First Cup: Thursday

  • Chris Tomasson of INDenver Times: "Carmelo Anthony has the looks of being the most well-known Anthony since Susan B. got plopped on the dollar coin 30 years ago. You'd think the Nuggets forward would be riding high these days. Instead, he has an us-against-the-universe stance. 'I don't really worry about them being ticked off,' Anthony said when asked if he feels the Lakers might be mad at the Nuggets on Thursday night due to Denver's rather easy 90-79 win Feb. 27 at the Pepsi Center. 'We're ticked off because nobody respects us.' One thinks, though, the Nuggets might get some respect if they can win Thursday at the Staples Center. ... 'It's a big game, but it's another game on our schedule,'' said Anthony. 'We're going into there trying to get that win. But, if we don't, that's not something we're going to hold our heads down. We still got to finish out this season strong, but we're definitely going into there trying to win.'"

  • Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Whatever good feelings the Jazz took from Sunday's victory in New Orleans vanished in Wednesday's disaster. The Jazz were outscored a combined 27-5 to end the first, second and third quarters and dropped to 2-17 on the road against winning teams. 'That's something I certainly wonder about,' Jerry Sloan said. 'What we're doing with ourselves to try to be ready to play? I've been around guys a long time in this league, and the guys that are good all the time, they prepare themselves, they're ready to go, and we haven't had that on the road. It's really very disappointing.'"

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "In the postgame locker room, one of the first people I want to talk to is Greg Oden, who I thought played well again. He finished with eight points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes. He made 4-of-5 shots. The one shot he missed -- a dunk attempt near the end of the third quarter -- had the feel of a bad omen type play. One of those that you look back on at the end of a loss and say, 'What if ...' I think it's safe to say everyone was flabbergasted that Oden not only missed the dunk, but was rim-checked. And I have to admit, in watching one replay, I couldn't see a foul. So, one of the first things I did was approach Greg and ask whether he was fouled or if he just got rim-checked. He smiled broadly. 'Look. I can touch the rim on my tippy toes. And I know I powered up,' Oden said. 'I think they grabbed my side. I need to see the replay.' I told him I saw one replay -- albeit from a poor angle -- and it didn't look like he was fouled. 'All I'm saying is logically, something had to happen,' Oden said. I think he has dunked enough to know."

  • John DeShazier of The Times-Picayune: "The euphoria over clinching a playoff spot via an overtime victory over the Heat in Miami on Tuesday night must've drained the Hornets for Wednesday night. That's the only explanation available for their failure to score enough against a team, Phoenix, that doesn't even try to pretend to defend, for their failure inside the New Orleans Arena to beat a team that knows in its heart of hearts it's not going to the playoffs. If, that is, the mood prevails to accept an explanation for Wednesday's 105-100 loss. Otherwise, the grisly truth is the Hornets (48-30) closed with a fourth-quarter rush and still managed to lose their second consecutive home game, and their third in the past four games overall. And that they lost to a team they twice had beaten by double figures this season."

  • Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Anyone doubting how serious the Hawks are about securing that fourth spot, and the home-court advantage that comes with it, need only listen to the Hawks talk about how important it is. Having seen how difficult life on the road is in the postseason in last year's series against Boston, they know the importance of snagging the fourth spot while it's there for the taking. 'We've held on to this spot since January,' Mike Woodson said. 'And I think it's not only important for us to hold on to it, it's very important for our fans. They deserve a chance to witness a home-court start to a series in the playoffs'"

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "Of more interest was Mark Cuban's comments on Shaquille O'Neal, who has been Twittering back and forth to Cuban recently and is likely to have a new business address next season after the failed experiment in Phoenix. 'Shaq and I, like Phil Jackson, would always have these fun verbal sparring matches,' Cuban said. 'People thought Shaq and I were madly in love, and we haven't even dated. A tweet is not a date. I don't tweet and tell.' As for O'Neal somehow becoming a Maverick, Cuban reiterated that the notion is an extreme long shot. 'You never say never because it's such a crazy league,' he said when asked if the possibility of Shaq ever playing for the Mavericks has passed. 'But you can say that about any player in the NBA.'"

  • Marc Stein of ESPN.com "Sources with knowledge of the Mavericks' summer plans on Wednesday reiterated recent proclamations by Mark Cuban that they plan to be aggressive on the trade front. They believe that several yet-to-be-identified established players will be shopped by financially strapped teams, as seen before the Feb. 19 trading deadline, when the likes of New Jersey's Vince Carter, Milwaukee's Richard Jefferson, New Orleans' Tyson Chandler and, of course, O'Neal were made available. Yet sources indicate that O'Neal, due to make $21 million in 2009-10 in the final year of his contract, would be a second-tier choice for the Mavs."

  • Michael Wallace of The Miami Herald: "When a game is in the balance, Dwyane Wade wants the ball in his hands. But when the rotation is at stake, he prefers to pass. Wade praised rookie forward Michael Beasley after Beasley had one of his best games, with 25 points and nine rebounds in a loss to New Orleans on Tuesday night. But when asked if Beasley should start in place of injured power forward Udonis Haslem, Wade deferred. 'Not my call,' Wade said. 'It's the coaches' job to [start] who they feel is best at that position. Put Beasley out there, he might pick up two quick [fouls]. Then you have to put him on the bench.'"

  • Al Iannazzone of The Record: "Very few have it like Jason Kidd did and does. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal, Kevin Garnett and Chris Paul come to mind. The Nets have some good players, just not guys of that ilk. Vince Carter hasn't led his teams the way those above have. Harris hasn't shown he's in that class. Maybe Brook Lopez eventually can
    be, but he's a rookie and just scratching the surface. The Nets always talk about rookie Chris Douglas-Roberts being one of their most competitive guys. It's great for him, but not necessarily the team. Douglas-Roberts wasn't in the rotation most of the season. Your best players have to be the ones who hate losing so much they won't let you be beaten. Kidd didn't care enough at the end of his Nets' career to play that way, but he hasn't lost it. Only the Nets have."

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: "Mike D'Antoni gets a break in some newspapers, those beat writers who carry a man crush for him. D'Antoni is a sweetheart of a person - a social butterfly who sits courtside an hour before road games to schmooze. And he's not a phony in the least. He's genuinely a good person and awfully funny. And that is part of the job in New York, dealing well with media. But Mike, you have to admit overall you haven't done a good job this season - starting with your decision to sign Chris Duhon as the end-all-be-all point guard and eradicate Stephon Marbury despite a solid preseason. And you did not enhance Nate Robinson's point-guard abilities. That's the position you really needed him to play. He looks lost now. The Knicks appear on national TV for the first time this season Friday in Orlando so all of the U.S. can watch the train wreck."

  • Rainer Sabin of The Virginian-Pilot: "There was a time when Ronald Steele was considered the nation's best point guard - better than Ty Lawson, Dominic James, Taurean Green and Sean Singletary. A pro prospect and All-American as a sophomore, Steele's graduation to the NBA seemed inevitable. Upon being reminded of that, Steele can't help but laugh. 'It feels like ages ago,' the former 6-foot-1 Alabama star said. In basketball years, it was indeed a long time. But Steele is at the Portsmouth Invitational, hoping to catch the eye of an NBA or European scout who might be willing to take a shot on him. Five years after he entered college as a freshman, Steele is here to show that he still has the skills he had before everything went so awry."