First Cup: Wednesday

  • Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: What Wade said of the Spurs, the Spurs would say of Miami. “You never put them away,” he said. “They always believe, and it’s the same with us. That’s why this is a perfect, different-animal kind of series. They’re the other team like us.” Miami had won a club-record 11 straight playoff games at home before this loss. That included an 8-0 mark by the downtown bay this postseason, and by an average margin of 12.4 points. The Spurs by contrast were only 3-5 on the road this postseason. This was the 14th game Miami has hosted in an NBA Finals, carrying in a 10-3 record. All of that made the Heat’s first half nearly shocking. Historically Game 3 has been a Finals barometer, with that game’s winner going on to be champion 83 percent of the time. Then again, one of the exceptions was just one year ago, when the Spurs won Game 3 over Miami in an even greater rout, to no eventual avail. That is why Tuesday night didn’t change a whole lot. This still feels like a seven-game series. It still feels like either champion might win. Miami’s climb got a little steeper, that’s all. A little higher, and a little harder.

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: With Boris Diaw replacing Tiago Splitter at power forward, the Spurs got off to one of the best starts in club playoff history, a 41-point first quarter that jump-started their 111-92 win over the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Diaw finished the game with nine points, five rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block in 30 solid minutes. In his bench role, Splitter logged 16 minutes, during which he scored six points and grabbed four rebounds. What Popovich wanted from Diaw was ball movement and a more varied look than Splitter, strictly a post player, gives the Heat. “Boris is a good, all-around basketball player, so he can do several things at both ends of the court,” Popovich said. “We thought that we probably would need that just to have the best opportunity to play good basketball. He allows us to have more variety in our offense, and he's an underrated defender.”

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: One of the many things Heat players will miss about Shane Battier when he retires after the season — his ability and willingness to intercept opposing coach’s play calls and inform his teammates before the play is run. Pacers coach Frank Vogel revealed there was a cat-and-mouse game unfolding behind the scenes in the Eastern Conference finals, with Vogel trying to “hide” his play calls from Battier. Battier said he has relayed the Spurs’ play calls to teammates several times during these Finals but said it’s more challenging with coach Gregg Popovich because “he has about 500 plays.” Battier said he has been intercepting play calls “since college [at Duke]. It’s something [coach Mike Krzyzewski] coached us on. I think it’s effective. Half the time, I may not know what the call is, but if the opponent thinks I know what’s going to happen, doubt creeps in. ... Battier said he has become skilled at doing it by “studying everything pretty diligently. I try to verse myself in hand gestures, key words, audibles. I try to know it all.”

  • William C. Rhoden of The New York Times: Every team has a franchise player to build around. The Knicks, for now, have Anthony. Fisher said the challenge, should Anthony stay, is not pairing him with another superstar but getting the current roster to play at a higher level. “How do you make the most of what you have?” Fisher said. “That’s the message I’ll send to these players every single day. We have to bloom where we’re planted, a lot of time in life. You can’t look for ways out and excuses why you aren’t excelling.” Fisher, presumably referring to the triangle, said his goal with the Knicks was to create “a format and a system of playing that allows for players that are very talented — maybe not as talented as Carmelo or Kobe — to give far more than they’ve ever given.” While salary cap issues are acute, and Anthony’s decision to stay or go is crucial, the first greatest challenge for the Knicks’ new leadership is changing the mind-set of an organization, its fan base and even a news media contingent for whom the cup is ever half empty. Jackson and Fisher have 18 championship rings between them. Their tough task will be convincing fans, and players, that the Knicks’ cup could soon runneth over.

  • Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times: Forget that Derek Fisher, who has played basketball since the peach basket was invented but has never coached a team in his life, will be getting $25 million for five years. And forget that Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, generally considered one of the three or four best coaches in the NBA, makes $4.375 million a year. Forget, too, that Jackson, whose ailing body prevents him from being the Knicks’ coach because of the travel duties, was rejected by his former three-point shooter, Steve Kerr, who signed on as the coach for the Warriors in mid-May for ... $25 million for five years. Sense a trend? Kerr, too, for all his likability and basketball knowledge, is the same as Fisher -- never coached a game in his life. Maybe none of this matters for the Bulls. But I think it does. ... You think even in the dark and videotape-cluttered man cave where Thibs spends his waking hours breaking down film from the Naismith era, that he doesn’t know how screwed he is in the nutty world of coaching hires?

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Asked if he saw any chance of him not being a Maverick next season, Nowitzki said: “Pretty slim to none. We all know I kind of grew up here in the Mavericks’ (organization).” Nowitzki even laughed when it was mentioned that the Houston Rockets – bitter rivals down Interstate 45 and the team that Dwight Howard spurned the Mavericks and Nowitzki for last summer in free agency – have been mentioned as a possible landing spot for him. “The quote was more that they’re going for every guy that’s out there,” he said. “And that, I guess, includes me. But I doubt I’ll be out there long.”

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: After all the years and all the seasons that ended in every extreme from triumph to pain, this one would remain unforgettable. That might not be a bad thing. The loss, Kevin McHale said, hit hard and in some ways will continue to hit, even as he considers ways to bounce back, ranging from roster changes to defensive adjustments, from bringing in veteran influences to a potential addition to the coaching staff. There was also hope, however, that the loss will inspire. “It will take time to get over that loss,” McHale said in his first interview since leaving the podium in Portland after Game 6 more than a month ago. “Sometimes as players, you have to experience some of that stuff so it hurts badly. That spurs you on to become a better player and not have that feeling again. It was a lousy ending. They were really hurt. It should have a real positive impact to the guys.”

  • Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post: Kenneth Faried is in the midst of the most important summer of his career. His star power is growing exponentially, as underscored by a recent NBA trip to Spain, where fans didn't need formal introductions to know the Nuggets' young forward. Upon returning to the U.S., Faried said the first thing on his mind was getting better. Those were the second and third things on his mind, too. Practice with Team USA is coming up, and working toward his goal of becoming an NBA all-star — no, a superstar — is his focus. No longer content with being just an "energy guy," Faried plans to broaden his skills and his game, building on a season that ended so well it left Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly ready to open contract extension talks this summer.

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Center Al Jefferson was a game-changer on the court for the Charlotte Bobcats. Coach Steve Clifford thinks Jefferson can have the same impact this summer for the now-Hornets. The Hornets will have at least $13 million in cap space to pursue free agents. Clifford said Jefferson’s presence makes the Hornets a much better sell. “He’s dramatically changed where we’re at as a franchise from one year to the next,” Clifford said of Jefferson, who last week was named All-NBA. “He changed his career with what he did this year, and it was already a really good career. He’s made this a more attractive place for people to come and play. No question about that.” Hornets owner Michael Jordan addressed free agency Monday in his first extended comments since the Bobcats’ season ended in a 4-0 playoff sweep by the Miami Heat. After an appearance to contribute $250,000 to help fund teacher projects in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Jordan said he believes Charlotte now is a free-agent destination and he hopes to sign another “superstar” this summer to play alongside Jefferson.

  • Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com: Two NBA teams with head coach openings have reached out to the representatives of Indiana Pacers assistant coach Nate McMillan, league sources informed CSNNW.com at AmericanAirlines Arena on Tuesday night. Contact was made merely on an exploratory basis to gauge his level of interest, said a source who requested anonymity. Being that the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers are the only two teams currently without a head coach, I think it’s safe to speculate that they inquired about McMillan. As of now, McMillan, 49, has not been brought in for an interview nor is there one scheduled, sources said. Though, that can change any day.

  • Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune: The Jazz will work out 27 free agents Wednesday, during a two-hour minicamp in Salt Lake City. Among the invitees are former Utes Carlon Brown and Jason Washburn, former UCLA Bruin Tyler Honeycutt, Idaho Stampede standout Dee Bost, and swingman James Nunnally, who spent time with the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers last season. Last season, the Jazz hosted a similar camp, bringing in 24 free agents.