and quite skillfully, Hayes, who has started each of the Rockets’ 38 games this season, performs his duties despite the inherent disadvantages before tip-off. ... Hayes folds nicely into the Rockets’ organizational mind-set. General Manager Daryl Morey helped introduce the N.B.A. to quantitative analytics and statistical breakdowns that go beyond the box score. It is an organization that sometimes plays the game Tag, with the player who is 'it' using defensive slides as a means to keep moving. 'He kind of typifies the way we are,' Rockets Coach Rick Adelman said of Hayes. 'He’s not big, but he’s very quick, very strong around the basket. He’s one of the best defenders, even though he doesn’t have the size to block shots.' "

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "The Spurs spent Tuesday night at The Skirvin Hilton, an Oklahoma City hotel rumored to be haunted. Earlier in the week, several members of the Knicks blamed their loss to the Thunder on bumps in the night at the spooky inn. Spurs guard George Hill didn't know what to make of his sleepover at the Skirvin. 'I stayed up all night listening for strange noises,' he said. Manu Ginobili, unsurprisingly, was unfazed by the ghost stories. After all, he's already taken on a bat this season. 'No problems at all,' Ginobili said. 'I slept like a baby.' On the whole, the Spurs didn't seem too spooked by the experience. They planned to stay Wednesday night there, too, instead of heading on to Charlotte."

  • Bob Finnan of The Morning Journal: "Demand for Cavaliers' season tickets are perhaps at an all-time high. The Cavs are filling Quicken Loans Arena to capacity at a record pace. Season-ticket holders, however, are facing a bit of a dilemma. The Cavs are asking for their first installment on 2010-11 season tickets by March 26. There's only one hitch: Fans won't know what LeBron James plans to do in free agency until later in the summer. James can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. All indications are that he'll opt out of his deal and test the free-agent waters. Many think (hope?) he'll re-sign with the Cavs. But some season-ticket holders will have already dropped thousands of hard-earned dollars before they know what James will do. 'Who knows what's going to happen?' season-ticket holder Jim Carrabine of Mentor said. 'No one has the answer. If his main objective is to go with the team he thinks has the best chance to win, I don't see him going to New York or New Jersey. I don't think anyone can pay him any more than us. I see more probability than not of him staying here. Anything can happen. It might (hinge) on how close we come this year.' "

  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: "Raptors rookie guard DeMar DeRozan's chances of making it into the Slam Dunk contest during NBA all-star weekend got a boost last night. The league has announced that in addition to the three automatic entries into the contest who will be unveiled next Monday, an NBA all-star Slam Dunk-In competition will be held to determine the fourth and final participant in the actual dunk contest. The participants for the Dunk-In will be announced on television tonight before the broadcast of the Chicago Bulls-Boston Celtics game. The two players chosen to participate will get two dunks at half time of the Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam event on the Friday of all-star weekend. Fans will determine the winner by voting via text message or at NBA.com with the winner advancing to the actual dunk contest the following night. An online petition to get DeRozan into the competition (letdemardunk.com) has a goal of 10,000 signatures. So far the total is at 1,630."