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First Cup: Monday

  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: Zach Randolph called it his “win-win dance,” and the choreography was not cutting edge. He hopped, and he smiled, and he acted like someone who would never miss another shot. This was two years ago. Against the Spurs. When it seemed he would never miss another shot. He would eventually prove to be human. Still, the lose-lose dance he performed Sunday should be seen as the same kind of temporary tango. Because this isn’t Randolph. These aren’t the Grizzlies. And this isn’t how the series will continue. The Spurs will take how the series began. These Western Conference finals, after all, started nothing like last year’s did. Then, the Spurs had to scratch out the I-want-some-nasty game. … Sunday was closer to a Spurs clinic, as well as a counter to those who saw Memphis as the trendy pick. When Tony Parker wasn’t shredding Memphis, the Spurs’ shooters were overwhelming a group that was second in the NBA this past season in 3-point defense. … The Grizzlies will try. They will review film, and they will prepare to play to their strength. They will pound with Z-Bo as they pounded the Clippers and Thunder before, and dancing will be optional.

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: Memphis’ abject lack of outside shooting (5 for 12 on 3s) killed them in two respects. One, they were outscored by 27 points from beyond the arc, easily the biggest different in the game. Two, it allowed the Spurs to basically ignore their perimeter players and collapse on the low-post tandem of Randolph and Marc Gasol. Gasol was active early on, but he needed 16 shots to score 15 points while drawing just two free throws. Randolph barely got any touches at all, scoring his lone bucket on a tip-in while missing 7 of 8 shots. He had been averaging 19.7 points on 51.2-percent shooting in the postseason. It’s fitting Gregg Popovich used a football metaphor to describe the Spurs’ strategy, which was basically a page taken straight from their first-round meeting with the Lakers — swarm the paint first, recover on shooters second. “Zach and Marc are a heck of a combination, probably the best high-low combination in the league,” Popovich said. “Everything they do is really difficult to stick with, and you’ve got to have a mindset to do it on every down. You can’t be perfect at it. They’re just too good. But the effort was there for 48 minutes.” … The Grizzlies have bounced back from 0-1 deficits to win each of their past two series. Conversely, the Spurs are 19-3 when they win the first game of a best-of-seven series in the Duncan/Popovich era.

  • Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: So when he's asked about playing Indiana next, and how they'll strategize against him again, you know he's run the matchup through his mind. And it's not a hard conclusion on Indiana's best play against him. "They'll try to put me on the floor, maybe,'' LeBron James said. "They'll be physical with me, maybe. … The word is you've got to beat up the Heat to beat them. And every team has tried to do that." This wasn't just Indiana's way in their playoff series last year. It was Chicago's method last week. That series offered another glimpse into what may be the final rite of public passage for the best player in the game. Lots of teams hit LeBron at the rim. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau took it to uncharted territory. He ordered his players to get rough with LeBron in the open court, well before he became unstoppable near the basket. When Nazr Mohammed threw a two-arm wrap around LeBron near mid-court, then shoved LeBron to the floor, Thibodeau snapped. He said LeBron flopped. Nate Robinson then football-tackled LeBron near mid-court. There was something old-school gallant about Chicago's game plan, bit players trying to take out the game's best player. "Hopefully, the league will look at that,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. That's not intent here. It's, again, this strange, final passage LeBron seems to be making. Teams always played Michael Jordan hard right to the end of his Chicago run. But no one got Medieval on Jordan.

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: The last time I got a text from from Larry Bird at 1 a.m. it was about this time a year ago. It first started with a telephone call talking about how poor the Pacers played in their 32-point loss to the Miami Heat in Game 5. Then came the text message. My phone went off again early Sunday morning. It was Bird, who has kept a low profile since stepping down as a president last June. Bird was offering up nothing but praise this time about the team he put together. “Those who play together stay together!” Bird wrote in the text. Bird is right, the Pacers stuck together all year. They stuck together when Danny Granger was ruled out at the start of the season. They stuck together when they got off to a slow start. They stuck together when Granger came back and then went down again for the rest of the season. And they stuck together when they opened the second round of the playoffs as the underdogs against the New York Knicks. For years, outsiders have questioned the Pacers on who the face of the franchise is and who is going to lead them in the playoffs. The Pacers have shied away from getting caught up in that talk. They proved it again on Saturday after they eliminated the Knicks in six games.

  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: Today, barring a stunning turn of events, it is expected Bryan Colangelo’s term in Toronto will end seven years and 81 days after it began. Under his guidance, the Raptors made it to the playoffs twice — in each of his first two full seasons on the job. The five-year drought since then more than justifies the organization heading in another direction. This is not an indictment of Colangelo. It’s just a recognition of the fact that he has had his chance to turn things around here and now it’s time to give someone else that chance. Much is being made right now of the Raptors’ dithering in this respect. Under recently named president and CEO — and this is key — but still not actively serving Tim Leiweke, the impression has been left that the organization is somehow being harmed by a lack of an immediate decision on the general manager. One way or another, that impression will end today. Colangelo probably had another year with the Raptors had MLSE not gone out and snapped up Leiweke. … There are plenty of targeted names out there to fill Colangelo’s shoes. From Denver’s Masai Ujiri to Indiana’s Kevin Pritchard to Oklahoma City’s Troy Weaver, there is plenty to like about the wish list but so far that’s all it is — a wish list. Ujiri, the Denver GM and former Colangelo assistant in Toronto, has given no indication he is interested, but nor have either of the other two. It’s all well and good to target a guy, even one as presumably easy as it would be to target the recently named NBA executive of the year in Ujiri. But it’s another to actually hook that target. So, yes, there’s still a slight chance Colangelo could be back.

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: One theory making the rounds in NBA circles over the weekend is that both sides are trying to find a way for Colangelo to remain in the organization but perhaps in a different role. Other people in the league, however, are certain that the longer Leiweke lets the situation drag on, the more likely it is that Colangelo leaves and that the chief executive officer is plumbing the depths of other front offices to find someone with a reputation — and the ability — that would make a new hire seem like a big splash. But whatever the resolution, it won’t come until the last minute, at least. Monday is supposedly the deadline for the 2013-14 option on Colangelo’s contract to be picked up. It could be extended by mutual agreement. Still, there are other issues — and human situations — to be dealt with and taken into consideration. Colangelo’s chief lieutenant, Ed Stefanski, has been on the job less than two years, is under contract for one more and has a resumé just as impressive as any of the rival executives whose names have emerged publicly. But if Leiweke — and sources are adamant that this is his decision to make — insists on bringing someone in to work either with or independent of Colangelo in some senior role, where does that leave the well-respected Stefanski? And if Leiweke decides to cut ties entirely with Colangelo, the front-office upheaval could be significant. Along with Stefanski, assistant general manager Marc Eversley is closely aligned with Colangelo and someone new in charge might not be comfortable with that arrangement. Coach Dwane Casey, entering the final year of his contract, has the full support of Colangelo but does that change if there’s a new boss in charge? So it’s not as if Leiweke’s decision will only have an impact on one member of the front-office staff.

  • Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post: If you had to pick one man whose leadership is most essential to the future success of the Nuggets, would you go with coach George Karl or general manager Masai Ujiri? My vote: Ujiri is more valuable. By a power of 10. Contrary to popular belief, the potential free agent Denver really needs to lock up this offseason is not Andre Iguodala, a $15 million guard who shoots 58 percent from the foul line and is professed to be an all-world defender, yet can't be entrusted to lock down Stephen Curry in the NBA playoffs. Ujiri rescued the Nuggets from the chaos caused by Carmelo Anthony's trade demand. Ujiri has discovered real talent late in the first round of the NBA draft, while bringing Kenneth Faried and Evan Fournier to Denver. Ujiri would be far harder to replace in the front office than Karl would be on the bench. Sports executive Tim Leiweke helped bring the Avalanche to Colorado. Now Leiweke could steal Ujiri from town. Leiweke oversees the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors have cast covetous eyes at Ujiri. Ujiri deserves a big raise from the Nuggets. Pronto. … With all due respect to Ty Lawson, Ujiri is the MVP of the Nuggets. Lose Ujiri, and the Nuggets would be lost.

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: Carmelo Anthony sat shirtless and wore ice packs on both knees late Saturday night as he surveyed the losing locker room inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse. From his demeanor and posture right down to the accessories needed to heal his aching body, Anthony resembled Patrick Ewing more than ever after the Knicks’ season ended prematurely against the Indiana Pacers. The look said it all: Another prime year lost, another bid for that elusive championship wasted. “I mean, it’s a disappointment,” Anthony said. … The time, of course, is now. Anthony turns 29 on May 29 and has been in the league 10 years. That’s a lot of miles on his legs. Ewing was 31 when he reached the NBA Finals in 1994, his ninth season. A better comparison are two of Anthony’s contemporaries from the historic 2003 draft class. James, who turns 29 in December, has been to the NBA Finals three times and could secure a second straight championship next month. Wade, 31, is in his 10th year and has reached the Finals three times and won two rings. Anthony’s best finish was the Western Conference finals. Otherwise, he’s been out of the first round just twice. Anthony is in the prime of his career, but there is no guarantee that the best years are ahead for him and the Knicks. Maybe that’s what he was contemplating late Saturday night after another lost season.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Orlando Magic fans approach Pat Williams whenever they see him around town these days. "Come on home with the first pick," they say. "Bring it on back," they say. "OK, we're looking for that first pick," they say. What those strangers are referring to is the 2013 NBA Draft Lottery, which will take place Tuesday night in midtown Manhattan. The Magic own a 25-percent chance of winning the top overall pick, the highest probability of any team, and Williams will be there once again, on stage, serving as the public face of the franchise. Williams, the Magic's co-founder and senior vice president, is a living, breathing good-luck charm. His teams have won the lottery four different times: thePhiladelphia 76ers in 1986 and the Magic in 1992, 1993 and 2004. "People just expect another one," he says now, chuckling. "We only have a 25-percent chance! I guess if I don't come back with the top pick, they'll say, 'Boy, what a bum he is. What was he doing up there?' " Many people remember Williams for his lottery fortune instead of his skill and accomplishments as a sports executive. Major networks have televised the lottery ever since the its inception in 1985, and Williams' reactions to his victories have been priceless.

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: The Charlotte Bobcats are on their way to becoming the Charlotte Hornets. The Bobcats have started pursuing a name change to Charlotte’s original NBA team, an informed source confirmed to the Observer. Though the Bobcats will need permission from the league to make such a change, incoming NBA commissioner Adam Silver has twice indicated that shouldn’t be a problem. What’s still in question is when the name change could be implemented and how extensively the Bobcats would assume the Hornets’ old look. The source, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, would not comment on whether the popular teal-and-purple color scheme would return to Charlotte. The Hornets were Charlotte’s first major-league team, and for most of 14 years the town embraced the team. The consecutive sellout streak for home games reached 364, nearly nine full seasons. Players like Muggsy Bogues and Dell Curry still live here and are still prominent figures. The Hornets drafted power forward Larry Johnson and center Alonzo Mourning with top-two picks and they led the team to an unlikely victory over the Boston Celtics in a first-ever playoff appearance in 1993. But even before then the Hornets owned the town.

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: As the Dallas Mavericks contingent of Donnie Nelson and Keith Grant prepare to head to New York for Tuesday’s NBA Draft lottery selection, they do so knowing nothing strategically will determine whether the Mavs can walk away with the No. 1 overall draft pick. No tea leaves. No Ouija boards. No X’s and O’s. Just like the Powerball winner, it comes down to pure luck as to who wins the draft lottery. Owner Mark Cuban said: “As much as we want to say it’s all science, there’s a big part of it that’s luck.’’ The lottery is at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the ABC Times Square Studios in New York City. This is just the second time in the Cuban era that the Mavs have been in the draft lottery. Cuban purchased the Mavs on Jan. 4, 2000, and Dallas was involved in the lottery some four months later after finishing the season with a 40-42 record.

  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: Last summer, Thunder forward Serge Ibaka was said to be considering working with Olajuwon, but Ibaka didn't have adequate time. Ibaka was busy playing for silver medalist Spain at the Olympic Games in London and then returned to OKC to hammer out the details of a four-year contract extension worth at least $49 million that begins next season. Multiple times during his exit interview session on Thursday, Ibaka said his primary focus this offseason will be to find ways to “create my own shot.” Might this include a trip to Houston to work with Olajuwon? “Yes, it's a possibility,” the 23-year-old Ibaka said. “It depends on how the summer goes. If there's time, I would like to go (work with Olajuwon). I'm not just focused to go see Hakeem, I'm focused to work on my game. From what I've heard, it's a good option for me. … I really, really want to get better and create my own shot. So it's something I will focus on this summer.” NBA players who have worked with Olajuwon include Yao Ming, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, Luol Deng, Emeka Okafor, JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried. Olajuwon also has worked with Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Thunder coach Scott Brooks is friends with Olajuwon and was his teammate for 2 1/2 seasons (1992-95) in Houston.