First Cup: Friday

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: On a night he enjoyed one of his most productive offensive games of the season, the Spurs’ Tim Duncan spent the final 8.7 seconds of a 92-91 victory over the Mavericks in the worst possible position: Sitting on the bench, helpless to do anything but watch as Dallas’ Vince Carter launched a potential game-winner at the buzzer. Opting for a smaller, quicker defender, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich replaced Duncan with Boris Diaw, with the Mavericks down by one. “It’s always tough to sit in that position,” Duncan said. “It is what it is. He’s got a game plan, a system in those times to go smaller. If they go smaller or have a shooter in there, he likes to put someone a little more mobile in. “You’ve got to respect it. You’ve got to sit there and cross your fingers.” After missing seven of his first 10 shots Thursday, Duncan made nine of his final 10 and finished with 28 points. He was one rebound shy of his second 20-20 game of the season, finishing with 19. It was his most productive game since returning Feb.13 from a left knee contusion suffered on Feb. 2. “It’s finally starting to come back,” Duncan said. “My shot’s not there like I want it to be. Other than that, I feel great. I feel healthy. The pain is gone. I’m starting to feel like I can actually play the game.”

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Coach Rick Carlisle said Chris Wright, the Mavs’ newest point guard, cleared a big hurdle when Dallas signed Wright to a 10-day contract. “He just got here [Wednesday],” Carlisle said. “That’s the biggest challenge.” Indeed it is a big challenge for Wright, who, on Wednesday, became the first player with multiple sclerosis to be on an NBA roster. And what perfect timing for Wright — it’s MS Awareness Week. Wright agreed with Carlisle that making the team was his biggest challenge thus far. “I’m just trying to make the team and get on the team,” Wright said. “I’m honored to be here and be in front of Dirk Nowitzki and guys like that.” Wright averaged 15.5 points and seven assists in 38 games this season for the Iowa Energy of the D-League. Carlisle likes what he’s seen thus far from Wright. … Carlisle said he’s “not qualified” to answer any questions about MS. But, “he’s been playing at a high level in the D-League and now he’s on an NBA roster, so he’s fine.”

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: With a chorus of boos echoing around the Rose Garden every time Felton touched the ball and the Blazers cruising to a convincing 105-90 victory over the Knicks' junior varsity team, basketball turned into a secondary form of entertainment Thursday night. And one of the few to leave the fiasco disappointed was Felton, the critical component behind last season’s monumental Blazers collapse. He sauntered into the Rose Garden loading dock about 75 minutes before the scheduled tip wearing a determined scowl and headphones, breezing past a throng of reporters to the visitors locker room. … An electric sellout crowd of 20,636 flashed gigantic posters with enlarged pictures of donuts and hamburgers and R-rated messages aimed at a player who last year challenged his detractors to visit his Pearl District apartment building if they had a problem with him. Felton was heavily booed during pregame introductions and every time he touched the ball, from the moment the Knicks won the opening tip to the final horn.

  • Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News: Last spring, the Heat’s Dwyane Wade also had his knee drained during the playoffs, but didn’t need to take a game off. But he’s another playoff virtuoso, with championship jewelry. What’s in store for Anthony, normally a first-round ouster waiting to happen, is anyone’s guess. Anthony should have learned a lesson from these past few days: He never should have returned on Monday in Oakland, hoping that the fluid would somehow magically disappear. It’s kind of funny that a guy with all those tattoos didn’t want to deal with a needle. So he missed the third straight loss on this trip when he got the fluid removed, while questions about how it got there still had not been sufficiently answered. “There comes a point where you’ve got to figure it out,” Anthony said, explaining why he finally addressed the knee. “Got to get to the bottom of it and move on.” The Knicks’ season only depends on it.

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: The reaction in the Mavericks’ locker room was mixed about the play former teammate Dahntay Jones had against Kobe Bryant on Wednesday night. Jones, who was traded to Atlanta for Anthony Morrow last month, stepped under Bryant at the end of the Hawks’ win. Bryant said it was a dangerous and dirty play. Jones said it was good defense. “It was a 50-50 play,” said Brandan Wright. Added Darren Collison: “Tough play. That’s all I can say about it.” There also were a few jokes that it was Jones’ best play for the Mavericks all season. But coach Rick Carlisle didn’t want to hear about the possibility of Bryant being out for an extended period and the Mavericks having a chance to overtake the Lakers in the playoff race. “I didn’t see the play,” Carlisle said. “And I’m not going to get involved with anything having to do about saying anything happening with Kobe Bryant. I think our owner showed what can happen with that 10 days ago.” That comment ellicited laughter from the coach and the media assembled before Thursday’s game against the Spurs. When Mark Cuban suggested the hypothetical scenario where the Lakers could amnesty Bryant, he came back with 38 points against the Mavericks.

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The NBA reviewed video of the play Thursday and found that referees missed a foul call on the play. The league said Jones failed to give Bryant the opportunity to land cleanly on the floor, and he should have been granted two free throws. … Jones sent several Tweets of his own Wednesday night after learning of Bryant’s comments. On Thursday, he appeared on the ESPN program “First Take” to further defend his actions. “The play, I don’t think was dirty because all I was trying to do was contest a jump shot,” Jones told the network. “Yes, it was a fadeaway, but when you deal with shooters or high-profile scorers, you have to try to get as close to them as possible to contest jump shots. So, even though he faded away, you still don’t give up on a play. You try to still contest it. That’s all I was trying to do. I wasn’t trying to do anything dirty. We played 48 minutes of basketball before that. There were not issues before that. And I wouldn’t take him out on the last play of the game.”

  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: Ray Allen has had conversations with teammates that put into context the relative age of the Heat’s roster, age that renders some of their seasonal trends, and especially those over the course of the current 20-game winning streak, all the more remarkable. “You look down our bench, and you don’t see some young guy you don’t know,” said Allen, whose team takes on the Bucks on Friday night. “I look down some NBA benches, and some of these guys, I do not know who they are. … Cole, at 24 years and five months, is the Heat’s youngest player, and one of only five – along with Jarvis Varnado, Mario Chalmers, LeBron James and Chris Bosh – still in their 20s. Nor is Pat Riley trying to infuse the roster with youth: Recent additions Chris (Birdman) Andersen and Juwan Howard are 34 and 40, respectively. “It’s crazy, because I was talking to Bird the other day, and I was like, ‘Bird, how old are you?’ ” Allen said. “And I was like, ‘I’m 37.’ And he just fell (down)! He was like, ‘Really?’ Normally he’d be the oldest guy on most teams in the NBA.” Normally, a squad with so many grizzled veterans might be expected to struggle in two areas in which the Heat have fared at least as well as any team in the league – staying healthy and finishing strong.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: We've arrived at the point where the only true measure of success for this Thunder team is postseason results. The regular season no longer matters. For better or worse, that's what a trip to the Finals, even one that ends in defeat, brings. To some, a popular predictor of future playoff success can be found in a team's scoring differential. After the team's winning percentage, it's the next best basic indicator of what we can expect from a team in a playoff run. To that extent, OKC is outscoring opponents on average by 3.4 points more than last season. It's the best scoring margin in basketball. Many other metrics suggest the Thunder is a sounder team. The team's scoring is up, both in raw averages and efficiency. The Thunder has evolved into a better defensive team, both in points yielded relative to the rest of the league and per 100 possessions. Oklahoma City also has gotten better in the categories of assists, steals and turnovers, historically some of the Thunder's biggest bugaboos. Many, however, fear that the Thunder isn't as well-equipped for a title run.

  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: After an afternoon practice at Oracle Arena, coach Tom Thibodeau almost set off a media frenzy when he was asked about the likelihood that Derrick Rose would make his season debut Friday against the Golden State Warriors. “We’ll see [Friday],’’ Thibodeau said. “With him, it’s just day-to-day. He had a good day [Thursday], went hard, did a lot of stuff, but we’ll see.’’ … When warned that his open-ended answers would ignite a fuse of speculation, Thibodeau tried to clear things up. “It hasn’t changed,’’ Thibodeau said. “It could be in a couple of days; it could be in a week. I don’t know when it is; he doesn’t know when it is. As I said to you guys [Wednesday], I think he was very forthcoming with [the media]. That’s where he is. He’s got to feel real comfortable; he’s got to feel the explosion is there. He’s made great progress, and we don’t know when that time is.”

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Rob Hennigan made one of the most important decisions of his life here, just a short walk from where the Orlando Magic will play the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night. He made that decision with Sam Presti, a friend and mentor, by his side. It was 2008, and Presti, the Thunder's general manager, offered Hennigan a job in the Thunder front office. They walked through downtown, discussing the type of team Presti wanted to build, talking about the meaningful connection Presti wanted to create between the franchise and the city. They eventually reached the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the site where, 13 years earlier, Timothy McVeigh detonated explosives in front the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. … That belief and confidence in Presti helped lead Hennigan to where he is today, the general manager of the Magic. Presti gave Hennigan two of his big breaks: a coveted internship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2004 and a position as director of college/international player personnel with the Thunder four years later. As Hennigan worked his way up the NBA ladder, he and Presti developed a close friendship that still endures.

  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: Andrea Bargnani says he hasn’t given up on playing again this season, but that’s certainly the way it looks. “What I know is what you guys know, what came out (Wednesday)” Bargnani said Thursday when he faced the media for the first time since his latest injury was confirmed. “I just do therapy and we see how it evolves.” The lastest injury is an avulsion sprain to his right elbow. The affected ligament is the same one that Bargnani tore in December costing him 26 games of the season, but a different injury. Bargnani sounded as frustrated with his season as his detractors have been. “It was a very unlucky season,” Bargnani said. “I don’t even know if I played like 10 straight games because every time I played I got an injury. It was very frustrating. I’ve just got to stay positive, try to get back in shape and be back and play very good.”

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: So Wednesday night’s win over Toronto wasn’t the first time it occurred to Jason Terry that he’s now part of a living museum. The sights and sounds of the Garden crowd acknowledging Garnett, who had just passed Jerry West to become the 15th all-time scorer in NBA history, and Pierce, who moved past Charles Barkley into 20th place in scoring and past Allen Iverson into 10th spot all-time in made free throws, simply heightened the experience. “When you’ve been around as long as Paul and Kevin, and play at a high level like they have, you’re going to be amongst greatness,” Terry said. “That’s what all of those milestones mean. They’re two of the chosen few who are great. “No question this whole ride has been special,” he added.

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: After Klay Thompson was fined $35,000 for his involvement in the scrum between the Warriors and Indiana on Feb. 26, his father said he was going to increase the penalty.Mychal Thompson, who was the No. 1 overall pick in 1978 and is currently a radio broadcaster in Los Angeles, said he handled his son's finances and would allocate less than his usual $300 stipend that week. The comments were taken seriously and landed on a variety of blogs, but Klay Thompson said he maintained his own accounts and his father was just having some fun. "Come on, man," Klay Thompson said. "Some people took it really seriously, but that's all right. That's my dad. He jokes a lot. ... Since I grew up, he's been a jokester. I just read it and thought it was funny. It's fine. It's a good story. He had some fun with it. It's his job to entertain, so I don't blame him. "But I do make my own allowance."

  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News: With the Lakers (34-32) visiting the Indiana Pacers (40-24) tonight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Brian Shaw said he's moved well past the initial frustration he felt two years ago when the Lakers passed him over in favor of Mike Brown to coach the Lakers following Jackson's retirement. Instead, Shaw said he's relishing the changed circumstances with his eyes still set on the big picture. "My ultimate goal is to be a head coach," Shaw said. "But I'm not going to take or go after the wrong job just to get the experience of being a head coach. I'm in a great situation here."