First Cup: Tuesday

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson entered the all-star break last in the Southeast Division and opened the second half of the season first in the Southwest Division. The coach-to-first-class upgrade provided by their trade from the Washington Wizards to the Dallas Mavericks wasn't lost on Butler as he spoke with reporters in Dallas on Monday. 'We had 30 games left and we had to win, probably, 23 of them to just get to the playoffs or be fighting for a spot,'' Butler said of the situation in Washington. 'Looking at Dallas and being in the thick of things, expectations are different. It's a breath of fresh air.' ... During a news conference at American Airlines Center on Monday, Butler addressed how difficult the past few seasons have been in Washington. 'The toughest thing about it was having expectations and not being able to achieve them, underachieving in the last two years,' Butler said. 'Having injuries last year and having expectations to compete for a title this season and having so much go on with adversity and not being able to overcome it, that was very tough.' "

  • Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: "Will the Suns be the same team on the other side of the deadline? Or is Stoudemire's 7 1/2-season run that includes five All-Star appearances, about to end in Phoenix? 'There are so many hypotheticals and what-ifs and different scenarios,' veteran Grant Hill said. 'I'll leave that to you guys in the media and barbershops and let us just focus on going out and playing good basketball.' You don't need your barber to tell you that the Suns have plenty of experience in dealing with this sort of thing. This is the second consecutive season in which Stoudemire's status was a focal point of All-Star weekend. Before that, it was usually Shawn Marion's name at the center of Suns trade rumors in February. 'For me, honestly, in seven years in the NBA that is the only thing I don't really like about it -- the trade situation,' said guard Leandro Barbosa, whose name also has circulated as part of a Stoudemire deal in some scenarios. 'You never know when this can happen. It can be in the middle of the night. You're sleeping, and you wake up in the morning and you hear that you just got traded.' "

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Monday that his next goal for guard Dwyane Wade is to get more out of his teammates, just as he helped raise the level of play of his Eastern Conference teammates during Sunday's NBA All-Star Game in Dallas. 'I think he returned from All-Star break with a great, healthy perspective,' Spoelstra said, with Wade named Most Valuable Player of the All-Star Game. 'He understands so much is expected of him. And with those expectations, there's a bigger responsibility and he knows that. And he's got to carry a big load. He knows that other guys have to step up, but he has to make them better, as well. It's a great opportunity for him to do that.' Spoelstra said the positive energy Wade delivered Sunday can provide a significant boost to the Heat."

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "It appears the Hawks will not attempt a similar splash. General manager Rick Sund has said he doesn’t expect to make any major moves before Thursday’s trade deadline. The Hawks have been built through the draft and trades, re-signing key players and improving every season. Now they will measure their progress this postseason. 'The owners and Rick feel that way,' Hawks center Al Horford said. 'We have grown in the short time I have been here. Hopefully we keep growing and keep developing.' Johnson said he understands the approach taken by Sund and Hawks ownership. 'We are still growing as a team. We are still getting better,' Johnson said. 'Who knows how good we will be this year? We’ve still got a lot more room for improvement. We’ve got to just keep working and know what’s at [stake].' Johnson said he didn’t expect East rivals Orlando or Boston to make big trades because 'they are pretty much set where they are at and feeling like they can win a championship with what they got.' "

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "For Kevin Durant, the break interrupted his 25 straight games of 25 points or more, one of the best scoring streaks in NBA history. For the Thunder, All-Star weekend suspended a season-high six-game winning streak. Durant and the Thunder hope to revive both runs tonight as Dallas visits the Ford Center. Durant admits he isn’t sure how his hectic weekend will affect him. 'It was draining, but that’s the life you want, the life of an NBA All-Star,' Durant said. 'It’s different. You have a lot of obligations you have to take care of, a lot of things you have to do for sponsors, endorsements, things like that. Hopefully I come back strong.' Last year, Durant saw his points, rebounds, assists, blocks and shooting percentages from the field and 3-point line all dip after the All-Star break despite having far fewer obligations in Phoenix."

  • Kevin Tatum of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Allen Iverson had missed the last five Sixers games and the All-Star Game to be with his 4-year-old daughter, who is suffering from an illness that doctors are struggling to identify. He will be in uniform tonight when the Sixers (20-32) meet the Miami Heat (26-27) at the Wachovia Center. Iverson's daughter, who was examined by doctors in Atlanta yesterday, has been out of the hospital since a couple of days after Iverson left the Sixers on Jan. 31 to monitor her treatment. Mostly, it has been test after test as doctors try to find the cause of her problems. His family members have remained at their home in Atlanta. 'I'd be lying if I said it wasn't tough to leave her, my wife, and my other kids,' Iverson said. 'But I do have a commitment and an obligation to being with the team. I have to do my job. It's rough, but it's the only thing I do in life where, I guess, for a couple of hours, I don't think about anything but that. It's been difficult for me. I consider myself a strong person, especially when dealing with the other things in life, but this was a totally different situation. All I do is pray on it, and everybody who cares about me and my family, I wish they would do the same.' Sixers coach Eddie Jordan was not sure yesterday whether Iverson would step back into his starter's role or come off the bench."

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: "No matter where he goes these days, answering questions in New Orleans or elsewhere, Jeff Bower always seems to be asked the same thing. Is there any way he can look to the end of the year and determine if his job title will be General Manager/Coach Jeff Bower, general manager, coach or might he be unemployed? Customarily, Bower trots out his tried and true one day at a time response, preferring not to look to the future but remain rooted in the present. 'My approach is that is something for the offseason, and my total focus is on right now and this team and what we're doing and what we need to improve at,' Bower said as his team went into last weekend's All-Star break with a postseason berth still within New Orleans' reach. That's all stuff the GM will talk about after the season.' Yet as Bower enters his fourth month in the dual-role capacity, he continues to deftly juggle both responsibilities and maintain focus on both."

  • Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle: "Now that Larry Ellison is through playing Captain Hook, maybe he can return to the far more difficult matter of squeezing into Chris Cohan's shoes. Or maybe he'll see that the Warriors are worth less with every passing day, and pass for the time being. Not that we're clued into his agenda, mind you; we called in sick and missed the last staff meeting. But now that he's finished winning the America's Cup, boarding the losing boat Alinghi and shipping its owner, Ernesto Bertarelli, in leg irons back to Redwood Shores to be prosecuted as a pirate -- or whatever the hell they do to the loser in yacht racing -- he can try to get Cohan to budge off his number for selling the Warriors. Or he can stand on the bridge, move his eyepatch from one eye to the other and say, 'I am Neptune, the captain of the sea, and what need have I for land-based enterprises?' We suspect the response will be No. 2, insofar as David Stern just blurted out that the NBA is projecting $400 million in losses this year and needs the players to make up that shortfall."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "Nuggets coach George Karl didn't guide the Western Conference to a victory in the NBA All-Star Game, but over the weekend he took home a winner's financial share just the same, agreeing to a one-year, $4.5 million contract extension. It brought an end to negotiations that threatened to distract the Nuggets. But the issue it raised -- what is a coach worth? -- came front and center. The short answer? A coach is worth whatever the team's owner is willing to pay. But there are philosophical views. Is Karl worth more than, say, a top bench player who makes about the same on a typical NBA team? Or is he worth what is made by a starting forward who averages 12 points and 10 rebounds? 'The market is always changing,' Karl said when asked to assess his value. 'There have been times where coaches have been paid in the upper $6 (million), $7 (million), $8 million area. We've had (Los Angeles Lakers coach) Phil (Jackson) and a few others go higher than that. But I think a coach is as valuable as any starter. If you had to say the value, that's the way I can give you a value. A good coach is a good starter. Now, some starters make $10 million, some starters make $5 million, some starters make $2 million. But, I think, from a standpoint of basketball value, a good basketball system is as valuable as maybe your fourth- or fifth-best starter.' "