First Cup: Friday

  • Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: "Grant Hill's essay for the New York Times eloquently rebutted the statements from former members of Michigan's 'Fab Five' aimed at Duke's Black players. In fact, you might say Hill's response to the 'Uncle Tom' assertion of Jalen Rose was 'Fab.' And Rose, leader of those Michigan teams and executive producer of the ESPN documentary 'The Fab Five,' has made it clear that the documentary was framed from his perspective as a kid involved in high-stakes college recruiting in the early 1990s -- and isn't how he thinks today. Take that how you like, but the documentary was the most watched in ESPN history. What we find really interesting, and as yet unanswered, is why the heck Chris Webber decided to stay out of the documentary. It has been suggested, perhaps accurately, that he doesn't want to relive the timeout he called that Michigan didn't have in the 1993 NCAA title game against North Carolina. Or that it would mean rehashing his involvement with Ed Martin, the notorious Michigan booster, in a scandal that led to a couple of Final Four banners coming down at Michigan's Crisler Arena. Webber initially lied about getting financial support from Martin and was fined, sentenced to community service and briefly suspended by the NBA as a result. So it's hard to blame him for wanting to forget as much as possible about that stuff."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "If you want a possession that sums up the these Bulls, you could do worse than what transpired Thursday night late in the third quarter of their 84-73 victory over the Nets at Prudential Center. Ronnie Brewer missed a shot. Omer Asik battled for the rebound, creating a loose ball that he hustled to save inbounds. On the extra possession, Taj Gibson got fouled, sprawling to the floor. As he started to rise, Derrick Rose yelled at him to stop from 10 feet away -- all so Rose could sprint over and pull up Gibson with a helping hand. 'We have a lot of love on this team and respect for the way we play,' Rose said later. Talent reigns supreme. But the Bulls exhibit the intangibles -- both on the court with hustle and off it with closeness -- that make this feel like a special season."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "JaVale McGee’s triple-double on Tuesday against the Chicago Bulls received a negative reaction from many pundits who believed that McGee went to seemingly embarrassing means to reach the milestone during a blowout loss. McGee finished with 12 blocked shots, 12 rebounds and 11 points in the Wizards’ 98-79 loss to theBulls and needed a dunk with 18.7 seconds remaining to accomplish the feat. NBATV analyst Kevin McHale called it a 'bad triple-double' and described it as 'terrible.' ESPN.com Fantasy writer Tom Carpenter said McGee was 'acting like a buffoon,' especially after he received a technical foul for hanging on the rim in celebration of the dunk -- with his team down by 18. But McGee said on Wednesday that he doesn’t care about the negative criticism that followed. 'I got a triple-double,' McGee said. 'Who can say they got a triple-double? I’m not really worried about it.' McGee said, if anything, he was upset that some tried to discredit his accomplishment by comparing it to other failed triple-double quests — such as the one eight years ago by Ricky Davis, who was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers when he attempted to rebound his own miss on his basket in order to get a triple-double in a win against Utah. Davis finished with 26 points, 12 assists, and 9 rebounds. 'I couldn’t understand how they was saying it was like Ricky Davis,' McGee said. 'The thing about it is, I wasn’t trying to get a triple-double until they started running plays for me at the end. So, that’s totally different.' "

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "The year was 2010 -- Charlie Sheen was sane, nobody had heard of Morehead State and the Nuggets were bad at defense and bad on the road. Seems like ages ago. The Nuggets, showcasing some inspired defense, are not just good on the road, they're making history. With their dominating victory at Atlanta on Wednesday night, the Nuggets did something they had never done -- win three consecutive road games, each by 10 or more points, each against a team with a winning record. (The last time they won two such games was in 1979.) Well, road warriors, here's your reward -- a game tonight at Orlando, followed by a back-to-back game Saturday at Miami to complete a four-game road trip. 'We talked about not having any fear, but having the respect that we're still a team trying to figure out what we're going to do,' said Nuggets coach George Karl, whose team is 9-2 since trading Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups. 'Play hard and play together are the keys. It's not the strategies.' "

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: "GQ Magazine is calling Lakers fans the worst in the NBA. Phil Jackson acknowledged this much: 'We do not have vociferous fans.' He cited Utah Jazz fans as particularly loud. But Jackson said about Lakers fans: 'I think they’re knowledgeable.' "

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "When it was suggested the Celts haven’t consistently been playing hard enough or with enough urgency lately, Danny Ainge disagreed. 'I think they’re playing hard,' he said. 'I’m just not sure they’re healthy, and guys who play a lot of minutes are maybe pacing themselves during the early parts of games. There may be some of that.' Ainge then reversed his course a bit and heaped praise on the guys who play a lot of minutes and are out there during the early parts of games. 'I think we have some guys that are playing very special,' he said. 'I think our Big Three are playing special. They’re carrying us, especially under the circumstances and the way things have gone. I have to give them a lot of credit for what they’ve done through all the changes and the things that have gone on around them. Kevin was out hurt a while, and Paul and Ray have been sort of stabilizing forces all year.' Ainge is just hoping they get company in the form of an O’Neal or two and that no one else gets thrown overboard as the Celtics sail toward the postseason."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "The countdown is getting shorter for Milwaukee Bucks guard Michael Redd. If he can get a full-contact practice early next week, Redd could be cleared to return against Sacramento on Wednesday or possibly later in the week. The Bucks play at New York on March 25 and return home to meet the Chicago Bulls on March 26. One of those dates appears to be a Redd-alert for the 31-year-old guard to be back in a Bucks uniform. It will be the first time he has performed in an NBA game since he tore ligaments in his left knee on Jan. 10, 2010, against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center. Redd also missed the last 35 games of the 2008-'09 season after suffering torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in the same knee. Redd has persevered through nearly two years of rehabilitation to get to this point. 'Rehab is brutal; it's grueling,' Redd said. 'I love to train, though. I wanted to see my body transform. In order for that to happen, I had to go through a rigorous rehab session every day. It was tedious, over 180 visits to therapy. But my body feels great, and I'm glad I went through it.' Redd has taken encouragement from other NBA players who have suffered serious injuries and returned to play at a high level, including the Phoenix Suns' Grant Hill."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "When Gregg Popovich moved 15-year veteran Antonio McDyess into his starting lineup on March 6, it was with an eye on potential playoff matchups. The Western Conference, Popovich reminded, is chock full of outstanding power forwards. McDyess remains, even at age 36, an outstanding interior defender, Popovich said. Tonight, McDyess gets his first test as a 2010-11 starter against one of the best. Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, a 10-time all-star, ranks ninth in scoring this season at 23.3 points per game. Going into tonight, he is coming off three straight games of double-figure scoring and rebounding, the first time all season he has put together three straight double-doubles. 'He’s a great player and he’s going to get 20 or 30 points just by how many times he touches the ball and how well he shoots the ball,' McDyess said."

  • John DeShazier of The Times-Picayune: "Before torching the Suns, Chris Paul riddled Sacramento for 33 points, 15 assists, seven rebounds and five steals and hit up Denver for 27 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and seven steals. Those games made him the second player in league history with a two-game total of at least 60 points, 25 assists, 10 rebounds and 10 steals. That’s crazy good, and evidence that Paul apparently has crossed back over the line from star to superstar at a critical time."

  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: "Starting with Friday's 7 p.m. contest against Charlotte inside Oklahoma City Arena, the Thunder begins a six-game homestand, the longest in franchise history. Making the home stand particularly appealing is the opponents' combined record of 167-240 (.410). Four have losing records: Charlotte (28-39), Toronto (18-49), Minnesota (17-52) and Golden State (30-38). Utah (36-33) is teetering on playoff extinction, having lost 20 of its last 29. Portland (38-29) will be the most formidable visitor, and OKC is 2-0 against the Trail Blazers this season. Tonight will be the Thunder's sixth consecutive game against an Eastern Conference opponent. OKC remains unscathed to this point at 5-0 and is 21-6 against the East this season."

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: "Devin Harris said he tries not to look ahead because, well, 'I just take it one game at a time.' That might be a good idea. The Jazz could easily freak out if they tried to take on all of their remaining opponents at the same time. Of their final 13 games, only three come against teams not currently in a playoff position: Houston (35-34), Washington (16-50) and Sacramento (16-50). Other than that, the 36-33 Jazz face every single Western Conference team in postseason position. That brutal season-ending stretch includes two games against New Orleans and a pair against the Lakers, not to mention road games vs. the Spurs and Thunder as well. After claiming he doesn't peek at the upcoming slate -- aside from what's up next: Houston on Sunday -- Harris admitted he's been clued in a bit. 'I heard some guys talking about the schedule,' he said with a slight smile. 'And I heard through the grapevine that we have a brutal April -- from what I've heard.' "

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "The Orlando Magic waited several weeks for Hedo Turkoglu to regain an attacking mentality on offense. He found it on the Magic's recently completed five-game road trip. Turkoglu averaged 16.2 points on 51.8 percent shooting -- a significant improvement for a player who had been reluctant to look for his own shot. Turkoglu concluded the road swing on a high note, scoring eight of the Magic's 14 overtime points in a 93-89 win Wednesday over the Milwaukee Bucks. He also hit the final go-ahead basket, a 20-footer from in front of the Bucks' bench with a minute remaining in the extra period. 'I've always been in this situation in my career, especially with the Magic,' Turkoglu said. 'They just have confidence in me. I just keep myself ready until that time and when the time comes, I just try to make a play.' "

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "The Heat's 3-of-17 inaccuracy on 3-pointers in Wednesday's 96-85 loss to the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder was just the latest example of how the lack of an outside attack can allow the opposition to pack the paint against the Heat's primary scoring trio of Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. There recently was a 3-of-17 failure in a loss to the Orlando Magic and before that a 2-of-12 stumble in a loss to the Chicago Bulls. ... Asked about a potential change with his rotation heading into Friday's road game against the Atlanta Hawks, particularly among his 3-point shooters, Erik Spoelstra deflected the question, despite being asked specifically about Jones and House. 'Those shooters, I want them to shoot when they're wide open and take those shots confidently and aggressively,' he said. 'They have to be a threat out there. But we're not simply judging them whether the ball goes in or not. Are they doing other things, rebounding, rotating on defense, facilitating, allowing us to run offense on other end? There's a lot of other factors.' "

  • Ken Sugiura of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "A symbol of the Hawks' growth bit the dust Wednesday. Starting in the 2005-06 season, the Hawks had won more games than they had the previous season for five consecutive seasons, all under former coach Mike Woodson. They became the seventh team in NBA history to accomplish that feat, a fact that the team proudly trumpeted. However, the Hawks' 102-87 loss to Denver on Wednesday was their 29th, matching their loss total for the 2009-10 season and ensuring the streak will stop at five. It was their 16th loss by 10 or more points, which is more than they had in either of the past two seasons."

  • Jonaathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "The Rockets held another team below 100 points, and when they do that, they win. For that matter, they kept the Charlotte Bobcats from reaching 80. But they were not impressed. Coach Rick Adelman described Wednesday's defense as 'decent.' Kyle Lowry said the Rockets 'played down' to the Bobcats' slow-as-mud tempo. Chuck Hayes practically gushed, saying, 'It's getting better.' The Rockets have spent the season trying to overcome their shaky defense with only mixed results. But there have been signs of progress, if not all they will need to control the Boston Celtics tonight at Toyota Center. The Rockets have won the last 15 times they held an opponent below 100 points, with those foes averaging 89.8 points and 41.4 percent shooting. That includes wins this week over the Suns and Bobcats amid signs the Rockets have begun to put together a defense that won't embarrass their offense."

  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: "Only Michael Jordan gets a statue. But the Bulls will unveil a bronze bust of Hall of Fame forward Scottie Pippen at halftime of the April 7 game against Boston. Plans for the sculpture were announced at the start of the season. The bust will be permanently displayed on the 100 level concourse of the United Center near Gate 7. The Bulls already have a bust of longtime broadcaster Johnny “Red” Kerr inside the arena."