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First Cup: Tuesday

  • Tom Knott of The Washington Times: "The draft has a Blake Griffin-or-bust sense to it. Not that other future All-Stars won't emerge from it. Just try determining which ones they are from the information that is available. Michael Jordan missed on the small hands and small heart of Kwame Brown and eventually came to rue that night in 2001. So much would be different with the franchise today if Brown had met even a modicum of the expectations. That is not to forget the appealing size of Brown that led to the acquisition of Caron Butler, who has become a two-time All-Star with the Wizards. The Wizards have been compromised by injuries the last three seasons. They are due some good fortune. It cannot help their equilibrium to see an old playoff nemesis, the Cavaliers, in a position to win the NBA championship this season."

  • Sam Amick of the Sacramento Bee: "The Maloofs need the No. 1 draft pick more than any other team owners in the league – a player who could help spark a turnaround on the court and excitement in the stands. 'I said my novena (reciting prayers on consecutive days),' said Kings co-owner Joe Maloof, a Catholic who badly wants the first choice. 'But at the same time, if we get the fourth or the third, we're still going to get a tremendous pick. It'll be a pick that can really help our team in the future. The worst we can get is No. 4, and that's the highest we've had in 18 years.' The Kings struggled with record-low attendance and the league's worst record -- 17 wins, 65 losses -- last season. Although the Maloofs do not disclose the team's financial performance, they have clearly been affected by the disappointing season and the dismal economy."

  • Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times: "Mike Dunleavy, the Clippers' general manager and coach, settled into his seat to watch a potential Clipper of the future. Good passer, he thought. Dunleavy also liked the way the player shot during the pre-game warmups. Then, Ricky Rubio got hurt. Twelve minutes in. Wait a minute. Isn't the Clippers curse supposed to hit players after they get drafted by the organization, not beforehand? And so much for Dunleavy's long scouting mission to Spain to check out 18-year-old Rubio. But Dunleavy was assured that Rubio's injury -- believed to be a groin injury or a hip pointer -- was not serious and that he would be playing again in short order so Dunleavy could better evaluate the dynamic guard. Whether the Clippers get a shot at Rubio or, better yet, the consensus No. 1 choice Blake Griffin of Oklahoma will be determined tonight in Secaucus, N.J., at the NBA's Draft Lottery."

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Kevin Love figures this time he'll take a nail clipper with him into the room where his franchise's fate once again is decided. Why the nail clipper? Well, there's a story behind that. Love has been in Los Angeles since the season ended, resting and now starting to get ready for next season. He's been shooting 500 to 600 jump shots a day, doing yoga and strength training. He also is working with a physical therapist and, at the suggestion of the people he's staying with, has gone to a Beverly Hills salon for a ... manicure? 'They said I should go get one and I said, 'Manicure? Isn't that for chicks? Girls?'' he said. 'They said no.' So Love went, and as he left the salon, the paparazzi that hang out in Beverly Hills looking for stars caught his departure. Footage ended up on TNT's playoff broadcasts. 'I had five or six cameras following me around,' he said. So now he's apparently a well-groomed rookie with a franchise that has a 38.5 percent chance of getting the sixth pick, a 26.2 percent chance of getting the fifth pick and a combined 25.5 percent chance at one of the top three picks, including a 7.6 percent chance at getting the No. 1 overall pick."

  • Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal: "Bluntly put, it is the stigma that stinks. Some NBA franchises are considered lottery teams no matter what because of their infamous futility. Others are deemed perennial losers because the team's playoff status seems like a fleeting moment in league history. If you're a Los Angeles Clippers fan, then you root for the aforementioned: a team that's made Secaucus, N.J., an offseason vacation home. Today, the Clippers will make their 20th lottery selection in the 25 years the system has been in place. The Grizzlies own the latter sentiment. They've been a member of the lottery club in all but three seasons of their eight-year Memphis existence. A segment of the Grizzlies' faithful and national onlookers have relegated the club's three-year postseason run to short-term memory. And the pessimists have a point. All that matters today is that the Griz are in the lottery for a Memphis franchise third consecutive season. So how does a franchise dig itself out of such despair? The simple answer is drafting well."

  • Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times: "The smart money is on the Warriors staying right where they are, at No. 7. Warriors general manager Larry Riley is fine with that. 'We're not going to get far off of seven,' he said in a phone interview. 'It's not that this draft is loaded up with a lot of great players. But all you've got to do is get one.' ... NBA insiders expect the Warriors to draft a point guard with their selection. Rubio should be long gone by the time the Warriors pick at No. 7. But Brandon Jennings, the heralded University of Arizona recruit who shunned college basketball to play professionally in Europe, sharp-shooting Davidson point guard Stephen Curry and Memphis combo guard Tyreke Evans could be available for the Warriors to take."

  • Alan Hahn of Newsday: "There already have been suggestions that the Knicks have settled on Davidson guard Stephen Curry if they remain at No. 8. But favorites change day to day at this time of year, and especially after next week's NBA Combine in Chicago and the subsequent individual player workouts in early June. Though Curry is unquestionably on their radar, the Knicks also are expected to take a long look at guards such as Tyreke Evans (Memphis), Ty Lawson (North Carolina) and Jrue Holiday (UCLA) as well as power forward Jordan Hill (Arizona), among others. And should luck have it that the Knicks somehow move into the top three, expect there to be a great deal of hype about Rubio, who is 6-4, has played at the professional level in Spain since he was 16 and caught everyone's attention -- including U.S. Olympic team assistant coach Mike D'Antoni -- as a key member of Spain's national team that lost to the United States in the gold-medal game in Beijing."

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "General manager Bryan Colangelo, who'll be on the stage for the televised unveiling of the winners (media relations director Jim LaBumbard will witness
    the draw backstage) seems unconcerned that his team might not move. 'There have been some good young pieces taken with the ninth pick,' Colangelo said in an end-of-the-season media session. 'I've had some personal success with the ninth pick – Shawn Marion at nine, Amare Stoudemire at nine.' He also knows the debate will rage on players who might go as high as fourth and as low as 20. 'This year there may be one sure pick, then there's a whole group that might get picked on upside (and) then you get back to a group of guys who are somewhat obvious, guys who have earned their selection in the draft. I think we're going to get a pretty good player.'"

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "John Hammond is not a highly superstitious sort, and he doesn't think of himself as a pessimist. Still, the Milwaukee Bucks general manager is prepared for any result in the NBA draft lottery Tuesday night, including the chance his team might drop from its slot at No. 10. After all, it has happened in each of the last two years. The Bucks were in the seventh spot and slipped to No. 8 in last year's draft, when the Chicago Bulls moved up from the No. 9 position to grab the top overall pick and guard NBA rookie of the year Derrick Rose. In 2007, it was even worse for Milwaukee when it dropped the maximum three positions, from No. 3 to No. 6, and missed out on the chance to grab power forward Al Horford. Instead, the Bucks took Chinese forward Yi Jianlian with the sixth pick, after Horford went to Atlanta with the third selection. ... 'Realistically you know going in, we could move back one spot, and we can come home with 11th,' Hammond said Monday."

  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "Would anybody really want to go back to the days of flipping a coin to determine which team would win five NBA titles in the next decade? 'I personally like the lottery,' Rod Thorn, the Nets' president, said Monday, as he prepared for Tuesday night's annual event in Secaucus. 'A lot of my friends, like Jerry West, hate it. But I think it's exciting. It gives everyone some kind of chance at the first pick, and if you have the worst record, you have a one-in-four chance of winning the lottery. And it helps preclude -- though not totally -- teams from not playing hard down at the end of the year. But I would always tell Jerry, if you go back to the old system, you'll have two or three teams tanking games, and you can't have that.' Given that they finished the season with the 11th-worst record in the league, the Nets have but a microscopic chance at winning the lottery draw."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "I asked Commissioner David Stern a few years ago whether the lottery was outdated, since the draft is no longer so reliable a route to success. Stern agreed the draft isn't what it once was, with so many players turning pro early, but there would always be a once-a-decade player -- the next Shaquille O'Neal or Tim Duncan -- that would justify the lottery. Makes sense to me, although this won't be one of those once-a-decade drafts. The favorite to be No.1 pick is Oklahoma power forward Blake Griffin. The word most often used by scouts to describe Griffin is 'solid.' Nothing wrong with solid, but that's code for dependably good, with limited potential to be great at the NBA level."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "When important draft position has hung in the balance and the odds were decent, fate has not taken a shine to the Suns. Forty years ago, Suns fans chose 'heads' and lost the No. 1 choice and Lew Alcindor to Milwaukee. Two years ago, the odds had the Suns getting Atlanta's pick at Nos. 4, 5, 6 or 7 only to see Atlanta's long shot land in the No. 3 spot that it had protection to keep. Even when the lottery was good to the Suns in 1987 by bumping them to No. 2, it was not good enough, considering it meant Armon Gilliam - the No. 1 choice was David Robinson. But even if the Suns are due some draft good fortune, it would be hard to come by tonight. The Suns hold 1.82 percent odds to move out of the 14th spot and into the top three."

  • Woody Paige of The Denver Post: "How do the Nuggets beat the Lakers? Start by winning tonight's game in Los Angeles, that's what. The Nuggets are rested, ready and dedicated. The Lakers are coming off a tougher, longer, more tiring series. Game 1 can be a bank heist. The Rockets stole the opening game at the Staples Center. The Nuggets are better than the Rockets. Therefore ... The energized Nuggets must jump on the Lakers early and often and put the Lakers back on their heels, the team's Achilles'. The Nuggets have to take Kobe Bryant away from his game in the first quarter and take the notoriously late-arriving L.A. fans out of the game before they enter the arena. If the Nuggets eliminate the Lakers' home-court benefit from the start, then immediately go from underdogs to Rottweilers, the series will be on."

  • Jeff Miller of The Orange County Register: "You know, it's probably a good thing the Lakers had only one day off between the Houston Rockets and the Denver Nuggets. Words just aren't worth much right now. Action is all that matters. And action is what the Lakers promised we'll see from the start tonight when the Western Conference finals commence at Staples Center. By start, they meant the opening tip, not two or three quarters after the opening tip, which was their usual start time in Houston. This would be a good idea since the Nuggets evidently are a lot like the Rockets, only they exist at a much more warped speed. 'Denver is way more physical,' Kobe Bryant said. 'Denver has way more athletes. They have a lot of energy, and they carry it for 48 minutes. Denver will put you to sleep … quickly.' If the last series proved anything, it's that these Lakers don't need help dozing off. They have spent the past few days assuring everyone they have learned their lesson, but again, words are as relevant right now as the Sacramento Kings."