Tuesday, June 19, 2012
First Cup: Tuesday
- Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: During a postseason with some potholes, Dwyane Wade has looked outward as well as inward — even taking a one-hour trip from Indianapolis to Bloomington during the second round to visit with his college coach, Tom Crean. Sources told the Post that, last week, Wade also reached out for a trusted friend and adviser to come to him. Tim Grover, the founder and owner of Attack Athletics, is best known for all his years training Michael Jordan, and has been working lately with Kobe Bryant in Germany. After returning to the United States, Grover went with Bryant to Los Angeles, when Wade requested he come to Miami. With Bryant’s permission, Grover flew to South Florida, arriving on Saturday, watching Game 3 of the NBA Finals from AmericanAirlines Arena on Sunday night, scheduled to stay a few days to work on Wade’s body and mind.
- Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: The LeBron James Haters Association would like to announce it is disbanding. There will be a going-out-of-business sale on old cardboard signs that no longer are usable, the ones that read “LeChoke!” and reference fourth-quarter failures. One stubborn outpost of the group remains, but that Cleveland chapter has seen such a sharp drop in members and enthusiasm that it no longer can afford rent for meeting space and will be merging with the Flat Earth Society. The extreme makeover is almost complete. Two victories away. For LeBron and the Miami Heat, two summers ago and the national animus it caused are fading by degrees, replaced not just by a success that is vindicating the whole idea of the Big 3, but by a work ethic and businesslike humility that are making life a lot harder for the straggling, stubborn haters who remain. Forget what first made “LeBron” and “Miami” expletives to basketball fans – The Decision by James, the arena celebration that followed, the presumptiveness in the dynasty talk. It is time to let those things go and move on, isn’t it? And anyone who is able to wipe that slate clean and judge by only what they are seeing now might arrive at a rather startling conclusion: This Heat team has earned your admiration. This is more than an easy team to appreciate; it has become an easy team to like. And all of that starts with James, who has evolved and seen his reputation follow.
- Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: Kevin Durant's foul trouble has staggered the Thunder, particularly in Game 3 Sunday night, when Durant missed the final 5:41 of the third quarter, a span in which the Heat took control. Durant also sat out a chunk of Game 2's third quarter, with four fouls. That can't continue if the Thunder is to get this series back to Oklahoma City. “Kevin is an aggressive player,” said Scotty Brooks. “He plays aggressive basketball. We might have to change a few things up, but he's an aggressive player both ends of the floor.” Do the changes mean Durant won't be asked to guard LeBron, who has drawn six of the 12 fouls called on Durant in the series? Do the changes mean Durant has to lay off Miami fastbreaks, considering two of his Game 3 fouls came in transition? Brooks won't say, of course, but this much is true. Durant has to be more careful. I know this series has become part Macho Man, Durant vs. LeBron for the crown of pro basketball. But Durant can't fall victim to such a siren song. He's got to play smart. Got to remember that discretion goes with valor. Got to remember the feeling of sitting the bench those 51/2 minutes, watching the Heat grab the series reins.
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: It's true. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden have been outscored by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and … Shane Battier. Not quite the battle of the big three we envisioned at the outset of this series, is it? But that's become the Thunder's reality, and the reason being has to do with Harden pulling a vanishing act. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year has sputtered out of gate in his first trip to the Finals, and it's a leading reason why the Thunder is trailing the Heat 2-1 entering Tuesday night's Game 4. ... Harden entered this championship series averaging 17.6 points in the postseason. He had connected on 45.2 percent of his field-goal attempts. Against the Heat, Harden has averaged 11.7 points on 40.7 percent shooting. He has registered as many fouls (11) as he has assists. “He's their most efficient player when you let him get to his whole package,” said Battier. “We just have to keep making him work. Keep him off the foul line and try to keep running him off the 3-point line.”
- Shannon J. Owens of the Orlando Sentinel: It is especially unfair to single out Westbrook for his style of play when he's ultimately doing what his coach is asking of him. Brooks has been the biggest advocate of Westbrook's aggressive style and, for the most part, it's been working. Let's not forget we're talking about the NBA Finals here. Sure, Westbrook takes some bad shots. People have been saying that about LeBron James and his fourth quarter shot selections for years. But like James, he will improve in time. "He is a terrific player. I would pay to watch him play. He is a special talent. This Russell Westbrook hating is going overboard," TNT analyst Charles Barkley said. Ultimately, there is a fate that's worse than being hated or criticized and that's being ignored.
- Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times: How difficult is it to get LeBron James in foul trouble? Oklahoma City Thunder center Kendrick Perkins, rarely at loss for words, responded with a wince, a sigh and a pause. ‘‘Do I have to answer that question?’’ he said. I think you just did, I told him. ‘‘I don’t know, man. I don’t know.’’ But it’s a tougher chore than against most players in the NBA, right, Perk? Another sigh. Another pause. ‘‘I’d rather not answer that question,’’ Perkins said. His reticence said it all. And Perkins acknowledged as much — it would cost him way too much money to tell us what he really thinks. That’s the simmering frustration over a problem the Thunder trailng 2-1 in the NBA Finals, might not be able to do anything about heading into Game 4 tonight at American Airlines Arena: The LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant matchup — which started so promising for the Thunder in Game 1 — has turned the Heat’s way because of one very simple NBA reality: LeBron can defend any position on the court without getting into foul trouble. Durant cannot.
- Tom Sorensen of The Charlotte Observer: There are only two reasons to hire Dunlap. The first is that he came cheap. Charlotte doesn’t have to pay him what it would have to pay candidates such as former NBA coach Jerry Sloan or NBA assistant and head-coach-in-waiting Brian Shaw. But this can’t be about money, not now. The Bobcats won seven games in 2011-12 and had the worst winning percentage in NBA history. If Dunlap is a dollar-store hire, then next season they deserve to win six. The Bobcats are a desperate franchise that desperately needs a teacher with the patience to develop and lead young talent. This is the only reason to hire Dunlap. ... The most heralded professional head coach in Charlotte history was George Seifert, who was a disaster with the Carolina Panthers. The least heralded coach was Sam Vincent, who was even more of a disaster with the Bobcats. I’d love to say that Dunlap will be great, or that he’s terrible. But, like the Bobcats, I have no idea.
- Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: To their credit, the Hawks mustered stouter efforts in Games 5 and 6. But the lasting impression of the Hawks — under both Woodson and Drew — is of a team that never has fully believed it’s cut from championship cloth. It knows it has no LeBron, no Durant, no Dwyane Wade, no Westbrook. The Core Four, together since 2007, knows full well that it’s capable of going so far but no further, and it also knows that its management pales alongside Miami’s or OKC’s or San Antonio’s or Boston’s or Chicago’s or the Lakers’ or … OK, you get the point. You get the point better than I do. Because there are some nights — like March 3, when the Hawks beat the Thunder without Horford and Joe Johnson — when I think, “You know, if this team played like that every night …” But that’s the thing: This team doesn’t play like that every night, and as constituted it never will. And I can’t really see this front office, with Sund or without, making the bold moves needed to step up in class. I see only more of the Core, of which we’ve already seen too much.
- Jimmy Smith of the The Times-Picayune: Hugh Weber, the man who helped hold the Hornets’ franchise together during the 17 months it was owned by the NBA, is leaving the team, owner Tom Benson said Monday. And though Weber will no longer be part of the team’s front office, Benson made it clear that Weber’s guidance during that turbulent time of league receivership was critical in the Hornets’ long-term future. ... Benson also reaffirmed that Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis will oversee the Hornets’ basketball operations as well as the Saints’ football operations, and that Hornets General Manager Dell Demps and Coach Monty Williams — who a source acknowledged were both greatly valued by Benson and his management team — will keep their jobs. ... A source with knowledge of the team’s thinking said the franchise’s rebranding is already under way, but that a name change has not been formally requested to the NBA. A new team name could be in place by the 2013-14 season. When Benson signed an agreement to purchase the Hornets for $338 million on April 13, he immediately said he wanted the team’s name to be more identifiable with New Orleans. Weber says no hard feelings.
- Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: Players aren’t required to stick around Indy and workout during the offseason. Tyler Hansbrough and David West are in North Carolina. Darren Collison, Paul George and Danny Granger are in California. A.J. Price is in New York. You get the picture. I’m surprised the Pacers didn’t “suggest” to George to workout in Indy this summer. Playing on the summer league team with Stephenson and Pendergraph wouldn’t be a bad idea, either. George is scheduled to play on the USA Select Team next month. That will be good experience for him, but it wouldn’t hurt for him to be at the fieldhouse working out with the coaching staff. From a personal life stand point, you can’t fault the 22-year-old George for wanting to be in Southern California during the offseason. Los Angeles or Indianapolis? That’s an easy decision. But this is about basketball and the continued development of George’s game to make sure he stays on the right track toward reaching his full potential.
- Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Kyle Singler, a 2011 second-round draft pick of the Pistons, scored 12 points Saturday night, but his Real Madrid team lost a decisive Game 5 of the ACB League title series against Barcelona Regal, 73-69. Former Michigan State standout Erazem Lorbek, whose NBA rights are retained by the San Antonio Spurs, scored 10 points for Barcelona. In 36 regular-season games for Madrid, Singler averaged eight points in 19.8 minutes. He shot 54% from the field and 43.1% on three-pointers in one of the top leagues in Europe. Singler, who was taken 35th overall by the Pistons, decided to go overseas during the lockout. The Pistons retain his rights, and he's expected to play for the team during summer-league play in Orlando next month.
- Gene Wang of The Washington Post: The Washington Wizards on Monday morning continued their evaluation of potential players whom they could select with the No. 3 pick in the NBA draft by working out former Connecticut standout Andre Drummond. At 6 feet 10, 270 pounds, Drummond is a projected top six selection in the June 28 draft after having played one season for the Huskies. Drummond fills a need along the front line, where the Wizards continue to search for a long-term solution at center. Also working out for Wizards Coach Randy Wittman, his staff and team president Ernie Grunfeld was 6-9 Turkish forward Ilkan Karaman, but all the attention belonged to Drummond as he tried to convince the club’s decision makers to take a chance on his considerable upside. “Everybody has room to improve on their game,” Drummond said. “The sky’s the limit, so I know I have room to improve. That’s what I’m going to do.”
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: Andre Miller might be back. Miller might not be back. Either way, the Nuggets will consider drafting a backup point guard, a blossoming complement to starter Ty Lawson. The point guards who met in the NCAA championship game met again Monday at the Pepsi Center. Kentucky's Marquis Teague and Kansas' Tyshawn Taylor are projected first-round picks in the NBA's June 28 draft. The Nuggets have the 20th pick. ... Nuggets executive Masai Ujiri has said that he and Miller, a 36-year-old free agent, have had positive discussions about Miller returning to Denver. Miller is one of coach George Karl's favorite players. If he returns to the Nuggets, Miller will continue to play big minutes off the bench. If he comes back, the Nuggets' potential first-round pick could learn from one of the NBA's great passers. If Miller doesn't return, the potential pick could learn on the job.
- Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: Utah holds the No. 47 overall selection in the draft. ... Utah is prepared to move up in the draft and acquire a first-round pick if a favorable deal is presented. However, a draft some said could be the league's best since 2003 — a class that featured LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony — doesn't look as strong as it did a year ago. As a result, the Jazz are equally prepared to try and steal a player at No. 47 — as they did with Mo Williams (2003) and Paul Millsap (2006) — and watch an athlete they rated higher than most teams quietly fall into their hands.
- Neil Best of Newsday: Every Knicks fan is familiar with the Walt Frazier of the NBA championships era live or via video highlights but Saturday night MSG will unveil something unseen in 45 years, not even by Frazier himself until recently. The season premiere of MSGs Vault is a special called Before He Was Clyde, built around a pristine recording of the 1967 NIT final, in which Frazier led Southern Illinois over Al McGuire-coached Marquette, 71-56. Frazier believes his 21-point, 11-rebound performance, which brought the Salukis back from an 11-point halftime deficit, led unequivocally to the Knicks drafting him that spring. MSG uncovered the video not in its archives but at WSIU, a PBS station in Carbondale, Ill., after it asked Fraziers alma mater to help locate it. The result was a coup - a color videotape recording of CBS coverage from the old Garden.