First Cup: Tuesday

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "Dirk Nowitzki’s legacy, something he has never been concerned with and is even less consumed with now that he’s a champion, can no longer be doubted. His career may have started as a soft European. But he’s evolved into a hard-edged warrior who must be mentioned with Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan for his will and his toughness both mentally and physically. He’s always been that way. He’s just never had the team surrounding him to prove it on basketball’s biggest stage. Now, he’s done that and the rest of the world has finally become aware of what people in Dallas have known. The numbers couldn’t be more impressive for him. He finished this postseason with 3,214 career playoff points, good for 15th place on the all-time scoring list. Bill Russell, Patrick Ewing , Robert Parish, Charles Barkley , Sam Jones, Clyde Drexler , Reggie Miller, James Worthy, Julius Erving , Dennis Johnson and Kevin McHale are the players he leapfrogged in the last two months. There’s not a softie among that who’s who of Hall of Famers."

  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: "Today is Mark Cuban’s as much as it is Dirk Nowitzki’s. Like him or not, Cuban changed the Mavericks nearly from the day he bought them. He provided more than money, too. His enthusiasm was real, and it often ended when it came to making basketball decisions for the franchise; it’s a lesson Jerry Jones should have learned long ago. The Spurs will profit from his success, too. Cuban won’t have to sell tickets anymore by announcing he hates the Spurs. Now he simply has to bring the defending champs to San Antonio. Everyone in the Spurs franchise, however, roots for a new collective bargaining agreement that will eliminate the edge Cuban has had in this business. He’s paid for talent the way he will pay for the Mavericks’ victory parade. He just asks for the bill."

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: "At one point or another in most of our lives, we get hosed by management. We get a raw deal, maybe from new managers who want to reinvent the wheel, or by long-time bosses who seek to cover their own mistakes, and their derriere, by scapegoating someone. Which brings me to Rick Carlisle, NBA championship coach, who apparently wasn't quite good enough to make a go of it with the Indiana Pacers. Carlisle unfairly took the fall for team president Larry Bird and a roster of misbehaving players after the 2006-07 season, and on Sunday night, there he was, standing on the podium with the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, reveling in a moment he helped make happen. Good for him. Good for everybody who has ever gotten the short end of the deal from management. I am always disinclined to say "I told you so" -- it's self-aggrandizing and petty -- but in this case, I'm going to say it: I told you so. In late April 2007, I wrote a series of columns saying Carlisle was a fall guy and a scapegoat."

  • Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "What a year. What a ride. What a circus. For everyone. After seeing hundreds of fans outside their San Antonio hotel before the first exhibition game, Mike Miller called his brother from the team bus. ... No one saw anything like it all year. From the first game in Boston -- 'This is like the NBA Finals,' Glen 'Big Baby' Davis said upon seeing the media -- to the actual NBA Finals in June, the Heat were the biggest story in sports. Everything was exaggerated. When Dwyane Wade's mock-coughing of Dirk Nowitzki created Cough-gate last week, a few of us counted the 'gates' around this team. Decision-gate. Bump-gate. Trade-Bosh-gate. Fire-Spoelstra-gate. Cry-gate. Celebration-gate ... So it continued, right down to the final three games, when LeBron-gate appeared. Where'd he disappear to? And where does he go now? Can he and Wade play together (no matter they averaged 30 and 28 points, respectively, in the Boston series). Sports, to most of us watching, is a conversation. And the Heat were the biggest, loudest, most passionate and poisonous conversation ever concocted in American team sports. I'm going to miss that. I miss it already. Because right now it's mid-June and the landscape has a Marlins team playing .500, soon a Dolphins team that hasn't won a playoff game in a decade and then a Panthers team that hasn't won one in 14 years. Yowza. Sure, the Heat deserve questions. Debate LeBron. Argue Spoelstra. That's sports. But also appreciate how the Heat gave us a season unlike any we've ever seen -- unlike any the sports world ever has, actually. Until next Heat season, of course."

  • Adam H. Beasley of The Miami Herald: "With Chris Bosh as an obvious exception, pro athletes are usually loath to admit weakness, especially between the ears. But at some point in the days or weeks to come, LeBron James will likely have moments of introspection, searching for what went wrong in the series’ final three games. If James is honest with himself, he’ll acknowledge he wasn’t the same dynamic player that won two consecutive league MVP awards and single-handedly put away the Celtics and Bulls in the previous two rounds. James will see moments of tentativeness, passing up open shots that are usually automatic. And, he’ll begin to ask why. That’s where mental health professionals, who have helped high-profile athletes like John Smoltz and Alex Rodriguez fight through internal roadblocks, could help."

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: "Knicks owner James Dolan should fly to Miami, grab the South Beach three-star championship blueprint and toss it into the turquoise ocean. It does not look like the way to go for the Knicks, who boast two stars in Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire and have contemplated adding a third, with the rest of their 2012 cap space, in Chris Paul. But at what expense? America's Team -- the 2010-11 champion Dallas Mavericks -- proved during the riveting Finals that a deep, full-bodied team with lots of varied parts can overwhelm a club made of three players -- no matter how good. The LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh experiment failed not only because 'King' James choked, but also because the Heat had no supporting cast to perform the Heimlich. Whether Miami president Pat Riley can add solid complements without cap space is questionable. None of the Big Three will be traded this summer, but if the star trio does not win the 2012 championship, the concept may be scrapped. Late Sunday night, Riley's wife, Christine, approached a James confidant and whispered: 'You learn more from losing than winning.' Knicks outgoing president Donnie Walsh has given strong recent hints adding Paul may not be in the plan, especially with the new labor agreement shrinking their 2012 cap space. Better to spend the cap room on three solid contributors. 'You really need all the pieces or roles filled to win a championship,' Walsh told The Post yesterday. 'Miami gave it a great run, though, with what they had.' "

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "In an exclusive interview Monday with the Observer, Rich Cho and current general manager Rod Higgins confirmed Cho's hiring. Higgins will be elevated to the title of President of Basketball Operations. Cho, 45, previously was general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers. Cho is known for his eclectic background - he has been an engineer and a lawyer - and his experience in quantitative analysis. Higgins said those are strengths the Bobcats need. ... Cho became available in late May, after he was abruptly fired 11 months into his tenure in Portland, Ore. It was widely reported there that the breakup was over communication between Cho and owner Paul Allen, and not about Cho's job performance. While with the Blazers he engineered the deal with the Bobcats that sent Gerald Wallace west. Blazers fans viewed the acquisition of Wallace as a coup. Higgins reached out to Cho within a day of his firing, then went to team owner Michael Jordan, lobbying to hire Cho. 'With the value Rich has around the league, we put the pedal to the metal to hire him,' Higgins said. 'There's huge value in getting this done prior to this draft.' "

  • T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times: "I go away on vacation, come back and Kobe still hasn't commented on the hiring of Lakers Coach Mike Brown. That's just Kobe, the Big Baby, petty and miffed because he wasn't consulted and now letting Brown hang out there to teach the Lakers' brass a lesson. I mention this to the wife when we go to breakfast, and she drops her fork. She never does that with a plate full of food in front of her. She says Kobe doesn't have to say anything to anybody, and maybe I should have stayed on vacation. 'How can I miss you unless you really go away?' she says. It's quite a jolt to learn the wife and Kobe think alike. The wife is a teacher. Her school recently announced the hiring of a principal and she says she has no idea whether the new guy is going to be any good. 'So why should it be any different with Kobe?' she says. Lakers fans want to know what Kobe thinks of Brown, which makes it a little different, I suggest. ... How about looking at this from Brown's point of view? He lost his previous job because management didn't think the Cleveland Cavaliers had a chance of keeping their superstar if they kept the coach. Then he rebounds by getting a dream job with the Lakers, and if human, he's probably a little nervous and anxious about it all. Right away he hears more criticism than warm wishes, and Kobe can change all that with just a few words. 'Kobe shouldn't be looked upon in a derogatory way because he's not talking about the new coach,' the wife says. 'He's under no obligation. It's up to the coach to prove he can do the job.' "

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: "Kemba Walker wouldn't necessarily need to stop scoring, and his offense is likely to create openings for passes. As he prepares for the draft, Walker said he hasn't had his decision-making overly scrutinized. 'Not a lot of teams have a problem with me scoring,' Walker said. 'Like I said, I can definitely pass that ball. If you give me players around me (who are) willing to score, I can do a great job at getting them involved.' Walker said he's also been asked if he'll be able to finish shots near the rim, but it's something he believes he can continue to do in the NBA as he adjusts to facing bigger players. There's also a concern whether Walker would be a liability on defense, and he acknowledges that could be a problem at times. 'Of course it's going to be hard for me to play defense against bigger guys, bigger point guards, because they're going to try to throw me in the post,' Walker said. 'But as long as I keep working, keep fighting, learning different techniques and stuff like that and just get stronger, I'll be fine.' "

  • Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times: "Marshon Brooks has more than piqued the curiosity of the Milwaukee Bucks. Brooks, an athletic 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Providence, had a private workout for Bucks officials Sunday in Chicago. Normally, the Bucks work out their draft prospects at their training facility in St. Francis. But because of a scheduling conflict, the Bucks and Seth Cohen, Brooks' agent, agreed to meet in the Windy City. The Bucks put Brooks through a 1½ hour workout and came away impressed. Assistant general manager Jeff Weltman and player personnel director Dave Babcock were among the Bucks officials in attendance. 'The Bucks like him a lot,' Cohen said. 'The Bucks are now looking to bring him there (to Milwaukee) for another workout.' That might not happen, though. Cohen said his client already has several scheduled workouts before the June 23 draft, including three this week, starting today with the Chicago Bulls."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "The NBA Finals are over. The offseason has officially arrived. And that means Nuggets coach George Karl is starting to feel the annual twinge of excitement that usually hits him in the days leading up to the NBA draft. 'This week will be kind of the beginning of the intensity of the time,' said Karl, who headlined the American Cancer Society's Hope Invitational golf tournament Monday at The Club at Pradera. 'And it's fun because everyone is hopeful of our team.' Especially the coach. Karl is convinced the Nuggets will get a quality player if they stay put and choose at No. 22 in the June 23 draft, but he isn't ruling out the Nuggets moving up in the first round. 'The bottom line is we have a first-round pick that we think is going to be a pretty good player,' Karl said. 'But the possibility of maneuvering and putting yourself in position to see what else happens is I think what (team management) is going to be doing in the next 10 days.' "

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "On Thunder guard Nate Robinson's value in the NBA: I think he has value now as an expiring contract next year. And teams know he can be a big-time spark offensively off the bench. But he also has a reputation of being a knucklehead, and some teams are turned off by that and may consider him unworthy of the risk. At this point, I'm not sure the Thunder can get much for him. But I learned a long time ago never to underestimate Sam Presti and the Thunder when it comes to trades. My gut says [we won't return to OKC]."

  • Bill Husted of The Denver Post: "Carmelo Anthony and LaLa Vazquez just sold their Littleton pad for $6.2 million, says Kentwood Real Estate broker John Fitzpatrick. It had been on the market for one year for $9.5 million. That's about a 30-percent discount. But wait. It gets worse. Anthony paid $12 million for it in 2007. That's a loss of $5.8 million. But he can handle it. The NBA star played in Denver from 2003 until earlier this year, when he was traded to the New York Knicks for a reported $65 million over three years."