First Cup: Thursday

  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: "Why not add some drama to Kevin Love's double-double odyssey? Twenty minutes before tipoff of the Timberwolves' game against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night at Target Center, Love finally decided to see how much his bruised left knee could handle. Love woke up Wednesday morning in discomfort and spent the entire day thinking there was no way he would be able to play. He even had a conversation with reserve forward Anthony Tolliver to prepare him for an assignment change. 'I told A.T. to be ready tonight,' Love said. 'He told me, 'I'm always ready.' I said, 'Be ready to start.' ' Tolliver's role off the bench didn't change, and Love didn't let down his team or the crowd of 15,153 that gathered in Target Center hoping to see a semblance of NBA history. Shaking off stiffness in his knee, Love solidified his place among some of the NBA's legendary big men with 6:51 left in the second quarter, sinking a free throw to give him 10 points and 11 rebounds and his 52nd consecutive double-double (points-rebounds) during the Wolves' 101-75 victory."

  • Herb Gould of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Michael Jordan endorsed Derrick Rose as the NBA’s best player after seeing the new Bulls star shred MJ’s Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night. '‘He’s the MVP for the season,’ said Jordan, a five-time MVP. ‘He deserves it. He’s playing that well. And if he doesn’t get it, you’ll see how I felt a lot of years.’ While appreciative, Rose said there’s a lot of work to be done. 'I wish, man,’ said Rose, who had 20 points and six assists. ‘It’s a great that he said that. It’s an honor. We’re just trying to keep winning. The award will come if we keep winning. We’re trying to play hard and play together. We just have to keep playing aggressive, and play with an edge.’ Jordan playfully joked that he wasn’t planning to attend Saturday’s 20th anniversary of the Bulls’ first NBA title. ‘I’m not gonna be there,’ he said, but was unable to hold his deadpan look. ‘No, I’ll be there, I’m looking forward it.’ "

  • Brendan Prunty of The Star-Ledger: "The greatest basketball coach in NBA history was at the Garden today for the Big East Tournament, and Pat Riley’s head is in the game -- the college game, that is -- which is a good way to avoid thinking about the problems that have befallen the wounded beast he isnurturing in Miami. ... So what’s wrong with your guys?: 'Hey, look, tough times are good times for me. But don’t make me go there today. You know what’s going to happen if I do that? In New York, if I didn’t create a crisis with the Knicks, the crisis was created for us. In Miami, it needs me to help it along just by opening my mouth.' Did you look online this morning? There was yet another headline about Erik Spoelstra’s job security. 'Write it off. Write it off. It’s the media being neurotic. It’s their need to make a story, create a story, and make that story come true. And that ain’t going to happen. Write it off. We’re just in a tough time right now, we’ll get through it.' "

  • Jeff Miller of The Orange County Register: "Easily our favorite observation concerning the very public struggles of the Miami Heat came this week from Stan Van Gundy. 'My suggestion would be if you don’t want the scrutiny, you don’t hold a championship celebration before you’ve even practiced together,' the Orlando coach said, referring to the surreal, lavish unveiling of Miami’s three-diva act last summer. With the Lakers about to face the Heat, now is the perfect time to recall another Van Gundy comment about Miami. And when we say another Van Gundy, we mean the other Van Gundy, Jeff, a former coach who is paid by ESPN to provide expert analysis. 'They will break the single-season win record (of 72),' Jeff Van Gundy predicted before the season. 'And I think they have a legit shot at the Lakers’ 33-game streak, as well. And only the Lakers have even a remote shot at beating them in a playoff series.' Van Gundy also called the Heat 'indefensible' and 'unguardable' and said the team wouldn’t lose two games in a row all season. The Heat enter this matchup with the Lakers having lost five consecutive."

  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: "Once again, the Thunder played much better defense late than early. And once again, no one on the team seems to know why. Better late than early, or not at all. Also once again, OKC won in overtime. The Thunder overcame a five-point deficit in the final 36.9 seconds of regulation and went on to post a 110-105 overtime victory over the surging Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday. It was the second overtime victory this week for the Thunder, which is now 7-1 on the season in OT."

  • Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times: "Last week’s loss to Cleveland was decided when he was called for a charging foul. In the final seconds of Wednesday’s game against the Grizzlies, he missed a jumper and then committed a costly foul that allowed Memphis to tie the game with 14 seconds remaining. Anthony had a chance for redemption and he knew before the ball went through the bottom of the net that he had delivered his first game-winning shot as a Knick. Anthony squared, spotted up, shot and scored over Tony Allen on the baseline with half a second left to lift the Knicks to a 110-108 victory and excused them from answering questions about how they had squandered a 17-point lead. 'It was just one of them shots that you know is going to go in,' said Anthony, who scored 31 points."

  • Martin Frank of The News-Journal: "The difference between the 76ers and the Oklahoma City Thunder is that the Thunder have Kevin Durant and the Sixers don't. There was just no way to stop the 6-foot-9 small forward from extending his long arms and rising for a shot, like the game-tying 3-pointer he hit with 6.2 seconds left in regulation. Durant, the NBA's leading scorer, had 34 points and 16 rebounds. He scored five straight points in the final 36.7 seconds, when Oklahoma City overcame a five-point deficit to force overtime. The Sixers had nothing left in overtime in their 110-105 loss Wednesday. But if the Thunder are considered among the elite teams in the NBA, the Sixers (33-31) showed they are not that far behind, losing for just the second time in nine games. In fact, Sixers coach Doug Collins said he wants his team to be just like the Thunder."

  • Tom Moore of phillyBurbs.com: "Not surprisingly, Maurice Cheeks didn't get too excited when he learned he had again been named one of 12 finalists for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, marking the first time since 2005 that he's gotten this far. 'You know what?' Cheeks said. 'I'm just happy to be a finalist. Whatever happens after that is gravy.' ... Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks, who was Cheeks' backup in Philly as a rookie in Cheeks' final season here (1988-89), believes Cheeks belongs in the Hall. 'He's one of the best point guards ever to play the game,' Cheeks said. 'He should be in the Hall of Fame. Hopefully, he will one day.' Then Brooks, the NBA Coach of the Year last season, told the story of getting a measure of revenge on Cheeks, then an 11-year veteran, for having to carry Cheeks' uniform around on road trips as a rookie in 1988-89. 'Little does he know -- he knows now -- but the last game I took the uniform and I kept it,' Brooks said. 'I still have it. Ten years later, I had him sign it. Back then, if you wanted your uniform, you had to pay for it. So he doesn't even know he got deducted whatever it was -- $175 -- from his check."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "I get a kick out of fans who are suddenly trying to blame Frank Vogel for what has happened to the Pacers. Of course these are the same fans who were praising Vogel for turning the Pacers around. It’s not Vogel’s fault the Pacers have dropped five in the row. It’s not Larry Bird’s fault, either. It’s not because of the change in the rotation. This is all on the players. All 100 percent of it. The towel is inches away from hitting the ground on the Pacers calling it quits on their season. It’s truly amazing that they’ve still got a grip on the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. The best fight the Pacers have shown lately was inside the locker room after Houston blew them out last weekend. You might want join in the nationwide hunt for Danny Granger’s game. It has vanished. Granger spent the night throwing up bricks against the Timberwolves. He was 2-of-19 from the field, including 0-of-9 on 3-pointers. Granger’s problem goes beyond just having a bad night shooting. He seriously looks like he’s just going through motion these days. And you wonder why people question the lack of leadership on the Pacers."

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "Add another twist to the saga that has been this Pistons season. After getting five straight DNPs-coach’s decisions, Tracy McGrady was back in the starting lineup against the Spurs in Wednesday night’s 111-104 loss. His start came at the expense of Rodney Stuckey, who was relegated to bench duty. McGrady played well in getting 15 points, nine assists and seven rebounds as the Pistons fell to 23-42. That’s not all that surprising considering he has played well this season, although the inactivity came after the shoot-around in Philadelphia that seven players -- including McGrady -- missed. What’s surprising is he replaced Stuckey, who was averaging 20.8 points, eight assists and six rebounds over the last four games. ... 'I came off the bench tonight,' Stuckey said. 'That was my role tonight.' When asked for specifics about the decision, he kept referring to the team’s loss. 'Like I said, we lost tonight so we’ll see if we can get a win on Friday,' Stuckey said of Friday night’s game at Oklahoma City."

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "Brandon Roy is borderline giddy. His knees are not swelling. His body feels great. And above all, he has moved out of the dark place he was in for much of January, when he fretted that his season, and his career, could be ending. During that dark time, he dwelled on certain numbers: The $82 million contract he had just signed. The fact that he was 26 and facing the end of his career. Now, he is fixated on a different number: 16. As in April 16 –the start of the NBA playoffs. 'Personally, I'm happy playing basketball again,' said Roy, who missed 30 games from Dec. 16 through Feb. 23. 'I'm not at a disadvantage. Physically, I felt like I was at a disadvantage. I couldn't attack because I was hurt. But now, I'm starting to build and build. And knowing that I can be even stronger come April 16 from where I'm at now ... I think we can be pretty good.' He is cautious to say he will ever return to his All-Star form. He has heard too many doctors explain the bone-on-bone condition of his knees to think he will return to the slashing, explosive, game-changing player he was in his first five seasons. But he has embraced the notion of changing his game --'adapting' he calls it -- which includes a different role (off the bench), a different style (more jump shots, less drives) and a different approach (fewer, if any, practices)."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "Three different front offices, two bouts with cancer and one Melodrama later, there stood George Karl at Wednesday's practice, still coaching the Nuggets after all these years -- and looking forward to at least three more years on the sideline. Fresh off his three-year contract extension, with options that could extend it to a six-year deal, Karl seemed as excited as he has been in years. 'There's an exuberance to what I'm feeling right now, more so -- because of the circumstances that went on last year -- than I've ever been since I've been here in Denver,' he said. 'I still think I have tremendous passion to get this game played the right way.' After practice, Karl lounged in his courtside chair, Ty Lawson joining him alongside. The image was fitting -- the coach, fresh off the extension, talking shop with his point guard of the future."

  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: "It was a routine shootaround for the Spurs before their game Wednesday against Detroit with one noticeable exception. Assembled media members were treated to a brief glimpse of 7-foot power forward Ryan Richards from England, who was drafted in the second round by the team in the 2010 draft and still has not signed with the team. Richards will turn 20 in April and is considered as a potential building block for the Spurs in the post-Tim Duncan era. The team’s original plan was to have him play in Europe again this season after playing last season with CB Gran Canaria of the European Liga ACB. Richards split last season between Gran Canaria and the Swiss team BBC Monthey. His stint included six games before dislocating his shoulder in February, prematurely ending his season. ... His work at Wednesday’s practice was his most extensive work in the limited practice time that media members are able to witness. Richards showed a feathery left-handed jump shot from the right elbow and an array of post moves as he worked with Spur coaches at a basket by himself. But he is still considered a raw prospect because of his lack of extensive game action. Richards has been seen around the team at several points this season, but there is no word whether he is expected to sign with the team until after the season."

  • Fred Kerber of the New York Post: "In the past month, six NBA players have been felled by concussions or concussion-like symptoms. Two of them are Nets. Both Anthony Morrow and Damion James suffered their injuries during the team's trip to London for two games last weekend. Morrow is back and was in the starting lineup last night but James, the rookie, is expected to miss at least three games with what has been termed a 'Grade 1 concussion,' Johnson said. James is expected to be out another week. Because of the recent rash of injuries, the NBA is consulting with an independent neurologist and could institute a league policy for handling concussions next season. So the Nets are proceeding cautiously."