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First Cup: Thursday

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: When the final horn sounded, Rudy Gay dripped with emotion, stood on the Grizzlies’ side of half-court and smiled all the way through an impromptu receiving line. The Grizzlies’ 88-82 victory over Gay and the Toronto Raptors was filled with intensity, suspense and passion Wednesday night in Air Canada Centre. Memphis (35-18) extended its winning streak to five games by making clutch plays on both ends in the waning minutes of an ugly yet playoff-intense contest. The Griz also reaffirmed their admiration for a former teammate when just about every player and coach hugged Gay before exiting through their respective tunnels. “It was funny to see my teammates — I mean ex teammates — on the other side,” said Gay, who was dealt to Toronto in a three-team deal last month. “It was weird playing against those colors. It was kind of emotional. Those are relationships that a trade can’t change.”

  • Curt Cavin of The Indianapolis Star: Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel spoke of overhauling the team’s roster before today’s 3 p.m. NBA trade deadline. He couldn’t keep a straight face. Not only are the Pacers not trading for a host of draft picks as Vogel joked about, they don’t expect to trade anyone for anything at any time Thursday. The organization’s brass like what they have, particularly with former All-Star forward Danny Granger returning from a knee injury that has sidelined him since the first week of November. Granger could be activated for either of this weekend’s games against Detroit. He’s gone full speed in two practices this week. Granger not only will give the Pacers more offense and greater flexibility on defense, but the extra body will strengthen the bench. “We feel really good about the team that we have going forward,” he said.

  • Jonathtan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: After two seasons collecting power forwards, the Rockets finally got the one they wanted. They also picked up something less tangible that they hope will prove to be even more valuable. In a dramatic and sudden overhaul of the roster, the Rockets agreed to a pair of deals that will bring them Thomas Robinson, the fifth pick of the 2012 draft, and will open about $1.5 million more of cap space next summer. The Rockets will send starting power forward Patrick Patterson, backup point guard Toney Douglas and backup center Cole Aldrich to the Sacramento Kings to get Robinson. They will also get guard Francisco Garcia and forward Tyler Honeycutt in the deal. Both have expiring contracts. In a separate deal, the Rockets agreed to send second-year forward Marcus Morris, Patterson’s backup and Robinson’s former Kansas teammate, to the Phoenix Suns for a second-round pick. “For us, it was obviously for Thomas Robinson,” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said.

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: The Kings made the only kind of trade a team expected to be sold could make – cost-saving. The Kings on Wednesday traded 2012 first-round draft pick Thomas Robinson, veteran swingman Francisco Garcia, forward Tyler Honeycutt and a second-round draft pick to the Houston Rockets for forward Patrick Patterson, center Cole Aldrich and guard Toney Douglas. The Kings also will receive $1 million from the Rockets. Of the three players acquired, only Patterson is under contract beyond this season. … With the looming sale of the Kings to a Seattle-based group or one that would keep the team in Sacramento, the team wasn't expected to make any deals that would add future salary, and this deal fits that criteria. The three players traded by the Kings will make a combined $10.3 million this season, while the players acquired will be paid $6.6 million. Next season, Robinson is owed $3.5 million and Patterson $3.1 million.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Kendrick Perkins was seen sitting on the sideline at Wednesday morning's shootaround receiving treatment from the team's medical staff. When he rose to gather his belongings before exiting the Toyota Center, Perkins moved slowly and walked with a pronounced limp. “We'll see how he feels (Thursday) when we go back to OKC,” said Thunder coachScott Brooks. “We'll evaluate it (then).” News of the injury arrived on the same morning that a report in The Arizona Republic said the Thunder and Suns were engaged in trade discussions for Perkins over the All-Star break. The report said the Thunder would receive Suns centerMarcin Gortat and forward P.J. Tucker in exchange for Perkins, rookieJeremy Lamb and a first-round pick. A team official said Perkins' injury is legitimate and essentially dismissed the notion that it had anything to do with Wednesday morning's report. The report was later refuted by a subsequent report, and the original reporter later explained that his report was more of a league rumor rather than an actual deal being discussed by the two teams.

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: If it was indeed Josh Smith’s last night as an Atlanta Hawk, it was a night like many others. His team did a lot of good things against a quality opponent only to see it unravel at the end. Smith himself made the world’s best player work to score 24 points but did just enough wrong to be culpable in the failure. On the one hand, Smith defended LeBron James about as well as anybody defends LeBron James. (The great man had managed 30 or more in his previous seven games.) On the other hand, Smith took too many jump shots – stop me if you've heard this one before – and made three of his five turnovers in the regrettable fourth quarter, and he spent the final 1:49 sitting and watching the Hawks’ better shooters try to override a double-figure deficit. … Asked what he thought will happen, Smith said: “I don’t know. We’ll see Thursday at 3 p.m.” … If it was indeed his last night as a Hawk, it was neither a smash nor an out-and-out stinker. It was, for both better and worse, vintage Josh Smith.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Time is ticking toward the 2 p.m. Thursday NBA trading deadline. Will the Milwaukee Bucks make a deal? The Bucks have been one of the most prominently mentioned teams in the Josh Smith sweepstakes, with the Atlanta Hawks forward expected to be moved before the deadline. The Hawks are thought to be seeking young players, expiring contracts and possible draft picks in return for the 27-year-old Smith, who has been with Atlanta all of his pro career since being drafted out of high school in 2004. … The Bucks face a dilemma with the contracts of guards Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, although they could choose to stick with both for the rest of the season. Ellis has an $11 million player option for next season and can leave as an unrestricted free agent. Jennings will be a restricted free agent this summer and the Bucks will have the right to match any offer he receives from another team.

  • Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: In a sitdown with reporters at the team’s practice facility Tuesday, Nets general manager Billy King said there was a “10 percent” chance he would be making a deal by today’s deadline. If anything does happen by the deadline, it likely will be to fill the team’s hole at power forward, where Reggie Evans — an offensively limited rebounding machine who is better suited to being a sparkplug off the bench — has been starting with Humphries backing him up. The pair of them are combining to score fewer than 10 points per game, and allowing opposing defenses to often leave them alone and focus their attention on Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez instead. But it remains unlikely that a package of Humphries, second-year guard MarShon Brooks and a first-round pick would be enough to land a player of the caliber of Smith or Pierce because of the extra year on Humphries’ contract, especially in the current economic climate in the NBA where teams are concerned about the much more restrictive financial rules in the new collective bargaining agreement.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: The Wizards had been rumored as a possible destination for Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith, but three league sources all denied that the team was a serious contender for his services. … If the Wizards make a trade before the deadline, reserve shooting guard Jordan Crawford is the most likely candidate to be dealt but they might not get much in return. When asked what the Wizards could possibly get for Crawford, one rival Eastern Conference executive replied, “very little.” According to the league source with knowledge of the team’s plans, the Wizards have been making and fielding calls to possibly deal Crawford, who has fallen out of Coach Randy Wittman’s rotation and doesn’t appear to be a part of the franchise’s future plans.

  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: There will be trades Thursday around the NBA, perhaps one that involves a long-time member of the Atlanta Hawks’ core. None, however, are likely to add or subtract to Miami’s roster, and none are likely to include quite the star power as the one on Feb. 20, 2003, exactly a decade prior to the contest in which Ray Allen participated Wednesday night. Before Miami earned its eighth straight win with a 103-90 victory over Atlanta, Allen was reminded of that anniversary. Ten years ago, he was swapped from Milwaukee to Seattle for Gary Payton. “Time certainly does fly,” Allen said. “But you know, you look up and it’s over with. You look at the young people that come into the game, and you look at your kids, and it’s a different life. I’m in awe that I’m still hanging around. And it feels like I should be here. Like I don’t feel like I’m out of place, and that’s a beautiful thing.”

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: Cleveland - As rumors swirled all day Wednesday regarding possible trade destinations for New Orleans Hornets guard Eric Gordon, it seemed unlikely he would be moved by Thursday's trading deadline because of the size of his contract and his continued absence from the court in the second of back-to-back games. The fact that Gordon did not play in Wednesday night's 105-100 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers would likely tend to scare off any potential interest from other NBA teams who might have concerns about his current and long-term health. And Gordon's four-year, $58 million contract could also dissuade suitors because of the more penal luxury tax in place in the new collective bargaining agreement. One league source Wednesday night said of Gordon, "nobody wants him." … A source close to the Hornets said Wednesday night there were no active trade discussions at this time.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: With 15 hours remaining before the NBA trade deadline at 3 p.m. Thursday, J.J. Redick said he still has no idea whether or not the Orlando Magic will send him to another team. And it also sounds like he wouldn’t be heartbroken if the Magic send him to a title contender. Asked specifically if he wants to remain with the team through the end of the season, he sighed and said, “There’s just too many variables to say that. There’s just too many variables. The shortest way to answer that is I wouldn’t be disappointed if I end up going to a team that is playing for a championship if that were to happen. Look, if any player is in this situation and they’re on a team that’s one of the five or six teams in the league that have one of the worst records and they go to a contender, it’s not a bad thing. “If I were to stay here, though, it’d be great.” Would he consider re-signing long-term with the Magic, who are clearly in a rebuilding period and have now lost 26 of their last 29 games? “I haven’t thought about the long-term, to be honest with you,” he said.

  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman appears to have reached the conclusion that guard Brandon Roy, out since Nov. 9 with a knee injury, might not play the rest of the season. Adelman said Roy "hasn't worked out with us" and doesn't know "where he stands." "If he does play, it will be a pleasant surprise," Adelman said before the Wolves' game Wednesday night, Feb. 20, against Philadelphia at Target Center. "I don't expect him at this point." … The Wolves reportedly are pursuing a settlement with Roy if they are unable to trade him by Thursday's 2 p.m. trade deadline. The second year of Roy's $10.4 million contract, worth $5.3 million, is not guaranteed.

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: The last time the Pistons were in the news on a daily basis at trade deadline time was two seasons ago, when they had public discussions with the Nets and the Bulls about former Piston Rip Hamilton. That won't keep Pistons fans from crossing their fingers that some savior will come through that door to rescue the franchise. But there are a few things to remember. The Pistons have already pulled off a significant trade when they sent Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye to Memphis in a deal that brought Jose Calderon. With a payroll at $68 million, they are well above the salary cap and just under the $70 million luxury tax. They aren't in position to take on extra salary.

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: So the Mavericks, who returned from the All-Star break with a 111-96 victory over Orlando, weighed their options Wednesday as trade winds blew through portions of the NBA but stayed dead calm in Dallas. What Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson saw happening as the phone lines blew up was interesting. Even when it came to trying to accumulate future draft picks, other teams weren’t buying what the Mavericks were selling. “I think the value of draft picks has gone up, so people don’t want to give them up,” Cuban said. “In the past, you might say: ‘Sure, here’s a pick to take with that.’” That’s not happening now. Like the Mavericks, teams around the league are figuring out that draft picks are the only sure-fire way to improve a team since free-agency is becoming a bigger crapshoot every summer. As a result, it is tougher to pull off high-impact deals. … The Mavericks remain unlikely to do anything before the 2 p.m. Thursday deadline, although there’s always the chance something pops up at the 11th hour. Cuban said he has fought the urge to do something just to do something, which no doubt would appease some fans.

  • Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: Early in the second half, helping on interior defense, Bogut hammered the hulking Gortat to the floor, not something you're used to seeing from a Warriors center. When Bogut was cleared to play after missing 38 games with a slowly-mending ankle, the buzz question became, "Is this guy permanently damaged goods?" That buzz is quieter. Jackson might be right, that it's a matter of scraping off the rust, but the playoff clock is ticking. "Just confidence," Bogut said when I asked him where he most needs to see improvement. "It's funny, you (lose) rhythm and a feel for the game. And conditioning obviously is still a bit of an issue." But widespread panic has been averted. For now.

  • T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times: Let's take this a step further. The two basketball experts in town, Magic and Plaschke, have declared Jeanie Buss should be in charge of the Lakers. This has to be a blow to Jimmy Buss, who probably understands he also won't be Phil Jackson's choice as best man. But if Jeanie Jackson is running the Lakers, whom do you think she would like to hire as team president? She's already interviewed him repeatedly, they have experience carpooling to work and I can't imagine she'd be crazy about the idea of getting married and leaving Phil at home alone in the hot tub. Or worse, as The Times' Mike Bresnahan has reported, there's the possibility Phil might take a similar position in Seattle if the Kings move there. Now let's see, would Phil be more interested in living in an apartment in Seattle working for the Kings or staying with his wife and overseeing the Lakers?

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Sometimes a foreign experience helps a player see the light, and Terrence Williams wholeheartedly embraces that theory. The swingman signed a 10-day contract yesterday with the Celtics, marking his fourth NBA team. He got his release from the Guangdong Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association Tuesday night, and responded like a man released from captivity. Though talented, Williams’ early NBA tenure has been marked by immaturity and an inability to grasp the ramifications of being on a team. But he hopes he has been reborn with this move. “How to be professional,” Williams said last night of his greatest lesson learned. “My downfall in my second year (in New Jersey), what made everything go downhill was not being professional. Young, 20-whatever, money and not really caring. I cared about playing basketball, but not putting the work into basketball. If you go to China for even a day, you learn how to be professional, because you want to come back so fast. That’s what I learned with these last two years.” It’s sounds as though Williams’ Chinese experience was, shall we say, extreme. “Extreme is a small word for that,” he said. “It was definitely extreme. I wouldn’t recommend it for you guys to be reporters over there.”