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First Cup: Friday

2/21/2014
  • Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star: For most of his nine years with the Indiana Pacers, small forward Danny Granger was the face of the franchise. And in a fitting final act as Pacer, Granger once again helped Indiana improve. On Thursday, the Pacers traded Granger, 30, and a 2015 second-round draft pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for versatile small forward Evan Turner and center Lavoy Allen. "It's a day of mixed emotions," said a source close to Granger. "He's obviously excited for the next chapter of his career and showing the league how ready he is. But at the same time, this organization has been very important to him for years and he's made a ton of friends and so obviously saying bye to those close friends and teammates and others within the organization is going to be tough for he and his wife (Dionna)." Only five players have spent more time with the Pacers. The move to deal Granger, who has recently had to bounce back from major knee surgery, indicates that conference-leading Indiana is all-in for a championship. But the deal also gives the team some flexibility if it can't afford to re-sign Lance Stephenson.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Just when you thought this was a fair fight, that the Thunder could hang, finally, with the Heat, LeBron James and his crew come to town and serve up a reminder that, despite a 17-point home loss in late January, not much has changed. This is still a nightmare matchup for the Thunder. Beyond that, what do we really know after the two-game series. The answer, in my eyes, is not much. Russell Westbrook played just 24 minutes, all coming tonight in his long-awaited return. The Thunder played over its head in the first meeting, shooting an unsustainable 16-for-27 clip from 3-point range, before coming out tonight and throwing up bricks to the tune of 2-for-20 from deep. Turnovers told the story, too. Miami turned it over 21 times in round one. OKC turned it over 20 times in round two. So in essence, the Thunder won it played a great game and the Heat played a terrible game, and the Heat won when they played a terrific game and the Thunder played a lousy one. I think it’s really that simple.

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: When it was over, after the Miami Heat had avenged their earlier blowout home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder with this 103-81 victory Thursday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena, LeBron James sat alone, silent, with a towel draped over his head, cotton plugs in each nostril. The Heat forward already had passed the concussion tests, X-rays later at home to determine whether his nose was broken or merely bruised by an inadvertent fourth-quarter blow across the face from Thunder forward Serge Ibaka. Around him there was yelping, cheering, a sharp juxtaposition as their leader sat silently, unavailable for comment. Their leader had carried them to the verge of something special; his teammates finished the task after he departed midway through the fourth quarter. Except for one face, it all felt particularly good, especially amid the sentiment that their leader's good looks might have been the only thing impacted. "He has a swollen nose now and it's bleeding," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We'll evaluate when we get back to Miami. But it's sore. He took a shot. He got hit pretty good though in the nose."

  • Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post: The spin will come from all directions, but no matter how the Nuggets' trades Thursday are viewed, the most important thing for the team was moving Andre Miller. The Nuggets did that when they traded the veteran point guard to Washington for 7-foot forward Jan Vesely as part of a three-team deal. Denver also traded a second-round draft pick to Philadelphia. Miller was banned from being with the Nuggets after his outburst directed at first-year Denver coach Brian Shaw during a Jan. 1 game against Philadelphia. "There's always going to be issues that pop up," said Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly. "There's no villain here. Unfortunately what happened, happened. We have to have the full support of our coach. I think it's important that everyone understands that is Brian's locker room. (Miller) was out of character. He's a pro. I'm sure he's excited to move on to D.C. and help that team make a playoff push." Denver's second deal on the day of the NBA trade deadline landed point guard Aaron Brooks from Houston in exchange for shooting guard Jordan Hamilton. Getting Brooks filled the Nuggets' most pressing need.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Bucks guard O.J. Mayo and center John Henson both said forward Jeff Adrien will be a welcome addition after he was acquired along with Ramon Sessions in the trade-deadline deal with Charlotte on Thursday. "Bringing in Jeff Adrien, he'll bring that energy and physicality," Mayo said. "Not that the other guys didn't, but that's a great asset. It was good for our front office to bring him on. I think he'll help us a lot." Henson seconded the notion after going against Adrien earlier in the season. "I'm glad he's with us," Henson said. "That was one of the tougher guys to box out in this league, in my opinion. I'm glad he's on my side."

  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: The trade deadline passed, and the Warriors' loudest statement was in the one they didn't make. General manager Bob Myers and his staff, by not making a major move, announced their belief in the core of this bunch. Even though potential difference-makers were for the taking -- such as Philadelphia's young stud Evan Turner -- the Warriors opted against major shake-up. They stiff-armed offers for Harrison Barnes, even though it might have been a way to get out of David Lee's burdensome contract. They turned down calls for Klay Thompson, laughed off overtures about Stephen Curry. They are sticking with their core. This is a smart move because their core is as complete as any in the league. They should be able to meet expectations despite their obvious flaws. The Warriors' top six players -- Curry, Lee, Thompson, Barnes, Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut -- stack up well against any other in the league. This sextet has its holes and concerns, but it also has multiple strengths that make it formidable.

  • Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle: When time was up for the NBA trade deadline on Thursday, the Rockets had only made one move, and it was one that came as a bit of a surprise. The Rockets traded third-string point guard Aaron Brooks to the Denver Nuggets for forward Jordan Hamilton. Trade speculation had swirled for weeks before the deadline about the Rockets’ moving backup center Omer Asik, who hasn’t been happy about becoming a backup to Dwight Howard. There were other rumors as well, but at the end of the day, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said the team wasn’t looking to make a lot of changes. “We feel like as a team, we are coming together at the right time. We had a lot of opportunities to mix things up but we feel like we have a core with stars in Dwight (Howard) and James (Harden) and we have a group around them that we feel good about and we feel like when you have that core, you want to keep the guys around them,” Morey said. Because Brooks was on a one-year deal with the Rockets, he had to approve the trade. “It was a tough decision — an opportunity to play, that was the main factor,” Brooks said Thursday.

  • Scott Fowler of The Charlotte Observer: I would grade the trade as a solid “B” for what it is – an exchange of role players. It has the potential to reach “A-minus” range if Neal can get it going from deep. Ridnour and Sessions are close to even as backup point guards – although Sessions is a bit better. That makes Neal the wild card who will make this deal either a good one for Charlotte or simply an OK one. “We think we’ve improved without ruining our financial flexibility,” Bobcats general manager Rich Cho said. ... In general, the Bobcats have gotten a lot more out of their midseason trades (acquiring Stephen Jackson, Josh McRoberts) than they have with a lot of their lottery draft picks (Sean May, Adam Morrison). This sort of move has become their forte. There is not much room for standing still in the NBA. At the free-throw line, yes. Other than that, no. I don’t believe the Bobcats made this move simply for the sake of making one. I think they are trying to get a little bit better. And I think they just did.