Its time to start focusing on the playoffs and our potential roadblocks to Banner 18. Every day we'll bring you what's making news in enemy territory. This way we know what they're up to when it comes time to take 'em out.
ESPN Chicago: The acclaim has rolled in from coast to coast, as writers, broadcasters, players, coaches, mascots, dancing geezers — everyone associated with the National Basketball Association — has concurred almost in unison: Derrick Rose is the Most Valuable Player [...] "If this game doesn't put the stamp on the MVP vote, I don't know what else you can say," Joakim Noah said.
Chicago Tribune: That dropped the Celtics and Heat four games behind and the Bulls' magic number to one to clinch the Eastern Conference's No. 1 playoff seed and homecourt advantage. It also elevated Rose's most valuable player credentials because several of his 30 points were of the spectacular variety. Rose also added eight assists and five rebounds. "I said he's the MVP a while back," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.
Orlando Magic Daily: Step aside, Kevin Garnett. Although you have gained a hard earned reputation as the NBA's leading 'bad-boy,' your rough-and-tough image has been threatened. Even though you, Mr. Garnett, have sent many a violent elbow swing toward the body of your opponent throughout your NBA career, frequently drop jaw-droppingly crude in-game profanity that would make Tony Soprano blush, and attempt to sway referee opinion through intimidation tactics that would certainly get a raised eyebrow from police officers anywhere outside of an NBA arena, you are no longer the NBA's leading thug [...]All sarcasm aside, Dwight Howard, who at some point has become 'enemy #1' to NBA officials, picked up his 18th technical foul for the season last night in Charlotte, putting him 3 fouls ahead of the second most foul-getters Amare Stoudemire and Stephen Jackson. Furthermore, if you consider that Dwight had four other technical fouls rescinded by the league office already, referees have actually whistled Howard for a grand total of 22 technical fouls this season.
Sentinel: Everybody and their mother has been on Gilbert Arenas’ tatooed back since he arrived. His shooting has been wayward, his turnovers maddening and his explanations for his ailing left knee undermining his game…well, they’ve been creative. Today, I come to praise Gilbert. He pulled himself and his game together Wednesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats, scoring 25 points and hitting six 3-pointers.
Miami Herald: The simple act of straightening his leg caused Heat guard Dwyane Wade severe pain Monday. Discomfort persisted Tuesday. On Wednesday, Wade watched as his team lost an important game to the Milwaukee Bucks. On Thursday, Wade indicated he could have played against the Bucks but didn’t want to be a “liability” on the defensive end of the court.
Peninsula is Mightier: Once again, Erik Spoelstra's club will be responsible for their own fate. With 4 games left on the docket, the Heat will finish in 2nd place in the East if they win out. It's amazing how much can change in 24 hours, but now that awful loss to the Bucks can be used as one hell of a motivational tool and might just provide Miami with a little extra push that could make all the difference.
Bullets Forever: Here's what really bothers me; it seems like when opposing teams make a run, our guys are already hanging their heads on defense as if to say, 'Here we go again…' I'm not interested in calling any of them out at this point. But I do come back to the point I referenced way back at the beginning re: Al Jefferson and whether playing in a losing culture so long had conditioned him. This team can't afford to short effort and focus on defense and risk perpetuating a culture that lacks commitment.
Bullets Forever: Ted Leonsis went on 106.7 The Fan today and had some nice things to say about Ernie Grunfeld and Flip Saunders, making it seem like both might be back next season. In an interview with the Sports Junkies, Leonsis said he was "thrilled" with Grunfeld and "very happy" with Saunders. Audio is here, and a brief transcript is here, via the master transcriber, Dan Steinberg.
ESPN LA: Losses Tuesday and Wednesday against inferior competition have been costly for the Lakers, not just in terms of scuttling any chance to catch the Spurs at the top of the Western Conference or the Bulls back East- San Antonio wrapped up the number one seed last night, and Chicago would have to lose their five remaining games for the Lakers to have a shot- but in solidifying no worse than a third seed overall heading into the playoffs. Boston and Miami are nipping at purple and gold heels
OC Register: That communal sentiment flowed across in a sit-down interview with Jackson and select writers Thursday night as the real reason Jackson is coaching this season — contrary to some of his instincts. The reaching out from Lakers co-captains Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher via calls and texts was something Jackson felt compelled to honor for one more season — but this is definitively the end of the line now. "I knew if I went back this time," Jackson said, "this is it."
Project Spurs: With the recent win over the Sacramento Kings, the San Antonio Spurs clinched the best record in the Western Conference. Because of that, they secured home court advantage throughout the West playoffs and cashed in their playoff bonus. According to woai.com, the Spurs will split $300,000 dollars in playoff bonuses for securing the best record in the West. And if being able to split $300,000 dollars wasn't enough, if they secure the best record in the NBA, they get to split another $350,000 dollars. How is that for motivation?
My SA: How important is the top seed anyway? In a way, Gregg Popovich’s lukewarm stock answer to that question — “you wouldn’t turn it down” — is on point. The top seed and accompanying home-court edge doesn’t guarantee a championship, but it can’t hurt either. Under Popovich, the Spurs have been a No. 1 seed on four other occasions, winning titles in 1999 and 2003. In 2001, they lost to the second-seeded Lakers in the conference finals. In 2006, after winning a club-record 63 games in the regular season, they lost in the second round to fourth-seeded Dallas
ESPN Dallas: But, with the final four games upon a Mavs team that is 8-9 in their last 17 games and have lost four straight, they've seemingly lost their mojo to the point of discombobulation. That breeds frustration and and that leads to the obvious question about team chemistry. Among the players, as well as with coach Rick Carlisle, is the bond still strong enough to turn the tide of the past month when the heat of the postseason descends on Dallas next weekend? "I think we’re confident," Marion said. "We’re just trying to figure out a couple of little minor things here and there, which you should getting ready for the postseason. That’s really what it boils down to."
ESPN Dallas: All season the Dallas Mavericks, to a man, have revered center Tyson Chandler, calling him the definitive difference-maker, the anchor that makes the Mavs tougher defensively and allows them to exude more swagger than ever before. If that is the case, is there cause for concern after Chandler sat out his second consecutive game with a sore lower back and his fifth game since March 4? Overall, Chandler, who missed three games in early March with a sprained ankle, has been a picture of health after his last two seasons were wrecked by ankle and toe injuries.
NewsOK: The Thunder earned its first Northwest Division title with a win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night. So how will the franchise commemorate it? Expect a banner to be raised to the rafters inside the Oklahoma City Arena. NBA franchises have long honored their divisional-championship-winning teams with such ceremonies. And the Thunder, an organization that has operated in nothing but class in its first three seasons, in all likelihood will plan a similar celebration to honor the team’s achievement. It’s not a question of if. It’s a matter of when.
NewsOK: Should OKC win its home game against Denver and if the Lakers lose at Portland, both on Friday night, the Thunder could pull within one game of the No. 2 seed with a victory against the Lakers inside Staples Center on Sunday.