First Cup: Tuesday

  • Ramona Shelburne of the Los Angeles Daily News: "He started, then stopped. The words wanting to come out of his mouth, but stopping short on the roof of his mouth. So LeBron James just jogged down the court silently, a few steps behind Kobe Bryant, both men pretending the only thing that mattered was the final score in what ended as an emphatic 105-88 victory for the Lakers. There would be no baton pass on this night. Or an MVP trophy won or lost. The mantle, the mountain still belong to Bryant. The climb still James' to make. This was not Bryant's finest hour, or even his bravest. ... But the mere fact that we have some many fine, brave moments from Bryant's career to hold up for comparison serves as a reminder of just how much further James must climb to stand shoulder to shoulder with the man he looked up to as a kid."

  • A. Sherrod Blakely of Booth Newspapers: "The Detroit Pistons are making their own history as the only NBA franchise with a pair of African-Americans in the top positions within the day-to-day operations of the team: president of basketball operations Joe Dumars and vice president Scott Perry. Dumars, who was hired by Pistons owner Bill Davidson to handle the basketball operations in 2000, does not shy from the responsibility he feels as an African-American in his current position. 'Every day I wake up and walk out of my house I know who I am,' Dumars said. 'And I know that I represent a lot of people. I feel it's incumbent that you do it the right way, with class and respect for those who came before me and will come after me.'"

  • Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Jerry Sloan is league's third-oldest coach, behind Golden State's Don Nelson and Charlotte's Larry Brown, both of whom are 68. He said Monday that such longevity as a coach wouldn't have been possible a generation ago in the NBA. 'It's a great deal different today than what it used to be,' Sloan said, 'because if you had to travel commercially and didn't have charter flights and stuff, that would probably take its toll on you a little bit quicker.' Much as he did earlier this season in celebrating his 1,000th victory as Jazz coach as well as his 20th anniversary of taking over for Frank Layden, Sloan credited his assistant coaches and repeated that he has been blessed to coach good players."

  • Mike McGraw of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald: "Vinny Del Negro sounded a bit like legendary New York broadcaster Howard Cosell when asked to assess the rookie of the year race before Monday's game against the Knicks. It's over. It's all over, according to the Bulls coach. Derrick Rose has it won. 'There's not even a conversation as far as I'm concerned,' Del Negro said. 'I think (Memphis' O.J.) Mayo is having a great year and I think (Miami's Michael) Beasley is an incredibly talented player, but no one's played at the level Derrick's played at from the start to this point. It's not even close.'"

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "If you didn't notice, Jermaine O'Neal was held out of Monday's 87-84 Raptors loss in Atlanta. That was after O'Neal supposedly was held out of Sunday's home loss to Phoenix so his troublesome right knee would be up to the test against the conference-rival Hawks. ... the Heat had a scout at Monday's game in Atlanta. While the advance scouting was already scheduled in advance of the O'Neal rumors, with the Heat to face the Hawks next Monday, this is a situation that grows more curious by the day. The reality is the Heat is in no position to trade a consistent contributor for a player who has been little more than a spectator for nearly a month. For now, like O'Neal, the Heat is in a holding pattern."

  • Michael Wallace of The Miami Herald: "If Jamaal Magloire keeps this up, the Heat might prove to be just fine at center after all. Amid speculation that Miami is exploring trades to acquire a low-post threat, Magloire is developing his own campaign for the job. ... During the Heat's seven-game trip, Magloire went from a spot-duty option to the team's most reliable post player as he split time at center with starter Joel Anthony. 'I'm grateful that coach [Erik Spoelstra] and Dwyane Wade keep putting me in situations to help contribute to the team,' said Magloire."

  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "The Nets are going on a four-game road trip starting Wednesday, but where their point guard is going, nobody can be sure exactly. Harris tried to say all the right things, conceding he was 'perturbed' by Lawrence Frank's decision to glue his shorts to the bench for the second half of the Celtics game, but he isn't always forthcoming when it comes to elucidating his feelings. Nothing wrong with that. It's not exactly psychotherapy, so he's at liberty to put a sock in it whenever he pleases. It's just that the utterances from this 25-year-old All-Star wannabe can carry the occasional mixed message. 'Time heals all wounds,' he announced. 'You've got to have a very forgetful stage at this point. We have the next game coming up. You can't let that linger around.' Then, in the next breath: 'He tried to prove a point. It was his decision. It wasn't an easy one for him. I'm sure he got some direction from upstairs as well. We move on. We dealt with it the way we deal with things.' By taking directions from ... upstairs? 'I'm pretty sure it wasn't a positive move from everybody's standpoint,' Harris said, perhaps with intended ambiguity. 'I'm pretty sure other people didn't like it.'"

  • Tom Enlund of the Journal Sentinel: "Bucks rookie Joe Alexander was saddened deeply to hear that he would not be participating in the all-star slam dunk contest. Or not. 'Distraught,' Alexander said with tongue firmly in cheek. 'I am crushed.' Growing a bit more serious, he said, 'No big deal. I'm going to have own private dunk contest at my house. Just me. I'll be the only one invited.'"

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "Danilo Gallinari gave the crowd a thumbs- up for its support Monday but he's not as excited about the music selection the Knicks are using after he scores. Gallinari scored nine points, including his first NBA dunk in Monday's 102-98 win over the Chicago Bulls. After each of his four baskets, the Knicks' long-time public address announcer Mike Walczewski, using a thick Italian accent, said 'Daneeelo Gal-lin-ar-ay' and then the Italian songs 'Volare' or 'That's Amore' were played. When asked about hearing his name, Gallinari said: 'I need to talk a little bit with them about that. Because it's not so good, the pronunciation. I will talk about that. As for the music, no, not so good.&
    #39; Mike D'Antoni was somewhat surprised by the music selection himself and looked at the scorer's table after Gallinari's first basket. Apparently, Gallinari would prefer to hear a more updated, age-appropriate song. Also, the Italian journalists who attend Gallinari's home games said the song stereotypes Italians."

  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: "It was little more than an hour before game time and Nathan Jawai was down the corridor from the team locker room talking on his cell phone. Triano yelled down: 'Hey, there's no one up at this hour in Australia,' said Triano, guessing his big Aussie rookie was calling home to inform the folks and friends he was about to dress for an NBA game for the first time in his young career. 'It's my lady,' Jawai said, unable to stop smiling. His girlfriend lives in Denver and the late notice meant there was no way she was going to get to Atlanta in time. Chances of Jawai playing were slim anyway and got slimmer when the game went down to the wire. Jawai never did take off his warmups, but it got him a step closer to a game, and where Jawai is concerned steps are everything. Having been selected by the Raptors 41st overall in last year's draft, Jawai didn't get past the pre-training camp physical before encountering his first hurdle. A heart ailment, the nature of which has been kept quiet, required further tests before he could step on a court."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "For the record, Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said there are more important things in life than basketball. Thus, the workaholic son of a coach changed his team's practice schedule to accommodate all-star C Dwight Howard's trip to Washington, D.C., for Barack Obama's inauguration today. Howard received an invitation from the Obama team and was expected to leave Orlando by private jet with his cousin. 'There are actually some things bigger than basketball,' Van Gundy said Monday."

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "Ray Allen will have an up-close view of history when he attends the inauguration of President Barack Obama today in Washington. On Sunday, the Celtics [team stats] guard feared his tickets to the event had been lost or stolen in the delivery process. 'But I got them, so I'll be down there,' Allen said. 'There's seating on both sides and standing in the way back, so I'll be kind of up (front) and seated.' Allen flew to Washington after the game with Steve Pagliuca aboard the Celtics managing partner's private plane. 'To be able to be there and document it, to take pictures, to be able to talk about it ... it's one of those events where it's one thing to see it on TV, but to be there on the ground and talk about exactly everything's that happened, at least I'm glad that one of us will be in the presence of this event,' Allen said."