First Cup: Friday

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Dwight Howard could not have been more clear Thursday about his long-term intentions. He is sticking by his request to be traded from the Orlando Magic. "It still stands," Howard said. Asked whether he fluctuates day to day, he answered, "There is no back-and-forth." Howard's statements, responses to specific questions from the media after practice, came one day after Magic General Manager Otis Smith, in consultation with Magic CEO Alex Martins, turned down a blockbuster trade. ... Magic officials say they hope they can change Howard's mind before the March 15 trade deadline. But what remains unclear is whether the Magic front office actually believes there is a reasonable chance of a Howard change of heart."

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: New Orleans Hornets General Manager Dell Demps appeared more relaxed Thursday than he had been in recent days when trade uncertainty involving Chris Paul hovered over the franchise. After Paul was unwilling to sign an extension to remain in New Orleans, the Hornets traded the four-time All-Star point guard to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night in exchange for shooting guard Eric Gordon, center Chris Kaman, forward Al-Farouq Aminu and a 2012 unconditional first-round pick the Clippers had acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves. “We’re glad to get that process over,’’ Demps said. “We are set for the future, and I think we got some hard-playing guys with some vets mixed in with some young guys. I think our basketball IQ is going to be really good. I think we’re going to share the ball and be a defensive-oriented team.’’ The Hornets open their preseason schedule tonight on the road against the Memphis Grizzlies, but Gordon, Kaman and Aminu are not expected to join the team until Saturday for an open practice at the New Orleans Arena.

  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: One L.A. team continues generating buzz over their big-name acquisitions. Another L.A. team continues generating fuss over their front-office misgivings. One L.A. team talks in giddy tones and infectious optimism about a bright future ahead. Another L.A. team talks in measured tones and forced optimism about an uncertain future ahead. One L.A. team conjures up images of Showtime and highlight-driven performances. Another L.A. team sparks concerns on who can stay healthy and who will actually remain on the team. It's just another NBA season featuring the Lakers and the Clippers. Except it isn't. We've entered the bizzaro world.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: For all that he said, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey might have made his feelings about last week's vetoed trade clearest with what he did not say and the way he wouldn't say it. Asked about how he felt about having the NBA refuse to authorize his trade for Pau Gasol, Morey said, "On the advice of counsel I can't talk about it." Morey made it clear that he "literally" had been advised by legal counsel, but would not specify why he had discussions with an attorney. "I just can't comment on that," he said. He also would not answer when specifically asked if the team was considering legal action. The Rockets are not "planning" to sue the NBA over the issue, according to a person with knowledge of their thinking. A week after the Rockets agreed to a trade that would have sent Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Goran Dragic to New Orleans in order to acquire Gasol, Morey had feelings so strong he sought legal advise before he would share them.

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: At first, he felt the knees. Then, Brandon Roy heard them. It was last week, days before training camp was to start for the Trail Blazers, and Roy was intensifying his efforts to come back from yet another round of knee surgeries the season before. His workouts, casual and playful during the lockout, became serious and strenuous, just like they always did as he prepared for a season during his storied career. He was determined to make a comeback. To prove people wrong. To prove that the people who were standing by him were right. But something wasn't right. And he knew it. "The more I would try to prepare to have this big comeback year, the worse my knees would continue to feel," Roy said Thursday in his first public comments since July. "As we approached training camp, there was clicking in there, there was something in there really bothering me, and I was starting to feel like I would have to have another (surgery) just to help me get by day-to-day." Days earlier he had met with the Trail Blazers' brass: president Larry Miller, interim general manager Chad Buchanan and head coach Nate McMillan. And later he would talk with owner Paul Allen. They all made his heart swell with unyielding support. But deep down, he knew about his aches. And he knew about the clicks. ... He says he is at peace with the Blazers' decision, and pleased that the move enabled them to sign a quality player like Crawford. "I've been drooling to play with Jamal; the timing just wasn't right," Roy said. "But Portland will love him."

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Lamar Odom played in Phil Jackson's triangle offense the past four seasons, and it got him and the Lakers a pair of NBA championship rings. But Odom said he shouldn't have any problems going from the triangle offense to Rick Carlisle's offense. "At the end of the day it's basketball," Odom said. "And these guys do a great job of moving the ball and just playing off each other. "Hopefully I can find my niche pretty quick." Carlisle said Odom won't have any problem digesting the Mavericks' offensive system.

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: Today is Amnesty Day across the NBA, the date by which teams must decide whether to exercise their so-called “amnesty provision” on a player for this season, or save it for a campaign to come. For Richard Jefferson, long named near the top of every speculative “to-be-amnestied” list, today could mark the last day of his Spurs career. Or it could be the first day of the rest of his third season in silver and black. A red-letter day indeed, except Jefferson didn’t exactly have it circled on his calendar. “I didn’t even know until you told me,” a grinning Jefferson said after Thursday’s practice. “I could have gone to bed tonight a happy man.” Judging by the way his head coach has been raving about him, not to mention the way the free-agent market has been drying up, perhaps Jefferson needn’t lose sleep anyway. Though Gregg Popovich didn’t go so far as to rule out the prospect of amnesty for ? Jefferson, it certainly sounds as if the coach is preparing to open the season with the 31-year-old small forward still in the fold.

  • Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times: Bucks officials said Stephen Jackson is experiencing back spasms and weren't sure when he would return to practice. That may indeed be the case, but there are growing whispers that the 33-year-old Jackson isn't content with his current contract. Jackson is the second-highest paid player on the Bucks this season at $9.26 million. Andrew Bogut is the highest paid Buck at $12.1M. Jackson is also guaranteed $10 million for next season. League sources said Jackson sought a contract extension last season from the Charlotte Bobcats and that was one of the primary reasons they shipped him to Milwaukee. ... Jackson, who hasn't had an agent for several years, hasn't uttered a word about his contact status since the start of training camp. He was unavailable for interviews Thursday. There is growing speculation, though, that Jackson is upset the Bucks haven't approached him about reconstructing his contract and that he was now going to approach them.

  • Alan Hahn of Newsday: Amar'e Stoudemire was in no mood to make any recruiting pitches. If anything, the power forward has only one prerequisite of any player the Knicks add via free agency: Be in shape and ready to play. So despite mutual interest between guard Baron Davis and the front office, Stoudemire suggested that his preference would be to pass on the 32-year-old, who has a lower- back injury. "This guy's out for eight to 10 weeks, he's not our concern at all,'' Stoudemire said of Davis, who was waived by the Cavaliers on Wednesday. "We can't do anything about his injury. Right now we can't afford to have any setbacks. We have a positive thing going. We feel great about our guys. Everybody's healthy, so we've just got to keep it going.''

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: Hello, Josh Howard. Do svidaniya, Andrei Kirilenko. Howard, a free-agent small forward with a history riddled with troubling incidents and a knee injury, agreed to a one-year deal Thursday with the Jazz. In Howard, the Jazz get a veteran swingman who used to be a proven scorer and rebounder. "I think we've added a good player," Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor said. "We're excited to have him." They've also added a player who has only played in 18 games since tearing his ACL almost two years ago. Howard's signing, pending a physical, "probably does" bring an end to the Kirilenko era in Utah, his agent Marc Fleisher admitted. "Andrei will always treasure his time with the Jazz," Fleisher told the Deseret News. The Russian forward, who's currently playing with CSKA Moscow, spent the past 10 seasons in the Beehive State. Though he's called Salt Lake City his second home, Kirilenko's asking price also put him out of Utah's price range. The oft-injured-but-versatile Kirilenko, reportedly interested in Sacramento and New Jersey, is seeking about $9 million for three years.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post Aside from a desire to form super-teams and chase rings, a constant theme in each case was that the Wizards were not only spectators, but Washington wasn’t even on the superstars’ GPS systems as a possible landing spot. In a half-hour news conference on Thursday, Leonsis again stressed his plan to build a championship-caliber team by drafting and developing young talent but also added that he expects the Wizards to eventually attract all-star talent to pair with John Wall. “I hope to have our team get to being considered a destination where players want to play,” Leonsis said. “Everyone knows that this is a fantastic city. If we can get the place rocking with lots of energy and we have an environment where they’re not just talented players, they’re welcoming, they’re embracing of people that join the team, word gets out and people will want to play here.” In the meantime, Leonsis is focused on watching one of the league’s youngest teams — and Wall, still the Wizards’ youngest player at 21 — continue to show some growth from a season that resulted in just 23 wins and a third consecutive trip to the lottery.

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: O.J. Mayo? I understood that. Jamal Crawford? I can see that one, too, because Crawford could be 1-of-16 from the field through the first three quarters, but then score 16 points in the final quarter. Michael Redd? That one is a little surprising. Pacers officials met with Redd on Thursday as they continue their search for a scorer off the bench. ... I’ve heard from a number of people who aren’t in favor of the move because they’re concerned about Redd’s history of injury problems and they wonder if he’ll disrupt the team’s chemistry. How the player fits in with the team is just as important as how much he can help the team because team chemistry will play a significant factor on how well the Pacers do this season.

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: As the Cavaliers prepare for their preseason opener tonight at the Detroit Pistons, Scott isn’t ready yet to commit to Kyrie Irving as his starter — even after the release of Baron Davis. Scott will start Anderson Varejao, Antawn Jamison and Anthony Parker, but he wanted another night and another practice before naming either Irving or Ramon Sessions as his point guard. “We’ve got two young guys at the position that we feel very good about,” Scott said. “Practices have been great. We’ll have another practice [today] before the game, then I’ll make a decision on who I’m going to start.” Regardless of who starts tonight, it would be a surprise if anyone other than Irving is the starter when the Cavs open the regular season Dec. 26 at home against the Toronto Raptors. Scott said he likely wouldn’t name a regular-season starter until Christmas, but now that Davis has been removed from the equation, the path for Irving appears clear.

  • Ailene Voisin and Dale Kasler of The Sacramento Bee: The March 1 deadline for Sacramento to produce an an arena plan may not be so firm after all. Sacramento Kings co-owner Joe Maloof said Thursday that his family will "always have flexibility" when working with the NBA and the city to come up with a plan to build a new Kings arena and keep the team in town. Until now, the Maloofs have been mostly quiet while the city negotiates details of a potential arena finance plan with the NBA. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is scheduled to meet with NBA commissioner David Stern today in New York. Maloof said the team's owners are encouraged by brisk ticket sales, corporate sponsorships and the progress made so far on crafting a workable financing proposal for a new sports and entertainment facility downtown.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Former Suns player Cedric Ceballos was back on the microphone for the scrimmage Wednesday night, about three weeks after surgeries that followed a series of mild heart attacks he had Nov. 27. Ceballos was playing an ABA game when he left twice for tightness in his chest before he stopped playing for the Scorpions, a team he partially owns. He remained tired when he went home and went to a hospital, where a complete blockage of one artery and 70 percent blockage in another were discovered. "I didn't feel right going to sleep, and that's what saved me," Ceballos said. "Most people play through it, like Armen (Gilliam), Pistol Pete (Maravich) and Hank Gathers. They play through that fatigue or whatever is going on. Some people go to sleep and never wake up."