Friday, May 6, 2011
First Cup: Friday
- Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "For wisdom, maturity and leadership, our new basketball hero is... Dirk? Rick? No. Mark Cuban, you the man. The man who went to LA for four days, was the center of Southern California media attention, particularly since the Dodgers need a new owner, and basically zipped it for his entire stay out there. Didn't say spit. The only way we knew Cuban was still alive was when the TNT cameras picked up a big smile that kept popping up behind the Dallas Mavericks' bench at the Staples Center. I'm wordless over this development, being someone who spent the last decade telling Mark to shut up. He finally did, and improbable stuff has happened to his Mavs. Never thought I'd say this: Everyone needs to now take a behavioral cue from Cuban. Lay low. What you say now can be used against you later. Let Dirk handle it. Let Rick handle it. And even Little J.J. ... Mr. Cuban, what has gotten into you? 'Lot of work still to do,' was his brief and to-the-point e-mail answer on Thursday. Wisdom, maturity and leadership prevails. And I thought 2-0 was a shocker."
- Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: "About two weeks ago, Derek Fisher gathered together his teammates and told them to look around the room. He warned all the Lakers that if they don't reach their goal of winning a third consecutive NBA championship, next season the faces on the team could look quite different. Fisher pointed out that the possibility of the Lakers' management making changes was realistic because it happened to him during his first tour with the Lakers. 'We discussed that buttons will be pushed,' Fisher said after practice Thursday. 'That's the reality, and it's business with this team. You have to understand it and appreciate it for what it is. I think guys understand it.' The Lakers began the season as the favorites to win the title, but their hopes are fading because of the 0-2 deficit they face against the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals. Games 3 and 4 are in Dallas this weekend. It's already a given that Lakers Coach Phil Jackson will retire after the season."
- Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: "For a Lakers team that truly needs everyone to come together now, here was the start. Kobe Bryant strapped it up and actually practiced with the team Thursday. There was no heavy scrimmaging, but there was a lot of work to do -- a lot of teamwork -- in defending Dallas' spread offense, especially. It was Bryant's first practice since his April 15 cameo two days before the playoffs even started, and every Laker reported afterward Thursday what a productive session this was. Then again, if you were out there sweating through practice every day for the past seven months and the league's glamour boy and game-ball dominator wasn't, you'd probably think this is more like it should be, too. In any case, there was a noticeable good vibration about the team as it came off the practice court Thursday, far different from the stink that emanated from them on the Staples Center court just hours before Wednesday night. It was like your dad who is too busy working on his own big deals stopping to take the time not just to help with your homework, but really sharing the experience. By being on the court learning with them instead of lording over them, Bryant was better able to convey to his teammates his personal lack of panic, his trust that they together should stay confident about their capabilities and their corrections."
- Herb Gould of the Chicago Sun-Times: "The controversy about whether forward Carlos Boozer should be given a diminished role in light of his diminished offense might be raging to outsiders. But there’s no debate within the Bulls’ camp. 'He’s nicked up,’ coach Tom Thibodeau said Thursday at the Berto Center. 'He’s giving us everything he has, and that’s all we’re asking him to do. The rebounding hasn’t dropped off at all. He’ll score. He’s scored his whole career.’ After struggling on offense in front of a United Center crowd that turned on him Wednesday, the veteran admitted the turf-toe injury to his right big toe was hampering him. Taj Gibson, who started last season before yielding when Boozer was signed, said he’s not expecting an increased role in light of Boozer’s injury -- and that’s fine with him. 'Thibs knows what he’s doing,’ Gibson said. 'Whatever minutes he gives me, I’m going to go out there and do my job. Carlos has been doing a phenomenal job. ... He’s playing through an injury. People have to recognize that.’ "
- Lacy J. Banks of the Chicago Sun-Times: "With his great energy and athleticism, Joakim Noah strikes me defensively as a poor man’s Dennis Rodman without the freak-show antics. Offensively, it’s no contest. Despite his ugly shooting style, especially from the free-throw line, Noah is a better shooter than Hall of Famer Rodman, who won seven consecutive NBA rebounding titles and helped the Bulls win their last three championships. 'Rodman was my hero when I was growing up,' Noah said. 'He was one of the greatest rebounders ever. I liked the way he played with passion, got into his opponents’ heads and entertained the crowd. I draw a lot of inspiration from him.' Rodman made rebounding sound simple. 'There’s nothing complex or scientific about rebounding,' he once told me. 'You’ve just got to want it more than the other guy. I look at each missed shot as my rebound. So I jump with the intention of keeping anybody else from taking away what’s mine. Rebounding is more will than skill.' ... As for Noah’s competitiveness, it is first-rate. He takes on all comers. How could we expect any less from a guy who even talked a little trash with President Obama last summer when they played in a pickup game Obama scheduled to entertain some injured troops? 'One time he went up and scored on me,' Noah said. 'I told him, ‘You know, you’re lucky you’re the president because I could have blocked your shot.’ But he said, ‘If you would have gone for the block, I would have pulled a reverse move on you.’ I liked that. The president even talks trash. He’s a cool dude. He’s a man of the people.' So is Noah. Just ask Bulls fans."
- Ken Sugiura of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "At the Hawks’ Thursday practice and video session, rebounding was not the only item on the agenda. Shot selection, winning 50-50 balls and response to the Bulls’ aggressive double teaming of Johnson and Jamal Crawford were others. 'We worked [Thursday] to adjust to that,' Crawford said, speaking of the double teams. 'If we get in the right spots, we can take advantage of what they’re doing.' The Hawks successfully walked this road in the first round. The Orlando Magic were second only to the Bulls in rebounding margin in the regular season — the Hawks were 22nd — but the Hawks thwarted center Dwight Howard with a diet of Collins and Zaza Pachulia. In their Game 1 win in Chicago, the Hawks’ hot shooting served to limit rebounding chances for the Bulls. On Thursday, Hawks coach Larry Drew said the coaching staff considered returning Collins or Pachulia to the starting lineup to add bulk, but sounded committed to keeping Horford at center. That leaves the Hawks to try to match Chicago’s activity on the backboards and keep bodies on Noah and Boozer. Either that or don’t miss any shots."
- Dan Le Batard of The Miami Herald: "The Celtics can’t let Miami’s youth get in the open court. The advantage is too obvious and overwhelming there. Boston’s age not only gets beat but shamed there, as Allen trips and Garnett gets twisted and even Boston’s only young starter (Rajon Rondo) has to flop and fake to avoid a spinning tornado of LeBron. Boston will allow Bosh to have all the defensive rebounds in its zeal to get back after misses, to get a head start, an obvious-to-the-eye, white-flag concession that age can’t keep up in that part of the game. So the Celtics will keep trying to drag the fight into the half-court mud, trying with all the experience and will and pride they have to ward off so many opponents at once: They aren’t merely trying to slow down the Miami Heat or the Miami Heat’s speed. They are trying to slow down their own aging and decline. They are, impossible as this is, trying to slow down time."
- Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Chris Bosh was introduced as a member of the Big Three when he and James signed with the Heat last July, joining Wade. That lasted a few months before it was evident Bosh didn't belong in the club, on and off the court. It started when James and Wade began conducting interviews together after practices and games while Bosh spoke alone. It was never a show of disrespect toward Bosh, but a way for James and Wade to display the friendship they had built over the years. For Bosh, it was an easier way to distinguish his preference of standing alone. 'With me, I've always just been different,' Bosh said. 'I've never tried to fit in. I'm one of the fellas, great. I get along with everybody, great. But if I'm going to read my book, I'm going to read my book and this is what I'm doing.' "
- Julian Benbow of The Boston Globe: "The Celtics are down, two games to none, and searching for answers against a team that’s as fast and strong as it is skilled. There will be frustrations in such a situation, but getting through the fiery moments quickly and staying on the same page is critical. 'Emotional hijacks, you can’t have them,’ said Doc Rivers. 'And they happen. When they happen, they always happen when you’re down or you’re in the heat of battle. They happen because it’s an emotional game, but once you let it get to a point where it’s hijacking the team, that’s never good.’ To an extent, conflict is a part of the Celtics’ DNA. They’ve bickered over defensive assignments, disagreed over play calls and ball movement. They’ve argued over the strength of earthquakes and the best backup point guards of the 2000s. 'If I had a tape recorder on me or a video camera on me over the time that I’ve been here, you would see a lot,’ Ray Allen said. 'I’ve always said about this team, we’ve argued and debated more than I’ve argued or debated in my whole NBA career. I’ve been on teams where you never communicated, you never argued about anything. This team, somebody will tell me I didn’t have pancakes for breakfast this morning and they didn’t even have breakfast with me.’ "
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "In all that surrounded Game 2, the Oklahoma City Thunder held a players-only meeting. It began1 at Kevin Durant's house and ended in the paint with the Thunder crowded around Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph. Game 3 will be a test of how well Randolph and the Griz took notes. By their own admission, the Griz didn't handle the aggressive infiltration of their offense with the intelligence that's guided them to this point. Memphis watched film Thursday morning and the popcorn-less viewing only confirmed what the team already knew: Oklahoma City did nothing special. The Griz had poor spacing. They made bad decisions passing the basketball and settled for jump shots. 'They packed it in on us and clogged the lane, but we worked on our spacing and ball movement,' a stone-face Randolph said. 'We'll be prepared for Saturday.' Griz coach Lionel Hollins didn't use practice Thursday to browbeat his troops. It was a refresher course mainly to remind the Griz that smart basketball will prevail.'
- John Rohde of The Oklahoman: "When Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti included a $6.5 million signing bonus with Nick Collison's four-year contract extension last November, the extra cash essentially was a reward for services rendered. This is the only franchise the 30-year-old Collison has ever known as a pro. Since being drafted 12th overall in 2003, the Kansas product has endured double-shoulder surgery his first season, franchise relocation from Seattle, four straight losing seasons, and all while busting his tail without making a peep. 'He embodies what we're trying to do,' Presti said of Collison. 'A lot of things we're always talking about, he's been that.' Collison is still rendering his services, particularly during this Western Conference semifinal against the Memphis Grizzlies, a best-of-7 playoff series that figures to be a shoving match until the final bell. The series stands 1-1, largely because Collison still works hard for his money. If not, the Thunder very easily could be trailing 2-0. ... At a salary of $13.25 million this season thanks to the signing bonus, Collison makes at least twice as much as every teammate except Nazr Mohammed ($6.88 million) and roughly $7.2 million more than Kevin Durant ($6.05 million). 'We really value him,' Durant said of Collison. 'He's a big part of our success. For us to keep getting better, Nick is going to have to be an important piece. He's playing well for us.' "
- Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Frank Vogel might want to be coach of the Indiana Pacers, but he's not waiting for an interview. Vogel interviewed for the Houston Rockets' coaching position Thursday, according to multiple people with knowledge of the situation. He is one of many people to show an interest in the job. The Rockets and Rick Adelman parted ways last month. Since then, former Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Woodson, who starred at Broad Ripple High School and Indiana University before an 11-year NBA career; Bucks assistant Kelvin Sampson, a former IU coach; former Nets coach Lawrence Frank, who was an IU student manager; Mario Elie, Kevin McHale and others have interviewed. Vogel and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey worked together with the Boston Celtics. Vogel said during his season-ending news conference last week that he would like to return as Pacers coach. Indiana's coaching situation likely won't be resolved until after team president Larry Bird and owner Herb Simon meet Tuesday to discuss Bird's future."
- Joe Davidson of The Sacramento Bee: "The idea of the Kings filing for relocation and actually heading south hit a nerve across the region. It brought out the best in panic-stricken fans and inspired an already determined Mayor Kevin Johnson, but it brought out the competitive worst in the local media. Every regional TV outlet and some radio stations proclaimed at one point to have an 'exclusive' interview or 'a source' with some stunning update. All of it was designed to make fans rush to tune in, but it often left viewers clamoring for substance rather than more wild speculation. TV folks forgot -- or simply ignored -- what 'exclusive' means: to have the only access to an interview subject. Yet the stations touted having 'exclusives' with the Maloofs on relocation filing day when the owners talked extensively to everyone -- print, radio, TV, Internet and news services. What's more, all local media and some national Internet news services drove the word 'sources' into the ground. Electronic media especially chose not to mention names or specifics. The source could have been your buddy at the bar, waving a foam Kings finger, for all we know."
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "John Wall hasn’t made a final decision about returning to Kentucky to take summer school courses, but his former coach, John Calipari, has already extended an invitation for the Wizards point guard to work out in Lexington if the league, as expected, has a lockout. 'I told him, if there is a lockout. You come back with us,' Calipari said. 'I said, ‘Use our building. We’ve got facilities here. Whatever you want, if you need to, if there is a lockout, stay here. Be here in the mornings.’ ' Wall finished out his studies after his only season at Kentucky and was a member of the Southeastern Conference freshman academic honor roll. Calipari added that if Wall were to re-enroll at Kentucky -- which one of Wall’s representatives, Dwon Clifton, said on Thursday was unlikely but 'still a possibility' -- he could practice with the Wildcats as well to stay in basketball shape."
- Don Walker of the Journal Sentinel: "The National Basketball Association is working to extend its reach in India, and it has chosen Milwaukee Bucks' guard Brandon Jennings to help make it happen. The NBA is expected to announce Thursday that Jennings will travel to India from May 13-18 to conduct a series of events to promote and grow the game in Mumbai and Pune. Jennings was chosen because of his youth and his experience playing internationally. Jennings, 21, played overseas in Italy before coming to the Bucks. 'Having played in Italy, I have seen firsthand how the sport is growing globally and I am excited to visit India with the NBA to help continue the growth of the game,' Jennings said. 'The NBA has the best basketball players from around the world and it is amazing to think that one of the kids I teach in India could one day play against me in the NBA.' Jennings will be part of the Jr. NBA/Jr. WNBA Nationals Skills Challenge Finals on May 15 in Mumbai. The event is the culmination of the largest school-based initiative ever conducted by the NBA in India."
- Justin Rogers of Booth Newspapers: "When the NBA conducts its draft lottery on May 17th, the Detroit Pistons will be represented by their first-round selection from the previous draft, Greg Monroe. The Detroit Pistons enter the draft lottery with the exact same odds as last season, and although the ping pong balls didn't fall their way, many would say the organization was fortunate to land Monroe. Pistons vice president Scott Perry, who was the team representative at last year's lotter, agrees with that sentiment. 'The fact we remained at seven in the lottery process and were able to draft a guy we believe is going to be one of the cornerstones for your team,' Perry commented on the Pistons official website, 'now to have him go back there the following year, hopefully, his presence there will bring the same type of good fortune during this lottery.' "