Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson force Josh Smith into a turnover. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
A look around the league and the Web that covers it. It's also important to note that the rotation order and starting nods aren't always listed in order of importance. That's for you, dear reader, to figure out.
C: Grantland. Zach Lowe sings the praises of Tom Thibodeau's defensive coaching, the Chicago Bulls' defensive execution and the all-too-rare confluence of genius design, relentless effort and all-consuming buy-in. (Also drawing hosannas: Second-year swingman Jimmy Butler, who's gotten an opportunity to see a ton of floor time over the past 10 games and is making it count with his versatile defense, athleticism and smart cutting.)
PF: Boston Magazine. Another, different kind of NBA-related breakdown — this time of Kevin Garnett's scarf game. Dude looooooooves scarves, so BoMag's Boston Daily blog enlisted a Hub-area clothier to evaluate the Boston Celtics center's multiple looks.
SG: The Oregonian. There were plenty of good vibes in the Pacific Northwest after the Portland Trail Blazers hung on for a 100-98 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night, but the positive feelings did not extend to star swingman Nicolas Batum's injured right wrist: "It doesn’t always really bother me, but today it was really painful [...] I was really scared about every contact.” Portland just started a six-game road trip and sits a half-game back of the eighth seed in the Western Conference; they're pushing for the postseason. But they also just invested $46.1 million in the 24-year-old wing — should they think about giving his injured wrist a rest?
PG: ProBasketballTalk. According to ownership documents obtained and reviewed by Aaron Bruski and James Ham, the minority owners of the Sacramento Kings have the “Right of First Opportunity” to purchase the team from majority owners the Maloofs — and this could, to at least some degree, complicate the franchise's pending sale to a Seattle-based ownership group interested in purchasing the Kings and moving the team to Washington.
6th: The Basketball Jones. Trey Kerby's got video evidence of how good a teammate Anthony Tolliver is.
7th: Rush'N Hoops. Alexander Chernykh does us a solid and translates a recent Russian interview with Minnesota Timberwolves rookie guard Alexey Shved, which includes important facts that the 24-year-old has learned about America: "People mostly drink beer and not stronger drinks, exactly like in The Simpsons."
8th: GQ.com. Lang Whitaker selects his Eastern and Western Conference YOLO All-Stars based on criteria like "social media proficiency, comedy, personality, and an occasional willingness to avoid fundamentals." Seems like an entirely reasonable way to make the midwinter classic fun.
9th: Heat.com. After catching his breath following LeBron James' incredible near-perfect night in the Miami Heat's win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday, Couper Moorhead takes stock of James' remarkable performance during the 2012-13 campaign to date — "Turns out, he’s having one of the best Frankenstein seasons the National Basketball Association has ever seen."
10th: ClipperBlog. With Chris Paul sidelined for most of the past three weeks by a bruised right kneecap, we've all been treated to an extended look at Eric Bledsoe, the havoc-wreaking third-year guard whom Los Angeles Clippers fans and League Pass die-hards had kept like a cherished secret. Fred Katz writes about how watching Bledsoe's different now that the secret's out.
10th: Raptors Republic. Blake Murphy thinks Rudy Gay's a better defender than most NBA watchers give him credit for being, and he makes an argument that the new addition is instantly the Toronto Raptors' best perimeter defender. (This may, to some degree, be damning him with faint praise.)
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