First Cup: Wednesday

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: How painfully close were the Spurs to their fifth championship? Scores of Heat fans — admittedly, not exactly a die-hard bunch — were already streaming for the exits at American Airlines Arena as the final seconds of Game 6 wound down. The Spurs had endured a massive Heat rally, fighting back from three down with 2:09 left to lead by five in the final minute. The game, and the Larry O’Brien Trophy, seemed all but assured. The Heat, however, showed their championship mettle, stunning the Spurs — with the aid of two missed free throws and a pair of offensive rebounds — to force overtime on 3-pointers from LeBron James (20 seconds left) and Ray Allen (six seconds). They did it again in the extra session, finishing on a 6-0 run to erase a three-point Spurs lead. The Spurs failed to score over the last 2:42, one last stretch of futility in a game that was so close, and yet so very far. “We were a few seconds away from winning the championship,” said Manu Ginobili, “and we let it go. It hurts because it’s one of those moments where you’re going to be thinking about what we could have done better in the last few possession so many times all night long, all tomorrow until the next game. I have no clue how we’re going to be re-energized. I’m devastated. But we have to. There’s no Game 8.” … The Heat will seek to become just the fourth team in history to overcome a 3-2 deficit with consecutive home victories in the 2-3-2 format after a 2-2 tie. The Spurs, meanwhile, will try to earn only the fourth road victory in the seventh game of the Finals, and the first since Washington won at Seattle in 1978.

  • Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: Miami is now 7-0 after losses in this postseason and has won 13 in a row overall after losing. This is a team that responds well to adversity. It did again Tuesday when doing so was an absolute must, and when fatigue was fighting every player on the floor. “We were not only taking the tank all the way down to ‘E,’” said LeBron, “but also using the reserve tank.” It was simply one of the greatest games and greatest triumphs we have ever seen in local sports. Now all they have to do is do it again. There was an interesting, telling little give and take by Wade and James in the interview room after the Game 5 loss in San Antonio. They’d been doing interviews separately lately but happened to be at each other’s elbow that night. It was mentioned how Miami lost a Game 6 on its home floor to fall short to Dallas in the 2011 NBA Finals, the first year of the Big 3. Heat players endured the indignity of the Mavericks celebrating on their own court that year. “We’re a better team now,” Wade had said, with certainty. “We’re going to see,” added James, with a small smile. They proved Tuesday night they ARE a better team than they were. Now all they have to do is prove it one more time, on Thursday night. When it matters even more. When it is ALL that matters.

  • Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: With the Heat down 10 points to start the fourth quarter, James led a 22-9 run with Wade on the bench for the entire burst. But still the Heat needed a Ray Allen 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds left to force overtime. "Just no quit in this team," Wade said in a happy locker room. "The game of basketball is a funny thing. I wish we could say how and why [we won]. That's why we love this game. It's unpredictable. That's why the only thing you can do when things look dim and dark is just keep going." Wade re-entered with 3:48 left and did have a block and two made free throws to give Miami a 3-point lead with 2:09 left in regulation. Tony Parker quickly erased that with a fadeaway 3-pointer. Wade said the Heat drew extra motivation when they saw the arena workers preparing for the postgame trophy presentation to the Spurs. "When they brought out the yellow rope [for the trophy presentation], you know you're not the one that's going to celebrate and it hurts, so we just kept fighting to the last minute, to the last second, and it happened tonight." Wade is looking forward to what could be an epic Game 7 of the NBA Finals back at AmericanAirlines Arena. "I've never wanted to play a Game 7 so bad," Wade said.

  • Greg Stoda of the Palm Beach Post: The Heat’s 27-game winning streak during the regular season means nothing without a title. James’ fourth MVP award means nothing without a title. If anything, in fact, those accomplishments will stand as mocking reminders of what Miami couldn’t do when the games mattered most if the Heat lose Thursday night. But the Heat are still breathing when it looked for all the world that they were finished. Allen did that for them. “He’s the greatest shooter of all time,” said Bosh, who got the ball to Allen after rebounding a James miss on a triple. “How he was open, I don’t know.” The shot capped a Miami comeback from 13 points behind late in the third quarter, and by 10 behind to start the fourth. “Ray did what he’s done for so many years,” Spoelstra said. “We’ve seen it on the other side so many times.” It shoved the Heat into a Game 7. The opportunity to define themselves awaits with a championship on the line.

  • Gary Dzen of The Boston Globe: ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg wrote today that Garnett has become something of a forgotten man as rumors have swirled around Rivers. He's right. Sure, the fans will miss the coach if he decides to leave, but Garnett's departure would be franchise-altering. The Celtics would be losing a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Pierce is even more of an afterthought. We could be 12 days away from the end of the career of one of the five or six greatest players in Celtics history, and no one is talking about it. Pierce is the second-leading scorer in franchise history. He is first in 3-pointers, fourth in assists, and seventh in rebounds. A generation of kids from Ipswich to Wareham to Pittsfield has never needed to replace the jersey of the first Celtics star they ever cheered for.

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: All that's left now for the Clippers is to convince Chris Paul they are truly committed to going the distance to win a championship, hire a new coach, sooth the feelings of young center DeAndre Jordan and make up with Blake Griffin, who was all but offered up to the Lakers on a silver platter for Dwight Howard. Not to mention move on without one of the top two coaches in the NBA and a pair of tough, savvy veterans who would have instantly made the Clippers an NBA championship contender. Other than that, the summer is going dandy for L.A.'s other basketball team. On one hand kudos to the Clippers for trying to land Doc Rivers, one of the great coaches in the NBA, and fierce veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in a blockbuster deal for Jordan, an expiring contract and multiple draft picks. On the other, upon learning this morning from a Clippers source the deal is officially dead right now you can't help wonder if they can successfully pick up all the pieces and put it back together again. The ripple effect from the very public high-wire act they performed the last few days is enormous. Who knows what this means for Paul, who is set to become a free agent July 1st and is free to talk and walk to the team of his desire. … Fact is, the Clippers must now move on. The question is, how dramatically has the futility of the last few days altered their present and future?

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: On Tuesday, Paul George worked out with his summertime basketball trainer, former Los Angeles Lakers reserve Mike Penberthy. "Paul does credit Brian Shaw with a lot of his development," Penberthy said of the Pacers assistant coach. "He said Brian deserves a head coaching job. He's had his run as an assistant and it's time for him to get his chance." Shaw might get his chance with the Nuggets. He interviewed with the Nuggets on Tuesday, an NBA source confirmed, and is in competition with former Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, who is set to interview Wednesday. So just who is Brian Shaw? Interviews with those who know the 47-year-old former guard reveal a likable, versatile, passionate basketball mind, yearning to break out as a young coach.

  • Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News: Mark Jackson is the Zen Don Nelson -- similar Warriors success, much less frantic financial agitation. So: Jackson is not going to scheme for a bigger, longer contract this summer after leading the Warriors to a surprise playoff run, though that's exactly what Nelson did after the franchise's previous postseason berth. If a new deal for Jackson comes before the season starts, then fine. If it doesn't (and Jackson said there have been no serious talks as of yet this offseason) ... well, Jackson might not be 100 percent thrilled with that, but he almost certainly won't stage a Nelson-style holdout. "I'm thrilled to have a job and to coach this group of guys -- and with great ownership, a great front office and fan base," Jackson said from Los Angeles in a phone interview Tuesday. "I'm a guy with great faith. I know it'll work out. So I don't get caught up in it. This isn't standard 'coach line.' It's the truth. It'll work out. I do know that." The reality is that Jackson is signed through next season, and the Warriors have a team option for 2014-15. I presume both sides would like to take a look at a longer agreement relatively soon, but you never know when a deal can be struck. And if Jackson has been upset by any perceived delay, I'm sure he'd let everybody know. I asked: He isn't upset.

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Shortly after the Kings announced the hiring of general manager Pete D'Alessandro, the restructuring of the organization's business and basketball departments resumed. As expected, several employees who worked under basketball president Geoff Petrie were released, including his son, assistant basketball vice president Mike Petrie, basketball vice president Wayne Cooper, scouting director Scotty Stirling, video coordinator Joe Cook, security guard Joe Nolan, property manager Steve Schmidt and administrative assistant Sheli Gottlieb. The biggest surprise might have been media relations spokesman Devin Blankenship, a native Sacramentan who had been with the franchise for 13 years.

  • Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: At a time when the Suns have stockpiled draft picks, including two in the first round next week, and created some salary-cap flexibility, everybody in the basketball operation is finally on the same page. “Ryan and Pat pride themselves in knowing every player in the world,” Babby said. “It gives me peace of mind going into this (draft) process. If a name comes up, they know everything about the guy, including what he had for breakfast.” That goes beyond players coming up through the college ranks. McDonough has assembled a staff of scouts and consultants, some holdovers and some new, who are wired into the world. That has never been more important, as evidenced by the success of the San Antonio Spurs. There is synergy and energy in the building. “It’s palpable,” Babby said. “You can feel it through the whole organization. We always envisioned it working this way, and we have a chance now to make it work. It’s not really a reflection on the people we had before. It’s just kind of the circumstances of how it happened. In fairness, I’ve learned a lot in the last three years about how to do my job better and provide a measure of clarity throughout the organization.” Will it translate to victories on the floor and fannies in the seats? “It takes a while,” Babby said. “We haven’t done anything yet, so it’s a little early to congratulate ourselves.” That’s fine. For hiring a coach and GM who can work together, we’ll do it for you.

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: So to every Charlotte Bobcats fan who has said, “Hey, I could run that front office as well as those guys…’’ Here’s your start, so long as you have a computer-science degree, are willing to work long hours and can respond to obscure requests on the quick. The Bobcats are searching for a “Basketball Operations System Developer,’’ which sounds a lot like how general manager Rich Cho got his start in the NBA. Cho was attending Pepperdine Law School, with a degree in engineering, when Wally Walker, then running the Seattle Supersonics, brought Cho in as an intern to create a high-tech basketball data base. Cho is particularly proud of the database he assembled for the Bobcats a year ago, and this job ad sounds like someone who’ll obtain and feed fresh info into that system. The Bobcats need someone with a whole lot of computer experience and an appreciation for advanced basketball statistics. And you must be confidential (like, don’t tell the Observer who they’ll draft with the fourth pick next week). Sure it’s grunt work. The ad specifically asks for those willing to work extended hours “nights, weekends, holidays.’’ Wait a minute…that sounds way too much like sports writing. Think twice before applying.