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First Cup: Wednesday

  • Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun: "We said it then and we will repeat it again that the Raptors made the wrong choice in moving forward with their starter at point guard. This is by no means a knock against Jose Calderon, but T.J. Ford's ability to create his own shot, attack defences and his willingness to take over games in late-game situations are precisely what the Raptors need. Coaches prefer Calderon's half-court style to Ford's turnover-prone ways because they can better manage and control the likes of a Calderon. Ford has an edge and exudes a confidence that borders on cockiness, the very definition of today's NBA player. With the Raptors now wanting to play an uptempo game, Ford would seem to be the perfect fit in an imperfect lineup. ... As currently constituted, the Raptors need Ford more than they need Calderon. If anything, what the Raptors have shown the past year is a lack of patience amid growing concerns about their future fortunes."

  • David Moore of The Dallas Morning News: "Some will assert the Mavericks' record is proof that this team is better off without Josh Howard. You will swear chemistry and ball movement has improved in his absence. My reply: Don't let your frustration or disgust over Howard's actions in recent months cloud your judgment. Don't buy this fool's gold, as San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich likes to say. The Mavericks will not reach their full potential until Howard returns. They do not threaten the league's elite when he sits on the bench in a walking boot. This was painfully obvious in Tuesday night's double-overtime loss to the Spurs."

  • Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune: "If luck is the residue of design, it follows that bad luck is the residue of bad design. At least that's the working theory on the Timberwolves. Tuesday, a day after firing Randy Wittman and presenting the reluctant Kevin McHale as the coach of his home state's inept NBA franchise, who should appear on the Wolves' schedule? Jerry Sloan. That's not fair. Sloan is synonymous with stability; the Wolves are waiting for Obama to bail them out, or at least offer a stimulus package. Sloan celebrated the 20th anniversary of his head coaching debut with the Utah Jazz at Target Center last night. This is like holding the presidential inauguration at a Chuck E. Cheese."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "The Cavs had an impromptu team meeting at halftime to talk about complaining to the refs. Mike Brown came out of his meeting with the coaches in his office to speak with the team about it and they were already discussing it. This is part of the way the team 'polices itself.' Some of it is veteran leadership, some is Mike giving the team space to handle issues and them doing it responsibily. LeBron has four technicals already this season and three in the last week. Either the triggers are coming quicker or he's protesting too much. It doesn't matter if the calls were correct or not, the Cavs have to deal with it and they didn't in the first half very well."

  • Michael Wallace of The Miami Herald: "Alonzo Mourning is a month away from deciding whether to attempt a comeback from major knee surgery, but he continues to have an impact on the Heat. Not only has Mourning kept his corner locker at AmericanAirlines Arena, he also continues to help several Heat players improve. Second-year center Joel Anthony said he sees Mourning several times a week around the team's practice facility and often stops to get advice. Anthony spent last season as a seldom-used reserve behind Mourning, who tore ligaments in his knee last December and was lost for the season. Anthony, who has started the past six games, credits Mourning for his improved play. 'He's helped me a lot,' Anthony said. 'To see with your own eyes how hard he really works, that has been great for me. I just listen and learn all I can every time.' Mourning, 38, still hopes to return to the Heat if his knee responds to the final stages of rehab."

  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "Look at them now: The Nets are 11-8, and as they reach the quarter-pole of the NBA season Wednesday night against the Knicks, they are somehow converting their wildest aspirations into practical realities. Nobody expected this -- at least not from the eighth-youngest team in the league. Except, well, wait -- you, sir. The one with 34 on your shirt and rockets on your shoes. 'We knew we were going to be a playoff team,' Devin Harris said. 'We knew we were going to be competitive. And we knew we could be a good team on the road. And we're all that right now. We've established how we want to play. All the things we talked about prior to the season, we're accomplishing on the floor. So this surprises nobody, really. Not anybody around here, anyway.' It would have been nice if he gave everybody a heads-up."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "In baseball, they talk about 'Baseball Men,' a guy who spends seemingly his whole life in the game and, when others his age retire to ponds and par-3s, this guy just continues to coach and mentor (the late George Kissell was just that for the St. Louis Cardinals). It's possible that our guy here in Denver, George Karl, could become a 'Basketball Man.' A former player, he's been a head coach in the NBA since 1984 -- with a stint overseas -- and on Tuesday, Karl said he will 'probably stay in coaching a long time, but I don't know if it'll be in the NBA. It will be maybe at a lower level or a lower position.'"

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: "Red Robbins was a 6-foot-8 center on that Buccaneers' team that was orchestrated on the floor by Larry Brown, who led the league in assists during the inaugural 1967-68 season, one in which the Brown-led Bucs lost in seven games to the Connie Hawkins-led Pittsburgh Pipers. Tonight, there'll be another little guard -- wearing No. 3 -- handing out assists in throwback duds who's leading the NBA in that category. And it'll bring Robbins, for one, back to those days when the Bucs played at Loyola Field House. 'Larry was the best I ever saw until I saw Chris Paul bring the ball down the floor, ' Robbins said. 'It was almost like the ball was on a string, and I know that everybody will say Magic Johnson and all of that. But as far as getting the ball down the floor fast, and seeing the open court, Larry was the best I ever saw -- until Chris Paul came around.'"

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Brian Cook was unapologetic for taking action and retaliating after teammate Dwight Howard was thrown to the floor Monday night in the final period by L.A. Clippers F Zach Randolph. Cook shoved Clippers PG Baron Davis a few possessions later, drawing a Flagrant 1 foul -- the same penalty Randolph had received for his mugging of Howard. He also suggested teammates must immediately protect each another and send a message at times -- physically. 'I was upset because, I mean, it was a
    flagrant foul. [Howard's] my teammate. Everybody should be over there. ... Everybody should be over there,' Cook said, repeating himself to emphasize the point. ... Cook realizes the Magic don't have a reputation as tough guys. 'Just getting tougher is something we're going to need to get through this West Coast trip and through the rest of the season,' he said."

  • Frank Dell'Apa of The Boston Globe: "The Celtics are close to breaking a team record for the best start to a season. A victory in Washington tomorrow would give them 21 wins in 23 games, ahead of the pace set in 1963 and matched last year. 'That's nice, but I would trade that for the best finish ever,' coach Doc Rivers said yesterday. 'That's what we're looking for and aiming for.' Asked if the Celtics could 'burn out' after a such a hot start, Rivers replied, 'We're just playing basketball. We're winning, but we're playing normal minutes. So, the question should be, if we played the same amount of minutes and lost, would we be burning out? No. So, if we're going to play the minutes, I think we should try to win the game, and that's what we're doing.'"

  • Diane Pucin of the Los Angeles Times: "The NBA is going to announce today that it will present its All-Star Saturday night program of the slam dunk contest, three-point shooting contest and skill challenge in a three-dimensional format at 80 movie theaters around the country Feb. 14. 'This is about embracing new technology and being innovative,' said David Levy, president of Turner Broadcasting Sales Inc. and Turner Sports. Levy said he is not concerned that the theater showing would negatively affect television ratings on TNT. 'We're aiming at the Saturday night moviegoer,' Levy said. 'And we'll be able to do things with the 3-D cameras that we wouldn't normally be able to do with a live game.'"