First Cup: Friday

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: "David West sustained what is being termed as 'left knee trauma' on a driving slam dunk with 22.5 seconds to go in regulation. X-rays were negative, but an MRI -- a much more revealing diagnostic procedure - is scheduled for today in Phoenix, where the Hornets play the Suns tonight. West was laid out on a training table in the dressing room in obvious pain, his knee encased in ice and his face covered by a towel. A large immobilizing splint and a pair of crutches were brought into the locker room. West stayed on the table for more than 30 minutes was the room was opened to the media, then managed, with the aid of the crutches, to get to the shower. He put no weight on the leg at all. As he was dressing, West said through a team spokesman he was in too much pain to speak to a reporter. 'We're all praying it's not as bad as it looks,' said one Hornets player in the subdued dressing room."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "The Mavericks should have been ecstatic about turning the big five-oh Thursday night -- just as they have for the last 11 seasons. But it was hard to feel good about what they did on this night. Yes, they reached the 50-win plateau for the 11th consecutive season, but they had to fight longer and harder than they should have against the team with the worst record in the Western Conference playing without its best player. In the end, they scored a 104-96 victory over Minnesota at American Airlines Center to move their record to 50-21. Perhaps it was the sour taste of the win, which came with Timberwolves superstar Kevin Love back in Minnesota with a groin injury. But most of the Mavericks were in no mood to celebrate 50 wins. 'I’d rather trade it in for a championship,' said Dirk Nowitzki, who had a big offensive night with 30 points and even had one of the Mavericks’ two blocks in the final six minutes as their defense came alive long enough for them to survive. 'Really, 11 50-win seasons don’t mean anything. It shows we’re consistently good and we have a good team and we’ve played well in the regular season. Hopefully we’ll top it off in the next couple years and win a ring.' "

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: "The attention drawn by Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh has had a predictable effect: The Heat is in the top four in the league in the number of unguarded catch-and-shoots, with the Spurs the only team that has taken significantly more. Miami has had 920unguarded catch-and-shoot field-goal attempts, according to synergysportstech.com. By comparison, the Lakers have had 712. But on the topic of jump shots, there have been some noteworthy developments. Consider: The theory entering the season was that some of the Heat’s complementary perimeter players were poised to have their best career shooting percentages because of all the attention commanded by James, Wade and Bosh. Some have improved their accuracy, but several have not. Miller’s 40.7 overall shooting percentage and 38.4 percent accuracy on threes are below his career averages of 46.4 and 40.5 entering the season, though his earlier injury obviously has been a factor. Eddie House is shooting 40.2 and 37.7, slightly below his career averages of 41.0 and 39.0. Mario Chalmers, now injured, is shooting 41?percent overall, on par with his 41.2 career mark."

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "The Celtics did something very strange yesterday. They practiced. After displaying signs of severe offensive slippage, it was important for the club to get into the gym and have a loud session as it heads down the regular-season stretch. How did the Celts need thee? Let Ray Allen count the ways: 'Running up and down, getting in athletic position, scrimmaging against each other, Doc (Rivers) having a chance to yell at some guys, you know, change some things up, how you’re playing pick and rolls, running through some plays and going over them in live situations -- definitely. I think we always play better after we practice,' the veteran guard added. 'Going over stuff, timing, is important.' So was getting back to the kind of tough play that has been present only in short stretches lately. 'We’re normally the instigators, but we’ve been getting kind of a dose of our own medicine in the last few games,' guard Delonte West said. 'It was serious intensity in here today. It was almost playoff intensity in practice.' "

  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: "Andrew Bynum didn't know what the fuss was all about. He served his two-game suspension for flooring Minnesota's Michael Beasley last Friday, and will regain his eligibility when the Lakers host the Clippers tonight. 'I don't think what I did was deserving of it,' he said Thursday of his suspension. 'I really don't think I did anything too wrong. It was unfortunate the guy fell the way he did and got hurt. If he didn't fall down or get hurt, it would have been different.' Bynum acknowledged sending an apology to Beasley via text message. 'You don't want guys to get hurt,' he said. Bynum cracked a driving Beasley with a forearm shiver to the chest, sending him crashing to the Staples Center court. Beasley suffered a bruised left hip after his fall and was forced from the game. Bynum was ejected for a flagrant-2 foul."

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "Despite struggling through the worst shooting slump of an otherwise charmed fifth season with the Spurs, Matt Bonner insists he won’t be jumping into the Willamette River if he has another bad game tonight in Portland. Since connecting on 6 of 7 3-pointers in a March 4 rout of Miami -- leading Tim Duncan to declare 'game over' in the discussion of who is the team’s best long-ball artist -- Bonner has made just 7 of 31 attempts from beyond the arc. In the past, Bonner admits, such a slump would have driven him to the edge of despondency. 'Now, it really has no effect,' the 30-year-old reserve said. 'I’m going to keep shooting if I’m open, because that’s my role.' It says something about how well Bonner had been shooting this season that, even after a nine-game slide, he’s still leading the NBA in 3-point accuracy at 47.9 percent -- a full two percentage points better than the second-place shooter, Boston’s Ray Allen. Bonner remains on pace to break Steve Smith’s franchise record of 47.2 percent set in 2001-02. It is for that reason that Bonner’s teammates have encouraged him to keep hoisting shots."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "Five games are all it took for Kendrick Perkins to realize what suffocating defense Thabo Sefolosha is capable of. 'You tend to take guys like Thabo for granted until you're out there on the court,' Perkins said. What Perkins has seen in Sefolosha is a perpetual pest, a player who disrupts opposing offenses using skill and savvy, toughness and tenacity. Wednesday's effort by Sefolosha served as the last shred of evidence Perkins needed to see. ... 'Since I've been playing with him, I've noticed what he brings,' Perkins said. 'He takes a lot of pressure off his teammates. That's key when you got a guy like that who you don't have to help as much on. And he's guarding the best wing man every night. That's also taking a lot of pressure off (Kevin Durant).' "

  • Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune: "The Bulls seem to reach new heights every game, except in one category. It's an offshoot of back-to-back thrashings of the Kings and the Hawks, and it's a very good thing. Luol Deng averaged 33.5 minutes in the Bulls' Monday-Tuesday victories. Derrick Rose's services were needed for just 28.5 minutes per contest. 'I'm not complaining that we're blowing people out,' Rose said Thursday after practice at the Berto Center. 'Bout time, is what I'm thinking.' Rose said he'll never gripe about a reduced workload for two reasons: He loves watching the reserves play, saying: 'It feels good when the bench comes in and we go from up nine points to 20. It's like an easy game. They're playing great right now and they love playing together. They're the reason we're beating teams the way we're beating them.' And less mileage should help him when the playoffs begin in about three weeks. 'Save my legs,' he said."

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: "Greg Oden told me a few weeks ago in the Blazers locker room that he's trying to lose weight. He wants to play around 270 pounds, not near 300. In that, it looks like Oden understands that what he tried before wasn't working for him. I worried after this latest surgery that Oden might never recover mentally. And I worried when I told him recently that I was having another knee surgery myself -- torn meniscus -- and Oden looked at me and said, 'You'll probably beat me back.' I watched Oden work out for 75 minutes on Thursday. When I left he was still going, moving from abdominal workouts with a medicine ball to upright rowing. I didn't interrupt Oden's workout, and call him over to ask him if he likes Portland. Does he want to be here long term? I didn't bother, mostly because it's irrelevant right now. Also, because Oden looked determined to blow my deadline, performing a marathon workout. At some point Greg Oden will have a choice and his affinity for Portland will be clear. The Blazers hold the cards until June 30, and the right thing to do is make the qualifying offer and match whatever offer comes Oden's way. Here's hoping Portland gets the Oden move right the second time."

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "Two members of the Sacramento Kings' original management group -- architect Rann Haight and executive Greg Van Dusen -- are heading the latest efforts for a sports-and-entertainment facility that would keep the franchise in town. This latest effort was first reported Wednesday by Channel 40 (KTXL). Sources on Thursday characterized the effort as a 'below-the-radar, grass-roots effort' that has gone on for more than a year. It would involve both the city and county of Sacramento, perhaps extending to several counties within the Kings' season-ticket base. Though the extent of the Maloofs' interest in this latest effort remains uncertain, the Kings' owners are being updated about the ongoing developments, said sources who have been involved in the discussions but who were not authorized by leaders of the effort to publicly discuss the matter."

  • Jodie Valade of The Plain Dealer: "More so than any other stop Baron Davis has had in 12 years in the NBA, more than his time with the Los Angeles Clippers or the Golden State Warriors or New Orleans or Charlotte, Davis is being asked to mentor and lead a team of inexperienced teammates. And he loves it. 'I'm really embracing that here,' Davis said Thursday. 'Coach Scott has given me the opportunity to do that. He's challenging me to be more outspoken with the guys and just use my veteran leadership and the things I've been through to help them jump ahead of the curve.' In Thursday's practice, it meant coaching one squad of teammates to a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that led to a tied scrimmage."

  • Tom Moore of phillyBurbs.com: "The Sixers believe they're a much better team than they were the last time they faced the Miami Heat. They have a chance to show it Friday night in South Florida. The 37-34 Sixers haven't played the 48-22 Heat since a 99-90 road loss on Nov. 26 that dropped the Sixers to 3-13. They are 34-21 since that date. 'I talked to the guys today,' said Sixers coach Doug Collins after Thursday's practice at PCOM. 'I said, ‘Let's go down there and see who we are.' I think our guys feel confident playing against them.' The Sixers are 20-11 in the last 31 games, including 3-1 in the past four, while the Heat are coming off of three wins in a row. 'I think we're much better team now,' said forward Thaddeus Young. 'Now, we're playing a great deal of chemistry, playing with high intensity and going out there doing the things we need to do.' "

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "It’s dang near April and I still can’t tell you who’s in or out of Larry Drew's rotation. He played seven guys last night on a back-to-back against an energetic opponent a few days after he lamented his team’s nagging injuries. Two guys who didn’t play, Teague and Damien, are healthy and energetic. They can defend, too, which the post–trade Hawks now don’t do well at all. I don’t understand why they didn’t play. I don’t know for certain if Teague is a bona fide NBA rotation player. But I think he’s shown enough to get a chance to prove it on this team. And I know for certain he’s one of only two point guards on this roster and the other guy is more of a combo guard. I don’t understand why Teague doesn’t have a regular role. Sorry, there’s nothing else to explain it but coach’s decision."

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "For almost six years, the Orlando Magic have attempted to convince talented Spanish basketball player Fran Vázquez to leave Europe and make the jump to the NBA. But, now, just when it appears that the 6-foot-10 big man is receptive to joining the Magic, a possibly daunting hurdle looms. The potential of a prolonged work stoppage after the current season might prevent the long-awaited union between Vázquez and the Magic, at least for the 2011-12 season. 'In an ideal situation, we'd like to sign him,' said Otis Smith, the Magic's president of basketball operations. 'But with the CBA, it's not in his best interest to sign a contract if there is a work stoppage. What if? I'm not saying that there will be, but what if? Then he misses an opportunity to play and make money, at least for a while. That's the rub.' The talks between the Magic and Vázquez never seem to be simple."

  • Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star: "James Johnson, who won various national and world martial arts championships as a youth and has fought mixed martial arts matches in a cage, is a decent enough protege that he once broke a stack of seven bricks with a single well-placed fist. Breaking bricks, Johnson said, is 'mostly mind over matter.' 'That’s how I think when I’m injured. I even told Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah when I was on their team (in Chicago) and they’d twist their ankle or something, ‘Mind over matter.’ They’d laugh. They’d understand, and they’d get it over with,' Johnson said. 'I just think pain’s all in the head.' .. n his 14 games as a Raptor, all of them as the starting small forward, he is averaging a modest eight points and five rebounds in 25 minutes. But his rawness, while it’s likely one of the reasons the Bulls gave up on him, is also one of the reasons the rebuilding Raptors see the 24-year-old as an intriguing piece. 'Hopefully I’ll have a long enough basketball career where I don’t have to pursue (professional fighting),' he said. 'But the training for it -- I’m always going to be doing that for life.' As for now, as impressive as it is to employ an athlete who can put his foot on the rim, the Raptors are hoping Johnson will point his Bruce Lee-like focus on the not-so-exotic art of putting the ball through the thing. His jump shot is a cringe-worthy work in progress, and the club has an off-season plan to turn it into something more serviceable."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Injured Pacers swingman Mike Dunleavy is one of 20 NBA players helping financially with the Japanese recovery effort from the recent earthquake and tsunami. Dunleavy, who is sidelined with a broken thumb, has committed to make a donation. Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge, Chicago's Derrick Rose and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook are among players donating $1,000 for every point they score in games played between Friday through Sunday. The donations will go to Direct Relief's Japan Relief and Recovery Fund, which provides immediate health needs for people in Japan."