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First Cup: Wednesday

  • Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post: "The fantasy of most hoop junkies is to have seven games worth of Shaq vs. Kobe in late May and early June in the Western Conference finals, but the immediate reality is one irresistible meeting Wednesday night that has rallied the desert like few civic happenings the last 15 years. Suns vs. Lakers has been contentious for most of the last 40 years. Folks here in the Valley of the Sun have always disliked Kobe Bryant, and they're more than happy for Wednesday's visit to coincide with the Suns debut of Shaquille O'Neal, who from all indications will be in the starting lineup, an arrival that has energized not just the team but the entire state of Arizona. Want to see the game in person? No problem, $3,800 will get you a ticket on eBay."

  • Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Keith Van Horn's name is also invoked because he was a principal in the last trading-deadline move made by the Bucks. Three years ago, Van Horn was sent to Dallas for Calvin Booth and Alan Henderson, who were later converted into the salary slot that would accommodate Michael Redd's $16 million, give or take, a season. The math gives you a headache, but so does the Bucks' ill-fitting, chemistry-deficient roster that is just begging to be blown up. The Bucks would have to go 22-7 to finish .500; anyone expecting that should start planning for the Mike Huckabee inauguration. If there were ever a time for the Bucks to get back into the trading business, it would be now. Except that a move of any worth seems almost as likely as the aforementioned phenomena."TrueHoop First Cup

  • Rob Parker of The Detroit News: "Panic! Pistons president Joe Dumars, get on the phone right away, make a deal -- any deal. The Pistons can't possibly win with this group the way it's assembled. After the Magic delivered the Pistons a Detroit beatdown -- an embarrassing 103-85 loss at The Palace on Tuesday night -- that's what you probably expected to read. Nope. Relax. The Pistons will be just fine. That's why it should come at no surprise that the Pistons aren't scrambling to get a final piece to make a serious run in the postseason -- not before Tuesday's debacle and certainly not after it as well."

  • Patrick McManamon of The Akron Beacon-Journal: "The Cavs do not dislike their team. They believe that even with the clunker Tuesday against the Rockets that they can compete with anyone in the Eastern Conference when healthy. Tonight the Cavs play in Indianapolis, which starts a stretch in which nine-of-10 games are against teams with losing records. If improvement doesn't come in the next day via trade, it had best come in this stretch of games -- from the inside. Because until the Cavs figure a way to get Darius Miles to come back and sign a deal to be traded, they probably lack the assets needed to make an improvement from the outside."

  • Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The Hawks are again the NBA's youngest team, averaging 23 years and 29 days, taking the title back from Portland. Bibby, 29, now qualifies as the team's elder statesman, followed by captain and All-Star Joe Johnson, 26. 'That's something I didn't really think about when this deal went down,' Hawks coach Mike Woodson said before the Hawks played the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday at Staples Center."

  • Al Iannazzone of The Record: "Vince Carter doesn't have the weight of an entire country on his shoulders like when he was in Toronto, but now faces more pressure than ever as a Net. ... One of the reasons Kidd requested a trade was that he was upset Carter got the big deal and he couldn't get a one-year, $15 million extension. Also, according to sources close to the Kidd, he thought Carter wasn't a superstar-caliber player. Now Carter, unless he's traded by Thursday's deadline, has a chance to prove Kidd wrong and show he deserves the money."

  • Steve Politi of The Star-Ledger: "Rod Thorn refused to admit that the Nets are rebuilding, but even if they manage to get a playoff spot in the awful Eastern Conference, they are. The onus is now on Vince Carter to prove he can make this his team, for Richard Jefferson to show that he can consistently be an elite player, and for Lawrence Frank to figure out how all the pieces fit together. But mostly, it falls on Thorn again to keep retooling the roster, and to do it without his franchise cornerstone. He thought Kidd would retire as a Net, but he could never convince his marquee player that winning a championship isn't the only thing that would define his career."

  • William C. Rhoden of The New York Times: "Presumably, Kidd will be inspired in Dallas, but you know what they say about the grass being greener. I thought it was fitting that Thorn mentioned Kidd and Julius Erving, the indomitable Dr. J., in the same breath. The difference between Kidd and Erving was that Dr. J. led the Nets to a pair of championships (both in the A.B.A.). And while rings might not define a career, a player's legacy is greatly enhanced by championships precisely because so few players ever win one. In the final analysis, Julius Erving opened and closed a Nets era; Jason Kidd, the newest Dallas Maverick, simply had a good run."

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "Keith Van Horn earned $4.3 million on Tuesday, for nothing more than a signature and a flight to New Jersey. Aaron McKie earned $750,000 a few weeks ago for a few pen strokes and a trip to Memphis. Retirement from the N.B.A. has never been so profitable. In a league with a salary cap, a luxury tax and a collective bargaining agreement as thick as a bank-vault door, general managers occasionally need extreme measures to make a trade."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "The Rockets understandably don't want to break up their core. There is always interest in Steve Novak and Luther Head because of their shots, but it is Carl Landry or Aaron Brooks that will likely be needed to swing a significant deal. Because they are so young and have so much room to grow, any decision on a deal will become a choice not only of the players in the deal, but between chasing this season's success and future growth. The Mavericks could consider themselves legitimate championship timber and deal 10 more years of Devin Harris for two, maybe three with Jason Kidd. That does not sound like the Rockets. And we're not talking about getting a future Hall of Famer for one of the kid
    s, either. All of that goes to why Morey was hired in the first place. Leslie Alexander wanted 'the best' player evaluation possible. He wanted to make good, solid trade decisions, the sort that they would make under any circumstances, rather than with a glimmer of opportunity at the trade deadline."

  • Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News: "By Western Conference standards, it's a pretty tame acquisition. Getting Parker back into the lineup required no salary-cap magic, no waived Bird Rights, and caused no uproar among rival general managers. All it took was a couple of weeks of rest for an injured left ankle. But if Parker is right, and he is entering the second half of the season a different player than he was in the first? Then the Spurs might have made a splash every bit as big as the ones created by Shaq, Kidd and Pau Gasol."

  • David Moore of The Dallas Morning News: "We could go all Naismith on you and diagram how Jason Kidd's arrival will make the Mavericks better. We could drift into the psychological realm and argue how much this team needs his mental toughness. Or we could skip the pretension and break this deal down on a more elemental level. Kidd will make things fun again."

  • Jan Hubbard of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "... there has never been a player [Keith Van Horn] who signed such a large contract with little, if any, intent to be a contributing member of the team. So if you believe the trade for Kidd is the last piece in the championship puzzle, then please no more talk of a league conspiracy against your team. The NBA did the Mavericks a big favor Tuesday."

  • Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times: "Three weeks ago, the Lakers left town with a gaping hole in their lineup and gnawing doubts about their short-term future. Nine games and one astonishing trade later, they returned to Staples Center on Tuesday with a 7-foot souvenir named Pau Gasol and an air of invincibility. Gasol, stolen from Memphis on Feb. 1, made his Los Angeles debut a night to remember. Greeted with a roar during the pregame introductions and saluted during timeouts by fans waving the red and yellow flag of his native Spain, Gasol applied an emphatic flourish to the can-you-top-this trades that have made the Western Conference scaringly good."

  • Paul Oberjuerge of the Los Angeles Daily News: "The Lakers are back. Not just from a nine-game road trip. The Lakers are back far bigger than that. Back from three-plus painful seasons as Just Another Franchise. The Lakers are back as contenders. Not just for the playoffs. For NBA titles. This year and next and the year after that. These Lakers are the modern version of the 1970s West-Chamberlain Lakers. Of the 1980s Kareem-Magic Lakers. Of the turn-of-the-century Shaq-Kobe Lakers. These are the Lakers. Again. The team that matters. The franchise that figures into every discussion of teams that might be playing in June. June 2008, June 2009, June 2010 ... "

  • Craig Morgan of the East Valley Tribune: "Time apparently is the universal healer. At least that's what O'Neal, Bryant and Jackson would have us believe. On the eve of Shaq's much-anticipated Phoenix debut -- and on the eve of another reunion with his former Lakers running mates -- Shaq spoke in such glowing terms of Bryant and Jackson that it appears this once dysfunctional relationship has transformed back into a love triangle."

  • Lya Wodraska of The Salt Lake Tribune: "The best thing for the Utah Jazz might have been Deron Williams' omission from the All-Star team. At least, that is Kyle Korver's opinion. 'He's mad on the court a lot now, isn't he?' Korver asked after Utah's 119-109 win over Golden State on Tuesday at EnergySolutions Arena. 'He has a chip on his shoulder. I like it.' Williams led the Jazz in the shootout with 29 points, 12 assists and two steals. He also tied Paul Millsap for a team-high two blocks. 'That's what I am, a shot-blocker,' Williams said afterward. He was kidding. Well maybe he was. It seems Williams is bent on improving every aspect of his game since he was left off the All-Star team, so who knows, maybe he'll become Utah's best shot-blocker."

  • John Denton of Florida Today: "In addition to the approaching trade deadline, there is another ticking clock of sorts for the Magic. With the contract extensions for Howard (at least $85 million) and Nelson (as much as $35 million) about to kick in this summer and Lewis still owed $101 million, Orlando likely won't have significant salary cap space with which to dramatically upgrade its roster for at least five seasons. So trading the current expiring contracts might be their best option to surround Howard with more talent."