First Cup: Wednesday

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: The Pacers season lives. The Pacers season lives because Roy Hibbert has become a dominant center in this league, having grown exponentially into a star in this postseason. With the game on the line, Hibbert was 10-feet tall, grabbing every offensive rebound, scoring at the basket, finishing with 23 points and 12 rebounds in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals. The Pacers season lives because Lance Stephenson is bloodless, because he has a sense of the moment, hitting big shots whenever the Pacers desperately needed one. A corner 3 at the buzzer at half. A crossover pull-up late. A runner late in the final minutes. The Pacers season lives because something very odd happened: LeBron James fouled out with 56 seconds left, just the second time he’s fouled out in 128 post-season games. “It was a couple of calls that I didn’t feel like were fouls, personal fouls on me,” James said. This will put a dent in all the small-market conspiracy theories. Either that, or the officials didn’t get the memo. The Pacers season lives because Indiana rediscovered its defensive and rebounding identity, and just in time.

  • Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: And then LeBron James fouled out. This was new. This was unexpected in the final minute. This summed up how strange this strange end to Game 4 went for the Heat when LeBron made the long way to the bench with 56 seconds left for the first time in nearly a year. And then Dwyane Wade traveled. That was new, too. That was unexpected, too. And that call with 26 seconds left, also summed up how this final minute — how these final five minutes, really — went for the Heat. They scored three points in that final five-minute stretch. Three. That's it. That's how the Heat lost a three-point lead with five minutes left. That's how they lost an iron grip on this series, as it evened up at two games apiece in Indiana's 99-92 win. … For all the numbers thrown out of Game 4, the most interesting one might be 62 days. That's the last time the Heat lost on the road. It was in Chicago on March 27 that ended the Heat's 27-game win streak and, well, began a different one. Already, San Antonio is waiting for a dance partner. It will be a long wait until the Finals' June 6 start. So they'll be rested, ready, maybe a bit rusty and certainly rarin' to go with a lineup of proven champs. The Heat should join them. But it won't be Thursday in Game 5. Tuesday told us that much. This series goes on. Five dismal Heat minutes at the end decided that much.

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Ask Danny Ferry about his plans to rebuild the Atlanta Hawks, and he'll speak one sentence three times in the course of a 10-minute conversation: "We want to get the basketball right." … By hiring Mike Budenholzer as coach, Ferry and theHawks have taken a major step toward credibility. Over the past 15 years, which franchise has most consistently gotten the basketball right? The San Antonio Spurs, where Ferry played and worked. Where has Budenholzer been working as a lead assistant and de facto coach-in-waiting? With the San Antonio Spurs. He'll be introduced Wednesday at Philips Arena as the Hawks' new coach, and then he'll work with the Spurs through the NBA finals. Generally speaking, it's a good sign if you hire a coach away from a team that is playing for championships. … I've never met Mike Budenholzer, but I like this hire a lot. He worked under the best general manager (R.C. Buford) and the best coach (Gregg Popovich) in the business. If he was good enough for them, he'll be great for the Hawks. Ferry got this part of the basketball right. Now for free agency.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Larry Drew's tenure as coach of the Atlanta Hawks officially ended Tuesday, when the team named San Antonio Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer to replace Drew. That removes any obstacles the Milwaukee Bucks may face should they choose to hire Drew, the Hawks coach for the past three seasons. The 55-year-old Drew had remained under contract with Atlanta while being allowed to pursue other jobs, and he had an initial interview with the Bucks on May 20. Drew and Houston Rockets lead assistant Kelvin Sampson are finalists for the Bucks job and will have second interviews with Bucks officials on Wednesday. It's possible the Bucks will have a new coach in place this week, although team officials have not established a timetable for the hiring.

  • Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: If the Nets want to speak to Lionel Hollins about their head coaching vacancy, they might have to wait a while. Speaking to reporters yesterday — a day after Memphis’ season ended with a four-game sweep at the hands of the Spurs in the Western Conference finals — Hollins said he doesn’t expect to be granted permission to speak to other teams before his contract expires on June 30. Hollins, who led the Grizzlies to a franchise record 56 wins this season and playoff series wins over the Clippers and Thunder, is considered the hottest coaching candidate on the market, with the Nets and Clippers — far and away the two best available jobs at the moment — expected to want to interview him. That would mean, however, Hollins would have to leave Memphis to take one of those jobs, something he said yesterday he would prefer not to do. “Hopefully, I’ll be here,” Hollins told the media. “I think they understand that I want to be back.”

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Former Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy was Steve Clifford’s boss for six years. He praises the Charlotte Bobcats’ next coach in all the predictable ways: Organized, detail-oriented, tactically innovative … Then you ask Van Gundy what is distinctive about Clifford’s profile. “What sets him apart is he can walk the line,” Van Gundy told the Observer Tuesday. “He’s a demanding guy, but he’s very, very good with people. He has an engaging personality.” The Bobcats are expected to formally announce Clifford as their sixth head coach Wednesday. People skills would be valuable to coaching any of the NBA’s 30 teams, but perhaps especially so to the roster Clifford will inherit. His predecessor, Mike Dunlap, was fired after a single season in the job. For all of Dunlap’s technical skill, his approach to personalities doomed him. His coarse personality often alienated some of his players. Clifford has to strike a balance between fixing a team with numerous deficiencies and tending to the morale of players who’ve gone 28-120 the past two seasons, worst in the NBA. Van Gundy, who worked with him from 2007 through 2012, says Clifford can pull that off.

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: With the NBA Board of Governors unanimously approving the controlling share of the Kings to the new ownership group, the process of establishing a new era in Kings basketball figures to take shape quickly. The sale of the Kings to Vivek Ranadive's ownership group is expected to close by the end of the week. Ranadive might have figured out who he wants to run his team by the time the sale closes. There are several names being discussed to replace Geoff Petrie. Two prominent names have ties to the Golden State Warriors. Travis Schlenk is the Warriors assistant general manager/director of player personnel. Ranadive was a minority owner with the Warriors and would be familiar with Schlenk, who has the backing of the Warriors, including Jerry West and general manager Bob Myers. … Another name being pushed by some close to Ranadive is former Warriors star player and executive Chris Mullin. Mullin might bring name recognition to the position as a Hall of Fame player. It also wouldn't hurt that one of Ranadive's minority investors is Mullin's former teammate, Mitch Richmond.

  • Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Mark Cuban’s plan is now a two-year plan, which means it originally was a four-year plan, which, when you break down all of the campaign hyperbole, it’s nothing more than a giant waste. If Cuban’s plan was pitched on his hit Friday night TV show, Shark Tank, the Sharks would banish him to Celebrity Apprentice. Sorry, Dirk. You deserved better. On Tuesday, Cuban appeared on the Mavericks flagship radio station — ESPN/103.3 FM — where he safely stated: “We want to be a championship team. We’ve never said we have to be a championship team this year.” Sure glad he cleared that up: Who wants to be a championship team this year? Apparently Cuban graduated from the DeLoss Dodds’ School of Lowered Expectations so we’ll appreciate the good times. The two years since the Mavs won their championship have successfully made us appreciate the good times, like the playoffs, relevance and a capable starting center (sorry, I can’t let that one go). They also have reinforced something that simply should never be taken for granted in the NBA — their superstar. Since Cuban entered the league, he had Dirk Nowitzki, a player so good he alone made the Mavs competitive. Few teams ever have a player of this caliber, and now Nowitzki’s final years are anchored by the notion his boss is smarter than everyone else. Sure hope he is right.

  • Nick Groke of The Denver Post: Word leaked Tuesday that Denver Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri said he was leaving for a new job with the Toronto Raptors. Only, it wasn’t actually Ujiri who said it, it was @MasaiUjiriGM — a fake Twitter account that since has been suspended. No big deal — it’s not the first fake Twitter account. Except, this time, the fake quote from the fake account spurred real NBC to post a real story that the real Ujiri was really leaving. The story — since taken down from NBC’s Pro Basketball Talk but cached here (for now) — still shows up high in a Google search. The reality is, Ujiri is not likely to make a decision — or announce his decision — until at least Wednesday. Josh Kroenke, Ujiri’s boss, doesn’t want to step on the toes of the Avalanche’s announcement Tuesday of Patrick Roy’s hiring, among other reasons.

  • Darnell Mayberry, John Rohde and Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: Do you think Martin will return next season? If not, why not? Mayberry: No. He's still capable of being one of the best scorers in the league, and some team could really use his services. Use them much more than the Thunder, which is not going to break the bank to keep a sixth man that was a forced fit. The Thunder has Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb waiting in line, two players whose combined salaries are less than it likely would take to bring K-Mart back. And for all we know they both might be better suited for K-Mart's role than K-Mart was. Even if they're not ready today, Lamb and Jackson are in the early stages of their development. They're getting better while K-Mart's best days are behind him. Rohde: If Martin is on next year's roster, every Thunder fan should kiss his feet because he would be forfeiting multi-multi-millions. Other veterans have accepted minimum wage and it's expected to happen more frequently because of the severe tax penalties of the new CBA, but don't expect it to happen here. Tramel: I think Martin would like to return, and I think OKC would like him to return, but unless Martin is willing to play for a fraction of his worth – and even then, only with a one-year contract – then there's no way.

  • Dave Dulberg of ArizonaSports.com: New general manager Ryan McDonough certainly answered Jared Dudley's wishes with the hire of Jeff Hornaceck, a consummate professional during both his 14-year NBA career and two-plus seasons on Tyrone Corbin's staff with the Utah Jazz. And for a player who will now be going on his third coach (Alvin Gentry, Lindsey Hunter and Hornacek) in under a year, Dudley didn't hold back his excitement. "We all remember Jeff as a player, how he was a great player and a hard-working player," Dudley said Tuesday. "Most of us that are my age, know him from [his days in] Utah. He was probably just as good a player in his prime when he was in Phoenix, but obviously in Utah he played against Jordan and had all those highlights. But he was an ex-player with the Suns, so it kind of brings that back full circle. It kind of creates a little bit more good buzz. Players like myself are excited, because we needed a little change... We're trying to build for the future." … In Dudley's eyes, hiring Hornacek infuses the franchise with new energy, but also reaffirms a need to get back to team-first basketball. "I definitely believe [this hire is good for me]," said Dudley.

  • Bill Oram of The Salt Lake Tribune: It's well known that Jeff Hornacek didn't dunk. He made a point of saying so Tuesday. The point was that he made it in the NBA as unassuming, hard-working, not-particularly-showy pro. But that doesn't mean he didn't try. Hornacek told the story of the one-time attempted a dunk in an NBA game, and it's a doozie. First of all, Hornacek claimed he could dunk, a fact he tried to demonstrate early in his career in Phoenix. Here's his account: "We had this one game, I think we were playing Washington and I think we were up by about 30. When I played here, we were high flying. We happened to go down on a fast break and Kevin [Johnson] had the ball. Tom Chambers was on one wing and I was on the other and I go, 'I feel great tonight.' I said if Kevin throws me this ball I'm going to dunk it. He threw it to Tom and Tom dunked So we're running down the floor and I told Kevin, 'If you'd given it to me I was going to dunk it. It just happened to be there was no break in the action and we ran up and down the court about six times and then I stripped the guy and go in. Now after about six straight sprints, I go up and bang it off the back of the rim. The bench is on the ground laughing, the ball bounces up, we get the ball back, I slid out to the 3-point line and made the 3-point shot. So I always say, 'Oh, I just wanted the extra point.'" It's somehow perfect that Hornacek's only career dunk was also a 3-pointer.

  • John N. Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer: It's been three weeks since the 76ers hired Sam Hinkie as president of basketball operations and general manager, and things have been unusually quiet for a team that has yet to hire a coach with less than one month remaining before the NBA draft. The Sixers are one of six teams looking for a coach, the other vacancies being in Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Sacramento, Detroit, and Los Angeles (the Clippers). … Coaches in whom the Sixers were believed to be interested have been hired in Cleveland (Mike Brown), Atlanta (Mike Budenholzer), and Phoenix (Jeff Hornacek). Sixers associate head coach Michael Curry, who has been endorsed by players Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner, has emerged as a candidate in Milwaukee, where it was recently reported that he had an interview. Curry has yet to interview for the Sixers, who, according to sources, have yet to interview a candidate for the job. Despite the activity of other teams and the approaching June 27 draft, Hinkie, who according to sources spent the Memorial Day weekend in Houston with his family, spent much of last week continuing the process of familiarizing himself with team personnel.