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First Cup:Wednesday

  • Bob Ford of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Well, that was fun. The nonstop thrill ride that was Allen Iverson, Part II, came to an end yesterday when 76ers general manager Ed Stefanski announced that Iverson would miss the rest of this exciting NBA season. It was an oddly worded statement in a way, but what hasn't been odd about the team's whole misguided dalliance with the past?"

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Observations from Tuesday’s 110-106 victory over the Warriors at AmericanAirlines Arena: Is there such a thing as an embarrassing victory? Face it, the Heat almost lost to a D-League team."

  • Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: "Everything starts with No. 3. It was that way Tuesday night, when his 35 points carried the team. It has been such all season, as only on account of Dwyane Wade's individual brilliance is a bad team able to masquerade as mediocre. And it will remain all about him this summer, of course, with his franchise held hostage by his eventual decision. See what Wade sees when he looks around at comparable NBA superstars. He sees friendly rival LeBron James with the best record in basketball in Cleveland. He sees that draftmate Carmelo Anthony is in first place with Denver. He sees Kobe Bryant's Lakers, here Thursday, firing on all pistons. He sees those three with a combined 79-14 record at home. Wade sees that, then sees his own team struggling even at home to keep its head above water, struggling at home to defeat even a wounded, lowly Golden State. For Heat fans, summer can't get here soon enough. Then again, perhaps -- be careful what you wish for."

  • Scott Cacciola of The Commercial-Appeal: "Hasheem Thabeet grabbed his sneakers and began wandering around the visitors locker room last Friday at Tulio Arena in Erie, Pa. He had just made his debut with the Dakota Wizards of the NBA Development League, but he was still finding his way. Where was the equipment bag for his sneakers? 'Hasheem, this is the D-League,' Wizards coach Rory White told him. 'And in the D-League, you carry your own sneakers.' If Thabeet suddenly felt thousands of miles removed from the trappings of the NBA lifestyle, then there would be more. Oh, so much more. How about folding up his 7-foot-3 frame on Monday afternoon and flying coach from Fort Wayne, Ind., to Detroit … and then from Detroit to Minneapolis … and then from Minneapolis to Bismarck, N.D.? Farewell, charter flights. 'It can be an eye-opener,' White said. The Grizzlies can only hope his whole D-League experience is humbling and not demoralizing, considering the high-profile circumstances of his arrival. So far, so good: On Sunday, in his second game with the Wizards, Thabeet – a rookie center and the highest draft pick ever assigned to the D-League – shot 8-of-10 from the field and finished with 19 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks in a 94-85 victory over the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. On Tuesday, he scored 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting and had 13 rebounds and four blocked shots in 31 minutes of action in the Wizards’ 102-81 victory over the Albuquerque Thunderbirds at the Bismarck Civic Center."

  • Lou Babiarz of The Bismark Tribune: "Hasheem Thabeet -- the second overall pick in last year's NBA draft -- has played on much larger stages than the Bismarck Civic Center. But the 7-foot-3 rookie center, on assignment from the Memphis Grizzlies, admitted to some nerves at the start of his first D-League home game. 'A little bit, because you always want to be good in the first game at home,' he said. ... Thabeet brought the Civic Center crowd to its feet early in the second half with his play on both ends of the court. First he hit a nifty left-handed shot. Then after a Maurice Baker miss, Thabeet sprinted down the court and blocked an Antoine Agudio shot from behind. Finally, on Albuquerque's next possession, he smacked aside an offering by Shane Edwards. The potential that Thabeet showed in that sequence -- which lasted just more than a minute -- is why he was so highly drafted. 'That's what they're looking at (in Memphis), to see if he can do that on a consistent basis,' Rory White said. 'If he can do that on a consistent basis, he won't be coming back here.' "

  • Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post: "With the chance to play, Andray Blatche is finally doing what the team has asked him to do for awhile. Word is he's in the weight room regularly, is practicing harder, trying on the defensive end. In the victory over the Nets the other night, Blatche became the first Washington player to have 15 baskets and 15 rebounds in a game since Tom Gugliotta did it for the Bullets in November of 1992. In that same game he became the first player this season to post numbers of at least 36 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocked shots in one game. Nobody had done it in a Bullets/Wizards uniform since Elvin Hayes 35 years ago. The pouting is over because Blatche doesn't have to worry that Wizards management, including the team's trainers, only worries about the star players. Hell, he is the star player. Yes, it's preposterous that Blatche thought that in the first place, but this is what talented kids, especially those who jump straight to the NBA from high school, think about when they don't immediately get all the minutes and shots they want. Simply, Blatche didn't know how to be a professional basketball player, which is to be blamed largely on the NBA for ever having allowed kids to make the jump in the first place. But all that seems so unnecessary to talk about now. With making the playoffs not an option and the team starting over from scratch, it's intriguing to follow a 23-year-old who is 6-foot-11 with this skill set. It's like finding a free agent in your own locker room."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "When Jameer Nelson is at the top of his game -- and lately he has scaled to the apex -- the Magic are confident they are as good as anybody in the NBA. Memo from the court of public opinion: The Magic reached the Finals last June essentially without Nelson, who was injured the last half of the season and through the Eastern Conference Finals. Didn't Rafer Alston get them there as a temp? True enough. But as Rashard Lewis and other teammates remind us, the outcome of the Magic's title series against the Los Angeles Lakers might have been different (Lakers in five) if Nelson had been sound physically. Nelson had averaged 27.5 points and 6.5 assists per game against the Lakers and keyed the Magic's first-ever sweep of L.A. during the regular season. But he was a shell of himself as a back-up in the Finals (3.8 points, 2.8 assists per game), when he returned after sitting out about four months to recuperate from shoulder surgery. ... Some fans will always wonder how valuable Nelson is to the cause, especially when he's prone to injury, inconsistency and fits of turnovers. But his worth to the team likely has never been greater in this, his sixth NBA season. Why? Because Hedo Turkoglu is gone, having crossed the border to play."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "At the beginning of the season, Oklahoma City was one of the hardest teams to get a read on. They had young talent, a young coach and took some major lumps last season. Well, the Thunder is dishing out the pain this year. If the playoffs started today? Yep, the Nuggets would face Oklahoma City. If the Nuggets aren’t careful, the young cubs could just take over in the Northwest Division. Winners of 12 of their last 14 -- a run started with a win over the Nuggets on Jan. 29 -- OKC is 2 ½ games behind the Nuggets ... and gaining fast. So just how good is Oklahoma City? Should the Nuggets be concerned about an upstart team still learning its NBA lessons? ... Yes, the Nuggets should be concerned, though they matchup with the Thunder pretty well. Oklahoma City’s success is built on the kind of solid foundation that gives any team staying power -- defense, rebounding, execution, star power. If you’re looking for chinks in the armor here are a couple: The Thunder has feasted on teams under .500, getting 21 of their 36 wins (58 percent) against that competition. They are 21-2 in such games. But in games against teams above .500, OKC is just 15-21. Against the Western Conference they are 18-17 and are 7-10 against teams in the West’s top eight. So they are still learning how to consistently beat the best and would likely need home court advantage to win a first-round playoff series this year."

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: "The Thunder liked Tyreke Evans in the scouting process. Liked him a lot. But Evans needs the ball in his hands to be effective; the Sacramento offense runs through him. And rightly so. Evans gave defensive demon Thabo Sefolosha fits all night. But if you’ve got the ball in Evans’ hands, it’s not in Russell Westbrook’s, and who thinks that’s a good idea? 'Tyreke is as good as any rookie in the league right now,' said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. But 'we have a point guard. We have a very good point guard. We saw the improvement in Russell every day' last season. Thus the drafting of James Harden, who is not as flashy and might never make an All-Star team, while Evans will be one sooner than later. Compare them head-to-head, and Evans will get the better of it most nights. ... Yet the Thunder made the right pick; a 36-23 record says so. Harden is a good player who is going to get a lot better. He’s just what this team needed. Good outside shooter. Good playmaker. Fits in well with an already-established young hierarchy. 'Our organization did a great job getting James,' Westbrook said. 'I think they made the right pick.' "

  • Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle: "According to Daryl Morey’s evaluations, Kevin Martin has been one of the NBA’s most efficient scorers in the last 30 years. He’s the only player who has shot 40 percent from the beyond 3-point line and averaged eight free-throw attempts a game in the course of an entire season. And he has done it in two of his six NBA seasons. When Morey went looking for a wing replacement for Tracy McGrady, Martin was prominent on his radar screen from the beginning. He let the Kings know early and often he was ready to deal if they were. On a side note, the Rockets very nearly traded for Amar’e Stoudemire in the final frantic minutes before the deadline. They’d removed Stoudemire from their list because he wouldn’t commit beyond the end of this season. Also, there are parts of his game that didn’t fit with what the Rockets want to do, and renting him for a few months would contradict every move Morey has made since learning Yao Ming wouldn’t play this season. Morey believed the Rockets couldn’t be competitive and exciting this season, but he wanted to position them to be a serious playoff team when Yao returned for 2010-11. Yet as the clock ticked down, the Suns began to lower the price. And lower it some more. And some more. The Rockets suddenly had a tough decision. They might suddenly be positioned for a playoff run this season with Stoudemire. They’d be worse off for next season, but winning now had some appeal. In the end, they took a pass and stuck with the blueprint."

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "A Sports Illustrated poll of 173 NBA players called Lakers forward Ron Artest the second dirtiest player in the league, behind only Toronto forward Reggie Evans. When told about it, Artest paused and thought about the question before he answered. 'I'm just aggressive,' he said. 'I don't know. I guess when I hit people, yeah, they feel it. But I don't think I'm dirty. I just think I just use my body.' Well, Artest was told, he doesn't really hit people. 'It's like a hit,' Artest responded. 'But it's not really a hit.' Artest received 13% of the vote while Evans received 21%. Kobe Bryant also made the list, finishing fifth with 4% of the vote. Sacramento forward Andres Nocioni was third with 6% and Cleveland forward-center Anderson Varejao was fourth with 5%."

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Not that long ago, Darko Milicic ate hamburgers in the locker room before games because he knew there wasn't a prayer he'd play for the New York Knicks that night. Wednesday night, he is expected to start at center for the Timberwolves at Dallas while starter Al Jefferson serves a two-game team suspension because of his drunken-driving arrest last weekend. 'That's what happens in this league,' Wolves coach Kurt Rambis said. Milicic wore the black starter's jersey in practice Monday and Tuesday while Jefferson ran with the second unit because he will not play again until Monday's rematch with the Mavericks at Target Center. 'I'm kind of leaning that way,' Rambis said of starting Milicic in Jefferson's spot even though the 7-footer still isn't nearly in game shape. 'I'm not locked into it.' ... Milicic shrugged when asked if he's excited about going from a player exiled beyond the bench in New York to a starting role in his sixth game as a Timberwolf. 'It's just another game,' he said. 'It's too bad it happened: Al's a great guy and [Jefferson's two-game suspension] is sad. At this point, it's been just enough to make me tired.' "

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "The maddening NBA schedule continues to be a source of amusement for Magic coach Stan Van Gundy (anything more than amusement would be wasted breath or might draw a fine). Van Gundy wondered aloud why his team would be sent to Philadelphia for a game Monday night (the second game of a back-to-back). … head back to Orlando to play tonight … and then have to leave Thursday to return to the East Coast for a game Friday night in New Jersey. Van Gundy, tongue firmly in cheek, said that 'if you had a travel agent, you'd probably' go from Philadelphia to nearby New Jersey and play. 'But my man, Matt Winick, he thought it would be better to go home to Florida,' Van Gundy chuckled. Winick is in charge of putting together the schedules for all NBA teams. The answer that Winick usually gives to teams who complain about back-to-backs, bizarre time-zone travel, etc? The schedule depends largely on the availability of the league's arenas."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "I got a text message from a good friend back in Indy saying that Mark Boyle and Slick Leonard were very critical of T.J. Ford's nonchalant play. They didn't like how Ford was dogging it down court after missing a lay up and they didn't care for him laughing with Lakers guard Jordan Farmar on the court when the Pacers were getting blown out. The two referred to Ford as being 'unprofessional' and that he should be benched. I'm pretty sure Tuesday won't be the last time we see a Pacer looking like he doesn't care during a game."

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: "For Reggie Williams, Sunday's whirlwind of emotion started in a Des Moines, Iowa, hotel. 'Coach called me down to his room, and I was thinking, 'What did I do wrong?' ' said Williams, who instead of being reprimanded, was informed that he was getting called up to the Warriors. 'My aunt couldn't speak, my father said he was buying 'NBA League Pass,' and my nerves have been jumping ever since.' Williams, who had 10 points, five rebounds and five assists, in his NBA debut Tuesday, is the Warriors' league-record-tying fifth NBA Development League call-up this season."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Aaron Brooks didn't know he had a 3-point shooting streak until it was 30 games long, the longest active streak in the NBA. He has since kept the streak going against the Jazz and Raptors and is five games from tying Luther Head's franchise record for consecutive games with at least one 3-pointer. 'I think that's about the coach giving me minutes, my teammates giving me good looks and my dead-eye accuracy,' Brooks said. Brooks leads the NBA with 149 3s and is making 39.4 percent of his attempts."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Guard Jason Richardson on getting over Sunday's missed dunk to tie at San Antonio with 41.8 seconds to go: 'I went to sleep about 5 a.m. (Monday) morning, watching the play over and over and I just woke up ... and was like, 'Hey, it's in the past. It's only one game and it's not going to dictate the rest of our future or dictate our playoff situations.' ' "

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "When Antonio McDyess had to be helped off the AT&T Center court Sunday after hyperextending his left knee, then walked back into the arena and back into the game, Popovich referred to him as “Willis,” a reference to Hall of Famer Willis Reed's dramatic entrance into Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals for the victorious New York Knicks. On Monday, it was Spurs guard Keith Bogans with a Willis Reed moment. Writhing in pain, Bogans left the floor in the third quarter after dislocating the ring finger on his left hand. He returned to the Spurs' bench in the fourth quarter, the finger having been manipulated back into its proper position and taped to the middle finger. He returned to the game and made his lone basket in the fourth quarter. McDyess tested his sore left knee before Monday's game and opted to sit out when he felt discomfort running. McDyess and Bogans were re-examined by team doctors. In both cases, no structural damage was found, and both are expected to be available for Friday's game at the AT&T Center against the Hornets."