First Cup: Thursday

  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: "Boston forward Glen Davis stated it simply Wednesday in assessing a Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals Game 7: 'This is what the NBA wants. This is what the fans want.' Included in the confirming evidence: Ticket demand and prices. StubHub.com reported Wednesday afternoon the most demand for NBA Finals tickets in the website's 10-year year history, with the average asking price of more than $1,100 a ticket double what it was for last year's Finals between the Lakers and Orlando Magic. Even as the Lakers faced possible elimination in Tuesday's Game 6, prices for Game 7 remained steady at $1,260 per ticket, according to FanSnap.com. When the Lakers won Game 6, FanSnap.com spokesperson Christian Anderson said the average ticket price quickly jumped to $1,562.71."

  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: "Lakers coach Phil Jackson danced around a question about a reported $2 million bonus -- on top of his $12 million salary -- if the team wins the title. Jackson is in the final season of his current deal and will decide soon whether to sign a new one. 'I wouldn't ever disclose what's in my contract, but I know that the rumor has come up and it's been around,' he said, referring to a report on ESPN.com. 'I know that I have a bonus in my contract, and I was mistaken about it. So, I know there's one there at some level, but I'm not sure if what they're saying is correct, whoever has reported it. I don't know who got a hold of this information in the first place.' Jackson also said he would donate any bonus money to charity."

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: "This will be the first time in 19 seasons as an NBA head coach that PhilJackson gets to issue his team the ultimate final exam: Game 7 of the NBA Finals. After 1,311 other games (1,230 regular-season, 61 playoff), one game will decide everything. Nothing could possibly compare in terms of pressure. That, however, should be perfectly fine with the Lakers -- because that sort of thing is right up Jackson’s alley. Lakers guard Derek Fisher tried Wednesday to explain that. Fisher offered that Jackson’s Zen teachings -- 'Embrace the now; stay in the moment,' Fisher recited -- create just the sort of mindfulness to help a team stay poised in such an uncommon situation. The player who will touch the ball first for the Lakers was so excited that Andrew Bynum, 22, actually forgot he could use an extra day of rest for the torn cartilage in his right knee before jumping for the opening tip. After Lakers practice Wednesday, Bynum grinned and said: 'I wish we could play tonight!' "

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "It is perhaps most fitting that an NBA Finals sponsored by Sigmund Freud has come to this. In their Game 7 hours of need, a (Celtics nation turns its lonely eyes to Rasheed Wallace and Glen (Big Baby, Uno-Uno, etc.) Davis. With Kendrick Perkins out, the Celtics must rely on two players who are running neck and neck with the nearby San Andreas Fault when it comes to stability. Every person dressed in green tonight at Staples Center will be counted on for a contribution -- Maria Menounos included. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo need to have the games of their lives if the Celtics are to overcome the Los Angeles Lakers on their home floor. But the tears in Perkins’ right knee mean a far greater role for two guys often accused of hanging their hats in a padded locker room. Yesterday before practice, they said they were ready -- in their inimitable ways. 'Here it’s either you’re going to take that next step to be the champion, or you’re going to trip up the steps and fall short,' Wallace said."

  • Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe: "Take a good look at your Celtics when they break from their huddle and walk on the Staples Center court for Game 7 against the Lakers tonight. This will never happen again. Not with this group. Ray Allen might be gone next year. Paul Pierce could opt to leave this summer. Coach Doc Rivers says he’s not sure he’s coming back. Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis are the only Celtic substitutes under contract for 2010-11. Even if by some chance they all return, they will never get to another Game 7 in the Finals. Allen and Kevin Garnett are 34, and their rookie-issue NBA tires are almost as bald as their heads. Pierce turns 33 this year. There are three other thirtysomethings on the bench. This is it. The last stand for the old guard. 'I think we should always view it that way,’ said Rivers. 'I hope not. Obviously, I’m not sure. You can never take for granted a season, a game, and especially a Game 7 of a Finals. You never know if and when you’re going to be back in that position.’ "

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Michael Jordan owns six NBA championship rings and his statue stands outside the United Center. Magic Johnson could carry his five rings past his statue outside the Staples Center if he chose to do so. Kobe Bryant doesn't have a statue, which is why Thursday night's Game 7 of the NBA Finals between his Lakers and archenemy Celtics is a prime opportunity for him to enhance his legacy further. Four NBA championships and a multitude of other team and individual honors has Bryant ticketed for eventual enshrinement in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, alongside greats such as Jordan and Johnson. But with a victory Thursday, Bryant would tie Johnson and sit one behind Jordan in the championship tally, begging the question of whether Bryant is reaching their heights as he chases their accomplishments. 'It's not at the front of his mind,' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Wednesday. 'That's not what the big issue is. It's about his personality. It's about winning. And I think, in retrospect, he's going to see that at some point.' Bryant's personality -- his reputation for driving teammates and stepping on opponents' throats -- is what several league observers agree most likens him to Jordan. 'There's only one Michael,' former Bulls assistant Johnny Bach said. 'But Kobe is the closest we'll see because of his attack mentality.' "

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "It has been said that Kobe Bryant will be more committed than ever to tie and eventually surpass Michael Jordan's mark once he gets close. There's simply no denying Kobe's drive. ... But how will Kobe's five rings impact LeBron James? If LeBron ever wants to be in the same class with Kobe and Jordan he will have to win multiple championships. That's why the decision he makes this summer is critical. Kobe had the good fortune of playing with Shaquille O'Neal and later Pau Gasol. LeBron has never had that second superstar by his side. That's what could give the Knicks an edge this summer. Because they have the flexibility to sign two 'max' free agents, the Knicks can make a simple offer to LeBron: sign with us and you pick the other free agent. Of course, LeBron can simply join the Heat or Bulls and he'd have that second star but the Knicks are one of the few teams with the flexibility to build a team around LeBron. Another title for Kobe could be a good thing for the Knicks. It gives LeBron something to shoot for. It may provide him with one more reason to why he should leave Cleveland."

  • Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post: "I've said in this space before and I'll say it again before getting to witness another that my two favorite words in sports are 'Game Seven.' The nervousness, the sense of desperation, the poise, the unraveling, the precision, the turnovers, the back-and-forth, the push-and-pull make it so irresistible. Anything that can bring already accomplished men to their knees like this, that can make a man tell the people dearest to him, 'Here's a credit card; get a suite at the Four Seasons' is something that must stir the soul. I can't help but wonder how differently the history of the NBA would read if Jerry West and Elgin Baylor had been able to win one of those four NBA Finals Game 7s from Bill Russell's Celtics. Or more recently, if Patrick Ewing's Knicks had been able to beat Hakeem Olajuwon's Rockets in Game 7 of the 1994 Finals, or if Mark Messier's Rangers had lost Game 7 and the Stanley Cup in the same year."

  • Doug Smith of theToronto Star: "Age is a state of mind: Look at the rosters of the Lakers and Celtics. Bryant, 14 years in the NBA; Fisher, 14 years; Odom, 11 years; Pierce, 12 years; Garnett, 15 years; Allen, 14 years. Get the point? The longest-serving Raptor is Hedo Turkoglu, who has been in the league 11 years and who may not return to the team. After him? Chris Bosh at seven and he could be gone, too. Time-hardened veterans know what it takes and the Raptors haven’t had many of them, ever."

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "The suffering for Kings fans never ends. Grab a crying towel. Watch with an empty stomach. Prepare for the inevitable. The Lakers are just too good at this. There is little reason to believe the Boston Celtics will provide the painkillers, make the Lakers miserable in Game 7, and enable Sacramentans to douse themselves in green beer and parade around in gleeful celebration. Won't happen. Won't be any different in this Game 7, either, especially with the Lakers on their home court instead of at that steamy old barn known as Arco Arena. 'This is a huge chance to accomplish something magnificent,' Pau Gasol said during Wednesday's media session at Staples Center. 'I try to think about how bad and how much it would hurt if we don't come out as winners.' Yeah, well. It happens. It just rarely happens in the Phil Jackson Era."

  • Dick Jerardi of the Philadelphia Daily News: "When you watch Evan Turner next season, and every indication is that you will be watching him play for the 76ers, notice the rhythm and pace to his game. It is understated, quiet, effective and very relaxed. When you've been where Turner has been and lived what he has lived, playing basketball does not seem all that daunting. Before his fourth birthday, Turner got just about every illness imaginable. He did not learn to speak until he was 3 because of oversized baby teeth and an overbite. A few years later, he rushed across a street and got hit by a car. '[My family] said I was sick, like, every other day,' Turner said last week from the Washington office of his agent, David Falk. 'They were wondering if I was ever going to be fully healthy, live a normal life.' Turner, 21, obviously does not remember all the details, but he does remember countless visits to doctors, 'trying to get help.' 'When you're a little kid, you're just used to it,' Turner said. 'I always thought, 'Something is always wrong. That's part of life.' ' His mom, Iris James, was right there for all of it. 'Measles, pneumonia, eczema, rashes, adenoids,' she said from Chicago. 'It was just one thing after the other. It was a mess.' Eventually, he put most of the illnesses behind him."