First Cup: Friday

Celtics vs. Pistons

  • Rob Parker of The Detroit News: "After the Pistons lost Game 1, an aggravated Rasheed Wallace talked to the media in the locker room. Wallace didn't say much, but one nugget that came out of it was that the Pistons weren't afraid of the Celtics. They proved it on Thursday night in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals at the TD Banknorth Garden. ... 'They're a good ballclub,' said Wallace, who had 13 points on 4-for-7 shooting, including two 3-pointers. 'I think a lot of teams that played them in the postseason and regular season was scared of them like ... KG, Ray and Paul. They're good players, but we have good players also.'"

  • Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press: "The Bad Boys would have been proud. There was no spilled blood or any of the extracurricular ugliness that often defined those classic Pistons-Celtics playoff battles of 20 years ago. But the new generation channeled its ancestors' propensity for matching big shot for big shot when both time and throats grew tight. And wouldn't you know it? It was the rookie who proved the most comfortable in those most uncomfortable surroundings. 'Like I've said, again, I'm never scared,' said Rodney Stuckey."TrueHoop First Cup

  • Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe: "Consider this a master class. Consider this a statement. Consider this a vivid reminder that man cannot live on home-court advantage alone, not if the stated goal is an NBA championship. What a wonderful night this was to be a member of, the coach of, the owner of, or just a plain old fan of the Detroit Pistons. This was a demonstration of professionalism. This was the way a good team acts. A split in Boston was all they asked for, and now they have it."

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "He's still Big Baby, but he's not so much a babe in the woods anymore. Glen Davis has gone through a transition as the long season and intense playoffs have wore on. 'I look in the mirror and sometimes I don't think I'm the same person,' he said. 'I know I'm the same person, but I don't look like it. I guess part of it is maturity. There are things that you used to do that you don't do now.'' One of the things Davis doesn't do now is play regularly. He has been in and out of a rotation that has become smaller in the postseason. The playoffs as an entity are new to the rookie, of course. And he's learned they're just as wild as he'd been told."

  • Christopher L. Gasper of The Boston Globe: "If you're a Celtics fan and you see Pistons reserve center Theo Ratliff at a restaurant or walking the streets of our fine city, stop and thank him. Without Ratliff, the Celtics wouldn't be playing in the Eastern Conference finals. ... It was Ratliff's expiring contract and his $11.6 million salary for this season that allowed the Celtics to acquire Kevin Garnett from the Timberwolves in a deal that also shipped Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, and a pair of first-round picks to Minnesota. Without Ratliff's salary, the July trade wouldn't have worked from a salary-cap standpoint for Boston."

Lakers vs. Spurs

  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: "Phil Jackson is 40-0 in playoff series after winning the first game."

  • Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News: "One day after Kobe Bryant torched them for 25 second-half points, the Spurs seemed more impressed with another statistic: his assist total. Forward Bruce Bowen and guard Michael Finley both noted Bryant's desire to keep his teammates involved offensively is a sign the man Spurs coach Gregg Popovich calls 'the greatest player on the planet' has matured as a player."

  • Jerry Crowe of the Los Angeles Times:: "Kobe Bryant started calling himself 'Black Mamba' a few years ago, explaining to ESPN, 'The mamba can strike with 99% accuracy at maximum speed, in rapid succession. That's the kind of basketball precision I want to have.' ... He had it Wednesday night, but why'd he wait so long to reveal it? ... Oh, right, he wasn't cornered."

  • Ramona Shelburne of the Los Angeles Daily News: "The ball was loose, the game still very much in doubt. Lamar Odom, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan crashed to the ground in a wild scrum, racing for the long rebound. But it was Sasha Vujacic who came out with the ball ... and absolutely no one was worried. That illustrates how far Vujacic has come in his fourth season. Once regarded as an afterthought -- or worse, a draft mistake -- Vujacic has developed into one of the Lakers' most important role players, both for his machine-like sharpshooting from behind the 3-point arc and his pesky, in-your-face defense."


  • Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Let me make this clear. I know John Paxson. And he likes posses and attitudes about as much as he likes personal hair plugs. When he was a Bulls TV and radio color analyst for seven years, Paxson would privately voice his disgust over certain players who were more interested in money and style than in floor burns and wins. The player the Bulls take with this pick should -- will -- be the poster child for the organization for the next decade. And child might be an operative word. Beasley is 19. Rose is 19."

  • Ashley Fox of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Maurice Cheeks, 51, has gout, an arthritic condition characterized by sudden and severe episodes of pain, tenderness, redness, stiffness and swelling of joints that affects upward of five million Americans. It is a manageable condition, one caused by an increased level of uric acid in the body, but it's a condition that, left untreated, can have crip
    pling long-term effects. Like many people afflicted with gout, Cheeks said he thought his occasional bouts of tender feet and knees were simply a fact of life. Now, after signing on as a spokesman for Gout Awareness Day, he has learned that there is a treatment for his condition, although there is no cure. 'I didn't know a whole lot about it,' Cheeks said yesterday after a news conference in Manhattan to promote the second-annual Gout Awareness Day, sponsored by the Gout & Uric Acid Education Society."

  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "'It's good to know,' said Devin Harris, referring to Avery Johnson's claims of protesting the historic deal of Feb. 19. 'But there's not a lot we can do about it now. We were close, and this is his way of showing his allegiance to me. I don't think he was a big contributor to the trade talk when it was going on. He was giving his output -- a little bit, here and there -- to show it wasn't something he would have liked to do, just something he was compelled to do.' In other words, Harris actually thinks owner Mark Cuban and GM Donnie Nelson pulled the trigger without Johnson's full support?"

  • Jerry Brown of the East Valley Tribune: "From a distance, it might look like Steve Kerr is intent on talking to everyone in the NBA before picking the next coach of the Suns. Between the interviews, chats and permission requests, the number of possible candidates is well into the double digits. But there is a method to Kerr's madness. He isn't trying to fill one spot, he's looking at four or even five. If the head coach winds up being short on experience -- which seems a strong possibility -- Kerr is looking to mix and match strengths and give his staff depth and flexibility. And while Mike D'Antoni had autonomy when it came to his assistants, the new coach may only get one of 'his guys' with a lead assistant and development coach coming from aggressive suggestions by management."

  • Dwight Jaynes of The Portland Tribune: "In my heart of hearts, I don't think they're going to make that No. 13 pick -- and if they do, the player they select will be for another team as part of a trade. The Blazers are just too smart to waste a reasonably decent pick on a player who isn't likely going to be good enough to knock the team's top eight players out of the rotation. A long time ago, someone told me, 'If you can't draft a player any better than the people you have on your team right now, don't bother using the pick. Trade it.' I think it's sound advice. Even if you can't come up with a major player, a difference-maker, in a trade, it's probably wise to move the pick, along with someone on the team's bench (Sergio Rodriguez? Jarrett Jack?) who won't figure to play as much this season with the expected arrival of Rudy Fernandez."

  • Brian Hendrickson of The Columbian: "... the NBA could face a bear market for draft picks this year. And the flood of available selections could make it difficult for the Blazers to get more value in a trade than they could by using the pick itself."

  • Patrick McManamon of The Akron Beacon-Journal: "When Zydrunas Ilgauskas addressed the media following the Cavs' Game 7 loss in Boston, he piqued interest. Z has been around when the Cavs did not make the playoffs, and he has been around when the Cavs went to the NBA Finals a year ago and came within a whisker of beating the Celtics this year. He offered that 'the good thing' about playing for the Cavs nowadays is that 'if you don't win a championship, it's a failure.' Interesting that would be considered a good thing, but considering the nine years he has played, the team's recent play probably is a refreshing step forward to Z."

  • Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee: "The longtime NBA commissioner, who is contending with other serious matters that include an ongoing referee scandal and an upcoming legal hearing over the Seattle SuperSonics' relocation to Oklahoma City, didn't come to town because he needed the frequent flier miles. He insinuated himself into the situation because the Maloofs solicited his help 18 months ago, because his league (and his legacy) can only withstand so much hopscotching around the map, and most recently, because Moag quietly has convinced him that the stars and the political forces are aligning. Suddenly, it seems, everyone wants to deal."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Joe Wolf was considered a hot assistant coaching candidate, someone who had earned praise from the Denver Nuggets' George Karl and the New York Knicks' Mike D'Antoni. But the 43-year-old Wolf still needed to make the leap from the NBA Development League to the big leagues. When Scott Skiles called recently with an invitation to join the Milwaukee Bucks' reshaped coaching staff, Wolf's dream was realized. 'To get a call from a guy you have great respect for and have known for a long time, and to get an opportunity with a team in your home state, a team you grew up watching games in the MECCA, it's just a fantastic time in my career,' Wolf said on Thursday. Yes, you can go home again, Joe."