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First Cup: Friday

  • Jeff Miller of The Orange County Register: "The Lakers were so convincing Thursday that they nearly coaxed the significance of out their largest game yet. By the middle of the third quarter, the bench was breaking up with laughter, Dwight Howard had gone from Superman to Everyman and the end of this eventual 100-75 Lakers' triumph couldn't arrive soon enough. For either team. 'It's just one game,' Coach Phil Jackson warned. ;No big deal,' Kobe Bryant said. Great start. Better finish. Yes, there are still three victories to go. Patience people. Orlando has to be better than this and certainly will be better than this, perhaps by Sunday. But the Magic in Game 1 was like one of those discounted knife sets featured in an infomercial. It looked a lot better on television than when it finally arrived at home. The only thing missing at Staples Center was Ron Popeil promising, 'But wait, there's more!' Or, in the case of Thursday, there was less."

  • Ramona Shelburne of the Los Angeles Daily News: "In Thursday's 40-point rage against the Magic, Kobe Bryant seemed to generate his own solar wind. 'Well, he had the smell,' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. 'He found the angle of what he wanted to do out there on the floor and carried the game his way.' For the past year, Bryant has obsessed over this title. His sleep patterns have suffered, his focus on everything else in life clearly distracted. 'My kids are calling me Grumpy from the SevenDwarfs. That's how I've been at home, just a grouch,' he said, cracking -- just for an instant -- into a smile. ... Thursday night, Bryant was calling plays out like Peyton Manning at the line of scrimmage. Barking, sneering and snarling. Along with his Finals' career-high in points, he had eight assists. The Magic never had a chance."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "The Orlando Magic returned to the NBA's main stage for the first time in 14 years, but quickly learned the biggest star in Hollywood this time of year isn't named Jack or Leonardo or Denzel. It's Kobe, and he only needs one name for identification. Kobe Bryant welcomed back the Magic to their first NBA Finals since 1995, scoring 40 points to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 100-75 rout in Game 1 at Staples Center. The Magic pulled out all the stops. They brought point guard Jameer Nelson out of mothballs and playing more than anyone could have imagined (23 minutes) after a four-month layoff, but it wasn't nearly enough."

  • Chris Webber for the Orlando Sentinel: "You can't overrate experience or sometimes naivety that you don't know what to expect and you just go out and play. That works sometimes. But experience usually wins out and I think that made a big difference. The expressions on the Lakers' faces, especially Kobe's, those were a winner's look. I thought the biggest mistake for Orlando was playing Jameer Nelson that much. If Orlando had taken Nelson out after those first three quick assists in five or six minutes, then you could build on that, you know, 'We brought a guy back, he played great, we played great.' There would have been a little success. Now Jameer's going to be second-guessing himself, the team's going to be second-guessing itself, I think the coach is going to be second-guessed. I wonder about that decision. It looks like the way the Lakers are playing now, the series won't be back in LA."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "His legacy probably should not need another title. One need only to watch to understand how rare a player he has been. But we tend to need numbers, and a fourth title (and any more than might come) would go a long way toward defining him. Perhaps, however, the legacy he is assuring is not as a champion -- he already had that -- but for his mindset. The Lakers have not won this series. They need three more wins to get his fourth and the franchise's 15th title. But Kobe Bryant's manner this week has not been for show. We have seen his boundless determination again. When his career is over and compared with others', perhaps it should not be measured just in championships, but rather in that attitude, that drive so vividly clear again this week."

  • Kurt Kragthorpe of the The Salt Lake Tribune: "Sometimes, these things do write themselves. This performance played into all of the Kobe, Kobe and more Kobe pre-series hype that Stan Van Gundy seized upon in his ABC-captured speech in the locker room before his team took the floor. Nice try. If the Magic were already tired of hearing about Bryant, well, guess what their lives will be like between now and Sunday night, when they report for Game 2. The Magic's strategy? 'Pray that he does miss,' Dwight Howard said, and that might be as effective as anything they tried Thursday."

  • Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star: "Yesterday, when Chris Bosh insisted he is worthy of the same money that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will surely receive next summer -- 'without a doubt,' he said, no matter that a team built around him won 33 games this year -- he pooh-poohed the idea of taking less for a chance at building a contender. That's fair, but Bosh certainly needs to get better if the Raptors are ever going to. Bryan Colangelo called it 'encouraging' to hear of Bosh's commitment to weightlifting, but it's talk until it's bulk. Bosh tried to get stronger a few off-seasons ago but quit after he said he 'got discouraged.' Weightlifting, this just in, is hard. The stick-figure silhouette endures. Brand building isn't body building. Surely a syringe in the buttocks is in his future? 'No, no, no, no, no,' Bosh said of the prospect of a Roger Clemens-style 'B-12' injection. '(The training regimen) is all healthy. No, no, no, no, no.' To be fair, Bosh can occasionally be a refreshingly harsh critic of himself. He acknowledged that his career has 'stagnated' and he chalked up some of that and lingering knee problems to his lack of physical strength. Bingo, finally."

  • Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: "I could be way wrong, but I think Kevin Pritchard has that itch. And Paul Allen will be right there to scratch it. So if the opportunity arises for the Trail Blazers to move up in the draft and secure a lottery pick, don't be surprised if they're on it like a mosquito on a bare bottom. Thanks to a 54-win regular season and the franchise's first playoff appearance since 2003, Portland owns the 24th pick in the June 25 draft. ... On Thursday, I asked Pritchard about the possibilities of dealing up to get into the lottery. 'Who knows? Depends on what's offered and what we feel makes sense,' the general manager said in his best downplay mode. 'I don't think I can speculate on what those odds are. There are still three weeks left. It's way too early.' But Pritchard is working on it. There have been plenty of conversations with exe
    cutives of other teams, as well as the usual backgrounding on, and with, candidates for the draft."

  • Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee: "Darren Collison spoke up on behalf of the old point guards hoping to be drafted into the NBA. Old is relative in the league: Collison will be 22 when the next NBA season starts. But as the 2009 draft approaches, Collison and most other point guards who spent four years in college realize that they likely will be chosen behind several teenagers. Collison and the rest of the over-21 point guard crew could be drafted after players such as Ricky Rubio (18), Brandon Jennings (19) and Jrue Holiday (18). So after working out Thursday for the Kings at the team's practice facility, Collison made a case for the 'old' guys. 'You look at the young guys, they're getting all of the pub right now,' Collison said. 'I think some of us older guys, we may not think it's fair all the time. We feel like we all put in four years' hard work in college and see point guards coming out (of college after one year) and getting that recognition right away.' "