First Cup: Monday

  • Al Iannazzone of Newsday: The Knicks bounced back from their worst defensive performance of the season Sunday afternoon and now can focus on the battle of the boroughs Monday night in Brooklyn. It's been on Carmelo Anthony's mind for a while. After scoring 29 points to lead the Knicks to a 121-100 victory over the Pistons at the Garden, the Brooklyn-born Anthony said he can't wait to play the Nets. "If we don't get up for this game, then I don't know what games we'll get up for," he said. "It's an inner-city game -- New York versus Brooklyn. To me, going back home, going back to my borough, playing my first game back there is a very special moment for myself." Anthony had several chances to be traded to the Nets during the 2010-11 season. The Nuggets were close to making a deal, but the Nets were in New Jersey then. Anthony held out because he wanted to play in New York and for the Knicks. He got his wish, and Monday night he'll get what he wants. He promises not to be too hyped up.

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: Charlie Villanueva was probably surprised when he was told he would have a chance to play significant minutes in the rotation, after having seemingly taken a post at the end of the bench next to Austin Daye. But with Jonas Jerebko struggling mightily the past nine games, Lawrence Frank finally turned Villanueva's way, giving the much-maligned forward a shot during something other than garbage time. Villanueva, known for his ability to score and to shoot effectively as a big man, entered Sunday's 121-100 loss to the Knicks with 10:53 remaining in the second, matched up against former Piston Rasheed Wallace. He stayed true to his reputation, putting up 15 shots in 19 minutes to score 17 points, making three of seven from three-point range. "I was ready and prepared every game," Villanueva said. "Today he called my name and I was ready. You just have to be ready." Ideally, he can stretch the floor as a threat but that hasn't been the case in recent time, as an ankle injury halted his ability to play last season, except for the final month. He said he wasn't too happy about his performance, considering the circumstances. "To be honest, I prefer to get the win," said Villanueva.

  • Tim Smith of the New York Daily News: Hurricane Sandy delayed all the hype surrounding the opening of the Barclays Center as the new home of the Brooklyn Nets. That season opener in the brand new building against the Knicks was blown away by high winds and surging water. … Nearly four weeks later, the two teams will meet in Brooklyn in the postponed game on Monday night. It is a whole different game now as the Knicks and the Nets are at the top of the division and the Knicks have the best record in the Eastern Conference. And while it won’t have the same feel of opening a brand new building, it will carry the same underlying theme for the Nets. Having climbed out of the swamps of the Meadowlands and escaped from Newark, can the Nets establish an identity as a New York icon? And can they take away some of the luster of the Knicks, who remain one of the hottest tickets in town when they’re winning? The answer to those questions probably won’t come until after this season or perhaps even years down the road. And a lot will depend upon which team makes the playoffs and how deep each of them progress into the postseason. The first step is going to be Monday night.

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: LaMarcus Aldridge watched from the end of the Trail Blazers’ bench on Sunday as they lost to the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. He does not plan to sit and watch two days in a row. The Blazers’ All-Star power forward, who is dealing with a bum back, said he “most likely” will return to the court Monday in Detroit when the Blazers visit the Pistons in the second game of a seven-game trip. Aldridge, who is averaging 19.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, hurt his back during the Blazers’ win over the Timberwolves on Friday night. He felt fine immediately afterward, but as he ate dinner later that night, his back started to spasm. “By the time I got home, it was horrible,” Aldridge said. After a restless night’s sleep, Aldridge said he awoke to severe muscle spasms and alignment issues.

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Expres-News: Even though the Spurs outlasted the Toronto Raptors 111-106 in double overtime Sunday at the Air Canada Centre, another bad night on the glass portended problems to come. “They destroyed us on the boards,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “For most of the meat of the game, they just threw it up there, missed it, and then they’d go get it again. It kept them in the ballgame.” Toronto outrebounded the Spurs 61-52, tallying an eye-popping 17 offensive boards that led to 27 second-chance points. In their past two games, including a victory at Indiana two nights earlier, the Spurs have been outrebounded by a combined 110-89, including a 36-13 margin on the offensive glass, and have surrendered a 44-17 edge in second-chance points. With both rebounding-proficient small forwards out — Jackson with a broken pinkie and Leonard with quadriceps tendinitis — the Spurs have had to play more with smaller lineups, leaving them susceptible to rebounding.

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: There is no guile to Dwane Casey, no disingenuous side at all. He is supremely confident in himself and his decisions. He does what he thinks is best, and he doesn’t really concern himself with what people think. Those are important characteristics for any professional coach. He cannot bend to the will of anyone but himself, and Casey is never going to give you anything but an honest answer to a legitimate question. It may not be the answer everyone wants to hear, but who cares? He is true to himself and will not bluff his way past delicate situations. So, as the masses were baying about his use of Andrea Bargnani in Toronto’s latest gut-wrenching loss, he stood there, explained it, explained it again, explained it a third time, and now it’s time to move on. “If you want to second-guess me, go ahead,” Casey said after the Raptors lost 111-106 in double overtime to the San Antonio. “That’s what I’m here for.” Casey’s also here to make difficult decisions. Sticking with Bargnani as the enigmatic Roman struggled through a 2-for-19 shooting day could not have been easy. But coaches aren’t paid to make easy decisions. They are paid to give their team the best chance to win.

  • Tom Moore of phillyBurbs.com: Jrue Holiday said a year ago that he wants to be an NBA all-star. With the way the 76ers’ point guard has been playing, he could be under consideration for an Eastern Conference spot this season. Holiday tallied a career-high 33 points on 13-for-21 shooting, to go along with 13 assists, to lead the Sixers to a 104-101 victory over the Suns on Sunday night at the Wells Fargo Center. Holiday became the first Sixers guard since Allen Iverson (Jan. 26, 2006) to put up 33 points and 13 assists in a game. Iverson had 38 and 15 that night against the Magic. After consecutive 13-assist, 2-turnover performances on back-to-back days, Holiday is averaging 18.6 points and 9.2 assists in 14 games this season. After averaging an NBA-high 6.0 turnovers in the first seven games, he’s down to 2.6 in the last seven. “That’s what good point guards do,” Thaddeus Young said. “He’s almost averaging a double-double. Those are definitely all-star numbers.” Holiday claims he hasn’t thought about the possibility of becoming the Sixers’ first all-star guard since Iverson in this, his fifth NBA campaign.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Jared Dudley is “Mr. Average.” How is he supposed to take that? “I like it, but I don’t like it,” Dudley said. The meaning of nba.com’s annual declaration of a “Mr. Average” for the league is more statistical than analytical. Dudley was chosen as the NBA player who is closest to the league averages for height (6 feet 7), weight (222.8 pounds), age (26.98) and NBA experience (4.9). Dudley is 6-7, 225 and 27 years old with five full seasons. “When I was a kid, I wrote every small forward down that was an All-Star and I saw the average weight was around 220-230 and the height was between 6-7 and 6-9, and I said I have to get to that,” Dudley said. The height part happened naturally but Dudley transformed his body from a peak of 245 to about 225 during the season. “I’m just an average guy trying to make it in this league,” Dudley said.

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: Andre Miller hurts the Nuggets in one stat category — average team age. The Nuggets, alas, rank only third in the NBA in average age (24 years, 353 days) because their productive point guard is 36. Denver trails the New Orleans Hornets, who played at the Pepsi Center on Sunday night. They have an average age of 24 years, 317 days. The league's youngest team? Houston. The Rockets' average age is 24 years, eight days. Before Sunday's game, Nuggets coach George Karl was asked hypothetically what advice he'd give to the New Orleans staff and their young team. With a chuckle, Karl said: "I don't know if I'd be going to me right now, because my roster is driving me crazy.”

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: And as the Denver Nuggets, whose roster is just a shade older than the Hornets, who average 24 years of age, punished the Hornets in handing New Orleans its seventh straight loss, 102-84, it was a time-worn script the Hornets once again followed almost flawlessly. In losing their seventh straight game with another on tap Monday night at the Staples Center against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Hornets committed 14 turnovers which the opportunistic Nuggets converted into 26 points. And for the seventh straight time, the Hornets allowed an opponent to crack the 100-point mark. The Hornets hadn't reached that nadir since the 2004-05 season, one that ended with an 18-64 ledger.

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: Rajon Rondo collected 16 assists to tie John Stockton for second on the all-time list with 37 consecutive games with 10 or more assists. There was little suspense Sunday as Rondo collected No. 10 with 9:49 remaining in the third quarter. Rondo needs 10 more games to pass all-time leader Magic Johnson. Rivers again downplayed the record. “Listen I want him to get the record, it’d be great,” Rivers said. “When you just said [Rondo tied Stockton], I actually thought he had already passed him. So that tells you how much I’m paying attention to that. But there is a record out there and he should go after it. But he could keep playing. Rondo should get 10 assists every night. He really should, by the way he plays and that’s what he’s doing. When he looks for [assists], he talks to me. When he just plays, he’ll get them anyway.”

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: Sunday night at Amway Center, Glen Davis had the rest of his extended family in Orlando: The Boston Celtics. He was a Celtic for four seasons before being dealt to the Magic a year ago and hasn't beat them yet. He has a title ring, won it with Doc, KG and Rondo. He still talks to Kevin Garnett, consumes his advice. Wanting to do so much, he wound up doing too little in front of the people he wanted to impress the most. At least that was Big Baby's take on it. "At that time, the leader is supposed to step up. … I was nowhere to be found," Davis said after the overtime loss to the Celtics. "I did some things ...You're not going to make every shot, but you got to do something. This is on me – I don't care what anybody says. If I come to play, we beat them." He might have a point. Davis missed nine of 12 shots on his 15-point, 10-rebound night. But with the Magic trailing, 111-108, in OT after Paul Pierce's 3-pointer, Davis launched a short hook shot.