Tuesday, June 18, 2013
First Cup: Tuesday
By Nick Borges
- Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: During the postseason, Miami has won each of its six games following a loss by an average of 20.7 points. The Heat’s victories in this schizophrenic series have come by 19 and 16. History conflicts on where things go from here. Bad news for Miami: Since 1985, only three home teams have swept Games 6 and 7 in a Finals. Good news for Miami, if it can win Tuesday: No team in that span has lost a Game 7 at home. “This team, they’ve been here before many times,” Miami guard Dwyane Wade said, referring to the Spurs. “They understand winning that last game is one of the hardest things you’re going to do. And we understand it as well.” If the Spurs back in the Dark Ages didn’t fully understand how hard it is to win a championship, they do now. The past six years have felt like 60. Beginning Tuesday, the Spurs have two chances to make the long wait worth it. “We take nothing for granted,” Parker said. “We appreciate every moment. And we’ll see what happens.”
- Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Already, the room is preparing to tilt one way or the other on him. After Sunday's loss, a question was asked as the Heat return home from Texas down in the series three games to two, just as they were in the 2010 Finals loss to Dallas, what he has learned. "We're going to see if we're a better team than our first year together,'' he said. The Heat lost that series as LeBron famously became lost in a suffocating trap of fame and pressure in that Game 6. All this time later - two years, one championship, one 27-game win streak – it's like no one's moved at all. We're back there again. Same moment. Same stakes. The truth is LeBron, like the Heat, has graduated from that time in a manner that any rational framing would note. But nothing will be rational now. It will be emotional, raw and savage, built only on a Game 6 result in the way that makes this sports reality show so intoxicating to watch. Win, and Heat fans will feel the sports definition of pandemonium course through them. Lose, and it's heartbreak.
- Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: We wouldn't know about rearranged lineups here in OKC. Scotty Brooks doesn't change his lineup even under threat of bayonet. Since Kendrick Perkins arrived from Boston in February 2011, the only deviation from the Durant-Westbrook-Ibaka-Perk-Sefolosha starting five has come courtesy of a doctor's note. Even when the Thunder clearly needed to adjust its chess pieces — Miami in the 2012 Finals; Houston in the 2013 first round — Foreman Scotty stayed with his starting five. … You saw in Game 4 last week, Popovich stayed with his lineup in response to Miller starting. Then 47 seconds into the game, Pop replaced Tiago Splitter with Gary Neal. To Brooks' credit, he's coming around. Against Houston, Kevin McHale ended all pretense of a traditional starting five after Game 1. Brooks eventually embraced small ball. The early part of the Houston series, Brooks was going deep into the first and third quarters before adjusting. But he went small less than three minutes into Game 4, less than two minutes into the second half of Game 5 and didn't even start Perkins in Game 6's second half. … We should see more lineup and rotation adjustments from Brooks as the Thunder ages. We'll probably see more from the Heat and the Spurs this very week. Some of it might even keep working.
- Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: Bulls general manager Gar Forman has thrown the number 86 out there several times this season, which is the winning percentage when Rose, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng are playing together since the four came together before the 2010-11 season, but Larry O’Brien Trophies aren’t held up in December or April. They are earned in June, and the Bulls aren’t on the same level with the two teams competing on this stage. Not without at least two more serious threats from the outside. Call it the Danny Green revelation. The Bulls finished the regular-season 21st in three-point shooting, hitting just over 35 percent from beyond the arc. The top five teams in that category? Golden State, Miami, Oklahoma City, the Spurs and the Knicks. All of them are playoff teams, with two still alive. As much as Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau force-feeds his players on defense first, second and third, they still lack a perimeter game that can stretch opposing defenses. There is hope of grabbing an outside scorer in the draft in nine days, but for a team that already has its toes dipped in the luxury tax water, don’t expect much help through free agency.
- Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: There is little doubt Gregg Popovich is the best coach in the NBA right now, his Spurs closing in on their fifth NBA championship and his ability to develop and hone under-the-radar players like Danny Green into significant assets around San Antonio's core superstars a skill few coaches possess. But the past five years prove Rivers is a close second, the Celtics an annual contender even while age and injuries compromised their closing ability on younger teams like Miami and Chicago. For the Clippers to land a coach of that stature is not only a coup, but it nearly guarantees Paul will remain in Los Angeles on a long-term commitment later this summer. The move allows Rivers to avoid the inevitable rebuilding project about to go down in Boston while providing him with an intriguing roster filled with a near-perfect blend of youth, toughness, experience and savvy. Garnett and Pierce, if both come along for the ride, might be risky business in terms of age and potential injury. But their wear and tear is mitigated by the presence of the youthful Paul and Griffin shouldering most of the heavy lifting. At the very least, it shows the Clippers are willing to think boldly and take on money in pursuit of their first championship. And if they walk away with Rivers as their coach, all the better.
- Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: The day after the Mavericks’ season ended, you may remember reading in this spot about the merits of Milwaukee guard Monta Ellis. Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter both voiced their support if it came to the point where Ellis would be available in free agency. That point may be here on July 1. An ESPN report says that Ellis has elected to opt-out of the final year of his contract with the Bucks. If that’s the case, that will make him an unrestricted free agent on July 1. … Ellis is different than those two players, but at 28 when next season begins, his prime is now. The Mavericks, who can’t comment on any free agents until July 1, would be foolish not to look long and hard at Ellis as a viable game plan in free agency, regardless of what Dwight Howard does. … This isn’t to say Chris Paul or even Jose Calderon might not be legitimate options for the Mavericks. But the stars appear to be lining up pretty well for them to make a run at Ellis.
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Monta Ellis had a decision to make. And on Monday the Milwaukee Bucks shooting guard officially opted out of the final year of his contract, making him an unrestricted free agent July 1. It wasn't a surprising choice, particularly after Ellis had rejected a two-year, $25 million extension offer made by the Bucks last fall. The offer would have required Ellis to opt in to the final year of his existing contract and would have been worth nearly $36 million over three seasons. … Ellis' decision, beating a Thursday deadline, provides some clarity for the Bucks as they approach next week's NBA draft. Milwaukee has the 15th and 43rd picks in the June 27 draft. The Bucks carefully have evaluated the backcourt talent in the draft, including point guards Shane Larkin and Dennis Schroeder and shooting guards Glen Rice Jr., Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ricky Ledo, among others. … One published report indicated the Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers could be interested in Ellis.
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: Ten Junes ago, the Nuggets transformed their franchise by obtaining a young talent who attended Baltimore's Towson Catholic High School. That's the plan again. With the goal of becoming an elite team, Denver hired Tim Connelly on Monday to be the team's executive vice president of basketball operations — or, as the fans know it, general manager — replacing Masai Ujiri, who left to run the Toronto Raptors. Connelly, 36, previously the assistant GM of the New Orleans Pelicans, went to Towson Catholic, the school that Carmelo Anthony attended until Melo's senior year. "I'm honored," Connelly said by phone. "I think all of us aspire to ultimately be in this position with good people and a good organization and put your imprint on things. "I'm lucky enough that Josh has taken a chance on me." Josh is Josh Kroenke, the team president, and now Kroenke and Connelly will make a decision on replacing the fired coach George Karl. Indiana Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw is scheduled to interview with Denver on Tuesday, while former Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins will interview Wednesday, an NBA source said.
- Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Pete D'Alessandro said the Kings showed, especially over the second half of the 2012-13 season, they are talented - offensively. But it will take time speaking with coach Michael Malone and the players to see how they fit with the new Kings regime. "I have a lot of agents to call," D'Alessandro said. "I have to sit down with these players and Michael, and I will do that together. But I feel the future is really bright." Ranadive said something "clicked" when he met D'Alessandro. Ranadive questioned all the candidates about the Kings' roster and their plan for the team. After being impressed by D'Alessandro, Ranadive called Chris Mullin, who was the candidate's boss at Golden State. Mullin, a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer as a player with Golden State and Indiana who became an executive with the Warriors, endorsed D'Alessandro. Mullin has been offered a job as a consultant with the Kings.
- Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: Well, if Tim Leiweke wanted to make significant changes to get away from the Raptors past, he’s picked the right guy to fire. In what I think is a terribly short-sighted move that will rankle as many people as anything he does, Leiweke has told Alvin Williams that his services are no longer required. Yep, the chief executive officer of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment — on the job for less than a month — has jettisoned one of the great guys ever associated with the franchise and a man who wanted nothing more than to spend his entire career with the organization in some way, shape or form. Williams had spent last season scouting for the team, based out of Philadelphia, but he was far, far more than just an employee picking up a cheque. He loved the organization and the city, he was a link to some of the best times the team has ever had, he is a great guy who’d show up every now and then and sooth some antsy players, offer a unique perspective and be a valued confidant to many. Fired. Not by the general manager who never spoke to him, but by a CEO who seems hellbent on getting his fingers in every decision at some level. It sucks.
- Jonathan Jones of The Charlotte Observer: After an NBA playoffs run that catapulted him (Stephen Curry) into the national spotlight, the former Charlotte Christian and Davidson standout has found a new level of stardom. It’s one that comes with more requests, more autographs, more “no, thank yous” and more importance on finding a balance for a busy offseason schedule. “You feel like you have a lot of time, but when you start committing to events and you start committing to different opportunities, it really flies by,” Curry said. “You really have to be conscious of how much you exert yourself. Even though it might seem like going to a golf tournament or NBA TV, it seems small but it is a big commitment. And you don’t want to wear yourself out but you want to have fun, and it’s the balance you have to figure out.” …Stephen Curry’s focus remains on the court. He’d rather be playing in the NBA Finals than tweeting about it. He’s probably signed more basketballs than he’s dribbled during the past month. He’ll continue to navigate his offseason schedule and soon he’ll be back on the court preparing for next season. “He’s had two summers in a row where he’s had surgeries, so with him actually able to work on his game this year he should be a better player,” Dell Curry said. “But he’s still focused and he knows he’s got to rehab and get stronger. The way he played and the amount of minutes he played your body is going to wear down. He understands he’s very popular right now and a lot of people want his time, but he’s got to concentrate and still focus on his job.”
- Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: As the Nets continue to look for candidates to fill out Jason Kidd’s coaching staff, one potential candidate is Roy Rogers. According to a league source, the Nets are interested in Rogers, who was an assistant coach with the Nets under Lawrence Frank from 2008-10, before following him to the Celtics when Frank went to Boston as an assistant in 2010-11, and then following him to Detroit with the Pistons for the past two seasons. Rogers, a first-round pick of the Grizzlies in 1996, had been expected to join new coach Jeff Hornacek’s staff in Phoenix, but the team withdrew from contract talks with Rogers yesterday. Kidd has made it clear that he’d love to have Frank, his former coach with the Nets, join his staff as his lead assistant.
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: The Charlotte Bobcats will start their pre-draft workouts Wednesday with two sessions of auditions. But those players who won’t work out – most of them can’t because of health issues – might be the more intriguing factors in how the Bobcats use the No. 4 overall pick June 27. Nevada-Las Vegas forward Anthony Bennett, Kentucky center Nerlens Noel and Maryland center Alex Len all have injuries that preclude them from pre-draft auditions. Bennett had surgery on his left shoulder to repair a torn rotator cuff. Noel is recovering from knee surgery to repair a torn ACL. Len, who’ll visit the Bobcats on Tuesday, had surgery during April to stabilize a partial stress fracture in his left ankle. While all three are expected to make a full recovery, each probably would miss summer league as a result of those surgeries. While that’s certainly not a deal-breaker for the Bobcats selecting one, it would be an added complication for Steve Clifford, the Bobcats’ third coach in as many seasons.
- Candace Buckner of The Columbian:As the NBA Draft draws closer, the group workouts labor on. However, the participants and those paid to watch them are pleading "uncle!" On Monday morning, the Portland Trail Blazers hosted their ninth workout, but called it a day earlier than some players expected. "They saw our skill and what we could bring to the table, but at the same time, they realized it's kind of late in the month and everybody's on their ninth and 10th workout," said James Southerland, a four-year forward from Syracuse. "Everyone's bodies are basically deteriorating at this point. We just got to make sure we stay in good shape and bring what we can." … The Blazers announced that the 10th pre-draft workout will be held on Wednesday morning — same place, same time, the routine rolls on.
- Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post: Based on reader feedback, most D.C. sports fans are opposed to a Redskins name change, and most D.C. sports fans would support a Wizards name change. Many of that latter group would prefer a return to the “Bullets” name, to match the franchise’s return to Bullets colors and iconography. And they were encouraged when Abe Pollin’s widow Irene said she wouldn’t mind. … Ted Leonsis has never suggested that might happen, but he also has never insisted that it won’t. … This week, though, came something far more definitive — maybe a game-ending field goal — via my pal John Ourand at SportsBusiness Daily: A top Wizards exec said the franchise would “probably not” be renamed the Bullets. “There are certain instances in the last few years with certain players that I think are going to prevent that,” said Monumental Sports & Entertainment Senior VP & CMO Joe Dupriest. Dupriest went on to tell Ourand: “I don’t see us changing the name to the Bullets,” which is the strongest thing I can remember a team executive saying on this topic. And if Gilbert Arenas’s legacy in this town is really to make that a permanent impossibility, well, it won’t help his legacy, anyhow.
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Word is that the Suns are planning on taking training camp back to Tucson, where they held it on the University of Arizona campus in 2005, ’07 and ’08. Camp moved to San Diego or La Jolla, Calif., in ensuing years except for a quick camp at Grand Canyon University after the 2011 lockout. Flagstaff was ideal altitude training for the Suns from 1986 to 2004, especially for uptempo systems, but there are ties to Tucson, where owner Robert Sarver grew up and attended UA. Tucson’s Westin La Paloma, where the Suns stayed for past camps there, is now owned by the Southwest Value Partners that Sarver founded.