Friday, June 21, 2013
First Cup: Friday
By Nick Borges
- Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: All of the biggest, grandest words in sports were rising up to embrace the Heat here Thursday night. Dynasty. Legacy. History. “I want our team to go down as one of the greatest teams ever,” LeBron James had said. They got there Thursday night. “I came here to win championships,” LeBron had said -- plural. He got there Thursday night. A second NBA Finals championship in a row separates you, distinguishes you, and for this Miami team, especially, it means everything. It validates once and for all LeBron’s decision to leave Cleveland and underlines his place in the sport’s history. It verifies that the Big 3 blueprint has succeeded. And it suggests that a three-peat is hardly an outlandish dream now for a team that surely will enter next season as the favorite to win again. Miami outlasted the San Antonio Spurs here, 95-88, on a taut, tense, thrilling night befitting a Game 7. A loss would have derailed everything for the Heat. It would have meant two Finals losses in the three seasons of the Big 3. To many of the steadfast doubters, critics and haters, that would have equated to failure. LeBron and the Heat would have none of it.
- Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: Arguably the finest season of Tony Parker’s career ended in horrific fashion, with a 3-for-12 performance following his 6-for-23 in Game 6. Parker made no excuses, and defended Popovich’s decision to sit him for an extra shooter on the key late possession after the Spurs fell behind by four points. “I have no excuse,” Parker said. “I’m not going to put it on my hammy and stuff like that. I just didn’t play well. My shot was not falling. Couldn’t get in a rhythm tonight. I just missed shots. Just didn’t go in.” … Ginobili, an unrestricted free agent who will be 36 should he return for his 12th NBA season, declined to discuss his future with the Spurs. “It’s not the moment,” he said. “I’m very disappointed, very upset. I really can’t say anything.” Duncan said he plans to return for the second season of the three-year contract last summer. Parker bristled when asked at the podium about the future of the team’s core. “Can’t believe you’re asking that question,” he said. “It’s been five, six years you’re saying we’re too old. I’m not going to answer that.”
- Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Q: Would Micky Arison dare break up this team? -- Steve. A: Now? You're asking now, while the champagne has yet to dry, not even fully poured? OK, it clearly is a microwave society, so I'll bite. The question comes down to whether Micky looks at this as more of a business or more of a hobby. From a business standpoint, with the impending onerous luxury tax, fiscal decisions are necessary, starting with a potential amnesty of Mike Miller. From a basketball standpoint, the Heat owe the game the right to see how far this team can go as currently constituted, considering the utter joy of Thursday night. That doesn't mean there shouldn't be changes, since every team has to evolve, just as the Heat evolved from last season with the addition of Ray Allen. But the fiscal side could have the Heat bypassing spending another taxpayer's mid-level exception this summer. Ultimately, it comes down to how much Thursday night resonates for Micky, and for how long. If I'm Pat Riley, I'm trying to get Micky to agree to the tax now, while the aforementioned champagne still is flowing.
- Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: Doc Rivers never planned to be a part of the Celtics’ rebuilding process, and the club was basically aware of that fact when he signed his latest contract, a source told the Herald yesterday. That person further insisted the coach did not initiate the process that may yet send him to the Clippers for compensation, though that possibility seemed to be growing more distant last night. The Celtics have stated consistently that they want Rivers to remain with them and that he has been discussing with president of basketball operations Danny Ainge how best to transition the team with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in their latter years. According to a person with knowledge of the situation, Rivers was deciding between returning to the Celtics and stepping away from the game when the club asked him if he’d be interested in any of the coaching jobs that were opening around the league. Rivers was said to have no interest in the Nets, who had fired his friend Avery Johnson during the season. He was then asked if the Clippers job appealed to him, and it was then he learned the Celts had already had preliminary discussions with that team on releasing Rivers from the last three years of his contract and thus making him available. The Celtics were looking to accelerate the reworking of their roster and seeing what return they could get on all their assets, Rivers included.
- Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: The Miami Heat was once ordered to give the New York Knicks a first-round draft pick for Pat Riley, who eventually led the Heat to a title. The New England Patriots were ordered to give up a first-round pick to the New York Jets for Bill Belichick, who led them to three championships. Some coaches are worth more than even a high draft pick. Doc Rivers is one of those coaches. The other Clippers candidates — Brian Shaw, Byron Scott, Lionel Hollins — are all nice guys and would be decent choices, but none of them raises the heat on the championship thermometer like Rivers. Sterling has seen the power of a credible head coach displayed down the hall from his team's locker room 14 years ago. Surely he hasn't forgotten it by now? Either the Clippers follow the lessons taught by the Lakers past, or they could be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the Lakers present. One can already hear the chants during next season's opening night at Staples Center if the Clippers are losing and the guy standing in front of the bench is not the guy standing in front of them now. "We want Doc ... we want Doc."
- Dan Bickley of The Arizona Republic: Basketball season is over. And now that a champion has been crowned, Suns fans can claim their consolation prize: David Stern has governed over his last NBA Finals. That must be worth a smile on Planet Orange. The NBA commissioner is retiring next February, ending a 30-year reign and staking his claim as the most impactful commissioner in sports history. But in the Valley, he’ll remain an eternal villain. He’s perceived as the man most responsible for the championship we never celebrated, for the banner not hanging inside US Airways Center. Ah, but life is all about timing, and Stern knows better than anyone. He took over as NBA commissioner in 1984, four months before the Bulls drafted Michael Jordan. He practically inherited a player who would change the world. … The commissioner infamously suspended Amar’e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw for Game 5 of the 2007 Western Conference semifinals. He penalized them for leaving the bench area, even though the Spurs’ Robert Horry had just mugged their captain, Steve Nash. Stern made the victims pay twice. He let the perpetrators off easy. He tilted the playing field toward the Spurs, who beat the short-handed Suns to take a 3-2 lead in the series, and then closed out the proceedings at home. The Spurs then rolled to an NBA title, in a year when it should’ve belonged to the Suns.
- Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post: Tim Connelly, 36, was hired this week from New Orleans, where he was an assistant GM. He hasn't met with all of the players on the Denver roster, although he knows a few already. But he has talked to Andre Iguodala, who has been working out at the Pepsi Center. Iguodala will be an unrestricted free agent when free agency begins in July. Contract negotiations can start July 1. Contracts can be signed beginning July 10. The Nuggets want Iguodala back. "I'm very optimistic," Connelly said. "I'm very aware of the free-agent landscape. In New Orleans, we had about $14 million to spend; a small forward might be a position we looked at, so I'm aware of what potential lies out there for him. I think he'd be hard-pressed to find a more attractive situation than ours, and I think he feels the same way. He's a key cog to an excellent team. I feel great about getting him back into uniform." Is the feeling mutual between the Nuggets and Iguodala? "Absolutely," Connelly said. "He's here working out. I think that speaks to where his heart is at. He's such a pro. I look forward to knowing him more as a person. I think when you see a guy working out a week before the draft, it shows you where he wants to be."
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: I spoke with Andrei Kirilenko from the south of France just a few minutes ago and he said he probably won't decide whether to pick up his $10 million-plus option for next year until after next week's draft. Kirilenko has until June 29 to make up his mind, a curious date because it's two days after the June 27 draft. "I think it will come right after the draft,'" he said of his decision when reached today just after dinnertime in France. You'd think the Wolves would want to know Kirilenko's status heading into the draft so they can make informed decisions, but that's the date in the two-year contract David Kahn reached with him last summer. Kirilenko said he hasn't spoken with his agent at length about the matter yet, but plans to do so in the next three to four days. Kahn's departure and the arrival of new basketball ops president Flip Saunders probably will affect Kirilenko's decision.
- Eric Koreen of the National Post: In Memphis, Hollins never fit in very well with the new analytics-focused executives. In Denver, Karl slammed Nuggets president Josh Kroenke on the way out the door, saying there was little communication between the two last year. In Boston, Rivers wants no part of a youth movement that Danny Ainge might finally put into action. That is why the decision by new Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri — the ex-Denver boss whom Karl also said unflattering things about — to keep Dwane Casey as coach is a bit surprising. The two know each other like any two men who have been as involved in the NBA for the last decade or more would. But they have never worked together, and now Casey is going into his last year of his contract, the dreaded “lame-duck year.” It is part of the reason why Karl left Denver: The two sides could not agree on a contract extension. “I kind of chuckle when I hear, ‘You’re in the last year of your contract.’ In today’s basketball you’ve got to get the job done whether you’re in the last year of your contract, the first year of your contract and that’s how I’m going to look at it,” Casey said Thursday, a day after the Raptors announced he would return. “I’m going to coach the same way … There’s going to be a relationship with trust between Masai and I.”
- Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News: Discussing his new role as a senior basketball advisor for the Utah Jazz, Jerry Sloan spoke extensively in public Thursday for the first time since quitting as the Jazz's head coach in February 2011. At a press conference at the Zions Bank Basketball Center, the 71-year-old Sloan said he still isn’t sure exactly what his role will be with the team, but said he definitely will not be coaching. He said he'll leave that to current coach Tyrone Corbin and his assistants. According to the Jazz, Sloan’s role will be to support the Jazz through player evaluations in workouts, camps and summer league games, along with “occasional practice observation.’’ “To have him working with us is a tremendous thing,’’ said Corbin. “I will lean on him in a lot of ways.’’
- Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: In a draft devoid of a clear franchise player, the task for the Cavaliers is finding the player with the most upside. That very well could be Maryland center Alex Len, who appears to be creeping up draft boards despite mediocre numbers last season with the Terrapins. Len, for one, believes he could be the steal of the draft. “I think I have the biggest upside of the big guys,” he said. “Ten years from now, I’ll be the best player out of this draft.” The Cavs might believe that, too, which is why they’re considering him with the top overall pick. They have been linked to him since early in the college basketball season, when he destroyed Nerlens Noel in the Terrapins’ loss to Kentucky. Len had 23 points and 12 rebounds against Noel, previously presumed to be the best prospect in this draft. Noel, meanwhile, managed four points and nine rebounds in the victory. “He kind of surprised us a little bit,” Noel said last month at the combine. “We didn’t really know much about him before then.” Most everyone knows about Len now.
- Candace Buckner of The Columbian: Look no further than the lineup of players on Thursday as the best indication that the Portland Trail Blazers are indeed serious in their search for a true center. In a pre-draft workout attended by team owner Paul Allen as well as Nicolas Batum, the Blazers matched the 7-foot-1 Frenchman Rudy Gobert with 7-footer Steven Adams, the New Zealander who played one college season at Pittsburgh. "They both did pretty good today," Batum said. While four other players also showcased their skills, including 6-7 Arsalan Kazemi from Oregon, the Blazer VIPs were spotted focusing their attention on the half of the court where Gobert and Adams finished their shooting drills. Absorbed by Adams' athleticism and captivated by Gobert's otherworldly 9-7 standing reach. Pardon the Blazers for being interested when rather large men cross their presence. Since the conclusion of the regular season, both Allen and general manager Neil Olshey have stated that the No. 1 priority will be to solve the team's man-in-the-middle dilemma.