First Cup: Friday

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "When the final buzzer sounded, Jason Richardson clasped both sides of his head. Jameer Nelson pumped his right fist and turned toward Dwight Howard. The two co-captains exchanged high-fives. Coach Stan Van Gundy raised both arms into the air. None of them will forget what their team accomplished Thursday night. Trailing by 24 points several minutes into the third quarter, the Orlando Magic stormed back against the Miami Heat and pulled out a pulse-pounding 99-96 road win. 'That one almost defies explanation,' Van Gundy said. 'Even six minutes into the second half, we just looked down-and-out. We didn't have any way to stop 'em.' The announced crowd of 19,600 inside AmericanAirlines Arena and a national television audience watched the Magic complete the second-largest comeback in franchise history and saw a game that once belonged to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade take an unbelievable turn. The Magic, once seemingly out of hope, went on a 40-9 run. 'Thank God we woke up and got a win,' Howard said."

  • Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "The Heat blew a 24-point lead. They were outscored by, take your pick, 18-0 or 40-9 by the Magic. Dwyane Wade missed all six of his shots in the second half. LeBron James didn't score in the fourth quarter. The Heat missed seven of eight from the free-throw line at one point. And we haven't even got to the radioactively bad part yet. That was the final play. That was the one that could have saved the night. Instead, it piled on the tough questions. Now, granted, the Heat needed a 3-point shot on that play. That made it easier for Orlando to defend. But down three points with 9.6 seconds left in the NBA represents a decent chance. It presented yet another chance to a Heat team that has, 'problems closing out games,' as Wade said. That didn't get solved this night. Coming out of a time-out, the Heat's play sounded flawed from the start. Wade was covered in the corner by Orlando's Jason Richardson. 'They'd probably been scouting us a lot, seeing we like to go to the corner,' James said. Hmm. Sounds like someone thinks the Heat needs some new thoughts, Erik Spoelstra. With the first option gone, the inbounds pass went to Chris Bosh. He immediately took what had to be the fifth option with Wade, James, Bibby and Mike Miller also on the court."

  • Joseph Schwerdt for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Dear LeBron, Just wanted to let you know: You are not at war. You are not a soldier. What was said on your KingJames Twitter post? '20+ games left in phase 2. I'm ReFOCUSED! No prisoners, I have no friends when at WAR besides my Soldiers.' You can tweet it all you want.But what you do and who you are is not even close to what they do and who they are. You are probably a nice guy. And you are not the first athlete to compare sports to war; athletes to warriors; games to battle. I don't mean to single you out. But it is time to stop those comparisons. War. Games. Not even close. We are at war. Remember? People die in wars. They rarely die playing the games you play. If they do, it is not because they are attacked or shot at or booby trapped by an enemy. People lose limbs in war. Their bodies are torn apart by IEDs. Their legs and arms are ripped through by bullets and rockets. You play in arenas in front of adoring fans. You don't walk streets in villages not knowing who the enemy is or what might be lurking on a roadside, around a corner or behind a door."

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Magic coach Stan Van Gundy wants the NBA reexamine the rules that allow players who receive buyouts before March 2 to be eligible for other teams' playoff rosters. Not because the Heat signed Mike Bibby. Or because the Boston Celtics nabbed Troy Murphy. Van Gundy feels the current rules make it tougher to convince players to sacrifice for the good of a team. 'You spend all this time in your locker room talking about trying to get guys to put aside personal things and 'it's all about the team,' ' Van Gundy said. 'And then on March 1st you're changing the team and sending guys out the door. I think pretty quickly players pick up that you're sort of full of crap, that they're not really part of it. And why are they buying in [to the team concept] if you're just going to jettison 'em? I don't think it's good.' Van Gundy wasn't faulting teams for pursuing players who had received buyouts. In fact, the Magic had interest in Murphy."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "All season, players and management have cited the Bulls' strong chemistry as part of the foundation for their success. Rasual Butler gets it. 'Look, this is already a successful team,' Butler said by phone Thursday afternoon. 'They're third in the East for a reason. I'm just looking to fit in wherever.' The Bulls officially signed Butler on Thursday, one day after the veteran swingman cleared waivers from his buyout agreement with the Clippers. He didn't attend Thursday's practice but will participate in the team shootaround Friday. With 13 players now, somebody will be inactive for Friday's game against the Magic. Butler, 31, said he turned down interest from other contenders like the Celtics and Thunder because he appreciated the Bulls' honesty about his role and it felt like the best fit."

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "It was even clear to Dallas Mavericks center Brendan Haywood that he was affected by losing his starting spot to Tyson Chandler earlier this season. But now, Haywood will get his chance to start. Chandler will miss at least two games after spraining his right ankle Tuesday night against Philadelphia. Haywood will take his place in the starting lineup beginning with Friday's home game against Indiana and continuing Sunday at home against Memphis. Haywood, however, doesn't view this as an opportunity for him to show what he can do if given additional playing time. 'This is an opportunity for this team to continue playing good basketball,' Haywood said after Thursday's practice. 'This is not about the individual. It's about the team. It's too late in the season to be worried about your individual accolades and stuff like that. I'm going out there filling in for Tyson trying to be productive so I can help this team.' "

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "Baron Davis knows he has a lot of nonbelievers. He wants to desperately prove them wrong. Davis will make his Cavaliers debut at 7:30 tonight against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Davis, 31, has missed the previous three games since being traded from the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 24. Davis said he doesn't pay a lot of attention to what's being said in the media, but his mother sure does. She informed him what everyone was saying after the trade. 'There were a lot of doubters,' Davis said. 'People were saying, ‘I'm not going to come here. I don't want to be here. I'm going to give up.' That's more motivation to put a sock in everyone's mouth.' Even though his left knee is not 100 percent -- it might never be -- Cavs coach Byron Scott called Davis a top-five point guard when he's healthy. 'I believe so,' Davis said. 'I love the game. I study the game. I see the game a lot different than a lot of point guards in the league.' "

  • Tom Couzens of The Sacramento Bee: "A heated debate broke out the other night at our favorite midtown watering hole. No, it wasn't about the state's fiscal crisis or the problems in Libya. It was about something much closer to Sacramento sports fans' hearts: If the Kings move to Anaheim, what will they be called? The way we see it, they wouldn't keep the Kings name, since the NHL Kings have played in Los Angeles since 1967, and having two Kings never works well. The NBA Kings have been wearing throwback uniforms this week -- maybe they're thinking of becoming the Royals again. After all, it was the Rochester Royals who won the franchise's only NBA title, way back in 1951. The franchise didn't become the Kings until it moved to Kansas City in 1972. How about following the example set by Anaheim's NHL team, which started as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim? Using the Disney theme, the Kings could become the Mighty Mice -- all they need is a coach named Mickey. Or the Maloofs could call their team the Palms. Anaheim has plenty of palm trees, plus imagine the marketing tie-ins with the Maloofs' casino in Las Vegas. Don't like those ideas? Here's a dandy that's been bandied about: The Orange County Wave … as in wave them goodbye? Our spirited debate ended when the group agreed on the best name of all: Sacramento Kings."

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: "In less than two seasons, Andris Biedrins has gone from the Warriors' most realistic All-Star candidate to a guy who might not be on the ballot next season. Whether he ever reclaims the game that made him an automatic double-double guy in 2008-09, Biedrins will be owed $9 million each season through 2013-14. 'I'm trying to find my game,' Biedrins said. 'I know it looks easy, but it's not. It's there and I'm there, but there's something wrong. Hopefully, it won't take too much longer, and I can turn this around.' Smart had to renege on his promise that his starters couldn't lose their jobs, because Biedrins has seemingly been paralyzed by self-doubt. He has shied away from the ball on offense during some sequences and picked other sequences to lag at the defensive end. The result has been the Warriors playing 4-on-5. ... 'I'm trying to find my way, because physically, I'm feeling so great,' said Biedrins, who had a series of core injuries last season and hernia surgery this past summer. 'I'm not having any physical problems. Mentally, I just can't get that thing right. We're trying to find some other way to get me back on track. If that's coming from the bench, so be it.' "

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "It's a funny little blemish on the history of a 16-time NBA champion: The Lakers have losing records against two teams, one of which is sensible (Boston), and one of which is Charlotte. The Lakers are 5-8 against the Bobcats, a strange stumble for an elite team, including last month's 109-89 pounding in Charlotte, the Lakers' worst loss of the season. Phil Jackson was irritated beyond belief that night after the loss. ... Luckily for the Lakers in Friday's rematch, Charlotte (26-34) isn't close to the same team it was before the trade deadline. The Bobcats traded two-time All-Star forward Gerald Wallace to Portland last week, a salary dump that netted an expiring contract (center Joel Przybilla), two role players and two first-round draft picks. The Bobcats also traded veteran center Nazr Mohammad, who burned the Lakers for 16 points in 24 minutes last month. The results haven't been promising. In fact, the Bobcats lost in Denver on Wednesday, 120-80. Still, the Lakers tread cautiously. Very cautiously. 'They're talented individuals and they elevate their play when they go against us,' Kobe Bryant said. 'If [Charlotte] played the rest of the league the way they play against us, they'd be up there in the playoffs.' "

  • Dan Duggan of the Boston Herald: "Glen Davis consistently has put himself in harm’s way this season. He leads the NBA by a wide margin in charges taken, demonstrating an admirable level of self-sacrifice. Despite all of that abuse, Davis has been in the lineup for each of the Celtics [team stats]’ 59 games. That will change tonight, when a strained patellar tendon in his left knee will force Davis to miss a home matchup with Golden State. Davis injured his knee while dunking late in Wednesday’s 115-103 win over the Suns. An MRI taken yesterday morning revealed no serious damage, and Davis should miss only 3-7 days. 'It’s a sigh of relief, but you don’t want to be hurt anyways,' Davis said. 'You don’t want to sit out. But you can’t take that approach. It could be worse, so I’m just glad I’m here and getting healthy and getting ready to play.' Davis said he hasn’t been healthy all season. Dating back to last year’s Finals, he’s been bothered by tendinitis in his knees. The dunk against the Suns aggravated the condition, necessitating time to rest and recover."

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "Carmelo Anthony is a Knick now. Chauncey Billups is running the offense. Their talents are considerable, though not ideally suited to the seven-seconds-or-less universe Mike D’Antoni has coached. Anthony thrives in isolation -- the antithesis of a ball-and-player movement philosophy. Billups is 34 and slow afoot. Amar’e Stoudemire, like Anthony, prefers shooting to passing. The playbook needs editing. D’Antoni’s style needs revising. It may be the biggest adjustment he has made in seven years, since the day he first handed the Suns’ offense to Steve Nash and said, 'Run.' 'Probably,' D’Antoni said Thursday. 'Really, there’s all kinds of different ways you can play it, and we’re going to try to maximize just what the players do.' The accommodating tone is in contrast to the caricature of D’Antoni that has emerged over the years -- as a stubborn, all-offense, no-defense, small-ball coach who refused to adapt to personnel."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "When the Suns won consecutive overtime games on shots by Channing Frye, the plays started the same and ended the same but it was the variation in the middle that opened up both shots. If the whole scene looked familiar, it is probably because you have seen the basic play for seven years. Former Suns coach Mike D'Antoni introduced it to the Suns, and current head coach Alvin Gentry has been on the staff since 2004. You might have even seen a resemblance this season with Amar'e Stoudemire popping out to the top for shots with D'Antoni's New York Knicks. The reason the Suns could get away with looking like they ran the same play for game-winning tries on consecutive days is because the play winds up differently. At every practice since the start of training camp in September in La Jolla, Calif., Gentry has made the Suns run through a handful of game-ending plays so that the structure and options on the design become second nature. 'We try to go over them every day so that if we have to run them on the fly with no timeouts, we know the position we should be in and how we should do it,' Gentry said. In the case of Sunday's and Monday's game winners, they did not intend to go with the same set on consecutive days for fear that it would be scouted. Circumstances just turned out that way, and because of the defensive switches required by the opposition, the Suns can go two or three different directions."

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: "Bill Laimbeer, a former Piston and current Timberwolves assistant coach, was pleased to hear about former teammate Dennis Rodman getting his jersey retired on April 1. They were the Pistons' best rebounders and frontcourt defenders for back-to-back title teams. 'He was an integral part of how it all worked out as far as the chemistry of the ballclub and the identification of who we were as a defensive-minded team, the Bad Boys,' Laimbeer said. 'So it's a nice honor for him and I'm happy for him. I think he seems to be genuinely excited about coming back and getting it.' "

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "The Griz have won five straight home games and can move past the struggling Hornets in the Western Conference playoff standings with a win. New Orleans has lost three straight games and 12 of 16 overall. Chris Paul continues to struggle with his shooting. He has shot poorly for nearly a month, making 34.7 percent from the floor and averaging 11.6 points in his last 11 games. Who to watch? Mike Conley. He's averaging 17.4 points, 5.3 assists and 50 percent shooting in the past eight games. He even has seven blocks in his last six outings after blocking just eight shots in his first 56 games this season."

  • Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: "Sometime over the next few games, Andre Miller will pass the great Guy Rodgers and move into 15th place on the NBA’s regular-season career assists list. Miller has 6,904, 13 shy of Rodgers, who played most of his career with the Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors and was the man feeding Wilt Chamberlain (20 assists) on his 100-point night. Next on the list: Bob Cousy at 6,955."

  • Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: Remarkably, Minnesota forward Kevin Love does not have a shoe endorsement deal. 'He's a free agent on the shoe market,' says his father, Stan, with a laugh. Nike, Adidas and Peak -- a Chinese firm — are potential bidders for the Lake Oswego native, who can surpass Moses Malone’s modern-era record with his 45th straight double-double Friday night at Philadelphia. Love’s numbers, incidentally, in a 126-123 win over Golden State on Sunday were epic. Has a player ever before scored 37 points on just 13 shots? The Lake Oswego native was 8 for 13 from the field, 3 for 4 from 3-point range and 18 for 23 at the line. And he had 23 rebounds, including seven off the offensive glass. They ought to enshrine the box score in Springfield."

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "The devastating floods that wreaked havoc throughout Australia have slowly disappeared from the daily news cycle, but Patty Mills' efforts to raise money and awareness about the plight of his homeland is just hitting its stride. Mills teamed with the Blazers to raise nearly $5,700 through a variety of fund-raising efforts in January. Now, through a grass roots campaign to sell T-shirts that Mills helped create, the Australian point guard has set a new goal of raising $50,000 to aid his battered country. 'When you're on the other side of the world, when you're far away from your family and friends, you really feel helpless,' Mills said. 'So I'm trying to do all I can to help out.' Mills came up with the idea to sell T-shirts with friend Josh Unruh, a former South Salem and St. Mary's basketball player who owns a T-shirt company (WearsMyShirt.com) that raises money for charities. Mills designed the shirt and the two made an initial batch of about 300 to sell at a women's basketball game at St. Mary's during the NBA All-Star break. The shirts sold out."