First Cup: Friday

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: Actually, it was a horrible business decision. All the ESPN insiders and NBA numbers geeks and incredulous sports agents just could not comprehend what Dwight Howard did Thursday. They couldn't grasp the concept that he would actually waive his right to become a free agent and agree to play at least another season with his team and in his town. And that's why this was such a powerful and wonderful thing. Because it wasn't business. It was personal. It wasn't about the bottom line. It was from the bottom of his heart. ... It should be noted Dwight walked into the news conference at the Amway Center, but it would have been more fitting if he had rode in on a white stallion. No, he didn't sign a long-term deal, but he at least gave the Magic the rest of this season and all of next season to try to win a championship and attract another superstar to Orlando. This was the best news Magic fans have received since Gilbert Arenas shut down his Twitter account. When Dwight's name is introduced Friday night at the Amway Center before the Magic's game with the Nets, it will be a travesty if there isn't a massively raucous standing ovation.

  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: Gerald Wallace can play on our team anytime, anywhere, even if he is likely to suit up with a twisted ankle, a thigh contusion, a chip fracture in his wrist, a cracked rib, and a dented cranium -- which, come to think of it, is a circumstance he usually refers to as “Tuesday.” There is no better hustle player in the league, period -- he is scary-fearless, absolutely demented in desire to pursue the ball, disruptive at every defensive station, and nothing stops him from his appointed rounds, not even the absurd abuse he takes to that Gumby body. He is the crash-test dummy of small forwards. Once he entered the locker room in Charlotte to find an orange sign taped to his stall. “No diving,” it said. Trainer humor. Rick Adelman, who had him in Sacramento, once said that Gerald “falls on the floor harder than anyone I’ve ever seen.” It’s what makes him uncommonly lovable, even though it will probably shorten his career by a few hundred games. He’s the most selfless guy you can have on your team, and he always somehow manages to get his 15 and 8 even though nobody ever runs a play for him. Yes, it’s a risk. If the pick the Nets just gave up lands at 4, and Wallace breaks something -- knock wood -- they’ll have fumbled another building block. But we’ll take a chance on heart anytime.

  • John Canzano The Oregonian: Nate McMillan probably won't ever expose which of the Trail Blazers he wanted gone from his toxic locker room. But he told me in a pregame chat 12 days ago that he looked down his bench during a recent game and saw Marcus Camby, legs crossed, arms folded, sitting back in his chair with a "What are you going to do, sucker, bench me?" expression.McMillan was ticked about it. And grumbling too about what he perceived to be a faction of passive-aggressive players who were undermining him as the season spiraled out of control. He said he was doing what he could (film sessions, pep talks, holding back minutes) trying to get control of things. Same night, I spoke to a veteran player who believed Camby and Raymond Felton were trying to get McMillan fired. I later learned that Felton's off-court sidekick, Gerald Wallace, could also be back-biting and subversive. Anyone who paid close attention knew McMillan lost his team weeks ago. So when the Blazers traded Camby and Wallace on Thursday -- two guys McMillan wanted gone -- it looked like a curious vote of confidence for McMillan. A real, "Dance with the one who brung ya" moment for owner Paul Allen. Agree or disagree, the organization was apparently taking a strong stand. The kind the New York Knicks failed to do in picking Carmelo Anthony over coach Mike D'Antoni. The Blazers were sticking with their coach. Then, the deadline passed and Allen promptly fired McMillan. I called around the league during the final hours of the trade deadline, and after talking about the Blazers trades and roster issues, the conversation always turned to McMillan's future. ... Portland got rid of a pair of players who were part of the problem. The Blazers fired their coach. They're making a harsh acknowledgement that things aren't working out. They're starting over. The Blazers didn't necessarily get better on Thursday.

  • Mike Wise of The Washington Post: An immediate reaction after hearing JaVale McGee and Nick Young had been traded: “Great. Beautiful. Now no one from the Wizards will make ‘Sports Center’ at 11.” One Nene for essentially two knuckleheads is a bit harsh, especially considering neither player left over from the Gilbert Arenas years in Washington ever got into any real trouble off the court. The truth: Whether McGee was inexplicably sprinting back on defense when his team was still on offense or Young was missing a layup by throwing the ball over the stanchion while impossibly missing the rim and the glass, they were almost blissfully unaware of how comically bad their misdeeds came across. In Nick and JaVale’s alternate universe, they can’t believe they were shipped out of town for anything less than Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in their primes. That’s why the Washington Wizards are making a stab at a change in culture by acquiring Nene, Denver’s 29-year-old Brazilian center, for McGee in a three-team deal that also sent Young to the Clippers. It’s a culture change as much as it is a change in the pivot. Plain and simple, a swap by two teams with equal concerns over the futures of their franchise centers brings Nene from the Nuggets to the Wizards.

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: As the season progressed — the injuries, the inconsistencies — some wondered if Nene should beware the Ides of March. Thursday was the NBA's trade deadline and the Nuggets decided to make a major move, sending the 6-foot-11 Nene to the Washington Wizards in a three-team deal that "came out of the blue," according to Nuggets executive Masai Ujiri. The Nuggets received center JaVale McGee, forward Ronny Turiaf, a $13 million trade exception and a future second-round pick, while Nick Young went to the Clippers and Brian Cook headed to Washington, in addition to a future second-rounder. The plan, Ujiri said, is to waive Turiaf to make a roster spot for Wilson Chandler, who said he expects a deal to be done on Sunday or Monday. ... Naturally, there was an onslaught of emotions Thursday at the Pepsi Center as word spread about the big trade. "I can't deny that my head has felt like it's ready to burst a little bit," Denver coach George Karl said. "Trades of guys who have been with you for a long time always cause some turmoil. Nene has been a heck of a part of what we've done here. He's been through some tough situations with the cancer — there's a connection there that I hopefully will always have with him. His family was very good to me through my cancer situation. So there's more than just a basketball friendship there. There's more of a friendship with humanness, mindfulness and soulfulness. I have a lot of love for Nene. I wish I had time for a walk; I guess that's the best way to phrase it."

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: Nick Young says he was waiting on pins and needles the past few days, waiting to learn his fate as the NBA trade deadline approached. However painful that was, the outcome more than made up for it. Young, the former Cleveland High of Reseda and USC standout, is returning home to play for the Clippers, who acquired the 6-foot-7 forward from the Washington Wizards in a three-team deal with minutes to spare before the deadline Thursday. Young was reached before the deal had even been made official, but he was already excited about the prospect of coming home. "This is just a great feeling. I can't even tell you how excited I am," he said. "To be coming home and to be playing on a great team." As anxious as Young was in the closing moments of the deadline it was nothing compared to what the Clippers were going through. Neil Olshey, the Clippers general manager, began conceptual talks with Washington about Young nearly two weeks ago. By the time he went to sleep late Wednesday night, Olshey thought the deal was dead. But at 11:15 a.m. Thursday - 45 minutes before the deadline - Olshey got a call from Washington general manager Ernie Grunfeld and the deal was being revived.

  • Mark Whicker of The Orange County Register: Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum are the only holdovers from the '09 championship. That, of course, was the real news from Thursday: Gasol and Bynum are indeed holding over. They survived the deadline of 2012. That should please Bryant. Few occurrences do. One can safely assume the Fisher trade was not one. "I'm concerned, yeah," Kupchak said. "I don't want to make it too simple, but as each day goes by it'll get easier and easier. "There will be a void that exists for X amount of days. I would hope someone steps up. A lot will fall to Kobe, but a lot of it falls to our coach. At the end of the day he's the leader of our locker room." Fisher called the team meetings. He was the only one who could tell Bryant inconvenient truths. ... The Lakers' peace, love and understanding will be determined by scoreboards and scoreboards alone. On Thursday, Kupchak & Co. bet on Ramon Sessions to win more of those scoreboards than Derek Fisher could. The odds are with them.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Shortly after the deal for Camby, the Rockets sent Jordan Hill to the Los Angeles Lakers to acquire Derek Fisher and the Mavericks’ first-round pick. The Dallas pick will go to the Rockets the first season it is not in the top 20 picks, but if the Rockets do not get it in the next five drafts, they would in 2017 regardless of the Mavs’ position. The deal could have been made primarily to get the pick. Later on Thursday, the Rockets reached out to the agent for free-agent point guard Anthony Carter about signing Carter, according to a person with knowledge of those talks, a possible indication they intend to buy out the remainder of Fisher’s contract. Fisher, 37, has an option for one more season worth $3.4 million. According to an individual familiar with the trade negotiations, the Rockets had been in talks with Portland for forward Gerald Wallace, who ultimately went to New Jersey. On Monday, the Rockets were involved in talks with Milwaukee for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson, but the Bucks preferred the offer from Golden State that sent Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh to Milwaukee. In Camby, however, the Rockets got a player who could bring immediate help in an area of need.

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: An overlooked perk to the Cavaliers' trade with the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday was the ability to swap draft picks next season. The Cavs own the Miami Heat's first-round pick in 2013. They also have their own first-rounder next year. "Next year, we have the ability to swap our least favorable pick with (the Lakers' first-round) pick," Cavs general manager Chris Grant said. "Hypothetically, if Miami finishes at No. 27 and the Lakers at 16, we can move from 27 to 16." The Lakers' first-round pick in 2012 is lottery-protected. If they don't make the playoffs — a long shot — they'll keep their pick this year. It would then roll over to 2013 and would still be protected from Nos. 1-14.

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: Many among the sellout crowd at the AT&T Center on Wednesday night believed one key player on the floor was likely making the final appearance for his team. They were right, but probably had the wrong player in mind. It was Spurs forward Richard Jefferson, not Dwight Howard, the Magic’s All-NBA center, who changed teams at the NBA’s trade deadline. The Spurs sent Jefferson, point guard T.J. Ford and their 2012 first-round draft pick, protected if the Spurs should be in the lottery, to the Golden State Warriors for Stephen Jackson, a 6-foot-8 small forward who was with the Spurs from 2001-03. Spurs general manager R.C. Buford called Thursday’s deal the culmination of several years worth of attempts to get Jackson back with the team. The 33-year-old, who has been with five teams since leaving the Spurs, has remained a favorite of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and is still close with the vital pieces who remain from that 2003 title team: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. “We’ve had discussion with people about Jack before, just making people aware we had interest and followed him since the time that he left,” Buford said.

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: Joe Lacob, who maintains that his ownership group is among the league's richest, has put his money where his mouth has been churning. In taking on the hefty contract of Jefferson, who is owed about $10 million next season and has an $11 million player option for 2013-14, the Warriors were able to get San Antonio's pick - so long as the Spurs don't miss the playoffs. Jefferson, 31, is a swingman who has averaged 16 points on 46.7 percent field-goal shooting and 4.9 rebounds in 11 seasons with New Jersey, Milwaukee and San Antonio. He's averaging 9.2 points and 3.5 rebounds in 28.5 minutes a game this season, and is shooting 42.1 percent on three-point attempts. He has played in 94 playoff games, including two trips to the NBA Finals with New Jersey. "Richard Jefferson has played a key role and has been a solid contributor on some very successful basketball teams during his career," Riley said. "He has won a lot of games and will certainly provide our team with some veteran leadership and perimeter shooting skills."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: Did they acquire a starter in Leandro Barbosa? No, they improved their bench and also gave coach Frank Vogel the option of moving George Hill into the starting lineup at point guard if wants to at some point. Did the Pacers improve by acquiring Barbosa? Definitely. The Pacers weren’t looking to be a heavyweight during trade talks. They just wanted to continue to add pieces. They had the financial ability to take on all of Barbosa’s $7.6 million contract because they’re under the salary cap and had two roster spots available. The Pacers aren’t going to leap ahead of Miami or Chicago in the Eastern Conference standings. Shoot, they probably won’t pass Orlando now that the circus surrounding Dwight Howard ended with him deciding to continue to play in the land of Disney. The Pacers want to get homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs and hopefully advance to the second round.

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: The Griz entered the fray at the NBA’s trade 2 p.m. deadline Thursday when they shipped Young to the Philadelphia 76ers for the draft rights to 2005 second-round pick Ricky Sanchez. Young, 6-6, was not in the Grizzlies’ rotation and had requested a trade. The deal helped both parties. Memphis moved below the NBA’s luxury-tax threshold by getting rid of Young’s $948,000 salary. Young played 21 games for the Grizzlies this year, averaging 3.5 points. He started twice, including in Tuesday’s loss to the Lakers. He averaged 6.9 points and 2.4 rebounds in his career, which began in 2009. The Griz have no interest in Sanchez, a 6-11 forward. He is playing in Argentina and will never wear a Grizzlies uniform.

  • Marcus Hayes of the Philadelphia Daily News: The Sixers risk the same playoff danger posed by the talented Knicks, who this week purged themselves of a sideshow coach. As soon as the real point guard takes over - Baron Davis - the Knicks could make a run at a No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. Which means the Sixers can win a round in the playoffs, maybe two if the matchups work out for them. Regardless, they will remain several steps from matching the sort of basketball played in the West by Oklahoma City, the Clippers, the Mavericks, the Spurs and even the Lakers. Fine. The Sixers cannot be about this season. Turner, Holiday and Young need to be allowed to mature into the sort of players who draw contact at the rim and finish; who turn other team's mistakes into quick points; and, yes, into players who relish the chance to beat the clock at the end of possessions, and quarters, and games. This time next year, one or all of them could have developed those skills. Adding a player who would unrealistically raise expectations in this moment simply would have been unwise. Sam Young, on the other hand, is perfect.

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Hawks, as expected, didn’t make any major trades by today’s 3 p.m. deadline. Instead, they sent a second-round pick to Golden State for cash to help offset their first-ever luxury-tax bill that will be due at season’s end. The Hawks owned two second-round picks after acquiring one from the Suns in the Josh Childress sign-and-trade last summer. The Warriors will receive the lesser of the two picks and, since the Suns likely will finish with a worse record than the Hawks, Atlanta probably will keep that pick.