First Cup: Monday

  • Brian Windhorst of The Akron Beacon Journal: "The Beacon Journal contacted 35 likely MVP voters to take the race's temperature. There are roughly 125 voters, so this is a healthy sample, and it was spread around to all areas of the country to avoid any Eastern or Western Conference bias. ... LeBron James got just four votes, and even some of those were tentative and came with caveats from the voters. It's the same number of voters who believe New Orleans point guard Chris Paul, who just became an All-Star for the first time, is the MVP of the moment. That tied him for second with James in the poll, ahead of Bryant, who got three votes. New Boston Celtics arrival Kevin Garnett is the leader right now, getting 63 percent of the vote. Garnett's game numbers (19.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists) can't match James' and, obviously, he's gotten way more support from his teammates than James has. It would seem that calling him most valuable would be counterintuitive."TrueHoop First Cup

  • Bruce Arthur of the National Post: "The first day they were together, John Lucas looked at T.J. Ford and saw the boy he had known since he was 10 years old. Ford had been a rival of John's own son, John Lucas III, in Houston, and the two men were friends. And so John Lucas tried to get T.J. Ford to quit playing basketball. 'I said, 'Why don't you quit?'' Lucas said from Miami, where he watched the Raptors and Ford practise Sunday. 'I said you've got money and your health, so why don't you quit?' And T.J. said, 'I don't want to quit.' And I said, 'OK. Let's get to work.' 'I needed to know how bad he wanted to play ... and I think after [seeing him in] practice [Sunday], he's closer [to a return] than he even thought he was.'"

  • Marlon W. Morgan of The Commercial-Appeal: "That message should be delivered to all the Pau Gasol haters who insisted he had to go. Well, you got your wish -- He's gone! What you also got is a team that's now clearly starting from scratch. Meanwhile, Gasol, who's been nothing but the ultimate professional during his six-plus seasons in Memphis, may just have pushed the Lakers to the top of the Western Conference's elite teams."

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "In this high-stakes era of basketball, when a sneeze could keep a guy out, Allen Iverson is as permanent in the Nuggets' lineup as a neck tattoo. Fans, inevitably, voted Iverson into the All-Star Game because of his glitzy points per game, not his gritty minutes per game. But he entered the weekend with 41.8 minutes per game, tops in the NBA. He doesn't sit out games. Two weeks ago, he sat out a shootaround, gently holding his left wrist with his right hand, flashing the occasional wince. That night, he scored 29 points, while banging his way to the free-throw line 18 times, making 15. Denver won, against Atlanta, without Carmelo Anthony."

  • Chris Tomasson of the Rocky Mountain News: "In key Northwest Division battles, the Nuggets (28-18) are at Portland (27-19) tonight and will play host to first-place Utah (30-18) on Wednesday. 'It's a huge week,' forward Linas Kleiza said. 'Two big division games. We've just got to go get them.' The game tonight has added importance, considering the Nuggets don't want to see Portland, which has a 2-1 lead, win the season series. That could prove pivotal if the teams end up tying for a playoff spot. 'This is a game we must have,' Anthony said."

  • Matt Paulson of the East Valley Tribune: "One area that Mike D'Antoni is taking extra time on is deciding whether the Suns are better with Grant Hill or Boris Diaw in the starting lineup. 'Its up in the air,' D'Antoni said when asked who will start tonight against Charlotte. 'It might be a game-to-game thing. I'm just trying to keep everybody involved, everybody focused.' When Hill was out due to an appendectomy last month, Diaw played his best basketball of the season and has continued to play at that level in the two games hes started since Hill returned. Hill meanwhile has provided the same energy and production whether he's a starter or a sub. 'Maybe that's your answer,' said guard Steve Nash, who added it doesn't matter to him who starts. 'Whatever makes our team the best.'"

  • Tom Enlund of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "All season long, a board listing the NBA's standings has been posted in the corner of the Milwaukee Bucks' locker room. But now, with the Bucks riding a three-game losing streak and falling in the Eastern Conference playoff race, center Andrew Bogut has an idea about what the Bucks can do with that standings board. 'We should just rip that board down,' he said. 'Just take it down and play basketball.'"

  • Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Before anybody is going to crucify the 76ers for not getting in the Pau Gasol sweepstakes, remember one thing -- the Sixers and other teams that didn't have huge expiring contracts, weren't in the realistic running for his services. An NBA source said that Memphis was looking to trim salary first and foremost. And it doesn't take a source or a genius to figure that out. ... The Grizzlies weren't even talking to any team without a huge expiring contract. The Sixers have a $4 million expiring contract of Gordan Giricek, but since he was just traded, he could only be dealt in a one-on-one deal. That wouldn't work with the Grizzlies. The other big expiring contract is Kevin Ollie ($3.4 million) and that wasn't enough to even get in the discussion."

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "Damon Stoudamire didn't come to San Antonio to recreate the scoring binges of his point-gorging past. He came here to be a role player, a bench sparkplug, a cog in a machine. He does not view himself as the cavalry, riding in to save the day. If it means a shot to play for an NBA title before his career runs out, Mighty Mouse is willing to be uncommonly modest. 'If I feel like I have something to prove, it's that I can still help a winning team on a big stage,' Stoudamire said. 'That's the only thing I need to prove. I know who I am as a player and I'm secure with that.'"

  • Marc J. Spears of The Boston Globe: "The video game NBA Live 08 currently has a television commercial showing a digital version of Celtics forward Paul Pierce dunking on the Los Angeles Lakers. Since both teams have played twice this season, the only way the longtime rivals can play outside of a video game this season is in the NBA Finals. And with the Lakers' surprising recent blockbuster addition of forward Pau Gasol, talk of the Celtics and Lakers meeting up in the Finals is once again a possibility. 'I know they're pumped up [in Los Angeles],' said Pierce, a Los Angeles native. 'They want to see that Boston-LA. It could be possible. It would be
    good for the NBA. They're looking really good, I know that. They're going to be scary out West.'"