First Cup: Wednesday

June, 13, 2012
6/13/12
5:55
AM ET
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: He strode to the post-game press conference podium as suave as can be, stepping onto the dais nattily draped in a rare suit and tie, both of which were deep black threads that, if his performance hadn't said it already, could have driven home the point that he is now all business. “I just like Men in Black,” Kevin Durant said after emerging from a hot and sticky room full of reporters as seemingly the only guy who could keep his cool. Suddenly, you're reminded that not only is this guy human, but he's still just 23. But for 45 minutes and 48 seconds Tuesday night, this man in black was on a mission, dead-set on delivering in his first taste of the NBA Finals. His polka dot pocket square and crisp white Air Jordan shoes symbolized quite nicely the streaks of style that had just defined his night full of substance. Durant scored a game-high 36 points to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 105-94 comeback win over Miami in Game 1 of the NBA Finals inside Chesapeake Energy Arena. It was the second-most points scored by a player in his Finals debut since the merger in 1976. Allen Iverson scored 48 in 1996.
  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: Given how the series opener unfolded, perhaps Brooks should consider playing defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha a bigger bulk of the minutes. The Thunder post a 105-94 victory before a crazed blue-clad sellout crowd of 18,203 at Chesapeake Energy Arena, outscoring the Miami Heat 58-40 in the second half. ... But it was Sefolosha who added even more value to OKC's flurry of second-half points with his suffocating, physical defense against LeBron James. Sefolosha played 19:46 of his 28:30 in the second half, including the entire fourth quarter, during which he held James to seven points and 2-for-6 shooting from the field. In the first half, Sefolosha allowed Dwyane Wade just two points while defending the eight-time All-Star.
  • Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: There was a different narrative emerging from the Heat’s 105-94 loss in Game 1 here, though — certainly from a Miami perspective, at least. Dwyane Wade looked old. His game did, anyway. His performance did. And his ability to be his old self, meaning his younger self. That might be harsh. It also might disappear in a massive comeback effort by Wade in Game 2 back here Thursday. We have seen it before. Wade down and doubted, using it as fuel, and proving everyone wrong. They need that from him now. They haven’t in this postseason, until now. It became clear Tuesday, watching OKC’s youthful athleticism and scoring punch, that Miami cannot win this series and championship without Wade finding his high gear and once again being the clutch performer that helped make him — after Dan Marino — the most beloved professional athlete South Florida has had. James has carried Miami to this point, in this MVP season of his, and into these Finals. Now, he needs more help, and not just from the supporting cast like Chris Bosh (who came off the bench again) or Shane Battier, who scored 17 on Tuesday in a small rain of threes. He needs more help from his old costar, D-Wade.
  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: Whatever Wade has lost in athleticism, after all, because of the wear and tear of nine hard seasons, he should be capable of compensating with experience and intelligence. Yet Westbrook controlled his impulses Tuesday, enough to earn praise from his coach, Scott Brooks, for “managing, controlling the game.” Until he pounced. “The thing about Westbrook, is he’ll just keep on coming,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He’s going to continue to be relentless. And we have to match that.” Westbrook finished with 27 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds, even while bricking four threes. “Once I started playing harder, everybody followed,” Westbrook said. Wade? He looked out of whack again until it was too late, in the fourth, when he pulled his numbers up to 19 points, eight assists and four rebounds. He picked up his defense, and he found Mario Chalmers with a perfect pass. “He was aggressive during that quarter,” Spoelstra said. “We’ll try to get him opportunities where he can continue to be aggressive.”
  • Ryan Aber of The Oklahoman: NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said before the game that having the National Basketball Players Association president, the Thunder's Derek Fisher, still alive in the finals has slowed up in ironing out the so called “B list” issues in the new collective bargaining agreement. “He's still actively engaged in the season, that's part of the hold up as well, but we hope to turn to something once the season ends,” Silver said. Silver said he recently spoke with NBPA executive director Bill Hunter about the issues. “We agreed once the season was over, we would reconvene and continue discussing those issues,” Silver said. Silver said of the issues left to settle, the age issue would not be implemented for next season. Other issues could be immediately implemented as they are settled, though.
  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Prepare for the Grizzlies to immediately take on the personality of their presumptive new owner. Robert Pera, who agreed Monday to buy the team, is described as deliberate in his approach. That might also best describe how the Grizzlies will conduct their business until a transfer of ownership from Michael Heisley to Pera is finalized in the fall. Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace didn't hesitate Tuesday when asked who he'll answer to on draft day. "Mr. Heisley," he said. But while Wallace, his front-office staff and coach Lionel Hollins will work the June 28 draft with the Grizzlies' best interest in mind, don't expect any fireworks. Pera won't have veto power when it comes to Griz dealings but he'll be kept in the loop about transactions as a courtesy generally provided in the NBA by the outgoing owner. It's generally accepted that the seller would make only short-term decisions requiring immediate attention (i.e., draft, qualifying offers for free agents), leaving long-term pronouncements (i.e. contract extensions, major trades) to the new owner.
  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: By all indications, the Celts have made it clear they want Garnett to return for at least the 2012-13 season, and there is strong evidence from those involved that he is more than willing to discuss that possibility. And here is where the details make their appearance. Each side in this situation has a specific set of needs. The question will be whether there is enough common ground to have the 36-year-old KG again patrolling the parquet. ... “Kevin’s very loyal, and he hates change,” one source said. “But I think it’d be hard for him to come back if it’s a total rebuild. If he’s going to play, he has to be playing for something. I think he’ll wait to see what’s going to happen. If Danny can give him a solid answer right away, then maybe he gives them an answer, too. But KG’s going to want to know who he’ll be playing with.” Another factor is who he’ll be playing for, as Garnett clearly has developed a strong affection for Doc Rivers. So if the Celts can convince him through their offseason moves that they will be able to contend, and Garnett has a coach with whom he’s comfortable, the matter then comes down to a contract. There has been no talk that he will try to break the bank, but there are those who say KG should be forgiven if he’s wary, adding that on one occasion in Minnesota, a promise to bring back certain players was not kept. The above source also noted that it might be difficult for Garnett to accept the Celtics bringing in a free agent who will make more money and be asked to do less.
  • Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News: Commissioner David Stern expects Jeremy Lin to lose his arbitration case against the league on Wednesday, which would mean that the Knicks would not be able to increase their cap flexibility and add another player to their roster via free agency. “We’re anticipating the ruling is in favor of the view espoused not just by the league, but by the language of the (collective bargaining) agreement,” Stern said before Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The league contends that since Lin was waived before he came to the Knicks last season, he will be limited to the average player salary and the extra roster spot would not be available. “We’re thinking that it’s a pretty straightforward case,” added Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver. “But it’s in the hands of an arbitrator. So it’s not guaranteed.”
  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva probably would like to start his 2012 year all over again. After dealing with injuries for the entire lockout-shortened season for the Pistons — he didn't play any significant minutes — he won't play for the Dominican Republic national team because he's out of shape, head coach John Calipari said. ... Villanueva never was in camp with the team this summer, contrary to the FIBA.com report that said he had a private workout with the team in New York. It's believed the team wasn't pleased with his conditioning last summer, which led to the decision, after being a big part of the national team in recent years. An ankle injury slowed his progress and any hopes of getting much playing time for the Pistons this season. Villanueva posted a picture on Twitter of him stepping on a weight scale, showing he's at 243.5 pounds, at least 10 pounds less than his playing weight of 255 pounds. "Lol case closed" he wrote in a Tweet. He's under contract for the next two seasons with the Pistons, and it seems unlikely they'd use the Amnesty Clause to cut Villanueva's $16.6 million cap figure he'd earn over that time.
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: The Orlando Magic have moved one step closer toward hiring a replacement for Otis Smith. The team has whittled its list of general-manager candidates to three finalists: former New Orleans Hornets General Manager Jeff Bower, Oklahoma City Thunder Assistant GM Rob Hennigan and San Antonio Spurs Vice President/Assistant GM Dennis Lindsey. Bower, Hennigan and Lindsey already have been interviewed by Magic CEO Alex Martins and will meet with members of the DeVos family in Michigan soon. Although another finalist or two still could be added to the mix, team officials hope to make a hire no later than the middle of next week. Bower and Lindsey were expected to be named finalists, but Hennigan's inclusion caught some by surprise. Just 30 years old, Hennigan was hired as an intern by the Spurs for the 2004-05 season and ultimately rose within the organization to director of basketball operations. Hennigan is finishing his fourth season with the Thunder, and he now oversees the team's college, international and professional scouting departments.
  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: President Rod Thorn confirmed Tuesday's Daily News report that the interviewing process to hire his replacement has started, but until that person has been named, Thorn and the rest of the organization is busy getting ready for the June 28 draft, the first day of free-agent signing (July 11) and trade possibilities. "The story on Tuesday was correct. We are looking for somebody to replace me," Thorn said. "I am part of the group that is doing the interviews. The hiring could be soon or it could take a while." Thorn, majority owner Josh Harris, CEO Adam Aron and coach Doug Collins are overseeing the interviews. An NBA source confirmed that Danny Ferry was interviewed this weekend by the Sixers. There were published reports that said Ferry was the leading candidate to replace Thorn. Ferry is a very admirable candidate, but since the team hasn't had much time to conduct interviews, he is likely one of only a few prospects to be interviewed. A team source confirmed on Monday that the organization had not talked to anyone until the Sixers season ended in a Game 7 loss to Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals on May 26.
  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: Every year, agents seem to get in the way of what a team wants to do with its workouts and this year is no different. Damian Lillard was ready and even willing to work out against Kendall Marshall on Tuesday, but on the advice of his agent, he didn’t. Instead, he conducted his workout solo about an hour or so after Marshall and Washington’s Terrence Ross and Pickering native Devoe Joseph joined three others in a group workout which would have been ever so helpful to the Raptors had it included Lillard. Lillard is represented by Aaron Goodwin, the same agent that oversees DeMar DeRozan’s career and like DeRozan, Goodwin has insisted that his new client conduct pre-draft workouts as a class of one. On the one hand, you can’t blame him. As the top point guard in the class, Lillard can only lose if he goes up against another point guard and doesn’t come out on top. If he does grade out higher, he was supposed to, so there’s no gain. But having agents dictate how workouts are conducted has to grate on teams.
  • Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune: On most days, if a former Mr. Minnesota Basketball worked out for the Timberwolves, bringing a four-year college résumé that included two All-Big Ten selections, he would have been The Show. But Tuesday, after the Wolves had held a predraft workout, Jordan Taylor had to share the attention. Because Royce White, another former Mr. Basketball, was also in town. But that's OK. Any amount of attention is fine with Taylor. "All you can ask for, a guy in my position, is to have a chance to show what I can do," he said. Of the players working out Tuesday, only White, the former Hopkins star who played last season at Iowa State, is considered to have first-round potential. The others, including Taylor, hope to be taken in the second round but also are preparing to go the free-agent route. And that means having your best day every day you're at these moving feasts known as predraft workouts.
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: The Suns are not expected to use their pick for a frontcourt player after taking power forward Markieff Morris with last year's 13th pick. They also expect to bring back center tandem Marcin Gortat and Robin Lopez by re-signing Lopez in free agency. Power forwards Channing Frye, facing a long recuperation from shoulder surgery, and Hakim Warrick also remain under contract for Phoenix.
  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: Kirk Lacob gladly shouldered some of the most obdurate conversations of his life to get to this point, a point in which he finally got to have a conversation that was received with resonant applause. All of the awkwardness and all of the arguments were in an effort to get to Tuesday, when Lacob got to tell the Santa Cruz community that it is one giant leap closer to housing a professional sports team for the first time in the oceanfront city's 220-year history. "For the first time, this is real for everybody involved," Lacob said. "It's been real for me, the staff that has been working on it, and the city council, but this is the first time the community gets to see the reality. This is a day that reminds me of more work and more fun that is yet to come." With most of the political wranglings complete, Golden State revealed the logo and name for its D-League franchise, which will be moving from North Dakota to become the Santa Cruz Warriors. They also announced the biggest singular sponsorship in the D-League's 13-year history, a naming-rights deal with Kaiser Permanente for a 3,200-seat facility that is expected to be built on Front Street in Santa Cruz.

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