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First Cup: Monday

  • Jeff Miller of The Orange County Register: "In the end, it really was all about the Lakers, just like these guys have been saying all season. It didn't matter what Orlando did in this series or this game; things ultimately were in the Lakers' hands. So what if Orlando opened Sunday with a 15-6 lead? So what if the Lakers made only three of their first 12 shots or that Bryant re-re-re-re-reinjured one of his fingers in the opening five minutes? They shook off the sluggish start and Bryant ignored the pain, and they returned to the business of becoming champions. 'I was just locked in, just completely locked in,' said Bryant, whose first smile of this series finally arrived with 40 seconds remaining in Game 5. 'I think it's a matter of understanding the moment. It's also understanding your team and the lead that they have to follow.' He and Jackson have been together for four of these now, and their shared road hasn't always been pleasant. Most famously, Jackson wrote a book in which he suggested that Bryant was uncoachable. Sunday night, those words seemed like talk from another lifetime. 'He's learned how to become a leader in a way in which people want to follow him,' Jackson said. 'I think that's really important for him to have learned because he knew that he had to give to get back in return … he's become a giver.' And now he has given the Lakers a championship and himself a crown, one that finally fits him and no one else."

  • Iliana Limón of the Orlando Sentinel: "Mickael Pietrus insists he has no regrets. Pietrus didn't flash his thousand-watt smile minutes after the Magic fell 99-86 to the Lakers and Los Angeles clinched the NBA title on Sunday night, but he still managed to put a positive spin on Orlando's playoff run. 'It was a wonderful experience,' he said. 'I always dreamed about making it to the NBA Finals and this team worked very hard together. It was very special for us. I wish we could have won the championship, but we learned a lot as a team.' Pietrus is one of many Magic players who has displayed a remarkable ability to shrug off adversity."

  • Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post: "The real America's Team has won the NBA championship. The Lakers beat Orlando 99 -86 on Sunday night, and long before the outcome was determined, thousands of fans wearing Kobe Bryant jerseys were loudly singing the praises of the visitors from L.A. Don't you love it? Or do you hate it? For better or worse, when the Lakers win it all, it all feels grander. ... Dynasty is a word too casually dropped into sports conversations where it doesn't belong, but here's the true meaning of enduring dominance: In 61 NBA seasons of doing business, the Lakers franchise has appeared a nearly unfathomable 30 times in the Finals. From George Mikan to Jerry West, through the Showtime years of Magic Johnson, and now with Jackson giving guidance to Bryant, the Lakers never, ever go away. 'You can't write the history of basketball without the Lakers uniform,' Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said."

  • Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle: "If you have kids who love basketball, they were lucky to have watched the Lakers clinch the NBA title Sunday night in Orlando. It's always a privilege to watch one of the all-time greats, and Kobe Bryant has resumed his glorious ascent through the pantheon. Then again, if your kids missed the game, good. It's never fun to watch teams give up in the biggest game of their lives. Did you catch the blank expressions on the faces of Jameer Nelson, Courtney Lee and other Magic players late in the game? That's how they looked in the second quarter. That's how Dwight Howard, he of the flower-strength hands, looked all night (quick summation of his impact on the game: zero). The Willie Mays statue would have been more effective at center, or any position, for this horribly flawed team."

  • Gary Peterson of the Contra Costa Times: "It is safe to say there is subtlety to Derek Fisher's game that is easily overlooked. He may not change the landscape of a team, but he can embellish it. He has the ability to stare a big moment in the eye and become -- no, not something he isn't, but precisely who he is. (The dynamic in reverse: Orlando center Dwight Howard doinked two free throws with 11.1 seconds to play in regulation, setting the stage for Fisher's heroics.) Championship teams need great players, but they also need guys like Fisher. This will likely be the fourth Lakers team to have known the privilege. The rest of us? We can safely say we barely knew him. A quick check of his jewelry box reveals: Our loss, not his."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "So the champion Lakers finished off the Nuggets in six, the Magic in five. The Rockets took them to seven. So does that make the Rockets the second-best team in the NBA? Uh, no. You don't get to claim superiority to a team that wins two or three playoff series when you win one. It does, however, add a bit of credibility to the Rockets' performance. The Lakers have won six of their past seven close-out games. The one they lost was to the Rockets. The Rockets cannot feel too proud. They lost one game, scoring the fewest points they ever have in a playoff game, and lost Game 7 after falling behind by 25 in the first half. The series was close, but they cannot be considered close to the Lakers, the team to beat."

  • Tom Knott of The Washington Times: "The pressure is on Danny Ferry to make a deal, what with LeBron James set to become a free agent in 2010. Part of the evaluation process before James will be whether he thinks he can win a championship in Cleveland. The addition of Shaquille O'Neal, ending in a championship or not, would at least underline the commitment of Ferry and management. With the Cavaliers winning a franchise-record 66 games in the regular season, it became fashionable to overplay Ferry's free agent signing of Mo Williams last summer. The force who is Howard exposed the conventional wisdom in the playoffs. The potential rub, if there is one, would be O'Neal's ability to hold his ego in check. James, in becoming the top marketing star of the NBA, is pushing the game forward in a way Kobe Bryant could not. He is the true successor to Elgin Baylor, Julius Erving and Michael Jordan. O'Neal would have to accept the pecking order; he would have to accept that the city and team belong to James. If he could adapt to an environment of Witnesses, he could dream of another championship run. Imagine this compelling scenario next June -- an NBA Finals of O'Neal and James going against Bryant and Phil Jackson."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Shaq to the Cavs? It makes all the sense in the world. Then, Shaquille O'Neal can claim that LeBron hasn't won anything without him, just like Dwyane Wade. Even if that ignores the reality that Shaq would become exactly the player he has so mocked, Patrick Ewing, chasing cash and championships in Phoenix and Cleveland, just as Ewing played out the string in Seattle an
    d Orlando. ... Would Shaq have made a difference in the Eastern Conference finals against the Magic? Sure. He would have made Dwight Howard work harder on both ends. That just might have been enough to get LeBron back into the Finals. Would Shaq-LeBron be more potent than a healthy Kevin Garnett back with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen? That's debatable."

  • Marc J. Spears of The Boston Globe: "Doc Rivers doesn't live that far from Amway Arena. The Celtics coach has been offered tickets to NBA Finals games between the Magic and Lakers, too. But without the Celtics being involved, the admitted poor loser didn't plan on watching any Finals games in person, no matter how easy it would be to get in. 'No. I have no intent [of] going,' said Rivers, while watching his son, Austin, play in AAU competition in Tampa yesterday. 'I watched it because I wanted to see both teams play in preparation for next [season]. Other than that, I'll stay away and spend time with my family. I've been offered a ton of tickets. A lot of my friends have gone. My kids have gone, and the Magic were gracious to give them tickets. But I don't go to [NBA] games that my team isn't a part of.' "

  • Bill Bradley of the Sacramento Bee: "In the NBA, respect is often tied to paychecks. ... With so much emphasis on salaries, it makes you wonder if money will be an issue as Paul Westphal takes over the Kings. Now some say that in this economy, the NBA payrolls are unrealistic. That's true, but the NBA is a different reality. Westphal's salary next season is documented at $1.5 million, the low end of the league. Will Kevin Martin, who will make about six times more, listen to his new coach? Will Kenny Thomas pay attention while making $8.77 million? Of players under contract, only Donté Greene ($870,000) will make less than Westphal. This is another hurdle Westphal will face in his first NBA coaching job since 2000. By lowballing a coach, the Maloofs have set up this scenario. Let's hope Westphal's experience can speak louder than his pay stub."

  • Michael Grange of The Globe and Mail: "Chris Bosh came to Ken Roberson as a stick-figure freshman at Georgia Tech University trying to make the leap to the NBA at 6 foot 10 and 215 pounds in 2003. Now, six years into his professional career and a four-time NBA all-star, Bosh is at Bailey's Furniture with an eye toward making perhaps the most difficult leap of all: from good to great. He thinks building himself up to 250 pounds – about 20 more than he played at in 2008-09 – will help the cause. 'I know I can just show up and be good,' Bosh says in between swigs of a watermelon-flavoured recovery drink after his workout one day last week. 'I'd be an okay player and stay where I am now and be content with that, or I can work on getting better every day, try to better my craft and see where I can get.' Where can Bosh get? That's the $130-million (U.S.) question for the Raptors – and the estimated value of the contract Bosh will be looking for after next season as an unrestricted free agent, having declared that he's not going to sign an extension and won't take a deal for less than the league-mandated maximum."

  • Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Premise: The 76ers very much need a point guard. Reality: They do not have one on their current roster, but Andy Miller represents two who could be very much in the mix for the coming season. And that begs a question: Is Andy Miller serving as the agent for unrestricted free agent Andre Miller and Virginia Commonwealth draft prospect Eric Maynor an uncomfortable or cumbersome situation for anyone? 'It's a great situation for me,' said Maynor. If Andre Miller, arguably the team's most important player this season, were to re-sign, Maynor said: 'Andre's an older guy [33], so if it meant coming in to the league and learning from somebody who has done it all, that would be great.' Andy Miller is already in the unique position of also representing the Sixers' Marreese Speights and unrestricted free agent Donyell Marshall, and said if Maynor and Andre Miller were to somehow land here he would view it as, 'Eric being tutored by Andre would be a great opportunity that would add to Andre's legacy. I would welcome having a young guy with a mentor I trust,' Andy Miller said."