First Cup: Wednesday

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "This is why you don’t promote the nice-guy assistant. Because the players who’ve known him only as the nice-guy assistant will quit on him. And if you think the Hawks are still playing hard for Larry Drew, how are we to explain the misdoings of the past three weeks? The Hawks have lost six home games in 18 days. By way of comparison, they lost seven home games all last season. Only one of these six losses has been by fewer than 13 points. Average margin of the six losses -- 17.8 points. ... Even if we stipulate that all six home losses have come against good opposition, that excuses nothing. The Hawks are, or at least were, supposed to be pretty good themselves. They won 53 games last season, and they’ve won 40 this time. But they’re not nearly the team they were a year ago, and the reason is clear: The Hawks might not have loved Mike Woodson, but they played hard for him most nights. When they stopped playing hard against Orlando in Round 2 of the 2010 playoffs, it was time for Woodson had to go. But it took the Hawks six seasons to tune out their previous coach; they stopped listening to his successor before they even reached 60 games."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "The Bulls reacted to their second blowout in as many nights with the same business-like approach that has defined their season, although coach Tom Thibodeau did flash solid deadpan humor when asked about the offensive onslaught. 'That's what we are,' he said. This is the first time the Bulls have won two straight games by 30 or more points since Jan. 10-11, 1995. Coupled with Monday's 40-point victory over the Kings, the Bulls set a franchise mark for largest combined margin of victory in back-to-back games. 'You're never going to stop hearing from Thibs,' Rose said. 'He always says if we want to be the team we want to be, we have to put more into it. That's what we're doing. We're pushing ourselves. We can't be satisfied where we are now.' "

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: "Ron Artest blew kisses to the crowd in the first overtime after his three-pointer gave the Lakers a 119-116 lead. Artest kissed his biceps after his steal led to his dunk and a 135-132 Lakers lead in the third overtime. Get the picture? Artest was animated during the Lakers' 139-137 triple-overtime victory over the Phoenix Suns Tuesday night at Staples Center. Why? 'I kind of knew what the outcome was going to be, so I was relaxed,' Artest maintained. 'We talked about it.' It figures Artest would talk this way, because only he can sum up his play that way."

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: "Lamar Odom carried the Lakers pretty far, although not to the finish in just the fourth triple-overtime game in Los Angeles Lakers history. In the end Tuesday night, Kobe Bryant had the 107th game of his career with at least 40 points – although just the third this season – and Ron Artest rose up with four consecutive points late for the Lakers to secure their 13th victory in 14 games since the All-Star break. It was one of the thrilling games of the NBA season, the Lakers prevailed, 139-137, with clutch free throws on both sides propelling the game into a third extra session. The only other home triple-overtime game in Los Angeles Lakers history came in 1969."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "If the playoffs don't include the Suns, they might be missing out on some fun. The same Suns that have disappointed you with mediocrity can thrill you against superior teams, once again doing so Tuesday night at Staples Center with an incredible triple-overtimeeffort that entertained but ultimately left the Suns with fewer grains in their playoff hourglass. The Suns' 139-137 loss to the Lakers, who are 13-1 since the All-Star break, leaves the Suns three games behind eighth-place Memphis. ... Frye logged 57 minutes, scoring 32 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Nash had 19 points and 20 assists in 49 minutes, and Gortat had 24 points and 16 rebounds in 53 minutes. Despite Hill's clutch defense, Bryant still finished with 42 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists with 15-of-31 shooting. Regulation would have been enough to make everyone talk about Tuesday night's game, but the Suns and Lakers kept the dedicated portion of the East Coast TNT audience up until 2 a.m. watching."

  • Barbara Barker of Newsday: "It was exactly a month ago that Carmelo Anthony played his first game in a Knicks uniform. ... Sixteen games into the Anthony era, the Knicks' coach, president and players all admit that the team is not coming together as quickly as they had hoped. And Anthony indicated Tuesday at practice that he wasn't exactly sure what he was getting into when he came to New York. 'I didn't really know what to expect, to be honest with you,' Anthony said. 'Everything just happened so fast. But that's something I try not to think too hard about. It's a process, it's a long process. That's something I keep telling myself, keep telling the guys on the team.' "

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "The Knicks might have the worst bench of any playoff-bound team (assuming, of course, the Knicks make the playoffs. They host Orlando on Wednesday, when a loss would drop them below .500). An analysis provided by the NBA.com StatsCube illustrates the point. The Knicks’ most-used bench unit (at least three nonstarters), post-trade, has played only 23 minutes together: Douglas, Fields, Walker, Shawne Williams and Ronny Turiaf. The Dallas Mavericks’ second unit, by contrast, has played 341 minutes together. The Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder each have three unique bench units that have played at least 100 minutes together. According to the StatsCube analysis, the Knicks’ various second units share a fairly consistent trait: better defense, worse offense. The Knicks were not fantastically deep before the trade — for the season, they rank 29th in bench minutes a game — but the rotation became thinner because they gave up four everyday players (Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov) and gained only two (Anthony and Billups)."

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Jason Kidd turns 38 years old Wednesday. And the Dallas Mavericks already have given their point guard a gift that keeps on giving. Now in his 17th season, Kidd is averaging only 33.4 minutes per game. It's the least playing time in his star-studded career, and it's certainly by design. 'We've done it to a great degree and we'll continue to look at it,' coach Rick Carlisle said. 'Our overall effectiveness as a team helps him get in a position where he doesn't have to get into the mid- to high-30s in minutes. If we can keep him in the 31-, 32-, 33-range, that's optimal for him.' Originally the No. 2 overall pick by the Mavs in the 1994 NBA Draft, Kidd is a relic by NBA standards. Shaquille O'Neal (39 years, 16 days), Kurt Thomas (38 years, 169 days), Grant Hill (38 years, 168 days) and Juwan Howard (38 years, 43 days) are the only active players older than Kidd. Not that the Mavs will be rolling out a wheelchair for Kidd for his birthday. But they don't make him go through the entire drudgery of practice -- unless it's absolutely necessary."

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "It has taken rookie center Tiago Splitter nearly an entire season to learn all the devilish details of the Spurs’ offense, as well as the intricacies of their defense. In between, he’s had to adjust to a new hometown, a new country and a new league. There was at least one thing Splitter did not require much time to learn when he joined the Spurs in July. In fact, he knew it long before he had ever set foot in South Texas. 'Tim Duncan is a great player,' Splitter said. 'Nobody can play like him.' Over the next few games, and perhaps more, Splitter vows to give it his best shot. Duncan was on crutches Tuesday, a day after suffering a sprained left ankle in a victory over Golden State. With Spurs officials ruling him out for at least the three-game road trip that opens tonight in Denver, he was not on the team’s charter plane leaving San Antonio International Airport. ... Spurs coach Gregg Popovich could start the 6-foot-11 Splitter in Duncan’s place, as he did Saturday against Charlotte, when the perennial All-Star was given a routine night off. Or Popovich could return to DeJuan Blair, who started the first 63 games. Either way, Splitter is set to face a stretch that, for better or ill, could define his rookie season. 'This,' Manu Ginobili said, 'is the opportunity he’s been waiting for.' "

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: "It required a couple of elbows from Carmelo Anthony and Jared Jeffries to knock the Celtics back into focus, that special place where they are capable of dominating games and where Rajon Rondo controls the pace with mastery. Now the task is to stay there. There are 13 games left in the regular season, and the Celtics are battling the Bulls and Heat for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Now that the schedule becomes slightly softer -- with the Grizzlies and Bobcats coming into TD Garden this week before a road game at Minnesota -- the Celtics have a chance to gather all their new pieces and complete the cohesion process while racking up victories against lesser opponents. That has not been easy the past couple of years. Monday’s 96-86 victory over New York was evidence that the old Celtics still exist; they pummeled the Knicks for the final two quarters and the defense is beginning to befuddle opponents more consistently."

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Stan Van Gundy originally tried to solve the Orlando Magic's turnover problem by talking about the issue and showing pertinent video clips to his players. Didn't work. His team still committed 20 turnovers in its win Monday night over the Cleveland Cavaliers -- the sixth time in their last eight games that the Magic had at least 18 turnovers. So, Van Gundy tried something novel during practice Tuesday at Baruch College in Manhattan. He didn't use the word 'turnover.' The closest he came to discussing it? He urged his players to be sharp in one drill. ... 'It's like anything,' said Gilbert Arenas, who had four turnovers Monday. 'It's like when you say, 'Don't reach. Don't foul.' What's the first thing you do? Reach and foul. I think that's what it is now. We've been emphasizing not turning the ball over, so we end up turning the ball over while trying not to turn the ball over. It's one of those things where you're trying to make the perfect pass.' That message has gotten through to Van Gundy. Before every game, he writes down the keys to that game on a dry-erase board in the Magic locker room. But Van Gundy said he won't even mention the word 'turnover' on the board prior to tonight's matchup against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden."

  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "Mike Miller hasn’t said anything about his role -- publicly or privately. But he has experienced the same lack of touches lately. In March, he is shooting just 32 percent from three-point range, 37 percent overall. He has hit only four of his last 18 from beyond the arc over an eight-game stretch. Those aren’t the numbers the Heat is expecting from one of the deadliest three-point shooters in the league over the past decade. But Miller also has been playing an entirely different role with the Heat than he has with any of the four teams he previously played for. He’s doing a lot more spotting up a lot less ball-handling and playing far less minutes. Like Bosh has experienced this season, Miller’s inactivity has affected his production. But with Mario Chalmers out for at least two weeks, and with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s desire to get Miller more comfortable and involved, Miller’s role will likely expand in upcoming games."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "Nene brushes off the notion that he's playing differently from a month ago -- before the Nuggets traded Carmelo Anthony, to be exact. No, not different, he said. He has always bounced around the court, glided through the lane and cut to the basket. He's not a puzzle piece that has been pounded in and finally made to fit. Instead, perhaps the Nuggets' center has found a puzzle that has come to fit him. 'Me? I try to play the same way,' Nene said. 'You try to play the same way and make your teammates better. That's no secret, that's basketball -- pass the ball, find the open shot, try to give your best and make your teammates better. That's the thing.' Nene is on the shortlist of Nuggets players who seemingly have benefited the most since the trade, after which Denver has gone 10-4. In March, he has been nothing short of superb, averaging 16.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.2 blocked shots and 1.3 steals in just 29.4 minutes per game. Bottom line, he has become much more efficient at both ends of the court. While Nene denies any correlation between his improved play and the Melo trade, Nuggets coach George Karl politely disagrees. 'He is much more aggressive to be involved,' Karl said."

  • Bernard Fernandez of the Philadelphia Daily News: "There are several reasons to explain the Sixers' rise from the smoking ruins of a year ago, when they went 27-55 under Eddie Jordan, to the 36-34 mark they bring into tonight's game against the Atlanta Hawks in the Wells Fargo Center. But Doug Collins' ability to incorporate the three-pointer into his offense, as well as to have his players defend against it much more effectively than was the case in past seasons, is as good an explanation for the turnaround as any. During the 2009-10 season, the Sixers shot just 34.3 percent from beyond the arc (21st among the NBA's 30 teams) and averaged 5.8 made threes per game (20th). They've improved their shooting percentage from long range to 35.8, good for 14th, a modest increase. On defense, however, Collins' crew rates second in three-point percentage shooting defense (33.3), a quantum leap from the 39.3 percent (30th) that the team allowed under Jordan. Opposing marksmen are not getting nearly as many open looks from distance as they once did."

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "Baron Davis seems invigorated by the work he has done with the Cavs the past few weeks. He says he is 'rediscovering' things in his game that were absent during his time with the Los Angeles Clippers. Now he's negotiating with Father Time and trying to put the sand back in the hour glass. Not for the final 13 games of this season, but for next year. 'My game is starting to come back to me,' he said. 'My main focus and goal is to come back next year with no injuries, nothing to worry about but performing at a high level and getting back to where I know I can be.' It won't be easy. Even if the Cavaliers draft a point guard this summer, coach Byron Scott has made it clear Davis is the starter. He probably won't play Wednesday against the New Jersey Nets because he still hasn't gone through a full practice since his recent back injury, but he is expected to assume the role at some point in the next three weeks."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Michael Redd passed a major test Tuesday as he practiced 5-on-5 for the first time in 14 months. The 31-year-old Milwaukee Bucks guard said he will not play against Sacramento on Wednesday night but could make his return against the Knicks in New York on Friday or at home against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday. When he does put on a Bucks uniform again, it will mark a major milestone for Redd, who is coming off two surgeries for anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligament tears in his left knee. He has not played since injuring his knee in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 10, 2010 at the Staples Center. The first ACL injury occurred on Jan. 24, 2009 against Sacramento. 'Just coming back, period, whether it be there (at Madison Square Garden) or at the Bradley Center, just coming back to play will be awesome,' Redd said of his long-awaited return. 'For me, there's no pressure to do anything but just go play and have fun and count my blessings.' How much Redd will play over the final dozen or so games is uncertain, particularly with the Bucks battling for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference."

  • Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun: "Like many in the NBA, DeMar DeRozan saw tape of Blake Griffin’s facial on Marcin Gortat. As a fellow high flyer, DeRozan appreciates feats that occur above the rim and the challenges of each dunk. While Suns head coach Alvin Gentry expressed downright amazement, DeRozan was less enthused. 'He did it before,’ DeRozan said of Blake’s dunk. 'It ain’t surprising.' "

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: "Tayshaun Prince hasn't always known who would be to his left or right this season, but he's been the one constant in a season of upheaval and uncertainty. Short of an injury or other circumstances, Prince has been a model of stability. He wishes the 19 starting lineups had been whittled to a handful, though. 'I think no matter what team you have, in my sense, I think you have to find out who your starting five is and roll with it,' Prince said. 'I know (coach John Kuester is) searching, but it's been a tough situation.' Still, you can pencil Prince in for 15 points, five rebounds and some heady defense on a nightly basis, even though he's not the stopper he used to be."

  • Eric Carpenter of The Orange County Register: "In the first public comments from a city official on the Sacramento Kings' potential move to Anaheim, Mayor Tom Tait confirmed Tuesday night that negotiations are ongoing and Anaheim is "closer" to having a professional basketball team. 'The good news is that we are continuing to move closer to bringing a professional basketball team to Anaheim,' Tait said. 'Because there are ongoing discussions and negotiations, I have just a few details to share tonight. More information will be forthcoming in the next week or so.' Tait's comments came during general council comments at the end of Tuesday's council meeting. Earlier in the meeting, the council postponed discussion of bond funding for improvements at Honda Center, which many believe indicates the arena is being prepared for the Kings to move there next season. The council will take up that issue March 29."