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First Cup: Tuesday

3/20/2012
  • Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News: It started as a growl, probably a few dozen fans intent on booing Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob as he finished the ceremony to retire Chris Mullin's jersey number. Just a growl. Loud, unruly, but not overwhelming. Then Lacob started to talk -- and the boos grew louder and angrier. Then Lacob stopped talking and frowned, and the boos built and built and kept going. Then he said "now that we've got that over with." and the boos cascaded on him and kept cascading until some kind of Warriors history was made. By the time Mullin walked back to center court to hug Lacob and urge the "best fans in the league" to channel their passion towards positivity -- and to have faith in Lacob's new regime -- it turned into theater. When Rick Barry grabbed the mike to lecture the fans about "class," that was the night venturing far into the reaches of infamy. It will never be forgotten -- surely not by Lacob, not by Mark Jackson, not by the Warriors staffers who all seemed stunned, not by the handful of players who were on the court at the time. ... The initial indication: Lacob did just fine. He didn't quail. He got visibly mad, but he didn't duck for cover. He went back out to his courtside seat in the second half. He kept clapping and cheering for all to see. He was joking about it not long after the game. Heroic? No. But stern and determined. OK, yes, Lacob probably shouldn't have chosen that moment to speak; he was again grabbing center stage when it was better left to others, and I believe that led to some of the crowd's anger. But Lacob didn't deserve THAT treatment. He's not Cohan, and if fans were torturing him for the Monta Ellis trade, he really didn't deserve that, because it's a good far-sighted trade.

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: The Timberwolves moved on Monday night at Golden State from Sunday's convincing loss at Sacramento and from that sideline tiff involving Kevin Love and J.J. Barea during a fourth-quarter timeout. The two players did so with a first-quarter exchange Monday when they smiled and patted each other on the head after Barea threw a pass a mile over Love's head and out of bounds. Of course, it helped that the Wolves were leading by 12 points at the time rather than getting thumped like they were Sunday. "I talked to both of them and they said all the right things, I don't think it's an issue," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. "I don't think it happens all the time and I don't think it's something that should happen, especially on the bench. You can have people get upset. It's more emotion that went over the top. I'd rather see us with that type of emotion during the course of a game trying to do something."

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: If you're a shooter and a scorer, Doug Collins is the coach for you. He was that type of player when he played, and he understands the ups and downs of being a player who is relied on to fill the scoring column each and every game. It is why he and Lou Williams possess such a unique relationship. Williams leads the team in scoring despite coming off the bench, despite averaging about 26 minutes a game.There are times when he carries the team and there are times when his misses pile up quickly. In the three games before Monday night's against the lowly Charlotte Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena, all losses, Williams had made only 10 of 35 shots. So just before the pregame introductions, Collins quietly strode out to Williams on the court and handed him a note. Without a word he walked away, and Williams, quickly glancing to make sure no one saw him, unfolded the piece of paper and read it before tucking it into his shorts. Shortly after, when he made his way over to the bench, the two shared a meaningful, strong hug. Whatever the note said, it worked as Williams scored 19 points off the bench, making eight of his 12 shots, including all three three-pointers, in the Sixers' 105-80 win over the 7-37 Bobcats. "That's just a little something between me and coach," Williams said. "We've got a little insider going on. It's unbelievable between me and him. Something very personal. They [teammates] don't even know." Collins declined to talk about the note after the game. What is known is that Williams' scoring is vital to this team's success, but so are a lot of other things. Most of them were on display in front of a paltry crowd that was announced to be 12,792, but there might have been half that many in the building.

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Nothing new yet on whether Boris Diaw and the Bobcats will work out a buyout arrangement. Diaw would have to be waived by Friday to be eligible for another team’s playoff roster. Interesting development on the waiver wire, with the Sacramento Kings cutting former N.C. State star J.J. Hickson. The Bobcats wanted Hickson in the 2008 draft, when they eventually drafted Frenchman Alexis Ajinca. He’s a skilled low-post scorer, and that’s an area where the Bobcats are lacking. Claiming Hickson off waivers wouldn’t be particularly expensive; the pro-rated remainder of a $2.3 million salary. Seems like giving Hickson an extended audition here the rest of the season might be a good risk.

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: The trade last summer that sent J.J. Hickson to the Sacramento Kings for Omri Casspi hasn’t worked out as planned. The Cavs have to be viewed as the clear winners today, since they acquired a future draft pick and the Kings released Hickson on Monday with a month left in the season. But Casspi failed to hold down the starting job at small forward and is averaging just 7.1 points and 3.5 assists. Scott said Casspi’s biggest problem is he still doesn’t know the whole playbook. “I still don’t think he knows everything we’re doing offensively or defensively,” Scott said. He wasn’t trying to call Casspi out, but was asked a question specifically about Casspi in light of Hickson’s release. In fact, Scott said “four or five” players still don’t know the playbook 42 games into the season. “The four or five that it is are the four or five that are playing, so that’s still too many,” Scott said. “Then they wonder why their minutes go down.” Casspi said he knows the whole playbook, but agreed he hasn’t played his best basketball yet this season. Asked why that was, Casspi responded: “I don’t know. That’s probably a longer conversation than 10 minutes before a game. I would have to think about it a little more.”

  • Colin Stephenson of The Star-Ledger: Nets coach Avery Johnson was asked if he felt the team needed to mend any fences with center Brook Lopez after Lopez did not have his contract extended in January, and who was the season-long trade bait the Nets used to try acquire Dwight Howard. “I think it’s already been mended,” Johnson said. “If your name is mentioned in trade rumors, we tell our guys, ‘Look at it as not so much an insult, but a blessing that other teams want you.’ It’s part of the nature of this business. It’s Billy’s job and ownership’s job and my job to continue to improve this product from where it was June 10th of 2010; we’re not there yet. It’s just part of the process. It’s not really an insult.”

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Things have changed for both teams since Boston outlasted Atlanta on the way to the 2008 NBA title. The Hawks are a perennial playoff team trying to break through to the next level and the Celtics now are among those in the pack chasing the Heat and Bulls in the East. But Monday reminded that some things haven't changed when it comes to the Hawks and Celtics. They engaged in a typical grinding, physical contest until the Celtics broke it open late with a barrage of 3-pointers and won 79-76 at Philips Arena. The game featured hard fouls, heated confrontations, and some blood. It's what Hawks coach Larry Drew expected considering the recent history of the series and also because the teams are bunched together in the East standings. "I told the guys it's going to be playoff intensity," Drew said. "If it was going to be an ugly game, we we had to make make it an ugly game. Any time we play against the Celtics those are the type of games that should be expected." The Celtics (24-21) won the latest skirmish to end their losing streak at two games. They locked down the Hawks (26-20) and made big shots in the fourth quarter to open up a 15-point lead and then turned back Atlanta's rally.

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: Kevin Garnett collected his 5,000th career assist Saturday night in Denver, then offered some rare reflection on his 17-year career. Garnett became the third NBA player with 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, and 5,000 assists. The others are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. “To be honest man, I’m not a stat guy,’’ Garnett said. “But any time you’re able to meet accomplishments in the league or reach milestones, you got to be grateful. I’m praising the man upstairs for giving me the ability, and management, Doc, coaches, [former Timberwolves coach] Flip [Saunders], and those coaches who have given me the opportunity to show my talent, the platform, so I can come out here and show many fans my craft. Lord knows I worked hard enough on it. Countless teammates I’ve played with, you just don’t reach milestones by yourself, you need help. I not only wanted to give thanks to coaches but former players that I played with, former teammates, great friends. So the milestone is a great one. I am very appreciative of it; someday it will be a big deal to me. I wish it could have transpired into some wins.’’

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Derrick Rose doesn't crave the spotlight even when he's playing basketball at a most valuable player level. So the weeklong silence that Rose broke Monday morning shouldn't have surprised anyone. Beyond being bummed by a sore groin that sidelined him for a fourth straight game Monday night and likely will keep him out for all three games this week, Rose believes attention should be focused on active teammates that he might not be joining for a while. "They say with an injury like this, they don't know how long it's going to take," Rose said at Amway Center. "I thought I was going to be back sooner. I'm missing big games that I hate to miss, like the one (Monday)." ... Rose detailed that he suffered the injury during the Bulls' March 12 victory over the Knicks when Jeremy Lin blocked his shot on a first-quarter drive. ... "After the game, I remember walking back into the locker room and I told the trainers immediately that I wasn't feeling right, that my leg was really messed up." Rose said he had never had a groin injury and remains frustrated he keeps missing games. Monday marked the 14th game Rose missed this season. He missed six games total in his first three seasons.

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: He has next season left on his contract with the Magic before he can become a coveted free agent. Without signing him to an extension, there will be doubt about the franchise's direction. And some distractions. For once, we're not discussing Dwight Howard, although his name surely will surface in these talks. The Magic need to make a decision about their coach, Stan Van Gundy. A fairly easy call, right? Look at Stan's body of work and you sign him to another two years at least. The Magic surely don't want Van Gundy to enter the last year of his contract in limbo, right? That's not good for Stan or the team to have a lame-duck coach. But cut doesn't meet dry in this case. Next season could also be Howard's last in a Magic uniform. After a reprieve, the club is determined to keep him long term, and Dwight's five years with Stan have been rocky at times. This is where it gets tricky. Stan and Dwight have a working relationship, but they aren't buddies. They are polar opposites. ... Van Gundy has changed about as much as his DNA allows. He's tried to be more positive and limit his barking at players, but you can only ask a coach to alter who he is just so much. What do you do in Orlando, a smaller market desperately clinging to Dwight's coattails? The reality: A coach can be replaced easier than a franchise player. My guess is that Stan just wants the Magic to decide where this thing might be headed.

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: J.J. Hickson and Derek Fisher are among the top players who collected buyouts and are available to be signed. However, guard Jason Terry doesn't believe the Mavericks are in the market for any new players. "We're not doing anything over here," Terry said Monday. "That's been proven. We're not signing anybody." The Los Angeles Lakers traded Fisher to Houston last week after he helped them win five NBA titles. The Rockets bought out his contract. Meanwhile, the Sacramento Kings bought out Hickson's contract. Both Fisher and Hickson conceivably could help the Mavs, but at what cost to the tedious chemistry going into the last month of the season? "You do see those solid veterans that are out there," Terry said. "Do you want that to affect your chemistry or not? "I think we've got enough here to accomplish our goal, but you never know. With [owner Mark Cuban], he may jump out there. There's a champion out there [in Fisher] that I know of."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: The Nuggets entered Monday night's home game against Dallas ranked first in the NBA in scoring (averaging 103.7 points) but only 28th in points allowed (101.3). In theory, Denver's defense has improved with the acquisitions. "I like playing both sides of the court. It's better for the team," said the 6-foot-8, 225-pound Chandler. "I just try to play hard. The more stops we get, the easier it is to run. Defense creates more opportunities on offense. ... I like playing defense." Chandler cherishes the defensive matchups. And he has something to prove too. Last year, he played hurt during the first round of the playoffs against Oklahoma City and didn't have his best series. But he is refreshed after sitting out the past month since returning from China. Sure, he has spent only a few hours actually getting coached by the Nuggets this season. But he will happily play defense, regardless.