Ball Don't Lie - NBA

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

Mark Daniels, Boston Herald: Celtics legend Kevin McHale, a veteran of three NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, expects the bad blood from championship series past to be flowing when the teams renew their postseason rivalry starting with tomorrow night's Game 1 at Staples Center. Not only does this year's Finals mark the second time in three years that the two storied franchises have squared off with the title on the line, but it is the 12th championship series overall between the teams. Though the rivalry might not have the same feel as it did in the 1980s, McHale pointed out that the Lakers will want to make a statement after losing in six games in 2008. "I think there's some bad blood with the way the '08 series ended," McHale said. "People were saying (the Celtics [team stats]) beat up on them and basically punked the Lakers. That really bothers you if you're a player. I think they want another shot, I think Kobe (Bryant) does, (Pau) Gasol does. I think all the Lakers do. I think there's some bad blood and I think it's great for the game. I think that's the way it should be." 

Mitch Lawrence, New York Daily News: When the Lakers take the court Thursday night to open their title defense against the Celtics, all eyes won't be on Kobe Bryant(notes). Undoubtedly, a few people, including Phil Jackson, will take a long look to see how Andrew Bynum(notes) moves during the opening minutes of Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The Lakers' center probably won't be anywhere close to 100% as he continues to play with torn cartilage in his right knee. During L.A.'s run to the Finals, Bynum's minutes have dropped and he has been ineffective at times. A continuation of those trends could prevent the Lakers from becoming the first team to repeat since the Bryant-Shaquille O'Neal(notes) three-peat teams of 2000-02. "Our bigs have to play and they have to play well," Jackson said. The Lakers saw what happened against Boston's big, physical front when Bynum had to sit out the 2008 Finals with a partially dislocated left kneecap. Without their 7-foot, 285-pounder to go toe-to-toe with Boston's Kendrick Perkins(notes) and Kevin Garnett(notes), the Lakers were outmuscled and lost in six. This time around, the Celtics also have Rasheed Wallace(notes) to work over Bynum and Pau Gasol(notes). Saying he had a "big, massive amount of swelling" after the Western Conference finals against Phoenix, Bynum had 2-1/2 ounces of fluid removed from his knee on Monday. "Since the swelling is not in there, it allows my muscles to fire," said Bynum, who is expected to return to the practice court Wednesday after missing Tuesday's workout. "When the swelling is in there, it takes away from that. That's the biggest difference."

Ramona Shelburne, ESPN: Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo(notes) said he won't be 100 percent healthy by Thursday's Game 1 of the NBA Finals, but he'll be close enough. "I'm about 67 percent today," Rondo joked, before the Celtics practiced at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion. "I won't be 100 percent by Thursday, but I'll be like 94.7. Right now, nobody in the Finals is 100 percent. If you find someone let me know who is, let me know," he said. "You can ask the Lakers too. One of our rookies might be 100 percent." Rondo suffered muscle spasms in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, then fell hard on his back in Game 6. He was limited in practice Monday, but participated fully in Tuesday's practice despite being a little stiff and sore from the long, cross-country flight Monday evening. "It was a long flight so I'm sore and stiff, but it's nothing to worry about," Rondo said.

Kevin Ding, Orange County Register: Pau Gasol had already become an NBA champion the previous year. Just days earlier, he'd been named an All-Star for the second consecutive season. Mere seconds before, Gasol had showcased his skills with a running hook shot off a Kobe Bryant setup, giving the Lakers a 24-12 lead late in the first quarter on Jan. 31 in Boston. But because this was Boston ... because losing the 2008 NBA Finals to the Celtics prompted Gasol finally to get in the weight room ... because this was the very same TD Garden court on which Gasol and the Lakers had been pushed around and insulted with the worst sort of four-letter word in male athletic competition: S-O-F-T. Gasol had something else to prove. Gasol stood there with Rasheed Wallace running toward him and didn't back up. When Wallace kept coming with a shoulder to Gasol's chest, it prompted Gasol to step up instead of move back: He banged Wallace back even harder, triggering a double-techincal skirmish and making a statement to all - including the new enforcer in Lakerland, Ron Artest(notes). "As you can see, they were kind of testing Pau," Artest said after the Lakers' victory without even being asked a question about Gasol. "He handled his self." Now the Lakers are back in the final round with the Celtics. If the NBA title is the equivalent of basketball's heavyweight championship of the world, the Lakers believe they have learned they need to fight to win the belt. If they haven't learned, Boston will use its physical aggressiveness to gain those pivotal inches on the floor again - and a clear upper hand. "Our big guys are going to have to stand up," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said, "because that's basically what got the Celtics through Orlando (in the Eastern Conference finals)."

Julian Benbow, Boston Globe: There's the part of Rasheed Wallace that's unapologetically transparent. The frosty postgame beers sitting in his locker. The Flyers cap in the Bruins city. The unstrapped, unorthodox Air Force 1 sneakers he has worn for 11 straight years, unless you count those six minutes in the first half of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals when he went without them. (Why? "No story," Wallace said. "I just left them at home.") He is who he is. "There's no hidden meaning or underlying philosophies with him," Celtics teammate Ray Allen(notes) said. "He's just straightforward. Always." The question as Wallace's frustrating regular season played out was whether he was the player the Celtics thought he was when they signed him to a three-year deal last summer. Was he the team-first player that became a championship-belt-carrying fan favorite in Detroit? Was he the referees' worst nightmare whose follow-up to a 40-technical foul season in 2000 was 41 the next year? Was he the whip-smart basketball savant or the surly aging veteran? In truth, he was all of the above. But he was brought to Boston to help the Celtics return to the Finals. The Celtics were able to get there because the Wallace they've gotten in the playoffs has been the Wallace they expected. "Regardless of what Rasheed did for us numbers-wise, we felt like we needed his ability," said Paul Pierce(notes). "His size, his defense, his experience, those are things we wanted from Rasheed. We didn't ask Rasheed to come in here and start, to average a certain number of points. We needed his presence."

Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Moving away from one court after a series of civil suits were settled Tuesday, Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade(notes) said he will not immediately turn his attention to the court where he earns a significant portion of his livelihood. Eligible to become a free agent on July 1, Wade said he would deal with that matter after first spending time with his family in Chicago. "That's a big part of the summer," he said. "We'll see where it goes. That's still a little ways away." Technically, Wade has yet to reach free agency, still holding an option for $17.1 million for next season, with a decision on that 2010-11 portion of his contract due by June 30. "We haven't really thought about it," agent Henry Thomas told the Sun Sentinel, when asked when Wade would deal with that formality. Asked if Wade's re-signing with the Heat was included as a requirement of Tuesday's civil-suit settlement agreement, Wade's attorney Michael Kreitzer laughed and said, "Well, I tried to sneak that in, but he caught me at the last minute."

Vincent Goodwill, Detroit News: It's noon on Memorial Day, and while many NBA players are relaxing, the only light Pistons forward Austin Daye(notes) can see is from the windows of a Las Vegas gym. Since the season ended in late April, the 21-year-old has been putting up shots every day, going through drills and, of course, lifting weights, readying himself for 2010-11. "I want to become a better all-around player," Daye said. "I really do think a year will make a difference. This summer is really important for my improvement." Daye, unlike most rookies drafted early (15th in 2009), didn't get the opportunity he hoped for last season. Even on a team riddled with injuries that won only 27 games, Daye often found himself glued to the pine. He appeared in 69 games, averaging 13.3 minutes, five points and 2.5 rebounds. To make matters worse, he saw fellow rookie Jonas Jerebko(notes) earn the trust of coach John Kuester, making the most of his opportunities. While he was undoubtedly happy for his teammate, Daye left The Palace many nights wondering when -- and if -- his number would be called for something other than spot duty. "I came in this past year knowing I wouldn't get a great deal of playing time," he said. "I wanted to learn and get better through the 82 games and I think I did that."

Ryan Wolstat, Toronto Sun: For just the second time in 16 NBA drafts, the Raptors might be making a pair of first-round selections. That is certainly the impression the team is creating after two days of draft workouts. Instead of sticking to some of the more widely known names eligible for the June 24 draft, the Raptors are bringing in just about anybody they can get to agree to come. Tuesday it was potential late first- early second-rounders' Devin Ebanks of West Virginia, Gani Lawal of Georgia Tech, Samardo Samuels of Louisville, Latavious Williams of the NBA Developmental League and two players completely off the radar in Tulsa guard Ben Uzoh and UCLA guard Michael Roll. Though Raptors senior director of player personnel Jim Kelly was coy: "We consider everybody." It would be a massive shock if any of the six were seriously in the mix for the club's 13th overall selection. But later on in the night, they just might be. "That's part of the strategy as well," Kelly confirmed when queried if the presence of so many lower-ranked prospects could be taken as a sign that the team is serious about adding another pick. "A lot of times we're out there, we think this can happen or that can happen so you bring some different kinds of people in there because the last couple of days before the draft you can't get (anybody in for a workout)."

Dave D'Alessandro, New Jersey Star-Ledger: The man widely assumed to be the top candidate for the Nets' coaching vacancy has taken himself out of the running. Jeff Van Gundy, who had the teaching background and defensive know-how that Nets president Rod Thorn has been looking for since the search began, has told coach-seeking executives that he has officially decided to stay in the TV analyst business next season, the Nets reluctantly confirmed. "I don't want to say anything about it ... but I think from everything I gather, that it's probably true," Thorn said today. Asked whether it was accurate to state it from another perspective, and confirm that Van Gundy is no longer one of the "four to six" candidates on his short list, Thorn replied, "That would be correct." He added that anything more concrete should come from Van Gundy, the popular ABC/ESPN analyst who hasn't coached since leaving the Houston Rockets 37 months ago. Reached this evening, Van Gundy stuck to his own script, stating that he was happy with his present job and that any information about coaching positions should come from the teams.

Jason Jones, Sacramento Bee: Tyreke Evans'(notes) citation for reckless driving Monday was only the beginning of his lesson. By Tuesday afternoon, family, the Kings and fans had weighed in and expressed their disappointment in Evans for speeding on Interstate 80. Evans was clocked driving 130 mph in his black Mercedes S550 by a California Highway Patrol helicopter Monday evening, according to the CHP. The CHP will investigate whether Evans was racing another car. Not only was Evans reminded of the dangers of speeding, he was reminded of his place in the community, the Kings and the NBA. "I've learned my lesson to drive safely," Evans told The Bee. "I've got a bright future ahead of me, and I don't want to mess it up with a car accident."

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