First Cup: Thursday

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "An executive from another NBA team called my cell phone around nine tonight, to make this quite unsolicited comment on the Bobcats trade: Huh?!?! The guy couldn't imagine how, empirically, the Bobcats have more talent now than they did before dealing Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley to the Phoenix Suns for Boris Diaw, Raja Bell and Sean Singletary. ... I told this executive that I don't know whether this deal works, but I know why it was made. Stylistically, Diaw and Bell represent change in the direction Larry Brown wants: They add defense, passing, versatility and athleticism. Then I mentioned what Brown said pre-game: That the Bobcats aren't done searching for ways to change the roster before the trade deadline. Good, the exec replied, because no matter how well Brown coaches them, this team is still not a playoff roster."

  • Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: "It sure looks as if Steve Kerr finally got even with Michael Jordan for that punch in the eye he took back in the day when they were teammates in Chicago. Jordan may not know it yet, but he just took a haymaker from Kerr, who unloaded Boris Diaw and Raja Bell as part of a deal with Jordan's Charlotte Bobcats that will bring guard Jason Richardson to the Suns."

  • Don Seeholzer of The Pioneer Press: "In his first road stop since taking the coaching job, Kevin McHale was asked about the widespread perception that he did so reluctantly. 'If I didn't want to coach this team, I wouldn't have,' he said. Asked if he could see himself coaching in three or four years, McHale said: 'I'm committed to being with these guys for a time. Like I told Al (Jefferson), I said, 'Al, when we win a championship, the last thing you'll see of me is my rear end running out the door.''"

  • Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun: "As the undisputed leader and the team's go-to guy, it's time for Chris Bosh to step up in these troubled times in Raptorland. It's time for Bosh to play through the fatigue that has crept into his game and the frustration that is evident by his body language. A three-time all-star, this is the first time Bosh has been forced to endure an extended stretch of futility since his rookie season in 2003. ... Players of Bosh's ilk somehow find a way to produce, regardless of any perceived obstacle. It's the measuring stick that separates stars from the NBA's true elite. Bosh hasn't quite reached that superstar level and his recent play reinforces it."

  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: "'Our goal is to win a championship. That's why everyone is still ... edgy, because that's our goal.' Kobe Bryant spoke those words plainly, bluntly after the Lakers struggled to defeat the shorthanded Phoenix Suns 115-110 on Wednesday night. Asked if it's a championship or bust, Bryant said, 'I'm cool with that. That's better than, 'Damn, I hope we make the playoffs.' It's exciting because you have an opportunity to win a championship. Having seen the other side of that, I'd much rather have this situation than the other one.' He has made similar comments during the season, but never quite as candidly."

  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "Up until this year (and excluding that two-week period in June 2006), Dwyane Wade has always been the underdog in any discussion regarding the best player in the league. Perhaps it was because his long-range jump shot wasn't consistent enough, or because his defense left something to be desired, or because that 320-pound parasite attached to him was sopping up all the credit the past few years. There was always a reason to rank Wade slightly behind Kobe Bryant or LeBron James based on some minor deficiency. That can't happen anymore. At least it shouldn't. Because Wade has not only rounded off his game to become arguably the most complete player in the league, he's also simply outperforming the others normally placed in his category."

  • Ivan Carter of The Washington Post: "Washington won last year's season series 3-1 and the high point of the season came when the Wizards beat the Celtics in back-to-back games on Jan. 12 and 14. The Celtics (20-2) enter tonight's game at Verizon Center on a 12-game winning streak, so they could be forgiven for taking the 4-15 Wizards lightly. But Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson fully expects to see a highly motivated opponent. 'We were talking a lot of smack, too, especially me. So I know they're going to be coming in here ready,' Stevenson said. 'I know I've got a big target on my chest. Every time we played them it was a real talkative game and a real hard game, so they're going to come in feeling that they owe us something.' Stevenson said the intensity level of any game against Boston rises with the presence of Celtics star Kevin Garnett, who has assumed Alonzo Mourning's unofficial title as the most intense player in the NBA."

  • Chris McCosky of The Detroit News: "It's tempting to write this whole Allen Iverson project off as a failure and start finding ways to spend the $21 million or so the Pistons will have next summer to rebuild the product. Believe me, a lot of people across the country are. But that would be way too reactionary and not very smart. And frankly, I still believe this is going to get a lot better. Now, do I think they are ever going to get good enough to beat Boston? That is hard to see right now. But I don't think the Celtics can maintain this high level all season and through the playoffs, either. I keep harkening back to Flip Saunders' first season here, the 64-win season. Didn't see anybody beating the Pistons either when they were 38-5, or whatever it was, but somebody did. It's a long season. There are a lot of twists and turns still to come."

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "Steve Blake said he can't imagine being Greg Oden. He said he has watched Oden's name scroll across the ESPN ticker when he scores 20 points, and when he scores two. It is that type of attention that makes Oden feel his every step is documented and analyzed. 'I think he has a problem with that -- coming in and so much attention being given to him,' Nate McMillan said. 'He feels there are other guys on this team who have earned that. He just wants to fit in and be a part, and for me, it's OK if we take that approach. That's not a bad approach.'"

  • Tim Kawakami of The Mercury News: "Corey Maggette didn't play again tonight, resting his sore hamstrings, and the Warriors won again. As they did in Oklahoma City. As they have done several other times before. In fact, the Warriors are 4-2 when Maggette does not play. They're 3-13 when he does. Interesting, no? Again, we have to be careful when selecting individual games and assigning specific judgements. For
    instance, OKC and back-to-back Milwaukee are not significant events, unless they'd been Warriors losses. The Warriors lost at home to Memphis and at Sacramento earlier in the year without Maggette. They beat Minnesota and Denver at home without him. It's a small sample size. But it's interesting. It bears watching. Reminds me of the with/without Troy Murphy dynamic in his final few seasons with the Warriors."

  • Tom Enlund of the Journal Sentinel: "Bucks guard Tyronn Lue says he basically had a done deal to sign with Phoenix as a free agent last summer before the Bucks stepped in and persuaded him to sign with them. The Suns had offered Lue a one-year contract for $1.26 million, and Lue thought it would be a great situation for him to back up Steve Nash. But then the Bucks came in with an offer of $2.26 million and that, along with his friendship with Bucks general manager John Hammond, made Lue decide to sign with the Bucks. 'I thought it was done for a week or so (with Phoenix),' said Lue. 'And then, last minute, I signed with Milwaukee.' Lue said that he has taken considerable grief from Shaquille O'Neal, his former teammate with the Lakers, for not joining him in Phoenix."