Monday, February 25, 2013
First Cup: Monday
By Nick Borges
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: There were questions when the Grizzlies’ revolving door stopped spinning — doubts about how quickly and how soon a collection of new players would mesh. A bit of suspicion even crept in as the Griz began to build a winning streak that is now close to their season-best mark established in November. After all, Memphis’ previous five opponents before Sunday own a combined winning percentage of .354. However, the Grizzlies’ 76-72 victory over the Brooklyn Nets before 17,098 in the Barclays Center provided more evidence that there still is one constant amid change, quality of opposition and venue. Like a picture in a frame, the Grizzlies’ defense remains the same. The Griz dominated without the ball when it mattered most as their winning streak swelled to seven games.
- Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: Kobe Bryant won the game — and social media. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban floated the idea on the radio about the Lakers using their amnesty, cost-cutting provision to cut Kobe Bryant this summer. Purely hypothetical, and actually a logical example of the sort of business decision there is to be made in the new NBA economic climate, but the Lakers sure aren't doing it — and Bryant sure didn't appreciate it. "Amnesty THAT," Bryant offered via his @kobebryant Twitter account after delivering 38 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in the Lakers' 103-99 victory over the Mavericks on Sunday. Bryant also made a mention of it in his postgame interviews in the locker room, expressing respect for longtime Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki (and his 30-point game Sunday) and calling him "one of my all-time favorites." "I'm sure if he wants to amnesty Dirk, that's something that we'll entertain," Bryant said. Cuban's response from his @mcuban Twitter account, which he used to show all sorts of venomous comments directed his way from Lakers fans, was two-fold: 1. "Nice to know there is a least one team and their players, outside of the Mavs, that listen to everything I say." 2. "But I do have to give props to @kobebryant for a great tweet. #Welldone."
- Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: Since the team’s move to the AT&T Center for the 2002-03 season begat the long rodeo road trip, the Spurs have found various ways to bond. The latest experience was a repeat of something they did three years ago: A mid-afternoon stop for In-N-Out burgers near the Oakland Airport. “It was one of those carpe diem moments,” forward Matt Bonner said. “You know you shouldn’t be eating a grease-laced double burger with fried onions, fries and a milk shake, but once in a while, you’ve got to go for it. It was one of those things where no one will claim responsibility, but everybody enjoyed it.” Even Parker, a native of Paris who considers himself a sophisticated diner, partook of the fast-food fare. “That was awesome,” Parker said. “We did the same thing about three years ago, too, and that was awesome, too. Even though I’m a gourmet guy, it doesn’t hurt to eat a double-burger sometimes. I had two double-doubles and a milkshake. I was hungry.” Not all the Spurs were thrilled about the experience. Guard Manu Ginobili was sated from lunch at one of his favorite Italian restaurants near San Francisco’s Union Square when the bus pulled into the In-N-Out parking lot. … Stephen Jackson was ambivalent about the experience. “It was good, but I don’t like In-N-Out like that,” he said. “Fatburger, Sonic, Five Guys, but not In-N-Out. But I ate one.”
- Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: After the game, LeBron James was asked his feelings about rumors that he would return to Cleveland to play with Irving for the 2014-15 season. Even coaches such as Denver’s George Karl have joined the speculation. “My only focus right now is winning another championship,” James said. “I can’t worry about speculation or rumors. What we’re doing on the floor right now is what it’s all about.”
- Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: Jarrett Jack will be praised for giving the Warriors their first fourth-quarter lead with a three-pointer in the final two minutes Sunday and for setting up the bucket 40 seconds later that resulted in a lead they would not relinquish. Jack actually started leading the Warriors to their 100-99 matinee victory over Minnesota an hour before the game tipped off at the Target Center. When two of the team's rookies wanted barbecue sandwiches and fries in the pregame locker room, Jack reminded the first-year players that the game started in an hour. They quietly switched their orders to chicken sandwiches with no fries. "That's who he is for us," Warriors head coach Mark Jackson said. "He's been a leader, and he's been a no-nonsense guy with a tremendous voice." And Jack has been pretty stinking good on the court, too. Jack had team highs with 23 points and eight assists, provided the Warriors with their only energy in the first half, and then made all of the clutch plays down the stretch.
- Barbara Barker of Newsday: Injury-prone, overpaid and unmovable. Two months ago, that's how many Knicks fans viewed Amar'e Stoudemire. He is a big man who plays an athletic, punishing style of basketball, and many thought it was starting to catch up with him. (Or already had caught up with him.) While he sat out the first two months of the season recovering from knee surgery, many wondered if he ever would be a big-time player again. Their fears seemed to be confirmed when he returned from injury and coach Mike Woodson decided that the best thing to do with him -- the best thing to do with the fourth-highest-paid player in the NBA -- was to bring him off the bench. Suddenly, however, it appears to have been a wee bit early to throw Stoudemire into the has-been heap. Since returning from the knee injury on New Year's Day, he has been getting stronger and stronger. Sunday night's 99-93 win over the Philadelphia 76ers was his best game yet. Despite playing only 21 minutes, 40 seconds, Stoudemire scored a season-high 22 points, grabbed five rebounds and shot 9-for-10.
- John Rohde of The Oklahoman: Sunday night's 102-72 shellacking of the Chicago Bulls at Chesapeake Energy Arena improved the Thunder's season record to 13-7 (.650) against Eastern Conference teams. That record pales in comparison to OKC's stellar 28-8 (.778) mark against Western Conference teams. The Thunder is 18-1 at home against West, but just 7-3 against the East at The Peake. Why has the Thunder (41-15) struggled against the inferior East? “I do not know,” said three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant, shaking his head in disgust. OKC coach Scott Brooks wasn't much help, either. “I haven't looked at it that closely,” Brooks said. “I know the last couple of years we've been good against the East (57-21 the previous three seasons). They definitely are physical teams. I don't know if that's the reason. We just haven't played as well against the East as we have against the West. … I don't know the answer to that.”
- Candace Buckner of The Columbian: When staring down an aggressive opponent in a must-win game, it’s never a good sign when the toughest guy in the room hobbles off the court for timeout huddles and limps through offensive sets. Wesley Matthews would not list himself anywhere close to being healthy but he returned to the floor again on Sunday because the Trail Blazers needed a victory. And needed him. Through Matthews, maybe the Blazers got inspired and grew a backbone against the old men Celtics. The last time these young guys squared off against a veteran team, they got flustered with the calls in Los Angeles on Friday — as a developing team would — and let their emotions carry them to a seven-game losing streak. However on Sunday night, the Blazers fought through pain and physical play to take the 92-86 win over Boston. Matthews, still recovering from a sprain in his left leg, scored a game-high 24 points and sank the 3-pointer that should have been the good night and drive home safely signal to the sold-out Rose Garden Arena. Matthews’ step-back triple from the top of the key — his fifth 3-pointer of the night — pulled the Blazers ahead by six with only 53.9 seconds remaining. It sure didn’t look like he felt the throb from his leg as he bounced back down court, screaming. Then again, winning heals all wounds.
- Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: The Celtics’ 92-86 loss Sunday to the Portland Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden offered every reason why they won’t have lasting power when it comes to the postseason. They had every chance to win, every opportunity for a run, and simply blew it. And to exemplify the frustration, Kevin Garnett took a major tumble on the game’s pivotal play, when the Celtics had to score in the final 1:14 behind 3 points. With Garnett on the floor, the play was blown and Paul Pierce resorted to a long 3-pointer that missed. … The long post-All-Star journey ends Monday night in Utah and the Celtics can get some rest after a tumultuous past month. But there has to be more nights where the complements produce, where Avery Bradley, Lee, Terry, or Green overcome their shortcomings and decided to put their full imprint on the game — consistently. Sunday was one of those nights where their presence was needed and they failed to deliver. The Celtics’ playoff seed is precarious, their confidence unstable, so they can’t withstand too many nights like this and continue to believe they’ll prosper in April. Garnett and Pierce hope their pleas are heard loudly. They need help. They need relief.
- John Reid of The Times-Picayune: On Sunday afternoon against the Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Hornets rookie forward Anthony Davis showed no lingering effects from a minor knee sprain suffered this past Friday against the Dallas Mavericks. Davis had little difficulty beating the Sacramento Kings forwards in transition or catching lob passes that led to forceful dunks. Despite spraining his knee early in the third quarter and not returning against the Mavericks, Davis practiced Saturday and returned to his usual starting spot against the Kings. He made his presence felt, scoring a team-high 20 points and grabbing eight rebounds in the Hornets’ 110-95 victory against the Kings in front of 12,788 at the New Orleans Arena. It snapped a three-game losing streak.
- Greg Bishop of The New York Times: Hurdles remain, including lawsuits, a potential counteroffer from Sacramento, the necessary approval from the N.B.A.’s board of governors and potential backlash from those still angry with the way the Sonics left. For some of those fans, the bitterness gave way to guilt as they put themselves in Kings fans’ shoes — all that hope for a last-ditch resolution under the Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, a retired N.B.A. guard. Seattle fans prefer expansion, something the N.B.A. has consistently opposed. … Calabro, the sportscaster, said: “I believe in karma. And I believe in Chris Hansen. And I believe in the strength of the market here. That said, I’ve seen K. J. pull too many last-minute games out of a hat.” Thus Seattle basketball enthusiasts move forward, cautiously optimistic, still a little bruised. At the site earmarked for the new arena, a sign hung on the street. It read, “Notice of Proposed Land Use Action.” At 95 Slide, a Sonics pennant flapped in the breeze. Kemp pushed open the door at Oskar’s and walked through the streets of the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood, toward KeyArena, the Sonics’ temporary home should they return next season. Kemp talked about how he once battled Karl Malone inside that building, how it hurt just to get out of bed the next day, how that gave way to concerts at the Key and mixed martial arts events and Seattle University basketball games. A man placed an arm on Kemp’s shoulder. “Big Shawn, they going to get that team back or what?” the man asked. “Fingers crossed,” Kemp said.