Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Each weekday morning, BDL serves up a handful of NBA-related stories to digest with your LeBron's Lightning Lemonade.

Howard Beck, New York Times: "The pride of Akron, Ohio, walked away in silence Thursday night, moving swiftly and purposefully away from profound disappointment and into the great unknown. Coming off a 15-point game, LeBron James(notes) played what may have been his last game with the Cavaliers. He had 27 points Thursday. LeBron James is out of the playoffs, and perhaps out of Cleveland. His title run was clipped prematurely once again, this time in the second round, by the Boston Celtics, who completed a six-game series victory over the Cavaliers with a 94-85 win at TD Garden. The Celtics will face the Orlando Magic for the Eastern Conference crown. James will face countless questions about what went wrong, and even more about what comes next. James plans to become a free agent July 1, with the Knicks, Nets, Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat and others lining up to woo him. When the final buzzer sounded, just before 11 p.m., it officially started the clock on his free agency, and the most anticipated N.B.A. off-season in history. An hour later, dressed in a black-and-white windbreaker, James sat on an interview podium, looking drained. He scratched his head. He fielded a dozen questions but betrayed no emotions and offered little insight. 'I'm going to approach this summer with the right mindset,' James said. 'Me and my team is going to figure out what's the best possibility for me. I love the city of Cleveland, of course, the city, the fans. Another disappointing season, to say the least, but at the same time we have a great time together. So we'll see what happens.'"

Brian Windhorst, Cleveland Plain Dealer: "The effort wasn't too little. It was too late. There was more sweat and slightly more drama from the Cavaliers in Game 6 against the Celtics on Thursday night. LeBron James fought his opponent and himself, heading off into free agency mildly acquitting his effortless Game 5 that likely will forever be the memorable moment from another disappointing finish to a Cavs season. But there were no heroics from James, whether it was because of his elbow, the Celtics or something else to be discovered in the future. So down the Cavs went, another No. 1 overall seed wasted, 94-85, to the Celtics. 'I guess you have to go through a lot of nightmares before you find your dream,' James said. 'Boston had a great game plan.'"

Frank Dell'Apa, Boston Globe: "A year ago, Kevin Garnett(notes) was watching the Celtics falter against the Orlando Magic in second round of the playoffs. It has taken nearly a year for Garnett to fully recover from the knee problems that kept him out late last season and into the playoffs, but he is back to normal. The best evidence was not shown by numbers - though Garnett had 22 points and 12 rebounds in the clinching 94-85 victory over Cleveland last night - but because Garnett was jumping and producing near the end of the game, as fresh as when he started a 37-minute stint. The Celtics knew they had this one after Garnett dunked for an 88-74 advantage with 5:53 remaining, the celebration starting as Cleveland called a timeout. Garnett started the sequence, taking possession as Mo Williams(notes) lost his dribble, then going behind his back to start the transition. But the Celtics had to play this one out, and the Cavaliers were within 92-85 with 2:07 to go. Then came a 40-second possession, capped by a Garnett turnaround jump hook. Before that possession, only one Celtic - Kendrick Perkins(notes) - had been able to grab an offensive rebound. But after Paul Pierce's(notes) drive was blocked, there was Garnett to follow. And miss with a hook shot. And to follow again, this time going to Rajon Rondo(notes), the Celtics calling a timeout with 1:36 left. The Celtics then went to Garnett to clinch the win, the only Celtic field goal of the final 4:37. 'Over the course of the season I've been fortunate to be healthy and can honestly say I've gotten stronger,' Garnett said. 'And the playoffs come around, it's time to step it up another notch, and that's all I've been trying to do, nothing more, nothing less than that, it's no secret. I take care of my body, I'm a workaholic when it comes to trying to better myself and nothing's changed, so it's paying off.'"

Mark Murphy, Boston Herald: "The plan has never changed for Rasheed Wallace(notes). He was just warming up during the regular season. 'This is why I came here,' he said last night after the Celtics [team stats]' series-clinching 94-85 win over Cleveland in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. 'I didn't come here for the regular season.' The proof is in the fact that though the backup center had a fine night with 13 points that included 2-for-4 shooting from downtown, but his blocked shot, three rebounds and two steals were just as big. Coach Doc Rivers, sometimes out of frustration, said at several points this season that he has heard Wallace is supposed to be a big-game player. Last night, asked if he now understands why, the Celtics coach shook his head in relief. 'I do understand now,' said Rivers. 'He was great in this series overall. He got into this series emotionally, and that was great for the fans to see.'"

Mike Lupica, New York Daily News: "On the television, a few minutes before 11 o'clock, Game 6 against the Celtics was ending for LeBron James, his season was ending, maybe a career in Cleveland was ending, too. And the waiting was about to begin, maybe all the way until July 1, when James officially can become a free agent, when he could become as big a professional athlete, as big a name, to ever become a free agent like this at his age, 25. He brings everything to the waiting except an NBA title, or even a second trip to the NBA Finals. So he remains the basketball equivalent of an expression out of golf: The best player to never win a major. Still a King in name only. Celtics 94 Thursday night, LeBron and the Cavaliers 85. Looking lost at the end. Big losers in Boston, which has known so much winning in basketball, before the big waiting on LeBron begins. James hugged Rasheed Wallace at the end, Ray Allen(notes), Kevin Garnett. Season ends for him, waiting begins. In Cleveland. In New York. In Chicago. In New Jersey. Everybody waits to see where he goes. For now he goes home. It remains to see for how long. He is supposed to be Michael Jordan. So far he is the young Wilt Chamberlain. 'My gut instinct has always been that he'd stay in Cleveland,' Kentucky coach John Calipari was saying yesterday. 'But anybody who says they know what he's going to do, or think they know what he's going to do, or want you to believe, is delusional.' He laughed and added, 'Including me.'"

Paul Coro, Arizona Republic: "Suns center Robin Lopez(notes) must be about ready to play because his disdain for media interviews and moments of practice rage are back. Lopez would have probably already returned to action if the San Antonio series had lasted any longer than it did. But the Suns gave themselves a break with the week between series providing several days of full-court scrimmages to help Lopez's conditioning, his lone remaining vulnerability since going out with a bulging disk after March 26. But this is no easy return. Not only has Lopez not played for seven weeks but he is making he is a 22-year-old getting his first taste of NBA playoff action in the Western Conference finals. He is barely more than rookie with 111 career appearances. 'He's crucial to this series because of his length and size,' Suns forward Jared Dudley(notes) said. 'He's looked good out there.' And by good, he means big, mobile and menacing. And the temper? 'Still there,' Dudley said with eyes widened. 'It's still there. That's good, though. You want your bigs to have a temper. I don't mind him fouling and messing someone up. That's a part of the game. You want your bigs like that.'"

Mike Monroe, San Antonio Express-News: "The Spurs won't have to worry about Tony Parker(notes) injuring himself while playing for the French national team in the FIBA World Championships in Turkey this summer. Parker informed the French squad on Thursday that he will sit out the international competition so he can be in top shape when the Spurs open training camp in October. 'I don't want to play on the national team this year, and that's because I played the last five summers,' he said. 'This year I felt it a lot. I was tired all the time. I'd wake up in the morning, and I was tired. I had a lot of injuries, too, and it's time I got a break.' Last summer, Parker suffered a foot injury while playing for France in a qualifying tournament for the World Championships. He sustained an ankle injury early in the Spurs' season, was bothered by plantar fasciitis for much of the season, incurred a hip flexor problem after the All-Star break, and suffered a broken hand in Memphis on March 6. He missed 26 regular-season games. Even before Parker met with Spurs officials this week to discuss his summer activities, he said he was inclined to pass on the summer tournament. He told Spurs coach Gregg Popovich this week he had finalized his decision. 'I talked with Pop, and he said it is always up to me,' Parker said, 'but they prefer I don't play, and I agree completely.'"

Ailene Voisin, Sacramento Bee: "This time last year, Geoff Petrie was flying back from Spain, where he was scouting Ricky Rubio(notes), when the Kings were skunked in the NBA Draft Lottery. (Or so they thought. More on that later). Though the NBA's worst team had the best percentages at the No.1 overall pick, they finished fourth in the complicated, ping pong ball system that was held in New Jersey. At the local Lottery festivities at Chris Webber's(notes) old restaurant in Natomas, the scene was one of abject misery. Co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof forced a few smiles and offered plenty of the usual platitudes, but they were visibly devastated. Joe looked like he wanted to cry. Petrie learned the results a few hours later when his plane landed and he checked his cell phone - which is what he will be doing again Tuesday night. While the Lottery street party is going on in midtown Sacramento - great idea, by the way - the team's basketball president will be en route to Chicago for the NBA's Rules and Competition Committee that begins Wednesday morning. 'I won't know anything again until we land,' said Petrie, 'and will probably find out by text. But as much as you'd like to believe you know what's going to happen, you don't have any control.'"

Kate Fagan, Philadelphia Inquirer: "The 76ers' coaching search - now a month old - will continue Friday, when Sixers president and general manager Ed Stefanski is scheduled to meet in Philadelphia with Houston Rockets assistant coach Elston Turner. On Thursday, Turner told KRIV-TV in Houston that he would travel to interview with the Sixers. Turner said he also would meet with the Chicago Bulls about their coaching vacancy, although that interview had not yet been scheduled. In the last few days, the Sixers reviewed notes from their first six interviews, deciding whether they needed to conduct additional meetings in their search for the team's next head coach. The answer, it appears, is yes. Turner, 52, has previously been a finalist for two NBA head coaching positions: with the Phoenix Suns in 2008 and the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2009. Turner has worked as an assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers, and, since 2007, for the Rockets. Turner played eight seasons in the NBA, from 1981 to '89, for the Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, and Bulls."

Jason Quick, The Oregonian: "There have been times during his five seasons as an assistant coach with the Trail Blazers when not all the players liked what came out of the mouth of Monty Williams. But at the end of the day, Williams' to-the-point, brutally honest assessments won the respect of his players. It helped, too, that Williams had walked in their shoes - having played 10 seasons as a small forward in the NBA, during which time he absorbed the knowledge of some of the game's great coaches. So perhaps it's not surprising that Williams this month has landed on the radar of two NBA teams looking to fill their head coaching positions - the New Orleans Hornets and the Philadelphia 76ers. Williams on Monday met for more than four hours in Phoenix with members of the 76ers' front office, then flew to New Orleans for a Tuesday interview with Hornets general manager Jeff Bower. At 38, Williams is the youngest of the candidates for both positions, and he might be the least well known. He also might be the biggest longshot for both jobs. But it is also clear that Williams has emerged as an up-and-comer in the NBA coaching circuit, and many feel it's not a matter of whether he becomes an NBA head coach, but when. 'He's ready to go,' said San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, for whom Williams played and served as a coaching intern. 'Somebody is gonna be fortunate if they figure it out that they don't need the big names all the time. They need a coach. And that's what he is, a coach.'"

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