First Cup: Wednesday

  • Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer: "Anyone who has ever been in a commuter marriage can vouch for its difficulty. Brown is old enough that the 76ers rumors, at least, have a certain logic. But the Bobcats need him. Brown has rebuilt the team's roster the way he always does -- a master chef assembling ingredients that don't always seem to make sense but do so in concert. Suddenly, a Bobcats team that has never made the playoffs has 44 wins and will begin its first playoff series in Orlando this weekend. From a basketball standpoint, it makes so much sense for Brown to stay. He's just getting started here. But it has made sense for him to stay in other places before, and he's left. Those nine NBA stops don't even include his various college jobs (which included a couple of months as coach at Davidson in 1969. Brown left in a dispute with the administration before coaching a game). ... I like Brown. If you're a writer, it's impossible not to. He is insecure, honest and funny. He supplies more material in one postgame interview session than Panthers coach John Fox does in a month. But you must take a clear-eyed view of Brown. Even if he doesn't leave Charlotte in the offseason -- and again, I hope he doesn't -- you have to realize that he's going to leave sometime."

  • John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News: "If Larry Brown is interested in a return, Ed Snider will likely use whatever influence he has remaining to make it happen. So what would a Brown return mean? Obviously, it would be an immediate upgrade on the sideline. I don't think Jordan is as bad a coach as this season seems to indicate, but he's never going to end up in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, where Brown already has been inducted. LB has taken on some of the biggest rebuilding projects the NBA has ever seen and has rarely failed to turn things around almost immediately. Before this season's collapse, this same group of Sixers had made consecutive playoff appearances. Considering Brown figured out how to turn Iverson and a bunch of role players into an NBA Finalist, I think he could get this group right back into the playoffs."

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: "Tracy McGrady has been a nice addition to the locker room, with veteran knowhow and a pleasant personality. He has filled up our notebooks with all his theories and bold predictions, though he's been all over the map. One day, he predicts he'll be 'great' again. The next breath, he says he'll have no problem being a bench role player on a title contender. Problem is, he's been more entertaining in the locker room than on the court. It's the 'World According to McGrady.' But in one honest, humble moment in Los Angeles 10 days ago, McGrady stopped himself and said, 'Guys, I haven't completed a full season in two years. I say at the beginning of the season next year I'll be healthy. I don't know that. Nobody knows that. But I'm going to do everything I can to put myself in that position.' Some team will probably sign him to the veteran's minimum -- I'm predicting Dallas, close to his Houston home. It won't be the Knicks, even with their close alliance with his agent Arn Tellem. They can't take the risk. Still, I wish McGrady the best. He's a good guy, charismatic, better than I ever imagined. He has it all figured out. This comeback is gravy to him. He can retire tomorrow and never worry about supporting his family. His Adidas contract runs to 2015. 'That's why I love Arn,' T-Mac joked in LA. Good luck, T-Mac. Hope you are right about being 'great' again."

  • Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail: "I asked Bryan Colangelo five questions via e-mail about his team being too international. He received it on his BlackBerry while watching Chris Bosh get his face rearranged in Cleveland last week. (Bosh, no doubt, deliberately took the elbow for cover -- all the easier to shut it down mentally.) This is a serious matter for a GM, who in his words still gets 'told by a few agents not to bother.' Toronto’s long-term viability as an NBA franchise will depend on international players because international basketball players are a great deal like Latino baseball players: They’ve grown up with passports, so for them going through the Canadian border is not akin to an invitation to a night in Guantanamo Bay. The flip side is that people still wonder about communication and culture. Hell, old-time basketball guys still wonder whether a team with so many internationals gets less respect from NBA game officials."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "After watching an endless parade to the foul line in the fourth quarter of Saturday's Spurs-Nuggets game, and again in Monday night's Spurs-Timberwolves game, the cynic in me began to wonder: Was this the referees' response to the league's outing of Tony Brothers' blown call at the end of the April 6 Jazz-Thunder game? Suddenly, it seems every little touch foul in the fourth quarter is getting whistled, the notion of 'no harm, no foul' nothing but a quaint reminder of the good, old days when there were only two referees policing the action and games occasionally took less than two hours. Brothers was the ref closest to Kevin Durant when C.J. Miles hit Durant's arm as he launched a last-second 3-point shot, the Thunder trailing the Jazz 140-139. He swallowed his whistle. Durant and Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks were outraged, and the TNT studio crew that rehashed the game tut-tutted as the non-call replayed, over and over. Embarrassed, the league issued a press release to which Spurs fans could relate. ... NBA referees have to have a thick skin, and most do. When officially chastened, however, they have shown a willingness to respond with cheek. When Michael Henderson was suspended for three games for blowing a call that affected a Nuggets-Lakers game in 2004, his colleagues wore their jerseys inside-out, with his number penciled on. While the league's latest attempt to appease outraged fans with transparency is laudable, it will backfire if the response this time, from even a few refs, is to pre-think a close call in the waning seconds of a playoff game."

  • Michael Hunt of the Journal Sentinel: "We've credited the players, the general manager and the coach for a regular season that has played out far beyond expectations and a future that looks encouraging. It's time to recognize Herb Kohl's part in all of this. Just as he was responsible for a litany of poor hires and awful seasons before and after the George Karl/Ernie Grunfeld run, he must be acknowledged for once again bringing aboard two good basketball people in John Hammond and Scott Skiles and giving them the freedom to do their jobs. 'That's all Scott and I can ask for,' Hammond said. It's not that Kohl has suddenly disassociated himself from major decisions. That's never going to happen. But like anyone at the top, when Kohl surrounds himself with competence, there is a balance to his leadership."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Should the Heat defeat the visiting Nets on Wednesday night, then the Heat would lock itself into a No. 5-vs.-No. 4 series against the Celtics. However, should the Heat lose to New Jersey, then Boston would be in position to determine its first-round opponent. Should the Heat lose to the Nets, then Boston with a home victory over Milwaukee would find itself in that No. 4-vs.-No. 5 matchup against the Heat. However, with a Heat loss, Boston could leave Milwaukee as its first-round opponent should it lose (tank?) to the Bucks. Common sense says the Heat and Celtics will not play many of their regulars Wednesday. But falling to No. 6, the Heat would not only position itself to possibly meet Atlanta in the opening round, having won that season series 3-1, but also would not be in the Cavaliers’ bracket in the second round. By making Milwaukee its first-round opponent, Boston would avoid Dwyane Wade in that first round and instead get a Bucks team lacking sidelined center Andrew Bogut. It would make little sense for Heat coach Erik Spoelstra not to sit Wade, Jermaine O’Neal and Udonis Haslem, all of whom have been banged up recently."

  • Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe: "Doc Rivers got the wound on the last day of the 1992-93 season, in a game that was more or less meaningless aside from the fact that the two best teams in the Eastern Conference -- his Knicks and Michael Jordan’s Bulls -- were playing on national TV. The Knicks had wrapped up home-court advantage in the playoffs and were sitting on 59 wins. It wasn’t getting to 60 as much as league pressure that led coach Pat Riley to play his regular rotation. 'They basically threatened that back then you had to play,' Rivers said. 'Everybody had to play. Jordan had to play in the game that was completely meaningless.’ They obliged, reluctantly. Patrick Ewing played 40 minutes, and the Knicks won a battle, 89-84, but the price was John Starks dislocating his left middle finger and Rivers tearing a ligament in his thumb. 'I remember Riley saying, ‘That will never, ever happen again,’ ’ said Rivers. To an extent, the Celtics coach has adopted that stance. His team still had something to play for entering last night’s game against the Bulls, but it didn’t make him any less cautious. 'You’ve got to play somebody,’ Rivers said, 'but that will always have an affect on me. If we had everything clinched, after what I went through and other guys on our team getting injured, there’s no way I would play guys. I wouldn’t take the chance.’ "

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "... for those who think the answer to every problem is to fire a coach, you will be disappointed. John Kuester will return for his second season. He was pretty much guaranteed a second season when president of basketball operations Joe Dumars declared at Kuester's introductory news conference that the Pistons were in a rebuilding stage and could afford to roll with the first-time head coach. The Pistons are going to spend the off-season trying to improve -- not seeking their fourth coach in four seasons."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "It took Ernie Grunfeld less than a week to trade away Butler, Jamison, Brendan Haywood, DeShawn Stevenson and Dominic McGuire in moves that got the Wizards below the luxury tax line this season -- and created a situation in which the team has nearly $18.7 million in salary cap space to become a major player in free agency this summer. The Wizards will play their final game of the season Wednesday night against the Indiana Pacers at Verizon Center, but the organization has been focused on next season ever since Grunfeld detonated the roster at the trade deadline. What happens after Wednesday will be based largely on the direction the franchise takes once it transfers from the Pollin family to prospective owner Ted Leonsis. But whether or not the Wizards decide to use their available money to pursue a big-money free agent such as Atlanta's Joe Johnson, Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire or Memphis's Rudy Gay; retain any of their own 11 free agents; or save the money for next summer -- when Carmelo Anthony could potentially become available -- Grunfeld likes to remind people, 'We have options.' The Wizards (25-56) are tied with Golden State for the fourth-worst record in the NBA and could wind up with no worse than the ninth overall pick in the upcoming draft. They also have the 30th overall pick, acquired from Cleveland in the Jamison deal, and a potentially high second-round choice."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "At 21 years, 197 days, Kevin Durant is poised to become the youngest player in NBA history to win the scoring title. Durant enters tonight’s finale averaging 30.1 points. Cleveland star LeBron James ranks second at 29.7 points per game. James has sat out the Cavaliers’ past three games to rest up for the playoffs, and even if the All-Star forward played tonight, he would have to outscore Durant by 33 points to take the crown. 'He makes it look easy,' said Thunder forward Jeff Green. 'I’ve seen him put in all the work to get the offensive arsenal that he has. So he deserves it.' Durant’s exploits this season have included 29 straight games of 25 points or more -- the longest such streak since Michael Jordan in the 1986-87 season -- 47 games of at least 30 points and eight games of at least 40 points. Durant also leads the league with 10.3 free-throw attempts per game and has made a league-high 741 foul shots."

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "It didn't take long for Lakers Coach Phil Jackson to start working the referees. A day after the Lakers found out they'd play Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs, Jackson pointed out that Thunder forward Kevin Durant got a lot of favorable attention from referees. 'Yeah, by the calls he gets, he really gets to the line a lot, I'll tell ya,' Jackson said Tuesday. 'There's a couple plays in the last game where I was pretty curious how he got there.' Durant leads the NBA in scoring (30.1 points a game) and free-throw attempts (10.3 a game). By comparison, Kobe Bryant's best season ever in free-throw attempts was 10.2 a game in 2005-06. Jackson called Durant a 'special player' earlier this season, but, well, this is the playoffs, so Jackson began the mind games several days before the Lakers faced the Thunder."

  • Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle: "Yao Ming's presence will be especially critical on the defensive end, where the Rockets have been -- how can we phrase this gently? -- not very good. He's also a dominant low-post scorer, a great teammate and all-around good person. In other words, the Rockets are lucky to have him. If you ever thought they would be better off without him, this season probably convinced you otherwise. On the down side, he has missed 173 regular-season games the last five seasons, and until he can get through a full season, there's no way of knowing if it'll ever happen again. There's also no way of knowing if the reshaping of his left foot will allow him to resume his career. The Rockets are optimistic, but until he gets back out there and endures the day-to-day pounding, they just won't know. Could it be more minutes? Sure it could. Could it be less? Of course. From the moment Yao went down last spring, the Rockets have known he might never play another minute in the NBA. Now they're confident he will play again. Whether it's a lot or a little, whether it's at the same high level or not, remains to be seen. Figuring out how to divide up those 25 minutes will be a challenge for Rick Adelman next season. Do matchups determine when he plays? Or do the Rockets dictate the matchups by when they use him?"

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Just as the new arena is now a luxurious set of cash-cow luxury boxes that also happens to have some other seats for 18,000-plus Magic fans. Hey, that's the economic reality in sports and sports departments today. The truth is, the arena was outdated about 10 years ago. The Magic leaked losses in the millions and scrambled to get the new one built weeks before the recession hit in earnest, keeping Rich DeVos' franchise in town. If you don't believe the Magic might have left if they couldn't get new digs, check on Seattle. It still hasn't gotten back its NBA team. I'm not exactly waxing nostalgic in saying goodbye to the old place, either, after just 21 years. I mean, please, there's ivy in Wrigley Field and plumbing in Madison Square Garden older than that, along with some rats at Fenway Park. The arena might have had a longer life if the sky boxes weren't, well, built in the sky. Here's what the arena represents to me: Sports civilization and sophistication for Orlando. The city finally joined the majors. Fans had a pro team to call their own, celebrating and commiserating at office water coolers. Who knew it would be basketball intruding on football country?"