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First Cup: Monday

4/16/2012
  • Harvery Araton of The New York Times: “Doing it by yourself is for when you’re young, when you’re 22, 23,” Wade said after the Heat absorbed 39 points by Carmelo Anthony through three and a half quarters before limiting him to an after-the-fact 3-point shot down the stretch of a 93-85 Miami victory. “That’s for then. When you get older, you appreciate it more when you got other guys that can get the job done and you don’t have to have the ball 90 percent of the time.” Since Anthony has been in the N.B.A. for eight years, same as Wade and James, shouldn’t he feel the same way? Not that Anthony has formally made a request to dominate the ball; he just generally seems most motivated and productive when the Knicks’ offense is flowing like a river through his marvelously gifted hands. And lately, while Anthony has been on a scoring binge that has bordered on unstoppable, the popular narrative around the Knicks has been that this would be the most prudent approach for the playoffs, with a returning Amar’e Stoudemire best-suited for minutes off the bench. In effect, so Stoudemire wouldn’t get in Anthony’s way. And so he could enjoy a few minutes at a time of relative freedom to shoot as much as he wishes without Anthony on the floor or Tyson Chandler cluttering up the paint. It all sounded nice except that pro basketball at the highest playoff levels is about the alignment of stars — or co-stars — and trying to attain that enlightened state of championship co-existence.

  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: Erik Spoelstra is tired of talking about his player rotation, and wary of revealing too much of the plan to upcoming opponents. "Some of that is pretty obvious, the direction that we're going," the Heat coach said. "It's self-explanatory." Yet some of his players have privately expressed as much confusion as many fans, unclear about their roles going forward. What's been clear from the last two games of significance, at Chicago and at New York, is that one of Spoelstra's primary objectives is to get to the so-called "Big 5" lineup that was dominant in the 2011 Eastern Conference finals but had been used in only two games until this past week. To that end, Udonis Haslem started again Sunday, though he played only 17 minutes, and this time, it wasn't because he was vomiting before the game, as he was Thursday in Chicago. The first substitution again was Mike Miller for Mario Chalmers, allowing Haslem and Miller to play with Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. That lasted three minutes, as did a stint for the "Big 5" in the second quarter. They played together for one minute in the third quarter, and Miller didn't get off the bench in the fourth. ... Spoelstra said he would continuing "tightening up" his rotation over the next two weeks, though little figures to look normal Monday or Wednesday. Expect Miami to rest players against lesser opponents New Jersey and Toronto.

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: They are accustomed to winning on the road almost as consistently as they win at home. But not this year. For just the fourth time in Mark Cuban's 12 full seasons of ownership, the Dallas Mavericks will finish this season with a losing record on the road. Sunday's112-108 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers gives the Mavs just a 13-17 record on the road with only three road games remaining. Because the Mavs (34-27) will be starting this year's playoffs on the road, it would seem they'd be concerned about their inability to grab more than their share of victories away from home. "Not at all," guard Jason Terry said. "The regular season is going to have no meaning on what the playoffs will mean. Obviously you can blame it on the schedule. Every team has gone through it, but it's not as what it would be in a regular season." The Mavs play their 31st road game at 8 tonight at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City against a Utah Jazz squad scrapping for its playoff lives. Dallas' final two road games are Saturday in Chicago and April 26 in Atlanta.

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: Metta World Peace, as he still does often, felt so fired up after playing an entire game that he went for a post-game workout in the weight room Sunday. After he was done, he sat down and talked about how much better he feels physically after being limited last season and overweight early this season. “I’m not even 100 percent,” World Peace said, “and I feel very dominant right now.” World Peace said he is trying to stay within the team concept despite how much he feels he can do offensively besides his usual defense. He said he feels capable and can “take over the game if I have to.” World Peace had 18 points on 7-of-20 shooting Sunday in the victory over Dallas, his biggest shot coming from the right elbow after a Lakers timeout for a 110-106 Lakers lead with 1:04 left in overtime. ... World Peace missed all five 3-point shots Sunday, but he has scored 23, 19, 8, 26, 14 and 18 points in recent games — the last five with Bryant sitting out.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: The Rockets were feeling no pressure when they came home from their four-game sweep of the road trip. They were on a roll and feeling great. Then they had their worst shooting game of the season, making 35.6 percent of their shots against the Jazz. They have not been much better since, with the problem bleeding into their defense. Instead of defending with greater determination and discipline, they have indulged in moments of frustration. The Nuggets punished them for it. That three-game shooting slump and the way it has diminished their play overall has dropped the Rockets to a shaky eighth in the West and elevated tonight’s rematch with the Nuggets to a virtual must-win. Yet, when I asked Luis Scola about whether the pressure was taking a toll, he offered a pretty good glimpse into the sort of message I would imagine has made its way around the room. Scola usually has a pretty good feel for the way the Rockets are thinking. He also has become increasingly willing and effective at speaking up. Basically, he said the Rockets have to persevere, but with a confidence that they can.

  • Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post: The future can't wait for the Nuggets. It is time for coach George Karl to realize: Wherever this young NBA team is going, Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried will lead the way. Let the young guns play, Coach. Lawson, Gallinari and Faried can't learn how to be stars on the bench. Win or lose for the remainder of the season, the primary goal for Denver should be the development of its Big Three. The isn't the time for the Nuggets to win a championship. Now is the time to get Lawson, Gallinari and Faried at least 30 minutes of playing time every night. ... In one important aspect, NBA coaches are no different than paying customers. When the pressure of the playoffs approaches, the man drawing X's and O's during timeouts feels the same strain of an elevated heart rate that fans do. So can't blame Karl for leaning on Nuggets veterans such as Andre Miller and Al Harrington when the going gets tough. But that's the temptation Karl must resist. Even if it costs Denver a victory, the experience given Lawson, Gallinari and Faried now will pay dividends down the road.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: On Friday, Dwight Howard traveled to the Los Angeles area with Magic physical therapist Ed Manalo to seek a second opinion from spine surgeon Robert Watkins. On Friday night, team officials announced that Howard has a herniated disk in his lower back. On Sunday, Otis Smith refuted speculation that the Magic medical staff misdiagnosed Howard's injury. “The diagnosis really didn't change from one location to the other,” Smith said. “It's the same diagnosis we had and the same prognosis we had. They probably were a little bit more conservative than we would have been, but that's normal. We were on the same rest and rehab [regimen] that he got over there. So, he's going to rest and rehab for the next 10 days and see how we go from there.”

  • Tom Reed of The Plain Dealer: Moondog showed he’s hockey tough by not missing a game. The Cavaliers showed their smarts by continuing to remain vague on the returns of Irving (sprained shoulder) and Varejao (fractured wrist). Ten days ago, I wanted them both to come back and play with Tristan Thompson to see how those three worked together. A dozen or so games could have supplied a decent sample size and given management a preview look as to what to expect. Could Thompson and Varejao produce enough offense in the same front court? How much of an adjustment would it be for Irving to have his power forward playing near the basket instead of on the perimeter where Antawn Jamison often lurks? Coach Byron Scott admitted he, too, was intrigued. Now, what’s the point? Irving is going to practice Tuesday morning with the potential of returning as early as Wednesday, Scott said. But the coach also left open the possibility that neither Irving nor Varejao would play again this season. They shouldn't. I’ll go a step further. The Cavs should ask Varejao to think long and hard about representing Brazil this summer in the Olympics. I’m a huge fan of watching the world’s best pros compete in Olympic basketball and hockey, but Varejao has twice been injured playing for Brazil, most recently in 2010. He also has missed substantial parts of the past two seasons with the Cavaliers.

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Hawks were in such a slumber they had just four players on the floor as play began at one point. It's no wonder officials didn't initially notice the missing player. The Hawks barely made an impression while losing 102-86 to Toronto Sunday at Philips Arena. Atlanta could have clinched a berth in the Eastern Conference playoffs with a victory. Instead the Hawks were dominated by the Raptors (22-39), who long ago were eliminated from the postseason. “I think some of us was ready, and some of us wasn't,” Hawks guard Joe Johnson said. “It just kind of gave a bad effect on the whole team. But give Toronto credit. They were better than us tonight. If we come out and start like that tomorrow, they'll be better than us [again].” The Hawks play at Toronto Monday, and no longer does that game look like a walkover for Atlanta.

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: Ryan Hollins was acquired by the Celtics to provide depth in the frontcourt, but his impact has been minimal so far. He had fallen out of Rivers’s rotation until Sunday, when he was the primary backup to Stiemsma. Hollins scored 2 points and had four rebounds in a season-high 20 minutes, but his reputation has followed him to Boston. Hollins has a habit for picking up offensive fouls on illegal screens or with reckless play under the basket. In 3 minutes, 31 seconds Saturday against the Nets, he picked up four fouls and had three turnovers. In 11 games with the Celtics, Hollins has 24 combined turnovers and fouls and 25 points. “He plays hard, he just does things that get him in trouble,’’ Rivers said. “The extra stuff with the picks and stuff like that. He has a chance. He’s a big body. He’s very active; having an active big is great because half the bigs are not active. So he has that in him. We just have to figure out him still. And he needs gym time, and unfortunately he doesn’t have that. But I think he’s a guy you invest time into because he has a chance to be a good player in our league.’’

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Forget the number of times the Grizzlies lost the basketball. Too many to count. Or so it seemed. Forget the amount of defensive lapses. That's what the New Orleans Hornets kept track of as they routinely pick-and-rolled the Griz into surrendering the paint. Just put the Grizzlies' 88-75 loss Sunday night to the Hornets out of your mind. Griz guard Tony Allen even flung the box score into a bucket of ice at his feet afterwards in the visitor's locker room in New Orleans Arena. It was a cold night, indeed. But the Grizzlies' ended up with a bigger concern than their 21 turnovers and 35-percent shooting in a bad loss to the lowly Hornets. Center Marc Gasol suffered what is believed to be a hyperextended left knee midway through the fourth quarter. The 7-footer was examined by the Hornets' team physician and then went for an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to determine the extent of his injury. ... The Grizzlies were already scheduled to remain in New Orleans Sunday night and fly to Minneapolis this morning. So Gasol's status will be known long before Memphis plays on the road Tuesday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: The Hornets announced Sunday night that NBA Commissioner David Stern will formally introduce new owner Tom Benson this afternoon in a news conference at the New Orleans Arena. Gov. Bobby Jindal and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu are scheduled to attend. Benson purchased the Hornets for $338 million on Friday, assuring the franchise’s long-term future in New Orleans. Benson attended the Hornets’ game on Sunday night against the Memphis Grizzlies at the Arena with his wife, Gayle. As he walked to his courtside seat, Benson heard cheers. He received a standing ovation when he was introduced between the first and second quarters. Benson, who wasn’t made available for comment, appeared engaged throughout the game.

  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: It’s never a good thing when there are more ice bags on the floor than sweaty jerseys and unrolled tape, especially with the postseason in sight. But this is the reality of Bulls basketball these days, and forward Luol Deng seems to be the latest poster child. Deng has been fighting through a torn ligament in his left wrist for most of the year, and the injury seems to be winning. Deng played nearly 45 minutes in the Bulls’ overtime win against the Detroit Pistons on Sunday but was 1-for-8 from the field, scoring two points. Coach Tom Thibodeau was asked if he’s concerned about resting Deng or at least keeping an eye on his minutes down the stretch. ‘‘If you studied his total minutes, you would see that he’s had plenty of rest this year,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘If you compared his total minutes for the season, don’t forget he’s missed nine games already, so he’s not a guy that’s piled up a ton of minutes.’’ But he admitted the Bulls’ minutes — and Deng’s injury — are something that has to be watched.

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: Reigning MVP Derrick Rose uncharacteristically got involved in trash talk after blood streamed down his face, courtesy of a flagrant foul that was mild compared to some we've seen in this storied rivalry. Later, Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey caught an inadvertent elbow to the chops that left him on the Palace floor. Tempers flared, harsh words were exchanged and afterward, Rose believed he was the target of some dirty play after his team escaped from Motown with a 100-94 overtime win. It wasn't dirty; It was beautiful. For the first time this season, the Pistons playing the Bulls wasn't about Richard Hamilton playing his former mates; the game was the main attraction. We're a long way from Rick Mahorn shedding Bulls coach Doug Collins aside like a rag doll after a hard foul on Michael Jordan in 1988, the true genesis of this 20-plus year rivalry, but the seeds are usually planted well before teams begin vying against one another for a title. How glorious would it be to see intensity like this over seven games in May?

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: The Maloofs, the city, the NBA, the Kings … The drama … Sunday afternoon at Arco Arena – um, Power Balance Pavilion – was eerily reminiscent of the days when the Kings were good and the Maloofs were flush. The announced crowd of 16,012 directed its venom at the Portland Trail Blazers, for the most part internalizing or ignoring the ongoing spat about the downtown arena proposal that collapsed late last week. These Kings are like catnip. That's why the NBA is so protective of this market. Give Sacramento fans even a whiff of a potentially appealing and marginally successful product, and they will surprise you. Scratch that. They will amaze you. ... The Kings' co-owners arrived about 30 minutes before tipoff and walked through one of the main doors instead of making their usual entry at the security gate. They didn't sit courtside but remained in their suite and were visible throughout – pacing, cheering, speaking animatedly on their cellphones. And the crowd reaction? Now that was interesting. Benevolent? Detached? Understanding? Tolerant? Controlled fury? The local shrinks must be having a blast with this. Excluding a few shouts to "sell the team," there were few outward displays of displeasure directed at the brothers.