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Suicide lines: All about the Finals

Ball Don't Lie

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

Dan Shaughnessy, Boston Globe: "It's all about Kobe. We've had a lot of fun reliving the glory days of Wilt and Russell, Elgin and Hondo, Larry and Magic, and even KG and Pau Gasol(notes) from two years ago. We've hammered the themes of the uber-rivalry, LA's redemption, and Ubuntu Redux. In succession, we've seen the Celtics expose and demolish Dwyane Wade(notes), LeBron James(notes), and Dwight Howard(notes) in the first three rounds of the playoffs. Now it's all about Kobe Bryant(notes). Do not forget this. The Celtics and Lakers tap off in Game 1 tonight, and it's impossible to understate the Kobe factor. Bryant won't admit it, but he is on a mission to solidify his legacy by winning a championship against the hated Celtics. He has won with Shaq and without Shaq. He has beaten the Indiana Pacers, the Philadelphia 76ers, the New Jersey Nets, and the Orlando Magic in the Finals. But he's never beaten Boston. You can't be the best player in the world if you lose two championship series to the Celtics. You can't be the greatest Laker of all time if Magic can say he beat the Celtics twice in the Finals and you never beat them. Kobe has had one shot at beating Boston, and he remains haunted by 2008, when he shot only 40 percent in the six-game loss to the Green. He made only 7 of 22 shots in the humiliating clincher and walked off the court in silent fury after the 39-point drubbing. Now he is back and he is a man on a mission. Bryant scored 37 points when Los Angeles won the Western Conference finals at Phoenix in Game 6 Saturday night. In the fourth quarter, he made several shots while wearing a couple of defenders. 'I don't think there's any doubt that this is one of the great playoff performances,' said Zen Master Phil Jackson, who witnessed a few great individual playoff performances when he coached Michael Jordan. Bryant is playing with the eyes of Dexter."

Brian Kamenetzky, ESPN: "Phil Jackson loves the game within the game. Heading into Thursday's Game 1 of the NBA Finals with the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, one piques his curiosity more than the rest. 'I'm intrigued by the [Kevin] Garnett-Pau Gasol matchup. I think that's a really good one,' he said Wednesday after the Lakers completed practice. 'Kevin is like the force of [Boston's] defense, he's really the glue that kind of holds their defense together with his activity level, his ability to help and recover on guys,' Jackson continued. 'Pau is the guy we have to have be a part of the scoring combo with Kobe. So he has to provide some of that for us in this series against probably one of the top defenders in the game.'"

Benjamin Hochman, Denver Post: "About 50 feet away, Kobe Bryant held court at courtside. The Los Angeles Lakers superstar sat on the edge of the scorer's table, surrounded by so many reporters, one fellow fell off while trying to step down. 'Kobe's just like Michael Jordan,' Ron Artest(notes) said of his luminous teammate while sitting alone far from the media horde during an off day in the Western Conference finals. Everyone knows the story lines with Bryant - chasing Jordan and his six championship rings, seeking redemption from the Lakers' loss to the Boston Celtics in the 2008 NBA Finals. But for Bryant to get 'one for the thumb,' the Lakers will need their X factor, Artest, to deliver on defense. The testy Artest will be assigned to defend Boston's Paul Pierce(notes) beginning with tonight's Game 1 of the Finals, as much of a heavyweight fight as the NBA postseason can provide. In one corner, there's arguably the best defender of this NBA generation, the 6-foot-7, 260-pound Artest. In the other corner, there's the 6-7, 235-pound Pierce, the 2008 Finals MVP and his team's leading scorer. 'It's such a game of momentum, confidence and mojo,' NBA TV analyst Chris Webber(notes) said when talking about Artest, who hit the winning shot in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals against Phoenix moments after a knucklehead decision to fire up a 3-pointer. 'He found it - but can he bring that and can he stop Paul Pierce?'"

Steve Bulpett, Boston Herald: "He enters the NBA Finals at the edge of the Pacific Palisades in a figurative and nearly literal sense. With six technical fouls on his ledger, Kendrick Perkins(notes) is just one away from a one-game suspension that would be most damaging to the Celtics. He is well aware, but he is most definitely not looking down. 'I think I've just got to go out there and play basketball,' Perkins said as he stood in the right corner of the Staples Center court yesterday. 'I can't worry about if something happens. I've just got to go out there and do what I need to do for us to win.' In that, what he needs to do is beat on people and make them bruised and angry, the risk of confrontation is great. But that doesn't mean the Lakers will get to go against a kinder, gentler Perk. After acknowledging the rivalry between the storied franchises, he was asked if he'd say he dislikes the Lakers. 'I don't like nobody but the Celtics,' he said. 'You know, unless you've got on green or something like that, I don't really fool with nobody unless you're with the Celtics.'"

Chris Forsberg, ESPN: "Boston Celtics Rasheed Wallace(notes) and Rajon Rondo(notes), both of whom are nursing back injuries, participated fully in Wednesday's practice session, including contact drills, a positive sign as both ramp up for Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday. Wallace, who originally tweaked his back during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Orlando then left in the fourth quarter of Game 6, had been held out of contact drills earlier in the week, but moved fluidly in the portion of practice open to the media, which included stretching and shooting drills. Rondo said he'll be near full health by Thursday. 'My body is fine,' said Rondo. 'These five days have definitely been great for me personally. I know it's great for the team, but for me I've been getting a lot of massages, a lot of treatment. I'm feeling better and better each day. The more time I get, the better I am. [Thursday], I'm sure I'll be back almost at 100 percent.' Elsewhere on the Celtics' injury front, Marquis Daniels(notes) (concussion) said he is feeling better, but is still waiting full clearance from trainer Ed Lacerte. 'I'm feeling better, it's progressively getting better each day,' said Daniels. 'The break helped. I'm just waiting for Ed to give me the sign now. I'm antsy.' Daniels has seen his role decrease throughout the season, but threw his name in the hat to help defend the Lakers' Kobe Bryant. 'Like anyone that likes to compete, you want to go out there and play against one of the best of the game,' said Daniels. 'I'd like that opportunity.'"

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Jeff Zilgitt, USA Today: "Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers says it's the 'country con.' When Celtics backup forward Glen Davis(notes) makes a mistake - a foul, a turnover - he turns and looks at the Boston bench with this 'It wasn't me!' look. 'He gives you that act,' Rivers said. 'It works the first five times. After that, it doesn't work anymore. But he still does it, and he actually means it. He does. ... That's why you stick with him when he makes mistakes because he wants to please you.' In at least one game each round of the playoffs, Davis, 24, has pleased. He had 23 points and eight rebounds against the Miami Heat in the first round, 15 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference semifinals and 17 points and six rebounds against the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference finals. 'He's comfortable in big games for whatever reason,' Rivers said. 'Who knows why. But we know that, and we like it. He's not in awe of the moment at all. And he's been great off the bench for us. ... We're asking him to guard all kinds of positions.'"

Andrew Kamenetzky, ESPN: "A day after reporting no progress in his injured right knee, Lakers center Andrew Bynum(notes) said Wednesday the fluid he had drained two days earlier had returned soon after the procedure. 'It didn't really help,' Bynum said of the action, which is designed to alleviate the pain of a torn meniscus. 'As soon as I drained it, about 12 hours later, all the fluid came back. ... It wasn't really a good procedure.' Coach Phil Jackson didn't sound particularly surprised by the outcome. 'Whether that worked or not, it was a procedure that was, you know, tried, attempted,' Jackson said. 'Whether it was successful in keeping his knee not swollen over this period of time, you know, that may not happen.' Bynum took part in a few drills during Wednesday's practice but missed a scrimmage in lieu of getting treatment. He reported no additional pain as a result of the latest swelling. 'It's about the same,' Bynum said. 'It's going to be there, when I come down from jumping, and push off laterally, but I'll be all right. Muscles kind of shutting down due to the swelling. It's tough to jump and tough to do everything up to your maximum level.'"

Jimmy Smith, New Orleans Times-Picayune: "Staggered by the flying elbow of Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, LSU's Glen 'Big Baby' Davis, now a forward with the Boston Celtics, said he's fully recovered from the blow and resulting concussion. Davis and the Celtics play Game 1 of the NBA Finals here Thursday night against the Los Angeles Lakers. 'I feel better,' Davis said. 'I don't expect a lot of elbows from these guys, especially like Dwight Howard's elbows. Hopefully I can stay away from getting knocked out. It'll be a physical series. BUt I think the most aggressive team is going to get the calls. Dictate the tempo, that's my thought-process. Hopefully the refs will let us play. We love to play physical.'"

Mitch Lawrence, New York Daily News: "Ron Artest has given Knicks fans another reason to boo him when he comes into the Garden with the Lakers next season. On the eve of his first Finals game, Artest said that LeBron James should not sign with the Knicks. 'He should stay where he is, he should stay in Cleveland,' Artest told the Daily News Wednesday after practice at Staples Center. 'He's done great things in Cleveland. Why leave?' Artest, 30, was careful to say that he did not tell James to stay away from New York. And he did not repeat his theory from last November, that the Knicks could be hurt in recruiting free agents because marquee players are 'so scared of the pressure and the media' in New York. 'I don't know what he's going to do,' Artest said. 'But he should stay.'

Jim O'Donnell, Chicago Sun-Times: "Boston Celtics executives rushed to deny a Chicago Tribune report late Wednesday night that Bulls basketball chiefs John Paxson and Gar Forman were in Los Angeles to formally interview Celtics associate head coach Tom Thibodeau for the Bulls' head-coaching job. 'I don't know a thing about it,' Danny Ainge, the Celtics' executive director for basketball operations, told the Sun-Times in an e-mail sent shortly before 11 p.m. Chicago time. With the Celtics scheduled to play Game 1 of the NBA Finals tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center, Paxson and Forman would be guilty of an enormous breach of NBA protocol and ethics if they attempted to interview Thibodeau without Ainge's explicit consent while the Boston postseason continues. Said Jeff Twiss, Boston's veteran vice president of media relations: 'Unless I'm missing something here, everything on the court involving the Boston Celtics -- personnel, coaches, support staff -- is under Danny's watch. Everything goes through him. That's just the way it is in our organization.' 'If Danny doesn't know anything about it, quite simply, we're denying it,' Twiss said. 'I am very surprised. Times have changed, but there still are normal policies and procedures.'"

Vince Ellis, Detroit Free Press: "The Pistons announced this morning that a Citigroup subsidiary has been hired to broker the sale of the Pistons and Palace Sports & Entertainment. The subsidiary, called Citi Private Bank Sports Authority, has been in contact 'with a number of interested parties,' the Pistons said in a news release, adding that the NBA 'has been informed of the engagement.' Pistons owner Karen Davidson said last month that the team is for sale. 'We're looking for a buyer,' she told the Free Press at a Pistons charity event in Detroit. Davidson revealed in late January that she was exploring a possible sale. She assumed control of the franchise after the March 13, 2009, death of her husband, Bill. In April, the Free Press reported that Citigroup had been retained to assess the value of the Pistons and to broker a potential sale. Forbes recently placed the value at $479 million, fourth-highest in the NBA. NBA owners must approve any sale in the 30-team league."

Programming Note: The BDL liveblog makes its triumphant return tonight. Come back around 9:00 ET to join in the fun.

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