First Cup: Tuesday

  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: "If this were baseball, you could limit the pitch count if your top left-hander was coming back to the rotation. But in basketball, it's all ebb and flow. What if Jameer was limited to, say, 10 minutes a game? 'It's unfair to ask a coach to do that,' Magic General Manager Otis Smith said. Listening to everybody weigh in on this topic Monday afternoon after a film session, I didn't get a positive vibe anywhere. 'He didn't seem to be adverse to contact at all,' Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said. 'I don't worry about that. My concern would be everything else from conditioning to not having played the game in four months and now you're going to go play at the absolute highest level. That seems to me a pretty tall order.' Smith: 'There's a smidget of a chance he could play.' Nelson: 'Right now I'm preparing myself for the preseason and staying in shape.' Nelson will practice today and Wednesday, and then the Magic front staff will make a decision. My guess is that it's going to be, 'No.' It may sound groovy, but considered carefully, who wants to break up the cosmic karma this team has going on anyway?"

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "It's not official yet, but it looks as if the Lakers have settled on a defensive plan for an Orlando team that made it this far with a strong post presence, in Dwight Howard, and a number of perimeter shooters. In the frontcourt, Andrew Bynum will guard Howard, Ariza will guard Hedo Turkoglu and, perhaps the key match-up of the series, Pau Gasol will try to stay with Rashard Lewis. Lewis is a 6-foot-10 power forward, but he does most of his work from the outside. He led the league with 220 three-pointers in the regular season. 'Most of the power forwards in this league, they move around 15, 18 feet in,' Gasol said. 'With Lewis, you got to work 18 feet out all the way out to the three-point line, even deeper. So you have to be aware of that. That changes a little bit of your moves and your instincts. Hopefully, during these couple of days, I'm going to get used to that and make sure he doesn't get clean looks and good shots at the basket.' In the post, Bynum collected nine fouls in two regular-season games against Howard, but Phil Jackson didn't seem overly concerned about foul trouble. 'We have three big guys with solid bodies that could play him,' Jackson said. In other words, third-string center DJ Mbenga might get some time in this series after averaging only 2.5 minutes a game in the Western finals."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "Boston has won 17 NBA titles, more than any franchise. But the Lakers, not the Celtics, are the Yankees of basketball, despised for their very success. The Lakers will be making their 30th appearance in the Finals, beginning with Thursday's Game 1, in search of the franchise's 15th championship. Count on most of the league's fans that don't count purple and gold among their favorite colors to be rooting for the Magic. Lakers Hatred is an extension of fan jealousy, and it makes for great rivalries. 'Lakers Suck' T-shirts would have sold briskly in Boston during the 1980s had it not been a time of more sensitive restraint. Then, 'Beat L.A.' shirts ruled the day, and the chant would begin at the Boston Garden an hour before tip-off of the three Lakers-Celtics Finals of the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson era. A large measure of modern-day Lakers Hatred derives from outright jealousy that Kobe Bryant is the game's most skilled closer, turning even great defenders into helpless witnesses. That he takes such obvious delight in his own exploits fuels the antipathy. ... Bryant is the antithesis of Tim Duncan, whose stoicism makes him the perfect Spur but the bogeyman of TV ratings. Michael Jordan talked trash, too, but with a subtlety that defied detection."

  • Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post: "Somebody should remind LeBron that Isiah Thomas has been stained for nearly 20 years for leaving the court early and not congratulating the Chicago Bulls after they swept his Pistons for the Eastern Conference championship in Detroit. Thomas wasn't the only one who left the court in such a classless way -- Bill Laimbeer, as I recall, led the parade -- but Thomas was the most famous one, though only a fraction as celebrated as LeBron is now. It's something, great as Thomas was as a player, that he has never really outrun, though he has expressed regret over it many times. ... The NBA has been in good hands the last couple of seasons with LeBron, young as he is (24), sharing the responsibility of leadership with Kobe Bryant. And from the way LeBron has conducted himself day-in, day-out, I suspect he'll find a way to make amends for what he didn't do Saturday night in Orlando, which begins with understanding why he was wrong not to shake hands and can never let it happen again. It might take a great player to lead his team to the NBA Finals, which LeBron has already done once. But it takes a responsible leader to consistently play at the championship level. And LeBron James has to know, from this point forward, it's hard to do one without being the other."

  • John Henderson of The Denver Post: "I will never again look at a LeBron James commercial and smile. He's no longer funny. He's no longer the face of the league. His news conference no-show after the Cavaliers' elimination loss represented another megastar who only wants the center stage, fame and ensuing coin when he is seen in the best light. This nation's sports fans made you the corporate entity that you are, LeBron. They have a right to know what went wrong. Sit down and take the heat. Now it's too late. So get out of our sight."

  • Peter Vecsey of the New York Post: "What LeBron did show by not showing is how upset losing makes him, how much it bothered him to have his team's imperial run so convincingly wrecked and how nothing else matters but a Cavalier coronation. Excuse LeBron -- almost always accessible, conscientious, agreeable, long-winded and forthcoming -- for caring so deeply! So, horror of horrors, he took half a day to consider his reaction before stating his uncompromising competitive case. Seems like abstention was a sensible stance to take considering LeBron had nothing heartfelt to say and lunatics like me with leading questions would've been probing for a provocative lead."

  • A. Sherrod Blakely of Booth Newspapers: "Dwight Howard's dominance in leading the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals has created a lot of buzz and excitement in the city of Mickey, Minnie and Pluto. It might also provide a few more options for free agent-to-be Rasheed Wallace, who defends Howard as good or better than any player in the NBA. Since Howard arrived in Orlando, the Pistons are 14-4 against the Magic in the regular season, and 8-1 against them in the playoffs. Several factors contributed to Detroit's success, but
    few stick out as much as Wallace's defense. ... It remains to be seen how many teams will pursue Wallace when he becomes a free agent in the coming weeks. But Howard's dominance in the NBA Finals can do nothing but hurt the Los Angeles Lakers and help generate more interest in Wallace."

  • Rick Noland of The Gazette: "General manager Danny Ferry openly admitted Monday that the Boston Celtics were the team the Cavaliers were most concerned about matching up with in the playoffs heading into the 2008-09 season. But after his record-setting, 66-win team in the regular season had a number of weaknesses blatantly exposed by Orlando in the Eastern Conference finals, the GM will now have to turn his attention to the Magic as the Cavaliers prepare for next season. 'We're going to have to look at who those top teams are and make some decisions based on that when we look at our roster,' Ferry said at Cleveland Clinic Courts, where he and coach Mike Brown offered their final thoughts on the just-completed season. While claiming 'the founda-tion is very good,' Ferry did add: 'Clearly, there's room for growth. I don't know if we'll win 67 games next year or 47, but we'll get better.' "

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "A little exercise: Take one player -- any one, from Josh Smith to Speedy Claxton -- off the Hawks and replace him with LeBron/Kobe/Dwight. Know where the Hawks would be? Preparing for Game 1 of the NBA Finals. This is a very good team that lacks one great player, but that's a massive lack. We tire of the NBA's blather about its stars, but nobody can deny that it's a star's game. And stars are hard to get. Of the 15 men who comprised the 2009 All-NBA teams, 13 were top 10 draftees -- the exceptions are Bryant, taken No. 13 when high schoolers weren't yet the rage, and Tony Parker, who arrived from France as the 28th pick in 2001 -- and 10 went in the top five. Only three of the 15 have changed teams since their NBA debuts. (The three: Shaquille O'Neal, Pau Gasol and Chauncey Billups.) Moral of our story: If you find a star, you keep him. And if you have a chance at one and you whiff … well, you wind up being the Hawks, forever chasing the game."

  • Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun: "Yesterday, it was announced that Chris Bosh entered into an agreement with Warner Music Canada to produce a unique DVD and CD to be released this fall. In addition, Bosh has become the first athlete to launch his own application for iPhone and iPod touch on the Apple App Store. Basketball-wise, Bosh's latest foray into the business world and his ground-breaking initiative will have no impact on his decision to stay in Toronto, which will be in a position to offer its all-star a contract extension by as early as next month. What it does reveal is the side of Bosh no one, especially those residing south of the border who cover all things basketball, seems to fully comprehend, or at least want to acknowledge: In today's sporting culture, Chris Bosh is a unique athlete, who isn't afraid to push the envelope. Bosh won't be pressured into doing anything he doesn't feel comfortable doing. That is why all the speculation surrounding his future is of no consequence because none of the rumours have any substance. In most cases, it is fabrication at his finest, works of fiction that have no basis in fact."

  • Nick Hut of the Northwest Herald: "It has been easy to spot a pattern in the Bulls' draft strategy since John Paxson took over basketball operations in 2003. First-round picks Kirk Hinrich (Kansas), Ben Gordon (Connecticut), Luol Deng (Duke) and Joakim Noah (Florida) all came from elite programs. Tyrus Thomas (LSU) reached the Final Four in his lone season. Derrick Rose (Memphis) went to the national title game as a freshman, although his raw ability surely would have made him the top pick regardless. Paxson said the trend in the Bulls' choices is no accident. 'Ultimately,' Paxson said, 'those kids know what winning's all about. "There's something to be said for winning because you have to accept a role [and] you have to play that role.' Perhaps that explanation indicates why North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough has begun to be linked to the Bulls in predraft buzz. Hansbrough, a rugged power forward, is the most accomplished player in this year's senior class. He was the unanimous Player of the Year in 2008 and led the Tar Heels to the national championship this season."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "John Hammond is encouraged by what he sees as the countdown continues until the June 25 draft. And the Milwaukee Bucks general manager disputes the notion it's a weak draft with little difference in quality after the first two or three picks. 'Absolutely not,' Hammond said Monday. 'The rumblings out of Chicago were that this draft may be better than people have anticipated. I feel like we'll get a good player.' "