First Cup: Friday

June, 22, 2012
6/22/12
5:21
AM ET
  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: As the confetti fluttered and American Airlines Arena boomed, James cradled the Larry O’Brien trophy in his arms, his mouth agape, his eyes bright, his vindication complete. The greatest N.B.A. player without a ring will soon have one. “It’s about damn time,” James said during the presentation. “It’s about damn time.” At that moment, James was no longer the antihero of “The Decision,” or the faltering star who crumbled in the 2011 finals, or the solo act who could not deliver a title to Cleveland, his home state team. He was, at long last, a champion, proving himself worthy of the label by averaging 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists in the Heat’s five-game triumph. James was named the series most valuable player by a unanimous vote, making him the 10th player to win M.V.P. of the regular season and the finals in the same year. “This right here is the happiest day of my life,” James said, adding, “This is a dream come true.”
  • Dan Le Batard of The Miami Herald: For the record, somebody finally located the Finals MVP trophy for James, and the misplaced ring of the owner's son. But the treasure chest was overflowing in Miami as a silenced America watched in awe and had to wonder what the champion architect's team might do now that it is free. Remember James' introduction here? The one that has been mocked for two poisonous years? He was asked about championships, plural. And, giddy off the night's high and a new beginning, he said, "Not one, not two, not three...." That stopped being a national joke Thursday night. Now it sounds like something between a warning and a threat.
  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: Thank you, Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley and all those fans who look like they just stepped off a Miami Vice shoot. You all did the Thunder a big solid. You beat the snot out of Oklahoma City's basketball team. You routed the Thunder 121-106 Thursday night to win the NBA championship, and you made it hurt. “It hurts,” said Kevin Durant. “It hurts, man. It hurts to go out like this.” Just exactly what the Thunder needed. No close calls. No near misses. No closing game like those first four, all of which came down to three or four key plays. This was blowout city. This was no-doubt-about-it basketball. The better team won. And the Thunder was given a priceless lesson: It still has a ways to go. The only thing better than that knowledge to take away from the NBA Finals would have been the O'Brien Trophy. Without it, the Thunder needed to know that wondrous talent and solid character and believing in each other still weren't enough. The Thunder needed to know that on this level, it has to play smart and tough on every possession. Needed to know that it can't relax against a team like the Heat. Can't resort to old habits or momentary lapses. And no better way to impart that knowledge than getting taken to the woodshed by third quarter's end in the season's final game.
  • Andre C. Fernandez of The Miami Herald: Few Heat players felt the pain of last year’s NBA Finals defeat like Chris Bosh. A year after he collapsed on the way to the Heat locker room with tears in his eyes, Bosh did everything he could to make sure the story would end differently. Bosh finished with 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting, collected seven rebounds and delivered two big blocks to help the Heat put away the Thunder by the end of the third quarter en route to its second NBA title. This time, Bosh thoroughly enjoyed the team’s on-court celebration as he realized the championship goal he set out for when he left the Toronto Raptors to join LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami. “We suffered through a lot together, but we love this city and we came here to win a championship,” Bosh said. “We came here to win a championship and we got it done.” It was also a sweet finish for Bosh, who overcame an abdominal strain that forced him to miss nine playoff games.
  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: There are hundreds of photos in the Heat’s Championship Alley and tunnel to the floor, photos of joy and relief, photos of sweat and tears, photos from six long years ago. Now the franchise will make room for others. One above all. LeBron James hugging the Larry O’Brien Trophy, breaking into the widest grin you’ve ever seen. One player above all this 2011-12 season. The doubts. The anger. The criticism. The competition. LeBron James, labeled “The Chosen One” while still a teenager, is an NBA champion at the age of 27 in his ninth NBA season — the MVP of these Finals, to add to the MVP for this regular season.
  • Tom Reed of The Plain Dealer: LeBron James unburdened himself on Thursday night and, in a strange way, so did Cleveland fans who have spent the past two years rooting for the former Cavaliers star to fail. Lugging around that excess schadenfreude is not a good look, and frankly it's bad for the spine. It was released into the ether after the Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder to capture the NBA title, culminating a remarkable playoff run for James, who atoned for previous post-season flameouts while embracing moments that once overwhelmed him. Scorned fans don't need to be happy for James or forgive the fact he went on national television to announce his breakup with a city that adored him. They also don't have to waste energy cheering against the inevitability of a LeBron title or debating whether he can be considered one of the greats without a ring. ... James has his title and a grudging respect from skeptics who thought he'd only win one as a second option to Wade. The Heat are champions. Let them have their parade down South Beach. We've got more pressing concerns. Who is going to catch passes from strong-armed rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden?
  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: It took about five minutes for Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to acknowledge the Miami Heat's NBA championship on Twitter Thursday night. But he still refused to mention LeBron James by name. Sometime after the final buzzer sounded but before the championship trophy was presented to the Heat and the Finals MVP went to James, Gilbert tweeted, "Great NBA season. Enjoyed playoffs. Congratulations to Miami & OKC for an exciting Finals. Back to work on next weeks promising Cavs draft.''
  • Al Iannazzone of Newsday: Kevin Durant already is in elite company, having won three straight NBA scoring titles, but Thursday night he joined the great players who didn't win a championship in their first trip to the NBA Finals. Some of the names include Jerry West , Julius Erving , Isiah Thomas , Shaquille O'Neal and LeBron James , who finally won his first with Miami's 121-106 victory over the Thunder in Game 5 of the Finals. It made them hungrier and more determined to get back and win, and now Durant knows how they felt. "It hurts," he said. "We made it to the Finals, which was cool for us, but we didn't just want to make it there. Unfortunately we lost, so it's tough. It's tough, man. That's the only way I can explain it.
  • Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News: Maybe the Knicks can take consolation in this fact: That they played the same five-game series against the Heat in the first round of the playoffs that the Thunder played against them in the Finals. But it doesn’t change the reality of the Knicks’ situation, that they are in the same conference as No. 6 of the Heat, the best player in their sport, one of the best of all time in basketball. It does not change that Chris Bosh, who was a star in Toronto before he got to Miami, is perfectly content to be a role player and side man to James and Wade. ... This doesn’t mean the Heat will win for years, because the Thunder is young, because Durant and Westbrook also aren’t going anywhere. But if you are a New Yorker and you are a Knicks fan, if you have wondered when the Knicks will win their first championship in 40 years, you look at what you are up against with the Miami Heat, and wonder which player — or two players, or three — comes here and gets you past them.
  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: And make no mistake about it, Hennigan is about to get a crash course on tough decisions. You want pressure, how would you like to be a first-time GM and hear this from your new boss: … "You're hired! Now go trade Dwight Howard, the greatest player in franchise history. And make sure you get something really good in return that will keep a skeptical fan base buying tickets." All indications point to Howard wanting out of Orlando although Martins and Hennigan didn't come right out and say it Thursday. Martins reiterated his past stance that the Magic would prefer to keep Howard long term, but added that "ultimately the decision is up to Dwight." Curiously, Hennigan said he has been made aware of where Dwight's current relationship is with the organization but said he prefers to keep that information "behind closed doors." As he left the news conference, a few writers surrounded the new GM and reminded Hennigan of the monumental tasks at hand — dealing with the Dwight drama, hiring a new coach, preparing for the draft and rebuilding a mediocre roster. Rob Hennigan may be young now, but just you wait. He'll age quickly in the weeks and months to come.
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: It’s easy to say that the Wizards should continue to simply build through the draft and possibly follow the Oklahoma City model, but there is a reason the Thunder cannot be duplicated: Rarely can a team draft a once-in-a-generation scorer, a freakishly-athletic point guard and a skilled scorer and playmaker in consecutive drafts. The Wizards certainly have not been blessed to be in that position and they can’t continue to waste the last years of Wall’s rookie deal by collecting more high lottery picks. Wall has yet to establish himself as an elite point guard who warrants the need for panic, but the team has to at least make an effort to convince him that it plans to compete and possibly win. This trade likely ensures that the Wizards will not be taking a top five pick next season, but it doesn’t immediately make them a playoff contender. Okafor has made the playoffs only once – when he played with Chris Paul. Both Okafor and Ariza were deemed expendable by a Hornets team that had one more win than the Wizards.
  • Rick Bonnell of the The Charlotte Observer: This was not your typical first day on the job. New Charlotte Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap jumped into a pre-draft workout Thursday, speeding the pace to the extent former North Carolina star Harrison Barnes called it a “track meet.’’ After the draft candidates left, several current Bobcats worked out. Within minutes of introducing himself, Dunlap jumped in the action, setting screens on big men, fine-tuning driving angles and reminding players to raise their chins to better focus on the rim when shooting. This guy has a lot to fix, with the Bobcats coming off a 7-59 season. Apparently wading into the pool is not his idea of a good swim. “We’ve got to roll our sleeves up and get going now,’’ Dunlap said as he departed the practice court. “We can’t figure this thing is going to come to us. We’ve got to go to it.’’
  • Brad Rock of the Deseret News: Anyone who follows the NBA knows that post-game press conferences these days look a lot like a Drew Carey family reunion. Glasses are everywhere. High fashion eye wear: It's not just for chemistry majors anymore. Of all the goofy sports fashions that occur, few are stranger than this: Horn-rimmed glasses in the interview room. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Glen Davis, Amar'e Stoudemire, Kevin Garnett and Russell Westbrook have each shown up in glasses during the postseason, often without prescription lenses — or any lenses at all. Little do they know it doesn't actually make them look smarter, it only makes them look like Buddy Holly. My only question is whether they buy them at a pricey eye-wear boutiques or All-A-Dollar. Either way, I imagine Kurt Rambis is really ticked. Glasses didn't get cool until he stopped wearing them.

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