First Cup: Wednesday

  • Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: "The Suns turned it around as Steve Kerr's remade roster, including draft picks Robin Lopez and Goran Dragic, came together. The team responded to Alvin Gentry, whom Kerr had tabbed to take over for Terry Porter during the 2008-09 season. They made their improbable second-half run to finish as the third seed in the Western Conference before advancing to the conference finals, and Kerr again was lauded as a whiz kid. So it came as a shock to many Tuesday that Kerr evidently broke off negotiations for a new contract and decided to part ways with the Suns and owner Robert 'Low Ball' Sarver. Maybe we should have seen this coming. After all, there might be no better opportunity for Kerr to get out while he's back on top. At least it's as close to the top as the Suns are likely to get as long as Sarver isn't willing to spend the money on players -- and now, it appears, on his front office - to maintain a contending team."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Game 7s come around surprisingly rarely. There have been just 16 in the NBA Finals. Finally, we get one again, and now, more than any in years, even in decades, it is difficult to know what it will bring. In the long and often unforgettable history of the NBA's greatest rivalry and of its most successful and celebrated franchises, there are moments that stand out. Don Nelson's shot. Kevin McHale's foul. Magic Johnson's baby hook. There was Bill Russell suddenly speechless, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar running with fists pumping, Kevin Garnett shouting to the rafters, letting out a career's worth of frustration. The details will come, but this time we know before they play the game that it will take a place in the sport's history. It's a Game 7. Celtics and Lakers. 'It is here, and it should be great,' Boston coach Doc Rivers said. 'I hope we embrace it. It should be a lot of fun.' "

  • Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Times: "Anyone know where the Lakers can get 10,000 balloons? Oh, not yet? Quick studies that they are, the Lakers not only learned the lesson of their debacle in Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals but of Sunday's Game 5 when they ran for cover in the storm in Boston. Back home Tuesday, and not a second too soon, it was the Lakers who stormed back and the Celtics who ran for cover in an 89-67 blowout that tied the Finals, 3-3, forcing Thursday's Game 7. So 40 years, one month and 10 days after their lesson in hubris when the aged Celtics beat them in Jack Kent Cooke's Fabulous Forum, under Cooke's never-to-be-forgotten balloons, the Lakers get another chance to do it right. Not that either team is into history that goes back any further than this series."

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: "This is how it should be. It's what the NBA needs, what the fans deserve.Game 7 of the NBA Finals, the Lakers against the Boston Celtics. Does anything more really need to be said? 'This is definitely a treat for the NBA,' Boston's Ray Allen said. 'Just knowing we are going to a Game 7, that these are the Finals and it's the Lakers-Celtics.' It is sports at its best, the pinnacle of competition on the professional level. This is the Yankees and Dodgers going to a seventh game of the World Series, Sandy Koufax on the hill for the Dodgers and Whitey Ford dealing for the Yankees. It's Ali against Frazier, take three. Two battered and bruised fighters going to the 15th round and tied on points, battling just as much for pride as for the title. 'It's definitely not just another game,' the Lakers' Pau Gasol said. ... Great champions are challenged, pushed to the brink by equal competition. Winners are crowned in sweeps, but heroes aren't made. No matter what happens Thursday in Game 7 at Staples Center, the world will look back on these Finals in appreciation, perhaps in a bit of awe while remembering the year the two most storied franchises in the NBA took things to the edge of history to determine the championship. "

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: "Let me tell you about one of Kobe Bryant’s philosophies. It doesn’t apply to the run-of-the-mill NBA game; it’s only about the playoffs. Then again, everything is all about the playoffs anyway -- as regular-season slackers L.A. and Boston are reiterating this spring. As simple as the idea is, once you get it, you’ll better understand Bryant, Bryant’s team and this current Lakers-Celtics epic. If you’re a Lakers fan, you might even be able to make peace with the fact that the Shaq-Kobe-Malone-Payton Lakers lost the 2004 NBA Finals to that clearly less talented Detroit team. In a seven-game series, the better team wins. Always. That’s it. That’s what Bryant believes, and that makes results a lot easier for him to deal with in the past -- but especially the present. So with the Lakers and Celtics about to reach the seventh and final game, you can be absolutely sure Bryant isn’t expecting home-court advantage to be the difference. He will depend on nothing but making sure his team is the better team … and if it is, it will win. It does help considerably that he suspects his team is better."

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: "Ron Artest had not shot the basketball well in the NBA Finals for the Lakers. He heard Lakers' fans yell 'don't shoot' often. Now here it was the biggest game of the season for the Lakers, down 3-2 to the Boston Celtics in the Finals, needing a win to extend the series and there was Lakers Coach Phil Jackson calling plays for Artest. For Ron Artest! This was the same Artest who entered Game 6 on Tuesday night shooting 30.2% from the field, 31.6% from three-point range, and was averaging 7.8 points. But this was not the same Artest. He came through for the Lakers, scoring 15 points. 'I was surprised,' Artest said. 'They didn't actually come to me and tell me. It's not something that I ever ask for. And was surprised they called plays for me. I was ready. But I was a little bit surprised. I was like, 'Cool. I've got some plays.' It something I didn't get the whole season. So it was pretty cool. I had isolations. It's been a long time since I've had a play called for me. But it's all right.' Artest stopped and laughed."

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "Can you think of any other way to describe a Game 7 on the other team’s court? A game in which the other team has Kobe Bryant. And a game in which there’s a very good chance you won’t have Perkins. This is a larger version of taking a charge. There can be no question the Celtics will take a hit from an inspired team playing in front of its screaming fans. If the Lakers come out slowly, Jack Nicholson might just go all Col. Jessep on their few good men. But the Celtics will probably feel lighter now that some are leaping off their bandwagon. They’re used to it."

  • Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe: "Aw c’mon, you knew this thing was destined for seven, didn’t you? It’s not as if this bunch of Celtics do anything easy. They’re the bounce-back kings. They’ve got short memories. It was an ugly score that fully represents the nature of this game, one in which the Lakers assumed complete control in the first period and never allowed the Celtics to get even a remote sniff thereafter. Los Angeles led by 10 at the quarter, 20 at the half, and 25 at the three-quarter mark en route to a crowd-pleasing 89-67 victory that sets up only the fourth Game 7 of the 2-3-2 era. The Celtics are certainly making history in this postseason. They had a record point margin defeat (124-95) against Cleveland, after which they won the next three games to close out the series. Now they have established a franchise-record playoff low for points, and, yes, that goes all the way back to 1948, and not just games in the 24-second clock era, which began in 1954."

  • Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com: "When the Boston Celtics' locker room opened to the media Tuesday night following an 89-67 thrashing at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers, Kendrick Perkins' locker stall was empty, but most of his teammates hadn't even dressed. In one corner of the room, Paul Pierce, Tony Allen and Glen Davis sat in uniform with heads bowed, still stung from both the Game 6 loss that evened the NBA Finals and the loss of Perkins, who sprained his right knee and is questionable for Thursday's Game 7. The official word on Perkins was a sprained right knee that will be re-evaluated Wednesday. Perkins told ESPN he hopes to play in Game 7, but a team source told ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan that the Celtics center was 'done.' Allen sighed heavily when asked about Perkins. Watching Boston's center tumble to the floor in agony midway through the first quarter hit hard for Allen, who blew out his ACL in January of 2007. All Allen missed was the end of a dreadful 24-58 campaign, one in which Boston endured a franchise-worst 18-game losing streak. This is the NBA Finals and he clearly understood how hard it would be for Perkins to be sidelined for the most important game of the year. 'It's the NBA Finals and Kendrick Perkins is in our hearts,' said Allen, admitting he didn't think the prospect of Perkins returning for Game 7 was very likely."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "With Steve Kerr out as general manager in Phoenix and Kevin Pritchard reportedly on the way out in Portland, the repercussions could be felt all the way to South Florida. Foremost, Kerr had been involved in the Suns’ contract-extension discussions with potential Heat free-agent target Amare Stoudemire. ... But now, if there is a sign-and-trade for Stoudemire in July, it would have to be with a new personnel chief in Phoenix. And that could be particularly intriguing, since it was evident the Suns, under Kerr, had little interest in Michael Beasley. Similarly, there did not appear to be much interest from Pritchard in Beasley. But with Pritchard out, could a possible Greg Oden-Beasley deal be considered by the Blazers? A wild card in the process is former Heat General Manager Randy Pfund, who resigned in September 2008, three months after taking Beasley No. 2 overall in the 2008 draft. Pfund, who was at one of the Heat’s playoff games in Boston in April, has been looking to get back into the league. He has extensive West Coast ties. The personnel landscape is changing. It is terrain worth tracking by the Heat."

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: "Forget the NBA draft. The Indiana Pacers can take Xavier Henry, the slashing Kansas shooting guard who worked out for them Tuesday. They can move on Avery Bradley, the Texas combo guard who seriously impressed the Pacers brass this week. They can take 58-year-old Marvin Glickstein of the Jewish Community Center lunchtime pick-up game. Whoever. Just get me a point guard this summer. ... Here's my fearless prediction of the day: By draft night, the Indiana Pacers will have a new point guard, and he won't come through the draft itself. It might be Collison, might be Hill, might be Lawson, but it's going to be somebody not named Ford, Watson or Price, and feel free to scream 'Hallelujah!' Everybody in the league knows the Pacers are not married to that No. 10 pick and the Pacers need a point guard like the Big 12 needs Texas. So the calls are coming in and going out. If the Pacers want to put butts in the seats next season, if the Pacers want to be competitive and interesting and worthy of our attention, they must make up for last year's draft-day failure to take a point guard (Lawson, Collison and others were available) and get one this summer."

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "It was on the dirt basketball courts of Nigeria that Masai Ujiri first saw Solomon Alabi, a gangly, untrained, 6-foot-9 teenaged bundle of promise and potential. Alabi was precisely the kind of youngster the Raptors assistant general manager of player personnel wanted to reach in his goal of developing the sport he loves in the country of his birth, a kid who was hungry to learn but lacked the opportunity, possibly destined to live a life of unrealized athletic potential. As he stood in the Raptors’ practice facility Tuesday afternoon, just after Alabi had taken another step on an improbable journey from those dirt courts to the NBA by going through an NBA pre-draft workout, Ujiri beamed. And rightfully so. Alabi, now a 7-foot-1 Florida State sophomore likely to be picked in the first round of next week’s NBA draft, represents one of the true success stories of Ujiri’s work to make the sport relevant and the opportunities great for African teenagers. 'He meant a lot in my life,' Alabi said of Ujiri. 'When I started playing basketball in a small town (Kaduna) where not too many people knew about basketball and only a few people played basketball, Masai did a camp in my town and ... that’s when I started getting exposed to basketball.' It was all part of Ujiri’s grand plan to provide opportunities for Nigerian youths who’d been denied them."

  • Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Between the old logo worn by so many of their former greats and the new colors of navy, yellow, green and gray, the Jazz believe they've achieved a certain harmony with the return of the music note as they go forward into the future. The Jazz unveiled their new look to the public Tuesday morning at EnergySolutions Arena. The mountain logo the team has had since 1996 will remain the official primary logo, but the secondary music note will become the featured logo. ... The music note dates to the expansion days of the New Orleans Jazz in 1974 and was worn by greats from Pete Maravich and Adrian Dantley to John Stockton and Karl Malone. The Jazz switched to the mountain logo in 1996 and have featured it since. Former Jazz players and current broadcasters Ron Boone and Thurl Bailey took part in the unveiling Tuesday while Jerry Sloan, Deron Williams, Frank Layden and Stockton offered statements in support of the change. 'Having the 'note' back puts a smile on my face,' Stockton said. 'As the team moves forward toward bigger and better things, it reminds us where we came from.' 'It was here when I arrived and it is the only logo many of the players I coached ever wore,' Sloan added."

  • Matt Humphrey of the Orlando Sentinel: "A new arena isn’t enough for the Orlando Magic. The team will also have a new official logo when it moves to Amway Center this fall. ... the team will unveil its new design, incorporating elements of the Magic’s current secondary logo and jersey font with its iconic star ball. Magic Chief Operating Officer Alex Martins said 'This new logo signifies the beginning of a new era of excellence for the Orlando Magic and our fans.' The mark also serves as a source of new revenue for the NBA franchise."