First Cup: Thursday

  • George Willis of the New York Post: "Amar'e Stoudemire has been the unquestioned leader of the Knicks since he arrived here last summer and pronounced, 'the Knicks are back.' ... The worst thing that could happen to the Knicks is for any of that to diminish now that Carmelo Anthony has joined his team. Stoudemire will have to make room for Anthony to put his imprint on the team and carry the kind of clout and swagger that comes with being one of the league's elite players. But that shouldn't come at the expense of Stoudemire being who he is and what he has been. The Garden tried to remind Stoudemire of that early in last night's 114-108 victory over the Bucks. Though the night was all about Anthony and his debut as a Knick, when Stoudemire went to the free-throw line 3:18 into the game, chants of 'MVP... MVP' filled the World's Most Famous Arena. Even Knicks fans know who their leader is. Anthony's roots are in New York, and he wanted to wear orange and blue, but it's going to take a minute for him to feel totally comfortable in is new skin even though he poured through 27 points last night. That's why Stoudemire needs to step forward more than stepping back. Just how quickly the two will mesh their skills will determine how much the Knicks can make of this season."

  • Dave Krieger of The Denver Post: "Danilo Gallinari was 15 the first time Nuggets executive Masai Ujiri saw him play in Europe. His most impressive basketball skill was his handle. ... I know, I know. You've heard it before. Perhaps no town in America is more skeptical of the big Euro than Denver. There was the Skita disaster, of course, followed by the Darko near-miss a year later when only Joe Dumars and the spirit of giving prevented the Nuggets from selecting two monumental busts in a row. Gallinari -- his Knicks teammates call him Gallo -- is already better than those guys, but at 22 he has a chance to be better still. If I say he has the most upside of the four players the Nuggets acquired from the Knicks in the Carmelo Anthony deal, I realize you may roll your eyes. Google 'upside' and Nikoloz Tskitishvili and you get 18,400 hits. But anyone who can play small forward at 6-10, as Gallinari did for the Knicks, has skills that create mismatches, which is what the NBA is all about. Gallinari's ability to set himself apart in this way will ultimately determine how good a trade the Nuggets made. ... Countless European big men have been held up as the next Dirk Nowitzki over the years. Still, none of that history dictates who Gallinari can be. He is the potential diamond in the rough here, the player with the potential to make this deal more than a salvage job."

  • Steve Politi of The Star-Ledger: "The Nets had just traded for the best point guard in the NBA and briefly upstaged their hated rivals on the day they were introducing their own new superstar. That, by any standard, is a pretty good day for a franchise.Still, these are the Nets we’re talking about, so the focus was on the worst-case scenario. And, admittedly, it is a humdinger. Deron Williams might not sign an extension with the Nets. He might become a free agent and sign with the Knicks instead. The player the Nets traded to Utah to get him, power forward Derrick Favors, might become the next Karl Malone, and one of the draft picks might win the lottery, and that new Brooklyn arena might be as empty as the Meadowlands was most nights. All of that might happen. But you know what else might happen? The Nets might have acquired a cornerstone player that makes them better than the Knicks for the next 10 years. They might have found a point guard who can transform this franchise the way Jason Kidd did a decade ago. ... the Nets are much better off than they were 24 hours ago, and they enjoyed the bonus of stealing some of the Knicks’ thunder, too. That, for any franchise, is a good day. That is worth the gamble."

  • Bob Klapisch of The Record: "The Nets have their most compelling player since Jason Kidd arrived via a trade with Dallas and delivered with consecutive trips to the NBA Finals. Much like Kidd once sprayed the court with his pinpoint passes and clutch three-pointers, Williams has the potential to do the same, which could turn Brooke Lopez into a more consistent presence in the paint. The Knicks’ new journey began Wednesday night, and for the Nets, the new era starts Friday. And for the first time since Prokhorov landed with his five-year title promise, his Knick-baiting Manhattan billboards and his fruitless courtship with James and Anthony, the inner Steinbrenner finally paid off. The Nets have grabbed some share of the spotlight."

  • Brad Rock of the Deseret News: It's a scene from a thousand movies, the hero pursued by armed and angry foes. He races across rooftops and sprints through fields until he reaches the cliff's edge. He looks briefly back at the advancing mob, then leaps into space. His plan is to fall safely to water, but he might be dashed against the rocks. What else is a small-market NBA team to do about a first-rate free-agent-to-be? At some point, there's no turning back. Thus, the Jazz are officially swimming in deep water. Sharks may be circling, but it's better than certain death -- or in this case sitting idle while their best player leaves as a free agent. The Jazz relinquished their only future Hall of Fame possibility, Wednesday, by trading Deron Williams to New Jersey. He wasn't sticking around. That much was clear as he talked about free agency over the years. He never said he was leaving, but he didn't come close to saying he wanted to stay, either. ... On the darker side is the realization that the Jazz may have seen their last superstar. Increasingly, such players shape the NBA. That's why Carmelo Anthony is in New York, LeBron James in Miami and Kobe Bryant in L.A. They get where they want to be, which isn't often at the edge of a dead lake, on the fringe of the wilderness, in a town that closes at dusk. ... For Jazz fans, Wednesday's trade was jarring. The team has become decidedly more businesslike in recent years. But the trade showed the Jazz intend to avoid what happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who imploded when LeBron James left. The Jazz can accept being called many things, but cavalier(s) isn't one of them. ... Better to leap before the mob has a chance to pounce."

  • Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Trashing Williams isn’t the sole intention here, although how he handles the losing in New Jersey, for as long as it lasts, will be compelling theater. For most of his time with the Jazz, he played hard, he competed hard, and he cared a lot. In many ways, he grew up in Utah. But not enough to properly handle the demise of the past two months. It’s ironic that an All-Star point guard who averaged nearly 10 assists per game through the better part of six seasons here couldn’t pass his biggest test of all. He couldn’t stare down adversity and, then, by way of his own tremendous gifts, ascend over it. More than any other reason, that’s why he chased a legend out a door, and, 13 days later, followed him through it."

  • Monte Poole of the Contra Costa Times: "With the trade deadline looming, Brandan Wright clearly wanted out. He didn't whine, couldn't bring himself to say he wanted to restart his career elsewhere. Speaking with Wright late Tuesday night, after the loss to the Celtics, his desire to leave was evident in his uneasy grin, in the way he looked me in the eye and chuckled, searching for the right words while dancing around the subject of his future. His tongue didn't beg, but his eyes pleaded for a new start. 'I'm a basketball player,' he said. 'I just want a chance to play basketball.' Asked if he would he prefer to see things work out with the Warriors, or take his chances with another organization, Wright said he had no preference. 'That's not up to me,' he said. 'I just want to play.' Health permitting, he'll get his chance with the Nets. There are reasons they and other teams pursued him. He's long, athletic and a 55 percent shooter. Meanwhile, Warriors fans can turn the page. Turn it to 6-10 rookie Ekpe Udoh. Wish the kid luck, for the odds are not in his favor."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "I don't think I can come to Philadelphia without something crazy happening anymore. I missed the Wizards' game at Wells Fargo Center in Jan. 5, which was only amusing in that it added another double-digit road loss to the ledger. But the last time I was in this arena -- which was called Wachovia Center -- Gilbert Arenas played his last game wearing the No. 0 for the Wizards. He flashed the finger guns, playfully shot down his teammates, and figuratively shot down his career in Washington. Arenas was suspended the next day, his birthday, and came back a few months later wearing No. 9 before he got shipped to Orlando. More than 13 months after my last Philly cheesesteak, I came back and not only does JaVale McGee get into a shouting match with Wizards assistant Randy Wittman during a despicable 117-94 loss, but John Wall rips his teammates for failing to show heart afterward, and the Wizards also make a trade that will bring another former Arizona point guard to town -- and he plans on wearing No. 0. Yep, only two months after Arenas was traded away, the Wizards have completely moved on by giving new arrival Mike Bibby the number that Arenas made a movement for about six seasons in Washington. Bibby joined the Wizards in a five-player deal with the Hawks that also brought back Jordan Crawford, Maurice Evans and a 2011 first-round pick and sent Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong packing."

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The addition of Hinrich and Armstrong is no cause for re-calibration of this team’s ceiling. The Hawks aren’t much different today than they’ve been for the past three years. They’re a pretty good team in an Eastern Conference that keeps getting more competitive at the top. If the notion was to find a galvanizing talent at this deadline, they failed. The man that would have remade the local club just got traded to New Jersey, and he was, fittingly enough, one of the two famous men on whom general manager Billy Knight passed to draft Marvin Williams in 2005. Utah moved to trade Deron Williams, and the Hawks apparently weren’t in the bidding. (Deron Williams was picked one spot ahead of Chris Paul, and the two have long ranked, to the Hawks’ lasting chagrin, among the NBA’s five best point guards.) ... This trade is probably enough to keep the Hawks ahead of the Knicks in the East, probably not enough to elevate them above Orlando for fourth place. It gives them hope in the sense that something has been done, but the right something again eluded this franchise. Deron Williams, the guy they needed back in 2005 and needed today, got traded on Wednesday, and it wasn’t to the Hawks."

  • Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle: "Once upon a time, this little town was known as Clutch City. These days the Rockets and their fans reside in Stuck City. They're stuck between good and bad -- not good enough to make the playoffs, but not bad enough to secure a high draft pick; far from the mountaintop, yet not close enough to the lake at the base to reel in fresh fish. In a way, it's purgatory, and the Rockets could be here for a while. The suffering will last at least until this time next season, when we are likely to once again wonder whether or not they can land a star player that will make the franchise relevant again. Miracles do happen -- Deron Williams surprisingly landed in New Jersey on Wednesday -- but don't expect anything major to happen involving Houston before today's NBA trade deadline. Things did get somewhat exciting Wednesday night as there was a report that Courtney Lee was listed as inactive for the Rockets' game at Cleveland. Would there be a blockbuster trade? Hardly. For one, half the Rockets' roster would have had to be inactive for the team to be involved in a blockbuster trade. Secondly, Lee, a third-year reserve guard, tends to get traded every offseason."