First Cup: Friday

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "The Wizards vs. the Cavaliers had become a rite of spring as the teams met three years in a row, with Cleveland winning each of the playoff series. The series have had some hotly contested games, controversial finishes, buzzer-beaters, gamesmanship at the foul line and even a rap battle. Despite the difference in the standings, the teams entered last night's contest having played two close games, with the Cavaliers needing an 11-0 run to win on Christmas in Cleveland, and the Wizards winning 80-77 on Jan. 4 as James attempted a 'crab dribble' and was called for traveling in the closing seconds. Asked before the game if he's going to miss the Wizards this postseason, Cavaliers Coach Mike Brown said: 'In a nutshell, no. From the crab dribble to Soulja Boy to Jay-Z to DeShawn Stevenson, the hard fouls and so on. It's a talented team, and there was a couple of times that some of those games could have gone either way and it could have been the difference in the series. I'm okay not playing those guys.' The teams will meet for the final time this season Wednesday in Cleveland."

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "Call me a homer if you want, but it's absolutely unfathomable that a player who leads the NBA in rebounding plus blocked shots and is in the top 20 (21.3 points per game) in scoring cannot even get a sniff of the MVP. Especially when his team is in championship contention. How is it that D-Wade can be one of the favorites for MVP on a mediocre Miami Heat team whereas D-Wight can't even get a mention even if he is the No. 1 reason the Magic are among the top teams in the league? ... You know what's most disturbing? That Dwight Howard cannot even get any MVP love from the people you'd think would and should endorse him. For instance, Tiger Woods, the Magic's most famous fan, was asked in South Florida a couple of weeks ago to assess the MVP race. Replied Tiger: 'D-Wade has now gotten himself into the conversation. He's doing more with less obviously. But I think it's probably going to come down to LeBron and Kobe. What those two guys are doing is pretty impressive.' Not even a guy who sits courtside at Magic games mentions Dwight's name."

  • Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The clock is ticking. The Hawks' chances of exacting any satisfaction from the colorful, year-long ordeal with the Boston Celtics will run out before the weekend. Tonight's game at TD Banknorth Garden could be the last time they'll see last year's playoff nemesis unless they meet again in this year's playoffs. Based on the current Eastern Conference standings, that would require both teams to advance to the conference finals. 'I'm not worried about the playoffs or anything other than right now and the fact that we've got to find a way to beat these guys,' Hawks forward Josh Smith said. 'They're a top-notch team. … They've defended their title the way any champion would. But we've got to find a way to get over the hump against them.'"

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "The Herald interrupts your breakfast to bring you this breaking news: After much discussion and consternation, it has been learned that if Kevin Garnett cannot play or is limited at the start of the playoffs, the Celtics still plan to show up. And do well. 'People think it's over for us if we don't have Kevin or if Kevin isn't a hundred percent,' said Paul Pierce, 'but we don't look at it that way. No question we want him and we need him but, hey, we've got guys who are capable. They probably can't give what Kevin gives, but that means it'll just have to come from a combination of guys. But we're confident we can win regardless of who we put on the court.' Win a championship? 'Yeah,' said Pierce."

  • James Schmehl of MLive.com: "Allen Iverson can sit and pout about being a bench player in Detroit all he wants, but Pistons Insider A. Sherrod Blakely said the Pistons won't budge at any of his demands.'This is a situation where they will not fold into his demands,' Blakely told Ryan Terpstra on WGHN-AM Grand Haven. 'They're not going to change course just because he's unhappy.' Iverson, who has played off the bench since returning from a 16-game absence with a back injury, said he would not accept being a reserve next season. But Blakely said the Pistons have tried pleasing the ten-time All-Star and now appear to have exhausted all of their options."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "When the Rockets faced the Lakers last month, Kobe Bryant scored 18 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter and mocked Ron Artest for trash-talking down the stretch. Artest described their competition as fun and said on Thursday that it won't go beyond that when the teams meet tonight. 'The only thing that is really serious is the competition,' Artest said. 'If anybody thinks they're going to see any type of dramatic fight, they might as well watch another game or watch another sport because that's not going to happen. It's business. It's not personal because I got a team of guys that I got to worry about. I can't be worried about just one other player and they have a great team.' ... As much as Rockets coach Rick Adelman does not want Ron Artest to let himself get involved with a personal duel with the Lakers' Kobe Bryant, he said that Artest might spend just as much time defending Lamar Odom, who missed the last game between the teams , anyway. 'It's not about him and Kobe,' Adelman said. 'It's about us, how we're going to play. You can't get locked up in him against Kobe.'"

  • Mike Monroe and Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News: "David Robinson will become just the second Spurs player in the Hall of Fame, preceded by George Gervin. A member of the hall's Class of 1996, Gervin called Robinson the foundation of a Spurs franchise that has been one of the NBA's best since Robinson arrived. ... As important as his basketball achievements were to the Spurs, his value to San Antonio is nearly impossible to measure. Without Robinson, former Spurs owner B.J. 'Red' McCombs said, the team may not have remained in the Alamo City. 'He should be in our hearts forever,' McCombs said. 'When he came here, we were at a crossroads with the Spurs, and he truly made the difference. He allowed us to compete, and we couldn't have (become champions) without him.'"

  • Mike Baldwin of The Oklahoman: "Ric Bucher left town convinced the Thunder has a bright future after spending a few days in Oklahoma City for an upcoming story in ESPN the Magazine. So bright, Bucher said the Thunder could be a more formidable playoff threat than Portland a few seasons from now. 'There are key components to building a championship team,' Bucher said. 'You have to have a superstar who dominates his pos
    ition. And you have to have a point guard.' Bucher was referring to Kevin Durant, the reigning Rookie of the Year who is fourth in the league in scoring. The point guard is rookie Russell Westbrook, one of a handful of players close to averaging 15 points, five assists and five rebounds. 'Kevin can dominate his position to command a double team to try and stop him,' Bucher said. 'As good as Brandon Roy is, there are certain matchups you don't have to double him hard. The Thunder isn't at the same place right now. But their flexibility, their room to grow, is better. And they already have some key parts you have to have. Portland doesn't have that point guard, yet. And in my mind they don't have that superstar player.'"

  • Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News: "I've talked to two NBA executives the last few days, who both said the same thing I've heard for months now: They still don't know who's calling the personnel shots for the Warriors and they were quizzing me if I knew. (And I don't.) And if it's truly Don Nelson making every decision -- from Monta Ellis' future to Jamal Crawford's trade status to the draft -- nobody wants to deal with him because his credibility on personnel matters around the league is lower than the Warriors' winning percentage. They say Larry Riley is making the phone calls, as he has since the Harrington-Crawford trade. They all know Chris Mullin is being shoved out. They believe Nelson has to sign off on all moves. But they don't know who they should talk to about any potential personnel movement, since, as one executive said, 'Why should I believe I can get anything done with Larry Riley?' "

  • Jeff Rabjohns of The Indianapolis Star: "When George Hill takes the court tonight against the Indiana Pacers, his presence will be a celebration for an entire community. He came out of the Indianapolis Public Schools system, where fewer than half the students who start high school graduate. Hill and Northwest's Rodney Carney, a forward with the Minnesota Timberwolves, are the only two IPS graduates in the NBA. 'I'm very happy to be an IPS guy who has made it,' Hill said. 'It gives a lot of hope to city kids who may be overlooked to feel they can make it. Me and Rodney Carney, we make it 10 times better for a city kid who doesn't have a great background, who may not be from a great neighborhood. They can say, 'Hey, that kid made it, why can't I?' ' "

  • Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal: "If FedExForum for Grizzlies games were a boom box, the faint sound coming from it would definitely indicate a need for stronger batteries. But it's nothing an improving product and unpredictable circumstance couldn't charge. 'I told them that the fans were available again since (John) Calipari left,' Griz coach Lionel Hollins said, referring to Calipari's leaving the University of Memphis for Kentucky. 'Now that Cal is gone, this is a chance to show the fans that this is where they need to (come).' The Grizzlies own 13 victories at home this season. They've won just 14 home games in each of the past two seasons but have made creating a buzz in FedExForum one of their late goals to finish this campaign. The Dallas Mavericks visit tonight to make up one of the Grizzlies' final four home games. Memphis concludes the regular season against Atlanta on April 15 in FedExForum. That's not many games to build on a thinning support, which appeared to be a count of about 7,000 Wednesday night although the team announced 10,000 during a victory against the Washington Wizards."

  • Brian Stensaas of the Minneapolis Star Tribune: '"Oh, hello America.' So starts the fictitious Kevin Love infomercial pitching Mr. Love Miracle Glass Cleaner. Meant to showcase Love's knack to, ahem, clean up rebounds this season, a DVD containing the four-minute spot, a bottle of window wash concentrate, a Love towel, sponge and statistic booklet is being sent this week to the nearly 125 media members who vote on Rookie of the Year. Devised by the Timberwolves promotions staff (the same people who this winter put out the Al Jefferson All-Star Game GPS road map), the concept overembellishes those quirky television spots (think the Snuggie or ShamWow). The end product teeters on corny; the idea to get the word out about Love is sincere."

  • Chris Tomasson of INDenver Times: "Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony vowed two days earlier he wouldn't get another technical the rest of the season. So what did Anthony have to say when he picked up yet another one in the fourth quarter Thursday? 'Don't believe everything you hear,' Anthony said. The technical was Anthony's 14th of the season, meaning just two more would land him a mandatory one-game suspension. With six games left in the season, Anthony's margin for error is lessening."

  • Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Herb Kohl has always said he would neither move the team nor sell to anyone with that intention. But how long can the Bradley Center realistically ensure the Bucks' presence? 'We're going to give them the best that we can give them,' Ulice Payne said. 'In our lease, there is a certain obligation to keep it to NBA standards, and as you know, standards can change from year to year.' The Bucks need to be more upfront, because their silence hasn't always helped them. More important, though, is the need for community dialogue to begin on whether the NBA's presence is a community asset moving forward."