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First Cup: Monday

6/10/2013
  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: It took the Heat the better part of seven quarters, but they finally gave the Spurs a taste of their awesome open-court power with a 33-5 run to blow Game 2 open and even the Finals at 1-1. They did so by feasting on 17 turnovers for 19 points — a huge turnaround from Game 1, in which the Spurs tied a Finals record with four turnovers leading to eight Heat points. The Heat improved to 4-0 following Game 1 losses in the LeBron James era. James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade didn’t play particularly well, coming 25 points short of their combined season scoring average. But they were better than Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, who shot 10 for 33 with more turnovers (nine) than assists (eight). Add Kawhi Leonard going 4 for 12, and the Spurs’ hot outside shooting -- they made 10 3-pointers, including five without a miss from Danny Green -- could keep them afloat for only so long. “They just ran us over,” Ginobili said. … Miami’s in-house reporter, Couper Moorhead, refers to the Heat’s turnover-fueled frenzies as “Omega Swarms.” They entered that mode late in the third quarter, flipping what had been to a 62-61 deficit into a 94-67 advantage over the course of little more than eight minutes stretching into the fourth quarter. The Spurs missed 8 of 10 shots with six turnovers during that span, while Miami went 12 for 13 to take the first double-digit lead in the series for either team. … The message was received as Duncan conceded that the Spurs no longer have momentum even as they head home for three straight. “Not after tonight,” he said. “I think they regained that. Obviously we are glad to win a game here in Game 1. We have three at home, and we’re excited about that. But if we play like we did tonight, it’s not going to matter.”

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: The box score offered no delineation about a Big Three or a Chosen One. The shots were evenly distributed, as were the points, five players in double figures, two more with nine. So now the victories in this series are evenly distributed, as well. The NBA Finals are tied 1-1 heading to San Antonio for the next three. Heat 103, Spurs 84. Yet after this Sunday night performance atAmericanAirlines Arena, it could be argued that the Heat lead 1-1. In the wake of a Game 1 nail-biter, the Heat produced a Game 2 blowout. After Thursday's series opener, the question was how the Heat would solve Spurs guard Tony Parker. Now San Antonio takes flight with a wide range of concerns. Because it's not as simple as stopping LeBron James, which the Spurs did rather effectively for stretches Sunday, on what turned into his 7-of-17, 17-point night. It's accounting for Ray Allen and Mike Miller on the wing. It's stopping Dwyane Wade, and, yes, Mario Chalmers off the dribble. It's trying to keep Chris Bosh from retaining this double-double confidence. … For weeks now, we've waited for the support system to make it easier on LeBron, to ease the pain in Wade's knee, to help bolster Bosh's confidence. Then came this: When Chalmers was doing his Danny Green imitation, which, in Sunday's case, was a very good and very important thing, the duo, shockingly, their teams' leading scorers. When Miller turned into NBA Finals Mike Miller, sort of the Cadbury Easter Egg of June, available only for a limited period. When Allen answered all those questions from the earlier rounds of, "Why Ray Allen?" When Chris Andersen delivered a chorus of Birdman! Birdman!! Birdman!!!

  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: This is why he’s here. And this is why, with the Heat holding his $4 million option this summer, he’ll stick around. This is what makes him different, what makes his value impossible to measure by conventional statistics,what allows the Heat to tolerate his lapses in concentration, his consistent inconsistency. This is what Mario Chalmers does. This, at this point, is who he is. “You can’t teach that quality, that big-game guts,” coach Erik Spoelstra said after Chalmers catalyzed the Heat’s 103-84 victory in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. You can’t teach, and you don’t question. Not at this stage. Not on this stage. Not after he etched himself into Kansas history, with the shot that sent the NCAA Final to overtime. Not after he scored 18 points in Game 6 of the 2011 NBA Finals against Dallas, nearly saving the Heat after Spoelstra waited too long to re-insert him as a starter. Not after he scored 25 points in Game 4 of the 2012 NBA Finals against Oklahoma City, supplying Miami with the secondary offense to take control of the series. Not after his strong play against Indiana in the 2013 Eastern Conference finals, picking up some of the slack for the struggling Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. And certainly not after what he did Sunday night, with 19 points, no turnovers and a plus-30.

  • David Mayo of MLive.com: When the Detroit Pistons officially announce Maurice Cheeks as their new head coach at a press conference early this week, the man whose third-year job referendum is a central focus of this change finally will take the stage in a public setting. Joe Dumars hasn't said much publically lately, and we're all still awaiting scheduling of the Pistons' annual postseason press conference, but the impact of this summer on his long-term restructuring plot has hit the rubber-meets-road point. The Pistons' president of basketball operations broke down a roster, through trades and expired contracts, and ultimately pushed for a coaching change with owner Tom Gores because he didn't want the Pistons' 2013-14 season -- the one on which his own job performance the last two years ultimately will be gauged -- falling to a coach whose hiring he didn't back in the first place. … It didn't go well last time and most general manager types wouldn't last long enough for a do-over all these years later. But most GM types didn't build a team that played in six consecutive conference finals. That era quickly is dwindling into a Once Upon a Time fable, but With Dumars' own fate tied so closely to next season, when his performance in the Gores era finally can be judged fairly, he earned this right to select who pulls the Pistons' game strings.

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: The Nets, in search of a coach to secure their future, are reaching into their past. Jason Kidd, whose arrival in 2001 transformed the franchise from laughingstock to contender, has placed his name in the candidate pool, according to a person briefed on the team’s coaching search. Kidd retired last week at age 40, after 19 seasons. His coaching aspirations were well known, although his decision to pursue a head coaching position so soon was a bit of a surprise. … It is unclear how seriously the Nets are considering Kidd, or how they will weigh his inexperience as a coach against his reputation as a leader and basketball savant. Kidd was known throughout his career as a highly intelligent player and a virtual coach on the court. The other top candidates include Lionel Hollins, the Memphis Grizzlies’ head coach, and Brian Shaw, the associate head coach of the Indiana Pacers.

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: The Kings have been granted permission to interview Denver vice president of basketball operations Pete D'Alessandro in their search for a new leader of their basketball operations. An interview has not been scheduled, but could be as early as today. D'Alessandro worked with former Denver general manager Masai Ujiri. Ujiri won NBA Executive of the Year this season. … If D'Alessandro were to leave Denver, it would continue an offseason of upheaval. Besides Ujiri leaving, George Karl was fired last week. He was this season's Coach of the Year. D'Alessandro has spent three seasons with Denver. This season was his first as vice president after serving in an advisory role. D'Alessandro's focus was on trade and free-agent negotiations, salary cap management and collective bargaining agreement rules and regulations. Before joining the Nuggets, D'Alessandro worked for the Warriors' assistant general manager and director of basketball operations from 2004-08.

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Doc Rivers’ tie with Garnett, in particular, is as strong as any player-coach relationship in the league. Gregg Popovich has something this strong with Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan, and that example is probably the only one left in this increasingly transient league. Garnett always has policed the locker room for Rivers, whose own credibility as a leader has rested on the Hall of Famer’s clout with teammates. It really wasn’t that long ago when Rivers nursed a perpetual headache courtesy of the locker room damage done by bad chemistry guys like Ricky Davis and Mark Blount. Even Pierce wasn’t quite a unifying force before Garnett’s arrival. Rivers now has to be wondering about a locker room controlled by Rajon Rondo. The mercurial guard, to his credit, has been working the room. Avery Bradley, Jeff Green and Courtney Lee all happily follow him. But there’s a great unknown with Rondo. He’s moody, hasn’t always got along with Rivers, and has an indefatigable stubborn streak. Save for an unlikely major trade that would allow the Celtics to re-tool on the fly in exchange for the loss of Pierce and Garnett, a Rondo locker room will signal deep rebuilding.

  • John Mtchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer: One by one, the recycled names that come up every year - the ones that this year the 76ers were whispered to be interested in as their next coach - have come off the board. … So, what does this mean for the Sixers? Perhaps that president of basketball operations and general manager Sam Hinkie is going to go outside of the box, by choice or by necessity, in naming the first coach he will ever hire. After all, with desirable destinations such as Brooklyn, Denver, the Los Angeles Clippers (and maybe Memphis) searching for coaches, rest assured that the Sixers, unlike the Eagles and Michael Vick, are certain where they stand on a desirability depth chart of the remaining vacancies around the league. In the limited contact local media members have had with Hinkie - surely you have noticed how scarce the Sixers have made the former Houston Rockets assistant general manager - he has established what appears to be a meticulous route to what will be a career-defining hire for him. … When Hinkie finally does make a decision, he will be completely tied to his success or failure. If it is the latter, at some point the question will be raised whether or not (and why) he waited so long to pull the trigger or whether or not he outsmarted the pack and knew exactly what he was doing.

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: The Cavaliers have kept their eye on Maryland 7-foot-1, 255-pound center Alex Len. They like him a lot. Do they like him enough to take him with the No. 1 pick? He won't be working out for any teams before the draft because he had surgery on a stress fracture in his left ankle, but he can meet with them. "I'm trying to be proactive and do the right things," Len said. "I want to be smart about it. I don't want to hurt it. When the doctors say I'm ready to play, then I'll play. "It's hard. You want to be out there and show scouts what you can do. It sucks to not be out there." Scouts have compared him to former Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas. "I watched him while I was growing up," Len said. "He's really famous overseas. He played in Cleveland for almost 15 years. I like his style of play. He has good size. He can step out and shoot. It's similar to my game."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: The Wizards will finally begin to meet candidates for the third overall selection on Wednesday, when UNLV freshman forward Anthony Bennett will visit with the team for the first time at Verizon Center. … Most draft boards have the Wizards selecting Georgetown sophomore forward Otto Porter with the No. 3 pick, but the team remains split on which direction to go, according to league sources with knowledge of the situation. Porter will meet with the Wizards on Thursday and work out the next day. An Eastern Conference assistant general manager said Porter is the “safest” pick of the two but added that Bennett has a “much bigger upside” while being a “riskier” choice. “The hard thing for me is not knowing Bennett’s physical since he didn’t take one in Chicago,” the executive said. “But if it’s fine, then I would take Bennett.” A Western Conference assistant general manager disagreed, preferring Porter over Bennett. The executive argued that Bennett will be a bench player similar to Brandon Bass, Rodney Rogers or Corliss Williamson, while Porter could be a complementary, starting small forward like Tayshaun Prince or Shane Battier for a “dynamic back court” in Wall and Bradley Beal.

  • Craig Grialou of ArizonaSports.com: Finding a player to draft with the fifth overall pick is not difficult -- the number of options may make it difficult, but even the most casual college basketball fan can tell you who the top players were in a given season. Now, finding a player late in the draft, say No. 30 or No. 57, picks the Suns own this year, that takes a real basketball junkie. Enter Suns GM Ryan McDonough, who is preparing for his 11th NBA Draft. "As you go later in the draft, the pool widens," he said. "It's a challenge, but I enjoy it." Good players, even star players, can be found in the back half of the draft. McDonough, celebrating his first month on the job, has had success finding those gems. He was part of a Boston Celtics front office staff that landed Kendrick Perkins in 2003 (27th overall), Delonte West and Tony Allen in 2004 (24th and 25th overall), Rajon Rondo in 2006 (21st overall) and Glen Davis in 2007 (35th overall). "The good teams hit in the 20s and the 30s every year, the playoff teams," McDonough said. "That's how San Antonio and Boston, some of those teams have sustained their level. There are good players there."

  • Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times: Maybe it was merely a coincidence. Then, again, maybe it wasn’t. When the Milwaukee Bucks hired Larry Drew as their head coach last week, he may have received a boost from two of the team’s best players: power forward Ersan Ilyasova and center Larry Sanders. Both of those players are represented by Andy Miller, one of the NBA’s most powerful and influential agents. While player agents are prohibited from “representing” coaches — in an apparent attempt to avoid a conflict of interest — they can circumvent the rule by being “advisors.” Miller has served in an advisory role for Drew in the past and has a close relationship with him. Additionally, Miller’s agency represents Larry Drew II, the Bucks’ coach’s son who was UCLA’s starting point guard last season. Miller and his agency represent several other players in this year’s draft as well, including Sergey Karasev, a 6-foot-7 small forward from Russia. The Bucks have the 15th overall pick and are believed to have more than a passing interest in him.

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: Tony Allen wants to rejuvenate his Oklahoma roots. Wish that meant Allen signing a cut-rate contract with the Thunder. That would be mighty fine for those of us who enjoy big-time NBA basketball. Instead, Allen is going a more humanitarian route. He's hosting a basketball camp at his old haunt of Gallagher-Iba Arena. And Allen is footing the bill for the Grit & Grind Basketball Skills Academy from July 29-31 in Stillwater. For $4,000, Allen is renting the coliseum in which he once starred. “Just looking at how I came up, pretty much started in Oklahoma,” said Allen, who went to high school at Chicago's Crane Tech, then played at two junior colleges before landing at OSU. “Great times in Stillwater,” Allen said, of making the 2004 Final Four. “Feel like jump-started my career.”