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First Cup: Friday

Celtics vs. Lakers

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "They didn't choke. By definition, when one chokes, there is noise, movement, desperation. The Lakers didn't choke. They blew the NBA Finals without making a sound. They botched their entire season while standing still."

  • Jeff Miller of The Orange County Register: "From in control to in charge to in orbit. To in trouble? Yes, to in trouble. And now to this: The Lakers, barely an hour after opening a laughable 24-point lead, walked off the Staples Center court Thursday knowing their next game could be their last game. 'We just wet the bed,' Kobe Bryant said. 'A nice big one, too, one of the ones you can't put a towel over. It was terrible.' From 2-2 to 2 hard 2 believe."TrueHoop First Cup

  • Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald: "It went from being a game you wanted to forget to being a game you'll be telling your grandchildren about. It was the Red Sox coming back against the Yankees in '04. It was Adam Vinatieri making the kick in the snow against the Raiders. It was Havlicek stealing the ball, Orr sailing through the air, Pudge whacking the ball off the foul pole. In other words, it was one of the greatest games in Boston sports history. As if we needed another."

  • Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe: "Now I've seen it all. All season long this Celtics team has done improbable things -- like nobody sweeps the Texas trip, you know? -- but this was the absolute showstopper. Did I really just see the Boston Celtics come from 24 points down after submitting a horror show of a first half and come back to defeat the Lakers in their own building? I believe I did. They did it by obliterating the Lakers by a fairly amazing 57-33 score in the second half. They did it by taking control of the game in the final six minutes, coming back from their last deficit (81-77) with a 15-6 run, capped by an icy left corner 3-pointer from James Posey, who lived up to the praise heaped upon him way back in the early part of the season by Pat Riley, who informed the Boston media that the Celtics would really come to love Posey when they saw him raining threes in the playoffs."

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "According to Doc Rivers, Tom Thibodeau isn't the only hot coaching commodity on the Celtics staff. While Thibodeau has been mentioned in the running for several head coaching positions -- though strangely he hasn't been asked to interview for any of them -- Rivers would like the focus to expand to others. 'They've all been just as valuable,' Rivers said. 'Tom -- just because he's the head defensive coordinator, just like Buddy Ryan was with the Bears in the '80s -- he tends to get more pub. And he deserves it. But we have other guys who are critical to what we do, as well.' ... Kevin Eastman has been credited with helping Rajon Rondo develop his shooting. Clifford Ray, a champion with Golden State in 1975, has done a key job preparing the Celtics' young centers and power forwards for a run this deep into the playoffs."

  • Slam's Lang Whitaker: "Boston wins it 97-91. One quick thought on the way downstairs ... what happens to Boston without Perk and Rondo?"

Leaguewide

  • Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post: " ... what any team would wonder about, even more than Gilbert Arenas's flamboyance, is his health, coming off two injury-plagued seasons. Arenas, largely because of his unique skills and the way Ernie Grunfeld has acquired players who complement him, is still more valuable to the Wizards than to any other team, even if they have to overpay him for a player who has only once led his team out of the first round of the playoffs. The bottom line isn't whether the Wizards can keep Arenas, but whether keeping him ultimately facilitates getting any closer to every team's ultimate goal of playing in June."

  • K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune: "Vinny Del Negro said he understands how essential player development is from his front-office time with Phoenix. Now that development will be essential to his success. That process began with Del Negro reaching out to several players with phone calls Thursday to set up individual meetings. 'I will go on what the people here I trust have learned from them to develop the players as quickly as I can,' Del Negro said. 'But I want to give the players an opportunity and myself an opportunity to talk things through, to see what their mind-set is. I have no preconceived notions. I will have an open mind and then make quality decisions.'"

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Michael Gearon Jr., the Atlanta Spirit's principal basketball voice, said three days after the Hawks played their last game that Woodson 'deserves an opportunity to see what he can do with this team,' and the hope among all of us who care about basketball is that we haven't already seen it. Offering an incumbent two more contractual years isn't so much an endorsement as a deferral."

  • Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: " ... this new deal for Woodson comes with major potholes in my estimation. He's basically on a screw-up-once-and-you're-done contract."

  • Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "A month later, and Avery Johnson does not have work. 'Not true,' disagreed Johnson, who added with a laugh, 'I actually have the best job in basketball, thanks to Mark.' OK, due to the generosity of Mr. Cuban in fully guaranteeing his contract, which was noted by Avery on Thursday, he will earn $4 million next season, and if he so desires, $8 million over the following two seasons. For doing nothing. As Don Nelson once noted, 'getting fired has always been the best thing to happen to me, or at least to my bank account.'"

  • Tim Povtak of the Orlando Sentinel: "Q: How long did it take you to get over the playoff loss to Detroit? Dwight Howard: 'I'm trying to get over that. I'm on strike fro
    m basketball right now. Hopefully, they won't have the game on. I'll have to leave the building.'"

  • Janny Hu of the San Francisco Chronicle: "Marco Belinelli and Brandan Wright have been staples here over the last three weeks, starting their days around 10 a.m. with on-court drills before moving on to strength and conditioning work. Coach Don Nelson wants his younger players to be a bigger part of the rotation, which is just fine by the pair. Wright is fully healed from the groin injury that cost him the final four games of the regular season, and he has been working on his shooting -- both mid-range and trailing three-pointers -- as well as his ballhandling. A month from now, he and Belinelli will headline the Warriors' summer league contingent, with Wright looking to expand his game and Belinelli out to prove that he's more than a one-game wonder."

  • Lori Dann of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Brandon Bass has plenty to smile about these days. The Dallas Mavericks power forward no longer has to worry about toiling in the NBA Summer League after a solid third pro season. He averaged 8.3 points and 4.4 rebounds in 19.7 minutes during his first season with the Mavs and was especially productive in the playoffs, when his numbers jumped to 11.6 points and 6.8 rebounds in 26.6 minutes. Bass is looking for continued improvement under new coach Rick Carlisle and is using his spare time this summer to work toward his goal of eventually earning a starting job."

  • Fred Kerber of the New York Post: "Julius Hodge's attitude is one of maturity and gratitude. Hodge was dealt a bad hand but he somehow has found the positives and is trying for another chance at the NBA, this time with the New Jersey Nets. ... In April 2006, Hodge left a Denver nightclub, not too late by most standards. As he drove his car to an interstate ramp, another car drove by and bullets peppered Hodge's vehicle. He was hit four times. The case is still open. 'It just really opened my eyes,' said Hodge, aiming for a spot on the Nets' summer league team by working out at the team's facility daily with Vandeweghe, now Nets GM. 'It was an experience where at the time I was definitely afraid and frustrated that it happened. But as your maturity level expands, it showed me it was a blessing in disguise.'"

2008 NBA Draft

  • Tom Powers of The Pioneer Press: "There can be no misstep on June 26. Front-office credibility, already remarkably low, can't absorb another hit. So this looks like the perfect time to draft O.J. Mayo. ... the Wolves likely will select either Mayo, a guard out of Southern California, Brook Lopez, a center out of Stanford, or Danilo Gallinari, a small forward from Italy. That's assuming Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley go first and second overall. Something good can be said about all three potential picks. But, really, if Mayo is available, he should be the guy."

  • Alan Hahn of Newsday: "Another combo guard came to the MSG Training Center for a predraft workout with the Knicks and spoke with wide-eyed anticipation about playing in the Mike D'Antoni system. 'If you get the opportunity to play for D'Antoni,' O.J. Mayo said, 'you get a great chance to put up shots and really get up and down.' Like Eric Gordon and Jerryd Bayless who came in earlier this week, Mayo is known more for his scoring than his distributing skills and he showed just that -- an ability to 'put up shots and really get up and down' -- in his one-on-none workout Thursday for D'Antoni and his staff."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "UCLA's Kevin Love never was scheduled to audition for the Bobcats, one more indication he thinks he'll be gone before the Bobcats pick ninth. Love cancelled a workout with the Nets, drafting 10th."

  • Fred Kerber of the New York Post: "The favorable comparison is Hedo Turkoglu. There are good ball-handling skills and a considerable court IQ. There is maturity despite a birth certificate that won't be 20 years old until August. There is plenty to like about Danilo Gallinari, the 6-foot-9 Italian small forward who worked out -- in a private session -- for the New Jersey Nets yesterday. And there is really a lot to like if you are the Nets or New York Knicks."

  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "The team, which also has the 21st pick in the first round, worked out four other potential draftees -- Donte' Greene (Syracuse), J.J. Hickson (N.C. State), Kosta Koufos (Ohio State) and Anthony Randolph (LSU). Vandeweghe was especially impressed with the 6-11, 220-pound Randolph, probably the only one the Nets would consider at No. 10"

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Last summer Roy Hibbert was a projected lottery pick after he helped Georgetown reach the Final Four and held his own against Ohio State's Greg Oden. This summer, after an inconsistent senior season, he is viewed as a mid-to-late first-round pick. 'Sometimes people like to tell me I would have gone higher last year, but I don't think I was mentally or physically ready to go last year,' Hibbert said Thursday after working out for the Indiana Pacers. 'Obviously my stock was a lot higher last year after that Ohio State game. I feel like this year I'm more ready for the endeavors and the rigors of the NBA season.' ... Hibbert spent two hours Thursday banging with two other big men projected to go in the first round: Texas A&M's DeAndre Jordan and Nevada's JaVale McGee."

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "The Trail Blazers on Thursday held their most meaningful predraft workout this offseason featuring three players eager to fill the team's most glaring weakness: point guard. A blend of athleticism (Russell Westbrook), quickness (Ty Lawson) and untapped potential (Rodrigue Beaubois) visited the Blazers' practice facility during a workout that general manager Kevin Pritchard called the most competitive yet. Its significance is summarized by one fact: For the first time this offseason, owner Paul Allen was in town to watch."

  • Brian Hendrickson of The Columbian: "Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard offered little indication as to whether either player could buck the recent trend and solve the Blazers' troubles at that position. 'I'm not sure there's that (impact player) where we're drafting at 13, that kind of a talent,' Pritchard said. 'The guys we're looking at may take some time.'"

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Chase Budinger said he hears he is among the top 20 or 21 picks. He must decide by Monday if projections are enough for him to stay in the draft. 'In my mind, it's good enough,' he said. Budinger knows the knocks against him. He has added 10 pounds since the season ended to address strength. He said he needs defensive improvement but notes how far he has come. 'I couldn't play a lick of defense coming into Arizona, so I think it's definitely improved,' Budinger said. 'It's my career I'm playing for right now. These workouts are kind of nerve-racking.' Suns Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin said Budinger is a late-first-round pick."

  • Steve Rivera of the Tucson Citizen: "Lute Olson is back and told the Citizen last week that he thinks Budinger should return because he'll have a very good season in the fast-paced style. That would lead to him likely going higher in the draft after next season. Budinger said Olson has e-mailed him a number of times, putting 'information in my head to come back' and 'recruiting him all over again.' Will that be enough? 'All I can say on my two years at Arizona is it (was) a great experience,' Budinger said. 'A great time there; it's a great school.'"

  • Matt Paulson of the East Valley Tribune: "Joe Alexander has often been compared to Shawn Marion, and the 21-year-old said the assessment fits. 'I like the comparison because we're both really athletic,' Alexander said Thursday. 'We can guard multiple positions because of our strength, and we're both real energetic players and explosive players.' ... 'He's a freak athlete. He can really, really jump,' Suns vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said. 'He's special as a competitor. He's an unbelievably tough kid.'"