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First Cup: Wednesday

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "Mitch Kupchak is responsible for building the 2009 champions except for Kobe Bryant. 'Yes, but it's not one person doing this, it's an organization working together,' Kupchak said. Yes, but in his 22nd year as a club executive and ninth as general manager, it is an organization that has slowly been built in his image. Solid, smart, with a willingness to work selflessly and later share the credit. Everyone still wants to thank Jerry West, but c'mon, nine years is nine years. Kupchak not only built the team, but he guided it through one of its roughest patches. He has been ripped by his best player, ridiculed by fans, compared unfairly to West at every angle, yet he has carried it all while usually making the right decision at the right time."

  • Tim MacMahon of The Dallas Morning News: "There's no question that Josh Smith is a major talent. He's 6-9, 240 pounds and can jump out of the gym. He averaged 15.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks as a 23-year-old. But he's primarily a power forward. And the Mavs have a pretty good guy at that position by the name of Dirk Nowitzki. Against certain teams, Smith could play significant minutes in the middle. And maybe the Mavs could go with a starting lineup on a regular basis that has Smith at small forward with Josh Howard at shooting guard. But Smith is a poor jump shooter -- check the stats at 82games.com -- and perimeter shooting is already an issue for the Mavs. Mark Cuban and Co. ought to at least determine what the Hawks would take in a Smith salary dump. But, given the finances and questions about Smith's fit with the Mavs, it'd be hard to blame Cuban for passing on him."

  • Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle: "I can't believe I'm even entertaining this debate. One reason I don't get into these discussions with many people, is comparing players usually comes across as dissing one, and I don't really diss great players. I prefer to celebrate greatness. Shaq is one heck of a basketball player and will end up having a great career. But I can't believe anybody out there who paid any attention (or has much basketball knowledge) really believes Shaquille O'Neal is a better basketball player than Hakeem Olajuwon. Seriously? All they can even remotely argue is that Shaq was a more dominant player. Which is incorrect."

  • Tom Knott of The Washington Times: "Everyone knows you are going to be lousy for a spell, so the boo-birds and radio call-in general managers hold off on the vitriol in the beginning. You buy yourself time. You also buy yourself a whole lot of losses. The Lakers bought a championship with this move, just as the Celtics did last June after securing Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen the previous summer, which is instructive. The genesis of the last two NBA championships was the splashy deal, antithetical to the build-through-the-draft approach of the Spurs. Their four championships took seed after they landed Tim Duncan in the lottery in 1997, then took Manu Ginobili with the 57th pick in 1999 and Tony Parker with the 28th pick in 2001. And let's not forget that David Robinson -- another lucky-lottery No. 1 pick -- was part of the team's first two championships. The Cavaliers are next in line to make a deal that leads to a championship. Steve Kerr is playing the role of Chris Wallace as the down-on-his-luck general manager looking to clear O'Neal's $20 million salary off the Suns' accounting books."

  • Ethan J Skolnick of the South Florida Sun Sentinel: "President Barack Obama has invited Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade to Washington. Wade has agreed to participate in a day-long event in honor of Father's Day, and focusing on male mentorship. After flying in from Chicago, where he is hosting a youth basketball camp, Wade will check in at the White House, and then travel to area community organizations to speak with young men from the Washington D.C. area about how they can achieve their aspirations. Then he will return to the White House for a town-hall meeting with the President, community leaders and other prominent young fathers. The day will conclude with a barbecue, during which Wade will again speak to high school students about his experiences. It isn't clear whether Wade and Obama will get to spend any time together on the White House basketball court."

  • Michael Grange of The Globe and Mail: "The NBA is full of talented players who don't get to show it because they're buried on the bench for failing to recognize there are essential chores that have nothing to do with putting the ball in the basket. There are even more talented basketball players who never make it to the NBA for the same reason. Reggie Evans is the polar opposite: a player with limited skills who fully embraces life without scoring, as reflected by his career average of 4.3 points and 6.9 rebounds a game. 'My opponents respect me,' said Evans, who was in Toronto for the first time as a member of the Raptors yesterday. 'A lot of guys who don't want to do what I do, they're not in the league. … It's crazy, I don't score but I'm in the league. There's a place for me.' "

  • Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee: "This is the issue. This is 2009. Anyone own a playpen? Many of the Kings are too young to buy beer. Is Paul Westphal, 58, really ready for this? Spencer Hawes, the expert on everything. Jason Thompson and those huge feet. Donté Greene and his immaturity. Beno Udrih and his lousy work ethic. Kevin Martin's foot ailment and physical upside. As the Westphal era begins, his parenting skills will be paramount, as will his ability to teach and demand, and impose structure while remaining consistent with his own personality. Westphal can't suddenly become someone he's not. He can't become edgy and irritable and dictatorial. He is personable, a bit preppy, and tempers his candor with humor. But he will have to make the rules and set the agenda to restore a sense of stability at Arco."

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: "Now that the Lakers have been crowned champions, the offseason is in full swing. Teams can begin to retool their rosters starting with the NBA draft on June 25, and the free agency period begins July 1. 'We have to add depth to our bench,' Hornets Coach Byron Scott said. 'If you look at the Western Conference with the Lakers and Denver, they are nine or 10 players deep. We've got to get to that point. We're probably 6 1/2 or seven players deep. That's not enough. It puts too much pressure on our starters to play too many minutes.' New Orleans General Manager Jeff Bower, citing the team's injury problems this past season, does not believe the Hornets need a complete makeover to return to the upper tier of teams in the West. ... However, the reality of the matter is that none of the top teams in the Western Conference stand pat. Last November,
    the Nuggets traded Allen Iverson to the Detroit Pistons to obtain Chauncey Billups."

  • Kyle Hightower of the Orlando Sentinel: "Marcin Gortat said he'll spend only three or four days in his native Poland this summer to see his family. Why so little time? Well, he said, he has to sign a contract and he plans to watch the summer league as a spectator. Also, he said it's 'too crazy' over there. He's became a superstar in his home country. ... Tony Battie, who is going into the last year of his contract, said he tries 'not to think about' the possibility that he'll be traded. 'I definitely want to be here because I'm going to make my home here when I'm done playing,' Battie said. 'But sometimes the business of basketball doesn't work in your favor all the time.' ... Thirty-four-year-old backup post player Adonal Foyle, who played a total of four minutes in two playoff games, said he has no plans to retire. 'I think I can play at least two or three more years,' Foyle said. 'I'm still having fun.' "

  • Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press: "Three games into the WNBA season, Laimbeer resigned from the Shock. He said he wanted to focus on getting an NBA job. Apparently he thinks that by declaring himself a free agent now, he can line up something before NBA training camps open. Laimbeer has it backward. He thinks the NBA won't hire him because he has been coaching women. In fact, he has been coaching women because the NBA won't hire him. Why won't anybody in the NBA hire him? Well, Laimbeer has been trying to answer that question for years. He sees himself as a potential NBA head coach but can't even get a job as an assistant. He took the Shock job only to show the NBA he can coach. (And there is nothing wrong with that, by the way.) He won three championships with the Shock. Yet no NBA team will touch him. And still Bill Laimbeer is searching for answers. I think I know what the problem is. People in the NBA do not like Bill Laimbeer."

  • Tom Enlund of the Journal Sentinel: "Bucks general manager John Hammond noticed one thing right away when forward Joe Alexander returned to the team's training facility for summer workouts. 'Joe walked in the gym and the first thing I noticed was how much bigger and stronger he had gotten,' said Hammond. 'We know that about Joe. We know that Joe is not going to sit and accept his fate. It doesn't matter if it was something that happened extraordinarily well for him, he's not going to accept that. That's not good enough for him. Or, maybe in this case, where he looks back on the season and says I'm not happy with the result and you know when he comes back, he's going to have changed.' "

  • Tim Buckley of the Deseret News: "After a lengthy break to rest his severely strained hamstring, Jazz center Mehmet Okur is working out again -- and talking, it seems, as if he plans on being with the Jazz again next season. 'My goal is to be in the best shape of my career when the preseason camp starts,' Okur is quoted as saying on his personal Web site, Memo13.com. 'We (the Jazz) had a tough season, an unlucky season with so many different injuries and problems,' Okur added. 'However, a couple of years ago we had another season filled with injuries and then we came back to go all the way to the Western (Conference) finals.' The Jazz, meanwhile, are believed to be preparing a potential multiyear contract offer to Okur should he opt -- as expected -- out of the final season of his current contract."

  • Tony Augusty of The Detroit News: "Every city that has violence after a team wins a championship gets a pass -- except Detroit. The next time the Lakers reach the Finals, don't expect to hear about the fires, the looting, the 18 arrests, the eight cops who were injured or the cop car revelers almost flipped outside Staples Center. And this was for a road game. Yet, fan violence is mentioned every time a Detroit team plays for a title (the Red Wings don't count; fans get to see hated players punched in the face and thus don't feel the need to shatter storefront windows). We have to relive the same tired stories about violence here after the 1984 World Series and the 1990 NBA Finals, to name a couple. I'm not saying what happened here in the past is right, but neither is what happened outside Jack Nicholson's second home Sunday."