Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "The New Orleans Hornets' all-star point guard spent Thursday afternoon with Michael Jordan, Carmelo Anthony and hundreds of children at a Boys & Girls Club in Slidell, La., where the Jordan Brand shoe company donated $500,000 to build an outdoor playground. Paul, nattily dressed in a navy sport coat with a paisley handkerchief, smiled as he shook hands and posed for pictures. 'I have a different perspective from any of the other all-stars,' Paul said. 'Everybody else that's here for the weekend, they got to give back and do different things, then they go back to their cities. This is it for me. I'm facing these things every day. These are my people. I truly care about them. So to see all the things that have been donated and given to them, giving them hope and more inspiration, it's something I'm happy about.'"
Mike Jones of The Washington Times: "But despite all the injuries and the recent struggles, the Wizards enter the second half of the season with a sense of optimism. Although they have a 25-27 record, the Wizards remain in the playoff picture. They would own the Eastern Conference's sixth playoff spot if the regular season ended today. 'It's been a tough situation,' team president Ernie Grunfeld said of the Wizards' trying month. 'But [coach Eddie Jordan] has still put our players in the position to be competitive and in a positive situation. It's not usual to lose eight straight games and still be in the position we're in. So Eddie and his coaching staff definitely deserve a lot of credit.'"
Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "The appearance of Kyle Lowry the other night against the 76ers produced quite a bit of reaction here in blogsville. Lowry played extremely well, scoring 15 points and adding six assists while also showing the toughness that is his trademark. There seem to be a number of people who are calling for Lowry becoming a Sixer, but also a good number who wouldn't add him to the team. As we wrote recently in The Inquirer, the Sixers have talked to Memphis about Lowry, but a source doesn't expect anything to materialize. Then again, things can change in a hurry in the NBA. According to a source, Memphis has been shopping Lowry which is no surprise since the Grizzllies have three promising point guards."
Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "The trade deadline is less than a week away and I'm sure most of you are hoping the Pacers make a move. Larry Bird and his crew are trying to make roster moves but it hasn't been easy because teams aren't exactly blowing Bird's phone line up trying to acquire his players. I'm with you guys, the Pacers need to make a move to give some type of indication of which direction they're headed."
Marlon W. Morgan of The Commercial-Appeal: "Rudy Gay and Portland's Brandon Roy will lead a squad of sophomores looking to administer the type of punishment they took as rookies last year when they lost, 155-114. 'He's confident about the whole thing,' said Conley, who, needless to say, is tired of hearing about it. But Gay said he's not going to stop until it's over. Then again, it may never stop. 'I give it to them every day,'' he said. 'Every day I talk to them about it, about how bad they're going to lose. It gives me a chance to talk trash for once.' The rookies aren't the only ones who will have to listen to Gay this weekend. He is also one of four participants in Saturday night's Sprite Slam Dunk competition."
Howard Beck of The New York Times: "In the Knicks renaissance that took shape in Isiah Thomas's head, Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph were twin bulldozers, brutishly blazing a path to better days. Overmatched opponents trembled. Rival coaches wailed. Thomas beamed with pride. It was a nice fantasy. But the Knicks days are still miserable, their path obscured and their big-man tandem impotent. After losing to the depleted Celtics on Wednesday night, Randolph sat at one end of the locker room, wondering aloud how the Knicks could be 22 games under .500 at the All-Star break. Curry sat at the opposite end, wondering how to become relevant. Randolph and Curry were supposed to be the Knicks' hulking saviors, and their best candidates to make the All-Star Game Sunday in New Orleans. But the event will be Knicks-free for the seventh straight year."
Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "The Bucks will change only when the culture of the franchise changes. The times have changed, and the only real concession the Bucks have seemed to make is jumping on the NBA's garish in-game entertainment train. Except that real change doesn't come at the barrel of a T-shirt gun."
Sam Smith of The Chicago Tribune: "This NBA All-Star weekend is as much social responsibility as midseason entertainment respite. There are the usual series of contests and exhibitions, including the rookie/sophomore game Friday, the three-point and slam-dunk contests Saturday night plus some other skills contests in which Duhon is participating. Then the All-Star Game is Sunday. Duhon is the only Bulls representative in Shooting Stars competition Saturday with former Bull B.J. Armstrong. This weekend, however, should transcend basketball, and it will be curious to see whether it does."
Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "The All-Star break might be coming at the most inopportune time for Cavaliers guard Larry Hughes. He appears to be emerging from the depths of mediocrity that has plagued him all season. He heads into the break -- and the four days off that accompany it -- on his best stretch since coming to the Cavs. He's scored 66 points in the last two games, including a season-high 40 against Orlando on Monday. 'I'm just trying to figure things out as far as when to be aggressive and just playing basketball,' Hughes said. 'I'll look to do the same when we get back.'"
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "Isiah Thomas once said that the only college coaching job he'd ever consider would be at his alma mater, Indiana University, and there is a chance that position will be available before long. ... Thomas is under contract with the Knicks but he is not expected to return next season. Although Thomas is not considered a top X's-and-O's coach, he does have the personality, charisma and name recognition to be a top recruiter. Two years ago, Thomas told friends that he was disappointed that the Hoosiers were not able to sign Indiana high school All-American Greg Oden, who eventually played for Ohio State, leading the Buckeyes to the national title game as a freshman before going pro. Thomas even remarked that he could have persuaded Oden to play for Indiana."
Peter Vecsey of the New York Post: "Shortly before the stunning news of George's declaration got out (no league conference call had taken place, so the trade wasn't official) a giddy Stackhouse was quoted at length regarding his contract buyout by the Nets; he said he was looking forward to 30 days of rest and then he'd be back in Dallas. Say, what? In the most recent collective bargaining agreement, that 30-day time frame was established to impede teams from making side arrangements in order to circumvent salary-cap rules. A desirable player is included in a package (Gary Payton is the poster player) to make a deal (Boston to Atlanta) work contractually, is waived and then re-signed by the team that traded him. The reality is, teams merely have adjusted to the rule change. Despite the closed loophole, it's shady business as usual, on 30-day delay. 'It's done all the time,' a couple of GMs openly admit. 'You're just not supposed to talk about it.'"
David Moore of The Dallas Morning News: "The plane ride from Dallas to Phoenix was so quiet, you could hear a season drop. Mavericks officials will tell you that's an exaggeration. They reject the notion that the club stands at a season-altering crossroads after the trade that wasn't. What did you expect them to say? Ask the Mavericks their thoughts heading into the All-Star break, and you get more spin than substance. The next six days leading up to the trade deadline are about emotional survival rather than a reflection on the state of the franchise."
Jim Reeves of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "I love the smell of panic in the morning. It has that certain ripe aroma of sheer terror, that, oh-my-god-we-have-to-do-something-or-we're-screwed scent to it. You could smell it all over Mark Cuban in Phoenix on Thursday night, even as he and the Mavs waited to see if the proposed trade with the New Jersey Nets that would bring Jason Kidd back to Dallas might yet be consummated. Not that Cuban looked particularly panicked sitting courtside two hours before game time, legs stretched comfortably out in front of him, chatting easily as reporters drifted by for a status check. And not that panic is always a bad thing. This might just be one of those times."
Teddy Kider of The Times-Picayune: "Tyson Chandler, a lanky center with an off-court smile that rarely fades, has one main concern about picking up technical fouls: his grandmother. 'As soon as I say something, the first thing I think of is, 'Oh my God, my grandma's watching,' said Chandler, a 25-year-old starter for the Hornets. 'I really do, honestly, on the court. That's what calms me down real fast.' That might be surprising for Chandler's fans, some of whom he says probably expect him to growl when they meet him because of his on-court demeanor. But the Hornets have put together a roster of players, including Chandler, that team officials say leave them with few worries about off-court incidents."
Jonathan Abrams of the Los Angeles Times: "The Clippers may be going international. Center Chris Kaman already said he was contemplating playing for the German national team because his great-grandparents are from Germany. Now, reserve point guard Dan Dickau said the Polish national team has contacted him after learning his great-grandparents are from Poland. 'They found that out and it kind of progressed,' Dickau said. 'It would be a great experience and another chance to play a high level of basketball in a different setting.'"
Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star: "Jamario Moon's well-documented minor-league career took him everywhere from the Mexican league to a cold town a few hours northeast of Moscow, from Alabama to Albany. Along the way, he got by on scarce pay. 'I went to some teams, man, when I got there, they were like, `We'll pay you $400 a week.' And they couldn't even pay you $400 a week,' Moon was saying the other day. 'The owner would call you, `The money will be here next Friday, so if you would, would you just stay and play until next Friday, because we promise the money will be there.' The money was never there. Never. There's so many teams I had to leave for financial reasons, man. That's why I don't understand why people complain in the NBA. People complain like they're not making enough money. Come on, man."
Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "There's no official list of duties for a team captain, but Jazz forward Carlos Boozer couldn't help but feel like part of the job was making sure Deron Williams, Paul Millsap and Ronnie Brewer weren't flying coach to this weekend's NBA All-Star Game. So Boozer chartered a plane and invited his three younger teammates, still playing on their rookie contracts, to come along for the trip. The only question was whether Boozer needed a jumbo jet with all the Jazz players heading to New Orleans. No matter how far off the national radar they regularly fly, the Jazz will be the most represented team at the league's showcase event. They will have six players taking part in one way or another, including rookies Morris Almond and Kyrylo Fesenko."
Geoff Lepper of the Contra Costa Times: "Golden State can absorb a player making up to $10 million this season without having to give the same amount back, thanks to the trade exception generated when Jason Richardson was shipped to the Charlotte Bobcats in a draft-day trade. But players available in such a salary-dump situation typically have a compelling flaw or two that put them on the block in the first place. In order to get a true difference-maker, the Warriors have to seriously consider letting go one or more of their five most important players: Biedrins, Baron Davis, Monta Ellis, Al Harrington or Stephen Jackson. It may be a case of wanting to have his cake and eat it, too, but Mullin, now the Warriors executive vice president of basketball operations, seems much more interested in adding to his core, rather than ripping it apart. And that means being careful to not blow n
ext season's budget, which will have to accommodate large raises for restricted free agents Biedrins and Ellis, at the very least."
UPDATE: Steve Aschburner, writing on MinnPost.com, says Devean George is no jerk: "'A lot of people who probably don't even know him are pissed at him now,' Dawn Ammann, wife of former Augsburg coach Brian Ammann, said Thursday. The Ammanns still are friends with George, and it was at Augsburg that the player - thanks to hard work, good coaching and a growth spurt - became the first Division III player ever drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft (1999). "But he is definitely not a jerk... Devean is not arrogant,'' Dawn Ammann said. "He knows where his roots are. He's still a nice guy. He played Division III because he wanted an education. His mom [Carol] is a great lady. When he came back with the Lakers, he took our daughter [Kelsie] to meet Shaq and Kobe.'''