June 14, 2010
Each weekday morning, BDL serves up a handful of NBA-related stories to digest with your mini-spooners.
Julian Benbow, Boston Globe: The degree of difficulty seemed to increase with every shot Kobe Bryant(notes) took. At one point, even Paul Pierce(notes) couldn't believe it. Bryant was in the middle of his outburst in the third quarter when the ball swung his way 27 feet from the rim. He was well out of any normal shooter's range, but Pierce knows Bryant isn't a normal shooter. Bryant fired a shot that split the rim for 3 of 19 straight points he scored for the Lakers in the third quarter (23 stretching to the first half). "I would say it was the toughest shot that I've ever seen somebody hit while I was on the court," Pierce said. Making the latest stop on his free agent tour, Dwyane Wade(notes) watched from his courtside seat at TD Garden, shaking his head in disbelief. But at that point, the Lakers were down, 64-56, and Bryant was trying to beat the Celtics by himself. If anybody knew what Bryant was dealing with, it was Wade. He was the first superstar the Celtics denied this postseason. Bryant simply is the latest. Bryant finished with 38 points but fell to the same fate as Wade, LeBron James(notes), and Dwight Howard(notes). His individual onslaught wasn't enough to offset the sum of the Celtics' parts. From Pierce's 27 points to Kevin Garnett's(notes) 18-point, 10-rebound, 5-steal performance to Rajon Rondo's(notes) 18 points and eight assists, the Celtics had options in their 92-86 Game 5 win last night, where the Lakers' only option was Bryant. Now up three games to two in the NBA Finals, the Celtics have two chances to seal the series in Los Angeles, starting with Game 6 at Staples Center tomorrow. Doc Rivers's mantra as the Celtics faced superstar after superstar in the postseason was that at some point, a monstrous game would be inevitable, and the Celtics would have to find a way to win. Last night, to get his team to resist the urge to fight off the one-man army that was Bryant, Rivers reminded his team that the key words were "one man." "What we talked about before the game, you could see they wanted to change the defense, they wanted to start trapping, and I just tried to keep telling them, it's only 2 points each time he scores," Rivers said. "It's not 10. It's just like if someone else was scoring. As long as we were going to keep scoring the way we were scoring, we were going to be good. But it makes you question your defense because he was terrific."
Kevin Ding, Orange County Register: Maybe the Lakers rally at home to win this NBA championship, maybe not. Either way, there will come a time next spring when they're sitting in a foreign locker room and their stomachs are churning a bit with the pressure of having to win a pivotal road playoff game. And at that moment, Kobe Bryant can rightly turn to his shaggy-headed Lakers co-star and say: "You owe me something, Spaniard. Now show me something." That's because Pau Gasol(notes), for all his sweet skills and how pivotal he has been to the Lakers' greatness these past three years, has been passive, indecisive and — yes — soft when the pressure is on, the footing is unfamiliar and the faces are even more so. Gasol faltered yet again Sunday night on the road and in the clutch, pushing the Lakers to a 3-2 NBA Finals deficit. It was the same old spiel from Gasol afterward, reminding himself to "be the aggressor" the next game. He said his plan for Game 6 is to be "very, very aggressive, very confident, and understand the situation we're at now."
Jonathan Abrams, New York Times: Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant repeatedly scorched the nets, traded baskets and jostled for postseason supremacy as the N.B.A. finals swayed with each flick of their wrists. As tensions reached a crescendo and emotions flared, solo efforts mostly dissolved. When they did, Pierce had help. Bryant was a capable, but lone, gunslinger. The efforts resulted in resounding "Beat L.A." chants that ended on a harmonic note at TD Garden. After Boston's 92-86 victory in Game 5 of the finals on Sunday, the Celtics are one win from lifting an 18th championship banner to their already crowded rafters. Pierce submitted 27 points and moved to within a win of a second championship in three years. His salvation came in the form of Kevin Garnett's purposeful drives, Rajon Rondo's skying leap over Bryant to tip in a Pierce miss and Tony Allen's(notes) emphatic block of Pau Gasol shot. The Celtics took a 3-2 lead in the series, which shifts to Los Angeles for Game 6, and if necessary Game 7. As Boston wrapped up a win in Game 2, cameras caught Pierce vowing that the series would not return to Los Angeles, meaning Boston would win three games here. But the Celtics lost the next game, so happily for Pierce, and in part because of his doing, his prediction proved untrue. "That was a rumor, they said I said that?" Pierce said with a mischievous grin when asked about his prediction after Sunday's win. "I wasn't being cocky about it," he added. "I was being confident in my team." Instead of the triangle offense, the Lakers showcased Bryant from all angles. Bryant delivered timely retorts to Pierce and registered a game-high 38 points, half of them in a one-man performance in the third quarter. The Lakers never led in the second half, and whether Bryant took too much of the game on his shoulders and too many shots, or if his teammates simply faltered, remained uncertain. "I've forgotten about it," a ho-hum Bryant said, with his face in his palm and his thoughts on Game 6.
Mark Murphy, Boston Herald: Walker Allen was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in the days leading up to Game 5 of the 2008 NBA Finals while his family was in Los Angeles. Two years later, again one day before Game 5 between the Celtics and Lakers, Ray Allen's(notes) youngest son fell into trouble, with low blood sugar so serious he was rushed to a local hospital. Remarkably, Walker Allen was courtside when his father helped the Celtics win yet again, 92-86, last night at the Garden. "The irony is that when he was diagnosed in 2008 it was Game 5, so I don't like Game 5's," Allen said. The guard missed the media availability portion of Saturday's practice but returned from the hospital in time for the team workout. "My son was in the hospital at 1 a.m. (Saturday)," he said. "It's just tough for my son to deal with. His body was just not operating correctly, and at (midnight) he wanted to fall asleep, but we couldn't let him because his blood sugar was dipping into the 50s and 40s. But he's better now. He doesn't like missing games. He wants to wear green, he wants his toes painted green." The Allen family now has a new dilemma — whether to take Walker to Los Angeles for tomorrow night's Game 6 at the Staples Center. "Now we'll see if he's going to fly," Allen said. "I'll let (wife) Shannon make that decision."
Mike Monroe, San Antonio Express-News: Lakers center Andrew Bynum(notes), his injured right knee drained of excess fluid Friday, played 31 minutes and 38 seconds in Game 5, a 92-86 loss to the Celtics on Sunday. The 7-footer scored six points and had one rebound. Lakers coach Phil Jackson said the team never considered sitting Bynum and sending him back to Los Angeles for treatment. "More than anything else," Jackson said, "Andrew was out of rhythm in the game. I think he'll feel much more comfortable getting back and playing. He's really only played limited minutes since Tuesday night, so we anticipate he'll have some opportunity to kind of get himself out there, shoot the ball a little bit and give us more than just a big body in the sixth game."
Howard Ulman, AP: The Boston Celtics played their last home game of the season Sunday night in Game 5. It may be Doc Rivers' last home game as their coach. Rivers, an offseason resident of Orlando, Fla., has expressed a desire to see his children play for their high school and college teams and hasn't said whether he'll return next season. But he does know the Celtics' season will end in Los Angeles in Game 6 on Tuesday night or in Game 7, if necessary, on Thursday night. "Our guys haven't talked about that a lot," Rivers said before the start of Game 5 with the series tied 2-2. "I've heard it a lot. I think fans realize that we don't have Game 6 or 7 here, so this is our final home game. Our guys are really just focusing on the game tonight, and I like where our focus is, in this case, over the fans' focus." Rivers' children all will be seniors next fall. Jeremiah will play basketball at Indiana, Callie will play volleyball at Florida and Austin will play basketball in high school. "One thing you can't do is make a decision a week after a season" about his future, Rivers said. "Whether you win or lose, you can't. You just can't." He said that after the Celtics team in the summer league finishes play, he'll meet with team president Danny Ainge. "So far as work, I'm still here," Rivers said. "But the kids are always — that's the issue each year, do you want to see-I've got to see them play at some point."
J.A. Adande, ESPN: As the July 1 opening of the NBA's free-agent shopping spree draws near, Dwyane Wade says he will start off by looking for the best player to join him with the Miami Heat, rather than searching for the franchise where he would best fit. "It's going to be fit with me first," Wade said. "I've made that very clear. Do I want to leave? Nope. Mmm-hmm. I want to be in Miami. That's where it starts." Wade attended Game 5 of the NBA Finals in Boston with his two sons, because at ages 8 and 3 they have no memories of their father's run to the championship with the Heat in 2006 — and because the recollections are beginning to get hazy for Wade himself after failing to get past the first round of the playoffs in the past four seasons. While he has said he will talk to other players and got the NBA world buzzing with his concept of a "free-agent summit" he said, "I don't do recruiting. Not now, anyway. I don't look at it as recruiting. I'll gauge and see if guys want to be [in Miami], who wants to be with me. It's about who can come to Miami, it's about who do you trust, who can fit the organization, who best fits you as a player, things of that nature."
Michael Cunningham, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Hawks officially hired Larry Drew as its head coach on Sunday by signing him to a two-year contract with an option for a third year, according to a person with knowledge of the deal. Atlanta decided on Drew, its former assistant coach, on Friday and worked out the contract details over the weekend. Drew, 52, succeeds Mike Woodson, who was fired following the season. Drew was Woodson's lead assistant for six seasons. He slides into the head coach's seat for the first time in his career. The Hawks will introduce Drew as coach at a Monday news conference. They picked him from a group of finalists that also included Avery Johnson, Dwane Casey and Mark Jackson. "We are very pleased to welcome Larry as the new head coach of the Atlanta Hawks," Atlanta general manager Rick Sund said in a statement released by the team. "After aggressively going through the interview process with all of the candidates it became clear, with his knowledge of the game as well as his experience as player and assistant coach, he had the qualities we were looking for to lead our club. Over the last few years, a number of teams have had success hiring from within and we feel he is more than ready for the challenge."
Brian Windhorst, Cleveland Plain-Dealer: LeBron James may not be ready to commit to what he's doing in free agency, but he may be willing to make his opinion known on the Cavaliers' coaching search. According to a high-level source, James would endorse the Cavs' hiring Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert said last week that James is not involved in the search for a replacement for Mike Brown, but sources have indicated James approves of the highly-respected Izzo. James also said in an interview with Larry King that he doesn't want to be heavily involved with selecting his next coach. But James "100 percent" would endorse Izzo's hiring, the source said. Izzo, meanwhile, is still pondering the Cavs job. On Sunday, Izzo told several Michigan-based reporters via text messages that he was "still gathering" in regards to the Cavs' offer. Gathering facts and opinions, it is assumed. Perhaps even attempting to gather information from James' himself. Lansing (Mich.) television station WLNS reported on Sunday that Izzo is waiting to speak directly with James, which the station reported had not happened as of Sunday night. Nonetheless, James isn't believed to be giving anyone a hint to what his personal plans will be once he hits free agency on July 1. That seems to be the greatest issue Izzo is considering. Izzo has consulted numerous friends and acquaintances looking for an opinion of what James' intentions might be and what the Cavs may be able to do if they re-sign him or if they do not.
Julian Garcia, New York Daily News: The way Avery Johnson sees it, Mikhail Prokhorov is just a guy with a "big vision," which makes the Nets' billionaire owner a lot better to work for than someone willing to settle for mediocrity. So when Johnson heard Prokhorov talk about wanting to start a dynasty before he had even been formally introduced as the Nets' new coach, he smiled. "It's better than him telling me we're going to be consistently in the lottery," Johnson said. Prokhorov and Johnson, the two new leaders of the Nets, had a low-profile first meeting Sunday in Prokhorov's suite at the hotel they were both staying at. But just over two hours later, they made a grand entrance onto the NBA's biggest stage, taking a pair of baseline seats — one row directly in front of Dwyane Wade — before Game 5 of the Finals between the Celtics and the Lakers. Flashbulbs popped as Prokhorov and Johnson were greeted by fans and league officials. Just before tip-off and again with only a few minutes left in a tight game, a shot of the two flashed across ABC's broadcast — priceless moments for the Nets, who are trying to rehabilitate their image following a 12-70 season. Speaking to reporters during halftime as fans snapped photos of him, Prokhorov repeated what he said in his introductory press conference last month, that he's not merely interested in turning the Nets into contenders but wants to win multiple titles, and soon. Asked what he told Johnson during their private meeting, Prokhorov said, "Just that we need to create a dynasty team. That's it," he said, smiling, "a very simple task." Prokhorov — who will not attend Johnson's press conference Tuesday due to business obligations in Russia — said he had been briefed on several other candidates but left Johnson's hiring up to Rod Thorn, the team's president and general manager. Prokhorov seemed impressed by Johnson's credentials, which include a stellar 194-70 record and a trip to the Finals during a 3-1/2-year reign as coach of the Mavericks. "I think now we have a great winning coach," said Prokhorov.