First Cup: Tuesday

  • Gerry Callahan of the Boston Herald: "He’s old. He’s tired. He’s hurt. He’s got more miles on him than Al Gore’s Gulfstream. He’s Willis Reed. He’s Willie Mays, circa 1973. He’s David Ortiz, circa six weeks ago. He’s playing in slow motion, with his brilliant NBA career flashing before his eyes and the Eagles’ 'Desperado' playing softly in the background. These days it is nearly as painful to watch Kevin Garnett as it is to be Kevin Garnett. Theories are flying from all directions, none of them good. He appears to have a problem with his right knee and perhaps an issue with his left shoulder, and he’ll probably come away with a mild concussion when he slams his head into the stanchion just before tipoff tonight. 'Time passes and we all suffer it one way or another,' said the Lakers’ Pau Gasol, sounding like a member of the Washington press corps talking about that nasty old hag Helen Thomas. It is a fact of life in sports that every player loses it sometime, and for Garnett that dreaded moment may have arrived between Game 6 in Orlando and Game 1 of the NBA Finals in Los Angeles. One day he was smothering the life out of poor Rashard Lewis, the next he looked like a slow-footed camper at the Pau Gasol Basketball School."

  • Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald: "The Lakers’ only regular-season visit to the Garden was on Jan. 31. Ray Allen missed on a 3-point attempt at the buzzer and teams went to overtime. Then, Kobe Bryant connected on a 16-foot jumper with 7.3 seconds remaining in the extra period to give the Lakers a 90-89 victory. That’s the big shot Big Baby was talking about. And that’s the game the Celtics will have on their minds tonight. Funny how it all works -- a couple of weeks after losing to the Lakers at the Garden, the Celtics showed up at Staples Center and claimed an 87-86 victory, Ray Allen leading all scorers with 24 points. But do not be fooled: Even though the Lakers won in Boston, and the Celtics in Los Angeles, everyone is obsessed with homecourt advantage. That’s why the Celtics’ victory in Game 2 -- the Lakers’ first home loss of the 2010 postseason -- is being looked upon, rightfully so, as a possible turning point of the series."

  • Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com: "So should anyone be surprised that ABC's cameras picked upPaul Pierce telling Lakers fans late in the fourth quarter of Game 2 that, 'We ain't coming back to LA'? Can we simply agree to take everything Pierce says in the heat of battle with a grain of salt from here on out? Much like Pau Gasol's innocuous and honest comments Friday about Kevin Garnett having lost a step that triggered a media frenzy, Pierce's latest brazen statement is sure to become a major point before the series resumes in Boston Tuesday night with Game 3 at the TD Garden (ABC, 9 p.m.). But what exactly did Pierce say that was wrong? Should athletes not believe their teams are capable of winning three straight games? Is there not a possibility that the Celtics could actually win three more games in a row and not have to fly back to the West Coast? Didn't the 2004 Detroit Pistons (against, ahem, the Lakers) and 2006 Miami Heat win the three middle games as part of their championship campaigns? But Pierce's comments will be construed as overly boisterous and taunting. Even though he's on record recently as noting that he simply likes to have fun with the road crowds that torment him for 48 minutes each night, Pierce's suggestions will be labeled bulletin-board fodder. The fact remains that the Celtics are coming home with a chance to close out this series on their own turf. It's their reward for stealing home-court advantage from the Lakers by winning Game 2 Sunday night at the Staples Center."

  • Frank Dell’Apa of The Boston Globe: "The Celtics are defying trends with their backcourt. Ray Allen, the shooting guard, is challenging the actuarial charts by setting records at age 34. And Rajon Rondo is a nonconforming point guard, unconventional in his shotmaking and unselfish in his playmaking. Allen and Rondo were at their symbiotic best in a 103-94 victory over the Lakers in Game 2 of the NBA Finals Sunday. Allen scored 27 points in the first half and Rondo totaled 10 points in the final 5:41 of the game. The rest of the time, Allen was decoying the Laker defense and defending Kobe Bryant, and Rondo was choreographing and rebounding, especially the latter."

  • Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe: "Far too many referees demonstrate clearly by their actions they really have no idea why they are there. This usually manifests itself in an excess of whistle-blowing, recent Exhibit A being Game 1 of this series, when, if you didn’t know better, you’d think Joe Crawford, Joe DeRosa, and Derrick Stafford had made a pact to prevent a real, honest-to-goodness NBA playoff game from ever taking shape. The Celtics never did get into any kind of flow, and the Lakers have Pau Gasol to thank for giving them something on which to hang their hat. Game 2 was an entirely different species. Ken Mauer, Monty McCutchen, and Mike Callahan had an idea. They actually seemed to be calling the game they saw, rather than one they wished to impose on us."

  • Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Times: "Welcome to the Matchup Everyone Wanted to See, two games of shooting 134 free throws and getting each other in foul trouble? This is not a fluke and it's not a critique of the referees. It's a critique of the league that has changed the way the officials call games in its quest for more and better oversight. Commissioner David Stern says he has to protect players. Stern would also like it if he never has to explain another Auburn Hills melee to his sponsors. Actually, as opposed to fighting, NBA players mostly just mill around, as the Dodgers and Diamondbacks did recently. In baseball, they call it the benches emptying and no one gets too upset. In the NBA, players would have been serving suspensions in shifts ... which actually happened to the Knicks in the 1997 playoffs after a 'fight' that consisted of New York's Charlie Ward tackling Miami's P.J. Brown. With the league examining everything they do on video, NBA officials have gone from their old let-the-players-decide-it approach to calling everything."

  • Jeff Miller of The Orange County Register: "Today we’re writing about Pierce again because it’s believed he announced late in Boston’s Game 2 victory Sunday that this matchup wouldn’t be returning to Staples Center. Odd that one of the Celtics -- their captain, even -- would forecast a Laker sweep from this point, but, like we said, Pierce loves being the focal point. Of course, the more popular theory is that he was predicting Boston would now end this showdown at home, winning Games 3, 4 and 5 here and thus the series, four games to one. Believe us, there’s a better chance of Pierce being named Miss America during these Finals than that happening. His prediction was caught on video -- Isn’t everything these days? -- and apparently was directed toward Lakers fans. Many of those fans spent Monday wringing their hands and frothing because they couldn’t wring Pierce’s neck instead. People, why? What’s the point? Just let the little birdie chirp. Here’s a simple rule that, if followed, can ease anyone’s life: Don’t let foolish people tick you off. Pierce’s words after Game 2 should be viewed pretty much the same way he was viewed during Game 2. With snickers and disbelieving head shakes."

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "Lamar Odom is not only one of the most genuinely good guys in all of Los Angeles sports, but also one of the most maddening. The Lakers need him, but, even after six years here, they don't really know him. Even this spring, while he's finally wearing one of their rings, they haven't figured him out. Is he the guy who finished so well against Oklahoma City, or who had trouble getting started against Utah? Is he the guy who went for 19 points and 19 rebounds against Phoenix or was he, as the Suns' Amare Stoudemire said, just lucky? So far in the Finals, he's been neither. So far, he's been less involved than Dustin Hoffman. With the series tied at one game apiece, he's averaging four points and five rebounds in an average of 18 foul-ridden minutes per game. From the moment one of Kobe Bryant's passes bounced oddly off his chest in Game 1, Odom hasn't been able to match the moment. Is his cluttered head there? Is his bruised body there? We know the Kardashian family is there, and that's enough to make anyone lose his marbles. The foul issue has hampered him -- five in each game -- but he didn't pick up his fourth and fifth fouls until the final 27 seconds Sunday, so he can't blame his play on the officials."

  • John Niyo of The Detroit News: "One of these days, he really might do it. That's what Tom Izzo has been saying all along, if you were listening close enough to what he hasn't said all these years -- 'No' doesn't mean 'Never' -- as the job offers came and went and Izzo always stayed. Until now, perhaps, with Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert -- a fellow Spartan and aspiring King-maker -- on the line, reportedly offering big money and a potentially huge opportunity. But here's the question without an answer at the moment: Does this offer -- worth as much as $30 million over five years, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer -- come with a 30-day money-back guarantee? Because that's the only way Izzo can take the Cavs job now, isn't it? The lure of the NBA is one thing, and that's a pull the 55-year-old Izzo has felt before. A chance to coach LeBron James and a title-contending team? That's another thing altogether, though. And if King James is staying, then Izzo really must go. That's as easy for me to say as it is difficult for Michigan State fans to hear. And for Izzo to do, I'm sure. He'd be leaving behind not only a team poised to make a serious run at another national championship -- something Izzo truly covets as validation for his program and his legacy -- but also his comfort zone as a college coach."

  • Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press: "Why Izzo won’t say no -- either now or in a month. It says something about Izzo’s personality -- not necessarily something good or bad, just something. I think he loves this attention. Absolutely loves it. He loves knowing that the NBA teams might want Tom Izzo from Iron Mountain, Mich. But also, I think he loves that other people know it. I think he wants everybody at MSU to understand that he could leave at any time. I think he gets a violent reaction to the mere notion of being taken for granted -- by his administration, his fans or the media. Hey, if you want Izzo, you get the full Izzo. That’s just how life works. You get the program builder and the motivator and the game planner, the guy who believed he could create a superpower in East Lansing when nobody else did ... but you also get the relentless competitor who always knows how much money other coaches are making. You get the guy who wants Michigan State fans and administrators to know they are lucky to have him (and, therefore, that he should give him what he wants). You get the guy who won’t totally shoot down reports that the Bulls want him, that Kentucky wants him, that Oregon wants him, or (now) that the Cavaliers want him. This is why he never totally denies interest in a job (even the Oregon job, which he never was going to seriously consider). He says he loves MSU, or, no, he hasn’t been contacted. But he always leaves himself some wiggle room."

  • Greg Johnson of The Grand Rapids Press: "Sure, folks on the Michigan State side of things think the timing is horrible for Izzo to leave the green and white. He might have his best roster since the national title team of 2000. Last month in published reports, he even indicated he wanted to win another national title before he would entertain the NBA. Spartans can hope that was from the heart. But that was when he was thinking or just assuming the only thing out there was the usual annual NBA opportunities. Coaching James in Cleveland is a new game. Working for Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, a Michigan State graduate, might add some appeal. Izzo has to be looking at it and thinking of the possibilities: winning an NBA title to go with an NCAA title, proving that a great coach is a great coach no matter the setting and a huge contract that sets him and his family up as wealthy for life. James obviously is the key to all of this speculation and consternation. He has to be in the package. Izzo would be foolish not to make sure that happens before signing on. Look for this to take a while to play out. Cleveland fired a coach and general manager Danny Ferry has resigned. But clearly, if the NBA is truly something Izzo wants to attempt, hitching up with James is the way to go."

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "Jack Ebling, host of the radio show, is a close friend of Izzo. He said later Monday night that he met Izzo in his driveway when he returned from his meeting with the Hawks a decade ago and the two retreated to Izzo's deck. By the end of the night, Ebling was convinced Izzo would take the job. Izzo did temporarily, only to call the Hawks and tell them no. Now he has taken the Spartans to Final Four appearances in six of the last 12 years. Michigan State will probably enter next season ranked in the top three in the nation. Ebling doesn't know Izzo's intentions this time but agrees this is the most serious he has been about an NBA job since Atlanta in 2000. A large part of Izzo's decision will probably be based on the future of LeBron James, Ebling said. ''I would think it's important to any coach whether he wins 60 games or 20 games,'' he said. ''Tom is as competitive as you get. I can't imagine him losing 60 games. He'd physically have a breakdown. It'd be like Dick Vermeil. He'd have bleeding ulcers. He doesn't lose well.' "

  • John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "As hard as it might be for some to believe, the Bulls actually selected Tom Thibodeau to be their next coach because they were impressed with his basketball knowledge during the interview, felt his vast experience in the NBA would be an asset and believe he's ready to be a head coach. As for LeBron James, hiring Thibodeau won't greatly impact where the superstar ends up. I'm sure James has a great deal of respect for Thibodeau -- especially with the way the Celtics defense held him in check during the second round -- and the possibility of playing for him is a small positive in the Bulls' favor. If the Bulls were looking to influence James' decision, they would have looked to make a bigger splash -- something like the Cavaliers reportedly making a play for Michigan State coach Tom Izzo."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "Kevin Durant on Monday completed a weeklong tour of China, where he visited three cities as part of a trip set up by Nike Basketball to promote his signature shoe and build his brand. Durant traveled with teammate James Harden to Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu. The two signed autographs, held basketball clinics and visited the Great Wall of China. It was the second year in a row that Durant visited China. He traveled to Honk Kong last summer. Durant is scheduled to take part in an event Wednesday in New York as part of Nike, Converse, Jordan Brand and USA Basketball to unveil Fall 2010 Basketball products."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "Stan Kroenke intends to keep ownership of the NHL's Avalanche and the NBA's Nuggets within his family, as well as own the NFL's St. Louis Rams, he made clear in a statement Monday. Kroenke also made his first public comments about transferring ownership of the Nuggets to his son, Josh. 'Our son Josh has been involved with many of our organizations for several years and that family continuity remains a priority,' Kroenke said in a statement to The Denver Post. 'My family looks forward to owning the Rams, Nuggets and Avalanche for years to come while being compliant with all stipulations set by the NFL. Our family remains committed to fans in St. Louis and Denver.' Kroenke will transfer some or all of his ownership of the Nuggets to his 30-year-old son, who works in the team's front office. It is unclear how Kroenke will handle the ownership of the Avs, though it is possible he could pass that ownership to his son or possibly to his wife."