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First Cup: Monday

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "Anderson Varejao may want to bring a security detail to his next game against the Celtics. In a March 3 game at the Garden, the Cavaliers center was clothes-lined by Glen Davis. Yesterday he got tangled up with Ray Allen while boxing out during a Paul Pierce free throw. Allen claims that Varejao threw him to the ground. Varejao claims that Allen elbowed him in the groin area while springing back up from the floor. Each player received a technical foul. 'He doesn't like Brazilians or maybe he doesn't like my hair,' Varejao said after the Celtics' 107-76 loss. 'You don't hit a man in his (groin area). But I'm OK.' Allen's anger hadn't abated by the time he reached the locker room, either. 'It was a dirty play,' Allen said. 'He threw me to the ground. He wrapped my arm and threw me to the ground, and I wasn't going to do whatever he wanted. I'm not going to lie -- I'll always stand up for myself and anyone on this team. It's in my nature. They're not going to just walk all over us. I had to make a stance. It was embarrassing for us to get beat this way -- playing on national TV.'"

  • Eddie Sefko of the The Dallas Morning News: "Sixth place remains a possibility, although Sunday's loss made it remote. The Hornets would have to lose their remaining two games, at Houston and at San Antonio. The Mavericks would have to win their remaining two, Monday night against Minnesota and Wednesday against Houston, both at home. But regardless of their seeding and opponent, the Mavericks' only concern is playing well. They won't try to manipulate the standings to whatever direction they feel is best for them. 'Whatever happens, happens,' Nowitzki said. 'Denver has played well all season, and Houston without Tracy McGrady still has the big fellow [Yao Ming], and they're tough. The only thing we have to do is win games and make sure we don't slip back to eight. It's no secret we don't want that.' Agreed. Nobody wants the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "This shouldn't be the time of the season for desperation. Or the place. But suddenly, after 58 victories in 80 games, the Orlando Magic need a win tonight at the Bradley Center to feel like a playoff team again. The catch: The way they've been playing, there's no guarantee the Magic can beat the lottery-bound Milwaukee Bucks, even though they lead the season series 3-0. After losing four of their past seven games, the Magic are looking to regain their identity and confidence before the green flag drops on the postseason either Saturday or Sunday in Orlando. ... 'I don't know what to call this,' center Dwight Howard said of the team's play before labeling it 'a little funk. I just know we have to get out of it soon or we are going to be in trouble come playoff time. We have to do something about this.'"

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "After Dwyane Wade finished off the New York Knicks with his 55 points in Sunday's 122-105, the Miami Heat gathered in its locker room to watch the Toronto Raptors finish off the Philadelphia 76ers. While Philadelphia still could possibly tie the Heat for the No. 5 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference with a 42-40 finish, a superior conference record assures the Heat of a best-of-seven opening-round series against the No. 4 Atlanta Hawks that opens either next Saturday or Sunday at Philips Arena. 'That,' Wade said of the Hawks, 'is a confident team. They've got a lot of players with a lot of energy.' The Heat, which stands 1-2 against Atlanta this season, doesn't figure to test the Hawks' confidence in Tuesday's game at Philips Arena, with it likely that Wade, Jermaine O'Neal, Udonis Haslem and other regulars will be held out."

  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: "Chris Bosh will sit down with GM Bryan Colangelo at the end of the season as will all the Raptors. He said last night he's not prepared to indicate what his intentions are after the 2009-10 season. 'I'm not indicating anything,' Bosh said. 'It will be routine stuff. We will go over the season, assess the season. See how we can get better, see how I can get better.' But rest assured the time will come this off-season that Colangelo will come to Bosh looking for some form of commitment beyond 2010. Only then will the Raptors GM be able to proceed with a sound off-season strategy."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "As one of the Washington Wizards' worst regular seasons in franchise history slogs to a close, all signs are pointing to Flip Saunders being named the team's head coach as early as next week. A league official and a Western Conference team official both have said on condition of anonymity that Saunders is the top choice of General Manager Ernie Grunfeld. The team official added that Saunders, the former coach of the Detroit Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves, already has tabbed former NBA player Sam Cassell as an assistant. ... Saunders has been rumored as the next coach for some time, and Caron Butler was asked about him after yesterday's practice. 'It's nothing written in stone yet,' he said. 'Obviously whatever happens will be decided by upstairs and we got to follow suit. Once I hear something that will be the right time to comment.'"

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "On draft day 2007, when Joakim Noah wore a seersucker suit and bow tie, the flamboyant rookie couldn't contain his excitement over joining a team coming off three straight playoff appearances. Then the wheels fell off, and Noah endured a 33-win season that featured two coaching changes and a run-in with assistant coach Ron Adams that led to his teammates voting to extend a team suspension. That makes this season's experience all the more rewarding for the starting center, who joked he might hyperventilate from excitement before Game 1. 'This means a lot to me,' Noah said of the Bulls' playoff berth. 'I feel I've gone through a lot of adversity here. The playoffs always have been my goal. I'm not taking winning for granted. I'm really enjoying it.'"

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "If the Cavaliers win tonight at Indiana, they clinch the NBA's best record, which would leave the Lakers with a seemingly useless home game Tuesday against Utah. Or maybe it's not so useless. As the Western Conference standings sit right now, the Lakers would play Utah in the first round. Furthermore, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said he would not rest Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol or Derek Fisher in the regular-season finale against any team. 'I don't think of sitting players,' Jackson said S
    unday. 'I don't think that's the right thing to do when people buy season tickets and special-game tickets and things like that, and the league has asked us not to do that. I have players that are going to play their 82nd game this week, hopefully, and that's a big milestone in this game, to have played them all.' Bryant, Fisher and Trevor Ariza will have played all 82 regular-season games if they play Tuesday."

  • Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times: "Chris Mullin, once the face of the franchise for the second time in a generation, has practically disappeared. Soon, he is expected to be gone completely. According to multiple team sources, Mullin's days as the franchise's head basketball honcho are numbered. The situation has many fans and NBA insiders scratching their heads. How did the executive who pulled the strings to turn around a doormat franchise wind up the roommate who can't move out quickly enough? How did the architect behind Golden State becoming relevant again wind up a lame duck? The answer depends on whom you ask. For most of the season, two schools of thought have emerged from the organization. There are those who believe Mullin is a victim of ego-tripping team president Robert Rowell. They believe Mullin is underappreciated and disrespected, and he was all but forced out when his authority was undermined. Conversely, some quietly contend Mullin hasn't been held accountable for his mistakes. They criticize him for wasting money, poor communication and disappearing this season. The philosophical differences, personality clashes and infighting surrounding the organization's two most powerful non-owners have left a black cloud over the Warriors all season. With the 2008-09 campaign coming to a close, things are set to come to a head."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "How Steve Nash wound up back in Phoenix will prevent him from feeling sure about staying in Phoenix. In 2004, Nash was certain he would re-sign with the Dallas Mavericks. But when the Suns swooped in with an offer, Nash was shocked to learn that Mavericks owner Mark Cuban did not want to compete with it. Also working in the Suns' favor is their strong relationship with Nash's agent, Bill Duffy. 'If they wanted to pursue other options or had opportunities to make the team better by moving me or wanted to dump my salary, nothing's set in stone,' Nash said. 'I hope we can make it work and we can improve for next year. I feel as good as I've ever felt. I feel like I've got a lot left to give. I have a loyalty to getting this team back to where we were a few years ago and hopefully even beyond.'"

  • Don Seeholzer of The Pioneer Press: "He doesn't play as much as he used to, but, nearing the end of his ninth NBA season and sixth with the Timberwolves, Mark "Mad Dog" Madsen remains a fan favorite. And the feeling is mutual. 'I really feel like I've found a second home here,' the veteran forward said. 'My home will always be in California, but I am so at home here in Minnesota. We have great fans here. They're knowledgeable; they love the game. If fans are giving me support, I want to support them back by giving them some effort and intensity.' Effort and intensity have never been a question with Madsen, but whether he will be back for a 10th season could be. Eight months away from his 34th birthday, the Wolves' senior statesman has a $2.84 million contract for next season, but he has appeared in only 18 of 80 games heading into tonight's game at Dallas. How much longer does he think he can play? 'I don't want to put a number on it,' he said. 'This is my dream job, being a basketball player in the NBA, and I try to work very hard at it. I feel like I have a lot left in my tank. What I want to try to do is always be ready, if and when the call comes.' ... Madsen is just one season away from making a prophet of sorts of Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. 'When I came into the league, he said, 'We want you to have a nice 10-year career here in Los Angeles,' ' Madsen said. 'So that's what I was really hoping for.'"

  • Paul White of The Virginian-Pilot: "In three games at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Washington's 6-foot-7 Jon Brockman gobbled up rebounds at nearly a 17-a-night clip. His 21 boards in Thursday's opener were just three short of the 57-year-old tournament's single-game record. When the games were over, Brockman retired to his hotel room, flipped on the TV and his laptop and shared an insider's perspective through an Internet diary on Scout.com, where he discussed everything from his own star-gazing -- 'I stood 10 feet away from Larry Bird!' -- to his unique diet for getting rid of cramps. 'Four big things of Vitaminwater, a couple of bananas and my favorite -- Fritos Honey BBQ Twists,' Brockman wrote. 'The Vitaminwater and the bananas are for rehydrating, replenishing. The Fritos are for fun.' ... 'I try not to make it too much about basketball. I want people to feel like they're following me around.' Through Brockman's blogging, readers learned about: The crush of agents: 'They're everywhere down here. It's like one after another. They are just swarming you.'"