First Cup: Thursday

  • Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post: "We see all-court brilliance like this every 25 years or so, when a player is extraordinary in basketball's primary skills: scoring, rebounding and passing. Only Oscar Robertson, in 1962, has averaged double digits in those three categories over an entire season. Only Magic Johnson, in 1982, has come truly close since. It has been such an unreachable mark, like hitting .400 for an entire season or scoring 100 points in a single game, that it's now presumed to be unthinkable that a player would average a triple-double over a full NBA season. ... There's one supreme expert on the topic of the triple-double, and it's Robertson, who said in a conversation on the topic yesterday: 'Oh, I think LeBron has a real chance to do it. He'd have to play more minutes, though. I think I played 44 minutes a game that year, and LeBron is playing, what, 36, 37 minutes [actually 38] a game this year?' ... Told Robertson believes he has a shot, LeBron told me last night during a conversation for ABC that will air Sunday afternoon, 'I understand that records are made to be broken but . . .' His voice trailed off. LeBron shook his head. He can't see it, can't see anybody averaging a triple-double and clearly sees Robertson as what he was, a basketball god. ... When I asked Robertson about LeBron's greatest obstacle to triple-doubledom he said: 'Rebounding. That's going to be more difficult simply because he's not under the basket very much.' He knows it's going to be difficult, but Robertson repeated that he believes LeBron has a chance."

  • A. Sherrod Blakely of Booth Newspapers: "Pistons coach Michael Curry said he is giving some thought to keeping Kwame Brown in the startng lineup and having Rasheed Wallace come off the bench. 'Kwame is doing a great job,' Curry said. 'He's getting rebounds, which is good. But he also takes up a lot of space that's allowing other guys to come in and get rebounds.' In Detroit's past nine games -- all starts for Brown -- the Pistons have outrebounded their opponents by an average of 3.9 rebounds per game. ... As far as Wallace coming off the bench, Curry said 'We'll see. I like Sheed coming off the bench (Tuesday at Cleveland). I think it helps that unit, especially when we're small with Will (Bynum) and Allen (Iverson). When you have those two out there and you're small in the backcourt, you need someone like Sheed, possibly Max (Jason Maxiell) with his activity out there, with him.'"

  • David Whitley of the Orlando Sentinel: "It's hard to rip a team that had won six in a row. But if you witnessed most of those games, you saw the April Fool's special coming. The Magic dilly-dally along for 42 minutes, then hit the gas for the final six. That may work against the Knicks and the Nets, but it sure won't cut it against the Celtics or Cavs. It didn't even work against the Raptors, who shrewdly drew up a defense that left Lewis 'too wide open' on that final shot. Maybe Orlando should have re-signed Penny. He couldn't have done much worse against Jose Calderon than anybody the Magic threw out there. ... 'Hopefully this is a wake-up call,' Stan Van Gundy said. 'It's all about preparing yourself for life after April 19, or whenever the last game of the regular season is,' Anthony Johnson said. It's actually April 15, Tax Day. The Holy Grail is there for the taking. If the Magic can't grasp it by then, nobody will be in a joking mood."

  • Chris Tomasson of INDenverTimes: "Not that Carmelo Anthony ever has been in a Game 7, but he figures this is a game to roll out all the clichés. 'It's like a championship type of game,' said the Nuggets forward. 'Like a Game 7 game. So we're looking forward to that.' Anthony is referring to Thursday night's Northwest Division battle with Utah at the Pepsi Center, a game that has loomed big for a while but now appears much bigger for the Jazz than for the Nuggets. ... 'It's monumental,' Utah forward Carlos Boozer said of what Thursday's game means after what happened Tuesday. 'We'll get our minds right, learn from some of the mistakes we made (at Portland), get our minds right for Denver.'"

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "Zydrunas Ilgauskas made a surprise visit to Parkside Intermediate School in Westlake on Wednesday, trading a youngster an autographed basketball for the ball he scored the 10,000th point of his career with last Saturday at The Q. After the victory over Atlanta, the ball was thrown into the stands, where it was caught by a boy who was just thrilled it landed in his lap -- and didn't realize its significance. A report in Mike McIntyre's Tipoff column in Monday's Plain Dealer indicated Ilgauskas was interested in finding the ball. The boy's mother contacted the Cavs and the exchange was arranged, although Ilgauskas said he also would have been fine with the youngster keeping the ball."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "He's a leading candidate for NBA Rookie of the Year. Everyone from LeBron James to Chris Paul has praised his play. Everyone from Doc Rivers to Phil Jackson has lauded his demeanor. So, Derrick Rose, how would you grade your rookie season? 'I'd probably go with a B or B-minus,' Rose says -- without a smile. 'We haven't won enough and I've committed too many turnovers.' Ah, yes, those pesky 2.5 turnovers per game. Those are what stand out to Rose beyond his 16.6 points, 6.2 assists and 47 percent shooting. Rose's humility has been well documented, leading to some hilarious understatements. Perhaps one favorite was Rose's recent answer when asked if he thinks he should win Rookie of the Year: 'Only if we make the playoffs because I've just played OK.'"

  • Don Seeholzer of The Pioneer Press: "For all the benefits of experience, youth does have its advantages. Take Kevin Love. At a time of the season when many of his veteran teammates are limping around with injuries, the Timberwolves' rookie forward appears to be getting stronger. Love's 23 points and 12 rebounds in Tuesday night's loss to Dallas gave him double-doubles in back-to-back games and five of the past nine. One of just two Wolves players, with forward Ryan Gomes, to have played in all 75 games this season, Love said he actually feels pretty fresh. 'I was feeling good in warm-ups tonight,' he said Tuesday. 'I got a good warm-up in, got a little bit hot and just came out and hit my first jump shot. I feel great.' With a rookie-high 25 double-doubles on the season, Love could get some votes for the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, although Chicago's Derrick Rose is the favorite."

  • Bill Bradley of the Sacramento Bee: "After watching the Kings retire the numbers of Chris Webber a
    nd Vlade Divac the past few weeks, it's apparent they need to honor one more individual: former coach Rick Adelman. Now with the Houston Rockets, Adelman coached the Kings during those Webber/Divac years that brought the spotlight to Sacramento. In eight seasons, he helped meld a roster with a deft touch. He won at least 50 games for five consecutive seasons. And in his last few seasons, he kept winning despite an aging lineup that was piling up injuries. This honor probably will not happen as long as the Maloofs own the team. It was well documented that they didn't feel welcomed by Adelman and felt estranged when they let his contract expire in 2006."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "Only now is Shaun Livingston, the 23-year-old point guard, anywhere close to again doing the things that once came naturally. And it's the Thunder that's given Livingston the chance to prove he still can do those things in the NBA after signing the former No. 4 overall pick in 2004 to a two-year contract on Tuesday. 'You do a lot of soul-searching in two years not being able to play,' said Livingston. There were times during Livingston's three healthy seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers that he admittedly took nights off. Relied on God-given ability. 'When you're talented like that and you kind of got the world right next to you almost, it's easy to kind of overlook it,' Livingston said. ... 'The biggest thing is I'm showing flashes,' Livingston said. 'It's going to be a process. I don't think (the knee) is going to be 100 percent until possibly next season. But for me to show flashes, that's big for me, because it shows what I can do if it gets stronger and better in due time.'"

  • Amy Shipley of The Washington Post: "Alonzo Mourning said NBA players should prepare to accept less money during the next round of collective bargaining, which is expected to begin before the expiration of the current deal in December 2010. NBA owners have an option to extend the contract through the 2011-12 season, but they are not expected to do so. If tough times continue, 'you gotta cut salaries,' Mourning said. 'You do. You have to cut salaries. ... It's going to be interesting how [NBA Players Association chief] Billy Hunter handles that whole situation because I think it's going to be a pretty interesting fight in the next round.' Added Mourning: 'We have to be treated fairly, but at the same time, we have to prepare for reality. Reality is making the proper adjustments based on the economy.'"

  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "Minutes before the start of Wednesday's McDonald's All-American Game, Tim Hardaway sat a couple rows up in the BankUnited Center and couldn't fully understand what he had seen the last couple of weeks. Two weekends ago, sparse crowds showed up at AmericanAirlines Arena to watch the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Wednesday, high school basketball's most high-profile game was in town and it couldn't fill a 7,000-seat arena. 'I still can't figure it out,' said Hardaway, who's from hoops-happy Chicago, where a decent junior varsity game can draw more than the 5,981 who came to the BankUnited Center on Wednesday. 'I just don't know.' It is rather perplexing why South Florida hasn't become more of a basketball area. But perhaps even more mystifying is why, with all the great athletes that come out of Dade and Broward counties, there aren't more high-quality basketball players being developed."

  • Jerry Crowe of the Los Angeles Times: "Part of the attraction of feasting at Big Nate's Barbeque is that, if your timing is right, you might just run into Big Nate himself. Or you might not. Owner and NBA legend Nate Thurmond regularly spends four days a week at his restaurant in San Francisco's working-class South of Market neighborhood, but mostly he keeps out of sight. 'I have a thing about having a business where people come to see you,' the Hall of Famer tells a visitor to his office/storage room above the eatery. 'They come one time, waste your time, so to speak, and then they're gone. But if they come in for the food, they don't need to see me -- and they'll come back.' It's a plan that seems to work because Big Nate's has been in business for nearly 20 years, serving up ribs once described by the San Francisco Chronicle as 'wonderfully tender and not too fatty' and chicken that's 'even better -- moist and smoky.' Says Thurmond, who owned a more upscale soul food restaurant before opening Big Nate's in 1990, 'I've got a good product, bottom line. It's not about, come here and see Nate.'"