First Cup: Monday

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Don't get too caught up with what the Wizards received or didn't receive for Gilbert Arenas on Saturday because acquiring Rashard Lewis from the Orlando Magic was not the primary goal in this endeavor. This was all about creating a clean slate for the rebuilding process, and realizing an exodus that was months overdue. Arenas no longer wanted to be in Washington and, after the Wizards lucked up and got John Wall with the No. 1 pick, they no longer needed Arenas around -- despite owner Ted Leonsis's pledges to the contrary. The relationship between the two sides unofficially ended back in January, when Arenas received his 50-game suspension for bringing guns into the locker room at Verizon Center and the team yanked down his banner from the Sixth Street side of Verizon Center. The franchise was moving on. Arenas felt betrayed by an organization he that had provided with so much -- in the form of entertainment and, at times, exhilarating basketball -- and Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld felt the same about a player on whom he risked his reputation, and possibly career, by handing him a six-year, $111-million contract in the summer of 2008. A divorce was inevitable; Arenas had expressed his desire to leave to those close to him for several months. So when he arrived at media day looking like Tom Hanks from Cast Away, it should have served as the first sign of discord."

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "Magic general manager Otis Smith: Stud or a Dud for bringing in mad gunner Gilbert Arenas to Orlando? As you know, every Monday morning here at the Open Mike blog and Interactive Extravaganza, we pick our our Studs and Duds from the weekend in sports. This week, once again, I really need your help because I’m conflicted. I’m not quite sure if Smith deserves a Stud or a Dud for the two bold, blockbuster moves he made over the weekend. As I wrote in my column over the weekend, I think Smith had to do something to keep Dwight Howard happy and to keep the Magic from sinking further into the Eastern Conference’s hierarchy of contenders. Therefore, I guess you could say, I lean toward giving Smith a Stud nomination."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Steve Nash said the trade was an indication that management was being critical of its own summer moves. Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby was clear Nash is partof the future and all indications are that Nash is in Phoenix to stay. 'I signed the contract extension to stay,' Nash said. 'I did that for a reason. I wanted to play with these guys, some of them. At least some of them were here when I signed. I still think we have a chance to be a good team. You just got to roll with it. What are my options? Quit?' A two-time MVP could demand a trade. 'I could be in a city that maybe doesn't have the guys we have,' Nash said. 'I want to be positive and make this a great opportunity and a great season. I know a lot of people are telling me to demand a trade. If I demand one, does that mean I get to pick my team? No. It's not that simple. Maybe somebody could explain to me the reasoning. You can't just go in and tell management where you want to go. I signed to play here and I want to make this team a really good one.' "

  • Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe: "Thanks to the pair of trades by the Orlando Magic that brought in Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, and Earl Clark, the Celtics’ Christmas Day plans look drastically different. A rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference finalists now has become an introduction to a retooled roster. 'It makes it even more interesting,’ said Ray Allen. 'They won’t even know what they’re putting out on the table based on the guys that they’re bringing in. They hope they know what they’re getting when those guys step out there, but you’ve got to build that chemistry.’ ... Allen, who mentored Lewis in Seattle, didn’t understand the timing of the deal. 'It just seemed like an odd time to make a trade,’ Allen said. 'Orlando’s trying to do what they can to better themselves and for us, we somewhat have to readjust. We have to readjust a little bit personnel-wise. We prepared to play them and now we have to reprepare, because the film that we watched will be a game old.’ "

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "It has been more than a dozen years since Dirk Nowitzki first heard talk of him being the next Larry Bird. Those comparisons were laughable then, even to Nowitzki, although Bird himself would later say that they were fair and that he thought the big German played the game a lot like Bird did. Sometime on this quick swing through Florida, Nowitzki probably will pass Bird on the NBA's all-time scoring list. He needs 37 points to pass the Boston Celtics legend for 25th place. To make it happen, Nowitzki and the Mavericks will have to contend with the NBA's hottest team and then the league's newest team, at least in terms of having a completely revamped roster. Miami has won 12 consecutive games. The Heat hasn't lost since Nov. 27, when the Mavericks beat Miami at American Airlines Center and Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Co. had a 45-minute players-only meeting afterward. ... Nowitzki has seen the Mavericks through the good and bad times during his years as the face of the franchise. He said too many years have passed since the 2006 Finals against the Heat for him to keep dwelling on it. And as for passing Bird on the scoring list, Nowitzki isn't all that caught up in it. 'It's been an amazing run,' he said. 'If you'd have told me that 13 years ago, nobody would have believed it. But those things mean more probably after your career.' "

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "It's all about the streaks Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. For the Miami Heat, that presents mixed emotions. On a 12-game winning streak, the Heat are now just two victories from matching the franchise's all-time record, set from December 2004 to January 2005. But to extend the streak, they will have to defeat the Dallas Mavericks, something they have not done since March 26, 2004. The Heat's 13 consecutive losses to the Mavericks tie the longest active NBA losing streak to an individual opponent, with the Charlotte Bobcats also having lost 13 in a row to the Mavericks, and the Minnesota Timberwolves having lost their last 13 to both the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers. While the Heat did come up with four victories against the Mavericks in the 2006 NBA Finals to secure the franchise's lone championship, the reality is the Mavericks have won 18 of the last 20 regular-season meetings."

  • Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star: "When Ron Artest, the L.A. Lakers forward, first heard a group of Toronto artists had crafted an exhibition about his life and work, his urge was to avoid it. 'I thought it was something bad -- I thought it was someone making jokes,' Artest said on Sunday afternoon at the Air Canada Centre. 'Because I’ve been doing so many good things, I was like, ‘Aw, man. I can’t do nothing good without someone doing something bad, trying to bring down my name.’ I was a little bit disturbed because of the title, ‘Lovable Badass.’ ' But Artest, convinced by his publicist that the show was a sincere testament to his triumphs and troubles during an eventful NBA career, ended up attending Saturday’s opening at a packed gallery on Queen Street West. He spoke to the artists and posed for photos. He autographed some of the art. And on Sunday he expressed his intent to purchase at least one of the pieces -- a sculpture of him holding a pair of puppies. Artest acknowledged he had somewhere else he wanted to be on Saturday night; the boxing buff was bent on watching the Bernard Hopkins fight. Still, a corner of Toronto’s arts community landed a blow that had an impact on one of the most intriguing characters in pro sports. '(The exhibition) was definitely special. It was unexpected. Overwhelming,' Artest said. 'My first major in college was art, actually. But then I dropped that major. I went to architecture. Dropped that, and then I dropped that and went to math. I finished off in math.' "

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: "A masterful deal for Pau Gasol, the decision to hang on to Andrew Bynum, the belief in Lamar Odom and the acquisitions of Trevor Ariza, Ron Artest and Shannon Brown put the Lakers back on top again. In the blink of the eye -- albeit an eternity in Los Angeles -- Mitch Kupchak had the Lakers in three consecutive NBA Finals, hoisting the championship trophy the past two seasons and on the brink of perhaps another three-peat this season. 'It's why he's one of the most respected guys in the league,' Washington Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld said. 'For a while here, the team was down but he rebuilt it. He made a great trade to get Gasol, he drafted Bynum, signed Artest. He's done a fantastic job here.' This year is no different. Kupchak improved the Lakers with the additions of Steve Blake, Matt Barnes and re-signed Brown, all while the Miami Heat were grabbing the headlines by adding LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Dwyane Wade. If it's possible to advance a two-time defending champion, Kupchak did it. 'And he's done it quietly and efficiently, which is what Mitch is all about,' Jerry West said. In the process he's gone from West's right-hand man to nearly run out of town by frustrated fans to the current toast of the city."

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Maybe it's time for the Hawks to hold another team meeting. The topic this time could be how to dominate the Nets like like every good NBA team does. The Hawks still haven't figured it out. Atlanta lost 89-82 to the Nets on Sunday for its second defeat in two games at New Jersey. The Nets are 2-1 against the Hawks and 6-19 against the rest of their schedule. Atlanta is the only team with a winning record to lose to New Jersey, much less twice. ... The Hawks should have known since New Jersey beat them 107-101 in overtime on Nov. 23. The Hawks had a team meeting to work out their issues following that loss, and then won five games in a row and seven of eight. They've now dropped three of their past four games and are 11-12 since starting the season 6-0. The Hawks play Orlando on Monday night at Philips Arena, where they've won six consecutive games. 'Still a long year,' Hawks guard Joe Johnson said. 'Put it behind us and move on.' "

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Jermaine O'Neal, who is out with a knee injury, said he wants to retire as an Indiana Pacer. 'Just because I'm not there anymore doesn't mean all the memories are forgotten,' O'Neal said. 'If it wasn't for the Pacers, the organization and the community, nobody would have probably known who I was. Anywhere in the world I go, they know me because of my Pacers days.' O'Neal spent eight seasons with the Pacers, during which he averaged 18.6 points and 9.6 rebounds. He played in five All-Star games and finished third in the MVP voting in the 2003-04 season. Injuries played a significant part in his decline with the Pacers. He was traded to Toronto for T.J. Ford and the No. 17 draft pick, which the Pacers used on Roy Hibbert, in June 2008. O'Neal, who signed a two-year deal with the Celtics in the offseason, is averaging 5.6 points and 3.6 rebounds in seven games with Boston. O'Neal, 32, said he'll think about retiring next summer if the Celtics, who have the second-best record in the NBA, win the title this season."

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Monday's Timberwolves-Clippers game at Staples Center features more than two teams searching everywhere for ways to win. It also presents two young players who are performing like All Stars. One or both, though, still might not be selected for the February game that will be played right there at Staples Center because of their teams' lopsided losing records. Traditionally, league coaches have rewarded players from winning teams when they vote in the All-Star Game reserves. But third-year forward Kevin Love, from the 6-22 Timberwolves, and rookie Blake Griffin, from the 7-21 Clippers, are delivering such ridiculously good statistics nightly can they really be denied? Love, Griffin and Orlando's Dwight Howard's are the NBA's only players who are averaging 20 points and 12 rebounds a game this season. Love and Griffin are the league's only two players who have recorded a 40-point, 15-rebound game this season."

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "There were some nasty accusations flying around during the 10-game losing streak when observers wondered if the Cavaliers were giving maximum effort. However, no one ever pointed their finger at center Anderson Varejao. 'I've said that all along, his energy is contagious,' Cavs coach Byron Scott said. 'He brings a different element to the game when he plays. It's almost that never-say-die-type attitude. Every time he steps on the floor you know you're going to get 110 percent from him. Other guys see that and they feed off that. He's our emotional leader out there on the basketball floor, and he plays with his head and his heart. You've just got to love a guy like that.' Make no mistake about it, the fans do. ... The 6-foot-11, 260-pounder had 14 points, a season-high 17 rebounds, a career-high four blocks and two steals in the 109-102 overtime victory over the Knicks on Saturday. He's recorded 15 or more rebounds in three of his last four games. Over that span, he is averaging 13.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 1.0 steal and is shooting 54 percent from the field."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "Dirk Nowitzki threw out some high praise for Tyson Chandler on Sunday after a brief practice. He compared Chandler's impact on the Mavericks to Kevin Garnett's when he joined the Boston Celtics a few years back. 'It's almost like when KG went to Boston,' Nowitzki said. 'I don't think Ray Allen or Paul Pierce were great defenders before KG got there, but KG with his energy and influence and high octane kind of changed the whole mentality of the defense.' Nowitzki said Chandler has done the same for the Mavericks' defense with his communication and his ability to play goalie, which allows perimeter defenders to be a little more aggressive when it comes to staying up on their man."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Every time Brandon Jennings hit the floor, he bounced back up. While plenty of his teammates were being hit with various injuries during the past two seasons, the Milwaukee Bucks' 21-year-old point guard always seemed safe from harm. Now, even the youthful Jennings has succumbed to the Bucks' injury bug. After an awkward spill in Wednesday night's game at San Antonio and a painful 30 minutes in the Bucks' loss to Utah on Saturday, Jennings has been ruled out of Milwaukee's game at Portland on Monday night. And it's possible he could be out even longer depending on the results of a magnetic resonance imaging exam he underwent Sunday morning. 'It's really tough for me right now, just the fact I can't be on the court playing,' Jennings said before his teammates left for the West Coast. 'When you're not injured, you're not really thinking about it.' Jennings' streak of 107 consecutive regular-season games played will end. He started all 82 games last season and 25 this year, and he also was in the starting lineup for all seven playoff games as the Bucks met Atlanta last spring. 'I never want to get hurt; I never want to be the one that has to miss games,' Jennings said. 'I tried to get the Brett Favre streak going. I tried to play as long as I can without missing a game. Unfortunately, it's got to come to an end.' "

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Taj Gibson said he felt fine after suffering a concussion in the third quarter of the Bulls' loss to the Clippers on Saturday night. However, the blow -- which appeared to come when DeAndre Jordan's knee struck Gibson during a rebound battle -- proved significant enough for Gibson to answer several questions about the sequence with the same words: 'I don't remember.' Gibson is better off forgetting. The Bulls failed miserably in their first test without Joakim Noah, getting outrebounded for just the fifth time in 25 games and treating defense -- except for rampant fouling -- as if it were optional. Whether team physicians will clear Gibson for Tuesday's home game against the surging 76ers isn't the only question surrounding the third-year big man. The other is this: Will Tom Thibodeau start him again? One game doesn't constitute a trend. And pinning blame on Gibson, who got abused by Blake Griffin, doesn't paint a complete picture. But the Bulls played uncharacteristically small and flat with the Noah-less lineup that featured the 6-foot-9 Gibson at center and two other 6-9 players -- Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng -- at forward."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "The Kings' long fascination with Aaron Brooks has led to occasional trade conjecture about the next deal between the teams, but what they really need is Kyle Lowry. It's not going to happen, and not only because Daryl Morey would cease to consider Geoff Petrie his bff if Petrie ever suggested such a thing. Lowry cannot be traded without his permission this season because the Rockets kept him by matching his offer sheet. No way would he accept joining the mess in Sacramento. The Kings, however, do need a quarterback style point guard with a personality strong enough to run the plays no matter which shot-happy lottery pick shares the court with him. For now, they are a team with talent that does not work together. They take turns. They don't make each other better. They could stand to look at a particular line in the box score Sunday. The Rockets had assists in 28 of 37 field goals. The Kings had assists on 18 of 35."

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: "The Utah Jazz are taking an interesting streak into the Anti-LeBron James Headquarters and their game tonight against the Cavaliers. But it is not a winning streak. And, obviously, after their ninth double-digit comeback victory of the season in Milwaukee on Saturday, it is not a losing streak, either. The Jazz are on, well, a non-streak streak. During the entire month of December so far, the on-again-off-again ballclub has yet to win or lose consecutive games. Their Dec. 1 victory at home against Indiana capped a seven-game win streak, and they've traded a loss for a win ever since then. In order this month, they've matched victories over the Pacers, Grizzlies, Magic and Warriors with successive losses to the Mavericks, the Heat, Dallas again and the Hornets. Which makes one wonder if Saturday's win over the Bucks, coming 24 hours after getting thumped by New Orleans, will be followed by a stunning defeat in Cleveland. 'Well, let's get it over with,' Jazz point guard Deron Williams said when asked about that W-L trend. 'Let's get another win.' "

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "Antoine Walker continued his comeback with 27 points for the Idaho Stampede against Springfield in the NBADL on Saturday night, and no one is pulling harder for him than his former Celtics coach, Jim O’Brien. 'I hope he can make a comeback,' O’Brien, now coaching the Pacers, said before yesterday’s 99-88 loss to his old team. 'I know he worked very hard down in Louisville this past summer, and I wish him the best.' O’Brien sees no reason why Walker can’t make it back to the NBA despite roughly a two-year absence."