First Cup: Tuesday

  • Colin Stephenson of The Star-Ledger: The Nets' DeShawn Stevenson admitted his flagrant foul on Blake Griffin was an attempt to send a message to the Los Angeles Clippers’ power forward after Griffin had been pushing the Nets around and throwing down dunks at will in the first half. “He was dunking all over the place,” Stevenson said of Griffin, whom he bumped from behind when Griffin went up for another one of those lob passes with 3:22 remaining in the second quarter of today’s 101-91 loss. “I didn’t try to foul him hard, but when he’s up in the air like that there was no way I could give a foul but to bring him down.” Stevenson said he wasn’t trying to hurt Griffin, last year’s rookie of the year and Slam Dunk champ. The Nets seemed to appreciate the effort. “I think it just showed that you can’t just let (Griffin) dunk all over us,” Deron Williams said.

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said he is aware that Lakers Coach Mike Brown wants the NBA to review power forward Blake Griffin's two-handed shove of Lakers guard Darius Morris late in the first quarter of Saturday night's game. Del Negro said Griffin's act was not "malicious." Morris was going up for a dunk during a dead ball after being fouled by point guard Chris Paul when Griffin extended both hands and pushed the Lakers rookie while he was in the air. Brown had to be restrained by Lakers assistant coaches from coming onto the court. He received a technical foul. "There was no intent for anyone to hurt anybody like that," Del Negro said.

  • Janis Carr of The Orange County Register: Derek Fisher came into Monday’s game against Dallas with some of his worst shooting in recent memory. He was averaging a career-low 33.8 percent from the field and surprising 20 percent from beyond the 3-point line. But when he got the ball late in the game,the veteran Lakers guard produced a game-winning 3-pointer reminiscent of those big shots he has made many times in his career and turned back the clock just a little. “It’s what I do,” Fisher said, an huge ice bag on his left knee. “When opportunities like that present themselves, you know, I’m confident in my abilities to just step up and make the right play, whether it’s making the shot or making the read that creates something for someone else. My experience in having played for this team for so many years, I’ve been in so many big games, I feel I have a responsibility to the team, to not be afraid to step up and make big plays.”

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: Did Lamar Odom ever really leave? Reality TV cameras followed him from the moment he arrived at Staples Center. He looked spry on the court, attacking the basket and finding open teammates. He even received an enormous standing ovation when he entered the game. Of course, there was that one little matter of wearing a Dallas Mavericks jersey instead of Lakers colors. Oh yeah, that. "It's surreal," Odom said, trying to capture his first visit to Staples Center since being traded last month for a future first-round pick. He hugged Metta World Peace at midcourt before Monday's game and shared a private on-court laugh with Kobe Bryant in the second quarter, the moment lingering a little too long only because Odom didn't know he was being subbed out for Shawn Marion.

  • Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times: Let’s take it a painful step further into the declarative. Derrick Rose will get hurt and miss significant time. That’s not doom-and-gloom stuff. It’s not worst-case scenario stuff. You’ve seen him play. You’ve seen how he drives to the basket like a horse that’s finally escaped its overturned trailer. You tell me: Is this guy not a three-month injury waiting to happen? A broken bone? A torn ligament? Altitude sickness from jumping so high? Rose sat out Monday’s game in Memphis with a sprained toe, but injury-wise, that’s nothing. Kid stuff. This toe shall pass. With the way Rose ¬≠attacks a game, a major injury is likely someday. It hurts just to write that. But the very thing that makes him great, his ferocity, is the very thing that will bring him down. No player in the NBA drives the lane with Rose’s reckless abandon. There’s probably a mathematical formula that would back me up on my injury forecast. Something like, energy + mad hops squared x mass of Dwight Howard = mangled ACL

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Kendrick Perkins got to face his former teammates for the first time since the shocking trade that brought him to Oklahoma City from Boston in exchange for Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and a first-round pick. Thunder players, though, missed seeing Green, who underwent heart surgery last week to repair an aortic aneurysm. Kevin Durant said he recently spoke with Green, who is still in Cleveland where he underwent the procedure, and the former Thunder forward is doing well. “I dedicate the season to him,” Durant said. “Jeff is a positive person. I learned so much from him. No matter what, he stays positive through the toughest times. He's still smiling and laughing and enjoying himself. It's tough to go through what he went through, and I pray for him every single day. But he knows that he's going to get back better and stronger. I can't wait for that day. I know he can't wait.”

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Jermaine O’Neal followed up an 0-for-6 performance in Indianapolis on Saturday night with a more representative 12-point, 11-rebound double-double last night. But the Celtics center said he’s tired of talking about offense. Contrary to public perception, O’Neal said, scoring isn’t why he’s here. “There’s a lot of misconception, a lot of debate from people who supposedly analyze the game,” he said after the Celtics’ 97-88 loss to the Thunder. “You have to know what position the team has players in. The fact of the matter is that (coach) Doc (Rivers) has given each of us a role, so all of this debate about what I score — I probably won’t even answer that after this time. For all of you wondering about production with me scoring, that’s not my role. My role is to be a defender, not offensive,” O’Neal said. “For all of those people saying I’m struggling offensively, that’s not my concern. I think I’m in the top 10 in blocks, and I’m probably leading the NBA in charges by a center. I’m starting to get my legs back for my rebounding, and getting my timing and all of that. So if you judge me, judge me on that. Judge me on how I get out and help the guards, and stop the penetration. Scoring has been the M.O. for me, especially in Indiana. But scoring isn’t my thing right now. If I’m not rebounding, not blocking shots, not taking charges and not helping the guards, then we have a conversation to have.”

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: JaVale McGee was very proud of himself. He got loose on a break and tossed a pass to himself off the backboard to set up his slam. Checking the stat sheet, the dunk was worth not one, but two points. Minutes later, the Rockets led the Wizards by 19. “Apparently, if you get a fast break and throw it off the backboard in the third quarter and you’re 1-11, you’re not supposed to do stuff like that,” McGee said of Wizards’ coach Flip Saunders’ objections. “I was trying to get the team hyped up and it worked. We went on run there.” It was quite the run. In the next six minutes, the Wizards scored four points. The Rockets scored 19. That McGee was oblivious of this should not come as a surprise. This is how teams get to 1-13. They are about themselves, about their numbers and their highlights.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Flip Saunders said the reason he benched McGee (eight points, 10 rebounds) was because “we weren’t playing good when he was on the floor, basically,” and not the dunk. “I think because he’s a freak athlete and I think what happens, some of the stuff he does he doesn’t even know he does it. That’s just his nature. He’s gotten better. It takes time. We pounded him for 21 / 2 years not to dribble the ball full court, you know we haven’t seen any this year, knock on wood.” Young defended McGee, explaining the center needs plays like that to get going and added: “I just want JaVale to keep his head. Don’t let it bring him down.”

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Magic assistant coach Patrick Ewing received a standing ovation at Madison Square Garden when he was introduced during a break in the first quarter of Monday's 102-93 Magic win over the Knicks. Ewing, of course, has been asked what advice he has given Howard, who can opt out of his deal after this season and has requested a trade. Ewing said he has advised Howard to remain with the Magic. "Everybody always thinks the grass is always greener," Ewing said. "But it's a great opportunity for him to stay in a [single] place. I wish I had stayed and finished my career here in New York. But it's his decision." Howard, who can opt out of his current deal after this season, has requested a trade. One of the three teams on his list of preferred destinations is the New Jersey Nets, who will relocate to Brooklyn after this season. Ewing played the first 15 seasons of his 17-year NBA career with the Knicks, and he understands that the spotlight is brighter in the New York market than Orlando.

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: The Grizzlies scored 58 points in the first half. Nobody does that against the tenacious Bulls. And in the middle of it was none other than Marreese Speights. Yes, Speights. The guy who was seen as too lazy and too defensively challenged to get off the bench for the 76ers. But there he was Monday, taking a charge. There he was, taking another charge. There he was, throwing down two monster dunks. There he was, finding O.J. Mayo cutting through the lane for an easy score. ... Speights finished the game with 16 points, 12 rebounds, a blocked shot and two assists. "Marreese Speights set the tone," said Heisley. I bet that's a sentence you never thought you'd hear. But it says something larger about this team, about what it has become. Once, the Grizzlies were a franchise where players came to languish. Now, they come here and thrive. There's a winning atmosphere in that locker room. It can't help but rub off on a player like Speights.

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: At times, Anthony has saved the Knicks with his individual efforts. On Monday, he was clearly part of the problem, going 5 for 17 in the second half, when the Knicks squandered a 7-point lead. “A lot of them shots, I know I can make,” he said. “I shoot them shots every day. So I’m not too concerned about that.” With the offense in disarray, the Knicks (6-7) lost their third straight game, erasing the gains of a four-game winning streak. Anthony was questionable until game time because of a sprained ankle, which had caused him to miss the previous game. He aggravated the injury late in the fourth quarter, with the Knicks trailing by 5 points, when he tripped over the Magic’s Hedo Turkoglu. Though he limped momentarily, Anthony still took the next shot, an errant 3-pointer. Anthony said his ankle was not an issue, but he conceded that his left wrist — which was also injured last Thursday in Memphis — posed some problems. “Even though I had two hands on the ball, I was really shooting with one,” he said. “I couldn’t really control the ball.” As a result, he said, many of his shots were “long, flat.” “But that’s neither here nor there,” he said. “I’ll get better at that.”

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Josh Smith wouldn’t let the Hawks fall behind early – or late. Smith keyed decisive Hawks’ runs in the first and fourth quarters en route to a 93-84 victory over the Raptors in Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee at Philips Arena. Smith scored a game-high 28 points, two off his season-high, in the win. He scored 10 points during a 12-2 Hawks’ first-quarter run, in which they turned a six-point deficit into a 15-11 lead. They would never trail after his dunk during the run. Smith also scored the Hawks’ first six points of the fourth quarter after the Raptors had pulled within two points at 73-71. “I think I’m in a different state of mind,” Smith said. “I’m playing as hard as I’ve ever played. I dedicate all this to my offseason work ethic and the amount of effort I put in knowing how big of a season this is and wanting to get better.” Smith also had 15 rebounds his sixth double-double of the season. The Hawks are 5-0 in games Smith scores 20 or more points.

  • John N. Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer: The Sixers (10-3) are just one of four teams that have yet to lose at home this season. San Antonio is 9-0, and Chicago and Indiana are 5-0 at home. While the opponent was new, the formula was the same tried-and-true method the Sixers have used so regularly and with such efficiency on most nights this season. "What they have done really well this year is they have some guys that are very good with the ball," Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles said. "But when a guy is open, he gets the ball. And he gets it on time and on target. They are really playing unselfishly. They have guys that can do things with the ball, but they sacrifice and spread the ball around, and it makes them difficult to defend." No team has scored more than 89 points against the Sixers at home, where they also have limited Toronto to 62 points and Detroit to 73. Monday's win was their ninth in the last 10 games.

  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: He calls himself “the random guy,” — a designation that’s fitting on so many levels when it comes to Bosh’s brief Heat career — because with all the plays being called for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, he can randomly alter the direction of a play and create for himself. So what’s the problem with being aggressive? His teammates want him to be. His coach wants him to be. His fans cry for him to be. Well, there’s one element, other than the unselfishness factor, that tends to hold Bosh back some. “I don’t like missing,” he said. Seems like a simple enough concept. I mean, unless you’re missing purposely to get yourself a pass off the backboard, nobody likes to miss shots. For Bosh, though, missing shots disrupts his flow so much that it will hinder his aggressiveness. “I hate missing shots,” he said. “I can make three in a row, then if I miss two in a row I feel like I’m blowing it. “In Denver, I missed my first three shots and then I think I passed up an 18-footer. Everybody kind of got mad at me.” So there’s the quandary. Bosh went from catching the ball in spots where he knew he was supposed to attack, to now leaving the choice totally in his hands. And when he’s not thinking score, he sometimes gets scolded.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: This road losing skid is getting ridiculous. But the Milwaukee Bucks haven't figured how to stop it. They lost their eighth consecutive road game, falling to the confident Philadelphia 76ers, 94-82, in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee Monday at the Wells Fargo Center. Center Andrew Bogut returned to the Bucks lineup and contributed 20 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots. But Milwaukee (4-8) could not slow down the 76ers, who won for the ninth time in their last 10 games. "I have no idea," Bucks guard Stephen Jackson responded when asked how his team could get a road victory. Asked if it was getting frustrating, Jackson said, "Nope. I just don't have the answers."

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: There were two plays in the Raptors’ 93-84 loss to the Atlanta Hawks here Monday that DeMar DeRozan will watch and he will wince when he sees them and he will hear his coach in his ear saying, “Yeah, that’s what I mean.” They were, in the school vernacular of the day, “learning opportunities” and the Raptors can only hope the young shooting guard emerges better off from the roughest patch of his NBA career. The first came as DeRozan found himself with the ball and almost a clear path to the basket in transition. But instead of going hard to the rim, knowing that a pursuing Hawk was likely to catch him and hit him, DeRozan made a passive move, had the ball stripped, saw it bounce off his foot out of bounds and an easy basket was lost. The second came late in the game, with the Raptors desperately trying to pull off a miracle. With the ball at the top of three-point circle, the athletically gifted young man launched arguably the worst three-pointer of his life. It missed the rim and almost the backboard, finishing low and left — definitely not one for the highlight reels. Those are moments that can’t happen if DeRozan is to realize his potential and if the Raptors are going to snap out of the five-game losing streak they find themselves in heading to Boston for a Wednesday finale to this three-game road trip.

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: Maybe it’s just the jet lag. Maybe it’s a touch of homesickness. Maybe the mattresses at their luxury hotels have suddenly become too lumpy. Maybe the seats on their charter plane have become too cramped. Or maybe, as Tim Duncan suggests, there really is no good explanation for the Spurs’ newfound fear of travel. The fact of the matter is this: The Spurs are 9-0 at the AT&T Center this season, 0-4 when they leave Bexar County. “There’s no rhyme or reason to why we’re winning one place and not the other,” Duncan said. “We just have to play better on the road.”

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: So far this season, if Felton and Crawford aren't turning the ball over in bunches, they are missing shots like a fan during a timeout promotion. And if they are protecting the ball during the first three quarters of the game, they are coughing it up in crunch time. Throw in the recent shooting struggles of Wesley Matthews, and you have a trio of guards who have been unreliable. And guess what? Buckle your seat belts, because these are the guys who are going to be driving this ride for the rest of the season. Coach Nate McMillan has flirted with playing rookie Nolan Smith, giving him spot duty in Houston on Saturday and alluding to playing him in Monday's game in New Orleans. He didn't. And even after his veteran backcourt took everybody on a rollercoaster ride of turnovers (Felton had 8, Crawford 4) and missed shots (the trio went 7-for-26 from the field), McMillan did nothing more than shrug his shoulders. "Those are our guards," he said flatly. "It's not like we are going to go to our young guys." There is a tricky line a coach has to walk during a season. He wants his players to feel loose and comfortable. Free to play. But at the same time, he can't have them throwing the ball around the court like it's dodge ball at recess. In the process, he has to deal with personalities, and how to coach them. And what a spectrum of personalities he's dealing with in this backcourt. Consider the moods of the three players after Monday's game. Felton was defensive and defiant in an interview. Crawford was cautious and confused. Matthews was matter-of-fact.

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: It took the Utah Jazz 28 games at the end of last season to get new coach Tyrone Corbin his eighth win. Forget all of the improvement this Jazz team has made on the offensive and defensive ends, the superior communication channels players and coaches have opened up, the increased trust they have in each other, their individual and collective development, their jelling chemistry, the night-in-night-out better effort and, of course, more accurate shooting. Yes, that's all come together faster than almost anyone expected. But check out the growth chart that matters the most in the NBA: the standings. Only 12 games into the 2011-12 campaign, and the Corbin-led Jazz already have eight wins. That's tangible progress. "We know what we can do. We know our capabilities," Jazz power forward Paul Millsap said. "We know where we are headed, where we want to go, and we're just fighting to get there." Fighting on the fast track, it seems.

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: With their 102-94 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday, the Cavaliers are now 4-5 on the road this season. In last season's 19-win debacle, the Cavs won seven games away from Quicken Loans Arena. One can see how much improvement they've made already. The Cavaliers concluded their seven-game road trip with a 3-4 record. They are 6-6 overall. As chronicled on Sunday, if the season ended today, they'd be the No. 8 seed in the playoffs. The plan this season was not to make the playoffs. It was to get playing time and experience for their young core of players. Perhaps, they are progressing more rapidly than expected. This team plays very hard and has the ability to defend. Those are two good traits to possess.