bschmitz@tribune.com

Howard is the big prize

K.C. Johnson

Chicago Tribune

The Magic, for the deal they didn't have to do. Many expected them to be forced into dealing Dwight Howard. Instead, management held its ground and Howard, after as much back-and-forth as Brett Favre, decided to opt in for next season.

That instantly stamps the Magic as a team that has a chance to exit the Eastern Conference. (And then the Magic get to go through all this silliness again at next year's deadline!)

Another team that helped itself is the Clippers, who needed more perimeter scoring since Chauncey Billups went down. After missing out on J.R. Smith, the Clippers landed Nick Young, who can be immature at times but definitely can score. And the Clippers got him for very little as well.

kcjohnson@tribune.com

Jackson can be difference

Barry Stavro

Los Angeles Times

Stephen Jackson can't stay still: eight teams in 12 seasons, and now a second stop in San Antonio after the Spurs swapped Richard Jefferson for him Thursday. Never an All-Star, the 6-8 Jackson thinks he is one and plays with attitude. He's averaged 16 points a game in his career. And one of the dirty secrets in the NBA is that most players actually don't want the ball at the end of a game — but Jackson does, and he can still put it in the hole.

At 33, Jackson is also desperate for another contract and he'll play his tail off for Gregg Popovich. Pop and Jax also won a title together in 2003. So look out Thunder and Lakers fans — the Spurs might be the last team standing in the Western Conference.

bstavro@tribune.com