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Suicide lines: Artest bonds with Lakers; Every Celtic is hurt

Ball Don't Lie

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

Kevin Ding, Orange County Register: "The moment was utter togetherness for a team that had been out-togethered by the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference finals ... and by a lot of teams this season, frankly. But the on-court celebration Thursday night was finally the gathering of a championship team, not just a pile of championship talent.
Danger faced together and overcome is a remarkably unifying experience. 'It's part of the road to glory,' Lamar Odom(notes) said. At first, it was only the players to touch the ball on that last play: Odom, who'd inbounded the ball to Kobe Bryant(notes), headlocked Ron Artest(notes) and Bryant while those two first embraced in the aftermath of Artest's winning put-back. Bryant had air-balled that shot over two Suns from nearly out of bounds. Odom hadn't boxed out Steve Nash(notes) for the egregious error that set up Phoenix's tying 3-pointer. Artest had missed his previous wide-open but ill-advised shots with a minute to play in a manner that left him the loneliest Laker there ever was. There is a magic wand for individual miscues, however, and it is team success. Odom, Bryant and Artest were mobbed by all their smiling teammates soon enough in a fitting manifestation of how this tie-breaking Game 5 was a team victory. There was teamwork in the first half, when Phoenix shot just 42.5 percent from the field. There was teamwork in the second half, when the Lakers had 19 assists and two turnovers compared to the Suns' 12 and six. And it was perfectly fitting for Artest, the lone newcomer, to be at the heart of this beat. 'He sacrificed a lot to help us get to where we're trying to go,' Derek Fisher(notes) said. 'That's why we were so happy for him.'"

Beth Harris, Associated Press: "Steve Nash kept Phoenix hanging around in the fourth quarter until Jason Richardson(notes) tied it up in the waning seconds only to see the Suns get eclipsed by a buzzer-beating offensive rebound Thursday night. Phoenix tangled up Kobe Bryant on a last-ditch 3-point attempt, but Ron Artest sneaked in, grabbed the rebound and scored to give the Los Angeles Lakers a 103-101 victory. 'We just got to be really fortunate it didn't happen in a deciding game,' Nash said. 'We have to go home with a lot of strength from this game.' The loss left Phoenix trailing the best-of-seven series 3-2 heading back to the desert for Game 6 on Saturday. Bryant doesn't expect the defeat to demoralize the Suns. 'Not that team,' he said. 'They'll bounce right back and play loosey-goosey.'"

Julian Benbow, Boston Globe: "From Kendrick Perkins's(notes) first-half ejection and Glen Davis's(notes) and Marquis Daniels's(notes) late-game concussions to the fact that the team they had dominated for three games had suddenly become the bully, Doc Rivers summed up the Celtics' Game 5 loss to the Magic Wednesday night as 'surreal.' As he looked around the locker room, at the wreckage the Magic had left behind after clawing back into the series they seemed all but out of to trail just three games to two, Rivers didn't have to gauge the mood. At the time, there was a possibility that Perkins would be suspended for Game 6 tonight at TD Garden, that reinforcements Davis and Rasheed Wallace(notes) would be too battered to play, and that the Celtics would be going into their last home game of the Eastern Conference finals handicapped. 'It was a very emotional locker room,' Rivers said. 'Guys were upset at a lot of stuff. Guys are worried about each other. Guys are injured and sitting in there looking like a M*A*S*H unit at one point. You saw all the trainers and the doctors, and I'm trying to talk, and everybody's got ice.' The Celtics were able to re cover yesterday. They caught a break, learning that they will have Perkins available tonight, as one of his two Game 5 technical fouls was rescinded by the league. Still, the technicals were a disappointment to Rivers, who thought neither justified and who knows that with Perkins sitting on six postseason technicals (one shy of a suspension), he'll be walking on eggshells. 'Obviously, I'm happy about it,' Rivers said. 'I'm a little disappointed that both technicals weren't rescinded. I thought they both should have been and I'm very surprised that they were not. But I'll take the one and hopefully we can keep working on it. Unfortunately, we can't get those calls back. It clearly affected us in Game 5 not having Perk out on the floor.'"

Mark Murphy, Boston Herald: "In a situation rivaling the most damaged stretch of the 2009-10 season, Doc Rivers gave a medical roll call yesterday: Glen Davis, who suffered a concussion after taking a Dwight Howard(notes) elbow to the face in the third quarter of Wednesday night's Game 5 loss in Orlando, Fla., had shown significant signs of improvement yesterday. He is expected to play in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals tonight at the Garden, though he will be re-evaluated just before gametime. Marquis Daniels, who suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter, appears to be in worse shape. He will be a gametime decision. Rasheed Wallace, who reaggravated a back problem in Game 5, was unable to sit during a film session yesterday morning at the team hotel. But he is improving, according to Rivers. Tony Allen(notes) continues to have trouble with a sore ankle that has affected his play. Rajon Rondo(notes) appears to have recovered from the muscle spasms that slowed him down in Game 4, though the Celtics point guard has denied he had such a problem. In other words, just another day in the infirmary for a team accustomed to treatment. '(Wednesday) night we had a very emotional locker room,' Rivers said. 'Guys were upset with a lot of stuff, with all of the people we had leaving the game. But there is also no other stuff as far as we're concerned. We just have to move on. But it looked like a M.A.S.H. unit in there at one point. I said to everyone, "It's great, isn't it? This is the playoffs, so embrace this moment."'"

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Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle: "Rockets center Yao Ming(notes) might not be back on the track quite yet, but he cleared a key hurdle Thursday to get there. An extensive physical on Yao's repaired and restructured left foot, long considered an important milestone in his comeback, showed the rehabilitation progressing well, clearing Yao to move to more extensive running and on-court workouts. 'We reviewed his most recent bone scans, and they indicate the healing is continuing at the expected rate,' Rockets athletic trainer Keith Jones said. 'He's right where he should be with regard to his rehab. He's been able to increase his rehab conditioning to the point he is running at his full body weight. He's been doing some limited on-court work, and he's been able to go through those workouts with no discomfort. We feel good about his progress at this point, and we're going to keep gradually elevating the intensity of his workouts within the parameters that our doctors have established.' Yao has been running on a gravity control treadmill, increasing the percentage of body weight on the foot to allow Thursday's exam to indicate how he responds to the workload. He also has been doing light shooting drills."

Benjamin Hochman, Denver Post: "Chris Andersen's season was marred by injuries, and he received his worst injury at the worst timein the playoffs, when he injured his right knee. 'The Birdman' played through pain, and he underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a partial tear of the patellar tendon. He is expected to be fully recovered for next season. The surgery was performed by Dr. Steven Traina, the Nuggets' team physician. Andersen's knee injury happened during Game 2 of the series against the Jazz, which Utah won in six games."

Jim O'Donnell and John Jackson, Chicago Sun-Times: "Who says Dwyane Wade(notes) can't get back on defense? Hours after a Chicago newspaper published quotes in which Wade appeared to question the 'loyalty' of the Bulls' hierarchy to Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Wade and agent Henry Thomas deflated critical underpinnings of the rush to headline. 'I don't know about their loyalty because I haven't been in [the Bulls'] organization,' Wade told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel shortly after the Chicago broadside. 'The only organization I have been in is Miami, so I know the loyalty of [the Heat]. That's what's big to me. I'm not taking shots at the Bulls and the organization. I respect the organization. ... It's just my opinion when the question was asked about what's most important to you, I said one of the most important things is loyalty.' 'No. 1, there were some statements that Dwyane made that were taken out of context,' said Thomas, the Chicago-based attorney who represents both Wade and Chris Bosh(notes) in partnership with CAA Sports. 'That was why it was very important that clarification was posted as quickly as possible. He made a point to say that he does not know, other than as an outside observer, much about the Bulls' organization. Growing up here, he, of course, heard some things that were said with regard to how matters were handled with Michael and Scottie and even Phil [Jackson]. But for him at this point to make an educated judgment about the loyalty that exists between the Bulls and former players,' Thomas said, 'he's really not positioned to do that.'"

Brian Windhorst, Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Let the games begin. The Cavaliers' coaching search will likely be long and have plenty of twists and turns especially with much nationwide scrutiny as it relates to the future of LeBron James(notes). There will likely be plenty of information and even some misinformation, and retaining perspective on the process will have value for fans. With that disclaimer out of the way, the first bit of the team's succession plan came to light Thursday. The Cavs have been doing some background research about Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Kelvin Sampson, according to a source. Cavs General Manager Danny Ferry, the source said, has described Sampson to people as at the top of the team's candidate list when it comes to current league assistant coaches."

Julian Garcia, New York Daily News: "Avery Johnson is meeting with Nets president/GM Rod Thorn Saturday about the team's vacant head coaching job, and if all goes well the former Mavericks coach could be hired as soon as next week. Johnson's attorney, Curry Cooksey, confirmed Thursday that his client will be interviewing for the Nets' job in New York or New Jersey and said that Johnson is 'optimistic' about his chances and also hoping to have the position locked up soon. 'He's hoping to have something finalized by next week,' Cooksey said. Thorn would not confirm that the meeting will take place but did admit that Johnson is 'a guy we're interested in talking to.'"

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