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Sunday, May 30

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Danny Ferry's contract expires in 30 days, but if it is his last month as the Cavaliers general manager, no one within the organization seems to be worrying about it. Since last summer, Ferry has firmly declined to talk about his future in any setting. Owner Dan Gilbert has declined several interview requests on the matter. The signs are there, however, that Ferry plans on staying and that Gilbert wants him back. It is possible one of the reasons for the silence is that the two sides are talking about a new contract. Cleveland Plain Dealer

According to league sources, Ferry is indeed running the point as the Cavs begin to do background research on coaching candidates, an indication that he plans on being around. Despite doing a strong overall job -- Ferry finished second in the Executive of the Year race, which is voted on by his peers, in each of the last two seasons -- it was not a given that Ferry would want another contract. Cleveland Plain Dealer

League sources have indicated that Gilbert and Ferry's season-ending meetings were intense and in-depth, but that both men eventually walked away on the same page and with a stronger relationship. Part of those discussions likely focused on some of Ferry's own shortcomings. If there is one issue where Ferry could be critiqued, it would be the type of players he brought in during his makeover. Cleveland Plain Dealer

Ferry's assistant, Chris Grant, is seen as a future GM and may get a promotion to that role. Grant already runs the draft and handles some player contract negotiations. Not unlike Indians GM-in-waiting Chris Antonetti, Grant has turned down chances to leave to run his own team. Cleveland Plain Dealer

James took no questions. Asked as he headed to his four-car motorcade if he had anything to say to the fans, he declined. Former NBA great Darryl Dawkins, the first player to go from high school to the NBA when he was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1975, believes James should go where the money is. That bodes well for the Cavs, who can offer an extra year and about $30 million. ''That's a good thing they've got going for them, but it's also a matter of who they're going to bring in here to help him,'' said Dawkins, who was heading the judges' panel. ''Do they bring in Phil Jackson? I would like to see him stay in Cleveland, but there's a lot of money out there and he's got to do the right thing for him.'' Akron Beacon Journal

What did he say to get James to brighten up? "I was telling him it was nice that (Chris) Bosh, Joe Johnson, (Dwyane) Wade and him can sit down and talk about what they're going to do next year," Dawkins said. "It's about what two of them can get together and do and go win championships. Because that's what they want to do. They've got plenty of money." Dawkins added: "It was great to have LeBron come out. I'd like to have seen him get more involved with the crowd. People love him already. Make them love you more." News-Herald

''I'm sure right now, LeBron is most likely still contemplating what might have been,'' St. Vincent-St. Mary basketball coach Dru Joyce said. ''I'm sure he's not wallowing or stewing, but reflecting and trying to make those decisions that will help him become a better player and help his team get to the next level.'' Akron Beacon Journal

''He's got a lot of time before it actually comes to fruition to relax and let his body heal,'' Joyce said. ''When July rolls around and all that hits the fan, he'll go to work on that. After a long season, you don't just leave an emotional situation and automatically move onto 'Where do I go next?' I don't think that's how LeBron functions.'' Akron Beacon Journal

Dambrot and Joyce both want James to stay, but will support him even if he leaves for New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or anywhere in between. ''Ultimately, it's going to come down to whether he thinks he can win in Cleveland. I don't think anything else will come into play in this whole thing,'' Dambrot said. ''He'll never go down in history like he wants to unless he wins championships. If he doesn't think he can win here, Cleveland fans don't want to hear it, but he'll probably leave.'' Akron Beacon Journal

A Knicks official said the club has tried to ascertain how much effect Wesley will have in July — but still are unclear about how much influence he wields. “Wes is the best insider in knowing people. Wes has an affinity for people and they just like him,” longtime Adidas sneaker king Sonny Vaccaro said. “He can do anything, but what he has to do with this decision is unclear because of LeBron’s Akron friends.” Steve Kauffman, a longtime player agent and now a prominent representative of coaches and general managers, unintentionally gave Wesley his start. Kauffman was the agent in the 1980s for Sixers’ Kenny Payne, a cousin of Wesley’s. When the Sixers’ Rick Mahorn opened up a nightclub in Cherry Hill, N.J., called “Bump and Thump,” Kauffman got the 17-year-old Wesley a job as doorman. “That’s where he met Michael [Jordan] and a lot of players,” Kauffman said. “Back then, they flew commercial, stayed overnight and the club became a hangout after Sixers games. Wes took it from there. I accidently got him started.” New York Post

In 2005, James fired his first agent, the prominent Aaron Goodwin, who secured James’ historic $90 million Nike deal the day he was drafted in 2003. According to an industry source, Carter informed Goodwin of his axing by e-mail. Sources also said Carter, who had an 18-month internship as a sneaker rep at Nike, got closer to James when James’ surrogate father, Edward Jackson, left the picture and went to prison for fraud. New York Post

Being surrounded by business associates who are childhood friends has given critics an easy target. LRMR was supposed to link other prominent athletes to the James brand, but that has been widely viewed as a failure. “Just because you give a guy a scalpel, it doesn’t make them a surgeon,” one agent said of Carter. “Off the court [LeBron] doesn’t come near matching what he’s done on the court. Because of LeBron’s name, he can walk into any place. But can he get something done? That hasn’t been determined on a great basis. I’m not a stickler on formal education, but there should be someone in that clique with a semblance of a formal background.” New York Post

The Knicks’ biggest fear is the Akron inner circle might feel New York is too big, too overwhelming. One good sign is Mims, onstage with James at the BET Awards last September, donned an “I Love NY” T-shirt and a Yankees hat. And “The Four Horsemen” were on the side of the stage when Jay-Z played Cleveland last year, going berserk to “Empire State of Mind.” On the flip side, Carter told a confidant last season that he felt visiting the Garden twice a year was exhilarating, but playing there 41 times a season might be too crazy. “LeBron does listen to Maverick but does listen to others,” Bissinger said. “But LeBron will ultimately listen to himself.” New York Post

Bob McDermott has seen the LeBron James effect firsthand: Crowds at Beer Bistro, his West Loop restaurant, more than doubled on the four occasions the NBA phenom played at the United Center last season. "The Bulls landing LeBron would be a huge boon for business," Mr. McDermott says. He's not the only one seeing dollar signs as the Bulls pursue Mr. James, arguably the most-coveted free agent in sports history. Broadcast execs are giddy over the prospect of ratings and ad sales leaping back to Michael Jordan-era levels. Apparel shops, ticket brokers and bar and restaurant owners say the 25-year-old megastar would spark a frenzy of spending by local high-rollers and out-of-town professionals. Tourism officials gush over the exposure Chicago would get from near- constant national telecasts. Crain's Chicago Business

"The Bulls during the Jordan era changed the whole flavor, the whole attitude of the city," says Mesirow Financial Holdings Inc. CEO James Tyree, a Bulls season-ticket holder for nearly 30 years. "I used to get more business done at Bulls games than anybody could dream of. I long for those days." Crain's Chicago Business

Landing King James alone wouldn't produce the full economic benefit, allows Mr. Skorburg, the UIC economist. His analysis, which estimates a $450-million-a-year boost for the Chicago area over six seasons, hinges on deep playoff runs significantly extending the Bulls' season every year. Hosting 10 playoff games a year (the Bulls have averaged 1.6 a year over the past decade) would generate nearly $5 million at the United Center on tickets, concessions, parking and other spending, Mr. Skorburg estimates. Across the metro area, he calculates another $40 million per game would be spent on TV ads, sports-bar tabs, pizza deliveries and the like. Crain's Chicago Business

Bulls management and former players were quick to dismiss Dwyane Wade's comments questioning the organization's ''loyalty,'' and even Wade backed off the comments shortly after they became public a few days ago. But regardless of whether those comments are accurate, an NBA source said the Bulls better be prepared to address the issue when the free-agent recruitment period begins July 1. ''It doesn't matter if it's true or not,'' the source said. ''There is a perception by some around the league that the Bulls didn't reward Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen -- or even coach Phil Jackson -- enough for the six championships they brought to the organization. Chicago Tribune

The source believes the Bulls can do that during the sales pitch they make to free agents. Chicago Sun-Times

Telfair’s future with the team is uncertain. He is a trading chip because of his expiring contract, but the Cavs are expected to attempt to trade backup guard Delonte West and that could make Telfair more valuable. West has a partially guaranteed contract of $4.6 million that is worth just $500,000 if he’s waived by August 5. That type of deal that could provide more than $5 million in savings for another team depending on how a trade is structured. Cleveland Plain Dealer

Brian Windhorst: Agent says that #Cavs guard Sebastian Telfair has picked up $2.7 million player option for next season before June deadline. Twitter.com

Andy Miller, the agent for several Cavs, including guard Sebastian Telfair, said Saturday that Telfair has elected to pick up his $2.7 million option for next season. The Cavs have not yet received the paperwork, but it is expected to become official next week. Telfair was limited to just four games with the Cavs after being part of the Jamison trade in February as he recovered from a ruptured muscle in his leg. The quick point guard averaged 9.8 points in games at the end of the season. Cleveland Plain Dealer

Stoudemire, who continues to maintain there's a "50-50" chance he will return, said the biggest factor in his decision will be his desire to win a title. After that, he said money "definitely plays a factor" including the length of a contract he can get from the Suns. "There are so many ways to structure a deal and what have you, but it's very important to have a sense of security," he said. Stoudemire said he believes the Suns are close, and he would prefer to play his entire career - and win titles - in Phoenix. "That would be ideal," he said. "That's the ultimate plan. That's the goal. But if it doesn't happen that way, we move to plan B." Arizona Republic

Amar'e has a player option for the final year of his contract. If he chooses to to take it, he'll earn roughly $17 million next season, and can become an unrestricted free agent in the far-less-crowded summer of 2011. But many believe Stoudemire won't wait that long, and will instead explore his options this summer -- either through an extension with his current team, or by signing a new deal somewhere else. And maybe that's true, which might have been the reason that Stoudemire candidly admitted afterward that he did indeed consider the fact that this game may have been his last as a member of the Phoenix Suns. "It did, actually," Stoudemire said, when asked if that thought had crossed his mind. "It did. I didn't know how to feel. As I was walking out, I was thinking it could be my last time walking through this tunnel with the Suns uniform on. I've been here my whole career, so I definitely had that feeling. But there's a good possibility that I may be back." FanHouse

"It's going to take a lot of research," Stoudemire said. "It's going to take a lot of studying. It's almost like fantasy basketball -- trying to build a team and figure out, how can we win a championship, and with what team?" There are several teams that have the cap space to bring in Stoudemire and another big-name free agent: Chicago, New York, and New Jersey are among the precious few. But who will land where? With all the talk about LeBron, D-Wade, and Joe Johnson potentially getting together to figure out where they might all play together next season, Stoudemire said he fully expects to be included in those conversations. "I'm friends with LeBron, Dwyane, Chris [Bosh] -- all those guys are friends of mine," Stoudemire said. "So I'm pretty sure they'll call me and we'll talk about a few things." Indeed they may. But what about staying in Phoenix, with the only team Stoudemire has known? "That's the ultimate plan, that's the goal," Stoudemire said. "But if it doesn't happen that way, then on to Plan B." FanHouse

"It's pretty clear I'd like to keep the group together," Nash said. "It's phenomenal to come to work every day with the group of guys we had, everyone fighting for the same thing, proving when you commit to one another and to what we're trying to do, you know, you really can -- all the clichés really are true. You can maybe be greater than the sum of your parts." ESPN.com

Paul Coro: 4 decisions ahead: Amar'e (extension or option), Hill (likely to p/u option), Frye (expects to opt out & stay) & Amundson (free agent). Twitter.com

The organization finds Randolph's predicament disappointing but not at all detrimental to their offseason plans. The issue of whether Randolph will receive a contract extension that will keep him in a Grizzlies uniform beyond this season remains centered on finances. Randolph's future hinges squarely on how much of a pay cut he's willing to accept. In the meantime, the Griz will continue to look for shooting, backcourt help and ways to bolster their bench with Randolph wholeheartedly in their plans. Memphis Commercial Appeal

Golden State guard Monta Ellis' decision to purchase an Eads home formerly owned by Memphis native Lorenzen Wright does not mean the Griz and Warriors have re-ignited trade talks from earlier this season. The Griz are not trading for Ellis, according to a team insider. Ellis, a Jackson, Miss. native, purchased the home along with Juanika M. Amos (reportedly a Memphis-area native) after Wright and his wife, Sherra, defaulted on a $2.7 million construction loan last year. Ellis' move fed more speculation given the Warriors asked the Griz about acquiring O.J. Mayo last November. The Griz declined but eventually asked about Ellis' availability around the February trade deadline. The teams never came close to a deal. Memphis Commercial Appeal

Minnesota GM David Kahn is actively trying to trade up from the fourth pick to the second pick for a chance to take Ohio State's Evan Turner. Also, don't be surprised if either Al Jefferson or Kevin Love is traded by draft night. Memphis Commercial Appeal

Raptors team officials offered no comment Saturday afternoon after a report from his native Turkey in which Turkoglu said he didn’t want to come back to Toronto and that his representatives have made that point to president and general manager Bryan Colangelo. Toronto Star

In the interview with a television network in his homeland, Turkoglu said he only went out for 15 minutes at the behest of teammates and said he’d “give back” his contract if he were not being honest. But the fine and de-facto suspension were for a body of work, according to team sources. At the time, Colangelo refused to even publicly state that a fine had been levied and Turkoglu, in repeated interviews at the Miami game, as well as the next night in Charlotte or at any other time he spoke with reporters, did not present his side of the story. Toronto Star

"When the circumstances turned against me, I lost my enthusiasm for this city," Turkoglu said in the interview. "My lawyers have talked to the front office recently. Honestly, I do not want to go back to Toronto. My lawyers talked to Mr. [Bryan] Colangelo and I hope that they will come up with a solution soon." Turkoglu was a healthy scratch for the Raptors in late March. The decision to bench him came in the wake of reports he was out on the town immediately after missing a game due to a stomach virus. He was fined by the team. "During this process I talked to [Raptors coach] Jay Triano several times," Turkoglu said in the interview. "I promised him that whether he starts me or not, I will do my best on the court. However, if I had a more temperamental personality, I would have left the team. Yet, I did exactly the opposite. I did my best. I told him that I have no problems with him. I am not a young player, so it's not a big deal for me to come off the bench." ESPN.com

He reportedly told a Turkish television station that he wants to leave the Raptors. There are two reasons his first season in Canada was a failure. First, he struggled with the pressure of an increased role and produced his worst numbers in five years. Second, he never appeared comfortable in his new environment or the Toronto offense. He was a shell of the player who consistently popped big shots during his final season with Orlando. There is no team willing to take on the $44 million and four years remaining on Turkoglu’s contract. Right now, he is considered an uninterested, moody player who suddenly shut it down when he received a career-defining contract. It’s another questionable move by Toronto general manager Bryan Colangelo, who is about to lose another franchise player in Chris Bosh, leaving the club in the hands of Turkoglu and Andrea Bargnani. The most astute move for the Raptors would be to facilitate a sign-and-trade for Bosh to get key pieces back. Also, they need to re-sign emerging forward Amir Johnson, who is a free agent. Boston Globe

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Brandon Bass hopes that the confidence the Magic showed in him lately in the Celtics series will carry over to next season. But if the club's strategy doesn't include a true power forward such as Bass, then Bass isn't sure of his future. "It's hard to say. It's for Stan, Otis and the guys in the front office to decide if I'm someone they need … or if they want play four perimeter guys and one big, then I guess if they want to do that, it's not for me," Bass said Friday morning after the Magic's shootaround before Game 6. Orlando Sentinel

Bass signed a four-year, $16 million contract as a free agent last summer, but was used sparingly during the season. An active 6-foot-8, 250-pounder with a nice touch, he averaged about 12 minutes in Games 4 and 5. "It's been great. I live to play in the playoffs," he said. "For me to be out there and contributing it's great for me. How tough has it been for me? It's been tough. Nobody wants to sit on the bench. I just continued to work. "I just felt at some point I was going to be needed." Orlando Sentinel

Bad luck and bad decisions steamrollered Walker professionally, financially and socially over the past year. But here in UofL's Yum! Center is where he's trying to shed both pounds and personal baggage to work his way back to the NBA. And he's turned to Pitino, the college coach who helped him get there in the first place. "I don't know what tomorrow is going to bring," the 6-foot-8 forward said. "I know I want to play basketball, so I know I'm going to apply myself. I know I've got one shot." Courier-Journal

At 33, Walker said he'll need to be lighter to compete in a league that seemingly gets younger every season. But he thinks he still can contribute like current Phoenix Suns forward Grant Hill or the retired Robert Horry, who both performed at a high level at 37. "For a man his size, right now, he still has the ability," Pitino said. "He's one of the smartest guys I've ever coached; he really understands the game." Walker hopes that his experience -- good and bad -- will make him valuable to some NBA team, though he isn't talking with any teams at the moment. If nobody gives him a shot at playing, he'd like to stay around the game either coaching, commentating or working in a front office in player development. "If it happens, it happens," he said. "If it don't, at least I can look at myself in the mirror and say, 'OK, Antoine, you applied yourself. It just didn't work.'" Courier-Journal

Kurt Rambis, head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, attended to the game between Caja Laboral and Real Madrid in the ACB league. According to "Noticias de Álava", Rambis paid special attention to Ante Tomic, drafted in 2008 by the Utah Jazz. The Croatian 23-year-old center is averaging 7.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in 20 minutes per game in the ACB league with Real Madrid. The Hoops Market

The owner of Virtus Roma announced the departure of Ibrahim Jaaber Claudio Toti, owner of Virtus Roma, announced in an interview released after the loss in Game 3 of Italian playoffs that Ibby Jaaber asked to leave the club and will not play for Lottomatica next season. "I expected more from Jaaber in the playoffs. However, he is a young player who has played few playoffs in his career. For sure he will grow as a player but not in Roma. He said he wants to go in NBA in the summer and will not be with us next season" said Claudio Toti. The Hoop

When his team faltered Saturday night, when the relentless Suns and their orange-clad crowd wouldn't go away, Bryant did what needed to be done to assure that all the steps taken over the past two years would not go unrequited. "Last time we played them, it was a great learning experience for us," Bryant said after scoring 37 points, including a double-clutch dagger over Grant Hill that sealed a 111-103 Lakers victory over Phoenix in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals. "You know, it taught us what it takes to be a champion. With the defensive intensity they play with, the tenacity they play with, we learned a great deal in that series." Bryant, the closer, closed out the Suns Saturday night with a performance worthy of his legend -- a performance the Lakers needed. Yet it was only another step on this mission, one that has been incomplete until now. CBSSports.com

And with L.A. nursing a five-point lead with 35 seconds left Bryant, wearing Grant Hill as a sweater, canned a 23-foot turnaround from almost the same spot. As Alvin Gentry stepped onto the floor to call a timeout, he patted Hill on the back and told his frustrated star good defense. Bryant stopped and fired back at Gentry, "Not quite good enough." "What can you say about Kobe?" asked Gentry. "I don't know if there are words." Gentry's right. Bryant's 37-point, six-rebound effort in Game 6 went beyond any language. He was dominant, but even dominating players can be contained when swarmed by multiple defenders. The only success the Suns had stopping Bryant was late in the third quarter, when Gentry bellowed at the referees not to let Bryant in the game because he hadn't reached the scorers table in time. SI.com

"After I knocked down the shot, I just heard (Gentry) mutter something like, 'That's B.S., you know,''' said Bryant, giving his version of the shot that put the Lakers up 107-100 and on their way to securing a 4-2 win in the Western Conference finals. ''Something to that effect about the shot. Just made me smile.'' As for Gentry's version, "I said, 'Good defense. (Bryant) said, 'Not quite good enough.' ... He just patted me.'' FanHouse

But the tension was clear in Game 5’s fourth quarter, when Vujacic marched toward Dragic on a dead ball and Dragic shoved him away for a double technical foul. It was Dragic’s first NBA technical foul. He pushed me but he was talking trash to me,” Dragic said. “It’s a long story. At that moment, I was calm but I saw that he was walking toward me and he was talking to me and I just reacted like that. “I don’t know why he walked toward me. I watched the replay. I didn’t push him or nothing. He’s the kind of player that gets into your skin, like two years ago it happened with Raja (Bell) the same. He’s just so annoying on defense. Maybe that’s the main reason. In the regular season, he did the same thing but I was more calm. But that’s playoffs.” Arizona Republic

"(What Dragic said) involved me and my family. When that comes in play, it's very, very stupid. You can't expect that from a pro basketball player ... I just went up with my hands. And he was great acting.'' Dragic saw it much differently. Despite replays showing Dragic appearing to jaw at Vujacic, he claimed he didn't say anything. Approached by FanHouse and told Vujacic called him a "low human being'' and later embellished it to a "very low human being,'' Dragic didn't want to get into a war of words. "I don't know why he's lying,'' Dragic said of the Vujacic's claims of insulting his family. "But you can ask everybody in my club that I'm not such a person. I don't have a comment on that, really. If he wants to have words with me, he can have it. But I'm not going to battle. I didn't say nothing to him ... He can stay whatever he wants about me, but I'm just going to be quiet.'' Dragic claimed he tried to set matters straight with Vujacic after the incident but that his countryman was not accommodating. "After that, I came to him ... He just turned around,'' Dragic said. FanHouse

It marked the second straight game the two had an altercation, following a minor shoving match in Thursday's Game 5, when both got technicals. But the real fireworks came when Vujacic talked about Dragic after Saturday's game. "I heard somebody talking in my language and talking something about mothers and family,'' Vujacic said of Dragic after his team had wrapped up the series 4-2 to earn a berth against Boston in the NBA Finals. "That's only to be expected from a low human being to do something like that. So I just went like that (putting his arms up). I didn't do nothing like that on purpose. Low human beings can only involve the family and say something stupid like that. But I didn't intentionally want to do anything. If I want to intentionally hurt somebody, I would have done something very differently. FanHouse

Vujacic’s words were in Slovenian, for Dragic’s ears only. “We don’t have history because this is the second year I played against him and we never played together on the national team,” Dragic said. “He just wants to demonstrate that he’s better. Everybody wants to be better than somebody. We’re coming from the same country. It’s a big rivalry. “Four years in a row, I was playing for my national team and I was, how do you say, one of the crucial players for my national team and he wasn’t there. Maybe, it’s that. Maybe not. He knows that. He wanted to demonstrate that he’s better than me. I want to demonstrate that I’m better than him. So it’s a rivalry.” Arizona Republic

Vujacic said he didn’t realize how close Dragic was when he threw his arms back and hit him. Said Vujacic: “If I wanted to do it, I would’ve done it much harder than I did it.” Vujacic alleged that Dragic spoke of “mothers and families” in Slovenian while talking to him, prompting Vujacic’s reaction. Dragic told Fanhouse that Vujacic was making that up, even though replays show Dragic talking as he approaches Vujacic. “I don’t know why he’s lying,” Dragic said. “But you can ask everybody in my club that I’m not such a person.” Orange County Register

Fran Blinebury: Kobe on Vujacic flagrant foul: "I was gonna kill him. Still gonna kill him." Twitter.com

Artest set the scoring off for the Lakers with a 12-point first quarter and by hitting three 3-pointers in his 17-point first half. Artest, who finished with 25 points Saturday, was the star for a winning follow in Game 5 but had been 1 for 7 from the field until then. "They want me to play out of character and start jacking up all these crazy shots and not look to pass to Pau (Gasol)," Artest said Friday in Los Angeles. "They're trying to not respect me to try to win the game. Coach Alvin Gentry doesn't respect me. "I think there'll come a point in time where I can earn some respect back, but I'll wait. I'm not rushing. I have patience." Arizona Republic

Sekou Smith: Gentry: "Was that Kobe or Michael? I couldn't tell." Twitter.com

Holly McKenzie: Phil sees Pierce last summer and says, "Get it back, we want to see you in the finals". That's a pretty awesome story right there. Twitter.com

But in these playoffs, with the exception of Richardson, Phoenix's 3-point shooters made things a hair easier than normal for the opposition. In the regular season, Hill and Frye and Nash each made 44% of their 3s. In the postseason, Hill made just 14%, and Frye slipped to 34%, while Nash was slightly down, to 38%. Dudley and Dragic were also down a few percentage points, while Richardson and Barbosa improved. The Suns still have the best 3-point shooting percentage of any team this postseason, at .386. But if they had managed their regular season rate of .412, that would have meant 27 more points, based on their 365 attempts. (It also likely would have meant more attempts.) Having 27 points to sprinkle around would have been handy for a team that lost Western Conference finals games by two and eight points. ESPN.com

Manu Ginobili: It's a pleasure to watch Kobe and Nash play. I admire both a lot. Twitter.com

Asked by FanHouse before Saturday's game against the Suns if he was late for practice, Artest said, "I don't remember." Asked if he was fined by the Lakers, Artest said, "I'm not sure." FanHouse

Paul Coro: Amar'e Stoudemire's mom is passing out Band-aids to fans to wear on their foreheads, like her son is wearing. Twitter.com

The Celtics gap is something for his place in Lakers lore, a way to further endear himself to the local fans still bitter about all of those defeats in the 1960s. If he wants to permanently knock Magic Johnson aside on the pedestal of beloved Lakers it's an important step to take. Bryant is thinking on grander scale though. He said beating the Celtics would be "icing on the cake" and sounded much more obsessed with numbers than names of the victims. "A championship's a championship," Bryant said. "It'll be my fifth ring if I'm fortunate to get it." That would tie him with Magic and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who have the most Laker championships among the giant retired jerseys hanging in Staples Center. ESPN.com

"We all remember what happened," Bynum said. "That's going to be our fuel and motivating factor, sitting in their locker room, having to take that bus ride with their fans knocking on the bus and throwing rocks and all that. We want to have that." And Ron Artest needs to remember how out of the loop he felt, entering the Lakers' visiting locker room in Boston after Game 6 in 2008, finding his friend, Odom, and idol, Bryant, after they were abused by Paul Pierce. He should realize he can put a stop to Pierce this time and be responsible for healing the wound from that day, a wound Odom, Bryant and Derek Fisher carry with them to this day. "We have Ron that came in to play defense," Jackson said. "This is his chance to shine. We had a tough matchup with Pierce the last time we played them in the playoffs. This is a guy that we know can defend and enjoys the defensive end of the court. So we anticipate that is a matchup that will be of interest." ESPN.com

Were it not for the Celtics, the Lakers likely would be playing for their third consecutive title. The Lakers entered the 2008 Finals as heavy favorites. Led by Paul Pierce(notes), the Celtics took control of the series when they rallied from a 24-point deficit to win Game 4. The Lakers won Game 5, but the Celtics closed out the series by hammering them in Boston. Like Gasol, Bryant hasn’t forgotten that miserable bus ride from the Garden. “There are some [expletives] in Boston,” he said. “A lot of fans were celebrating. It got a little out of hand.” Yahoo! Sports

Asked about his relationship with Williams, Redick said, “We haven’t talked this series. We’re not like, ‘He’s my guy,’ but he’s a good guy. But we haven’t talked this series for the reasons you’d expect.’’ When asked if they’ve talked since they’ve been in the NBA, Williams said bluntly, “Nope.’’ Boston Globe

Williams said the two were never close at Duke, and even though he keeps in touch with several of his Blue Devils teammates, he doesn’t have much of a relationship with Redick and never really had one. “That’s just the way it is,’’ Williams said. “We just don’t talk.’’ Boston Globe

Rassling with big men in small spaces is a draining exercise, especially when the championship trophy is in view and the psychological challenge matches the physical. That’s how it was for Bill Russell against Wilt Chamberlain and for Dave Cowens against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in their title bouts and that’s how it has been for Perkins. “All of it’s mental with me,’’ he says. “I just got finished dealing with Shaq and then it was Dwight. You’ve got to approach it with the right mind-set, because if you don’t, you can get dominated. Guys can come in and have a 40-plus night on you. “I’m just trying to make it tough on them. I’m not overreacting. If you make a shot on me and it’s a tough shot, then I’m living with it.’’ Boston Globe

But after his sophomore year at Garfield, Roy was frightened into changing his life. Then-Arizona coach Lute Olson, an icon in the game, told Roy, "I can't give you a scholarship unless your grades are better." For the first time in his life, maybe the only time in his life, Roy was scared. "I always thought that if you're good enough at basketball, you're going to make it and I'm good enough," Roy said sitting in an office Friday afternoon at the Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club. "But when Lute Olson told me that, I went home and talked to my mom for hours. I didn't know what I was going to do. It was close to being too late." Seattle Times

After Roy's sophomore year, Lou Hobson, a longtime AAU coach and mentor of many of Seattle's high-school hoop prodigies, found tutors for Roy. Now, when Roy thinks about his journey from Garfield to the Portland Trail Blazers, he remembers what Hobson did for him and understands how those necessarily tough, extra hours in the classroom saved his career. "Besides my parents, Lou was my everything," Roy said. "Lou took a liking to me and made sure I had tutoring. The only thing I had to agree to was effort. Lou told me, 'I want to see you working as hard in your tutoring as you do in that gym every day.' "I had to go back and learn math from about the middle-school level. I had to go back and learn proper English. At first I hated it, but after a while I couldn't wait for my next tutoring session." Seattle Times

He said there were times, as a sophomore at Garfield, when he would cut class because he was embarrassed by what he didn't know. "I was closer than this close to not making it," Roy said, holding his index finger just above his thumb. "It's so hard for me think about it now. "Even when I put my name in for the NBA draft (in high school), I was just trying to figure out a way to not fail. Some of it was desperation. I wasn't confident. I didn't know if I could make it into school." Seattle Times

It appears that Kentucky point guard Eric Bledsoe is drawing attention from more than the NCAA. As the NCAA looks in to alleged grade fraud and illegal gifts connected to Bledsoe, the Grizzlies are said to be eyeing his services. There is a groundswell within the organization to select Bledsoe if the Griz hold on to the 12th overall pick. Adding to the intrigue is that Bledsoe measured in at about 6-0 without shoes and 6-11/2 with shoes at the NBA's draft combine in Chicago. Bledsoe would do little to provide size to an already diminutive Grizzlies backcourt. However, Bledsoe does have a 6-71/2 wingspan, which goes a long ways toward making up for his l height. Memphis Commercial Appeal

Dan Steinberg: FYI Jim Bowden says the Wizards and "Ernie Grunfield" should take John Wall. Twitter.com

What this draft lacks in star power it makes up for in depth. That’s good news for an organization that has depended on the draft for Rondo and Perkins (by draft-day trades) and Tony Allen. With the salary cap, the most viable way for the Celtics to get younger is through the draft. “They’re going to get two good players,’’ said NBA scouting director Ryan Blake. “Guys that may have a chance to make an impact at the end of next year. If they need a big, they have a chance for maybe someone like [Baylor’s Ekpe] Udoh, or [Kansas’s Cole] Aldrich could fall that far. A [Hassan] Whiteside could be there.’’ Boston Globe

One Western Conference general manager said the draft is "not deep on starters, but deep on rotation players." Pacers director of scouting Ryan Carr agreed. "I think there are a lot of guys that will be able to help teams," he told Indiana writers. "A lot of guys will get better, but it's going to depend on them putting in the work. You just have to find the right player that will help you with your pick." Carr cautioned against judging any draft pick right away — no matter where he is selected. "You're drafting kids that could be just starting to find themselves," Carr said. "They have a lot of work ahead of them before they'll be a finished product. It's a process through all this. You work hard and evaluate, and you try to project where you think they will be." News-Herald

Indications are the Cavaliers will attempt to purchase a first-round pick. They currently don't have a first- or second-round selection. It will likely take $3 million to do it. Second-rounders last year were selling for $2 million. News-Herald

Agent Mark Bartelstein said he "would not be surprised" if Hayward is selected in the top 10. Teams that have scheduled workouts for Hayward so far, with draft order: Sacramento (fifth), Golden State (sixth), Los Angeles Clippers (eighth), Utah (ninth), Indiana (10th), New Orleans (11th), Toronto (13th), Chicago (15th) and Milwaukee (17th). News-Herald

Word is, Gar Forman did not travel to Boston to meet with Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau. It looked like a get-together might be arranged after Boston eliminated Orlando in the Eastern Conference finals on Friday. The Celtics have five days off before starting the Finals against the Lakers or Suns on Thursday. Arlington Heights Daily Herald

Assistant coach Patrick Ewing told the Sentinel that he has yet to be approached by a team looking for a head coach. "I'm keeping my fingers crossed," he said. Orlando Sentinel

At the risk of repeating something I've probably written before, D'Antoni was behind the Suns' fleeting glance at Ron-Dough. No sooner had they drafted him than D'Antoni proclaimed it was unlikely he would use him, because "he can't shoot." So, rather than keep a guy the coach already was down on, someone who was assured of banking $1.5M or so for two or three years, owner Robert Sarver ordered his staff to find Ron-Dough a new home. "There is a herd mentality in all of the professional leagues because so few people have an eye for the game and for talent," underlined a friend of mine who played and coached college and is presently an athletic director for a designer institution. "I agree with D'Antoni that Rondo was a poor shooter at that time, but his other gifts were evident. I believe someone once said of Churchill, 'His flaws were immediately apparent, but his virtues became evident over time.' There is nothing slow about Rondo or the emergence of his virtues! New York Post

Brand, meanwhile, is declining rapidly, and the 76ers still have not found a suitable position for guard Louis Williams. “There are players on the team that I’m going to have to revitalize a bit and get their joy of the game back,’’ Collins said. “I want to have a high-energy, very intense defensive team. “I think Jrue Holiday has to be a terrific on-the-ball defender, that’s where it all starts. Andre Iguodala should be an all-league defensive player at small forward. “I talked to Phil Jackson and he was raving about how well Andre Iguodala plays against Kobe Bryant. He said, ‘That young guy has a lot of skill.’ ’’ Boston Globe

The total amount of the 2010 playoff pool is $12 million. As the fourth seed in the East, the Celtics were awarded $142,800. Each team in the first round received $179,092. The prize for reaching the second round was $213,095 for each team. The conference finals payout was $352,137. The team that loses the Finals gets $1,408,168, to the winner’s $2,125,137. To put the numbers in perspective, players and coaches split a $50,000 pool in the 1951 playoffs. Boston Globe

Art Garcia: Lakers not wearing West champion hats. adidas reps heard crying in hallway. Twitter.com

He knows this story is running today, and wanted to talk, to spread his message. But the pain is too much. Maybe later. So for now, he lays in that bed and takes more tests and grinds through more pain and wonders when he can get back to doing more good. This is the inspiring and humbling part of his story. “He’s making progress,” says a friend, Tom Prichard, standing outside Bol’s room. “But he’s got a long way to go.” Bol is fighting acute kidney failure and a potentially fatal skin disease contracted while trying to help his native Sudan. The skin disease is so bad he couldn’t eat for 11 days. The man who risks his life for others takes on this fight mostly on his own. One of the teams he played for is sending flowers. The NBA playoffs march on. Kansas City Star

Spurs swingman Manu Ginobili's wife, Many (no, that is not a made-up name ... Manu and Many, Argentina's first couple) recently gave birth to twins named Dante and Nicola. One reason the Spurs committed $38.9 million over three seasons to the 33-year-old, injury-prone guard, is because his Argentine heritage is big with the San Antonio's Hispanic fan base. "The only thing we've told him is, ‘You have no clue how your life is going to change; and double so with twins,' " Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. News-Herald

Luis Scola: Already in China ! Everything is awsome , the only bad thing , twitter is blocked. Twitter.com

Former Farragut star and Chicago playground legend Ronnie Fields, 33, is still trying to keep his basketball dream alive. The 6 -foot-3 jumping jack, once the highly acclaimed teammate of Kevin Garnett before running into off-the-court troubles, is playing professionally in Venezuela. Chicago filmmaker Thatcher Kamin is working on a documentary about Fields' life as a high school star who never makes the NBA despite dominating the CBA and other basketball leagues. Chicago Tribune

In a reminder of what might await James if he were to sign with the New York Knicks or New Jersey Nets, recently a New York newspaper had a reporter stake out Gloria James’ Akron-area home. At the time there were unsubstantiated Internet rumors involving the James family. The family’s Cleveland-based attorney and New York-based publicist have had to threaten Web sites and media outlets with legal action recently to attempt to stop the spread of rumors. Cleveland Plain Dealer

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