First Cup: Thursday

  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: In addition to shooting 3 for 17 on Wednesday night, Dec. 12, against the Denver Nuggets, Timberwolves forward Kevin Love had to deal with trash-talking from fans at Target Center who didn't appreciate his critical comments about the Wolves organization, team owner Glen Taylor and club president of basketball operations David Kahn. As Love struggled during the Wolves' 108-105 victory, he admitted that he heard some heckling. Love said some of the comments might have been suitable for print "and some were not." "I was ready for anything," Love said after the Wolves (10-9) outlasted one of the teams they might wind up battling for a Western Conference playoff spot. "I heard some things. I'm not going sit here and call people ignorant or anything like that. Everybody takes a stance on something."

  • Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune: Another view is mine: that Love is taking the Timberwolves back to the future with his immature rant over a contract that he signed 11 months earlier. His Yahoo! comments on Rubio were remindful of March 1999 -- except that time it was the point guard, Stephon Marbury, pouting his way off the Timberwolves because the contract situation favored the forward, Garnett. And the whole episode is remindful of October 2004, when Sprewell sneered at a three-year, $21 million offer by saying, "I have a family to feed.'' That was the start of a run of non-playoff seasons that continues today. Love has done his sneering at a $62 million contract that he signed, and all that's missing is an honest comment that says, "I have an ego to feed.''

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: Kevin Love met with reporters before the Denver game and made it clear that he appreciates the city and the fans and all of that stuff. And he spoke highly of Rubio, the Chris Paul to his Blake Griffin. But by 2015, the Lakers likely will belooking for a new stud, with Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash probably gone. The 6-foot-10 Love is only 24, and he has an offseason home in Los Angeles, where he played his college ball at UCLA. Nuggets coach George Karl spoke highly of Love, who averages 21.2 points and 14.2 rebounds per game and, at least in previous years, showed he can sling the 3. "I think his style and his numbers are Larry Bird-ish," Karl said. "Larry Bird won every night he played; he was an impressive winner, and Kevin, that's what I think he's searching for, that winning locker room, that winning team that has a chance to be a playoff contender." With Minnesota's lack of success in previous seasons, some said Love's big numbers were hollow. Karl said it's all about how he "motivates" his team.

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: The stars Mike D’Antoni was promised are injured (Steve Nash), old (Kobe Bryant) or injured and old (Pau Gasol). Dwight Howard is not entirely Dwight Howard after back surgery. The Lakers are wheezing. Magic Johnson is sniping. The fans are cranky. So is D’Antoni, who snapped at a Los Angeles Times columnist Tuesday night, after the Lakers (9-13) lost to in Cleveland, their third straight defeat. There are fault lines in California with less pressure on them. Now D’Antoni is returning to the Garden for the first time since his anguished exit nine months ago. The Lakers make their annual visit Thursday night, for a nationally televised game. Awkward does not even begin to describe the timing. … For his failures, both real and perceived, D’Antoni will surely be booed Thursday night. The way things are going, Lakers fans might boo along with them.

  • Tom Couzens of The Sacramento Bee: Hey, DeMarcus, grow up, son. Threatening a broadcaster because he said unflattering things about you, leading to a two-game suspension? (Sean Elliott was right, by the way.) Hitting Mavericks guard O.J. Mayo below the belt? (Unintentional or not, that really is a low blow, and cost you yet another game.) Six technical fouls in 18 games? (You get only nine more before the NBA hands you another suspension.) All those ticky-tack fouls? (You're averaging five fouls per 48 minutes, which means you're riding the pine way too much.) Questioning nearly every call, as if you've never fouled anyone in your life? (Forget about it; you need to get back down the court instead.) … DeMarcus, you have a real gift – you're one of the very select people in this country who get paid millions to play a game you love. So it's time to decide: Do you want to be remembered for how well you played the game – or for cheap shots, technicals, verbal outbursts and whining?

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Carlos Boozer said he had heard of but not seen the Raptors' Amir Johnson getting ejected for holding onto the ball too long following a free throw. Boozer long has had a habit of asking officials to touch the ball preceding or following foul shots. Coincidentally, Boozer drew a technical Wednesday for arguing a no-call.

  • Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: Hate to be Debbie Downer in regard to the Warriors' 5-0 road trip, but if you read the fine print in the Mayan calendar, you'll see they called this shot: "Warriors beat Heat, world explodes." Too bad, it would have been fun to see where the Warriors would take this new thing they've got going. Until the hammer comes down, though, the Warriors are the team to watch. They are carrying out a recent phenomenon in Bay Area sports: a team seemingly playing way over its head, powered by a mysterious force that falls into the category of "team spirit." … One reason the Warriors are playing so well is that they're a smart team. There was a reason Jack and Green, non-starters, were in the game at the end. With David Lee, Thompson, Curry and Carl Landry, this might be the Warriors' smartest team since Run TMC. Even the front office is looking smart. Last season, it traded its most spectacular player, Monta Ellis, for a player to be suited up later. If Ellis is on this team, the Warriors are not 5-0 on the trip. Imagine if the Warriors had a center. Festus Ezeli had zero points Wednesday in 14 minutes. Andris Biedrins didn't get off the bench, which might have been Jackson's smartest coaching move of the night.

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: The Grizzlies conducted a workout with veteran point guard Mike Bibby in Phoenix Wednesday afternoon before their game with the Suns at US Airways Center. Bibby, 34, lives in the Phoenix area but hasn’t played in the NBA since appearing in 39 games for the New York Knicks last season. Sources with knowledge of the situation would not describe Bibby’s workout and insisted that no deal is imminent. The Grizzlies’ roster stands at 13 players. The NBA allows teams to carry 15. If the Griz eventually add a player they likely would seek a combo guard with strong point guard skills so that reserve guard Jerryd Bayless could play off the ball. The thinking is that Bayless could ultimately give the team consistent scoring punch in that role given Wayne Ellington’s struggles on offense.

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Center Zaza Pachulia received a warning for violating the NBA’s anti-flopping rule during last week’s game against the Wizards. The Wizards’ Kevin Seraphin grabbed a rebound and moved his extended elbow past the face of Pachulia with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter of the Hawks’ victory. Pachulia stumbled backward but never fell to the ground. … Pachulia on flop warning: “It’s a rule so you have to respect the game, respect the rules. Honestly, my first reaction because I saw the elbow coming was just to try to get out of the way because I was so close. I wasn’t trying to flop there but if you look at the film it’s obvious it looks like I was flopping. I was just trying to get out of the way. If the elbow came, I would rather take the $5,000 fine than a broken jaw.”

  • Jonatahn Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Rockets center Omer Asik was giving a warning for flopping Monday against the Spurs, but said he did not fall to fool the officials who had already called a foul on the Spurs’ Tim Duncan. Asik said he intentionally fell away from Duncan because after Duncan had made contact with him near his shoulder he was concerned he would be hit in the face. Asik was playing with a broken nose and has been hit in the face often this season, twice needing to leave the game for stitches and once when the nose was broken. “I just like fall away because this year I had a lot of hits on my face and last week I got my nose hit and had a small fracture,” Asik said. “I fell because I tried to protect my face. I didn’t try to flop. I don’t know what is going to happen with this. My agent told the players’ association. I don’t know what is going to happen, but I wasn’t trying to flop or anything. They called a foul. I just didn’t want to break my nose.”

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: As he walked toward the locker room, James Harden was asked if he was aware that later that evening he was going to face a team that had passed on a chance to acquire him last summer. “I don’t know anything about that,” Harden said. According to multiple league sources, the Wizards balked at a proposed deal for Harden in part because owner Ted Leonsis was unwilling to give him the five-year, $80 million maximum contract that he was seeking. Harden said the snub wouldn’t give him any extra motivation when the two teams square off at 8 p.m. “You know what? No. I don’t get bothered or intrigued by stuff like that, no,” Harden said. “I mean, I guess I wasn’t a fit for that organization or whatever they are moving forward to. What I can control is me going out there and playing my hardest and helping my team win games.”

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: The NBA trading deadline is months away, but already, it’s time for Indiana Pacers bosses Donnie Walsh and Kevin Pritchard to work on bringing in reinforcements. The reason is simple: With this bench, the Pacers aren’t going to get out of the first round of the playoffs — assuming they even reach the playoffs. After Wednesday night’s 96-81 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Pacers’ bench has now been outscored in 16 of 22 games — it was 35-21 Cavs subs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse — and has shown no signs it is going to get out of this funk. Coming into the game, the Pacers ranked 28th in the league in plus-minus ratings, and 24th in bench scoring at 26.9 points per game. It’s gotten so bad, coach Frank Vogel already has made one change -- Ben Hansbrough replacing the startlingly inept D.J. Augustin at backup point guard -- and he’s ready to make more moves if the bench doesn’t start to produce. And you’d better believe that Vogel is already in Walsh’s and Pritchard’s ear about making some moves down the line.

  • Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail: There are two moves that would make Toronto Raptors fans happy. Nos. 1 and 1(a): Fire general manager Bryan Colangelo; have somebody else trade Andrea Bargnani. Based on what this city has seen over the past half-dozen or so years, it is hard to imagine either coming back to hurt the franchise. So to the person in charge at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. (Larry Tanenbaum or Tom Anselmi or whomever): Do it. There’s your pound of flesh, Raptors fans. That’s the easy stuff out of the way. Piling on, you say? Whatever. It is what it is. Bargnani has been diagnosed with a ligament tear in his right elbow and a strained right wrist and is out indefinitely, so let’s leave him aside. Not much to see there, anyhow. … We know what Bargnani is about and we know what Colangelo is all about. Casey? Don’t think so. Let’s let his contract play itself out. Let’s see if there’s more of what we’ve seen recently in Davis and Valanciunas; let’s see if he can get it out of them. Because in a battle of credibility right now, I’m taking the head coach over the G.M., and it’s not close. Not even remotely close.

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: What started out as John Stockton Day ended up as Mo Williams Night in Utah. It didn't have the significance of the infamous "Uh, oh" moment in Houston when Stockton hit a 3-pointer to put the Utah Jazz into the NBA Finals for the first time back in 1997, but Williams drained a long ball at the buzzer in the waning moments of 12/12/12. The Stockton-like swish put 18,710 fans into a thrilled frenzy. It made for an easy "SportsCenter" highlight on the late-night ESPN-televised game. And the 26-foot bomb gave the Jazz their most significant win of the 2012-'13 season — a thrilling 99-96 come-from-behind-and-ahead-and-behind-again victory over the San Antonio Spurs. "It's great — not only for him but for everybody," an elated Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said.

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: Tim Duncan was dominant, recording perhaps the best game yet of his resurgent 16th season with 22 points, 21 rebounds and six blocked shots. Indeed, in some ways it was one of the best games of his career. Duncan had only reached those thresholds three times before, and never in the regular season. One small blemish -- he missed his only shot attempt of the fourth quarter, while making 3 of 4 free throws, as the Spurs withered.

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Jason Terry is growing fond of Boston, but he’ll always have love for Dallas. And most likely, he’ll be back at some point. “Dallas is still my home base,” Terry said before the Mavericks played the Celtics on Wednesday night. “I’m still a Maverick in my heart.” That’s what made it weird seeing Terry in Celtics green as opposed to Mavericks blue. He spent eight seasons in Dallas, and now he’s 20 games into his three-year contract with Boston. He said he plans to be back with the Mavericks in a capacity to be determined. Owner Mark Cuban already has said Terry always will have a place in the franchise. “I have no idea,” Terry said of what he would do. “But coaching is in my [future]. I know I want to coach at the college level.” As far as playing for the Mavericks again someday, Terry said, “You never know. All the options are open. But I’ll always remember what we accomplished in 2011, winning the championship for that city and that organization.”

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle once again entertained the media with his dry humor, especially when asked about his Boston playing days. Carlisle was questioned about his part on the 1986 championship team. “The other thing I feel very good about is I know my number is going to be retired here one day,” he said of the “34” he wore, currently owned by Paul Pierce. “I’ll be very proud when it goes up into the rafters. I’ll try to be here that for that, too. Pierce, it will be in recognition, he’ll share in that, too. But I’m going to really look forward to that. Look the ’86 team, if you’re from Boston, that’s one of the special teams ever. That was a great memory. [Larry] Bird and I were talking about that the other day on the phone and some of the events that happened after that game, which I won’t talk about.”

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: These are good times for Clippers forward Matt Barnes. He's playing on a winning team and he's playing a significant role off the bench. His 25.2 minutes per game is the third highest of his nine-year career. He's averaging 8.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. "So far, behind that Golden State season, this is the most fun I've had with the collective group of guys like this," said Barnes, who played with the Warriors in 2006-07 and 2007-08. "And we're playing good basketball. So that's a bonus." The Clippers really don't run any plays for Barnes, who tied his season high of 19 points by scoring 11 in the fourth quarter Wednesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats. He just seamlessly fits into whatever they do.

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: During an ESPN Films documentary titled “Going Big,” which will premiere next week on ESPNU, Sam Bowie reveals that he misled Blazers doctors during his predraft evaluation prior to the 1984 draft. During the film, which The Oregonian viewed before its release, Bowie admits that he wasn’t entirely forthcoming about the condition of his left leg as he recounted a story about his medical examination in Portland. … Harry Glickman, the Blazers’ de facto team president at the time, said there wasn’t a coach, NBA executive or media member that criticized the Blazers’ selection of Bowie. Of course, this was before the revelation that Bowie may have concealed the extent of his injuries. “This is the first I’ve heard of anything like this,” Glickman told The Oregonian. “As far as I knew, he had a clean bill of health from our team doctor. This really shocks me.” On Wednesday, Bowie told The Oregonian that one paragraph out of an hourlong documentary is “being blown out of proportion.” Yes, his tibia had discomfort. But so did his arms, his shoulders, his hips. His entire body ached. Bowie said he saw multiple doctors and went through a battery of tests during a full day of predraft examinations in Portland. There were bone scans, X-rays, magnetic resonance imagings and stress tests. He was poked and prodded and went through a gauntlet of exercises. In the end, team doctor Robert Cook signed off on Bowie’s health. … Funny thing is, Glickman said, Jordan wasn’t even the Blazers’ No. 2 choice. “If you look back at the draft,” Glickman said, “if we hadn’t selected (Bowie), we wouldn’t have selected Jordan. We probably would have gone with Charles Barkley.”