First Cup: Wednesday

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: Coach of the Year? Frank Vogel's got a case. He's got an even stronger case to have that third year, now a team option, fully guaranteed by upper management. What else do they need to see? He has taken a wounded, defeated team and in a short time, first as an interim coach and then in a lockout-shortened year, established himself as the man for the job long term. In 91 games -- the last 38 of last season, the first 53 of this one -- Vogel's Pacers are 52-39. If the Pacers can go on a run here -- nine of their next 13 games are at home -- Vogel may get some play as a serious candidate for Coach of the Year. He came in as Dr. Feelgood, propping up a team that had been beaten down by Jim O'Brien's relentless negativity. And then, about three weeks into his interim season, he started bringing the hammer down. And players who wondered if he could be tough took notice. ... Who has done more with his team than Vogel with these Pacers? The answer, best I can tell, is nobody.

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: So much changed for the Knicks in a torrid, dizzying 13-minute span Tuesday night that it may take hours or days before they fully digest the consequences. They lost a 17-point lead, they lost their cool, then they lost the game as their grip on a playoff berth became a little looser. If the Knicks ultimately miss the postseason, they will look back with stinging regret on a stunning 112-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers. Carmelo Anthony was mostly brilliant, scoring a season-high 39 points, only to miss the two most critical shots of the night. The Knicks’ defense was mostly sound, until it allowed a 40-point fourth quarter. As the frustration bubbled over, J. R. Smith lost his head, earning an ejection after throwing Leandro Barbosa to the court in the final seconds — an act that Coach Mike Woodson called “unprofessional.” “We somewhat self-destructed,” said Woodson, who lost for just the third time in his 12 games as the interim coach. “I mean, we kind of lost our composure.” The collapse was so quick and so forceful that it took the Knicks at least a dozen adjectives to describe it as they milled about a dejected locker room.

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: At a certain point, you had to wonder if Lionel Hollins would summon Jesse Jackson out of the crowd and send him into the game. He had tried everyone else, every other combination he could dream up. “I was searching,” he said. “I was reaching far and wide.” He hadtried Hamed Haddadi and Zach Randolph, he had tried Marreese Speights and Quincy Pondexter. And, still, the Golden State Warriors were dropping in shots, pushing the Grizzlies closer and closer to a truly devastating loss. The Grizzlies had just beaten Oklahoma City on the road. They couldn’t lose to Golden State at home, right? So with 10-plus minutes remaining — Memphis down by 12 — Hollins mixed and matched yet again. He sent in Gilbert Arenas and Tony Allen to play with O.J. Mayo, Dante Cunningham and Marc Gasol. There was no need for the Rev. Jackson, as it turns out. Not with that group around to keep hope alive. “It was a great fourth quarter,” said Allen. “It was just another great team win.” The final score was Memphis 98, Golden State 94. The final sentiment was: Whew.

  • Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald: The Heat played the 76ers on Tuesday. In other words, it was a good time to experiment with the lineup. With guard Dwyane Wade resting on the bench with a sore knee, the Heat inserted Shane Battier and Ronny Turiaf into the starting lineup and defeated Philadelphia 99-93 at AmericanAirlines Arena. It was the Heat’s 16th consecutive victory at home, a league high, and Miami clinched a spot in the playoffs in the process. For the season, the Heat is 22-2 at home. A late scratch Tuesday, Wade is probable for Wednesday’s nationally televised game against the Thunder, which crushed the Heat on March 25 in Oklahoma City. The Heat will need Wade on Wednesday but managed to do without him against the Sixers, especially on a night when LeBron James set a season-high for points. He scored 41, shooting 15 of 25 from the field. “It’s never really mattered to me about scoring,” James said. “[Tuesday] was a good team effort, and I’m happy to get a good team effort against a playoff team.”

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: For the first 24 minutes and the final 12 against the Miami Heat Tuesday night, the Sixers put together some of their best basketball in quite some time. Passes were crisp, cuts to the basket were hard and it added up to a three-point lead at halftime. But the inconsistency of which Collins spoke reared its ugly head in the third quarter as the offense grew sloppy and the Dwyane Wade-less Heat picked up the pace and, ultimately, a 99-93 win. The Sixers' third-quarter struggles, in which they scored just 16 points, made six of 18 shots and turned the ball over four times, were exacerbated when forward Andre Iguodala had to leave the game with 4 minutes, 42 seconds left after sustaining a left eye contusion. He went to the locker room and didn't return to the bench the rest of the game. "To start the third, we were careless, we started to turn the ball over," Collins said. "We didn't have the crisp movement that we had during the first half. I was pleased with our game. I'm never pleased that we lose, I don't want anyone to think that there's a moral victory, but I thought there was a lot of good things."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: What Patrick Mills brought to the Spurs when he arrived March 27 was something rare: a thorough knowledge of most of the team’s plays, right down to terminology and signals, without having played a single game in silver and black. The secret: Mills was the point guard for the Australian national team, called the Boomers, for the last four seasons. That team has been coached by Spurs assistant coach Brett Brown since 2009. Mills’ familiarity-by-proxy was on display Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena when he made 8 of 11 shots, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range, and scored a team-high 20 points in just under 20 minutes of court time. He became the 11th different player, including the recently-traded Richard Jefferson, to lead the Spurs in scoring in a game this season. It was Mills’ third game since joining the Spurs and his longest stint by more than 13 minutes. Against a Cavaliers defense that yielded 23 layups among the Spurs’ 48 baskets, Mills found open shots without needing to create anything on his own.

  • Tom Reed of The Plain Dealer: Byron Scott is no longer talking about winning, something the Cavaliers haven't done since winter turned to spring. Things have eroded so quickly in the past few weeks the Cavaliers coach is just simply looking for his players to compete, to care. It's gotten so bad one of the team's leaders admitted some players have been joking around in the locker room after losses. "I worry more when me as a coach and my coaching staff want it more than my players," Scott said. "That's when I start to worry. And I'm getting worried." His concern elevated to another level after the San Antonio Spurs embarrassed the Cavaliers, 125-90, on Tuesday. The second consecutive lopsided home defeat -- the Cavs lost by 37 points on Friday night to Milwaukee -- drove many in the crowd of 14,759 fans out of the building long before the final horn sounded. It marked their eighth straight loss overall and 11th in the last 12 games.

  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: Andrew Bynum walked into the Lakers' locker room at 6:30 p.m., roughly 30 minutes after his teammates were required to arrive. He changed into a pair of practice shorts and took his uniform, still on its hangars, back to the equipment room. Bynum couldn't play in Tuesday night's game against the New Jersey Nets because of a sprained left ankle suffered in Sunday's victory over the Golden State Warriors. He wouldn't talk to reporters before the game, as is his custom. So, it was left to coach Mike Brown to answer questions about him. Brown confirmed Bynum was fined an undisclosed amount last week for blowing off a meeting with general manager Mitch Kupchak that was arranged to discuss his immature behavior, including an ill-advised 3-pointer March 27 against Golden State. A Lakers insider said the team hadn't suspended Bynum for his recent actions. Then he smiled faintly and added the word, "Yet." "Am I concerned with Bynum's attitude?" Brown said, repeating a reporter's question about the 24-year-old center's recent behavior. "No, I'm not concerned. - It's been handled internally. It's an internal matter."

  • Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has been missing in action, but that will change next week. That’s when Prokhorov will meet with NBA commissioner David Stern, and Prokhorov may attend the league’s Board of Governors meetings next Thursday and Friday, Stern said at an event in Manhattan Tuesday to kick off NBA Green Week presented by Sprint. At those meetings, the Board of Governors officially will vote to approve the Nets’ impending move to Brooklyn, along with the team’s name change from the New Jersey Nets to the Brooklyn Nets. “I know I have a meeting with him next week,” Stern said. “He’ll be in New York next week. Whether he is going to physically be there for [the Board of Governors] vote, I’m not sure, but I hope so.” Stern also spoke glowingly of the ongoing construction of the team’s new home in Brooklyn, the Barclays Center, which is set to open this fall. “It’s going to be on time, [and] it’s going to be a spectacular addition to the New York entertainment scene,” Stern said.

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: Charlie Villanueva again didn't play and has played only 15 minutes all season, erasing the optimism he had when the lockout-shortened year began — and the reality is beginning to set in. "Mentally it's frustrating and hard because you worked so hard to get healthy and help the team out," said Villanueva, who fought ankle problems that kept him out the first two months of the season. "Then after you work so hard you don't get the minutes that I feel like I should be playing." Villanueva is stuck behind Monroe, Jason Maxiell, Ben Wallace and Jonas Jerebko in the frontcourt and Frank likes the rotation as such, despite Villanueva's diverse set of skills. "Look, it's not a knock on Charlie," Frank said after Monday's practice. "Charlie is working hard and doing what we're asking, but my thing is Greg, Max, Jonas, Body (Wallace) — you know they are all doing basically what we're asking. In order to put Charlie in there, one of those guys has to sit." ... He has two years left on his contract, and is scheduled to make $16.6 million over that span. He could be a prime candidate for the amnesty clause if the Pistons can't find a taker for him. "The fact I'm not being used this season, and we have the same guys coming back (contractually)," Villanueva said. "My mind is, 'What's going to happen next season?' I feel like I can be helping out, but we'll see what happens."

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson sat out Tuesday night's game against the Detroit Pistons with injuries, but Orlando Magic officials believe Howard and Nelson will not be out for an extended period. Howard missed his second game in a row because of back spasms, and Nelson did not play because he has a sore left calf. Ryan Anderson has a sprained right ankle. Coach Stan Van Gundy was briefed about each player's status before tipoff by athletic trainer Keon Weise. ... Howard would not discuss his injury. Nelson said his calf had bothered him for three or four games. Team officials decided to proceed cautiously with Nelson to make sure the injury did not worsen. ... Van Gundy said Anderson likely will be out another five or six days. ... ESPN reported and an NBA source confirmed to the Sentinel that Dallas Mavericks center Brendan Haywood will not be punished by the league. Van Gundy alleged that Haywood caused Howard's injury by punching Howard in the back during Friday's Mavericks-Magic game. The Magic had sent video to the league officials for review.

  • Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun: Anyone who watches any game, especially at home and regardless of the quality of Toronto’s opponent, can’t help but be impressed at the way Dwane Casey goes about his business. If his players remotely approached every tip the way Casey approaches every possession, the Raptors wouldn’t be life and death when a team such as Charlotte pays a visit to the Air Canada Centre. In Chicago, there’s much angst as to why the Bulls have yet to extend Tom Thibodeau, the NBA’s reigning coach of the year who took his team to the Eastern final last spring before losing to Miami. In Toronto, there’s no chatter about Casey’s extension when there should be as Casey continues to prove his worth and his impact on a team that is more D-league than NBA-ready against an equally inept Bobcats side. In fact, he’s making such a case that the Raptors should lock him up well beyond next season as more legitimate pieces are assembled. Stability has been so fleeting in Raptorland in what seems like an eternity that a known commodity in Casey simply must be locked up for good. Give him a five-year deal and send a message that a culture that demands defence will always be adhered to and enforced. In Casey, the Raptors have finally found a guy players league-wide respect.

  • Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer: Anthony Davis as a Bobcat: It would change so much. But first, to keep things realistic, let’s look at some odds. I’m assuming two things – Davis will soon declare he’s coming out after his freshman season and the Bobcats are going to finish with the NBA’s worst record. Both seem safe assumptions. As of Tuesday, the Bobcats were five games worse in the win column than anyone else, and the regular season ends this month. But even with the worst record, Charlotte has only a 1-in-4 chance of getting the first pick – which is absolutely going to be Davis, which is why he’d be foolish not to come out – when the NBA draft lottery is conducted May 30. The Bobcats, in other words, have a 75 percent of not getting Davis. ... He would give the team an identity. But he wouldn’t be an immediate fix, much like John Wall hasn’t really moved the win-loss needle in Washington. Davis would need help, which is where the Bobcats’ cap room comes in. Still, Davis would make the Bobcats a lot better than they are. He would intimidate people inside. His mere presence would allow the Bobcats’ shooters to get more open shots. It would all be a whole lot of fun. But first, those 1-in-4 (at best) odds must pay off.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: The Suns remain unsettled on how to act on Aaron Brooks, although it seems doubtful that he will join a team with three point guards and play at this stage. The Suns could sign Brooks to a multiyear contract while they have exclusive negotiating rights, but that would cut into their July salary-cap flexibility for free agency. They could let him go into free agency and still be able to match any team's offer if they elect to keep him. "It's put us in a situation where we need to have some serious conversations, internally and potentially with Aaron, about the state of where we are and what's going to make the most sense with the organization," Blanks said. "I can't give you A or B right now, but it certainly needs to be discussed. He's a NBA-level point guard and a pretty good one. Does it make sense now or later? Those things need to be talked about, and that's a lot easier to do that when you have spent a week with a guy seeing him live in basketball games and talking to him." Brooks' Guangdong team lost 4-1 in the finals to Stephon Marbury's Beijing team. Marbury scored 41 points in Game 5, and Brooks had 33.

  • Marcos Breton of The Sacramento Bee: Sacramento is going to be hard-pressed to build a downtown arena to house the Kings as long as the Maloof brothers are the Kings owners. I wish this wasn't so, but the Maloofs have always found a reason not to pay up when it was their turn. They've always thrown up roadblocks when everyone else was ready to take on the monumental task of building an arena here. ... They are refusing to pay $3.2 million in pre-development costs – chump change for most NBA owners – when Sacramento is paying a much larger share. AEG, the Los Angeles-based arena operators, is ready to pay as well. The Maloofs contend they shouldn't pay for pre-development costs when they won't have an ownership stake in the arena. They'll just be renters. ... How curious that this whole story first broke in the Los Angeles Times, the market where the Maloofs wanted to move the Kings last year but were blocked by the NBA. Am I accusing the Maloofs of leaking this story? Heavens to Betsy, no! It's just very curious, wouldn't you say? Now the Maloofs' Los Angeles-based lawyer is firing off letters raising doubts that Sacramento can complete an arena on time. Think about that for a minute.