First Cup: Monday

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: "Get up, Los Angeles, shout at the top of your lungs, scream as loud as you can and enjoy this as much as possible. The Lakers are the NBA champions once again, and you deserve just as much credit for their victory over the hated Boston Celtics as Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest, Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum and Phil Jackson. The parade today is just as much for you as the players and coaches, your contributions as important and having as much impact as anything they did on the court. You lifted this team up in Game 6 and 7 at Staples Center, hoisting them on top of your shoulders when they needed you most, lifting them with your incredible passion and enthusiasm and helping them soar to the highest of heights. ... From San Pedro to Van Nuys to the Westside, from every tavern and home where Lakers fans gathered, you conveyed your passion and enthusiasm, and it reached the Lakers, who used it as motivation to reach a littler further, dig a little deeper to find the energy and wherewithal to do what they had to do to beat the Celtics. And it worked. You were the difference, Los Angeles. So by all means, take your bows today, bask in the afterglow of your achievement and seize your moment, your due. You deserve it."

  • Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press: "You better have a team if you want to win the Larry O'Brien Trophy. That's the overwhelming lesson from these NBA Finals, which ended in a seventh game that saw Kobe Bryant stink up the joint with his shooting, but still celebrate in a confetti shower -- thanks to guys like Ron Artest, Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol. The myth of the single superstar was exploded this postseason. LeBron James crapped out early. Dwyane Wade had one night. Dwight Howard was exposed, a Superman wearing nothing but a cape. And in the end, when, according to the superstar handbook, Kobe was supposed to soar above the rest, he was mortal and earthbound and shaking his head and lying on the court with less than 10 minutes left, having just committed another turnover and a blocking foul. Jordan Farmar pulled him to his feet and told him not to dwell on negatives. This from a guy who comes off the bench. 'I was on 'E,' ' Bryant told the media after his fifth NBA championship. 'I'm just glad my teammates really got us back in the game.' Teammates. What a concept!"

  • Bud Shaw of The Plain Dealer: "After the initial shock over how things went south against Boston, the biggerpicture of LeBron James' importance to the city came into view a lot more quickly than it would in any other place he can think to play. Chicago? He's immediately be doomed to fall short of Michael Jordan's legacy while playing for an owner that hasn't spent like Dan Gilbert has spent. On Broadway, he'd get a honeymoon season before every mistake, shortcoming and hastily-spoken word becomes tabloid fodder. He could call A-Rod for verification. With free agency approaching, he'll hear professions of undying affection in those places, in Miami, north Jersey, everywhere he turns. Here, there's a difference. People really mean it. Here, it's not fickle, despite Jim Brown's take on it. Here, it's not even contingent on winning a title. Look at all the love the Browns get despite their prolonged futility. It's the most one-sided relationship this side of Sandra Bullock-Jesse James. The other James, LeBron, knows what he has here. An unmatched comfort zone. The way he's wired, I think he stays. I could be wrong. He could leave. It's his mistake to make."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "I wonder if John Wall knows to send Pat Riley a thank-you note. Wall, who was raised in Raleigh then played a season at Kentucky, appears a lock to be the Washington Wizards' choice as the No.1 overall pick in Thursday's NBA draft. Wall likely would have been the top pick regardless of who received it in the draft lottery. That speaks as much to what point guard Wall does as how well he does it. That's where this winds back to Riley when he coached the New York Knicks and Miami Heat. Riley's teams were as tough (or thuggish, depending on who you asked) as the NBA got. You couldn't cut through the lane without getting chucked and certainly didn't dribble to the rim without a defender's hand, forearm and elbow impeding you like you should be cocooned in hockey pads. The NBA didn't want that esthetically, with games grinding along to the 70s, not the 90s. So eventually the rules were changed over several years to where hand-checking a ballhandler is just about an automatic foul. That rule interpretation meant Wall was automatic, too - that weapon every team needs as the refereeing influences the coaching and the coaching influences the front offices."

  • Tyler Dunne of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Doug Collins wants doubt to creep into his conscience. As Thursday's NBA draft nears, the 76ers' new coach hopes to get cold feet. Even though the Sixers are expected to take Ohio State's Evan Turner with the No. 2 overall pick, the team continued its string of workouts Saturday morning with Syracuse's Wes Johnson at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. The day before, Kentucky's DeMarcus Cousins and Georgia Tech's Derrick Favors worked out for the 76ers. Collins is welcoming their best shot. 'Do they make you think? Do you watch a guy work out and say, 'Wow, that was impressive,'? ' Collins said. 'Watching Wesley work out was like, 'Wow, that was impressive.' This young kid has got it. He's charismatic. He can play. He's respectful. He's older. Impressive.' For an hour, the 6-7 forward endured a fairly grueling workout. Coaches cycled him through a series of pick-and-roll and isolation-branded drills. Saturday was Johnson's third workout. He previously worked out for the New Jersey Nets (third overall pick) and Minnesota Timberwolves (fourth), two more realistic landing spots. Nonetheless, Johnson believes the Sixers are genuinely interested in him."

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Nearly three years after they started over by trading Kevin Garnett, the Timberwolves arrive at Thursday night's NBA draft ready to add as many as three first-round picks to a nucleus of players who have never, or barely ever, worn their uniforms. A team that accumulated Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, Jonny Flynn and Ryan Gomes, among others, either through that July 2007 trade or the ensuing two drafts now sure looks determined to rebuild again with a foundation based on Spanish guard Ricky Rubio, unsigned center Darko Milicic and possibly European prospect Nikola Pekovic. Thursday begins what could be -- maybe better be -- a transformational summer in which the Wolves own the draft's fourth, 16th and 23rd overall picks, a sizable salary cap and enough other assets to remake their roster once again by trading either Jefferson or Love. Or both."

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "So, what's it look like when you pull back the curtain on the Grizzlies' draft process? Who makes those picks, anyway? The best answer is: Well, it all depends. Despite the constant of Michael Heisley as owner, the process has changed as the front office has changed. If you're counting at home, the Griz -- well known for a revolving door for players and coaches -- are working on their fourth organizational hierarchy as it relates to drafting. Gone is the wholly collaborative effort of the Dick Versace/Billy Knight regime. And, the autonomy that Jerry West and, later, Marc Iavaroni once wielded is history. Now, as the Griz prepare for their 10th draft since moving to Memphis, the organization's preparation and mode of operation is described as collaborative at different levels -- but with Heisley ultimately making the final call."

  • Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune: "The Jazz rarely get a single-digit pick, so they have to take advantage of their place at No. 9. Add in that they normally are about as active and agile in the trading mix as one of the thousands of cement blocks in the foundation of EnergySolutions Arena, and it puts even more pressure on Kevin and the Gang to nail this opportunity. Let's say it the way it is: The Jazz aren't going to sign any real difference-makers in the free-agent period. So, if they won't use trades to improve themselves, and they can't or won't land a big-time free agent, then the draft is their only ticket to pairing up Deron Williams with another star, the star he needs, that they need, to edge toward competing for a title. If they don't land that star, they might, in time, lose Williams, too. Anybody not think he'll be a hot free agent when his deal is done here? Anybody not think, if the Jazz aren't authentic contenders, that he'll bolt in a couple of seasons to a team that is?"

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: "Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey takes a beating from fans, the media and last, but not least, opponents. Some folks in the media have called for Stuckey to be traded, and he's caught the ire of some fans because of the Chauncey Billups trade, which seems like light years ago. Next to Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge, he's the most polarizing athlete in Detroit. Lay off the kid, at least for now. When Stuckey walks into training camp in September, it will be the first time he'll have the same coach from the previous year. It also will be the first time his role and expectations are clearly defined. 'He's had three head coaches in three years,' Pistons president Joe Dumars said. 'He's held up pretty good. It's not like he's had one coach and one system for three years.' ... His sometimes-erratic jumper needs to get better, and so should his decision-making, which isn't always sound. To his credit, he's taken the criticism from his coaches well and is dedicated to improving. It also seems the team Dumars is building isn't point-guard dependent. Ben Gordon can score from anywhere. Charlie Villanueva, when he's right, can go inside or outside. Austin Daye, last year's first-round pick, has a natural advantage over other small forwards because of his height (6-foot-11). It's not a crossroads for Stuckey this year, it's just time to make the next step. the excuses are running out."

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "When Nate McMillan became coach of the Blazers in 2005, this was the state of video scouting in the organization: Coaches and players still used VHS tapes to watch opposing players and games and scouts like Chad Buchanan had to rely on college coaches to mail 'highlight' clips of college prospects to their homes. Fast-forward five years and the advancement is remarkable. The team employs a full-time video coordinator and assistant video coordinator, who record every Blazers game, practice and workout -- not to mention every NBA and college basketball game accessible throughout the season. Using sophisticated computer programs such as Sports-Tech and Synergy, they take all of the footage and plug them into files that allow coaches, players and scouts to scrutinize every second of every piece of video. This week, the Blazers' management team and coaching staff will spend hours in the draft 'war room' scouring video of potential draft prospects and, perhaps, possible trade targets. It's the culmination of years of work and the byproduct of a new era of technology."

  • Harvey Ararton of The New York Times: "More than a very tall man, Manute Bol was a basketball player with extraordinary shot-blocking instincts, which was obvious on the first night he donned an N.B.A. uniform. I know this because I was there, in Fairfax, Va., when the Knicks rolled into town for a preseason game against the Washington Bullets at George Mason University. At 7 feet 6 inches, Bol, a second-round Bullets draft pick, rejected the Knicks’ 7-1 Bill Cartwright three times in the first quarter and infuriated the hard-boiled rookie Patrick Ewing with his length and flailing elbows to the point where they almost came to blows. Ewing composed himself and said afterward that he had never experienced anything like Bol. 'If he puts on weight, nobody will be able to stop him,' he said. Given how spindly he was, how Bol managed to stand up at all, much less hang in against muscular N.B.A. opponents, was amazing. To understand what a prolific shot-blocker he was -- 14th overall in league history -- compare his career rejection numbers with those of Tim Duncan. Over the course of his 10 N.B.A. seasons, the last two of which he hardly played, Bol blocked 2,086 shots in 11,698 minutes. In 35,577 minutes to date, Duncan -- one of the sport’s better defending big men -- has blocked only 149 more shots."