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First Cup: Friday

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "For years, LeBron James has said he doesn't believe in pressure as a disarming answer to any question that includes the word itself. Of course this isn't true. In fact, he's somewhat of an expert. With that understanding, when James was asked to compare the Cavs' situation heading into Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals down 3-1 to the Orlando Magic to the stress of trying to win a gold medal in last summer's Olympics, he said the pressure levels aren't close. 'I definitely feel the pressure was bigger with the Olympics than it is here,' said James, who has been in contact with Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski several times during the playoffs. "A lot of people may say different, but when you play for the Olympics team you're playing not only for Cleveland, you're playing for Orlando, you're playing for Los Angeles, Denver, you're playing for every city, every county and every place in the United States of America. So that was way more pressure than what is going on here.' "

  • Jodie Valade of The Plain Dealer: "Mo Williams' confidence in his Cavaliers has never wavered. Not when his team fell behind to the Orlando Magic in this series as the point guard declared with authority before Game 4 that his team was going to win. They didn't. Still, with Cleveland trailing the Magic, 3-1, in these Eastern Conference finals, Williams' belief in his team did not waver. In himself? That surely faltered, he admitted Thursday. Williams has been taking extra shooting practice this series, arriving at the gym early on the mornings of games to work on his accuracy. He has not been pressing, he said. He 'just wanted to perform well so bad.' The practice paid off in the Cavaliers' 112-102 Game 5 victory as Williams knocked in 24 points on 7-of-14 shooting -- with six baskets from 3-point range. He helped boost Cleveland's 3-point accuracy to 50 percent when his 6-of-9 long distance shooting was combined with Daniel Gibson's 3-of-4."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "The Magic split the first two games in Cleveland to wrest home-court advantage way from the Cavs, and now they will have a chance to close the LeBron show in Orlando. It's either that or open themselves up for questions about a collapse."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Arizona State sophomore James Harden admitted on Wednesday that he sometimes checks the Internet to see where various mock drafts have him slotted, and he is often annoyed by criticism that he lacks the athleticism to be a successful shooting guard in the NBA. Southern California swingman DeMar DeRozan said he doesn't pay attention to draft speculation, but people have told him that some analysts compare him to NBA star Vince Carter. DeRozan's beef? 'I think I can jump higher than Vince Carter did,' DeRozan told reporters at a Chicago hotel. After running drills trying to impress scouts at the league's draft combine with their athletic gifts and basketball intelligence, the top prospects for June's draft then went about making their cases to the media. Some carried duffel bags and cellphones, while others -- like Harden and DeRozan -- carried big dreams and a gift for hyperbole."

  • Jeff Rabjohns of The Indianapolis Star: "Jeff Teague worked out in front of league decision makers for the first time Thursday as part of the NBA Draft Combine. 'It went pretty well,' said Teague, one of 65 players invited to the league-run workouts. 'I got a lot of shots up. It was a light workout. 'It's nerve-wracking, seeing all those GMs, the guys evaluating. You just have to relax.' Teague has not hired an agent and has until June 15 to decide whether to stay in the draft or return to Wake Forest for his junior season. He is widely projected to go in the lower portion of the first round of the June 25 draft, which means at least a guaranteed two-year contract. One aspect that plays in Teague's favor is that even though he's 6-1, he has a 6-7 wingspan, meaning he can defend taller players."

  • Sam Amick of the Sacramento Bee: "Chase Budinger had already learned the art of 'no comment.' At least when it came to addressing the media. But the draft prospect from Arizona didn't have that option when he sat down for a half-day of interviews with NBA team representatives Thursday. Just like other players who would be asked the most personal of questions during this portion of the predraft combine, Budinger had to say something. Even if he was speechless. 'One team asked me if I had a girlfriend, and I said no,' Budinger said as he relayed the story of one interview to the media. 'And then they asked me if I had any friends with benefits. That was kind of a wacky question.' And the answer? 'No comment,' he said with a sheepish smile. Budinger is a 6-foot-7 swingman who is projected to be taken in the neighborhood of Sacramento's second pick at No. 23. Not that basketball was the main topic of discussion in these meetings."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Next Thursday -- June 4 -- will be a relatively big day in the Charlotte Bobcats' draft preparations. Hometown kid Stephen Curry says he's working out for the Bobcats that day, as will Duke's Gerald Henderson. North Carolina's Danny Green also said he's scheduled for Charotte that day. The key audition in that group could well be Henderson, since the Bobcats are very much in the market for a shooting guard at No. 12. Henderson met with Bobcats coach Larry Brown and general manager Rod Higgins in Chicago, and they expressed to him that a backup to Raja Bell is a priority. 'They made it clear they need someone,'' Henderson said, referring to Bell's late-season injury problems. Henderson grew up in Philadelphia and has known Brown since he was in middle-school and Brown was the 76ers coach. One of Henderson's close friends in high school is the son of Randy Ayers, who worked for Brown in Philadelphia. 'That would be a great place for me,' Henderson said of the Bobcats."

  • Don Seeholzer of The Pioneer Press: "David Kahn, who was hired last Friday, said he received a warm welcome from league officials today when he attended a competition committee hearing and that there was a surprisingly large number of familiar faces. 'Much has changed, but a lot of teams are still the same,' Kahn said. 'It's very comfortable and it's not like I've been completely out of the loop for the last few years with my involvement in the D-league. So it's not strictly an old home week for me.' Regarding the decision on coach Kevin McHale's future, Kahn said they had a good meeting Tuesday night and will meet again next week but otherwise declined to comment. With three f
    irst-round picks, the Wolves figure to be involved in plenty of trade talks before the June 25 draft, but Kahn said there was none of that today. 'I think a lot of my colleagues pulled back,' he said. 'They realize this is Day 7 for me. Their attitude is they'd love to talk, but they know I'm still getting my proverbial feet wet.' "

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "UCLA freshman point guard Jrue Holiday is one player the Bucks are checking out closely as the NBA draft approaches. Holiday did not sign with an agent and could return to school if he withdraws by the June 15 deadline, but he sounded like he would make the leap to the pros during an interview session Thursday with reporters during the NBA pre-draft combine. 'It's looking really good for me right now,' Holiday said. 'When I get home and I get to talk to my parents and my advisers, I'll make that decision.' If Holiday stays in the draft, he is expected to go somewhere in the top 10, with the Bucks holding the 10th overall selection. Holiday confirmed he will work out for the Bucks in June."

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "'College basketball is college basketball whether you're in the ACC or wherever,' Eric Maynor said Thursday morning at the NBA draft combine workouts. 'But like I always tell people, when I got a chance to play against them big-time schools I was able to more than hold my own. As I'm in workouts, I'm going to do the same. I feel like I can play with anybody in the country whether it's ACC competition, Big Ten, Big 12, it don't matter. I feel like I can play with them.' That swagger comes from a four-year career where he became known for making big shots -- including the winner in the first round of the NCAA tournament against Duke his sophomore season. Pistons president of basketball operations Joe Dumars said after the team's first-round playoff exit that promising second-year player Rodney Stuckey would be more effective as a combo guard and not a pure point guard where he is the primary ball-handler at all times. The draft is loaded with point guards so if the Pistons want to go that route with the 15th pick of the first round of the June 25 NBA draft, Maynor, projected to go in the middle of the opening round, would appear to be a candidate."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Jonny Flynn and his agent, Leon Rose, mapped out a predraft workout schedule for the potential lottery pick based on teams that need a point guard. Then the Bulls called. 'I couldn't understand why they would bring me in either,' Flynn said at the NBA predraft camp at Attack Athletics, confirming the Tribune's report of his Sunday workout. 'But they said there are times they wish to move Derrick [Rose] off the ball. When they said that to me, it fell into place.' Whether Flynn is on the board when the Bulls use the first of their two first-round picks in the June 25 NBA draft is impossible to predict. At No. 16 and No. 26, the Bulls have numerous options. Flynn, who gained nationwide exposure for his performance in Syracuse's six-overtime victory over Connecticut in the Big East quarterfinals, knows he likes this particular option. 'I really like the coaching staff and the way they play up-tempo,' Flynn said. 'They have a great nucleus. They like my intensity and how I can push tempo. They said they'd been watching me awhile and like what they have seen. Hopefully I'll be there for them to draft.' "

  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "Rod Thorn checked in from Chicago yesterday to talk about a matter unrelated to Nets business, and he said all was well. They had the skills workout Thursday morning, and the rest of his time has been spent at a Competition Committee meeting (which is precisely what we wanted to talk about) and interviewing prospective draftees. 'Starting yesterday (Weds.) we interviewed four players. Today we interviewed five, with four more to go. And tomorrow we have five,' The Boss said. 'That's never been done before - a 30-minute interview with all these people in 2 1/2 days.' And that's long enough to determine whether you want to invest a guaranteed $5,040,000 in a kid you never met for the next two years? 'Well, it's probably not long enough, but you can get a feel for a guy,' he said. 'What kind of guy he is, what kind of brain he has, how he handles himself, that type of thing.' "

  • Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Let's say you're of the cynical, entertain-me-now school of fandom. You don't care a wit that young Bulls star Derrick Rose has been implicated as the beneficiary of some serious academic cheating at both his alma maters -- Simeon High School and the University of Memphis. According to NCAA allegations first reported by the Memphis Commercial-Appeal and Chicago high school sources informing the Sun-Times, some person other than Rose allegedly took his college-entrance SAT, and someone with access to Rose's Simeon transcripts changed one of his grades from a D to a C just as Rose was applying to colleges. So what, you say. He's a pro now. He was always gonna be a baller. Go, Bulls! That's fine. Live in your world of beer-can-on-the-belly sports relativism. But just ponder the ripple effect and the hypocrisy revealed by the academic fraud before you lumber to the fridge for another cold one. First off, Rose might never have gotten into a powerhouse hoops college like Memphis without the cheating. He might have had to spend time at a junior college or even go overseas to play. Had he not gone to Memphis, the Tigers almost certainly would not have made it to the 2008 NCAA championship game. Think that matters to UCLA, which lost to Memphis in the semis?"