First Cup: Thursday

  • Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post: "When Antawn Jamison drove away from Verizon Center in his Bentley he was leaving basketball purgatory in his rearview mirror. The Wizards, for the foreseeable future, are the minor leagues of pro basketball, right there with the Nets, Clippers, Warriors and Timberwolves ... in other words the bottom feeders of the NBA. The Wizards, for the foreseeable future, will stink. The Wizards are ground zero. They're irrelevant outside of Washington. It's quite possible that over the final 30 games of the season the Wizards will be the worst team in the NBA, worse than the five-win Nets. You think I'm exaggerating? I'll take the Nets when they play the Wizards on Feb. 28 up there and April 4 here. Don't get me wrong; I understand this is what had to happen. I wrote as much back in December, that the Gilbert Arenas/Caron Butler/Brendan Haywood/Antawn Jamison team had reached its expiration date. Just because you have nice pieces doesn't mean they fit the puzzle. Not a single basketball executive of the five I talked to Wednesday thought the Wizards should do anything but start over, which meant trading Jamison just as they had traded Butler and Haywood in the previous days. Let's give President Ernie Grunfeld this: He made a pretty good deal. In fact, it's a better deal than expected because the Wizards got four things a team needs when starting over: 1) They got a big, expiring contract and salary cap room by dealing for Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who makes $11.5 million in this, the last season of his contract. 2) The Wizards got Cleveland's first-round draft pick. 3) They got a young player of note in Al Thornton, from the Clippers. 4) They'll get immediate luxury-tax relief from the buyout they will negotiate with Ilgauskas."

  • Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer: "This is a great trade. How many different ways can I say that, after the Cavs deal for Washington’s Antawn Jamison? He is exactly the type of veteran power forward this team needs, in terms of talent and character. Consider what the Washington Post’s Michael Lee wrote about the deal: 'Jamison, 33, had a picture of the Larry O'Brien championship trophy hanging in his locker room stall all season and plans on retiring when his contract ends in two years. He said the only thing that he is playing for is a championship, and that was not going to happen this season in Washington.' But this trade could bring a title to Cleveland, especially since it cost the Cavs only Zydrunas Ilgauskas and a No. 1 pick. General Manager Danny Ferry did it again. Backed by Dan Gilbert’s deep stash of cash, Ferry was able to add a star while giving up nearly nothing. It’s not just a deal, it’s a basketball Brinks truck of a steal."

  • T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times: "The Clippers have made it official: They quit. This season is over, the final 28 games just exercise, theonly thing of interest around here whether the franchise's plan to rock the sports world and lure LeBron James to Los Angeles is as outlandish as it sounds. They traded a bunch of guys for another bunch of guys, but it really doesn't matter who is coming here because eventually they will revert to Clippers form. In the short term, things would have looked a whole lot better had they just made a deal for a national anthem singer who can sing, not a good sign when a Clippers game begins on a down note and the players haven't even taken the floor. But nothing that happened here Wednesday night mattered save the future and the team's salary cap, an accountant punching in a bunch of numbers and then advising owner Donald Sterling the team will now be able to offer a maximum contract to James or any other worthy free agent this summer. And what are the chances of Sterling spending so much money? 'I'd stake my life on it,' General Manager Mike Dunleavy said in offering one of the funniest sports quotes ever uttered."

  • Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle: "You never know which trades were actually 'in the works.' Just because a team made a proposal doesn't mean the other was at all interested. Throw in some posturing to make deals sweeter and some outright lying to try to make other deals happen, and the trade deadline is a mishmash of mess. But I didn't like the trades being reported involving the Rockets and Wizards or the Rockets and Sixers. The one involving the Knicks and Bulls, trades in which the Rockets would bring back valuable draft picks for Tracy McGrady, were much more to my liking. This move with Sacramento? Hmmm. I love me some Kevin Martin. You might recall my lukewarmthness to the Trevor Ariza signing, and turns out he has been just about the player I thought he would be. Not a problem. He just has to learn how to be solid every night, and I think he will. He isn't special, but he can play for me. Martin, on the other hand, is sweet. We're talking a big-time scorer and a player that has special skills. He scores from everywhere - outside, inside and he takes it to the rack to draw fouls. If you're not familiar with this guy's game, get ready. You're going to love him."

  • Bill Bradley of The Sacramento Bee: "Tuesday night's actions made Wednesday night's trade all too clear. Kevin Martin had to go. Martin was dealt to the Rockets on Wednesday, one night after he declined to go back into a loss to the Celtics during the fourth quarter. It's not clear if the two are related, but it spoke volumes about Martin and how his place on this team had changed. Depending on which story you hear, Martin didn't go into Tuesday's game with six minutes left either because of his decision or because coach Paul Westphal liked his current lineup. Either way, Martin did not put up a fight for playing time. That didn't speak well for a supposed star who is in the second year of a five-year, $55 million deal. It shows what we suspected: Martin was not a leader, and this team's court general had become Tyreke Evans. The timing of the incident is odd. The Kings have spent so much time proclaiming their undying devotion to him during trade inquiries that it seemed unlikely he would be dealt. Then again, maybe this incident pushed Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie over the edge."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel : "It took most of the night and into the early morning, but the Bucks and Chicago Bulls have finalized the deal that will send guard-forward John Salmons to Milwaukee. According to league sources, the Bucks will include second-year forward Joe Alexander and fifth-year forward Hakim Warrick in the trade. Both have expiring contracts that the Bulls covet as they try to clear salary space for a run at some elite free agents next summer. ... Alexander's expiring deal is worth $2.6 million and Warrick's contract is worth $3 million, so they match up with Salmons' $5.45 million salary. But Salmons also is owed $5.8 million on a player option next season. The Bucks are taking on his additional salary in hopes of improving their lineup immediately and making a run at the playoffs. Salmons made a huge difference for the Bulls a year ago when he and center Brad Miller arrived in a trade deadline deal with Sacramento. The two players helped Chicago reach the playoffs, and they starred in a thrilling first-round playoff series that went seven games before the Bulls fell to the Boston Celtics."

  • John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Another thing to consider: By trading John Salmons, the Bulls not only make their roster weaker, but they improve a team behind them in the Eastern Conference standings that could knock them out of the playoffs. Wednesday began with rumors that the Bulls were the favorites in the sweepstakes for Tracy McGrady, but it appeared the Knicks were more likely to land the expiring contract of the league's highest-paid player because they had more attractive draft picks to offer. Tyrus Thomas and Kirk Hinrich began the day as the Bulls most likely to be dealt, but it was Salmons who was told to remain at the team's hotel. The news caught everyone off guard, some more than others. ''I thought I saw him in the locker room,' said rookie Taj Gibson, who had 14 points and a season-high 16 rebounds. ''No, that wasn't John. It's crazy. That's tough. I really like John. He's a great player.' Derrick Rose was asked how he didn't notice Salmons' absence. 'Usually, he comes on the second bus, so I thought he'd be out there [on the court] shooting now,' he said. 'I guess not.' "

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Timberwolves boss David Kahn vowed he would only do something 'modest in nature' if he did anything by Thursday's NBA trade deadline. He delivered with Wednesday's deal that sent Brian Cardinal's expiring contract to New York for cash and 7-foot center Darko Milicic, one of the most notable busts in NBA draft history. So...why? It's a free look for a team prepared to search everywhere for a long, athletic player to complement undersized power forwards Kevin Love and Al Jefferson. 'All of us are intrigued by him,' Kahn said before the Wolves' 108-99 loss to the Washington Wizards, 'and we're not sure what to expect. He's a legitimate 7-footer who was drafted second in the league one year [2003]. At times, he has had flashes of real strong play. At times, he has had flashes of real poor play. He's a little bit of an enigma. We thought it was worthwhile to take a look for these last 20-some games and see what he could do.' Milicic, 24, is joining his fifth team in seven NBA seasons. He has been buried on Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni's bench all season and hasn't played a game since November. Kahn said he plans to travel to New York City on Thursday to meet with Milicic, whom he expects will join the Wolves before Friday's game vs. Chicago."

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "Darko Milicic's agent confirmed that his client is being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Brian Cardinal. As part of the deal, the Knicks will release Cardinal in order to open up a roster spot for the proposed Nate Robinson trade with the Boston Celtics. The one potential snag is that there is no guarantee that Milicic will report to Minnesota. As recently as Tuesday, the veteran center was hopeful that the Knicks would release him so he could return to his native Serbia. Instead, he is headed to NBA Siberia. 'It's a disappointment,' Marc Cornstein said. 'This is the final chapter of a bad story for him in New York.' "

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "Nate Robinson's locker inside Madison Square Garden was vacant except for a name plate, a small Vaseline jar and a pair of socks. It was a quiet exit for the loudest, and perhaps most annoying player, to ever wear a Knicks uniform. The fans may have loved the diminutive, ultra-athletic Robinson, but Mike D'Antoni had little use for the Lil' Him. Now the three-time Slam Dunk champion is off to an organization that has a history of winning more meaningful championships. A deal would send Robinson to the Boston Celtics was close to being finalized last night. The Knicks will receive two yet-to-be determined players in return, both of whom have expiring contracts. The Daily News first reported late yesterday that the Knicks were on the verge of trading Robinson. In a separate deal that was completed last night, the Knicks traded disgruntled center Darko Milicic to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Brian Cardinal. The Knicks will then release Cardinal in order to create a roster spot for the incoming Celtics."

  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: "Today’s NBA trade deadline is 3 p.m. Eastern time. The deadline used to be 9 p.m. before the 1996 implementation of what has become known as the 'Scott Brooks Rule'. Yup, the Thunder coach helped change the landscape of the league’s annual trade deadline. Add Brooks to the book of basketball rules: The George Mikan Rule, which widened the lane and initiated the 3-second rule. The Wilt Chamberlain Rule, which made it illegal for a player to cross the free-throw line when shooting a free throw. The Lew Alcindor Rule, which briefly forbid dunking in college ball. The Larry Bird Rule, which is a salary-cap exception for qualified veteran free agents. And the Scott Brooks Rule, which prevents a player from being traded at halftime on deadline day. The NBA actually has no formal 'Scott Brooks Rule,' but the experience was so gut-wrenching, Brooks quickly became a martyr amongst his peers."