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First Cup: Thursday

  • Michael Cohen of The Commercial-Appeal: With a cup of coffee in hand, Dave Joerger leaned against a blue wall in the underbelly of FedExForum and discussed the sluggishness of running in mud. In a little less than two hours his Grizzlies tipped off against the Los Angeles Lakers, a team lacking both ambition and healthy talent, yet Joerger spoke abhorrently about the past before turning his attention to the present. Four days earlier, in the second game of a back-to-back, his team withered on the road against an opponent -- Charlotte -- that was certainly beatable if not expectedly so. Bereft of effort and intensity, the Grizzles stumbled. And in a stretch as vital as this one, every loss is pain-inducing. “We should be foaming at the mouth,” Joerger said before Wednesday’s game. “That did not feel good on Saturday.” What followed in the next few hours made Joerger feel better, though not entirely satisfied. Two quarters of crisp, energized basketball with balanced scoring and trademark unselfishness gave way to overpassing and a lull in attention, the result two contrasting halves that shriveled a 22-point lead to just three in the closing seconds. Yet Memphis prevailed, clinging to a 108-103 win over Los Angeles that was as important to the team’s psyche as its record (32-24).

  • Erik Gundersen of The Columbian: Playing seven minutes and only having two turnovers to show for it would discourage most players. However, most players do not have the resolute confidence of Will Barton. “I was killing myself after the game yesterday,” Barton said. “I know I’ve been having the opportunity to play and every night is important for me, every second. I just told myself if I get in the next game, I’m going to make the most of it.” And make the most of it he did as Barton stepped up again for the short-handed Blazers. He helped propel Portland to a 124-80 blowout over the Brooklyn Nets. “We just went out there and balled as a team,” said the man of the night. He finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds, both season highs. His production along with that of Mo Williams’ 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds helped power the Blazers on the second night of back-to-back games. The Blazers bench combined for a season-high 68 points.

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: The Thunder are clearly in a rut right now. They haven’t lost three straight at home since the 2008-09 season, which was their first season in Oklahoma City when they won just 23 games. It sounds silly, but the Thunder are in a similar state of flux to what the Cavs were early in the season. They just got Russell Westbrook back recently, and while he was terrific Wednesday, they’re winless since he came back. Now they’ve lost Kendrick Perkins, and while Steven Adams may eventually be a fine pro, right now he looks like Zeller did last season – an athletic big who doesn’t always know where he’s supposed to be and can’t defend the paint nearly as well as Perkins. Plus he didn’t look very comfortable chasing Hawes around the 3-point line. The Thunder have issues, and they particularly have issues against the Cavs, who have now inexplicably won three of the last four meetings in this series. “Obviously playing against a great team, you’re going to get up for it,” Irving said. “Everyone in the league wants to play against a great team on their home floor. But this game doesn’t mean any more than any game we have coming up. Every game means a lot.”

  • Phil Collin of the Los Angeles Daily News: The Danny Granger chase is on and the Clippers are in the thick of it. Granger, traded from Indiana to Philadelphia, had his contract bought out by the 76ers on Wednesday and is now free to sign. “Of course,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers answered when asked if the Clippers are interested. Then again, so are other teams like the San Antonio Spurs, it was reported, as well as Houston, Dallas and Chicago. “Obviously a guy with that talent, you want to look at, there’s no doubt about it,” Rivers said. “I don’t think it is up to us. I think it will be up to Danny. I think there will be a lot of teams going after him and there should be. We’re going to have our day to talk.” The Clippers still have two open spots on the roster after they jettisoned Antawn Jamison and Byron Mullens last week. That keeps them in the hunt for any possible free agent that might pop up, such as Granger.

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: It finally happened. After launching himself around NBA courts with complete, reckless abandon for more than a decade, Manu Ginobili played out of his shoes Wednesday against Detroit. The talk of NBA’s Twitterverse took place late in the first half as Ginobili defended Will Bynum. Planting hard, Ginobili’s left foot burst through the side of his custom Nikes. The Spurs took a 20-second time, during which their support staff retrieved a replacement pair and laced Ginobili up without missing any court time. “It was a good pit stop,” he said. Ginobili was less than thrilled to answer questions about the mishap, no doubt loyal to his long-time sponsor. “That’s the topic?” he said. “I don’t know what happened. I stopped and my foot kept going. It just happened. First time it’s happened in my career. Very weird, but no big deal.” Ginobili’s mishap is reminiscent of one suffered some years back by Matt Bonner, whose signature New Balances also blew up in spectacular fashion.

  • Staff of The Dallas Morning News: Though he finished with 18 points, Dirk Nowitzki gave Mavericks fans a scare in the game's opening seconds, suffering a shoulder injury on the first possession of the game. Nowitzki’s shoulder problem wasn’t serious and he quickly returned to the game, hitting a 3-pointer soon after getting back on the court. He said he aggravated a problem he’s had for virtually his whole career. He went out of the game immediately, but returned with 8:44 left in the first quarter. “Ever since Karl Malone hacked me in ’99, the shoulder sometimes comes in and out a little,” Nowitzki said. “It tingles a little for a couple minutes. I walked it off in the tunnel and it was OK. It’s happened a good 20 times in my career, so it’s going to happen here and there. Hopefully, I can still play tennis when my career is over.”

  • A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com: During Boston's recently concluded Western trip, Rondo, as well as coach Brad Stevens, said he was not going to play against the Sacramento Kings because it was the second game of a back-to-back set. Rondo did not travel with the team to Sacramento, but apparently did not have permission from the team to not travel with them, and instead he reportedly spent that day with family and friends in Los Angeles celebrating his 28th birthday. The four time All-Star has heard the talk and speculation as to what happened that weekend, but says, "nobody knows the story. You [media] guys keep making up every story you guys possibly can." When asked what is the story, Rondo added, "It's my business. It's my choice." Stevens said he and Rondo have discussed the situation. "All that we're handling internally," Stevens said. "But we've sat down and talked and we did that Monday. In my mind, I'm moving forward and then when Danny [Ainge, the celtics president of basketball operations] gets back in town, they can meet and go from there."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Before the break, Hinrich expressed strong disappointment in his shooting, particularly his 28.8 percent from 3-point range. In the four post-All-Star-games before Wednesday, Hinrich had made 7 of 12 from beyond the arc to push his percentage to 31.5. That's still well below his career mark of 37.6 but is on an upward trend. Hinrich was 0-for-2 on 3-pointers Wednesday night in the 103-83 victory over the Warriors, but concentrated mostly on limiting Stephen Curry to five points. "I still feel confident," Hinrich said. "I have a good feel for where my shots are coming from. Some nights the 3-pointers present themselves more often than others. I always try to take the right shots." Hinrich quietly has started to log 30-minutes-plus, doing so in both games on this week's two-game trip. For a while, he had stayed in the 20- to 30-minute range as he came back from a hamstring injury, but his defense is too valuable.

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: Not surprisingly, a point guard was among the players with the best performances Wednesday night in the Utah Jazz’s 109-86 blowout of the Phoenix Suns. It wasn’t Goran Dragic. The Suns playmaker, having an All-Star-caliber season, didn’t even suit up because of an ankle injury he suffered Tuesday night against Minnesota. It wasn’t Trey Burke, either. The Jazz’s Rookie of the Year candidate had a fine but mostly quiet game with 10 points and just two assists. The point guard du soir in this game: Diante Garrett. How fitting, he acknowledged, that his career-high scoring night of 15 points came against his old team. Garrett, who played 19 games in Phoenix last season, thoroughly enjoyed some exchanges he had with players on the Suns bench during this rout. “Those guys talking smack on the sideline was fun,” he said.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: With expansion of the NBA Development League into the Southeast potentially years away, the Orlando Magic have begun discussions with an existing D-League team to create a one-to-one affiliation arrangement that could begin as early as the 2014-15 season, Magic CEO Alex Martins told the Orlando Sentinel. Magic executives want to create a hybrid relationship with a D-League team in which the Magic would run a D-League team's basketball operations but would not own the team and would not run the business side of the team. Martins would not disclose the identity of the existing D-League team that the Magic have targeted as a potential partner. But the Erie (Pa.) BayHawks' three-year partnership with the New York Knicks is scheduled to end this season, a BayHawks spokesman said. ... According to Dan Reed, the president of the D-League, expansion into the Southeast is not imminent.