Wednesday, June 18, 2008
First Cup: Wednesday
Celtics vs. Lakers
- Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe: "Embrace it. Ogle it. Relish it. But, above all, believe it. The Boston Celtics did not just win franchise championship No. 17 last night. They snatched it. They swallowed it. They demanded it. So they've done it. They have claimed the honor of having the greatest single-season turnaround in NBA history. One year ago today, the franchise could accurately be described as forlorn. The Celtics were coming off a 24-58 season punctuated by an 18-game losing streak. They had been cruelly treated by the draft lottery, which left them with nothing better than the fifth pick. And now they are champions. Again. Lordy, Lordy, what hath Danny and Doc wrought?"
- Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald: "He shot and he passed, he handled the ball, he played defense. Along the way, Paul Pierce opened the eyes of an entire nation at a time when the spotlight seemingly was reserved for someone else. The renaissance Celtics won the 17th championship in franchise history last night with a resounding 131-92 victory over the turtling Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, an inevitable affair that completed the greatest turnaround in league history. What it did, too, was make Pierce exactly what the Celtics have long said he was, a brilliant player whose talent has never truly been appreciated. Or, for that matter, realized."
- Lenny Megliola of the MetroWest Daily News: "This year's pinup boys were Pierce and Kobe. Many people picked the Lakers to win the series. Many people were so wrong. The Celtics might have been burdened by the expectations this season, especially in the playoffs, but if there were cracks, they were always sealed in time to play on. Each step they took, the Celtics faced more pressure to win it all. So there will be another parade in a town getting mighty accustomed to them. This one comes with a twist. It's all about the basketball team. In L.A., they're green with envy."
- Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "In his best chance at establishing his legacy as a championship player without Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant was seemingly burdened by something even heavier. ... The league MVP was AWFUL, unable to break through even the most basic of one-on-one Celtic defenses, unable to carry a team that needed carrying. ... And, so, in voices that seemingly shook the TD Banknorth Garden, with Bryant standing at the foul line in the third quarter, here came those chants. 'You're . . . not . . . Jordan!' the fans sang, referring to Michael Jordan. No, clearly, at this point he is not."
- Gregg Patton of The Press-Enterprise: "With their (Celtics) top trio on the sunset side of their careers, the chances for more will slip quickly. The Lakers are the ones who are young and talented, with a world of possibilities in front of them. All they have to do now is learn. Maybe it was fitting that these two storied franchises rose so quickly together. Maybe they can do this again. Rematch, anyone?"
- Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News: "If the last six games proved one thing, it's that compared to Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant is still a mere mortal."
- Harvey Araton of The New York Times: "There can be no next Jordan, if only because the second coming already occurred even before the original made the last shot of his Chicago Bulls' career in Salt Lake City a decade ago, and not to the N.B.A. Conceptually, Jordan still shoots a round ball into a targeted hole, but his name is Tiger Woods, the game is golf and never has that reality intruded on the finals as it did Sunday when Woods lined up his United States Open-tying putt on the 18th green at Torrey Pines."
2008 NBA Draft
- Fran Blinebury of the Houston Chronicle: "The Rockets took significant steps forward this season with the drafting of Carl Landry and Aaron Brooks, with the trade for Luis Scola, with the hiring of Rick Adelman as head coach. If T-Mac was sitting at home on Tuesday night watching the Celtics put the wraps on a championship, he could have been bemoaning the fact that nobody went out and got him Garnett and Allen. And a nice, shiny trophy. Or he could have been setting his alarm for early in the morning to re-committing himself to earning one. Next June that smile on Pierce's face, that joy in Garnett's voice could be his. Anything's possible. Isn't it?"
- Percy Allen of The Seattle Times: "The courtroom battle between Seattle and the Sonics, which began in the middle of the NBA Finals, could have embarrassed the league and distracted from its showcase event. But after two days of testimony, including six hours on the stand by Sonics chairman Clay Bennett on Tuesday, the rest of the NBA world hardly seems interested in the story. Instead, the focus has been on an exciting NBA Finals, which ended Tuesday with the Boston Celtics' victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, and a referee gambling scandal."
- Patrick McManamon of The Akron Beacon-Journal: "If there's a deal out there for Anderson Varejao, the Cavs should do it yesterday. But to complete this deal, Varejao must consent to be traded. NBA rules say a restricted free agent (like Varejao) cannot be traded without his approval for one year starting with the day he signs his offer sheet. This could be a problem if, say, the Cavs wanted to send Varejao to Timbuktu. No NBA player will go there -- no matter the money. But since it's always about the money with pro athletes, Varejao could agree to go elsewhere. If he agrees to a trade he will want one thing: a chance to sign a big contract after next season."
- Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press: "The Carmelo Anthony rumors make sense. The Pistons can send Billups and Prince to Denver for a package headlined by Anthony. ... How about McGrady straight up for Billups and Prince? It works under the salary cap. And if Houston is willing to part with McGrady, the deal makes some sense for both t
eams. ... Other than Anthony and McGrady, I don't see any true superstars who could be available and make sense for the Pistons. They still could make a trade, but they would have to shoot lower."
- David Moore of The Dallas Morning News: "Mark Cuban has been articulate and consistent in his criticism of an Olympic model he considers hypocritical. ... 'It's not that I don't like the idea of them representing their countries,' Cuban said by e-mail. 'If the Olympics were truly a nationalistic endeavor built on sport and part of the public domain, I would be willing to take risk and support their playing. What I don't like is that we lie to ourselves and pretend that the Olympians represent our country. ... They don't. They have taken relatively low paying jobs working for the Olympics, who in turn sell the broadcast and marketing rights for billions of dollars in profits, all the while creating enormous risk for those of us who pay them for their day jobs that support their families. It's amazing how players who are free agents won't participate, but those with guaranteed contracts will. ... I hate the fact that we lie to ourselves and pretend this is about representing country,' Cuban said. 'It's not. It's about money.'"
- Tim Buckley of the Deseret News: "Two Jazz stars -- point guard Deron Williams and two-time NBA All-Star power forward Carlos Boozer -- both have an increasingly likely shot at making USA Basketball's 12-man Olympic roster when it is unveiled Monday. ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher reported Tuesday that Detroit Pistons point guard Chauncey Billups has withdrawn from consideration for the team, citing undisclosed personal family issues. That makes Williams, who probably would have made it anyway, a virtual certainty for making his first Olympic team."
- Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times: "Azubuike said his experience -- walking on the soil of Africa, witnessing firsthand the struggles of Africans -- has changed his perspective forever. The suffering reminds him of the stories he heard of his parents' hardships -- tales of his mom getting water from the lake and carrying it back on her head in a pot, or his dad clearing an entire field with what amounted to a pocketknife. 'I don't think it was as bad in Nigeria (as Tanzania), but I know it was tough,' Azubuike said from a hotel in Tanzania. 'It's eye-opening. It's sad. It's emotional. It's all that stuff. It's a whole different lifestyle there. It's hard to even imagine growing up in a place like this. It's like our problems pale in comparison to the problems they face over here. It will just make me not take things for granted anymore. It makes me want to do more outreach like this. It's a blessing to be able to give. I feel like I want to do that more.'"
- K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune: "Michael Beasley said he enjoyed meeting general manager John Paxson, new coach Vinny Del Negro and several Bulls players on his visit. The power forward also changed his tune slightly from the predraft camp, where he gave politically correct answers about not caring if he went first to the Bulls or second to Miami. 'It would mean a lot being the No. 1 pick and coming to a franchise with so much history and a big legacy,' he said. 'I think [the Bulls] should draft me. I would like to go No. 1. But if that doesn't happen, I wouldn't be offended.'"
- Mike McGraw of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald: "Beasley may have attended multiple high schools, but that also means he has spent plenty of time on his own, forced to adjust to unfamiliar environments. He first left home in eighth grade to attend Laurinburg Academy in North Carolina. Later stops included three more boarding schools, then he went a long way from home to play one season at Kansas State. 'It helped me,' Beasley said. 'It got me prepared for different situations and different lifestyles. I think me going away to school at such a young age helped me grow up earlier than some other guys my age. So far I think it worked out pretty well.'"
- Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Michael Beasley is on the way. The question remains whether he will stay. The Kansas State forward, who is expected to be taken either first or second in the June 26 NBA Draft, confirmed during a Tuesday visit to Chicago that he would be spending these next two days in South Florida. ... The Heat also is listed among teams scheduled to view Southern Cal guard O.J. Mayo during a workout Saturday in Chicago."
- Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "It should appear blatantly obvious that the Mayo-to-Miami talk is just the type of subterfuge the Heat loves being a part of this time of year, whether it is picking second or 22nd. And it is only fitting Mayo and Miami are playing off each other to create an artificial buzz. Mayo, as many in the business are convinced, is a masterful con man himself, even as a 20-year-old. No, if Miami is going to hold on to the No. 2 pick, it won't be Mayo sporting the Heat jersey. It will be Beasley, regardless of how hesitant the Heat front office is about him (and word is there is a very real concern coming from Miami). There is no excuse for not taking the best player available that night in the draft."
- Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Kevin Love looked mighty short next to Ajinca (an intriguing, long-armed 7-1 prospect), Jordan and Koufos. The Wolves scheduled Love on the same day as them to see how he would perform against such taller, longer players. 'He obviously isn't as tall as some of those guys,' Wolves assistant general manager Fred Hoiberg said. 'He makes up for it with his quickness, his shooting ability and his basketball IQ. He's a smart player, a very unique player.' Love said he didn't shoot as well as he would have liked Tuesday. Wolves basketball boss Kevin McHale said he has no concerns about Love's size and athleticism in a league that seemingly keeps growing smaller."
- Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "Of the 32 NBA draft prospects who have descended upon the Rose City to make their case to become the No. 13 pick, perhaps no player has expressed a greater desire to land with the Trail Blazers than Joe Alexander. The athletic forward from
West Virginia capped a three-day Portland visit with an impressive workout Tuesday at the Blazers' practice facility. The workout drew praise from Blazers coach Nate McMillan and prompted a sales pitch from Alexander. 'I would really like to be in Portland,' he said. 'They have a young team full of guys that love the game and work hard, and that's what I'm about. I think I would fit in well here.'"
- Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: "Nate McMillan referred to Alexander's work ethic as 'unbelievable' after the workout, which included three other forwards -- first-round prospects Donte Greene of Syracuse and Nicolas Batum of France along with Deron Washington, a four-year starter at Virginia Tech. 'He's a guy not afraid of working,' the Portland coach said of Alexander, later saying the former Mountaineer reminds him of Chicago's Andres Nocioni."
- Brian Hendrickson of The Columbian: "Virtually every achievement in Alexander's career seems to be preceded by stories of extra practices and special efforts. The maniacal work ethic has come to define him, and it is a big reason why Alexander has soared from a guy who once failed to convince a Division II school to offer him a scholarship, to one who appears to be a certain lottery selection in next week's NBA Draft."
- Matt Gelb of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Tony DiLeo tells agents that if a player works out for the Sixers in the days leading up to the draft, there's a better chance the team will select him. But it hasn't helped. 'We're in the middle of the pack, and most of the time, the agents are hesitant,' DiLeo, the 76ers assistant general manager, said. 'If their guy is projected at eight or nine, they don't want them coming in at 16.' Forget about bringing in top-10 players. The Sixers have struggled to convince anyone who could be a first-round pick at No. 16, their spot, to visit for a workout. ... Out of the 13 players the Sixers have seen in the last two weeks, only three -- Syracuse forward Donte Greene, Nevada center JaVale McGee and North Carolina State forward J.J. Hickson -- are projected to be drafted anywhere near No. 16."
- Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "One of the most misunderstood players available in the 2008 NBA draft was in Cleveland on Tuesday. The Cavaliers worked out Georgetown center Roy Hibbert on Tuesday at Cleveland Clinic Courts. The 7-foot-2, 278-pounder appears to be a player the Cavs are considering with the 19th pick in the first round of the June 26 draft."