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First Cup: Monday

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "His future when his contract expires in 2010. It figures to be a common inquiry this week when the Cavaliers make a trip to New Jersey and Detroit. Research and projections done by The Plain Dealer reveal that currently there are 18 teams in position to offer Lebron James, or just about anyone else for that matter, a maximum contract in July 2010. It is a fluid list that could change dramatically and will likely shrink because teams will be drafting and signing players to new contracts between now and then. The Nets and Pistons are two teams that have made moves to clear salary-cap space for 2010, which is shaping up to be the most prolific free-agent season in NBA history. James, as it is well-known, is the centerpiece of that market. Which is why likely this week and probably for the next two seasons, James will constantly be asked about his future. Especially when visiting places that have made it a priority to clear that valuable cap space. "

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: "Lamar Odom is a great guy. I've said this many times here. He is wonderful with the media but far beyond that he is simply a nice person ... and actually a very unique sort of team leader. It is my opinion that he lacks focus at times on the court, detracting from his tremendously versatile game, and my latest column was intended to be a reflection of that and also straight reporting of Phil Jackson's displeasure with Odom (and Odom's overall displeasure with what happened to him in the game). Given how much attention was generated by Odom's initial negative attitude about coming off the bench, I thought it was hugely relevant to the team's future to discuss Odom's problems with this game, even though this game certainly (as I said in the column) wasn't lost by him more than others."TrueHoop First Cup

  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "This is his first opportunity to issue a sardonic told-ya-so, but Lawrence Frank will resist the temptation and shrug his way out of the discussion. There are two reasons for this. This guy doesn't do snark, and being an NBA head coach, he knows things go from good to bad in an eye-blink. He'll go only this far: 'Going into the year, everyone said, 'Where are the points coming from? You're going to average 70 a game,' ' the Nets coach recalled. 'And yeah, I get it: Vince (Carter) is a 25-point scorer, Devin (Harris) is 10 a game, Bobby (Simmons) is 10 for his career, and everyone else is in single digits. So looking at that, we said we've got to be different. Our margin for error is small, but if we continue to attack, the points will come.' Or, if the last three games involving Harris are any indication, the points could proliferate in a way this franchise has never seen."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "Unquestionably, the Allen Iverson experiment produced some scintillating moments for the Nuggets and their fans. But the more coach George Karl watches Chauncey Billups run his offense -- and watches Iverson lead the Pistons -- it has become clearer that Iverson, well, wasn't the answer. 'There are less bad plays, more solid plays,' Karl said. 'I think the wasteful, cheap possessions that we used to have 10 to 15 a game, they don't exist very much anymore.' What always irked Karl was Iverson's inability to run the offense like a general. Arguably, Iverson shot too much, and like Karl said, Denver could outscore about half the teams in the NBA. But when it came to beating the elite teams, the Nuggets had too many questions with 'The Answer' -- about his shot selection, his dedication to defense and his ability/inability to trust his teammates."

  • Mike Jones of The Washington Times: "When Juan Dixon returned to the District in September, he said he was a different player from the undersized shooting guard who spent his first three NBA seasons with Washington. Three rocky seasons -- he first signed with Portland, got traded to Toronto and then dealt to Detroit -- improved Dixon's appreciation for playing close to his native Baltimore. More importantly, lessons learned in that time helped the former Maryland star grow into a more complete player. ... 'He talks. He gets us into our defense and keeps us organized,' Eddie Jordan said. 'He's a very smart player. He's going to be a very good coach one day.' ... 'He's more under control. He's more mature. He's smarter as an NBA player,' Jordan said. 'He's not looking to make a name for himself but [is] helping his teammates get better -- and that's a great thing.'"

  • Don Seeholzer of The Pioneer Press: "Randy Wittman might feel like he's reliving Groundhog Day, but unlike Bill Murray in the movie version, the Wolves' embattled coach said he didn't wake up to the radio playing 'I Got You, Babe' Sunday morning. 'No, I didn't. Nope,' a relaxed Wittman said before the game. 'Woke up different time, new city, new day.' Despite seven straight losses, also unlike Murray, Wittman added that there was no need to put him on suicide watch. 'Nope. Definitely not,' he said. 'We've just got to continue to work, and we've got to make the plays at the end.'"

  • Jerry Brown of the East Valley Tribune: "Terry Porter, who spent the last two years with Rasheed Wallace, after being told that Wallace plans to go into coaching when his successful and colorful NBA career is complete: 'I could never see him being a coach. I don't care if it was peewee ... OK, maybe peewee,' he said, laughing. 'I don't know about college or NBA. Maybe high school, but there is still one or two media hanging around, and I don't know how he's going to handle the referee situation. Some of those school districts might not embrace a guy who likes to use the F-bombs as much as he does.'"

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "Jerome James missed the game for personal reasons, leaving the Knicks with 10 healthy players in uniform. But Coach Mike D'Antoni had James and Danilo Gallinari (sore back) on the active roster and Stephon Marbury on the inactive list, prompting the inevitable question about Marbury's continued exile. 'Hey, we can talk about it until I'm sure you guys are sick of it, too,' D'Antoni said, chuckling. 'It is what it is.' Marbury, who has softened his opposition to a buyout, met last week met with Donnie Walsh, the team president. D'Antoni said he was content to let Marbury and Walsh 'work something out.'"

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Dwight Howard says he hopes to unveil his new Web site this week -- and he's approaching it like the all-star dunk contest. 'I'm telling you, it's going to blow your mind,' Howard said. 'I got some surprises, some big surprises.' He says he is creating the site on his own. With the Magic returning home for a few days this week, facing the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday, Howard hopes to have it up and running soon for fans to visit. He already has talked about holding some sort of contest for fans on the
    site. They can suggest or vote for different dunks he can perform at all-star weekend Feb. 13-15 in Phoenix."

  • Fran Blinebury of the Houston Chronicle: "Ron Artest says the rest of the Rockets will look to Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady to avoid repeats of Friday's collapse in San Antonio. 'We probably slacked off,' Artest said. 'It's going to be important definitely for Yao and Mac, the leaders, that when times like that come, when we're up against good teams on the road, we've got to find a way. ... And everybody else has to follow, and everybody else is not going to have an excuse to blow big leads like that.' As for being a leader himself? 'Everybody has input,' Artest said. 'Chuck (Hayes) has input, Rafer (Alston) has input. But obviously, (players) follow Michael Jordan, they follow Shaquille O'Neal, they follow Tim Duncan. They didn't really follow Steve Kerr.'"

  • Brian Hanley of the Chicago Sun-Times: "As impressive as Derrick Rose's game-high 23 points, 56 percent shooting and eight assists were in the Bulls' 104-91 win Saturday over Indiana, there was perhaps a more-telling statistic: Rose's plus-20. 'The plus/minus stat in basketball is the single-best number to indicate a player's performance,' John Dewan, former CEO of STATS Inc., and current owner of Baseball Info Solutions, said via e-mail. 'It measures what really counts: how many points are scored and allowed when the player is on the court. It's more important than scoring averages, rebounds, assists, etc., because it measures defense. Defense is 50 percent of the game and most stats [except for steals and rebounds, for the most part] are about offense. Last year, the plus/minus leader in the NBA was Kevin Garnett, well known for his defense.'"

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "The initial reaction to seeing Jerry Stackhouse in street clothes when he's healthy is that it doesn't pass the smell test. Something's not right. But despite appearances, the Mavericks insist there is no controversy with the veteran swingman. Sunday's game against New York was simply a bad matchup for Stackhouse to get minutes. So he was put on the inactive list. Stackhouse didn't want to talk about it after the game, but team president Donnie Nelson said the coaching staff informed Stackhouse on Sunday morning about the decision. Nelson said there is no internal problem with Stackhouse, who is shooting 29 percent for the season. ... It's tough watching a player who has been one of the best scorers in the league go through such a situation. He understands the younger players such as James Singleton and Brandon Bass, who were huge Sunday, must get their chances. It's to Stackhouse's credit that he's being professional about it. Anything less could pose problems down the road."

  • Melody Gutierrez of the Sacramento Bee: "While the Kings' national presence has gone from visible to nonexistent in the last few years, the Maloofs might have found a way to garner attention by turning a spotlight on the organization. Maloof Productions is partnering with reality icon Mark Burnett for a behind-the-scenes series called 'Rebuilding the Kingdom' on all things Kings. Burnett, the man behind 'Survivor' and 'The Apprentice,' told the Hollywood Reporter the show would be 'committed to creating fun and innovative programming.' The show is in the early stages and does not currently have a network partner."

  • Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times: "This performance was basic basketball. Sure, it was a perfect storm of the Clippers poor defense, his feeling it and Nellie giving him the opportunity. And defenses will certainly be paying attention to him at some point. But him getting 10-15 points on a regular basis is not that far-fetched. Anthony Morrow can manufacture points because he is an outstanding shooter, he understands how to get his shot off and he is not one dimensional. If Nellie can factor him into the offense (they had a couple double screens he came off of) and not have a quick hook, and if his teammates look for him when he's in the game, he can get you a nice bunch of points off the bench. Two 3-pointers, a couple mid-range jumpers, a few free throws and a lay-up, you got 15 points. ... This sucks for Marco Belinelli, though. His just became expendable. Morrow is a purer shooter, he's bigger, he's more athletic, he's tougher, he's more aggressive, he's fundamentally more sound, and he's cheaper. I would not be surprised if Chris Mullin/Larry Riley has already linked Marco with Al Harrington and Marcus Williams in trade offers."

  • Chris McGann of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "The latest plan to bring pro basketball back to Seattle now that its team has been sold and moved to Oklahoma City faces enormous challenges as it heads to the 2009 legislative session. The city of Seattle proposal for financing a major remodel of KeyArena -- a prerequisite for getting a new NBA team -- would raise $75 million with a 1 percent Seattle hotel tax currently collected to pay debt on the Washington State Convention and Trade Center. The city would provide another $75 million with revenue and admissions taxes from KeyArena. A group of investors, including Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Steve Ballmer and Seattle developer Matt Griffin, is seeking to buy a new NBA team to play in Seattle and has agreed to contribute $150 million to the arena upgrade. But all of that depends on persuading state lawmakers to allow the city to keep that 1 percent hotel tax."