Thursday, January 24, 2013
First Cup: Thursday
By Nick Borges
- Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: Tony Wroten wound up with nine points, five rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot. The blocked shot came off the hand of Kobe Bryant, which Wroten may not stop smiling about until next week. "Wow, that was crazy," said Wroten. Said Hollins: "He was good." For Hollins, that's the verbal equivalent of handsprings. At least, until the Grizzlies play another game. And that's the caveat to all this merriment, of course. The Grizzlies can't play the Lakers every night. Too bad, because they might if they could. The Lakers are a hot mess these days. But this was no moment to be fretting about the opposition. It was a great night for the Griz. Or, with apologies in advance: They couldn't have Wroten it better than this.
- Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: Dwight Howard may be looking for a way out of Los Angeles, but Deron Williams and the Nets aren’t looking for a new center. After the franchise spent the better part of a year held hostage by a never-ending stream of trade rumors involving Howard, Williams had no interest discussing the latest rumors about Howard’s future and whether he could be put on the market by the Lakers before next month’s trade deadline. Instead, Williams gave a ringing endorsement to Brook Lopez, who scored 22 points in Wednesday night’s 91-83 victory against the Timberwolves last night and should earn the first All-Star selection of his career when the reserves for both conferences are announced today. “I’m not going to get into that,” Williams said of the latest round of Howard rumors prior to last night’s game. “We’re happy with Brook. ... Brook is our center. He’s having an All-Star year, so I don’t see Brook going anywhere.” Williams said he sought out Lopez Wednesday to make sure his center wasn’t bothered by the new speculation that surfaced in the wake of a report the Nets had planned to reach out to, ironically, the Timberwolves about putting together a potential three-team trade that would see Lopez routed to Minnesota, Kevin Love to Los Angeles and Howard to Brooklyn.
- Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: The Warriors followed Monday's victory over the Clippers by outlasting Oklahoma City 104-99 on Wednesday night in front an NBA TV audience and the 11th consecutive sellout crowd at Oracle Arena. "Those are two very good basketball teams, but we've said all along that we're not going away," Mark Jackson said. "We know exactly who we are, and we're not going to rest on this. ... This is no surprise." … The Warriors haven't been in second place in the Pacific Division at the midway point of a season since 1992, when they were 28-13 and sat behind Portland. They are five games back of the first-place Clippers and 9 1/2 games ahead of the third-place Lakers. On top of beating the best two teams in the conference in consecutive games, the Warriors have statistically moved into the league's upper echelon. The Warriors are one of five teams that ranks among the league's top 10 in field-goal percentage and defensive field-goal shooting, and they're the only team in the league to have beaten the Clippers, Thunder and Heat this season.
- Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: Spurs captain Tim Duncan does not expect his sore left knee to keep him on the sidelines for long. Duncan, who sat out Wednesday’s victory over the Hornets, said he fell on the knee during Monday’s 90-85 victory over the 76ers in Philadelphia. Though he was able to finish that game, he said the knee stiffened after a four-hour post-game flight back to San Antonio. “It’s sore but I don’t think it’s serious,” Duncan said. “Maybe one more game, but we’ll see.” The Spurs play at Dallas on Friday, and point guard Tony Parker hinted that Duncan won’t be available for that game. “We’re going to play without Timmy (against Dallas),” he said, “so we’re going to have to be ready.” Acting coach Mike Budenholzer, who took over on the Spurs bench because Gregg Popovich was ill, said Duncan was officially day to day. “Pop and our organization is always going to err on the side of being cautious in protecting him,” he said. “So the little bit I know, I don’t think it’s real serious or a long-term thing.”
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Dan Majerle said he believes the interview process to replace former head coach Alvin Gentry was a charade because he thinks General Manager Lance Blanks already had settled on Hunter over the assistant coaches. … “They talk about integrity,” Majerle said. “To skip over two qualified people didn’t make sense. They chose Lindsey, a guy not even on the coaching staff and who they told us was only there to help us. I think they had their minds made up already before the interviews. I was going to lay low and not comment but I heard people from the organization get on the radio and say I would’ve been the popular and easy thing to do and that’s a slap in the face.” … Majerle said he is unsure about his coaching future and what the past few days’ events will do to his chances with other teams. It would be hard for him to leave Phoenix, with four successful Majerle’s Sports Grill locations in the Valley and endorsements because of his status in the community. “I love Phoenix,” Majerle said. “I love the fans. I love the Phoenix Suns. Being head coach here would have been a dream come true.”
- Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald: In honor of its 2012 NBA championship, the Heat will meet with President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday. The scheduled trip to Washington comes between road games against Boston (Sunday) and Brooklyn (Wednesday). "It is the pinnacle of the things that we've been able to experience together," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Thankfully we have the majority of the team back." President Obama, a basketball fan and avid player, has participated in pick up games with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Obama is a Bulls fan but Spoelstra said "we won't hold that against him." "Everybody will bring their shoes just in case we get to play a pickup game," Spoelstra said. Heat forward Mike Miller called it a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In addition to recognizing the 2012 NBA championship, President Obama will also thank the Heat for its "Home Strong" foundation, which supports veterans of the militarty.
- Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: When Larry Drew won the NBA’s Coach of the Month award in December he was, jokingly, asked if he was worried about his job. Why? Well, the Nets had just fired Avery Johnson after he was named Coach of the Month for November. For the record, Drew said he was not worried about his job security. He reiterated that Wednesday morning as the Hawks have won just four games in January, posting a 4-8 record since the honor. You have to go back to Dec. 28-29 for the last time the Hawks have won two straight games. They go for that tonight against the Bobcats. Complicating matters, to a certain extent, is the fact that Drew is in the final year of his contract with the Hawks. General manager Danny Ferry has said the team will re-evaluate the situation following the season after he has been through his first year in Atlanta. Ferry did give his blessing on the Hawks picking up the final year of Drew’s contract after he took over for Rick Sund. I asked Drew Wednesday if, considering his contract status, it has been hard not to look over his shoulder considering the team’s recent slide. “I made up my mind going into the season that my focus was just to do the best I can,” Drew told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: There won't be an advertising campaign built around it. But when Derrick Rose finalizes his return from knee surgery, Marquis Teague will return to the bench — likely, barring injury, for good this season. "You have to be patient," Teague said. "I'm 19. I'm trying to grow as player and wait for my turn. Playing a lot of minutes in college and not getting to play as much is something I never experienced. But you have to fight through it." Teague entered Wednesday having played just 17 minutes all month after logging 19 in the New Year's Eve matinee against the Bobcats alone. Practices have become his games. "I've learned a lot about the league and practice habits," Teague said. "I now know where my teammates are going to be. And I know the right plays to make. So it's a lot easier for me. Whenever I get on the floor, I'll be ready."
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: Somewhere from above, Red Auerbach choked on his cigar. James Naismith put a peach basket over his head to cover his eyes. This wasn't a basketball play. This was something from another planet. What it was, well, it was awesome. In the third quarter of Denver's 105-95 Wednesday win against the Rockets in Houston, center JaVale McGee had the ball at the right elbow, dribbled once to his right but stopped. Omer Asik leaped. McGee ducked under him while, in one motion, he flung the ball up toward the backboard. "When I threw it, I was thinking dunk," McGee said. "I thought if I didn't dunk it, I was going to get taken out of the game." Indeed, he caught it with just his right hand and unleashed a mammoth one-hand slam. And he stayed in the game. … And McGee, because he's McGee, made a silly mustache motion with his index finger across his face after the slam — sure enough, McGee has a mini tattoo of a handlebar stache on his finger. "That dunk doesn't fall under the fundamental area of basketball, but in the same sense, it worked, and I'm glad it worked," said Denver coach George Karl, who won his 1,100th game. "I hope he doesn't try it a lot in the future.”
- Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: Years ago, Al Jefferson had high hopes before All-Star reserves were announced. That isn't the case this season — and not because he thinks he's unworthy of the high-profile honor that evaded him his first eight NBA seasons. "I do not get my hopes up for it no more," Jefferson said. "I used to be excited about it. My first and second year in Minnesota, I got disappointed. To keep me from being disappointed, I don't think about it." All-Star selections will be the topic du jour this evening when the coaches' picks are announced. "If it happens, I'm thankful," Jefferson said. "If it don't, I'll get some rest. That's the way I look at it." As the Jazz's leading scorer (17.3 ppg) and rebounder (9.8 rpg), Big Al is the most likely Utah player to have his name announced as an All-Star. The NBA changed the way the reserves are selected, so he'll be up against all forwards and centers for three post spots as voted by coaches (who can't vote for their own players, by the way). Though Jefferson said he doesn't think about All-Star selections anymore, the 6-foot-10 big man added that he believes he belongs in the discussion.
- Jason Quick of The Oregonian: The All-Star status mattered to him. It motivated him. And after he was finally selected last season, in many ways it defined him. Aldridge would want me to make sure that word - defined - is in the past tense. It no longer holds true. Case in point: Aldridge boarded an airplane and left Portland on Wednesday night, hours after he turned in an All-Star like performance with 27 points and six rebounds in the Trail Blazers’ streak-snapping 100-80 victory over Indiana at the Rose Garden. He was headed to his oceanfront property in Newport Beach, Calif., his 3-year-old son Jaylen in tow. He had some financial business to tend to outside of basketball, and perhaps more importantly, some introspective, emotional business to tend to as well. Unlike past years, there would be no cellphone calls to his agent. No inquiring texts to coach Terry Stotts. No scouring the internet to see if the teams had been leaked before the 4 p.m. TNT telecast. Instead, he said he would sleep in. Take his son to the beach. “Let him run around,’’ Aldridge said. “And you know ... whatever he wants to do. I’ve never been to the beach with him before.’’