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Leon Powe's outsized heart moves to Cleveland. Kurt Rambis brings his pedigree and eyewear to the Twin Cities. And Mike Miller stretches the boundaries of social media.

Leon PoweJohn Krolik of Cavs the Blog: "Leon Powe is about as good as an undersized, unathletic player with no range or ball skills to speak of can be. Yes, there's a definite ceiling in terms of how many ways he can impact a game. But as a pure banger, Leon Powe is just about as good as they come. Powe had the best offensive rebound rate of any power forward for the second consecutive year last season, and 9th in rebound rate overall. And offensively, Powe might not have any real jump shot whatsoever, but he knows his limitations and spends what time he has with the ball in the paint, shoving bodies around and trying to get the ball in the basket any way he can. 80% of Powe's shots came in the immediate basket area last year, and despite his dip in proficiency on layup-type shots from 07-08 to 08-09, his love of the dunk gave him a very respectable 60% mark on 'inside' shots ... For all Powe's strengths skill-wise, he still has major disadvantages athletically: He is much smaller than most centers and much slower than most power forwards. And he can't stretch the floor ... But overall, this is a great player and a great guy coming to the Cavaliers with very, very little financial risk involved, so my final position is that I congratulate the front office for getting yet another deal done, congratulate Mr. Powe for finding a team, and hope to see him on the floor reasonably soon." 

Kurt RambisPatrick Hodgdon of Howlin' T-Wolf: "What I like about [Kurt] Rambis right off the bat is that he has always been surrounded by success in the NBA and owns seven championship rings, 4 as a player and 3 as a coach. He has played for Pat Riley alongside Magic and Kareem and has been an assistant under arguably the best coach in the NBA in Phil Jackson with whom he's coached Kobe and Shaq. The fact that success breeds success in the NBA is something I think that goes underrated. Sam Presti is doing a bang-up job in Oklahoma City because he learned it first in San Antonio. So is Kevin Pritchard in Portland. When you are around successful teams you learn how to emulate them and bring with you a blue-print for success. Rambis also brings actual coaching experience as an assistant for the Lakers for 10 years as well as experience from a short stint as head coach of the Lakers in 1999 during the lockout shortened season where he went 24-13 before being swept by the NBA champions Spurs in the second round that year.  Something I also really like on his resume: he's been a coach with Kobe and Shaq on the team where he has seen the best at their best but more importantly at their worst, which is invaluable experience in the league ... "

Mike MillerKyle Weidie of Truth About It: "Mike Miller is for serious about his social networking. How serious? Damn serious enough to debut his new website with an inspirational Eminem 'song' that came out seven years ago. Miller also has a new blog entry, introduced by the 'frightening/sad/tough/crying on the inside/I'm from South Dakota/my fav rapper is Killer Mike/I'd eat a man's heart if it were legal and tasted like cheese wiz & beer' face you see above. Damn. That's serious enough to remove the 'r' from 'for' and make it a fo'. Mike Miller is fo' serious. Personally, I think Mike Miller is serious enough to drain more than 150 threes, drop more than 250 dimes, snag more than 350 boards, and shoot more than 42% from long distance this year. So if you're around, become a fan of Miller on FaceBook, follow his Twitter, or become a member at his website. Go give the guy they call 'White Mike' some support so that he and the Wizards can be working their hardest up to and through the 2009-10 season. After all, Brendan Haywood isn't the only guy playing for a contract this year."

Hoopinion: A comprehensive Rookie Guard Study from Bret LaGree.
Valley of the Suns: Dabbling in free agency counterfactuals from the Summer of '04.
Roundball Mining Company: The upside of losing Linas Kleiza.

(Photos by Steve Babineau, Lisa Blumenfeld, Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Lakers need Lamar Odom as much as Lamar Odom needs the Lakers. Jarrett Jack heads to Toronto, while Eddy Curry remains unmovable. And the big powers in the East make some tweaks to their benches. 

Lamar OdomKurt Helin of Forum Blue & Gold: "Don't delude yourself into thinking the Lakers are better off without [Lamar] Odom -- the best proof is that last season he led the Lakers in +/-, the Lakers outscored opponents by 16.4 points per 48 minutes when he was on the floor. Second was Kobe [Bryant] at 12.1. The simple truth is that good things happened for the Lakers when he was on the floor. He came up big in the playoffs. His versatility cannot easily be replaced. There are some intriguing pieces on the Heat roster ([Mario] Chalmers, for one) but any move the Lakers make here is not going to make a title more likely. Can the Lakers win a title without Odom? Yes, but the margin of error is now non-existent. [Andrew] Bynum has to be healthy and playing at his peak. Artest has to fit in swimmingly. Bench guys like Sasha [Vujacic] and Jordan [Farmar] cannot struggle for long stretches. Everything has to go right. And that's a lot to ask."

Eddy CurryMike Kurylo of Knickerblogger: "When the Knicks acquired Eddy Curry, he was supposed to be the future of the franchise. Although there were signs that he would never reach that level of play (namely every stat but fg% and pts/36), his size and flashes of scoring lead many to believe in his potential. In 2009 Eddy Curry had his most disappointing season, playing a grand total of 12 minutes and scoring only 5 points. Immediately after the season ended, Curry vowed to get in shape, and immediately began twittering about his work out regimen. In the weeks since, his private trainer 'leaked' that Curry lost 30 pounds, and Eddy appeared before the Knicks brass at the summer league. It appears that Curry is doing what he does best. He appeals to the optimist in Knick fans, while producing almost nothing."

Jarrett JackJared Wade of Eight Points, Nine Seconds: "In the end, however, Jarrett [Jack] isn't worth $5 million a year - at least not to a Pacer team that still has [Jamaal] Tinsley's devastating deal on the books, will be paying Mike Dunleavy to rehab his knee for at least another six months, and is significantly overpaying for the production of both Troy Murphy and TJ Ford. I really liked the fearlessness and aggressive penetration Jack showed so consistently last season, but Bird was right to let him walk for that price. It would have been great to keep Jarrett around at something like three years/$12 million, but he played his way into a better offer from Toronto and no Pacer fan should fault him for that."

Cavs the Blog: How Danny Ferry is like Billy Beane.
Celtics Hub: Exit Tony Allen, enter Marquis Daniels.
Orlando Magic Daily: C.J. Watson vs. Anthony Johnson

(Photos by Noah Graham, Jeff Zelevansky, Harry How/NBAE via Getty Images)

Is Carlos Boozer the best thing that never happened to the Bulls? Is Brandon Bass redundant in Orlando? And will DeJuan Blair catch on in San Antonio? 

Carlos BoozerMatt McHale of By the Horns: "It's a bad sign when fans start longing for the halcyon days of the Michael Sweetney Era. And it's especially frustrating for Bulls fans, who had to deal with the loss of Ben Gordon while the league's rich got even richer: Boston got Rasheed Wallace, Cleveland got Shaq, L.A. got Ron Artest and San Antonio got Richard Jefferson ... It makes sense that the fans wanted to see a move. Something big, something juicy. But sometimes, staying the course might be the best plan of action. Or inaction, as the case may be. As things stand right now, the Bulls have a solid core of players -- a budding All-Star-in-the-making, a few savvy vets, some developing youngsters -- and enough expiring contracts to make a major move next summer or at the trade deadline. And Chicago will certainly be a much more attractive free agent destination if the Bulls can match last season's success than if they fell apart because [Carlos] Boozer took his usual 30-40 game vacation and our backcourt players broke down from playing too many minutes. Now, if the Jazz wanted to trade Boozer for some loose parts off the Bulls' scrap pile -- Tim Thomas, Jerome James, Anthony Roberson -- then let's get it done. And while we're dreaming, maybe they'll trade us Deron Williams for Brad Miller's expiring contract. But barring some mass hysteria and insanity in Utah, I guess Bulls fans will have to be satisfied with some incremental progress and hope for the future."

Brandon BassZach McCann of Orlando Magic Daily: "The only real issue with signing Brandon Bass is that -- at least technically -- he plays the position where the Magic were the deepest before his arrival. Rashard Lewis and Ryan Anderson gave the Magic talent and depth at power forward, making it the only position with a legitimate starter and legitimate reserve (I'd count point guard as well, but that's arguable). When a team has eight players under contract, as the Magic did last week, an all-star and a promising rookie at one position feels like an overabundance of wealth. So, at the surface, bringing in another power forward doesn't make a whole lot of sense (especially a 6-foot-7 power forward who's seemingly too small to fill in as the team's primary backup center, even if the statistics say otherwise). But that doesn't mean it was a bad signing. I love the move - like most Magic fans do - especially for the relatively inexpensive price tag. For a 23-year-old who seeps potential and has already played meaningful minutes on an upper-echelon team, $18 million over four years is a great deal. Anytime you can attain a quality player for that kind of value, you do it."

DeJuan BlairGraydon Gordian of 48 Minutes of Hell: "I love watching [DeJuan] Blair work under the boards. He has a mature sense of spacing and soft, accurate hands. His rebounding was particularly notable on the offensive end, where he consistently turned misses by his teammates into open layups and trips to the line (where he went 5-6). As will be the case with during the regular season, Blair was by no means the tallest player on the floor. But he was the only player on either team whose rebounding count reached double digits. Blair's offensive contributions weren't limited to put-backs; he showed promising signs that a well-rounded offensive game may be in his future. On the first play we ran specifically to him, Blair turned and hit a smooth 12-footer. On the next play, he received the ball at almost the exact same spot and used his defenders over-adjustment to take him off the dribble and draw the foul. Blair's mechanics are a little loose, but the origins of a reliable offensive arsenal are there."

Raptors Republic: Jarrett Jack, stop-gap?
Cowbell Kingdom: The cap and the Kings.
Valley of the Suns: What to expect from the Suns this week in Las Vegas. 

(Photos by Andrew D. Bernstein, Doug Pensinger, Noah Graham, Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Shawn Marion deal is grounds for cautious optimism for Dallas. The Antonio McDyess signing means that Spurs ownership will take a hit in the pocketbook. And the quasi-Trevor Ariza-Ron Artest swap in Houston stirs mixed emotions. 

Shawn MarionRob Mahoney of Two Man Game: "While the Mavs won't be confused with the SSoL Suns, it's still easy to see [Shawn] Marion fulfilling his same duties as a one-man fast break. But more than anything, the Mavs are somewhat reliant on the notion that putting more weapons around Marion will boost his effectiveness and his efficiency on offense. Marion was a second offensive option on his last two stops, but with the Mavs he moves a bit further down the totem pole. The Mavs have an elite scoring talent in Dirk [Nowitzki], but also boast shot-creators in Jason Terry and Josh Howard. The attention that those three draw should definitely relieve some of the pressure from Marion, but the question is: Will it be enough? ... It's hard to say exactly where the Mavs' moves thus far put them in the context of the Western Conference ... For every little flaw I've picked at in this post, this is still Shawn fricking Marion. Even Shawn's harshest critics would have to concede that Dallas improved as a result of this deal. For every minor issue Marion brings to the forefront, he solves a handful of others. While he may not fit like a glove, the acquisition of Marion is far from forcing a square peg into a round hole. Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban showed some creativity in getting Marion to Dallas, and now it's up to Rick Carlisle to show some creativity in getting him to excel here."

Peter HoltGraydon Gordian of 48 Minutes of Hell: "By signing [Antonio] McDyess to the full Mid-Level Exception and [Marcus] Haislip to the full Bi-Annual Exception (most likely), the Spurs are now a solid $10 million over the line ... Peter Holt took a serious financial hit yesterday and he did so for the good of the franchise you love. It's hard to feel sympathy for a man whose net worth is counted not just in millions but in tens of millions, but compare Holt's situation to Mark Cuban's, whose net worth is presumed to be north of $2 billion, and you begin to recognize the commitment Holt is making to the franchise. When the Mavericks head into the luxury tax, Cuban hardly feels the prick of a pin. Holt and the rest of the Spurs ownership group commit a significant fraction of the franchise's net worth to the team's success. Mr. Holt's financial commitment to the team is significant to no one more than the 3 individuals we adore most: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. Whether by only requesting reasonable contracts or restructuring their contracts to allow the team to acquire the necessary supporting cast, over the last several years the big three have done their part to ensure the Spurs are in a position to compete for championships. By allowing the front office to take the steps they took today, Holt has kept up his end of the bargain."

Trevor ArizaAnup Shah of Rockets Buzz: "The wan, dreary days that have been the two weeks since the draft finally parted the clouds for a glimmer of hope today. The Rockets were granted an exception for Yao, and now Daryl Morey can make the moves to at least give the Rockets a chance next season. And with the money they got from the exception, the Rockets officially inked [Trevor] Ariza for $5.7 million and still have $5.7 million more to spend on someone else. The hype won't match that of a year ago, but it certainly allows the Rockets to be more proactive -- to, as much as I hate to say it, start thinking past the TMac-Yao era. Then there was this video I watched more than once today. You hear [Ron] Artest say how he 'always wanted to be a Laker' and that this decision was a 'no-brainer.' To Rockets fans, pull the knives out of your back and patch up that cut. If you watch this video, every time Artest shoots the ball, you'll see a teammate calling for the ball back. And you remember the bad that came with the good. The 4-for-21 nights. The nights Artest was NOT the facilitator of the offense. I don't know what the future holds for the Rockets this year, but it'll be something new, and fans have come to trust Daryl Morey's judgment."

3 Shades of Blue: A blogger-owner dialogue with Michael Heisley.
Knickerblogger: Smart breakdown of salary cap arcana.
Bucksketball: Free agent signings -- not all they're cracked up to be.

(Photos by Streeter Lecka, Noah Graham, Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)

Rasheed in green. Ron-Ron in purple and gold. Trevor as LeBron's wingmate. Baby Davis as Duncan's understudy. The NBA offseason plunges down the free agency rabbit hole.

Rasheed WallaceZach Lowe of Celtics Hub: "[Rasheed Wallace] does everything Glen Davis does, but better (except for grabbing offensive boards) and he does a lot of things Glen Davis simply cannot do ... Glen Davis became a valuable offensive player last season because his jump shot helped the C's space the floor and gave defenses an extra threat to think about. Rasheed Wallace can do the same thing, except he can stretch the floor even further ... He will be able to spell both Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins for more extended stretches than any back-up big the Celtics have had since KG got here. That has enormous benefits. We still don't know how well KG's knee is going to hold up in, say, Game 52 of next season. He will also likely replace Kendrick Perkins in the team's crunch time line-up on a semi-regular basis. Truly, I believe signing Rasheed Wallace could have just as big an impact on the Eastern Conference hierarchy as Cleveland's deal for Shaq and Orlando's decision to trade for Vince Carter instead of signing Hedo Turkoglu."

Ron ArtestKurt Helin of Forum Blue & Gold: "... the loss of [Trevor] Ariza saddens me. It has been amazing to see on this and other boards people dismissing Ariza -- those people must have a foggy memory of the playoffs and finals. The Lakers would not be champions without Ariza, who hit timely threes and did things on defense like frustrate Hedo Turkoglu that nobody else had done to Orlando before. And he was a player that had really grown on the court in the past year, we (or at least I) have a very fond spot for players we watch mature and develop in our team's uniforms. While I intellectually understand what happened, there is a bit of a mourning process. But we have to move on as fans. Ultimately, it will come down to me accepting [Ron] Artest, someone I had preached against the Lakers getting. While I don't like to be wrong, this is one of those moments for he as a fan when my heart must overrule my head. I have to root for Artest now, and that is an adjustment mentally. Don't get me wrong, I understand on paper just what a great fit Artest is in the triangle -- he adds another very versatile weapon to a team and system predicated on versatility ... But I don't think you can follow his history and just dismiss it as the meaningless past. I don't see how you can watch how he played in Houston ... or Sacramento or Indiana or Chicago and say with certainty be different this time. Change happens but it is almost always a tumultuous process. Like all of us, Artest is the sum of his past experiences, and at this point I think Artest largely is who he is."

James and ArizaJohn Krolik of Cavs the Blog: "Right now, all indications point to LeBron [James] staying, as they have for some time with his public statements. For Cavs fans, I don't think anyone's ever really fully wrapped their head around a scenario where LeBron would actually leave, so the status quo feels pretty much the same for me. But an alleged promise isn't a contract. A contract is a contract. I don't know LeBron personally. I don't know [Trevor] Ariza personally. I don't know this alleged 'source.' I'm not a mind reader. When he decides, he'll decide. Until the ink is dry, let's chill on this. Meanwhile, we were ready to throw core money at Ariza? He's kind of a taller Delonte clone with more size and less playmaking and shooting, isn't he? He's either a show starter at 2 and pushes Delonte to the bench or becomes an uber-Wally off the bench himself. 55 million dollars is not uber-Wally money. I'm confused by the logic on that one. This worries me that we're going to spend money just to spend it this off-season. Shaq's expiring, so he's harmless, but we've got one big signing left for the foreseeable future. Let's make sure it's the right guy."

Cowbell Kingdom: How would Carlos Boozer look in purple?
48 Minutes of Hell: Don't make room for Baby.
Warriors World: The case for Brandon Wright

(Photos by Ronald Martinez, Noah Graham, Harry How/NBAE via Getty Images)

Hedo Turkoglu and Shawn Marion -- a study in contrasts...and similarities. Did Nate Robinson have a breakout year? And how are Lakers fans processing the Ron Artest acquisition? 

Hedo TurkogluZarar Siddiqi of Raptors Republic: "Investing for 5 years in a 30 year old [Hedo] Turkoglu is about the same as investing for four years in a 31 year old [Shawn] Marion. I like the signing because he adds a whole new dimension to the team but at the same time feel that his best years could be behind him and that Orlando nabbed him when he was ripe for the picking, i.e. after a miserable year with the Spurs. Hopefully [Brian] Colangelo's not reaching on a has-been product like he did with Jermaine O'Neal. In this year's playoffs he showed a real knack for using his size to guard the pick 'n roll and defended Kobe Bryant and LeBron James well enough in stretches. He's no Marion when it comes to one-on-one defense but he's nothing to be scoffed at. Also, we finally got a guy that doesn't start choking his heart out in the clutch. Having the scoring touch of Turkoglu in the lineup might even allow the Raptors to test rookie DeMar DeRozan as a starter, much like the way the Magic did with Courtney Lee. With a big frontline of [Chris] Bosh-[Andrea] Bargnani-Turkoglu, an athletic shooting guard and a hopefully injury-free point guard in Calderon, the Raptors starting five looks respectable -- at least on paper."

Shawn MarionMax Handelman of Beyond Bowie: "The Matrix was a player that most fans would have probably salivated over during his days in Phoenix when he was one of the top undersized rebounders in the game, considered one of the better defenders in the game, and a player that didn't require the ball in his hands to be effective. Cut to today, when Shawn Marion, at just one year older than Hedo Turkoglu and with career averages in scoring, rebounding, steals, block shots, and field goal percentage vastly exceed that of Hedo Turkoglu, is looking at potentially getting cut by the Toronto Raptors to clear salary cap space to sign Turkoglu. I wonder how Marion feels today facing this reasonably humiliating prospect. It wasn't more than a few seasons ago that Marion was in the thick of the Western Conference contenders on Phoenix, earned a spot on Olympic and World Championship teams, and was considered a nightly matchup nightmare for most teams ... Which brings us back to the Trailblazers and conventional wisdom. The Blazers thought they needed Hedo Turkoglu. And they were willing to commit $10 million a year to him. But Hedo made it clear that he didn't need them. Now, Portland is sitting with this cap space, looking for a veteran difference maker who can both improve their offensive efficiency and defensive presence. Granted, Marion and Turkoglu are very different players. But Marion looks to be sitting right out there..."

Nate RobinsonMike Kurylo of Knickerblogger: "[Nate Robinson]'s per minute stats verify that 2009 was a career year. The Knicks' guard had career bests in per minute points, assists, rebounds, steals, fouls, and free throw attempts ... In [Mike] D'Antoni's offense Robinson seemingly has carte blanche to go to the hoop, and he does with vigor ... Watching him, it's amazing that the diminutive guard is able to score from inside so frequently and efficiently even with contact. On the court Robinson has matured a little bit. His propensity to commit meaningless fouls has decreased, and D'Antoni keeps him from arguing with officials. Nate still has his eccentric theatrics, for example this season's on the court Will Ferrell man-crush. It's commonly thought that Robinson's other big deficiency is his height. However teams didn't exploit Robinson in this manner, as I rarely saw other guards post him up. Instead his true Achilles' heel was revealed as he saw increased minutes this year: defending the pick and roll ... Still all-in-all Nate was one of the more productive Knicks in 2009, and is worthy of a contract extension. His potent scoring is an asset alone, but Robinson contributes with passing, steals, and rebounds as well."

Forum Blue & Gold: Lakers fans continue to grapple with Ron Artest's pending arrival.
Ball in Europe: Get Ready for 2009-10 Euroleague, Eurocup, and FIBA EuroChallenge!
Valley of the Suns: Getting inside Steve Nash's head.

(Photos by Chris Graythen, Ron Turenne, Chris McGrath/NBAE via Getty Images)

Ron Artest supplants Trevor Ariza as the three-man in the Lakers' triangle. Celtics fans bid a wistful farewell to fan fave Leon Powe. And is Paul Millsap the right guy for OKC's front line? 

Artest & ArizaRob Mahoney of Hardwood Paroxysm: "[Ron] Artest only makes sense offensively in situations where his skills can be utilized without damaging the team concept. Los Angeles, home of the triangle offense, is not that place. Artest's tendency to stop the ball, throw possessions into the wind, and take what can only be described as 'Ron Artest Shots' can't fly well with Phil [Jackson], with Kobe [Bryant], with Pau [Gasol], with Tex Winter, or with just about anyone who has come to know and love (or at least respect) the most dominant offensive unit in the game. The Lakers ... were able to dissect a fantastic defensive team in the Finals because the talent was there and the system was there. Artest brings plenty of one, but substitutes the other for generally poor basketball IQ and the possibility of going bonkers at any particular time. Sweet. On top of that, the Lakers seem to be severing their ties with Trevor Ariza. Signing Artest is doing more than showing Ariza the door. It's pushing him out, throwing his stuff out on the lawn, and handing Ron a molotov cocktail ... The true delight comes in the fact that Ariza could function within the system at a level we can never expect Artest to. Trevor made a habit out of deferring on offense, and perfecting a few offensive skills in his ability to hit the three from select spots and his tremendous finishes ... This team clearly competes at a different level with Ariza on the floor, and that's a credit to just how hard he's worked on his game."

Leon PoweZach Lowe of Celtics Hub: "I really hope Leon Powe knows how much Celtics fans like him and will miss him. We all know why that is -- the well-documented childhood difficulties, the never-ending series of knee injuries that seemed to happen right when he was turning a corner, and the way Leon responded to all of it by working even harder. He's a bit of a cliché fan favorite, actually -- the scrappy role player who overcomes personal and professional obstacles to contribute to a championship team. But let's talk about basketball. There was something that drew me to Leon Powe from the moment I saw him play: He's a bit awkward ... Leon is not pretty to watch. You see -- almost feel -- every bit of effort it takes him to put the ball on the floor, lower his shoulder into a taller defender and flick a one-handed shot toward the rim. He can't leap much without a head of steam, and he's not quick or explosive enough to beat his defenders with spin moves or dribble-drives ... He often pushed off with his left hand to create the minimal space he had. Every time he attacked the rim, I cringed, expecting an offensive foul. The shots, once released, look a bit like blind tosses toward something approximating the correct area of the rim or the backboard. And they always seem to bounce around the rim and off the backboard before going down. And they went down 52 percent of the time, and 57 percent of the time in the '08 championship season ... He is a graceless, below-the-rim player for the most part, and I love him for it."

Paul MillsapRoyce Young of Daily Thunder: "I think the organization sees Uncle Jeff [Green] as its power forward. But if they sign [Paul] Millsap, I guess we'll know they think differently. Unless of course Millsap is being signed just to take Nick Collison's spot, which would be great if the Thunder could sign Millsap for the same money they're paying [Nick] Collison. But that probably has about as much chance of happening as me getting a 10-day contract. Millsap is a nice player. He was excellent in Carlos Boozer's absence last year and that great play earned him what's sure to be a nice contract. But the Thunder's fairly stacked at power forward. Of course there are Green and Collison, but what about D.J. White who played just seven games last year? White looked pretty darn good in those games and with some added weight and a little refining, what's to say he's not going to be an excellent backup big man? Or even Serge Ibaka? He's coming over and playing in the summer league. Maybe he blows management away and makes the roster as an extra big. Now you're jammed full of power forwards, but one of them you just signed for five years and $40 million. To me, signing Millsap isn't a very [Sam] Presti-like move. It seems like a rushed, let's-get-better-right-now move instead of the planned, calculated progression Presti has had since he took over. Signing Millsap would make you either take some clothes to Goodwill or make you completely rearrange everything."

Bucksketball: An open letter to Detroit fans, re: Charlie V.
The Two Man Game: Welcome to the Big D, Marcin Gortat.
Orlando Magic Daily: A concrete-heavy photo tour of the Magic's new home for 2010-11. 

(Photos by Jeff Gross, Steve Babineau, Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

Today marks the beginning of the NBA's third season -- the free agency chase and transactional bonanza. The Bucks have a mess on their hands with the departure of Charlie Villanueva. Meanwhile, Ben Gordon and the Bulls enter their third year of contract negotiations. 

Charlie VillanuevaRob Mahoney of Hardwood Paroxysm: "In theory, you shouldn't let go of assets without compensation. C-Nuv is a fairly valuable player, as evidenced by the insane amount of money the Pistons will pay him shortly. But did the Bucks really have any call to re-sign him? Was there really any possibility that a non-star scorer should be at the core of this team, tying the purse strings and giving Scott Skiles an aneurysm? [Charlie] Villanueva is a better talent than [Ramon] Sessions, and one that fills what is likely a greater need in regards to both position and skill. Yet, when it came down to deciding between the two, the Bucks' hands were tied. Sessions isn't likely to receive anything more than the midlevel, while the subtle sexiness of Villanueva's game could net him some serious dough. I'm definitely of the opinion that he doesn't deserve that kind of cash to begin with, but that's not really the issue here. The market for Villanueva's services is about to be set, and we'll soon see that the Bucks never really stood a chance. Even if the Bucks reserved the right to match offers for Charlie, the decision was never really theirs. The Bucks' hands were tied when they signed Bobby Simmons to an absurd contract, when they gave Michael Redd more money than he was worth, and when they made Dan Gazuric the richest man ever named Dan Gadzuric. Some of that is mismanagement and some of it is the horrors of small market basketball, but all of it has ensured that Villanueva isn't sticking around with the Bucks."

Ben GordonMatt McHale of By the Horns: "Losing [Ben] Gordon -- his 20 PPG, his big shot-making ability, his enormous biceps -- would partially cripple the Bulls this season, even as it left them with some serious financial flexibility going into the already-fabled Summer of 2010 ... Keeping Gordon would almost certainly mean shipping off Kirk Hinrich, which would sort of make team defense the sacrificial lamb. And who, exactly, would back up Derrick Rose? A sign-and-trade involving Gordon is possible, too. Man, anything seems possible at this point. How long has Gordon's contract been an issue? Three straight summers now? ... However this thing ends, one thing is certain: The Baby Bulls Era is over. Team building blocks are going to be discarded and rearranged. In all likelihood, this squad will look remarkably different in the next year or so. Something unknown (and, currently, unknowable) is being put together here in Chicago, we just don't know what it is yet…and we don't know whether Ben Gordon will be a part of it. "

Bryant & DuncanTimothy Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell: "When the dust settles, Kobe Bryant will have played the majority of his career between two definitive eras. Between Michael Jordan and LeBron James. I suspect Kobe Bryant will be remembered as the best player of his era, but careful historians with caution against a quick response to the question. Kobe is not alone. Tim Duncan and Shaquille O'Neal stand alongside him as the defining players of the post-Jordan/pre-Lebron parenthetical.  All three players have won 4 championships. Their accomplishments surpass Hall of Fame talk. They walk where Kobe walks. But here's where it gets fun. LeBron James and Dwight Howard are pounding on the gate, but they've not yet stormed the castle. There is still time for Kobe, Duncan and Shaq to break the tie that exists between them. It's early to say this, but the 2009-10 season will feature 5 legitimate contenders: the Lakers, Spurs, Cavs, Magic, and Celtics. The Nuggets and Blazers could get there, but are still wait and see. Three of the five surefire contenders feature Shaq, Duncan or Kobe. The stage is set for a proper send off. It's not too late to arrive at a definitive answer to the question of who claimed majority ownership of this decade."

Orlando Magic Daily: Your Orlando Magic, summer league edition.
Warriors World: A Q & A with Davidson assistant James Fox about Stephen Curry.
Cavs the Blog: Learn more about Tarence Kinsey

(Photos by Rocky Widner, Larry W. Smith, Harry How/NBAE via Getty Images)

Is having Michael Jordan as owner-operator in Charlotte more than just a conflict of interest? Speaking of Carolina guards -- does the acquisition of Ty Lawson mean the end of Anthony Carter's days in Denver? And what does organized chaos on the court look like at the junior high level? 

Michael JordanRob Mahoney of Hardwood Paroxysm: "In spite of all of [Michael] Jordan's reasonable success in the recent past, having him as the head of an ownership group is not only ill-advised, but flat-out irresponsible. He's the head of basketball ops in Charlotte, and elevating him to the majority shareholder in the team bears one flaw of cataclysmic proportions: No matter how terrible of an executive Jordan is or ever will be, he holds his own purse strings. That means Jordan himself would have to be resigned to stepping down from his duties if that time ever came, which is not exactly the kind of thing you'd like to bank on. Jordan, as a player and a person, is renowned for his passion for the game, his refusal to quit, and his must-win mentality. On the court, those things are an asset. But in the case of an executive with a seriously blemished record, confidence becomes arrogance, resolve becomes stubbornness, and desire becomes insanity. The Bobcats can live with Jordan right where he is: just tasting the power of ownership but without the ball in his hands at all times. MJ is going to keep calling for that power and that responsibility as long as he's a manager in this league, but sometimes a person just needs to be told, 'No.'"

Anthony CarterJeremy Wagner of Roundball Mining Company: "[W]hy do so many Nuggets fans love to hate Anthony Carter? Maybe it is because he reminds us all a little too much of ourselves. We watch the NBA to see world-class athletes do things that we could never dream of doing. When we see Carter, he rarely does anything fancy and he always seems to be a heartbeat away from getting embarrassed. Maybe watching him play is a little too personal for many of us. Not only does Carter get the job done, but his real value is that he is a real value. It is amazing that Carter does what he does for the league minimum. That makes Carter almost invaluable for a team that has very little wiggle room when it comes to finances. With the presence of Ty Lawson next season Carter's place on the Nuggets roster could be in jeopardy. I thought there was a very telling quote ... where Chauncey [Billups] said that with Lawson on board maybe he can play fewer minutes. That was a pretty big condemnation of Carter ... [T]he primary area of concern with Lawson is his defense. If he cannot get the job done on the defensive end the Nuggets are going to have to have another option ... Until we see what Ty Lawson can do, I think it is a no-brainer that the Nuggets bring Carter back for next season and there are few players that bring as much value as Carter."

Red AuerbachZach Harper of Hardwood Paroxysm: "I started assistantly coaching junior varsity basketball for a local high school ... It didn't just find a place in my life. It didn't just become part of my schedule. It became my schedule ... I was so hooked after my first practice with this group of 10 high school freshmen and one eighth-grade child that I realized an even deeper love and appreciation for the game of basketball. We traipsed through the first couple of weeks of our summer league by learning the correct ways to play basketball and by learning the strengths and weaknesses of our team. We figured that our team wasn't very big or athletic but we had a lot of basketball skill from our best player to our 11th best player. We played our first game four weeks ago and in that game, we learned everything we needed to know about our team for the rest of the summer. We were good. Check that. We were REALLY good. We were chaos masked in peach fuzz, braces and XBOX Live handles. We were a running, pressing team that played harder than anybody we faced and more hectic than Don Nelson's brand of basketball could ever dream of being. And we won. A lot."

Warriors World: An interview with Anthony Randolph's high school coach.
Knickerblogger: A new Similarity Score for measuring players. 
48 Minutes of Hell: The value of George Hill.

(Photos by Streeter Lecka, Kevork Djansezian, Robert Riger/NBAE via Getty Images)

Ricky Rubio tempted the hearts of both Thunder and Kings fans -- but their respective GMs went with the conservative picks. Smart long-term thinking ... or overcautiousness?  Did the Spurs get the steal of the draft? And did Orlando help itself with Vince Carter? 

James HardenRoyce Young of Daily Thunder: "I'd been calling for [James] Harden for almost two months now. I don't think there's any player that fits us better than him. Oklahoma City was statistically the worst team at shooting guard in the league last season. Harden is talented and can do multiple things. He can step on the court tomorrow and make this team better. I truly think he's going to be a fantastic player. But for some reason I feel like the guy that just let a girl get away. Ricky Rubio was the most unknown thing about this draft. Honestly, we have no idea what he's going to do. All we've got are some YouTube clips and six games in Greece to base anything off of. But there was just something about him. I have no idea what it is. He was intriguing. He was cool. He had potential we could only imagine. And the idea of him in a Thunder uniform just got very appealing in the last 48 hours ... Common sense says James Harden is the perfect pick. We can assume Rubio was the best player available, but we don't know that. But the desire to field a freaking cool team said pick Rubio. Not to say Harden makes uncool -- I mean, he's got a beard and he wore a bow tie! -- but the flash of Rubio can't be ignored. But Sam Presti is smarter than all of us and he's got the common sense. He doesn't care about alley oops and behind-the-back passes. He cares about wins and losses. And in three years when James Harden is the perfect complementary piece to the Thunder Three, I don't think you'll care about how cool the team is."

Tyreke EvansZach Harper of Cowbell Kingdom: "The decision was made with Tyreke Evans as the newest member of the Sacramento Kings and it brought about mixed emotions and feelings. I honestly thought that Ricky Rubio was the best-case scenario for the team. He seemed to be perfect for guys like Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes to develop. He seemed to be a great guy to put alongside Kevin Martin to get him open, easier shots. He seemed to be the smartest business decision with instant national exposure surely to come and international interest after that. But in the end, the Kings didn't feel like he was tough enough and that Tyreke Evans was the best player now, five years from now, and ten years from now. And you know what? Geoff Petrie is probably right about all of this. The Kings biggest problem for years was having a glitz and glamour squad that made offense look easy and fun while defense was the great divide ... The Kings were soft both physically and in spirit .. The Kings clearly decided it was time for a change in philosophy and culture. They grabbed a veteran coach who has been there before. And now they've grabbed the player to match the toughness and offensive attack that go along with that coach. Tyreke Evans means no more moments of the Kings point guard being abused on either side of the ball. From now on, the Kings are the enforcer at the point for 48 minutes. From now on, the Kings are going to be tougher and more physical with their opponents. Shots to the mouth will be responded to."

DeJuan BlairGraydon Gordian of 48 Minutes of Hell: "Those looking to react negatively to what was an unequivocally great night for the Spurs will look at the questions surrounding [DeJuan] Blair's knees and claim he isn't all he is cracked up to be. They will say he slid to 37 for a reason. I have two responses to that: First, there is no way in Hell the Spurs could have landed a more talented player at 37. Yes, there are a couple questions surrounding our early second round pick. Welcome to the reality of having only second round picks. Second, even if Blair's knees are a long-term issue, they are exactly that: A long-term issue. With the Jefferson trade, the Spurs announced their intention to make a run for a 5th title and make it now. Aside from Blake Griffin, I would argue no big was more prepared to come onto an NBA squad and readily earn significant minutes than DeJuan Blair. The truth of the matter is, being able to select Blair with the 37th pick is an unmitigated coup. Blair was a dream, someone we mentioned just in case the front office became unexpectedly aggressive and moved up into the lottery. Well, sometimes dreams do come true."

Orlando Magic Daily: Five reasons the Vince Carter deal makes sense for Orlando.
Nets Are Scorching: Courtney Lee -- and a whole lotta cap space --  is coming to the swamp. 
Valley of the Suns: Earl Clark and PHX -- a nice fit.

(Photos by Jesse D. Garrabrant, Jennifer Pottheiser, Andy Lyons/NBAE via Getty Images)

Will the Shaq experiment work in Cleveland better than it did in Phoenix? What does it mean for the reigning Eastern Conference champs? Would Russell Westbrook chafe at having to slide over to the shooting guard to make room for Ricky Rubio? 

Shaq & LeBronJohn Krolik of Cavs the Blog: "Ever since the Cavs got LeBron, they've been obsessed with getting guys who will be good at 'playing off of him' or benefiting from his strengths. We've gotten loads and loads of role players who don't need the ball in their hands to be effective, spot-up shooters and big men who are comfortable playing pick-and-roll ball and finishing when LeBron finds them. The one time the Cavs took a risk on a true slasher, they got Larry Hughes, and that didn't work out. But as good as LeBron is, he can't create every play, and at some point the offense is going to need to be able to create good looks using players other than LeBron. Mike Brown has taken a lot of criticism for not being able to give opposing defenses any threatening looks without LeBron driving to the basket or playing pick-and-roll, but the fact is the Cavs never had a player other than LeBron who was able to take a defense out of its normal rotations on a regular basis. But now, for the first time, the Cavs have a guy other than LeBron who they can dump the ball to and will get a basket more often than not if the other team doesn't bring a second defender. Defenses are going to have a much tougher time dealing with this team than ever before-now the Cavs have two guys who are all but unstoppable when they only have to deal with one defender."

Shaquille O'NealMichael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns: "The best way to describe Shaq's tenure in Phoenix is that Shaq was that rectangular-shaped Lego piece that you keep trying to jam into a square hole. Sometimes you can cram a piece of it in there and pretend like it works, such as what happened during the short-lived 'Seven Seconds or Shaq' Era, but at the end of the day the piece just doesn't fit. You almost wanted Alvin Gentry to submit to a lie detector test when he kept talking about how great it was to be able to throw the ball down low to the Most Dominant Ever. The thing is Gentry's Suns are built to run guys like Shaq off the floor. Sure, it was nice to get a few easy buckets once in a while, but the Suns cannot compete with [Steve] Nash and Shaq guarding the opposition's pick-and-roll when his offensive game doesn't mesh either. On one hand, this is a case of addition by subtraction in that now Amare (assuming he's not dealt either) is free to operate on the low block by himself, and Nash won't have to worry about mouths to feed, he can just play Phoenix Suns basketball and whoever's open shoots the rock, just like old times. As for what the Suns tangibly get out of this? A pile of money large enough for Scrooge McDuck to dive into."

Russell WestbrookRoyce Young of Daily Thunder: "[Russell] Westbrook has said repeatedly that he wants to be a point guard and I don't doubt him. I wanted to be an astronaut but at some point I had to realize maybe that wasn't happening ... I know the report today is that Westbrook wouldn't be happy about [Ricky] Rubio stepping in. And that's fine, I'd understand that. But I don't think it should be taken as a 'You're not a point guard, move over' type of thing. And I don't think Westbrook would take it that way ... It's not like the Colts drafting Sam Bradford and telling Peyton Manning he has to be a tight end. The ball will still be in Westbrook's hands plenty and he'll probably stay every bit the point guard he is right now. Because if we're honest with ourselves, and Russ is honest with himself, it's not like he's going to be a player like Steve Nash that racks up 15 or 16 assists. He's a scoring point guard and that's what he wants to be. I worry a little about offending Russ. He seems intent on being a point guard and I'd hate to hurt his confidence by bringing in Rubio. If that report is accurate, then that's a little bothersome. It doesn't sound like the Westbrook I've watched and listened to for a year though. He never struck me as a prima donna, I-get-what-I-want-and-I'll-ask-out-if-I-don't-get-it kind of player. He seems like a do-what's-best-for-the-team kind of guy. But I could be wrong."

Orlando Magic Daily: What the Shaq trade means for the Magic.
Hardwood Paroxysm: Now available for your aural pleasure at iTunes!
PistonPowered: Smart look at Detroit's draft options.
Wizznutzz: The Randy Foye t-shirt is hot off ... whatever t-shirts come hot off. 

(Photos by Ezra Shaw, Sam Forencich, Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)

At draft time, one team's savior is another team's headache. Is "combo guard" a sticky label? And everyone loves Trevor ... but how much is he actually worth? 

Ricky RubioMatt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm: "[Ricky] Rubio has the potential to be a game-changer (so to speak) for certain teams. New York. Minnesota. Even the Clippers though Dunleavy will give up Griffin over his cold, dead body ... Rubio could be a true facillitator for the Wizards, a franchise player for the Kings, the next evolution for the Warriors, or the Nash Toronto wants but can't have. But to Memphis? He's a pain the ass that may decide to play chicken with them; a player that won't sell as many tickets as other players can (we've seen the way Memphis gets attached to awkward looking Spanish dudes), doesn't provide them an inside scorer, makes their investment in Mike Conley seem completely vapid, and generally is a terrible fit ... What compounds this nightmare scenario is how awesome drafting Tyreke Evans would be for them. Even with Conley on board, Evans represents an evolutionary step for the Grizzlies akin to the development of lungs. Versus Rubio, Evans has great size, can attack the basket with an almost religious ferver, will sell tickets being a Memphis U kid, if even for a year, and creates a sort of dark Horsemen aspect for the Grizzlies 1-2-3 combo. Rubio would be like trying to create a cheap knock off family theme park in Memphis."

Jeff TeagueRob Mahoney of Two Man Game: "For the most part, I try not to worry about position ... Team needs are often better defined as particular skills or even skill sets, and to boil that down to position alone essentially ignores a handful of options. That said, Jeff Teague's position terrifies me. He's obviously a pretty great talent, albeit one that could have benefited from more time playing college ball. He's going to be a fine scorer on the next level, and he's in no danger of slipping out of the first round. There's nothing inherently wrong with scoring 'point guards', provided they're surrounded with the proper accoutrements. The Mavs got a first hand look at a dynamite scoring point in Tony Parker. Jason Terry is another prime example. Unfortunately, both Parker and Terry are outliers; many other combo guards in the league are high volume scorers but also high volume shot takers (Ben Gordon, Monta Ellis, etc.). Many are turnover-prone, defensively inept, and lack the ability to set up even the most basic offensive sets under duress. I don't expect Teague to be an anomaly in the Parker/Terry/Gilbert Arenas mold. He'll score in the pros at a rate that'll pay the bills, but likely won't bring the average team any kind of sustained success. The Mavs want a point guard waiting in the wings when Jason Kidd finally hangs 'em up or leaves in free agency, but you don't leave the keys in the ignition for Jeff Teague. The dude is a shooting guard through and through, and one that can't defend opposing point guards particularly well."

Trevor ArizaDarius Soriano of Forum Blue & Gold: "Trevor Ariza has earned the right to remain a Laker. He's improved his game to the point that he's already the ideal Triangle small forward ... He's a defensive minded player that has shown he can shoot the three ball all while being mentally tough. He meshes well with Kobe [Bryant] and [Pau] Gasol, moves well off the ball, and has shown a high basketball IQ in picking up our sets on both offense and defense. If he makes some small improvements to his game ... he'll be a true force on a perennial contender. Everyone knows my bias towards Lamar [Odom]. But, I'm just as fond of Ariza. I think (along with Kobe, Gasol, [Andrew] Bynum, and Odom) he's one of our best five players. And just as I've said about LO, we need this player. After all the growth we've seen from Trevor, it'd be a shame to see him truly blossom with another team. I understand that there are aspects to retaining Ariza that are out of the team's control. I also understand the financial implications to keeping both of Ariza and Odom. But, in the end, I think this team deserves the chance to defend its title. In a way, I'd feel cheated if we didn't get to make at least one more run with this entire group in tact. I can only hope the front office and ownership group feel the same way."

Daily Thunder: What makes a draft bust?
Nets Are Scorching: A Twitterview with Terrence Williams.
The Painted Area: Jonas Jerebko might be the second international player off the board. 

(Photos by Josep Lago, Streeter Lecka, Kevork Djansezian/AFP & NBAE via Getty Images)

While the cellar-dwellers prepare their draft board, the NBA's elite have some tough calls to make. Will the Lakers pony up for Lamar Odom? Is Hedo Turkoglu worth exceeding the cap for? And the Cavs confront the reality that they're a couple of rotation players away from Eastern supremacy. 

Lamar OdomDarius Soriano of Forum Blue & Gold: "We're at the point where [Lamar] Odom's true value to this team is no longer a mystery. When you talk X's and O's, he's the player that makes our strong side zone work as he provides the mobility and length to move from one side of the court to the other, pick up flashing big men, guard perimeter players, trap the ball handler, and still recover to the paint to rebound. He's the player that helps create our tremendous offensive spacing - playing as a PF that can initiate the offense, play on the perimeter (and be effective with the jumper or the drive), find creases in defenses to take advantage of the double teams that Kobe and [Pau] Gasol face, and also play in isolation from any position on the court (wing, top of the key, low block, elbow, etc). And when you talk team building and chemistry, he's also a real leader for the Lakers. Many will point to Kobe [Bryant] or [Derek] Fisher as our leaders - and rightfully so - but it's Odom that has been the stabilizer for our squad. He's been the bridge between our first and second units, the guy that organizes team dinners and brings in a chef for training camp, the guy that is in the middle of the huddle motivating and inspriring our guys for the battle ahead, and the guy whose lighthearted nature and devotion to the team keeps the locker room loose. We need this player."

Hedo TurkogluZach McCann of Orlando Magic Daily: "[T]o other teams, is [Hedo] Turkoglu really worth close to eight figures? John Hollinger's Player Efficiency Rating isn't perfect, but it's probably the best method we have of comparing players. Turkoglu's PER this season was less than Travis Outlaw, Marvin Williams, Grant Hill, Rudy Gay, Anthony Randolph and Richard Jefferson. And PER often punishes player who are shut-down defenders - something Turkoglu is not. We all know the intangibles of Hedo Turkoglu - his ball-handling skills, his abilities to create mismatches, his knack for shooting well in the clutch - are why he's so valuable to the Orlando Magic. But it can't be ignored how much Turkoglu fell off from last season to this season ... It's not like 30-year-old players regularly bounce back after down years. It's hard to imagine the Magic, or any team, think Turkoglu's career year of 2007-08 is the norm. The Turkoglu we saw this season is likely what most people expect out of Turkoglu going forward. Is 16-5-5 with a poor shooting percentage worth $10 million?"

Varejao and HicksonJohn Krolik of Cavs the Blog: "A rotation big is hard to find. Really hard to find. And even if Andy [Varejao] comes back, this team, as Ben Wallace's corpse made clear in the ECF, is having trouble filling those minutes, especially considering Joe Smith seemed to be out of the playoff rotation. JJ Hickson is a great prospect, but even he has serious question marks at the defensive ends. The good news: LeBron James can give you 15 absolutely unbelievable minutes at the 4 on a nightly basis. The numbers were eye-popping ... this season when he played at the 4: A PER of 38, 39/11/8.5, and 2 blocks per 48 minutes, a higher net +/- per 48 minutes than his minutes at small forward, and he holds his man to less than a league-average PER defensively. And this is all with Wally [Szczerbiak] holding down the three spot and essentially doing nothing and getting exploited defensively. In the playoffs, Wally was simply too much of a liability. With a true rotation-quality swingman, the Cavs could take advantage of LeBron's ability at the four without leaving a hole, and it's much, much, much easier to get a rotation-quality swingman than a rotation-quality power forward."

Truth About It: The quotable Flip Saunders.
Celtics Hub: The Big Green honor the king of green.
Roundball Mining Company: The latest export to Asia? The Denver Nuggets.

(Photos by Noah Graham, Jesse D. Garrabrant, Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Thoughts, euphoria, grudging respect, and sober analysis of the Lakers' 15th NBA Championship from around the TrueHoop Network:

TrophyRob Mahoney of Hardwood Paroxysm: "Focusing on individual storylines and details can be a fantastic enterprise, but in this case I truly think it disservices the bigger picture: the Lakers kicked ass in these playoffs. They forgot who they were for a minute against the Rockets, but on the whole we've seen some terrific basketball from L.A. Good enough, in fact, that today I don't care to think about Phil [Jackson] vs. Red [Auerbach], or what this means for Kobe [Bryant] in the grand scheme of things. We've got a long summer ahead of us, and there will be plenty of time for that. What I want today is a proper acknowledgment that the Lakers weren't just a really, really good team, but one that happened to trump the Magic with superior will ... Look, nobody is crazy about the idea of the Lakers winning it all. But that doesn't mean we can't appreciate, in typical playoff fashion, the last thing that we saw. We saw a better team execute at an incredible level against an elite defense, we saw the elevation of games on a personal and team-wide level, and we saw the Lakers perform in a manner all series long that should remove any doubts to their worthiness. The Lakers accomplished a singularly great thing last night: a pretty damn good team playing to its potential. As such, we should appreciate their accomplishment with blinders on. Phil's tenth, Kobe's first P.S., that all can wait. This is a day for the Lakers as a team/organization and Los Angeles as a city, as it'd be a pity for this singular success to be overlooked."

LakersZephid of Forum Blue & Gold: "Ah, so this is the sweet taste of victory. Winning the NBA championship, cheering our team to the pinnacle of this sport. But, it is not the victory that brings us sweetness. It is the long 82 game regular season, all 23 games played in this postseason, all the rigors of this season. It is the tough December losses, the mental break-downs in January, the beautiful road streak in February, the frustrating losses in March. It is the Christmas game, the back to back @Boston, @Cleveland games. It is the leads given up against Utah, the blowout against the Yao-less Rockets, the home loss against Denver. It is the Game 7 victory against Houston, the Game 6 closeout in Denver, and this closeout here in Orlando. It is [Derek] Fisher's struggles and redemption, Lamar [Odom]'s excellent form, break-down, injury, and now return to form. It is Andrew [Bynum]'s coming out, injury, and coming back as a role player. It is [Pau] Gasol and Kobe's consistency and fire. It is Sasha [Vujacic]'s shooting woes, Jordan [Farmar]'s struggles, Luke [Walton]'s benching, [Trevor] Ariza's development, and [Josh] Powell's bad hands. It is the pain of last year's Finals loss, Boston's Game 4 comeback, the 39 point blowout in Game 6. It is the entire journey, with all its pain, suffering, joy, jubilation, frustration, relief, and exuberance, that makes this victory sweet."

Orlando MagicZach McCann of Orlando Magic Daily: "I don't feel any sense of disappointment, frustration or regret. How can you? The Lakers easily mulled through the Magic to capture their 15th championship, and they did so in dominating fashion it.There's not a person in the world who can say the Magic are better than the Lakers. And when you can say that, losing hurts a lot less. The sting especially softens when your team didn't fail because of dumb turnovers, poor coaching or lack of effort. None of that was the problem. The Lakers were simply better than the Magic ... The Magic simply couldn't trade punches with the Lakers, who are too good, too deep and too versatile. They're built with the ability to counter anything the Magic could throw at them. And they're killers - when they see blood, they attack. The Magic's only hope was to shoot 62 percent like they did in their only win of this series. That wasn't happening tonight. Toward the end of the second quarter, as the Lakers completed a 16-0 run that wiped out a hot Magic start, it was clear. The players, coaches, and fans of both teams knew it was only a matter of time till this thing was over ... It was beginning to sink in. The Lakers were going to win the NBA championship on Orlando's home floor."

Lamar OdomM. Haubs of The Painted Area: "Let's take a second to remember a key moment in the Lakers' championship season, back in preseason in October when Phil Jackson commented that he wanted Lamar Odom to come off the bench - clearly the best move for the ball club. Andrew Bynum could play a larger role as a starter, and the versatile Odom was the perfect guy to run the show for the second team, and of course he'd have plenty of opportunity to play with the first unit as well ... Odom balked at the bench role ever so briefly in October, before accepting it with essentially not a peep of dissatisfaction the rest of the season (though the Bynum injury did get him back into the starting lineup for a good chunk of the season). By accepting a lesser role, Odom placed the good of the team ahead of his own self-interest in terms of trying to maximize the dollars he could command as a free agent, and that acceptance was a key element of L.A.'s season ... It is sacrifices like these, up and down the roster, that championships are made of. A key to San Antonio's run has been Manu Ginobili's sacrificing multiple All-Star appearances by accepting a role with lesser minutes, which keep his stats artificially low. And now Odom's acceptance of lesser minutes in a free-agent year has helped put L.A. over the top, and he deserves praise for it."

By the Horns: Congratulations, Phil.
Cavs the Blog: Are the Magic next year's favorites?
Valley of the Suns: The Shaq rumors are percolating. 

(Photos by Andrew D. Bernstein, Emmanuel Dunand, Ronald Martinez, Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

A soul-crushing defeat for the Magic is a faith-inspiring event for Lakers fans. When it's all over, is it possible Kobe Bryant might have played his finest postseason ever? And will these playoffs mark the moment Dwight Howard arrived as an elite big man? 

Derek FisherKurt Helin of Forum Blue & Gold: "In the end, it's about faith. Faith in yourself. Faith in your teammates. Faith to persevere. Faith that you will bounce back after adversity. Faith that when the game is on the line and in overtime you will execute. It's about faith rewarded. The Lakers did execute when it mattered, and Orlando was 1 of 7 in the OT. The Lakers played through the fouls on them, the fact they got zero free throws in the fourth quarter and overtime. Orlando complains about the calls they didn't get. The Lakers had faith in what they could do. They had faith in their experience. Faith that the hard lessons learned last Finals and beyond would carry them through. Their faith was rewarded."

Dwight HowardZach McCann of Orlando Magic Daily: "The Magic stormed ahead in the final period, scoring on several key possessions and forcing Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant into 4-for-14 shooting in the final period. They had outscored the Lakers 24-15, and the team's confidence was going to be at an all-time high heading into a two-day rest period. Instead, in the blink of an eye and the clank of a rim, the Magic were tied at 87-87. And forget everything you've heard about the home team having the advantage going into the extra overtime. The Magic had no momentum tonight. It was dead. All 18,000-plus were stunned and silent. The offense went motionless as three players stood and watched Hedo Turkoglu try to force the issue on pick-and-rolls. It wasn't there. The Magic should've gone to something else -- Dwight [Howard] in the post, Rashard [Lewis] in isolation, [Mickael] Pietrus working through off-the-ball screens… anything. It's too bad, because it could've gone down as a historic performance from Dwight Howard. No big man has ever reached a triple-double in points, rebounds and blocks in NBA Finals history, and Howard was one block away from that feat tonight."

Kobe BryantJohn Krolik of Cavs the Blog: "Kobe's about to win the most important ring of his career. You know what? Good for him. Sometimes the breaks are going to go your way, and when that happens you should just be grateful. And all of a sudden the Gasol feed, the Fisher pass, and the hard foul on Howard become the plays that needed to be made for the Lakers to pull it out. He didn't do everything, he wasn't perfect, and a lot of times he wasn't even good, but somehow, some way, he did enough. And for a guy who, fairly or unfairly, has a reputation for having a tough time with the concept of 'enough,' there's at least some poetic justice in this being how Kobe, in all likelihood, is going to take a team that's unequivocally his to the promised land."

The Painted Area: Kobe Bryant's best playoffs ever?
48 Minutes of Hell: How does Dwight Howard stack up among the all-time great big men?
By the Horns: The Derrick Rose flap.  

(Photos by Jesse D. Garrabrant, Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE, and Christophe Elise/Icon SMI via Getty Images)