First Cup: Thursday

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Timberwolves forward Kevin Love will receive the NBA's Most Improved Player award Thursday at Target Center. The team tonight called a 2 p.m. Thursday press conference to make a 'Major NBA Award Announcement.' That can only mean one thing. Love's award will follow the NBA's announcement on Monday that Dwight Howard is the league's Defensive Player of the Year and Tuesday's news that Lamar Odom is its top Sixth Man. Love left town after last week's season finale, but he'll be back by 2 p.m. tomorrow [Thursday] to receive his award for a season in which he often gave Wolves fans their only reason to cheer."

  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: "Tony Allen tried. He patted the floor, and he screamed at a teammate, and he was mad at himself afterward. But that wasn’t good enough. For one of the few times in his career in a game not involving Ron Artest, there was someone less sane on the court. That would be the one he chased, and the one he confronted on the sideline. Manu Ginobili. The elbow wasn’t the only part of him that was bent. This is what happens when you put Ginobili in an MRI machine for an afternoon and on a shelf for a week. He’d lobbied Gregg Popovich in September to start this season fast. And when the Spurs did, better than any Spurs team ever had, the cruel twist came in the 82nd game of the season. Miss the first playoff game? When he’d been waiting for months for it? By the time Wednesday came around, he was ready to chew the brace off of his elbow. What followed is precisely the kind of frenetic performance the Spurs needed. Popovich said 'just having him on the floor helped the psyche of the team,' and the Spurs needed all the psyche they could get. Memphis is a No. 8 seed playing about seven notches higher than advertised. ... So Wednesday was the first of what promises to be a duel of wills, and this is the challenge the Spurs will face on the road. Afterward, when Lionel Hollins was trying to describe Ginobili, he said this. 'He’s their Tony Allen.' And while that isn’t entirely accurate -- given their careers and their successes -- for a night the comparison was spot-on. Given the setting, and given the urgency, Ginobili was that mad."

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: "The Spurs defeated the Grizzlies in Game Two of their playoff series Wednesday night, 93-87. What, you were expecting a sweep? 'It’s going to be a long series,' said Grizzlies center Marc Gasol. 'This isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning.' Whichis exhausting, just to think about. And utterly thrilling, too. After a decade of waiting, Memphis finally is getting to experience the best part of NBA basketball. A series. An honest-to-goodness series, with all the bitterness and strategy and flat out anger that comes with it. Those previous three forays into the playoffs don’t begin to count. They were imposters, the NBA playoff equivalent of lip synching. The goal back then was to win a single game. The goal right now is to beat the arrogant Spurs and their infuriating leader, Ginobili. ... So the series now moves to Memphis. The players were already talking about it in the locker room after the game. 'Memphis deserves it,' said Gasol. 'It should be one of the best crowds in Memphis Grizzlies history,' said Battier. The series is one game apiece. FedExForum had better be cranked. 'We gave them hope,' said Battier. Not to mention fury."

  • Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post: "Rather than curl in the fetal position after being pummeled throughout an embarrassing 106-89 loss to Oklahoma City, Nuggets guard Raymond Felton came out swinging. Denver finds itself down 2-0 in this best-of-seven series NBA playoff series. All looks grim. But want to make Felton angry? Mention the possibility of a sweep by the Thunder. 'We're definitely coming back to Oklahoma City,' Felton insisted Wednesday, his dare-me feistiness in sharp contrast to the sullen atmosphere of the visitors dressing room. 'We're going home to bounce back, get these next two games, one game at a time, and make it a series. We'll get our confidence back and be better prepared when we come back here. We're definitely coming back.' Talk is cheap. What the Nuggets need is an action plan. ... Nuggets spies in the Thunder locker room after an Oklahoma City victory in Denver on April 5 claim Westbrook was outspoken in how his team would dominate its Northwest Division rival in a playoff matchup. Denver might not win this series. But the Nuggets can wipe the smirk off Westbrook's face. 'I'm not thinking about any negative odds,' Felton said. 'We're definitely coming back to Oklahoma City.' "

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: "Is this series over? Your answers are yes to the former and maybe, probably, almost surely, 94 percent certainty to the latter. That's the rate at which NBA teams advance after going up two games to none in a playoff series. The Thunder has the better team, the better matchup, the better health. Exactly how can it lose this series? 'Good question,' Durant said while studiously thinking about it. 'If we come out sluggish, if we come out complacent, thinking those guys are going to lay down, it'll be tough to win.' OK. Exactly when has the Thunder done that in the last two years? 'I don't worry about that,' Durant admitted. 'We go out and play hard.' In the last 16 days, the Thunder has beaten the Nuggets four times, twice in meaningful regular-season games, twice in the playoffs. The scores have been 101-94, 104-89, 107-103, 106-89. In those four games, the Thunder has trailed 43:19 of the 192 minutes played, most of it in that tight Game 1."

  • Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman: "Kendrick Perkins called it a playoff foul. I have another term for the Thunder big man's knockdown, takedown foul on Wilson Chandler. Game changer. On a night when the Thunder throttled the Nuggets 106-89 and took a commanding two-game lead in this Western Conference series, no play was more telling than Perkins' play on Chandler. Yes, he was called for a flagrant foul. Sure, it came in the first couple minutes of the game. Yes, the Denver swingman made both of the free throws. But that foul was a tone-setter. Perk let the Nuggets know that he intended to make every basket difficult, that Game 2 wasn't going to be like Game 1."

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: "Ladies and gentlemen, we give you Andrew Bynum. The one we've all impatiently waited to emerge. The one the Lakers kept telling us was possible, but hadn't quite delivered. The one three knee injuries over the past three seasons impeded, leaving us to wonder if he was just an injury-prone 7-footer destined to remain more potential than reality. On Wednesday, he gave us the most convincing glimpse yet of what he is capable of, what all the fuss is about, and it came when the Lakers needed him most. With Pau Gasol still struggling to find his place against New Orleans in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs and the Lakers needing someone besides Kobe Bryant to shoulder the burden, Bynum stepped up like never before. He scored a team-high 17 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, forced New Orleans center Emeka Okafor into foul trouble and was a defensive anchor as the Lakers drew even with the Hornets at one game apiece with a 87-78 victory. It might not be time to throw away all the concerns, doubts and criticisms of Bynum who, for all his talent and promise has yet to break through as a consistent, decisive performer for the Lakers. But it's closer than ever. If what he did is a true indicator of what he's capable of, you can stop wondering why the Lakers always stuck with him, why they resisted trade offers and even ignored Bryant's impatience with him four years ago."

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: "The final score differential - 87-78 - translated into a nine-point victory Wednesday night for the Los Angeles Lakers over the New Orleans Hornets, tying the Western Conference first-round playoff series at one game apiece. But in reality, the Hornets left the City of Angels with a victory and one-half, a 109-100 win in Game 1, and a gritty-if-losing effort in Game 2 that served notice to the two-time defending champions that advancing to the conference semifinals isn't going to be the cakewalk many expected. It was a far different game here Wednesday night at Staples Center than it was Sunday, when the Hornets seized control, tempo and momentum and would not relinquish any aspect on the way to a stunning victory. On Wednesday, the Lakers, smarting from an embarrassing loss, turned the tables and managed to, at times, unnerve the Hornets, forcing 16 turnovers (New Orleans committed just three Sunday), and switching their defensive mindset on guard Chris Paul by hounding him with shooting guard Kobe Bryant most of the game instead of point guard Derek Fisher. 'It didn't matter,' Paul said. 'I wish we could have gotten to 2-0, but I feel good because we competed. We competed in this game and we gave ourselves a chance. In order to win this series, it's going to take more. It's going to take more from me, take more from everybody.' "

  • Matt Calkins of The Columbian: "The Blazers watched film Wednesday, but players were not made available to the media afterward. Nate McMillan did, however, answer questions -- addressing Roy’s comments first and foremost. He’s sympathetic to the guard’s plight. 'As I said to Brandon, there is nobody in this state, including Brandon, that wants Brandon on the floor as much as I do,' McMillan said. 'There is no disrespect there, there is total respect there. It’s a challenge every time I call Brandon’s name off the bench. That’s an All-Star ... calling Brandon Roy’s name as a backup is different.' McMillan said that Roy’s playing time in Game 1 stemmed from matchups he thought suited Brandon’s game. McMillan attributed the sharp decline in minutes Tuesday to his wanting to get back to the first unit. Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports reported that Roy noted to Marcus Camby during the game that reserve point guard Patty Mills had entered the contest before him. McMillan didn’t offer a ballpark estimate as to how much time Roy will see on the floor tonight in Game 3. 'He’s going to play his role, which is coming off the bench,' McMillan said. 'There wasn’t any minutes promised or anything like that. All of our guys want to play minutes.' Is it a distraction? 'We’re moving on to the game,' McMillan said."

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: "Let's be clear. A disappointed and frustrated Brandon Roy didn't seek out a single member of the media in the visiting locker room after Game 2 in Dallas to vent. He didn't appear in the press room, tugging on the sleeves of writers, either. He didn't raise his hand and ask to be called on at the postgame news conference. Nope. The Blazers guard was approached by a couple of good reporters who asked him about playing only eight minutes in Portland's loss. He answered. And for that, Roy is getting destroyed by fans. He's been called passive aggressive, and shouted down as selfish, and his leadership has been questioned. For what? Telling the truth? Sheesh. ... I'm not sure if Blazers fans are going to give Roy a standing ovation in Game 3, or boo him to Canby. But I know he represents much more now than a player struggling to find his rhythm. His story remains unfinished. Roy's postgame plea was authentic. It was heartfelt. It was born of frustration, not of contempt. And it came from a guy who has done every little thing the organization has ever asked of him. Roy served as the face of the franchise. And he took big shots. And he helped sell tickets. Now, he serves as a reminder to all NBA stars about how tenuous a career can be. Thing is, I believe Roy still has it in him to deliver."

  • Craig Stouffer of the Washington Examiner: "Two seasons ago, Gilbert Arenas was expected to lead the Wizards to the top half of the Eastern Conference. Even at the start of this season, he was part of what the Wizards proudly boasted would be one of the NBA's best backcourts. Fast forward and Arenas has only eight points in two playoff games for Orlando, including two in six minutes during Tuesday's 88-82 win over Atlanta. But it wasn't an aberration. Arenas averaged only 8.0 points for the Magic during the regular season. Those kind of numbers place him with the other fallen former members of the 2006-07 All-NBA second team, Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, not the two who went in a different direction, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. In hindsight, the Magic might've gotten just as little from Rashard Lewis, whose right knee didn't even make it to the end of the year in Washington. Either way, his December switch with Arenas might go down as the least impactful swap of highest-paid players in NBA history."

  • Editorial Staff of The Sacramento Bee: "Sacramento's movers and shakers will put on their game faces today and Friday in hopes of convincing visiting NBA representatives that the Kings should stay. Led by Mayor Kevin Johnson, the leaders will point to resurgent fan support, a deepening well of corporate money and what Johnson hopes could eventually be a regional effort to finance a new arena. We find it interesting that the mayor -- whose diplomatic skills haven't always been fine-tuned on the regional front -- is now trying to forge a multi-county coalition. Nonetheless, it is encouraging to see him attempt to build a stronger regional base for supporting the Kings, since it is not just city residents who make up the team's fan base. ... Sacramento's destiny as an NBA city is largely out of our hands. But it surely hasn't hurt that this community has demonstrated its feistiness and 'never say die' spirit. So to the NBA's visitors, Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennett and league attorney Harvey Benjamin, we say: Welcome to Sacramento. We know you are here to focus on business, but we hope you take time to get to know the people and the place. They grow on you."

  • Bruce Arthur of the National Post: "If you’re selling a house, you don’t add a waterslide before putting it on the market. If Colangelo had spent the last four years covering himself in glory, there would be no debate, and he’d be a slam dunk. He didn’t. He’s not. So yes, MLSE is doing damage to its reputation by letting a respected general manager flutter in the wind. Yes, they should make a decision one way or the other, since one little general manager shouldn’t do much damage to the sale price. And no, there is no consensus on Colangelo. He wants to stay. It’s hard to say for certain that’s the right thing, but it wouldn’t be the worst one. But this is Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. There is business as usual, and there are strange times. It’s a bad time for both."

  • Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times: "The 26-year-old Bogut conceded this season was a season from hell. There were times, he revealed, when it felt like he didn't even have an arm. 'The more games we had in shorter periods of time, or when we were like at the end of a long trip, my arm felt like jelly,' Bogut said. 'I had no feeling whatsoever in my arm.' Bogut's injury was perhaps the single biggest factor for the Bucks' demise this season. After all, when Bogut was healthy and played at a high level, the Bucks resembled the team many observers had predicted would return to the Eastern Conference playoffs. ... Nobody in the Bucks' organization needs to be told who makes or breaks this team: Said Delfino: 'He's the key; He's a franchise guy.' Who, for the franchise's sake, desperately needs to stay healthy."

  • Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Former Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan has been named the winner of the first Rudy Tomjanovich Award by the Pro Basketball Writers Association. The award will be given annually to the NBA coach who combines excellence in coaching and co-operation with the needs of the media. '... Jerry was unfailingly good with the media and his coaching accomplishments speak for themselves,' said PBWA president Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. 'We’re delighted to name him a unanimous winner.' The award is named after Tomjanovich, an icon of the coaching industry and someone, like Sloan, who understood the needs of the media and went out of his way to be helpful, respectful and accessible."

  • Heather Zara of Pistons.com: "Jonas Jerebko is working up a sweat by trying out a popular type of yoga-Bikram Yoga. Jerebko tried out the class about two months ago when he wasn’t quite at the stage of running full out. The Pistons strength and conditioning coach, Arnie Kander wanted Jerebko to work up a sweat and suggested he try the non-impact class. Bikram Yoga is a practice that incorporates traditional yoga techniques in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit at humidity of 40 percent. Heating the studio is believed to help facilitate a deeper stretch and injury prevention. Bikram Choudhury, the founding guru of this practice claims that the series of postures and poses performed during a Bikram Yoga session stimulates and restores health to every muscle, joint and organ in the body, by forcing the heart to pump more blood ultimately increasing the body’s supply of oxygen. With the room set at the temperature equivalent to that of a hot summer day, sweating-and sweating profusely-is inevitable. Which in turn means staying hydrated is essential."