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First Cup: Wednesday

  • Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune: "Before the Timberwolves traded Kevin Garnett to the Celtics for Al Jefferson and fodder, Wolves fans were tired of losing in the first round of the playoffs, Danny Ainge was considered a general manager flop on par with Kevin McHale, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers was thought of as a lost ball in tall weeds among national NBA observers. Today, Wolves fans would probably settle for a three-year plan that brings the Wolves back to the first round of the playoffs, Ainge is the shrewd guy who fleeced former Wolves GM and his former Celtic teammate McHale and Rivers is a deft master of defensive basketball and manager of multiple egos. The Garnett trade, even if we can agree that the Wolves had backed themselves into a position where they had to trade him, elevated the Celtics, devastated the Wolves and changed the reputations of just about everyone involved, as well as the NBA landscape."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "The Washington Wizards had a number of places where they wanted to affix the blame after a disappointing loss in Cleveland. Brendan Haywood targeted the referees, who put the Wizards in a compromising position after they allowed Shaquille O'Neal to turn back the clock, clock the Wizards and send big man after big man to the bench in foul trouble. Gilbert Arenas pointed at a lack of ball movement and offensive continuity after the Wizards watched an early 18-point lead rapidly turn into a surprising 16-point deficit late in the fourth quarter. But Mike Miller perhaps put placed the blame where it lied most: on the Wizards' own lack of composure and their quickness to surrender to adversity. The Wizards had to know that they weren't going to just walk into the Quicken Loans Arena and stomp all over the Cavaliers. Not with so much history between these two teams. And especially not with O'Neal joining forces with league MVP LeBron James."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "Standing at his locker getting ready to get into the shower, LeBron James was chatting with teammates and shaking his head and giving knowing glances. Regardless of what anyone writes, says or speculates, LeBron completely wants it to work with Shaq and is fully committed to it. He has spent time with him talking about it and the two have their own plan. It was LeBron who told management he wanted Shaq and to pull the trigger on the trade. It was LeBron who was convinced it could work. Maybe it won't work. Maybe this game, where Shaq took a stuggling team down 18 points and anchored the turnaround with his style, will be a rarity. There's reason to believe the plan won't come off. But games like this one, against a team headed for the playoffs, show why the Cavs tried it. And why LeBron is trying hard to make it work."

  • Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle: "Six months ago today, the Rockets began a playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers. Back when the Rockets were an All-Star driven team with the best big man in the game. Tonight, the teams will tip it off at Toyota Center with that back-in-the-day matchup an almost distant memory. From end to beginning, we're talking only 12 Rockets games. Time flies when one team wins a series, then the NBA championship, while the other loses the series and its best player for the next season. Plus, the winning team traded (technically) one of its perceived spare parts for one of the victor's key parts. Worse, the only other player in the latter's best-of discussion was out for that series and has yet to return. One would think the ring-winning Lakers and the ringless-for-a-decade-and-a- half Rockets are headed in opposite directions. But while the two teams were almost certainly not as close in talent as indicated by the length of the seven-game series (the four Lakers wins were by an average of 21.5 points), there is little evidence thus far to prove the notion that the poor, undersized, star-free Rockets don't belong on the floor with the championship-contending Lakers."

  • Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune: "The story goes that the Bulls sent home Tyrus Thomas with flu-like symptoms. Sounds like code for the fact that they’re the ones who are sick -- sick of Thomas. I mean, just look at the timing: On Sunday, the alleged starting forward sat the entire fourth quarter in a loss in Miami, and then on Monday, the Bulls officially chose not to extend his original contract. And on Tuesday, he’s supposedly sick? Please. The flu? That's as good as either the Bulls or Thomas can do? Do we all need a vaccine against stupidity? Thomas has terrific athletic ability. He just seems to have no attention span. Or maybe’s he’s just a diva. Whatever, his idea of team defense appears to be leading the team in blocked shots, not to mention utter disregard for the concept of rotating to help a teammate. His idea of team offense appears to be taking that mid-range jumper for which he always seems to be open, obviously unaware that teams are leaving him open for that exact reason. .... If Thomas is still a Bull by next summer -- you wonder if he’ll still be on the roster by tomorrow -- then he’ll be an restricted free agent, which means he’s restricted by the fact that nobody who has coached him here apparently wants anything to do with him."

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: "This is what a leader does -- what Danny Granger didn't bother to do -- after Tuesday night's miserable effort against the Denver Nuggets, the Indiana Pacers' third straight poor performance of this young season. A leader, the guy with the big contract, the face of the franchise, he sticks around after a lousy game and does his best to explain what just happened. It doesn't matter if he doesn't have any answers for a 111-93 loss. We asked T.J. Ford, who stuck around like (almost) everybody else, to explain what happened and he said this: 'I don't know,' he said, shrugging, shaking his head. 'I don't know.' Pause. I don't know.' Pause. 'I don't know.' Pause. 'Pfffffft . . . I don't know.' At least Ford was there. At least Granger's teammates were there, answering questions, trying to make sense of how an offensively gifted team has become bad and boring these first three games. And where was Granger? By the time the media arrived, he was gone, his locker clean and empty. Can anybody imagine if Peyton Manning flew the coop after a painful Colts loss? I can't count how many times Manning stood up there after brutal playoff losses and answered the questions over and over again, replaying his nightmare for public consumption."

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: "Compounding the lack of chemistry among New Orleans’ five starters is the rather empty contributions from starting forward Julian Wright (two points in 22 minutes against New York) as well as lack of production from key reserves such as center Hilton Armstrong (zero points in 14 minutes against the Knicks), guard Bobby Brown (five points, 11 minutes vs. New York) and forward James Posey (2.0 average, 25 percent field-goal shooting in four games). That the Hornets’ most recent difficulties came in New York, the media capital of the world, served to multiply the dispatches by doomsayers such as the one who mistakenly described the Alario Center as a run-down community center, and others who’ve apparently lost sight of the fact that the season is just one week old and 78 regular-season games remain. It also amplified the frustration of Hornets captain Chris Paul, whose fiery nature was on display in a postgame incident in Boston with guard Rajon Rondo and an on-court battle with Al Harrington on Monday night in which Harrington seemed to throw a body block at Paul’s knees in a battle for a loose ball, a tactic to which Paul took exception."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Welcome to the sixth Suns season of hoping to reduce point guard Steve Nash's playing time. Nash, 35, has averaged 33.6 to 35.4 minutes in the previous five seasons, consistent with his previous four in Dallas. He understands the concern but said there is 'a fallacy that's created about my durability.' 'It doesn't matter to me,' Nash said recently of high-minute games. 'I take care of myself and prepare to play all summer. I'm not out playing golf or drinking. I feel like I can handle it. If I play 37 a game for the season, that's OK.' Suns coach Alvin Gentry forces Nash and Grant Hill, 37, to sit out of practice at times. 'I'm concerned about him (Nash), but I'm going to play him,' Gentry said. 'I'll tell you when I'll start looking at his minutes - when they put an X by our name in the paper that says, 'clinched playoffs.' I'm not going to sit him an extra three minutes and risk us losing a game.' "

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "Chris Bosh has had fast starts to NBA seasons before -- he was blistering at this time last season, evoking thoughts of any number of individual awards -- but he's more concerned these days with big finishes. So, yes, his 31 points per game over the first three games are nice and his 14.7 rebounds per game are pretty special, but it won't matter a lick if he's only average when the NBA season really gets going. 'That was one of the major concerns coming into this summer,' he said Tuesday, 'not only the second half of the season but the second half of games and just being able to stay strong. 'It's easier said than done ... but I'm just trying to stay consistent, that's my main thing this year. I know last year I got off to a really good start and I really, really regressed as the season went on. I'm trying to keep it steady this year.' "

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "They haven't been able to dodge a few potholes en route to a 1-3 start. There are problems with porous defense and too many turnovers. There was an incident with O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay bickering on the bench Sunday at Denver. And veteran guard Allen Iverson made his season debut Monday with a bang, questioning his role as a reserve following an overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings. Griz coach Lionel Hollins gave the team a day off Tuesday to rest up for what promises to be a high-speed affair tonight against the Golden State Warriors. As for the notion that the Grizzlies are already spinning out of control, Hollins offered this public-service announcement: Slow down, because everything is under control. 'The thing that happened in the Denver game is over. There's nothing lingering,' Hollins said. 'We're going to work it all out. There's going to be some snags, some bruised egos and squawking, but we'll get it together.' "

  • Terry Foster of The Detroit News: "Will Bynum saw white flashes before his eyes. It scared him and he immediately thought he had a detached retina when he was knocked to the floor during the Pistons 85-80 victory over the previously unbeaten Orlando Magic on Tuesday night at The Palace. He had surgery on both eyes a year ago, and doctors said if he got hit the wrong way he might have to have surgery again. I was scared,' he admitted. 'But I am OK now.' Bynum was blinded by the white but he kept on attacking the basket. He knows that's his job and it was the only way the Pistons could win this game. He finished with 20 points and made a number of critical baskets during a grind-it-out second half. 'We knew if we could keep attacking the basket that we could get Dwight in foul trouble,' Bynum said. 'So we kept attacking the basket and scoring the ball. That is the way I play.' Superman, by the way, left the building angry, frustrated and to a chorus of cheers."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "The Mavericks hit four of eight 3-pointers in the second half of their remarkable win over Utah on Tuesday. It's about time. Four games into an NBA season isn't long enough to gauge any solid trends, but it's plenty of time for a snap judgment. And through 3 ½ of those games, the Mavericks' 3-point shooting stunk. Let's not hear any talk about new rims in NBA arenas having any impact whatsoever. That would be the flimsiest excuse of all. How many 3-pointers hit rim anyway? Most of them are swishes, or close to it. There doesn't seem to be any reasonable explanation for a team of sharpshooters slipping into the equivalent of a 3-point coma like the Mavericks did. At least Kidd did something about it. He'd seen only one of his 10 3-point tries go in during the first three games. He came alive with 5-of-8 on Tuesday. The Mavericks as a group hit seven of 18 from long range. Asked if his shot had been a little off, Kidd said: 'A little?' "