Thursday, May 12, 2011
First Cup: Thursday
- Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: "This is why LeBron James took his talents to South Beach, why he teamed up with Dwyane Wade in Miami. For this night. For this noise. For this opponent. For this feeling. The Heat’s Big 3-led powerhouse was formed with the Boston Celtics in mind, with finally overcoming this nemesis in mind. Done. Barely. But done. Miami trailed most of this playoff Game 5 but rallied late in the bedlam of a home arena to eliminate the mighty Celtics, 97-87, in simply one of the most dramatic nights in this franchise’s 24-year history. The fans wore white, whipped white towels. It looked like a blizzard in here. It sounded like jets taking off. It felt like Mardi Gras. ... Ten months ago there was a celebration in the Heat’s downtown bayside arena that looked and sounded and felt an awful lot like a championship parade, Miami gathering to welcome the assembled Big 3. Ten months later, Wednesday night, the Heat moved a huge step closer to earning one of those celebrations for real. So much more is expected of the Big 3 and this team, it is easy to overlook what just happened, but Wednesday marked only the fourth time in 24 franchise seasons that Miami has advanced to the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals, following 1997, 2005 and championship-year 2006."
- Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe: "They made the NBA relevant in our town once again, bringing back the pride and mystique of the golden days of Russell and Red. They reintroduced NBA America to the Celtics-Lakers rivalry that burned with Magic and Larry in the ’80s. They won 234 regular-season games, got to the Finals twice, and broke a 22-year championship drought when they hung banner No. 17 in the rafters. The schooled us in Ubuntu. Anything was possible. And now it’s over. Thirtysomethings Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen will probably return to the Celtics next year, and Doc Rivers might come back to coach again, but the championship window closed last night when the Heat defeated the Celtics, 97-87, to clinch the Eastern Conference semifinal series in five games. Father Time always wins. The Celtic never looked older than they looked at the finish. Boston led, 87-81, with 4:29 left, but was outscored 16-0 down the stretch. What a field day for the Heat. Miami torched the Green with a closing run of 16-0. Brutal."
- Dan Duggan of the Boston Herald: "Glen Davis picked an inopportune time to have one of the worst stretches of his career. Even worse, this forgettable postseason may be Davis’ final memory with the Celtics. Davis will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and clearly intends to test the market. This postseason was not the best audition, as Davis shot 39.1 percent and averaged 4.9 points and 3.6 rebounds. 'You just can’t base it on just this playoffs,' Davis said. 'My whole body of work, I feel like I can play in this league, I can start in this league, from my second year when Kevin (Garnett) went down and my third year playing in the playoffs. This year was my best year. I just didn’t play well in the playoffs this year. I didn’t get a good rhythm. Some things happen like that. I don’t think this playoffs hurt me as much.' If Davis wants to start, Boston likely won’t be the destination. Kevin Garnett will return next season at power forward and there have been no indications from the organization that Davis is in line to be the successor. Despite the sour end to the year, Davis’ fourth season was his best. He was a sixth man of the year candidate in the first half and finished the season averaging 11.7 points and 5.4 rebounds. The 25-year-old believes he is capable of more and is aware that opportunity may not come with the Celtics."
- Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "How would you feel about Shaquille O’Neal starting and ending his career as a member of the Orlando Magic? Personally, I think it’s a horrible idea, but when it was mentioned to me the other day on our radio show, I decided I would bring it to the ultimate democracy -- the wildly popular Open Mike blog and interactive extravaganza -- and let the legions of readers have their say. The reason we bring this up is because it appears Shaq, injured for much of the final part of the season, has played his last game with the Boston Celtics. The Celtics were ousted from the playoffs by the Miami Heat Wednesday night. Shaq has the option of either retiring as one of the greatest players of all-time, returning to the Celtics next season for $1.4 million or signing with another team if he so chooses. Would Shaq, who still resides in Orlando during the offseason, want to start and end his career as a member of the Magic? And would the Magic even want a 39 -year-old backup center with injury issues?"
- Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Want to play ball with Dwyane Wade? If you're 35 or older and have $12,500 sitting around, you can. Yes, $12,500. The first Dwyane Wade Fantasy Basketball Camp has been scheduled for Aug. 18-21 at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. While the cost is steep, it falls in line with the $15,000 charged for the now-discontinued Michael Jordan Senior Flight School, a fantasy camp previously held in Las Vegas for participants of similar ages."
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "Looks like the boys in Thunder blue learned a lot from their visit to Beale Street. It was that collapse in Game 3, and that crazy, crazy contest we called Game 4 that created the perfect climate for the Thunderstorm that struck Oklahoma City Arena on Wednesday night. The Memphis Grizzlies never stood a chance. Oklahoma City cruised to a 99-72 cakewalk in Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead over the Grizzlies. The Thunder is now just one win away from a trip to the Western Conference Finals and a meeting with the Dallas Mavericks. Game 6 is set for Friday night in Memphis. If necessary, Game 7 will be played back here Sunday. 'We have to play well,' said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. 'We have to do a lot of things well to beat them on their court…We're looking forward to the challenge.' Good thing the Thunder has plenty to draw from. Stressful as it was, this is when all those experiences, all those ups and downs, that took place on the banks of the rising Mississippi River could aid the Thunder in its quest to advance. There was no doubt that three-day trip to Tennessee triggered Wednesday's thrashing."
- Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: "Nick Collison met Zach Randolph at the free-throw line. Well, met is not the right word. Met evokes gentility and courtesy. A country squire introducing himself to a lady at a ball. This was no meeting. This was a collision. Nick Collison? Nick Collision is more like it. Collison accosted Randolph, Grizzly possession after Grizzly possession. Which is why this was a grisly game for Memphis. The Thunder routed the Grizzlies 99-72 Wednesday to take command of a Western Conference semifinal that 11 days ago seemed mightily perilous for the Boomers. 'I wanted to be the first one downcourt,' Collison said. 'Meet him at the free-throw line. Start doing my work early.' ... Let's cut Randolph a little slack. The Thunder tag-teamed Randolph. Serge Ibaka. Then Collison. Then Perkins. Then Nazr Mohammed. All in one continually rotating committee. Again, wrong word. The Thunder is not defending Randolph by committee. The Thunder is defending by ruffian waves. 'We want to make sure he feels our body,' Thunder coach Scotty Brooks said."
- Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: "Mike Conley drove into the lane, cut toward the rim and, um, missed the basket by a good foot, anyway. But wait! There was Zach Randolph to scoop up the rebound and stick it, er, right up against the rim. At which point, the Thunder were off and flying down the court. Kevin Durant to Russell Westbrook to James Harden for the dunk. 'We just didn’t have it,' said Shane Battier. 'What is it? I don’t know. The ubiquitous it. But we didn’t have it tonight.' So the Grizzlies got smashed, 99-72. There’s another playoff first. First time to win a playoff game, first time to win a playoff series, first time to get humiliated in Game 5 on national TV. 'We couldn’t make a basket,' said Darrell Arthur. 'Sometimes, teams have games like this.' Really? Basketball fans in Memphis had almost forgotten. Not to say the Grizzlies were out of sorts in this one, but here was head coach Lionel Hollins talking to the media more than an hour before the game. 'If we lose tonight, we have another game to play Friday,' he said. 'The series cannot end tonight.' So go get ’em, lads! Or maybe Hollins just knew what was coming. Maybe he was this night’s Ish Smith."
- Herb Gould of the Chicago Sun-Times: "In the wake of the Bulls’ big Game 5 win, here are two important developments that ought to serve the Bulls well as they move forward. 1. The Carlos Boozer controversy is going to heat up, but it shouldn’t. The Boozer bashers are going to clamor for Taj Gibson to be on the floor more. That’s understandable after Taj played a monster fourth quarter, delivering 11 points and uncountable energy. But that doesn’t mean Taj should play ahead of Boozer, who brings different things to the equation. Where Taj is more mobile, Boozer is a better post presence. He’s also a veteran who’s going to give you what he’s got. Better to let Taj dart in than to put the weight of the world on him from the start. ... 2. By playing Gibson, Ronnie Brewer and Omer Asik with the game on the line in the fourth quarter, Tom Thibodeau showed me a lot. ... Against the athletic and skilled but spacy Hawks, the bench gambit was absolutely the right move. The Bulls’ reserves not only had young, fresh legs. Their energy gave the Bulls a boost when they needed it most. Make no mistake. When we look back at the fourth quarter of Game 5, it will loom large, perhaps the pivotal moment in this playoff run. Lose that quarter, and you’re heading to Atlanta down 3-2, your backs to the wall. Lose Game 6, and this season ends with a very bad taste. By winning Tuesday, though, the Bulls not only put themselves in the driver's seat."
- K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "As Omer Asik and Taj Gibson played the entire fourth quarter for the Bulls on Tuesday night, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer stood throughout much of it, serving as their biggest -- not to mention highly paid -- cheerleaders. Coach Tom Thibodeau said such team chemistry never should be taken for granted. 'Gar (Forman) and John (Paxson) did a great job of getting high-character guys who committed to playing as a team and for each other,' Thibodeau said. 'When one of the bench guys is doing well, they're very supportive. And when the bench guys are over there, they're very supportive of the starters. They're great teammates. I see how they interact with each other every day. I see how they work. And I see how they've been in each game. So that hasn't surprised me.' "
- Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Since back in December I believed Teague deserved to play more because of his improved production, the team’s need for his skills, Bibby’s decline and future considerations. But I’m not going to front and act like I saw this coming. Teague had some good moments during the season but he’s having his best moments on the biggest stage under challenging circumstances. He’s making the MVP work to get his, which might be expected given his quickness and defensive potential. But Teague also has been Atlanta’s most consistent offensive player, sometimes showing more poise and better sitational decision-making that his veteran teammates. I mean, he’s got five turnovers in 206 minutes, for crying out loud. ... What the heck got into Teague? To J.J.[Joe Johnson], who said all season that the Hawks just needed to trust in Teague, the difference is simple. 'Just minutes,' he said. 'Getting the opportunity.' "
- Kate Hairopoulos of The Dallas Morning News: "Center Tyson Chandler said Wednesday’s practice proved the Mavericks will stay sharp as they wait for the conference finals to begin Sunday at the earliest. 'It’s like training camp for us,' he said. 'We had guys locked-in today, competing. It’s more a sense of guys understanding what we’re playing for. Guys aren’t going to let guys slack off. Brendan Haywood is not going to let me take one possession lightly in practice. We’re competing right now, and it’s a great thing.' "
- Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press: "Robert Traylor was found dead at age 34 Wednesday in Puerto Rico, where he was playing pro ball. In a sense, Traylor epitomized his hometown of Detroit. He was easy to criticize. Most people did not know enough about him to understand him. People thought he had his hand out, but his real problem was that he was too generous. If you spent any time with him, you would have liked him. His mother, Lenora, was a crack addict and a prostitute. He was raised mostly by his grandmother, Jessie Mae, who was a janitor; Jessie Mae and Robert basically raised Rob's younger brother Walter together. Robert Traylor made plenty of mistakes. But this is why nobody could ever stay mad at him: He never ran away from who he was. He had excuses but refused to use them. He had bad luck but wouldn't blame it. ... He traveled around the world playing basketball, trying to recapture his lost promise, hoping to make some money for his wife and children in Michigan. He was still trying to get it right. Robert Traylor loved life. What a shame that life never really loved him back."
- Michael Hunt of the Journal Sentinel: "A lot of obituaries led with the fact that the Bucks traded a future Hall of Famer for a guy who never did much in the NBA. And that's true, but it's not the whole story where Traylor and Dirk Nowitzki are concerned. In June 1998, Dallas coach Don Nelson was one of the few people in the league completely sold on the skinny 19-year-old German as a top-of-the-draft talent. But the wily former Bucks coach also wanted a backup point guard from the Phoenix Suns by the name of Steve Nash. Nelson knew the Bucks would do almost anything to get Traylor, the powerful forward from Michigan who was projected ahead of Nowitzki. Dallas had the No. 6 pick. The Bucks had No. 9 and No. 19. So Nelson convinced the Bucks - Bob Weinhauer was the general manager at the time; Chris Ford was a couple of months from being fired as coach - to draft Nowitzki for him at No. 9 and Pat Garrity at No. 19, because Nelson also knew the Suns wanted Garrity. Nelson took Traylor at No. 6 for the Bucks, who kept their part of the prearranged deal and sent both players to Dallas for Tractor. Nelson then moved Garrity to Phoenix for another Hall of Famer. Consider it one of the shrewdest draft moves ever on the part of Nelson, who made his ex-team look bad in the years to come. But the persistent myth that Nowitzki could have been a Buck? Let's just shoot that one down once and for all in Traylor's memory."
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "The Bucks traded with Dallas on draft night to obtain the rights to Traylor, sending the rights to Dirk Nowitzki and Pat Garrity in the deal. Of course, it later became a much bigger deal when Nowitzki grew into an NBA all-star and one of the top scoring forwards in league history. But the truth of the matter, says former Bucks general manager Larry Harris, is the team never considered picking Nowitzki. Harris was the team's director of scouting in 1998 and Bob Weinhauer was the general manager. 'We really never had him (Nowitzki),' Harris said in an interview Wednesday. 'The deal was done well before the draft started. Had the deal not been done, they (the Mavericks) would have chosen him (Nowitzki).' ... 'People come up to me and say, 'You had Nowitzki. Why did you trade him?' Harris said. 'We never had him. Dirk was in Germany, but not a lot was known about the German game at that time,' Harris said. 'Nowitzki was very young, a face-up big man who could shoot the ball, a typical European guy.' Harris said the Bucks were focused on Traylor because they needed a big man down low."
- Branson Wright of The Plain Dealer: "Today's news of Robert 'Tractor' Traylor's death pained Charlotte Bobcats coach Paul Silas. 'It's just a shock and hard to believe,' said Silas. Silas coached Traylor in Charlotte, New Orleans and with the Cavaliers. 'He was one of my special players that I really admired,' Silas said. 'We just texted each other about two weeks ago. I remember once how he stepped up for me in Cleveland when he told the other players they were wrong in the way they were going at me. It was a blessing to know him, to be around him and to be a close friend.' Traylor, 34, was found dead today in his apartment in Puerto Rico. Traylor was a member of the Bayamon Cowboys basketball team. He apparently died from a heart attack. Ira Newble, a teammate of Traylor's with the Cavaliers, also said he was hurt by the news. 'This was totally unexpected,' Newble said. 'He was in good shape. He slimmed down. He was no longer overweight. He had that heart condition, but it's been five years since that surgery and you'd think he'd be past that... It's so sad to see a consummate teammate and a good brother leave this earth.' "