First Cup: Friday

  • Gil LeBreton of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "There have been great performances in Mavericks history -- Nowitzki has a majority of them. But there have been few truly memorable shots. Popeye Jones against the Utah Jazz, the basket that trumpeted the start of the franchise comeback? It will all pale now when Mavericks fans tell their grandchildren about the night Dirk Nowitzki -- with the middle finger of his left hand in a splint -- drove the paint and tossed up a scoop shot -- left- handed! -- to beat the mighty Miami Heat. The moment wasn't lost for wry symbolism. It was one of the Heat's Big Three, Bosh, whom Nowitzki eluded to head for the winning basket. And in the final three seconds that remained, it was the Mavericks' nightmare from the 2006 Finals, Wade, who launched Miami's final, futile shot that failed to connect. Wade ended up on his back, as the Mavericks swarmed around Nowitzki. Finger? He had just shown Miami and LeBron James one, so to speak. Pardon the U-turn. It's a series now."

  • Brandon George of The Dallas Morning News: "Much was made about Dirk Nowitzki's torn tendon in his left middle finger coming into Game 2, but he almost came away with another injury following his post-game media session. After addressing the media in an area that was squared off by black cloth, Nowitzki exited through the back and ran right into a steel pole with his head, letting out a loud, 'Oh.' He then addressed a swarm of German media members for about 10 minutes of more questions."

  • Jennifer Floyd Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Of course, they over-celebrated. And, of course, it was premature as well. This is The Heat and this is what They and The Big Three and mostly LeBron do best, prematurely crowning themselves champions of nothing that actually matters. So nobody should have been too surprised whenDwyane Wade capped his a 3-pointer to give Miami a seemingly insurmountable lead with 7:14 remaining in Game 2 of the NBA Finals with a couple of poses. He preened a little for the crowd, nothing too awful, kind of like what DeShawn Stevenson does. And then LeBron came over and pushed the celebration over the top by fake punching DWade in the chest like 'you the man, we the men, we did it.' The move looked choreographed by LeBron's mom it was so cheesy. And all of this went down right in front of the Mavs bench as coach Rick Carlisle and his players watched absolutely gutted which turned to looking punching angry which morphed into steely resolve. All of them had that look. 'We noticed,' Mavs big man Tyson Chandler said from the Mavs locker room as he iced his weary ankles. 'It was definitely frustrating.' So I asked: Did it motivate y'all? 'When you got a guy showboating in front of your bench with seven minutes remaining, you say 'The game is not over. I don't care what they say the game is not over,' ' Chandler said."

  • Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "In its time-out huddle, Dallas coaches expected the Heat to use its one foul to give. In its time-out huddle, Heat coaches talked about the foul to give without Dallas going into the bonus. As Dirk Nowitzki made his move, Heat coach Ron Rothstein shouted, 'Foul! Foul! Foul!' Chris Bosh didn't foul him. No one did. So with 3.6 seconds left in the game Nowitzki made a nice drive for a lay-in basket that gave Dallas the unlikely win and evened the NBA Finals series at 1-1. Bosh, asked about it, simply said he made a 'mental mistake.' A costly mental mistake, to be sure. And an unfortunately strange one for as smart a player as Bosh is and as solid a playoffs as he's had. Sometimes you get beat by a shot in the NBA. But you shouldn't get beat because you didn't give the foul you were supposed to give."

  • Israel Gutierrez The Miami Herald: "Launching threes, hitting threes, shutting down superstars, holding the slimmest of leads at home or on the road -- all of it appeared to be a piece of cake for LeBron James and the Heat in these playoffs. And then Thursday happened. And then the fourth quarter happened. And then Dirk Nowitzki happened. And then all those good feelings that had been built up over the past two series of impressive close-outs dissolved with one left-handed layup. An injured left hand at that. The final 7 minutes 14 seconds of Thursday’s stunning Mavericks win were an awful, horrendously timed reminder of just how ineffective the Heat offense can be when things go stagnant, when LeBron’s miracle threes aren’t falling through the net, when the other team has someone just as capable of hitting demoralizing buckets. And as much as James was credited for those amazing close-out performances against the Celtics and Bulls, he has plenty of blame to take in this one. One awful finishing performance doesn’t entirely erase everything James has done up to this point in previous fourth quarters. But in this game, on the biggest of stages, it certainly creates a few cases of temporary amnesia."

  • Mike Wise of The Washington Post: "How LeBron and Wade and Bosh and crestfallen friends let this game get away from them will either go down as one of the great, late-game indictments in Heat history or serve as perfect Game 3 motivation for a team that seemed to be coasting through these NBA Finals as if it was supposed to win in five games or less. Or, they can admit the truth and write it off to one surreal player who was better than all of the most talented threesome in the game when it mattered most. Dirk, more than anything, happened to Miami. Dirk hijacked this game from Wade the way Wade and the Heat stole Game 3 of the 2006 finals, in which Miami came back from 13 down in less than seven minutes. This was perhaps’ the finest minute of Nowitzki’s career. In 57 seconds he scored seven points. The first bucket tied the game, the second gave Dallas the lead and the last drive won it, suctioning every sound from the building."

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: "Those who despise how the Miami Heat were assembled, the runaway-style introduction after LeBron James’s decision, the confidence bordering on arrogance, and their championship-like celebration after disposing the Celtics are snickering after Miami’s historic collapse last night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Partying like it was a three games to none series lead, James and Dwyane Wade showboated after Wade’s 3-pointer directly in front of the Mavericks bench extended Miami’s lead to 15 points with 7:14 left. The Heat obviously forgot that the Dallas Mavericks are perhaps at their best when the boot is on their neck."

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "The retirement announcement should have been on the Staples Center court in front of thousands. His eight Lakers championship rings should have been displayed in front of him. The beginnings of a statue should have been visible beyond him. And Kobe Bryant should have been standing beside him. Amid a national outpouring of love and respect for basketball's most entertaining big man, I must add two more overpowering emotions that Lakers fans will surely understand. I cannot say goodbye to Shaq without a bit of anger and plenty of regret. He should have worked harder here. He should have acted more maturely here. And, despite even these issues, he never, ever should have been allowed to leave. If Shaquille O'Neal remained here beyond 2004 instead of being traded away after eight memorable seasons, he might have become basketball's greatest center and the Lakers would have become basketball's greatest champions. But he acted like a baby. And Kobe Bryant acted like a baby. And, to be honest, owner Jerry Buss acted like a bit of a baby. All this whining cost the Lakers all sorts of winning, making the end of the Shaq saga the most regrettable in the history of Los Angeles sports."

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "When Shaquille O’Neal left Orlando all those years ago, he potentially took a sixpack of NBA championships with him. This is what former Magic star and current Magic executive Nick Anderson contended when we interviewed him about Shaq’s retirement on our critically acclaimed radio show Thursday. 'I’m honest when I say this, I think we would have had five or six championships,' Anderson said of the mid-1990s Magic team he played on with Shaq, Penny Hardaway, Horace Grant and Co. Anderson also told the the story of the summer day in 1996 when he found out Shaq was leaving for the L.A. Lakers. 'I was sitting at my home in Chicago watching the Olympics (in 1996) when a special bulletin came on and I happened to see the Big Fella (Shaq) holding a (Lakers) jersey standing next to Jerry West,' Anderson remembers. 'I fell off the couch. Two minutes later, my phone rang and it was my dad calling to say, ‘You know, your championships just went to L.A.’ And how right he was. They (those championships) left and went to L.A.' "

  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: "Now that the Timberwolves apparently have Ricky Rubio under contract for at least the next three years, the club suddenly is in a rare position of leverage and opportunity heading into the June 23 NBA draft. Rubio's arrival eases pressure on the Wolves to solve their quandary at point guard, considered a key offseason priority for the team in light of Jonny Flynn's fading skill level and Luke Ridnour turning 31 next February. Even if Duke point guard Kyrie Irving, the projected No. 1 pick, slips to the No. 2 spot, the Wolves could select him, then trade him on draft night to acquire an established veteran or veterans, another offseason priority for the club. The Wolves also could entertain trading Rubio, but that seems unlikely because the club has waited two years for him and is eager to market the 20-year-old Spanish standout. 'It's a very good sign for the front office that we finally got it done,' Wolves all-star forward Kevin Love said Thursday night. 'Everybody was drowning in the fact that it kept going on and on. Ricky has a chance to be a high-level player in this league.' "

  • Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail: "Indeed, there is only one element of Triano’s departure that elicited as much as a raised eyebrow in Toronto. Colangelo was on record as saying before he was given his non-vote of confidence by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment that even if he was not asked back, he would recommend to his successor that Triano receive consideration for the head coach’s job. So, it would be okay for a successor to keep Triano but not okay for Colangelo to do so? Paul Jones, the radio voice of the Raptors, made a telling and accurate statement on Thursday when he suggested that while Triano’s replacement must be a coach who can take the team to the next stage, that stage did not necessarily include contending for a championship. There’s a ton of work to do with this group. They still can’t even see the cusp, let alone get to it, and thanks to a lousy bit of luck in the draft lottery, they will miss out on one of the two players who might be difference makers. They’ll be settling for the second-best point guard -- way second best -- or another big international player."

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "It was more than 28 years ago -- April 24, 1983, to be precise -- that Danny Ainge had a finger on his left hand bitten by Atlanta’s Tree Rollins during a playoff game at the old Garden. He admitted he had some flashbacks as he watched the Bruins duel with the Canucks during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. 'I watched the game,' Ainge said, 'but I wasn’t actually watching that part. But then I saw all the replays of it later. I got a chuckle out of it. I knew what he was going through. When I saw it, my finger hurt, too. It’s like because I’ve had so many sprained ankles, I can physically feel it when somebody else rolls their ankle. This was the same thing for me. I can tell you that nobody likes to have their finger bit. I definitely feel for (Bergeron).' At least Ainge got some justice out of his incident. The Celtics eliminated the Hawks in the first round that day, and Rollins received a $5,000 fine and five-game suspension to start the next season. Burrows received no additional punishment because the NHL said it was unable to find conclusive evidence regarding the Canuck’s dining habits."

  • Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times: "It’s time to raise the basketball rims. Ten feet, 6 inches would be a reasonable height, a half foot above the current rim, although I’d let you make an argument for 10-4 or even 10-8. Why? Because the current 10-foot rim, which has been at that arbitrary height ever since James Naismith nailed a peach basket to the lower railing of the balcony at Springfield (Mass.) College in 1891 has ‘grown’ too low. Well, the rim hasn’t moved, but the forest around it has. And that forest has become more specialized than ever. That is, the rim’s accessibility to all the freakishly tall men and jumping phenoms has made it into something not even close to what Naismith had in mind. We don’t need to honor that inventive man by adhering to all his wishes -- ol’ Doc didn’t think about backboards, goaltending or even dribbling at the start -- but we should acknowledge one key principle of his game: The rim was supposed to be something that was essentially out of reach, at which players shot the ball, not jammed it through from above. Oh, we love the dunk. Who doesn’t? Nor is this an argument against facials. Indeed, a 10-6 rim would no more stop jams than lowering the pitcher’s mound in baseball stopped no-hitters. It would just make such displays a little more, shall we say ... special?"

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "Now Baron Davis is following the message he's sending by going back to school to complete his history degree at UCLA. Davis said the thought of completing his degree became more important to him following the death of his grandmother, who always wanted him to go back and finish. At 32, he's finally going to do it. Davis said he has about two years left to complete his degree. ''I'm not far, but I'm definitely not close,' he joked. 'All the classes I'm signed up for are things I want to learn now. When you're in school, you're studying stuff wondering 'How am I going to use that in life' or 'What does that matter to me?' Then you get out in the world and you start traveling and history becomes one of the most important things. Now my brain is ready to receive that more than when I was 19 years old and I wanted to dribble [basketballs] all day.' Classes begin in July, and Davis will be splitting his time between Cleveland and Los Angeles until then. He says his knee and back, which both hampered him after the Cavs acquired him in February, are feeling better. He looked fit and trim in his Indians jersey and said he's back to playing pickup games."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "If Kansas's Markieff Morris plays as well as he talks, he'll be a very good NBA player. Morris, on what it's like to audition for all-time great (and Bobcats owner) Jordan: 'I felt it when he came in the gym - I just felt his greatness. ... The lights brightened. And you can see they went down a little bit (in Jordan's absence). That brightness, you just feel it on your back.' Morris, a 6-9 power forward (and twin to Marcus Morris, another first-round candidate), might have been the best of the six players auditioned Thursday. Said Silas: 'A very good shooter. He was tough and understands how to play the game. I think he has a chance to really be good.' Connecticut's Kemba Walker will be among those auditioning for the Bobcats today. The others: Delvon Johnson (Arkansas), Shelvin Mack (Butler), Trey Thompkins (Georgia), Tristan Thompson (Texas) and Nikola Vucevic (Southern California)."