First Cup: Friday
May, 24, 2013
By Nick Borges
- Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: Suddenly, Frank Vogel is a household name. A week ago, anybody outside of Indianapolis or the circle of NBA cognoscenti had no idea who the Indiana Pacers’ low-key coach was, what he looked like, what he stood for. Until last week, ESPN’s Skip Bayless thought Vogel was a door-to-door dictionary salesman. Now, everybody knows his name. First because of the misquote-turned-story regarding LeBron James, and now for Wednesday night’s decision to sit center Roy Hibbert in the Miami Heat’s final, game-winning possession. There’s even a sarcastic new Twitter hashtag out there: #frankvogelideas. He’s known now for all the wrong reasons. Which is sad, and unfair, because he’s done an amazing job breathing life back into this team, doing so from the minute he stepped in as interim coach. But it’s deserved, too, because by one man’s humble reckoning — and the reckoning of several folks in and around basketball — it was a mistake. There’s an inclination in the media to take what a TV expert says and adopt it as the last word, the prevailing conventional wisdom. Except in this case, the TV guys were right. Vogel just happens to disagree. Still disagreed Thursday afternoon. Strongly. Which means he’s either stubborn or has great strength in his convictions.
- Dan Le Batard of The Miami Herald: LeBron James was still and serene throughout this celebration. It was strange, given the asylum he has just made of his surroundings. James removed his mouthpiece gently with his index finger and thumb to reveal no overt smile or joy whatsoever, as echoing bedlam broke out all around him and teammates came over for hugs that went unreturned. Facially, emotionally, impossibly, he would have looked about the same if he had been wandering down a grocery aisle shopping for produce. He somehow lookednormal. And ordained. And not yet done. It was the peace and belief and clarity a bullet-dodging Keanu Reeves was trying to channel when he realized he was The One in the chaos ofThe Matrix. Only this wasn’t, you know, science fiction. Less than one year removed from America’s mocking laughter, the butt of televised late-night jokes and character smearing that suggested he was a late-game coward, James somehow seemed to be the least-surprised person in this entire bouncing building about what he had just wrought. We are in such a big hurry these days, staring into our phones as we walk past strangers, texting while driving, so connected to a bombardment of instant stimuli that it is easy to miss even the biggest and most obvious things whizzing right by us. James made a very difficult thing look very easy at the end of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, and the magic/art of this was lost in howling and blame and all the noisy insta-opinion wondering how the coach of the Indiana Pacers could possibly be so dumb as to allow it.
- Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: Tim Duncan earned another honor during his resurgent 16th season, making the All-NBA first team for the first time since 2006-07 while Tony Parker was selected to the second team, the NBA announced on Thursday. The Spurs treated them to a round of a applause when the news was announced by coach Gregg Popovich at the end of practice. “It’s quite an honor for those guys,” Popovich said. “I’m thrilled for them. I’m real excited that people would put them in that position. What an honor. All-NBA anything is pretty special. It’s something we really respect and feel great about. And then we’ll forget about it.” Duncan, who did not speak to the media on Thursday, earned his 10th first-team selection and 14th overall after averaging 17.8 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.65 blocks with a 24.4 Player Efficiency Rating. Duncan was previously named to the All-Defensive and All-Star teams for the 14th time. He extended his franchise record for All-NBA picks, a list that includes David Robinson(10), George Gervin (8), Tony Parker (3), Manu Ginobili (2), Dennis Rodman (1).
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Kevin Durant doesn't do bold predictions. Well, not since the summer of 2009, when he crazily but correctly proclaimed that the Thunder would be a playoff team the following season. Instead, it seems Durant prefers to just put in the work. Before darting off for the offseason, Durant spoke about how “fun” it's going to be to work on his game all summer. He said he's looking forward to growing as a player, coming back better next season and helping his teammates even more. Then he talked about being more efficient. Better offensively. Returning with different shots, different moves. “The only way I can go is up,” Durant said. Recent playoff disappointments perhaps might make Durant as determined as ever. The Thunder lost in five games to Memphis, dropping each of the final four contests. It was the third straight season in which the Thunder was eliminated by losing four straight. … It'll be another four months before Durant gets another shot at writing the Thunder's script. In the meantime, Durant's only promise is that he will be stronger because of his setbacks.
- Marcus Thompson of The Oakland Tribune: It only makes sense the Warriors get mentioned in the third annual Dwight Howard saga. They had cameos in the first two and they were awful. Now, Golden State is a successful, attractive destination in the NBA. And even though he doesn’t need to these days, co-owner Joe Lacob still loves the pursuit of the big fish. So the fact that reports surfaced about Howard being interested in the Warriors is expected, if not redundant. But is this even possible? Sure. In the same way it was possible for the Warriors to win a title. Except there were a few MAJOR obstacles in the way, namely San Antonio, Memphis and Miami. Golden State’s acquisition of Howard too has major obstacles. The first one being it’s only late May so the likelihood is Howard has NO IDEA what he wants yet.
- Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News: Given that Dwight Howard is a total head case, what is your prediction this week for where he signs? Tim Cowlishaw: He's more a partial head case than a total head case. He's not out getting arrested, so give him points for that. But, yes, he always seems to bring trouble of a different nature, or trouble follows him depending upon how one chooses to look at it. I think Houston and Atlanta will be at the top of his list. Re-signing with the Lakers might be next. Dallas comes somewhere after that because the Mavericks have little to offer besides no state income tax.
- Vince Ellis of the Pioneer Press: It’s been more than a month since the Pistons fired Lawrence Frank. They’ve interviewed many candidates, including Oklahoma City Thunder assistant Mo Cheeks, who spoke with the Pistons on Wednesday. The move to bring on Phil Jackson as a consultant is what has raised the most eyebrows. The short-term involvement was characterized as Jackson doing a favor for his friend and Pistons owner Tom Gores. As far as the coaching search, Dumars said: “We will do a hell of a due diligence on our next coach. We're not going to drag this out. Tom and I have talked about this, and we want to turn this over as quick as possible.” Look for a resolution by the first week of June.
- Craig Grialou of Arizona Sports: In a Suns season that went very much wrong, Goran Dragic did a lot right. He led the team in scoring (14.7), assists (7.4) and steals (1.6), setting career highs in each category. He also averaged a career-high 3.1 rebounds. … If Dragic can duplicate his second half numbers (16.1 points, 9.5 assists in 36 minutes per game) into the first half of next season, then yes, an NBA All-Star Game appearance may be in his future. … Dragic, who turned 27 this month, has already put last season behind him. He's back home in his native Slovenia getting ready for the European Championships, where he helped lead Slovenia to a seventh-place finish two years ago. Leading his country's national team can and should help Dragic become the floor general point guards are expected to be in the NBA.
- Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com: As was expected, Golden State Warriors center Andris Biedrins will exercise his player option and return to the Bay Area for the 2013-14 season, according to his agent Bill Duffy. Biedrins, 27, held a player option for next season that will pay him $9 million for the final year of his six-year, $54 million contract the two sides agreed upon in the summer of 2008. The seven-footer could have declined the option, becoming an unrestricted free agent this offseason. However, that will not be the case. “He will not opt out,” Duffy stated clearly to CSNNW.com. General Manager Bob Myers has some tough decisions to make being that the Warriors are destined to be luxury tax payers next season with roughly $75 million in salary tied-up. The punitive luxury tax system goes into effect and Carl Landry (player option) and Jarrett Jack (free agent) are integral pieces the organization would hope to retain.
- Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Doc Rivers is one of the most frequent visitors Jared Sullingersees at the Celtics’ Waltham training facility. And Sullinger has kept the conversation light, probably much to the coach’s relief after an early offseason of introspection. “Honestly, you can’t always talk basketball or talk about your situation,” Sullinger said yesterday of Rivers, who had briefly contemplated not returning following the C’s elimination by the New York Knicks in the first round of the playoffs. “Sometimes you have to let people breathe, and that’s what I’ve been doing with Doc, Kevin(Garnett) and Paul (Pierce). Let them be themselves, because after a while, talking about basketball every day is really tough. I experience it all the time, and I catch myself, because there are times when I really need a mental break.” Sullinger is also like most Celtics fans. He has no idea what this team will look like next October, and whether it will include Garnett and Pierce — neither of whom Sullinger has talked to. “I’m the same way as everyone else,” he said. “I’m not the (general manager). I’m not Danny (Ainge). I don’t know anything what’s happening, but regardless of what they decide I’ll support it.”
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: But even with the exciting move, the Wizards will still have to wait and see what the teams ahead of them decide to do before they get attached to one player. Georgetown sophomore forward Otto Porter Jr., UNLV freshman power forward Anthony Bennett and Indiana forward Victor Oladipo are options for the Wizards if Kentucky center Nerlens Noel and Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore go first and second. Porter is currently preparing for the June 27 NBA draft at McDonough gym at Georgetown and will likely work out for the top three or four teams in the lottery. At 6-feet-8 and with a 7-1 wingspan, Porter stands out as an obvious choice at No. 3 for Washington. He would fill a need small forward, has local ties and a skill set that would mesh well with Wall and Beal. But there is a possibility that Porter, arguably the most NBA-ready player among the top prospects, might not be around when the Wizards pick third. A source with knowledge of the Cavaliers’ thinking said Porter is under consideration to go No. 1.
- Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: Former Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy says he doesn't plan to coach in the NBA next season and says there's the possibility he may never coach again. With two kids about to enter high school in Seminole County, Van Gundy says he has turned down the opportunity in recent weeks to interview for NBA head-coaching jobs. With some decent jobs available (see Clippers, Nets and Hawks) -- this news is a shocking revelation coming from one of the premier coaching candidates in the league. "We love where we're living and quite honestly it would be hard for us to leave Central Florida. ... As much as I would like to be back in coaching, we're all real happy here. I don't know what will happen in the future, but for right now we've decided not to pursue anything." Asked what if there's a chance he will never coach again, Van Gundy replied: "I guess there's a chance. ... The reason I say that is because I don't know when it will be a good time (to return). If I'm going to wait until everyone is out of high school, we're talking another four years. By then, I'd still be young enough, but I don't know if there would be any interest (from NBA teams). Every year, you're out of it, it gets harder and harder to get back in." However, Van Gundy was quick to add that the prospects of never coaching again is hard for him to fathom.
- Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: P.J. Carlesimo should be an expert on the Nets’ roster after coaching them to the playoffs this season. And while he believes Brooklyn’s talent places it in the upper echelon of the NBA, the Nets’ former coach said Thursday that Mikhail Prokhorov's goal of winning a title in two years is “maybe not totally realistic.” “Everybody starts the year saying we want to win a championship. Brooklyn has more reason to say that than a lot of the other teams in the league. I still would not call them one of the favorites,” said Carlesimo, who quickly picked up a job as an analyst on ESPN after he wasn’t retained by the Nets. “I wouldn’t put that on whoever is lucky enough to get the coaching job. I think it’s a team that could win a lot of games. I think it’s a 50-win team, a playoff team and a team that could do well, particularly in the Eastern Conference. But to win a championship is a bear.” Carlesimo, who went 35-19 with the Nets as interim coach before Brooklyn fell in seven games to the Bulls in the first round, also wasn’t buying into the narrative about why he was fired, which was at least partly because he was neither an authoritative nor respected voice in the locker room. He called that a “spin,” and said an inexperienced candidate could be successful with the Nets.
- Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: New majority owner Vivek Ranadive met briefly with Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie on Thursday before attending the "Long Live the Kings" rally at Cesar Chavez Plaza in downtown Sacramento. Petrie's contract expires at the end of June. Petrie had planned to attend this week's predraft group workout in New Jersey. Instead, he's in California as the transition from the Maloof family to Ranadive's group takes place. Ranadive said there will be an urgency in sorting out the basketball operations. … Besides Petrie, a decision has to be made on coach Keith Smart. While the rest of the coaching staff is not under contract for next season, Smart's contract runs through the 2013-14 season. Ranadive wants to meet with Smart, too. The Kings will pick seventh in the first round of the draft June 27, so clarity within basketball operations is important. … The sooner there is clarity in the front office and on the sideline, the sooner the focus can shift to the roster. The Kings have posted seven consecutive losing seasons. Eight players from this season are under contract for next season.
- Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times: Over the last year, LeBron James sold significantly more shoes in the United States than Kobe Bryant. James sold $300 million worth of his Nike signature shoes domestically, according to Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes.com. Bryant was second on the list at $50 million for his Nike signature shoes, followed by Carmelo Anthony's Jordan brand ($40 million) and Kevin Durant's Nike ($35 million). Dwight Howard's Adidas brand shoes brought in $5 million, on par with John Wall's Reebok shoe. Derrick Rose, with Adidas, sold $25 million in the United States. While Bryant's shoes have dipped over the last year, he's the NBA's biggest star in China. His shoes also sell "briskly" in Asia. Bryant has been with Nike since 2003 after making the jump from Adidas.