First Cup: Thursday

  • Mike Wells In The Indianapolis Star: "I'm sure most of you have already heard that the police arrested a man on a warrant for murder after he left Shawne Williams' house Wednesday night. The Pacers said Williams had no knowledge of the murder warrant. It didn't take long for my phone to start blowing up with calls and text messages from people about the latest incident. Somebody told me the Pacers have turned into the circus because of all the acts they keep providing. Another person referred to it as a comedy because there always seems to be something to laugh at. There never seems to be a dull moment around this team."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Jason Williams likes South Florida, seems amenable to a pay cut, appreciates if he signs a one-year deal that he automatically would receive no-trade protection."

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Asked Wednesday what he saw when he watched tape of the Hawks, Reggie Theus --- Bibby's coach with Sacramento and briefly a Hawk himself --- said this: 'I see a very athletic team, a very dangerous team. When they get it going, they can cause a lot of problems ... They could be a very exciting team in the long run.' Here's the thing, though. The long run starts this minute. The Hawks awoke Wednesday 10 games under .500, which should never have happened. But now they've seen their last excuse shredded --- the Hawks have a point guard! --- and these next two months cannot be two months more of false starts and broken promises. They could and should make the playoffs. They could and should become a rising force in the thin-gruel East. Then again, they could and should have done that already."

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "The Lakers are on top of the Western Conference. Their reserves might be there too. Be it Sasha Vujacic's three-point accuracy, Jordan Farmar's push-the-pace persona or Ronny Turiaf's liveliness around the basket, the Lakers have received continual contributions from their second unit. Is it the best in the West? 'Well, we'd like to think it was,' Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said."

  • Jim Alexander of The Press-Enterprise: "It's not hard to overlook Derek Fisher, or to take him for granted. The Lakers veteran guard is steady. He has seen it all, been through it all in his 12 seasons in the NBA. Heck, during the turbulent but successful Shaq/Kobe era, Fisher seamlessly navigated the tension to the point that he often seemed like the sanest guy in the Lakers' organization. At 33, back with the team he broke in with in 1996, he's still a productive, solid guard. But production is only part of his role. He also has a lot of wisdom to offer. Jordan Farmar is listening. Where Fisher is the savvy veteran, Farmar is the 21-year-old prodigy from LA Fairfax High and UCLA with the high basketball IQ."

  • Dave Krieger of the Rocky Mountain News: "The late Jack McMahon once told George Karl a coach can go off on his team no more than six times a year. More than that is counterproductive, he said. By his own count, Karl has exceeded that number already this season. 'And most of the time, it has worked,' he said. 'But beating up your team doesn't work all the time. And sometimes there's a negative flow to the players of today. There's a reaction. Ten years ago, 15 years ago, I don't think there was as much reaction to a coach being angry. Now, sometimes you've got to evaluate what you're going to get.' In part, the focus of the Nuggets' failures falls on Karl because you can't fire the players, and in part because it's difficult to assign responsibility in the organization's three-headed front office. Who decided they couldn't afford to bring back point guard Steve Blake? Was it vice president of basketball operations Mark Warkentien? Was it vice president of player personnel Rex Chapman? Was it adviser Bret Bearup? Or was it owner Silent Stanley Kroenke himself, putting his foot down on a payroll already well into luxury tax territory?"

  • Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Midway through the third quarter Wednesday night, the home team was trailing by 15 points, the EnergySolutions Arena crowd was subdued and the Jazz's promising season was slowly crumbling. Luckily, the Detroit Pistons were in the building. Of all the good things the Jazz have done lately, their performance against one of the best teams in basketball for three seasons now is the least logical and most remarkable. This comeback topped them all, resulting in a 103-95 victory that stopped a slump, validated the Jazz's heralded home environment and might have saved their season. When the Jazz win the Northwest Division title and maybe, just maybe, earn home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, remember this game."

  • Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune: "Phoenix doesn't seem sure what to do offensively when Shaquille O'Neal is on the floor. It's no coincidence that the Suns' rally against Memphis in the fourth quarter Tuesday came with a small lineup and O'Neal on the bench. ... A bigger concern is the Suns' defense since Shawn Marion departed. Phoenix has allowed at least 113 points in three of the four games. Memphis' Rudy Gay went off for 36 points Tuesday; that doesn't happen if Marion has a crack at him. O'Neal has improved the Suns' rebounding, but he doesn't move well enough to defend pick-and-rolls or more mobile centers. Frankly, based on what I've seen so far, Phoenix looks more like a team that could be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs than a championship club."

  • Jeff Caplan of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "As multiple storylines between old rivals unfold tonight, not the least of which has the Mavs trailing the Spurs by one game in the Southwest Division, one storyline in particular has captured the center of the Mavs' attention. Suddenly, Dampier, their stoic 6-foot-11 center, is allaying fears that the Mavs won't be strong enough or deep enough at center in a playoff series against Duncan and the Spurs, the Lakers' retooled front line or the Suns' Shaquille O'Neal and Amare Stoudemire. In four games since the All-Star break, Dampier has been energized on the defensive end. He had 16 rebounds and seven blocked shots Monday against Chicago. He's blocked 20 shots in the four games and is averaging 9.5 rebounds as his playing time has jumped to 31 minutes, almost 10 more than his average before the trade."

  • Marc J. Spears of The Boston Globe: "P.J. Brown, who was also courted by the Hornets, said his decision to come to Boston was strongly aided by a conversation he had with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen in New Orleans Feb. 16. 'They just pulled me over and said, 'Man, we'd really love to have you on the team,'' said Brown before last night's game against the Cavaliers. 'With your experience, we think you can help our young guys and add some stability to our team. As a player, we still think you can play. Your defense and rebounding fits in with what we're trying to do. ... That made a huge difference in this whole deal. If that doesn't happen, you probably don't see me here today.'"

  • John DeShazier of The Times-Picayune: "Three times Phoenix caught the Hornets in fairly desperate shape -- 'desperate' defined as a two- or three-game losing streak in the tough Western Conference. Three times New Orleans has pounded and squeezed enough air out of the Suns to resuscitate itself. Maybe all of that wouldn't mean a thing if the two teams managed to find themselves matched against each other in the playoffs. Maybe then the Suns' experience would trump the Hornets' inexperience. Absent that, all we have is what happened during the regular season. All we know is that Wednesday night at the New Orleans Arena, the Hornets continued their perfect run against Phoenix, their 120-103 victory completed a season sweep against a team that has hovered at or near the top of the conference standings -- along with New Orleans -- all season long."

  • Shaun Powell of Newsday: "More than the won-loss record, more than the three-years-and-counting playoff drought and more than the Anucha Browne-Sanders harassment lawsuit, the whiffs on Marbury and Curry finally will make owner James Dolan realize that change is necessary. No other deals or draft decisions need examination. Just these two. These trades can't be excused or explained. These were the big signature moves by Isiah (Thomas), trades designed to form a core and to slap a face on the franchise. Instead, these trades, in hindsight, only slapped Isiah's face."