First Cup: Wednesday

January, 18, 2012
1/18/12
5:39
AM ET
  • Linda Robertson of The Miami Herald: Life without Dwyane continued for the Heat on Tuesday and at first it looked pretty miserable. Then the Heat decided that ruining its homecoming with a loss to San Antonio was unacceptable, even without the injured Dwyane Wade. The players decided that extending their three-game losing streak was intolerable. The Heat decided to get resourceful, get creative and get in sync. Not only did the team jolt itself out of a funk, but it showed that life without Dwyane can be quite fulfilling. In Wade’s absence, LeBron James led a comeback from 17 points down to a 120-98 victory. Chris Bosh played with feisty style, displaying an array of shots. Mario Chalmers was authoritative. And Mike Miller made a remarkable return, nailing 6 of 6 three-pointers for 18 points in 15 minutes. The net barely jiggled when his shots sailed through. After he swished his fifth, he shook his head and smiled, like even he couldn’t believe it.
  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: Gregg Popovich went at his guys again, because this is what he does. He tells them what he thinks they need to hear on a certain night and, Tuesday, he thought they needed a scolding. “We should be embarrassed,” he said. He thinks this will help them next time. But he also knows this stance is better than acknowledging what really happened. There wasn’t much the Spurs could have done, no matter how physical they became, because this is what happens when LeBron James makes outside shots. Mostly, you lose. Mostly, you don’t lose like this. The Spurs scored 35 points in the first quarter without shooting a free throw, which might be an NBA first. Then, in the span of the third quarter, the Spurs went from a 14-point lead to wondering when Popovich would pull the starters to get ready for Orlando tonight. Ever seen anything like it? “Never,” said Richard Jefferson, and he’s been in the league for only 10 years. There was certainly something to Popovich’s I-felt-we-folded speech. The Heat played the first half as if all of them had caught James’ cold, then began the second by blitzing and cutting. The Spurs, led by a suddenly unsure Tony Parker, had no response.
  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: Hey, Magic fans, you might want to show up at the Amway Center Wednesday night just to say a potential goodbye to the Big Fella. Chances are he's not going to be around much longer. When they announce his name, give him a standing ovation. Show him how much he is appreciated for what he has done. Thank him for loading a small-market team and a devoted town onto his broad shoulders and uplifting them and making them feel good about themselves and showing them that love and loyalty really do mean something in today's self-indulgent sports world. I wish I were talking about Dwight Howard, but I'm not. I'm talking about Tim Duncan, who will be in town tonight with his San Antonio Spurs — a non-glitzy, unglamorous team he elevated into a champion. He is what Magic fans always hoped Dwight would be — the rock-solid foundation of a franchise and the enduring cornerstone of a community. That's apparently not going to happen now. You know the story. Dwight told the Magic long ago he wants outta here. Wants a bigger market, a more glamorous lifestyle. Wants to make movies and records and reality TV shows. And, oh yeah, I almost forgot, he says "all I want to do is win." Which seems a bit odd considering he has the 3-11 New Jersey Nets on his trade-request list. I think what he meant to say is, "I'd kinda like to win — as long as it's in Hollywood or the Big Apple." If only Dwight wanted to be a Junior Tim instead of a Baby Shaq. If only Dwight had the personality and purpose of Duncan, there would not be this impending feeling of gloom and doom surrounding a Magic team that is playing well and leading its division. Orlando fans should be excited about the future now instead of dreading it.
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: It took about a dozen games, but rookie Bismack Biyombo offered evidence to Charlotte Bobcats fans Tuesday why he was the seventh overall pick in the NBA draft. He's what Southerners would call "country strong'' and what coach Paul Silas called the one truly tough guy on this roster. Biyombo did his best to stand up to the baddest dude in the NBA - Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard - and for a while, it worked. Biyombo played a big part in Howard committing five fouls. It wasn't enough to hold off the Magic in the Bobcats' 96-89 loss at Amway Center, but it held promise for the future, concerning the springy 6-foot-9 big man from the Congo. "He played Dwight tough. He didn't just let him back it in all the way to the rim. He's my toughest player," Silas said of Biyombo, who finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Biyombo didn't have much to say about his big night except this about Howard: "He's strong....I'm strong, too."
  • Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times: Center Joakim Noah took a hit from one of his biggest fans. But he still has the one who counts. Charles Barkley, the TNT analyst who has been one of Noah’s biggest supporters, hit Noah where it hurts the most after Noah scored two points and had five rebounds in the Bulls’ loss Monday against the Grizzlies. ‘‘His energy level is not the same,” Barkley said. “I have loved how hard he has worked, but he has not played up to his capabilities this year. Even though Chicago has a great record, he has not played like he has played the last couple of years.’’ But coach Tom Thibodeau doesn’t seem too worried about it. ‘‘Jo’s fine,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘He played well the last couple of games before the Memphis game [12 rebounds against the Celtics and Raptors]. The Memphis game, we played poorly as a team. But I like the way [Noah’s] playing. He’s reacting to the ball a lot better.’’
  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: The three times Watson has played for an injured Derrick Rose, Watson has averaged 24.3 points. Throw in John Lucas III's 25-point performance when Rose and Watson both were injured last week and who needs that No. 1 guy anyway? "We do," Watson said, not taking the bait. But of course. The point is: The Bulls improved to 6-0 at home with an impressive offensive showing that featured 31 points from a red-hot Carlos Boozer, 13 points and 12 rebounds from an active Joakim Noah and 11 points and six assists from Richard Hamilton. The Bulls posted season highs for points in a quarter (39 in the first), half (67) and game. Noah even sank two of his patented "Tornado" jumpers en route to his third double-double and second in four games. All five starters hit double figures. Depth, anyone?
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: It did not look like the Chicago Bulls needed Grant Hill on Tuesday night, but they sure did pursue him as a free agent in the off-season. Hill, who re-signed with the Suns for a one-year and $6.5 million, had plenty of suitors, but none pressed his decision like the Bulls, who made a competitive offer to Hill, fully knowing that he was coming off knee surgery in September at age 39. Hill arrived in Chicago in January with the frustration of shooting 33 percent on a skidding team, and Chicago has the best record in the league for a second consecutive season. "It was an interesting conversation," Hill said of Chicago's free-agency recruitment. "It was very tempting. They're doing a great job here. It's a great sports town. They definitely were in the picture, and it took serious consideration on my part." This road trip is full of stops in cities with teams that made offers to Hill, starting with San Antonio on Sunday and continuing Wednesday night at New York through Friday at Boston.
  • Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer: Byron Scott had no interest in blaming the long trip for some of the sloppiness: "No excuse." Instead, he loathed "bad decisions" and opportunities squandered. He said he wants Tristan Thompson (2-of-9 shooting) to pass the ball once in a while. The 20-year-old forward has a grand total of two assists in 235 minutes. It was a long night for Alonzo Gee, who had as many turnovers (3) as field goal attempts. In 23 minutes, all he produced was four points and two rebounds. A major drop off from his recent solid play. There were some good things. Perhaps finally healthy and in shape after having thumb surgery before the start of the season, Semih Erden scored 14 points in 16 minutes. He hit a couple of nice hook shots and looked like the 7-footer who intrigued General Manager Chris Grant, who traded a second-round pick to Boston for Turkish center last season. Omri Casspi had 11 points, six rebounds and was 4-of-6 at the foul line as he looked more active. But Tuesday's game reminds fans that nothing will come easy, especially with some of the best in the Eastern Conference -- Chicago, Miami, Atlanta and New York -- awaiting in the next four games.
  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: The Warriors should consider flying in one of Klay Thompson's family members for the rest of his games this season. The rookie swingman matched his career high with 14 points, going 4-for-4 on three-point shots in 16 1/2 minutes of the Warriors' 105-95 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday. He also had 14 points against the Lakers on Jan. 6. The commonality between the opponents? His brother Mychel plays for Cleveland, and his father, Mychal, is the radio analyst for the Lakers. "I'm going to tell him that I'm a distant cousin," Warriors coach Mark Jackson joked. "I don't think playing in front of family sparks anything in me, but shoot, I did want to beat Mykey badly," Klay Thompson said. "I needed this one." As the story goes, the brothers' AAU teams matched up in 2007, and Klay's team was ahead by about 20 points. But he sprained his ankle on Mychel's foot, and Mychel's team went on to win. They no doubt recounted that game Monday night, when they had a late dinner in Cleveland. "We go at each other all the time," Mychel said. "I think I helped him a little bit. I had to be a little bit of a bully when we were kids because I was older."
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: For all the times in April, it was impossible for the Rockets not to look over at the Eastern Conference standings and think of how different life would be if they were still in the NBA’s lesser half, that feeling came early this season. The big advantage, of course, would be that all those winning teams that failed to make the playoffs – the Rockets have done it an NBA record five teams – would have advanced. The Rockets would not have had to even sneak in considering some of the teams that get in the postseason in the East these days. After consecutive days against the Wizards and Pistons, the real loss might be only getting to play them a couple times each season. The shame of Tuesday’s rout was that they are done with the Pistons for the season. If they could be in the East, however, and would double the number of games against whoever is dragging through the bottom of the East any particular season, it would be easy for a middle of the pack Western Conference team to pad a record. It would be like those college football programs that get a non-conference schedule made up entirely of schools with names that include at least one direction and the word ‘State.’ It would be like the first round of tennis tournaments where the challengers can’t believe they are on the same court as Nadal or Federer or a Williams sister and don’t stay there for long.
  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: Airplane trouble? To a man, none of the Pistons knew anything about their team plane having issues on the flight Monday afternoon to Houston. The pilot of the team plane reported problems with the hydraulics operating the aircraft's left-side landing gear and declared an emergency into William P. Hobby Airport, but there were no signs of distress among the passengers. An ambulance greeted the plane upon landing and the players didn't give a second thought to the sirens surrounding the plane afterward. Pistons forward Austin Daye was well into town, getting a haircut when texts and phone calls started flying in about an emergency landing. He had no idea. "I didn't know until people started asking me: 'What happened to the plane?'" Ben Wallace said. ... Pistons coach Lawrence Frank echoed that sentiment. "We were all shocked, we got 100 texts, saying 'are you all right?', but we didn't know anything," he said. "We thought it was a prank, I thought they wanted a couple autographs."
  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: If Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard has added the Clippers to the list of teams he would be interested in being traded to, as has been reported, that was news to both teams, according to several NBA executives not authorized to speak publicly on the situation. An Internet report said Howard was intrigued by the Clippers, but according to all the executives, the report wasn't true and the Clippers and Magic haven't had any discussions about a Howard deal. Howard's agent, Dan Fegan, has been given permission to speak with the Lakers, New Jersey Nets and Dallas Mavericks about his client. The Magic knows that the Clippers won't trade Blake Griffin for Howard, and Orlando has no interest in Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, according to the executives.
  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: After their high-flying performance Tuesday night, the NBA team in town might consider adding some new slogans to their marketing campaign. Utah Jazz. Life Elevated. Salt Lob City. Overlooked Jazz: We Fly Above The Radar. However you brand it, the Jazz took their play to a whole new level — one that on this exciting night was even above Blake Griffin — during their wildly entertaining 108-79 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. Fun was the word of the night — from the dunking and dominating show the Jazz put on for the 19,371 fans at EnergySolutions Arena to postgame comments from coach Tyrone Corbin and the players in the lively locker room. "I enjoyed watching the guys have fun do what they do," Corbin said. "They really worked together and they deserved to have some success." Surprisingly to some, that's come in bunches lately for the Jazz, who improved to second in the Western Conference with a 9-4 record thanks to wins in eight of their past nine games.
  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: Jazz video coordinator Jefferson Sweeney? Completely off the public radar, despite spending 12 years with the franchise and working his way up from an EnergySolutions Arena security guard to the organization’s best-kept scouting secret. All have played crucial roles in Utah’s surprising 8-4 start, though. And each has been essential to the Jazz’s initial success during a lockout-shortened 66-game season — one that’s already seen the team play six back-to-backs, including three home-and-away sets. Player reports, personnel evaluations and intricate video edits highlight the best of their work; old-school dry-erase board diagrams and modern technological wizardry capture the gamut. Every bit of information is funneled into two final sources: Corbin and Utah’s 13-man roster. All of the effort is designed to produce the only thing that ultimately matters in the NBA: winning games. ... Right now, Sweeney’s biggest obstacle is getting Utah’s players and coaches to download a $2.99 application. Paul Millsap, Corbin and Sanders have it. Others don’t. Once it’s acquired, the AVPlayerHD app turns iPhones and iPads into NBA libraries.
  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: If Corey Brewer keeps this up, he could become the most popular Florida Gator in Denver. Jokes aside, Brewer erupted Tuesday night in the Nuggets' 105-95 road victory at a sleepy Bradley Center. The reserve forward scored a season-high 22 points on 8-for-14 shooting, while zipping and zig-zagging, shot-blocking and sky-walking. "He brings energy to our team, and usually energy and aggressiveness are positive personalities of a successful team," said Denver coach George Karl, whose team is 9-5. ... Meanwhile, Brewer is causing a Karl conundrum. The coach again said he wants to play the small forward more minutes, but the coach also adores Fernandez. But the more Karl sees from Brewer, the more he realizes what he has. "Corey has been well-coached in his time, and I think he's a very knowledgeable basketball player, especially with concepts," Karl said. "Some of the younger guys — and even veteran guys — don't pick up on defensive changes or things we want to do. The thing that has surprised me was that I knew he was fast in the open court, but his basketball IQ is higher than I thought it was."

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