First Cup: Tuesday

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "Michael Finley made a 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left at Sacramento, giving the Spurs a 95-92 lead; replays showed the shot clock had expired before the ball left his hand; replay rules did not allow the referee crew to check a TV monitor to correct the error. The NBA's Board of Governors will consider what seems an urgent need for amendment to the rules when it meets Thursday and Friday. Immediate change, though, may not be forthcoming. Commissioner David Stern understands there is a problem that needs fixing. He promised Monday that the board would hear about the problem. What is less certain is the potential timing of the fix. 'I'm open to consideration of the subject,' Stern said. 'We are moving, perhaps too gradually for some, to more and more review, instant replay. I don't know that, given the number of categories that this potential review of that call would open up, that we want to do it on three days' notice or four days' notice (before the playoffs).”

  • Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post: "Can Flip Saunders get along with Gilbert Arenas? Yes, absolutely. But that might be the problem. If Ernie Grunfeld was going to be the 'bad cop' in this formula then okay, but Grunfeld is the one who gave him the $111 million, which means it's Grunfeld who has empowered Arenas -- some might say indulged him. That's okay. That's everyday life in the NBA, the balancing act between the people authorized to run the team and the superstars who actually run the team. One NBA coach who has Finals experience told me that before signing on with the Wizards he would insist on spending 48 hours with Arenas, 'to find out whether he's primarily interested in being 'Agent Zero' or willing to build on the all-star player he was three years ago.'"

  • Marc J. Spears of The Boston Globe: "The Celtics have heard all those theories and more from skeptics who believe there will not be an 18th championship banner being raised at TD Banknorth Garden this year. But through all the injuries, criticism, and questions, the Celtics remain extremely confident, for several reasons. 'We don't mind flying under the radar,' said Paul Pierce. 'When you win a championship, you acquire a certain swagger, a certain confidence that you can beat anybody regardless of who you have on the court.' Said coach Doc Rivers, 'They counted us out last year, too. Who cares? As long as the guys in the locker room and the fans believe, we could care less about anybody else.' One reason the Celtics are confident is that they are more experienced individually and as a group going into the playoffs this time."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Magic GM Otis Smith admires Dwight Howard's efforts to bring home a gold medal from the Summer Olympics. But he's also happy that his all-star center's commitment each summer for the past three years has ended. 'He'll be able to work on his game this whole summer as opposed to playing for Team USA,' Smith said. 'It was good for him and they did a good job with him, but it's not the same as being able to work on specific things you need to work on.' Smith said that Howard, 23, still doesn't quite understand how good he can be. 'I tell him that in two years he's going to be scary, absolutely scary, and he just kind of nods. It's kind of the same expression I get from my kids when I talk to them,' Smith said, laughing. 'It's a maturation process for Dwight. He just has to go through it. But I'll say it again: This is just the tip of the iceberg for him.'"

  • Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press: "Well, the Pistons finally blew it -- the game, their chance of catching the Chicago Bulls in the standings, and their hope of making any sort of playoff run. The Pistons will be the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, which means they get to face the NBA's best team (Cleveland) and best player (LeBron James). The Pistons are such dead meat, they ought to replace their bench with butcher paper."

  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "Lawrence Frank didn't have much to say about Dan Fegan's claim that the Nets coach compromised Yi Jianlian's development -- he even defended the agent's right to speak on it -- but he saved one zinger for an afterthought: 'The difference between an agent and a coach is, the coach's loyalty is to the whole team, not to an individual player,' Frank said. Rod Thorn refrained from comment when asked if Fegan made any valid points. 'Dan is a good agent and very supportive of his players,' Thorn said. 'And that's about all I want to say about it.' Frank also suggested that Yi's best hope for jump-starting his career is playing, period."

  • Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: "Props should be given to Cleveland's Danny Ferry, who brought on Mo Williams and Joe Smith, and Denver's Mark Warkentien, who unloaded Allen 'There's an I in' Iverson and got the antithesis in Chauncey Billups. But I'm not being jingoist when I contend that Kevin Pritchard is the man most deserving of the award. Pritchard, 41, has done a masterful job turning over the Portland roster in both talent and character since he took control of the draft as director of player personnel in 2004."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "J.R. Smith and George Karl aren't the best of buddies, and they probably never will be. But when Smith signed a 3-year, $16.5 million guaranteed contract last summer, it became evident the two had better learn to at least be business partners. The contract showed the organization's commitment to a player it hopes grows into an all-star. Letting Karl go wasn't even in the discussion when the Nuggets reviewed the team after being swept in the first round of last season's playoffs by the Lakers. Neither is going anywhere. And yes, they have made progress. There was pretty much no communication between the two early in the season, but over the course of the season that has changed for the better. The two aren't exactly chatty, but a mutual respect is growing as Karl trusts Smith's game more and Smith trusts his relationship more with the coach. 'We speak more than we have,' Smith says. 'But not to where it's a big relationship or anything like that.' But Smith is not making a big deal out of it. 'At this point, it don't even make a difference,' Smith said. 'I'm just here for my teammates. I'll do what they need me to do.'"

  • Martin Frank of The News Journal: "Th
    e most closely watched part of the 76ers practice Monday took place after it was over, when Thaddeus Young played a game of 3-on-3 with a few teammates and assistant coaches and said afterward that he hopes to play tonight against the Boston Celtics. Young, who sprained his right ankle March 31 against Atlanta, played for 30 minutes and even had an emphatic dunk. He also did some wind sprints, pivoting on his injured ankle at each end of the court. It was his first test in a game situation. 'As far as me going out there and being physical [tonight], it's looking pretty good right now,' Young said. 'I'm a little out of shape, but there's no pain at all, so that's a good thing. I want to get at least a couple of games in before we get to the playoffs, just to get back into game form.' The Sixers have missed him. They are 2-5 without Young, having lost five straight. They close the season against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Indiana Pacers forward Troy Murphy, who is having the best all-around season of his career, added his name to the team's record book Monday. Murphy's 10th rebound, which came late in the third quarter, gave him 48 double-doubles on the season, moving him past Clark Kellogg for the most in a season. Kellogg set the mark in the 1982-83 season. ... 'It's a good accomplishment,' Murphy said. 'I'm honored to be part of it and to have any kind of record in this franchise because this is a first-class operation and basketball team.' ... Murphy has an opportunity to do something team president Larry Bird never did in his career. He can finish in the top five in 3-point field percentage and rebounding this season. He's fifth in 3-point shooting (45 percent) and second in rebounding (11.8). Bird finished in the top 10 in both three times."

  • Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal: "If anything, Marc Gasol's first go-around in the NBA can be viewed as a success by the standards Pau established during his rookie campaign in 2001. Although Marc isn't as prolific a scorer as Pau, he spent this season playing as a credible rebounder and shot-blocker on defense. Offensively, Marc emerged as someone the coaching staff felt comfortable running sets through because of his passing skills and good decision-making. Gasol has been mostly efficient when called upon to score evident by his 53-percent shooting. Marc's shooting percentage leads all NBA rookies. At this pace, Marc will break Pau's Grizzlies rookie record of 51.8 percent in 2001-02."

  • Andy Katz of ESPN.com: "Florida International is trying to hire former New York Knicks coach Isiah Thomas as its next basketball coach. A source with direct knowledge of the negotiations told ESPN.com on Monday night that the two parties are working on a deal and it could get done as early as Tuesday. Thomas just has to sign off on the final details. The source said Thomas was intrigued by FIU's location in South Florida, its growing football program and its over 30,000 students. The source said Thomas was looking for a fresh place to start and that, despite other previous NBA and college opportunities, this is the one that finally piqued Thomas' interest. The source said negotiations are moving very quickly."