First Cup: Wednesday

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "The Spurs must accept the loss of star guard Manu Ginobili for the remainder of the season, including the playoffs, as a challenge that must be taken on, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Tuesday. As devastated as the Spurs were to learn that Ginobili will not play again this season after renewed discomfort in his right ankle was diagnosed Monday as a stress fracture of the right distal fibula, Popovich is counting on his players' collective character to do what it takes to win games without one of their most important teammates. 'It's about attitude,' Popovich said. 'We can do the best possible job we can of believing in each other and put out the effort that's required to win basketball games, or we can feel sorry for ourselves and say, 'Gosh, without Manu it's going to be really difficult to reach our goals.'' Popovich expects determination to overcome adversity and to outweigh self pity. 'That's not how the team is built, character-wise, I don't think, so we look at it as a challenge and take it on,' he said."

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "Hopefully, while the Orlando Magic were playing in Houston on Tuesday night, they ran down Tracy McGrady and thanked him for giving up on the franchise five seasons ago. And, to think, all these years I've been erroneously blaming Me-Mac for essentially quitting during the 2003-04 season when the Magic lost 19 consecutive games at one joyless juncture and finished the season with an NBA-worst 21-61 record. Without that absolute awfulness, without the devastating dysfunction, without all the misery and malaise, this year's run toward a championship would have never, ever been possible. Sometimes, as that famed NBA analyst Sir Winston Churchill once said, 'A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.' Without the Magic's disastrous difficulties of five seasons ago, they would likely still be in a state of utter disrepair. Without the worst record in the league in 2004, their chances of winning the pingpong ball lottery and drafting Dwight Howard No. 1 would have been rendered a mathematical implausibility."

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "Fans might be placing more importance on the No. 1 seed than the Cavaliers. 'If we can get the top seed, great,' Cavs coach Mike Brown said. 'It's not anything that I'm going to kill my guys over.' The 2008-09 season has boiled down to a five-game competition. The Cavs (62-15) need two wins in those five games to wrap up the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Their magic number for the No. 1 overall record is five. It's getting to the point where Brown is starting to think about resting some of his key players down the stretch. 'Eventually, we may get to the point where we have to sit some guys if I feel it's necessary,' he said. ... 'If I rest guys, then whatever happens, happens,' Brown said. 'LeBron is a big cog in our engine. If he's out, we could lose the game. The percentages are a lot higher than if he played.'"

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Antawn Jamison is four games from playing all 82 for the sixth time in his 11-year career and the second time in five seasons with the Wizards. But what would make him endure every tortuous game, play the third-most minutes of any player in the NBA (3,001) and absorb the physical punishment, even as he saw teammate after teammate drop? 'I guess I'm a different breed. I'm old school,' said Jamison, 32. 'It's just about pride. This is something that I enjoy doing, brings me back to being a kid. Knowing that this is what I get paid a lot of money to do and there are a lot of people that I have to entertain. For me, I just try to make fun out of this situation.'"

  • Frank Dell'Apa of The Boston Globe: "Celtics captain Paul Pierce and coach Doc Rivers are looking ahead to the playoffs, the team's focus going beyond the final five games of the regular season. But while Rivers is concentrating on his own team, Pierce is keeping an eye on things elsewhere, just in case he might be curious about a future opponent. ... 'I know we're tied or a game up but I can honestly tell you I have not looked at the standings for a week and a half,' Rivers said yesterday. 'And when I looked at them, I just glanced. 'I can't do anything but win our games. I can't tell you where [other teams] play, I can't tell you any of that stuff. But the guys know, I guarantee they know, and that's more important than me knowing.' ... 'I look at it more, probably, than anybody,' said Pierce. 'I think it's fun to see who you might match up with. I look at the West, the race is changing every day. I'm a basketball fan. I keep up with it religiously. I watch games, look at the standings, see who we might match up with in the first round. Right now, Chicago or Detroit, they have the same records, so it could flop either way.'"

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "Chris Bosh has never wavered from his stance that he hasn't given the trade speculation any serious consideration and even an impending conversation with Bryan Colangelo at the end of the regular season (every player meets with the GM after each season) hasn't got Bosh thinking about 2010, or even the summer of 2009. 'Now? Not at all,' he said when asked if he'd figured out what he'll tell Colangelo when the season ends. But it's a significant conversation because the Raptors may want Bosh to rush his decision about 2010 and that's not something he seems inclined to do. 'Very significant,' he said. 'But every conversation at the end of any season, going to the summer, is very significant.'"

  • Brian McTaggart of the Houston Chronicle: "Three weeks after being shot in the calf, Rockets forward Carl Landry returned to action Tuesday night and scored eight points in a 93-83 victory over Orlando. Landry, 25, had missed eight games since he was wounded and responded well physically to his first full scrimmage Monday. He played 20 minutes against the Magic and scored a pair of key baskets in the fourth quarter. 'Getting Carl back was monumental,' forward Shane Battier said. 'We missed him a lot, although we didn't say it.'"

  • Bernard Fernandez of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Given that the 2007-08 Sixers closed their regular season by losing seven of their last 10, including the final four, the possibility of another late collapse is hardly out of the question. 'We haven't talked about it. The players haven't brought it up,'' Tony DiLeo said of last season's thudding finish. 'I don't think last season has anything to do with this season. It's different circumstances, different playe
    rs, different injuries.'' Maybe, so but the way another disappointing game with the Bobcats -- who won the season series from the Sixers, 3-1 -- unfolded had a feel of deja vu."

  • Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee: "Bacon cheeseburger and cheesecake anyone? Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant became ill during the 2002 Western Conference finals against the Kings after ordering those items in Sacramento. But after the reception he received Tuesday night at Arco Arena, Bryant has no reservations about eating in Sacramento. 'I can order cheesecake and all that,' Bryant said. 'Nobody's gonna mess with me now. They're all Laker fans anyway.' Tuesday night's game was the Kings' third sellout of the season. But unlike during the heated Lakers-Kings rivalry earlier this decade, the crowd clearly favored the road team as the Lakers won 122-104."

  • Monte Poole of the Contra Costa Times: "Jerry Sloan is a model of comportment, a low-profile leader with unquestionable passion and unassailable motives. It's not that Sloan won't jump a player. He can torch with enough heat to leave blisters. Ask Andrei Kirilenko. But through moments anxious and angry, respect remains. Don Nelson's reputation is that he is guided by his goals, sometimes at the cost of others. His coaching chops are admired, but, having seen evidence, some can't get past his habit of calculating and manipulating. He enters with a smile and a bang, then leaves a trail of blood. This likely was considered when the 24 Hall voters punched their ballots. Those who consider this a popularity contest must accept that Nelson not only lost to a man with fewer blemishes on his record and character but to someone who detests popularity contests or the idea of playing politics. If choosing a coach who will put his roster ahead of himself, value consistency over gimmickry and manage a classic and lasting brand, Sloan beats Nelson -- as decisively as Nelson beat Sloan back in '89."

  • Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: "They're already working on nicknames for Shaquille O'Neal in Dallas. The Big Texan? The Big Shaq-adillo? The Big D-sel? OK, maybe they're jumping the gun a bit, but speculation is ramping up that O'Neal is angling to be moved to the Dallas Mavericks in the off-season. DallasBasketball.com reported Wednesday that O'Neal is telling friends he wants Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to make it happen. The report quotes an un-named 'mutual friend' of Shaq and Cuban who said O'Neal is making no secret of his desire privately and that after the season 'it won't be private anymore.' Of course, adding fuel to this Texas rumor fire is an exchange of 'tweets' on Twitter.com between The Big Texter and Cuban, including one in which Shaq asks Cuban to email or call him."

  • Alan Hahn of Newsday: "Chris Duhon left here with something to prove, with an opportunity to invigorate a career that had locked him into backup status. As the season continues to wind down after last night's game here against the Bulls, Duhon has the Knicks thinking they need to list point guard among their many holes to fill this offseason. His game dramatically fell off after a tremendous first half, during which he was among the league leaders in minutes per game and assists. But after the Nov. 21 trades, the Knicks sent away one guard, Jamal Crawford, and acquired one in Cuttino Mobley who was forced to retire. With Stephon Marbury in exile, that left Duhon to carry a load he admits was too much to handle. 'I really wasn't prepared for all the minutes I was going to play,' he said. ... What the Knicks need to assess is if Duhon can handle starter's minutes over an 82-game season or is he what he was with the Bulls: a capable backup? The Knicks will have a lottery pick and, if they are in the right position, would take a long look at Ricky Rubio, if the 18-year-old Spaniard opts for the draft this year. And with Mavericks guard Jason Kidd heading into free agency this summer and very interested in coming back to the New York area, the Knicks will consider that option, as well."

  • Michael Hunt of the Journal Sentinel: "Even though maintaining a playoff pace turned out to be unsustainable with what they were putting on the floor, the Milwaukee Bucks did the right thing by hanging on to Ramon Sessions and Charlie Villanueva after the trading deadline. They had to give it a shot. But now the question is what to do with their restricted free agents after Bango leaves the building a week from now. 'We stand here with the intention, going into the offseason, of wanting to re-sign both Ramon and Charlie,' general manager John Hammond said Tuesday. That's the kind of statement guaranteed to draw applause from a roomful of season-ticket holders, but 'wanting' and 'doing' are two very different things when the idea is to eventually get control of the unreasonable-against-results $71 million payroll that Hammond inherited a year ago."

  • Chris Tomasson of INDenver Times: "Denver is two wins shy of the franchise's NBA best-ever record of 54-28, set in 1987-88. While home games against Oklahoma City and Sacramento figure to lead to at least a tie of the mark, the Nuggets would need to beat the Lakers or Portland on the road April 15 to break it. You better believe the Nuggets would like to drive 55 this season. 'It's definitely special,' guard Chauncey Billups said of closing in on the mark. 'Especially me being from (Denver), cheering for this franchise ever since I learned the game of basketball. Being the one team with the best (NBA) record in the history of the franchise would be awesome.'"

  • Mike Jones of The Washington Times: "Oklahoma's Blake Griffin on Tuesday declared his intention to enter the NBA Draft, and it's no secret: He's the consensus No. 1 pick, no matter who else declares. Spain's Ricky Rubio is believed to be the No. 2 pick even though he has a large buyout. But after that the talent drops off significantly. Teams are lukewarm on the crop of project players, and insiders believe there could be some draft-day trades as teams move down rather than risk selecting questionable talent so high. Teams like the Washington Wizards believe if they don't get the first or second pick in the draft, they could better upgrade their roster by dealing their pick for a proven veteran."