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First Cup: Thursday

  • Bill Livingston of The Plain Dealer: "Infamy is their next stop, although its alias will be Memphis. The Cavaliers lost for the 22nd straight time Wednesday night, one short of the single-season NBA record. Friday night in Memphis, on the banks of the Mississippi, the snowball, like Old Man River, might jes' keep rollin' along. Thirty-two of the last 33 times that the wine and gold have jogged onto the hardboards, they have left the hard way. After Indiana 117, Cavs 112 at The Q, it is not enough -- it is only nice -- to say that they played hard and got close. They had been losing by an average of 11.8 points per game. No other team is as high as a seven-point differential. Yet a team that is not only bad, but destined to be mentioned with the worst ever, found a way to lose. This time, they lost it early. The Pacers scored the first dozen points and once led by 17 in the second quarter. How such a bedraggled team is unready to play at home against a weak opponent is simply inexplicable. The Cavs have not won since Dec. 18, 47 days ago. What does a win look like, anyway? Is it bigger than a breadbox? The thing came wrapped in confetti falling from the rafters, as I recall. Used to happen a lot, at least until the spring when the games really counted."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "The Pacers definitely weren’t offering any kind of apologies for blowing a 17-point lead against the Cavaliers. The Pacers look at it as a win is a win. That’s a good way for them to look at it, too. The Pacers would have probably lost the game two weeks ago. Closing out games has been a problem all season for them. This time, though, they stayed composed long enough to pull out the victory. ... Somebody sent me a message on twitter saying the Pacers shouldn’t be excited about barely beating the Cavs. Again, a win is a win. You have to start somewhere. Portland will be a good test for them at the fieldhouse on Friday."

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "It’d be easy for the Raptors to wallow in self-pity, to blame snow and ice and a disruption in the workaday life of an NBA player. It would be easy for them to point to injuries and youth and the inexplicable tendency to make precisely the wrong play at exactly the wrong time. But there’s no room for any of that -- not much, at least -- and they won’t get much sympathy from their fans or their opponents. The NBA is a man’s league; you just have to suck it up and find a way to be better. So as they come home, having lost their 13th straight game, this one 100-87 to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday, there can be no signs of feeling sorry for themselves."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Back when you could get a gallon of gas for a dollar or mail a letter for a quarter, Suns fans had to worry about the threat of the Milwaukee Bucks coming to town. Ever since a Feb. 21, 1987 loss to Milwaukee at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the Suns keep putting down royal flushes that the Bucks can't beat in Phoenix. The Suns won a home game against Milwaukee for the 23rd consecutive time and nearly made more franchise history with their defense until a late fade left them with a 92-77 victory Wednesday night. The streak is one win shy of the franchise record home streak against one opponent (24 vs. Sacramento, 1988-98) and two shy of San Antonio's current home win streak against Golden State."

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "Of all the places in the NBA, nowhere has been more of a house of horrors lately for the Trail Blazers than Denver's Pepsi Center, and Wednesday was no exception. Only this time, the Blazers' torture came with an extra twist. Literally. Wesley Matthews, one of the Blazers' best performers and most inspirational players, said he felt and heard 'pops' in his troubled right ankle at the end of the second quarter, starting what would be a downward spiral for the Blazers. When a hobbled Matthews returned in the second half -- only to bang knees on the first play, forcing him out again -- the Blazers had lost their slim halftime lead, and in effect, their momentum, setting the stage for another Mile High meltdown, this time in the form of a 109-90 loss to the Nuggets. Since the 2000 season, Denver is 20-2 against Portland at the Pepsi Center, which includes wins in 15 of the last 16 games. The last four losses, coach Nate McMillan is quick to point out, have come on the back end of consecutive games."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "And what do the NBA-leading Spurs think of turmoil reportedly rampant in Lakerland as they arrived Wednesday to prepare to play the Lakers? 'The Lakers are the best team in the West,' says Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, 'and I’m not just saying that to blow smoke at them. They just are. They’re going to have some moments. You cannot expect them to be perfect every night, but they’re the best team. We can play with them and anybody else. There are four or five of us that have the opportunity to be the last team standing in the West.' If the Spurs want to be the last team standing at Staples Center tonight, they must correct issues of their own. After yielding meekly in the final eight minutes of a 99-86 loss to the Trail Blazers in Portland on Tuesday night, Popovich said his players 'folded a little bit' when the Blazers toughened up. Spurs captain Tim Duncan didn’t disagree. The two-time MVP did not like how the team began its nine-game Rodeo Road Trip. 'There’s only two ways it could have gone,' Duncan said of rodeo trip game No. 1, 'and that was not the way you want to start. But it is what it is, and we have so many more games on this road trip with a lot to clean up.' "

  • Janis Carr of The Orange County Register: "Andrew Bynum walked out of the Lakers training room with his customary brace on his right knee but without so much as a wrap on his left knee. He didn’t practice fully Wednesday, but told Phil Jackson he will be ready to play against San Antonio on Thursday. Jackson said Bynum took part in limited drills and the 7-foot center told him he feels well enough to play Thursday. Bynum sat out the Lakers’ overtime victory against Houston on Tuesday because of a bone bruise on his right knee, an injury he suffered against the Celtics. 'He says he wants to (play),' Jackson said. 'He was out performing. … It’s not high energy (of how he performed), but he looked OK. It looked like he was ready.' "

  • Eddie Sefko of the The Dallas Morning News: "Mark Cuban is tired of being everybody's 'stalking horse,' as he likes to call it, when it comes to buying baseball teams. So while he was in New York and besieged with questions about perhaps getting into the bidding to buy the Mets. Cuban quickly said: 'I'm all ears.' What he will not be is all-in when it comes to making a hard push for the Mets or any other pro sports franchise that's up for sale. 'I get contacted all the time,' he said. 'It's not something that would be unusual. I would certainly talk to them. But I'm not going to chase it. If somebody contacts me, I'd listen, but I'm not going to put myself in a bidding situation. It's got to be something where they say: you know what? He can afford it and we think I'd be a good owner. It would be a win-win situation. Let's see if he's interested. I'm not going to call up and say, let me get in on it. I'm done chasing and bidding on baseball teams. Whether it's here or the Dodgers, I'm not going to put myself in a bidding situation. I did that twice and I learned my lesson. If they think there's a good fit and they think I'd be a reasonable buyer, I'd be happy to. I've just come to the conclusion that if I'm going to write a huge check, I'd like to have my ass kissed. I'm not going to be somebody else's stalking horse -- using me to drive up the price.' "

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "On the one hand, Carlos Boozer entered Wednesday's action averaging 19.9 points and 10.2 rebounds for a Bulls team that trailed the Celtics by just 3 1/2 games for the Eastern Conference's best record. On the other, Boozer missed this season's first 15 games following surgery for a fractured right hand and three more to a sprained ankle. So when All-Star reserves are announced Thursday night on TNT, should Boozer be among them? 'I hope so,' Boozer said. 'I know I missed some games with my broken hand, but I feel like I am deserving of an All-Star appearance. If not, I'm not going to be disappointed. There are a lot of guys who feel they are deserving. If I am there, I will be extremely happy.' "

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Josh Smith said he plans to appeal the $25,000 fine levied by the NBA for his obscene gesture during Atlanta's game vs. New York on Friday. Smith motioned to his crotch after he made a 3-pointer. Smith got word of the fine on Sunday morning. 'I was upset,' he said. 'I've seen a lot of players, past and present, doing the same thing. I wish they had sent me a memo saying I couldn't do it before I did it.' "

  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: "Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said he received the Wolves' promotional package that was sent out to Western Conference coaches to generate support for Kevin Love as a reserve for the Feb. 20 All-Star Game. Hollins, however, passed the package on to his nephew and did not look at the DVD containing the celebrated 30-second 'NUMB#RS' promo that spoofed cologne commercials. 'I already knew about Kevin Love and what he's done this season before I got that,' Hollins said. 'His numbers speak for itself.' Hollins declined to say if he voted for Love as one of the West's reserve forwards. He admitted sampling the wine that came in a promo package from the Golden State Warriors, who are pushing guard Monta Ellis for a reserve spot. Coaches submitted their reserve ballots Monday. The reserves will be announced at 6 tonight on TNT."

  • Martin Frank of The News-Journal: "Evan Turner, meanwhile, said he didn't feel slighted that he didn't make the team. Instead, he'll go home to Chicago over the All-Star weekend, which will be held Feb. 18-20, and get ready for the rest of the season. 'When I found out I didn't make it, I was like, 'Whatever,' ' Turner said. 'There's not much you can really do about it. ... That's life. Sometimes, the funniest things happen in life. I've been playing well as of late. I can't worry about things I can't control. It's not like I'm a bad basketball player. I'll be fine.' Turner, the No. 2 pick in the draft last June, wasn't selected in a vote by the league's assistant coaches, while the No. 1, No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 picks from the draft were selected. Sixers coach Doug Collins said if Turner keeps improving, he should make the sophomore team next season."

  • Meredith Goldstein of The Boston Globe: "Shaquille O’Neal stood in his kitchen on a recent chilly afternoon debating finances with his girlfriend, Nikki 'Hoopz’ Alexander. They argued about whether certain bills had been paid. Or at least, they tried to argue. They teased each other with wide grins. Within seconds of the debate, they were giggling. It’s difficult for either of them to stay serious when they’re anywhere near each other. 'I knew he was a goofball,’ Alexander, 28, said of her boyfriend O’Neal, 38, who famously joined the Boston Celtics over the summer. 'We’re the same. We’re both goofballs.’ Alexander is 5 feet 2 inches, making her about two feet shorter than her low-talking, tattooed boyfriend, the oldest active player in the NBA. But despite her small stature, her presence is powerful. She’s feisty and quick with punch lines. Her voice commands attention. She’s a country girl with no filter. She’ll charm you in a heartbeat, which may explain how she won two reality shows, VH1’s 'Flavor of Love’ and 'I Love Money,’ not to mention Shaq’s heart. Now Alexander is about to embark on her next entertainment project, a reality show that will have cameras following her life in the suburbs and her foray into the athletic-training business. Hoopz wants to become a guru for women’s health and self-defense, and she’s already meeting with her production team and concocting episodes."

  • Ian O'Connor of ESPNNewYork.com: "Dick McGuire would have loved Landry Fields, that much is true. McGuire's son, Scott, saw Fields at the pre-draft Portsmouth Invitational, appreciated his quiet and intangible grace, and told his fellow New York Knicks scouts that the less they said about the Stanford kid the better. Dick would have embraced that approach, too. As the silent heartbeat of the Knicks for more than 50 years, and as the polar opposite of his brother, Al, who blustered his way through a dramatic coaching and broadcasting career, Dick McGuire never cared to be seen or heard. It didn't matter that he was a Hall of Famer who stood among the most significant historical figures of a basketball city and its basketball team. 'He was on the court the way he was in life, like a servant,' Scott said. 'He just wanted to make people happy.' A year ago Thursday, Dick McGuire, 84, was packing for a scouting trip with Scott when he suddenly yelled out to his wife, Teri, before collapsing and dying from an aortic aneurysm. ... If Dick didn't want anyone making a fuss over him in life, he sure didn't want anyone making a fuss over him in death. But McGuire wasn't just a kind old man who was quick with a smile in the Garden hallways. He was the only playmaker ever to lead the Knicks to three straight Finals, and he was the scout who pressed team officials to make the franchise's most significant trade of all -- the 1968 deal for Dave DeBusschere, the final piece to the Knicks' only two championship teams."