Sunday Click is a trip around the country in search of the best of the NBA columnists the web has to offer.

SECAUCUS, NJ, June 3, 2007 -- We finally made it. After 1230 regular season games and 75 postseason contests, we're down to two teams. The Cleveland Cavaliers and the San Antonio Spurs will tip off at that AT&T Center Thursday night (9 p.m. ET, ABC). It's a match up star power and unheralded success.

But of course, there's always more than just basketball going on around the Association. This week, we had drama coming out of Los Angeles that had fans of 29 teams imagining Kobe Bryant in their uniform. And we also had three teams hiring new leaders.

Next Stop: San Antonio

Bill Livingston of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that, while his supporting cast came through on Saturday night, it was LeBron James who delivered for the Cavs ...
LeBron James, "The Next Great Thing," on the brink of the greatest thing he has done yet, walked to the court at The Q past the handwriting on the wall. It was 5:25 in the afternoon, more than three hours before tip-off.

Al Pacino said those words in the movie "Any Given Sunday," in which he played a football coach. Every team in every sport has adopted it.

"The Next Great Thing" is about the inches that separate victory from defeat, about the tiny, sweat-slick increments that provide "The Diff." -- Read More

Peter Vecsey of the New York Post rains on Cleveland's parade a bit by citing several playoff performances that were better than LeBron's Game 5 ...

While much has been said, written and pantomimed about LeBron James' 48-point, nine-rebound, seven-assist, two-steal platinum presentation in Game 5, trying to rank it in NBA playoff history tends to devalue so many other Herculean feats - those that are even remembered.

News Flash: The league existed to some extent prior to the arrival of Bird, Magic, Isiah and Jordan, you know slightly before Sgt. Pepper taught his band to play. -- Read More

The Other Guys

Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News pens a column about the widely unpopular Spurs ...
As the Spurs aim for their fourth NBA title in nine seasons and third in the past five — a remarkable accomplishment that would enshrine the team in basketball's pantheon — the nation's sports fans are responding with a collective yawn.

The Spurs "will never be the people's choice," a columnist for Yahoo!Sports wrote recently.

Blame it on the market, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame says. -- Read More

Marc J. Spears of the Denver Post says that sometimes, having your vacation delayed is a good thing ...

Francisco Elson's close friends back in the Netherlands are glad they don't get to hang out with him right now.

Each of Elson's three seasons with the Nuggets included an exit after the first round of the playoffs, followed by a flight back home to the Netherlands.

The earliest the 7-footer will get home now is late June, since he will be making his first trip to the NBA Finals with the San Antonio Spurs. -- Read More

Kobe Prattle

The Conference Finals were overshadowed on Wednesday when Kobe Bryant did a series of radio interviews in which he went back and forth between "I want to be traded" and "I'm a Laker for life" several times. It caused quite a reaction around the league, and of course, the columnists have a thing or two to say about it.

Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Times writes that being a media circus is nothing new to the Lakers ...

When exactly did an organization, which was already storied, star-studded and glamorous, cross the line into the monster the Lakers became?

In retrospect, it's not hard to see at all.

On July 18, 1996, their proud tradition veered into uncharted waters when O'Neal signed with them, noting he had already "won at every level except college and the pros."

If the Lakers didn't already know it, life was a carnival around Shaq, whether he meant there to be one or not. -- Read More

John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times believes that, while the Bulls would certainly have a chance in the Kobe sweepstakes, making a deal for him is not that simple ...

Bryant, who has a no-trade clause and could veto any deal, wants to go to a team that can be a contender immediately, and the Bulls certainly would be a contender with the addition of a big-time go-to scorer. More important, the Bulls have the kind of young talent necessary to swing a deal for an All-Star.

Still, working out a trade for Bryant would be a huge challenge for Bulls operations chief John Paxson because of NBA regulations and the Bulls' glaring need for an inside scorer.
-- Read More

But Ken Berger of New York Newsday can make a case for KB24 in a Knicks uniform ...

Imagine if Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals had been at the Garden last night, the city buzzing the way it has buzzed for the Knicks when they were NBA royalty.

Imagine a trip to the NBA Finals riding on the exploits of a transcendent player you so desperately crave and deserve to watch in your city. -- Read More

And David Aldridge of the Philadelphia Inquirer dreams up a handful of other trade scenarios ...

After a few days bizarre even by NBA superstar standards, we believe we've got it right: Kobe Bryant, the league's best player, is angry with the Lakers' front office.

Bryant's public near-meltdown to various media outlets alternated between despair and almost blind rage at the Lakers while he bounced back and forth like a Ping-Pong ball on whether he wanted to stay in Los Angeles. -- Read More

This Week on the Carousel

Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel takes note of the three different methods of hiring this week ...
It wasn't designed as a case study. It just turned out that way because of the timing.

Within hours Thursday, three NBA teams took divergent approaches with coaching vacancies. -- Read More

Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald says the out-of-the-blue hiring of Jim O'Brien in Indiana was typically atypical ...

Say this much about Jim O'Brien:

The former Celtics [team stats] coach does not march to an orthodox beat.

Just as he abruptly pulled up stakes on his new boss, Danny Ainge, midway through the 2003-04 season, and hit the wall in stunning fashion after resurfacing in Philadelphia, the veteran coach has once again made a move with all the uniformity of a knuckleball. -- Read More

Peter May of the Boston Globe writes that, despite never meeting in person with O'Brien during the interview process, Larry Bird knows exactly what he's getting ...

You wonder how the Indiana Pacers were able to keep the Jim O'Brien situation under wraps? He and Pacers basketball boss Larry Bird never met during the interview process. Everything was done over the phone, which meant the only people who knew what was going on were Bird, O'Brien, and Homeland Security.

"It would have been one thing if I had no history," O'Brien said Friday from Indianapolis, less than 24 hours after being introduced as the next coach of the Pacers, his third NBA team. "But I didn't have to tell him in person how my teams would play. They have a library of film on that. They know my vision. -- Read More

While Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle thinks the situation is right for a successful college-to-pro transition in Orlando ...

The ink was not dry on Billy Donovan's Orlando Magic contract before the names were listed again.

Rick Pitino. Lon Kruger. Mike Montgomery. Leonard Hamilton. John Calipari. Jerry Tarkanian.

College coaches become stars. NBA teams become seduced. College coaches become NBA coaches and fail miserably.

But it does not have to be that way. And it probably won't be for Donovan. -- Read More

But Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times cites the difference between the college game and the NBA in predicting failure for Donovan ...

Florida's Billy Donovan taking the head coaching job with the Orlando Magic certainly sounds like a perfect match.

He'll be in Central Florida, where he's second in command to Gov. Jeb Bush. He's a former NBA player, having had a mocha frappuccino with New York in 1987-88, and he has experience coaching NBA talent, inasmuch as three of his players will be lottery picks this month. He'll also have something to work with in Orlando, taking over a Magic squad that features All-Star post Dwight Howard.

Sounds like a nice fit, huh? -- Read More

Dave D'Alessandro of the Star-Ledger writes that, either way, the Magic did the right thing ...

All together now, in the key of C: Well, I'll be damned.

It may be a fool's errand from a competitive standpoint, but the Orlando Magic made the right business move in hiring Billy Donovan as its head coach Thursday -- just when you thought the empty suits running the joint made the dumbest basketball move in firing Brian Hill. -- Read More

Filling the Void

Some draftniks believe that Mike Conley Jr. is not worthy of the No. 3 pick, but Sekou Smith of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution believes that he's exactly what the Hawks need ...
Mike Conley Jr. was just as surprised as you were to see his name atop the list of point guards available in the June 28 NBA draft.

After all, this wasn't the way he planned it.

He wasn't supposed to do just one year at Ohio State.

He wasn't supposed to be worrying about draft workouts at 19.

He wasn't supposed to step out from Greg Oden's towering shadow until long after his best friend and longtime teammate had already paved the way to the NBA for his buddy.

Yet here Conley is, bound for the NBA lottery and soon to be in possession of the keys to a franchise he's supposed to run for oh, the next decade or so. -- Read More

No More Conflict

Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News writes about a Spur in Suns clothing ...
Last month Gregg Popovich glared at Steve Kerr, and it brought back old memories. It was as if Kerr had failed to rotate on defense again.

Popovich flashed some anger, said a few words. They ended up having a good conversation, and later Kerr reacted as he did when he played for the Spurs. He did what Popovich said.

He chose one career. -- Read More