Wednesday, May 22, 2013
First Cup: Wednesday
By Nick Borges
- Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: As well as the Spurs played in Game 1, a letdown was almost inevitable. It didn’t happen until the fourth quarter, but happen it did with a 15-2 Memphis run — fueled by Manu Ginobili’s flagrant foul on Tony Allen (see below) — that forced overtime. The collapse prevented them from crushing the Grizzlies’ morale, but the fact remains: They lead the series 2-0, a point at which teams have won best-of-7 series 94 percent of the time, and the Spurs are 19-2. … So how to grade Tony Parker? From the standpoint of shooting, he suffered through a nightmare similar to the one that wakes Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade in cold sweats in that Gatorade commercial: 6 for 20, including misses on his last five attempts. He was otherwise sublime, dishing out a playoff career-high 18 assists against just two turnovers. He was especially good in the third quarter, scoring or assisting on 24 of the team’s 30 points. … It was a generally quiet performance from Tim Duncan, who struggled with foul trouble late in regulation. He still amassed nine rebounds, three assists, four blocks, two steals and 17 points, including the first three baskets of overtime to carry the Spurs home — a driving layup, a putback and a Parker-esque floater that bounced high off the rim and in, , Don Nelson in the 1969 Finals style, for a 91-87 lead.
- Chris Herrington of the Memphis Flyer: The Grizzlies saved Saturday. Wait, I’ve used that lead before? Through two games, this series feels an awful lot like the first-round series against the Clippers: A discouraging 20-plus-point loss in Game 1 followed by a disappointing but ultimately encouraging close loss in Game 2. In that series, the Grizzlies then won four straight. That’s very unlikely here, but the Grizzlies seem to have regained some confidence and made some adjustments and certainly can return home with more hope than seemed possible at halftime of this one. … They couldn’t pull it out, but the Grizzlies really got into the Spurs for the first time in that fourth quarter, giving home fans a reason to believe that the growth pattern the team followed in the first and second rounds may yet be viable.
- Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: LeBron James speaks of restraint as if it were a skill he has needed to perfect, little different from his passing, perimeter shooting or post moves. “It took a while, honestly,” James said. “I just think it’s a maturity, leadership. I can’t afford to get out of my game and get unfocused if the play out on the court becomes more than basketball.” That’s because he recognizes his importance. “I have to continue to know what’s the task at hand,” James said. “It’s difficult at times, for sure. There’s times where I want to retaliate, but, you know, I can’t. I just stay the course, and just play the game. I’m here to just play basketball and that’s it.” That’s what he will attempt to do in this series, whatever the Pacers’ intentions or distractions. Last spring, Danny Granger, not known as an enforcer, oddly embraced the role of agitator, repeatedly confronting James and Dwyane Wade following fouls, earning technicals for his antics. James called the ploy “stupid,” adding that “whatever he’s trying, it’s not working.” Granger won’t be working in this series, sidelined after knee surgery. Still, others, notably Tyler Hansbrough and Lance Stephenson, figure to try James’ patience. He must respond as he did in the just-completed series against Chicago, after Nazr Mohammed shoved him or Nate Robinson hit his chin with a hand in transition. … Chris Bosh spoke of being a skinny kid in Texas and accepting the reality that lesser players would try to rough him up, that “if they can’t hold you, they want to make it about everything but basketball. You just continue to play basketball.” Opponents still try to bounce Bosh around. But someone else gets more of opponents’ attention. “I’m not the best player on the floor every night,” Bosh said. “I know that. He is.” He, as in James. The best player, who again must show he has the toughest skin.
- Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: This does not qualify as any great insight heading into Game 1, but here it is anyway: Hibbert is absolutely central to the Pacers’ chances against the mighty Miami Heat. If he’s as big against the Heat as he was against the Knicks, both defensively and offensively, the Pacers have a chance to scare the life out of Miami. The key is doing what he has done in these playoffs, and that’s to be a defensive force without fouling. Once upon a time, Hibbert was a walking foul. Over the years, he has painstakingly learned how to go straight up and, in the process, he has gained the respect of officials, who now seem to be giving him the benefit of the doubt. That goes for all the Pacers, who were 29th in the league last season in fouls and have improved to 14th. Foul trouble killed them in the last year’s Miami series. Along with the bench. “I think he’s the best in the league in terms of going up with verticality,” Vogel said. “I think he’s been that way the last two, three years.”
- Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer: Yes, the Cavs grabbed the No. 1 pick in the NBA lottery, but it's a lousy draft. OK, it is a lousy draft ... so would you rather have the No. 6 pick in a bad draft? That was the worst the Cavs could have finished in this lottery. Nope, if you're a fan, you should be thrilled that your team has the top pick. Maybe they will end up taking Nerlens Noel, the 6-11 shot-blocking machine from Kentucky. Noel also is a thin 206 pounds, coming off knee surgery that may keep him out of action until Christmas. … The player best suited in terms of need is Georgetown small forward Otto Porter. He's projected as a top three pick. Is there a way the Cavs can trade with No. 2 Orlando, and still grab Porter while adding a future first rounder? You can be sure that will be discussed. Or perhaps the Cavs will think big. Real big. Huge as in the No. 1 pick and a player on the roster for a veteran forward who can score. They have the salary cap room to make that kind of move. At this point, I'm not sure what the Cavs should do. There is a certain appeal to Noel because he won't be 20 until next April. He can gain weight and strength and may keep growing. New coach Mike Brown wants defense, and Noel can deliver that because of his shot-blocking and leaping ability. But I'm positive the Cavs also are thinking trade. They have long liked Minnesota's Kevin Love. Golden State may have David Lee available, although his defense is "challenged," to be nice about it. Nonetheless, he can score. Even in a supposed bad draft, there are good players available. Remember, the Cavs also have the 19th, 31st and 33rd picks.
- Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: Here's all you need to know about the quality of this year's draft: The No.1 pick might well be Nerlens Noel, the Kentucky center recovering from a torn ACL who might not even be healthy enough to play next season. For all of you Christmas carolers scoring at home, Nerlens would indeed be the Magic's first Noel, but he is far from a messiah. Who knows, he could be the franchise's next Dwight Howard -- or he could be the franchise's next Grant Hill. Is this really a chance you want to take with an early first pick in the draft? The Magic's young GM Rob Hennigan doesn't seem like the type to roll the dice with the team's future. If he were, he would have traded Dwight for Andrew Bynum and the Magic would be stuck with Bynum, who sat out this entire season with bum knees. … The upcoming draft will be just another way for Hennigan to add another young building block to a team that will most likely be right back here at the draft lottery next year. The fact is, there are no surefire saviors coming in this draft to rescue the Magic from another lackluster season. Unlike the past – when the Magic truly were built on lucky charms and pixie dust -- this overhaul is going to be slower and more methodical. Maybe it's a good sign that the Magic didn't win the draft lottery Tuesday night. Hennigan, after all, doesn't seem like the type who believes championships are built on a wing, a prayer and a bouncing pingpong ball.
- Mike Wise of The Washington Post: The worst thing the Washington Wizards could do at this moment is give in to public sentiment and view their unexpected surprise of a No. 3 pick in the NBA draft lottery as a nameplate above a cubicle in their locker room next season. The Wizards got lucky, moved up five picks from where they were projected to choose in the draft, and drew the third selection Tuesday night for the second year in a row. Their good fortune could allow them to keep a local college or high school kid close to home. But they should resist the temptation. … They have next season. Postseason or bust. That’s it. And as much as I think Porter could be an all-star within three years and Oladipo could be sixth man of the year off the Wizards’ bench in 2015, I’m not sure either one makes their mark next season. And if Ernie Grunfeld can secure an established veteran now for that pick, someone who could even help take this franchise to the second round for the first time since 2005, he’s got to take that chance.
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: You can change the name, but apparently you can’t change the Charlotte Bobcats’ lottery luck.Roughly three hours after the Bobcats announced their intent to switch to “Charlotte Hornets,” the team got bad news in the draft lottery. They will pick fourth on June 27 after finishing last season with the NBA’s second-worst record at 21-61. This is the second year the Bobcats slipped in the lottery after a bad season. In 2012 they went 7-59 – worst record in NBA history – but drafted second behind the New Orleans (no longer) Hornets. … Bobcats executives Rod Higgins and Rich Cho met with the media following the lottery selection. They didn’t offer much detail on players available, except to say they’d likely work out at least six or seven for the fourth spot. The Bobcats have no second-round pick this draft. General manager Cho said the Bobcats’ current roster shouldn’t be relevant to who they select. “Ideally you take the best player available – my philosophy has always been you draft for talent, trade for need,” Cho said. Cho mentioned size, rebounding and shooting as the areas that need the most improvement.
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: No. 5 is a thrill for new Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough, whose draft work in the Boston front office has not for a pick higher than No. 19 in the past eight drafts. “The guy who goes there might not be much different, or any different, than guys who go in the top three,” McDonough said. This will be the highest the Suns have drafted since 1987, when they took Armen Gilliam with the No. 2 pick after David Robinson had gone first. Like then, the Suns are in dire need of a young talent infusion. “I think generally we need to get more athletic,” McDonough said. “I think we need more shooting. My philosophy is always to draft the best available player. There are some good pieces in place here. But at the same time, we won 25 games here, so we need to get better across the board.”
- John Reid of The Times-Picayune: Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps hasn't ruled out the possibility the Pelicans could trade the pick in attempt to obtain more veterans. ``You never know,'' Demps said. ``There are trades, there's other opportunities that may present themselves. We're going to look at every angle to give ourselves the best possible chance to make our team better.'' The Pelicans interviewed 15 prospects during last week's NBA draft combine in Chicago, according to league sources. The Pelicans could be looking to improve the small forward spot with Al-Farouq Aminu becoming a free agent this summer. Aminu struggled to be a consistent scorer but improved as a rebounder. Williams said after Tuesday's lottery that any prospect the Pelicans select at No. 6 is capable of providing immediate help to improve their team. "Obviously, the higher that pick is, the better,'' Williams said.
- Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Last season, five of the top prospects refused to work out for the Kings. New ownership and stability might cause more players to be willing to embrace being a King. Regardless of who the selection is or who makes the final decision, the new ownership group could overhaul the roster, coaching staff and front office. The Kings also own the sixth pick in the second round, 36th overall. Players who could be available at No. 7 include point guards Trey Burke and Michael Carter-Williams and small forward Shabazz Muhammad. After projected top pick Nerlens Noel, Alex Len is viewed as the second-best center. Petrie noted that the draft has its limitations. "The idea that – except in certain cases that the draft is the stairway to success – except when you get that exceptional guy, (the draft) isn't necessarily the most important thing," he said.
- David Mayo of MLive.com: Joe Dumars said he still has no timetable for hiring a new Detroit Pistonshead coach but insisted the search would not extend into the opening of NBA free agency July 1. Dumars made his first public remarks on the coaching search in a conference call with local media Tuesday night, from New York, where the Pistons gotbumped down one spot in the NBA Draft Lottery and will pick No. 8 overall. The Pistons president of basketball operations did not dismiss any of the names reported to have interviewed for the vacancy created by Lawrence Frank's firing but seemed to delight in noting some interviews have escaped public scrutiny. "We've talked to a lot of people," Dumars said. "I'm waiting on you guys to get the names out there but you haven't gotten them out yet." Those known or reported to have interviewed with the Pistons include Mike Budenholzer, J.B. Bickerstaff, Lindsey Hunter, Maurice Cheeks, Nate McMillan and Darrell Walker.
- Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press: Congratulations to Kevin Love, who helped the Timberwolves hold onto their No. 9 position AND didn't get hurt at the NBA lottery. The Wolves now sport a lottery record of 0-7-8. They've never moved up, have drafted right where they should based on their record seven times and have tumbled backward eight times. Love, who on Tuesday represented the franchise at the event, brought enough good karma to allow the Wolves to hold serve at No. 9, which is just where they should be. Yippee. The lottery was created to prevent teams from tanking in order to improve their position in the draft, but it's a flawed system because it penalizes teams that consistently lose without subterfuge. For example, the Timberwolves always have been naturally good at losing basketball games. And for years, we all knew what to expect at the lottery: If there were, say, two impact players coming out of college, the Wolves would end up with the third pick. If there were four impact players, they'd draft fifth. It got to the point where the goal was just to survive the lottery.
- John Canzano of The Oregonian: Good organizations have a congruency of vision, and overcome mistakes. Bad organizations are disjointed, refuse to be accountable and are quick to accept failure as being unlucky. And if the Blazers want to distance themselves from the Kings, Raptors, Pelicans, Wizards and Bobcats/Hornets of the NBA world, the only way to do so is to make a solid series of wise decisions. The selection of Lillard -- No. 6 overall last June -- was a good start. But it can't end there. The burst of confidence Allen has demonstrated this season in allowing Olshey to work some is encouraging, but it must continue. Changing general managers six times in the decade has more to do with the lottery streak than coaching, bad knees or sad-story luck. And it's why Tuesday, a day this city may have wished for the No. 1 pick, instead ended with the sobering reality that a single player in this draft won't turn a flawed franchise into a champion. A change of vision will, though.