First Cup: Thursday

  • Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star: "In the moments after Chris Bosh became the first Raptor to score 10,000 NBA points on Wednesday night, the Toronto all-star was feted with an impromptu standing ovation from the announced crowd of 18,441. Alert observers noted that Bosh, stone-faced, didn't so much as acknowledge the appreciative throng. He didn't raise a hand in return of the love. He didn't offer a knowing nod. And wasn't that as good as waving goodbye? No, no, no. Nobody's saying Bosh has made his decision to leave Toronto when he has the option to become a free agent in July, although there have been plenty of observers, both inside the team and around the league, who have noted his post-all-star-break swoon and wondered if it indicates the intention of an impending departure. Damn those speculators, indeed. Wednesday night, depending on how you looked at it, offered a counterpoint to the latest in attempted fortune telling. ... 'My numbers since the all-star break, it doesn't matter. I haven't played many games since the all-star break. My only focus is trying to win basketball games. And that's really it,' said Bosh. 'If my mind was elsewhere, I don't think we would have won (Wednesday's) game.' "

  • Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun: "Jay Triano, the basketball player, was a portrait of tenacity: A veritable coach’s dream. You asked and he did. He rarely took nights off. He rarely took possessions off. He pushed himself to the limits he was capable of pushing. And he lost hard, personal, like he never wanted to experience it again. Which begs the question: Why can’t the Raptors be more like their coach? And more questions: Why don’t they have more of his dogged personality? Why don’t they engage in every game the way they engaged last night, an impressive end, a needed victory, a win as much about coaching and tenacity as anything the Raptors have done through this debilitating and potentially crushing streak of woe? Triano needs the Raptors to be more like him, more involved, more intense."

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "Nate Robinson rose from his seat on the Celtics bench, looked at Mike D'Antoni and began clapping. Lil' Him wasn't honoring his former coach Wednesday night as much as he was taunting him. With Boston building a 27-point third-quarter lead over the Knicks, Robinson twice made it a point to show that he was enjoying D'Antoni's misery. It was another example of Nate being Nate during the Celtics' 109-97 victory over Robinson's former club. Robinson, who taunted another of his former Knicks coaches - Larry Brown - last season, was lashing out at D'Antoni for benching him for 14games in December, which led to the Knicks trading him last month."

  • Paul Canzano of The Oregonian: "Might be a good time for Kevin Pritchard to wipe his computer hard drive clean. And he should probably get a second cellular telephone for non-business calls, and also, be careful who he talks to about his future as the Trail Blazers general manager. Note to KP: Watch your back. The people who work at Vulcan Inc. are busy working behind the scenes again with owner Paul Allen's basketball operation, and those following the curious firing of vice president Tom Penn this week are looking at Pritchard wondering if his shelf life as the franchise Golden Boy is expiring. 'They can't do Kevin in the middle of the season, but they can do a drive-by on someone close to him,' said Warren LeGarie, the agent for Penn and Pritchard. 'But guess who would be next?' The message from One Center Court has been a consistent: 'Philosophical differences,' and the Vulcans are apparently steamed because they believe Penn bluffed the Blazers into a promotion and raise 10 months ago using a phantom offer from Minnesota. But bigger questions hit on Wednesday. Have the Vulcans lost their minds? Could Pritchard really be next to go? ... Firing Pritchard would be absurd, and I suspect throw the fan base into a tizzy. Fans need to have Pritchard's back. The Blazers season ticket renewal has passed, but I suspect Allen underestimates Pritchard's popularity and influence with the fan base."

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "The Cavaliers clinched the Central Division championship on Wednesday with their 99-94 victory over the Indiana Pacers at Quicken Loans Arena. It's the third division crown in their 40-year history. The others were in 1975-76 and last season. 'Any time you have the opportunity to put up a banner, that's great,' LeBron James said. 'This franchise is not that old. It hasn't been around for a long time. It's a tribute to the fans, to this organization, the players and the coaching staff and everyone surrounding it. This is big for everybody.' Speaking of big, James was colossal on the night with 32 points, nine rebounds, nine assists, three steals and two blocks."

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "When Mike Woodson was asked if he’s concerned about Mike Bibby’s problems guarding quick point guards, the Hawks coach turned the question around. 'You think Bibby has trouble with quick point guards,' Woodson said, smiling. 'I’m going to tell Bibby that. Maybe he better speed it up in the playoffs.' Reporters got to Bibby before Woodson and relayed the exchange. 'You keep some things, some things you can’t,' Bibby said. 'I ain't the only one who has trouble with quick point guards, I can tell you that.' Woodson apparently believes such critiques can serve to motivate Bibby. During a meeting with his point guard a couple of weeks ago he told him to be more aggressive looking for his shot. 'He’s passed up a lot of shots he should have taken this year,' Woodson said, smiling again. 'Maybe he’s saving it up.' "

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "The Johan-Petro-Plays-Well phase of the season is as good a story as the Nuggets have had all year. His play is paying off for the Nuggets at a critical point, and could pay off for Petro next season in a multi-year contract. But first thing’s first. The Nuggets have benefited. For all of the talk about adding another post player for ‘insurance’ leading up to, and even after the trade deadline, Petro, apparently was all the Nuggets really needed. With Kenyon Martin out for an unknown period of time, Nuggets brass went so far as to work out free agent centers Brian Cook and Jake Voskuhl in effort to fully explore the possibilities out there. And then Petro happened, proving one thing to Nuggets vice president of basketball operations, Mark Warkentien: 'I think the lesson from a personnel side,' he said. 'is the grass isn’t always greener.' "

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "There is a chance that the Western Conference playoffs will be made up entirely of teams with .600-plus winning percentages. How do the Suns distinguish themselves in that bloated bunch, other than having the NBA's top offense -- as they did entering the playoffs from 2005 to 2007? The team the Suns will be in the playoffs might be better than the seasonlong version that will qualify them. The look they took on in January with Robin Lopez as starting center will be the one they use in the playoffs. That starting lineup -- Lopez, Amar'e Stoudemire, Grant Hill, Jason Richardson and Steve Nash -- is 16-6 (.727), a mark skewed some because it is 3-5 against probable West playoff teams. With only four weeks and 14 games until the playoffs, the Suns wish they could bottle what they have going for the postseason."

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: "At times, Lou Williams looks like a little kid with a big secret. He so wants to tell anyone, everyone, what he has in his head, but knows better. It's no secret that the 76ers' players aren't happy. No one would expect them to be with a record that is 20 games under .500 despite last night's 108-97 win over the lowly New Jersey Nets. Williams missed Monday night's game against the New York Knicks due to back spasms. The night before in Miami, he started the game but was replaced in the second half by Jason Kapono, who hadn't seen significant minutes in months. Williams' body language on the bench was an easy read - he was not a happy camper. After getting treatment for the past couple of days, Williams was fit enough to go last night, but coach Eddie Jordan decided to keep him out of the starting lineup. Again, Williams' body language showed his displeasure, even if he somewhat hid it in his words. 'I expected [to start],' Williams said before taking the court to warm up his back before game time. 'I didn't see any reason ... But we've been changing up the lineup a little bit. I guess this is just another episode of us doing that, seeing if we can find some way to win.' His comments dripped with sarcasm."

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "Brian Scalabrine was working hard as the Celtics rolled out to a first quarter lead on the New York Knicks last night. He was on the inactive list for the sixth straight game, but he was working hard. His routine begins well before the game, ends before halftime and includes playing two-on-two, then going through a quickness and conditioning session with strength coach Bryan Doo. That’s followed by one-on-one duels with Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. Scalabrine caps it off with time in the weight room adjacent to the Celtics locker room. 'It helps me stay ready if I ever do get my number called, but the most important thing right now is being there for other guys,' said Scalabrine, who has been moved from the fringe of the rotation to the shelf by the acquisition of Michael Finley -- and the good health of others. 'I don’t have to save myself, so when (Pierce) wants to go one-on-one and then Rondo wants to go one-on-one, that’s cool. I’m down for it. I have no problem with that. But, c’mon, I get to play Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce one-on-one. That’s going to make me a better player.' "

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Not only did Kirk Hinrich miss Tuesday's loss to the Grizzlies because of his one-game league suspension, the broadcast was blacked out at the team hotel. So Hinrich went to watch at a local sports bar, where he was recognized and mocked by Memphis fans still stinging from when Hinrich's alma mater of Kansas beat the University of Memphis for the 2008 NCAA title. Of course, that didn't stop two fans from asking for Hinrich's autograph. And, yes, Hinrich signed."

  • Terry Foster of The Detroit News: "Bless their hearts. The Clippers are expected to give LeBron James a call this offseason to see if they can lure the free agent to sunny Los Angeles. If James heads West, he'll be playing for the Lakers, not the second-fiddle Clippers."

  • Chris Iott of Booth Newspapers: "Jason Maxiell might be a bit small when it comes to playing center in the NBA, but he has up some big numbers lately. Maxiell has reached double figures in points and rebounds in each of his past five games and is averaging a double-double -- 10.9 points and 11.2 rebounds -- in the eight games since starting center Ben Wallace went down with a knee injury. 'He has been pretty consistent in giving me high energy,' Pistons coach John Kuester said. 'It is refreshing because he competes every time he is out there. He has some Ben Wallace qualities out there.' The Pistons have won just two of their past 12 games, but they would have been hard pressed to pick up even one win during that span without Maxiell playing a key role."

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: "At 7-foot-1, Spencer Hawes is the lone 7-footer on a team lacking size in the frontcourt, and his statistics are often the subject of discussion. And against the Lakers, Hawes' three rebounds were insignificant compared to the 12 grabbed by Andrew Bynum. But Kings coach Paul Westphal isn't evaluating the effectiveness of Hawes based on the box score. 'I don't look at numbers that much,' Westphal said. 'I look at each individual play. If he did the right thing on the play and the ball bounced somewhere else, you can't blame him for not getting the rebound.' It's hard for a young player not to be hung up on statistics. It takes a level of maturity to look beyond the numbers and assess play. Hawes sounds like a player who understands. 'Everyone looks at their numbers, but you know where you are,' Hawes said. 'And as a player, you pretty much remember most of the good plays and all of the bad plays that you make. You kind of have that in your mind and you know when you mess up. I know with me, I'm probably my harshest critic, so it's easy for me to figure out where I need to improve.' While blocked shots are a tangible way of tracking Hawes on defense, numbers can't measure defensive rotations or knowing who to pick up on a defensive switch."

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "Richard Jefferson has at least one thing in common with Vince Carter, his teammate for parts of four seasons with the New Jersey Nets. 'We're both glad we're not in Jersey anymore,' Jefferson said. Indeed, neither player has had to suffer through his former team's bid to set an NBA record for season-long futility. That doesn't mean Jefferson and Carter haven't shared some frustration this season. Both have struggled at times to adapt to new teams. Jefferson is just now starting to find a groove after an uneven start, while Carter famously labored through a January during which he shot a career-low 28.4 percent. Jefferson said he didn't talk to Carter during the struggles but empathized with what he was going through. 'It's good to know you're not the only one out there struggling to get in your rhythm,' Jefferson said."

  • Pete Thamel of The New York Times: "When the basketball world first met Derrick Caracter, in July 2001, he was 13 years old, 6 feet 8 inches and carried around a stuffed orangutan named Ollie. On Thursday, many fans will be reintroduced to Caracter. He will take the court for 12th-seeded Texas-El Paso in the first round of the N.C.A.A. tournament against fifth-seeded Butler as a 21-year-old junior whose teenage innocence is long gone. In between, Caracter emerged as one of the most fascinating and frustrating personalities to come through the American basketball system. He attended three high schools and flamed out at Louisville. The hype surrounding Caracter was so great that a man said to be linked to a player agent dated Caracter’s aunt and lived in the same house with Caracter. Along his jagged path, Caracter was overweight and academically underwhelming, and he transformed from a can’t-miss preps-to-pros prospect to being labeled a washout at age 20. 'If I could do it all over again? Maybe pray that David Stern didn’t change the rule about high school kids entering the draft,' said Caracter, referring to the N.B.A. commissioner. 'Some guys just aren’t built for college.' "