First Cup: Thursday

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "Daniel Gibson took issue with some of LeBron James' comments about his former teammates in Cleveland. After Miami defeated Chicago last week to advance to the NBA Finals, James talked about his decision to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. 'I wanted to team up with some guys that would never die down in the moment,' James said. 'The opportunity presented itself with this great organization and we made it happen.' Speaking on The Dugout Sports Show Podcast on Wednesday, Gibson said, 'The way it's said, you can't help but take it personal. ... I don't think great players should feel the need to say this about a team or say that about a team. I think what it all boils down to if you're great, you go play great, be great and everybody will realize you're great. And you wouldn't have to let it be known that everybody else was less great. Great players shouldn't have to do that. So I feel like it's kind of an admission. He might have needed some help. He might have needed to go somewhere and find someone who is a little greater so maybe he wouldn't die down in those moments.' "

  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: "He gave us Shaq-A-Claus. The Big Aristotle. The Hack-a-Shaq strategy. Being around him was a hoot. He used to play paintball in his Isleworth mansion. Invite an eclectic group of friends over from the late Michael Jackson to professional heavyweight boxer Shannon Briggs. He loved karate chop-'em-up movies, and once wore a ninja-style mask given to him by law enforcement officials as he was interviewed after a game in Orlando. Beneath the pretentious veneer on the court, Shaq was the kind of guy you would see at a McDonald's drive-through, ordering his favorite meal: a Big Mac meal, a quarter-pounder and a large soft drink. Always unconventional, he used the start-up social media network Tout to post his brief goodbye. 'We did it,' he says in the opening greeting. Perhaps stealing the signature line from Dora the Explorer was completely unintentional, but it was vintage Shaq. Even at 39, he can still connect the dots between multiple generations. 'TWISM' (The World is Mine), reads a tattoo on Shaq's right arm. His empire was truly boundless. No little pond could ever hold him back."

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: "One of my columns in January 2006 was a multiple-choice test to reveal to the reader if his or her mentality was more in line with Bryant's or O'Neal's. One of the questions contrasted Bryant living for silencing road arenas and O'Neal loving to hear home cheers. The thingabout the guy who needs to hear the cheers is that he will never just fade away -- so this is surely not the last we've heard from Shaq. He had planned to retire at 35, but he held on for four more years with four different teams. Rest assured that O'Neal will be more dedicated to finding a way to continue his star turn now than he ever was in maximizing his basketball ability. He could've been the greatest player this game has ever seen. It was just his choice to make the most of his time, not his ability. That doesn't make him a bad person, but it is a big part of his big picture. The portrait simply does not have a lot of layers. However hard Bryant has been to handle for plenty of people, bear this much in mind when you see O'Neal's next comedy act on camera or while he's winning 'Dancing with the Stars' ... The guy with the most acquaintances is never the guy with the best friends. Shaq is leaving the NBA. He'll just love the next one he's with."

  • Mike Wise of The Washington Post: "Just like that, the Big MVP somehow morphed into the Big AARP. Shaquille O’Neal, announcing his retirement via tweet video Wednesday afternoon, has backed his last inferior center into the post. Never again will the Diesel, the NBA’s most irresistible force since Wilt Chamberlain, dunk maliciously on a VW bug of a center like Greg Ostertag or Scot Pollard or Aaron Williams or, really, anyone but Tim Duncan, Alonzo Mourning and, sometimes, Dikembe Mutombo. One day, I’m interviewing this talented goof from LSU in his Orlando Magic cubicle two years into his career, thinking what might happen if his strength and skill ever match up with his desire. The next, that big kid is 39 years old, has played 19 seasons, won four championships and has more points (28,596) than anyone in NBA history except Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Chamberlain, who, as great and unstoppable as he was, never had a defense designed for him called Hack-a-Stilt. The most impressive statistic of all: Shaq, as much as he chipped paint off the rim from the foul line, actually finished No. 17 all-time in free throws made -- because beating him up physically was the only way anyone thought they could stop him."

  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: "As much as Shaq has wanted people to believe his rivalry with David Robinson was just an inside joke, there was something real going on. It came out on the court. It came out in Shaq’s book, too, when he called him 'Punk-ass David.' But over the years, Shaq softened, and last year showed all of it. He posed on a bench at Harvard Square in an afternoon of performance art, and he became Shaq-a-Claus at Christmas. He threw a birthday party for himself at the Children’s Museum in Boston and, according to a story on ESPN.com, he stopped at a Boston nursing home 'to watch a Celtics road game after a resident wrote him a letter inviting him to dinner.' He couldn’t play well anymore, but he could live well. So what if he had come back, joining Duncan, completing the circle? Here’s a guess.

    San Antonio would have liked this Shaq."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Funny, but I miss Shaquille O’Neal already. For good or bad, right or right, there was no one like him, with all the bluster and comedy, audacity and magnificence of a unique player/celebrity. While much has been said about a career and character like no others, I did think of an old argument a bunch of us enjoyed years ago over dinner during a playoff series in San Antonio. Who was better, Shaquille O’Neal or Hakeem Olajuwon? There were about 10 of us at the table. Two of us argued for Hakeem, the rest for Shaq. I don’t recall what was said, but I do believe something Mark Heisler of the LA Times told me years ago when Shaq was in LA and at his best. He said that technically, Shaq is the MVP anytime he plays. No one changes a game and everyone playing it that night more than Shaq in those days. He was right. Every game plan, every opponent, every teammate was impacted by that monster in the middle. My argument was that Shaq was generally a pretty lousy defensive player. Many teams ran pick-and-roll at him and advanced to the next round, some (including the Rockets, who were not normally a pick-and-roll team) in sweeps. Hakeem was a spectacular defensive player, one of the best ever. Both became great, great offensive players. It does not matter that Hakeem was quicker or more graceful, or Shaq was more powerful. They were at their best, the best offensive centers in the league. I went with Hakeem in the argument that night because of defense. Still do."

  • Charley Walters of the Star Tribune: "Kevin McHale, as the Timberwolves' vice president of basketball operations, fired Flip Saunders as coach during the 2004-05 season. Now they are peers, with Saunders coaching the Washington Wizards and McHale on Tuesday agreeing to coach the Houston Rockets. Saunders says his former University of Minnesota teammate will do fine. 'I think he'll enjoy it because they have a good, big, young kid down there in (7-foot-3 Hasheem) Thabeet, and Kevin will make it a personal challenge as far as working with him,' Saunders said. 'That's something he really enjoys, working with individual guys.' McHale had two interim stints coaching the Timberwolves before getting fired after the 2008-09 season. He has been working as a TV analyst. Saunders said the Western Conference, which includes Houston, will be a challenge. 'It's tough to break into the top eight in that conference -- you've got Memphis, which was No. 8, and they were pretty good,' Saunders said. 'So (McHale's) success with Houston, to start with, might not be judged just by wins and losses. They're in a building process, and he's going to have to look at it that way. But I think he'll do a good job.' "

  • Eric Koreen of the National Post: "Triano will remain as a consultant to Colangelo, who left the door open for Triano to be a member of the new coach’s staff. He will not get another chance to be in charge, and it goes beyond his 87-142 record since replacing Sam Mitchell on Dec. 3, 2008. Colangelo declined to get into details, but surely defence was a large part of the equation. Two seasons ago, the Raptors allowed 110.2 points per 100 possessions, the most in the league. This year, that number dropped -- to 110.0, still the worst mark in the league. That was a disappointment considering the team’s increased athleticism, even if it came in the form of inexperienced players. Expect defensive-oriented experts, such as ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy and Boston Celtics assistant Lawrence Frank, best known for their head-coaching stints in New York and New Jersey, respectively, to be among the names considered."

  • Paola Boivin of The Arizona Republic: "The thought of the Suns making Jimmer Fredette their first-round draft pick might be divisive among analysts, but it's not controversial in the mind of the BYU standout guard. 'It would be a good situation because I could learn from Steve Nash, one of the greatest of all time,' Fredette said Wednesday. "And I would be playing in a situation I would like to play in.' Fredette wants to be here. Here is hoping the interest is mutual. The Suns have the 13th overall pick in the June 23 NBA draft. Most analysts project Fredette, who became a national sensation during the 2010-11 college basketball season because of his offensive wizardry, as a mid-first-round selection. Isn't it time to stop talking about what Fredette can't do and reflect on what he can? This off-season is an important one for the Suns. They are swaying on a precipice and the personnel decisions they make will go far in determining their staying power the next few seasons. Can they build for the future while maintaining our interest in the present? Fredette addresses both challenges."

  • Gene Wang of The Washington Post: "Washington President Ernie Grunfeld and point guard John Wall, among others, watched Coach Flip Saunders and his staff put Burks, Thompson and a handful of other NBA hopefuls through several hours of drills on the auxiliary court. Also working out were guards Randy Culpepper and Andrew Albicy, forward-center JaJuan Johnson and power forward Tristan Thompson. ... Austin Freeman (Georgetown), Talor Battle (Penn State), Mike Davis (Illinois), Papa Dia (SMU), Justin Hurtt (Tulsa) and Ravern Johnson (Mississippi State) are scheduled to participate in Thursday’s workout."

  • Alan Hahn of Newsday: "Fredette, the NCAA player of the year, will be in New York Thursday to work out for the Knicks, who also had him in last year before the BYU star decided to go back to school. But with the Jazz, Suns and, perhaps, Pacers each eyeing him, this may be the closest the upstate Glens Falls native ever comes to being a Knick. But the rest of the group has a few notable names, as well, such as Klay Thompson (Washington State), who also has deep range and great size (6-6, 202 pounds) for a shooting guard. Then there are two other intriguing talents in 6-5 guard Marshon Brooks of Providence College and 6-4 guard Darius Morris from Michigan. Rounding out the group are a couple of bigs, such as Gary McGhee (6-11 from Pitt) and Denzel Bowles (6-10 from James Madison), but all eyes will be on the guard play. And as much as the Knicks would like to fantasize about Fredette falling to them at No. 17, there might be more attention paid to Thompson, who is far more likely to be still available when the Knicks are on the clock on draft night."

  • Ian O'Connor of ESPNNewYork.com: "So the Knicks are scheduled to work him out Thursday just like they worked him out last year, when Fredette suffered a quad injury and pulled his name from the draft. The Knicks wanted the Brigham Young star to leave school early, wanted him to stay on the board so they could grab him in the second round at No. 38 or 39, and instead Fredette made the smartest choice of his charmed basketball life. He became a coast-to-coast phenomenon as a BYU senior, running and gunning his way to a likely place among the top 15 picks on the night of June 23. But there's a legitimate chance Fredette might fall to No. 17, his preferred destination, and if the most recognizable name in college basketball does indeed put Donnie Walsh on the clock, the Knicks should do the one thing Fredette wasn't asked to do in school: Pass. This is no sweeping indictment of Fredette, who should have a long and productive NBA career in someone's rotation. At a muscular 6-foot-2 with a jump shot to die for, Fredette could end up as another Vinnie Johnson, a microwaveable option off a lucky coach's bench. Only Fredette doesn't match up with any of the Knicks' pressing needs. They are short on size, rebounding, and interior and perimeter defense. They need a shooting guard with a reliable jump shot, but not one that comes packaged inside a point guard's body."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "Denver has the No. 22 pick in the June 23 draft. One of the more intriguing prospects to work out Wednesday was Jordan Williams, a 6-foot-10, 250-pound post from Maryland. He was joined by guards Iman Shumpert of Georgia Tech, Corey Fisher of Villanova, and Smith, who helped Duke win the 2010 NCAA title, as well as forwards Nikola Vucevic of USC and Malcolm Thomas from San Diego State. The Nuggets will host another round of players today, including guard Charles Jenkins of Hofstra and Travis Leslie of Georgia, both possible late first-round talents, and CU guard Cory Higgins."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Marcus Morris and his twin, Markieff, have broken up their brother act, not necessarily by choice. You see, the two Kansas juniors are expected to be first-round picks in the June 23 National Basketball Association draft, with Marcus projected as a lottery pick and Markieff not far behind. So the next time you're watching them, they could be going against each other rather than playing as a frontcourt tandem the way they did for the Jayhawks. ... The 6-foot-9, 235-pound Morris was the headliner of Wednesday's six-player group as the Bucks began four consecutive days of workouts for draft prospects. Also competing were 6-10 power forward Trey Thompkins of Georgia; 6-3 combo guard Malcolm Delaney of Virginia Tech; 6-2 guard Andrew Goudelock of the College of Charleston (S.C.); 6-6 small forward Anatoly Bose of Nicholls State (La.) and 6-3 guard Dwight Buycks of Marquette."

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: "The Kings will host a pre-draft workout with Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight at the team's practice facility Thursday. It will be the first workout the Kings have hosted in preparation for the NBA draft on June 23. The Kings pick seventh in the first round. ... Adding another ballhandler would free the Kings from having to rely on Evans and Udrih to run the offense. The Kings also are expected to look at wing players with the hopes of solidifying the small forward position in the future. San Diego State small forward Kawhi Leonard, one of the top wing players available, is expected to work out for the Kings. Other guards the Kings could consider with the seventh pick include Connecticut's Kemba Walker and BYU's Jimmer Fredette."

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "The Trail Blazers have finalized the group of prospects they will host during their first predraft workout, scheduled for Monday at the practice facility in Tualatin. Here’s the list: Isaiah Thomas, guard, Washington, Corey Fisher, guard, Villanova, Austin Freeman, guard, Georgetown, Jon Diebler, guard, Ohio State, Kenneth Faried, forward, Morehead State, Matthew Bryan-Amaning, forward, Washington ... The workout is a scouting opportunity for the Blazers as they prepare for the NBA Draft, which will take place June 23. They hold the 21st and 51st picks of the draft. Monday’s workout will be their only one next week."