First Cup: Monday

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "When Lenny Wilkens took his fifth coaching job 17 years later, he went straight to Martin Luther King Jr.'s grave from the airport the day he arrived in Atlanta. Perspective. After he was first drafted into the NBA by the St. Louis Hawks in 1960, he bought a house in a suburb named Moline Acres and 'for sale' signs immediately sprouted in an area where the Ku Klux Klan still met. At that time, there was only one thing that went through Wilkens' mind: 'I was not going to be intimidated.' Courage. Conviction, perspective and courage only begin to describe Wilkens, who managed to carve out an unparalleled and highly revered basketball legacy as a decorated NBA player and coach. That's why Wilkens, along with fellow basketball great Willis Reed and major league baseball icon Willie Mays, will receive the sixth annual National Civil Rights Sports Legacy Award before the Griz face the Chicago Bulls today in the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day game. The honor pays tribute to athletes who have laid the foundation for future leaders through their careers in sports in the spirit of King."

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: "It's just one of 82 games, and it's against one of the worst teams in the NBA. But with an early 11 a.m. start because of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, today's matinee matchup against the Washington Wizards holds a special significance for many members, if not all, of the Utah Jazz. 'Most definitely,' Jazz center Al Jefferson said. 'Dr. King was a legend. He did a lot for this country, and it's an honor to play on his birthday.' Or at least close to it. The late and legendary civil-rights leader was actually born on Jan. 15 -- back in 1929, even before 68-year-old Jerry Sloan -- but the third Monday of January has been considered a federal holiday in his honor for 25 years. The reverend's contributions to society are deeply appreciated by Jazz players, even though they were all born long after Dr. King was assassinated at the age of 39 in 1968. 'I'm just honored to be a part of playing on his day,' Jazz guard Raja Bell said. 'And the fact that the NBA would do (afternoon) games -- just a little something out of the ordinary, out of respect -- I think is pretty cool.' The Jazz-Wizards game is one of 10 NBA contests that will be held in the afternoon, local time."

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Gilbert Arenas doesn't have to say a word to convey his respect for Martin Luther King Jr. Just look at the outside edge of Arenas' left calf. That's where you'll find a tattoo in the image of the great civil rights leader.As a child, Arenas read about King. And when Arenas played for the Washington Wizards, Arenas felt compelled to learn more about King because Washington, D.C., was the site of King's 'I Have a Dream' speech in 1963. 'It's just amazing what a guy would do when he believes what's in his heart is right,' Arenas said. Monday, of course, is the federal holiday that honors King. The NBA will play 13 games, including the matchup between Arenas' Orlando Magic and the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Arenas also has tattoos of Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama -- all of which he had done in Orlando. Part of the impetus for Arenas' tattoo of King relates to the serious left-knee injury that Arenas suffered in a game against the Charlotte Bobcats on April 4, 2007. King was shot and killed on that day exactly 39 years earlier."

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The Hawks host Sacramento on Monday night in one of four NBA games on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. 'Dr. King did so much for all of us in this country and it's an honor to play on his day,' Hawks center Jason Collins said. 'It's a day for us to reflect back to all of those in the civil rights era who gave up so much so we could have a better society.' "

  • Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press: "Pistons guard Rip Hamilton's son will know about Martin Luther King Jr. Hamilton has taken advantage of the Pistons' once-a-year trip to Memphis, Tenn., to visit the King memorial and gather information from the site where the former civil rights leader was slain in 1968. 'I first learned about Dr. King when I was in the fourth or fifth grade,' Hamilton said. 'We learned about Martin Luther King and his speech and how much he meant to the black community and how much he meant for our way of living in today's world. I went to the hotel. It was nice. It felt different just looking at all the literature on it and the videos and everything like that. And then being there you kind of felt like, 'Wow, something like that really happened.' I went everywhere. It's crazy, but it's definitely a great thing.' During his visit, Hamilton said he purchased a civil rights book and other information he'll pass on."

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: "For the Warriors, playing on Martin Luther King Jr. Day has special meaning. 'Anytime you play on a holiday, it's a big event,' point guard Stephen Curry said. 'Playing on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a huge honor. We want to pay tribute to a great man and to the things he stood for.' When Curry was in seventh grade, he and three other classmates performed King's "I Have a Dream" speech. A decade later, he'll be joined by some of his teammates in wearing a special black and gold shoe designed by Nike. The shoes are complete with a woodcut print design that pays homage to African heritage and a red, black and green logo that celebrates the coming of Black History Month. Guard Monta Ellis made an And1 promo video for the holiday with the tagline, 'Walk in his shoes. Ball in mine.' "

  • Harvey Araton of The New York Times: "Twenty years and one-tenth of a decade ago, on Martin Luther King’s Birthday at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks experienced a holiday miracle. Trent Tucker scored a basket that should not have counted, could not have counted, but was allowed, anyway, to make frustrated and historic losers of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Tucker hit the shot that would forever change the end-game rules of the N.B.A. clock. 'The greatest shot of my life,' he said in a telephone interview on the eve of its 20.1 anniversary. ... In the crowd that day for the annual holiday game (the Knicks host the Phoenix Suns at the Garden on Monday) were David Stern, the N.B.A. commissioner, and Rod Thorn, the league’s vice president for operations. Thorn’s car was parked across the street from the Garden, and as he left the building, he ran into Stern. 'Do you think that should have counted?' Stern asked. 'Uh, David, I don’t think so,' Thorn said. ... The so-called Trent Tucker rule, implemented the following season, said any ball inbounded with less than 00.3 on the clock could only count if redirected via tap or dunk."

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "The Carmelo Anthony Farewell Tour made it to the AT&T Center on Sunday night, and perhaps that was an upset. Certainly, those who had Jan. 16 in the 'How long until ’Melo is out of Denver'” pool were disappointed. ... Had Tony Parker not agreed to a contract extension in October, wouldn’t the same uncertainty have followed the Spurs point guard from NBA city to city? 'All those rumors, New York this and New York that,' Parker said, referring to the speculation that dogged him until he autographed his Spurs extension. 'I can only imagine what Carmelo is going through. It’s tough for the whole team. It’s tough to get something going because you never know if the next day you’re going to be traded.' The situations aren’t exactly the same. Anthony clearly wants out of Denver. If his continued refusal to do what Parker did -- sign a contract extension with the team that drafted him -- wasn’t evidence enough, Anthony seemed intent Sunday on providing more."

  • Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times: "Who better to recognize a hoop smackdown than the author of the concept? Kobe Bryant summed up Sunday's Lakers-Clippers game cleanly and neatly, needing only four words. 'Blake just punked us,' said Bryant, who scored 27 points. And no, he wasn't talking about Laker Steve Blake. It was all about rookie Blake Griffin leading the Clippers to a 99-92 victory over the Lakers at Staples Center, a game in which four players, including Griffin, were ejected after a scrum with 5.7 seconds remaining. So would that be punked or punk'd as the Lakers lost for the first time in eight games? Well, this was no practical joke played by the Clippers, a team often treated like a joke around these parts for so many years. The Clippers (14-25) have won eight of their last 12 games and put up two statement-making victories in the space of five days. Beating Miami on Wednesday represented a national statement. The Lakers? That's a local thing, of course, and represented a breakthrough for the young Clippers, who blew a 12-point lead against the Lakers in early December and lost at the buzzer, via Derek Fisher. This victory didn't mean that a rivalry was officially hatched. At least not in the eyes of one Laker. 'I don't think there's still much rivalry,' Pau Gasol said. 'You have to play a team let's say in the conference finals four years in a row or something.' "

  • Randy Youngman of The Orange County Register: "No, I do not take illegal hallucinogenic drugs, nor am I overreacting to the Clippers' 99-92 conquest of the "visiting" Lakers in Sunday's matinee at Staples Center. Yes, I know Staples' second-class citizens are 14-25 and still ranked 13th out of 15 teams in the Western Conference. But I also know Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon & Co. are 9-4 in their past 13 games, an identical record to the division-leading Lakers (30-12) over the same span. And don't forget, the Clippers last week defeated the Miami Heat, then the NBA's hottest team, when LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade all played, and earlier this season knocked off the San Antonio Spurs, who boast the NBA's best record at 34-6. The question is, can the Clippers keep up their recent winning pace to pass enough teams to sneak into the top eight in the West? Well, they're only six games behind Portland (21-20), currently No. 8 in the conference. Why can't it happen?"

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: "The Richard Hamilton saga has illuminated some painful, harsh truths about the NBA that can't be avoided. Teams age, the brew gets stale, and players and franchises must move on. Hamilton didn't play for the third straight game Saturday night, the Pistons' second straight win, and they appear to be phasing him out. Whether Hamilton is traded Tuesday, Thursday or some point after that, the Pistons are preparing for life after Rip. It happens. A lot of times it's not pretty, but it's necessary. With the way salaries are structured, players make more money at the end of their careers, when they're well past their prime. For a team like the Pistons, Hamilton's money, along with his falling production, make him a liability."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "The Mavericks wrap up this road trip with a visit to the Pistons for a matinee game today. This journey already has been a wipeout. Salvaging the finale won't change that. But with the season's first meeting against the Los Angeles Lakers looming on Wednesday and another tough road trip starting Thursday in Chicago, this qualifies as an important game to win if for no other reason than to stop the bleeding. This is only the second time since 2001 that the Mavericks have had five consecutive losses. The other time was in November 2008, when they started 2-7. If the Mavericks are to climb out of this funk, it will have to be with a heavy dose of perseverance. Their shots are not falling. They were a season-worst 32.4 percent from the field against Memphis on Saturday and have averaged 82.7 points so far on this trip. Coach Rick Carlisle said Nowitzki appeared to come through his first action after missing nine games in a row with a sprained right knee without incident – other than getting ejected for arguing with the refs. That limited him to less than 15 minutes against the Grizzlies. Nowitzki should get more comfortable with time, but it's the overall lack of offense that the Mavericks must address."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "The players haven't changed. And neither have the plays. Only one thing is different about the Thunder's defense. Ron Adams. The wily assistant coach who was largely credited for revamping the Thunder's once ragged defense jetted to Chicago last summer. With his departure, Oklahoma City's defense has seen a drastic drop off. Entering tonight's game at the Los Angeles Lakers, which marks the midway point of the season, the Thunder has regressed in opponent points, opponent field-goal percentage, opponent 3-point field goal percentage, blocked shots, opponent turnovers and defensive efficiency. That's just about every major defensive category, with the lone exclusion being rebounding. Several players admit that Adams' departure has been a significant factor. 'Ron Adams was a big part of our defense,' said Thunder center Nenad Krstic. 'He was always talking about that. He was always getting on some guys if they don't play good defense. We really miss him.' ... Thunder coach Scott Brooks attributed this season's shortcomings to his team still being in the early stages of building good habits. Rather than blame defensive deficiencies on Adams' departure, Brooks chooses to focus on the fundamentals that the Thunder has found difficult to execute consistently."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Kirk Hinrich needed to get his Illinois driver's license renewed before his 30th birthday earlier this month, so he went in for a routine eye exam with Washington Wizards team optometrist Keith Smithson. The plan was for Hinrich to just read a few rows of descending letters and fax the results to the Illinois Department of Motor Vehicles. But the process became more complicated as Hinrich came away with the startling news that if he continued to play basketball without protective eyewear, he stood a high risk of getting hit and losing sight in his left eye. Hinrich remembers taking a hard shot in the face at the start of his sophomore season at Kansas and later discovered that he had a scratch in the center of his pupil. He never had any problems with his vision, or been warned about the need for goggles, after playing four years in college and spending the past seven seasons with the Chicago Bulls. ... Hinrich missed two games waiting as eyewear was made to fit comfortably on his face. He has worn them the past six games and said he'll keep them until his playing career is finished. The specially made glasses are similar to the ones the New York Knicks' Amare Stoudemire wears and Hinrich often takes them off during breaks in action to wipe the sweat from his brow and hands them to head athletic trainer Eric Waters to clean when he is on the bench. 'First, I didn't know if I was going to wear them or not. I wasn't crazy about the idea,' Hinrich said. 'The eye doctor and the trainers convinced me to wear them. I tried them out and they are not that bad. I can see fine out of them. I'm just not used to having them on my face. I'm just getting more comfortable with them as time goes on.' "

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: "Now in his fourth year, the native of Bologna, Italy, is with his third NBA team having failed to impress the powers-that-be in Golden State, which drafted him, and last year Toronto, which played him sporadically for half a season before relegating him to the bench after the All-Star break. When the Hornets brought him here, it was as if Belinelli’s professional career was reborn, in a city that in the last five years has transformed itself in the aftermath of the greatest man-made disaster -- the infamous levee failure during Hurricane Katrina -- in American history. Though he has missed the Hornets’ last two games because of the ankle sprain, Belinelli looks ahead to today’s game against the visiting Raptors with an unabashed exuberance, well aware his situation in New Orleans as the starting two-guard far surpasses his experiences with the Warriors and Raptors, two teams for which he could not find a niche. 'This is my fourth year in the league, and this is probably the first year I can feel I’m an NBA player for real,' Belinelli said. 'You know because the first two seasons, I didn’t play a lot. Last year, I played until February. After the All-Star break, I didn’t play a lot. It was a little bit difficult for me. But at the same time, now, I’m motivated to play and be strong, never give up. For now I’m so happy. I’ve got this problem with my ankle, but it’s not a big deal.' "

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Charlotte Bobcats coach Paul Silas explained before the game why he has a chair with arms on the bench, instead of the standard-issue folding chair. Silas explained that he had a blood-clot problem a few years ago that weakened one of his quadriceps. So having a chair with arms makes it easier for him to get up out of his seat. Silas mentioned that Phil Jackson and Don Nelson also have had customized chairs on their respective benches."

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: "There's a shady side to the sports-memorabilia world. And maybe it becomes evident in a case such as this -- with the participants leaning on 'vibes' and flying blind -- that it's sometimes difficult to determine the good guys from the bad guys. What's authentic and what is not. What is stolen and what is traded. In tracing the path of Webster's missing ring, what you end up with is unreturned phone calls, blocked e-mail addresses, changing memories and key participants saying that they simply don't want to be involved. It's a twisted headache is what it is. And I suppose a piece of this ends well if Martell Webster gets his ring back. But also, some of this stinks, too. Tracy figures it's time for the ring to go back to Webster. After a request from Webster, the Blazers have given Tracy and his friend passes to tonight's game. They'll meet with Webster, shake hands, and make a trade. ... That ring-for-a-jersey offer has been extended to Webster, who if he's like most of us, is going to arrive with some questions of his own. Maybe he'll attempt to track down the guy with the two-door Chevy Cavalier. Maybe he already knows who that is. Whatever the case, it feels like we'll finally have a trade at the Rose Garden. That McDonald's All-American ring is important to Webster, who arrived in Portland on Sunday evening, checked into The Nines hotel, and got about catching up with a lot of old friends. He gets that old-friend ring back tonight."

  • Bill Lubinger of The Plain Dealer: "Bobby 'Bingo' Smith was 1970s flashy. His looping rainbow jump shot was a fan favorite well before the NBA encouraged gunners with a three-point line. He was also durable. In nine full seasons with the Cavs, he suited up for all 82 regular-season games four times and 81 games twice. But as Smith, whose No. 7 is one of six retired jerseys hung at The Q, battles back from a stroke that nearly took his life on April 1, 2009, flashy and durable have been shoved aside by spartan and vulnerable. Smith, who turns 65 in February, lives in a snug apartment in Bedford. His 22-year-old grandson, Bobby, moved in from Memphis to help take care of him, but Smith wears an emergency alert around his neck in case he falls and no one's around. His right arm, which once sent basketballs spinning gracefully toward the hoop with a simple flick of the wrist, remains stiff and numb. He forgets names sometimes, and when he speaks, the left side of his mouth does all the work. Through intense daily rehab, the feeling has slowly returned to the right side of his torso, and he's scrapped the wheelchair for a walker and a cane. 'I'm slower with the cane,' he said, 'but I'm free.' "