First Cup: Monday

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: Cavaliers All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving is going to wake up this morning, put the thoughts of Sunday's All-Star Game behind him, get on a plane to return to Cleveland and resume his day job. While he was all about fun for four days, now his attention turns back to the Cavs and trying to continue their recent string of strong play and spirited teamwork. Most of the players in the league -- including all of his teammates except Dion Waiters, who put on quite a show with 31 points in a rousing duel with New York rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. in Friday's Rising Stars Challenge -- have had more rest. But Irving is going to have to regroup the best he can, because there's much more work to be done, starting with Tuesday's game at Philadelphia. Irving was asked what's next for the Cavaliers after the All-Star break. "Just a higher focus level," he said. "We went into the All-Star break with some momentum and now, coming out, its really important to get that first game and get up for that first game no matter how tired we are."

  • Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: In between the first and second quarters, the NBA celebrated the 80th birthday of Bill Russell. The weekend has been a celebration of Russell, who was born in West Monroe, La. — located a few hours north of New Orleans — and whose birthday was last Tuesday. Magic Johnson led the crowd in singing happy birthday to the Celtics legend, and then had LeBron James and Bryant lead the Eastern and Western Conference teams, respectively, over to Russell’s courtside seat and shake his hand. “This was by far one of the most memorable All-Star weekends,” Carmelo Anthony said. “Honoring Bill Russell, getting the whole arena to sing happy birthday to him … it was a great atmosphere. “It was good for us to be part of that celebration. Bill Russell was one of the guys who paved the way for guys like myself, and the guys that were out there tonight. It was just great to be a part of that.”

  • Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times: Kobe Bryant cheerfully answered questions about his new line of shoes, a possible visit to India and his preference for old-school dunk contest rules. His joviality didn't quite carry over to the update on his injured left knee. The Lakers guard said before the All-Star game Sunday that his recovery was "coming slowly" and did not provide a timetable for a possible return from the injury that has sidelined him since Dec. 17. "I'm optimistic coming out of the break that I will have some improvements once I get back to L.A. and do a couple [of] follow-ups and then go from there," Bryant said. "But it's been a slow process." ... Bryant said he did not envision announcing his retirement plans to trigger a season-long farewell tour. "I don't really want the rocking chair before the game," he said. "It would drive me crazy. But I'll probably just pop up and just vanish." Before he does, Bryant said he would like to participate in the three-point contest as part of All-Star weekend in 2015. "Marco [Belinelli] won with shooting five airballs," Bryant said. "I might not win, but I won't shoot five airballs in the three-point contest, I don't think. But we'll see."

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: The warm-up act is over. Time for the main event. And the curtain opens in Oklahoma City. Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James. Thunder vs. Heat. Hunters vs. Hunted. And it lands in our lap Thursday night with the NBA's latest great individual rivalry. LeBron/Carmelo. LeBron/Kobe. Michael Jordan/take your pick (Clyde Drexler, Dominique Wilkins, Isiah Thomas). All have tried and failed to match the great Magic/Bird or Wilt/Russell rivalries of yesteryear. Now Durant/LeBron takes its swing. And the latest installment is at Chesapeake Arena, with TNT ready to give America what it wanted in the All-Star Game but had no hope of getting: a Durant/LeBron referendum. The All-Star Game, which annually provides all the entertainment value of trampoline dunkers, is in the rearview mirror. Which is the best place for it. Now we can hone in on real basketball. The NBA's stretch run. The playoffs. The Finals. The victory parade on Biscayne Boulevard or along the San Antonio Riverwalk or, be still our heart, the Bricktown Canal. The All-Star Game provided a good stage to talk about the rivalry between the planet's two best players.

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: With all the snow, ice and cold weather in New York, Miami Heat superstar LeBron James wonders how the NBA will deal with the inclement conditions when the All-Star Game is held in New York next year. “I think that’s going to be amazing,” James said of the 2015 game at Madison Square Garden. “The only problem is what if New York City next year is like New York City today. “I don’t know what the NBA would do with that. Would they cancel it? That’s something to ponder.” Because Madison Square Garden is considered the basketball mecca, James acknowledged that it will be an All-Star game for the ages. “If I’m fortunate enough to make it, obviously being in the Garden for the All-Star Game, wow!” James said. “That’s going to be big-time."

  • Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: An experience that had become routine for Dwyane Wade over the years suddenly was foreign. It was so new Wade for a moment thought about returning in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game at Smoothie King Center. Then he thought against it. “I’m normally in there at the end,” Wade said. “It was a part of me that really wanted to be in there. I came out in the second half and I felt a lot better. I wanted to play but I decided not to for the better of our season.” As expected, the night ended earlier than usual for Wade in the Eastern Conference’s 163-155 victory against the West. Wade left with 5 minutes, 49 seconds remaining in the third quarter, becoming a cheerleader the remainder. He experienced the game from a “different lense.” “Just on my vet stuff this year,” Wade said. “I actually got it from other vets. I’ve been around guys when they were older and how they approached the All-Star Game, where they kind of let the younger guys go out there and enjoy themselves and get a feel for the game and have fun. I just kind of chilled a little bit.”

  • J. Michael of CSN Washington: The honeymoon that is NBA All-Star Weekend is over for John Wall as he has to refocus for the final 30 games of the regular season for the Wizards, beginning with practice Monday at Verizon Center. But what a weekend it was. Wall only played 15 minutes and scored 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting, five rebounds and four assists for the East in a 163-155 win vs. the West on Sunday night. It was the most points ever scored in 63 All-Star Games. If Wall can gain the popular vote to be a starter next season, he'll get more run and can make more of an impact in the main event instead of playing behind Kyrie Irving, who was named MVP. Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin scored 38 each for the West.

  • Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com: When you’re winning, players want to follow. And according to Aldridge, a couple of All-Star players that shall remain anonymous have approached him, telling him that they would like to play with himself and Damian Lillard in Portland. “Definitely a few guys have told me that this weekend,” Aldridge informed CSNNW.com. Aldridge and Lillard say they haven’t actively recruited players over the course of the weekend, which is revealing, meaning those anonymous players went out of their way to express their interest in playing for the Trail Blazers. “I think winning and the type of people that we are will attract people,” Lillard said. “In that way, I guess we are recruiting but I haven’t actively done so.” The long perception of the Trail Blazers being an unattractive team in the far left coast with their closest opponent approximately 630 miles away, Portland is slowly starting to transform into a place that players have to consider if serious about their basketball careers. “If you’re serious about basketball, Portland is the place,” Lillard told CSNNW.com.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: A year after Rockets center Dwight Howard trudged through All Star events, particularly media sessions, injured and seemingly unhappy, his jovial nature has seemed to have been restored throughout the three days in New Orleans, to the point he was asked about being ‘a goofball’ again. ... A year ago, Howard was still working his way back from off-season back surgery when he injured his shoulder and was uncertain about being able to play at all in the All Star game in Houston. “I’m just a lot healthier than I was last year,” Howard said. “When you’re healthy you can do a lot more things on the floor. I don’t think people understood that. They looked at all the negative things that came out of Orlando that were brought to LA, not on my part. I’m healthier than I was last season and I’m having a lot of fun.”

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: If you are a Celtics fan and you go to games at the Garden, then you have been part of the conversation at NBA All-Star Weekend. Officials from other teams admire your loyalty, and there might even be some envy. According to ESPN’s figures, the Celts are filling 96.6 percent of their seats at home. They’re attracting people at a higher rate of their capacity than eight teams that are currently holding down playoff seeds. Only one of those teams, Portland, is averaging more people per game. “It’s topical,” said Celtics president Rich Gotham. “This is the All-Star Weekend, but it’s also sort of a big business convention for us. Everyone that’s sort of a decision maker on this business is here, and we talk about that kind of thing.” It’s been discussed here before that it’s important for the franchise to not have to worry about too great a drop-off in interest during a rebuilding phase. “We’re really fortunate in Boston that we’ve got great fans,” Gotham said.

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Several times this season, during interviews, Hawks players would mention “daily vitamins” as part of their routines. I assumed they literally meant a vitamin regime. I found out last week, in reporting my feature on how Paul Millsap became an All-Star, how wrong I had been. Daily vitamins have nothing to do with supplements. They are, in fact, a major part of the Hawks’ player development system. It is the term used for the daily one-on-one time that assistant coaches work with an individual player. Under the system, different assistants are assigned a group of players. The time spent together could be video work or on-court work or both. The sessions generally last between 20 and 30 minutes, either before or after practice. “We work specifically with that individual on his game,” assistant Darvin Ham said. The procedure is part of first-year coach Mike Budenholzer’s system. It’s not the norm, according to Ham. “I’ve been around teams where quite honestly, you get your work in if you have the time before or after practice,” Ham said.