First Cup: Tuesday

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Zach Randolph couldn’t make it to shootaround Monday morning because someone rammed into the back of his Dodge Challenger on Bill Morris Parkway. The Grizzlies’ power forward complained of minor back soreness but wasn’t seriously injured. That’s more than he could say for that Challenger given its rear end was smashed and all but detached. So Randolph cranked up a different set of wheels in order to make the Grizzlies’ 94-85 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers before 17,219 in FedExForum. “I drove my Rolls,” Randolph said, referring to his Rolls-Royce. Randolph’s mode of transportation almost seems symbolic of the way the Griz are playing these days. They enjoyed another smooth ride to victory with the luxury of balanced scoring and a defensive effort that put the brakes on the Clippers’ offense. Randolph notched his third straight double-double (10 points, 12 rebounds) as six Grizzlies scored in double figures.

  • Dan Woike of The Orange County Register: If this is what the first-round of the NBA playoffs are going to look like for the Los Angeles Clippers, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the rest of the team are in for a battle. Playing in Memphis for the first time this season, the Grizzlies controlled the game for most of the 48 minutes, beating the Clippers 94-85. If the season ended today, the Clippers would meet the Grizzlies in the first round. With a game-and-half lead now over Memphis, the Clippers would still have home-court advantage. ... With the Lakers win in New Orleans, the Clippers now are 1.5 games out in the Pacific Division race.

  • Shannon J. Owens of the Orlando Sentinel: Last month, Dwight Howard was a hero for deciding to stay in Orlando until 2013 for another championship push. Now, judging by the prevailing opinion of sports commentators, sports talk radio and blogs, Howard is avillain for trying to push his coach out of the picture to win a championship. How quickly things change. Howard leaves a lot to be desired in the leadership department and he can come across as immature, indecisive and slightly arrogant. But a villain? Stop it. ... We live in an increasingly polarized world of unrealistic ideologies that holds individuals hostage to character flaws. As things go in the sports realm, you're either good or evil. Or in other words, you're Tim Tebow or Dwight Howard. But as Tebow knows, even the perception of being flawless is a flaw in itself. It's comical to me that Howard is considered the new No. 1 sports villain, successfully knocking off Tiger Woods and LeBron James. Howard didn't need a busted windshield or need to leave his home state or, crazy enough, even a criminal record to accomplish this. All it took was an infamous Stan Van Gundy press conference and Diet Pepsi swig to burn Howard's red cape.

  • E.J. Holland Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News: Lamar Odom’s play on the court this season left many Maverick fans feeling like they deserved better. After all, the former NBA Sixth Man of the Year was supposed to help ease the void left by Tyson Chandler’s departure and help win another championship. But after a tumultuous season headlined by drama and flat out disappointment, the Mavs parted ways with Odom on Monday. When the news broke, Dallas fans didn’t hesitate to leave comments saying ‘good riddance’ and ‘send that diva packing.’ Anger and animosity escalated this year at American Airlines Center after Odom posted career-lows and played with no passion. It was clear the lethargic 13-year veteran had overstayed his welcome when he was greeted by a chorus of boos last month. But despite what Mavs fans are saying, Odom’s wife Khloe Kardashian, supported her husband over twitter, saying he’s the one that ‘deserves better.’ “U deserve so much better. Know ur worth and know ur skills that have been proven and earned! U showed ur strength, I love u.” Everybody in Dallas would probably disagree.

  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: Kobe Bryant will get as long as he needs to get his sore left shin right, even if it means the Lakers slip a place or two in the Western Conference standings, coach Mike Brown said Monday morning. Bryant wasn't fit to play in Monday night's game against the New Orleans Hornets. His streak of consecutive games ended at 138 when he sat out the Lakers' 20-point loss Saturday to the Phoenix Suns. Brown couldn't say when Bryant, the league's leading scorer with an average of 28.1 points, would be sound enough to play. The Lakers, third in the West with a 36-22 record, conclude their three-game trip Wednesday against the Spurs in San Antonio. "It's not the end of the world if he needs another game," Brown said. "I'd rather he'd be fresh going into the playoffs and us being fourth or fifth than him hurting or dinged up going into the playoffs and we're third. If we play the right way, whether Kobe's playing or not, we should still be OK or give ourselves a chance to still get that third seed."

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: Phil Jackson has a message for everybody criticizing Andrew Bynum. Settle down. The former Lakers coach told The Times he enjoyed seeing Bynum's development, even if it had been filled with inexplicable turns the last few weeks. "Bynum is not quite mature, but everyone should relax and watch him grow up," Jackson said via email. "This year has been a big step for him offensively…nice to see…and when he takes up the mantle as defensive captain the Lakers can get back in the hunt." Jackson was strict with Bynum while coaching him for six seasons, prodding him about his fitness, getting more rebounds and playing better defense.

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: The Lakers won without Bryant, who missed his second consecutive game after it was determined after the Lakers’ shootaround Monday morning at the Arena that he wouldn’t play. Similar to the Lakers, Monty Williams was forced to reshuffle his lineup, with starting shooting guard Eric Gordon sitting out with a sore lower back and point guard Greivis Vasquez starting in place of Jarrett Jack, who is out for the remainder of the season with a stress fracture in his right foot. Although small forward Trevor Ariza isn’t injured, he never left the bench. Williams said after the game he didn’t play Ariza because he wants to give more playing time to Al-Farouq Aminu and Lance Thomas. “If Trevor was in a free-agent year or something like that, I’d play him the way I’m playing Carl (Landry) and Chris (Kaman),” Williams said.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: The Thunder won this game with its size. Milwaukee had no answer for the Thunder’s size and length. It was clear on the opening possession, when OKC got two offensive rebounds before Kendrick Perkins scored on a putback. The Thunder had four offensive rebounds in the first five minutes and just pounded the Bucks on the boards all night. The Thunder’s length also was a major factor on the defensive end. Serge Ibaka helped set the tone on that end by blocking shots early and often and against almost everyone. Ibaka had four blocks in the first quarter and had five at halftime. All five were against five different players. By the midway point of the second period, the Bucks had begun unnecessarily hesitating on shots, seemingly out of fear of them getting sent back.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Andrew Bogut is no longer playing for the Bucks, but his bobblehead legend lives on. The Bucks distributed bobbleheads of the former Bucks center Monday night after soliciting opinion on the team's website and Facebook page. The results? More than 65% of the fans said the Bucks should give away the bobbleheads, even though Bogut is now a member of the Golden State Warriors.

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: The recent additions of point guard Patrick Mills, swingman Stephen Jackson and versatile big man Boris Diaw allowed Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to leave team captain Tim Duncan and All-Star guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili back home in San Antonio when the team jetted off to its Monday night game against the Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. A fourth “addition” to this season’s roster has been vital in keeping Duncan’s playing time at a career-low 28.4 minutes per game. The solid campaign backup center Tiago Splitter has authored in his second season in silver and black has enabled long stretches of bench time for Duncan in most games, in addition to the four games Popovich has held him out altogether. “Getting Tiago Splitter back in health this year has helped,” Popovich said. “We didn’t really have him last year, so he’s like an addition to the team.”

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: Injuries to Earl Watson and C.J. Miles forced the Utah Jazz to what Kevin O'Connor refers to as an "emergency list." Topping that list: combo guard Blake Ahearn. As such, the Jazz signed the D-League's leading scorer to a 10-day contract. The 6-3 sharpshooter will join the team for today's practice and be available to play beginning Wednesday in Houston. General manager Kevin O'Connor said the Jazz like that Ahearn can shoot the ball and that the 27-year-old has professional experience. Ahearn led the D-League with 23.8 points per game, which included 40-percent shooting from 3-point range and a sizzling 96-percet clip from the free-throw line. "He can really shoot the basketball," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "He can set the offense. He can space the floor. . . . We need perimeter shooting and he'll be able to help us there."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: If Steve Nash dunked more than never, he might be able to lead the NBA in shooting accuracy. As it is, centers Tyson Chandler, Andrew Bynum, Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat and power forward Blake Griffin have nearly 600 dunks cumulative to help hold off the 38-year-old. Nash entered Monday night's game shooting 54.0 percent this season for the best clip of his 14-year career. It makes him the only non-post player in the NBA's top 16 for field-goal percentage. "To be honest, my shoulder bothered me for a while, but generally I've been pretty healthy," Nash said. "That's usually a key for me to making shots. When I feel healthy, I'll make them. If I'm struggling, I'm going to have a few weeks where I struggle." During a season in which the roster's scoring options were fewer than in the past, Nash has wound up shooting less. He entered Monday averaging 9.2 shots per game, his fewest since his 1999-2000 season as a part-time starter in Dallas. Opponents have trapped Nash more on pick and rolls this season in the past two months, prompting him to pass even more than usual. Nash shared the league lead in assists with Boston's Rajon Rondo at 11.2 per game entering Monday night. Nash has proven efficient from all ranges, shooting 70 percent inside 8 feet, 50 percent from 8 to 16 feet, 55 percent from 16 to 24 feet and 41 percent beyond 24 feet. Those shots often are coming off his own dribble. About 84 percent of his baskets are unassisted.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: The Rockets struggled all night to put away the Blazers, but Dragic carried the offense well into the fourth quarter before Kyle Lowry added the knockout punch. With that, the Rockets completed a four-game sweep of their road trip by holding off Portland, 94-89, on Monday. That was enough to give Dragic his first taste of what it will be like to be a coveted free agent, with so much interest before and after the game about his free agency plans and preferences. “It was a little bit different,” said Dragic, who was named the Western Conference Player of the Week Monday morning then made 8 of his 14 shots to score 22 points with seven assists. “Before, they never asked me this type of questions. ‘Are you going to come to Portland?’ Still, all the doors are open. We’re going to see what is going to happen this summer. I feel great in Houston. Hopefully, I’m going to stay in Houston. “It’s going to be a crazy summer for me. Still, I have to get every game, try to be focused, play hard and try to make playoffs with Houston Rockets. What is going to happen after the season, we’ll see.” The Rockets might not have expected what they have gotten from him, to the point that Monday’s performance was considered no more than ‘solid.’

  • Phillip B. Wilson of The Indianapolis Star: Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel joked about having extremely high expectations for Leandro Barbosa with the guard's former team, Toronto, visiting Bankers Life Fieldhouse Monday night. "I just asked him to try to score 50," Vogel said with a smile. "If he can go for 50 and pay those guys back, we should be in good shape. Anything short of that, we'll be in trouble." Barbosa scored 14 in the Pacers' 103-98 victory. Since being acquired from the Raptors on March 15 for a second-round pick and cash considerations, Barbosa has provided an expected spark to the second team, an infusion of instant offense and intensity. He had averaged 8.1 points off the bench before Monday's game. He has an 11.2-point overall average for the season, his eighth in the NBA. But the 29-year-old Brazilian's influence goes beyond providing quality minutes off the bench. Raptors coach Dwane Casey described Barbosa as the spirit of their team and said he is missed. Vogel wasn't surprised to hear that.

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: Nuggets forward Al Harrington left Monday night’s game against Golden State at the end of the third quarter and did not return. Afterward he revealed he has a torn meniscus. His loss would be devastating to the Nuggets’ bench and locker room, as he’s been one of the team’s best players and leaders all season long. He’s also been durable, playing in all 57 games this season with averages of roughly 14 points and six rebounds, despite nagging injuries all year long. He had 10 points and one rebound before exiting the Golden State game. He’s hoping his consistent availablity this season doesn’t come to an end. Harrington, has, in fact already been playing with a torn meniscus, he said. He said he was injured “a couple of games ago.” Now, he said, both he and team doctors/trainers are exploring “a couple of different options” in terms of treatment.