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First Cup: Thursday

  • Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Heat forward LeBron James took criticism from fans for skipping the pregame introductions Tuesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Many felt James was avoiding facing the fans of his former team, but Heat spokesman Tim Donovan said James had done it a few times this season. The last time it happened was before Sunday's game against the Houston Rockets. James did not address the subject Wednesday, but did respond to questions after the Cleveland loss. 'I was just using the restroom,' James said. 'Am I allowed to do that?' James disappeared during the national anthem before resurfacing after the introductions were completed."

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "In the past two weeks the Hawks had suffered blowout home defeats against Miami and Chicago while losing 14 of 21 games. Now they've won three consecutive games for the first time since Feb. 5, following victories against struggling New Jersey and Cleveland by beating the fourth-place team in the Eastern Conference. 'I guess it was a switch that went off,' said Hawks forward Josh Smith, who scored a game-high 26 points. 'I'm glad it did, especially at this time. We can't keep getting punked by teams and not answering the bell.' The Hawks have made a turnaround against the Magic since the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals. Orlando swept the four-game series with an NBA-record winning margin of 101 total points. The Hawks have won three in row against the Magic in low-scoring, physical games."

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Dwight Howard didn’t sound worried after the Orlando Magic lost to the Atlanta Hawks 85-82 on Wednesday. But he did sound frustrated. Frustrated with the officiating.Frustrated with the talk that the Hawks may have found their groove against the Magic. And frustrated with the Magic’s lack of rest. The Magic’s all-star center felt that Jason Collins deserved to receive a flagrant foul instead of a personal foul when Collins wrapped up Howard around the upper shoulders with 3:33 remaining in the second quarter. '[On] anybody else it would’ve been a flagrant,' Howard said. 'But against me, it’s a regular foul.' Howard expressed no concern that the Magic lost their regular-season series to the Hawks, their likely first-round opponent. 'It’ll be a different animal in the playoffs,' he said."

  • Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald: "Say this for the Heat this season: The team somehow always figures out a way to keep things interesting. The four-game trip appeared like a yawner on paper, but two games in it has been anything but boring. On Tuesday, the Heat lost to the worst team in the league, the Cleveland Cavaliers. One day later, the Heat got physical, flagrant and downright vulgar with the Washington Wizards and their fans. The Heat defeated the lowly Wizards 123-107 on Wednesday in a game marred by ejections to Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Juwan Howard of the Heat and Wizards guard John Wall. The Heat began Wednesday’s game with 11 available players and ended it with nine. It was a physical game from the beginning but things got dirty in the second quarter. That’s when Wall, the star rookie, punched Ilgauskas in the ribs after Ilgauskas elbowed Wall in the mouth. 'It’s part of the game,' said Dwyane Wade, who had 33 points on 11-of-17 shooting. 'Aggressiveness, hard fouls -- sometimes they escalate a little more than others. We had a similar situation last night in Cleveland.' "

  • Craig Stouffer of the Washington Examiner "John Wall didn’t back down after he was hit by Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ elbows, and he didn’t duck the incident afterward. Given that his little scuffle took place early in the second quarter, Wall had plenty of time to bolt from Verizon Center. But similar to the way he’s fought on despite the adversity that the team has faced this year, he stood in front of the cameras and microphones afterward and took on the incident head first. 'I just got hit by his elbow and reacted to it,' Wall said. 'I’m disappointed in the way I reacted. I let my teammates down, let my organization down, but I’m glad to see that my teammates fought hard and tried to compete tonight and come away with a win… There were two elbows. I got hit with the first one, and I stopped, and then the second one, I got hit, and I just reacted.' When asked about Wall’s potential to be suspended an additional game, Wizards head coach Flip Saunders gave his prized rookie point guard the benefit of the doubt. The video evidence might say otherwise. 'From what the referees said, I don’t think it warrants [a suspension] because it was just elbows that were thrown, not punches,' Saunders said. 'I’m assuming that it’ll be okay.' The problem is, it was a punch to Big Z’s ribs."

  • Tim Smith of the New York Daily News: "If it wasn't apparent against the Magic on Monday night, it became crystal clear against the Nets Wednesday night: Anthony is now the leader of the Knicks. He is The Man, and it didn't take a 128-foot billboard a few blocks from the Garden to tell us that. It took him putting together back-to-back 39-point, 10-rebound games during which he was spectacular at both ends of the court. All of this was done while a tired Amar'e Stoudemire was saddled with foul trouble and watched most of that third-quarter comeback from the Knicks' bench. 'It feels good, especially right now,' Anthony said. 'It's a good time that it's happening, must-win situations, games we really need coming down the stretch to get into the playoffs. It's almost the perfect time for me to get into a groove like this.' Coming in, the game was shaping up as a showdown between two highly valued trade commodities - Anthony and Deron Williams, who was traded to the Nets from Utah on the day Anthony made his Knicks debut. But a wrist injury that Williams has been nursing all season (he's missed eight of 11 games since the trade) blunted some of that enthusiasm. It was a nice tease for the future, but this was Anthony's stage and his night."

  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: "The Derrick Rose MVP campaign continued gaining momentum, this time with a blessing from the King. Before the reigning two-time Most Valuable Player took the court in Washington on Wednesday, Le-Bron James all but crowned the Bulls point guard with the 2010-11 honor, telling reporters, 'I think [it’s] Derrick Rose. What he’s done for that team, with all the injuries they have and them being first in the Eastern Conference -- they’re playing some really good basketball.’ Rose was asked about the comments made from the Heat star and admitted he was 'speechless.’ 'Yeah ... I’m speechless right now, to tell you the truth,' Rose said. 'It’s great to hear that, but you know me. Right now, I could care less about what people are saying.’ Good thing, because not everyone shares the opinion of King James."

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: "Mike Heisley took off the T-shirt. That could have been the key to this one. He'd been wearing a Tony Allen T-shirt throughout the first half. When he came out for the second half, no T-shirt. Yes, Allen noticed. 'When he took it off, I had to turn it up a notch,' said Allen. Allen turned up a notch is something to behold, isn't it? The man swooped in for a layup. Then he stole the ball and went between his legs before finding Zach Randolph for a layup. Then he stole the ball again. Then he went 360 for a bucket. Then he flew in from the right side and threw down a one-handed jam over David Lee. All that after the Grizzlies trailed Golden State early in the second half by double digits. 'I thought Tony was the key,' said point guard Mike Conley. To the game or to the season? Tony Allen and the Grizzlies wound up blasting Golden State at FedExForum on Wednesday night, 110-91. Combined with Houston's loss to Philadelphia, the Grizzlies are now three games up on the Rockets with just seven games to go. Not to say the Grizzlies are a lock to make the playoffs at this point, but John Calipari would have a hard time blowing that kind of cushion."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "Watching Wednesday night's fourth quarter -- the harmonious flow, the unselfish sensibility, the nasty oh-no-he-didn't dunks -- it's easy for one to forget, as Denver's Wilson Chandler said afterward, that 'there are a lot of plays we don't know.' It was just Feb. 21 when the Nuggets acquired three new rotation players, but these guys make it look easy, thanks to their fearless leader. And their other fearless leader. In the Nuggets' 104-90 win against the Kings, point guards Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton took over in the pivotal fourth, tallying six assists without a turnover, not to mention a handful of 'hockey assists,' as folks call them. 'Our playbook isn't going to be deep enough to be running cute stuff,' said Nuggets coach George Karl, whose team led by just three after three. 'We just got to keep doing what we do well, and most of that means Ty and Raymond pushing us, spacing the court, not settling for 3s and keep attacking. Their defense wore out a little bit, and we got to the rim more in the second half.' "

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "I feel for Paul Silas, because he’s coaching his butt off in a situation where trades and injuries decimated his depth. Add Gerald Wallace to this mix and they’re in the playoffs (yeah, I’ve heard all the spin about sacrificing the present for the future – we’ll see). You don’t think Nazr Mohammed would be useful? There’s no such thing as a backup center right now. When Kwame Brown leaves the game, they have the size of a quality college team. I’ve used the analogy in the past that Silas approaches the game like a baseball manager (Dusty Baker, minus the toothpick). Wednesday was like using up all your pitchers at the last out, but it worked."

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "The Celtics’ recent offensive woes have affected everyone, though, as always when the ball stops moving, Ray Allen may be a little more handcuffed than anyone else. His 11-point first half during Monday’s loss in Indiana included an 0-for-1 first half. Overall, Allen has shot 10-for-53 (18.7 percent) over the last five games, including 7-for-25 (28 percent) from downtown over the same stretch. Asked about regaining his rhythm, Allen pinned responsibility squarely on the larger team picture. 'I won’t press,' he said. 'In Indiana I saw I was 0-for-1 for the half, and I was trying to remember the shot that I took. Man, when it rains it pours. We have to create for ourselves great rhythm. Kevin (Garnett) is great at it. He’s always aware when the ball moves through me, so he’ll always make the extra pass. We just have to all be aware of it -- making that extra pass. When I come off screens I know I can pull up and shoot it most of the time, but the most sensible play in this offense is dropping down to Glen (Davis), or Nenad (Krstic) or Kevin, because they can get those easy layups and they work so hard for it. It has to be consistent with everybody.' "

  • Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times: "A considerable streak ended at 7:09 of the fourth quarter when Dirk Nowitzki missed a free throw, ending the longest streak in the NBA this season. He had made 74 straight free throws and the streak had started in the fourth quarter against Indiana on March 4. After missing, he looked slightly amused and then promptly made his next one."

  • Paola Boivin of The Arizona Republic: "The Oklahoma City Thunder guard, who showcased his skills against the Suns on Wednesday night at US Airways Center, is generating NBA buzz and finds himself in discussions for Sixth Man of the Year. It is a role some might not embrace. He has. 'James is someone that values and is willing to be a part of something,' Thunder General Manager Sam Presti said. 'He has accepted a role and really focused on how his contributions will help the overall group. A lot of people verbalize this, but it is not often acted on.' Harden agrees that Oklahoma City 'is a great fit.' 'From the front office on down, guys work hard,' he said. 'There's been such a good relationship with everyone on and off the court and I think it's what has made us successful.' "

  • Mike Bresnahan and Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: "The Lakers didn't appeal to a higher power Wednesday, though Archbishop Jose Gomez was at their practice, as was Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani from Peru, taking in a scrimmage from folding courtside chairs. Gomez used to be a San Antonio Spurs supporter but switched allegiances after taking over leadership of the L.A. Archdiocese this month. 'A lot of people were praying and telling me to switch from the Spurs to the Lakers. Prayers work. Now I'm a Lakers fan,' Gomez said. 'I'm also praying for the Spurs, but a sign from God is that the Lakers are playing much better.' It's been that kind of a run, the Lakers 15-1 since the All-Star break. Kobe Bryant spoke to both Catholic dignitaries after practice. Coincidentally or not, the Lakers play their biggest game of the regular season Thursday at Staples Center against Dallas. The Lakers lead the Mavericks by half a game for second place in the Western Conference. The season series is tied at 1-1."

  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: "Reserve guard Nate Robinson said he 'still has some work to do' before his game is back to form following arthroscopic surgery on his right knee March 4. He was activated Tuesday. During his time on the sideline, Robinson said he quickly built an appreciation for his new teammates. 'They play so hard it reminds me of going to a gym and playing in a pickup game,' Robinson said. 'You don't want to lose. You want to stay on the court all day, have the bragging rights, and that's how they play every night. That's special. That's something a lot of teams in this league don't have.' "

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "There is much discussion about the Sacramento Kings moving to Anaheim and the city this week struck a deal with the owner of the Anaheim Ducks to contribute $75 million to the moving expenses if the Kings relocate and for upgrades to the Honda Center. The Anaheim Royals, as they would be named (hearkening back to their Cincinnati Royals roots), still are a long way from setting up shop in Anaheim, but it appears the chances of it happening are good. That would be good for the area, said Tyson Chandler, who grew up in LA and still spends his time there in the off-season. 'I've always said that if a team gets to Anaheim, they're going to clean up because it's two different worlds,' Chandler said. 'People that are not from LA don't understand it. It's two different worlds. People in Orange County do not like coming to LA and people in LA do not like to come to Orange County. And they almost compete against each other.' "

  • Eric Carpenter of The Orange County Register: "The Sacramento Kings move to Anaheim is not a done deal -- but that hasn't held back a wave of excitement among local NBA fans. As of early afternoon Wednesday, more than 500 fans had sent e-mails to the Honda Center to be included on a priority waiting list for tickets, according to Merit Tully, an arena spokesman. Many say they want season tickets. Honda Center officials set up the waiting list Tuesday afternoon, hours before Anaheim officials unanimously approved $75 million in bonds to make the city-owned arena the Kings' home."

  • Ryan Lillis and Dale Kasler of The Sacramento Bee: "The Sacramento Kings may be headed for the exit, but their threatened departure has energized the effort to build a new sports arena. A grass-roots campaign emerged Wednesday to raise money for a new facility in Sacramento. Within hours, the movement spread through social media and billboards along area freeways. At the same time, Sacramento city leaders vowed to press ahead with their years-long, frequently frustrating effort to find an arena financing plan that works. A city-sponsored development team continues to analyze the economics of a new building, with a report expected in late May. 'Our community realizes we need to build a new entertainment and sports complex whether the Kings are here or not,' Mayor Kevin Johnson said Wednesday. 'It's about our city and proving we can get big things done.' "

  • Alexis Stevens of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Rashan S. Michel, 36, was arrested and charged with one count of simple battery following the incident, Officer K.Y. Jones with Atlanta police told the AJC. Michel, who told police he was owed money for suits purchased several years ago, hit Wilkins in the chest and also hit a security guard, Jones said. Michel, of Atlanta, has worked as an NBA and college basketball referee and previously owned his own clothing store. 'The fan was promptly arrested and was taken into custody by the Atlanta Police Department,' Hawks spokesman Arthur Triche said in a statement to the AJC. 'At this time the Hawks have no additional information or comment regarding this situation.' Wilkins, 51, serves as the Hawks' vice president and as a television analyst. Wilkins played for the Hawks from 1982 until 1994. Wilkins was not seriously injured in the incident."

  • Terry Foster of The Detroit News: "One of the greatest rebounders and defenders in NBA history has turned into a sideshow for a new generation because of his wild antics, wild parties, relationships with Madonna and others, meltdowns on reality television and takedowns on the professional wrestling circuit. On Friday at The Palace, however, people who know Dennis Rodman expect the emotional, thoughtful player to show up when his No. 10 jersey is retired during halftime of the Bulls-Pistons game. A number of his former teammates are expected to be on hand, including John Salley, Isiah Thomas, Rick Mahorn and James Edwards. Whether he was in a wedding dress or short shorts, Rodman was one of the all-time characters of the NBA. He electrified Palace crowds for seven seasons and was a key component to the 1989 and 1990 championship teams. His stats (8.8 points and 11.5 rebounds) did not match the emotions, both good and bad, he injected into the franchise. 'He is a minority of one and that is not always easy to be,' Pistons announcer George Blaha said. 'There is nobody else like Dennis Rodman.' "

  • Jeff Rabjohns of The Indianapolis Star: "Indiana Pacers radio voice Mark Boyle is accustomed to calling the action during a game, not being in any way part of it. But on Wednesday night, the veteran play-by-play man was honored for calling his 2,000th Pacers game, receiving a commemorative basketball from team president Larry Bird. 'Longevity is something that's important to me and it's been fortunate for me,' said Boyle, who has been with the franchise for 23 years. 'It's only through a set of circumstances you end up in a good place. 'When I got here, I knew nothing about it -- whether it was good, bad or indifferent -- except it was the NBA, and I was glad to be here. As the years went by, I found out how lucky I was to be here. We have great owners and (former general manager) Donnie Walsh was a great guy to work for all those years.' "