First Cup: Monday

March, 30, 2009
3/30/09
8:26
AM ET
  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "This is going to feel different than most of the jersey retirements you might have caught on television. And it's not just because Zo (Alonzo Mourning) is our local hero, or because, outside of football, there are no other pro athletes here who have been honored this way. It will carry additional weight because for the past 14 years, Mourning didn't just have a great basketball career with the Heat -- he has experienced a complete metamorphosis. And just thinking about that for more than a few minutes should be enough to make Mourning let it all out. 'I really expect it to be a very emotional moment for me,' Mourning said. 'I'm truly, truly happy to have contributed to the franchise.' Mourning usually isn't one to understate matters. Quite the opposite, actually. He specializes in over-the-top. So to say that he has 'contributed to the franchise' is easily among his most uncharacteristic comments."
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "The Sacramento Kings did not eliminate the Suns from the playoff race Sunday. But the Suns played like a team that should be eliminated. ... Dallas keeps losing to keep Phoenix in range, but the Suns refused the help, going 0-3 on the road trip to remain 3 1/2 games behind Dallas with eight Suns games remaining. 'No offense to that young team over there, but we weren't playing the Lakers or the Celtics,' said Suns guard Steve Nash, who had 31 points and 14 assists. 'If we want to be in the playoffs, this is a game we've got to win. If you ask me, 'Do we deserve to be in the playoffs?' on a performance like tonight, you've got to say we didn't earn it.'"
  • Bill Tilton of The News-Herald: "The NBA may be a young man's game, but Joe Smith proved age is just a number Sunday in the romp over Dallas, which extended Cleveland's winning streak to 12. Smith finished with a double-double -- 12 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. It was his first double-double of the season, and the first time he has achieved that feat since Valentine's Day in 2008. Maybe the 1 p.m. start was a little on the early side for the prime-time players in the wine and gold. While the Cavs were wiping the sleep out of their eyes, the Mavericks were rolling to a 35-20 advantage. Smith, who will turn 34 on July 26, proved to be the pot of hot coffee, the splash of cold water and the open-handed slap to the face that the team needed to wake up during an uncharacteristic, sleep-inducing stroll through the first half. Cleveland's dominating second half will probably be the sexy sell on 'SportsCenter,' but make no mistake, without Smith's productivity and energy in the first half, Dallas might have ran away and hid from the NBA-best 60-13 Cavaliers."
  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "This isn't a great team, but we've known that all along. What we now know is that it's again a dangerous team. Indeed, these Hawks are more dangerous than they were a year ago, when all they did was force the champs-to-be to a Game 7. You wouldn't bet on the Hawks to win the NBA title, but you wouldn't want to face them, either. All the elements that fueled last spring's run are still in place, with this bonus: They now know what the postseason entails, whereas last season's team was flying blind. 'We're more dangerous now,' Josh Smith said Sunday. 'We have more experience. We've been in the playoffs.' ... The Hawks will finish fourth in the East, and you have to like their chances in Round 1. Philadelphia is working without Elton Brand, and Miami is essentially a one-man gang. Beyond that looms Cleveland, and that's a tall assignment. But it's no taller than the Celtics in 2008. Only a fool would pick the Hawks to unhorse LeBron's bunch. That said, it wouldn't be a stretch to see these Hawks in another Game 7, this time in Round 2, this time knowing full well how a Game 7 on the road feels."
  • Chris McCosky of The Detroit News: "He doesn't love it -- that much is clear. But if what he said Sunday is truly how he feels, then Allen Iverson is going to do everything in his power to make this coming-off-the-bench thing work. 'You know, a person with my resume and all the things I've done in this league, to be coming off the bench, I just thought that would be tough for me mentally,' he said. 'I know I can get through the whole thing physically, but mentally it was tough for me. But I just thought about the big picture and that's helping my teammates get wins. The more I thought about that, the more I relished the challenge of coming off the bench.'"
  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "If the NBA still had a Comeback Player of the Year Award, Denver's Chris Andersen would be a lock to win it. The fact Andersen has made a dramatic comeback this season from suspension for substance abuse, though, is a reminder of why the league changed the name of an award initially intended to recognize a player who had overcome adversity, one season to the next. The league never intended to recognize recovery from self-imposed adversity. Bernard King and Micheal Ray Richardson won the award in 1981 and 1985, respectively, after having been suspended for substance abuse the previous season. Embarrassed, the league changed the award to Most Improved Player. Since Andersen played only five games last season after the Hornets reclaimed him following his suspension, he probably doesn't qualify for MIP. That is too bad, because 'Birdman' has dramatically improved his game from his last full season, 2004-05. He has been a big factor in Denver's surge to the top of the Northwest Division."
  • Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee: "Imagine the Spurs without Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili? The Los Angeles Lakers without Pau Gasol and Sasha Vujacic? The Houston Rockets without Yao Ming and Luis Scola? Imagine the Kings without Peja Stojakovic, Hedo Turkoglu and Vlade Divac? While the influx of foreign-born players shows no sign of abating, Divac's imprint lingers. Now head of the Serbian Olympic Committee and a government adviser on housing for refugees, he not only is regarded as one of the game's greatest passing big men, at an imposing 7-foot-1 and 260 pounds. With his dark beard and ferocious stares, he also is remembered for gliding graciously through life, defusing tense political situations as well as locker room feuds."
  • Brian Stensaas of the Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Jason Collins' flagrant type 1 foul on Cavaliers star LeBron James was replayed over and over on national television Saturday morning. On the play, which James called 'borderline dirty,' he drove to the basket and ran hard into Collins' arm and shoulder before falling. Collins on Sunday responded to James' claim. 'It's just one of those plays that happened,&#
    39; he said. 'I wasn't going to get dunked on. I was just going to give him a hard foul and wrap him up. But he fell too quickly for me to wrap him up. There was no intent to hurt him. There was just intent to give him a hard foul and wrap him up. I think he understands that.'"
  • Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "There's no all-encompassing definition of what is considered one, let alone a count of them to be found in any box score. Yet every time the Jazz players are in their locker room, home or away, one stat is staring back at them from the board. For more than two decades, the Jazz have been tracking deflections as a measure of defensive activity that goes beyond steals, blocks and shooting percentages, posting updated totals for each player in the locker room before every game. 'Not all of it comes from getting up and getting in a guy's face and getting a piece of the ball,' Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said by way of explanation, 'but a lot of times it does when you're playing the game. A lot of it's blocked shots and that sort of thing. You can get a pretty good idea of how you're playing when you look and see. If we have 40-something deflections in a ballgame, you're usually right there in the game.' The Jazz have set a goal of producing 10 deflections a quarter as a team while inspiring some friendly competition among their players. With 10 games left, Ronnie Brewer is poised to end Andrei Kirilenko's seven-season run as the team's deflections leader."
  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: "Kobe Bryant joked about maybe one day filming a Nike ad in which he jumps over Staples Center and grinned as he described his pregame medicine-induced stomach discomfort as 'a runny situation.' The way he breezily addressed the home-court topic, Bryant appeared to care more about getting to take his daughters to Disneyland or feeding his cupcake cravings at Sprinkles in Newport Beach than facing the Cavaliers at Staples Center. Bryant wound up categorically dismissing the need for home-court advantage, saying: 'The better team is going to advance, no matter what. It's just what it is.' So there you have the Lakers' state of mind, which is in part why they let this game in Atlanta slip away. Neither the Hall of Fame coach nor the reigning MVP is prioritizing this issue of home-court advantage over Cleveland, so the trickle-down effect has left all the Lakers quite blasé about it. ... There is no doubt that Bryant and Phil Jackson are right when they say the ring's the thing. Jackson went as far as to suggest that the way to surpass Michael Jordan's everlasting aura in this game is for Bryant, who is halfway to Jordan's six rings, to come from behind in titles. 'Winning seven championships is probably the one that will make a difference between what Michael did,' Jackson said. ... Can the Lakers beat the Cavaliers without that edge? How sure does Jackson sound in this answer? 'Yes. Without a doubt.'"

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