First Cup: Wednesday

February, 16, 2011
  • Lacy J. Banks of the Chicago Sun-Times: "When Michael Jordan was leading the Bulls to six championships, he was media-friendly. You could always get an interview with him. He knew that the more exposure he got, the more it helped the many products he was endorsing. But since ending his playing career with the Wizards, he has been media-mean in terms of granting interviews. It’s his right to talk to whomever he wants to whenever he wants to. But when the media promoting the NBA product is rejected by the man revered as the best player to play basketball, and the greatest salesman and cash cow for the Bulls in particular and the league in general, it’s bad public relations. Sure, his Nike Air Jordan gym shoes are grandfathered into selling well. Same for the Hanes underwear he’s now hawking. But I was always wearing Fruit of the Loom anyway, and continue to do so. Think of how much better promoted the league and the game would be if Jordan were more visible and vocal. It certainly could help his Bobcats, whose average home attendance of 15,963 ranks 20th in the 30-team league."
  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "He's written dozens of inspirational books. He's recited hundreds of philosophical quotes. He's given thousands of motivational speeches. But now, more than ever, the dreamer and the doer who brought professional sports to Orlando must mobilize every bit of positivity and promotional passion he can muster. Except this time, he must motivate himself for what will be his biggest challenge yet. Pat Williams has bone cancer. 'I've delivered many a motivational speech about the stuff you always hear about in sports,' says Williams, the founder and executive vice president of the Orlando Magic. 'I've stood up there and told other people you can't give up and you've got to show courage, perseverance and will. Now, I get to live out the things I always talk about. That's a privilege.' ... A quarter-century ago, Williams was one of two people who had the ridiculous idea that they could bring professional basketball to a transient city in the middle of a football-fanatical state. Williams and Orlando businessman Jimmy Hewitt were laughed at and called foolish dreamers for thinking little Orlando could become big-league. Williams has always been a believer; he's always been a persuader. But even he knows this will be his biggest sell job. It's one thing to fight a small-time perception and bring the NBA to Orlando. It's another to fight a voracious form of cancer that eats away at your bones."
  • Stephen A. Smith of "There's no doubt the Knicks have inched toward the realm of respectability and, as a result, are no longer the moribund franchise that spent years staining our psyche. But maybe that's part of the problem. Maybe, just maybe, if the Knicks recognized who they truly are at this moment in time -- mediocre, and just an injury to Amare Stoudemire away from being the Cleveland Cavaliers -- they'd shed their posturing and unfounded comfort and finally address the Carmelo Anthony dilemma with the urgency it deserves. Clearly they haven't done so yet, and the reasons are nothing short of nauseating. When you have a chance to get one of the top five players in the game, you do it. Period. Considering the team you have and the fact that no other potential stars will be available before the 2012 season, to stand pat and do nothing qualifies as an exercise in stupidity. Or something worse. And when the specifics for hesitating to bring Anthony to New York revolve around holding on to names like Danilo Gallinari, Landry Fields, Wilson Chandler or any combination of the three, insanity is one word that comes to mind. Dismissal is another. ... Do we really want to imagine what the spring of 2011 will be like if the Knicks don't get Anthony, continue to tinker at the .500 mark, resemble a team only as good as its jump shot every night, with no improvements available before 2012? Don't bother answering that question. This is the future of New York we're talking about here. We've suffered enough. It needs to stop by Feb. 24. Or someone else needs to suffer for a change."
  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: "Please excuse me if I haven't yet called for the commissioning of a sculptor to chisel Frank Vogel's likeness outside Conseco Fieldhouse. Nor have I jumped just yet to compare him with young Red Auerbach, or done the math to figure out when he'll pass NBA record-holder Don Nelson for coaching victories. Maybe next week. For all of the Indiana Pacers' improvement, for all the strides they've taken physically, emotionally and spiritually, they've still just beaten one team with a .500 or better record under Vogel -- and that team, Portland, was missing several starters. I want to see them do this for more than three weeks. I want to see them go on the road and beat good teams. I want to see them fight through an injury before making the case for Vogel as Pacers Coach for Perpetuity. And so, I would assume, do team president Larry Bird and friends. There's a very good reason they're not going to rip off the interim tag and make Vogel the full-time guy before the end of the season: It would be completely insane."
  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "Despite the disparate records of the two teams -- the Heat are 40-15, the Raptors 15-40 -- the atmosphere could be electric at the Air Canada Centre for what’s expected to be only the fourth sellout in 28 home games this season. According to the website, which tracks the sale of tickets for sporting events, the average resale price is topping $200 -- about double the usual and higher than for any game this season. Fans -- those who continue to boo Vince Carter more than six years after he left and Tracy McGrady almost a decade after his departure -- are sure to be in full throat. 'I’m ready as I’ll ever be,' Chris Bosh said. 'We’ve experienced some times here from the crowds and pretty much it’s at every arena we play at. Guys are extra motivated, crowds are extra motivated, whether it be to talk crap or cheer a little louder, but I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. Bring it on.' "
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Rashard Lewis will not be formally introduced when the Magic host the Wizards tonight -- the teams' first meeting in Orlando since the blockbuster, mid-December trade that sent him to Washington for Gilbert Arenas. A sore right knee kept Lewis out of Washington's last two games and almost certainly will prevent him from playing tonight. 'It most definitely would've been a lot of fun to come back and play in front of the fans,' Lewis said. The fans' best chance to honor him may arise if Amway Center's jumbotron flashes his image during a stoppage in play. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy predicted that Lewis will receive a warm ovation tonight. 'I would hope, and I would think that he'd get a great one,' Van Gundy said. 'Again, he was a key guy, if not the key guy, instrumental in really getting this franchise going to a much higher level and on top of that was a great pro, was a great teammate, a model citizen [and was] involved in the community.' Lewis said he never received an explanation why the Magic traded him away. He has read quotes from Magic General Manager Otis Smith in which Smith said Orlando needed more scoring and more punch. Now, almost two months after the trade, the jury's still out on whether swapping Lewis for Arenas was a smart move."
  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: "The Grizzlies celebrated the start of their weeklong All-Star break with a 102-91 thumping of the Philadelphia 76ers at FedExForum on Tuesday night. And if it wasn’t an especially artful exhibition of basketball, it was another display of the grit, fury and resilience that has carried this team to 12 wins in its last 15 games and seems likely to bring playoff basketball back to Memphis for the first time since 2006. The Grizzlies came out and bludgeoned the 76ers. They looked nothing at all like the outfit that used to have a hard time getting up for lesser teams. The Grizzlies forced eight turnovers in the first quarter and didn’t turn the ball over once. They led 26-10 after one. ... The Grizzlies are just a half game behind Denver and Utah for the seventh and eighth playoff spots, just a game behind Portland for sixth, and just 2 1/2 games behind New Orleans for fifth. When they return, they’ll have a 25-game sprint to the postseason. They can’t come stumbling out of the break the way they did last year. But nothing about this team seems like last year, or last month for that matter. 'We’ve come a long way,' said Randolph, the stopper. 'We know what we’re playing for.' "
  • Ron Green Jr. of The Charlotte Observer: "It makes sense that the Bobcats and Paul Silas are discussing a contract extension. Since taking over for Larry Brown on Dec. 22, Silas has done a masterful job of reshaping the Bobcats into a freer, more efficient team that has a reasonable chance of making its second straight playoff appearance. That possibility was a long way off in mid-December when the Bobcats were losing by 33 to the Washington Wizards. ... Players who were lost before -- D.J. Augustin and Gerald Henderson come immediately to mind -- have flourished under Silas while the veterans have taken to his approach. At 67, Silas doesn’t figure to be a long-term coach but he fits what the Bobcats need now. Perhaps down the road, Silas’s son, Stephen, could follow his father into the job. For the time being, Paul Silas isn’t going anywhere."
  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Michael Redd has experienced the agony of an anterior cruciate ligament tear not once but twice in a 12-month period. And now, 13 months after tearing up his left knee for a second time, the Milwaukee Bucks guard is ready to return. Bucks general manager John Hammond confirmed Tuesday that Redd would be back with the team Monday for the team's first practice after the NBA all-star break. The Bucks are not expecting Redd, who ranks fourth on the team's all-time scoring list, to make a startling impact in the final two months of the season. But they are glad to have him back. 'Just as he did last off-season, he has worked so very hard to get himself in a position where he can return,' Hammond said. 'When he arrives Monday he'll go through the next step in the process. He will continue to do his rehab. He will be on the floor with some individual skill work. From that point, then how soon can he progress to doing more basketball-related movements? And from that point, how soon can he progress to actually being able to practice?' Redd has been working out at Ohio State University, where he played for the Buckeyes before joining the Bucks as the 43rd overall pick in the 2000 NBA draft."
  • Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press: "Minnesota Timberwolves' All-Star Kevin Love continues to set milestones this season with his double-double feats, but his 12 points and 11 rebounds in Monday night's loss to Portland were especially significant. The double-double, Love's 50th of the season, made him just the second player in NBA history to post 50 before the All-Star break. The only other player to achieve that was former Minneapolis Laker George Mikan, who had exactly 50 double-doubles before the 1950 All-Star break. Love and the Wolves play the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night at Target Center. Mikan, you might recall, was declared the best basketball player of the first half the 20th century by the Associated Press. A life-size bronze statue of Mikan, who died in 2005, resides at the entry of Target Center."
  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: "Ben Wallace, who appears to be the spokesman for the team, bottled his fury, along with his disgust. He wasn't upset at the fans who booed them off the floor at the end of another inconsistent performance. 'They paid for their ticket, they can do what they want to,' Wallace said. 'We played like crap!' There's obviously some friction between the players and coach John Kuester, seemingly since the beginning the season. If there's no outward anger, then acceptance could be setting in. The players have routinely said their issues aren't of talent, but can't pinpoint the exact cause of their struggles. No matter, if the ship is going to be righted, it better be soon, since the Pacers, with eighth playoff spot are gaining more and more space between themselves and the Pistons. ... Wallace didn't want to throw anyone under the bus but he's clearly irritated by what's transpired. 'Y'all see what's going on out there, come on,' Wallace said. 'It doesn't take me to say it. We're just not on the same page right now. We've just got to play a little bit harder.' Wallace has always been proud and outspoken during his two stints, but could only muster a smile when prodded about his true thoughts. 'It's a whole lot of stuff,' he said."
  • Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Roddy B is the Bieber on a roster full of Dylans. He can beat nearly any defender off the dribble and is the Mavs' most dangerous open-floor player, next to Marion. He's one of the fastest players in the league. 'With the ball in his hands, that's the key,' Jet said. The Mavs want us to be excited about the recent acquisition of Peja Stojakovic. It would have been thrilling six years ago. Peja, who is 33, is another good older player on a roster full of them. What this team needs is some youth, energy and athleticism. That falls on Cleotis, who has finally lived up to some of his billing as the No. 2 overall pick of the 2001 draft, and now Roddy B. 'I think he will come in and provide a spark,' Jet said. But even the Jet asks us to slow down. 'Again, this is his second year in the league,' he said. Don't care. If we are going to believe the Mavs are legit West Finals contenders, the reasons, other than Dirk, are Cleotis and Rodrigue. We should all be so optimistic, even if it is unrealistic."
  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "There won’t be any progress to report in Los Angeles. Oh, there will be a meeting, and most of the All-Stars, East and West, will show up at the negotiating table in a show of support. This may necessitate a larger meeting room, but it’s not going to frighten Spurs chairman Peter Holt and the other members of the owners’ labor relations committee. What is important when Holt’s committee sits down with Hunter, NBPA president Derek Fisher and the union’s executive board in Los Angeles is numbingly simple: Both sides must understand the urgency to getting a new agreement before the old one expires on July 1. There will be what Stern calls 'rhetorical flourishes' this weekend. These will be all sound and fury, signifying very little. The only tangible feeling apt to come from Los Angeles will be the sense of dread that the entire 2011-12 season is in serious jeopardy. That’s a chill that numbs."



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?