First Cup: Friday

  • Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle: "On this night the tenacity came from several corners, particularly a trio of sophomores who just don't seem to want their season to end. Luis Scola got it going with a remarkable first quarter mostly from the low post. Aaron Brooks kept it rolling with some huge baskets, including a momentum-maker just before the half. But late, when Los Angeles made the inevitable run, Landry was the one Rocket who stood tallest. Well, he jumped the highest, dove the hardest, and wrestled the best. Carl Landry, whose season has seen as many strange twists as any Rocket, was the super soph on this night. He rambled past the taller Lakers, scoring 15 points on perfect 6-for-6 shooting, with nine rebounds and a couple of blocked shots to boot. The short-handed Rockets could not have won this one without his contribution off the bench, and it came when the team was as desperate as it has been this season. The team that won't die is alive because of Landry, who missed three weeks beginning in late March after being shot in the calf by a couple of thugs."

  • T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times: "The way this is going I'm going to have to ask the question again, although I already know the answer: THIS IS EMBARRASSING. Only the underachieving, disappointing Lakers could make Luis Scola look like Larry Bird. The guy goes into the Hall of Fame if he gets to play against Pau Gasol more often. Yo, Trevor Ariza, they've started the game. Maybe he thinks the Rockets need a handicap, like I'll give you two strokes a side -- the last two games Ariza turning the ball back over to Houston at the start to even things out. The Rockets don't have two of their best players, and yet it's Phil Jackson who can't get the best team in the West cranked up to advance to the next round. Defense has been a consistent Lakers' deficiency and yet the guy with the nine rings doesn't appear as if he's noticed. Seven games against the Rockets? Oh, that's right, the Lakers came here a few days ago and won back the home-court advantage, so mission accomplished in Houston. I guess his players got the message, 'as long as we have the home-court advantage, we're all right.' NBA champions? Are you kidding me?"

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "Dwight Howard called for the ball. Dwight Howard got the ball. Dwight Howard shot the ball. Dwight Howard rebounded the ball. Dwight Howard -- a personally determined and nationally denounced Dwight Howard -- dominated the ball. And when this slogging slugfest was finally over, the Magic -- a k a Team Bounce Back -- had pummeled the world champion Boston Celtics into submission and taken a beautifully ugly 83-75 season-saving victory in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference semifinal Thursday night. This game, this night, this series was all on Dwight's muscular shoulders -- just where he wanted it and just where he put it."

  • Marc J. Spears of The Boston Globe: "Even with Ray Allen's struggles, don't expect Stan Van Gundy or the Magic defense to let up. From his days playing with Allen in Seattle, Rashard Lewis expects Allen to be in the gym shooting at least 100 extra shots today and tomorrow and that he can get hot at any time. The respect for Allen is too deep to get lax now. 'All it takes is for him to make one 3-pointer and get himself going,' Lewis said. 'He's that type of shooter that won't miss at all the rest of the night.' Allen is as cerebral an NBA player as there is, and long after the game you could see him trying to mentally figure out what the Magic have been doing to him. Unfortunately, he left Amway Arena with no clear answer. But with Game 7 looming, Allen and the Celtics collectively have to figure out something quick."

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: "Watching the Boston-Orlando playoff series has to make Oklahoma City's NBA fans daydream. Ray Allen and Big Baby Davis in Boston Celtic green against Orlando's Rashard Lewis. All three were Seattle SuperSonics, the Thunder's ancestors, until novice general manager Sam Presti blew up the roster two summers ago. What would the Thunder look like today had Presti not charted that course? Well, the Sonics/Thunder wouldn't have checked in with win totals of 20 and 23 the past two seasons. More like 35 and 38, which would have made the inaugural OKC season easier to digest. But the future would not have been as exotic. The Thunder would have a low ceiling. Presti would have been settling."

  • Bill Bradley of the Sacramento Bee: "Eddie Jordan seems to be the leader in the clubhouse because he is in sync with basketball president Geoff Petrie. It appears Paul Westphal impressed the Kings' crew, but we still can't figure out why he's there. Frankly, neither should be there in the first place, but they are because money and Petrie are the focus. As my colleagues have reported, the qualifications seem to be having a Vulcan mind-meld with Petrie and taking a relatively cheap contract rather than being a proven winner. Jordan isn't a championship-caliber coach, getting out of the first round once in four playoff visits. Westphal, who took the Suns to the NBA Finals in 1993, is better remembered for choking 3-1 West semifinal leads to the Rockets in consecutive years. At this rate, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy might be available. Then again, he didn't endear himself two years ago. Hey, Geoff: Are you sure there's no interest in Avery Johnson?"

  • Kevin Sherrington of The Dallas Morning News: "Not that anyone asked, but my mind's already made up. The Mavs must keep Jason Kidd. As for the rest of the roster, they simply can't stand pat. Not if they want to compete for more than good seats around the flat screen come Finals. They have more holes than a rifle range. Besides the points listed above, they have a dinosaur at center, only two real 3-point threats and a free-agent point guard who might be tempted by a team a little closer to the beach. And the thought of Kidd in purple and gold is what scares Dirk Nowitzki. 'If we lose him now,' he said of his floor leader, 'it will be tough.' Impossible, maybe. For all of Kidd's faults -- can't guard much, won't shoot enough -- he's better than the alternatives. As the Mavs' first option, Nowitzki needs someone who won't make him work too hard for the ball. Most young point guards today are the shoot-first variety, which is why Devin Harris now plays in New Jersey."

  • Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal: "Darius Miles is an unrestricted free agent. He played in 34 games for the Griz this season. Although the Griz haven't publicly stated their intentions, their plan was always to start next season without Miles. The Griz grew weary of Miles' waning work ethic and his relationship with rookie
    guard O.J. Mayo. There was widespread concern in the organization about Miles' off-the-court influence on Mayo near the end of the season. Character might be a major issue for another team interested in Miles, who was suspended last season for violating the NBA's anti-drug program."

  • Brad Rock of the Deseret News: "For my money, the world's best job is Andrei Kirilenko's. The Jazz forward is scheduled to make $16 million next year. What is he supposed to do to earn that money? Put on weight. Honest. So hand over the donuts -- the man has work to do. Really, really pleasant work. Admittedly, there are other good jobs besides playing in the NBA. Being 'national spokesperson' for anything is a pretty nice gig -- mostly just lending your name. Boxer Joe Louis held a job as 'greeter' at Caesars Palace in his dwindling years, kind of like Wal-Mart, except people usually answered back. Not bad, just hanging out, being yourself. Jon Bon Jovi has a decent job, too. All he has to do belt out rock and roll songs and fight off groupies. But for pure pleasure, it would be hard to beat A.K.'s situation. You make $195,000 a game, get five months' vacation, and your off-season assignment is to pack on the pounds."