First Cup: Thursday

  • Harvey Araton of The New York Times: Mike D’Antoni never stood a chance once Donnie Walsh left Madison Square Garden last June as a paid consultant under an unofficial gag order. Coach D’Antoni was tied to President Walsh in a rare demonstration of teamwork and civility within the Knicks’ front office. But once the big man, James L. Dolan, undermined the no-nonsense Walsh last season, the renaissance was destined to give way to another Knicks era of confrontation and chaos. D’Antoni’s announced resignation Wednesday was no more than a formality, a good man cutting his losses after a brief but short-lived romance with Linsanity. After nearly four years in the chronically dysfunctional house of Dolan, the brief window where Jeremy Lin emerged to make the Knicks a fluid and watchable team within the trademark D’Antoni offense is the door prize the newly unemployed D’Antoni gets to take home. Those games become part of the portfolio to go along with the job applications. ... So this is where the Knicks are now. Far from the vision Walsh once had to not only build a contender but also to make the Knicks an organization that functioned like a team and not some drunken fraternity house. But Walsh never stood a chance once Dolan decided he had to have Anthony. And D’Antoni was gone once Walsh decided that being a consultant in Indianapolis until his contract was finished was the right way to go. It wasn’t a waste of time for D’Antoni to stay on, though. He leaves with the satisfaction of knowing that he won more without Anthony than with him.

  • Mike Gavin of Newsday: Amar'e Stoudemire admitted that a division in the Knicks ' locker room played a role in Mike D'Antoni 's unexpected departure. "I think he was frustrated with the fact that everyone wasn't buying into his system," Stoudemire said. "It made him look bad. So he thought that, I guess, stepping down was the best way for him. But as players, we have to look forward." D'Antoni 's surprise resignation came after the Knick's had lost six straight games and failed to effectively incorporate Carmelo Anthony back into the offense following his return from injury. ... Many players expressed disappointment and surprise over D'Antoni's sudden departure, including Jeremy Lin. "Obviously, I miss him a lot," Lin said. "What he did for me and my career. I'm not going to forget what he did for me personally. I am sad to see him go. I owe him a lot."

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: When the Knicks visited the Lakers in late December at Staples Center, Phil Jackson planned to sit in the front row with his girlfriend, and Lakers VP, Jeanie Buss. But at the last minute, Jackson pulled out, thinking it was unfair to Mike D’Antoni because his presence would be misconstrued. Now with D’Antoni gone and Mike Woodson serving as interim coach, Jackson can feel free to attend any Knicks games.The next step is expected to be owner James Dolan courting Jackson again after the season and bringing on Philsanity. Dolan must see if he can bring the Zen Master out of retirement and finally make him a Knicks coach after two failed attempts. Six years ago, they failed to entice Jackson as he chose to return to the Lakers because he didn’t want to leave Buss in Los Angeles In 1999, they stuck with Jeff Van Gundy after an awkward attempt at courting Jackson. According to a source, leaving Los Angeles and his girlfriend won’t be a determinant factor for Jackson this time around. Buss makes many business trips to New York. A source said Jackson hasn’t been approached by any NBA team since retiring last May. ... Other candidates who should be considered include another retiree, Jerry Sloan, who reportedly would have interest in New York; John Calipari, the Kentucky coach who already has tweeted his disinterest; Blazers coach Nate McMillan, whose team got slaughtered by the Knicks 121-79 Wednesday night at the Garden and could be fired; longtime NBA coach Mike Dunleavy, who likes New York City; and Mike Krzyzewski, the Duke coach who finally could take the step to the pros.

  • Dave D’Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: So Carmelo Anthony won the turf war, for now. He was modest in victory, even trying to return to the one-of-the-boys status he once enjoyed in the locker room, and he did it by reminding Woodson that he is “one of the leaders of this team, (so) if he sees anything I’m not doing, hold me accountable. That’s the biggest thing coach Woodson can do, is hold everyone accountable for what happens on the court.” The next victim, who had an unremarkable six-year tenure in Atlanta, said, “I’m gonna be holding guys accountable for that, things will be changed as we move along.” He has 23 games to prove it. But until he proves to be a coach who knows how the pieces must fit, the Knicks just killing time. Until that time they find a coach who can get the resident star to conform to something other than the style that made him a first-round casualty in seven of his eight seasons, the Knicks are just spinning their wheels.

  • Andy Vasquez of The Record: Avery Johnson knows what it's like to coach superstars; as Dallas coach, he presided over the rise of Dirk Nowitzki into one of the NBA's finest big men. He's had the chance to play beside them, too; Johnson ran the point and won a championship in 1999 with Tim Duncan, David Robinson and the Spurs. Now he could be about to embark on the unique challenge of coaching two superstars. If the Nets can swing a deal for Dwight Howard before today's 3 o'clock deadline, Johnson would have a roster that includes the consenus best center in the league and one of the top point guards in Deron Williams. Having multiple stars can be a major luxury, as Johnson has witnessed. But it also can be difficult. If Howard has proven anything through this whole trade demand process, it's that he's quite fickle. And then you need only to look across the river to Madison Square Garden to confirm just how difficult it is dealing with multiple big names. ... If Howard comes to the Nets today, the team instantly will vault from obscurity and into the spotlight of the back pages. No one will have a bigger challenge on his hands than Johnson. But the man has been an eternal optimist all season, despite the dismal lows the Nets have reached. It's a challenge the coach is ready to embrace.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Alex Martins' comment was vague, but not that vague. Magic officials now seem more determined than ever not to be left without compensation for Howard. The franchise has been down that road before: In 1996, Shaquille O'Neal signed a free-agent deal with the Lakers, and the Magic received no assets in return. Howard stuck to his position Wednesday night. "They took a chance on me at 18," he said, referring to how the Magic selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft instead of seasoned, highly touted UConn player Emeka Okafor. "And what did I do? I gave them everything I have for eight years. Take a chance again. I go out every night and play hard. If I didn't want to win, I would've dogged it. But I can't do that. That's not who I am. And look where we are. We're in a great position. All I said was 'take a chance.' They took a chance on me at 18 when everybody else said, 'No, don't do it.' It looked stupid at first, but look now. It's the same situation. That's it. I understand their situation. I understand mine, too." Asked what he expects for Thursday, he responded, "I don't know. I'm going to go get on the plane with my teammates, and we're going to have a good time, and that's it. That's it."

  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: How do you feel today, Orlando? Jilted? Played for a fool? Betrayed? You know the symptoms of March Sadness: Big superstar wants a divorce and doesn't care whether you are groveling and drooling like a slobbery dog, begging him to stay. Sure, Dwight Howard is saying he wants to stay. He even told the Magic on Wednesday that he would not opt out of his contract at the end of this season. That essentially would give the Magic another year to put enough pieces in place to keep him around forever and ever. Let the couples counseling begin! But without a legal document, there is nothing to keep Dwight from bolting. And we all know that he's eyeing that voluptuous city along the Eastern Seaboard or perhaps itching for a little Californication.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: The Rockets have been among the most aggressive teams in trying to work a deal, but the Magic have generally looked the other way. The tougher decisions for the Rockets could be about the strength of the team. They are solid in the backcourt, as evidenced by the wins without starters Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin. The Rockets have insisted they would not move Lowry even in a deal for Pau Gasol, their preseason target. One front office executive said he believed the Rockets would make that deal, arguing that they had to hold out something to offer at the last minute and Lowry is the only way to up the ante. But the Rockets’ offer of Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a pick was made at the last minute before training camp and was made they thought to close the deal. The Lakers are not likely to move Gasol unless for the sort of young potential star the Rockets are trying to get and not move, or a major upgrade at point guard, but the Rockets’ plan has been to pair a frontcourt star with Lowry at the point. Martin seems clearly to not to be working out for Kevin McHale. His role in the offense has been dramatically reduced. He has struggled lately, but the Rockets also do not use him at all like someone that has led them in scoring since they got him and is coming off a career year. They can’t run the high-post parts of last season’s offense because they don’t have last season’s high-post passers, but they also do not often run the sort of cross screens and pin-downs they could for a scorer like Martin.

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: The game started under a cloud of intrigue, with buzz circulating that the Blazers were poised to trade backup shooting guard Jamal Crawford to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a three-team deal with the Los Angeles Lakers that would net the Blazers a first-round draft pick and a point guard (perhaps Steve Blake) in return. Crawford's agent, Andy Miller, confirmed details of the trade with The Oregonian. Even so, Crawford and coach Nate McMillan said before tipoff that Crawford would play. But at the last second, according to a source close to the situation, all parties -- the Blazers, Crawford and Miller -- decided it was best for Crawford to sit. Crawford, who was not available for comment after the game, has been playing with right knee tendinitis in recent games and the sides did not want to risk an injury with a near-certain trade in the works, the source said.

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: I have no confidence that Paul Allen and his merry band of men know what they're doing. The organization's greatest asset has always been, and will always be, the die-hard fan base who still want to believe long after the players themselves have given up. And yes, the Blazers have quit on this season. The executives appear to be trying, but I'm not sure they're capable. Bash Allen if you'd like for his failure to connect with his customer. The guy's a billion-dollar piƱata. But the bigger offense is that Allen still apparently believes that he knows better than the good basketball people in the league, despite a pile of evidence (odd draft picks and lousy trades) since firing Pritchard and Rich Cho that suggest otherwise. Maybe Allen is going to sell the Blazers. Maybe he aims to fire Nate McMillan at the end of the season and make Phil Jackson a coach/GM offer he can't refuse. Maybe he's just lost, and guessing. Allen wants to make a trade today for the sake of making one? Here's one: Give up playing fantasy league for just being a good owner. Hire a general manager and get out of the way. I'd celebrate that.

  • Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press: Don't be surprised if the Timberwolves trade forward Michael Beasley to the Los Angeles Lakers and acquire guard Jamal Crawford from Portland in a three-team deal that would send Lakers guard Derek Fisher to the Trail Blazers. The NBA trading deadline is 2 p.m. CDT on Thursday, March 15. The Timberwolves are looking for backcourt help after point guard Ricky Rubio's recent season-ending anterior cruciate ligament tear. Crawford could play off guard for Minnesota, and Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea could handle most of the point guard responsibilities. Crawford is averaging 14.2 points a game for Portland, primarily in a reserve role. Meanwhile, Rubio will have knee surgery in Colorado as soon as swelling recedes.

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: The Lakers are reportedly close to a trade that would bring forward Michael Beasley, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft, from the Minnesota Timberwolves, but Lakers coach Mike Brown said Wednesday night when about it: "This is the first time I have heard his name today." Beasley, 23, has intrigued the Lakers previously, although there are questions about his dedication and focus. Beasley would upgrade the Lakers' athleticism even with his 6-foot-10 height and add youth. He would be a project of sorts for Brown, who prides himself on being able to make anyone into a solid defender. The swap might cost the Lakers at least their part-time point guard Steve Blake, who might go with one of the first-round picks the Lakers are holding to Portland, which would give guard Jamal Crawford to the Timberwolves. Blake, who has been sharing minutes over starter Derek Fisher, suited up for the Lakers' game Wednesday night in New Orleans, as scheduled.

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: Two vacant roster spots. More than $14 million in salary cap space. The Indiana Pacers are in the position to buy before today's 3 p.m. trade deadline. Now the front office must decide if it's time to make a move. The Pacers need help at center because Roy Hibbert hasn't played like an All-Star since that game late last month. There's no timetable on when veteran Jeff Foster will return from his back problems and Lou Amundson is a power forward filling in at center. The Pacers, who have received calls from teams because of their cap space, also could use another scorer. ... The Pacers tried to acquire New Orleans center Chris Kaman last month. They'll likely make another run at him. Pacers President Larry Bird has no interest in giving up a first-round draft pick for an expiring contract because he thinks this year's draft will be deep enough that Indiana will get a good player. The Pacers have until the end of June to use their salary cap space if they don't make a move today.

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: Although center Chris Kaman continues to draw the most trade interest among New Orleans Hornets players as the NBA trade deadline of 3 p.m. today approaches, sources confirmed Wednesday that the franchise is willing to part ways with any of their veterans if they can acquire additional first-round picks and expiring contracts in a deal. Going into today’s deadline, the Hornets have been trying to trade center Emeka Okafor, and they have listened to offers for starting small forward Trevor Ariza as well as exploring offers for Kaman, according to sources. But Ariza’s agent, David Lee, said by telephone Wednesday that he hasn’t heard of any trade scenarios involving his client. He said anything can happen between now and the trade deadline. Okafor’s agent, Jeff Schwartz, could not be reached for comment. But Okafor said if anything was going on, his agent would have contacted him.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: If the Suns look different Thursday night on the road against the Los Angeles Clippers than they did Wednesday at home against the Utah Jazz, it likely will be because of their schedule, not Thursday's noon trade deadline. The Suns could rest co-captains Steve Nash and Grant Hill Thursday night for the second of three games in three nights, but the roster is expected to remain the same after the NBA trade deadline passes. "As of now, there is nothing that appeals to us," Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said Wednesday night. "It's possible that something would coalesce, but I wouldn't expect it to. ... I don't anticipate that we will have anything, but we will keep talking to the last possible minute." The Suns' payroll is set up to have salary-cap space that will allow for signing one or two maximum-level free agents this summer or making a trade that takes on salary after July 1. "We're not going to do something in the short run at the expense of our long-term plan," Babby said.

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: The Grizzlies are in the midst of a successful season so far but routinely acknowledge they could use more long-distance shooting and better productivity at backup point guard. They are weighing whether free-agent Gilbert Arenas could satisfy both needs, according to multiple NBA sources. Arenas, 30, remains unemployed after the Orlando Magic made him one of the first casualties of the amnesty clause provided in the NBA’s latest collective bargaining agreement. The Grizzlies can add Arenas because they employ a 14-man roster. Teams can carry 15 players. A source said the Grizzlies are in a conditional pursuit of Arenas. Memphis wants to see Arenas in a private workout before making a decision. The Griz originally sought to sign Arenas to a 10-day contract but the veteran combo guard is looking for a guaranteed deal for the rest of the season. ... The NBA trade deadline is 2 p.m. today and Memphis has only pursued deals involving Sam Young. The little-used swingman is out of the team’s rotation and in the last year of his deal. The Griz have spoken to at least six teams in an attempt to move Young for a draft pick. The odds of Young leaving in a trade by this afternoon’s deadline are “50/50,” according to a source with knowledge of the Grizzlies’ trade discussions.

  • Tom Moore phillyBurbs.com: Discussion among the NBA’s 30 teams typically picks up on the day of the trade deadline, which is Thursday at 3 p.m. But 76ers president Rod Thorn said he doesn’t know if that will happen this year. “I’ve been on the phone all day,” Thorn said in a telephone conversation late Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t know how much busier it could get. We’ll see.” While agreeing with head coach Doug Collins that he doesn’t envision making a blockbuster trade because “I don’t see anything that makes sense for us along those lines,” Thorn said the Sixers could end up using a $2.4 million trade exception they acquired from the Jan. 4 Marreese Speights deal to the Grizzlies. “That’s a possibility,” Thorn said. “We’ve talked to several teams about doing something along those lines.” The Sixers could swap a future second-round pick and the trade exception for a player. Their roster stands at 13, two below the league maximum of 15. ... Thorn denied that he’s targeting a backup big man, which some might think given the uncertainty with starting center Spencer Hawes (strained left Achilles) having missed 26 of the 28 games prior to Wednesday. “It could be a wing-type of a guy we might be looking for now that Evan (Turner) is in the starting lineup,” Thorn said. “Coming off the bench, Evan can play forward or guard.”

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: So far, the Wizards haven’t been able to find anyone willing to step on the dance floor. The Wizards have aggressively tried to move Andray Blatche for several weeks but Blatche said he expects to be in New Orleans when the team takes the court on Thursday. Coach Randy Wittman also said that he plans on having Blatche in uniform when the Wizards take on the Hornets. Blatche has had a disappointing season and is averaging just 5.2 points and 3.7 rebounds in six games since returning from a strained left calf, which sidelined him for nearly a month. The three years and nearly $23 million remaining on Blatche’s contract and questions about his conditioning and character have turned off several teams. “Dray won’t be moved due to a lack of interest,” one person with knowledge of the situation said on Wednesday. According to an ESPN.com report, the Wizards tried to pair JaVale McGee with Blatche to get teams to budge, but the same source said that package “doesn’t get it done.”

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: By the time today's NBA trade deadline passes at noon PDT, the odds are the Kings will have the same roster that finished Wednesday's game against the Detroit Pistons at Power Balance Pavilion. Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie did not rule out the possibility of a deal but said the chances any trade would qualify as a blockbuster are small. "If we do, it's more than likely to be something on the periphery of things," Petrie said. "It's really unlikely there's some huge deal out there." Last year's big deal was the Kings sending forward Carl Landry to New Orleans for guard Marcus Thornton, who is now the Kings' leading scorer and signed a four-year contract in the offseason. In 2010, the Kings traded guard Kevin Martin to Houston in a deal that brought Landry to Sacramento.