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SL: Suns have chemistry; LeBron on Rondo; TP off the block

Ball Don't Lie

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Each weekday morning, BDL serves up a handful of NBA-related stories to digest with your omelette.

Jonathan Abrams, New York Times: "In the N.B.A., team chemistry is both underrated and overrated, and never that easy to quantify Still, while N.B.A. teams with subpar chemistry and star athletes can succeed, good chemistry can probably pole vault other clubs to greater heights than normal. The Suns are a case in point. 'We're not the most talented team,' said Steve Nash(notes), whose souvenir from the four-game sweep of San Antonio was an eye that was swollen shut. 'But we believe in each other.' It helps, of course, when a common enemy is in the crosshairs. The Spurs had knocked the Suns out of the postseason five times since San Antonio drafted Tim Duncan(notes) in 1997. Before Sunday, the Spurs had lost only one playoff series to Phoenix, in 2000, when Duncan sat out with an injury. So the Suns did not merely win a basketball series against the Spurs. They exorcised personal haunts. They healed themselves of bloody faces and malicious hip checks and demonstrated that their fast-paced offense could finally trusmp the disciplined Spurs, all while taking a political stand on the touchy issue of immigration. 'I'm proud that we've been tough,' said Nash, who was bloodied Sunday night by an errant elbow from Duncan and then returned in the fourth quarter, a bandage over his battered eye, to seal the sweep. 'We've been tough, both physically and mentally.'

Charles F. Gardner, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "A brighter day has arrived for Milwaukee Bucks forward Carlos Delfino(notes). Last summer he was trying to escape a bad situation in Russia after the professional team he signed a multiyear deal with - Khimki Moscow - hit financial hard times and was unable to meet its salary commitments. This summer, the 6-foot-6 forward is coming off a surprising season after starting 66 games for the Bucks and helping them reach the NBA playoffs. Bucks general manager John Hammond recently said the Bucks would pick up the second year on Delfino's contract, which will pay the Argentine player $3 million next season. 'I was thinking on 12 months ago, my situation, and I can tell you I'm pretty happy about how the season went,' Delfino said. 'If you start to analyze everything, we took a full team to a seven-game series, missing key pieces. You've got to be optimistic about it.'"

Tom Withers, AP: "Unable to corral Rajon Rondo(notes) so far in the NBA playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers may resort to Plan LeB. LeBron James(notes), it's your turn. With Rondo coming off an historic 29-point, 18-rebound, 13-assist performance in Game 4, Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said Monday he plans to use an assortment of players to try to slow the seemingly unstoppable Celtics point guard and one of them could be James, the league's two-time MVP and a first-team all-defense selection. 'We're going to give ‘Bron an opportunity,' Brown said. Rondo's not scared. 'I don't really care who's guarding me,' he said."

Jeff McDonald, San Antonio Express-News: "If Tony Parker(notes) is on the trading block, somebody forgot to tell Spurs general manager R.C. Buford. Speculation, stemming from a piece on ESPN.com, is running rampant that the Spurs are expected to 'at least consider' trading their three-time All-Star point guard this summer. Acknowledging the Spurs are beholden to 'continue to evaluate any opportunity that comes,' Buford said Monday he does not expect to shop Parker during the offseason. 'I think that you would be crazy not to want a player like Tony in our program for a long time,' Buford said, adding, 'The speculation with Tony is placed outside our organization.' Owning an expiring contract worth $13.5 million set to come off the books next season, and still in his prime at age 27, Parker remains the Spurs most tradeable asset. However, dealing him, and thus breaking up the Spurs' championship core, could prove too traumatic. Beset by injuries from start to finish, to his foot, ankle, hip and hand, Parker's production sagged to 16 points per game this season. However, he is just one season removed from an All-NBA campaign that saw him average a career-best 22 points in 2008-09. 'It would surprise me, if Tony hadn't played most of the year with some kind of health ailment, that we'd even be having this conversation,' Buford said."

Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun Sentinel: "If low-budget parts are needed to round out what is expected to be an overhauled Miami Heat roster, former Florida International University guard Raja Bell(notes) says he is up for the challenge. Speaking Monday on The Jorge Sedano Show on 790 The Ticket, the 33-year-old journeyman guard said he would welcome the opportunity to revive his NBA career with what he considers his hometown team. 'I've talked a lot about it with my agent and my family,' the 6-foot-5 defensive stopper and 3-point specialist said. 'Miami is my first choice. If there would be any interest from the Heat I would give it a ponder. It's my home town' A native of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Bell was raised in Miami, attending three high schools there. The 10-year veteran was dealt early last season from the Charlotte Bobcats to the Golden State Warriors, but played only six games in 2009-10 due to a partially torn ligament in his left wrist. He was released in March by the Warriors and is an unrestricted free agent. Asked if he wanted to make an on-air pitch for a job to Heat President Pat Riley, Bell declined. 'I'm not gonna do all that,' he said. 'But I'll tell you like this, "Pat, if you can use my services give me a call, I'm right around the corner, 36th and Biscayne. Give me a call."'"

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Eddie Sefko, Dallas Morning News: "The job of keeping Dirk Nowitzki(notes) with the Mavericks next season and possibly beyond has begun. Owner Mark Cuban said Monday that the team has opened discussions with the face of the franchise about locking him up. Nowitzki has the option of terminating the final year on his contract if he does so before July 1. Cuban added that the Mavericks are going to pick up their team option for backup guard J.J. Barea for the 2010-11 season. 'We are definitely bringing J.J. back, and we are already in talks with Dirk about his deal,' he said. Cuban would not elaborate on whether a three-year extension might already be on the table for Nowitzki. That would be the longest addition the Mavericks could tack on at the moment. It could be worth the maximum allowed, approximately $75 million. It's possible the Mavericks will wait on any extension to see what happens with free agency after July 1. If Nowitzki opts in, then the Mavericks could extend him for four seasons after July 1."

Nick Friedell, ESPNChicago.com: "Kevin McHale said he has not been contacted by the Chicago Bulls about the team's head coaching vacancy, but he hopes the phone rings soon. The former Minnesota Timberwolves head coach said he would like to be considered as one of the possible replacements for the recently fired Vinny Del Negro. 'Of course,' McHale told ESPNChicago.com on Monday night after working Game 4 of the Magic/Hawks series for TNT. 'You go in there and talk to [Bulls general manager] Gar [Forman]. I know Gar and John Paxson real well. And hopefully if it's the right fit, it's the right fit. That's what you're looking for and that's what they're looking for. They're looking for the right fit.' The Hall of Famer has worked as a broadcaster since being fired from the Timberwolves in 2009, but is hoping to be the right fit for the Bulls. 'You got to wait and see,' he said. 'But I think Chicago is a great job. Derrick Rose(notes), love him. Taj Gibson(notes), love him. Joakim Noah(notes), love him. You've got Kirk Hinrich(notes), love him. They're tough guys, they play really hard and they get after it defensively and I think they're all just going to get better.'"

Kate Fagan, Philadelphia Inquirer: "76ers President and General Manager Ed Stefanski has met with Phoenix assistant coach Dan Majerle and Portland assistant coach Monty Williams. Both interviews took place in Phoenix, AZ. Stefanski, who was joined by assistant general manager Tony DiLeo and team consultant Gene Shue, issued the following statement about Williams via a press release: 'Monty has proven to be a valuable asset on the bench in Portland,' Stefanski said. 'He has a wealth of experience both as an assistant coach and as a player in this league.' Stefanski said this about Majerle: 'Dan has been integral to the success of the Suns on both ends of the court this season,' Stefanski said. 'He has played for some of the best coaches in the history of the league and his approach to coaching is the same approach that made him so successful as a player - hard work, dedication and a team-first philosophy.'"

New Orleans, Times Picayune: "Portland Trail Blazers assistant Monty Williams will interview for the New Orleans Hornets' vacant head-coaching job today, becoming the sixth candidate to meet with owner Gary Chouest, team president Hugh Weber and General Manager Jeff Bower. Williams will be the first to meet with Hornets officials in New Orleans, according to league sources. Last Tuesday, Hornets officials interviewed New Orleans native and former Dallas Mavericks coach Avery Johnson and current Mavericks assistant Dwane Casey in Dallas. Chouest and his search team also met with former NBA coach Mike Fratello in Cleveland last week before traveling to Boston to interview Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau and former NBA player Mark Jackson. A source close to Williams said he opted to fly to New Orleans instead of having the Hornets' search team meet him in an alternate city."

Dave D'Alessandro, New Jersey Star-Ledger: "No.1 is easy. Anyone can pick No. 1. 'I'd be shocked if anyone took anybody but John Wall No. 1,' Rod Thorn said of the emerging stranglehold that the Kentucky point guard has on the 2010 NBA Draft. No, the real issue is about contingencies: Just what will the Nets president do if the team finishes second, third or fourth in the lottery next Wednesday night? To wit: Does Thorn uphold his draft philosophy and stay in best-player-available mode? Or does he fill a need, even though Ohio State's Evan Turner (a swing guard), Kentucky's DeMarcus Cousins (a center), Georgia Tech's Derrick Favors (a power forward), and Wes Johnson of Syracuse (small forward) are all talented enough to fill the needs for a 12-70 team? 'You know, I don't know yet, and I'm not just saying that -- we haven't brought all our guys (scouts) together to study it yet,' said Thorn, whose team is guaranteed a top-four pick. 'Cousins is probably more center, but some think he can play power forward. Favors' game is ahead of him. Johnson is almost four years older than some of these other guys, so he's more of a finished product. And then you have the kid from Wake Forest, a hell of a talent,' Thorn added, referring to forward Al-Farouq Aminu. 'I'm not even sure what he is. He's real young and plays young, but he handles the ball better than all these guys. He can take it off the rim, bring it up, and pass it. So they're all close - you had to study and make a choice.'"

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