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First Cup: Tuesday

  • John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News: "This is a delicate situation, because Allen Iverson is doing the right thing. Family is family, and if he feels he needs to be with his 4-year-old daughter, Messiah, during her ongoing illness, that's exactly where he should be. I applaud the 76ers for looking at Iverson as a man and father instead of only a basketball player. They provided him the leeway to leave the team and take care of what's truly important. That said, the Sixers have another decision to make, now that Iverson has been granted an 'indefinite' leave only three games after he returned from missing five games. This one isn't about the man, and it must be made with the hard-line reasoning of what is best for the team. Shut Iverson down for the rest of the season. Sure, the timing would seem cold, but basketball doesn't stop, and difficult decisions still must be made. So the Sixers should give Iverson their blessings and full support but tell him it's best for both sides if the team moves on without him."

  • Stephen A. Smith of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "It's over. The tears. The jogging out to midcourt at the Wachovia Center to kiss the floor to raucous, rabid applause. The crackling voice, filled with gratitude and appreciation for an organization that said, 'You can come home again.' It all ended for Allen Iverson yesterday afternoon when the 76ers announced that, arguably, the greatest player in franchise history would be out 'indefinitely' because of his daughter's illness - undoubtedly ending The Answer's career in Philadelphia. It wasn't supposed to end this way, of course. Not in Philadelphia. Not for Iverson, and not in the way he is departing. We can listen to Ed Stefanski, the Sixers' president and general manager, tell us that Iverson's departure is in the best interest of the team to allow him time to 'deal with his family with this very serious issue.' But a cricket fan from England wouldn't have a hard time deciphering what's going on here. Iverson isn't what he use to be. Iverson wasn't what he was supposed to be, either. Because of injury, fatigue, his miniature size and the reckless abandonment of his body, the Iverson who spent a decade mesmerizing the basketball world is a mere shell of himself. The Iverson we once knew is no more."

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "There have been few moments in N.B.A. history as inspirational, or as legendary, as Willis Reed’spainful stroll to the court before Game 7 of the 1970 finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Knicks won the championship that night, and Reed became the standard by which all athletes playing through pain are judged. The moment and the achievement were honored Monday night at the Garden as the Knicks celebrated the 40th anniversary of their first championship, and honored a team that has become synonymous with selfless play. 'As I stand here tonight, the memories abound and astound,' Walt Frazier, the Hall of Fame guard, said during the ceremony, which was held at halftime of the Knicks’ 83-67 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. It was the Knicks’ lowest-scoring game of the season, and one of their most disappointing, given the evening’s events."

  • Mike Baldwin of The Oklahoman: "Ten-game win streaks aren’t rare in the NBA. But they can sure make a team, especially a young team such as the Thunder, feel pretty good. If Oklahoma City beats Phoenix tonight in the Ford Center, it will be the franchise’s longest win streak in nearly 14 years. 'It makes all the difference in the world just how you feel every day,' said veteran forward Nick Collison. 'Morale is so much higher. It’s a lot more fun to come to the gym and the arena, knowing you’ve got a good chance to win.' Ten-game win streaks have occurred about five times a season the past three years. Three teams have had streaks of 10 games or longer this season. OKC can become the fourth with a win tonight over the Suns, who will rest star Steve Nash. A victory would mark the franchise’s longest win streak since the George Karl-coached Sonics won 11 straight early in the 1996-97 season."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "The Orlando Magic are a long shot to catch the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference standings and thereby on the postseason seeding chart. But that's nothing compared to the intrigue and possible league-wide repercussions that await. The Magic could do something far more devastating to Cleveland if they catch up with the Cavs in the playoffs again. They could run LeBron James out of town. Cleveland sports fans are all nervous wrecks wondering if the New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets or Miami Heat might be the team that steals their BeLoved LeBron this summer. The team they ought to be worried about having the most impact on LeBron? The Magic. Magic point guard Jameer Nelson says the NBA and its marketing machine might want LeBron's Cavs and Kobe's Lakers in The Finals, but he said Orlando looks to 'spoil' those plans. How compelling would it be if James' free-agent future rested on the outcome of a Magic-Cavs playoff series?"

  • Peter Vecsey of the New York Post: "As long as Sunday's educated speculation in this space regarding rising free agents Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson is still alive, let's advance it a bit. Say Lakers owner Jerry Buss decides to impeach his Hall of Fame nomination credibility by lowballing the NBA's record 10-time coaching champ, or, worse, not making a pitch at all. To what extent would Clippers owner Donald Sterling spread-eagle to persuade the Zen Hen -- with Maxamillion Bryant in tow -- to switch arena locker rooms? So much so, Jeanie Buss would refer to him as 'Daddy.' Not that long ago, Bryant seriously considered switching allegiance from L.A. Lore to my Paper Clips. Should his Lakers' lingering extension negotiation founder, for whatever motivation, Staples Center's stepchild has a whole lot more real (Chris Kaman, Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin) and imagined (Minnesota's unprotected 2012 No. 1 pick) assets going for it today than three summers ago. Remaining in Los Angeles was a peak priority in 2007. Should the Knicks never show up on Bryant's radar, it stands to reason the Clippers automatically will become a favored destination. All it takes to end the above speculation, of course, is for Bryant to autograph a brand new Lakers contract. Well, half of it, anyway. Clearly, Jackson's future with the team is far more uncertain."

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "The once-maligned trade that moved Pau Gasol from Memphis to the Los Angeles Lakers two years ago this month looks a lot different these days. What initially was greeted with great cynicism, laughter and disgust -- a lopsided transaction in the Lakers' favor -- is looking more like a win-win for both teams. Cap space and flexibility are no longer punch lines in Memphis. The Griz, given time to connect the dots of the deal, have stockpiled useful players. Of the 15 players on the Grizzlies' roster, nine came as a result of the extra money and draft picks generated by Gasol's 2008 departure. And they still have more to gain from the transaction. The Lakers visit FedExForum tonight as the NBA's defending champions in large part due to Gasol. The Grizzlies are better off, too, having positioned themselves as one of the Western Conference's up-and-coming young teams. 'I've said all along that I've never lost any sleep over the deal,' Chris Wallace said. 'As difficult as it was to trade a player like Pau Gasol -- and he's gone on to be the impetus for L.A. winning a championship -- that wasn't going to happen here in our situation. We could not get a Kobe Bryant or a LeBron James to put around him. It wasn't going anywhere. Changes had to be made. The deal allowed us to get tremendous flexibility. We got back a wide variety of assets and many of them are paying dividends right now.' "

  • Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer: "Are the Cavs in trouble? No, they are on a three-game losing streak. They remain a team with the NBA's best record at 43-14. They have the league's MVP in LeBron James. They have three other players who have been All-Stars within the last two years -- Antawn Jamison, Shaquille O'Neal and Mo Williams. This is the only team that has survived the first round of the playoffs in each of the last four years. All that's missing is a championship, and that's where Mike Brown comes in. Whenever a team makes a trade such as Zydrunas Ilgauskas to Washington for Jamison, it means the coach must adjust. Brown now needs to ask, 'Who are my best players?' A quick list of eight would be: James, O'Neal, Jamison, Mo Williams, Anderson Varejao, Delonte West, J.J. Hickson and Anthony Parker. Why eight? Because that's the usual playoff rotation."

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "Traditionally, the Spurs use their annual rodeo trip to answer remaining questions about themselves. They return from this year’s rendition having gone a fitting 4-4, the same inconsistent ball of problems that left for Sacramento on Feb. 2. At 31-23, the Spurs are seventh in the Western Conference, a game ahead of Portland, two ahead of ninth-place New Orleans and facing an upcoming schedule not exactly conducive to making an upward push. For the first time in the Tim Duncan era, the Spurs are being forced to contemplate the postseason in terms of 'if' and not 'when.' 'It’s really hard to imagine us not being in the playoffs,' Manu Ginobili said. 'But we can’t take anything for granted. We’ve got to take care of business when we have the opportunity.' "

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Michael Beasley’s heart and pride are in the right place. But the reality is he is in a different place than he was at Kansas State and all those other places where he was the featured scorer. With the Heat, he is a Tito Jackson, a supporting player. Just like Scottie Pippen was in Chicago. And Kevin McHale was in Boston. And James Worthy was in Los Angeles. That doesn’t mean he can’t be great, an All-Star, even dream about being a Hall of Famer. But in the NBA, it’s about one player leading. Just as it was with Jordan and Bird and Magic. Just as it is with Dwyane Wade. While others might take the humorous approach, such as Charles Barkley, there is nothing wrong with being a complementary player in the NBA. Those players get complimented plenty."

  • Dave Krieger of The Denver Post: "Carmelo Anthony is their headliner, an all-star, a member of Team USA. Chauncey Billups is their quarterback, an all-star, a member of Team USA. And yet, by the numbers, neither is the Nuggets' most indispensable player. That would be power forward Kenyon Martin. 'Every team has a guy that holds it together, what I call a glue guy,' Nuggets coach George Karl said Monday. 'Around the league, he'd definitely be in that race as one of the top guys who make it function, make it work.' In the 13 games Anthony has missed due to injury, the Nuggets are 8-5, pretty close to their winning percentage with him. In the nine games Billups has missed, they're 3-6, suggesting they do a better job replacing Anthony's scoring than Billups' leadership. 'When Melo was missing, (Martin) elevated his game offensively,' said assistant coach Adrian Dantley, a Hall of Fame power forward. 'And now we've got to get that with everybody healthy. We've got to get him still scoring at the rate he's been doing.' Maybe, but the beauty of Martin's game this season is that he defers to the all-stars when they're there and he takes up the slack when they're not. He averaged nearly 17 points a game with Anthony out, compared to just over 12 for the season. Of his 21 double- doubles this season, 10 came with Anthony in street clothes. But when it's Martin who is missing, the Nuggets are 1-4. He's the player who is hardest to replace. Nobody else on the roster does what he does. It's not just that he's their best defensive player, their best rebounder, their toughest, most physical player, their intimidator. It's also what he does at the defensive end what Billups does at the offensive end."

  • John DeShazier of The Times-Picayune: "James Lang. J.R. Smith. Tim Pickett. Brandon Bass. Hilton Armstrong. Cedric Simmons. Marcus Vinicius. Julian Wright. Adam Haluska. Darrell Arthur. The reason so much time and so many words have been spent bashing the Hornets over the team's draft picks since the team relocated to New Orleans in 2003 is because the franchise consistently has been so abysmal at the art form. Re-read the list. That roll call isn't an ode to precision or a flattering testament to player evaluation. Among that crew only Wright remains with New Orleans and if he and the franchise had their druthers, he'd be gone; he all but requested a move this season as the trade deadline neared and, undoubtedly, the Hornets gleefully would've shipped him if they could've found a sucker ... er, taker. But that batting average of 2 for 12 -- the two hits being a couple of homers in David West (2003) and Chris Paul (2005) -- significantly jumped this season. If we're going to call the team's evaluators everything including the devil for the pool of rookie selections from 2003 to '08, then the devils have to be given their due for what happened on June 25, 2009. That night, New Orleans took point guard Darren Collison with its first-round pick, No. 21 overall. And in the second round it swung a trade with Miami -- shooting guard Marcus Thornton, the No. 43 overall pick, came to New Orleans in exchange for a couple of future second-round picks. So far, so good. Very, very good."

  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: "The Toronto Raptors organization owes Rasho Nesterovic a bonus on his pay cheque. Well, maybe not a bonus, but something for removing a blight from their team history. Since Oliver Miller left the Raptors for good back on Feb. 1, 1999, his name has been in the Raptors record books alongside the likes of, dare we say, more deserving Raptors such as Damon Stoudamire, Morris Peterson, Doug Christie, Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon to name a few. Nesterovic took care of that Saturday when he went five-for-seven from the field to surpass the 1,000 field goal attempts as a Raptor and thereby qualify for standing in the all-time franchise leader in field goal percentage. Nesterovic’s mark of .545 easily surpassed Miller’s mark of .509 knocking the Big O off the perch he has held for far too long. 'I’ve got no comment on that,' Nesterovic said laughing following practice on Monday."

  • Sam Amick of The Sacramento Bee: "Maybe it was done to expedite the process of removing Kevin Martin's likeness from anything Kings-related, or perhaps it was a way of making Francisco García feel better after he didn't play in Phoenix on Sunday. Whatever the motive, the Kings wasted no time moving past Martin on Monday. The mural above the Arco Arena security door, which just a few days ago featured Martin, now features García. This is just one of many changes the Kings will have to make. Martin's face is on billboards all over town after they tapped into the local artists earlier this season."

  • Lynn Henning of The Detroit News: "Tom Wilson's long ride as Pistons CEO could be of timely value to Mike Ilitch, the Red Wings owner who's been seeking to build a new hockey arena in downtown Detroit. It was reported Monday by WXYZ-TV that Wilson is joining Ilitch Holdings, Inc., which owns the Red Wings and Tigers, in addition to its flagship companies: Little Caesars Pizza, Motor City Casino, and Olympia Entertainment. Tom Pyden, vice president for Ilitch Holdings, issued a statement Monday that said Wilson 'would be a terrific addition to any organization.' But the statement neither confirmed nor denied that Ilitch Holdings would be bringing Wilson aboard. Wilson spent 32 years with the Pistons as a fast-lane executive who ultimately became head of the Pistons and Palace Sports and Entertainment. It was rumored Monday night Wilson might be given oversight of the Tigers and Red Wings. How any such responsibilities would mesh with the teams' existing command is uncertain."