First Cup: Thursday

  • Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "When Pat Riley said signing Dwyane Wade was the top priority this offseason -- 'Absolutely,' the Heat president said Wednesday -- that's all I needed to hear about Michael Beasley's future. Start packing. Enjoy Toronto. Sorry it couldn't work out, because watching you grow would have been fun. That's why part of me hates to write this: Trading Beasley for Chris Bosh this summer becomes the safest, smartest, simplest move for the Heat to make. Maybe it's even the best move, though it's not the one with the biggest upside. ... The best way to sign Wade this summer is to offer concrete evidence he can win big here. That means landing his friend, Bosh. They were Olympians together. They share the same agent. They respect each other greatly. That's why the smartest move to make is trading the salary-matching pair of Beasley and Mark Blount to Toronto for Bosh. The caveat to all this, of course, is if Wade signs this summer on the general hope everything works out in 2010. But why would he do that? Sure, it would hurt to trade Beasley. But it would crush the Heat to lose Wade. That's what Riley has to guard against. It's why when he says signing Wade this summer is the big priority, Beasley better find his passport."

  • John DeShazier of The Times-Picayune: "The term is 'lame duck,' and it's what Hornets Coach Byron Scott officially has become, now that majority owner George Shinn's offseason evaluation is complete, and part of the result is that Scott will be back for the final year of his contract. Whether Scott earned the distinction by not winning enough or Shinn pushed him into it by knee-jerking after the recently completed season is a matter of debate. What isn't is that by not giving Scott an extension, and allowing him to enter the final year of his contract and 'evaluating' him all season (which is a nice way of saying he'll be on a short leash and probably will be fired at the first sign of trouble), Scott is little more than a lame duck with the Hornets. ... If Shinn doesn't want Scott, he should've fired him. If Shinn does want him around -- really wants him around -- then Shinn should've put Scott in a more favorable position than the one he'll be in with his team. Sure, Scott understands the business. Coaches work under similar constraints or worse every year, and not all of them earn the $5.5 million that Scott is on the books to bank next season. But making tenuous the coaching position isn't the way to go about making the Hornets better."

  • Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun: "The results of the voting for the NBA's all-defensive teams shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who followed the misfortunes of the Raptors. What it should do is underscore just how bad the Raptors were this past season, even though they closed out the year by winning nine of their final 13 games, and just how much work must be done this off-season. People can talk all they want about playing an up-tempo game, of sharing the basketball, of moving it side to side and taking shots when open looks are presented. But defence wins and yesterday's revelation that not a single Raptors player received a single vote cast by the NBA's 30 head coaches speaks volumes."

  • Dan Martin of the New York Post: "Bill Russell believes Stephon Marbury can continue to help the Celtics in the playoffs -- if he's able to get over what the Knicks did to him. 'If it's up to the team, he'll have a positive effect,' the 75-year-old NBA legend told The Post yesterday at the NBA Store in midtown. 'But you don't know how much he's been damaged psychologically playing here.' 'Here' of course, is with the Knicks, where his rocky tenure came to a disastrous end when it became clear that coach Mike D'Antoni had no intention of playing him and team president Donnie Walsh long refused to buy him out of his $21 million contract. When asked if he thought the point guard indeed had been 'damaged psychologically' by the Knicks, Russell said: 'He may have been. No matter how strong you are, that kind of stuff that went on this season was so ridiculous.'"

  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: "By now, Thunder fans have memorized the NBA lottery ping-pong formula. They know by finishing with the league's fourth-worst record last season, the Thunder has 119 ping-pong combinations, which means it has an 11.9-percent chance of winning the May 19 lottery. What many fans fail to acknowledge, somewhat inexplicably, is that leaves an 88.1-percent chance the Thunder will not get the No. 1 pick. Barring a deal, there is an 88.1-percent chance Blake Griffin will not be on the Thunder's roster next season. How's that for being Thunderstruck? The quicker Thunder fans accept these odds, the better off they'll be come draft day on June 25."

  • Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe: "Playing for the Celtics is about winning championships. Nothing else. That's what made the 22-year gap so frustrating. And that's what makes the challenge so great for this Green Team of 2009. Last Saturday, the Celtics finished off what many longtime fans consider the greatest first-round playoff series in NBA history when they beat the Bulls in Game 7 at the Garden. Two nights later, they were back at it in Round 2, and the residue of the Chicago series was obvious. They fell behind the Magic by 28 points. They lost Game 1. 'We don't know if what we want to do against them works because we never did it,' Doc Rivers said before Game 2. It all worked last night. Kendrick Perkins matched Dwight Howard the way Russell neutralized Chamberlain back in the day. Ray Allen bounced back from a flat first game with 22 points. Rondo had another triple double (15 points, 18 assists, 11 rebounds). And the Boston bench, particularly House, was spectacular."

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "The Magic lost a playoff game Wednesday night. And it didn't matter. Clearly, it didn't matter. If it mattered, the Magic would have at least showed up for work instead of embarrassingly and lazily taking the night off and letting the Boston Celtics administer a 112-94 Beantown beatdown in Game 2 of this seven-game series. At least when the Celtics were getting blown out in Game 1, they had the heart to put up a fight. When the Magic were getting their face kicked in during Game 2, they cowered in the fetal position and mumbled, 'Mommy, make the little green men quit dunking on me.' ... The Magic didn't just lose the game; they lost their composure. J.J. Redick was ejected from the game for smarting off to an official. And did you see point guard Rafer Alston stupidly reach up and slap Boston's red-hot Eddie House in the back of the head late in the game? Alston said House planted an elbow in his gut, but, still, it's not real smart to throw any
    sort of punch after just watching Howard get suspended from a playoff game last week and with the Magic already depleted at guard."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "In a game with five technical fouls, two ejections and one flagrant, Von Wafer lost his head first. He stomped around and threw a water bottle when he was taken out of the game. He likely said too much, too. Rick Adelman banished him to the locker room. The Rockets know that Wafer can be that way and won't make it into more than that. If someone else had a tantrum it would be an indication of a real problem. With Wafer, it is just a part of his extremely intense, emotional makeup. You can't do that stuff at this level, and especially in the playoffs when everything has to be about the team. It's the kind of thing high school kids have to learn. NBA players are supposed to be way beyond that. Wafer is still working on it, but the Rockets also know, it is just about the emotions of the moment. Expect a pretty quick heart-to-heart and Wafer back at practice this afternoon."

  • Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle: "Kobe Bryant's elbow landed squarely in Ron Artest's throat. At some point, the NBA will acknowledge that much. There'll be a meaningless letter and an even more meaningless fine, and that'll be the end of it. 'It would be very telling, very telling, if something happened,' Shane Battier said. Forget about it. The NBA will say it was incidental contact or that Artest should know better than to hit use his throat as a weapon against Bryant's poor innocent elbow. Bryant got away with two cheap shots in Game 1, and he'll get away with the one he threw in Game 2 as well. Let's take a collective deep breath and deal with it. This series won't be decided by the NBA proving it has a separate set of rules for Kobe Bryant. We already know that. Lakers guard Derek Fisher is more likely to be suspended for the elbow he threw at Luis Scola in the third quarter. Fisher will understand. Veterans always do. Remember Jerry Tarkanian's wisdom? 'The NCAA is so mad at Kentucky that they put Cleveland State on probation,' he once said. The Rockets are Cleveland State in this series. Different rules for different folks."

  • Ramona Shelburne of the Los Angeles Daily News: "Before this one started, Kobe Bryant mentioned that it would be 'interesting' to see how his team responded to losing Game 1, that the adversity would be good for his previously front-running Lakers, and that all champions have to go through things on their way to a title. Wednesday night, the Lakers went toe-to-toe. And when the final bell sounded, they won on points. But this is not over. Not even close to over. By the end of what figures to be a brass-knuckle series the entire way, whomever is left standing will have developed some tough callouses."

  • Rick Noland of The Gazette: "In Cleveland's first-round sweep of Detroit, Delonte West held 6-6 shooting guard Richard Hamilton, the Pistons' leading scorer during the regular season, to .356 shooting from the field. Despite giving up four inches and 50 pounds, he held Atlanta's 6-7, 240-pound Joe Johnson, the Hawks' leading scorer during the regular season, to 11 points in Game 1 of the conference semifinals. 'He's tough,' Brown said of West. 'Teams try to attack him. That's probably not a good thing to do, but teams do it. We welcome it.' West, who averaged 11.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists during the regular season, got no votes from league coaches in NBA All-Defensive results released Wednesday, but his teammates love what the 25-year-old does on that end of the floor. 'I've been saying it all the time about Delonte's presence on the defensive end,' first-team All-Defensive selection LeBron James said. 'He is a very, very solid player who doesn't get a lot of credit sometimes for what he does. He is one of the most complete players we have on our team. He is an offensive threat and he is a defensive threat.'"

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "This series, however, stands to be more about mind-set than tactics. The Hawks must decide if they're willing to pay the heavy price to trade blows with LeBron's forceful team. They must decide if a series victory over Dwyane Wade was enough for one spring. If that's how they feel, Round 2 will end in four deflating games. But, should they choose to meet fire with fire, they could win a game or two and do themselves even prouder. Just because they've gone where the Hawks have rarely been doesn't mean they should stop now. And who knows? They could get lucky. They could scare the Cavs as much as they frightened the Celtics a year ago. But they can't do it if they don't try."