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First Cup: Tuesday

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: The talent on both sides is undeniable. Yet it might not make the ultimate difference in these NBA Finals. The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs have shown as much through the first two games of this best-of-seven series that stands tied 1-1 entering Tuesday night's Game 3 at the AT&T Center. Instead, precision, pace and passion could ultimately prevail. In the fourth quarter of their 92-88 Game 1 loss, the Heat looked lifeless. During their 33-5 second-half surge in their 103-84 Game 2 romp, the vitality was undeniable. In Game 1, the Spurs committed just four turnovers, getting the ball where they wanted and when they wanted. In Game 2, there were 17 Spurs turnovers, including five from point guard Tony Parker who went without one in Game 1. "They were just more aggressive," Parker said of a turnaround as dramatic on the scoreboard as in the vitality displayed by the teams in the two games. "We have to play better, definitely have to play better." It sounds simple, and yet it was the simple answer for the Heat in Sunday's Game 2 victory at AmericanAirlines Arena. "We just played Miami Heat basketball," guard Dwyane Wade said. "Our energy was high. We felt that Game 1 we played for 3 1/2 quarters and they played better than us in the fourth quarter and won the game." That's not to say there weren't tactical changes in Game 2, and that there won't be similar adjustments as the series shifts for the first of three games on the Spurs' home court, with both teams taking Monday off. "Obviously you make some adjustments and get a bit of a rhythm," Wade said.

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: While the Spurs’ ball protection devolved from historically great to butter-fingered, their shooting has been consistently poor throughout: 41.7 percent in Game 1, and 41.0 in Game 2. Their combined 176 points are the fewest they’ve scored in consecutive games in more than two months, and their series efficiency rating is 5.9 below their season average. The Heat are also managing the neat trick of slowing the Spurs down while speeding them up; the Silver and Black are earning roughly nine fewer possessions than their season average. The Spurs chalked some of that up to their own errant marksmanship, and there’s some truth to that. Take the stretch spanning the third and fourth quarters of Game 1, when Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard bricked a string of wide-open corner 3-pointers – the exact type of shots the Spurs have built their offense around. But the Heat are also doing their part, disrupting the Spurs’ precision offense with speed, quickness and length. The biggest deficiency has come at the rim, where the Spurs are shooting seven percentage points below their season average on slightly fewer attempts.

  • Harvey Araton of The New York Times: Making Jason Kidd the coach just weeks after he walked out of the Knicks’ locker room in Indianapolis and retired as a player would not be the most radical transaction in the history of the N.B.A., much less the country. That does not mean it would be the best choice for the Nets as they attempt to build on this season’s successful residency in Brooklyn, or even a very wise one.In terms of giants among men, Kidd is certainly not Russell. As a leading man of unquestioned character, Kidd has a 19-year N.B.A. track record that suggests that he is no Billups, either. The Nets should be careful not to confuse visionary point guard play with the ability of a person to see life’s big picture. Even at the advanced playing age of 40, Kidd has provided reasons to wonder just how much of a grown-up he really is outside the lines. This is a man who, last July, drove his car into a light pole, reportedly after a night of drinking, and has been accused of everything from chronic coach killing to domestic abuse. … Kidd no doubt knows the game, but do the Nets really know Kidd? Bringing him back in some capacity would be a good idea. Indulging him by putting him in charge without an intermediary step would be an unnecessary risk for the team and possibly a disservice to Kidd. After 19 years as the brilliant maestro of basketball games, he could first use a taste of the real world. If a first-rate and overdue candidate like Brian Shaw is available, Prokhorov’s team should tell Kidd nyet, or at least not yet.

  • Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press: Apathy finally claimed the Pistons with their latest coaching search. Joe Dumars spun the revolving door one more time, and it spit out Maurice Cheeks. The Pistons announced the hire Monday night. There’s nothing about Cheeks that excites. There’s nothing about Cheeks that irritates. There’s nothing about Cheeks that draws even a casual shrug. There’s just nothing. It’s not the man’s fault. The Pistons have fallen so far off the public radar that few care deeply right now about what direction they’re headed in or even who’s steering the ship. When you’ve gone through as many coaches as they have the last 10 years (Cheeks is the seventh), it’s already understood there are no panaceas available on the open market. … The Pistons needed a new coach (again). But what they need far more are impact players who can truly push this franchise out of its doldrums, returning it to a time when there was genuine excitement about potential moves and the possibilities of a new season. But the only buzz right now is actually a snore.

  • Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe: For Celtics fans, the most interesting tid-bit from the videos passed along by Red Bull is Rajon Rondo talking about his relationship with coach Doc Rivers and how it has grown. "I pretty much know what he's going to say. I've been playing for him for seven years, and we've pretty much always been on the same page, especially now," Rondo said from the Red Bull studios in Los Angeles. "Each year we're growing, we're communicating better, learning each other more and more each year." When asked if he was hard to coach, at least early in his career, Rondo said, "I still am. It's not that I'm hard to coach, it's just that I may challenge what you say. I know the game myself, I'm out there playing the game. So I may have seen something different versus what you saw from the sideline. I'm going to be respectable. I'm going to let the coach talk." Rondo also said of Rivers, "I wouldn't rather play for any other coach."

  • Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Major props to the little kid who showed the necessary Mike Wallace-like skills to ask Dirk Nowitzki the one question everyone cares to ask: “Who would you rather play with,” the kid at the T. Boone Pickens YMCA asked Dirk, “Chris Paul or Dwight Howard?” Well done, young man. Dirk was visiting a group of kids for a Mavericks-sponsored basketball clinic Monday afternoon and fielded a mostly harmless series of questions such as “How tall are you?” to “How many 3-pointers did you make last season?” until one kid served up a question with a little teeth. “Wow, you’re going right at it,” Dirk said. This is why we love Dirk — he didn’t dodge the question with a lame, “I can’t wait to be reunited with Erick Dampier.” Dirk simply said: “I like both. Whatever one that wants to come here.” When your options are Darren Collison running the point or Chris Kaman in the post, you really would love either D-12 or CP3. Dirk needs help, and the Mavs are like every other team this off-season — they are selling Paul or Howard in free agency. The Atlanta Hawks got into trouble with the league when they sent season ticket holders those particular names as a good reason to be excited about Hawks basketball. Dirk said that, unlike last summer when there was no Plan B after trying to sign Deron Williams, there exists an alternative beyond D12 or CP3. He doesn’t want a bunch of guys on one-year deals. For Dirk’s sake, let us all hope the Mavs are able to add Howard or Paul, preferably the latter. Dirk will not be going anywhere in his final NBA years, and he deserves better than what his boss has surrounded him with as a supporting cast.

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: I think the Charlotte Bobcats trading for Miami Heat big man Chris Bosh would turn out like when the Carolina Panthers acquired defensive lineman Sean Gilbert. Gilbert played OK as a Panther. But the trouble the Panthers went to in acquiring him – sending two first-round picks to the Washington Redskins, plus signing Gilbert to a reported seven-year, $46 million contract – suggested he should have been way more than just OK. Boston Globe NBA columnist Gary Washburn speculated in his Sunday notes column that since the Bobcats have abundant salary cap room and the need to make a big splash, then maybe trading for Bosh would make sense. I don’t see it that way. Bosh is a complementary big man who generates most of his offense as a jump-shooter. The Bobcats need a low-post scorer, someone who can force the other team to double-team. That doesn’t sound like the Bosh I’ve watched in the playoffs.

  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: Team USA basketball practices are about to get a lot longer with a whole lot more defensive close-out drills. That’s because Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau will join the staff when the next cycle starts, beginning with the 2014 World Cup of Basketball. Thibodeau, along with Monty Williams, will join returning coach Jim Boeheim as assistants under Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. Now Thibodeau can repeatedly say, “We’ve got more than enough,’’ and actually mean it. “It is truly and honor and a privilege to be representing our country the next four years and to be part of such a great team,’’ Thibodeau said in a statement. “I’m very excited about having the opportunity to work with all the great coaches and players that are going to be involved.”

  • Jeff Metcalfe and Anne Ryman of The Arizona Republic: USA Basketball, the national governing body responsible for choosing the U.S. Olympic teams, plans to relocate to Tempe as part of an Arizona State development project, multiple sources told azcentral sports. Currently located in Colorado Springs, Colo., USA Basketball is expected to announce its plan soon to be part of a 10-acre project adjacent to the ASU campus, sources said. This is the second time that USA Basketball, whose chairman/president is former Suns chairman/CEO Jerry Colangelo, has chosen to relocate to the Valley. A plan to move to Glendale in 2008, with a private developer building a $53.8 million training campus as part of a larger development near Camelback Ranch, fell through because the developer could not complete financing during the economic downturn.

  • John Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer: The 76ers are considering talking to Denver assistant Melvin Hunt about their coaching job, but they might have to fend off the Nuggets. Denver is believed to be interested in promoting Hunt to replace George Karl, who was fired last week, league sources said Monday. "The Sixers have not formally made contact to begin the process, but there has been some talk through the back channels," a source said. The Sixers have not sought permission from the Nuggets to speak with Hunt, according to the source. However, the source said part of the reason for this could be that the Nuggets are without a general manager. Masai Ujiri, this season's NBA executive of the year, left his job as Denver's GM to take a more lucrative position in Toronto. … Miami Heat assistant David Fizdale, who said he has not been contacted by the Sixers, was also reported to be under consideration for the job.

  • Dale Kasler of The Sacramento Bee: Consolidating their control of the Sacramento Kings, new majority owner Vivek Ranadive and his partners on Monday secured a bankruptcy judge's approval to buy another 7 percent share of the team. The judge turned aside a last-minute purchase offer from former limited partner Bob Cook, who lost the 7 percent share when his real estate empire crumbled. The stake has been under the control of a court-appointed trustee since shortly after Cook went bankrupt in 2011. Buying Cook's share will increase the Ranadive group's ownership stake to 72 percent. NBA Commissioner David Stern's office has already approved the latest deal, said NBA lawyer Martin Zohn, and the purchase could close Wednesday. Ranadive is buying the share for $15.1 million – the same amount Seattle investor Chris Hansen was planning to pay

  • Michael Hunt of the Journal Sentinel: But I'm thinking fans who understand the NBA as it applies to small markets would understand and abide if only the Bucks would come out and say something like this: "Look, we know the product hasn't been very good or interesting for a long time. We've treaded water long enough in the NBA's no-man's land of mediocrity to realize it's either getting us a so-so draft pick or one-and-done in the playoffs. We're going young and hungry and we promise to play as hard as any team in the league. Please bear with us while we go through this painful but necessary process to make you proud of this team again." I'm pretty sure real fans would buy into that, especially in a city that values hard work and hustle much more than overpriced so-called stars, not to mention a boring team. They would understand that is how San Antonio became a model franchise beginning in the mid-'90s. And how Indiana recently became relevant again. And how Memphis and Oklahoma City got good. It is the small-market way. Start over and hope to hit the jackpot in the draft, which, by the way, is going to be killer next season. In the Bucks' case, starting over would mean saying goodbye to Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. But so what? It's not like they're winning with them now.

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: A sharpshooting, playmaking, late-rising NBA Draft prospect with a mid-major background traveled through Portland on Monday, offering a tantalizing taste of what could be available for the Trail Blazers in the lottery later this month. Wait a minute. Haven’t we been through this before? Roughly one year after Damian Lillard wowed the Blazers during a solo predraft workout, another dynamic, potential-laden mid-major point guard — Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum — visited the practice facility in Tualatin, participating in a 45-minute individual workout in front of owner Paul Allen and the Blazers’ front office. “I heard Dame missed two shots,” McCollum said, smirking, about Lillard’s famed June 2012 predraft workout for the Blazers. “So I tried to go for three and I came up a little short.” … But if the Blazers already have Lillard, why would they pursue Lillard 2.0? Well, according to McCollum, he has the versatility of a “chameleon” to blend in at point guard and shooting guard and the demeanor to coexist with the NBA’s reigning Rookie of the Year. “Honestly, I feel like I can play either position,” McCollum said of the guard spots.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: The Orlando Magic will have a new NBA Development League affiliate in the year ahead, either the Bakersfield Jam, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, Iowa Energy or Reno Bighorns. Last season, the Magic, Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves and the Philadelphia 76ers were affiliated with the Sioux Falls SkyForce. But SkyForce officials announced today that they have entered into a one-to-one affiliation agreement with the Heat. The move ensures that the Magic will need a new affiliate. Magic officials probably welcome the news. The Magic didn’t assign any of its young players to the SkyForce last season. The distance between Orlando and Sioux Falls and the limited number of flights into Sioux Falls made it impractical for the Magic to assign anyone there. Still, the Magic want to make the D-League a part of their player-development strategy. … The remaining 13 NBA teams, including the Magic, will be affiliated with the D-League franchises in Bakersfield, Des Moines, Fort Wayne and Reno. The NBA will determine the affiliations, but league officials solicit input from NBA teams. It would seem the franchises based in Des Moines and Fort Wayne would be most attractive to the Magic because of their better geographic proximity.

  • Shaun Powell of The News-Journal: For those who never saw the real Julius Erving, meaning, you were born too late or didn’t have access to the ABA, where he played his best ball, the documentary on Dr. J will have to do. But that’s the thing about “The Doctor,” which aired Monday on NBA TV and re-airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. You get some of the authentic Julius, a good bit, actually. But not all. You get the highlights – rare and incredible footage, super interviews with him and others – but none of the not-so-highlights. You get the Julius everyone fell in love with, the smart and friendly showman who aimed to please, but not the one who threw us for a loop with some questionable personal decisions. You don’t get the 100 percent essence of the man and the player, and really, who did? Even his playing career was 50 percent mystery. He played before ESPN, didn’t become a star until late in high school, went to an obscure college for basketball and spent his early years in a rival league without a TV contract. Only until the ABA-NBA merger in 1976 did the country get a taste of the Doctor and even then, the NBA was clearly a distant third among pro sports leagues, with the Finals shown on tape-delay. This is where “The Doctor” shines, though. The 90-minute film flushes out those missing segments of a Hall of Fame life and explains what we missed. And we missed plenty.

  • Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune: His hairline is receding and the familiar beard that always added to his Paul Bunyan-esque appearance has turned into a graying goatee. Twenty years after playing his final game for the Utah Jazz, however, Mark Eaton remains a mountain of a man who is living, working and thriving in his adopted home state. Now 56, Eaton is a partner in the popular Salt Lake City restaurant Tuscany and a motivational speaker, whose built-from-scratch business is booming. Away from his work, Eaton resides in Park City and owns "a couple of horses," including a 27-year-old favorite named Festus. He also skis "30 or 40 days" every winter, using the sanctuary of Utah’s powder-covered slopes as a place to relax, refresh and contemplate. "For me," Eaton says, "skiing is like going to church." Retirement from basketball "has been interesting and challenging. You really don’t know what you want to do and I had some physical issues to deal with for a few years. But those finally got better and things are going pretty well."