First Cup: Thursday

January, 17, 2013
1/17/13
5:44
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: Not only did Splitter score one fewer point than the rugged Zach Randolph (10 to 11), he had almost twice as many rebounds (nine to five). Splitter’s work helped the Spurs stave off an early onslaught on the glass to eventually outboard Memphis 33-32. “He brings it,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Splitter. “He plays hard. He plays smart. Just a wonderful competitor, and I thought he did a pretty good job against a fantastic player.” It was a clear triumph for the Spurs, who haven’t always been able to match up with Memphis physically in recent years, particularly their loss in the first round of the 2011 playoffs. Splitter hardly played in that series, but the Brazilian’s role has changed drastically since. He’s now solidly entrenched as the starter at power forward, where he continues to provide efficient scoring while improving on defense.
  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: The Spurs have won 16 of their last 17 home games against the Griz. Not only did the Spurs control the paint with a 46-26 edge in scoring, they also bombed the Griz with 9-of-18 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc. Their 3-pointers in the second half proved demoralizing. "Everybody's letting big plays affect them too much," Griz guard Mike Conley said. … The Griz were outscored 12-0 in fast-break points. The last time Memphis had finished a game with zero fast-break points was March 3, 2009, on the road against the Los Angeles Lakers.
  • Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald: LeBron James’ shooting hand was partially numb on the jumper that made history. The shot still went down, points 20,000 and 20,001. Turns out, when you have a feel for the game like James, sometimes you don’t even need to feel the ball. James, 28 years and 17 days old, became the youngest player in NBA history to score 20,000 career points on Wednesday in the Heat’s 92-75 blowout of the Golden State Warriors. His milestone-setting basket came with 2:45 left in the first half. He also reached the 5,000-assist plateau during the game. James hyper-extended his right thumb with about 3:30 left in the second quarter during a defensive sequence against Warriors reserve Carl Landry. James attempted to shake some feeling back into his hand but still felt numbness when, on the Heat’s next offensive possession, he created space for himself in the middle of the lane for an open shot. With one hand, James pushed up the shot that put him in elite company with some of the game’s all-time greats. “The best part about it was it was in rhythm,” James said. “It wasn’t one of those forced shots.”
  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: Warriors point guard Stephen Curry is out indefinitely after spraining his right ankle. Yes, that ankle. "It was really a freak injury," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said before Wednesday night's game against Miami. "We don't do much in shootaround -- (he was) just chasing after a loose rebound. It's unfortunate. We will shut him down. He'll get treatment, and we'll see where he goes." Curry sat out the defending NBA champions' lone trip to Oracle Arena this season, his first missed game of the season. He injured the ankle at the shootaround Wednesday morning when he landed on the foot of rookie Festus Ezeli.
  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: As the season approaches the halfway point, attention surrounding Kevin Durant's quest to shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the free-throw line on the season gradually is intensifying. After going 7 for 12 from the field, 2 for 5 from 3-point range and 4 for 5 from the free-throw line in Wednesday night's 117-97 victory over the Denver Nuggets at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Durant is now shooting 52.5 percent from the field, 40.2 from 3-point range and 90.1 percent from the line this season. Steve Nash (four times), Larry Bird (twice), Reggie Miller, Dirk Nowitzki and Enid's Mark Price are the only players to post 50-40-90 seasons. Is Durant paying close attention to his quest? “No, but I don't know if I can keep it up for the whole season,” Durant said before facing the Nuggets. “I've been shooting a lot of 3s lately. I've got to cut down on those. I've got to shoot better shots.”
  • Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News: In case you were wondering, Mrs. Mark Cuban did not raise objection when her husband declared to the world that the Bank of Cuban is open. “She’s smart,” Mark explained. “She got her own checking account.” It’s probably for the best, given that the man of the house has lost an estimated $170 million on the Mavericks since he purchased the franchise 13 years ago. That doesn’t mean Cuban’s decision to cut payroll last season and not offer any long-term playing contracts was about recouping some of those losses. It was creating financial flexibility for the future. So had the Bank of Cuban been closed? “No,” Cuban said Wednesday. “It was just reconfiguring itself. It was increasing its capital and liquidity.” Cuban’s stated intention to be aggressive deal hunters before the Feb. 21 trade deadline will raise expectations that Dallas will pull something off, but if it happens, it almost certainly will be later than sooner.
  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Hawks re-discovered their fast-break game. Yes, on this night, the team’s up-tempo style was no longer missing in action. The Hawks ran past the Nets for a much-needed 109-95 victory Wednesday at Philips Arena as all five starters scored in double figures. One regular starter was missing as Josh Smith was suspended for the game for conduct detrimental to the team. The Hawks ran their record to 3-0 in games without Smith this season, the wins coming against the Thunder, Pacers and Nets. “This was a very big win for us,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “More mentally for the psyche after what we’ve gone through the last couple of weeks. … Early you could see that the energy was there. They took the attack to Brooklyn. You have to play that way when you’ve been struggling.”
  • Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: Mirza Teletovic’s inspired play off the bench recently has given the Nets a lift, but it also highlighted one of the biggest problems currently facing Carlesimo. Teletovic, who scored just three points in seven minutes last night, finished with 10 points, four rebounds and three assists in Tuesday’s 113-106 win over Toronto. He is one of five healthy big men Carlesimo had at his disposal, along with starters Brook Lopez and Reggie Evans and reserves Andray Blatche and Kris Humphries. But a typical NBA rotation only has room for four bigs to get consistent minutes — and that doesn’t include any minutes that Wallace could take when he slides over to play power forward when the Nets downshift to smaller lineups. The decisions facing Carlesimo moving forward were evident in last night’s game, as 12 different players saw time in the first half alone.
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: Big Baby might have made a terrific NFL defensive end, but he choose the right sport. The money is better in the NBA, and severe injuries are rare. "Playing football helped me be able to take contact a little bit," Davis said, in an understatement. The Magic recently lost 10 consecutive games, effectively knocking them out of the playoff picture, with Davis on the sideline. The club doesn't have any one like him. It doesn't have a player built like Davis or as aggressive in the paint as the Baby Bulldozer. Davis doesn't just make an impact physically. Long chastised for his immaturity -- and there was bountiful evidence -- he has been working on the mental part of the game. Another example is how he's handling his return. Last season's Big Baby would have likely thrown a fit if he wasn't immediately inserted back in the lineup. Davis voiced a patient approach, accepted coming off the bench and recognized how well center Nik Vucevic performed in his absence.
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: The wins for John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins haven’t come with the same ease and certainly not the regularity in NBA as they did when the duo played together for one season at Kentucky. Now in their third seasons in the league, Wall and Cousins have both joined teams in Washington and Sacramento, respectively, that have remained stuck in the lottery, which has been discouraging for both of them. The way that they have responded to those difficult times has been much different, with Wall mostly avoiding expressing his frustration publicly and Cousins racking up suspensions and repeatedly getting disciplined for his outbursts with the Kings. … This season has been challenging for Wall and Cousins for different reasons, but Wall said they have helped each other through some tough times. Wall was sidelined for nearly three months with a stress injury in his left knee as the Wizards got out to an NBA-worst 5-28 start.
  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Isaiah Thomas would love an opportunity to take part in NBA All-Star Weekend, with his sights set on the Rising Stars Challenge. The game features first- and second-year players selected by NBA assistant coaches. Those players are then drafted by TNT analysts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal for their respective teams. Thomas entered Wednesday's game against the Washington Wizards seventh among second-year players at 11.3 points per game. Thomas averages 2.8 assists, fourth among sophomores. He is eighth among second-year players from three-point range (34.6 percent). "Hopefully, I can attain (the goal)," Thomas said. "More importantly, I'm trying to focus on getting wins as much as possible."
  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: In the most recent results announced by the NBA on Jan. 3, Irving ranked fourth in voting for the Eastern Conference backcourt, behind Miami's Dwyane Wade, Boston's Rajon Rondo and Brooklyn's Deron Williams. Voting continued until Monday, and the top two backcourt players will be the starters. Irving is still holding out hope NBA coaches will select him as a reserve. The reserves will be announced Jan. 24. "I've just been trying to play like an All-Star this whole entire season, trying to keep that mind-set," Irving said before the Cavs faced the Portland Trail Blazers in The Rose Garden on Wednesday night. "Whatever happens, happens. Obviously, anything could happen in the next month, so I'm just going to continue to play the way I've been playing and try to get my team wins." Irving was the MVP of the Rising Stars game during All-Star Weekend last season, and when asked if he'd like to return and play in the regular All-Star Game this season, his answer was obvious.
  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: For the first time, he stared across the court and saw his father, Boston Celtics Coach Doc Rivers, loudly shouting defensive calls to his players that were designed to make him miss a shot or cause a turnover. It was only the fourth time in NBA history that a father has coached against his son and Austin Rivers ended up celebrating as he helped the Hornets rout the Celtics, 90-78, to end their six-game winning streak. It was the Hornets’ second consecutive win on their three-game road trip that started Sunday with a 100-87 loss to the New York Knicks. … Rivers played only five minutes and scored one point Tuesday night, but knowing the significance of Wednesday’s game, Hornets Coach Monty Williams played Rivers’ 22 minutes and he scored eight points on three-of-six shooting. In a shooting slump, Rivers had combined to play just 14 minutes in the past three games.
  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Doc Rivers appreciates the fact that Garnett’s play isn’t all-star motivated. “The thing with Kevin is that I don’t think he goes out to be an all-star,” said the coach. “His play makes him an all-star. That sets him apart from a lot of players. If Kevin could go to Malibu over all-star break, he’d be good. If he goes to the all-star break, that would be good, too. He’s the last to know his age, until we get to a practice where we’re running and he conveniently remembers his age. He just goes out and plays.” And count Rivers as someone who believes that rookie Jared Sullinger deserves a spot in the Rookie/Sophomore game, though he has one reservation. “The only problem with that game is the dunks and all of that. I don’t see Jared doing all of that. He doesn’t fit that mold,” said Rivers.
  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: The mutual admiration society between John Lucas III and Tom Thibodeau continued in earnest Wednesday, even though Lucas now plays for another team. "Thibs believed in me," Lucas said. "He knew what I could do, and I'll forever be grateful for that. He was the one coach who took a chance on me and let me play how I play. That allowed me to show the rest of the NBA I belonged." Lucas signed a two-year, $3 million deal that the Raptors hold a team option on for next season. Thibodeau, who lauded Lucas' "professionalism, intelligence, ability to shoot and readiness to play," hoped for his return to the Bulls. "He adds a lot to your team," Thibodeau said. "He's the type of guy who doesn't play for five or 10 games, and if he's called upon, he's ready.”
  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Rasheed Wallace was holding court with the media Wednesday morning when he was asked about his future employment. Specifically, he was asked whether he would coach. Wallace scoffed at the idea of coaching the pros, signaling his preference for more of a grassroots approach in the colorful way Detroit area fans loved when he was a Piston in 2004-09. He has patience only for high school kids. "That's where you start it off at," Wallace, 38, said at O2 Arena. "There's a lot of bad habits a lot of guys have now in the NBA and in college, so there's only one way to get them started right, and that's to go back to the roots. Too many prima donnas up here. Once they get paid that money, they don't want to work, so it's a whole different league."
  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: The Minnesota Timberwolves are kicking off their season-ticket renewal program for 2013-14 with five new membership levels and the promise of a 10 percent refund on all purchases if the team does not qualify for the NBA playoffs this season. The Wolves (16-19) are in 10th place in the Western Conference playoff race and trail Portland and Utah in the battle for the eighth and final playoff position. "We needed to put some skin in the game for our membership," Wolves president Chris Wright said Wednesday morning. "This discount is something we discussed months ago. And if we don't fulfill our goal of making the playoffs, for whatever reason, we still want to do it."

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