First Cup: Tuesday

  • Ian O'Connor of ESPNNewYork.com: "Mike D'Antoni was going to improve the product, at least that was the plan. He was going to entertain the fans with his helter-skelter approach, make the Knicks watchable and credible until they signed some real talent in the summer of the city's wildest hoop dreams. Donnie Walsh said so when he hired him. At the introductory news conference, Walsh maintained D'Antoni was the guy 'to get our team playing the right way,' a prerequisite to seducing free agents who otherwise might be turned off by a franchise showing an alarming lack of hustle and heart on the floor. And guess what? Two seasons later, D'Antoni has managed the next-to-impossible: He's done nothing to better a job battered beyond recognition by his predecessors, Isiah Thomas and Larry Brown. ... To say D'Antoni's been a D'Isappointment is to say his employer would kind of like to sign LeBron James. When the Knicks were busy tanking these last two seasons in perfect Andre Agassi form, the focus remained on the players, and the fact they've been underskilled and overpaid. But with a $24 million contract, D'Antoni has been his own spectacular bust, and one that could cost the Knicks in the very free-agent derby that inspired them to tank these two seasons in the first place."

  • Greg Jayne of The Columbian: "During his four NBA seasons, Brandon Roy has missed 54 games. And yet he is ... ouch, pulled a muscle reaching for my wallet ... the Blazers’ $82 million man. That’s not a criticism; Portland was wise to sign Roy to a five-year max deal prior to this season. But it is an acknowledgement that the club is now forced to weigh short-term benefits against long-term goals. What’s the best-case scenario if a diminished Roy plays in the postseason? Portland maybe pulls off an upset in the first round, builds some momentum, and pulls off a shocker in the second round to reach the conference finals. That might be worth the risk of having Roy play. But if it happens, better beware of flying pigs. The worst-case scenario if Roy plays is that the knee incurs more wear and tear, the kind that turns it into a chronic condition that hampers him throughout the remainder of his career. If this happens and the Blazers still lose in the first round, then the risk was not worth it. I’m not saying what they should decide one way or another. Just pointing out the questions the front office and the coaching staff and Roy must weigh in deciding whether he’s going to play."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "The Magic were sizzling, and it was no wonder that several of them were good-naturedly coaching a contestant on his form during a promotional shooting contest. 'We wanted to get off to a really good start. I thought the first six minutes of the third quarter was the best defensive effort of the season,' said Van Gundy, whose team held the Pacers to 40.9 percent shooting. 'I was a little worried in the locker room before the game. We seemed tired [after playing Sunday] ? But we've got some real professional guys.' They are surging, 32-8 since posting a 26-15 record midway through the season. And now the Magic have a date locked up with the Bobcats, the first stop on a journey to return to the Finals. First Jordan. Then perhaps LeBron. And then maybe Kobe, in a gauntlet to the gold trophy."

  • Tom Enlund of the Journal Sentinel: "They say that the road to the upper reaches of the National Basketball Association is littered with hardship and heartache. The Atlanta Hawks, who played the Milwaukee Bucks Monday night at the Bradley Center and might be the Bucks' first-round playoff opponent, have been down that road over the past two years and think they are a better team this season because of it. It's a trail that the younger members of the Bucks will travel for the first time this season. And there will be lessons, some painful, to be learned. In 2008, the Hawks broke an eight-year playoff draught by making the playoffs as the eighth-seeded team in the East and took the top-seeded and eventual champion Boston Celtics to seven games before being eliminated in the first round. Last season, the Hawks again qualified for the playoffs and had some success as they defeated Miami in seven games in the first round before being swept out by Cleveland. The Hawks, with playoff experience, are looking for bigger and better things this time around. '(Losing to Boston in 2008) put us right in the position where we are today,' Hawks coach Mike Woodson said prior to Monday's game. 'When we lost Game 7, after learning how to play playoff basketball, it left a sick feeling in all of our stomachs that summer because we knew that we pushed the best team in basketball to the max, but we just couldn't get it done. Then, coming back into last season, these guys were hungry. Once you taste it, you don't want to go the other way. (Since then) we've been playing basketball looking ahead and that's how you build your team.' "

  • Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Wednesday marks the three-year anniversary of the Jazz's 28-point home loss to Phoenix, after which the late Larry H. Miller ripped his team with a terse, two-word commentary ('We suck'), but I would not recommend that they repeat that performance against the Suns on a night when the organization is honoring Miller. That 2007 team recovered, eventually reaching the Western Conference finals. The Jazz's performance defied the theory of needing to play well, going into the playoffs. Yet that turn of events has to be considered an aberration. Instead, last spring's negative results illustrate the truth that when the postseason arrives, it really helps to be rolling, not sucking. So while the rest of us maniacally study the scenarios, projections and possibilities for the Jazz in the playoffs and monitor every Western Conference game affecting his team, Jerry Sloan ignores all of it. 'I don't need that aggravation,' he said, recognizing that he's paid $5.5 million annually to coach the Jazz -- and nobody else."

  • Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News: "Q: Will Brendan Haywood get his mind right and play like he did when Erick Dampier was out? A: I don't know if it's about getting his mind right, but I was watching the other night and thinking how little they get out of Brendan Haywood other than the threat of blocked shots. Depending on the matchup, they're a better team with Eddie Najera running around and hustling than they were with their 7-foot centers."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Some fans have said the Pacers should draft Butler star forward Gordon Hayward if he decides to forgo his final two years of school to enter the draft. That's a nice thought and all, but I don't think that's a good idea. Don't get me wrong, Hayward is a good player and he'll likely be a first-round pick if he enters the draft, but he's not what the Pacers need at the moment. Hayward averaged 16 points, shot about 40 percent, including 29 percent on 3-pointers during Butler's run to the NCAA title game. Here's a disturbing stat. Hayward only had six assists and he turned the ball over 13 times during the tourney. Drafting Hayward at No. 10 (where the Pacers will likely pick) would be more of a PR move than one based off talent. He's a local kid and he'll help fill up the seats at Conseco. Here's a better idea about putting butts back in the seats: win games. I'd take any of the Pacers current wings -- Danny Granger, Brandon Rush and Mike Dunleavy -- over Hayward. I don't think a Granger-Hayward combination on the wing would intimidate many teams."

  • Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press: "Ben Gordon always has been one of the streakiest shooters in the league. In Chicago, the Bulls understood that if he started a game 1-for-10, he might finish it 12-for-25. He knew he would get chances. Now? Well ... listen to Gordon: 'As far as confidence-wise and my psyche, I can still make the same shots I've always made. I will say this, though -- as a player, you need repetition. If you don't have repetition doing something, it doesn't mean you can't do it. It may just mean you need more repetition, whether it be in practice, or whether it be in a game, so when it's live action, it's all muscle memory. If you're not getting reps at it, in practice and in games, it's a little different. It is.' It is. But I believe it will be the same again for Ben Gordon. He has been too good for too long. I think that next year, one of the streakiest players in the NBA will get hot again."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "They should be ashamed. Instead, they celebrated. That was a farce, an insult to the game. The Kings loved it. Tyreke Evans is a wonderful talent. He has my rookie of the year vote. The statistical achievement he secured on Monday is remarkable and will not be his last. The Kings, however, made the game about a statistic. Evans needed 24 points to guarantee that he would finish the season as just the fourth rookie -- joining Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James -- to average 20 points, five rebounds and five assists. When he got to 22 points, everything was about that goal. He kept driving to impossible shots, missing one after another. With Kings fans on their feet and the volume on the beat cranked up, he ended the first half missing three straight as the Rockets cut the lead to five. ... 'I didn't even know what was going on,' Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. 'Finally, they put the 20, 5, 5 up there (on the scoreboard.) I'm more than happy to let him take that. We'll take the win and go home.' ... Evans probably would have secured the achievement whether he was permitted to chase it or not. With a player that talented and that crucial to a franchise's future, the game should have been about winning the game and nothing else. Instead, the Kings demonstrated that individual achievement sometimes matters more than winning. Naturally then, the Kings lost the game and maybe more. In a season going nowhere, the Rockets won a game and self-respect."

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: "The crowd was ready for Tyreke Evans to make history early. Signs throughout Arco referenced the 24 points he needed. As his point total crept closer to 24, the crowd became louder. Evans had 22 points at halftime. But for a stretch that started late in the second quarter, Evans missed eight consecutive shots as layups he normally makes rolled off the rim. 'That was a bad time,' Evans said. 'I probably missed 10 layups tonight that I usually make.' In all, Evans made 8 of 23 shots from the field. But he missed just two of his 10 free throws."

  • Mike Baldwin of The Oklahoman: "Kevin Durant’s lead is so huge over LeBron James, a career-high effort by James probably wouldn’t even be enough to overtake Durant for the NBA scoring title. Durant scored 30 points against Portland on Monday night to keep his average at 30.1 points per game. With one game left Wednesday at Atlanta, James is averaging 29.7. Since Oklahoma City is assured of finishing as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, Thunder coach Scott Brooks might sit Durant and other starters Wednesday against Memphis at the Ford Center since the game has no impact on playoff seeding. If Durant doesn’t play, James would have to score 63 points to win the scoring title."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "Last season Carmelo Anthony was nailed with 15 technical fouls, flirting with the magical 16th -- annually Rasheed Wallace territory -- which would have drawn a mandatory one-game suspension. This season he’s got just 13 after the two against San Antonio that resulted in an ejection. 'It’s just a once in a while thing,' Anthony said of the ejection. 'It happened. I couldn’t take no more. It was just too much going on out there.' Having seen the entire season, you wonder how he hasn’t had more dust-ups that draw technical fouls. But as his seventh season comes to a close it’s another indicator of a player who has matured even beyond what maybe could be asked of him. Still, he was queried on what he could do to ensure a double technical ejection doesn’t happen again. Anthony’s reply? 'It won’t.' "

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "The Kings didn't need to do this. That's what I don't understand. They really didn't need to do this. Why pick up the third year of Paul Westphal's contract during the final days of his first season? The timing makes no sense for a number of reasons, including the most important ones: Westphal was already guaranteed to return as Kings coach next year, and in terms of his job performance, evaluating him on one season would be unfair and absurdly premature. But by the middle of next season? By the end of next season? That makes sense. ... 'In our gut, it feels right,' Kings co-owner Joe Maloof said Monday afternoon. ... Westphal approached and offered to work for the NBA equivalent of peanuts: $1.5 million this season, $1.5 million in 2010-11 and $2 million in 2011-12 – assuming the Kings picked up his option and the players/league officials reached a labor accord and avert another lockout. But they still didn't need to do this. Give it a year. Wait until the All-Star break. Then talk money. Then talk additional years if they love the guy so much. A shotgun wedding wasn't necessary."

  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: "Stephen Curry does have elements that suggest he's Mr. Perfect. He comes from money -- his dad is former NBA player Dell Curry -- and now he makes millions of his own. Stephen has boyishly handsome looks and a girlfriend who's a budding actress. He had a storybook college career, and his following has increased in the NBA, where he landed in a up-tempo system perfect for his game. His small-college background and lack of extraordinary athleticism also have given him the benefit of being viewed as a bit of an underdog. But those who know Curry beyond his public persona see a regular dude. He plays video games for hours. He chauffeurs less heralded teammates to and from practice. He wears Levi's. He smiles and accepts his rookie hazing in fun. ... Perhaps it makes sense that Curry turned out this way. Dell Curry played 16 seasons in the NBA, so Stephen Curry's childhood didn't include the deprivation and hardship common among NBA players. He hasn't been hardened. He isn't jaded. His mom, Sonya, made sure the spoils didn't go to the heads of any of her three children heads. Well-versed in the NBA lifestyle, she did all she could to lay the foundation. 'My wife did most of it,' Dell Curry said."