Celtics vs. Cavaliers
Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe: '"The Truth' may be a reach, but he sure lived up to his Captain's title yesterday. Paul Pierce brought his certified 'A' game to a deciding seventh game against the Cavaliers. He stood tall in the Cousy-Russell-Havlicek-Bird sense, picking the most propitious moment to play his best game of the 2008 playoffs. 'He just willed his team to victory,' said Cleveland's LeBron James. 'I know that was the breakout game he was waiting for.'"
Monique Walker of The Boston Globe: "In the first-round win over the Hawks, [Ray] Allen averaged 16.1 points and shot 40 percent from the 3-point line (18 of 45). But against the Cavaliers, Allen has struggled. He was held scoreless in Game 1 and managed 9 points in Game 6. Rivers said he is not concerned with Allen's slump. 'I told Ray before the game, 'What happens if you don't take another shot in the entire playoffs and we win the world championship because they're going to double you? You're so valuable if that's what they're going to do because it's going to open the floor for everybody else,' ' Rivers said. 'I thought Ray had no problem with it. He's going to be better.'"
Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "It is said that experience is important in the playoffs, but the Celtics clearly were pushing that envelope to its limit yesterday. In their hour of need, they wrote their own basketball bible. And an elderly man shall lead them. P.J. Brown -- 38 years, 7 months and 4 days old -- was the largest of their big men in the last quarter, going for six points and five rebounds in the quarter to guide the Celts to a 97-92 win over Cleveland. Brown didn't miss a shot on the day, hitting all four from the floor and two from the line on the way to 10 points. We're still awaiting official word, but he would appear to be a lock for AARP Player of the Week."
Branson Wright of The Plain Dealer: "The motivation for General Manager Danny Ferry to make the 11-player trade in February was to help the Cavaliers get back to the NBA Finals. It did not work this year, and it may have had to do with the limited time the new players -- Delonte West, Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak and Joe Smith -- had with LeBron James. 'There was more of an adjustment to getting them to play alongside myself,' James said. 'I can adjust to teammates, any kind of teammates, that's put around me. It doesn't take me that long. It was a much more difficult challenge for those guys to get used to our system and get used to playing alongside myself.' James said they all figured it out in the postseason, and they looked good at times, but it appears the Cavs will need to make more moves this off-season for a shot at an NBA title."
Brian Windhorst of The Akron Beacon-Journal: "The Cavs could have as much as $30 million in expiring contracts to work with in trades. They also will have the No. 19 overall pick in the first round of the NBA Draft. As for free agency, they will have the $5.5 million midlevel exception and the $1.8 million biannual exception to use, though their payroll is so high. they probably will look at trade options first. James, who will take a few weeks off and then start getting ready to play for Team USA in the Olympics, said he thinks that his game just needs some tweaks. 'I don't have to reinvent anything; I think I just need to fine-tune some things,' James said. 'I think I've added some pieces to my game.'"
Spurs vs. Hornets
Buck Harvey San Antonio Express-News: "If they ever build a statue of Tim Duncan outside of the AT&T Center, they should take their time. They should draw up some concepts, sculpt a few ideas and then step back to look for cracks. There should be a few. Then they should build more statues, turning the worst into rubble as they go along, until they get it right. Duncan should be honored the way he played. The best player of the best franchise of this era has required some trial and error to become who he is, and sometimes the error part has been startling for such a Hall of Fame player. He hasn't always figured out everything the first time, and that's where tonight comes in. After playing three games in New Orleans that rank among his worst, after playing at times like a statue, he comes back with reason to think he's ready."
Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "Spurs guard Michael Finley, a veteran of four Game 7s, says the prescription for the Spurs' Big Easy blues is threefold. 'We need a good beginning, good middle and good end,' Finley said. Popovich agrees. 'As trite as it sounds, it's about playing well for 48 minutes,' Popovich said. 'It's about keeping composure, continuing to be aggressive. At that point, players play well or they don't, or you make shots or you don't, and you live with the outcome.' True to any lottery, fate will have the last word in Game 7. Still, the Spurs would be wise to avoid the gumbo. Just in case."
John DeShazier of The Times-Picayune: "All they're trying to do is post the biggest victory in franchise history. The Hornets' players and coaches seem pretty oblivious to that fact, zoned in as they are solely on survival against San Antonio and advancing to the Western Conference finals. Game 7, tonight at the New Orleans Arena, naturally has enough drama and significance attached to it. Every other additive simply becomes lost in the shuffle when, at base, the team's only goal is to win."
Teddy Kider of The Times-Picayune: "Sunday's practice had the typical quirky activities of any Hornets session: Coach Byron Scott shooting 3-pointers, a one-on-one matchup between Jannero Pargo and Julian Wright, the uproarious reaction as a Pargo dunk attempt sent him flying to the court. The element hidden within what seemed to be an ordinary Sunday was that for the first time, the Hornets could have been participating in their final practice of the season."
Darnell Mayberry of Th
e Oklahoman: "Willis Reed knows the Hornets are a card-carrying member of the exclusive undefeated-at-home-in-these-playoffs club -- 6-0 entering tonight's Game 7 against San Antonio. So the 65-year-old Knicks legend has chosen to save himself the trouble of making the 320-mile drive to New Orleans from his Ruston, La. home to root on his former club. 'I'm just going to stay home and watch it and hope their home luck continues,' said Reed, the Hall of Fame center and recently retired vice president of basketball operations for the Hornets. 'I don't want to be the reason they lose. You know how athletes are superstitious.'"
Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: "How has Robert Horry, the aging San Antonio Spurs forward, managed to avoid the bad karma that usually comes with throwing towels into a coach's face, hip-checking Most Valuable Players into scorer's tables and cracking guys with bad backs in the back? It's a mystery. With the Spurs getting ready to visit the New Orleans Hornets in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinal series Monday night, we thought long and hard about this. We can reach only one logical conclusion: Horry has signed a contract with the Prince of Darkness. He has given himself over to Diablo, the Beast himself, the Lord of the Underworld. That's right. He sold his soul to David Stern."
Bob Keisser of the Los Angeles Daily News: "To bash Kobe, even if he occasionally deserves an elbow in the ribs, just doesn't wash in this town. Maybe it's his smile, his longevity, his glibness -- all those Teflon-like qualities. Probably, it's his extraordinary talent, since the average fan who buys things like car flags and jerseys are all about the highlights and victories. Bryant has shown a side in the past few months we haven't seen since he was that nice kid without a posse. He has praised many of the people, like general manager Mitch Kupchak, he tasered in the offseason. He has had to acknowledge that his opinion of young Andrew Bynum was wrong, and humble isn't an emotion Bryant wears particularly well."
Broderick Turner of The Press-Enterprise: "In what has become a postseason tradition, the Lakers will have a team dinner tonight and watch Game 7 between the New Orleans Hornets and San Antonio Spurs to find out who they'll meet in the conference finals. Bryant picked up the bill the first two times. Will he do it again? 'He doesn't have to,' Walton said. 'He's already picked up two. But at the same time, we've won two series in a row, so maybe you've got to stay with it. But we normally play credit card roulette. Either that or we'll make Coby Karl, the rookie, pick it up.'"
Krista Jahnke of the Detroit Free Press: "They've been the top two teams in the Eastern Conference all season. Now they'll play for a berth in the NBA Finals. 'I guess it's only right,' point guard Chauncey Billups said after learning Sunday that the Boston Celtics will be the Pistons' foe in the Eastern Conference finals. The Pistons gathered to watch the second half of the Celtics' 97-92 win over the Cavaliers in Game 7 on Sunday before practicing. Once they knew -- finally, after a season in which the matchup seemed destined -- that their opponent was top-seeded Boston, they got to their real task, fine-tuning a game plan to advance to the Finals for the first time in three seasons."
A. Sherrod Blakely of Booth Newspapers: "The Pistons handed Boston one of their six losses at home this season, the kind of confidence booster that might come into play against a team that has yet to lose a playoff game at home. 'That's definitely a big plus that we have won there, in a season that they pretty much won most of their home games,' Billups said. 'We draw confidence from that, but we know that we're a great road team, in anybody's building. That's where we really draw our confidence from.' ... If Detroit does win Game 1 or 2 in Boston, the Celtics will find themselves in need of doing what they haven't been able to do yet in the playoffs: win a game on the road."
Tom Knott of The Washington Times: "Latrell Sprewell may have been a four-time All-Star in the NBA, but as a financial planner, he rates a big fat goose egg after earning $96.6 million in his career."
Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Larry Bird has a three-step process to improve the Indiana Pacers. How soon the Pacers take advantage of the first step, the draft, will be determined as early as Tuesday when they find out if luck is on their side during the NBA's draft lottery. Bird, in his first offseason with sole control of basketball decisions, said the Pacers plan to use the draft, free agency and trades to try to end their two-year hiatus from the playoffs. The Pacers can speed up the process if the ping-pong balls bounce their way in the lottery, which Bird and new general manager David Morway will attend."
Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "There is only one certainty in this debate. Just like 2007 with Greg Oden and Kevin Durant -- the lottery-winning teams with the first two picks can't go wrong. Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace is among a group of NBA executives who believe Beasley and Rose are evenly matched on the draft board despite playing different positions. Team owner Michael Heisley perhaps offered a strong hint into what the mind-set will be in the Grizzlies' war room. 'The biggest mistakes that have been made in the draft are when a team picks for position,' he said. Beasley, a power forward, would fill a void left by Pau Gasol's departure to the Los Angeles Lakers. Rose, meanwhile, would create a logjam at point guard, where the Grizzlies have Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry."
Mike McGraw of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald: "More than a month into their coaching search, the Bulls have interviewed one candidate who has yet to accept a different job -- broadcaster Mark Jackson. So there may be a long way to go. Utah assistant Tyrone Corbin could be the next to speak to Bulls general manager John Paxson, since the Jazz have been eliminated. Other candidates continue to stay busy in the playoffs. Some names believed to be on the Bulls' expanded list of potential interviews are former Nuggets coach and Mount Prospect native Jeff Bzdelik, Rockets assistant Elston Turner, Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis, Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer and Pistons assistant Terry Porter. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer suggested that former Spurs, Sixers and Cavs coach John Lucas is a candidate."
Sarah Rothschild of The Miami Herald: "College basketball analyst Jay Bilas is proposing the NBA adopt a new rule similar to Major League Baseball: Let high school seniors enter the draft, and require players that go to college stay for a few years. But under Bilas' idea -- one that several NBA front office officials embrace -- college would be more than a stop for the stars of tomorrow, which is what the NCAA has become since the NBA enacted the 'one-and-done' rule in 2006. Tuesday's lottery, which determines the order of the NBA Draft on June 20, is basically a freshman sweepstakes for the Miami Heat. Finishing the season with the worst record assured the Heat of having the best chance to earn the No. 1 pick and a better shot at landing fab freshman power forward Michael Beasley or point guard Derrick Rose -- the projected top two picks. It doesn't stop there. Seven freshmen could be drafted in the top eight, according to several experts."
Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Statistically, Rose is dwarfed by Beasley. But from an impact standpoint, he already has drawn comparisons to Jason Kidd and Deron Williams, with some going as far as offering analogies to current playoff darling Chris Paul. The either/or debate will play out over the coming month, with Tuesday's lottery merely to establish the order for the June 26 NBA Draft, with the Heat holding the top seed in the random but weighted process by virtue of its league-worst 15-67 record."
Percy Allen of The Seattle Times: "As seniors, they'd transfer to different high schools closer to home. They'd win the MVP award of the McDonald's All-America Game. They'd attend Big 12 schools. Durant to Texas, Beasley to Kansas State. They'd win the conference Freshman of the Year award. They'd leave school after one year. And they'd both become high lottery picks in the NBA draft. Durant was taken No. 2 overall last year by the Sonics and Beasley is considered by many to be top pick in the June 26 draft. Who would believe that story? Depending on what happens at Tuesday's draft lottery, the Sonics may be in position to reunite the childhood friends."
Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News: "Just like that, the season's over for the Utah Jazz. But by losing Friday night, the Jazz just moved up the inevitable a few days. Did anyone really believe they had a chance of winning a seventh game in L.A. tonight? With a 'normal' Carlos Boozer, the Jazz might have had a chance to knock off the Lakers, but with the Jazz forward being just a shadow of his regular-season self, they couldn't quite do it ... Talk of unloading Boozer is silly, but what moves should the Jazz make? I can only think of one -- get rid of reserve point guard Jason Hart, who was basically useless this year. But he still has another year on his contract."
Steve Springer of the Los Angeles Times: "The faces haunt Ira Newble, their silent anguish sometimes drowning out the joyous noise of a Staples Center crowd, their looming presence a jarring reminder that genuine do-or-die struggles in life don't occur on a basketball court. Newble, 33, is usually stuck on the Lakers' bench, but he has plenty of positives to focus on. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward, with eight years in the league, went from being a free agent two months ago to a roster spot on one of the teams favored to win the NBA title. But even such good fortune can't dull the pain of having seen young children draw pictures of their parents being murdered, or erase the horror of hearing a young woman talk about being raped night after night. And it doesn't dim the image of a young man whose eyes were gouged out."
Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: "Masai Ujiri knows all too well the challenges facing basketball development in his Nigerian homeland, from a dearth of facilities to a lack of good instruction, and it pains him to know so many talented athletes are losing out on athletic and educational opportunities. So the director of global scouting for the Raptors was back home last week, holding his fifth annual Giants of Africa big-man camp in Lagos, continuing to build a foundation on which the sport can grow in the years to come. 'These kids have the raw talent, unbelievable physical talent, but fundamentally, they are just not that sound,' Ujiri said in a recent interview. 'They are just so raw.'"
Scott Howard-Cooper of the Sacramento Bee: "What will the Kings do with Ron Artest? Captivated by his moments of stardom, frustrated by his bouts of undependability, the Kings' latest decision time arrives with the usual ambivalence and the new circumstance: that Artest can declare himself a free agent by June 30. For the first time, he has a loud vote in how this turns out. Artest being Artest, he spent the season's second half offering mixed messages about whether he would exercise the contract option and, if so, whether it would be with the intent of getting a new long-term deal with the Kings or leaving. There's $7.4 million on the table for 2008-09 and about 74 million contradictory signals."
Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "Rick Carlisle is comfortable on the bench -- the piano bench. He can bang out tunes well enough that he has sat in on a few sets with his good friend, Grammy winner Bruce Hornsby. 'I can fake my way through some things,' the new Mavericks coach says. Don't let him fool you. He's sheepish about talking up his abilities, but Carlisle has some game when it comes to playing the piano. Take it from somebody who knows. 'He's the only NBA coach who could play the anthem before his own game,' Hornsby says. 'I think he first started playing in college to meet girls. But then he got into it. And he's a good piano player.'"
Billy Witz of The New York Times: "The Suns may be gone from the N.B.A. playoffs, but with the league continuing to gain a more international flavor, fans do not have to know the difference between a free throw and a free kick to see soccer's influence on basketball. 'When you grow up playing soccer, you obviously carry that over to other sports,' said Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who lived in Italy from age 6 through 13. 'I think it has helped me tremendously.' Bryant is not the only one. The most recent Most Valuable Player award winners are men whose first touches of a ball may have been with their feet: Bryant
; Dirk Nowitzki, a native of Germany who plays for Dallas; and Nash, a former Canadian youth player whose brother and father played soccer professionally. And last year's finals M.V.P., Tony Parker of San Antonio, played soccer as a child in France."