First Cup: Wednesday

  • Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post: "If Magic Johnson turns out to be right, Tuesday night, May 18, 2010, will have been an enormous night for the Washington Wizards. This isn't like the Washington Redskins making noise in the offseason. One player in basketball makes that big a difference, both on the court and in energizing the fan base. And goodness knows the Wizards needed something good to happen to them. Something, anything. If ever it was going to happen, how appropriate on the draft lottery after the death of Abe Pollin? How gracious of Ted Leonsis to wait in the wings while Irene Pollin, wearing her late husband's 1978 Bullets NBA championship ring, officially represented the club. Maybe it's Leonsis, with two overall No. 1 picks to his credit -- one in the NHL, one in the NBA -- who's going to change the luck of the franchise. No matter, winning the lottery and the right to draft John Wall isn't a nice thing for the Wizards, it's an enormous thing. The way you go from awful to great in the NBA, with few exceptions, is to win the lottery."

  • Kate Fagan of The Philadelphia Inquirer: Luck was on the 76ers' side Tuesday night in Secaucus, N.J. Despite having just a 6 percent chance of landing the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft, the Sixers overcame the odds with a helpful bounce from some ping-pong balls and are now slated to select second overall. They had entered the draft lottery with the odds pointing toward securing the sixth or seventh overall selection. ... Team officials have said that their biggest need would be at shooting guard, a position Evan Turner could fill. ... 'We're ecstatic and this is the break we've been looking for,' said Peter Luukko, chief operating officer of Comcast-Spectacor, the team's parent company. 'You have guarded optimism going into these things, and to get this break, it's the beginning of a new start. We can't wait until the draft.' ... 'We hope our fans are as excited by the outcome of tonight's draft lottery as we are,' Ed Stefanski, the team's president and general manager. 'We are fortunate that the ping-pong balls bounced our way tonight.' Luukko said this turn of fortune would not affect the decision regarding the team's coaching vacancy, created when Stefanski fired Eddie Jordan on April 15."

  • Michael J. Fensom of The Star-Ledger: "Once the NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver revealed the Nets would select third, those gathered at NBA Entertainment studios in Secaucus let out a collective gasp. The presence of new owner Mikhail Prokhorov on the dais couldn’t sway the fortunes of a team yearning for a lucky break. For much of the proceedings, Prokhorov, sat coolly behind the podium bearing the Nets logo. Tuesday night marked his introduction to the NBA community, and in many ways he was the rookie fawned over most on the evening. His cheeky grin belied any nerves he may have had, and when the Wizards took the No. 1 spot, he graciously congratulated their majority owner, Irene Pollin. The Nets, who had coveted former Kentucky point guard John Wall -- like just about every one of the 14 other teams represented at the lottery -- might now have to resort to Plan C. ... Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins, former forwards at Georgia Tech and Kentucky, respectively, are widely considered to be the Nos. 3 and 4 prospects in the draft. But, in workouts, that duo will have to demonstrate to the Nets that they can play harmoniously alongside incumbent center Brook Lopez in order to merit selection."

  • Al Iannazzone of The Record: "Consider it another setback for a team that lost 70 games this season, but this one could prove devastating to the off-season rebuilding project. The Nets owned the worst record and the best odds – 25 percent -- to win Tuesday night’s NBA draft lottery and the chance to take Wall. Instead the Nets dropped to No. 3, which means they more than likely will get Georgia Tech freshman power forward Derrick Favors or Kentucky freshman big man DeMarcus Cousins. Now the Nets will have to work harder to build the kind of championship-caliber team Prokhorov expects them to become in quick fashion. 'Sometimes luck makes all the difference, but it never comes down to one player,' Prokhorov said. 'I’m sure we’re going to get a great player. For our team, the only way is up.' "

  • Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune: "Whatever their destination, the Wolves need to move. It's obvious now that the combination of curses plaguing them are the result of building Target Center on an Indian burial ground. Not just any Indian burial ground. An Indian burial ground housing the remains of people who died from tripping over black cats, falling under ladders and landing on broken mirrors. For those who don't believe in curses, I submit to you the eternal mysteries of the Chicago Cubs, the city of Cleveland and your Minnesota Timberwolves. Tuesday night, at the NBA draft lottery in Secaucus, N.J., David Kahn must have fully and finally appreciated what it means to run this woeful, woebegone franchise. Kahn, the Wolves' president of basketball operations, watched the Wolves land the fourth pick in the draft after finishing with the second-worst record in the NBA. All that painstaking losing and not playing defense and shooting like a drunken paintball team yielded the fourth pick in a draft that promises one star and one standout. This is the Curse of the Wolves: Only their luck is worse than their decision-making."

  • Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press: "Someday when the Timberwolves win the NBA championship, having just defeated a team from one of the outer rings of Saturn, everyone can look back and laugh at this whole lottery business. Meanwhile, on Tuesday night David Kahn joined a distinguished group of former Timberwolves coaches, big-shot executives, owners and players when he became the latest team representative to sit there on national television wearing that befuddled, what-just-happened look. As always, when the draft contains a finite number of sure things, the Wolves' position in the draft will turn out to be "finite number plus one." In this year's draft, John Wall, Evan Turner and DeMarcus Cousins will go one, two, three. The Wolves, thanks to the results of Tuesday night's NBA lottery, will pick No. 4. Based on their abysmal record, they should have picked No. 2."

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "The pingpong balls were unkind to the Kings again Tuesday night. Or were they? As much as anything, last year's NBA draft was a remedial course on the inexact science known as the annual player selection process. The top two rookies proved to be No. 4 pick Tyreke Evans and No. 7 Stephen Curry, leaving several of the league's personnel geniuses -- and meddling Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley -- looking pretty foolish. Hasheem Thabeet? Seriously? Over Evans, Curry, Brandon Jennings and the underappreciated Jrue Holiday? You almost feel sorry for all those highly compensated personnel executives. Who can predict the exact day your teenage son throws away the zit cream anyway? 'It's like a momentum change,' a thoughtful, typically upbeat coach Paul Westphal suggested after the Kings finished fifth in the NBA draft lottery. 'You can look back and say, 'That's when the momentum changed.' But you can't tell when it changes in advance. Same thing with young players. You can't tell how long they're going to keep improving.' "

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: "The 2010 NBA draft lottery mimicked the Warriors' luck. A month ago, they won a coin flip with Washington for one extra shot at the top pick. On Tuesday, Washington leapfrogged the Warriors and three other teams for the No. 1 selection. The Warriors slipped two spots to No. 6 - the second-worst position possible per their record. They have now stayed put or fallen in 13 consecutive trips to the lottery, failing to move up since jumping to the top spot in 1995. 'Everything was going according to plan,' Warriors general manager Larry Riley said. 'When No. 7 came up the way it was supposed to, I was sitting there saying, 'Just don't let us be No. 6. But there it was.' "

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "It was an act of philanthropic grace rarely seen in professional sports. The Celtics reached out a hand to Bruins fans who may be lost these days without a team to support in the playoffs. They delivered crunching hits and accepted them from the Orlando Magic while still making the play. They defended their goal and stood their ground. Put it this way: If the Bruins played hockey as well as the Celtics did last night, they’d still be playing. ... It is supposed to be played like this in the postseason. Fifty-four fouls that were called and 54 more that were missed. 'It was a great game intensity-wise,' coach Doc Rivers said. 'It was a game of runs, very physical. They got the better of us in that, I thought. They brought the fight to us in a lot of ways. I thought we withstood the hits, and that’s something you’ve got to keep doing.' "

  • Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe: "The Celtics are now up a surprising two games to none in this Eastern Conference finals, for many reasons, the first being truly committed team defense. But high on the list of reasons has been the play of captain Paul Pierce, who scored 22 points in the opening game and added those 28 more as the Celtics beat the Magic, 95-92, last night. 'He’s got his game back,’ said Doc Rivers. 'I told you guys coming into this series that for us to do any damage, Paul would have to be big for us. During the Cleveland series he lost his rhythm. But [guarding] LeBron [James] had something to do with that.’ Pierce took charge of the early offense all by himself, and that’s no hyperbole. He nailed a patented 12-foot turnaround 16 seconds into the game, and he went on to score the team’s first 9 points as the Celtics established themselves immediately in a game during which they would lead for 45 minutes 26 seconds of the 48, and in which they would trail once, for 41 seconds, in the final 22 minutes."

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "Go ahead and have at it. Go ahead and try to bisect, dissect and trisect why the Orlando Magic are down 0-2 and on life-support following Tuesday's 95-92 loss to the Boston Celtics. But I can save you a lot of time and trouble because the reason is really quite simple: The Magic have run head-on into themselves -- a better, more determined, more poised, more experienced version of themselves. We are talking, of course, about the Celtics, who have now all but destroyed the Magic's chances of winning the Eastern Conference finals and ultimately winning a championship. ... Sadly, the way the Magic are playing, this might go down as the last game in the history of the 21-year-old Am What a shame that would be. It would be sort of like the last song the Beatles ever played as a band being 'Octopus's Garden.' Granted, Amway Arena doesn't have the history and tradition of the old Boston Garden, but it still deserves a better goodbye than this. No, this series isn't over, but the Magic now find themselves in a deep, dank, dark hole with the Celtics shoveling dirt on top of their heads. How deep, dark and dank is the hole? Well, let me put it to you this way: The Celtics are 32-0 all-time when going up 2-0 in a best-of-seven series."

  • Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel: "The Boston Celtics treat foul shots like commodities. Each of them have six and they figure they might as well use them. 'We have a group of guys that take the mentality that we can't take our fouls when we go home,' Celtics guard Ray Allen said. 'You can't let any easy layups come down the lane. Send them to the free throw line. We did that all game.' Throughout Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, Boston committed 29 fouls, more than half of those on Magic center Dwight Howard. As a Howard stopper, it didn't work. He still played 40 minutes, scored 30 points and made 12 of 17 free throws. As a game changer, that physical play might have worked. The Celtics won Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, 95-92, despite losing two players to fouls and will return to Boston with a 2-0 series lead."

  • Paola Boivin of The Arizona Republic: "Amar'e Stoudemire rarely cracks open the door to his psyche. It is a defense mechanism borne out of a difficult childhood. It was obvious Tuesday, however, the Los Angeles Lakers got to him. 'I'm not giving him no hype,' Stoudemire said Tuesday about Lamar Odom's 19 points and 19 rebounds in Game 1. 'He had a lucky game.' Dismissing the competition is never a good thing. Nor is revealing too much in this Internet-driven age. Just ask Darnell Dockett. Odom wouldn't bite. He deflected the question several times before he said, 'Hopefully, I'll have another one.' Touche. The most-interesting subplot of Game 2 at Staples Center will be how these two athletes respond to a not-so-sleepy off-day of news. The old Stoudemire used to be prone to the occasional bout of bravado, but he has been much more careful of late, remaining upbeat during difficult contract questions and taking on more of a leadership role with the team. Sometimes the past has a way of creeping back in, however, and one can't help but wonder if Stoudemire is distracted by his mother's arrest Saturday for driving without a breath alcohol ignition-interlock device."

  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: "Coach Phil Jackson expects the Phoenix Suns to attempt to double-team Kobe Bryant quicker in tonight's Game 2 of the Western Conference finals. Jackson watched the Suns do the same thing against Portland's Brandon Roy in the first round. It would be one way to thwart Bryant, who scored 40 points during the Lakers' lopsided victory in Game 1. 'I anticipate they'll be a little quicker to Kobe to try to get the ball out of his hands,' Jackson said Tuesday. 'We do know how to (combat) that. Hopefully, we can handle that situation, that duress. It depends how quickly we move the ball.' In fact, the Denver Nuggets tried a similar strategy during the Western Conference finals last spring. They double-teamed Bryant in Game 5, but Bryant merely waited for the second man to arrive before passing to open teammates."

  • Jeff Miller of The Orange County Register: "Part of the problem here is the opponent. Does anyone really hate the Phoenix Suns? And why, exactly? They’ve never won anything. They play in a desert oasis. They dress in pastels, for crying out loud. Long-time nemesis Boston is represented by that grating leprechaun. Phoenix has a fuzzy gorilla that dances. Sure, the Suns eliminated the Lakers recently in consecutive playoff years. But those Lakers had Kwame Brown at center. How far were they really going? Just look at this Phoenix roster today: Stoudemire? His opposition was so suspect Monday that Odom routinely drove around him and Gasol simply went over him. Steve Nash? He’s Canadian. Who hates Canada, the junior varsity of America? Grant Hill? An overwhelmingly good guy from squeaky clean Duke. Jason Richardson? The poor dude’s from Saginaw, Mich. Hasn’t he been through enough already? Robin Lopez? Looks too much like Sideshow Bob from 'The Simpsons' to be seriously disliked. Leandro Barbosa? When he makes a contribution at home games, they play that 'Beep, beep' sound from the roadrunner cartoons. mundson? Wears a pigtail. Channing Frye? He stands on the perimeter and lobs 3-pointers…and his name is Channing. How threatening can a man be when he’s named Channing? Goran Dragic? Jared Dudley? They play hard, and that’s about it. Can’t despise someone just for that."