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First Cup: Wednesday

  • Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals gave us the answer. Q -- Who stops Dirk for the Oklahoma City Thunder? Let's see now: The Thunder ran Serge Ibaka at him, then Nick Collison, and after that it was a collection of Kevin Durant, Thabo Sefolosha, while James Harden took a brief spin, and even Russell Westbrook got his turn. Who will be next for Game 2? Barry Switzer? Will Rogers? Any other famous citizens of Oklahoma who could possibly get a shot? A -- There appears to be nobody who stops Dirk. But check back Thursday in Game 2. Mr. Nowitzki put on one of the greatest playoff performances in NBA history, living large and also living at the foul line as the Dallas Mavericks, despite a brief fourth quarter scare, got this third round of the postseason started the right way, the Dirk way, with a 121-112 win. Forget the rust or rest question. Even after nine days between games, the Mavs needed only a first quarter warm up, then took over against an OKC club that will be gritty, but needs that answer for Dirk."

  • Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News: "It's a new playoff series, but Mark Cuban is continuing his recent playoff policy of not commenting to the media. Why he's not commenting, he won't say, though it should be pointed out he's no-commenting with a smile. One thing Cuban did offer, again with a smile, was that ABC's "Shark Tank" has been renewed for 13 more episodes next season. Cuban has appeared on several episodes this season. He said his possible inclusion next year is 'under negotiation.' The last time Cuban commented on anything Mavericks or basketball-related was during the first-round series against Portland."

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "Everything changed for the Oklahoma City Thunder when Nick Collison trudged toward the bench with 8:42 left in the third period. He had just been whistled for his fourth personal foul, joining frontcourt teammate Serge Ibaka,who only 2 minutes, 36 seconds earlier also had just come within two fouls of disqualification. At that moment, the Thunder was forced to finally unveil the matchup that was presumed to possibly be its best defense for Dirk Nowitzki -- a smaller lineup that trotted out Kevin Durant at power forward to deal with Dallas' 10-time All-Star. Five seconds in, disaster struck. Durant was called for a foul while defending Nowitzki as he backed down from the right block. Then another in the same situation five seconds later. It gave Durant his second and third fouls and gave the Thunder confirmation it had no defense for Dirk on this night."

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: "In a game that quickly became a shootout, thanks to baskets by the number and whistles by the score, Nowitzki's running buddy delivered. Durant's did not. Westbrook made just three of 15 shots, and though he finished with 20 points thanks to repeated trips to the foul line, Westbrook's errant offense kept the Thunder from mounting a serious charge most of the night. Meanwhile, Dallas' Jason Terry scored 24 points, and for grins, backup point guard J.J. Barea added 21. They combined to make 16 of 28 shots. 'Russell Westbrook will not go 3-for-15 again,' Durant said. 'You can quote me on that.' Westbrook seemed to shoot short all game long. I doubt he was nervous; never has shown that. Maybe it was the specter of Tyson Chandler's long arms waiting. Maybe a season of critics trying to get into his head has finally taken its toll. Whatever happened, this was not a tough-luck night when the ball wouldn't bounce for Westbrook. This was a night when he, to use Scotty Brooks' word for Durant's Game 6 in Memphis, 'stunk.' "

  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "Here’s everything you need to know about the Heat’s ability to rebound from that Game 1 loss and recover in this series: It’s on the Big 3 to make that happen. It’s a thought that would worry most Heat fans who are begging for Miami’s supporting cast to produce like Chicago’s -- fans who are afraid the Big 3 are finally facing a team they can’t beat by themselves. But it also should be a comforting thought to know that these three are putting even more on their shoulders because, frankly, who else would you prefer to rely on? They have done this before. James, regardless of what some would say, has put up big numbers against a Tom Thibodeau defense. He has put up huge rebounding totals. He has recovered from poor games with an explosive performance at just the right time. Wade has done all of those things. Bosh maybe doesn’t have the same track record, but hasn’t he inspired confidence based on his past three playoff performances? So when all three of them look at what was missing from the Heat in Sunday’s disappointing opener, they see blanks they can fill. They see areas they have filled before. Plenty of times."

  • Brian Hamilton of the Chicago Tribune: "What is likely to go on at the United Center? James and/or Dwyane Wade likely will recover from forgettable Game 1 efforts and possibly get on a roll. And it will fall to Rose, a one-man counterattack, to be patient against a scheme designed to slow him and also provide a stinging scoring rebuke, if necessary. 'You do what the game tells you to do,' Rose said. 'Last game, it didn't really take me scoring that much. But you never know. Next game it could be passing, next game it could be defense. Whatever the game tells me to do, that's what I try to do out there.' Game 1 was a fine example, a 28-point night that looked not even a little forced. That effort included the game's momentum-swinging shot to boot, a third-quarter 3-pointer to start a 10-0 run. ... Rose was asked Tuesday if the idea of winning the postseason MVP award, too, sounded good, and he humbly said he would 'love it' before retreating to the immediate present. 'I just want to go farther,' he said. 'I'm not trying to stop here.' How far the Bulls go could depend on how well Rose stops the momentum his luminous counterparts forge, starting in Game 2."

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "It took a moment before Jamin Dershowitz announced the combination belonged to the Cavs via the trade that brought Baron Davis from the Clippers for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon. Jeff Cohen remained motionless -- outside. 'Wow,' he said later. 'The rush that came over me.' In tidy printing, he wrote on his legal pad, 'We got the first pick from the Clippers!!!' He was already planning to frame that sheet with the ping pong balls and the official sheet showing the winning combination. The process was repeated for Minnesota, which earned the second pick, and Utah, which earned the third via a trade with New Jersey. The toughest part then was waiting 97 minutes before being able to rejoin Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and his 14-year-old son Nick, who represented the team on TV. 'It is absolutely excruciating,' a smiling Cohen said while waiting. 'I want to scream from the rooftops we've got 1 and 4. I never thought it was possible. Maybe 2 and 5. I never thought that pick through our Clippers trade ... what a great trade. What a great trade. One and four is an unbelievable opportunity for this organization. Hopefully we don't have to come back to this room for a long, long time.' "

  • Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune: "David Kahn was standing there with Utah General Manager Kevin O'Connor and 14-year-old Nick Gilbert -- the son of Cleveland Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and a young man battling a rare nerve disorder. "I did tell [O'Connor] ... as soon as the 14-year-old kid joined us, we were toast,' Kahn said. 'There was no way the 14-year-old was about to be denied in a league that has a habit of compelling story lines.' He was joking, folks. Kahn was not suggesting that Cleveland's getting the top pick right after losing LeBron James -- and with a first-round choice acquired in a trade with the Clippers! -- was anything other than lottery luck. Cleveland was the big winner, ending up with the first and fourth picks. Utah also jumped up into the lottery, finishing third. By finishing second, the Wolves might have been toast, but they didn't get burned, either. It's the team's highest finish in 14 trips to this lottery. Kahn has the second pick in what is generally considered a two-player draft, with Duke guard Kyrie Irving and Arizona forward Derrick Williams considered the top two. And while Kahn took issue with any ranking done this early in the draft process, he did allow that the Wolves have some leverage to make moves in the coming weeks. 'We have a lot of flexibility,' Kahn said."

  • Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune: "This never happens here. The Jazz, the NBA franchise operating in the town where the league’s draft lottery long ago was created, ironically enough, finally caught a break from the system. Thanks to moving up from No. 6 to No. 3 with the draft pick they received from New Jersey, the Jazz have a much bigger and better outlook. A month after the cursed season of 2010-2011, general manager Kevin O’Connor almost smiled, while recognizing how much scrutiny -- of him and by him -- will be involved in the June 23 draft. 'The pressure’s on,' Kevin O’Connor said, 'but that’s OK.' It’s better than that. The Jazz now can land the young, talented center they need: Enes Kanter of Turkey via Kentucky. This also enables them to be more creative with their own pick (No. 12), which brings The Jimmer Issue into full bloom over the next five weeks. This draft will not instantly transform the Jazz into Western Conference contenders, but the three-slot leap was significant, for multiple reasons that begin with the answer to this question: How do you like the Deron Williams trade now? ... Tuesday’s news keeps everybody looking forward, not backward. Now come the weeks of wondering about Kanter, who was ineligible this past season as a Kentucky freshman and turns 19 on Friday, and the debate about BYU guard Jimmer Fredette, who falls at No. 12 or soon afterward in most draft projections. As of Tuesday, Corbin just liked the idea of a No. 3 pick being able to play 'sooner than later.' That’s also how much the Jazz’s timetable for getting back into the playoffs accelerated."

  • Jason Reid of The Washington Post: "For the Wizards to join the league’s elite as quickly as the Thunder, Grunfeld soon must provide standout rookie point guard John Wall with at least one teammate who also possesses superstar potential. Washington, which learned Tuesday night it would have the sixth overall pick in the June 23 draft, also holds the 18th overall selection, so the program could remain on track if Grunfeld gets things right. If Grunfeld chooses poorly, however, the Wizards potentially face a setback at a key juncture. Thunder General Manager Sam Presti, who honed his player-personnel skills while steadily rising in the front office of the San Antonio Spurs, provided the blueprint from which Grunfeld is working. It’s actually just a common-sense, scouting-based approach that emphasizes long-term rewards instead of quick fixes for franchises starting over. Many basketball operations officials have drawn from the plan Presti developed shortly after he was hired to run the then-Seattle SuperSonics in 2007."

  • Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail: "That the Raptors rewarded Bryan Colangelo with a two-year contract extension on Tuesday, adding a club option for a third season, is hardly a hearty clap on the back. They say when you negotiate a contract like this you are negotiating two things at the same time: terms of employment and terms of dismissal. With Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan attempting to sell its majority stake in team owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, and the NBA likely headed for an off-season lockout (although unlike the NFL, indications are the labour climate has softened and obstacles might be resolved without any games lost), the sense here is that both sides viewed each other as their safest choice. This is an easy contract to get out of, in other words, either if you’re a new majority owner or a guy who is unhappy with the new majority owner."

  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: "Tony Parker’s basketball season might have ended prematurely. But he’s not letting that disappointment dampen his birthday celebration this week in New York City. The Spurs point guard turned 29 today. He’s spent the last couple of days having fun in the Big Apple. He saw his close friend, French soccer star Thierry Henry, who was playing soccer this weekend with the New York Red Bulls. And Saturday night, New York Post insiders saw Parker galavanting with a noble wingman when he toasted his birthday flanked by noted French-Caribbean model Willy Monfret at Abe & Arthur’s Steakhouse in New York City. The Post reports that the appearance of Parker and Monfret was enough to 'turn the heads of the restaurant’s female clientele.' Following a birthday toast, Parker and his group then hit the chic New York City club SL 'with girls following in their wake,' according to the Post. Life is obviously quite good for Parker these days -- with or without basketball."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Larry Bird expressed how he feels about Frank Vogel again Tuesday when he said, 'definitely' when asked if he felt that the interim coach is the frontrunner for the job. ... The first thing that went through my head when Bird made that comment was: It’ll be interesting to see how many people agree to an interview when they know Vogel is the frontrunner for the job? But as the day progressed, I started to wonder: What if Bird made that comment to reduce the candidate pool? The Pacers are an enticing team because of where they’re at financially and they have a decent young group of players. They helped themselves out by being competitive in four of the five games against Chicago in the playoffs. Bird has never been one to waste time talking to a person. He prefers to say what he has to say and move on. That’s why you shouldn’t expect him to take a page out of the Houston Rockets’ book and interview everybody that’s interested in the job. Bird will talk to a couple of people and then make a decision on who he wants to be the coach (likely Vogel)."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "You bring up a hot topic around Nuggets nation - what to do about Nene. I say if you can get the guy to agree to an extension, you lock him up. Even though he's not an all-star, he's a double-double guy and that's hard to replace. And, frankly, if you lose Nene, even if you bring back Kenyon Martin, you have a gaping hole in the low-post. Yes, like you mentioned, Denver could get a big in the draft, but the guy they get at No. 22 is not going to match Nene's production next season - and next season, you're hoping to make a push in the postseason. Yeah, they could draft someone who could turn into a nice player, but George Karl is happy with his team right now and, frankly, the West is going to be wide open next year. I agree with you, they've got to get a big in the draft, but they need to keep the big they already have, too (because, as we know, Oklahoma City has a heck of a low post)."

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "According to esteemed colleague Tim Tucker, the Atlanta Spirit -- corporate motto: Everything Must Go! -- has entered into an exclusive negotiating agreement with outgoing San Diego Padres owners John Moores to buy the Hawks and Philips Arena. This is major news. But here we offer a couple of caveats: Exclusive negotiating agreements aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, especially when it concerns the Hawks, the Thrashers and Philips Arena. the Texas car dealer David McDavid had one of those with Time Warner in April 2003, and you see what it got him. (Actually, it got him $281 million from Time Warner after the conglomerate sold the teams and the building to the Spirit instead.) That the Spirit has entered into a negotiating agreement with someone who would agree to keep the Hawks in Atlanta -- and it’d be pretty hard to uproot Philips Arena and move it to Manitoba -- shouldn’t be taken as a sign that the Thrashers’ apparently imminent departure is any less imminent. On the contrary."