ESPN.com's Intelligence Report: May 22

Updated: May 22, 2006, 12:20 PM ET

Editor's note: ESPN.com is waking up early in the morning and aggregating news from papers around the country to bring you the latest NBA talk.

Previous Reports:

May 15 | May 16 | May 17 | May 18 | May 19 | May 21

EASTERN CONFERENCE


Atlanta Hawks | All Hawks sitelines

Knight Doesn't Get Point
The Hawks approach Tuesday's lottery with the fourth-best chance of landing the No. 1 pick and, while it would be nice to see this franchise win something for a change, it might be better if it didn't prevail in this collision of pingpong balls. Regardless of what Billy Knight said last week, the Hawks need a point guard above all else. The higher they draft, the less chance there is of them picking one. Why? Because no point guard in this draft class comes highly rated, and Knight insists he's still in the collecting-the-best-talent-regardless-of-position mode. He needs to realize that the Hawks will never become a team, as opposed to a collection of talent, without filling the key positions. -- Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Iverson To Hawks: Just Do It
The Hawks are off the radar on the Atlanta sports scene. They are off the board annually in playoff races by December. They have a chance to get one of the NBA's premier players. "Do it. Come on. You know you want to. What else are you going to do? Draft some guy from Italy?" Allen Iverson scores points. He sells tickets. Those are two things that put him ahead of almost everybody else. Isn't that enough to overlook the other junk stuffed in the luggage compartment? The Hawks just won 26 games, and that was after improvement. Is it worth a risk to become, like, relevant? "Do it, do it, do it!" -- Atlanta Journal-Constitution



Boston Celtics | All Celtics sitelines

Dickau Could Have Staying Power
We've heard both Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge talk about the Celtics' need for a veteran point guard to assist Delonte West. Well, they have one on their roster already in Dan Dickau, who missed most of last season with an Achilles' tendon injury. ... ''We don't want to go into the season depending on him if he's not healthy," Rivers said. ''We don't know how healthy he's going to be. Sometimes with that injury, it can take a year or a year and a half to heal. But we haven't forgotten about him." That's a good thing, because he may be around for a while. Dickau inked a three-year deal as part of a sign-and-trade arrangement between the Celtics and Hornets last summer. -- Boston Globe


Charlotte Bobcats | All Bobcats sitelines



Chicago Bulls | All Bulls sitelines

Draft Dilemma: Go Big Or Small?
The NBA draft lottery is Tuesday for the chance, most NBA executives generally agree, to draft LSU forward Tyrus Thomas or Texas center LaMarcus Aldridge. They are regarded as the most talented big men in the draft along with Italian forward Andrea Bargnani. And then they'll all probably watch Adam Morrison of Gonzaga or Brandon Roy of Washington become the 2007 Rookie of the Year. The Bulls will be right in the middle of this great drafting dilemma because there is no super player at the top of the draft, no obvious No. 1 pick such as LeBron James, Tim Duncan or Shaquille O'Neal. -- Chicago Tribune



Cleveland Cavaliers | All Cavs sitelines

All King's Men Could Not Help
The Cavaliers tied a playoff record for famine, scoring 23 points after the intermission. The well-hidden postseason learning curve showed itself on the bench and on the court. "LeBron logged a lot of minutes and he just ran out of gas," coach Mike Brown said. When James was asked if he concurred, he said coldly, "No." Brown's offense looked as tired as its star did. TV ridiculously tried to tie this loss to the Indians of 1954 and 1997, to The Drive, to The Fumble and to The Shot. Stop. This was a seventh-game loss to the best team in the league on its home court. Inescapably, it also wasn't all it could have been, either. -- Cleveland Plain Dealer

Despite Sour Ending, Gilbert Elated
Around the corner from the Cavaliers' locker room, away from the reporters and the television cameras and the trampled confetti that filled the tiny space, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert stood in a cream-colored Cavaliers sweater. He was smiling. "This is a great, great stepping stone," Gilbert said after his team was pounded by the Detroit Pistons, 79-61, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in the din of The Palace. "I think people in Cleveland should feel very proud of their team. I cannot wait for next season to start." Gilbert praised General Manager Danny Ferry, coach Mike Brown and his staff, and superstar LeBron James and his teammates. -- Cleveland Plain Dealer

Loss Shows Need For New Offensive Approach
Mike Brown and his players deserve credit for forcing the Pistons to expend maximum energy while fighting off two elimination games. If playoff failures produce learning lessons, however, the Cavs must realize they cannot return next season with a stagnant offense that bogs down at the first sign of defensive adjustments. James had 21 points at halftime Sunday. He finished with 27. The kid is too talented to be hamstrung by an offense featuring less motion than your average waterbed. Brown's defensive adjustments helped the Cavs get back into the series, but the staff's struggles offensively suggest the need for a coordinator next season. -- Akron Beacon-Journal

Hughes' Trying Season Ends With Touch Of Flu
Larry Hughes woke up early Sunday with a scratchy throat and body aches. It figured. Nothing has gone right for Hughes this season professionally or personally. What started with so much promise -- a five-year, $70 million contract that made him the biggest outside free agent signing in team history -- turned into the most trying season of his career. He had two finger surgeries and missed 45 games. That was before the death of this younger brother, which devastated his family and took him from the team for four games of the most important playoff series in 13 years. When he did come back, it was with a touch of the flu. -- Akron Beacon-Journal



Detroit Pistons | All Pistons sitelines

Weary Pistons Prepared For The Rested Heat
The Eastern Conference finals matchup most expected from the start of the season -- and some gave up on a few days ago -- is upon us. Pistons vs. Heat, the sequel. Last season, the Pistons prevailed in a grueling seven-game series, taking Game 7 in Miami. "I've watched just about every game they've played," Lindsey Hunter said. "They've jelled. They've started to play well together." By the time Game 1 tips Tuesday, the Heat will have been resting for seven days. The Pistons, with Rasheed Wallace still nursing a sprained right ankle, will have just one day to rest and prepare for the Heat. -- Detroit News

One-Way Road Out: Smothering James The Key
It took them longer than necessary, but when the Pistons finally located Cleveland's jugular after a week of self-adulation, they didn't dawdle. They already had wasted enough time in this series. "Forget about what we had done," said Lindsey Hunter, "and focus on what we needed to do. That was our plan. Go on the attack and take it to them." The Pistons took defensive suffocation to a new level at a time when there was no other recourse. It's a simple choice. Step up or go home. That's all you need to know about Game 7's. -- Detroit Free Press

Prince Does It All In Clinching Victory
Tayshaun Prince has earned the label as the Pistons' iron man and it's one he enjoys, one he takes tremendous pride in achieving. For the third consecutive game, Prince played the entire game and was key in helping the Pistons eliminate the Cleveland Cavaliers, 79-61, in Game 7 at The Palace. Prince played a complete game on both ends of the court. He led the Pistons in scoring (20 points) and had seven rebounds and three assists. -- Detroit News

Hunter's Play Energizes Club, Fans In Victory
Three fouls in almost as many minutes proved no barrier for reserve Lindsey Hunter, who fueled the Pistons' second-half run in Sunday's 79-61 Game 7 victory over Cleveland. "I tell the coaches and my teammates, 'If I've got to foul out, I'm not going to stop being aggressive,' " Hunter said. "That's just the way I play. Either I foul out, or I'll be in there playing." ... He finished with seven points and four rebounds on 3-for-5 shooting. "Lindsey just energized us, energized the arena," coach Flip Saunders said. "He was huge in the first game we won here against Cleveland and he was huge tonight." -- Detroit Free Press

Cavaliers' Weak Act Is Finally Over
Good riddance, Cleveland. And take that weak offense and Michael Jordan wannabe, LeBron James, with you. One day, James will probably get the best of the Pistons and move forward in the postseason. But that time is not now. The only reason the Cavaliers had to endure a Game 7 beat down, 79-61, on Sunday was that the Pistons gave them a chance with some poor play in this best-of-seven series. On the surface, it appears as if the Cavaliers took some major steps and pushed the Pistons to the limit. In reality, the Pistons made the Cavaliers look a lot better than they are. -- Detroit News

Bench Is Likely To Be Needed
Flip Saunders shortened his bench against Cleveland, particularly at the wing positions. Maurice Evans and Tony Delk played sparingly and Carlos Delfino only made one brief appearance. Center Dale Davis sat on the bench the last six games. Saunders says that will change as the Pistons adjust their defense to stop the dual threat of Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal. "Because of the way they're built, we're going to end up using our bench," Saunders said. "Even though those guys didn't play a lot in this series, every series it changes." -- Oakland Press


Indiana Pacers | All Pacers sitelines



Miami Heat | All Heat sitelines

Riley: No Excuses This Year
Impatience is about to be rewarded. Beginning at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Palace of Auburn Hills, the Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons engage in a rematch of last year's best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals. And this time, even though Detroit has home-court advantage, the Heat promises there will be no excuses. "We always had an excuse for last year -- everybody," coach Pat Riley said of the Heat's heartbreaking seven-game loss to the Pistons. "You guys talked about it, players talked about it. We had guys hurt, we had too much time off. There was always an excuse and there's none now." -- Palm Beach Post

Long Wait Produces Familiar Foe
Who's got next? That's the question the Heat has been asking for days, and on Sunday, Miami found out who it will play in the NBA Eastern Conference finals. In a rematch of last year's seven-game series, the Detroit Pistons will meet the Heat beginning Tuesday in Detroit in a series just about everyone wanted to see -- a series the Heat has been awaiting for an entire year. This is the series that almost seemed inevitable. -- Miami Herald

Scoring, Defense -- Wade's 'Got To Do Both'
There will be no more time off for good offensive behavior for Dwyane Wade. Unlike last season's Eastern Conference finals against Detroit, when Heat forward Eddie Jones took the defensive challenge against Pistons perpetual-motion guard Richard Hamilton, this time Wade will have to work full time on both ends of the floor. "It's going to be a challenge, just like chasing Ben Gordon, just like sticking Vince Carter," Wade said Sunday of his primary covers in the first two playoff rounds, against Chicago and New Jersey. -- South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Heat Faces Pistons Whose Resolve Is Reinforced
Cleveland, by pushing the Pistons to a surprising seventh-game limit in an Eastern Conference semifinal round before losing Sunday afternoon, almost certainly steeled Detroit for its Miami assignment. Not that the Pistons would have been overlooking the Heat under any circumstance after the teams tangled all the way through a Game 7 in last year's Eastern Conference championship round, but there's absolutely no chance of Detroit experiencing ennui now. -- Palm Beach Post

Face Facts, Riley's Moves Have Paid Off
The question: "If the Heat loses this series, are your offseason changes a failure?" The topic has been swirling around this Heat team since last summer, or about as long as the other favorite question Riley has heard this Groundhog Year and did again on Sunday: "Do you think you can beat Detroit?" Well, of course the Heat thinks it can beat Detroit for an obvious reason: It can beat Detroit. It will beat Detroit in six games, too, if it plays against the Pistons like it finished against New Jersey. Sure, Detroit is tough, tried and talented. But the Pistons have a weakness that plays to the strength of this year's Heat roster. -- South Florida Sun-Sentinel


Milwaukee Bucks | All Bucks sitelines



New Jersey Nets | All Nets sitelines

Fingers Crossed On Getting Help
The Nets are not sold on a 2006 free-agent class that's headed by Ben Wallace, who won't be heading to New Jersey. Al Harrington, Tim Thomas and Keith Van Horn -- all have New Jersey ties -- are on the Nets' list. But Harrington likely will get more than the midlevel exception (roughly $5 million), Thomas could re-sign with the Suns and Van Horn may want more than the midlevel. More realistic names include Darius Songaila -- he's expected to opt out of his contract with Chicago -- Reggie Evans, Devean George, Milt Palacio and Jannero Pargo. Nets' brass also wants to see how big men Nazr Mohammed and Joel Przybilla are priced. -- Bergen Record

Nets Know K-Mart Is No Bargain
Two Nets sources said the team has and will continue to discuss whether obtaining Kenyon Martin this summer is realistic and feasible. Martin, suspended by the Nuggets for yelling at George Karl during the playoffs, has five years and $70 million remaining on his contract. He will be available. The Nets didn't want to pay that kind of money to Martin two summers ago, but the Nuggets may be desperate enough now to cut ties with the power forward, depending on who replaces recently departed GM Kiki Vandeweghe. Martin is just one of many names the Nets will look at this summer to improve a team that has been unable to get by Miami for two straight seasons. -- New York Daily News



New York Knicks | All Knicks sitelines

Brown Plans To Attend Workouts
Knicks coach Larry Brown, in his first public statements since reports owner James Dolan wants him out, vowed to be at the Knicks' Westchester campus this morning for the start of their predraft workouts. Brown was reached by phone yesterday at his East Hampton summer retreat after walking his dogs with his wife, Shelly. "I'm going to do my job," Brown told The Post. "I'm going back to work (today). After that, your guess is as good as mine." -- New York Post

Larry & Isiah In One-On-One
Breaking his silence for the first time since reports surfaced that Garden chairman James Dolan was considering buying out his contract and replacing him with team president Isiah Thomas, Larry Brown would not comment on whether he expected to be fired when he arrives at the Knicks' training facility in Greenburgh. The Knicks begin working out draft prospects today and both Brown and Thomas are scheduled to attend the sessions. It will be their first face-to-face meeting in weeks and one that figures to be considerably awkward for the two Hall of Famers who were appointed to return the Knicks to prominence. Dolan is not scheduled to attend. -- New York Daily News

Producing A Real Flop
Larry Brown, still the Knicks coach for now, shows up for work today at the Knicks' first-rate practice facility in Greenburgh. It is a first-rate facility for a third-rate operation. At least the Knicks can still finish as high as third that way. Brown shows up for work today. So does Isiah Thomas, who is still his boss and might be the coach-in-waiting, but only if James Dolan ever gets around to firing Brown, by the end of the day or the week or the summer. There has never been a dumber show in town than what we have gotten from the Knicks over the last nine days, since the story broke that Dolan wants to buy out the remaining four years of Brown's contract. The Knicks, right now, today, are an embarrassment to whatever they represented once, an embarrassment to their own history and to their league. -- New York Daily News


Orlando Magic | All Magic sitelines


Philadelphia 76ers | All 76ers sitelines


Toronto Raptors | All Raptors sitelines


Washington Wizards | All Wizards sitelines


WESTERN CONFERENCE


Dallas Mavericks | All Mavericks sitelines

Mavs Standing At Crossroads
The Mavericks have pulled even with San Antonio, but they haven't pulled ahead. Until they do, they will be the annoying little brother the Spurs pat on the head, praise occasionally then dismiss as they go about their business. "There is some kind of rivalry because of the Texas thing. And this year, the race was amazing to No. 1, so that created a little rivalry," Ginobili said. "Besides that, we're just two good teams playing each other." Right now, the Mavericks are nothing more than a good team that challenges the Spurs from time to time. Tonight will show if that has changed. -- Dallas Morning News

Mavs Counting On Each Other In Series Finale
So even if he's upset with Jason Terry or disappointed with Devin Harris or unsure how his team will respond, trust doesn't waver. Avery Johnson had it when the Mavs were leading the Spurs 3-1. He had it when Terry took himself out of Game 6 with a punch. He's not going to let trust waver at 3-3. "I'm not flawless as a coach," Johnson said. "The biggest key for me is not X's and O's or some cute drill in practice. It's my relationship with my players. That's the thing I'm banking on. I don't have anything else." -- Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Dirk's Shot At Superstardom
Nowitzki has advanced his reputation around the league, moving in the direction of two-time MVP Tim Duncan. It's not there yet. And if his team loses and Duncan outplays him, then skeptics again will have their day questioning whether the Mavericks can win building a team around Nowitzki. Nowitzki knows that with a Game 7 looming, it's all or nothing for his team, for himself, for everyone. "It doesn't matter what's been said, what's been written," he said after the Mavericks' practice Sunday. "What's happened in this series doesn't matter. The pressure is equal on both teams. It's going to be an awesome game." Nowitzki needs to have an awesome game from start to finish. The key for him in this series is the finish. -- Dallas Morning News

Impossible Dream Is Not Impossible
Obviously, all factors will have to be clicking for the Mavericks to re-juice the tempo tonight, but if it does get rolling, then the guards will be driving the train. One way or the other, Avery wants his offense rolling again on a fast track. But how? What does Johnson do different? What is he planning? Got no answers for you, but I'm just saying it will be something new. No way Avery will be merely a bump on the bench tonight, "hoping" that things change. He will attempt to force that change. Meanwhile, the Spurs are happy with slow and boring, which means a Game 7 philosophical collision. Mavs vs. Spurs. The General vs. Pop. Oughta be some big fun. -- Fort Worth Star-Telegram

They'll Pump Volume For Jet
Jason Terry returns to the AT&T Center with a message for the expected hostile Spurs fans: "Don't care about their reaction. But I know we want to keep it real quiet in that arena." A strong Game 7 performance is in Terry's pedigree. In last year's first-round series against Houston, Terry scored 31 points in 41 minutes as the Mavericks won Game 7. Terry said he will build off that effort to help him succeed against the Spurs. "If we have adverse situations, we will not back down," he said. "It brings the best out of us, as it should." -- Dallas Morning News

Where's Diop?
With the rotation changes for the Mavs because of Jason Terry's absence and with the Spurs dictating the tempo, DeSagana Diop ended up playing only six minutes in Game 6, which was the fewest minutes he's played since the Mavs-Spurs game on Nov. 5. Diop played less than a minute and a half in the final three quarters after a 4 1/2 -minute first quarter. Avery Johnson said Diop is limited because of matchups "and a lot of different things, and he's been fighting foul trouble the whole playoffs." -- Fort Worth Star-Telegram



Denver Nuggets | All Nuggets sitelines

Nuggets Take It Slow With Martin Trade
Nuggets director of player personnel Mark Warkentein has been calling numerous NBA front offices to let them know his franchise is open for business. Even so, Warkentein is expected to be patient in regard to the possibility of trading forward Kenyon Martin. One NBA executive said the Nuggets have been putting out feelers for Martin and were turned down by the Portland Trail Blazers when inquiring about swapping Martin for Blazers forward Zach Ran- dolph. But another NBA source said the Nuggets have turned down possible trades for Martin from a Western Conference and Eastern Conference team. -- Denver Post

Nuggets Still Need Diversity
People of color are noticeably absent from Denver's organizational chart. The highest-ranking African-American employees are assistant coach Adrian Dantley and Teri Washington, senior director of communications. With the recent departure of general manager Kiki Vandeweghe, will Denver look for a fresh, new direction in management, or conduct business in the same, old fashion? Neither Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke nor executive vice president Paul Andrews were made available for comment on the lack of African-Americans in positions of power with the local NBA franchise. -- Denver Post



Golden State Warriors | All Warriors sitelines

Warriors Await Diluted Draft
Heading into next month's NBA draft, the Warriors have a nearly 80 percent chance of selecting ninth in the first round, which would put the team in familiar territory. At that same spot last year, Golden State found power forward Ike Diogu, a surprise selection who wound up an integral part of the Warriors' rotation by season's end. The Warriors would love to catch another player of Diogu's caliber when their turn comes up on June 28, but that might not be so likely. Players like Amare Stoudemire (2002), Shawn Marion (1999), Dirk Nowitzki (1998) and Tracy McGrady (1997) were all picked at No. 9, but this year's draft pool has been diluted by the absence of high school players, who now have to spend one year in college per the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement. -- Oakland Tribune


Houston Rockets | All Rockets sitelines



Los Angeles Clippers | All Clippers sitelines

Cassell Typically Ends A Winner in Game 7s
This is why the Clippers acquired Sam Cassell, who loves these spotlight moments. ... His teams are 5-1 in previous Game 7s in which he has played. Cassell, among the NBA's top clutch shooters, has averaged 18.8 points and 6.8 assists in the decisive games, shooting 50.9% from the field and 97.2% from the free-throw line. "Since I was a rookie, I was groomed to play in big games and make shots down the stretch," Cassell said. "I don't mind being a goat. If I miss it, you guys [reporters] can write what you want about me. A lot of guys don't like these games. A lot of guys don't like these situations. For me, it doesn't get any better. This is where you want to be." -- Los Angeles Times

Clippers Have Reached Big Island
He had just completed his last practice before his first Game7, before Corey Maggette played the biggest game of his life and the biggest game for the Clippers since, let's see, since forever. "It's big, big, just big, man," he said Sunday. "It's big for the organization, big for all of us. Just big." That's about the size of it. Or the SIZE of it. There's large, extra large and Shaq-large. Then there's Game7, the biggest thing in sports. Bigger than Barry Bonds' batting helmet, David Wells' waistband and ESPN's ego. All Game7s are sexy, including this one, even while Chris Kaman and Steve Nash run around with haircuts that would embarrass the homeless. -- Orange County Register

Clippers Are Focused On The Here And Now
There's a theme that runs through American pop culture from "The Great Gatsby" to the castaways on "Lost": a desire to escape from the past. That brings us to the Clippers and Game 7 tonight against the Phoenix Suns. The players and coaches insist they have nothing to do with what came before them. "History has nothing to do with us," Coach Mike Dunleavy said. "We're making our own history." Their knowledge of the past is kept to a minimum. As Chris Kaman said before the Denver series: "I know we came from Buffalo to San Diego to here, and I know we [stunk] all the way." -- Los Angeles Times

Brand Not 'X Factor' In Game 7
Elton Brand has put his mark on the Clippers' playoff run bigger than anyone. He has been a force close to the basket that the Phoenix Suns can't contain. Brand has been scoring, rebounding, blocking shots and leading the Clippers in a huge way. However, what Brand does tonight in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Phoenix Suns might not be what decides whether the Clippers advance. While Brand certainly is key to his team, another player or two - "X-factors" - could determine the Clippers' fate. -- Los Angeles Daily News

Even Lakers Fans Are On Board
The fans eased up to Corey Maggette while he ate dinner and extended their hands. They told Maggette they were die-hard Lakers fans. ... The fans wanted Maggette to know they still were loyal to the Lakers, but they had shifted their support to the Clippers and wanted them to represent the city of Los Angeles. Maggette shook his head, finding it hard to believe what he heard. He smiled at the fans who wished him and the Clippers well after they tied the best-of-seven series at 3-3 with a victory in Game 6 Thursday night at Staples Center. "It's weird. It was like they were on drugs or something," said Maggette, the Clippers' standout sixth man. -- Riverside Press-Enterprise


Los Angeles Lakers | All Lakers sitelines


Memphis Grizzlies | All Grizzlies sitelines


Minnesota Timberwolves | All Wolves sitelines



New Orleans Hornets | All Hornets sitelines

NBA Lottery Could Be Key For Hornets
Each year, the arrival of the made-for-television NBA Draft Lottery brings hope to bummed fans who are forced to watch their disgraceful teams trudge through yet another dreadful season. ... Historically, though, Tuesday night's Draft Lottery has signaled change to morbid franchises or ushered in the final piece to those one step away. The Hornets took a long stride in that direction last year when they drafted Chris Paul. The caliber of Paul's new running mates next season will greatly depend on what happens Tuesday night. -- The Oklahoman

Potential Hornets Investors Lay Low
Gary Solomon, chairman and CEO of Crescent Bank & Trust, acknowledged last week he is a member of a New Orleans investor group interested in buying up to a 49 percent share of the Hornets. Solomon is hopeful that having a committed local group would increase the chances for the Hornets to remain in New Orleans for the long term, although they are expected to return for the 2007-08 season to play 41 home games at New Orleans Arena and are locked into a lease until 2012 with the state. "We have enough people that it shows the community is behind it, and it's not just one investor," Solomon said. -- New Orleans Times-Picayune

Hornets Staying Not Best For City
The best thing would be for the Hornets to go back to New Orleans or wherever free-agent owner George Shinn might want to light, and for OKC's ownership group to secure its own franchise. The wedding would not be so wild. But the marriage would be stronger. Oklahoma City's best long-term interests for the NBA is through local ownership, spread over a variety of partners. Call it the San Antonio model. The Spurs are owned by 14 investors, most of them corporations that provide a representative to the ownership group. From that group comes a board of directors and a chairman of the board who is required to own at least 15 percent of the franchise. -- The Oklahoman



Phoenix Suns | All Suns sitelines

Suns Prove Critics Wrong
Here the Suns stand tonight on their home court with 18,422 Texas-craving fans, only 48 minutes away from doing exactly what the winningest team in Suns history did a year ago. Beat the Los Angeles Clippers one more time, and Phoenix is a repeat Western Conference finalist for the first time in 16 years. "Unbelievable," said Suns coach Mike D'Antoni, so inspired by his team to repeat that word at record numbers this season. "I think that would be a remarkable feat, to be honest with you. It's a sense of accomplishment, but it is halfway (to the title goal). There's no reason why we can't win the next round, too." -- Arizona Republic

Suns Ready For Deciding Matchup Vs. L.A.
For the second time in 16 days, the Suns have a steel-cage match with a team from Los Angeles when Game 7 of their Western Conference semifinal tips tonight. There are no count-outs or draws allowed, just a cold reality: The winner moves on while the loser finds something else to do with their June. "It's the ultimate, all the intensity and emotion you can ask for," said Suns guard Steve Nash, who is a perfect 3-0 in Game 7s dating back to his days in Dallas and including a 121-90 trouncing of the Lakers here on May 6. "It's not complicated, there are no rahrah speeches. This is why you play, to have games like this. I hope both teams play well so you'll know that the best team won." -- East Valley Tribune

Nash Fired Up For 'Do Or Die' Game 7
In big games, basketball teams always follow their leader, and here's the good news: Steve Nash is far less worried about Game 7 than you are. "Without pressure, there is little reward," Nash said. "I love pressure. I love big games. Do or die ... that's when it's the most fun." As the Suns and the Clippers arrive at their moment of truth, the level of revelry tonight at US Airways Center will be largely dependent on Nash's health, which isn't great but could be worse. -- Arizona Republic

Suns Know Home Is No Guarantee
After practice Sunday, forward Shawn Marion was asked what gave the Suns an advantage over the Clippers in tonight's Game 7 at US Airways Center. "We at home," Marion said quickly. Then he stopped. He didn't want to sound too Rasheed-like in front of the cameras. So Marion backtracked some, shifting into cliché-mode, saying he just felt that if the Suns had energy, they'd have a great chance. Truth is, Marion has doubts about home-court advantage. It's not what it used to be, he said. Teams are more evenly matched, especially on this postseason stage. "You see that in the playoffs with all these Game 7s," Marion said. "Winning on somebody else's court, that's big." -- Arizona Republic

Thomas Is A Really Good Fit
Tim Thomas is the first to talk about benefiting from D'Antoni's system that so naturally incorporates his running and shooting skills and is quick to realize how Nash facilitates what he wants to do. "From being on the opposing team you knew how he could control the game," Thomas said, "but I didn't know it would be so easy to play with him. He's definitely the MVP. It's unbelievable to be on the same side with the guy." The Suns also are giddy over Thomas's willingness to take on difficult defensive assignments. At 6 feet 10 and 235 pounds, he is easily the Suns' biggest and strongest player who sees any minutes. -- Washington Post

K. Thomas May Suit Up; Playing Time Doubtful
Kurt Thomas might put on the Suns uniform tonight, but don't count on much even if he does. Thomas is progressing well in his three-month rehabilitation from a right-foot stress fracture, but he and coach Mike D'Antoni were hesitant to say that he would play in tonight's Western Conference semifinals Game 7 against the Clippers. "I doubt it," D'Antoni said after talking about "long-shot" scenarios that he might play him. "I just don't see it." -- Arizona Republic

Adams' Toughness, Athleticism, Defense Impress Suns
Although Hassan Adams' athleticism, range and energy suggests he can find a niche as a defender in the NBA, it's still questionable whether the former UA star will command a first-round pick next month, much less whether he would fit into Phoenix's No. 21 or No. 27 spots. But Adams took a few steps toward making his case Saturday during drills with a trio of top-flight guards: Guillermo Diaz of Miami, Rajon Rondo of Kentucky and Daniel Horton of Michigan. David Griffin, the Suns' vice president of basketball operations, said the workout was purposely stacked with talented guards to test Adams' ability to defend them. Adams passed the test. -- Arizona Daily Star

Voices Of The Game Getting Older, Better
Please don't tell Al McCoy and Ralph Lawler they're a dying breed. It offends their sensibilities. And reminds them of how old they are. "I'm not too fond of the word dying," Lawler said with a laugh. "I just turned 68. That's getting a little personal." The two men are members of a shrinking fraternity in the NBA, though -- play-by-play radio broadcasters who have become synonymous with the franchises they cover. McCoy has been broadcasting Suns games for 34 years, the longest continuous service with one team in the league. Lawler has been doing Los Angeles Clippers games for 27 years. Together, they've called more than 4,700 games. Neither man, however, has had the pleasure of narrating the voice-over to his team's championship. After Game 7 tonight, one of them will continue to pursue that dream. The other will rest his vocal cords for the summer. -- East Valley Tribune



Portland Trail Blazers | All Blazers sitelines

Downward Spiral Began After 2000 Playoff Loss
Perhaps never before has one game -- and in particular, one quarter -- so stained an NBA franchise as that infamous fourth quarter from the Trail Blazers on a cloudless June day in Los Angeles in 2000. As it turns out, the Blazers lost more than a trip to the NBA Finals that day. As an organization, they began to lose their way. So much so, that six years later, the Blazers find themselves heading to Tuesday's NBA draft lottery as the league's worst team, with massive financial losses, uncertain ownership and little hope of quick recovery. A once-proud franchise, one that made 21 consecutive playoff appearances and was arguably one of the model organizations in all of sports, has become a laughingstock. -- The Oregonian

Wattles Debate Premature Unless Allen Willing To Sell
Before we can debate whether a guy who now lives in Las Vegas, draws comparisons to Mark Cuban and leans on his instincts when it comes to business is the right owner for the Blazers, we have to determine if the franchise really is for sale. Paul Allen suffers from the same numbing affliction that infects a lot of the ultra-rich. He can buy anything he wants. He can travel anywhere he'd like. He dates aspiring models and former actresses. He's not married and has no children. As a result, he's become desensitized to the simple things that would give most regular Americans a rush of adrenaline. --

Porter's Group Raises $40 Million
A group led by former Trail Blazers guard Terry Porter has lined up nearly $40 million from local investors but remains short of the total it believes it needs to bid on the NBA franchise. Rob Kremer, a charter-school advocate who has been working with Porter, said Saturday that the group is waiting to hear from the investors and venture-capital groups it has approached in recent weeks. He declined to identify those who have committed funds. Kremer said he's optimistic, despite not having the $50 million to $75 million in local investor funds that the group needs. -- The Oregonian


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San Antonio Spurs | All Spurs sitelines

Spurs, Mavs Have To Win Game 7 Or Go Home
For one more night, at least. Their reign having lasted from one Game 7 to another, the Spurs return to the AT&T Center to finish their Western Conference semifinals series against the Mavericks. No one will be discussing the mud level of the San Antonio River or who's drinking margaritas with whom. The bearhugs and jab to the jewels, if not forgiven, will be forgotten. After six months of battling for the conference's best record and another two weeks of high-stakes drama, the Spurs and Mavericks will settle their differences with one game. -- San Antonio Express-News

Bowen Adds To Dallas' Frustration
As Bruce Bowen walked off the court moments after Friday's 91-86 victory over Dallas in Game 6, his path took him right past Mark Cuban. When he got within earshot of the Mavericks' feisty owner, Bowen was startled when Cuban swore at him, a coarse, two-word curse whose meaning was unmistakable. Bowen said he was too startled to respond. On reflection, he considers it something of a backhanded compliment but also believes the harsh words help define Cuban. "It's him," Bowen said. "I was caught off guard by it, but it speaks a lot to me about who he is." Bowen's goal for tonight's Game 7, to be played at the AT&T Center: Keep Cuban's curses coming, as long as they come out of frustration. -- San Antonio Express-News

Finley Moves Past Incident Of Game 5
Michael Finley hasn't received an apology from Jason Terry since Terry punched him in the groin near the end of Game 5. And he's not going to waste time waiting for one. The Spurs forward said he enjoyed a good relationship with Terry when the two were teammates in Dallas. "We talked on and off the court (last season)," Finley said. "At the time, he was going through some tough things within the team, and I told him to just keep his head up. There's no bad blood there." -- San Antonio Express-News

Wait Two More Years? Parker Does Enough Now
Time for Ginobili to rise up. For Duncan to post up. For Horry to show up. Game 7. Isn't this their time? It was a year ago against Detroit. But don't overlook what is also vital tonight for the Spurs when Jason Terry comes back. Then, Tony Parker comes back, too. Parker had extra days to rest his sore hip, as well as time to get over an awful Game 6. The Spurs don't need heroics from him, only the kind of fast-start syndrome that has thus far defined his career. There's time for Parker to do more later. -- San Antonio Express-News


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First Round Is Where Futures Are Made, Lost
Maybe it started in 1979, just weeks after the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird showdown in the NCAA championship game at the Huntsman Center. In the NBA draft that followed, the soon-to-be Utah Jazz would have owned the rights to the pick that became Magical, except they had been forced to give it away as part of a compensation package for signing 33-year-old free agent Gail Goodrich. Lesson learned. Today, NBA general managers know that losing first-round draft picks is a dangerous game - one that can impact franchises for years. More often than not, trades that are never made turn out best for teams that, instead, decide to use to their pick in the draft. -- Salt Lake Tribune



Draft Talk

Afflalo, Farmar Set Workouts
The most significant stretch of UCLA's 2006-07 basketball season begins today, nearly six months before the season tips off. The two prominent players in UCLA's unexpected run to the national championship game loss to Florida -- shooting guard Arron Afflalo and point guard Jordan Farmar -- begin workouts for NBA teams. Afflalo said he has workouts scheduled with four teams, beginning with the Lakers. By this time next week, Afflalo said he will also work out for the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers. Through UCLA, Farmar said he is not conducting interviews until he reaches a decision on whether he will remain in the draft. But he will work out for the Clippers today. His mother, Mindy Kolani, said her son also had workouts scheduled with the Lakers and the New Jersey Nets. -- Los Angeles Daily News

Draft Is Serious Business For Dean And Rondo
Taquan Dean always imagined a day when Rajon Rondo would be his roommate. He just didn't expect he'd have to wait two years until they were living in the same condominium. ... Dean and Rondo can fuss about Kentucky, Louisville, the Pistons, Cavaliers and other teams at breakfast, lunch and dinner these days. No odd couple, this one. They live in a condo in downtown Chicago as they train together for the June 28 NBA draft. Breakfast at 6:30. Report to the gym for 2 ½ hours of drills with a shooting coach by 8. Ninety minutes of weight training. Break two hours for lunch. Another 2 ½ hours in the gym. Then back to the condo that overlooks Lake Michigan. "It's serious business until the draft," Dean said. -- The Courier-Journal

Workouts May Chart Future For Roby
Colorado guard Richard Roby remains undecided about his future. But he'll know a lot more after this week when he works out for NBA teams. Roby said Friday he is scheduled to work out for the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday and might also do so for the Chicago Bulls. He has submitted his name into the draft but has not hired an agent, thereby retaining his eligibility to return to CU. Roby said he probably won't make a decision until close to the June 18 deadline on whether to withdraw. ... Roby said he probably will take part in the predraft camp in Orlando, Fla., from June 6-10 and must decide early this week. -- Denver Post


Miscellaneous

Basketball Hall In Rebounding Position
The vision that persuaded Jerry Colangelo to throw the Hall of Fame a lifeline is finally coming to fruition. John Doleva has pared the retiring debt from $6 million to $2 million. The museum actually generated $500,000 in income last year. Dave Gavitt, the former chairman of the Hall and a current board member, projects the entire operation will be in the black by 2008. ''The museum industry is a challenging one," Doleva said. ''We had two choices. We could continue to try to do things the old way, and bang our heads against the wall, or we could get creative and initiate some new streams of revenue." -- Boston Globe

Officials' Imprints Apparent All Over
The compelling nature of the NBA Playoffs has been tempered by the punitively obsessed Stu Jackson and the high number of officiating crews gone blind. The suspension of Jason Terry in Game 6 allowed the Spurs to step back from the precipice of elimination against the Mavericks. ... Groping an opponent while jostling for rebound position was believed to be the first X-rated act ever on an NBA floor. Yet the egregious actions of Evans merited only a $10,000 fine from the NBA's deportment czar. That is $10,000 for sexual harassment compared to a one-game suspension for a punch that did not amount to squat. -- Washington Times

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