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First Cup: Thursday

  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Take that Q! The Orlando Magic came into Cleveland to face not only the formidable Cavaliers but a raucous party palace. Quiet, please. Magic 107, Cavaliers 106. As franchise victories go, this one is an instant classic. The Magic looked like they had jet lag for much of the first half, trailing by 15 points at halftime. But bless them, they kept chipping away, not only at the lead, but at the invincible veneer of the Cavaliers. ... There's plenty of basketball left to play, people, but in terms of relevance, stealing a game here is huge. The TV theme for the playoffs has a nice ring to it: 'The NBA, where amazing happens.' Then the Magic came to Cleveland and silenced the din from the Q. Amazing indeed."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "The Cavaliers and LeBron James, it turns out, are human after all. The Cavs got more than they could handle from the Orlando Magic in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. As expected, the Magic provided a demanding test due to their star center, their deep and talented roster and some awesome outside shooting. What wasn't expected was what happened to the Cavs when the heat turned up. They melted and broke down. As a result, so did their homecourt advantage. Showing the same poise and execution they displayed in Boston over the weekend, the Magic outlasted the Cavs, 107-106, to score a huge first blow. So the Cavs' eight-game playoff win streak is over and so is their air of invincibility, against a team whose confidence is only continuing to grow."

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: "The criticism was coming from everywhere -- pundits, fans, NBA scouts, anyone who had a thought on basketball. And yet no one felt worse than Derek Fisher. No one felt the strain, the burden, the weight more than the Lakers' veteran guard. His shot had betrayed him in the postseason, the ball hardly ever finding the rim, but Fisher never game up, never stopped believing. In Game 1 of the Western Conference finals against the Denver Nuggets, the basketball gods shined down on Fisher, rewarding him for keeping his faith, for working even harder despite his woes. ... 'I just try to keep working, man,' Fisher said. 'I don't get down. It's just more frustrating because I feel like if we play the way we can play offensively, execute the ball and move the ball, the offensive things will work out. So it's only frustrating in that regard.'"

  • Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post: "After one game of the Western Conference finals, the official score is: Los Angeles Lakers 1, Nuggets coach George Karl 0. Hey, Karl owes us one. Big time. And he knows it. 'In finishing the game, I wish I could have done better,' Karl said Wednesday, still trying to figure out how the Nuggets managed to lose 105-103 to the Lakers in Game 1. Is this best-of-seven series over? It should be. And the Lakers could be the team that's done, if only Karl had not choked. Within his own organization, the Nuggets' fifth-year coach is sometimes referred to as George Nai- smith, and it's not necessarily a term of endearment for a guy who can act as if he invented the game. L.A. coach Phil Jackson admitted Denver outplayed his Lakers on their home floor during the series opener, yet the visitors somehow lost. Was that a psychological jab at Karl?"

  • Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal: "On the day after the Grizzlies experienced their luckiest draft lottery day since arriving in Memphis, they were rewarded at the box office. Already encouraging season-ticket sales were bolstered by the news that the Grizzlies, who were slotted sixth, jumped to the No. 2 position in the NBA's June 25 draft. The Grizzlies' ticket sales staff was more active Wednesday than in each of the past two years on the day following the draft lottery. 'It's looking a lot better. I think people are excited about where we are, and where we can go with this pick,' Griz owner Michael Heisley said. 'We've got two first-round picks this year and two next year. And you're sitting there with two guys who made the All-Rookie team. ... All I'm doing is working the plan.'"

  • Sam Amick of the Sacramento Bee: "Picking fourth means the variables are many. If the first three teams picking – the Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis and Oklahoma City – don't move from their current spots, there is nothing for certain other than the widely held belief that Oklahoma's Blake Griffin will be the first to go. And while it is far from certain that Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie sees Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio as the answer to the team's deficiencies at that spot, there are numerous scenarios in which the 18-year-old could conceivably fall their way. But the Kings -- who also have the Nos. 23 and 31 picks -- are likely to be approached by other teams with attractive trade options that might not have existed otherwise. One league source on Wednesday even indicated the seemingly unthinkable, that the Clippers would be willing to trade the top pick -- which they have already confirmed would be Griffin -- for the right package. The Kings could move down in the draft as well, with that possibility more likely if they target a point guard who could be available beyond the fourth spot such as Syracuse's Jonny Flynn, Italy's Brandon Jennings or UCLA's Jrue Holiday."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "You would think Hasheem Thabeet is exactly what the Thunder needs. You would think everything from his size to his shot blocking and rebounding would fit perfectly with Oklahoma City and that Thunder general manager Sam Presti wouldn't hesitate to take him and run if he's available when the No. 3 pick rolls around in next month's NBA Draft. But yet there is a real question about whether the Thunder will fall into the temptation of Thabeet, the 7-foot-3 center from Connecticut who is rated as a top three prospect. It's a question because Thabeet's game has so many questions."

  • Mike Jones of The Washington Times: "Considering that, Ernie Grunfeld said, the Wizards approached the lottery hoping to get the top pick but weren't despondent at missing out on a first or second overall selection. And given the flexibility they now have, the Wizards will evaluate their situation judiciously in the next 35 days leading up to the draft. 'Either way, we're going to get someone who can help our team, whether we use the pick or if we trade it,' Grunfeld said. 'If we keep it, there aren't any real need areas, so we will draft the best available player that fits our situation.'"

  • Don Seeholzer of The Pioneer Press: "With the Timberwolves still looking for a new head of basketball operations, it's impossible to say what they will do with their three first-round selections
    on June 25, but this much is clear: They don't figure to just stand pat and pick. As general manager Jim Stack said in March, 'I don't think we're going to sit there and draft three or four rookies into our team next year, knowing we also have two second-round picks.' The Wolves' roster might have some holes in it, but the team needs quality and maybe experience more than quantity. That means it's more likely they would package a couple of those first-round picks to trade for a veteran such as Chicago's Kirk Hinrich or move up from the sixth spot into the top three for a shot at point guard Ricky Rubio of Spain or shot-blocking Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "With Steve Nash at 35 years of age as he enters a 2009-10 season that will pay him $13,125,000, there are some in NBA circles who believe a raise is an out-of-whack expectation considering his age. If Nash were to pass on a two-year extension with the Suns this summer and play out his contract into 2010 free agency, he would be a 36-year-old point guard entering an NBA market with teams that usually invest long-term in young players when they have rare salary-cap space. Other NBA insiders wonder whether a team going for a championship would bite on the instant respect Nash could bring. If Nash has another top-notch season in 2009-10, all it would take is one team's interest to cash in again. Many assume there would be a mutual interest with Nash and Toronto or New York, which were worse than Phoenix this season but, like Phoenix, have a chance to sign free agents with 2010 cap space."

  • Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "It's only my opinion, but I am highly skeptical for all these reasons of Kyle Korver opting out to sign the biggest free-agent contract out there. That's never struck me as what he's about. He regards the five-year, $22 million deal he signed in Philadelphia as blessing him with more money than he could ever need in life. His parents described his decision to buy a BMW as almost being a moral dilemma. What he's looking for is a place where he is valued as a person in addition to a player, as well as a place where he can continue his mission in life. It's why I think he'll be back with the Jazz next season, why his odds of opting out are much smaller than Carlos Boozer's or Mehmet Okur's."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "Is the Tony Parker influence about to make its way to the NBA? The San Antonio point guard has been in the league eight seasons, and the trickle of NBA-quality French players is starting to show up. It's not exactly a pipeline. But at least it's a trickle. The Mavericks on Wednesday worked out Rodrigue Beaubois, a 6-1 point guard who has played the last three seasons for Cholet in the French league. Beaubois, 21, said the success Parker has enjoyed has helped players such as himself. 'When I was younger, I tried to watch his game because he was the first player from France to really make it in the NBA,' Beaubois said. 'It's the NBA. And if you're a basketball player in France, he showed us that you can go to the NBA, too. It's a door that he opened.' Beaubois is considered a late first- or a second-round selection for the June 25 draft. After working out for the Mavericks, he's headed to Miami for a session with the Heat, then Phoenix. After that, he'll hit other teams, although a schedule has not been set."