Tuesday, March 15, 2011
First Cup: Tuesday
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "On the day after, Timberwolves forward Kevin Love smiled and told everybody not to weep for him. 'With the way people were texting me last night, you would have thought a family member died,' he said after practice on Monday. 'They were like, 'So sorry, if you need to talk to anybody...' I was like, what are they talking about? I feel great. I'm in great spirits.' Love's 53-game double-double streak -- the league's longest since the 1976 ABA/NBA merger -- ended Sunday night at Golden State with a six-point, 12-rebound game. That was his first game without double-digit numbers in both categories since Nov. 19. 'That's a long time ago,' he said. 'It's going to be interesting to see whether in five, 10, 20 years from now, anybody will contend with that or not. We'll see.' That's not the only question posed by the end of a streak that surpassed Moses Malone's 51-game streak but didn't nearly approach Wilt Chamberlain's 227 consecutive games. ... 'I'm always watching 'SportsCenter' and it always seemed to be there win or lose,' Love said. 'I wouldn't say it was a burden, but it's a weight off my shoulders for it to be done. In some ways, I wish it was still going on. But all good things must end. I'm not too worried about it.' "
- Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Times: "The Lakers' center of the future was back in Staples Center, even if you couldn't be sure which of the two who met Monday night it will be. In a surprise to some Lakers fans and even some Lakers players -- at least the ones who wanted him traded for Jason Kidd or Carmelo Anthony -- Andrew Bynum held his own, scoring 10 points with 18 rebounds and four blocks to Dwight Howard's 22-15-two in the Lakers' 97-84 victory. Lakers show they are serious in win over Magic Howard, of course, is the NBA's best center ... and would continue a Lakers tradition of stealing them from Orlando. And Bynum is the NBA's best center, too! Well, he was briefly after going for 22 and 15 Saturday in Dallas when Channel 9's John Ireland gave him a field commission -- 'the best center in the NBA since the All-Star break' -- before bumping him down to 'best center in the West since the break.' ... Howard, who's 250 pounds of fun to Shaquille O'Neal's 325-to-375 when he was here, proceeded to trot out his new mantra without being asked. 'That's in two years,' he said. 'That makes me look bad to fans in Orlando, to my teammates. They'll feel like, 'He's trying to sell out on us.' ' That's considerate. It's also standard NBA fare now. Anthony just went four months insisting the front office wasn't telling him anything, as his people negotiated with the Nuggets and other teams to get him out of there. In the good news for the Lakers, they have a stand-in until 2012, at least."
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Time flies when you're alley-ooping your way through life. Seems like only yesterday that Magic center Dwight Howard was a skinny teenager, making the leap from high school to the pros. But he is close to finishing his seventh season, having filled out his body and various stat sheets around the league. On Sunday, against the Phoenix Suns, Howard surpassed 10,000 points in his NBA career -- and he only turned 25 in December. 'Is that fast?' Howard asked, shrugging his shoulders when told about the milestone. Well, yeah. Howard became the fifth-fastest player in NBA history to reach 10,000 points -- at 25 years, 95 days. The top 5: 1. LeBron James, 10,007 points, 23 years, 59 days: 2. Kobe Bryant, 10,006 points, 24 years,194 days; 3. Carmelo Anthony, 10,005 points, 24 years, 251 days; 4. Tracy McGrady, 10,003 points, 24 years, 272 days; Howard, 10,003 points, 25 years, 95 days. It's no surprise that four of the top five fastest guns took the prep-to-pro route, getting a quick start as teenage sensations. (Anthony spent some time at Syracuse.) Howard also is closing in on becoming the Magic's all-time leading scorer, and should pass Nick Anderson at 10,650 points next season. If there is a next season, that is."
- Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Dwyane Wade took his two sons, Zaire and Zion, to orientation at their Dade school Monday. Introduced them to their new teachers. Settled them in their new classroom. 'A good day,' Wade called his first school day since he was awarded custody of his children. 'Father of the year,' Chicago fans chanted derisively at Wade during a game in his hometown last month, because of the ugly and uncomfortably public divorce and custody battle he was going through. But, come to think of it, what if he is just that? What if Wade showed new possibilities for the male sports star by stepping forward and embracing fatherhood? What if he helps give a healthy alternative to the notion of the deadbeat dad rattling around society in general and sports in particular? Wade ran against the cliched current where the sports stars shirk fatherhood. It's such a common story fueled by fame, youth, money, ego and opportunity that Sports Illustrated once ran a cover story of athletes neglecting their children, titled 'Where's Daddy?' The sports pages are full of stories from the All-Paternity Team, led by Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie (nine children with eight women), former NFL running back Travis Henry (11 children with nine women) or former NBA star Shawn Kemp (seven children with six women). It's a story beyond sports, of course. Statistics show that 33 percent of children born today are from unmarried parents. That figure rises to 72 percent in the black community."
- Peter Vecsey of the New York Post: "How many games do you figure David Stern threatened to suspend Stan Van Gundy should he dare again to publicly joust with the commissioner regarding referees' alleged mistreatment and failure to protect Dwight Howard, or any other taboo (see below) subject? I'm guessing plenty, without pay, plus a $1 million fine of the Magic if owner Rich DeVos can't control his crotchety coach. We'll see soon enough if that gag rule also applies to Jeff Van Gundy and whether ABC/ESPN will be held in contempt should he choose to defend his older brother, free speech and coaches' rights to wear uncolored shirts. As for me, I'm all for drowning out millionaire noisemakers like Stan Van Gundy, whose tactic is so transparent in this case, I expect Charles Barkley and Stephen A. Smith even caught on. Then again, not a chance! Van Gundy's see-through strategy was to make amends with his team's centerfold, whom he recently insinuated was dumber than a stump for not knowing an intentional, late-game foul rule ... as if Howard is going to look to save his job or that of general manager Otis Smith, should Orlando be prematurely eliminated from the playoffs. ... If Van Gundy weren't such a perpetual -- and pedigreed -- whiner, I'd be tempted to pretend to praise him for sucking up to his meal ticket. Problem is, there's nothing the guy won't moan about, legit or laughable."
- Dan Le Batard of The Miami Herald: "I don’t think I’ve ever seen any commissioner of any league ever do. He objected to how personal Van Gundy made it by making it even more personal. 'I see somebody whose team isn’t performing, whose star player is suspended, who seems to be fraying,' he said. This sound like a commissioner talking? A calm and impartial leader? Or a wounded child? An angered god? Again, I’m biased, so I admit I might not be seeing this clearly. But -- through words and tone and behavior, by not allowing Van Gundy to have his opinion, by reminding everyone of his substantive power -- didn’t the very smart David Stern just accidentally prove Van Gundy’s point?"
- Craig Stouffer of the Washington Examiner: "In an attempt to start new traditions as it starts over as a franchise, the Wizards have experimented this season with having fans at Verizon Center get out of their seats for the opening tip and remain standing until Washington scores its first points. But Monday's start against Oklahoma City signaled it might be time to try something else. Beginning with JaVale McGee's underhanded airball layup, the Wizards barely found the rim with their first four shots (two blocks, two misses), falling into an immediate 8-0 hole and forcing coach Flip Saunders to call a 20-second timeout, which led to an arena-wide groan with 10:11 left in the first quarter, since most of the crowd of 17,921 was still standing. Those who sat down were pleaded with to get back up when the timeout ended. Things never got better for the undermanned Wizards (16-49), who ended their final three-game homestand of the season by losing their fourth game in a row and 11th contest this season by at least 20 points, 116-89 to the Thunder."
- Howard Beck of The New York Times: "Mike D’Antoni called it 'a horror film,' but he could have just as easily classified the latest Knicks defeat as a horrendous sequel, filled with predictable premises and tired clichés. In losing to the Indiana Pacers on Sunday night, the Knicks displayed all of their worst habits and gave substance to every quiet fear about the Carmelo Anthony-Amar’e Stoudemire offensive pairing. They were bull-headed and reckless, forcing bad shots instead of passing, barging into clogged lanes and generally turning D’Antoni’s fluid offense into a stagnant mess of one-on-one plays. Anthony came to New York with a reputation for dominating the ball. Stoudemire has been tagged with the same criticism during his career. Both have shown an ability to adapt, but they were at their self-indulgent worst Sunday. ... The Knicks’ most glaring weaknesses -- size, depth and defense -- are not likely to be fixed in the next four weeks. They have to be brilliant on offense to make their mark. The schedule is in their favor, with just six winning teams among the 17 opponents. Of course, it is the sub-.500 teams who seem to be causing the Knicks the most trouble -- along with a more familiar foe. 'Right now, we’re playing against the Knicks,' D’Antoni said. 'It’s us.' "
- K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "The Bulls began Monday leading the league in opponents' field-goal percentage and opponents' 3-point percentage and tied with the Celtics for the league lead in average points allowed. They are reaching such lofty defensive heights with no clear-cut, dominant individual defender that automatically screams for All-Defensive team inclusion, a la Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard. Coach Tom Thibodeau thinks that should change. 'In my eyes, Luol's an all-league defender,' Thibodeau said. 'He guards everybody.' "
- Herb Gould of the Chicago Sun-Times: "We are a nation of immigrants. How many of us wouldn’t be here if not for a potato famine or a pogrom, a religious inquisition or economic chaos? For Luol Deng, it was a civil war -- the civil war in the Darfur region of Sudan that would leave at least 200,000 dead and force his father to flee with his wife and children. 'If that wouldn’t have happened, I wouldn’t be here,’ he said. But it did, and he is here. And a lot of things are starting to fall into place these days in the world of Luol Deng. And we do mean 'world.’ Not only are Deng and the Bulls having a banner year on the court, but after decades of deadly civil strife, his war-torn homeland will become the independent nation of Southern Sudan in July. 'It’s great,’ said Deng, who hired two buses to bring Sudanese natives from Michigan to Chicago in January so they could vote on the referendum for independence. 'There’s been civil war for years. We’re excited about the separation. We just have to keep the small rebels in control. But overall, I think it’s a great thing for both countries.’ "
- Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "As coach Nate McMillan continues to experiment with different lineup combinations in the wake of the addition of Wallace and the return of Marcus Camby and Brandon Roy, the Blazers' coach clearly has settled on a closing five that leans heavily on Wallace, Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. And while starting brings individual cache, finishing plays a greater role in determining wins and losses. 'They're All-Stars,' Wesley Matthews said. 'So that's who we're going with.' Over the past five games, Wallace has played every minute of every fourth quarter except 58 seconds of Friday's 97-92 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats in Charlotte. Similarly, Roy has played the entire fourth quarter twice and hasn't played less than 9:17 in the past five games. Meanwhile, two starters -- Nicolas Batum and Marcus Camby -- have mostly watched crunch time from the bench. ... With 16 games and 30 days left in the regular season, the Blazers don't have a lot of time to iron out the kinks. It remains a mystery which team will surface down the stretch -- the one that notched impressive victories over Eastern Conference powers Orlando and Miami or the one that suffered head-scratching defeats to Charlotte and Atlanta. But the success of the closing unit will no doubt play a role. 'Nothing's a guarantee,' Miller said. 'It's going to come down to the finish.' "
- Chris Iott of Booth Newspapers: "The always-changing rotation used by Detroit Pistons coach John Kuester has Pistons players guessing when -- and where -- they might play next. For example, Tracy McGrady started at power forward Saturday night, the first time he has played the position since high school. Does he expect to find himself in the same spot Wednesday when the Detroit Pistons host the Toronto Raptors? 'The rotation around here changes daily, so you just don't know,' McGrady said after practice Monday. 'Coach likes to mix things up around here. So I don't know.' What about Ben Wallace? He has not played since Feb. 23, three days before he started a nine-day absence from the team due to the death of his brother. Wallace has been back with the team for a week and still has not seen time any playing time. Wallace was asked Monday if he expects to play soon. 'I expect to play whenever my number gets called,' he said."
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "I have to share a question asked of Rick Adelman in pregame after he had said that Jordan Hill would be coming off the bench. 'Is there any rhyme or reason about when Jordan will play?' Rick started as if to say, 'Are you an idiot?' Instead, he found a way to actually give an answer about the decision to start Patrick Patterson and bring Hill off the bench. Jeff Van Gundy would have knocked the guy around for a few rounds before blasting him. Stan would have annihilated him immediately. I don't even want to think how that would have gone with Gregg Popovich."
- Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "They range in age from 18 to over 70. College students. Husbands. Wives. Grandmas. They're decked out in Indiana Pacers' blue-and-gold attire in sections 101 and 102 for each home game at Conseco Fieldhouse. They are center Roy Hibbert's biggest fans, and their objective is to get under the opponent's skin. They're known as Area 55. ... Hibbert, who feeds off the energy of the crowd, held auditions around the Indianapolis area last summer in search of the loudest and craziest fans. Hundreds showed up, but only 55, Hibbert's jersey number, were selected. Hibbert purchased the season tickets for the lucky fans. 'People in the organization said I have the personality that fits well with what they're doing,' Hibbert said. 'I think it has turned out well this season, and hopefully next year they can be even louder.' Milwaukee center Andrew Bogut, a nemesis of Hibbert on the court, has a similar group of fans at the Bradley Center. Bogut's crew is made up of mainly young people. Hibbert wanted diversity in Area 55."
- Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times: "Kim Hughes confided in Mike Dunleavy, then the Clippers head coach, about his dilemma. Dunleavy suggested Hughes consult with another doctor he knew and perhaps Hughes' surgery could be sooner. Dunleavy's suggestion paid off. Hughes' new doctor, Stuart Holden, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, was receptive to doing the surgery the following week. But then Hughes encountered yet another major obstacle. 'I contacted the Clippers about medical coverage and they said the surgery wouldn't be covered,' Hughes said. 'I said, ‘Are you kidding me?' And they said if they did it for one person, they'd have to do for everybody else.' When Dunleavy learned the Clippers wouldn't cover the cost of Hughes' surgery, he mentioned it to his players. Several of them, including now Milwaukee Bucks forward Corey Maggette, Chris Kaman, Elton Brand and Marko Jaric, were taken aback by the news and decided to offer their assistance. ... It was indeed a dicey time for Hughes. After a biopsy was taken, he learned his prostate cancer was much worse than he believed. The cancer had quickly spread and was on the brink of moving to other areas of his body. If Hughes had delayed the surgery, and if Maggette and his teammates hadn't provided the necessary financial assistance, Hughes doesn't know what would have occurred. Well, actually, he does. 'Those guys saved my life,' Hughes said."
- Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Former Indiana Pacers coach and current radio analyst Bob 'Slick' Leonard suffered a heart attack on the team bus following Sunday's Pacers victory at New York. Leonard had two stents inserted at a New York hospital and will return to Indianapolis later this week, the Pacers announced Monday. 'Slick is very close to a lot of people in this organization,' Pacers center Jeff Foster said. 'It's definitely one of the scariest moments I've had as a member of the Pacers. When they (medical personnel at Madison Square Garden) were working on him, there were a lot of negative thoughts going through my head. Slick means so much to this city. He's a crucial part of this franchise. We all miss him and hope for a speedy recovery.' Former Pacer Austin Croshere will fill in for Leonard on the radio until Leonard can return to work."
- Thomas Grillo of the Boston Herald: "Heads up, fans. Cigar-chomping Celtics legend Red Auerbach’s personal memorabilia is going on the block. And a Dallas auctioneer who sold a Lou Gehrig jersey last year for $717,000 said that the combination of Auerbach’s own legendary status and the team’s recent revival should make next month’s online auctions a slam dunk. 'Red Auerbach is iconic, and items directly from the family will generate quite a bit of interest,' said Chris Ivy, sports auctions director at Heritage Auctions in Texas. ... Starting next month, SCP Auctions will put basketball memorabilia of Hall of Fame coach Arnold 'Red' Auerbach on the block in three Internet auctions. Items include Auerbach’s 1968 Basketball Hall of Fame induction ring; his Boston Celtics championship rings from 1962, 1974, 1976 and 1981; his first contract to coach the Celtics signed by Auerbach and team owner Walter Brown in 1950; his 1957 Celtics satin warm-up jacket; and his 1,000th career win trophy presented to him on Feb. 13, 1966 at Boston Garden and several humidors from the cigar-loving coach’s collection. SCP expects to raise at least $500,000 for Auerbach’s family from a three-part online sale of about 500 mementos from the team’s longtime coach and top executive."
- John Reid of The Times-Picayune: "Gov. Bobby Jindal said Monday the state of Louisiana expects to make a payment of just more than $7 million to the Hornets because the franchise isn’t projected to meet the benchmark revenue requirement in its lease agreement with the state. Jindal said the money is fully funded in the LSED budget. ... In January, the Hornets surpassed the attendance benchmark average of 14,735, a requirement in their lease agreement with the state. But there also is a revenue benchmark included in the team’s amended lease agreement that stipulates the state will have to pay the Hornets’ inducements not exceeding $7.5 million at the end of this season if the team doesn’t gross at least $43.6 million, which is 80 percent of their gross revenue for all potential ticket sales."