First Cup: Tuesday

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Two years out of Wake Forest, Teague has become a flash point for Hawks’ fans. Some feel he’s the point guard of the future and has been poorly served by two different head coaches. Pragmatists ask instead: If the dissimilar Mike Woodson and Larry Drew were both loath to play Teague, is he an NBA guard at all? In this Round 2, the Hawks have no choice. They can’t start Jamal Crawford because you lose his off-the-bench boost and he’s not much of a defender anyway. They can’t swing Joe Johnson to the point because he’s needed to score. So, by process of elimination … Jeff Teague. 'It’s a great opportunity for Teague to go out and show what he can do,' said Josh Smith, speaking before Game 1 here. 'This is definitely make-or-break for him.' ... Havoc is exactly what was unleashed here. The East’s No. 1 seed now has to win in Philips Arena to take the series, and Wednesday’s Game 2 has become a must for the Bulls. But the Hawks, to their credit, didn’t act surprised by what they’d done. Said Teague: 'It’s a long series. It’s only one game.' Teague’s line: Ten points, five assists, one turnover in 44 minutes. He had more than passed the audition. He had directed this strange little team to a stunning Game 1 victory, this franchise to its first win in any Round 2 since 1997. Heck, he’d played so well as to make you wonder why the Hawks needed Hinrich in the first place."

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "I’ve been as hard on the Hawks as anyone. They deserved the scrutiny with so many home beatdowns. They don’t play to their strengths often enough. Some of L.D.’s ’s tics are hard to figure, like the two-foul rule and the banishment of Teague and Zaza to the end of the bench. But, at some point, don’t the Hawks deserve some credit? If one of the knocks against them was that they too often lie down, then why don’t they seem to be getting any Ps now that they keep rising up? 'People talk about Boston, Miami, Orlando and Chicago in the East and nobody talks about the Hawks,' Jamal said. 'We kind of like it that way. We don’t get the glory. We just come out and try to win.' Truth is, the Hawks didn’t give anyone much good to talk about until they flipped that switch in Game 1 at Orlando. They’ve won 5 of 7 playoff games since then, though, and yet it seems people still don’t know what to make of the Hawks."

  • Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune: "The Bulls got smacked. Derrick Rose got hurt. The future got ugly. I think that pretty much covers Game 1 of the Bulls’ second-round playoff opener against Atlanta. The Bulls couldn’t start, couldn’t finish, and couldn’t do anything about the presumptive MVP hobbling offthe court at game’s end. On the night he received his Coach of the Year award, Tom Thibodeau had to explain why he had the league’s top player on the floor in the dying seconds of a game his team trailed by eight. It’s really not much different from the way Thibodeau has handled comeback situations this season. Just potentially more calamitous. Without Rose, the Bulls are done. Duh. He came back from a similar injury last series, so I expect him to come back again. Like the Black Knight in 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ who loses all his limbs and claims it’s just a flesh wound, Rose will claim to be OK. But what’s definitely not OK is the Bulls’ nasty habit of not being ready to start playoff games. I thought we were done with that stuff. Didn’t we cover that last series?"

  • Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Irony. You don’t want a lot of it in your life. But, uh, on the very day that Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, the severe, defensive-minded maniac, was awarded his first-ever NBA Coach of the Year award, his top-rated team got waxed by a brutal offensive attack from the fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks. That’s pretty much the definition of ironic. And it’s not terribly funny. For the losers, that is. Which the Bulls are. The Hawks won Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals 103-95, and they shot a blistering 51.3 percent from the field -- 53.8 percent on three-pointers. That’s not defense; that’s Ole’! with a red Bulls matador’s flag. If this was genius defense, then Paris Hilton is Madame Curie. As Thibodeau said, trying to explain what was wrong with his team, there are two parts to his revered defensive strategy. First, the players must analyze whether they are playing the scheme ‘properly.’ Then, and most important by far, ‘You have to ask yourself, ‘Are you doing it hard enough?’? ' No irony there at all."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "In a series opener that was beyond crucial, the Mavericks had to dodge a bullet from the NBA’s best gunslinger. Kobe Bryant with the ball in his hands and the clock ticking down is as scary a situation as there is. 'To be honest with you, you don’t want to see that,’ Tyson Chandler said. This time, the Mavericks stared down the barrel and survived, in part because the Mavericks had a rusty, old silencer named Jason Kidd that they could put on Bryant. Kidd in essence asked for the opportunity to guard Bryant at the end of the game and responded with a steal and forcing tough shots as the Mavericks overcame a 16-point third-quarter deficit for a 96-94 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinals series. How important was stealing home-court advantage away in the opener? The Lakers have a fabulous history in the playoffs when winning Game 1 (49-2). But coach Phil Jackson’s even better. Going back to his Chicago days, his teams are 48-0 when they go up 1-0 in a playoff series. Those are steep odds to buck. And the Mavericks won’t have to after winning a playoff game in LA for the first time in franchise history (0-10)."

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "OK, let me catch my breath here amid the silence of a stunned Staples Center, let me fit my fingers on these keys that are now sweating like everyone else, and let me write these strange words as carefully as possible. These aren't the same old Dallas Mavericks. And, gulp, these officially aren't the same old Lakers. On a startlingly ominous Monday night, the Lakers lost a second-round playoff opener to a legendarily soft Mavericks team that was seemingly crushed underneath a 16-point deficit before somehow climbing up and swinging back, again and again and again. On a warm spring night that folks around here might regret for the rest of the summer, the Lakers suffered a 96-94 defeat to a Mavericks team that ended it by knocking Kobe Bryant on his keister. It was the final shame. It occurred when Pau Gasol was holding the ball with the Lakers trailing by one point with about five seconds remaining. He attempted to hand it to Bryant, but Jason Kidd knocked the Lakers star to the floor, grabbed the ball, and was fouled by Gasol. Bad call by the officials? No, smart play by Kidd. Bad move by Gasol? Yes, considering Derek Fisher was standing wide open in the corner."

  • T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times: "Talked on Monday night to Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, and the guy many fans believe can save the Dodgers if allowed to buy the team. If Cuban lives up to the hype, he's gets his own TV show here. He's more Hollywood than Frank & Jamie ever were, and they were really working at it. Cuban also has lots of money, which makes him different too. Forbes recently ranked him the 459th richest person in the world. Someone needs to breathe some life into the Dodgers, and who better than someone with a big mouth, big pockets and who would be a big pain for Bud Selig? Cuban has already expressed an interest in the Pittsburgh Pirates, which is forgivable because he was born there. He went after the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers; the feeling in most quarters was he lost out because he's not Selig's kind of owner. We know all about the kind of owner Selig approves, and how's that going? I asked Cuban about owning the Dodgers, figuring for sure he would pop off. That is his reputation. Great copy for a columnist. But Cuban went gutless, the mighty mouth muzzling himself. That would suggest he really does have an interest in buying the team, opting not to say anything to avoid riling up Selig. What a disappointment, as I told him, and do we really want an owner here who is afraid to rile up Selig? 'Just make up something that you want me to say,'' Cuban said, 'and then put my name to it.' All right, my kind of owner, after all."

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: "John Hollinger is a really smart guy. He writes about basketball. He thinks about basketball. He even invented a basketball stat called the PER, which I would explain if I understood it myself. The point is, he takes this seriously. ESPN hired him to analyze the NBA. Before the Grizzlies-Thunder series, he looked at all the numbers and angles and matchups and picked the Thunder in 5. Then Game 1 tipped off. At noon Sunday. Exactly 46 minutes later, Hollinger issued the following tweet: 'Questioning my logic.' Haha! Welcome to the club, John! Or should we call it a bandwagon? Driven by Lionel Hollins and Chris Wallace. Featuring all those who have -- raise your hands up out there -- grown to appreciate the Griz. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is on it. ESPN's Bill Simmons is on it, too. I long ago found myself a comfortable seat. After the Spurs series, I had to scooch over a little bit to make room. But now it's getting nuts. 'There's plenty of space, we welcome all comers,' said Johnny Davis, the Grizzlies assistant coach. Added Grizzlies forward Shane Battier: 'We don't need an oath.' "

  • Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman: "Tell Russell Westbrook to relax. The Thunder point guard has been wound too tight for the better part of two weeks. The result has been some less-than-stellar games in these playoffs. During the first round against the Nuggets, he had seven turnovers one night, 30 points in 30 shots another night. Then in the Thunder's series-clinching win, he had a performance that was frankly painful to watch, an out-of-sorts, 3-of-15 night. He wasn't quite so bad Sunday afternoon in the first game of the Western Conference semifinals, but commit seven turnovers and hit only 4 of 14 shots in the restricted zone near the basket, and it's a killer. 'I don't think he had the game that he would've liked to have had or we would want him to have,' Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. Still ... 'It's one game,' Still ... Brooks might be looking at one game in this series, but really, this has become a trend with Westbrook in these playoffs. Unlike last season when he was so solid in the postseason, he is pressing this time around. You see it in the unnecessary mistakes, like a drive Sunday that ended with Westbrook in no man's land and a desperation pass in the Grizzlies' hands. Westbrook is going to turn the ball over. It happens to every point guard in the NBA. But committing seven turnovers is unacceptable."

  • Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe: "If it’s not the Heat (ever ready to choke if you can get them in a close game), it’ll be the Bulls. Or the Thunder. The Celtics are simply lined up to play too many teams whose best players are in their athletic primes. It is the nature of the game. It happened to Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish in the late 1980s. It happened to the Bad Boy Pistons when they finally were overtaken by the Bulls. It happens to everybody. I ran the theory by Ainge before the Celtics practiced yesterday at the University of Miami (just a tape-measure shot away from Alex Rodriguez Park). What about it, Danny? Is this the end for your old guys? 'Did Ray [Allen] look too old on Sunday?’ Ainge asked. 'Did Paul [Pierce] look too old in the New York series?’ No and no. But Kevin Garnett scored only 6 points in Game 1. 'I don’t think we force-fed KG enough,’ Ainge said. If you say so, Danny. But I fear the end is coming. Every team on the horizon is more athletic than the Celtics."

  • Michelle Kaufman of The Miami Herald: "Many of the nation’s NBA fans -- and the Boston Celtics -- were probably shocked to see James Jones score 25 points off the bench and spark the Heat to a 99-90 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Sunday. But for the coaches and players who worked alongside Jones at the University of Miami from 1999 to 2003, his big night was not entirely surprising. He is the best student and one of hardest-working players ever to come out of the Hurricanes program, and they view his performance as a just reward. Jones graduated from UM with a finance degree and a 3.4 grade point average. He remains the only UM men’s basketball player ever to be named Academic All-American, and he was as obsessed with his jump shot as he was with his grades. Perry Clark, the former UM coach, texted Jones a congratulatory note immediately after the game from Corpus Christi, Texas. Stan Jones, the former UM assistant coach who recruited him with Leonard Hamilton, watched with pride from his home in Tallahassee. And Brandon Okpalobi, a former Hurricanes teammate, fielded calls from relatives and friends during the game asking, 'Didn’t you play with that guy at UM?' ... Early this season, Jones was asked what it was like playing with the Big 3. 'I’m just another clown in this circus,' he said, smiling. The Celtics will surely take that clown more seriously in Game 2 on Tuesday."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "The Rockets had decided they would choose Rick Adelman's successor even before the team and the coach had agreed to part ways. Adelman could have remained the Rockets' head coach, but was told that the Rockets had decided to hire his successor and put him on Adelman’s coaching staff if he remained, according to two individuals with knowledge of the talks. Though Adelman and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey came together on several issues, Morey wanted Adelman to mentor a successor that Morey and Rockets owner Leslie Alexander would have chosen and put on Adelman’s staff. Adelman was unwilling to make the changes necessary to his staff, arguing in favor of assistants. Adelman, 64, has long touted lead assistant Elston Turner as ready to lead a team, but the Rockets were not willing to designate Turner as Adelman’s successor, leading to Turner’s decision to turn down an offer to interview for the head coaching position. There were discussions about adding Rio Grande Valley Vipers coach Chris Finch to the Rockets staff, according to both persons familiar with the talks, but it is unclear if Finch would have been designated as the head coach in waiting. Finch led the Vipers to the 2009-10 NBA Development League championship and to this season’s D-League Finals. Morey has been unwilling to discuss the disagreements that led to Adelman’s departure."

  • Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press: "If John Kuester is fired as Pistons coach, one candidate for the job could be someone who, like Kuester, was an assistant coach under Larry Brown when the Pistons won the championship in 2004. Mike Woodson, 53, said he spent the perfect season in Detroit in 2004. 'Before I came to Detroit, I worked for various coaches,' Woodson said. 'All of them were good for me, dating back to Chris Ford, who gave me my first opportunity to coach. Then George Karl and Randy Wittman, and all those guys were wonderful coaches. But when I got with Larry Brown it just ... My attitude really changed about my approach to coaching because he was so organized, not that the other coaches weren't. Larry was just a little different. He delegated and gave us responsibilities. He treated you like you were a head coach. You normally have some type of conflict down the road. We had nothing. That team was so close-knit. It was meant to be.' "