Monday, June 6, 2011
First Cup: Monday
- Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "Holding a two-point lead, the Heat wasn’t about to make the same mistake it did three days earlier, when Dirk Nowitzki blew past Chris Bosh for the easiest game-winner this team has ever allowed. This time, Erik Spoelstra summoned Haslem. The Heat captain probably spent two days wishing he had the chance to defend Dirk at the end of Game 2, so it’s only fitting that he got his chance just three days later. With four second left, Haslem forced Nowitzki into a difficult 20-footer, bothering Dallas’ superstar every millisecond of the experience. The shot bounced harmlessly off the rim, and the Heat had officially recovered from its first home playoff loss and reclaimed homecourt advantage in this championship round. But that final play was just the last snapshot of a picture-perfect team rebound. Just about everything that was missing from the Heat in that Game 2 debacle was evident in this Heat team Sunday. It started by leaving that passive, perimeter approach behind in Miami. ... Down the stretch it was James defending Jason Terry, just like he did in Game 1, and Terry was shut out in the fourth after scoring eight of the Mavs’ final 22 on Thursday. And, of course, there was the decision to use Haslem on Nowitzki at the end. The Heat spent two days talking about changes they could’ve made to win game 2. The Heat spent 48 minutes Sunday proving itself right."
- Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: "Sunday also continued a series trend of the Heat not quite being the Heat it wants to be. Again, three-point shots (19) outnumbered free-throw attempts (15). That’s odd for a team that prides itself on attacking the basket and drawing fouls. The thing is, a victory masks so much, doesn’t it? Makes so much better. Flawed or not, barely or not, Miami proved Sunday it can do in the Finals what it has done all season: Deal with hostility. Make jeering fans go quietly into the night. The Heat was born into this from the moment LeBron’s “Decision” sparked fireworks in South Florida and a firestorm elsewhere. The angry, taunting crowd Miami faced Sunday night? 'Nothing the Miami Heat are not used to,' Wade said. 'We look forward to it. At this point you can’t be fragile to that.' There had been something like fragility a few nights earlier when the Heat watched a certain victory shatter like porcelain dropped on a hardwood floor. On Sunday, that same team found enough strength to not let it happen again."
- Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "A night in search of a hero and a team in need of a closer settled on perhaps the unlikeliest candidate of all in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Chris Bosh's left eye was closing from getting poked. His shooting touch was off again in the Heat's 88-86 win that gave them a 2-1 series lead. He wouldn't be the first or second player on the Heat you'd expect to take the winning shot on most nights, much less the season's biggest night. But in the waning seconds of a tied game Sunday night, Dwyane Wade passed the ball to LeBron James, who passed to Bosh, who immediately went up with the biggest shot of his career. Fifteen feet from the basket could look like 15 miles in this case. But Bosh was ready for this play. He told Udonis Haslem as the Heat set up for it to set a good pick on Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki. 'I'll make the shot,' he said. He was true to his word. Swish went the net. Silent went the Dallas crowd. And if there ever was a night that showed why The Big Three banded together, it was this one."
- Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "If the Mavericks go on to lose the NBA Finals, at least they will have gotten some quality experience for their next job -- grave digging. Continually putting themselves in major holes -- much as they have throughout the playoffs -- the Mavericks finally got burned by it as the Miami Heat held on for an 88-86 victory in Game 3 Sunday night at American Airlines Center. It was a desperately played game on both sides, but the Mavericks made life tough on themselves and relied too heavily on Dirk Nowitzki while being unable to stop Miami’s Dwyane Wade, who had his second consecutive monster game with 29 points and 11 rebounds. The Heat now leads 2-1. The last 11 times when the Finals was tied at one win apiece, the Game 3 winner has gone on to claim the championship. That’s some tough odds that the Mavericks will have to buck starting in Game 4 on Tuesday. But their first order of business will be avoiding big deficits. They trailed by 14 points in the first half, made much of that up, then fell behind by 13 in the third quarter."
- Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Beyond Dirk (11 for 21), the other eight Mavs who took a shot were a pathetic 17 for 49. Ugh. ... The stretch-run duel Sunday night between Dirk and Wade was classic Bird-Magic stuff from another NBA era. Otherwise, the game was a brutal war under the boards, as neither team shot well. The Mavs were at a disadvantage in this kind of muscle-fest due to the absence of Brendan Haywood, sidelined due to his Game 2 injury. But still, the Mavericks won the board battle, one reason being Nowitzki's tough work underneath (he and Tyson Chandler had 11 rebounds apiece). Digging out of holes, as Carlisle said, is a hard way to survive in a playoff series. The Mavs did it with the miracle of Game 2. This time, however, Dirk missed the last shot. Now there's another hole for the Mavericks to overcome, starting Tuesday night."
- Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News: "John Kuester never had a real shot, not with a declining team, not with his collection of pouty players, not with a soft personality in a tough environment. Kuester was done even before new Pistons owner Tom Gores called him 'Kooster' the other day, and I'll resist making a crack here because the situation never was very funny. It was ridiculous at times, and that's the first thing that must change. Kuester was a good man in a bad spot, a poor fit as a coach. His long-expected firing Sunday hopefully signals the start of something new, and the return of something missing — respect. Gores took over last week and quickly restored power to team president Joe Dumars, who used it appropriately. And now, we're about to get the first major clue about the new ownership and its willingness to stir things up. Gores is a billionaire who obviously understands brand equity. He can't go cheap on the next coach, and Dumars has to find a strong, respected leader with head-coaching experience."
- Howard Beck of The New York Times: "Asked about an extension, Mike D’Antoni said, 'It’s way too early to even comment on it.' Again, that decision is likely to rest with Walsh’s replacement. The search could take some time as the Knicks transition from Walsh to Glen Grunwald, who will serve as interim general manager. The prospect of a lockout -- which would delay free agency -- may remove any urgency to make a quick hire. Candidates could include Kevin Pritchard, the former Portland Trail Blazers general manager; Jeff Bower, the former New Orleans Hornets general manager; and Kiki Vandeweghe, the former Nets and Denver Nuggets general manager. Walsh, who will move into a consulting role July 1, will have a voice in the search, but Dolan alone is expected to choose his successor. The possibility of a delayed, truncated season also makes it unlikely that Dolan would make a coaching change and pay two people. The more immediate concern is with D’Antoni’s assistants, all of whom have contracts that expire June 30. D’Antoni said he hoped their status would be resolved in the next two to three weeks."
- Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "He has been part of the Cavaliers' organization for less than four months, but Baron Davis is already emerging as a vocal leader of the franchise. Antawn Jamison was the lone voice in the locker room for most of last season, but Davis proved again last week that Jamison finally has some company. Davis and Jamison were the veterans who came up with the idea of bringing the players together to work out during an NBA lockout this summer. Davis reiterated last week he is expecting everyone to make a legitimate effort to get there. 'It'll show a commitment, who's committed to this team for next year,' he said. The Cavs are following the lead of NFL teams, including the Browns, who have held similar workouts led by the quarterbacks during the football lockout. Jamison and Davis were the first Cavs to talk about working out as a team this summer, either near Jamison's home in North Carolina or with Davis out west. The workouts initially seemed geared toward the younger players on the roster, but Davis opened the invitation to the entire team last week. 'It's a total secret,' Davis joked. 'We're not telling you anything about it. We won't tell you after we do it, either.' Davis says he's returning to Cleveland every couple of weeks to work out at the facility. He attended an Indians game last week and said his knee and back are both feeling great."
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "Knowing that an NBA lockout could happen in July, Karl and his staff want to reach out to every Denver player before the league is frozen. Some assistant coaches caught up with international Nuggets Kosta Koufos and Timofey Mozgov in the U.S., but Karl and assistant John Welch will spend time with Gallo in Italy. 'We want them to understand where we want them,' Karl said. We learned two things about the Nuggets in the past few months: A team without a closer -- but one that buys into team basketball -- can beat good teams in the regular season. A team without a closer will struggle in a best-of-seven playoff series. Do the Nuggets have a closer in their bullpen? An optimist would argue that Gallinari has the talent to be a top-notch NBA player. I'm not here to predict the future -- and I'm not saying Gallo is the next Dirk Nowitzki -- but I'm simply pointing out that Gallo has the makeup of a great player. He's a hard worker who likes contact. He yearns to get better. At 6-foot-10, he has Dirklike range. At the foul line, he has Dirklike touch."
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Alec Burks injured his shoulder in his workout with the Bucks on Saturday and missed a scheduled workout Sunday with the Charlotte Bobcats, according to several reports. Bucks director of scouting Billy McKinney confirmed that Burks collided with forward Markieff Morris at one point in the workout Saturday, while running off a screen. 'That's what he (Burks) told me,' McKinney said. 'He felt like it was OK. He just kind of banged it but he completed the workout. I thought he had a good workout.' Charlotte, which has the ninth overall pick in the June 23 draft, hoped to evaluate 12 players Sunday but Burks and Providence's Marshon Brooks had to sit out with injuries. Burks, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard from Colorado, is an early entry candidate for the draft after playing two seasons with the Buffaloes. The Bucks have the 10th overall pick in the draft and have shown strong interest in Burks."
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "The Wizards have five workouts at Verizon Center tentatively scheduled this week, beginning on Monday, with Baltimore native and Kansas guard Josh Selby headlining. Some other notable prospects are expected to participate on Tuesday, including San Diego State forward Kawhi Leonard, Texas swingman Jordan Hamilton, and Maryland center Jordan Williams. Providence shooting guard Marshon Brooks, UCLA combo guard Malcolm Lee and Georgia shooting guard Travis Leslie will visit on Wednesday. Kansas forward Markieff Morris, Duke forward Kyle Singler and Georgia forward Trey Thompkins will participate in the Thursday workout. With three picks among the top 34, the Wizards have to cast a wide net in the evaluation process. They will send a group to the Adidas Eurocamp, which begins Saturday in Treviso, Italy. Many of the notable international players will not workout, but Czech Republic forward Jan Vesely and Lithuanian forward Donatas Motiejunas are expected to do interviews. Ergul said he doesn’t expect anything to change, as it relates to Kanter working out for Washington, until teams return from Italy. The Wizards have another workout scheduled on June 14, with Florida State forward Chris Singleton, Kansas forward Marcus Morris, Tennesee forward Tobias Harris and UCLA forward Tyler Honeycutt expected to participate."
- Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Jimmer Fredette is definitely an NBA (offensive) player, but the Pacers have had enough players over the years who were defensively challenged. They don't need to add another one. If a trade does not occur, the Pacers need to look big in the draft -- center or power forward. Josh McRoberts is a free agent, and many scouts around the league say Tyler Hansbrough is not a starting power forward on a legitimate NBA playoff team. Bird went against his personal preference of drafting older players last year when he selected Paul George. George appears to be on his way to having a promising career, so why not do it again this year? University of Texas power forward Tristan Thompson would help the Pacers defensively. The 6-9 Thompson used his 7-2 wingspan to block 2.4 shots a game during his freshman season with the Longhorns. He has to get stronger because he's only 227 pounds. Thompson -- who may be gone by the time the Pacers pick -- and Hansbrough would complement each other at power forward. Thompson can defend but is raw offensively. Hansbrough's game is predicated on what he does on the offensive end of the court."
- Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "Leading up to the 2008 draft, the Blazers released a calendar-like list of their planned predraft workouts before the process started. It featured 16 days of private workouts for more than 50 players. The following year, the number of workouts had been reduced to eight. In the summers since, the number has continued to decrease and the Blazers no longer bother releasing a schedule of planned workouts. And they're not alone. 'To be honest, it's really a trend across the league,' Chad Buchanan said. 'A lot of teams have started to do that -- pretty much every team across the board this summer. In talking with other teams and agents, everyone is kind of following the same thinking process.' The Blazers' scouting department sees so many college and international games throughout the course of a season -- and a prospect's career -- that the front office already has formed a well-researched opinion about the draft's talent by the time June arrives. Also, there are plenty of other opportunities to evaluate prospects during the summer. "
- Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "People tend to forget. Or some people tend to forget. Mitch Richmond, 45, and anything but trim, is sort of squeezed between eras. He led the Kings to their first playoff performance in 1996 – was spectacular during the series against Seattle – before all postseason games were televised, before the Kings became contenders and long before anyone tweeted. Admittedly, Richmond said Saturday, he is a newcomer to social networking. And his visibility with the Kings? To the detriment of both parties, he hasn't been around much. Though his No. 2 jersey hangs from the rafters, he never comes to games. He still doesn't seem particularly comfortable in media sessions or large, official gatherings. But similar to several former Kings who expressed their concern for the franchise when co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof attempted to relocate to Anaheim because of the endless arena saga, the six-time All-Star learned to tweet as the drama unfolded. And a month after the relocation deadline passed (May 2), here he is again in Sac, scoring points. 'I think it was my duty to get back and show the people I am concerned,' he said. 'I want to show my support. I think the city needs it (a franchise). And get a new arena, man. Come on. Get a new arena. This has been here a long time.' "
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "On Saturday, the 24-year-old, 6-foot-10 inch Warriors forward came back to Oklahoma to lend a hand. Udoh made the five-hour drive from Waco, Texas, where he is attending summer school at his alma mater Baylor, to assist with ongoing American Red Cross relief efforts in Piedmont and Chickasha. 'It just hit so close,' Udoh said. 'You hear of stuff that happened in Haiti, all the natural disasters; Memphis. You just want to help. But when it hits so close to home, I just had to come back home and give a helping hand with whatever I could do.' He couldn't believe what the catastrophe left behind. 'It was bad. It looked bad. No houses. You see cars that were thrown in the air and now they're just rubble,' Udoh said. 'Growing up here, I knew about tornado alley and tornado season. But as a kid, I never really got out there. And now I can see it's really scary.' Udoh returned soon after the twisters first struck, but he wasn't allowed to assist in relief efforts due to precautionary reasons. ... So Udoh spent Saturday morning hauling debris. He picked up wood, metal and barbwire. He cleaned out a pool and straightened up a field. During a break, Udoh spoke with a family that lost their home. They told him they only made it out alive because nine of them were in a storm shelter."