- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Orlando Magic, who have already clinched the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Eastern Conference playoffs, can learn who their first-round playoff opponent will be as early as tonight. Here’s tonight’s scenario: The Magic will face the Charlotte Bobcats in the first round if the Bobcats lose to the New Jersey Nets tonight in New Jersey or if the Miami Heat beat the Philadelphia 76ers tonight in Philadelphia.”
- Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus: “When I fill out my awards ballot tomorrow, there will be two honors that merit virtually no discussion because they are so obvious. One is MVP and the other is Defensive Player of the Year. [Dwight] Howard is so far beyond his peers defensively it is remarkable. He’s accounted for 13.9 WARP at the defensive end, which would be good enough to place him in the league’s top 10 in total WARP even if Howard was merely average on offense. Howard ranks second in the league in defensive rebound percentage and ninth in block percentage, and he’s also stifled opposing centers. His dMult looks like a typo; opponents have been held an incomprehensible 41.4 percent below their usual production. Orlando is at the moment the league’s best defensive team despite starting a converted small forward at the four, a poor defender at shooting guard and for much of the year either an aging Jason Williams or Jameer Nelson hobbled by knee surgery at the point. That’s a testament to the incredible force that Howard is in the paint.”
- It’s no secret that head coach Stan Van Gundy likes to speak his mind, which makes him a great interviewer but also leaves him open to be critiqued sometimes. So, it comes as no surprise that the blogosphere has reacted (cue the reactions here, here, and here) strongly to Van Gundy’s latest comments about LeBron James and the Most Valuable Player award: ” ‘You know how the vote’s going to go. LeBron (James) will win the MVP every year until he retires,’ Van Gundy said. Van Gundy was likely playing to the Cleveland media. But there’s part of him that feels that the MVP — decided by the media — will be James’ award to lose for a long time. ‘LeBron has to go into the year and basically lose the MVP. You guys have decided he’s the MVP,’ Van Gundy said.”
- Nevertheless, Rob Mahoney of ProBasketballTalk praises Van Gundy’s ability to be candid when he talks, especially when it comes to genuinely praising an opponent like the Cleveland Cavaliers: “There are a few shining beacons of hope. Ron Artest immediately comes to mind, though one of my personal favorites is Stan Van Gundy. SVG is oddly personable and eccentric, obsessed but self-aware, and incredibly knowledgeable but not wholly set on defending his methods like nuclear launch codes. For instance, Van Gundy is apparently very fond of the Cleveland Cavaliers. [...] Now, was it unknown that the Cavs are better than they were a year ago? Of course not, but it means something else entirely to hear it coming from the head coach of the Cavs’ likely opponent in the Eastern Conference Finals. It also means a bit more coming from Van Gundy, who has never been one to offer lip service, especially to the competition. This reads as legitimate praise from an opposing head coach rather than a cursory response to a question from a guy on the other team’s beat.”
- After the unfortunate loss of the president of Poland, who was killed along with 95 others in a plane crash, Polish native Marcin Gortat speaks about the tragedy.
- If you want to see upsets in the playoffs, Henry Abbott of TrueHoop suggests keeping an eye on the Western Conference: “The playoff odds say that it’s 89.3% likely that the Eastern conference champions will be a team that starts the playoffs with homecourt advantage. It’s 73.9% likely to be either the Magic or Cavaliers. In the West? Wow is it ever a totally different story.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com chimes in on Howard being named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the third time this season: “The Orlando Magic had just locked up their fourth consecutive victory and surged ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers in the standings on Sunday, but superstar center Dwight Howard wasn’t pleased at all. He’s been unhappy with how the Magic have defended of late and on Sunday in Cleveland he despised the fact that Orlando had to dig its way out of a 16-point hole. It was a peek inside the perfectionist persona that drives Howard to be great. Howard’s incredible drive was rewarded on Monday when he was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week. It is the fourth time this season and the 10th time in his six-year NBA career that Howard has been honored as the East’s Player of the Week.”