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First Cup: Tuesday

  • Phil Collin of the Los Angeles Daily News: One teammate uttered the words "bionic nan." Kobe Bryant has taken to calling Metta World Peace "Logan," the character in "Wolverine." Whatever Metta Madness is flowing through his veins, it looks like World Peace will return to the Lakers lineup tonight, 12 days after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. A medical miracle? Not really, World Peace said. He was itching to play the moment he was asked by Dr. Steve Lombardo if he could put weight on the leg, and he hopped out of bed and did so only hours after the operation ."As long as he didn't have to stitch anything together, I couldn't do anything to (further damage) it," World Peace said Monday after going through 3-on-3 workouts. "I was in great shape. The doc said he was surprised my knee was in such great shape playing 14 years in the NBA and always in a defensive stance. "When I heard all that, it wasn't like I was trying to come back to be a Superman. I figured I've just got to play through pain and it will get better as time goes." … Guard Steve Nash, who was "super optimistic" about a return last Friday, remains doubtful with a hamstring strain.

  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: The last thing the Bulls need with six games left in the regular season is to roll back downhill with their health concerns, but that appears to have happened. Joakim Noah returned to the court Sunday against Detroit after missing eight games to rest chronic plantar fasciitis in his feet. Noah played well (13 points, 7 rebounds in 21 minutes), but his feet didn't react well Monday morning, according to coach Tom Thibodeau. "Jo had a little bit of a setback. We'll see. We'll see where he is," Thibodeau said after practice at the Berto Center. There's no telling if or when Noah might be back to normal this season. It seems unlikely he'll play Tuesday when the Bulls host Toronto. While most injuries slowly improve, plantar fasciitis patients often talk about how the ailment is so unpredictable. Thibodeau said Noah felt good after Sunday's game.

  • Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald: While the rest of the NBA community is busy speculating about the future of LeBron James and how the Heat plans to navigate the new salary cap, Pat Riley is thinking long-term about how special the run of this Heat team can become. Speaking with reporters at the Heat’s“Family Fest” on Sunday, Riley pointed to models of success the NBA considers some the best in its history as the ultimate goal for the Heat while also reminding the city to enjoy this “special time.” “I just want to keep helping them, keep bringing in more pieces that are going to complement them and hope we can have one of those 10-year rides, you know,” Riley said. “You think about every team, through the Celtics in the ’60s and the Lakers in the ’80s and the Bulls and then again the Spurs, those guys have been together eight, nine, 10 years and if we can keep this group together for eight, nine, 10 years, then we’re all going to have some fun.” And then a piece of advice. “So, don’t ever take it for granted,” he said. Already this season the Heat has won 27 games in a row, the most in franchise history and the second most in the history of the NBA. Now the team is on the verge of another milestone. A victory Tuesday against the Milwaukee Bucks would give the Heat 61 victories, which would tie the franchise’s record for a single season.

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: This streak brings its own questions: Is the new, efficient Smith here to stay, or will he revert to bad habits under postseason duress? Can Anthony keep scoring at this rate when defenses target him during the playoffs? Can the Knicks make the finals with a merely average defense? Does their defense have another gear? What happens to the chemistry if Amar’e Stoudemire, Rasheed Wallace and Kurt Thomas return? And most curious of all: After months of mediocrity, where did this Knicks team come from? “It’s April, I guess,” Anthony said. “It’s April. It’s time to go.”

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: The one thing people would never accuse Mike Conley of is being flashy. He tends to appear conservative — on and off the court. But that is starting to change — at least on the floor — where Conley’s offensive game suddenly has a lot of bling-bling to it. The Griz have increasingly relied on Conley to carry a heavier offensive load, particularly late in games, and it’s allowed him to shine. It’s a dramatic transformation for a point guard who had been content with being a passive piece of the puzzle for most of his six-year career. Conley enters Tuesday night’s game against the Charlotte Bobcats having scored at least 20 points in each of the past four games. That’s the longest streak by any Grizzlies player this season. Relatively speaking, Conley is in the proverbial zone as a scorer. “I’m really comfortable right now,” Conley said. Coach Lionel Hollins seems impressed yet not surprised by Conley’s maturation. “He’s just a more confident player,” Hollins said.

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: Although they got into an apparent shouting match during a timeout in last Friday’s game against the Utah Jazz, New Orleans Hornets Coach Monty Williams and guardEric Gordon both appear to have moved past the conflict. But Williams said he's not going to stop pushing Gordon to improve his overall play, especially during the final five games of the season. Against the Jazz, Williams did not put Gordon back into game after they apparently got into shouting match. Williams was visibly agitated, yelling in Gordon’s direction when he apparently didn’t think Gordon was hustling enough. Assistant coach Randy Ayers stepped in front of Williams to calm him, after Gordon hollered back at him. “He’s a dynamic guard, that’s why I push him,’’ said Williams, who plans to start Gordon for the second consecutive since the incident on Tuesday night when the Hornets play the Lakers at the Staples Center. “I’m not going to allow him to settle for where he is in his career right now. He’s got to get better. If he gets better, he should be an All-Star someday.’’ Gordon admitted the conflict was a heat of the moment situation that shouldn't be blown out of proportion. “It got very heated in the moment, but I’m not letting none of that get to me,” Gordon said. “I’m just out here, still trying to play.”

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: As Kyrie Irving continues to shrink away from any public platform, Tristan Thompson is embracing his role as a spokesman — and he’s backing it up with his play on the court, too. “Just being myself, just being a natural leader and speaking up if I see something is wrong,” Thompson said after the victory Sunday against the Magic. “Just recently y’all have been coming to me, and I’ve been speaking, so I guess you can say I’ve been a leader.” Because of the position he plays and his immense talent, Irving remains the floor leader. But twice in the past week Irving has been given the opportunity to take a stand publicly and twice he declined.

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: If there was any lingering doubt, Timberwolves forward Kevin Love’s season officially is over, but it’s not just because of that healing shooting hand. Love will have arthroscopic surgery to remove scar tissue in his left knee later this week. Love will consult with two surgeons on Wednesday at New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery: He’ll see his hand doctor for a checkup on that right hand he has broken twice this season and also will consult with knee surgeon Dr. David Altchek, who probably will perform the operation that same day. Love’s left knee has bothered him much of the season, but it has grown more painful in recent days as he ramped up workouts for a possible return yet this season. He told team doctors after games in December that his hip was hurting him, and Wolves doctors concluded that the problem was connected to his knee pain. David Kahn, Timberwolves president of basketball operations, called the arthroscopic surgery “minor” and said he expects Love to resume his normal summer workouts in Los Angeles by early June after a season in which he has played just 18 games.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Larry Sanders has plenty of competition for the most improved player honor, and he's also in the conversation for the defensive player of the year award. New Orleans' Greivis Vasquez, Houston's Omer Asik, Philadelphia's Jrue Holiday, Orlando's Nikola Vucevic and Indiana's Paul George are garnering support for the most improved award, voted on by 122 journalists who cover the NBA. … Several detailed analytical studies support Boylan's view. And a mere glance at last season's statistics shows Sanders played in 52 games without any starts and a total of 643 minutes, while this season he has started 53 of 69 games and played 1,892 minutes, an average of 27.4 minutes. This is the second consecutive year the Bucks have put a player in contention for the award. Ersan Ilyasova finished second to Orlando's Ryan Anderson for the most improved honor in 2011-'12. … The Bucks designed a public relations campaign featuring a colorful set of blocks to promote Sanders' candidacy for the most improved player and defensive player of the year awards. Sanders led the league in blocks for much of the season until recently being passed by last year's rejections leader, Serge Ibaka of Oklahoma City. Ibaka is averaging 3.07 blocks to Sanders' 2.9.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: John Wall was unaccustomed to having a teammate challenge him, but in hindsight, he couldn’t disagree with anything that Okafor told him: Wittman had to go with someone else if he was ineffective and Wall has to trust that the coach is doing what was in the best interest of the team, which should always come first. … What followed after the encounter has been the best basketball of Wall’s young career. Beginning with the next game on March 1 against the New York Knicks – the Wizards’ opponent on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden – the third-year point guard has been on a statistical tear that has changed perceptions of his career and shown that his talents are no longer stagnating. In his past 21 games, Wall is averaging 22.7 points, 7.9 assists and 4.9 rebounds and has recorded 10 games with at least 20 points, three games of 35 or more, and seven double-doubles. In that time, only LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are averaging at least 22 points, seven assists and 4.9 rebounds. “I think I really had to grow. Get my teammates back behind me. Because that’s not the way you’re supposed to come out as a leader and as a franchise guy,” Wall said of his attitude the night of the argument with Okafor.

  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: With Sunday's 125-120 victory over the Thunder, New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony is now 11-1 all-time against Kevin Durant in NBA games where both have played. Durant's lone head-to-head victory against Anthony came in a 151-147 double-overtime contest at KeyArena on April 6, 2008, which means Durant has yet to defeat Anthony while with the Thunder. Anthony did not play in OKC's 95-94 victory at New York on March 7 this season. Against Durant, Anthony has averaged 30.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting 50.4 percent from the field, 40.0 percent from 3-point range and 84.8 percent from the free-throw line. Meanwhile, Durant has averaged 26.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting 42.2 percent from the floor, 38.3 percent from 3-point range and 89.1 percent from the free-throw line.

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Dirk Nowitzki doesn’t want it to end like this. Slugging it out for the eighth seed — or more likely missing the playoffs — is bad enough once. Or twice. In the autumn of his NBA career, he wants more. And while he has no problem putting pressure on ownership to find some high-quality warriors to play alongside him, Nowitzki also is OK taking on his share of the workload off the court. He’s ready to hit the recruiting trail. “I’ve said it all year long — this is a big summer for us,” Nowitzki said. “We have to get better. We have to get some guys in that can get us back to the top level. We want to be a top-four seed in the West. That was always our goal, to play for the top. So this is a big summer. If [owner Mark Cuban] needs me to recruit and do all that stuff, I’m more than happy to.” Will it be enough to woo a marquee free agent or finagle a sign-and-trade? Nobody knows for sure. But it can’t hurt.

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: What if? What if the Raptors hadn’t screwed up so many years ago when they had the chance to hire Hammond? What if they hadn’t blown it by going through a ridiculous process of whittling a large group to four only to say they were going to open up the process again only to come back to the same four and eventually picking Rob Babcock. The four — Babcock, Jeff Weltman, Mark Warkentien and Tony DiLeo (remember that Gang of Four?) —were basically underwhelming at that time and that the Raptors — and I am pointing a finger directly at Richard Peddie — didn’t even deign to interview Hammond, who was the No. 1 man to Joe Dumars in Deroit at the time, was a shocking blown opportunity. John wanted the job and deserved to have a shot at it; the short-sightedness of Peddie and his people set the franchise back years, so far that they might still be digging out almost a decade later.

  • Dale Kasler, Ryan Lillis and Tony Bizjak of The Sacramento Bee: Beverly Hills billionaire Ron Burkle, a driving force for the past two years in trying to keep the Kings from leaving town, will not invest in the team or the proposed Downtown Plaza arena, Mayor Kevin Johnson announced Monday afternoon. Facing questions over a conflict of interest, Burkle instead will focus on redeveloping other portions of Downtown Plaza. "He's so committed to Sacramento," the mayor said, adding that he spoke with Burkle on Monday. "There's a host of ancillary development opportunities that Ron will participate in." … Johnson insisted that Burkle's new role would not deflate the effort to keep the Kings from going to Seattle, and said other investors would pick up the financial slack. He did not give specifics.

  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: The Warriors have a get-well game Tuesday against visiting Minnesota, which is 18 games under .500. A win coupled with a loss by Utah or the Los Angeles Lakers would clinch the Warriors' first postseason bid since 2007. But success against the Timberwolves won't answer an emerging concern. If you let Utah, a bad road team on the cusp of missing the playoffs, shut down Curry and the Warriors offense at the most critical of times, will Golden State be able to score in the postseason? Sunday night was less an anomaly and more like a trend. The Warriors have lost seven of their last 10 games against winning teams, including Sunday's home loss to Utah. In those 10 games, the Warriors averaged 22.4 fourth-quarter points. That includes a 17-point fourth quarter in a blowout of visiting New York, but finding offense against stiff defenses has been a major problem. … Jackson likes having Jack on the floor, so the three-guard lineup isn't going anywhere. That makes sense considering the way Jack has played this season. Jack is more secure with the ball than Curry, and defenses have aggressively double-teamed Curry late in games, something harder to do when he's playing off the ball. This quandary will continue into the postseason when the defenses step up a notch and coaching chess matches ensue. Because, no doubt, as goes Curry, so goes Golden State.

  • Bill Oram of The Salt Lake Tribune: Well, this ought to be a good story. Jazz forward DeMarre Carroll tweeted Monday afternoon that he broke the rim during a pickup game at Life Time Fitness, an athletic club in South Jordan. There have been plenty of classic backboard breaking moments [this is a solid compendium] but the whole library doesn't quite seem complete without footage of Carroll's. Does anybody have it? Carroll, 26, averages 16 minutes per game in 64 appearances this season. He is a pending free agent, but even if he ends up leaving it's unlikely it will be without recounting the story of the time he broke the backboard at Life Time Fitness. Stay tuned.