First Cup: Tuesday

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: On his 60-minute interview that aired on NBA TV tonight, LeBron James was asked by former Heat guard Steve Smith whether he can picture himself playing elsewhere. "At this point, I can't," James said. "We don't know what can happen from here to July." James has two years remaining on his contract but can exercise an out clause to become a free agent this July and next July. James said it isn't right to judge him on how many championships he wins: "I don't think it's fair. There are a lot of great players that haven't won." He said the one thing that he wants to win that he hasn't is Defensive Player of the Year. And he said the key moment after the Heat's loss to Dallas in the 2011 Finals was Dwyane Wade inviting him to the Bahamas, where Wade told James he had to be the man and play like he did in Cleveland. The Heat won two championships since that conversation.

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: “I feel like this year was definitely a different feeling than last year,” Kyrie Irving said after practice Monday night at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “In terms of when I was out there, they looked to me just as much as I looked to them. I have the respect of my peers now, and I respect all those guys. They deserve all the success they get. “You look around and you’re playing with ’Bron, you’re playing against Durant, CP (Chris Paul), Steph (Curry). It’s his first start, my first start, as well. Paul George. Some newcomers as well, but the old guys are still taking over the league. Being with them and having a chance to play with them was an awesome experience.” Irving is averaging 23 points and 9.0 assists in two All-Star Game appearances. “It was a great environment to be in New Orleans with all those great fans, millions of people across the world watching that tremendous game,” he said. “(There were) so many elite players, it was awesome to be with them. To bring back the MVP to Cleveland could have been the greatest accomplishment for that weekend.” The 6-foot-3, 193-pound Irving said the MVP trophy could jump start the second half of the season for him.

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: Reporters are the ones who are supposed to ask the questions, but front-office personnel from clubs around the league were getting in the first shot during All-Star Weekend and yesterday. “Are they going to trade Rondo?” The answer remains that Danny Ainge is open to anything, but, particularly in the case of Rajon Rondo, it’s going to cost you. The Celtics president of basketball operations is still a big believer in his All-Star point guard, but in this rebuilding situation, nothing can be off the table. Sources continue to insist, however, that Ainge has to get something certain in return (see: the bid he made for Chris Paul 21⁄2 years ago). Word is the C’s would take draft picks, but they’d have to be guaranteed in the top few — even if they came in separate years — and it’s hard to see anyone meeting that price. Things were said to be “all quiet” on the Celtics front yesterday, but two of the general managers reached yesterday said they’re waiting to see if the prices change on some Celts as Thursday’s NBA trade deadline approaches. Sources around the league have confirmed that calls have been made to the Celtics regarding Rondo, Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Jeff Green and Kris Humphries. But as of last night, there were no ongoing talks regarding any of them.

  • Tom Moore of The Intelligencer: The trade deadline is looming Thursday at 3 p.m. Evan Turner’s name has been linked to a bunch of teams, including the Suns, Cavaliers, Bobcats, Bulls, Trail Blazers and others. But the Sixers’ Turner, who will become an unrestricted free agent after the season if his $8.7 million qualifying offer isn’t picked up, insists he won’t feel relief once the date passes. “At the end of the day, so much has been said and so many rumors, it’s too much to really concern yourself with,” Turner said following Monday night’s first practice after the all-star break. “I never, ever worried about it. It really doesn’t matter to me.” Still, the fourth-year pro, a former No. 2 overall pick, admits he’s “getting excited to see what’s about to happen because it’s like a riddle. Who knows? Whatever happens, happens.”

  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: There are 678,595 reasons why the Bulls won’t be buyers when the NBA trade deadline comes and goes Thursday. That’s how much they’re below the luxury-tax line since unloading Luol Deng in January. But selling is a different story. Mike Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich could become movable assets if the right deal comes along. With a 27-25 record at the All-Star break, however, there are still some goals to accomplish in the last two months of the regular season. ... Several sources indicated that the trade deadline could be a quiet one, and that was backed by Bulls vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman last week.

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: The Knicks are expected to pass on Teague. More than anyone, Anthony would have to had approve such a deal for Teague, who has been Atlanta’s starting point guard all season. He is very quick, but is not considered elite. Atlanta could have interest in Shumpert partly to attract more interest to its club as he was a high-profile player for Georgia Tech. The Knicks also have Beno Udrih and Metta World Peace on the trading block. One scenario thrown out was a three-team deal that would have Teague going to Toronto with a draft pick, Lowry to the Knicks and Shumpert to Atlanta. One source said the teams had not discussed that scenario and the Raptors probably aren’t trading Lowry. Regardless, it’s clear the Knicks would love to see Shumpert flipped for a point guard as starter Raymond Felton has regressed.

  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: Ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline, the Raptors have been involved in talks with multiple teams that would change the team’s point guard situation significantly. With the New York Knicks continuing to aggressively pursue Kyle Lowry, who has turned in a career season, Toronto has explored complicated deals that would bring back a replacement for the soon-to-be free agent. It’s no secret Boston has dangled four-time all-star Rajon Rondo league-wide and while the asking price is steep, he has piqued the interest of Toronto’s front office, according to multiple sources. Toronto is eager to up its “star” quotient and is also enamoured with Rondo’s resume, particularly his four all-defensive team selections (two all-NBA first team). He has many backers in the organization. However, Rondo tore his ACL just over a year ago, has only played in 10 contests this season and will become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2015 after earning $12.9 million next year.

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: With Thursday’s trade deadline approaching, speculation persists about the New Orleans Pelicans' front office listening to offers for Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans. But Pelicans coach Monty Williams said after Monday’s practice that he expects for both players to still be with the team after the trade deadline passes. "I don’t know where all that stuff comes from man," Williams said. "It’s silly to me to put guys names out there like that. I don’t know how to answer that. I’m focused on tomorrow's practice. As far as I know, those guys are going to be here. All the trade stuff, I guess there is nothing else to talk about. It’s not something we put a lot of stock into as coaches." Evans admits the trade situation is out of his hands, but he thinks Thursday’s deadline will pass without him getting moved.

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: If the Hawks are apt to make a big move this week, I submit that it won’t be an addition. Danny Ferry, the general manager, worked too hard to clear cap space to clutter his books with a pricy player who might help the Hawks finish fifth in the East, as opposed to sixth. If the Hawks are to do something, I’m guessing they’ll subtract. ... Having decided not to go the tanking route by signing Millsap and DeMarre Carroll and re-signing Kyle Korver and matching Teague’s offer, Ferry probably won’t change tactics now. A year ago, Ferry chose not to trade Josh Smith, who would leave in July as a free agent, at the deadline. The GM had more reason to make a move then than now, and he didn’t then. I’m guessing he won’t make a move, at least not a major one, this time, either.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: For the most part, trade-deadline rumors are much ado about nothing, at least until Thursday’s 1 p.m. hits. That is the case for the Suns, with a wide range of names being connected to them as they dangle the carrot of Emeka Okafor’s insurance-protected expiring contract. There is the known big-splash conversation (Pau Gasol), the plausible move for frontcourt help (Brandon Bass) and a more preposterous, no-chance scenario (Zach Randolph) being floated on Phoenix’s trade-rumor seas. Almost all, if not all, of the scenarios will sink. ... While they will not shy away from pursuing a major piece, the Suns also will not overreach. A trade would have to be overwhelmingly sensible for the Suns to sacrifice anything they have set up for the future, as far as salary-cap space or their accumulation of first-round picks (six in the next two drafts) to bring in young talent or package for a superstar trade. The Suns clearly are having conversations with teams about possibilities. They must see what is possible with every team. That was how they came out fine last year in two deals but also how they bombed two years ago, when they dealt Goran Dragic and a first-round pick for Aaron Brooks. Other than those moves, the Suns have not made a trade right at the deadline in the past decade, although the Shaquille O’Neal (2008) and Walter McCarty (2005) moves in early February were close.

  • Josh Katzenstein of The Detroit News: While Drummond’s 30 points and 25 rebounds stole the show in the Rising Stars Challenge Friday, a blunder after the game became a hot topic this weekend. During the MVP presentation, BBVA president Angel Cano dropped the trophy before handing it to Drummond. However, Drummond said it was a non-issue because the trophy is actually two pieces. Drummond thinks his performance helped show NBA fans how hard he’s been working for the Pistons. “I think the way I played on that stage in front of the whole NBA and just worldwide kind of puts a big buzz around my name,” he said.

  • Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com: The Portland Trail Blazers have made it known that the city of Portland wishes to host NBA All-Star Weekend. The year 2017 was the first opening the organization was shooting for after the mid-season extravaganza visits New York in 2015 and Toronto in 2016. But according to a league source, 2017 is now out of the question for Portland due to the tirelessly slow process of getting a Hyatt Regency convention-size hotel approved which would reside at the Oregon Convention Center. Funding and hotel competitors appear to be the main obstacles holding the project up. A city official told CSNNW.com that they do expect to eventually break ground on the project, but adds that now the earliest the hotel can be constructed is in the year 2017.