First Cup: Wednesday

  • Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: The Nets (44-37) can still clinch the fifth seed with a win in the season finale Wednesday in Cleveland or a Wizards loss in Boston. But during a strangely defiant postgame press conference, coach Jason Kidd said for the first time that it doesn’t matter where the Nets finish. “Fifth, sixth, same thing,” said Kidd, whose team has lost three of its last four. “You know, we’re going to play Toronto or Chicago. You play 82 games to get a seed and we’ll be fifth or sixth.” Kidd said he’s still unsure who would play in Cleveland, but he seemed to go for it against the Knicks — playing Paul Pierce, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson each at least 21 minutes before the bench filled in for an extended garbage time. Regardless, as Kidd noted, their first-round opponent will either be Chicago (48-33) or Toronto (48-33), who are competing for the third seed.

  • Al Iannazzone of Newsday: Tyson Chandler had high hopes for himself and the Knicks this season, but both failed to live up to their expectations. Chandler broke his leg in the fourth game, and never regained the form or mobility that made him the Defensive Player of the Year two years ago. As for the Knicks, Chandler couldn't -- or wouldn't say -- exactly what went wrong, but he knows something was missing. "It never felt right," Chandler said before the Knicks played the Nets Tuesday night. "In all honesty, it never felt right throughout the season. We had some bright spots but never where we were on the level that we should have been." The Knicks, who were eliminated from the playoff race Saturday night, play their final game of the season Wednesday night against Toronto. Then an offseason filled with questions will begin. Chandler is signed for one more season, and said he wants "to be part of this program," and that "the future is bright." But Chandler could be one of the Knicks' few trade assets.

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: Coach Gregg Popovich has backed away from previous jokes that he’ll be following Duncan out the door. And general manager R.C. Buford, who alongside Popovich and Duncan has helped establish the Spurs as one of the most stable organizations in North American professional sports, has every intention of overseeing the process. “I’m incredibly happy where I am,” Buford said. “If somebody tells me they don’t want me around here anymore, then I’ll have to worry about where I go next.” Buford’s comment was part of an extensive podcast with Grantland’s Zach Lowe, in response to why a team in a larger market wouldn’t simply throw a ton of money at he or former understudy Sam Presti, now the architect in Oklahoma City. But like many of his colleagues, particularly Popovich and Duncan, Buford treasures working in a smaller market where distractions from the task at hand — winning championships — are kept to a minimum.

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: James and Wade have played 1161 minutes together this season (well below last season’s 1932), making them the Heat’s ninth-most used duo. The Heat has outscored opponents by 6.3 per 48 minutes with James and Wade on court together, which ranked only eighth-best among the Heat’s 15 most-used tandems. By comparison, the Heat outscored opponents by a larger margin when James was paired with Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Norris Cole, Chris Andersen or Rashard Lewis (but not Wade). Over their first three seasons together, the Heat outscored teams by 11.8 per 48 minutes with James and Wade on the floor together in 2010-11, by 13.6 in 2011-12 (best two-man pairing on the team) and by 13.8 last season --- much higher than the Heat’s overall plus/minus those years. The difference this season between the Heat’s overall score differential (plus 4.9) and the James/Wade one (6.3) was much narrower.

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Clifford and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau worked together for Jeff Van Gundy with the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets. If their teams aren’t mirror images, they’re certainly reasonable facsimiles. The Bulls have won eight of their last nine and are tied with the Toronto Raptors for the third-best record in the East. The Bobcats are 0-3 this season against Chicago. ... The Bobcats will either finish seventh in the East and be matched against the Miami Heat, or finish sixth and face the Toronto Raptors. Either a Wizards victory at Boston or a Bobcats loss to the Bulls locks the Bobcats matchup against the Heat. ... Clifford figures that however Wednesday turns out, the Bulls should sharpen the Bobcats’ focus. “This is a big game for them and they’re good,” Clifford said. “That’s exactly what we need.”

  • Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com: When asked today if the two needed to talk before the series began in order to clear the air, since all this was just a simple misunderstanding, Lillard rebuffed that notion. “I don’t think it’s necessary,” Lillard responded. “I don’t have no beef with the dude. He’s competing just like I’m out there competing and that’s it. There’s nothing to hash out because we’re not best friends. We don’t know each other off the floor. There’s nothing really to hash out. But I respect him as a player, but the radio and all that stuff, that’s not my style. It was unnecessary.” There’s clearly respect from both sides. Beverley was disturbed that Lillard didn’t give him his due credit as he made that clear in the radio interview. Lillard didn’t feel he was criticizing Beverley’s play with his comments, but contends that radio interview was over the top. He says this series isn’t going to be about them. He stresses it’s the Portland Trail Blazers versus the Houston Rockets. He wants to do his part to the best of his ability, but most importantly, he wants to get the win.

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Fate has dealt the Mavericks a favorable set of cards. One of their primary stated goals — winning 50 games — coincides perfectly with their nobody-wants-to-say-it goal: avoiding San Antonio in the playoffs. They can accomplish both with one, final regular-season victory Wednesday against the Memphis Grizzlies. “Yeah, 50 wins is a great accomplishment in this league,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “I think we took 50 wins for granted a little bit there a couple of times when we just did it in a row a few times. We won 67 one year. You just think 50 wins is easy to get, but it’s really not. There’s a lot of good teams in this league that make you work. It means that you do a good job closing out games, especially on the road, finding ways to stick around and win at the end. That’s what this league is all about.”

  • Cathal Kelly of The Globe and Mail: Let’s try to play that one out at home. Mrs. Lowry: ‘What are we going to do with the dump-truck load of money you’re getting in July?’ Lowry: ‘What money?’ Lowry wants the money. He’s thought about the money (which will probably land in the $36 million (U.S.) over three years range), but he also wants to feel loved. That’s what they all really want – more than team pedigree or the chance to win. It’s a universal desire. The upcoming playoffs are not Lowry’s chance to win over Toronto. We’re past doubting. The playoffs are Toronto’s chance to prove it deserves him. “I’m happy,” Lowry says, trying to drill down to what this season means. “I’m not satisfied, but I’m happy.” That works for the Raptors as well. They should be happy with this season. Unless it’s capped by Lowry choosing to re-up in Canada, there is no satisfaction to be had from it.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: The Orlando Magic's game tonight at Amway Center will close their 2013-14 season. It also could mark the end of the team's Jameer Nelson era. Nelson might not be with the franchise next season. Although he's about to complete just the second year of a three-year contract, his salary for the 2014-15 season is only partially guaranteed. If the Magic waive him before July 15, the team would owe him only $2 million instead of $8 million. ... "I'm very cognizant it could be my last home game," Nelson said. "It's not up to me. It's up to the team. It's the team's option. I would like to still be here and finish my career here. I have a lot more years left in me. ..." ... A league source said the Magic haven't made a decision on Nelson's future.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: The Suns were a massive underdog to accomplish what they did this season, more than doubling victory expectations. The bigger upset might be which Suns player will be the only one to start every game of it. Channing Frye will start his 82nd game Wednesday night at Sacramento, completing an amazing journey of career restoration after an enlarged heart kept him from a year of basketball and most activities. Frye went from not knowing whether he would be cleared for this season to aiming for a December return to starting opening night and keeping the job. Frye, 30, will be the first Suns player to start 82 games in a season since Amar'e Stoudemire in 2009-10. Frye has never played an entire season in his eight-year career but did play 81 in 2009-10, when he was suspended for a game for fighting Danny Granger. After the ultimate health scare, he proved to be the sturdiest starter.