First Cup: Thursday

  • Kate Fagan of the The Philadelphia Inquirer: "I caught up with Elton Brand before tonight's game against the Los Angeles Clippers. Here's what he said about Jalen Rose's documentary comments, as well as his follow-up Tweet that 'I didn't say anything in the doc that I didn't say to the players FACE.' Elton on his reaction to Rose's comment: 'You know, I just know that it sounded kind of ignorant, but at that time he's 17 years old, that's how a lot of young adults are. I know people from where I was from felt the same way, you know? But I knew it wasn't true and guys using those words are kind of harsh: sellout or Uncle Tom. Just because their parents stay together or worked hard? That doesn't make sense.' Elton on whether Rose has actually expressed this belief to his 'FACE': 'It was a difference in cultures. Duke was a prestigious school and Michigan, well it's pretty academically sound itself, so, you know what I mean? But I think that was just the rivalry, he might have said that on the court to those guys and he definitely felt that way and if that's his opinion, then that's how he felt.' Have you felt that has been a battle for you your whole career: having a 'good rap' and how that might be viewed? 'I love it. I love it. I really wish I did grow up in an affluent background, I really wish I did. You know what I mean? It would have been easier on my mom, easier on my family. For any race or culture, that's nothing to look down upon.' "

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "But when it came to substance, well, the Thunder showed it had plenty, using it to survive the Heat, 96-85, before a nationally televised ESPN audience and a raucous sellout crowd of 20,083 inside American Airlines Arena. The Thunder seized what should go down as the season's signature win by digging in defensively and making Miami miserable all night on offense. It was the exact type of style the franchise is seeking to hang its hat on. Oklahoma City held Miami to 38.5 percent shooting from the field, highlighted by hampering James and Wade into a joint 40-point effort on 15 of 42 shooting. 'Our defense was as good as it could possibly play,' said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. ... 'It was an impressive win tonight,' Perkins said. 'We dug in deep. This was probably one of our better defensive games tonight just as a unit.' "

  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "OK, for those who are always complaining that writers from the city of the losing team always make excuses and never credit the opposing team, this one's for you (even though I don't buy that line... We cover the home team, so we're supposed to look for 'reasons' the team loses,but those are taken as 'excuses' for those who choose to see it that way). Anyway, here's the breakdown of that Heat loss to the Thunder: That was just great defense by Oklahoma City for pretty much the entire game. About the only time the Heat was able to do anything was late in the second quarter, and much of that was off terrific defense by Miami. The Heat tried the aggressive route, and the Thunder met players at the rim. The Heat tried shooting from outside, those weren't falling this night. The Heat tried to draw fouls, and most of the time those attempts were transparent and weren't rewarded. ... Those who want to rip into Mario Chalmers for his back-to-the-norm zero-point, three-turnover effort, feel free."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "There's something cool going on here. You can feel it at the morning shootaround, the relaxed vibe between Nuggets players and coaches, talking trash, but also talking shop. You can see it on the court, the ball zipping inside and outside, nobody trying to, as they say in the NBA, 'get mine.' You can hear it in the locker room, as after Wednesday's 102-87 win at Atlanta, when Denver's Kenyon Martin said, 'It's fun to play basketball the right way -- always has been, always will be. 'It just makes everyone want to play that much harder on the defensive end. On the bench, we're talking it out if there's a problem. We're just making adjustments on the fly. We're all staying together.' The Nuggets (41-27) are 9-2 since trading Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups. Yes, 9-2. One wonders if the Nuggets have become a basketball version of 'Moneyball,' in reference to the book about baseball's Oakland Athletics, who had little star power -- and little payroll -- but found ways to win big. The posttrade Nuggets are now about $3 million under the luxury tax line, and ask five people who the best Nugget is, and you'll get five different answers. Yet, asked if the team is better since the trade, forward Al Harrington said Wednesday: 'Yeah, we're definitely better. We're just so deep. We have 12 guys that can play any given night. That makes us dangerous.' "

  • Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News: "If the Nets continue their hot play they just may need to thank Carmelo Anthony. Why? Because by heading to New York, he prevented the Nets from shredding their entire roster for one player. At least that's what Nets coach Avery Johnson suggested Wednesday. 'Sometimes, the best trades are the ones you don't make,' the coach said. The Knicks have gone just 6-6 in the Anthony era, alternating rousing wins with embarrassing losses. The Nets, meanwhile, quietly acquired their own superstar in Deron Williams, and they've gone 5-3 since. They will ride a five-game winning streak into Thursday night's home game with the Chicago Bulls at The Rock, and at 22-43, they have an outside shot at a playoff spot. The trade that never happened has helped.'It's tough to start over,' Johnson said, speaking of large multiplayer trades in general."

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "James Dolan finally got the best of LeBron James and wanted to share in the euphoria by making a rare appearance in the Knicks' locker room. After all, his team had beaten the player who six months earlier had said no to the chairman of Madison Square Garden. So on a cold January night in Manhattan after the Knicks had outlasted LeBron and Dwyane Wade, Dolan couldn't hide his excitement. The door swung open, the boss walked straight to the back of the room, shook Amar'e Stoudemire's hand, turned and walked out. 'We were all like, 'That's a little strange,' ' said one Knick. 'He didn't say anything to the rest of us. He just looked at us and left.' Say this about Dolan: He understands that the NBA is a superstar league, and in his mind, he has two of them and personally played a major role in bringing Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony to New York. And that is a problem for Mike D'Antoni. ... Dolan has always wanted to be like his idol, Dallas owner Mark Cuban, and getting Anthony has been his signature moment. That's a tough spot for D'Antoni, who liked the pre-Melo Knicks with Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Raymond Felton. Not only did D'Antoni have Stoudemire playing at an MVP level, but his All-Star forward was buying into the program. Wednesday, D'Antoni reiterated that this is 'still a process,' and that the Knicks are still on pace to achieve their goal of making the playoffs for the first time since 2004. He seemed to be speaking directly to Dolan when he asked observers 'not to make more than what it is' in reference to their slow start with Anthony. It makes perfect sense. But try telling that to the boss."

  • Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle: "The good thing about the impending divorce between the Rockets and coach Rick Adelman is that it should be amicable. No name-calling, lawsuits or custody battles. The Rockets should be awarded sole custody of Hasheem Thabeet. Adelman won't even ask for visitation rights. This will be a no-fault split. No alimony, no hard feelings. This isn't The War of the Roses. This is a relationship that has run its course. There is an outside chance Adelman and the Rockets will stay together … for the kids' sake. But don't count on it. They are breaking up, so why won't they just get on with it? In a way, Adelman and the Rockets are like a couple headed toward the inevitable, but neither wants to be the first to say, 'Let's end this.' Adelman has always been honest. He says he plans to sit down with his wife, Mary Kay, at the end of the season and decide if he wants to continue to live the physically taxing lifestyle of an NBA coach. Fifteen hundred-plus games in 20 seasons as a coach might be enough for Adelman, 64. ... This has been a good relationship. It won't end like either side dreamed it would when they got together, but there aren't likely to be any hard feelings. The franchise and Adelman are simply in different places and want different things."

  • Rob Mahoney for The New York Times: "It’s now clear that Gerald Wallace was only the most basic of the Portland Trailblazers’ trade deadline acquisitions. Simply, Portland added a former All-Star who plays tenacious defense, a valuable player on a decent contract who could obviously elevate the level of play from his spot in the rotation. However, dig deeper and what the Blazers netted was a ridiculous level of lineup versatility. With so many capable players able to swing between positions, Nate McMillan now has a canvas to handle all the free-form painting he can muster. McMillan has never been considered part of basketball’s avant garde, but he’s not afraid of going small, going big, or going with whatever works, and that makes him a worthy coach to handle such a strange roster."

  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: "The Lakers are 5-1 this month and 10-1 since the All-Star break last month, key indicators in how they might fare when the playoffs begin next month. Not surprisingly, when they've had good records after the break, they've had long playoff runs. In 1999-2000, when they went 30-4 after the break, they went on to win the first of three consecutive NBA championships. When they had a post-break record of 23-7 in 2008-09, they used it as a springboard to the first of their back-to-back titles. 'Springtime in the Rockies,' Jackson joked about their fine play in March. 'We always talk about the fact that you've got to save some energy and have a build-up at the end of the season,' he continued. 'This team understands this is the time to push it and to get really ready for what remains of this season and the postseason. It's an opportunity for us that's remarkable, and we treasure it.' "

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "It's when players start complaining to the referees that Kurt Thomas knows he's not only smothering their bodies but messing with their head. 'I hear that all the time,' Thomas said. 'But opponents know that's what I do. They know I'm going to set a hard screen on them every time.' Thomas' screening ability might not be the most exciting topic in the world for a team chasing the Celtics for the Eastern Conference's top seed. But just watch the veteran big man one game. Savor the league's second-oldest player creating contact that is both brutal and beautiful. It's this fundamental play and attention to detail that creates offensive spacing and allows the Bulls to not miss a beat offensively when Thomas replaces the injured Carlos Boozer. 'Coaches love that about me because it's very important,' Thomas said. 'If you're a big fan of the NBA, you know that pick-and-roll is if not the No. 1 thing, it's right there with isolation. I've realized the importance of it and I feel just as good if someone comes off a screen and hits a shot as when I make a shot.' "

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Troy Murphy had a major decision to make while sitting at his home in New York last month. Go to South Beach with LeBron James and Co. or go to a team that is already championship tested? Experience won out for Murphy in his decision to sign with the Boston Celtics after being traded to Golden State and having his contract bought out by the Warriors last month. 'It's great,' Murphy said. 'There's no agendas, there's no egos. These guys don't care who shoots the ball or who scores. They're all about one thing -- winning. That's why it appealed to me to come here.' Murphy has gone from wondering if he would ever appear in the playoffs to joining a team that's fighting for the top spot in the Eastern Conference."

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Shawne Williams stood in a courtroom last summer after his latest drug-related transgression and begged for mercy. The judge required only that the gifted yet troubled Memphis native, who was a basketball standout for both Hamilton High and the University of Memphis, make changes. All that can be said today is Williams obviously got the message. Williams, who is expected to start at power forward for the New York Knicks when they host the Grizzlies, is paving a road of redemption that is filled with humility and determination. ... 'There's a lot of people I don't hear from. People that I don't want to see don't want to see me, either,' Williams said. 'I don't have people calling my number. People who have my number, that's who I want to talk to.' ... Williams worked out with the Charlotte Bobcats last summer and prepared to participate in their training camp before the Knicks showed interest. The rest is, well, just what the judge ordered. Everything went right for a guy who could do nothing but wrong. 'All that I've been through,' Williams says, 'that stuff is out of my mind. I'm just playing ball. I'm just proving myself off the court day-by-day, just staying under the radar.' "

  • Tony Bizjak and Dale Kasler of The Sacramento Bee: "It's still uncertain where Sacramento's basketball team will play next year, but one thing is clear: If they move to Anaheim, they'll no longer be Kings. A Sacramento attorney representing the Maloof family, owners of the Sacramento Kings, two weeks ago filed federal trademark registrations for the names 'Anaheim Royals' and 'Anaheim Royals of Southern California.' The lawyer also registered the names 'Orange County Royals' and 'Los Angeles Royals' on the same day. The filings, listed on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website, are dated March 3, days after the National Basketball Association granted the Sacramento Kings an extended six-week period to consider moving the team to Anaheim for the upcoming season."

  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: "Several Spurs, including Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, took in Tuesday’s concert at the AT&T Center by pop star Lady Gaga. Parker and Ginobili tweeted about the show. 'It was great,' Parker said. 'She’s a great performer. Yeah, I like her stuff.' Parker could not verify if Ginobili, who was suffering some laryngitis on Wednesday, was suffering because he had cheered too loudly at the concert. 'I don’t know if he was screaming,' Parker said, 'but he was moving his head. Half of the team (was there). It was good.' One Spur who did not take in the show: McDyess, at 36 the team’s oldest player. 'No, not me,' he said. 'I don’t even know one of her songs.' "

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Quick word about Bill Spooner's lawsuit. Whatever damage the comment involved might have done to Spooner's reputation, it is nothing compared to the damage caused by the lawsuit itself. Spooner sued an Associated Press writer because of a tweet charging that Spooner made a make-up call in a January game between the Rockets and Timberwolves. Spooner filed for damages of roughly $75,000 against reporter Jon Krawcynski and the Associated Press for a tweet he posted in the second quarter of the Rockets game Jan. 24 in Minneapolis. ... A few days ago, that was pretty much how he was known, good enough to have worked 71 playoff games including the conference finals. Now, he is either known as the guy who filed a lawsuit over a tweet or, to those that believed it, the guy who made a make-up call. Hardly anyone saw the tweet at the time. Krawcynski had about 2,000 followers. Only 15 re-tweeted it, and they did not have many followers either. Now, because of the lawsuit, that tweet has been all over ESPN, sports websites and newspapers, to say nothing of all over Twitter via media members with hundreds of thousands of followers. Now who exactly hurt Spooner's reputation, the guy that shared a snarky and erroneous assumption, or the guy that made it part of a lawsuit?"

  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "Spooner is proceeding with the suit anyway. To what end? We're not going to get into the First Amendment ramifications of all this, because we are ill-equipped, but maybe he is trying to make a statement about the intrusiveness of new media. Maybe he's trying to get the reporter fired, if only to get others to stop reporting such exchanges. These are heady issues beyond our pay grade, but if this is truly his aim, our feeble-minded take on how to regulate the use of new technologies is this: Sometimes the pendulum swings too far just because somebody's feelings are bruised. So what can we learn from this story? Just this: Even the best refs get fed up -- with your relentless abuse, with your second-guessing, and with your aspersions on their integrity, which in this case apparently carries a price tag of $75K. But it's worth noting that the college refs, while not as talented as their NBA brethren, have it far worse. They are part-time, independent contractors who are subjected to a grueling schedule -- the best guys do four games in four days -- and a short season that doesn't always pay the bills. They do a job that none of us want, with feedback that doesn't range beyond 'You blew it, moron.' "

  • Lacy J. Banks of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Dennis Rodman fans should pray hard that he doesn’t do something stupid between now and the NCAA Final Four that would keep him from making the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this year. During Final Four weekend in Houston, the official inductees will be announced before being enshrined Aug. 11-13. Rodman joins former Bulls coaches Tex Winter and Dick Motta, Chicago native Maurice Cheeks and eight others as finalists. After another round of voting by the Honors Committee, we’ll know if Rodman makes it. He must get 18 of 24 votes. The other finalists are players Jamaal Wilkes, Chris Mullin and Ralph Sampson, college coach Herb Magee, college referee Hank Nichols, Golden State Warriors executive Al Attles, former WNBA star Teresa Edwards and Stanford women’s coach Tara VanDerveer. The biggest shock, however, is that former Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller was not selected as a finalist, but Rodman made the cut. ... 'I don’t understand why Reggie Miller isn’t a finalist,' former Bears coach Mike Ditka said. ... 'Rodman played on championship teams, and he played with great players. Maybe that’s why they put you in there. I don’t know.' Who really does? Secretive Hall of Fame voting is a major knock against the process."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "You probably have seen Patrick Battillo by now. You just might know him better by his fan alter ego, Mr. ORNG. Battillo has popped up during Suns broadcasts as the fan clad head to toe in orange attire and paint. Steve Nash interviewed him this week and posted it on his Twitter account. The Mr. ORNG persona began at the end of last season when Battillo attended a Suns playoff game in San Antonio with painted hair and was shown often by ESPN. From there, it has become an investment of time and money, from clothes to his social media to traveling to watch the Suns from the front row in his full regalia in Houston and New Orleans this week. Battillo, 24, has been a Suns fan since moving to the Valley at age 7 and becomes Mr. ORNG every home game in a section near the Suns bench."