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First Cup: Thursday

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Massachusetts guard Derrick Gordon, a high-school teammate of Charlotte Bobcats forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, announced publicly Wednesday he is gay, becoming the first male Division I basketball player to do so. Before Wednesday’s game against the Washington Wizards, Kidd-Gilchrist released the following statement through the Bobcats: "Derrick was a great teammate and is an even better friend. I admire his courage and willingness to share his story. Just as we supported each other on the court, I am proud to support him now. He is a basketball player, a teammate and a friend, and that’s all that matters.” Kidd-Gilchrist, Gordon and Cleveland Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving all played together at St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, N.J.

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: Kyrie Irving strongly supported Derrick Gordon on Wednesday, Irving’s former teammate and the first openly gay player in Division I men’s basketball. “I’m proud of him,” Irving said. “It’s a big step, not only in his life but in his career to get the weight of the world off his shoulders.” Irving spoke to Gordon on Tuesday, but had no idea he is gay or that he was planning an announcement. Irving said he learned it watching television like everyone else. Gordon is a sophomore at Massachusetts, and the two have been friends for about eight years, Irving said, including time as high school teammates at St. Patrick’s in New Jersey. “I never had a problem with homosexuality,” Irving said. “Even if one of my teammates was a homosexual, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. But to see guys in sports coming out now is part of life.” Irving told Gordon during their conversation Tuesday he’ll be back in New Jersey during the offseason and offered for the two to work out together.

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: They are a game away from matching two historic moments in franchise history; a win away from a division title, a victory away from equalling the win total of the best Raptors team ever — and the anticipation is building all around them. But having watched his team scuffle through another bad defensivenight against a vastly inferior opponent, coach Dwane Casey is more worried than celebratory. “My whole goal now is to get better defensively going into the next couple of weeks because if we don’t, it’s going to be a short ride,” Casey said after the Raptors beat the Philadelphia 76ers 125-114 at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday, Toronto’s second straight stinky defensive performance. “Collectively, our defence has to step up. We can’t expect to outscore people 125-114 and have a game like that,” he said. It’s a mindset. You can’t look at their records, whoever we play. New York (Toronto’s next opponent) will be a little different but the other teams (minnows Detroit and Milwaukee also remain on the Raptors schedule) that are not in the playoffs, we can’t look at that. We have to play our game and look to improve.” Casey’s protestations aside, the chance to equal franchise history is palpable. The win over Philadelphia coupled with Brooklyn’s loss in Orlando put Toronto’s magic number to win the Atlantic Division at one.

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: The Clippers will head into the playoffs in just more than a week, most likely against the Golden State Warriors, just as they likely would have even had they won. And the Thunder will do the same, most likely against the Dallas Mavericks. If they see each other again, it will be in the second round. All of the Clippers’ goals remain intact, and within reach. But the Thunder delivered a dramatic message Wednesday, one they’ll tuck safely into their memory and call upon should they see the Clippers in the playoffs. Worse, it will remain in the Clippers’ heads, too. No matter how much they downplay what unfolded at Staples Center, there is no disputing the Thunder now own a mental edge over the Clipper after storming onto their home court and winning a decisive game.

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: There was a moment late in the third quarter when Mike Conley dived on the court for a loose ball and ended up on his back in a position more suited for a game of Twister. It looked uncomfortable and painful, sort of like the Grizzlies’ performances of late and where they sit in the Western Conference standings. Coach Dave Joerger even suggested recently that the Griz had lost some swagger as well as the infectious energy swingman Tony Allen brings. Even if only for a night, the Grizzlies reclaimed both in a 107-102 victory over the Miami Heat Wednesday night in a sold-out FedExForum. Joerger proclaimed that Allen is back. And Conley’s willingness to give up his body epitomized the no-holds-barred effort that allowed the Griz to turn the game in their favor. In extending its home winning streak to 12 games, Memphis made Miami uncomfortable on offense in the end. The Griz hope that their renewed spirit on defense helps create momentum over the final four games of the regular season after appearing out of sync in the past two weeks.

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Rick Adelman has coached Vlade Divac, Chris Webber and Brad Miller. So the Timberwolves coach, one of eight in NBA history in the 1,000-victory club, knows a little something about passing big men. And he didn't need to see Joakim Noah's seventh career triple-double and fourth this season, which fueled the Bulls' 102-87 victory Wednesday night at Target Center, to say the following. "If you're a good passer, you see the game and the play developing," Adelman said. "He has that instinct. He also has good size. He can deliver the ball to guys. Brad was terrific. Vlade and Chris were terrific. It's just a unique time when you have a player like that." Unique is a good word for Noah, who broke Tom Boerwinkle's 43-year franchise record for most assists in a season by a center. Noah finished with 15 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists as the Bulls won for a season-high sixth straight time. He now has 398 assists this season, one more than Boerwinkle had in 1970-71.

  • Scott Agness of Pacers.com: Pacers coach Frank Vogel had tried everything in recent weeks in search of a solution to right the ship. Well, not exactly everything until Wednesday when he made an unprecedented move and rested his entire starting lineup in their 79th game of the season. Tied at 102 with 4.9 seconds left, Chris Copeland hit a game-winning runner in the lane to lift the Pacers (53-25) past the Milwaukee Bucks (14-63), 104-102. The win snaps a six-game road losing streak and, combined with a Miami loss in Memphis, has the Pacers back atop the Eastern Conference standings. Vogel’s decision to rest his starters meant five players — Donald Sloan, Evan Turner, Rasual Butler, Luis Scola, and Ian Mahinmi — started a game for the first time this season for Indiana. They got off to an outstanding start, assisting on each of their first five field goals. Halfway through the first period, all five guys had scored.

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Elton Brand scored 13 points and had a season-high tying 13 rebounds in a starting role with Pero Antic on the bench in street clothes nursing a sore right ankle. It was Brand’s third double-double of the season as he has played a mostly reserve role. Additionally, Brand had three assists, three steals and a block. Brand recorded his 6,516th field goal, moving him into 81st place on the NBA’s all-time list now ahead of World B. Free (6,512) and Bailey Howell (6,515). “We just wanted to win, wanted to get to the playoffs,” Brand said. “These guys have been resilient team and the guys stepped up and made some big shots and weren’t afraid of the moment."

  • Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: It had been awhile since Dorell Wright had hit a game-winning shot. "That's my first one since high school," Wright said after hitting the 3-point shot that carried the Trail Blazers to a 100-99 victory over Sacramento Wednesday night at the Moda Center. This one was a little bigger than the one he made his senior season at South Kent (Conn.) Prep. With Portland trailing 99-97 and looking squarely into the sights of an embarrassing loss to one of the Western Conference have-nots, Wright drilled a 3 from the corner off a feed from Damian Lillard with 7.6 seconds remaining. ... Portland is 26-4 in games in which it holds opponents below 100 points. ... The Blazers are now 3-8 in games decided by two points or fewer. "It's good to get one of these close wins," Stotts said. "It's been awhile. No matter how it comes, it gives us a little momentum."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Suns power forward Channing Frye would be a shoo-in for Comeback Player of the Year had the league not dropped the award in 1986, but he still is award-worthy. Frye was named one of six division choices as finalists for the NBA Sportsmanship Award, which annually goes to a player showing "sportsmanship, ethical behavior, fair play and integrity." Ex-players will vote among Frye, Boston's Jeff Green, Chicago's Mike Dunleavy, Washington's Bradley Beal, Portland's Damian Lillard and Memphis' Mike Conley. "It's weird," Frye said. "I don't know what that entails other than I'm nice to people. I just try to play the game the right way and do things the right way. I try to treat everyone with respect. We're all out here battling and trying to win. I take it from my teammates. They allow me to be who I am, and it's fun." Grant Hill won the award as a Sun in 2008 and 2010. With Frye as a finalist, the Frye Family Foundation will get $5,000 for his youth charities. "I'm going to make sure to do more this summer in the community, not only in Phoenix and Portland, and we'll make sure all that money gets back to the kids," Frye said.

  • Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post: Guard Aaron Brooks has been somewhat of a late season rental for the Nuggets, acquired at the trade deadline from the Rockets. He'll be a free agent at the end of the season, and is likely too expensive for the cash-strapped Nuggets to sign. Brooks said he does like it in Denver and wouldn't mind a return to the Mile High City. "I like the up-and-down, the way they play," Brooks said. "Guys are cool. Coaches are great. It's a good team. Hopefully I'm part of the future. If everybody comes back (the team) is going to be dangerous."

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: The Magic (23-55) eked out the win even though they were missing starting center Nik Vucevic for the third consecutive game because of a sore left Achilles' tendon. Dewayne Dedmon started in Vucevic's place, and the former NBA Development League player scored four points and collected nine rebounds in 20 minutes. The win could be costly to Orlando in the long run. With the Boston Celtics losing Wednesday night, the Magic now are tied with the Celtics for the third-worst record in the NBA, and there's a possibility that Orlando will finish the season with a better record than Boston. If that happens, the Magic would enter the NBA Draft Lottery with diminished odds of receiving a top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. But the victory over the Nets (43-35) still meant something to the Magic's collective psyche and to Afflalo. Afflalo was the Magic's best player this season through Feb. 21, but he lost some of his momentum when he missed five games from Feb. 23 to March 2. From mid-March on, he played less aggressively, and he deferred to his teammates more than usual. "My mindset slightly changed just because of the nature of our season a little bit and not being competitive for the playoffs," Afflalo said. "It was kind of a difficult thing to handle."