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First Cup: Wednesday

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Chauncey Billups still gives Jameer Nelson and the Magic fits at age 34. He probably will reach out from the grave to jolt Jameer out of a sound sleep when he retires. I've said it before and I'll say it again: The key to a long Magic playoff run is the shortest guy on the team. When the 5-foot-10 Nelson acts like a mini-Billups, the Magic are more than long-shots. They're, ahem, big shots. He makes them a dangerous team when he is fully engaged and energized, when he is playing the drive-and-kick game, when he takes over as a go-to guy. 'Jameer takes us to another level,' J.J. Redick said. I asked Nelson afterward why we don't see more of this from him after nearly seven seasons in the league. 'I got so many of options,' said Nelson. This is Jameer the passer and play-maker talking. He worries too much about getting his teammates involved. It is games like this that clearly show why he needs to be more selfish and do what comes second nature --- score."

  • Alan Hahn of Newsday: "Patrick Ewing said he is happy the Knicks acquired Carmelo Anthony to join Amar'e Stoudemire, but is the Hall of Famer also a bit jealous that he never had that complementary superstar? Ewing named Allan Houston , Latrell Sprewell , Charles Oakley and John Starks as some of the best players he played with in New York, but he then added with a loud laugh, 'They're not Carmelo! They're not Carmelo!' Ewing never got the opportunity to play with Bernard King , who was the most talented teammate he ever had. King was injured when Ewing was a rookie and then Ewing was injured when King made his comeback late in the 1986-87 season. After King went unsigned (and left to return to All-Star status with the Washington Bullets ), the Knicks made attempts to add a second star to join Ewing, but Xavier McDaniel 's stint was short-lived, Kiki Vandeweghe was past his prime and Houston and Sprewell came a bit too late. 'I can't worry about that now,' Ewing said Tuesday with his trademark wide smile. 'I mean I've been retired 100 years.' Ewing proclaimed the current roster, with Stoudemire and Anthony, to be the most star-studded team since the championship era of the early Seventies"

  • William C. Rhoden of The New York Times: "Last Wednesday, at the introductory news conference for Anthony and Billups, James Dolan pointedly disputed the notion that Isiah Thomas, whom he called a 'very good friend,' had a role in the deal. ... This appeared to be yet another Garden spin, thoughmaybe Dolan was telling the truth, that he didn’t need Thomas to tell him that acquiring Anthony would be a great trade, regardless of the cost. For Thomas, Dolan’s statement was an embarrassing, and hurtful, blow. ... 'I just want the Knicks to do well,' Thomas said at breakfast. 'Anytime the Knicks do well, Jim does well. I’m even happy Donnie is doing well.' Thomas added: 'When I talk about the Knicks, I talk about everybody. I don’t want anyone to be excluded.' ... The Knicks now are compelling story, no matter whose version you believe about how they obtained Anthony. As for Thomas, he will continue to be unsatisfied until he finds a way to make peace with his tenure with the Knicks. He still wants back in, but considering how the Anthony trade played out, that might not happen. Dolan, at least publicly, has chosen sides, and left his friend with a steep mountain to climb."

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "When Blake Griffin roars, it is drowned out by Donald Sterling's heckling. When Eric Gordon shoots, it is overshadowed by Donald Sterling being sued. Nowhere is the tug between good and creepy more evident than in this newspaper, where, for every positive Clippers story, there seemingly appears an awkward Sterling advertisement, which brings us to the latest Donald T. Shame. Most of Sterling's ads have lauded him for winning unrecognizable humanitarian awards, but a couple of days ago, one would have only qualified him for Dolt of the Year. It appeared in The Times' most recent Sunday edition, showing separate head shots of Sterling and Griffin under the heading, 'Clippers Celebrate Black History Month.' Yet it had a pretty weird way of celebrating it. 'In honor of Black History Month, the Clippers will admit 1,000 underprivileged children free,'' read the text, and if you're like me, you're thinking, hmm, why are 'underprivileged children' directly linked to ''black history?' Is Donald Sterling saying that the only underprivileged children are black? The other problem is the date of the 'Black History Month' giveaway, which is March 2 against Houston. If you are going to honor that month, get the right month. For the last 35 years, Black History Month has been celebrated in February."

  • Martin Frank of The News-Journal: "The difference between an improving team like the 76ers and an elite team like the Dallas Mavericks was apparent in the fourth quarter. Andre Iguodala had made two defensive stops, stealing the ball and sending the Sixers on a fast break. Each time, the Sixers failed to convert, once when rookie Evan Turner threw an alley-oop lob that was too high for Thaddeus Young. The Sixers also missed seven of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter, and they had no answers for Jason Terry, who scored 30 points off the bench, and Dirk Nowitzki, who added 22. All of it led to a 101-93 loss for the Sixers on Tuesday, which ended their four-game winning streak. 'What you really saw was their big-game experience and their playoff experience trumped our energy and effort,' Sixers coach Doug Collins said. '[Iguodala] made two brilliant defensive plays in a row, and we didn't capitalize on either one of them. Under pressure, you must make the simple play.' The Sixers didn't, falling back to .500 at 30-30."

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: "Used to be, with the game on the line late, the Heat would give the ball to Dwyane Wade and get out of the way. No longer. 'I’m a guy used to having the ball 100 percent of the time at the end of games,' Wade said Tuesday. 'It’s been an adjustment. Every adjustment is tough, when it comes to taking something away.' Regardless of who is shooting late, the results haven’t been great. Consider: In games when the Heat was tied or trailed by one, two or three, with less than 30 seconds left, Miami has made just 4 of 22 shots from the field, and only one in a win ( Eddie House’s three-pointer at Oklahoma City). The Heat is 1 for 11 on threes and 3 for 11 on two-pointers. LeBron James is 2 for 8 (0 for 5 on threes), Wade 1 for 7, House 1 for 3, Mario Chalmers 0 for 2 and Chris Bosh and Mike Miller 0 for 1. Low late-game percentages aren’t unusual, but this star-laden Heat team hoped for better. But the Heat is 10 for 12 from the line in those spots, with free throws from Wade and House winning games against Washington and Detroit, respectively. Excluding a missed tip in against Boston, Wade has attempted just one of the Heat’s past 12 shots with Miami down by three or fewer and under 30 seconds left. During that stretch (since mid-January), James has attempted seven shots in those types of situations. Wade said he is 'trying to be a team guy, don’t make a big stink about it, try to figure out a way to play my role when I’m off the ball late in games.' "

  • Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Do you know what 41-17 is? That’s the Bulls’ ¬≠record, and it is, in a word, ¬≠astounding. There are three teams in the NBA with marginally better records than the Bulls -- the Celtics (43-15), the Mavericks (44-16) and the Heat (43-17). And then there are the 49-11 Spurs, leading the 30-team league. Guess who recently gave the Spurs their 10th loss? Derrick Rose and Co. As the buzz builds louder for the Bulls’ 22-year-old point guard to be voted this season’s MVP, that same buzz has a swelling undertone: Why can’t the Bulls make it to the NBA Finals? Nobody is yet saying the Bulls might be a reasonable pick to win it all ... but why not? Everything about this season so far has been magical. Without Carlos Boozer and then Joakim Noah for substantial amounts of time, the Bulls steadily plowed ahead. Blank-faced and focused as a stropped razor blade, Rose has sliced up every foe in sight, never trash-talking, never gloating, yet routinely doing things like semi-inadvertently ‘‘clowning’’ defenders, as he did to Wizards rookie John Wall on Monday night with a Globetrotter-esque, in-the-air, between-the-legs bounce pass to Noah for a thunderous dunk. But even that was for effect, not affectation. For God’s sake, how many players could even do what he did, let alone do it for a purpose!"

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: "Kendrick Perkins twice has mentioned the welcome he received at Will Rogers, when he was cheered walking through the airport Thursday night. Hey, it's not like Perkins wasn't a hero in Boston. Beantown knows its basketball and loved its big man who cares more about winning than who gets the credit. But maybe walking through the terminal showed him he could be a hero elsewhere, too. Same with the ovation Perkins received before the Laker game Sunday; the 2008 NBA championship center said he got chills. 'May not seem like a lot, but it was a lot to me,' Perkins said. 'It was really cool.' The Thunder didn't have Perkins at hello, but it wasn't long thereafter. From the trade to the convoluted-but-quickly-turned contract offer to telling Perkins to rest easy and get that knee healthy before making his Thunder debut, the message has been consistent. Perkins is important to this franchise. 'The organization is first class,' Perkins said. 'I'm impressed with everything ... how things are handled here. Great staff. Just unbelievable.' It's nice to feel wanted. Big paychecks create that feeling, but so do personal touches. The Presti Plan soars."

  • Craig Stouffer of the Washington Examiner: "Al Thornton always had plenty working against him with the Washington Wizards ever since he arrived last winter, whether it was injuries, the rotation at small forward or simply his fit versus what Wizards head coach Flip Saunders wanted from the position. Which is why it was no surprise to see Thornton and the Wizards agree on a buyout Tuesday afternoon. Thornton gave up $400k to get out of his deal, according to a league source. Take Monday night against Chicago. With Thornton (8.0 points, 3.2 rebounds per game this season) coming off a sprained ankle, Saunders said during his pregame media session that Thornton would be inactive because he hadn’t practiced. When I checked with Thornton five minutes later in the locker room, he still thought he was going to play and sort of cocked his head when told what Flip had said. Sure enough, when starters and inactives were announced a short time later, Thornton was among the latter group once again even though he’d started the season among the former, making 23 starts this season -- but only one since the calendar turned to 2011. 'We were just moving in a different direction,' said Thornton. 'I figured something had to be done. It seemed like I really wasn’t going to be playing that much, now that we got five guys at the position. It wasn’t going to be the minutes that I needed. I think the Golden State situation, it’s a great opportunity for me.' "

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "Ramond Felton said Tuesday. 'One thing people always say about me is I'm a leader, and that's what I've always been. So, I keep that role everywhere I go.' And that's good for the Nuggets. When the 6-foot-1 Felton arrived in Denver a week ago as part of the blockbuster Carmelo Anthony trade with New York, Felton, 26, said Nuggets coach George Karl told him his first task was to lead. Felton's leadership showed up big Monday night in a victory over Atlanta, when he took over in the fourth quarter of what was a close game. In the final period, he scored 11 points, grabbed three rebounds and had three assists as the Nuggets pulled away late. In a timeshare with the speedy, 5-foot-11 Ty Lawson, Felton is being looked at as a possible long-term solution at point guard. Karl likes the idea of having Felton and Lawson in Nuggets uniforms for years to come. 'I definitely think so,' Karl said. 'How we figure out Ty and him is a (good) problem. It could be long-term, it could be short-term. We're hoping somehow, some way, to figure out long-term.' "

  • Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle: "Carroll Dawson did terrific work in helping Hakeem Olajuwon refine his game around the basket. He did the same with Yao Ming and has worked tirelessly with Jordan Hill with mixed results. On Friday, with the Rockets back in town, he'll have a one-on-one session with Hasheem Thabeet, who was the second pick of the 2009 draft and once projected as an impact player. His rookie season was modestly productive despite numbers that lack otherwise. He seemed to understand that his game was defense and rebounding. But it fell apart this season and he ended up at the end of the bench. The Rockets have no idea if his career can be resurrected, but they think he's worth a try if he understands what he can be, and more important, what he can't be. If he can focus on defense, rebounding and shot-blocking instead of scoring, he has a chance. He lost his defensive focus in his second season. If he wants to score, if he thinks he's a scorer, he'll probably end up out of the NBA fairly quickly. But if he wants to work at his game, if he has Patrick Patterson's heart and desire, he has a shot."

  • Randy Youngman of The Orange County Register: "Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson discussed the possible move in a news conference after the extension was granted. 'I think it's clear they are looking to try to strike or create a deal in Anaheim,' Johnson said. “It leads me to believe that if they don't get a deal, they'll stay in Sacramento. It's not the ideal situation that they're choosing Sacramento. It seems like we've kind of lost out on where we'd ideally like to be. It'd be great if we were competing with Anaheim. And if we did this and they did that, we have some say in it. I don't think Sacramento has a whole lot of say right now.' Johnson also said that he has spoken with Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait. 'I'm wishing them ill will, let me be clear,' Johnson said. 'We're wishing them ill will. I told that to the Anaheim mayor in a delicate way last week. I am rooting against him.' The Maloofs, frustrated by the failure to secure a new arena to replace outdated Arco Arena in Sacramento, have recently visited Anaheim to talk with arena officials and politicians as the negotiations reportedly have intensified. The new deadline will enable the Kings to finish their regular season, which ends April 13, before making a formal request for relocation. A majority vote of the other 29 owners would be needed to approve relocation."

  • Martin Finucane and Andrew Ryan of The Boston Globe: "Mayor Thomas M. Menino met yesterday with local sports figures and business leaders to discuss building a statue to honor Celtics great Bill Russell. The meeting at the Parkman House was held to identify the next steps needed to make the statue a reality, said Menino’s spokeswoman, Dot Joyce. The mayor’s office declined to say who attended the breakfast, but Joyce said the group plans to sit down again next week. 'The mayor has long believed Bill Russell deserves recognition in our city not only for his talents on the court, but more importantly the role he played in developing a better, more welcoming Boston for all of our residents,’ Joyce said."

  • By SportsDayDFW.com: "Buzz Bissinger said in a Tweet on Tuesday night that he met with Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and talked to him about comments Cuban made concerning a column Bissinger had written about the NBA's waning popularity. Here is what Bissinger said on his Twitter page about talking to Cuban on Tuesday night: 'Cuban and I met. His objection to column was in questioning the success of the NBA. Cordial, friendly. No fireworks. About 15 minutes.' 'Said to Cuban I was not a coward as he called me. He said he called me coward bec. it would set me off. We must have met in another life.' More from Bissinger's Twitter page: 'Cuban and I did not discuss issues of race in NBA. He questioned attendance being down in past several years. Is smart. Knows how to market.' 'Cuban said he did not care about the issue of race. No point pounding away. I surmised that was why Cuban did not like the column. I was wrong. Plus he objected to my characterization of the NBA being in trouble.' "