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First Cup: Monday

3/15/2010
  • Stephen A. Smith of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "It's been a difficult week, folks! I'll just put it out there. After revealing what's been heard for years about Allen Iverson's drinking and penchant for the casinos, I've received the kind of beatdown only Joe Frazier can relate to from the pummeling he suffered against George Foreman decades ago. I've been vilified and excoriated, called a turncoat and a sellout, unworthy of so much as a handshake from several members of Iverson's former team, the 76ers - the last people in need of more adversaries. The truth is, I deserve it. Despite the objectivity exercised while disseminating the news, it's impossible to be completely impartial about someone you've known for 14 years and are incredibly fond of despite the innumerable mistakes he's made. The thing is, if I'm honest enough to express these feelings about Iverson, to stand up and say none of us who care should sit idly by and act as if the combination of Iverson's history in the fast lane and his present family issues will be healed by silence, where are his so-called friends, the ones with the all-is-well expressions while knowing there's mounting evidence to the contrary? No one said Iverson is an alcoholic or a gambling addict. What was reported was that he's drinking and gambling too much, enough to concern quite a few people in the NBA."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "The Cavaliers have played eight and a half games without Shaquille O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas now and they have lost just one time, and that was a game they played without LeBron James. Is it because O'Neal and Ilgauskas are really overrated, superfluous or non-impactful? Not exactly. It is because Anderson Varejao is going through the most prolific offensive streak of his career to fill in the gaps left by the missing centers. Sunday Varejao earned plenty of praise for his usual energetic play. His ability to keep loose balls alive and chase down rebounds was invaluable. The Cavs had a season-high 27 second-chance points and Varejao had six of those 17 difference-making offensive rebounds in the Cavs' 104-93 victory over the Boston Celtics. He also gave his standard defensive effort, being effective on pick-and-roll defense as well as smashing up against the Celtics' various big men who were trying and failing to score much in the paint. 'I thought one guy completely dominated the game and that was Varejao,' Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. 'With loose balls, activity, getting under our skin.' "

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "Anyone who thought Kendrick Perkins handed the Cavaliers somebulletin-board material with his, 'They still haven’t done nothing we haven’t done,' comment would be disappointed. The Cavaliers, like their leader, are too even-keeled. If any offense was taken, it was internalized. 'Well, he’s right,' LeBron James said before the game. Leon Powe shook his head at the mention of what his former teammate said. 'Always -- he always makes me laugh,' Powe said. 'Perk don’t care what he says. But that’s not bulletin-board stuff around here. It’s not, because that’s the truth.' "

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "In a month or so, when the playoffs start, nobody will remember this stinker of a loss to the Charlotte Bobcats on Sunday. Stan Van Gundy’s gut will be no doubt churning all night, but that’s how Van Gundy is wired. But even he and the players realize as long as they keep the No. 2 seed, this won’t matter. Now what matters is Rashard Lewis’ game and frame of mind. 'He is just not playing well at all right now,' coach Stan Van Gundy said. 'You know, it’s not just shooting. I mean, he’s not rebounding the ball. He’s just not playing with much energy. I don’t know.' Lewis is a mess offensively, recording three single-digit scoring games in his last six, including three in a row. He is 18-of-56 (32.1 percent) and 8-of-29 from 3-point range in his last six games. 'I have to get myself more involved and just be more aggressive,' Lewis said. 'I got to create something.' "

  • Tim Buckley of the Deseret News: "They spent the previous night in a supposedly haunted hotel. Among the game's three referees was one many with the Jazz felt cost them a game last time they were here. And, piling on, they were missing three injured rotation regulars, including two starters. Utah seemed doomed, even before play got underway. More than medical matters or officiating or even ghosts, though, it was lights-out shooting by Oklahoma City that did in the Jazz during a 119-111 loss Sunday night at the Ford Center."

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "Patience is wearing thin, changes are being made and as the Raptors free fall through the Eastern Conference standings, coach Jay Triano is taking a hard-line approach. A disastrous four-game, four-loss road trip ended with a 109-98 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers here on Sunday night and Triano has already begun the tweaks necessary to salvage this season. Jose Calderon replaced Jarrett Jack to start the third quarter and Triano hooked Andrea Bargnani more quickly than usual after Bargnani avoided boxing out any Blazer at all costs, and that could just be the start of something bigger. 'We've got to have a shorter leash with some of our guys,' Triano said after Toronto fell to 32-33 on the season, the first time the Raptors have been below .500 since late January."

  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: "Jarrett Jack is the anti-Hedo Turkoglu in Portland. Jack played the first three seasons of his NBA career in a Trial Blazers uniform and remains a big fan of just about everything about the team. The fans have always treated him well whether it was as a Blazer or an opponent. The building is 'easily in his top five in the league.' But it’s a unique feature of the Rose Garden that he really likes. 'If I was the owner of an NBA team, the first thing I would do is that,' he says pointing to a set of windows above the seating section at one end of the arena. 'See those windows up there. That’s a two bedroom apartment that the owner has.' And therein is the best thing about Portland. Owner Paul Allen is as committed to his team as any owner in the league. He’s at every game, sitting in the same seat and according to Jack is always upgrading the building."

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: "This was a business decision, and the small forward who averaged 19.5 points two seasons ago thought he was making a sound choice. And now, he's apologizing to the good people who follow the Blazers because he is sorry he let you down. Also, he wants his wife's name cleared around here in the event she ever wants to see Multnomah Falls or the Oregon coast. 'Don't know who made that story about my wife,' Hedo Turkoglu said. "She would love it here. Or anywhere. The last second Toronto came in and it felt like a good fit -- East Coast style. I thought I fit good. My wife never said she didn't like to be in Portland.' Turns out Mrs. Turkoglu should be booing ESPN, which issued that report. Or perhaps Turkoglu's agent didn't want to offend Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard for dumping Portland in the 11th hour and threw Mrs. Turkoglu under the bus as an excuse. Or maybe someone there just got it flat wrong. Whatever the case, the Northwest can apparently stop booing Team Turkoglu now. The Blazers have won four straight, and the disappointment of last summer feels far away. They've overcome the injuries, too. Only Andre Miller and Martell Webster have appeared in every game this season, and they're going to make the playoffs anyway."

  • Brian T. Smith of The Columbian: "LaMarcus Aldridge referred to it as tunnel vision. The ability to tune everything else out -- distractions, criticism, negative and positive suggestions -- and focus in on the only two things he can truly control: himself and his game. It has taken the Trail Blazer power forward nearly four years to acquire the trait. Four years to put on what he refers to as a 'hardhat' and develop thicker skin. But the 6-foot-11, 240-pound Aldridge said he has finally grown tougher and stronger. And with the new skin comes a new level of confidence and determination. 'As long as my teammates know I’m doing what they need, that’s all that matters,' Aldridge, 24, said. 'Because you can’t really listen to the fans all the time, because they don’t know what’s really going on in house, and they don’t know what the team needs.' Aldridge understands what the Blazers need. He also knows who he is. He is fully aware of his rare blend of athleticism and talent that at times makes him an unstoppable, unguardable force on the court. He is also aware of the deep levels of still-untapped talent that lie just below the surface of his current game. Aldridge also acknowledged that he struggled through the first part of the 2009-10 season, buried beneath the weight of a new contract, heightened expectations and decreased responsibility. But after weathering the storm, the second overall pick of the 2006 NBA Draft now sounds like a man ready to take his talent to the next level -- and easily brush off any criticism that still falls on his shoulders."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "Most point guards Anthony Carter's age are no longer point guards. They're assistant coaches or yachters or car dealers, telling stories about how they once had 12 assists against the Cavaliers, while asking what it'll take to get you into a Cavalier. But the 34-year-old Carter is still chugging down the court for the Nuggets, whose ace in the hole, it seems, is 'Ace.' With Ty Lawson battling a bruised left shoulder, (he's day to day), the ageless Carter is back to his backup role, the one he cherished during last season's Denver playoff run. 'I've got to take advantage of every minute I get out there,' Carter said. 'Those guys need me, and I know it's my job to get these guys going. So every chance I get, I'm trying to have a lot of fun, get them easy baskets.' It's hard to remember any team having more fun than the Nuggets during Saturday night's fourth quarter at Memphis, which began tied at 85. With A.C. at the point, the Nuggets went on a furious 22-8 run to start the fourth. And in eight minutes, the guard tallied six assists, as well as four points and two rebounds. 'That's what it's all about. We're not called 'Crucial Conflict' for nothing,' Carter said of the second unit's new nickname, coined in reference to a 1990s rap group. 'Once we get in there, we try to cause havoc and make things happen.' "

  • Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times: "The Washington Wizards’ season has long been disappointing, disheartening and even felonious (see: Arenas, Gilbert; Trades; Salary Purging). But for a fan base seeking any glimmer of hope, there is one in the comeback of Shaun Livingston, the prodigy point guard whose career was derailed by devastating injuries. 'Everything is a day at a time with me, man,' Livingston said. 'I’m blessed to be where I am right now, playing basketball with my injury and everything else. I’m not trying to look ahead.' The comments arrived after Livingston secured 18 points and 8 assists in a loss to the Orlando Magic on Saturday. The statistics are not eye popping or glaring, especially measured against the high ceiling attached to Livingston. He entered the league in 2004 as the fourth overall draft pick by the Los Angeles Clippers from an Illinois high school, immediately drawing comparisons to Magic Johnson. But there is a reason why Henry Thomas, Livingston’s agent, called him nearly in tears after the game. The tally represents more than just numbers. They are the most points and assists Livingston has amassed since his gruesome injury in February 2007, in which he landed awkwardly on his left knee, damaging virtually every portion of it. In a medical roll call, he sustained tears of his anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligament, lateral meniscus, sprained his medial collateral ligament and dislocated his patella and tibia-femoral joint."

  • Sam Amick of The Sacramento Bee: "For anyone who was watching closely in June before the Kings drafted Tyreke Evans fourth overall out of the University of Memphis, this moment was a fitting time to reflect on what could have been. By all accounts, Jonny Flynn would have been a King if Evans weren't still on the board. Alas, Evans was still there, with the Clippers taking Blake Griffin as expected, and Memphis and Oklahoma City having their own reasons to pass him by. The Kings' war room erupted with elation after the welcome surprise, as his was the name they wanted to call all along. They haven't stopped cheering. The Blueprint, as Evans' family plan for his hoops success is called, remains on track. Two games after his first triple double Wednesday against Toronto, Evans had 29 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds. Kings coach Paul Westphal opted against leaving Evans in for the mere fact of reaching the statistical achievement, taking him out with 6:04 remaining and the Kings up by 26 on a Timberwolves team that played without forward Kevin Love (left foot sprain) and center Darko Milicic (illness). ... As has been the case since Evans was a toddler in Chester, Pa., his brothers will be pushing him to continue improving. They said he'll train in Los Angeles this summer, with the main objective to improve his shooting and a number of other items on the to-do list as well. Keith Veney will be his shooting coach, adding Evans to his client list that has included Dallas' Caron Butler, Boston's Paul Pierce and Detroit's Ben Gordon, among others. Evans also will utilize a track coach to help with his conditioning and a boxing coach to push his physical ability and stamina to a new level. The plan calls for former NBA player B.J. Armstrong and professional trainer Rob McClanaghan to help with Evans' cause as well."

  • John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "After being ejected in the fourth quarter of the Bulls' road game Friday against the Miami Heat, guard Kirk Hinrich was defiant and followed referee Bennie Adams for an explanation. But Sunday, a day after the NBA suspended him for one game for making contact with Adams, Hinrich was more apologetic for leaving the short-handed Bulls even thinner for their road game Tuesday against the Memphis Grizzlies. 'I'm just disappointed,' he said after practice at the Berto Center. 'Anytime you have to miss time when you're healthy is frustrating. I was hoping that wasn't going to be the case, but there's nothing I can do about it now.' Hinrich admitted his anger got the best of him. 'I was just following him,' he said. 'I was still upset, and then he turned and stuck his elbow out and kind of bumped into me. And then I realized I better leave.' Of course, the damage had been done by then."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "While the Sacramento Kings will have enough cap space to lure a free agent this summer, even the Kings are not overstating their hand. Perhaps that's not a bad idea. As fans there last week implored Raptors forward Chris Bosh to head west, Raptors teammates Jarrett Jack bellowed back to the stands, 'Ain't nobody coming here. Nobody even knows it's in California.' "

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "The Indiana Pacers found another way to have a player go down with an injury. Swingman Mike Dunleavy was a last-minute scratch from the lineup against the Milwaukee Bucks after he suffered a right eye contusion when he was hit by a ball during pregame warm-ups Sunday. 'I went in for a layup and somebody shot the ball and it came off the rim right into my eye,' said Dunleavy, who looked like he had been in a fight after the game. The Pacers say they're not sure of the severity of the injury. 'He saw (Milwaukee's) ophthalmologist and we're hoping it's nothing serious,' Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said. 'He was seeing a black spot out of his eye, so he was told he couldn't play.' "

  • Jerry Crowe of the Los Angeles Times: "If you're a UCLA basketball fan of a certain age, your first glimpse of Artis Gilmore probably was at the Final Four. Forty years ago this week, looking every bit the heir apparent to former UCLA star Lew Alcindor as college basketball's dominant big man, the 7-foot-2 Gilmore led upstart Jacksonville to the championship game of the NCAA tournament. Once there, however, Gilmore and the Dolphins were cut down to size by Sidney Wicks and UCLA, the Bruins winning their fourth consecutive title and an unflattering image of Gilmore forming in the minds of skeptical fans from coast to coast. Gilmore had four shots blocked by Wicks, who gave away six inches in height but nothing in fire or moxie. Gilmore would go on to play 17 seasons in the ABA and NBA, scoring nearly 25,000 points and leading the Kentucky Colonels to an ABA title, but to some he never shook the initial impression that he was too nice for his own good, too sensitive to be great -- or at least as great as everybody seemed to expect. Perhaps that's why Gilmore, 22 years removed from the NBA, still has not been voted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame despite numbers suggesting that he belongs."