First Cup: Monday

  • Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post: "The Boston Celtics started this basketball makeover craze. Back at the end of July, before the Lakers had any thought of trading for Pau Gasol or the Phoenix Suns had any inkling Shaq might become The Big Cactus, Danny Ainge remade and as a result reenergized the Celtics. Even as they've struggled now through their first three-game losing streak of the season out west, the overall numbers make it fairly easy to argue that the biggest trade in the season of swap took place not in February to beat the deadline, but back in the summer when Ainge pulled off huge deals for Ray Allen and then Kevin Garnett that enabled the Celtics to run off to the best record in the NBA."

  • Mike Jones of The Washington Times: "Eddie Jordan insisted his team hadn't slipped into a pattern of losing or felt any pressure mounting inside the locker room. The fifth-year coach was outwardly upbeat, even when he said his top two players, Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler, were not close to returning from injuries. Jordan said the Wizards are 'working with what we have' and that 'there's nobody coming to save us right now.' And though the team is mired in a 2-10 slump, it doesn't appear to be optimistic, pressure-deflecting coach-speak. It's an attitude and belief the Wizards have embraced. 'We have enough in this locker room to win games,' point guard Antonio Daniels said. 'We've proven that. We've proven that.'"TrueHoop First Cup

  • Chris McCosky of The Detroit News: "Do you know when Grant Hill knew that coming back to finish his career in Detroit would not be in his best interest? It was during the playoffs last spring when the Pistons were sweeping free-agent-to-be Hill's Orlando team. 'It would have been hard to go back and not be the same (player),' said Hill, who signed instead with the Suns. 'I realized that during the playoffs. It was hard to play there. I used to play so well in that building (The Palace) and I was just average -- that was tough. ... It would have been an interesting situation, having things come full circle like that. But I came to the conclusion that I'd rather keep my memories of being a Piston. It happened when I was a pre-injured player and I was back in my prime. '"

  • Brian Windhorst of The Akron Beacon-Journal: "Dan Gilbert said that he's not spending as much as people think. Because the Cavs are just responsible for paying the new players for the final 27 games of the season, he's only actually paying about $1.2 million more in the prorated salaries than he would have before the trade. However, the Cavs will have to pay luxury tax on the entire additional $4.7 million added to their total payroll and that is a dollar-for-dollar penalty. The Cavs payroll is currently about $80.85 million -- third in the NBA. The NBA's 'soft' salary cap is $57.63 million and the luxury tax threshold is $67.865 million. That puts the current tax bill, the first-ever in franchise history, at a shade under $13 million. 'We are trying to build something here,' Gilbert said. 'You pay $375 million for a franchise and then break even for a couple years. You can't start getting cheap now. It's a big commitment, but before we even look at money, we look at what is right basketball-wise first. If you do it money first, you may start getting (the front office) gun-shy even thinking of ideas.'"

  • Jim Ingraham of The News-Herald: "Dan Gilbert said he felt the added money, and inching further into luxury tax territory was worth it. 'I thought the risk-reward was good, and it was the right thing to do for the value of the franchise,' he said. 'I'd rather pay more in the short term than for a longer period of time.' That's the case in this case. The Cavs add payroll for two years, but then get cap relief after that, which allows further flexibility to win a championship before you-know-who runs out of patience. 'People say we need to win a championship before LeBron leaves,' said Gilbert. 'Well, what if we win a championship in the first year of his contract, but not in the third?'"

  • Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Playing four games in six nights, including two back-to-back sets, simply didn't leave much time for the Hawks to figure out how everything is going to work with Bibby at the controls. That said, the transition hasn't been that difficult because Bibby, even while playing on a bruised right heel the past three games, has been that good. 'He's made a huge difference for us,' Marvin Williams said. 'Playing with him gives us a different look in games and certainly changes the way teams play us on the defensive end. The floor has definitely opened up with him out there knocking down all those [3-pointers], and now it's up to us to make sure we take advantage of the differences.'"

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "The frustration inside the Knicks' locker room is growing and there are still 26 games to play. 'Right now,' Zach Randolph said, '(the frustration) can't get no bigger because it's been like this the whole year, so I don't think it can get any worse.' Just to finish .500, the Knicks would have to go 24-2 the rest of the way. Meanwhile, they haven't won consecutive games since winning three straight in mid-January. 'Losing is the part that is killing me,' Eddy Curry said. 'It's tough to deal with. It's something I can't get used to.'"

  • Ken Berger of Newsday: "The jury is still very much out on whether Jason Kidd's impact in Dallas will be worth what the Mavericks sent to New Jersey for him. However this works out in the short term, there is little argument that Rod Thorn and Kiki Vandeweghe, two very capable gentlemen running the Nets, laid the groundwork for a far more promising basketball future west of the Hudson than east of it. The question Knicks fans are asking themselves is this: Why do the Nets -- still the backup singers in the New York area's basketball chorus line -- need two extremely capable general managers when the franchise occupying Madison Square Garden has none? This is why James Dolan should pick up the phone at season's end and call Bruce Ratner to ask what it would take to compel Thorn to pack up his briefcase and move a few miles east to the Garden."

  • Dan Bickley of The Arizona Republic: "Fans booed successive backcourt violations. They booed when the Suns couldn't inbound the ball under their basket. They booed when the Pistons
    shredded a porous and painfully familiar defense, once building a lead of 36 points. It certainly is not what you hoped for on national television, and you feel bad for the poor schmuck who dropped a few C-notes in a scalper's hand just to get in the building. 'It's embarrassing. It's disappointing. It's everything,' Suns' guard Steve Nash said. But here is the sobering truth: Forget about Kevin Garnett and the Celtics. The Pistons are the best team in the Eastern Conference, and it's not even close. For all the escalating chaos in the Western Conference, they might be the best team in basketball. And at the moment, the Suns are a work in progress. There might be a few more nights like this before it gets better."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "The Rockets needed another veteran point, a been-there, done-that guy to run the offense off the bench down the stretch. They needed someone that knew Rick Adelman's offense so well, he could play it in his first minute on the floor in ways the Rockets rarely has as well this season. Overplaying defense. Back cut. Bounce pass. Layup. Adelman's Kings made it look easy, as Bobby Jackson did on Sunday. If Jackson can defend with the energy he showed on Sunday, as he did in Sacramento, he will step in ideally at that end in ways Aaron Brooks could not yet."

  • Michael Grange of The Globe and Mail: 'Rasho [Nesterovic] told me when he first came to the United States he learned his English in Indiana' Mitchell said. 'Everything starts with gangsta and ends with pimp. I don't know who he was around or what movies he was watching [but] I don't think, my name is coach any more or Sam. It's gangsta.' Which Brezec confirmed after the game. 'Sam's gangsta too, man,' said Brezec, who played with Nesterovic on the Slovenian national team. 'He's not scared, he trusts his players ... he doesn't take [anything] from anybody. If you do something wrong, I don't have problem if you cuss me out ... that's how it should be.'"

  • Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times: "Warriors coach Don Nelson is considered wise in the realm of basketball, and rightfully so considering he's a Hall of Fame finalist. But, though 67 years old and in his fourth decade in the NBA, Nelson can show true wisdom by playing rookie forward Brandan Wright. One of the obvious facts coming out of the Warriors' loss to the visiting Atlanta Hawks on Friday -- other than the importance of center Andris Biedrins -- was that Wright is good enough to contribute. He had eight points on 4-for-4 shooting with eight rebounds and two blocks in a career-high 26 minutes against the Hawks. He showed more than just the potential the Warriors are banking on in the future. He showed he can be productive right now. That means Nelson, who was pressed into playing Wright because of Biedrins' appendectomy and forward Stephen Jackson's sprained ankle, was wrong about Wright. This youngster should be playing."