First Cup: Friday

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: This. One's. For. Gallo. With Danilo Gallinari out of the game because of a knee injury -- a source close to the situation said Gallo thinks it's an ACL tear -- Nuggets teammate Andre Iguodala made a stupendous drive from the right wing. Dre hit the left-handed layup, with 2.8 seconds left, giving Denver the lead Thursday night against the Dallas Mavericks. "I whispered to A.I.: 'If they're disrupting Andre (Miller), you've got to go,' and he finished the shot," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "It's a win, but it doesn't feel as exuberant." Corey Brewer then blocked Anthony Morrow's shot at the buzzer, and the Nuggets won at home 95-94 in the second game of a back-to-back set. But the Gallinari injury looks bad. A source close to the situation said Gallinari "heard a pop" when his knee buckled and that Gallo "thinks it's a torn ACL." Denver's No. 2 scorer buckled his left knee in the second quarter, collapsing to the floor. It looked bad. Real bad. Gallinari is scheduled for an MRI on Friday morning, but the way he hobbled off the court, fell upon a stretcher and screamed in pain, it would suggest it looked more severe than a sprain.

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: Andre Iguodala had never won this many games in his NBA career. He's perhaps the greatest perimeter defender the Nuggets have ever had. And the team could finish in the top four of the cutthroat Western Conference. But there is still some uncertainty looming with Iguodala's contract situation for next season. The shooting guard would make about $16 million next season, but he has the choice to opt out of his contract and sign a new, longer deal with Denver or with another team. Re-signing with the Nuggets would give him a chance to sign for an additional fifth season and give him security. But other teams, notably Dallas and Atlanta, will have ample salary cap space this summer. "I'm going to explore every option," Iguodala said. "Ideally, you would want to opt out. The business of the NBA says you opt out and get a deal you like. But I think that's still to be determined, depending on our success in the playoffs. I can't make that decision now.” … This is speculative, but Iguodala could sign with Denver for about $48 million for four seasons. Some teams might be willing to go into the $50 million range. But a lot of signings are based on other signings, so again, it's speculative.

  • Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Mark Cuban said he would consider drafting Baylor center Brittney Griner, which is another gimick but clearly the Mavs owner grasps the concept of professional sports as well as Jerry Jones or anyone else - it's entertainment dressed as sport. And a "Dallas Mavericks 42 Griner"jersey will be far more profitable than a "Dallas Mavericks 42 Brand" jersey. Adding Griner would be for discussion, which is why Cuban should do it. Let's see what arguably the best woman's player of this decade can do against guys. Even in a practice or two. Maybe she will suck. Maybe she can hang. We didn't know what Annika Sorenstam could do until she played at the Colonial in 2003 and failed to make the cut. She didn't embarrass herself. She beat a few guys. … There is no need to waste a draft pick on Griner, but sign her to a rookie contract and give her a tryout in the summer. She what she can do. Griner has likely played against guys her whole life, so she would at least be used to it on some level. … The problem, of course, she does not have a forward's game. She has a center's game, and no 6-foot-8 player in the NBA is a center. The other problem is the size of the ball; it's one thing for Griner to dunk with a woman's regulation-sized basketball; can she it do the same with a larger basketball? And it would appear the coordination, and strength, to put the ball on the floor and hit 15-foot shots against bigger, athletic bodies isn't there. Or we don't think it's there. Let's find out.

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: When Dirk Nowitzki was asked about the possibility of Baylor superstar center Brittney Griner playing in the NBA, he kept repeating two words demonstratively: “it’s tough.” Earlier this week, owner Mark Cuban said he was open to the possibility of drafting Griner this summer. Cuban’s comments made the rounds nationally — and not always in a positive light. Nowitzki weighed in on the controversy after Thursday morning’s shootaround at the Pepsi Center. “I honestly have huge respect for [Griner],” Nowitzki said. “She may be the most dominant female player ever in college, but I don’t know if the NBA is made for a female. “It’s physical, there are a lot of athletes out there. I think it’s tough.” Speaking candidly, Nowitzki offered a suggestion for Griner, who will be the top overall pick in the next WNBA Draft. “Maybe if she does want to maybe try in the [NBA] summer league to see how it is,” Nowitzki said. “But I don’t think a female, at this point, can play in the NBA.”

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: It was better to get this win than to not. But you can’t ignore the fact that San Antonio was without Manu Ginobili, Stephen Jackson and, after a while, Tony Parker. The result was necessary, but the process didn’t really shed any more light on what we can expect in a potential Western Conference Finals rematch. Inching closer to home-court advantage helps. But we still don’t know if the Thunder is equipped to beat the Spurs in a seven-game series this postseason. Of course, the answer rests in whether the Spurs will be healthy. And nobody at this point can say with certainty that they will be. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Parker couldn’t go because of a leg injury. “I wish he would have told me that before the game,” Popovich said. “He started out, he looked like he had no energy to start the game. And then as he went it looked like he was limping. And then to start the second half (we) saw him come across halfcourt actually limping one time. So that’s when we pulled him. I said, ‘Tony, you’ve got to stop.’ So we’ll figure out what it is. But he just couldn’t go.” Pop said he thinks Parker might be dealing with tendinitis. Said it “might be something in his shins.” Now there seems to be a very real possibility that the Spurs hold Parker out of their remaining games to let him heal for the postseason. It’s something to watch as the Thunder now tries to fend off San Antonio for that top spot.

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: Russell Westbrook hurried the ball upcourt, 20 seconds into the game, and passed to Thabo Sefolosha for a dunk. Then he swiped a San Antonio pass and took the ball the distance himself for a layup. Westbrook got in Tony Parker's grill as the Spurs tried to run offense. The game was not yet a minute old, and Westbrook had staked his claim. This Thunder-Spurs showdown was going to be his game. That usually means a Thunder victory, and so it did Thursday night, a 100-88 verdict that gives OKC control of its own destiny. Win out, and the Thunder is the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Against a hobbled Parker, Westbrook was superb: 27 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, three steals. In the West finals last year, the series turned when Scotty Brooks moved Thabo over to guard Parker. No such switch was needed Thursday night.

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: The Spurs got a dollop of good news Thursday when an MRI on forward Stephen Jackson’s right ankle revealed only a mild ankle sprain that should not keep him out long. Of course, that didn’t help the Spurs against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Listed as day-to-day, Jackson did not travel with the team to OKC after injuring the ankle in Wednesday’s victory over Orlando. In the past, he and Kawhi Leonard have proved a physical tag-team against Durant, who is eyeing a fourth consecutive NBA scoring title. “We need him against people like Kevin,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said before the game with the Thunder. “He’s got a good physicality about him. He knows how to play that way. “It’s a good combination with he and Kawhi trying to guard Kevin. Emphasize try.”

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Thursday night is why anybody thinking the Derrick Rose-less Bulls will be an early playoff exit might want to reconsider. Down three starters and two rotation players to injury, the Bulls rallied from a 16-point deficit and stunned the Nets 92-90 at Barclays Center when Brook Lopez's jumper went in and out at the buzzer. Nate Robinson scored the go-ahead basket with 22.7 seconds remaining, Nazr Mohammed helped force a steal and blocked Lopez in the final minute and Carlos Boozer and Jimmy Butler provided multiple big plays. With eight games remaining, the Bulls pulled into a tie with the Hawks for fifth place and moved one game down in the loss column to the Nets in the Eastern Conference, which truly is the Leastern Conference this season given that the Nets currently sit in fourth place with home-court advantage for a first-round playoff series. This is one matchup the Bulls wouldn't mind seeing.

  • Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: With Thursday night’s game against the Bulls on the line, the Nets went to Brook Lopez three straight times. And, three straight times, Lopez came up empty. The result was an extremely disappointing 92-90 loss to an undermanned Chicago team in front of a sellout crowd of 17,732 at Barclays Center. “It’s tough, just because our team was playing so well through the majority of the game and I contributed a lot to how the final score ended up,” said Lopez, “and that’s definitely not something I’m happy with or proud of.” In a season full of milestones and highlights for Lopez, including making his first All-Star Game, the final minute of Thursday night’s game — one that began with Lopez scoring 18 points in the first quarter — will be something he will do his best to forget.

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: Phil Jackson is finally returning to Madison Square Garden as a Knick — not in the role that fans might have wanted, but returning as a Knick all the same. Jackson and the rest of the Knicks’ 1973 championship team will be honored Friday night as the franchise celebrates the 40th anniversary of its last title. It will be Jackson’s first appearance at the Garden in two years, since his retirement as the Los Angeles Lakers’ coach in 2011. The possibility of Jackson’s return to the Knicks as a coach or an executive has been floated many times over the years, but it has never come close to happening. The Knicks declined to contact him last spring before promoting Mike Woodson. … The 1973 team will be honored at halftime of the Knicks-Bucks game. All of the living members are expected, including Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe, Bill Bradley, Dick Barnett, Henry Bibby, John Gianelli, Jerry Lucas, Dean Meminger and Harthorne Wingo.