First Cup: Friday

  • Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press: "Few will raise their voices if Richard Hamilton is traded. It won't trigger the volatile reaction of when Chauncey Billups was dealt for Allen Iverson in 2008. The Pistons were good then -- not 12-26 -- and far more people cared about them. It's best for all involved that Hamilton and Detroit part ways. The Pistons desperately need their much-discussed mega-deal involving New Jersey and Denver to happen. ... If the deal collapses, the Pistons' already-uncomfortable situation with Hamilton might erode into something toxic. I'm sure the ownership uncertainty weighs heavily on everyone in the organization, but that doesn't excuse a lack of professionalism. Hamilton, 32, became the Pistons' designated leader upon the Billups trade. Days earlier, he had received a three-year, $34-million contract extension that probably will go down as Joe Dumars' worst executive decision. But Rip never rose to those expectations. He had issues with Iverson, with Curry and now with Kuester. He once symbolized the resilient spirit of the Pistons' 2004 championship team, a collection of discards that melded together. But now he embodies what is wrong with the lost and disjointed teams."

  • Terry Foster of The Detroit News: "The benching was insulting, but that's the business of the NBA. You're a hero one day, a zero the next. We all know Richard Hamilton is on the trading block, expected to be part of a blockbuster power struggle between the Nets and Nuggets that will send Carmelo Anthony to New Jersey. But, he deserved better. He got nothing from Pistons coach John Kuester. ... The reason Hamilton is owed that much is simple: He's Pistons royalty. We might not like his antics on the floor and sometimes he is too much of a hothead. But he was part of a championship era. ... The Pistons need to rebuild and let Hamilton find happiness in basketball again -- elsewhere."

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "The most stark revelation for Mo Williams after the historic loss Tuesday was already fairly well known to everyone else. For the first time this season, Williams read the word ''rebuilding'' in the aftermath of the Cavs' 112-57 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Since the Cavs have the worst record in the Eastern Conference, that has been a given for more than a month, but it is still blasphemy to veteran NBA players who have enjoyed success. 'I don't like the rebuilding phase,' Williams said. 'I don't like rebuilding. I want to win.' The Cavs get another shot at that tonight against the Utah Jazz. The Cavs have dropped 11 in a row and 21 of their past 22 games. They haven't won a road game in more than two months, but none of the defeats hurt as badly as the loss to the Lakers."

  • Peter Vecsey of the New York Post: "Remember me? I wrote the Heat couldn't compete with the elite without Mike Miller's smart bombs, rebounding and passing. Since his return to active duty following a preseason right thumb injury, Miami has won nine of 11 before last night's engagement in Denver. The fact Miller saw no daylight in four of the 11 and played just 53 minutes (19 in Game 2) in the other seven is beside the point. Just as it is neither here nor there that Miller is 1-13 from the field, including 0-6 from off shore and has amassed a total of three points. If you recall, I also swore the Heat couldn't do without Udonis Haslem's rebounding, defense and clutch shooting. They immediately lost three of four after he hurt his foot and are a mere 21-2 since."

  • Alan Hahn of Newsday: "Amar'e Stoudemire wasn't home from the four-game West Coast trip for half a day before he was back out in the spotlight, sitting on the set of the Ed Sullivan Theater for an appearance on 'The Late Show with David Letterman.' He literally limped back from the West with a sore calf and a shoulder that went numb for a few seconds after he suffered astinger early in Wednesday night's loss to the Jazz. ... Every time Stoudemire shows the slightest expression of pain, the entire franchise winces. His presence has meant so much to the turnaround of the Knicks, from a 29-win team to a playoff hopeful to a team that now believes it can win a round. They need him every night, but can he make it through the entire 82- game schedule and still have something left in the tank for the playoffs? He did last season in Phoenix, and what was most amazing about that was that he seemed to get stronger later in the season. He was arguably the best player in the NBA after the All-Star break. 'If you can play all 82, then great, but if you have to sit out one or two games because you're banged up, then you sit out one or two,' he said. 'It depends on the situation, but if you're a competitive player, you want to play in every game.' "

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Facing budding superstars Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the rest of the up-and-coming Oklahoma City Thunder apparently wasn't a tough enough task for the Orlando Magic. The Magic also spent their Thursday at the Skirvin Hilton, a nearly 100-year-old hotel that, according to legend, is haunted. NBA teams have stayed at the Skirvin -- located in downtown Oklahoma City -- since the Seattle SuperSonics moved here after the 2007-08 season. And some teams, including last season's New York Knicks, have players who believe ghosts reside in the hotel. 'Yeah, I was scared the last time I stayed there,' Magic power forward Brandon Bass admitted. ... Magic coach Stan Van Gundy is a man who takes a scientific approach to basketball, often relying on statistics to confirm or dispel his theories. Not surprisingly, he doesn't believe the rumors either. 'I don't buy into any of it,' he said about 90 minutes before Thursday's tipoff at the Ford Center. 'What haunts me are guys like Kevin Durant. So, I would say this building is haunted because of guys like him, as are most of the buildings in the NBA. I haven't run into a haunted hotel, just haunted arenas.' "

  • Colin Stephenson of The Star-Ledger: "Jordan Farmar, who signed with the Nets over the summer as a free agent, has already been back to Staples Center, when the Nets played the Clippers in November. But that wasn't the same thing. Friday, he'll get his NBA championship ring from the Lakers and his family will be there to see it. He joked about being ready to be booed, even though that seems unlikely. 'They might be mad at me for leaving you never know,' Farmar said. 'You’ve got to expect anything and just go out there and play basketball. I’m going to have a good time and get my ring and it’s my mom’s birthday tomorrow so it’s going to be a special day for me all the way around. I’m excited to be here.' "

  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: "Fifteen years ago, Flip Saunders was coaching the Timberwolves, and he had a dynamic rookie point guard named Stephon Marbury. Today, Saunders is in a similar situation as the Washington Wizards' coach with John Wall, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA draft. The trip down memory lane, aided by the Wizards' visit to Target Center on Thursday night to play the Wolves, reminded Saunders of the contrasts and similarities between Marbury and Wall. 'Both have that competitive fire, but Steph was more of a scoring point guard first than a passer,' Saunders said. 'Steph was such a great shooter. John is more of a passer first. He'd rather look for the assist. He only looks to score when he thinks he has to.' Wall, who had 14 points and 10 assists against the Wolves on Thursday night, is second in scoring among NBA rookies with a 15.6 average (Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin is averaging 21.8). Wall leads all rookies with 8.9 assists, which ranks sixth overall in the league. ... The Wolves ended up trading Marbury to New Jersey on March 11, 1999, in a three-team deal that brought Terrell Brandon from Cleveland. 'I told Steph, 'In 15 years, one day you, me and K.G. will be sitting down talking and we'll all say it was the worst mistake ever made,' ' Saunders said. 'I really believe that if Steph had stayed here, he would have had a great career.' "

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "For all their flaws, the Hawks enter the second half of the regular season on a roll. They have the longest active winning streak in the conference (five games) and have won nine of their last 11 games. But Atlanta's 26-14 record has been earned mostly against weaker teams in what has been the easiest schedule in the East. According to data complied by ESPN's John Hollinger, entering Thursday Atlanta's opponents had the lowest combined winning percentage (.463) of any team in the conference. Atlanta was 4-9 against opponents that currently have winning records and 22-5 against those below .500. The Hawks counter those facts by rightly noting that they've dealt with key injuries while playing a schedule that has been difficult by volume if not competition. Atlanta played a conference-high 40 games over the first 79 days of the season, including 11 sets of back-to-back games. Its next 42 games are spread over 89 calendar days with 11 back-to-back sets."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "Seated on press row at the Target Center on Tuesday, Mavericks scout Greg Dreiling watched as Spurs guard Tony Parker toyed with Minnesota’s Luke Ridnour, starting and stopping three pick-and-roll dribble-drives that eventually sent Ridnour reeling into Spurs center DeJuan Blair. Free in the middle of the lane, Parker drew two defenders intent on halting his drive to the rim. Flinging a pass to George Hill in the left corner, Parker watched as his teammate, unattended, splashed a 3-pointer. 'Oh, man,' Dreiling gushed. 'I know about our rivalry, and all that, but I’d pay to watch those guys play.' Such is the respect the Mavericks hold for the Spurs, and when Dallas takes the court tonight at the AT&T Center, the Spurs will pay them the same level of respect. Even if Dallas’ MVP candidate, Dirk Nowitzki, is in league-approved business attire behind the bench."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "The Wizards haven't officially forfeited every game away from Verizon Center this season, but they have produced the same result over and over again this season, through full-game no-shows or fourth quarter collapses. They chose the latter Thursday as they dropped to 0-19 on the road this season with a 109-97 loss to one of the few teams in the NBA that entered the night with fewer wins. 'It's embarrassing,' John Wall said after scoring 14 points with 10 assists. 'The only team left that ain't got a win on the road. It ain't like we a bad team. We gave about six or seven games away on the road, and a couple at home.' Wall then repeated what he has said far too many times in his rookie year: 'We just got to learn how to finish out on the road.' "