First Cup: Friday

  • K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune: "GM John Paxson downplayed the fact Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and player personnel director Gar Forman have handled negotiations for Deng and Gordon. 'My personality is such that sometimes it's good for me to take a step back and view it a little less emotionally,' he said. 'I'm not sitting there not knowing what's going on.'"TrueHoop First Cup

  • Janis Carr of The Orange County Register: "Paul Pierce was asked by a Spanish publication whether he thought Kobe Bryant was the best player in the world. Pierce said no. The NBA Finals MVP called himself the 'best player.' ... On Thursday, Pierce stood by his comments, saying he is entitled to his opinion. 'That's what I said. I am a confident player and a lot of people might look at it like 'Oh, another cocky attitude,' but I don't look at it that way,' said Pierce. ... Pierce said his comments were not a knock on Bryant, who was named the league MVP. Nor was he saying that Bryant was conceited and he was confident. 'You could have asked me about any other player and I would have given you the same answer,' Pierce said."

  • Evan Weiner of the New York Sun: "That is why NBA players are participating in the Beijing Games. The gold medal opportunity is nice -- but there is real gold in merchandising opportunities for the league, teams, and players."

  • Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News: "The man who pretty much cost Rick Carlisle his last NBA head coaching job is headed to Texas. And, believe it or not, Carlisle wishes he was joining him here in Dallas. Instead, Ron Artest, the highly talented but controversial forward, joins Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady in Houston. It's a move that establishes the Rockets as very real NBA title contenders. It also establishes the Mavericks as the third-best team in Texas."

  • Fran Blinebury of the Houston Chronicle: "Yao did not criticize Artest. He specifically said that he did not intend to imply that Artest was not welcome. He said that Artest was a talented, very good player and could help the team. But unless you've been living under a rock for the past decade, you have to know that Artest has also had his issues. Most notably the riot at the Palace of Auburn Hills where he was at the center. All Yao said was that he and Luis Scola shared their excitement and their concerns and said that he wanted to talk to Artest to make sure everybody was on the same page. Now they've talked. Now maybe everybody who had their shorts in a knot can relax."

  • Michael Wallace of The Miami Herald: "If you're following the free agency saga of point guard Jason Williams, here's an update. Amid an ESPN report that J-Will is in serious discussions with Israeli-league team Tel Aviv, just received confirmation that there is indeed interest, but that a deal is not imminent. In fact, we've been told by two sources that J-Will essentially remains in a holding pattern with a couple of potential suitors. A few days ago, we were told not to completely rule out a possible return to the Heat at a deeply, deeply, deeply discounted rate from the $8.9 million he earned last season."

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: "Brevin Knight is mostly dreaming of winning in Salt Lake City. Winning in the postseason would be all the better for the well-traveled 11-year NBA veteran, who the Jazz received in exchange for third-string point guard Jason Hart. 'The last couple of years I've been wanting to get into a winning organization,' he said Thursday at the Jazz training facility, '(and) be with a team that I felt was going to continue to win, and this organization has been that way over the years, so I was excited (to get traded).' In other words, he'll happily trade Hollywood for the playoffs. Makes sense, too, considering he endured a 23-59 season with the Clippers in 2007-08 and has played in all of nine playoff games during stints with eight other teams over 11 seasons."

  • Sam Amick of the Sacramento Bee: "Bobby Jackson said he is atypical of the player entering the final years of his contract who -- a la Artest -- would play with the partial purpose of landing a larger contract the following summer. He hopes to play three more seasons and knows he'll likely share minutes with Bobby Brown behind starter Beno Udrih. But Jackson said he wasn't overly concerned about his pay. 'My thing is not to come in and look at it like I'm furthering my career,' Jackson said. 'I'm probably going to play two years (beyond next season) depending on how my body feels, but just probably at the minimum. I've made my money. I just want to be around, get two more years in, then learn the coaching aspect of it and try to be a coach after two years.' The Kings, Jackson said, fully support those aspirations."

  • Eric Koreen of the National Post: "Since he found out he was getting a new teammate, Jamario Moon has been looking forward to his second training camp, even if this year's location, Ottawa, is somewhat less exotic than Italy and Spain. 'I don't think too many people really look forward to going to training camp,' Moon said yesterday in Mississauga, where he and Anthony Parker were participating in the Direct Energy Driveway Challenge, a glorified pick-up game at the house of a contest winner. 'But when we made the acquisition [of ] Jermaine O'Neal, I was like, 'Man, I can't wait to go to training camp.' Training camp last year was pretty brutal, but I'm looking forward to going to get beat up this training camp.'"

  • John Denton of Florida Today: "An Orlando Magic franchise mostly ignored nationally last season as it blossomed into an NBA powerhouse is about to get a major shot of national exposure. The Magic have been chosen by the NBA to host the New Orleans Hornets and star point guard Chris Paul on Christmas Day, FLORIDA TODAY has learned. The game likely will take place at night and will be televised nationally by either ABC, ESPN or TNT. The NBA won't officially release its 2008-09 schedule until next week and the Magic would not officially confirm or deny the Christmas Day game. But an NBA source revealed that the Magic and Hornets would be a part of the NBA's package of games on Christmas."