HoopsHype rumors

December 7, 2012 | 09:47 PM ET Update

"There's absolutely no truth that we've had any discussions with the Los Angeles Lakers," Kahn said after the Wolves' shootaround practice Friday, Dec. 7. "The last time we had any discussions with the Lakers was June of last summer. As you can expect, nobody from the outlet that reported the news called to get a confirmation or denial, but that's par for the course these days. I can assure you there's absolutely nothing imminent we're working on." St. Paul Pioneer Press

As Wade spoke, James was chatting about 50 feet away with Ray Allen, Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and James Jones, a few of them sometimes gesturing at spots on the court as if to mimic how a play is or is not supposed to work. Typically, when the Heat are done with their actual practice, it's a light-hearted time, one filled with shooting contests and things of that nature. That wasn't the case on Friday. "There is a cloud over our team because we're not defending like we know we're capable of defending," James said. "We have some room for improvement. The good thing is we can be great. But right now, we're not good. We're not very good right now as a team and we've got to get to that point." USA Today

Weird question, but to battle like that … was it fun at all? Stephen Jackson: When I hit that fan, I definitely enjoyed it -- until that fine came down. That $3 million I lost killed me. It brought me back to reality because I could have lost my job. It was wild because it had never been done before. And it will never happen again so, yeah, adrenaline was flowing. How many people can say that they've punched a fan? Do you know all the stuff that they say to us? The racist stuff they say to us? We get the N-word and people talking about our wives and family. Just because we make a lot of money we're supposed to be the bigger person? Fans tell us that our kids are ugly and that they should have thrown our mothers in jail for having us. That's not disrespectful? I've been in a lot of fights and done some things I shouldn't have done, but I've never sold drugs or been locked up, so for people to think that way about me isn't right. They had life-size posters of me in Utah with me behind bars. Before the situation with Jamaal Tinsley, I had never been in jail, and I'm from the projects! ESPN.com

So what happened with the strip club incident? I was there with Jamaal and some friends just for a night of fun and everything was cool. At the end of the night, I was in my car ready to leave. Then I seen Jamaal walk out of the club with some guy walking behind him with hands in his back pocket like he was fixing to shoot him. I hopped out of my car with my gun. I had a gun license at the time so it was all good. People think I was shooting up the place willy-nilly, but my gun was registered. I saw the guy with his hand in his pocket so I cocked my gun and put it in his face. I slapped him with the gun and we got to fighting before I realized they had planned to jump Jamaal. ESPN.com

Stephen Jackson: I’ve been in too many club fights not to know what’s going on. I’m not going to get hit from behind, stomped out and just be laying there. So all of a sudden all these cars pull up and I let off a couple warning shots, like telling everyone to back up. After that had happened, dude had jumped in his car and planned on trying to kill me. He hit me with his car. He drove straight into me and I flipped up in the air and landed face-first on the ground and knocked all my teeth out. I hopped right up and lit his whole car up. I didn’t think twice because I’m figuring he tried to smoke Jamaal. ESPN.com

This is not an everyday situation. Were you worried that you could have killed somebody? No, because he tried to kill me. I knew it was self-defense. He hit me with his car at 45 mph in the parking lot. He tried to kill me. I was cool. I didn’t have one drink that night. As I was walking to my car and he was coming straight for me, I’m glad I was sober where I could think, and I just turned sideways. I hit the windshield and flipped up in the air; then I hit the ground. I had to get plastic surgery on my lips with no anesthesia, with all my teeth gone. Can you imagine how painful that is? ESPN.com

But if you want to talk about truly bad, look no further than ex-Wolves forward Michael Beasley. We saw it in a tweet earlier today, and we confirmed it with a painstaking team-by-team look. He has the worst plus-minus in the NBA. Perhaps more startling is that Beasley is a minus-141 despite ranking just 108th in the NBA in minutes played this season at 27.5. Minneapolis Star-Tribune

The play came in the first quarter of Portland's win at Cleveland on Saturday. Matthews starts to drive from the top of the key, gets by defender Alonzo Gee, but loses the ball as he goes to rise for a left-handed layup, and the ball sails over the backboard. "I didn't have the ball," Matthews said Friday. "I yelled it as I was going – 'I'm losing it! Lost it!'" As for Matthews' reaction to being the butt of O'Neal's segment: "Why would I care about something like that? It's whatever," Matthews said with a laugh. "Ball slipped out of my hand. Shaq airballs free throws. Whatever. It's just basketball." Oregonian

Apparently Charlotte Bobcats rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had a crisis of confidence in the preseason, but his college coach quickly put out that fire. Kentucky coach John Calipari, speaking with local media in Lexington, revealed Friday that Kidd-Gilchrist sent him text messages that “I may have made a mistake’’ turning pro, and “I don’t think I’m good enough.’’ “He was scared to death,’’ Calipari recalled. Calipari brought this up to illustrate how much he valued Kidd-Gilchrist’s competitiveness, resilience and energy. He reminded Kidd-Gilchrist of that in a series of texts. Charlotte Observer

Kahn denied another report that claimed point guard Ricky Rubio, working his way back from major knee surgery, was planning to play in the Wolves' game Friday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Target Center. Rubio started practicing with the team on Dec. 2 but no timetable has been set for his return. "There's absolutely no truth at all to that report," Kahn said. "It's false, erroneous and irresponsible." St. Paul Pioneer Press

"I want to play like a month ago, but they don't let me," Rubio said with a smile, probably only half-joking. "Now it's kind of a thing when my knee feels ready, it's going to be the time. But I don't know. I need a couple more practices to see how I am. Actually, I don't know if I'm going to be ready next week or three weeks. It depends how I feel and how my knee responds." Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"If I come back earlier than I'm supposed to, it's bad for my knee and bad for the team too because I'm not going to give my 100 percent," he said. "And if I get hurt again, it's not going to help the team. And if I play and I'm not playing good, it's not going to help the team. I want to play so bad, but I want to be focused and I want to be ready to play when I'm ready." Minneapolis Star-Tribune

The Clippers, who are 12-6 overall and winners of four games in a row, don't expect him to play today against the Phoenix Suns or Sunday afternoon against the Toronto Raptors. They begin a four-game trip Tuesday against the Bulls in Chicago. "He was here and he got his therapy," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said Friday. Los Angeles Daily News

USA Basketball is expanding its reach into youth basketball by partnering with iHoops, the joint initiative formed the NBA and NCAA to improve programs for young players. USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo says Friday the move is "an opportunity to make a big impact" on the development of young players and will help his organization find elite players who could eventually play for U.S. national teams. ESPN.com

Name to keep an eye on: Eric Miller. I keep hearing, with greater frequency from rival execs and agents, that the sharp Miller -- named at the start of the season as the Clippers' new director of basketball administration -- is being groomed for a larger role in the Clips' decision-making hierarchy. How large? Miller is the son-in-law of Clippers owner Donald Sterling and is increasingly regarded as the likely eventual successor to Sterling, who bought the franchise in 1981 before its fourth of six seasons in San Diego before relocating to Los Angeles in 1984. ESPN.com

We can assume this whole New Orleans Pelicans concept stems from the fact that new Hornets owner Tom Benson owns the rights to the nickname Pelicans and thus might have something to gain financially from the switch. The nicest thing you can say about the whole plan is that the Hornets, according to league sources, have continued to beg the Utah Jazz to relinquish the nickname they kept when the New Orleans Jazz relocated to Salt Lake City in 1979. ESPN.com

NBA commissioner David Stern scolded Gov. Christie and said New Jersey "has no idea what it's doing" by seeking to allow sports betting in the state in a deposition published Friday in the ongoing legal battle between the governor, the four major professional sports leagues and the NCAA. Stern and the heads of Major League Baseball, the NFL, NHL and NCAA were questioned recently by lawyers representing the state as part of the leagues' lawsuit seeking to stop New Jersey from instituting sports gambling. "The one thing I'm certain of is New Jersey has no idea what it's doing and doesn't care because all it's interested in is making a buck or two, and they don't care that it's at our potential loss," Stern said when asked how the advent of sports betting in New Jersey would harm the NBA. "And wholly apart from the fact that a governor, who's a former U.S. Attorney, has chosen to attack a federal law which causes me pause for completely different reasons since I've at times sworn to similar oaths about upholding the law of the United States," Stern continued. CBSSports.com

MLB commissioner Bud Selig said in his deposition he was "appalled" that New Jersey would look to sports gambling as a fiscal solution. "I know states need money. I really mean that," he said. "I understand all the problems. Federal government needs money, going over a cliff, cities need money. Chris Christie needs money. But gambling is so ... the threat of gambling and to create more threat is to me -- I'm stunned. I know that people need sources of revenue, but you can't -- this is corruption in my opinion. "I have to say to you I'm appalled. I'm really appalled." CBSSports.com

LeBron James isn't good at everything. He told me he played fantasy football 2 years ago & was dead last in league. “My friends didn’t tell me the right rules and I got cheated. I was dead last,’’ said James, a Dallas fan who remembers one of the few highlights of his fantasy foray was then New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs scoring nine touchdowns for him in 2010. Still, James vows he again will play fantasy football one day. “Yeah, I’ll return,’’ he said. Sulia

My favorite moment came about 20 minutes into the interview when Horford told me that he loves to read Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and has finished eight of his books. It just so happens that I'm reading A Hundred Years of Solitude right now. Or, at least, I'm trying to as I go to bed: I've re-read pages 13-15 at least four times. Garcia Marquez is a beautiful writer; that much I can tell. But I'm a better sleeper. (Murray throws to Jay Rome, also a UGA basketball player, for the first touchdown of the game! This drink isn't strong enough.) Creative Loafing Atlanta

Horford, who is from the Dominican Republic, prefers to read books in Spanish and said that Garcia Marquez is much better in Spanish. (John Jenkins, Georgia's 358-pound nose tackle, just sacked McCarron for a 15-yard loss!) He listed Garcia Marquez books I hadn't heard of, and warned me not to bother with Memories of My Melancholy Whores. I wrote that down and then lowered the discourse: What did he think of Houston Rockets guard James Harden's 1970s beard? (Crazy catch by Amari Cooper ... then Lacy runs it up the middle. 'Bama closing in on its first score.) He told me that he didn't approve. Nor did his wife, which was why he keeps his facial hair close to his face. Creative Loafing Atlanta

Nelson, who made Orlando’s only 3-pointer in Wednesday’s 87-81 loss in Utah, has a long history of boxers in his family. He said that his uncle, Lloyd ``Bad News’’ Nelson, was a one-time Olympic hopeful, and that his late cousin also worked his way up the professional ranks. Nelson has spent summers in the past sparring as a way to mix up his conditioning routines. ``I just like to box,’’ Nelson said. ``Nobody likes to get hit, but you definitely want to learn how to hold your hands.’’ NBA.com

It's been a bizarre season for the Los Angeles Lakers, with coaching changes and a seemingly never-ending array of injuries causing a rocky start for the team. With that said, it almost came as no surprise in this anything-would-be-believable season that Lakers point guard Chris Duhon and backup big man Robert Sacre aren't just teammates; they're related. "His momma and my dad are second cousins," Sacre said before the Lakers played the New Orleans Hornets earlier this week. ESPN.com

Former pro basketball star and coach Elgin Baylor and his wife, Elaine, have put their Beverly Crest area estate on the market at $4.25 million. The contemporary Mediterranean-style home, built in 1981, is sited on nearly an acre to take advantage of canyon and city views. Features include a 1,600-square-foot great room that could function as a home theater or game room. There are multiple decks, six bedrooms, eight bathrooms and more than 8,000 square feet of living space. Los Angeles Times

As part of the Memphis Grizzlies Season of Giving, Grizzlies guard Jerryd Bayless will distribute school uniforms and toys to students at Douglass Optional School (1650 Ash Street, Memphis 38108) on Monday, Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. (following practice). Media is invited to attend. Bayless will distribute 380 uniform tops and embroidered fleece cardigans along with a polo shirt and gift for all students. The Memphis Grizzlies Season of Giving has included Grizzlies players, coaches, family members and staff teaming with community partners to make a difference in the lives of children and families by hosting several charitable events throughout November and December. NBA.com

December 7, 2012 | 04:39 PM ET Update

Kahn said that he has not spoken to Pekovic or Williams about the rumors, his explanation being that it would be unfair to them and that "part of life in the NBA is someday you may be traded." Fox Sports North

Jackson, who used to be an executive in the Kings’ front office before becoming an assistant coach, seems to think it’s time for Geoff Petrie to pull the trigger. “They all have trade value,” Jackson said. “Somebody will trade for that, but I don’t know which one we would want to give up.” Bleed Black and Purple

The charismatic scorer called on Pau to 'put on the big boy pants' and 'adapt', further fuelling a tendency to use Gasol as a scapegoat for all of the Lakers' troubles this season. "I'm not worried about post-game quotes," Gasol dismissed the fuss. "In the heat of the moment, there can be a statement that maybe you would not make a day or a week later. "It wasn't such a big deal and it's been taken a bit out of context. "[Kobe] wants to win [NBA champion's] rings, in one way or the other, with whatever players is possible." Which brings up the issue of personnel on the California team and the intense transfer talk. "When a team of this stature does not function well, there will always be rumours, it's something you have to understand," Gasol said. "For everyone on the team to be happy, we have to win games." FIBA Europe

Nobody talks about it openly, but the departure of guard O.J. Mayo has made the Grizzlies’ offense and locker room happier places. For four seasons, Mayo could never find a comfortable or effective place as a starter or reserve. He also made the locker room a cliquish place that often froze out Gay and made it tougher for Conley to be the unifying quarterback and leader. NBA.com

Last season, after they’d been picked by many to be a legitimate contender. Again they staggered at the beginning, sitting at just 12-13 on Feb. 6 until finishing 29-12 to claim the No. 4 seed, but were upset by the Clippers in the first round. “We’ve grown mentally,” Conley said. “We understand what it takes to beat good teams and we’re applying that now and not waiting until February to start rolling. We just got our minds ready for the first game, the first part of the season, as opposed to working ourselves up to that.” NBA.com

That level of accommodation, however, is hardly the rule. Douglas-Roberts didn't know much about his living situation before heading to Europe, choosing Bologna over Russian and Chinese opportunities since he thought it would be safer for his family. “I didn't expect it to be similar to how I was living in the United States. I didn't expect it to be anything like the NBA,” Douglas-Roberts says. “I had a great experience, you know, but I feel that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. It was good, and I had my highs and lows. But the lows were really low.” Grantland

Not only did Douglas-Roberts continually feel like “the foreigner,” as he found it hard to communicate with his teammates, but some of the adjustments exceeded even his worst expectations. “I didn't have hot water some days, I didn't have heat in the winter,” he says. “Where we practiced, the showers were filled with mold. It was really unsanitary. I couldn't really adjust to [it] when I was over there all year. It was a struggle every day.” Grantland

Numbers and math are long-time fascinations for Ginobili, who said in a recent mailbag at Spurs.com that he likely would have pursued a career in accounting had he not happened to be a world-class basketball player. “The last three years we’ve been doing something related to math,” he explained after Friday’s shootaround. “Sometimes I went to classes to talk about it. I brought riddles to kids to enjoy the fun of math. To me, it’s a fun topic. A lot of people are scared, whenever they hear the word math they run away. “I feel it’s not only useful and important, but it can be fun too. I just want to share my joy of doing math riddles and stuff like that together with social media. We are trying something new and see how it works. I think it’s going to be fun for them to try to solve it and having a bonus of coming to an NBA game and get to talk to me a little bit and meet.” San Antonio Express-News

Yet there is no desire to return to Fort Lauderdale to offer any testimony other than that he plans to offer in counseling youth. "I mean, for me," he says, "I spoke about the gentlemen who touched me. I knew his first name. I don't even know his last name. For me, that's not my particular battle because of the statute of limitations and where I am in my life. That's not what I want to do. I don't want to fight that battle with that person. That's not where I would get the satisfaction. "Where I would get the satisfaction is preventatively, putting together something to help youth, and also when it happens to people, giving them an outlet or a resource to go to." South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Gasol is listed as ‘day-to-day', but he will sit again on the bench against Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night and is not expected to return to action before next week, at best. "Right now I am physically at around 60 percent of my abilities," the EuroBasket 2009 MVP said in an interview with Canal Plus. "It wasn't good for me, it wasn't good for the team, perhaps I should have [sat out] earlier." FIBA Europe

December 7, 2012 | 12:48 PM ET Update

If agent Rob Pelinka had a personal Twitter account, he might echo his client's claims from last February. It was then that Minnesota Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams tweeted, "Anybody ever felt like a caged lion?" According to a team source, Pelinka has voiced his displeasure with Williams' lack of playing time. He hasn't gone as far as to request a trade, but he has inquired about the possibility that one will come. 1500ESPN.com

With incessant chatter continuing about whether sidelined star Pau Gasol will be traded, here's the good news for the veteran forward: it doesn't appear he's going anywhere anytime soon. Former coach Mike Brown surely wishes they would have shown this sort of patience with him, but it appears the decision to fire him five games in and replace him with Mike D'Antoni will be the only drastic move early on in these parts. USA Today

Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn is casually talking to other general managers, but nothing is percolating. As for the ESPN report that they offered center Nikola Pekovic and Williams for Lakers center/forward Pau Gasol, a team source said numerous conversations happened this summer. Gasol very much remains on their radar, but no offer was made recently. 1500ESPN.com

Until Gasol is moved, count the Timberwolves as heavily interested. In fact, the source said ownership is willing to go over the luxury tax for the 2013-14 season if need be. Gasol is guaranteed $19,285,850 next year. 1500ESPN.com

#Twolves David Kahn says no truth to any trade rumors involving Lakers. Nothing imminent. Hasn't talked with them since the summer. Twitter

The source, when it was suggested retaining Pekovic could take a long-term deal worth around $12 million annually: "12 sounds like a lot." In other words, there's definitely a healthy internal debate about whether it makes sense to pay him big-time. The alternative is to include him in a trade, which isn't out of the question. 1500ESPN.com

Jason Quick: Blazers GM Neil Olshey says Barton and Claver headed to D-League for two games. Both will be back in Portland for Sunday practice. Twitter @jwquick

I know (Ben Gordon) regrets passing on that first $50 million offer from the Bulls. His contract expires after next season, and he does remain an unusual player and classic sixth man type. Thibodeau doesn't like small shooting guards, so he probably would have been an issue with the Bulls. And you don't want to pay a sixth man $12 million a year. He never could get over Deng being offered more, which is a mistake employes make everywhere. If you are being compensated well and enjoy your work, you have won. Ben won and he didn't know it. It's left a stain on his career legacy he'll never erase. He could have been a contender. NBA.com

“I don’t know what it is,” Beasley said of his struggles. “I come in every game optimistic about my play and my shots. It’s just not good right now and it’s not what anybody’s doing. It’s all me. I’m getting extra shots. I’m getting extra shots on top of extra shots. I’ve just got to be patient. Let the game come to me. Just sort of ride it out. Arizona Republic

“Of course I’m frustrated because I visualize myself as something I’m not right now. Not to say I can’t be. As of right now, I’m not playing as well as I want to play or can play or as well as the team needs. Yeah, I’m frustrated but like I said just got to continue to do what I’m doing, work hard and ride it out.” Arizona Republic

“It’s a great opportunity for me to develop my game, to develop my leadership skills, and I think this is a chance that I got to take advantage of because Coach Monty Williams really likes my game,” Vasquez said to HOOPSWORLD. “He likes what I do, and that’s important in the NBA when you get a coach that is really interested in helping you, he wants to help you, he wants to make you better, if you take advantage of that, you can really establish yourself in the NBA.” HoopsWorld

You started off slow last year and made the Eastern Conference Finals. Do you feel that way this year? Paul Pierce: “Well the key is not to get too frustrated. You gotta understand what the end of the goal is. Right now we are building and you gotta understand the building phase. You might have slip ups here and there. You gotta be able to build with it. You can’t get too frustrated. You can’t get down. You can’t let your confidence waiver. The key is the things you see in practice. The things we are seeing in games is potential, and you know and understand what we are capable of and put it all together. Sometimes it comes quicker than others, sometimes it doesn’t. But I think with this team, we definitely understand we have the potential. Record-wise it’s not where we want to be at this point, but we know that in the long run we are going to get better and better and the end result is the only thing that counts.” Sports Radio Interviews

At the risk of being deemed the Grinch of all NBA media, there's this holiday tidbit relating to the NBA commercial that has been lifting spirits the league over: perception doesn't meet reality here. Entertaining and creative though the commercial is, Howard revealed recently that the players who are shown standing side by side and dribbling to the tune "Carol of the Bells" - from the Lakers center to Joe Johnson, Russell Westbrook, and Dwyane Wade - were all filmed individually and, essentially, photo-shopped together. Each player, Howard said, was using a system similar to the popular "Rock Band" video game in order to determine when to dribble all the right notes. USA Today

December 7, 2012 | 09:16 AM ET Update

Because the Wolves continue to be interested -- they have been since the 2011 draft -- and they will be until the Lakers finally trade Gasol someplace. The lastest rumors came here on ESPN.com on Thursday in a piece that said the Lakers continue to turn away Toronto and the Wolves with their trade inquiries, at least until Lakers brass has time to assess their team when Steve Nash comes back from his leg injury. Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Don't count Houston out, either, since the Rockets traded for Gasol once before and have been interested as long or almost as long as the Wolves have. I don't believe the latest speculation that the Rockets are no longer interested. David Kahn chased Gasol three months before he hired Rick Adelman, although who knows what kind of discussion they had by then concerning the team's coaching job and is any such conversations might have included personnel talk such as acquiring Gasol. Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Gasol's contract next season at $19.3 million could be a problem with the luxury tax rate increasing substantially as part of the new collective bargaining agreement. For now the team isn't ready to sacrifice or give up on what they have today because of tomorrow's economics. At least not yet. If the Lakers do decide it's time to move Gasol, it's certainly easy to target Anderson. It's a lot harder to find a deal, however, given how happy the Hornets are with their forward. Coach Monty Williams and executives within the organization have recently sung Anderson's praises. The team isn't interested in Gasol for their own roster. Los Angeles Times

But that any interest the Raptors may have in Gasol got out in the public means little, actually. It’s the one that people have heard of but the fact is president and general manager Bryan Colangelo has spoken to nearly every team in the NBA about possible moves, it’s what general managers do as a matter of course. For every Gasol rumour that circulates, there are probably 10 discussions with other teams that are taking place entirely in private. Does Colangelo “need” to make a trade? Not necessarily but his team is 4-15 and something has to be done to improve the situation. Whether that’s Dwane Casey changing the lineup and rotation or Colangelo making a roster move depends entirely on what would come back in any transaction and what impact a lineup change would have. Toronto Star

There is no doubt that Colangelo, and his Los Angeles counterpart Mitch Kupchak, are tying their level best to improve their teams. If they chatted about Bargnani and Gasol, you can be sure they talked to several other teams as well. And when those talks get to the public stage, another flurry of interest will follow. And when either makes a trade no one saw coming, it will be reality. Toronto Star

These are the moments, however brief, that remind of Evans as Rookie of the Year, either three seasons or a lifetime ago, of why he may still be an integral part of the rebuilding puzzle. Or of why he could still be traded. The topic is on the clock, especially when he plays like this, because the sides did not reach an agreement on an extension to Evans’ rookie contract by Oct. 31, putting him on schedule to become a restricted free agent on July 1. The decision made perfect sense for the Kings – he was regressing, had no position, and no certain place in the future, and to spend big to lock him up before the Halloween deadline would have been ill-advised. NBA.com

The decision also raised the stakes on trade considerations, because now it was possible to see them losing a starter for nothing in July, if another team reaches deep enough for an offer sheet the Kings do not match. (To say they could simply sign-and-trade their way into a return is an oversimplification. Team X may not offer any assets Sacramento wants, and the Kings certainly won’t take bad contracts back.) He could stay in the summer with a new deal, he could leave without compensation or he could leave in a swap, but new rookie extension means new uncertainty. NBA.com

Claudio Sabatini, CEO of Virtus Bologna, talked today on Kobe Bryant. Sabatini tried to sign The Black Mamba during the NBA lockout. "A marketing operation? No, a real negotiation. We have tripled his salary from the first offer while the game he would have played dicreased the 80%. Lockout would have helped us, Kobe was sincere to say that we were close to a deal" said Sabatini to Playbologna.it Sportando

Or, as LeBron James put it after putting himself through a postgame workout — as if he, with 31 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists was the problem — “They kicked our ass. They have pretty much dominated us in two games.” That’s the reality, and Thursday the Knicks did so without Carmelo Anthony, hitting 18-of-44 shots from behind the arc. “We’ve got work to do,” James said. “We can’t act like, OK, let’s just sweep this under the rug. We’ve got a lot of work to do. New York is a real team, they’ve got some real good players, and we understand that.” Palm Beach Post

As the NBA champion, the Heat remains the team to beat. But the Knicks-Heat games have gotten much more interesting recently. They will meet two more times in the regular season, and those should be even more compelling. They play at the Garden March 3 and in Miami on April 2. Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert will be back long before then, and those two games could be important in the race for the conference's best record. "We're two good teams trying to make our mark in the Eastern Conference, trying to prove we're both the best in the Eastern Conference," Wade said. "We both feel we can beat each other. They've done an unbelievable job of putting together a good team, and we have as well. This is what you play for." Newsday

It's clear the Heat (12-5) haven't been as hungry this season as they were in 2011-12, when they were driven by the devastating loss to Dallas in the 2011 NBA Finals. Just ask Miami center Chris Bosh. "Yes, it's impossible to have that same fire, that same hunger," Bosh admitted. "The hunger changes, but we don't have the same motivation and we have to find different motivations now. And I think that motiviation is always just trying to be the best and sometimes you got to be knocked down a few times in order to get that back." FOXSports Florida

Haslem believes his team is “hungry.” “I think we just don’t understand that this is hard,” Haslem said. “It’s hard to defend a title. This is my second time trying to do it, and it’s hard. Everybody gets up for you, everybody plays their hearts out against you, it’s everybody’s big game and teams are going to make shots. At one point, we felt like it was us against the world, and we felt like everybody hated us, and I guess we kind of lost that feeling. But I’ll figure out a scenario to make it seem like everybody still hates us. When we feel like it’s us against the world, and we feel like everybody hates us, that’s when we feel like we got something to prove, that’s when we play our best.” Palm Beach Post

Whatever it is, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra has been talking to Riley, the Heat president, about the challenges of his team repeating. The only time Riley, who won four crowns with the Lakers and one with Miami, was able to do it was in 1987 and 1988 in Los Angeles. Spoelstra wouldn't reveal specifics on what Riley has told him. But, considering Riley, Chuck Daly, Phil Jackson and Rudy Tomjanovich are the only NBA coaches in the past four decades to have repeated, Spoelstra sure likes having one of them in a nearby office. "He's been a great help just from a great perspective just from some of the things he went through in the ‘80s with those great Lakers teams," Spoelstra said. "There's some similarities we've been talking about." FOXSports Florida

Dwight Howard was irritated when Bryant didn't rotate to help him defensively on two first-quarter possessions Wednesday against New Orleans. Hornets center Robin Lopez scored twice on the mix-ups. The game ended well for the Lakers, 103-87 victors, and Bryant, who became the youngest player ever (34 years 104 days) to crack the 30,000-point barrier, but Howard and Bryant had some explaining to do afterward. Howard said his relationship with Bryant would "continue to get better." "We're still learning each other's game. I have no problem saying anything to anybody and it should be that way," Howard said. "We have to be able to talk to each other. We're a team, we're a family, and the more chemistry we develop, the better we will be as a team." Los Angeles Times

When DeMar DeRozan got hit with a technical foul Wednesday night in Sacramento, it was the culmination of all slights — real and perceived — and the constant dose of frustration the Raptors are living with. The frustration is palpable almost every night; and DeRozan made that clear post-game. “I can’t put into words how frustrating this is. It just sucks,” he said. “We try to work as hard as we can, but the ball don’t bounce our way, it don’t go in when we need it to go in, everything you can think of goes against us. “We just have to keep fighting. We can’t hold our heads down. We have to keep fighting.” Toronto Star

After extended stops in Russia and China, he was invited to a Lakers mini-camp in the summer of ’11 but participated in just two practices—hardly enough, in Green’s mind, for the team to get a good look at him. So Green landed in the D-League, with L.A. D-Fenders, coached by Eric Musselman. A former NBA head coach with the Warriors and Kings, Musselman pushed Green to improve his handles and defense. “Eric Musselman, I really have to thank him a lot in terms of my career,” begins Green. “If I could thank him every day, I would, because he was probably the one person that helped me get back in the League. He helped motivate me, he prepared me. He just showed me a different way of scoring, a different way of playing defense. I have to give a lot of credit to him for me being back.” SLAM

Any demotion is tough, but it’s even more difficult when you carry the expectations of being a former second overall pick. As I press record and ask Williams for a minute of his time, the wall he put up when I came into his line of sight remains. “I don’t even know,” Williams replies when asked if he is able to gauge how many minutes he’ll play before a given game. “I don’t know how to answer that question.” RealGM

Point taken. It’s not going to do him any good to air out any issues with Minnesota’s front office or coaching staff through the media. But if the Timberwolves are giving him any sort of chance to carve out a role on what is expected to be a rising star in the Western Conference, he’s got to know what they want from him, right? “I’m just trying to get in there and play my game,” says Williams when asked if Adleman is looking for anything in particular from him. “I know I can shoot, if I’m open I’m going to shoot it. I’m just doing the things that I know I can do. Shooting, rebounding and things like that.” RealGM

Although Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans – two of Nets coach Avery Johnson’s best defenders – have already been first warned and then fined $5,000 under the league’s new anti-flopping rules, Johnson isn’t concerned it will impact the way either of them play. “Not at all,” Johnson said when asked if the fines would change the mentality of either player. “I think there was another warning given, and you’re gonna see more warnings with other teams. “We’re not getting picked on. We’re a good defensive team. Unfortunately, two of our guys have gotten fined, but both of our guys have guys that have gotten fined, Reggie and Gerald, it’s not gonna affect their play.” New York Post

Pistons fans won't be pleased by that but Frank did not deviate from the exact same message he sent last month when pressed on Drummond's playing time, when he answered that the commitment is to try to win games and develop players simultaneously, not just to throw the season into young players' hands prematurely. "I think when Andre plays with the effort and energy that he's capable of doing, similar to what we saw two nights ago, he's a game-changer," Frank said. "He brings length and athleticism and size that we don't have on our roster. "That being said, he's going to make, like every young player, his share of mistakes. But the way you overcome it is with your effort and energy." Booth Newspapers

The Kings' only rookie continues to be reminded that his NBA education is an ongoing process. After some early struggles, Thomas Robinson – selected fifth in the NBA draft after being projected to go as high as No. 2 – realized he needed to re-evaluate his approach. "My rookie season's not going exactly as I envisioned it, but I'm just trying to work my way out of it," Robinson said. "Trying to get back to where I want to be." When studying film, coach Keith Smart showed Robinson instances where he wasn't running the court as hard as he could, a must for a player who might be the most athletic on the roster. Smart also showed him film of other NBA players he could model his play after. "Once I got to the league, I figured I don't need to watch tape of guys in the league … " Robinson said. "Now I realize I still need to; I still need to study other people. There's nothing wrong with studying film of guys (who are) better than you because there's a lot of bigs that are obviously better than me in this league." Sacramento Bee

Kobe Bryant is all too familiar with these Oklahoma City guys. They remind him a lot of himself. They can shrug off almost everything and keep on going, he said. "Not too many players have had that," according to Bryant. "Michael [Jordan] had it. I have it. Durant has it. Westbrook has it. They just don't care about pressure situations or criticism or whatever. It's rare." Bryant even knew where Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook learned to cop an attitude. "For sure. They watched me growing up," he said. "They saw how I dealt with criticism and all this other stuff and just put my head down and kept playing. ... They're cut from the same cloth." Los Angeles Times

When the Lakers (9-10) play the Oklahoma City Thunder (15-4) tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Bryant will go against speedy UCLA product Russell Westbrook and scoring machine Kevin Durant and see mirror images of himself. "They just don't give a (hoot)," Bryant said. "That's really it. Not too many players have had that. Michael (Jordan) had it. I had it. Durant has it. Westbrook has it. They just don't care about pressure situations or criticism." Does Bryant sense those players learned that mentality after seeing him play? "For sure," he said. "They watched me growing up and saw how I dealt with criticism and all this other stuff. I just put my head down and kept playing ... They're cut from the same cloth." Los Angeles Daily News

Yet West, the former Lakers general manager who brought Bryant to Laker Land as a rookie in 1996 by way of the trade with the Charlotte Hornets for Vlade Divac, would consider Bryant the best Laker of all time even if he quit tomorrow. His sentiment echoed that of Johnson, the five-time champion who reiterated his stance on ESPN on Wednesday night that Bryant was the best of all the Lakers. West, who is now a consultant for the Golden State Warriors, said he viewed Abdul-Jabbar and Chamberlain differently because they didn't play their entire careers with the Lakers but he clearly sees Bryant above Johnson and himself on the Lakers' long list of greats. "What he has accomplished with this team, I don't think there's any question in my mind at this point in time - because of him being with this team for his whole career - that he has been the greatest Laker player," West - who earned 14 All-Star berths, one championship, one MVP and made nine Finals appearances - told USA TODAY Sports by phone on Thursday. "I do think he's the greatest Laker player we've ever seen." USA Today

As for the scoring record and whether Bryant will pursue it, West doesn't see him chasing the mark unless he's still playing at the highest level. "The one thing he's been able to avoid are really serious injuries," West said. "That is a factor in anyone's success…(But) he's not going to go out there and play - like a lot of guys do - past their prime, trying to chase a record. I don't think that's who he is, at the end of the day. "I just think that he's just one of those guys who loves to compete, loves to win, understands that he's been doing it for so long, at a high level, and now the team hasn't played as well as (they were expected to). Does that wear on him? I'm sure. And then having you guys ask him the question, 'How long will you play?' I think he'll play as long as he feels like he can play like he is right now, and then he will move away from it." USA Today

Ask Joakim Noah what making his first All-Star team would mean to him, and his answer reveals why he has a solid chance to become the first Bulls center to do so since Artis Gilmore. "When you start thinking about individual accolades and stuff like that, you take away from what's important," Noah said. "And that's the game and playing the right way and playing for your teammates. "In the NBA especially, you can get caught up in that stuff very easily — your contract, your playing time, individual things. The great teams, the teams that are about championships, they don't play that way." Chicago Tribune

Ricky Rubio, Andrei Kirilenko, Alexey Shved, Nikola Pekovic, JJ Barea. Minnesota has five international players on the roster, tied with Cleveland for second-most in the NBA. San Antonio has eight international players, a league record. "I think it's pretty evident to me that there's a lot of not just good players, but some of the very best players in our game who have come from overseas," Kahn said. "To me, it's just a natural extension of scouting. Just as you can't afford to be negligent about the domestic side, you can't afford to not be on top of matters internationally." NBA.com

Carmelo Anthony didn't play in the New York Knicks' 112-92 win over the Miami Heat -- his first DNP of the season -- on Thursday night. Anthony suffered a left middle finger laceration on Wednesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats, and he was a gametime decision heading into Thursday night's game. While he went through the team's walk-through Thursday morning and put up some shots before tipoff, he didn't feel healthy enough to play. ESPN.com

New Orleans Hornets shooting guard Eric Gordon is making progress in his rehabilitation work in Los Angeles to recover from a sore right knee, according to the team. Gordon was sent to Los Angeles a month ago to get more personalized rehabilitation work to help in his knee recovery and to strengthen his quad muscles. Hornets spokesman Harold Kaufman said Thursday that Gordon’s quad muscles have strengthened to 65 percent, but there remains no set timetable on his return. "When he had soreness in his knee that limited him from working out on that leg, it obviously weakened the quad muscle,’’ Kaufman said. "He was sent to Los Angeles to undergo intensive rehab on a daily basis. He shows up at 8:30 in the morning and works until 3 in the afternoon.'' New Orleans Times-Picayune

Davis hasn’t been medically cleared to practice yet, but he has been with the team and remained active. The Hornets have him on a rehab program as well as a developmental program. The 19-year-old believes he’ll be even better when he returns since he’s been observing and learning from the bench. “Now, I’m starting to see the game from a coach’s point of view,” Davis told HOOPSWORLD. “I’m sitting on the bench, watching, looking at guy’s tendencies and seeing what they like to do. I’m seeing the flow of the game and what to do in certain situations. It’s helping me learn a lot. The coaches are helping me a lot and I’m watching a lot of film of myself and what I can do better. It just gives me time to rest and I’m just trying to learn from this and hopefully stay healthy when I come back.” HoopsWorld

Brook Lopez will miss his fourth straight game tonight against the Warriors, but the Nets are getting closer to seeing their starting center return to the floor. Lopez, who suffered a mild sprain in his right foot in the third quarter of the Nets’ 95-83 win over the Celtics in Boston on Nov. 28, went through a light workout yesterday, and coach Avery Johnson is closer to returning him to the starting lineup. “Brook is feeling better,” Johnson said on a conference call. “He’s doing better, but he’s got to be able to get through a full contact practice before he’ll be released to play, and we’re not sure when that’s going to happen. New York Post

Clippers starting SG and former NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups is continuing to struggle with injuries, as he is out indefinitely with peroneal tendinitis in his left foot. This injury is unrelated to his ruptured Achilles tendon, which he missed most of last season with. Clips Nation

In the Clippers' 84 games since Billups signed with the club, they are 17-6 in while he's been active. While there's a ton of variables that also could affect that statistic, it's no secret the Clippers are a much better team with Chauncey than with Randy Foye last year and Willie Green this year. Officially, there is no timetable for Billups' return, but he is expected to return after the next two weeks. Clips Nation

Though he didn't want to commit firmly to the timetable, Ainge suggested Bradley could return after the Celtics' post-Christmas West Coast trip, which concludes on Dec. 30 against the Sacramento Kings. Additionally, Ainge said the team will consider sending Bradley up to Portland, Maine, to play in a handful of rehab games with the Red Claws before he returns. "I think our timetable is to get him back probably after the West Coast trip," Ainge said. "I mean, that's hopeful. I hate doing timetables, but we are getting closer, and he is looking good. We'd like to get him practicing, and we're going to contemplate the possibility of some rehab games in Portland, maybe one or two. Maybe none. But we'll be really careful with Avery." ESPN.com

Yet true to his sunny personality, Brown, an Anaheim Hills resident, isn't resentful about what transpired. "I just look at it as it is what it is," he said an hour before Mater Dei took the court. "I appreciate the opportunity they gave me. I have no ill feelings toward any of them. I hope they win, I really do. They kept everybody (on the coaching staff), so I have an attachment to all the coaches and I loved working with the players. "I don't hold grudges against people, but it's the Busses' team and Mitch (Kupchak) is the GM and they have to make decisions and sometimes the decisions are tougher than others." Orange County Register

Brown shakes off any notion that he got a raw deal. It was believed the Lakers would use a six-game homestand to evaluate Brown, but after numerous discussions, Lakers management unanimously decided that the team was going sideways and Brown was let go. "I didn't think anything (about how the decision was made)," Brown said. "My job was to coach the team as long as they allowed me to and that was as long as they allowed me. "I got no hard feelings. You see me walk in here and I get to watch my son. He's a senior. I'm enjoying my family. I enjoyed my time with the Lakers. I appreciate the opportunity the Busses gave me and Mitch gave me. I've moved on. I really have." Orange County Register

Brown said several Lakers players reached out to him after they learned of his dismissal. Metta World Peace has called many times since. "I had a great time working with all of them," he said. "I learned a lot from all of them. I had great time working with them, growing with all of them. I learned a lot from Kobe (Bryant); he's a student of the game and so intense. I know he made me better, I hope I made him a little better. I enjoyed all the guys. They were all really good to me." Orange County Register

The Portland Trail Blazers have laid off three longtime executives. The Blazers announced the layoffs on Thursday, about a month after Chris McGowan became the new team president. Chief financial officer Gregg Olson had been with the Blazers for 10 years. Michele Daterman, who was the senior vice president of tickets and marketing, and Traci Reandeau, formerly the senior vice president of human resources, both had been with the team for 18 years. Daterman helped develop Portland's "New Team, New Dream" slogan. ESPN.com

This comes in the wake of the resignation of Chief Operating Officer Sarah Mensah, who had lobbied hard, but unsuccessfully, for the position of team president over the past few months. Account representatives with the team said Mensah had been increasingly withdrawn since the hire of president Chris McGowan. McGowan said the layoffs were made to "streamline" the management layers, which he called "excessive." I happen to like McGowan. And so with a decade of experience writing columns about this franchise, I offer a bit of advice for the new guy -- this ends badly for you. Oregonian

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant joined basketball legend Michael Jordan in the 30,000-point club this week and, as the famous video of identical plays shown above made clear, no one has done a better MJ impersonation than the Black Mamba. The two guards have shared similar mannerisms, highlights and endorsement deals, but Bryant said this week that there’s one path Jordan has traveled that he has no plans to touch: NBA ownership. “I don’t know if ownership is really the right thing for me,” Bryant told Bloomberg News in a video interview. “I’d go crazy. If a player misses a game because he has a broken fingernail, I’d lose my mind. I wouldn’t be able to take it.” SI.com

Jordan earned more than $90 million in NBA salary plus hundreds of millions more in endorsement revenue. Bryant has earned more than $220 million in salary and has more than $57 million guaranteed remaining on his contract, which runs through 2013-14. Ownership, as Jordan found out, is about far more than having the coin to cut the checks. After winning six titles as a player, Jordan has suffered through some terrible losing seasons as owner of the Bobcats and as a front office executive for the Wizards. He reportedly had some memorable run-ins with players who weren’t as committed to the game as he was, including Kwame Brown. If that ownership grind isn’t for Bryant, he said he has no plans to fall off the face of the planet. “I’ll be around the game and hopefully my brand can live on past my career,” Bryant said. SI.com

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban isn't for the rule change for basketball reasons from the professional level on down to little leagues. "It sends the wrong message to kids every where that it's OK to not pay attention to basketball fundamentals," Cuban told FoxSportsSouthwest.com. "In addition, intentional fouls humanize the game. There are 10 year olds who are watching these amazing athletes who have problems with free throws thinking that they can do something an NBA superstar can't." FOXSports SouthWest

Tim Duncan padded over to address the media in bare feet Thursday at the Spurs practice facility, the picture of island reserve. As someone who prizes comfort and privacy, it shouldn’t come as much surprise that Duncan views the leaking of a Halloween picture showing him and teammate Tony Parker holding toy guns to the head of a man dressed as NBA official Joey Crawford with a sort of resigned exasperation. “It’s this day and age,” Duncan said. “It was a Halloween party in a private atmosphere. We were having fun. There was nothing to it. But this day and age, people want to blow things into something more than it is. Hopefully it’s gone and whatever is whatever.” San Antonio Express-News

Head coach Gregg Popovich said he hadn’t seen the photo when asked about it on Monday. Teammate Manu Ginobili, who attended the same party as Zorro, said the photo was “very innocent.” “If somebody dressed like Pop was there,” he said, “I probably would have done the same thing with my little sword. I think it was a joke. ” San Antonio Express-News

Maybe it was just the time of year, all the shimmering holiday decorations around Chris Paul a reminder Christmas is right around the corner and soon 30 or so family members will make the trek from North Carolina to Los Angeles to join him for a few days. The marathon NBA seasons take Paul away from his loved ones longer than he cares to admit, so any chance he gets to gather with them is a time to cherish. "If I can't go home for Christmas I'll bring them here with us," he said. Los Angeles Daily News

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman has been found in contempt of court and ordered to pay $500,000 in back child support to his ex-wife, her attorney said Thursday. The flamboyant basketball player known for his off-court antics was sentenced to informal probation, his ex-wife's attorney, Mary Ann Noiroux, told City News Service. Orange County Superior Court Commissioner Barry Michaelson warned Rodman could face jail time if he doesn't pay the child support, she said. Rodman's attorney, Linnea Willis, didn't return an email from The Associated Press and a phone number did not take messages. Another attorney for Rodman's ex-wife argued in court that Rodman owed his ex-wife, Michelle Rodman, about $850,000, but Linnea Willis, the former NBA standout's attorney, challenged that figure, Noiroux said. USA Today

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