First Cup: Friday

  • Jennifer Floyd Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Game 5 was all about The Four Js. Three Mavericks. Four Js. That is Mavs guards Jason Terry, Jason Kidd and J.J. Barea, for all of you scoring along at home. And that unlikely trio, at least in this series before Thursday, has this Mavs team a victory away from an NBA Championship. All of them had been under heavy criticism, JKidd for seemingly retiring, JJ for failing to hit seemingly a single shot all series and JTerry for his mouth delivering more than him. And all of them were decisively clutch in Thursday's 112-103 at a rocking AAC. ... The Big German's little friends finally showed up. All of them. Together. Big time. And in the fourth quarter, with everybody expecting LeBron to go all beast on this game after calling this 'biggest game of his life' and some such nonsense, J.J. Barea and JKidd and JTerry were the ones knocking down the big shots. Do not mistake this as saying they were alone because a rather large German again led this team in yet another fourth-quarter counterpunch. They simply joined what had for long portions of this series been a lone scoring march by Dirk, with gutty defensive help from Tyson Chandler and Shawn Marion."

  • Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "James and Wade were supposed to shine together in these moments on their way to winning multiple championships. That talk is gone, with the Heat needing to win the last two games to keep this season from ending in disappointment. Now, the discussion is whether James can perform on the grandest of stages. With two days between games, he will once again have to hear about how he disappears in these moments. It's something that has never been a problem with Wade. He's earned a rep over the years for thriving in pressure situations. He's carried the Heat through the Finals, similarly to the way he did in 2006. Before the game, James made headlines for posting a message on his Twitter account that read: 'now or never!!!' If things continue like this, 'now' is not any time soon."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "There will be chalk. Just not right now, not with these stakes. Bypassing his trademark chalk toss at the beginning of games since the start of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat forward LeBron James said Thursday the tradition will resume next season. 'I'll get back to it, I'll get back to it,' James said during a private moment, when asked about the disappearing powder ... A ritual James continued through the opening round of the playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers, the toss has been replaced by a low-key clapping of rosin to dry his hands just before he takes the court for the opening tip. James said at the start of the Celtics series he was putting aside the chalk toss to keep the focus on the significance of the games."

  • Mike Wise of The Washington Post: "Why do you think LeBron’s favorite teams are the Yankees and the Cowboys -- why did he pull for Jordan and the Bulls as a youth and not the hard-luck Cavaliers 45 minutes from his apartment complex as a child? Because, the thought here is, he wanted one sure thing to hold onto; he wanted to be aligned with perennial winners. He needed something to latch onto that he couldn’t get at home: Trust. Safety. Security. The idea that LeBron James doesn’t have to do it all himself -- hoist a mother and extended family out of abject poverty, make a franchise profitable while ensuring economic prosperity for a struggling Midwestern city, take a team to the Finals by himself -- is probably the most comforting thing in the world. It’s something that two-parent, supportive households like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant’s don’t quite understand. It’s why we’re all enraptured by one question as Game 6 -- maybe LeBron’s last this season -- looms. What will the flawed star do? Can the gifted child shake his boyhood demons and rise above more LeBron Bash-a-thon the next 48 hours to take his rightful place at the top of his profession? Or does all he can’t leave behind catch up with him on his home floor, something his most strident supporters cannot bear to watch?"

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: "On the rescinded trade that would have brought Tyson Chandler to Oklahoma City: The rescinded trade still worked out for OKC. With Chandler on board, there would have been no trade with Chicago that landed Thabo and eventually Eric Maynor. With Chandler on board, there would have been no cap room to sign Nick Collison to the kind of contract he signed. So this deal had a lot of moving parts. It worked out well for OKC. And remember, two teams after the rescinded trade dealt away Chandler. The Hornets for something, the Bobcats for nothing."

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "So I contacted Magic coach Stan Van Gundy yesterday about how Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks are proving during the NBA Finals that a one-superstar team can compete with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat. I’m so glad I was able to get in touch with SVG because he somewhat validated something I’ve thought for years and years: That Scottie Pippen may not have been a superstar and calling him one of the greatest players of all-time may be a fallacy. Van Gundy noted that some of the greatest teams in recent NBA history weren’t exactly loaded with superstars. He first listed the Detroit Pistons of a few years ago – a team that went to six straight Eastern Conference finals and won one championship. 'Was there even one Hall of Famer on that team?' Van Gundy asked rhetorically. 'Debatable.' Then he went to Michael Jordan’s dynastic Bulls and their six championships. Van Gundy speculated that perhaps Jordan was the only superstar on that team. 'I have always wondered, as good as Scottie Pippen was, would he have been considered a star if he hadn’t played with Jordan and had to carry a team on his own,' Van Gundy explained. 'We’ll never know, but my point is that sometimes we make the determination after the fact. In other words, after Chicago won championships, we branded Pippen a star.' To me, Pippen is the Phil Rizzuto of the NBA. Rizzuto, of course, was the shortstop of the dynastic New York Yankees of the 1940s and ’50s that won 10 American League championships and seven World Series. He was good player who was elevated to Hall-of-Fame status because of the teams he played on."

  • Jerry Crowe of the Los Angeles Times: "Kobe Bryant's silence regarding the Lakers' hiring of Mike Brown as Phil Jackson's replacement is off-putting. It would seem that he's miffed about the hiring, unhappy he wasn't consulted about it beforehand or stubbornly playing it close to the vest simply to keep everyone in suspense. This week, when asked about Brown at a news conference to launch a charitable foundation, Bryant defiantly told reporters, 'Right now is not the time nor the place.' If it's all good, why not say it?"

  • Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News: "You can argue that trading Monta Ellis is the wrong decision because Ellis is such a special scorer. That's worth a debate. Or you can think it's what has to be done because the Warriors won't be a realistic playoff contender unless they get bigger, either on the frontline or with a taller guard to pair with Stephen Curry (or trade Curry to pair with Ellis -- your choice). Which is what I believe. And I believe Curry is the keeper because he's younger and a truer distributor-scorer, not just a scorer. Both are sketchy on D -- no advantage there for either. But what Warriors fans can't do any more is put their hands over their eyes and ears and deny that the team could or will ever consider trading a player as popular as Ellis. That's the old Warriors. As it is becoming increasingly clear, these are not the same old Warriors -- addicted to popular players and not to the tricky stuff like building a roster that can play D and win games."

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: "I recently talked with a league general manager who told me that the Blazers' roster is interesting in trade talks because it includes Miller's expiring deal, Marcus Camby's expiring contract, and players such as Rudy Fernandez and Batum who don't make much but can still produce. Has the window of opportunity in Portland closed on Batum? Feels like the Blazers were headed that direction in the playoffs. But I can't shake the sound of coach Nate McMillan's voice in the regular season, and all the praise he had for Batum's progress and defense. The Blazers are in a sticky spot. They're good enough to make the playoffs but falling behind fast in the arms race in the Western Conference. Oklahoma City and Memphis have left Portland in the dust, and so it feels like something dramatic must be done. But Monta Ellis? I don't see it. ... Ellis to Portland? I thought on it. Then saw reports about Ellis possibly headed to a handful of other NBA cities. Basically, someone in Camp Ellis is wishing and throwing pennies. I know Ellis' agent would love the Blazers to fall all over themselves trying to get him. I know that the Warriors, with Jerry West around, are going to want Stephen Curry to play the point in order to play bigger. This Ellis deal works for a lot of parties. Just not Portland. The Blazers can do better."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "As sensational as the Finals have been, an unfortunate thought did come to mind in the final minutes. This will almost certainly have to do for a long while. As much as it would be wise to savor a series this good anyway, the chances of a season starting on time next fall seemed to be shrinking after two days of meetings between owners and players in Dallas. It’s not just that the sides are far apart, though they fell over each other to admit that they are. The problem is that they are entirely entrenched in their positions. It doesn’t matter how close or far apart they are if they are not moving. For all the proposals and counter proposals exchanged and to be put in writing by Tuesday’s meeting, the owners and players are not going anywhere. ... Better enjoy these games while we can."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Larry Bird has remained adamant that he’s in no rush to name a coach. Nothing has changed with Vogel and his status for having the interim tag removed from his name. He has been the frontrunner for the job since the Pacers were competitive in their series against the Bulls and he’s still the leader today. All Vogel has to do is put together a staff that meets Bird and owner Herb Simon’s standards to become the permanent coach. That became evident when Bird told Vogel he had to change his staff during a meeting on June 1. Bird wants one of the assistants to have extensive NBA experience. A combination of playing and coaching definitely helps. He also wants somebody to help out in a locker room that had issues at times last season. His preference on assistants hasn’t changed from last week. Former coach Terry Porter and Minnesota assistant John-Blair Bickerstaff, who is under contract with the Timberwolves until June 30, remain high on Vogel’s list. ... One significant difference you’ll see out of the coaching staff next season is that there will only be three assistant coaches. There’s routinely been three assistants on the bench with one or two more sitting behind the bench in the past."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Lockout or no lockout, Brandon Jennings is getting ready for next season. The Milwaukee Bucks point guard has been working out daily with team coaches and said Thursday he intends to stay in Milwaukee this summer to train. If NBA owners lock out the players when the collective bargaining agreement expires June 30, Jennings no longer will be able to work with team personnel. So he's getting a head start with them now while also trying to add some weight to his lean frame. 'The thing with me is I've got to keep eating,' Jennings said. 'I try to eat every three hours; that's the main thing that is going to help me just put on weight.' Jennings made an appearance Thursday afternoon at Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity's building site on the north side. He picked up a drill and helped install drywall at a home being built at 3603 N. 1st St. ... Jennings said his plans are to make Milwaukee his base this summer rather than going back to his hometown of Los Angeles. 'I'll be here the whole summer, so you'll see me a lot,' Jennings said. 'My plans are to live in Milwaukee right now and experience it a little bit better than I have before.' "

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "Geoff Petrie. Paul Westphal. Bobby Jackson. Gavin Maloof. Was there anyone in the Kings' private audience who didn't rush over to shake the kid's hand? Who didn't hover, as if what they really wanted to do was ask for an autograph? OK, so Pete Carril remained in his courtside seat. The legend is a little old for the rock star stuff. But whoever drafts Fredette gets the rock star stuff. Already, as the former BYU star auditions around the league, he is attracting larger-than-usual media crowds and is accompanied by a production crew documenting his experiences. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook. The man is a social networker extraordinaire. Imagine the clicks. Imagine the ticket sales. Imagine if he can play. ... Immediately after the session, Petrie walked to Fredette and shook his hand. Westphal, who dined with the high-profile prospect a night earlier, approached, smiling. Gavin Maloof approached, visibly animated. And you never know what the tight-lipped Petrie will do. Trade the pick. Trade back and draft Fredette. Keep the pick and draft Fredette, who on mock drafts ranges anywhere from No. 7 to the high teens. 'I would love to play here,' said the native of Glen Falls, N.Y. 'I think I would fit in very well, spread the floor, hit the shots, but also penetrate and get guys open. That (being the No. 7 pick) is something I would be very excited about.' "

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "Cavaliers Hall of Fame broadcaster Joe Tait always says the Cavs' 154-153 quadruple-overtime victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 29, 1980, was the greatest game he ever called, and it was Mike Mitchell who put an end to it. Mitchell, 55, the former Cav who passed away Thursday morning after a two-year battle with cancer, made two free throws with two seconds left to seal the win. One memorable photo shows coach Stan Albeck hugging Mitchell after the victory. 'He was really a good guy,' said Tait, who remembered that Mitchell sewed a lot of his own clothes. 'Just good people.' Mitchell, an Atlanta native who played at Auburn, was a first-round draft choice of the Cavs in 1978, the 15th pick overall. Known for his high-arching jump shot, the 6-7, 215-pound forward averaged 19.3 points in 31/2 seasons with the Cavs and was an All-Star in 1981, when he averaged a career-high 24.5 points per game. 'The entire Cavaliers organization is very saddened to hear the news of former Cavalier and NBA All-Star Mike Mitchell's passing,' said Campy Russell, a former teammate of Mitchell's who is now the Cavs' director of alumni relations. 'Mike was loved by many, both on the court and off, and he will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mike's entire family during this very difficult and sad time.' "

  • John DeShazier of The Times-Picayune: "When the music stopped on Randy Livingston’s career of hoops musical chairs, his seat was in Boise, where as a beloved player he led the Stampede to the D-League title in 2008, was selected the D-League MVP in 2007, was a first-team league player in ’07 and ’08, is the league record-holder for single-game assists (22) and is the only player in franchise history to have his jersey retired and a day named in his honor. It’s where he now is Coach Randy Livingston, having earned a one-year extension after leading the Stampede to a 24-26 record last season, including 22-13 in the final 35 games. 'I think probably the last four years of playing, I tried to quit a few times and kind of knew this is the route I wanted to go, just because of playing for a coach like Coach Fitz (Billy Fitzgerald at Newman), and all of my AAU basketball coaches, and Coach (Dale) Brown (at LSU) and all of my travels through the NBA,” said Livingston, who’s hosting his second annual Big Easy Elite AAU tournament June 18-19 at the Alario Center. I thought I’d gathered a wealth of knowledge, and it was just a matter of time. Everybody always said I would be a good (coach), but you never know. I think I got into it at the right time, right after I finished playing.' Hopefully, the timing is right, because heaven knows it seems not to have been during some critical times for Livingston."