First Cup: Wednesday

  • Jerry Brown of the East Valley Tribune: "In the 23 games since Shaquille O'Neal joined the team, Phoenix has been 'teed up' 26 times. To a man, they claim this isn't due to a lack of poise or intelligence, but because NBA officials fail to grasp the depth of the intensity of this wild playoff race. 'We're fighting as hard as we can,' Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni said. 'Some people have reactions and they call technicals -- so be it. I wish we wouldn't get them, but we're trying to fight and win the Western Conference and sometimes you get heated and it's emotional. This is not a regular-season game. For (Denver) it's do or die. For us it's do or die. And everyone involved has to understand it's do or die, and sometimes it does get heated.'"

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "In a major concession, James Dolan also granted Donnie Walsh the authority to rewrite the Garden's highly restrictive policies on speaking with the news media. Walsh who long styled himself as an accessible, media-friendly executive, insisted on retaining that freedom before accepting the job, the person said. The Garden has generally disallowed any employee -- from team executives to coaches, players and staff members -- from speaking to reporters without permission or, often, without a public-relations person present. ... The Knicks are a natural fit for Walsh, a native of the Bronx who has long felt a personal connection to the team. An accomplished architect of elite teams, Walsh will have a major task ahead of him. The Knicks have been over the salary cap for more than a decade, and the roster is packed with overpaid, underachieving players."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "The infatuation with the possibilities of a young, athletic and versatile point guard is undeniable. It is the reason Heat coach Pat Riley, in his dual role as team president, has spent time the past three weeks scouting in Memphis, Little Rock and Houston. Tonight, the belief in those possibilities only figures to be reinforced. No, no scout will go as far as to proclaim University of Memphis freshman Derrick Rose the next Chris Paul. But based on what's available in this June's NBA Draft, Rose is the closest thing to the Hornets' point guard in terms of potential instant impact."

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Iavaroni's attitude and basketball IQ are the main reasons former Griz president Jerry West strongly recommended the hire. That former ally, however, is now an obstacle Iavaroni must overcome. West still has Heisley's ear and is privately fuming about what he perceives to be Iavaroni's foibles and the team's direction."

  • Steve Kelley of The Seattle Times: "... at this news conference, [advertising executive Dave] Bean and [former Sonic Fred] Brown introduced us to their dreams. They even brought in legendary center Bill Russell, who dramatically entered the room during the presentation the way Bob Hope used to stroll onto the set of the 'Tonight Show.' If you are a basketball fan in Seattle, you should be pulling for these guys."

  • Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star: "Officials from the NBA players' union might have been whipped into a grievance-filing outrage if they'd witnessed the scene in the lead-up to a recent Raptors game. The hoopsters were made to run on the spot with their hands folded over their heads as if prisoners to the exercise, sweat pouring from their brows, frowns turning forcefully downward. But no, it wasn't millionaire abuse. It was the brainchild of John Lucas, the Raptors basketball development consultant, who, in bringing his boot camp-style drills to the workaday NBA, has injected some stimulating challenges into Toronto's pre-game workouts. ... Said Lucas the other night, consoling the grimacing players in their post-pre-game pain: 'Hey, don't ever let the workout think the workout's kicking your ass.'"

  • Jonathan Abrams of the Los Angeles Times: "In a recent Sports Illustrated poll of current NBA players asking who scares you the most, Bryant earned 35% of the vote, while the next four -- Shaquille O'Neal, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James and Dwight Howard -- combined for only 24% ... One Western Conference advance scout compared Bryant favorably to a mathematician. At its core, basketball is a game of geometry and if opponents take bad paths to guard Bryant, they've already failed, because he quickly reads defenses and angles, capable of making split-second decisions that usually work in his favor."