First Cup: Wednesday

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "For as much as this town respects and honors Phil Jackson for his 10 seasons of 536 Lakers victories, he is simply not beloved. He may have mastered Zen, but he has not mastered Los Angeles. There will be no statue of him outside Staples Center. There might not ever be a night honoring his achievements. There will be very little fanfare when he retires, just as there was very little outcry when he left the team several years ago. He is not Tom Lasorda. He is not Pete Carroll. He is not Mike Scioscia. He is not the sort of folksy personality that this town expects of its high-profile coaches. More than anything else, he is not Pat Riley. When longtime Lakers fans think of coaches, they still will think of Riley, even though he coached one fewer season here. Riley looked like Los Angeles. He acted like Los Angeles. 'Pat Riley is the L.A. story,' admitted Jeanie Buss, Lakers executive vice president and Jackson's longtime girlfriend. 'This was the birthplace of him as a coach and a leader, we watched it all happen, it's like a mother and a child, any success that Pat has, we feel we have part of.' "

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "This is the Celts’ last game before Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo dribble off to All-Star Weekend in Dallas and the rest go rest. It is, therefore, the last impression they will carry as a group until they reconvene for practice Monday night in Sacramento. And coach Doc Rivers very much wants to get it right. Yeah, he works every game hard, sweating through his nice shirts as he shouts at referees, but this won’t be your average regular-season game. Asked what he has to see from his team tonight, Rivers didn’t hesitate. 'Just defense,' he said. But there was more. He had some choice thoughts about the other end of the floor, as well. And keeping with his angry theme of the last few days, Rivers is planning to hold his people accountable. Immediately accountable. Coach Doc is prepared to morph into Captain Hook. 'Offensively, the only thing I told them is that if the ball gets stuck once, you’re getting subbed,' Rivers said. 'That’s just clear. 'We’re not playing any games here. If the ball’s not moving, you’re coming out.' "

  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "The only surprising thing about what Dwyane Wade said after Saturday's loss to the Bulls, basically calling his team predictable and saying it needs to mix things up, is that he didn't say anything earlier. There's nothing new about what the Heat did during its season-worst five game losing streak, a stretch that ended Tuesday with a blowout victory against the Rockets. The streaky offense, unpredictable defense, late-game mistakes and confusing player rotation has been happening all season. It just so happened that five consecutive losses built up just enough frustration in Wade for him to say something immediately following a loss in his hometown. What's wrong with getting mad when your team is failing? Didn't Tim Hardaway used to take digs at Pat Riley whenever the coach was critical? Why does calling the team too predictable immediately mean the coach is at fault? Can't it also mean Wade is calling on his teammates to elevate their games? Tuesday's opponent was a perfect example of what role players can do when called upon to do more. The Rockets are not just making due with a roster full of mediocre-to-bad players, but they have managed a better record than the Heat in a deeper conference."

  • Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun: "It is interesting to note that whispers of Bryan Colangelo leaving Toronto continue to percolate. Normally, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. The New Jersey Nets are a mess and they are on pace to become the losingest team in the NBA’s modern era. There’s hope on the horizon with Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov soon to be approved by the NBA’s board as New Jersey’s new owner. Rod Thorn serves as president, but his deal expires this summer. Colangelo doesn’t have a contract beyond this season. Colangelo is often viewed as one of basketball’s big fish who would prefer to swim in a large pond. With talk of the Nets moving shop to Brooklyn, more than one person has begun to connect the dots, real or imagined, and link Colangelo with the Nets. It’s no different than when players get bandied about in rumour. People begin to grasp at straws and make a leap that often results in nothing."

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "Approximately 1,000 tickets were purchased by Jewish groups, and before the game, youngsters in yarmulkes crowded the baseline. During the game fans waved Israeli flags, gasped at Casspi's play, and lingered appreciatively at the end. But like the quarterback who buys his linemen dinner for having his back, Omri Casspi should spring for the steaks tonight in Detroit. These same teammates who jokingly accused him of setting NBA records for appearances, who intuitively, graciously, understood the pressure and sensed what this meant, were thoughtful and accommodating throughout. At the buzzer, it was all there, relief, elation, gratitude. With another wide smile on his face, Tyreke Evans immediately turned and reached for Casspi. Jason Thompson and Donté Greene waited for him at midcourt, where the three posed for photos. Casspi looked into the stands at his brother (Eitan) and father (Shimon), who stood clapping and beaming. 'When I left the court,' said Casspi, 'it was one of the most exciting moments of my life.' "

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "It appears the All-Star break can't come soon enough for the Trail Blazers, who continued their mid-season malaise in emphatic fashion Tuesday during an 89-77 home loss to Oklahoma City. After fending off questions about his team's effort, intent and execution, coach Nate McMillan finally gave up trying to find an excuse for his team's shoddy performance. 'We embarrassed ourselves,' McMillan said, resigned. The Blazers (30-24) were outscored 15-2 to start the game and 15-2 at the start of the fourth quarter, erasing a 61-59 lead and leading to their fourth home loss in the last six games at the Rose Garden. 'I think it's unfair to our coaching staff and unfair to our fans that we came out and laid an egg like we did,' Juwan Howard said. 'We can't afford to have slippage like we had tonight.' Oklahoma City (30-21) won its sixth in a row and moved into sixth place in the Western Conference standings, 1 1/2 games ahead of the eighth-place Blazers."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City aren’t supposed to mix. The market allegedly is too small for the player to ever realize his growth potential, from his success on the court to his sponsorship opportunities off it. It’s a stereotype that has followed Durant since he first stepped foot in Oklahoma. Now, just three days before his first NBA All-Star Game, comes the question of whether the Thunder’s star forward can grow into a perennial All-Star starter while playing in Oklahoma City? In this year’s fan voting for the game’s starters, Durant finished more than 1.2 million votes behind Denver’s Carmelo Anthony and more than 286,000 shy of San Antonio’s Tim Duncan among Western Conference forwards. Durant’s 870,567 votes were fifth most among the conference’s forwards, also trailing Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Pau Gasol. But history says Durant can rise into the starting unit. Karl Malone was a 13-time All-Star in Utah. The Hall of Fame power forward didn’t start only four times. Malone’s teammate, point guard John Stockton, was a 10-time All-Star and a five-time starter in the annual mid-season exhibition. The two took home co-MVP honors in 1993."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "Manu Ginobili has joked that he never wants to return to the starting lineup, simply because bad things happened last April. Now Gregg Popovich has made another declaration about his starters. Before the Spurs played the Lakers on Monday night, he said the starting lineup he had used in the first four games of the rodeo road trip -- Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess and George Hill -- likely will be his starting lineup for the remainder of the season. Ginobili may find this a welcome relief, but you wonder if Popovich might want to rethink things when this stretch run arrives. If 'the three of them playing together' optimizes the productivity of the Big Three, then getting them on the floor together from the start has merit now, just as it did last April. Doug Collins, the former coach of the Bulls, Pistons and Wizards who has become the best TV game analyst in the business, worked two of the Spurs' recent games for TNT. Those two games convinced him it is Ginobili who still has a chance to make this edition of the Spurs a special unit capable of making noise in the postseason. ... 'If they have any hope of doing anything in the playoffs,' he said, “Jefferson has to play better, but Ginobili is still the guy who makes them special.' "

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "The Rockets must be at their best to overcome them. Tuesday's blowout was far from the first glimpse of what can happen when they're not. Since a game like that surely recharges the interest in bringing in reinforcements, I hate to have to say that little has changed in the efforts to deal Tracy McGrady for offensive help. That probably should come as no surprise. In talks like these, GMs often proceed as if the side that blinks first loses. And with everyone to be together this weekend anyway, they can talk then without seeming to be softening on their demands. There also does not seem to be some other deal coming into view. On thing to consider, however, could be a three-team deal in which the Rockets trade McGrady largely for expiring contracts and try to use a portion of those contracts for whatever they want. That way, they don't have to take back a second long-term deal, assuming they can find someone desperate enough to clear out a long-term obligation to take back little besides an improved cap situation. The harder part of that, of course, is that someone would want McGrady the player, not just McGrady the contract."

  • Dave Krieger of The Denver Post: "The Nuggets' nightmare scenario is that they stand pat at the Feb. 18 trade deadline and then Kenyon Martin, Nene or Chris Andersen -- the three big men who play regularly -- goes down with an injury. Even with all three of them healthy, the Nuggets arguably need a fourth competent big man to get past the Lakers, who knocked them out of the playoffs a year ago and have the NBA's most imposing front line. That's why various reports continue to suggest the Nuggets are pursuing disgruntled Bulls forward Tyrus Thomas and veteran Clippers big man Marcus Camby. But making either of those deals happen is easier said than done. If the Nuggets are not willing to trade mercurial scorer J.R. Smith, and it doesn't look like they are, they don't have much value to offer. ... In the 34 years since they joined the NBA, the Nuggets have never had a better opportunity to compete for a championship. The front office has eight more days in which to try to improve the odds."

  • Gary Peterson of The Oakland Tribune: "If Larry Riley was a prototypical GM, and if Don Nelson was a garden variety head coach, and if the Warriors were any other organization, the upcoming All-Star break would provide all the criteria you'd need to legitimately consider making a change. Instead, none of the above is true. Riley you know about. Nelson is a coach of considerable stature who has bamboozled management into believing he is working wonders. That management? Even if owner Chris Cohan wasn't a ghost, he is hardly the type to sack a coach to whom he owes money for the rest of this season and all of next. And it's hard to imagine team president Robert Rowell turning on a perceived organizational ally. Thus, it's not going to happen."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "It didn't take long for the Twitter and emails comments to start popping in once people realized coach Jim O'Brien replaced A.J. Price with T.J. Ford as Earl Watson's backup. 'Benching AJ Price for TJ Ford? Screw you, O'Brien,' one person wrote on his Twitter page. O'Brien made the switch because he wants to play the veterans now that he knows what to expect out of Price. It also says O'Brien still has his sights on - brace yourself for this - the playoffs (I can't believe I just typed that word). 'We always said come Jan. 1, if we were not hitting on all cylinders that we would use (Price) and see what we had,' O'Brien said.'It's been a valuable five weeks to evaluate our 52nd pick and to be able to project him into the future. I think he's done well. He's learning every game that he's playing.' "

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "The resources available to Raptors coach Jay Triano are many and varied; staff and the latest in technology are available to him whenever and however he needs them. But this year there's something new, information the team never had before. It's hard-core statistical analysis of everything that goes on in every NBA game that provides another layer at the coach's disposal -- number-crunching that takes number-crunching to places never before explored in Toronto. 'They break stuff down like you've never seen,' Triano said of the two men who crunch the numbers and provide the information the Raptors are using more now than they ever have. 'It's possession-by-possession, player-by-player, combinations of players, points per possession, where we're scoring, where we're not scoring, it just gives us another tool to help us get better at both ends.' ... Because it is proprietary information, the Raptors aren't about to give up many of the specifics of the data they receive. But the desire to have the team shoot more three-pointers comes from knowledge gleaned that not only do those shots create a high points-per-possession yield, they also provide a greater chance for offensive rebounds."

  • Gabriel Baird of The Plain Dealer: "The Cavaliers ran afoul of state building code regulations when they removed all the drinking fountains from The Q, according to state officials. The Cavs likely will reinstall the fountains at the end of the month, team spokesman Tad Carper said in an e-mail after declining to be interviewed. The announcement came a day after The Plain Dealer reported that the team had removed the fountains, forcing fans to wait in concession stand lines to get free cups of water. Carper said in the e-mail that the team was considering reinstalling the fountains because the peak of flu season was coming to an end. He said in interviews last week that the team removed the fountains to protect fans from bacteria and viruses that cause illnesses like H1N1 flu."