First Cup: Friday

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: And now, as Orlando gets ready to have the time of its life during this NBA All-Star Weekend, Pat Williams continues to fight for his own survival. "I've got a lot more life to live," says Pat, the co-founder, father and senior vice president of the Orlando Magic. "I've got more books to write, more speeches to give and all my grandchildren to educate." He is sitting out by his swimming pool in Winter Park as three of his granddaughters — Audri, Ava and Laila — are frolicking in the sun down near the banks of Lake Killarney. It was almost a year ago to this very day when Pat sat at this same table and told me he had cancer. Bad cancer. The disease is called multiple myeloma, an aggressive cancer that infiltrates the blood plasma in the bone marrow. It is inoperable and incurable but sometimes can be treated with chemo to the point of inactivity. "The Mission is Remission!" Pat declared that day a year ago. "Well," Pat says now, "the chemo didn't work." For most 71-year-old men, this might have been a death sentence. Not Pat, the ultimate optimist who, along with local businessman Jimmy Hewitt, had this silly notion 26 years ago that they could team up and bring the NBA to a basketball-illiterate city in the middle of a football-fanatical state. They were scoffed at and called foolish dreamers by all the good ol' boy football helmet-heads. Well, guess what? Here we are a quarter-century later and this no-horse sports town has become a thriving NBA city. Without Pat and Jimmy, there would be no All-Star Game this weekend. There would be no sparkling new state-of-the-art arena. And there wouldn't be all of those nights and Dwights to remember. ... Understandably, Dwight Howard and his trade request to leave Orlando will be the major story line over the next few days. But let's not ever forget why Dwight and the Magic are even Orlando to begin with. It's because this man believed in us. Pat Williams will forever be the Magic's ultimate All-Star.

  • Linda Robertson of The Miami Herald: Linsanity was quelled by the Heat straitjacket. Jeremy Lin, the out-of-nowhere New York Knicks point guard, was harassed, pummeled and handcuffed into the type of mistakes made by a marginal pro, not a worldwide sensation. He turned the ball over eight times and scored only eight points in the 102-88 loss. The Lin fairy tale ran smack dab into the jaws of the big, bad Heat defense. Lincredible was no match for LeBrawn. LeBron James flexed his intimidator persona. He let a hot Chris Bosh do the flashy scoring while he focused on locking up Carmelo Anthony and collaborating on Lin. James grabbed five steals and nine rebounds, blocked two shots and served eight assists. The moral of this not-so-happy ending for the Knicks: Defense wins when it counts most. The pugnacious Pat Riley philosophy, embraced by Erik Spoelstra, proved much more effective than coach Mike D’Antoni’s drag-racing approach. ... One story Thursday was that of Lin coming down to earth. The other was the Heat still going at lightspeed into another galaxy. “We don’t know what our ceiling is,” Spoelstra said. “We want to keep pushing.”

  • Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: From the start, that wasn't a basketball, that was a message the Heat kept knocking from Jeremy Lin, slapping away, stealing, pressuring in a manner to make an undrafted guy from Harvard look like an undrafted guy from Harvard. Even the Heat fans at AmericanAirlines Arena understood at the start of the Heat's 102-88 win how Thursday night demanded more than the usual February night. More energy. More attention. More noise. More fun. They booed when Lin touched the ball for the first time, putting them on par with Philadephia booing Santa Claus. So they delivered the message, just as the Heat did. Enough already. That was the message. Our building. Our season. Our names on the marquee. That was its late-February corollary. Linsanity was at a lin-imum. The Heat defense was at its suffocating best. It forced Lin into the triple-ugly: 1 of 11 shooting, eight turnovers and eight points. "It's hard to be Peter Pan every day,'' New York Knicks coachMike D'Antoni said of Lin. "He just had an off-day."

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: Since exploding onto the N.B.A. stage earlier this month, Lin has grown accustomed to the increased attention, from fans and defenses alike. Teams are crowding him and forcing him to go left (his weaker direction) and making him a focus of their game plans. The Heat took it to another level. “I can’t rememberanother game where it was hard to just take dribbles,” Lin said. ... So the Knicks reached the All-Star break with a losing record but a renewed spirit, having won 9 of 12 games since Lin took control. The schedule gets much tougher from here, but the Knicks will open March with a string of practice days, the first they have had with their revamped lineup. There is ample learning time yet for Lin as he makes the transition from a momentary sensation to an everyday player. After the game, the Knicks’ veterans, including Anthony and Tyson Chandler, made their way to Lin to offer encouragement. “His head was down,” Anthony said. “So we all went over to him. ‘Cheer up. We have nights like this. You’re going to have nights like this. You’re playing against one of the best teams in the N.B.A., if not the best team in the N.B.A. And they really focused in on trying to stop you tonight. You know, you’re on the scouting report now.’ "He laughed about it,” Anthony said. “You want to have fun and I want him to continue to have fun.”

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: As bad as Jeremy Lin was against the Heat Thursday night, he wasn’t even the worst Knicks point guard on the floor. Lin’s backup, Baron Davis, gave the Knicks next to nothing in his 14 minutes. Davis missed all seven of his shots, including four 3-pointers. He did have three assists, but it’s been a struggle for the veteran guard who missed nine months with a back injury. “It’s very difficult,” Davis said. “I don’t want to get into the trap of being measured with every game. This is still really practice time for me. I haven’t played in nine, 10 months. Maybe it will take 10 games or 15 games. My goal is to be peaking by April.” Mike D’Antoni spoke with Davis following the 102-88 loss to Miami and told him to remain positive and that he will still be a factor for the Knicks this season. Davis has made just one of 12 shots in three games as a Knick.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Before taking on two of the league's most storied franchises, Kevin Durant was asked Wednesday morning whether the championship still goes through heavyweights like the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. Durant being Durant, of course, claimed it does. “You have to go through those guys, because they've been through it,” Durant said. “They've been through tough battles in the playoffs. They've been through championships and they know what it takes to win basketball games, regular season or postseason.” Fair enough. But what the Oklahoma City Thunder confirmed in the last two nights was that there is certainly a changing of the guard taking place before our eyes. While playing in front of a nationally televised audience, the Thunder took down the Lakers 100-85 inside Chesapeake Energy Arena on Thursday night. Oklahoma City led by as many as 16 points and never trailed in the second half. In another nationally televised game roughly 24 hours earlier, Oklahoma City disposed of the Celtics, albeit an injury-filled version, with the same 15-point throttling. In that game, the Thunder led by as many as 27. Two games. Two nights. Two lopsided wins against league royalty.

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: The Lakers were outscored in fastbreak points, 21-6, and they couldn't execute their half-court offense to offset Oklahoma City's speed. The pilot taking Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant via private jet to the All-Star Game in Orlando still let them on board although they shot a combined 12 for 39 (30.8 percent). Bynum will get a regularly scheduled lubricant injection in his right knee tonight in Florida from his personal doctor, then sit out All-Star practice Saturday to recover (with the NBA's permission) but still play in the game Sunday. Bryant said: "I feel great." The last time the Lakers won a big road game in Boston, they came out flat the next night in New York and shot a season-worst 37.5 percent from the field. They won a revenge game in Dallas on Wednesday night and shot 38.5 percent Thursday. Bryant said Lakers coaches need to figure out during the break some ways to lighten the load for him, Bynum and Pau Gasol against double teams: "We have to work too hard to get points," Bryant said.

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: For the first time in his career, Tim Duncan didn’t have to suffer an early wake-up call and hop a flight the day after the Spurs’ final game before All-Star Weekend. Left off the Western Conference All-Star roster for the first time in his 15 seasons — there was no All-Star Game in 1999, the only other NBA season shortened by a lockout — Duncan said he is looking forward to what may be his best All-Star Weekend. “I’m going to go home and hang out with my family and kids,” he said. “Actually, it’s going to be the best All-Star Weekend ever. At the end of the day I’m not going to have to do media six times before playing in the game for five minutes.” The Spurs will be represented in the All-Star Game by leading scorer Tony Parker. He and Kawhi Leonard, who will play in the Rising Stars Challenge game on Friday night, were to depart Denver on Thursday.

  • Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post: You might think there's only one way to look at losing 12 of 16 games to drop from one of the Western Conference's best teams to no longer in the top eight — but you would be wrong. Because, after taking a 114-99 whipping from San Antonio on Thursday night at the Pepsi Center, the Nuggets' world remains all roses, rainbows and lollipops. The postgame locker room was rambunctious. Coach George Karl feels good about the situation. There is no panic, very little frustration but mounds of hope even as they limp — literally and figuratively — into the NBA's all-star break. "The NBA is a long season, man," Nuggets forward Corey Brewer said. "Even though it's a short season, it's a long season. We know we've got guys out. We know we're getting guys back that can play basketball." Injuries have been the Nuggets' crutch in February, and yet are simultaneously the source of their continued confidence.

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Before Thursday’s game, Larry Drew was asked to characterize the first half of what has been, even by the Hawks’ schizo standards, a strange season. “Given what the schedule was and our situation with injuries,” the coach said, “I have to be pleased overall.” And you know what? He’s right. Sort of. The Hawks hit the All-Star break third in the Southeast Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference, and if , before this truncated season began, you’d where this team might rank, third and sixth would have seemed reasonable responses. But, these being the Hawks, they didn’t track a path anyone would have predicted. ... Speaking before the game, Drew had said, “Going into the all-star break, this would be really big.” And, even if it was technically only a Thursday night game in February, it seemed rather essential in the grand scheme. “We still have to limit those [blowout losses],” Smith said, “but it was definitely good not to lose by double digits — or to lose, period.” The Hawks, who’ve mostly lost to plus-.500 teams this season, beat one of those. (Albeit the only one the Hawks have come to own.) After three lousy weeks, they gave themselves a warm and fuzzy memory to mull over the five-day hiatus, and they gave their questioning audience reason to think there might be hope for this strange team after all.

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: Oscar Robertson, NBA legend and the man who led the way so players like Dwight Howard would have the right to become free agents, has a word of advice for Dwight in this ongoing trade saga. “Keep your mouth shut and play basketball,” said Robertson, who was a guest on our radio show Wednesday and will be in town during All-Star Weekend to raise awareness for prostate cancer. ”If he wants to be traded, he’s going to be traded. Go and talk to the owners and say, ‘I want to be traded’ and keep it a secret.’ In a situation like this, he can’t win. … Anytime they (Magic) stumble and fall and every time they get beat, they’re going to blame Dwight Howard and it’s totally unfair because it’s not all his fault. I don’t think management has done a great job in keeping certain players on the team. They had a nucleus of players that got them to the Finals and then, all of the sudden, it’s gone downhill.”