First Cup: Tuesday

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: Former Magic PF Ryan Anderson misses Dwight Howard, too, although he's still thriving without him. There's just a greater degree of difficulty. Anderson came into Monday's night's game against his former club averaging 16.8 points per game. His numbers mirror last season in Orlando: 16.1 ppg. Last season's most improved player in the NBA has continued lighting it up from the outside, shooting 39.4 percent from 3-point land. "My shots are a lot more difficult now. I've had to adjust," Anderson said, sitting by his locker room before tip-off. Anderson is getting his shots off screens, double-teams and in transition, largely thanks to Hornets point guard Greivis Vasquez. Anderson played off Howard in Orlando, saying he'd get shots in Orlando off "Dwight double-teams and Dwight kick-outs. "My situation was made easy because of Dwight … Greivis has done a good job. A lot of my open shots come from him." Anderson was delivered to New Orleans in a sign-and-trade last summer, the Magic unwilling to match the Hornets' four-year, $9-million offer, largely because the trade of Howard triggered a rebuild. After what happened to him with the Magic under new management, Anderson said he wasn't surprised the Magic dealt J.J. Redick before the deadline. "It's business. It's a different game now," he said. "I knew that from last year."

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: Monday night's gut-wrenching defeat spoiled what otherwise was a successful return Anthony Davis, who came back Monday after missing two games with a bone bruise. Davis scored 17 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and had four blocks. Although he wore a protective sleeve over his left shoulder, Davis had two of his team’s eight blocks before halftime. “We’re a defensive team and we can’t allow ourselves to fall back like that, especially when we had the game in our hands and momentum going our way,’’ Davis said. ``We have to guard the ball and not over help. We over help a lot.’’

  • Candace Buckner of The Columbian: Forget about their ostensibly posh lifestyles for a second, and that their bank account statements read like social security numbers. There's only one true reason why compared to your career, professional athletes have way better jobs. They get to celebrate. They can express their emotions and show unbridled joy during their 9-to-5s. We can't. ... Take for instance Trail Blazer rookie Meyers Leonard. Last week he faced some criticism. His offense? The 7-foot-1 Leonard dunked over Denver's slow-as-maple syrup Andre Miller and acted as if Oprah had just given him a car. Leonard screamed; the excitement coursing through his body like electricity from his tippy toes to his reddened face. He pounded his chest and flexed as the clamor from the crazies in the Rose Garden washed over him. Then, Leonard spread his arms from his sides, held out his palms and stared down Miller, who had engaged him in not-so-pleasant trash talk earlier in the game. But a couple days later Terry Stotts had a message for his rookie center: Chill out, son. … Wesley Matthews salutes his threes. Will Barton and Nolan Smith prance about during pregame introductions. Leonard closes his eyes and shrieks. These guys don't push papers for a living. They work in a highly-emotive environment among the most skilled employees in their profession and passionate reactions happen every time they punch the clock. Leonard, a demonstrative young man anyway, sometimes gets carried away while in the workplace. But fans who spend their hard-earned money and pay the high price of admission for sports entertainment should demand to see revelries, not robots.

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Charlotte Bobcats power forward Tyrus Thomas was told not to accompany the team on its four-game West Coast trip by team management. Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins said Monday that the front office felt Thomas’s time would be better spent in Charlotte, doing some physical rehabilitation and individual on-court work, rather than on the road with his team. Thomas, the Bobcats’ second-highest paid player this season at $8 million, has fallen out of the rotation entirely of late. Monday’s road game in Portland was the 10th straight game that Thomas was designated as inactive and the 12th-straight game in which he did not play. When the Bobcats acquired another power forward, Josh McRoberts, at the trade deadline, McRoberts was activated for his first game before he had participated in a Bobcats practice or shootaround.

  • Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post: Back at the Pepsi Center, where the home wins come with the simplicity of a second-grade math equation, the Nuggets were back at it. Running, dunking, blocking shots — and running some more. Their success level depends on pace, and they kept it fast in a 104-88 win over Atlanta on Monday night. To say the Nuggets are dominant at home right now certainly is an understatement. They are a smash success at high altitude, pushing their home record to 26-3 this season. They've won a fraction under 90 percent of their home games, and if that continues to be the case, the Nuggets will finish with 38 wins, not only the best home mark in the George Karl coaching era, but the most home wins in team history.

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Playing short-handed the Hawks fell behind early to the Nuggets and could never fight all the way back. The result was a 104-88 loss Monday night at the Pepsi Center. The Hawks lost for the third straight time to end the season-long trip after starting with three victories. They settled for a .500 road trip that began with so much promise. … The Hawks played with just 10 players as guards Kyle Korver (toe strain) and DeShawn Stevenson (back-to-back games) and center Zaza Pachulia (sore right Achilles) were all out. Rookie Mike Scott was on a D-League assignment. To make matters worse, Jeff Teague (left ankle sprain) and Ivan Johnson (dislocated left middle finger) missed some time in the first-half but returned. … Josh Smith entered the game needing nine points to reach the 10,000-point mark for his career. He surpassed the milestone with a second-quarter layup, on which he was fouled. Smith became the 24th player in NBA history to record 10,000 points, 5,000 rebounds, 2,000 assists and 1,000 blocks. Smith was given the game ball following the game, a gift he needed to be told of its significance.

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson could feel the urgency building as he sat helplessly on the bench with foul trouble for the final nine minutes of the third quarter and Toronto built a seven-point lead Monday night. When head coach Mark Jackson unleashed Thompson at the start of the fourth quarter, he took out that urgency on the Raptors. Thompson scored eight points during a 10-2 run that turned around the game and might have turned around the Warriors' season as the stretch propelled them to a desperately needed 125-118 victory in front of the 17th consecutive sellout crowd out at Oracle Arena. "I thought there was a sense of desperation," said Warriors power forward David Lee, who had 29 points, 11 rebounds and five assists for his NBA-best 40th double-double. "If we lose this game, it's a big hit to us."

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: One of the circumstances to take into account is that the current core group — Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas — are fully expected to be together next year and the future of Andrea Bargnani is clouded at best. That’s one reason why Lowry expects things not to change too much in the final seven weeks of the season. “(It’s) getting the chemistry together, getting JV (Valancuinas) more minutes with me, DeMar and Rudy on the floor at the same time . . . get on the same page to look forward to every game we have left,” he said. … Coach Dwane Casey is in no way giving up on the season (“We’re still mathematically in the hunt and I’m not giving up until the Fat Lady sings and she’s not singing yet,” he said Monday morning) but he’s enough of a realist to know what needs to be done. … But that’s the key. The worst thing Casey can do is let players stay on the court who don’t deserve it, the veterans will notice and it would be easy for them to get more discouraged. And the fact is, whatever the standings say, there’s no way the players give up until the arithmetic says they’re done.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: It was another wild night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, another overtime thriller. And the Milwaukee Bucks won their fourth in a row and second straight overtime game as they outlasted the Utah Jazz, 109-108, behind Monta Ellis' 34 points and Brandon Jennings' 20 points and 17 assists. And how about J.J. Redick? All the shooting guard did was score eight of the Bucks' 10 points in overtime and drill a pair of clutch three-pointers to finally knock out the relentless Jazz. "The guy's a great shooter," Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. "The thing with J.J., when he shoots the ball, you expect it to go in. So when it doesn't go in, it's like, 'Aw, a big letdown.' “

  • Bill Oram of The Salt Lake Tribune: Al Jefferson watched happily as the Jazz point guard made his return to full-contact practices on Sunday, one day shy of two months since undergoing surgery to repair torn ligaments in his thumb. Mo Williams said Monday at the Jazz’s shootaround in Milwaukee that he could return to games as early as Wednesday, when the Jazz play at Cleveland, where he played from 2008 to 2011. "We’ll see," Williams said. "We’ll see. That would be great to play in front of those fans." The 30-year-old point guard had two pins removed from his thumb on Feb. 13, and his rehabilitation began in earnest after the All-Star Break, and if Jefferson were the final judge, Williams would be cleared to play. "He said he was a little winded," Jefferson said. "I told him I couldn’t tell." But the Jazz are being cautious with the veteran. … Corbin said he has not yet decided how to integrate Williams back with the Jazz, whether he would start right away or come off the bench to ease back into his leadership role.

  • Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Miami Heat guard Ray Allen had simple words to describe the altercation between he and J.J. Barea during Monday night’s game. “It just came out nowhere,” Allen said. That was Allen’s explanation for Barea’s play. It also could be used to describe Allen’s uncharacteristic involvement in a scuffle. Allen and Barea got into a near skirmish in the Heat’s 97-81 victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves, a moment that surprised just about everyone. The mild-mannered Allen has rarely got into any type of altercation throughout his 17-year career. “It’s uncalled for,” Allen said. “I’ve managed to keep a level head throughout my career. You have your moments where things get heated. When you come down from it, you can say, `That was my fault. I was in a bad situation. I was really frustrated.’ But even in that situation, I wasn’t frustrated. It was just bad judgment, I thought from the other side.” Allen and Barea almost cleared the benches when they nearly got into it with 8 minutes, 9 seconds left in the game. Allen said he was responding to Barea tackling him on a drive. Barea claims he was retaliating to an elbow thrown by Allen earlier. “There was a play where he knocked the ball away and I got it back,” Allen said. “Then he just leveled me. I thought it was uncalled for. There is no place for that in the game."

  • Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune: The Wolves must decide Nikola Pekovic’s value and whether the bruising center is worth $12 to $14 million annually. They must figure out what to do with former No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams. And they likely will own another Top-10 pick in the upcoming draft. Can the team really afford to let David Kahn oversee those decisions? … Kahn’s contract expires after the season, and owner Glen Taylor has offered no public indication of his intentions. Taylor has a track record of showing loyalty to coaches and executives, and he might even sympathize with Kahn being treated as a human punching bag since he’s been in that position, too. But giving Kahn one more chance would be bad business and dangerous to the future of this organization. The Wolves need a smart basketball man sitting in that chair. Someone who brings credibility and likability and an ability to evaluate personnel with a keen eye. Someone everyone believes in — coaches, players, fans and team employees. Basically, they need a front-office version of Adelman. … Taylor picked up Kahn’s contract option last spring because he liked the roster that he assembled and the fact he attracted Adelman to coach it. Injuries stunted this team’s development and ruined another promising season. That’s not Kahn’s fault necessarily, but the focus should be on the future and what’s best for the organization. Big decisions loom this offseason, and the roster could get reshaped again. Kahn had his turn. Now the Wolves must entrust someone else to run the operation.

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: Carmelo Anthony’s right knee buckled early in the second quarter, and he headed to the locker room as the Knicks drew a collective gasp. Anthony did not return, but the Knicks collected themselves, erased a 22-point deficit and rode Amar’e Stoudemire’s hot hand to a face-saving 102-97 victory. It was an impressive win under the circumstances, and it helped ease the sting of Sunday’s loss to Miami and the sight of Anthony limping away. “It’s a big win for sure, without a doubt,” Raymond Felton said. “It just shows what type of team we have.” Stoudemire stepped into the void left by Anthony, scoring 22 points in 32 minutes off the bench. He was joined by three other Knicks in double figures, all off the bench: J. R. Smith (18 points), Steve Novak (15 points) and Jason Kidd (12 points), who continued his resurgence. Now the concern turns to Anthony’s knee. The team offered no specifics about the injury, and no tests were planned as of Monday night. Anthony is scheduled to be re-evaluated on Tuesday in Detroit. The Knicks (36-21) play the Pistons on Wednesday.

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: Kyrie Irving returned Monday after missing three games with a hyperextended right knee, but said if it was the playoffs or important games near the end of the season, he could’ve played through the injury. “I landed awkwardly. It was just a deep bruise,” Irving said. “When I was playing in Orlando and Miami I could feel it, but I was obviously just trying to play through it. It was really limiting my ability to go to the basket and have that confidence in getting there and jumping off my right leg. I just needed a few days of rest.” Irving said he’s not 100 percent, but he’s close. He did not wear a brace or protective sleeve on the knee and no one expected his minutes to be limited, although Scott said he’d be monitoring Irving closely. After working straight through All-Star weekend, the six days off served as much needed rest for his entire body and not just his knee. “I guess it came at the right time,” Irving said. “I didn’t really ask for it. It just happened, but I got a little rest.”