Thursday, June 20, 2013
First Cup: Thursday
By Nick Borges
- Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: After their Game 6 meltdown in Miami, the Spurs began the healing process over dinner. It proved therapeutic. “The other option is (for) a bunch of us to go back to our rooms and sit there and beat yourself up,” Duncan said. At dinner, Parker talked about his experience with the French national team at the 2005 European championships. He lost to Greece at the buzzer in the semifinal round, then faced a quick turnaround to face Spain in the bronze-medal game. “We bounced back and won,” Parker said. The key, Parker said, was to stop thinking about the opportunity his team had lost and instead focus on the opportunity that was still in front of them. It is the same message Parker will preach now. “I think everybody wants to be ready for (Game 7),” he said. “If you’re not ready, you’re going to regret it for the next 10, 15 years.” By the end of Thursday night, the Spurs will find out whether that celebratory flight over the Gulf of Mexico has been cancelled. Or simply postponed.
- Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Sports is full of hard lessons, and strange things, inexplicable things, have happened in this series. The Heat haven't won a consecutive game in their previous 13 games. Watching them play through this is like expecting orange juice and drinking chocolate milk. "Game 7 is an opportunity, that's all it is,'' Heat forward Shane Battier said. 'In the words of Yoda, 'You do or do not. There is no trying.' '' Emotionally, physically, strategically two teams spent Wednesday recovering from Game 6 and preparing for the season's final game. Therapy for Dwyane Wade's sore knee. Massages all around. "I'll watch Spongebob with my sons,'' LeBron said. "I'll have a Bud Light, talk to my wife, go to bed,'' Battier said. What does a classic Game 6 mean? It means there's one more game to play, one more night to sweat, one final moment waiting to happen. "I said last year it was the hardest thing I've ever done, winning my first [title],'' LeBron said. "Last year doesn't even come close to what we've gone through in the postseason and in these Finals." That Allen shot in practice? When it came down Wednesday afternoon, it came down just like it did Tuesday night. Swish. Now a day to remember becomes one to forget.
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Hall of Fame center Patrick Ewing didn’t get a single interview for one of the NBA’s dozen head-coaching openings this offseason. He believes he knows why. “We get pigeon-holed,” said Ewing, who will serve as lead assistant to new Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford. “How many big men have gotten (head-coaching) jobs in the last 10 years? (Phil) Jackson and (Kevin) McHale. Not too many big men get that opportunity.” Former point guards seem constantly in vogue as NBA head coaches. Most recently the Brooklyn Nets hired Jason Kidd as head coach, just days after he retired as a player. While Ewing doesn’t begrudge Kidd this chance, he does wonder why 10 years as an NBA assistant, atop a playing career as illustrious as his, doesn’t get him more job interviews. He interviewed for the Bobcats job a year ago, when it went to the since-fired Mike Dunlap. “I guess they think because the guards run the team on offense, that they’re barking out orders,” then they must be natural coaches, Ewing said. “But they don’t see what the big men do. I was always a leader of my team, barking out defensive scheme, and some (offensive) plays, too. All I want is an opportunity to succeed or to fail.”
- Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: File this one under good things come to good men who wait. Raptors head coach Dwane Casey had a year left on his contract no matter what the organization’s still-changing front office decided on him. There are men who would gladly take a year off with pay and bid their former team a fond farewell. Casey is not one of them. He came to Toronto looking to take an organization that was stuck in neutral and get it moving again in the right direction. He did that in his first year. In his second year, for a myriad of reasons that certainly weren’t all his fault, that gear slipped back into reverse, giving back the gains they had made in his first year. To have the opportunity to get those gains back — and then some — is far more important to a man such as Casey than taking a year off. Wednesday’s announcement that he would be asked back to finish off the third year of his contract — and potentially earn an extension at the end of it — was by no means a surprise. The surprise was that it took as long as it did for new team president and general manager Masai Ujiri to determine that this was a guy he wanted guiding his team. The Raptors will hold a news conference on Thursday to make Casey’s return official.
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: He is basketball's Jack Del Rio, a man who thrived at playing defense and now comes alive coaching it, using deft methods to make men into maulers. Could Lionel Hollins turn the Nuggets into defensive stalwarts as defensive coordinator Del Rio did the Broncos? That's part of the allure, part of why Nuggets management interviewed Hollins on Wednesday for the team's head coaching job. The 59-year-old Hollins, recently relieved of his duties as the Memphis Grizzlies coach, could end up swapping jobs with George Karl, the fired Nuggets coach who is a candidate to succeed Hollins in Memphis. Hollins is coming off a trip to the Western Conference finals. In Denver, Hollins is in competition with Indiana Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw, who had a second interview with the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, according to media reports. The next few days could clear up the picture for numerous NBA teams looking for a head coach. … New Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly, like many young executives, respects advanced stats in regard to evaluating talent. But the Nuggets also want to win, and Hollins has shown he can do that without having a star player in a major market.
- Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: Nets general manager Billy King said earlier this week that now that Jason Kidd has officially been brought into the fold as the team’s next head coach, the Nets will be bringing players back in for additional workouts in order to allow Kidd to get a look at them ahead of the draft next Thursday. You would think that the idea of having to go back and take another look at some players like that could potentially be an issue for a scouting group trying to take advantage of every possible moment in the limited amount of time left leading up to the draft. But for Nets director of player personnel Gregg Polinsky, having Kidd’s perspective – coming off a Hall of Fame career – will only be a benefit to the process.
- Dwain Price of The Dallas Morning News: Rick Carlisle has no doubt Jason Kidd will be a successful head coach in the NBA. But in order to accelerate that impending success, the Dallas Mavericks coach would like Kidd to make one very important telephone call. “I think one of the things that he’s going to do, and I’ve talked to [Kidd] about this, is talk to Larry Bird about it, because Larry Bird did this, too,” Carlisle said. “[Bird] didn’t do it nine days after retiring -- he did it a few years afterwards. “But [Bird] went into the job of an NBA head coach without any coaching experience. And so Jason will talk to him and I think he’ll get some good insights on it.” Kidd might need those insights from Bird after the Brooklyn Nets pulled a mild surprise June 12 when they chose Kidd as their head coach. It’s a mild surprise because Kidd was a mere nine days removed from retiring from the NBA after a stellar 19-year career, yet he was able to secure the Nets’ job without having any prior coaching experience.
- Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: So how does DeMarcus Cousins feel about the Kings' new regime? There was a pause, followed by a "no comment" and a chuckle from the 22-year-old center, who's entering his fourth season in the NBA. Cousins, who usually has a lot to say, is back in Sacramento this week, hosting the DeMarcus Cousins Elite Skills Camp for youths that began Wednesday and ends Friday. The smile on his face and the rolling of his eyes showed how hard it is for Cousins to play the silent role. But he has to. His agent, Dan Fegan, has instructed Cousins not to speak on anything relating to the Kings team, management or ownership. Cousins is eligible for a contract extension this summer, and Fegan wants a maximum deal for his client with the threat of a trade demand looming if a deal isn't reached.
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Bradley Beal is still more than a week away from his 20th birthday, but there is another significant date that the Wizards’ shooting guard is possibly monitoring with even greater anticipation: The day when he will finally be cleared to participate in basketball-related activities. According to people with knowledge of the situation, Beal remains sidelined but is expected to be cleared by July 1, nearly three months after doctors diagnosed a stress injury in his right fibula. The delayed recovery puts in doubt Beal’s availability for NBA summer league in Las Vegas, which begins on July 12, sources said. A person close to Beal maintained that it’s “too early to say” if he will be able to participate in summer league. Another added that “summer league is not imperative. There is a chance that he doesn’t” participate.
- Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: Jerry Sloan is back with the Utah Jazz. The Hall of Fame coach has been hired in a front-office position by the team he led to two NBA Finals and coached for 23 years. The 71-year-old Sloan will take on a role of senior basketball adviser, mostly helping out with scouting on the professional and college ranks, among other duties. … This is the second big reunion for the Jazz this offseason. Although Utah lost assistant coach Jeff Hornacek to Phoenix, the Jazz recently hired Hall of Fame power forward Karl Malone on a part-time basis to help tutor the team's big men. Could John Stockton be the next one to return to the fold? "John is a great friend of the organization and is part of the Jazz family, and always will be," Jazz president Randy Rigby said in a phone interview with the Deseret News. With a chuckle, he added, "There have been no discussions ... yet."
- Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: By the time this week concludes, the Cavaliers should have a clear plan regarding the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. All five candidates under consideration will visit Cleveland Clinic Courts this week, including Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel today. Most mock drafts around the country project the Cavs to select Noel, but sources within the organization seem cool on him. Noel played in just 24 games because of a left knee injury his freshman year and his offensive skills are limited. He has spent time during his rehab working on his shooting. … Rumors of problems regarding the people around him have surfaced this week, but two league executives outside the Cavs organization dismissed that this week as bogus. He recently signed with agent Andy Miller, who represents about 40 players across the league, including the Boston Celtics’ Kevin Garnett.
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: This might not endear him to ACC fans, but here’s how Indiana big man Cody Zeller makes his sales pitch to NBA teams: “(The Big Ten) was the best league in the country this year. Every night you were going against a first-rounder,” said Zeller, who worked out for the Charlotte Bobcats Wednesday at Time Warner Cable Arena. Zeller has a point. Between Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State and the Hoosiers, it was quite a men’s basketball conference this past season. Zeller, a 7-foot sophomore, was certainly tested. He averaged 16.5 points and 8.1 rebounds, and figures to be a lottery pick. There was a time last fall when Zeller was talked about as perhaps the best player in the 2013 draft. Then he was overshadowed by the rise of teammate Victor Oladipo. It’s indicative of his uncertain status in next Thursday’s draft that Zeller has already auditioned for eight teams. … Obviously the Bobcats need help inside, particularly scoring, so Zeller would make some sense in Charlotte. Whether they could justify using the No. 4 pick on him, relative to other candidates, is debatable. What does Zeller see as his distinctive attribute? “More than anything my work ethic. It’s carried me to this point and it will carry me a long ways,” Zeller said. “Day-of-game, after the game, I’ll always come in the same way.”
- Staff of ArizonaSports.com: New general manager, new coach, new players, new logos? The Phoenix Suns, in an effort to freshen things up, are rumored to be going with a new look on the court next season, and that is not just in relation to the players. It's possible the team's new logos leaked Wednesday,and long-time fans of the team may be a bit disappointed. After all, they're probably asking, "where's the purple?" However, the concept shouldn't come as much of a surprise after last season, as the team unveiled a new floor that featured far more black than before, so the idea that their new logos would be the same sounds about right.