First Cup: Wednesday

  • Harvey Araton of The New York Times: "Willis Reed believes that an important part of the 1970 team’s legacy and special relationship with its fans was the developmental process from the time he was drafted in 1964. Like David Lee, Reed endured losing seasons and had position issues. Like Reed, a smallish center at 6-9, Lee has developed his jump shot to the point where he creates offensive matchup problems for bigger players. Unlike Reed, Lee will never be ideally suited to be a career center at the defensive end, where his lack of shot-blocking is a liability. But intangibles do matter, as in the case of Bradley, who started over Russell, the much flashier and more explosive player. 'The superstars are very important — everybody wants to see the LeBrons and Kobes,' said Lee, who had 28 points and 15 rebounds against the Celtics. 'But from the video I’ve seen and what I know, the ’70 team is remembered the way they are 40 years later because of how balanced and together they were.' Of the prime front-court free agents who might soon be available, Chris Bosh is a superior athlete and scorer but no more a center than Lee is, while Amar’e Stoudemire is no better a defender than Lee and not as good a rebounder. Donnie Walsh will spend his summer dreaming of glory but dribbling around land mines. Before he decides on a painful divorce, he may want to watch some 1970 Knicks video and be sure he can’t imagine Lee in the picture."

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: "Spencer Hawes isn't injured. But when he showed up Tuesday evening at Arco Arena, his No. 31 jersey wasn't hanging in his locker. Hawes, the Kings' third-year and sometimes-starting center was inactive for Tuesday's game against the Detroit Pistons. 'I saw where he's having a hard time understanding his role,' said Kings coach Paul Westphal. 'He should understand it (after) tonight.' Westphal said there was no specific reason for putting Hawes on the bench. Hawes has been vocal at times this season about his fluctuating minutes and changing roles. In a story that ran in Tuesday's editions of The Bee, Hawes said this of Westphal's substitution patterns: 'All year we've kind of been dealing with that,' he said. 'When you think you have kind of gotten over that hump, it comes back up again. That's the philosophy, so you've just got to deal with it. Everyone up and down the roster has had a taste of that, so everyone can relate. I think it's kind of tough, the not-knowing part on a game-to-game basis, to get in that rhythm. But that's the way it's going and there's not a whole lot you can do about it.' Hawes began the season as a reserve, earned the starting job, but has gone back and forth between starting and coming off the bench this season. ... Hawes' relationship with Westphal and the coaching staff first became an issue last summer when Hawes was expected to be a part of the Kings' Summer League team."

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "By now, there is no sense in fighting it, or even trying to figure it out, so theTrail Blazers have come to embrace what has become, quite simply, an awkward season. It's where no body part is safe. Where no lead is comfortable. And no lineup set in stone. A season of remarkable, if not eerie, consistency continued Tuesday when the Blazers beat the woeful New Jersey Nets 102-93 despite losing new center Marcus Camby to an ankle injury, watching a 21-point lead whittled to five and ushering out their 13th different starting lineup of the season. In his third outing with the Blazers, Camby rolled his right ankle five minutes into the game when Nets' center Brook Lopez fell on the back of his legs at the end of a fast break. X-Rays were negative, but Camby never returned after hobbling to the locker room with a pronounced limp. He said he is 'doubtful' he would be able to play tonight in Toronto, marking the third Blazers center this season to miss a game to injury. 'Welcome to Portland, Camby,' coach Nate McMillan deadpanned. 'It's just amazing what our guys are going through ... That's part of being a Blazer this season.' "

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "Kobe Bryant made a point of finding every teammate after the game and embracing them, even thanking them. He was indisputably back, making another mark on another 48 minutes of Lakers basketball. He hadn't played a game in 18 days, but there he was Tuesday, the ball in his hands and the game clock almost drained to zeros. So he did it again, drilling a three-pointer with 4.3 seconds left that ultimately dropped the Memphis Grizzlies, 99-98, at FedEx Forum. It was met with sarcasm. 'He's lucky,' Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said dryly. 'Very, very lucky.' It was greeted with wonderment. 'He really stepped up at the end of the game,' Pau Gasol said, 'like he was never out.' "

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "The Goran Dragic haters and Amar'e-Stoudemire-needs-Steve-Nash-to-score crowd did not get much support from Tuesday's game. Dragic played a career-high 40 minutes and posted 16 points and 10 assists to play the league's hottest point guard, Russell Westbrook, to a draw. Stoudemire carried the Suns' offense at times for 30 points, his fourth 30-point outing in the past 10 games. He scored seven points on three plays during Phoenix's 16-4 game-ending run by attacking the rim."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Sometimes, Miami Heat scouting videos can be as simple as, well, 'ABC, easy as 1, 2, 3.' While forward Michael Beasley might not appreciate being termed a 'Tito Jackson' when it comes to the Jackson 5-based commentary of TNT analyst Charles Barkley, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is having some fun with the episode. 'This type of thing is playful, so we've joked about it,' Spoelstra said Tuesday night, before his team faced the Minnesota Timberwolves at AmericanAirlines Arena. 'I've used it on some films and I've talked about with the group a little bit. Ultimately, an 82-game season is long. Sometimes there are different ways to inspire players and it might be a quote.' But Spoelstra said amid the injury absence of guard Dwyane Wade, it is something that also should resonate with his players. 'If you truly dislike the criticism,' Spoelstra said, 'and you don't like what people are saying about the quote-unquote supporting cast, particularly while Dwyane is out, well, if you want to shut them up, the critics, you do it by winning. That's the bottom line. It doesn't matter what any individual does while Dwyane is out. If you don't win, that's going to matter.' Spoelstra said it has to be about more than circling quotes and distributing them to players."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "When Scott Brooks speaks, you hear faint echoes of Gregg Popovich and Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. Brooks' admonition to one of the NBA's youngest lineups: 'If you're an NBA player, you're an NBA player, no matter how old you are, and you're paid to bring effort every day, no matter how old you are.' Sloan couldn't have said it better. He has preached the virtue of an honest day's work to players, overpaid and otherwise, every day of his Hall of Fame coaching career. Thunder general manager Sam Presti, who learned The Spurs Way as he moved up from 21-year-old intern to assistant general manager before the Thunder franchise hired him away, credits Brooks and his staff for staying on message through good days and bad. This, too, is something he learned from Popovich and R.C. Buford. 'I don't think there's one specific thing or one magic decision, other than Scott being incredibly consistent with his approach and our players committing to team and also investing on the defensive end,' Presti said. What pleases Presti most about his young roster and young coach also is Spurs-like: steadfast adherence to the long view. 'I think the group understands there is a long way to go, and there will be a lot of bumps in the road, and the resolve of the group is going to be tested,' he said. 'We look at that as further opportunity for growth.' "

  • John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Fans of the 76ers are angry -- some are extremely angry. Not only does Ed Stefanski, the team's third-year president/general manager, know that, but he also knows much of that anger is directed at him. 'I hear them,' said Stefanski, whose team has taken a huge step backward after making the playoffs in his first two seasons. 'I speak with season ticketholders. I take e-mails from fans and get phone calls. I try to respond back to every one of them. 'I know what they are saying.' If Stefanski is getting messages similar to the ones I get when I write about the Sixers, many are not fit for a family newspaper. That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point. I've been writing about sports in this city since 1994. I saw the venom directed at the Eagles during the seven-game losing streak that mercifully ended the comedic buffoonery of the Rich Kotite era. I saw Ray Rhodes get retenderized and continuously put over red-hot coals during his last Eagles campaign, best described as 'Dead Coach Walking.' There were the beatings taken by Phillies general manager Ed Wade and manager Terry Francona, and the one-season mercy-killing of Sixers general manager Brad Greenberg and coach Johnny Davis. The current atmosphere surrounding the Sixers is as bad as any of those times."

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "Turns out Antoine Wright might have a little bit of masochism in him. The Raptors' swingman walks over to a reporter after getting in some extra work after practice on Tuesday and it's pointed out to him his next three nights of work should entail having to deal with Brandon Roy, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Instead of cowering, he smiles. 'That's the best news I've heard all week,' Wright said, making one wonder just what kind of horrible week he's endured. 'What did you say again? Who?' That'd be Roy, all-star swingman of the Portland Trail Blazers -- young, quick, strong -- who'll be in Toronto on Wednesday night to face the Raptors. And James, the all-world, all-everything Cleveland Cavalier who comes to town Friday night. Then a final date with Durant, one of the best young basketball players in the world, a lithe, lethal scoring machine on an Oklahoma City Thunder team that's the hottest in the NBA. They're like Pestilence, Famine and Drought to most NBA defensive specialists. Except, it turns out, to Wright, who will guard each of those three all-stars in the fourth quarter of Toronto's next three games if things go according to plan. 'I'm looking forward to it; it's going to be fun all week,' he said."

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "The Orlando Magic are adding to their offensive playbook. On Saturday, the team installed a new side pick-and-roll play for SG Vince Carter, and the new addition helped fuel Carter's eight-point outburst in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 101-95 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Coach Stan Van Gundy said the team put in some more wrinkles during Tuesday's practice at RDV Sportsplex. 'We went through a long stretch there -- a really long stretch -- where we didn't have much practice time,' Van Gundy said. 'Now, we're gonna start putting in a little bit more stuff trying to develop some things for those guys just to give us some different looks.' "

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "Early this season, when J.R. Smith pummeled rims with David Koci-like punishment, Nuggets coach George Karl reminded himself that Smith is notoriously worse before the all-star break. That gave Karl hope that hope would spring eternal, come spring. Two seasons ago, Smith averaged 9.9 points per game before the break and 15.7 after. And last season, the numbers were 13.7 before, 17.9 afterward. Yes, the Nuggets are only three games into the 2010 'after' part of their schedule. But in two of them, Smith was vital in wins against Cleveland and Boston. He scored four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter in Sunday's victory over Boston. 'Hopefully, this is the beginning of a great second half,' Karl said."

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Dominique Wilkins was in uniform for the Hawks when they had last won at Utah. This time Wilkins was wearing a suit and smiling along with the current Hawks after they won 105-100 on Monday for their first victory here since Feb. 13, 1993. 'I didn’t even realize that until today,' Wilkins, now a Hawks TV announcer, said after the game. 'Like I told them before the game, records are made to be broken.' "