First Cup: Tuesday

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: So with only one year left (a team option) on his deal, is retirement a possibility? “It all kind of just depends how this feels, how things are with the knee,” Billups said of a return next season. “If the knee is fine, sure I would like to come back. But if it’s not, I don’t want to come back to this. “It’s tough to do this and we’re not a winning team at this stage. It’s tough to do that, but hopefully in a perfect world and my knee is fine ... I feel like if my knee was fine we probably wouldn’t be in the position that we’re in.” Billups said the knee started bothering him when he left the Warriors game at Golden State in November. He played in only 12 more games the rest of the season. He is walking without a limp and said he feels no pain. “I did every thing I could to try to get it right, but I’d have a setback and it is a tough grind so (they) went in and there was a tear in the meniscus, they cleaned it up, and it’s feeling better,” he said.

  • Ron Kroichick of the San Francisco Chronicle: Warriors president Rick Welts spoke proudly of his league on Monday – and not only because Jason Collins signed with Brooklyn a day earlier, becoming the first openly gay athlete in the four major U.S. sports. “I’m really happy with the way it transpired – a team with basketball needs and a player who they really felt could help them,” Welts said. Collins was judged on his contributions as a player and teammate? What a concept. If the NFL paid attention to Collins’ return to the NBA, then Michael Sam’s path to a pro football career – or a fair chance at a career – became much smoother. Pardon my skepticism, but the NBA seems infinitely more evolved. Welts knows, as the league’s first openly gay executive. He understands the social significance of Collins playing for the Nets, but he also views it as a milepost on a longer journey. “It’s a really big step toward this eventually being regarded as totally unremarkable,” Welts said. Amen to that.

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Mark Cuban vehemently let the world know Monday night how he feels about Jason Collins becoming the first openly gay player to participate in one of the four major professional sports in the United States. “I don’t [care] about a guy’s sexuality,” the Dallas Mavericks’ owner said. “Period. End of story.” The Brooklyn Nets signed Collins to a 10-day contract early Sunday and later that night he recorded no points, two rebounds and one steal in 11 minutes during a 108-102 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. Cuban, however, attempted to downplay the significance of Collins’ appearance with the Nets. “I think it’s no big deal and that’s exactly the way it should be,” Cuban said. “It shouldn’t have been a big deal, it wasn’t a big deal and move on. Nothing to talk about. I think at some point it’s nothing to talk about and now it’s nothing to talk about." Forward Vince Carter, who was a teammate of Collins with the Nets from 2004-08, understands why water coolers across America are buzzing with discussions about Brooklyn’s newest player. “It’s new, it’s the hot topic, so we’re going to be asked about it," Carter said.

  • Brian Lewis of the New York Post: Video shows J.R. Smith got hit across the arm by the Dallas guard. It remains to be seen if he’ll get slapped on the wrist by the NBA offices for earlier tugging at Vince Carter’s headband. Either way, he argued vehemently, but futilely for the call — and the Knicks know all about futile. Their 110-108 heartbreaker against Dallas was their third straight defeat, and ninth in their last 11 games. ... It’s been a tough season for Smith, from knee surgery to his suspension for marijuana use, to his failed stint as a starter to multiple benchings. Oh, and there was the fine for twice untying opponents shoes, so on Monday he tried pulling down Carter’s headband. That didn’t help either. “No, your eyes are playing tricks on you. Y’all reaching for that one. I already got fined once this season for that [stuff],’’ grinned Smith, despite video that clearly showed him pulling down Carter’s headband with the Knicks trailing 90-85 with 10:43 left in the game. The fine was $50,000 for untying Dallas forward Shawn Marion’s shoes on Jan. 5 and — after being warned about the error of his ways — trying to untie Greg Monroe’s in the very next game. He faces the prospect of another fine from Rod Thorn, the NBA vice president of basketball operations. Larry Bird did the same thing to Chuck Person during the 1991 playoffs, and was lauded. Smith has learned enough to know he’ll be lambasted.

  • Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News: The simple fact is the Utah Jazz lose when Derrick Favors doesn’t play this season. The Jazz are 0-9 without Favors this year, including the last three games since the All-Star break. So you can imagine how happy the Jazz were to welcome Favors back to the lineup Wednesday night. And it wasn’t surprising that they got back on the winning track with Favors helping lead the way in a comfortable 110-98 victory over Boston. Favors scored 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting and more importantly he helped on the defensive end against the Celtics. He blocked three shots and kept the middle clogged up as starting Celtic inside players Kris Humphries and Brandon Bass managed just 17 total points on 6-of-21 shooting. “It was good to get him back out there,’’ said Utah coach Tyrone Corbin. “He does so many good things for us on the defensive end it really makes it easier for the other guys. Offensively when he can get the ball in his spots, he is really good.’’

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: The Celtics are not taking it as a major issue, but the team is still hoping to straighten things out with Rajon Rondo after his decision to stay in Los Angeles and not accompany the team to Sacramento for Saturday’s game. While some were displeased by the move, for which Rondo did not receive official permission, others pointed out he was not scheduled to play in the game anyway (on the second night of a back-to-back), and that he may have simply been making some assumptions based on precedent. Multiple sources say he remained in LA for a birthday celebration. He turned 28 on Saturday. The captain didn’t want to get into the matter before last night’s 110-98 loss to the Jazz. “We already talked about it,” Rondo said. “There’s nothing to talk about.” That doesn’t appear to be the case. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge said yesterday he is still looking into the situation. “I plan on talking to Rondo when he gets back into town,” he told the Herald. “I’ll find out more about what went into it, and then we’ll handle it internally. We handle all of those kind of issues internally.” The possibility exists that Rondo could be fined, but if not, the team will likely gain a more well-defined set of rules from this.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Thanasis Antetokounmpo saw his brother play an NBA game for the first time Monday. And younger brother Giannis put on a good show with 13 points, six rebounds and four blocks. Thanasis said it also was the first NBA game he has seen in person since arriving from Greece to play for Delaware in the NBA Development League. Thanasis is eligible for the June draft and said he hopes to be in Milwaukee to join his family once the D-League season is over.

  • Christopher A. Vito of the Delaware County Daily Times: Danny Granger’s status with the 76ers remains unresolved, though it appears both sides could be working toward a buyout arrangement. Granger is not with the Sixers. He was not at Wells Fargo Center for Monday’s game against Milwaukee, Sixers coach Brett Brown said, and there was no locker room stall arranged for the ninth-year forward. “He’s in the city of Philadelphia. Go find him,” Brown said. “He’s got a fake wig and sunglasses on.” Granger finished his physical examination Sunday, meeting with Brown after doing so. He also sat down with Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie sometime over the weekend. Brown wouldn’t divulge what was discussed when he spoke with Granger. “It was a private meeting he and I had. We talked about a bunch of things,” Brown said. “I think in the next short period of time, I would suspect maybe even as early as 24 hours, an announcement will be made on what direction our situation with Danny will go.” That announcement seems likely to be about the Sixers buying out Granger’s contract.

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: After the Clippers signed free-agent forward Glen Davis to a contract Monday in New Orleans, Coach Doc Rivers said they'll continue "tracking" players who are bought out of their contracts or waived. Davis didn't play against the Pelicans because he won't take his physical until Tuesday in L.A.; he might play Wednesday night against the Houston Rockets at Staples Center. The Clippers have a 13-man roster, giving them room to sign two more players. There have been reports that small forward Danny Granger might get a buyout from the Philadelphia 76ers. If he does, Granger would be high on the Clippers' list to try to acquire, according to NBA executives who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. Granger was traded to the 76ers on Thursday from the Indiana Pacers.

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: Youngsters Jeff Withey and Darius Miller continue to be lost on the end of the New Orleans bench and the longer they sit the more puzzling it becomes. The Pelicans have nothing to lose at this point by playing Withey, a rookie, at center and Miller, a second-year player, at small forward. In the Pelicans' last 11 games, Miller has recorded nine DNP-coach's decisions while Al-Farouq Aminu struggles on both ends of the floor. Withey has gotten some token minutes (he checked in with eight to go in the fourth quarter Monday night), but it needs to be determined if they two players can be part of this team's core in the future.