First Cup: Monday

  • Dave Krieger of the Rocky Mountain News: "Magic Johnson was sitting courtside Sunday as the Pau-full Lakers beat the Heat in Miami. ABC sideline reporter Lisa Salters asked for his take on the West. He mentioned the Lakers, Spurs, Suns, Mavericks and Rockets, then the Nuggets and Jazz. I can only guess, since he doesn't exactly share, but I'm thinking this was not what Silent Stanley Kroenke had in mind when he approved an $80 million payroll -- third highest in the NBA - that will actually cost more like $94 million with the luxury tax. So any discussion about what the Nuggets should do in advance of the Feb. 21 trade deadline must start there."

  • Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News: "I know, I know: Baron Davis is the Warriors essential player and is their best since Rick Barry. I'm not trying to say Ellis is better than Baron now. But for the future of the franchise if you had to give one guy $60M next year if you knew you only had $60M to give would it be Monta or Baron?"TrueHoop First Cup

  • Chris McCosky of The Detroit News: "Nazr Mohammed just laughed. He was told that former teammate Rasheed Wallace had been picked to replace injured Kevin Garnett on the Eastern Conference All-Star team. 'Man, I know he's not happy,' Mohammed said, laughing. Wallace clearly wasn't overjoyed by the news, but he did appreciate the honor. 'It's something that's good for my kids,' he said, in almost somber tones. 'I guess once I get older and get out of the game, this is something they can look back on.' Wallace had campaigned hard to not be selected, preferring the four days off instead. He already had made plans to spend the four-day break some place a lot more tropical than New Orleans."

  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "For 30 minutes last night, Mark Cuban and Kiki Vandeweghe sat in the front row underneath the south basket at Izod Center, watching Devin Harris shoot jumpers and discussing what it would take to get him to New Jersey in exchange for Jason Kidd. That's what they wanted everyone to think, anyway. 'We talked more about our wives and kids than anything else,' Cuban said, in his usual cheery mood before the Mavericks were smashed, 101-82, by Kidd and the Nets. 'But we wanted to let everyone see us talk, so you guys can freak out.' Nobody freaked out, exactly, but the assembled media still badgered the Dallas owner with the same questions he's faced regarding his level of interest in Kidd. And if the stumbling block remains Cuban's refusal to part with Harris -- which by all accounts is the Nets' price for taking such a trade -- that block will remain as obdurate on Feb. 21 as it is today. One reason: Cuban loves Harris, and that isn't going to change."

  • Ivan Carter of The Washington Post: "Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan half-jokingly labeled the four-game road trip that continued against the Suns on Sunday night 'the rookie tour.' The team is without guard Gilbert Arenas and center Etan Thomas and recent injuries to all-star forward Caron Butler, who missed his third straight game with a strained left hip flexor, and to point guard Antonio Daniels, who was out Sunday night with right ankle soreness, have forced Jordan to dole out minutes to rookies Nick Young, Dominic McGuire and Oleksiy Pecherov. For long stretches of Friday's loss at Denver, the three were on the court together. It's a valuable learning experience for the players but not an ideal situation for a coach trying to snap a losing streak."

  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "In 42 minutes of the Lakers' 104-94 defeat of the Heat on Sunday, Kobe Bryant guided in a handful of those demoralizing fade-away jumpers that reminded you of Michael Jordan. He played relentless, suffocating defense reminiscent of Scottie Pippen, practically handcuffing Wade at times. He even threw in a graceful running hook shot from 15 feet that made you swear that was Magic Johnson in a Lakers uniform again (Magic was actually in the stands watching the display for himself.) The well-timed message? If the Miami Heat is going to experience the same kind of recovery that the Lakers currently are, then Wade is going to have to rise to Bryant's level. He will have to be the efficient scorer who can fill it up in a variety of ways, rather than relying on a handful of pet moves that defenses come to expect."

  • Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Now that some time has passed, and the raw relief of Shaquille O'Neal's exit is gone, let's ask the question that should nag at Heat fans just a bit: Why is Shawn Marion so darned happy to be here?"

  • Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News: "The Sixers, going into tonight's game against the imposing Dallas Mavericks, have won three games in succession and five of their last seven, climbing into the No. 9 playoff position in the NBA's ever-weakening Eastern Conference. It would seem that roughly half the Sixers' fans are enjoying the development of the young core and its ability to at least play hard for coach Maurice Cheeks. The other half, of course, is all but appalled, believing that every additional victory gives them that much less chance at a top draft choice in June. Whoa, didn't we go through this last season when, in the wake of Allen Iverson's trade to the Denver Nuggets, they won 17 of their last 26 and ended up choosing No. 12? Well, love 'em or leave 'em, here we go again."

  • Nakia Hogan of The Times-Picayune: "Get ready New Orleans, another big event is coming to town -- the NBA All-Star Weekend. It's more pomp than any sporting event in the country. It's hip-hop and basketball. It's Coogi jeans and colorful suits. It's red-carpet parading and stargazing. It's ballers and rap concerts. Over the past decade, it has become the place to be for many African-Americans, who'll flock to New Orleans this weekend not so much to see LeBron James dunk, but to hopefully rub elbows with Vivica A. Fox, Spike Lee, Kim Kardashian or Lil Wayne. The NBA All-Star Weekend has evolved into a big spectacle, one that former Los Angeles Times columnist and current ESPN writer/analyst J.A. Adande tabbed the 'Black Super Bowl,' after watching in amazement the mass of African-Americans that arrived at All-Star Weekend."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "I wonder if management understands how dysfunctional the Bobcats are right now. I asked some friends -- an advance scout from an opposing team an
    d a veteran beat-writer -- for impressions after Charlotte's 26-point loss to Detroit, and their words were virtually identical: This team is going through the motions, and likely will the rest of the season. It's one thing when youre overmatched, its quite another when you appear not to be trying. Many of you used to rip Bernie Bickerstaff for his rotation or some subtle technical flaw. But Bickerstaff succeeded where I suspect Sam Vincent never will: He persuaded a team with a severe talent deficit to play remarkably hard."

  • Brian Windhorst of The Akron Beacon Journal: "Well, just take a little look into the near future, the 2008-09 season when the Cavs will have about $35 million in potentially expiring contracts. The deals of Donyell Marshall ($5.9 million), Eric Snow ($7.3), Damon Jones ($4.5), Drew Gooden ($7.1) and Cedric Simmons ($1.7) will all be in their final seasons. Varejao ($5.7) has a player option that he plans on not picking up, and it is the final fully guaranteed year of Sasha Pavlovic's ($4.5) deal. Which means the Cavs will be in position to help a team with a star or a midlevel player looking to rebuild. And there are always teams in that position. In the last year alone, the Minnesota Timberwolves, Memphis Grizzlies and Miami Heat have dumped All-Stars for rebuilding reasons. Whether or not it will happen in the summer or during the season next year, some or all of those players will be traded and largely for their contracts. For who will depend on circumstances and Ferry's foresight and patience."

  • Dick Scanlon of The Ledger: "The Magic are down, 2-1, in a best-of-7 series that resumes at home tonight against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Not really. But that's the way Stan Van Gundy wanted his players to approach this part of the season -- the five games before this coming weekend's All-Star break and the two games after. 'The point we made is we have seven playoff (opponents) in a row. This is a very tough part of the schedule,' Van Gundy said. 'I know we have five of them at home, but it's seven straight playoff teams at a time in the year when you worry about the focus of guys going into the All-Star break, especially at home. ... So we just wanted to give them a different mind set and a different approach than simply coming out and doing the same old thing. We looked at it and said: 'OK, it's a seven-game series now, and let's see how we respond.'"