First Cup: Monday

  • Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Compare it to anything ever on the local pro sports scene, and the answer is never. Go ahead, dig deep into your memory bank. Go way back five decades ago to the arrival of the Cowboys, followed by the Rangers in the early '70s, then the Mavericks in 1980, and finally the Stars. Along the way over 50-plus years, there have been surprises of the pleasant kind, with victorious upsets and shocking finishes that with the course of time have grown in legendary and historic status. But this? For the doubters going in (I volunteer to go to the front of that line), merely winning this series from the Los Angeles Lakers would have stocked that memory bank with another monumental moment. But for the Mavericks, and what happened here Sunday afternoon, they took pleasant surprises, upsets and shockers into uncharted local territory. They slammed the door in four, and swept the Lakers. This was a sweep that trumps all other accomplishments in the surprise-upset-shocker category. Five world titles for the Cowboys and one Stanley Cup for the Stars remain the ultimate local achievements, but the Mavs have now provided the ultimate in disbelief."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "Mark Cuban broke his series-long silence, but only for a grand total of seven words. After the owner's Mavericks picked apart the Los Angeles Lakers with an epic sweep, Cuban didn't gloat. Nor did he have anything to say about flagrant fouls or anything else that transpired in the series. All he had to say was: 'We believe.' And then he followed it up by admitting to what he told presumably retiring Lakers' coach Phil Jackson: 'I hope he doesn't retire.' That's it. The new mantra of the Mavericks' almost-always talkative and occasionally controversial owner will remain: silence is golden. That's smart by the way. Being the silent type clearly agrees with him and his team."

  • Jeff Miller of The Orange County Register: "This sweep indeed exposed a lot about the Lakers, who never figured out how to stop Dallas' outside shooting, who couldn't find a way to awaken Pau Gasol, who steadily showed more and more cracks. 'I don't know where we lost it,' Lamar Odom said, 'that certain drive and bond that we've had in the past, that cohesiveness to overcome adversity.Their bond was better than ours.' And it wasn't limited to the players. Team vice president Magic Johnson, who, until recently owned part of the Lakers, called for majority owner Jerry Buss to 'blow this team up after the season.' Johnson made that remark Saturday and to the nation. He was serving as an analyst for ESPN. Again that was Saturday, while the team Johnson presumably works for was still alive in the playoffs. The former point guard's comments caught the attention of the current point guard, proving that the cracks among the Lakers can span eras and extend from the front office to the backcourt. Asked about the Lakers' future Sunday, Derek Fisher snapped back, 'Ask Magic. Ask Magic what's going to happen.' Then he walked away. Off the court or on the court, it didn't matter in the end. These Lakers just weren't worthy of carrying on a franchise's proud tradition. 'You're a little embarrassed, so you act out,' Odom said, another Laker searching for excuses. 'We've all been there...but that's not us.' Sorry, Lamar, on Sunday that was the Lakers. Very much so. Thoroughly embarrassed. Utterly embarrassing."

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "In the end, nobody should have been more embarrassed than Andrew Bynum, who threw a dangerous right elbow into a flying Jose Barea moments after Odom's cheap shot, knocking the little guard to the ground and resulting in another ejection. Bynum further shamed himself and the franchise by tearing off his jersey before he left the court, and I have just one question. Are you sure the Lakers were better off not trading him? I have been ridiculed for this stance by folks who are suddenly very quiet about it now. I'm not wavering. I believe that if the Lakers want to win a championship while Bryant is still mobile and Gasol is still young, they need the kind of top point guard or scorer that Bynum can bring in a deal. In the meantime, Lakers fans must spend the l-o-o-o-ng summer haunted by memories of plays such as the one early in the third quarter Sunday that typified their collapse, Artest's racing down for an open layup that could have possibly changed the momentum. It was blocked by the rim. The two-time defending champion Lakers were dethroned by their toughest opponent, that dysfunctional group known as the two-time defending champion Lakers."

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: "When asked to look back on the series against the Mavericks, Gasol made the conversation about his personal life. He had addressed the Internet rumors Saturday about him and Kobe Bryant having problems and that they weren't speaking to each other because Bryant was the cause of Gasol breaking up with his girlfriend. Gasol said it wasn't true, but he talked after Sunday's game about how a season of turmoil affected him. 'Individually, I want to learn from it,' Gasol said. 'Just look back and savor everything that's been going on and try to handle it better. And just whatever goes on, on or off the court, just try to keep it that way and not let it affect anything that goes on on the floor.' "

  • Buck Harvery of the San Antonio Express-News: "I always liked Phil Jackson. I liked his wit, and I liked how he saw the world, and I liked how he filled my notebook. I liked how he coached, too. What the Triangle offense didn’t impact, his calm did. But along the way, as he won 11 championships, Jackson was treated as if he were above the details that affect other coaches. That’s where his last day as a Laker came in. Then, Jackson reminded everyone he’s human. I didn’t like everything about Jackson. The asterisk label he put on the Spurs after their 1999 title, for example, was both arrogant and unfair. Using seemingly every loss to critique officiating became a tiresome habit, too, and David Stern apparently felt the same. He gave Jackson a farewell gift Sunday: a $35,000 fine for his latest complaint. Still, the vast majority of Jackson’s coaching career was as impressive as it was entertaining. ... Sunday showed what has always been true. Jackson has coached great players to great things, but he’s always been as vulnerable as his peers. He’s always been vulnerable to aging players, and to red-hot opponents, and to games that don’t go his way. And in his final one? A bemused look couldn’t hide what had happened."

  • Joe Davidson of The Sacramento Bee: "So as my Bee columnist friend Ailene Voisin likes to call him, Our Friend Phil bows out. He takes with him one outrageous resume: 20 seasons as an NBA head coach, 20 playoff teams, 13 conference titles, 11 NBA championships. He had two three-peats with the Chicago Bulls, one with the Lakers (stepping over the Kings in the Western Conference playoffs each time) and the latest repeat. Kings fans may fume at the mention of Jackson, but they have to remember that the Maloofs wanted to hire him as coach in 2006, when Rick Adelman was still under contract. Kings fans would have gone from Phil hater to Phil fanatic. It happens in sports. Fans grumbled about the antics of Ron Artest when he was in Indiana, then worshiped him when he was in Kings colors leading a playoff charge in 2006, then hated the man when he suited up for the Lakers. So who will Kings fans boo next season when the Lakers come to town with a new coach? Brian Shaw? Too nice of a guy to boo. Definitely an end of an era."

  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: "So why would Dwight Howard allegedly want to join this group of classless clowns? I can’t think of many things more repulsive in sports than athletes who disrespect the game and their opposition as the Los Angeles Lakers did Sunday afternoon against the Dallas Mavericks. Upset that they were about to get swept and losing ugly in the process, both Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum resorted to retaliatory cheap shots as part of their exit strategy. Bynum in particular was completely out of line, giving a forearm shove to the smallest guy on the court, guard J.J. Barea. It’s about as classless as it gets. And that’s not just me talking. ... The Magic most definitely have not made themselves into a team you would want to embrace with arms wide open, given the shaky nature of their current lineup. But at least the Magic have never trashed their reputation the way the Lakers just did. ... One gets the sense that there’s a lot more going on inside that locker room than minor disagreements. As Bynum said earlier in the series: 'We have trust issues.' The Lakers are by most accounts, a family in dysfunctional turmoil. And they very much looked like unsportsmanlike quitters Sunday night. Who in their right mind would want to hop abroad that crazy train?"

  • Dusty Saunders of The Denver Post: "As time was running out, the alert production crew put together a timely montage of Jackson in happier days as coach of the Bulls and Lakers, embracing Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and numerous other stars following NBA championships. Now the second-guessing begins in earnest. What did happen to the Los Angeles Lakers? The next time Charles Barkley shows up on TNT's playoff coverage, he should be wearing a swami turban and have a crystal ball in front of him. Barkley, before the Grizzlies- Spurs series, predicted that Memphis would upset San Antonio. He also said the Mavericks would upend the Lakers. But no one foresaw a four-game Dallas sweep and a finale that embarrassed a proud franchise."

  • Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "This is what effort looks like. This is what defense looks like. This is what Josh Smith taking over in the fourth quarter with his feet in the paint and not near the three-point line looks like (quick, somebody take a picture!). Imagine if every game was like this. The Hawks rebounded from a miserable performance again Sunday night, and the only reason to see it coming was because there was no reason to see it coming. Throw a whiffle ball in a wind tunnel and guess which direction that sucker will fly. That’s sort of like predicting the Hawks. But they showed us something again: potential. After flopping in Game 3 and failing to lead after any quarter in consecutive games, the Hawks’ 100-88 win over Chicago at Philips Arena showed us how good they can be. They showed us what happens when an occasionally dysfunctional bunch plays hard and plays smart. Remarkably, they have evened this best-of-seven series at 2-2 wins each against the team that finished with the NBA’s best record (62-20). Go figure."

  • Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune: "If ever there was a time for Jeff Teague to gloat, it was after the Hawks' 100-88 victory over the Bulls on Sunday night in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Hawks point guard was one of the players Derrick Rose toyed with in Game 3, when Rose went off for a playoff career-high 44 points. But Teague was one of the guys who harassed Rose on Sunday, including a key steal with 3 minutes, 3 seconds left that led to a fast-break layup by Al Horford and gave the Hawks a six-point cushion. 'It wasn't a strip. He just lost the ball,' Teague said of the steal. 'I never try to steal the ball from him. I just try to contain him. I think he dribbled it off his foot, and I picked it up.' Teague wouldn't even admit the Hawks frustrated Rose into a 12-for-32 shooting night. Rose scored 34 points and had 10 assists, but he also had two turnovers and missed two shots in the final four minutes. 'I put this game on me,' Rose said. 'Two turnovers at the end … it was a tough game, but it's a series, first to four. And we know that.' "

  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Tribune: "The worst-case scenario for the Bulls is that the Hawks finally get what Drew is preaching, take it into Game 5 and play team basketball again. Even then, though, the Bulls are more talented top to bottom. The reality of what we will see Tuesday at the United Center is that the Bulls will come out with fire, and the Hawks will feel the burn and revert to what they know best: one-on-one, no-conscience basketball. '‘It’s the playoffs; there’s going to be urgency,’ Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ‘When a team loses and they come out, they’re usually urgent. Once [the Hawks] get going, they’re a hard team to slow down. They were active, they fought hard, and a big part was how we finished the game.’ Applaud the Hawks for that. Pat them on the back and congratulate them for their effort in Game 4. But fear them? It gets back to one question: Can you do it again? I’m guessing no."

  • Ronald Tilleryof The Commercial-Appeal: "Coach Lionel Hollins' rewind of Game 3 focused very little on the Grizzlies' come-from-behind effort in Saturday's 101-93 overtime victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Instead, the Grizzlies' coaching staff spliced together the lowlights in an effort to keep the young bears hungry. ... The Griz will take a 2-1 series lead into Game 4 when their Western Conference semifinal with the Oklahoma City Thunder resumes tonight in FedExForum. What's clear, though, is that the Griz haven't been lulled into a sense of feeling that they are in complete command. Memphis still is driven by a fear of failure and respect for its higher seeded, highly regarded opponent. ... The humbling message from Hollins on the eve of Game 4 was to remember what dug the 16-point, second-half hole in Game 3. The Griz stormed back behind an in-game adjustment here and better defense there."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "In a series with two evenly matched teams, each game, starting with Monday's pivotal Game 4, could now come down to which lead man makes the most significant modifications. On Sunday, both coaches downplayed their impacts on this series. 'I don't think either of us did much different,' Scott Brooks deadpanned when asked about Game 2. But who are they kidding? This game of cat and mouse has become as mesmerizing as the game itself. Brooks showed after a stunning Game 1 defeat that he is capable of adjusting from game to game. Hollins showed in Game 3 that he can do the same but also has a leg up on in-game adjustments."

  • Harvery Araton of The New York Times: "At 39, Shaquille O’Neal does not need to contribute much more than the 2 points, 1 assist and 1 steal he posted in Game 3 to justify his minutes any more than his long-cemented Hall of Fame credentials. The man who once played a rapping genie in a Hollywood movie, O’Neal has drawn affection wherever he has been. But as much as Boston has rallied around the four-time champion, the recent stops on his Shaq Across America tour suggest that whatever stage he happens to be on, a curtain is likely to fall. After years as a reputed backroom agitator, O’Neal has ironically become an unwitting accomplice to the inexorable forces of change. Rare is the N.B.A. superstar who makes as many stops as he has, even in career twilight. He has partnered with the best players of a generation — Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and now Kevin Garnett. The Celtics are his sixth team across 19 N.B.A. seasons, and his third in the last three. ... O’Neal did not talk to reporters after Game 3, dressing in an off-limits area before heading out. All in all, his return may have been the most celebrated eight-and-a-half-minute, 2-point performance in the history of the league."

  • Adam H. Beasley of The Miami Herald: "No one expected the Three Kings to share equally in the spoils this season. But even as a member of the most celebrated basketball alliance in a generation, Chris Bosh is still waiting for entree into sports-marketing royalty. Aside from an existing Nike apparel deal, he has yet to star in a major national advertising campaign. His biggest post-Heat endorsement deal appears to be a Miami auto dealership once represented by Wade. He’s far more famous, but apparently not richer. 'I haven’t benefited yet,' said Bosh. 'I just concentrate on playing basketball, and that will take care of everything else.' ... Sports marketing experts say Bosh, a soft-spoken Texan with a knack for viral video, has the potential to ride his Three Kings status to NBA superstardom. But a championship will be crucial for that leap. ... While he allowed a film crew to document his own decision-making on Miami last summer, that film hasn’t been released. His last Twitter posting was Nov. 21, and chrisbosh.com -- once the online hub for his All-Star campaign -- hasn’t been updated since he left Toronto. 'At one point and time in my career, I was caught up in it, but it doesn’t matter now,’ Bosh said after the James and Wade news conference had ended late last week. 'If it comes, it comes,’ he said of a Three Kings windfall. 'If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.’ "

  • John Gonzalez of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "If there's one indisputable truth about the NBA, it's that you need at least one, if not more than one, superstar to win a championship. As I've pointed out in this space in the past, only eight different teams have won the title over the last 30 years. Just one of those squads -- Larry Brown's 2003-04 Pistons - managed to secure a parade without an obvious future Hall of Famer on the roster. Which brings us back to the Sixers and Iguodala and why it's probably time for the organization to thank him for his effort -- and then fold him into an overnight shipping envelope and mail him off to whichever team will take him. He'll make $13.5 million next season. That's superstar money for a guy who simply isn't a superstar (for his career, he's averaged 15.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and almost 5 assists per game). The money isn't his fault. They offered it and he took it. Who wouldn't? But at some point someone in the Sixers front office needs to look at his production relative to what they're paying him and realize they aren't getting a solid return on their investment. If Stefanski is right and executives outside the area love Iguodala's game, it shouldn't be too hard to find someone to make up the guest bedroom and give him a new home."

  • Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle: "With the Rockets' search for a new coach focused on three finalists -- Lawrence Frank, Dwane Casey and Kevin McHale -- Daryl Morey's ultimate recommendation to owner Leslie Alexander might not come down to something that shows up on a spreadsheet. I'm guessing Morey's head -- and his spreadsheet -- are telling him to hire Frank, a Celtics assistant who has far more head coaching experience than the other two candidates combined and is respected around the NBA for his preparation, organization and intelligence. ... Casey, 54, would also be a conventional hire. He's a longtime NBA guy and highly regarded. He's only 53-69 in his time as a head coach, but he was put in a tough situation with the Timberwolves. ... Hiring McHale would be taking a huge chance. He's 53 and has little head coaching experience -- 39-55 during two interim stints with the Timberwolves. ... The thing that makes him a risk is that most of his NBA experience has been as a player or front-office executive. But his buddy, Larry Bird, was a successful head coach because he understood the things he didn't know. He surrounded himself with people to help with scouting reports, strategy and the like. ... The Rockets have missed the playoffs for two straight years, but with salary-cap room, two first-round draft picks and a nice core of vet-erans, Morey will for the first time have an opportunity to upgrade the roster. He has been fearless about taking chances on players in his four years on the job. Is he willing to gamble on a coach as well? In the end, that's what this search ap-pears to have come down to."

  • Michael Rand of the Star Tribune: "It's a new world order in the NBA. The Spurs, Lakers and possibly even the Celtics -- teams that combined to win 10 of the past 12 championships, including at least one each in the past four seasons -- are coming down the other side of the mountain. In their place is a group of teams that occupied the bottom of the NBA standings not that long ago but is now poised to contend -- or dominate in some cases -- in the league for many years to come. We'll look specifically at four teams, all of which are still alive in this year's playoffs. Remember, Timberwolves fans: Not too long ago, these teams were a lot like Minnesota: Chicago, Oklahoma City, Atlanta, Memphis."