First Cup: Friday

  • Stephen A. Smith of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "A show of hands from anyone who can definitively point to a single individual on the Sixers' roster who matters and appears more interested in the team's achievements than his own accomplishments? Thought so. Nobody's that stupid. You won't see any hands because there are none to see. What you'll see instead is an $80 million forward (Elton Brand) with a suspect knee trying to return to relevance; an athletic guard/forward in Andre Iguodala who even the team believes is more focused on his initials (A.I.) than he is on his game. You'll see big men who don't play big. Small forwards who want to be guards. And one point guard who's not really a point guard (Lou Williams) and another in the solid, young Jrue Holiday, who is still in puberty stage. The Sixers know this is true. So it's safe to surmise that Collins knows this, too, which leaves his reasons for agreeing to coach the Sixers a bit perplexing. We all know the multitude of openings for head coaches in the NBA. Atlanta, New Orleans, Chicago, and New Jersey all offer significantly better jobs than the Sixers -- and better for Collins. So in trying to figure out why the 58-year-old Collins elected to accept Philadelphia's job offer, every corner was checked. Every stone was overturned. No evidence could be found regarding whether Collins had any dirt on chairman Ed Snider or Comcast-Spectacor's Peter Luukko. Collins purportedly isn't married to any of their relatives, either. Collins' son, Chris, is an assistant at Duke, so there's no connection there. No one would ever accuse Collins' former employer, TNT, of being partial to the Sixers or vice versa. Nothing. Nada."

  • Frank Dell’Apa of The Boston Globe: "Call it the home-court disadvantage. The Celtics appear to be in control of the Eastern Conference finals after winning the first two games in Orlando. But recent history indicates that the Magic should not feel out of place when they visit TD Garden tomorrow night for Game 3. In the last two seasons, including playoffs, the Celtics have won five of eight games in Orlando. The Magic have won five of the last seven in Boston. Though the Celtics have struggled to explain their home-court failings this season -- they were 24-17 at the Garden, 26-15 away from home -- they are highly conscious of Orlando’s ability to turn the tables. 'They’ve beaten us twice here in the regular season,' guard Rajon Rondo said yesterday. 'We didn’t come into this season to win five games in a row in the playoffs. It’s about winning a championship and put another banner up, and we haven’t done that.' "

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "In lieu of facing legitimate explanations and accepting your favoriteteam's defeat, sports curses were born. The Chicago Cubs' World Series futility is blamed on a hex by the owner of a billy goat (a scapegoat?). After The Drive and The Fumble, Cleveland Browns fans believe in jinxes. (And did they also cross over to do in LeBron?) Until 2004 happened along, the Red Sox were seemingly sentenced to purgatory after trading Babe Ruth, right? While they aren't as famous (infamous?), as colorful or as silly, the Orlando Magic could talk of their share of curses that haunt the franchise. Some frustrated fans were taken back to the 1995 NBA Finals after Vince Carter missed two free throws late in the Magic's Game 2 loss against Boston. 'Curses? I don't believe in any of that stuff,' former Magic guard Nick Anderson said."

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "Patient? The reaction from thousands of Lakers followers: Whatever. Bring on the Celtics. The Lakers have won four of their last six games in Phoenix, where the outdoor temperatures are already creeping into triple digits and the local fans are restless because their two All-Stars aren't even close to matching the impact of the Lakers' two All-Stars. Reader comment No. 1 on the Arizona Republic's website: 'Pau Gasol is like a big bully taking candy from the little guy.' Reader comment No. 2: 'Hey, we swept the Spurs in the semis. That was fun.' Yep. It's getting hot in Phoenix, in case the ramped-up cries among some fans for playing time for untested Suns rookies Taylor Griffin and Earl Clark don't prove the point. Meanwhile, Coach Phil Jackson gave the Lakers a day off Thursday, allowing them to rest and reflect upon the success that has them within six victories of the franchise's 16th NBA championship."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Only 6 percent of NBA playoff teams have survived a 2-0 deficit (none in the Western Conference finals). The teams that rallied were not coming off consecutive games in which they allowed 58 percent shooting. Only one team in 42 tries has rallied from a 2-0 deficit against the Lakers, who have won eight playoff games in a row. The Suns found an effective lineup Wednesday night in going small with Grant Hill and Jared Dudley at forwards and Amar'e Stoudemire at center. They outscored the Lakers 35-25 in the 12 minutes they played that frontcourt, but they will need more rebounding and defense from Stoudemire if they are going to survive with that lineup. Stoudemire was panned for his defense in Game 2, and his rebounding was not much better. He went without a defensive rebound from 5:48 of the first quarter in Game 1 to 8:20 of the third quarter of Game 2. Defensively, it was a toxic mix for Stoudemire: bad decisions by him and schemes that put him in bad situations. The bad overwhelmed the five good moments in which his help defense challenged a Lakers miss."

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: "Over the next six weeks, you will continue to hear and read that LeBron James is likely headed to Chicago. Or that he isn't. Or that he's possibly bound for the Knicks. Or that he's not. You will hear attempts are being made to pair James with a hand-picked coach (Kentucky's John Calipari), according to two major newspapers. Or you will hear that isn't happening, according to ESPN. You will hear enough conjecture to leave your head spinning. Such as this from the Bergen (N.J.) Record this week: 'Some sources believe Calipari could lobby for the job and promise to deliver James.' Not that Calipari has or will, but that some sources believe he might. Arrgh! The appetite for news on James is so enormous that the media will keep churning out endless speculation. And the public will devour every morsel, even without knowing what to believe. 'It's unprecedented in American sports, with a two-time MVP as an unrestricted free agent, and the three biggest markets and a glamour city such as Miami after him,' said Brian Windhorst, Cavaliers beat writer for The Cleveland Plain Dealer. 'It affects a huge number of fans. I've known LeBron 10 years, and this decision is a committee of one.' "

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "The NBA has suspended referee Joe DeRosa for one game without pay for throwing a basketball at a heckling Magic fan during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday night. Already, I’ve heard some indignant Magic fans say the one-game suspension wasn’t nearly stringent enough and DeRosa should have been given a stiffer penalty. Stop it. The NBA got it right. DeRosa had a momentary lapse in judgement when he tossed the ball at Magic fan Franz Hanning, who was standing right behind the scorer’s table and yelling at DeRosa as the NBA ref walked toward the scorer’s table. As I wrote in yesterday’s blog, why is a heckling fan even allowed to be at the scorer’s table in the first place? And secondly, DeRosa didn’t 'hurl' or 'heave' the ball at Hanning in a menacing way. He tossed the ball at Hanning as if to say, 'Here, you think you can do better?' The one-game suspension without pay is a fair and just penalty for the crime committed. Case closed."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "John Wall walked into a ballroom at the Sheraton Chicago, lowered his headphones from his ears to his shoulders and looked around for a table with a placard with his name on it. When that proved futile, Wall simply looked for the crowd. He grinned, circled a mob of reporters and cameramen surrounding his table, and before sitting down said, 'Thank you, guys, for joining me today.' Wall, the player favored to be selected first overall by the Washington Wizards in the NBA draft, relishes being in the spotlight, a position he embraced through his lone season at Kentucky -- and one that will surely increase if the Wizards decide to take him with the top choice. His possible arrival has already generated considerable buzz around Washington, with the team selling nearly 400 season ticket packages within 12 hours of winning the draft lottery on Tuesday. That night, prospective Wizards owner Ted Leonsis was spotted doing Wall's signature dance move -- a playful jig where his arm forms a tea-kettle shape and his fist moves side-to-side -- which became a craze among Kentucky fans. 'It feels good. It's a dream come true, you know,' Wall said of the hype surrounding him. 'It's no pressure, you can't let it get to you. You've got to stay humble and hungry. Just keep working and thank God you have a chance to play in the NBA.' "

  • Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News: "The thought of playing for the Pistons is fine with Ed Davis. The former North Carolina Tar Heel has a natural tie in. 'Ben (Wallace ) is like family to me,' said Davis, the 6-foot-10 forward who a few mock drafts have headed to the Pistons. 'We work out during the summer.' Wallace played at Virginia Union, just like Davis' father did. 'I spend a lot of time with him (Wallace), working out,' Davis said. 'He's just always been like an uncle to me. He calls me 'little bro.' It's like a family thing.' So, does Davis have a scoop as to whether or not Wallace will return to the Pistons? 'I didn't think he'd come back this (past) year,' Davis said. 'Maybe it's like a Brett Favre thing, you never know.' "

  • Jeff Rabjohns of The Indianapolis Star: "Gordon Hayward's play in leading Butler to the Final Four has hurtled him almost instantly into the full glare of the NBA draft machine. 'It's kind of been surreal,' said the 6-8 sophomore, who will become Indianapolis' ninth active NBA player. 'I really wasn't recruited in high school that much. To go from almost giving basketball up, being a smaller kid, to playing at Butler, then to coming here, it's been kind of weird. But it has been exciting.' Hayward worked out in front of NBA personnel for the first time Thursday morning. He was part of a group of eight players in the second workout session for the 51 players at the combine. The stands were full of NBA general managers, coaches and scouts, more than a few recognizable faces. 'It was exciting, but it was kind of nerve-wracking at first,' he said. 'When we got there, the group before us was working out. We were all anxious, trying not to look in the stands because we didn't want to think about it. But you glance up there and see Pat Riley. It's like an interview. Your job is on the line.' "

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: "DeMarcus Cousins, the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year out of Kentucky, is considered by many to be the best center available in this year's NBA draft. Yet, as he began the interview process with general managers and team personnel at the NBA draft combine, Cousins -- who turns 20 in August -- came in expecting to be questioned about his maturity and conditioning. His confidence hasn't wavered amid the scrutiny. While his teammate at Kentucky, John Wall, is considered the top pick in the draft, Cousins isn't conceding he won't be the first selection. 'That's my main goal right now -- I want to be the No. 1 player in the draft,' Cousins said. 'I'm not going to sit here and say I want to be the third pick, fourth pick. Everybody here wants to be the No. 1 pick.' Cousins also is confident he can convince NBA teams there's no need to worry about his conditioning or maturity. One team inquiring is the Kings, who interviewed Cousins on Thursday evening."

  • Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times: "Patrick Patterson recently graduated from Kentucky, earning a degree in communications and leadership development after three years. Patterson said he might want to be a broadcaster. Quipped Patterson: 'I’ll be the next Charles Barkley. It’ll just take a few years.’ ... Oklahoma State shooting guard James Anderson said he was going to meet with Bucks officials today and that he would travel to Milwaukee next month for a workout. ... Syracuse guard Andy Rautins on Marquette University coach Buzz Williams: 'He’s always on the sidelines screaming. He’s very passionate about the game.’ ... Marshall power forward Hassan Whiteside recently spent a week in Houston working out with Hakeem 'The Dream’ Olajuwon. 'He taught me his spin move and the ‘shake’ ‘ Whiteside said. The self-assured Whiteside thinks he can have an Olajuwon-type pro career, too. 'I’m looking to be a Hall of Famer. I got big goals.’ ... Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez said he 'chilled’ with Bucks rookie point guard Brandon Jennings last Saturday at the Preakness in Baltimore. 'That was the first time I met him. He made a great impression on me. I think he’s a great kid.’ ... Baylor forward Ekpe Udoh: 'My neighborhood guys say I’m like Kevin Garnett. But I’m a more watered-down Kevin Garnett.’ "

  • Chris Iott of Booth Newspapers: "College basketball fans remember him for being a scoring machine and for his outstanding showing in the NCAA tournament for Xavier. But many people cannot let go of a simple dunk Jordan Crawford made in a pickup game. That's because the dunk came against LeBron James. 'When it happened, it wasn't a big thing,' Crawford said Thursday at the NBA pre-draft camp, where draft prospects gather for workouts and interviews with teams. 'It was the beginning of the first scrimmage game. We just kept playing. Nobody made a big deal about it. Then, all of a sudden, it just blew up.' Nike confiscated tapes of the play, which just increased interest in it when it eventually was released. One clip that eventually posted on YouTube has drawn more than 650,000 views. Crawford seemed irritated when someone brought up the topic during a media session at the predraft camp. 'I kind of got tired of it,' he said. 'It was all people were talking about. I didn't really want to hear it anymore.' "