First Cup: Tuesday

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Brandon Jennings admitted he was stressing about the latest trade rumors, with the league trade deadline approaching Thursday. But the Milwaukee Bucks point guard turned off his cell phones and took out any anxieties he had on the New Jersey Nets on Monday night at the Prudential Center. Jennings scored 34 points, two shy of a season high, and added seven rebounds and seven assists in the Bucks' 105-99 decision, their 10th consecutive victory over the Nets. The Bucks (18-24) overcame another terrible start with a 58-point second half as they moved into a tie with the slumping New York Knicks for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference race. ... The Bucks also survived an off night from forward Ersan Ilyasova, named the Eastern Conference player of the week earlier in the day. Ilyasova admitted he was exhausted after playing 44 minutes in a victory over Toronto on Sunday, and he finished with four points and three rebounds. "As long as I'm in a Milwaukee Bucks uniform, I'm going to keep playing the way I'm capable of playing," said Jennings, whose name was floated as a trade candidate in a published report Monday. "I can't get caught up in that. As long as I'm with the Bucks, I'm happy."

  • Colin Stephenson of The Star-Ledger: At the end, a few fans began chanting, "We want Dwight! We want Dwight!" — a plea for the Nets to acquire the Orlando Magic’s six-time All-Star center, Dwight Howard. The Nets are certainly trying to trade for Howard, and the trade deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m. Despite the loss, the Nets remain four-and-a-half games out of the final playoff spot – not too far behind to be ruled out of the race, especially if they can land Howard by Thursday. Humphries didn’t want to talk about the playoffs afterward. "I know that everyone out there looks at playoffs and stuff like that, but I’m looking at one game, as cliche as it sounds," Humphries said. "We’ve got to focus on each individual game, and if you put yourself in a position where down to one game we’re fighting to have that opportunity, so be it. But I think that every time you kind of focus on the end you lose track on what you’re doing today."

  • Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times: Derrick Rose’s frustration was obvious. He drove to the basket again and again and drew contact, but no fouls were called. At one point, he complained to the officials about the Knicks setting illegal screens. Again, no call. “I’ve got to be the only superstar in the league goingthrough what I’m going through right now,” Rose said after the Bulls’ 104-99 victory Monday night at the United Center. The difference in a closely contested game at halftime was free throws. The Knicks got to the line 21 times in the first half and converted 15. The Bulls were 7-for-11 and trailed 50-48. It evened out in the second half, but Rose still believes he’s not getting the respect he deserves from the officials. “I was mad because they weren’t calling any calls the whole game,” Rose said when asked about the angry look on his face after an emphatic dunk with 6:02 left. “That’s probably the reason why.” When asked if he thought his comments would draw a fine from the league, Rose said: “I could care less right now.”

  • Al Iannazzone of Newsday: Carmelo Anthony sat alone on the bench between the third and fourth quarters while the Knicks huddled and showed signs of frustration throughout their latest loss. Anthony shook his head after a quick possession in which he didn't touch the ball and slapped his hands in disgust after not getting a pass in the post late in the game. His frustration carried over to the locker room after the Knicks' sixth straight defeat, a 104-99 loss to the Bulls Monday night. Anthony let off some steam. "It [stinks]," Anthony said. "The situation we're in right now . . . the way we've been losing games. Not a good feeling right now. Hopefully, tomorrow we'll feel better. But tonight it's not a good feeling. We need to get our act together and start to win basketball games." Anthony led the Knicks with 21 points, but he was 2-for-7 with five points in the fourth quarter and not free of blame with his performance. There were times he didn't run back as quickly on defense as he did on offense. But overall, the Knicks were outworked, out-hustled and beaten badly on the boards.

  • Steve Popper of The Record: The news came out Monday morning that T.J. Ford was retiring from the game — and Baron Davis’ heart immediately sank. The Knicks’ point guard delivered the blow that was the final shot to knock Ford from the game Friday when a forearm in the back sent the Spurs’ guard sprawling. The 28-year-old Ford already had undergone spinal fusion surgery his rookie season in 2003-04 and when he had this scare — lying on the court momentarily immobilized — he decided that was enough. Davis called Ford to express his sorrow. "I just wanted to make sure that I let him know how much I cared, how much he meant to me and to express my apologies," Davis said. "That’s why I stopped. I hardly ran down the court because once I saw it was him I was like, ‘Oh no. This is the last thing I want to happen right now.’ He’s a dear friend and someone I respect and I admire for his hard work. It was an unfortunate situation. It was something I really felt bad about, still feel bad about."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: With point guard T.J. Ford gone for the season after deciding to retire rather than risk further injuries that could endanger his long-term health, coach Gregg Popovich said the Spurs must make some changes in their offensive approach. “We’re going to miss him, because he was becoming a significant part of what we were planning to do,” Popovich said. “He’d come a long way. The players really respected him. I respected him. We’ve got to shift gears and go a different direction.” The most obvious change means shooting guard Gary Neal, who made the team last season as a 3-point specialist, will become starter Tony Parker’s primary backup at point guard. Popovich said Neal will continue to get some time at shooting guard, as he did in Monday’s 112-97 victory over the Washington Wizards. He attempted only two 3-pointers in the game, making one. Neal knows his primary focus must be learning to run the team from the point. “It changes my whole role,” he said. “My position, the shots I was accustomed to getting, the way I have to play, all of it changes."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: John Wall opened up about his frustrating second season before the Wizards embarked on a season-long six-game road trip, explaining his early struggles and how he takes the burden of the team’s success upon his shoulders. The Wizards have lost four consecutive games on the road and are probably in the worst possible place to try and end their misfortune. The San Antonio Spurs have won 11 straight games at home and 11 overall against the Wizards. Those are the longest current losing streaks against any opponent. Andray Blatche has scored a total of 11 points and hasn’t played more than 22 minutes in any of his first four games since returning from a strained left calf muscle. But now that Blatche is away from the boos at Verizon Center, Coach Randy Wittman would like to see the backup forward return to form. “I hope so,” Wittman said. “I think it’s going to ease his mind a little bit. He’s got to come out with an aggression that we know he’s shown before. Get back to the old Dray and not have to worry, from a mental standpoint, what’s going on around him.”

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: The Timberwolves played on without Ricky Rubio's inventive playmaking and offensive flair on Monday in Phoenix, three days after he tore a knee ligament and is now lost for the season. For all that he provided at that end, they might miss his defense more. Rubio was third in the league in steals, at 2.22 a game, when he was injured. "I think we're really going to miss him there because he's really good at keeping his guy in front of him," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. "That's probably the biggest thing. The way we play is going to change some and that concerns me more than anything else. We have to be solid defensively if we're going to be able to play a different way and we weren't that way against New Orleans. "We may have to tweak things and come at it from a different way now. It's not so much the X's and O's, it's the energy level he always brought us." That kind of energy was nowhere to be found in Saturday's home loss to New Orleans. And now the Wolves play their next seven games on the road, starting with Monday's game at Phoenix. It's a trip that could go a long way to determining whether they make the playoffs.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: When Minnesota rookie Ricky Rubio's knee buckled Friday night, Redd knew what had happened. He had felt Rubio's pain twice. Rubio's season ended with an anterior-cruciate ligament injury in Friday night's loss to the Lakers. "My heart went out to him," Redd said. "I know that feeling all too well. I felt bad for him. I know the process it takes to get back. Right now, more than anything, it's important for teammates to surround him, family to surround him. Mentally, it's a challenge. He'll be back. He's young enough to bounce back from this."

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: The tension is obvious with Thursday’s trade deadline approaching. The Celtics have several players with expiring contracts - which could be used as trade pieces - including Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and O’Neal. Danny Ainge said nothing is imminent, although Doc Rivers believes the players are handling the situation well, especially Rajon Rondo, who has been the subject of rumors since December. “I don’t worry about the trade deadline, it’s coming and there’s nothing I’m going to do about it,’’ Rivers said. “So I don’t worry about that. I don’t think our guys worry about it a lot. They only get asked about it, 15, 20, 30 times a day. So that’s it. But I don’t think it bothers them that much. If you’re human it bothers you a little bit. But I think a lot of the guys have been through it and as a coach I can’t wait until Friday.’’

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: It seems as if the loss of one player has staggered the Clippers, leaving them incapable of making up for his injury. The Clippers are 8-10 since Chauncey Billups went down with a season-ending torn left Achilles' tendon on Feb. 6, the 94-85 defeat to the Boston Celtics on Monday night at Staples Center just another loss along the way. Chris Paul has tried to lead the way since Billups got hurt. But when Paul has an off game, as he did against the Celtics, it makes it tougher on the Clippers. Paul had 14 points on three-for-12 shooting, and five assists. Blake Griffin had 24 points and nine rebounds and Mo Williams had 21 points.

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: It’s less than three full days until the Thursday 3 p.m. trade deadline and here’s what I’m hearing concerning the Bobcats: The New Jersey Nets would like Boris Diaw’s expiring $9 million contract number, and they’d give up the future first-round pick the Houston Rockets owe them to accomplish that. The Bobcats would have to take players with financial obligations beyond this season. I hear Jordan Farmar and Johan Petro would come to Charlotte. Would the Bobcats do that and lower their salary-cap flexibility? Hard to say. I confirmed David Aldridge’s nba.com report that the Portland Trail Blazers have interest in D.J. Augustin and such a deal could involve Jamal Crawford as a Bobcat. Don’t know if that will happen, but it’s clear Augustin – a restricted free agent-to-be – is available for the right price. ... Kemba Walker entered Monday night’s game having scored seven points in two games with 3-of-13 shooting. Coach Paul Silas said that’s classic evidence Walker has hit the rookie wall.

  • John Reid of The Charlotte Observer: Charlotte entered with the worst record in the league at 5-34, and the Bobcats had just two road victories after 21 games. However, Charlotte handed the Hornets (10-32) their 17th loss in 21 games at the Arena, despite missing 11 of its final 12 attempts from the field and all 12 attempts from 3-point range. On the final play, Bobcats rookie center Bismack Biyombo blocked Trevor Ariza’s dunk attempt with both hands as time expired. After calling timeout with 5.2 seconds remaining and trailing by two, the Hornets ran a set play for Ariza, who had an open lane to the basket before Biyombo, 6 feet 9, emerged. Biyombo had four blocks and made six of seven shots for 12 points. “I did what I know is a high-percentage shot, going strong to the basket,” Ariza said. “He made a great play at the basket. This one is a bad loss, even for us. This is a game we should have won.” Snapping a three-game losing streak, the Bobcats had seven blocks. Guard Gerald Henderson led Charlotte with 15 points. It was the Bobcats’ first road victory since Feb. 17 against Toronto 98-91.

  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: Al Jefferson didn’t sleep Sunday night. How could he? His 82-year-old grandmother, Gladys Jefferson, had just passed away. Gladys had raised and guided Jefferson, pushing him to be more than just an unknown young child living in small-town Prentiss, Miss. It was nothing but pure, tough love for Jefferson. Without Gladys, he never would’ve made it. Never traveled from Boston to Minneapolis to Salt Lake City, finding a home in the most unlikely of places. Never, ever have become Big Al. Which is why Jefferson’s game-high 33 points on 14-of-18 shooting Monday during a 105-90 victory against the Detroit Pistons was so perfect. Why his game-high 12 rebounds and team-high 36 minutes and 13 seconds of action felt so right at EnergySolutions Arena before a crowd of 19,393. And why when Jefferson accepted a last-second pass from Devin Harris, then threw up a 25-foot prayer that magically sailed through the net for the first made 3-pointer of his career, the night and the game belonged not to Jefferson or the Jazz, but to Gladys. For 48 minutes, a grieving Jefferson got away from everything. Friday, he’ll watch his grandmother be buried. Monday was all about relief.

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: The rigors of the schedule seemed to get to Knight from the eye test. He looks like he has lost weight on an already-slight frame. He said his weight usually fluctuates between 185 and 175, and has lost water weight during games. But when he was weighed Monday, he was at his usual 185-pound mark — despite his own fears. He's an ardent follower of strength and conditioning coach Arnie Kander's sometimes mysterious methods. Whether it's the protein shakes or drinking liquids that look like wheat grass in a cup, Knight understands what's going in his body — even if Kander tells him more than he wants to know. "He works at it every day and is very diligent in doing everything our training staff says to do," Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. Frank also said Knight's value shouldn't be predicated on scoring, especially since he's learning the point guard spot and the team has flourished of late. He said Knight's intangibles and durability should be noted.