First Cup: Thursday

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "Between Kevin Garnett’s dunks and Derek Fisher’s drives, a new star emerged Tuesday night in the N.B.A. finals: the flat-screen monitor. Perched on the scorer’s table, it glowed with a stoic insistence, casting an indisputable influence over the court. Let the record reflect that on June 8, 2010, instant replay firmly became part of the N.B.A.’s signature event. Referees consulted the replay monitor three times in the final 89 seconds of Game 3 between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics -- each time to determine possession after a ball went out of bounds. Two calls were changed. The third call was upheld. The night ended with a 91-84 Lakers victory and a recognition that the finals had changed for good. 'In terms of a key situation in a finals game, I think definitely, replay’s arrived in that regard,' said Stu Jackson, the league’s executive vice president for basketball operations, adding, 'I think that they did very well and used the system appropriately.' "

  • Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Times: "Two years ago, the Big Three always showed up. Last year, KG was lost in March, leaving just two. This spring they put Humpty Dumpty back together while clawing their way through the East draw, even as Pierce struggled in the first two rounds and KG shot 39 percent in the conference finals. Unfortunately, whether it's fatigue, Lakers defense, the referees (no, really) or the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligned with Mars, it's now more like the Big Three Minus Two. For Pierce, who yelled 'Ain't coming back to L.A.,' it's like Gen. Curtis LeMay, who popularized the term 'bomb them back to the Stone Age,' misplacing his B-52s."

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: "Dear Mitch Kupchak, Listen, I know you have your handsfull right now, sweating out another Lakers-Celtics NBA Final and all. ... But I hope you'll let me bend your ear just a bit, because I have a suggestion for you, some advice I think might be helpful to you and the short-term future of the Lakers. Bring Derek Fisher back next season. Match his salary from this season if you have to. Make it a one-year deal, with an option for a second. Whatever you have to do, do it. The point is, Fisher has to be back with the Lakers next season. ... Sure you can get a younger, faster, more explosive player to replace him. But it's doubtful you will find anyone who can have the overall impact that Fisher can, and certainly you won't find someone who, Bryant can confide in, trust or completely respect the way he does his old friend Fisher. So bring him back, Mitch. The Lakers need him."

  • Jeff Miller of The Orange County Register: "Do NBA champions really eat doughnuts for lunch? At least one NBA champion does. We here at Miller Light ventured into a local Dunkin' Donuts -- hey, what'd you expect from us, Baja Fresh? -- after Lakers practice Wednesday. There, we stood in line behind Andrew Bynum. It should be noted that Bynum purchased a drink and two bags full of doughnuts. Not two doughnuts but two bags of doughnuts. And these were like grocery store-sized bags. If Lamar Odom can pound Mike and Ikes before Game 3 of the NBA Finals, why can't Bynum prep for Game 4 by devouring a dozen or so things filled with cream and topped with sugary sprinkles? Interestingly, though, we didn't see Kobe Bryant ordering any Munchkins."

  • Ron Borges of the Boston Herald: "NBA officials know exactly what to expect this time of year -- unreasonable and unceasing criticism. Like perspiration, it comes with the job. Three games into the 2010 NBA Finals, the Celtics are upset with the officials. The Lakers are upset with the officials. Fans from coast to coast are upset with the officials. Television talking heads are upset with the officials. Radio show hosts are upset with the officials. The poor guys probably have family members upset with them. Why all this enmity toward a group of guys trying to do an impossible job? It seems to be because the crews working the Finals decided to apply the rules as written rather than reinterpret them for the convenience of the moment. Despite all the wailing about how “the flow” of the first three games has been disrupted, fouls in this year’s playoffs are up an average of only one per game from a year ago, according to Stu Jackson, the NBA’s vice president of basketball operations. He did admit to CBSSports.com that there have been almost seven more foul shots taken per game compared with last year’s Finals, but claimed that discrepancy is due to the vagaries of when calls are made."

  • Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe: "A day after going a near-record 0 for 13 in a Game 3 Finals loss to the Lakers, the ever-unflappable Ray Allen took his assigned podium spot to face the media. He did not come armed with a loaded pistol, Samurai sword, or even a bulging bottle of sleeping pills. Nor did he offer any mea culpas. His attitude pretty much was: It happened. It’s over. Let’s go. 'I’m just as eager as I would have been if we had won the game,’ he said. 'It’s great we only have to wait one day.’ Let the world buzz about the fascinating juxtaposition of an acknowledged great shooter going from making a record eight 3-pointers in Game 2 to missing every single shot he took 48 hours later. If you’re Ray Allen, the second game will be as easy to put behind him as was the first one. That’s just the way he thinks."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "While Avery Johnson was an employee of Mark Cuban's, mistakes were made, just as they always are with young, first-time head coaches. It didn't keep Johnson from amassing a ridiculous 194-70 record (.735 percentage), best in NBA history. That number will dip, unless LeBron James is in the Nets' future. But what Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire, must assume is Johnson will be better at his second coaching stop than he was at his first. No panicking when things get tough or when a player does something silly. When Josh Howard threw himself a birthday party in 2008, Johnson basically walked out on the team the next day at practice. A few days later, he was fired. If Johnson had a fault when he was with the Mavericks, it's that he didn't listen -- to his assistants or pretty much anybody else. It was his show. Nothing wrong with that. Strong leaders are good. But a little flexibility will go a long way in New Jersey, where Johnson will be reunited with Devin Harris. If there isn't more give-and-take in that relationship than when they were Mavericks, the two won't last long. It'll be up to Johnson to prove he's learned a thing or two."

  • Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News: "The idea that an entertainment mogul such as David Geffen would be looking to buy a majority stake of the Los Angeles Clippers, just so he can make a run at LeBron James, is a pretty big deal. Then again, everything is a pretty big business deal when it comes to the NBA's top pending free agent. 'There are business opportunities for people, and when you've got a commodity like LeBron, he can take you a long way,' former Celtics great John Havlicek said Wednesday during an appearance at a youth center in the Mission Hill section of Roxbury Crossing. 'I imagine that (Clippers owner) Donald Sterling is in a pretty good position with his franchise, but I'd like him to be more competitive with the Lakers. Getting LeBron would be one of the ways that they could do that. To have LeBron playing in the same building as Kobe Bryant - how amazing would that be?' It would be quite amazing, but don't look for it to happen any time soon. Sterling, the long-time owner of the Clippers, is not looking to sell any part of his team to Geffen -- or anyone else. David Stern would like Sterling to get out of the business - he's been at him for years to sell the Clips and leave the NBA -- but Sterling is not selling."

  • Michael Wallace of The Miami Herald: "The gestures of appreciation just keep rolling this week for the Miami Heat in an effort to convince its pending free agents to remain with the team. Two days after unveiling a billboard designed as a contract near Dwyane Wade's North Bay Village home, the Heat on Wednesday showed up at Udonis Haslem's house to throw the forward a surprise birthday bash. Like Wade, Haslem has been with the team the past seven seasons and will become an unrestricted free agent July 1. Wade has another season on his contract but plans to opt out by June 30 to join the biggest free agency class in league history. Heat president Pat Riley has said he hopes to keep both players in Miami, and is showing them both how much they are appreciated. About 200 Heat employees, including forward James Jones and former star Alonzo Mourning, surprised Haslem at his Southwest Ranches home on his 30th birthday."

  • Daniel Orton for The Oklahoman: "During the first edition of Daniel Orton's NBA Draft Journal, the former McGuinness star talked to The Oklahoman's Brandon Chatmon about his draft projections, what they do in workouts for NBA teams and a conversation with Larry Bird at the NBA Combine. 'I've heard that I could go anywhere from 14th to 24th in the draft. But I'm hoping to move up. I've worked out for Indiana, Toronto and I just got done working out for Sacramento on Tuesday. As far as what we do in the workouts, we start off with simple big-man drills and then we'll do just post moves with no one guarding us. Then we might play one-on-one where everyone has to guard everyone once, then some two-on-two sometimes full court like I had to do in Sacramento. In my other two workouts with Indiana and Toronto, they had two guards with us so we could have some three-on-three teams. ... When people continue to bring up my three-point, three-rebound average at Kentucky, I just smile and say I understand. I know that I'm making the right decision, though. I'm working to improve my shooting and a lot of little things in the post, basically technique. Working out in San Francisco has helped me. It's gotten me in better shape and has made me tougher mentally. I'd love to play for the Thunder. I know I could help them out a lot and could really see myself playing well with them.' "