First Cup: Tuesday

  • Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer: "It never was a very good nickname. And now, Charlotte’s NBA franchise can get rid of it. With Michael Jordan in as the Charlotte Bobcats’ new owner and Bob Johnson out, there’s no reason to call the team the 'Bobcats' anymore. The 'Bobcats' name has been irreversibly tainted by its association with Johnson, who more or less named the team for himself. Or at least that’s what most people think. In this case it’s the perception that matters (although Johnson has denied he named the team simply for ego’s sake). If I’m Jordan -- who knows a bit about marketing -- I’m re-branding this team by the beginning of the 2010-11 season. I’m holding a '(Re)Name the Team' contest starting in May. I’m gladly paying the $3-million to $10-million cost one NBA executive estimated to the Observer’s Rick Bonnell that such a name change would entail (signs, logos, uniforms, letterhead and countless other things would need to be changed). A lot of people apparently agree with me. The Observer has conducted an online poll on this issue, and as of 8:30 p.m. Monday about 3,000 votes had been cast. Of those voting, 76-percent wanted the name changed."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "Michael Finley’s decision to ask the Spurs to release him in time to be eligible for another team’s playoff roster was no spur-of-the-moment reaction to recent disappointment. The 16-year veteran forward, waived by the Spurs on Monday afternoon, had discussed the request with teammates closest to him weeks before going to Spurs head coach and president of basketball operations Gregg Popovich before the team left Monday night’s game at New Orleans. ... When Finley finally presented his request to Popovich, the coach was caught unaware. 'I was very surprised,' Popovich said, 'but we granted his request.' Popovich stressed that the Spurs did not 'cut' Finley. Rather, they reluctantly granted the request of a player Popovich often described as a consummate professional. 'We didn’t let him go,' Popovich said. 'He requested a buyout so he could leave, and we granted that. That’s different from saying we let him go, or it could be to people that read the paper. I want to make sure that distinction is made.' "

  • Garry D. Howard of the Journal Sentinel: "It had been well over seven years since the NBA selected a coach from the Milwaukee Bucks as its Flavor of theMonth. That would be -- give or take -- 86 months, 2,580 days, 61,920 hours or 3,715,200 minutes. Needless to say, it had been a long time. Early Monday afternoon on the first day of March 2010, the NBA released a statement acknowledging Scott Skiles as the Eastern Conference coach of the month for February. The last leader of the Bucks to be rewarded with a similar honor was George Karl, back in January 2003. What a well-deserved absence. In between Karl (Milwaukee's lovable loaf of banana bread) and Skiles, Bucks fans were forced to stomach Terry Porter for two years, Terry Stotts for two years too many, and lastly and the most forgettable, Larry Krystkowiak, for 100 grueling games. Porter, Stotts and Krystkowiak were foisted upon Milwaukee NBA fans by an overrated general manager named Larry Harris. After Harris was finally -- finally! -- replaced by the very competent John Hammond, a certifiable NBA coach was given the reins to a team that is one of the true loves of Sen. Herb Kohl's life."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "Rest? The Mavericks don’t need any stinkin’ rest. Playing on fumes and looking like it for much of the night, the Mavericks must have sucked down a few energy drinks before the start of the fourth quarter because they lit up Time Warner Cable Arena in the final 12 minutes and raced away for an 89-84 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday night. The eighth consecutive win, their longest streak since March 2007 when they won nine in a row, started just 19 hours after the win Sunday in Dallas against New Orleans had ended. So is rest overrated? 'I think enthusiasm and heart is underrated with this team,’ coach Rick Carlisle said. 'All this stuff about a short turnaround wasn’t anything that discouraged our guys. It’s a big win for us.’ "

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The Hawks are No. 3 as of this morning. If the postseason began today and the top four seeds advanced beyond the first round, they’d play Orlando in Round 2 with the Magic having four of the seven possible games at its place. Given that the Hawks haven’t beaten Orlando anywhere this season -- they even lost by 37 points in an exhibition at the O-Dome -- you’d have to say the local team doesn’t match up well. But say the Hawks were to slip behind Boston. (They’re a game ahead.) They’d be No. 4, and in Round 2 they might just find a Cleveland team trying to work Shaq back into its rotation. They still wouldn’t have the homecourt edge, but the Hawks have at least played the Cavs relatively close in their two meetings. (They trailed by a point after three quarters in the first meeting and led by 17 in the second.) There have been those who’ve suggested all along the Hawks would be better served facing Cleveland in Round 2 than Orlando, and now I’ve officially joined that camp. It’s never easy for any team to recalibrate so late in a season. The Cavs would still have LeBron on their side, but the Hawks would have stability. And that’s not nothing."

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: "So, Kobe Bryant, what's going on with your jump shot these days? 'Well, three for 17, I'd say it's a little [messed] up,' Bryant said, laughing. He was referring to his performance Sunday against the Nuggets. One reason for the concern is that Bryant sat out 18 days -- and five games -- recovering from a sprained left ankle. Then he came back against the Memphis Grizzlies last week and looked as if he hadn't missed a game. ... 'I had a lot of time off where I wasn't able to shoot the basketball, so that's why it's inconsistent,' Bryant said. 'Now I've got a chance to get in and kind of work on it a little bit. I did a little bit today and I'll do a little more tomorrow and get it back to that level of consistency that it needs to.' "

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "On a night Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks scored 28 points apiece, Martin went a bit over the top. 'I knew he was good,' Martin said. 'I never got a chance to see him play this much, but he is amazing. He is a scoring point guard. Most shooting guards don't really like that but I love it, just the way he gets everything and by the end of his career he is going to be the greatest six foot and under scorer that this game has ever seen.' Greatest ever? No. 1? Check the rafters. Greatest ever sub 6-footer in Houston, Calvin Murphy, is in the Hall of Fame. Brooks is off to a good start, but he has still started only 93 games in his three NBA seasons. It might be a bit premature to label him the greatest ever."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "When Dwyane Wade last played at home, the Heat was completing a rousing 99-66 rout of the Houston Rockets. Now, the Heat is back home at 14-14 at AmericanAirlines Arena, already with more losses at home than all of last season. 'We know that it's a dogfight with teams like Chicago, Milwaukee, Charlotte and us,' Wade said of the scramble for one of the final three playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, with 22 games remaining. 'Right now, we know we're two games behind .500 and we've got some big games coming up at home that we have to try to take care of. If we don't, we won't get in the playoffs. We've got a lot of home games in this stretch coming up. If we don't take care of home, then we'll find ourselves so far out of the playoffs that we won't be able to get back.' Wade reported no lingering discomfort Monday after playing an unexpected 37:23 in Sunday's comeback, although he did mention some fatigue when he reported to AmericanAirlines Arena for treatment."

  • Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News: "What's the difference in the Orlando Magic, Dwight Howard was asked, when Jameer Nelson is at full strength? 'We score a lot more points,' said Howard, the Magic's All-Star center. No, seriously; Nelson, the former Saint Joseph's All-America, missed a chunk of last season with shoulder surgery, then missed 16 games earlier this season with knee surgery. 'When Jameer is attacking, being aggressive, we're a much better team,' Howard said last night before Orlando routed the 76ers, 126-105, at the Wachovia Center. '[Opponents] have got to worry about him a little more ... Me and him are the leaders on the team. We have to be consistent for us to be good.' "

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: "Look at the bright side, Grizzlies fans. The NBA Draft Lottery is kind of exciting. All the possibilities. All the pingpong balls. Maybe the Grizzlies will get really lucky and have a chance to draft John Wall. Or maybe they'll get less lucky and have a chance to pick a tall guy who can't play. That's part of the thrill of it, isn't it? So reserve your table at Buffalo Wild Wings before they're all gone. The Grizzlies didn't officially clinch a spot in the lottery against Portland on Monday night, but it's not because they didn't try. They committed 21 turnovers. They gave up as many points in the third quarter (41) as they did the entire first half. 'We folded,' said Zach Randolph, in the wake of the Grizzlies 103-93 loss. Make that, folded again."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "What has already been the most 'trying season' in his five-year career took another turn early last week when Danny Granger left the team for a couple of days to deal with a family issue. Granger declined to discuss the problem but said it's severe enough that only 'time will help heal it.' ... He said it's hard to stay focused, and he finds himself becoming distracted during practice and in games. 'Sometimes basketball can be considered a release for you, but when you have something weighing on you so heavy, I zone out at times,' Granger said. 'Basketball is what I do, but a lot of things are more important. When you're dealing with stuff with your family, it takes a toll on you mentality. It takes a lot to recover. People go through things in their life that's hard to deal with. Some people deal with it in different ways. I think the thing that gets you over it is time. Time heals everything.' Granger's latest issue piles on to an already disappointing season."

  • Stephen A. Smith of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "The Sixers have talent. They just don't have a team. And chairman Ed Snider will need to come out of hiding and do something quickly before mutiny ultimately invades the Wachovia Center. After yet another night of ineptitude from this squad, it's clear that the talent does not match coach Eddie Jordan's system. 'It's usually a tweak here or a tweak there that makes the difference,' Otis Smith said. 'Everyone in this league has to deal with that reality, with the prospect of taking that chance. And you never know how it's going to end up.' Well, Philadelphia knows. And now that the harsh truth has confronted this team and its fans, it's clear that one of three things must take place: Jordan needs to get rid of this Princeton 'offensive' system. President and GM Ed Stefanski needs to get players who can adapt quickly to Jordan's system. And if neither scenario suffices, either Stefanski or Jordan must go. Plain and simple."

  • Ken Belson of The New York Times: "With just six victories this season, the Nets are threatening to compile the worst record in N.B.A. history. But Nets executives are still trying to persuade fans to attend the team’s last 12 home games. Their latest promotion will be unveiled Friday, when the Nets play the Orlando Magic. New Jersey residents 18 or older who attend the game will get a coupon that they can redeem at a Roni Deutch Tax Center to get their state income tax done free. Representatives of Roni Deutch Tax Centers -- there are nine in the New York area -- will be at the game to answer tax-related questions. Alas, the Nets will not be paying their fans’ tax bills, and a similar coupon can be downloaded from Roni Deutch’s Web site. Deutch charges $29 to prepare a state income tax return and $185 for a federal return."

  • Ray Richardsonof the Pioneer Press: "Al Jefferson is regarded as the hard-working, no-nonsense leader of the Timberwolves. The six-year NBA veteran demonstrated that leadership in a big way Monday, expressing sincere remorse for his DUI arrest early Sunday morning, including an admission that he was 'glad' a state highway patrolman pulled him over on Interstate 394 just outside downtown Minneapolis. 'I know now to never do that again,' Jefferson said after Monday's practice at Target Center. 'I didn't realize the danger I put myself and innocent people (in). I could have hurt myself. I could have hurt someone else. I know I wouldn't be able to live with that. I'm so upset with myself.' ... 'It's not fun for kids to see me on TV with a mug shot,' Jefferson said. 'I try to do all I can for kids. If I have to speak to kids in school about drinking and driving, I will. I'm willing to do whatever I can to prove I'm sorry, to show kids not to do that.' "

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "Of the Kings' rotation players, Francisco García is the old man of the bunch. He is 29, more humble than ever, and he would like to believe, much wiser than before. He will never again try to outsmart 90-pound dumbbells, for one thing. Images of his Oct. 9 accident in the weight room still cause him to wince. He sees himself leaning back on the physio ball, arms extended forward, each hand clutching a 90-pound free weight. He feels the pain as his right elbow smacks the floor, hears the pop in his broken forearm. 'My wrist still gets sore after practices or games,' said García, flexing his right hand and exposing a two-inch scar. 'There's going to be some pain for a while.' The incident continues to have repercussions far beyond the Kings' practice facility. Because the Kings are still considering legal action against the manufacturer of the balls -- for years a staple of weight rooms -- some NBA trainers said they have been prohibited from venturing an opinion on whether the ball was defective, whether the weight was excessive, or whether García or the trainers somehow contributed to the event."