First Cup: Wednesday

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: Former Ohio State star Greg Oden is confident he will return to the NBA after his many knee injuries, but he would not venture a guess about whether he'll wind up in Cleveland. "I'm worried about the knee," he told The Plain Dealer when asked if the Cavs could be a destination for him. "That's it." Oden was in Columbus to take in the Buckeyes' 58-49 victory over Wisconsin. He has been living in Columbus and taking classes, but he said now that he's working out in his hometown of Indianapolis and splitting time between the cities. Asked if he was playing at all, Oden said, "I'm just getting my knee ready so when things do happen I'll be ready to play next year. … He is now a free agent. The Cavs and the Miami Heat have been thought to be among the teams interested, but Oden said it was too early to start thinking about a destination. "It's too early for me," he said. "Right now I'm just concentrating on my knee." Asked when he thought he could be back, he said, "Whenever my knee allows me to be. Right now it's all about getting the knee right."

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: Cavaliers shooting guard Dion Waiters doesn't know why his numbers are better off the bench than they are as a starter. His coach, Byron Scott, has a pretty good idea. "He's more comfortable," he said. "He has better rhythm. We put the ball in his hands. It's something he'll figure it out. We put him in a lot of pick-and-rolls and tell him to be in attack mode." In 28 games in the starting lineup, Waiters is averaging 13.5 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists. He's shooting 36.2 percent from the field and 32.5 percent from the 3-point line. … In nine games off the bench, he's averaging 17.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists. He's shooting 43.8 percent from the field and 32 percent from the 3-point line. "I haven't looked into it," Waiters said. "I haven't paid attention to it. I play the game the same starting or coming off bench."

  • Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle: It's too bad there's such a constant tinge of anxiety surrounding this team - and you know why - because there is sublime beauty in its ability to adjust. Every team throws out a stinker on occasion. In fact, they Warriors served up two to open the trip, Jackson blamingit all on "a lack of effort and commitment." But there's too much energy and spirit on the Warriors to cause any great concern on that count. It's the notion that Bogut or Curry could go down, hard, at any time, ruining a season so full of promise. If Bogut can't play back-to-back games on his surgically repaired ankle, there's no point in getting overly excited. We expect big-time athletes to return at full strength after a long layoff, ready for anything. Unless the Warriors' plan changes drastically, Bogut will play only one of two important games (at Houston and Oklahoma City), Feb. 5-6. If the existing strategy fails and Bogut remains limited after the All-Star break, there are back-to-back assignments Feb. 19-20 (Utah, Phoenix), Feb. 26-27 (Indiana, New York) and March 1-2 (Boston, Philadelphia) to consider. Put it this way: If Jackson gets an awkward sprinkling of games without Bogut, and the Warriors don't miss a beat, he'll be performing one of the greatest coaching jobs in either conference.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Lawrence Frank is somewhat of an authority on the subject. When a new coach takes over an NBA team, it often results in a strong response. Frank went 13-0 to begin his NBA coaching career in record style with the New Jersey Nets in 2004. So the Detroit Pistons coach is not stunned at the success enjoyed thus far by interim coaches Jim Boylan with the Bucks (8-3) and P.J. Carlesimo with the Brooklyn Nets (13-4). "Look, any time a coach gets fired, there's always a jolt," Frank said. "Sometimes the fans' reaction is 'Yeah, it was the coach.' No, no, no. It's just an accountability where everybody understands a good man lost his job. And the reason he lost his job is we're underperforming. So there's that jolt of 'We've got to do better.' Jimmy I've known forever. I think he's a great coach. I hope he's able to stay there for a long, long time."

  • Terry Foster of The Detroit News: There's peace again at The Palace. That's if you believe Pistons coach Lawrence Frank and reserve guard Rodney Stuckey. Frank ended the one-game benching of Stuckey in time for Tuesday night's game against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Palace. But Stuckey was a non-factor during the Pistons' 117-90 blowout loss to the Bucks at The Palace. He played 27 minutes and finished with just seven points. Stuckey admitted the men clashed before the Pistons' game Sunday in Orlando. Frank punished Stuckey by benching him for that game and refused to tell the media why. Frank was mostly close-mouthed again but he equated to a family squabble. … Neither man would say what happened but it is believed they had a disagreement during practice. Stuckey admitted they did not see eye-to-eye on an issue but he also said he is fine with the way he is being used under Frank's system. The Pistons are 5-1 without Stuckey in the lineup.

  • Candace Buckner of The Columbian: The messages and voice mails from Dallas poured in one after the other. Members of the Aldridge family responded to their favorite two-time All-Star hitting the game-winning shot against the Mavericks with the same joy and passion that the thousands inside the Rose Garden displayed on Tuesday evening. LaMarcus Aldridge, a Dallas native, saved his best to down his hometown team, hitting the game-winning jump shot as time expired for the Trail Blazers’ 106-104 victory. With a well-executed inbounds play, a flick of the wrist and a perfect jump shot, the Blazers (23-22) shook off a large second-half deficit after the Mavericks pulled ahead by 21 points. So by the time Aldridge returned to the Blazers locker room, his phone had over 20 messages on it. Just a glance and he could tell that his mother, Georgia, was about to make his cell phone battery die. “She’s watching (the game),” said Aldridge, who finished with a game-high 29 points and also contributed 13 rebounds. “She texted me like five or six times.”

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: That four-man rotation at the center position that Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle employed last Sunday against the Phoenix Suns is so unconventional that not even he is a fan of it. The Mavs got away with beating the Suns 110-95 with the unusual four-man platoon strategy in the middle. But that's probably the last time folks will see that alignment. "I don't like playing four guys," Carlisle said Tuesday. "I don't think you can play in this league going into each game saying, 'Yeah, I'm going to play four different guys at the center position.' That's a formula that I've never seen it work." … Kaman, who is out indefinitely with a concussion, appears to be the player most emotionally hurt by the split time, especially because he started 33 of the Mavs' first 42 games and was brought here last summer specifically to be the team's starting center. But Brand, who played with Kaman on the Los Angeles Clippers from 2003-08, said it's time for Kaman to have a reality check. "I'll be honest with him -- he's a friend of mine," Brand said. "I've known him for years, and I'm like, 'Look, you had your chance, and we didn't win.'" … The Mavs are 14-19 with Kaman as their starting center. Also, Kaman has played 23 minutes or fewer in the last eight games, and the Mavs are 6-2 during that stretch. Forward Dirk Nowitzki, who also was a teammate of Kaman on the 2008 German national team, said Kaman has to channel his frustrations.

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: There were a couple of moments in the second half of Tuesday night's game in which the New Orleans Hornets had opportunities to make a statement, to announce to the Lakers that, in fact, this was a game the Hornets could win. First, having whittled what had been an 18-point deficit to four, 74-70, with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter, New Orleans had possession of the ball and a chance to cut Los Angeles' advantage to two. Rookie guard Austin Rivers lost control of the ball. The Lakers' Jodie Meeks saved it to Kobe Bryant, who found the sprinting Meeks for a driving slam dunk that started a 7-0 run to put Los Angeles ahead by 11 with under a minute to go in the period. Second, under two minutes remaining in the game and the Hornets' trailing by one, 102-101, New Orleans lost track of Lakers' forward Earl Clark, who was spotted by Kobe Bryant, for an easy layup that gave Los Angeles a 104-101 lead and helped the Lakers seal a 111-106 win over the Hornets, the ninth straight time L.A. has beaten New Orleans.

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: Kobe Bryant said before this much-hyped season that the retooled Lakers remain "my team." So it wasn't Steve Nash, one of the best passers in NBA history, or Pau Gasol, one of the best passing big men in the game today, who changed the Lakers' entire approach with his passing. It was Bryant, who had 11 assists Tuesday night to cap the highest three-game assist output of his career (39 total) to encourage another night of feel-good sharing and winning for the Lakers. The Lakers beat the New Orleans Hornets, 111-106, for their third consecutive victory and to reach 20-25 for the season. They had 34 assists on their 39 field goals compared to New Orleans' 21 on 39 field goals. "We have a bunch of guys now who can hit shots, not one or two," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. The last time the Lakers won three consecutive games, they were relying on Bryant scoring at least 30 points every game. But Bryant has altered his method of attack after the initial plan for Nash to be the one carving up defenses and setting up teammates fizzled — and Bryant's teammates are responding. "I didn't know Kobe could be so devastating that way," D'Antoni said.

  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News: During the past three games, Steve Nash has posted nearly twice as many shots (27) as assists (12) while averaging 14.6 points per contest. In a season where plenty of his teammates have complained about touches and minutes, Nash won't gripe about his drop in assists. "It is a big difference and big change," Nash said. "For me, I want to do whatever I can to help this team be a good team. I welcome this. We're so much better this way regardless of how many opportunities I get to make plays." When Nash faces his former team for the first time since mutually parting ways this offseason, that storyline provides an added reminder on how his role with Phoenix played out differently. Nash led the league in assists six times in the past eight seasons. "A lot of times it would've been better in Phoenix if we had him off the ball some, but it was so good the other way," D'Antoni said. "We never messed with it."