These are strange days for J.R. Smith, who in Charlotte was kept on the bench by Mike Woodson for the second time in four games. "I'm not even commenting on J.R.," Woodson said gruffly after the game. "I just didn't play him tonight. I didn't play him." Woodson also declined comment when asked later if Smith would play Thursday in Indiana, but the timing certainly seemed odd -- even for this ongoing, sideshow storyline. Smith had totaled 52 minutes and scored 24 points over the previous two games. ... "I stopped being surprised after the Miami game," Smith said, adding Woodson gave him "no reason" for his latest benching and didn't tell him he wouldn't play before the game began. "I haven't the slightest clue (what's going on). ... If I'm not helping the team, there's no point in me being here." (New York Daily News) Comment
Among the nearly 150 players to file for salary arbitration, National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw likely stands to gain the most. Kershaw, coming off his second Cy Young win, is eligible for arbitration for the final time and is currently on track to be eligible for free agency after the 2014 season. To prevent that from happening, the Dodgers and Kershaw have been in discussions over a record-breaking deal that could pay $30 million per season for as many as 10 years. Through arbitration, Kershaw is estimated to earn roughly $18 million coming off a two-year, $19 million contract. ... The next step occurs Friday, when players and clubs exchange proposals for a one-year contract. According to procedure, each player to file is considered signed. (MLB.com) Comment
No one is suggesting the window has closed for Drew Brees, but he seems to notice he's closer to the end of his career than the beginning. The Saints' quarterback turns 35 on Wednesday. He's set to count against the team's salary cap to the tune of $18.4 million in 2014, $26.4 million in 2015 and $27.4 million in 2016. New Orleans enters the offseason at least $12 million over the projected salary cap of about $126 million next season. Brees said the Saints haven't approached him about restructuring his contract to relieve the team's cap troubles. ... When asked if he would be open to restructuring his contract if the Saints asked, Brees said, "Whatever I can do to help this team, if they want to come to me and extend me even further, that'd be great." (The Times-Picayune) Comment
No. 23 Ernests Gulbis smashes his second racket in as many rounds at the Australian Open, venting during his surprise loss to American Sam Querrey. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)
Arkansas stunned No. 13 Kentucky in overtime, with Michael Qualls' put-back dunk beating the buzzer and sending Bud Walton Arena into a frenzy.