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thebac
01-08-2004, 06:24 PM
Trade chatter turning into frenzy

Another week, another blockbuster. That date is Jan. 8th, five weeks away from the Feb. 19th trade deadline, and the NBA has already seen more trades this season than in the entire 2002-03 season.

Four weeks ago, NBA GMs were predicting to Insider that this may be the busiest trading season ever, and so far their predictions have been dead on. For those of you keeping track at home, 29 players, four first-round picks, five second-round picks and the draft rights to Milos Vujanic have been traded since the start of the season.

Stephon Marbury, Penny Hardaway, Antonio McDyess, Jalen Rose, Donyell Marshall, Antonio Davis, Jerome Williams, Bonzi Wells, Charlie Ward, Howard Eisley, Ricky Davis, Chris Mihm, Eric Williams, Tony Battie, Kedrick Brown, Clarence Weatherspoon, Moochie Norris, Wesley Person, Jahidi White, Brevin Knight, Maciej Lampe, Donnell Harvey, Monty Williams, Robert Archibald (twice), Mengke Bateer, Rick Brunson, Michael Stewart, Chris Jefferies and Lonny Baxter have already changed their address this season. You get the feeling, from the amount of chatter around the league, that this list could double by the trade deadline.

"I think we've just scratched the surface," one Eastern Conference GM told Insider. "As we get closer to the trade deadline, teams will start pulling the plug on the season and then you'll really see a flood of guys available. I've never seen this many trades this early in the season. Believe it or not the trade talk has actually increased this week, not decreased. A lot of people are interested in making moves. Now it's just about sifting through the offers and finding the best fit."

Sifting through the voluminous amount of rumors isn't easy. Rumors have a way of taking on a life of their own, and as they make their way through the NBA network, it's tough to separate the fact from the fiction. Is it just a matter of time before the NBA adopts its own trade threat warning system. If it did, the level would've been "Orange" on Wednesday as a number of NBA officials became convinced that Isiah Thomas was ready to strike again.

On Wednesday, for example, three different GMs were convinced that another Knicks blockbuster would go down by the end of the day. Two believed Keith Van Horn, Frank Williams and Michael Sweetney were on the verge of being shipped to Portland for Rasheed Wallace. Another was "confident" that the same trio would be sent to Cleveland for Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Darius Miles.

All were relying on good sources, but none had direct knowledge of the talks. Nothing happened. That's not to say that it won't happen today or next week. Given Isiah's track record so far, there's a good chance either of these trades could go down. Given the amount of chatter and the speed by which the rumors were spreading, maybe someone came in with a better offer.

With that said, here's a look around the league at the chatter. Take all of it with a certain grain of salt, unless noted, and remember that at this point of the season, everything remains remarkably fluid.


Will the Knicks pull off another blockbuster?

As I just wrote above, the feeling on Wednesday was that Thomas was looking to make one major trade. Both scenarios (Portland and Cleveland) are still just rumors in my mind. But they're interesting and more plausible than they first appeared on paper.
Rasheed Wallace
Small Forward
Portland Trail Blazers
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
32 17.0 6.8 2.8 .429 .726



Upon taking over the Knicks, Thomas set out to get two marquee players -- Marbury and Wallace. Thomas used up most of his trade bait to get Marbury, leading many to believe that Wallace was unattainable. Given the latest talk, that may be misguided. While Blazers GM John Nash has been adamant in the past about not taking back long-term deals for Wallace, a trade with the Knicks may make some sense for Portland if the Knicks are willing to take back Ruben Patterson as part of the trade.

If the Knicks sent Van Horn, Williams, Sweetney, Michael Doleac and Dikembe Mutombo to Portland for Wallace and Patterson, the Blazers' cap number would rise from a projected $42 million next year to around $55 million. That's a pretty big increase to swallow, but if they can last one more year while they wait for Dale Davis and Damon Stoudamire to come off the books, the number gets much more palatable.

Right now the Blazers have only $18.3 million in committed salaries for the 2005-06 season. That number would go to $27.6, still far enough under the cap to make a big free-agent signing and re-sign Zach Randolph. In 2006-07, their number would actually go down from a projected $18.5 million to $11.5 million because Van Horn comes off the books before Patterson.

The bottom line for the Blazers is that, at $42 million, they won't have enough cash to get a marquee free agent to replace Wallace anyway. Why not take on a good small forward (whose talents are better suited to the West Coast style anyway) and a bright young point guard, clean up the image of the team by dumping Wallace and Patterson without sacrificing wins (Van Horn, Williams, Sweetney and Mutombo should at least be able to duplicate the wins Wallace and Patterson are giving the team), and still have enough cap room in 2005 to start reloading the team?

For the Knicks, the addition of Wallace, a superstar talent with a NDBL head, would be another major coup. Thomas believes he can get through to Wallace, and combined with Marbury, Houston and Kurt Thomas, the Knicks would have enough talent to compete with any team in the East.

The other scenario with Cleveland (Van Horn, Williams and Sweetney for Ilgauskas and Miles) makes plenty of sense for the Cavs, though you wonder if Thomas would just be better off swapping Williams and Othella Harrington for Miles (sources claim the Thomas turned that deal down on Tuesday). Ilgauskas, paired with Mutombo, would give the Knicks their best low-post scoring option since Patrick Ewing. Concerns about Ilgauskas' feet, poor defense and lumbering approach are issues. But the ability to platoon Ilgauskas, Mutombo and Thomas should give Don Chaney one of the better front lines in the league. Thomas has also been a fan of Miles for a while. He gives them that long, athletic presence at forward that Thomas has been craving.

Why would the Cavs do it? They're into surrounding LeBron James with the "right" players and this trade makes some sense. Van Horn's ability to play multiple positions and to stretch the defense are an asset, as is his unselfish style of play. He has just one year more on his contract than Ilgauskas, and given the Cavs' current cap projections, shouldn't hinder what they're trying to do.

Williams would immediately be the best full-time point guard on the team's roster, and Sweetney gives the Cavs more muscle in the paint. Cap wise, the Cavs would actually shave about $2 million off the cap for this season. Next year, the presence of Van Horn, Sweetney and Williams would add around $3 million to the cap assuming the team lets Miles go without compensation. In 2005-06, the Cavs would still be looking at roughly $10 million in cap room, even with Van Horn on board. The deal doesn't quite work as well as the Portland one, but it's still in the realm of possibility.


Artest, Harrington not on the block:

The other team that can't seem to get out of the rumor mill is the Pacers. Since Ron Artest's latest melt down, rumors have been running rampant that Larry Bird is growing impatient and that Artest could be gone.
Ron Artest
Small Forward
Indiana Pacers
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
35 17.7 5.3 3.8 .446 .725



Nonsense, according to two league source who insist that the team isn't moving Artest. "He's not available at all," one source told Insider. "We tried to get him and were shot down immediately." That jives with what Pacers sources have been telling Insider for weeks. Artest isn't going anywhere.

The other rumor, with questionable origins, had the Pacers shopping Al Harrington after he began to question his role with the team. "Never happened," according to a source close to Harrington. "The Pacers have made it really clear what his role is with the team and he's happy there." That, too jives, with what Pacers president Donnie Walsh has said concerning Harrington.

While acknowledging that no one is untouchable (though Jermaine O'Neal is close) the Pacers' success this year, and the role Harrington has played in it, is pushing him further and further away from the trading block. So talk that Harrington, along with Scot Pollard, could be heading to Miami or Seattle, is just that, talk. "It would take an incredible offer to pry away Al," Walsh told Insider recently. "Incredible. He's too important to the team."


Jamal Crawford back on the block?

The strong play of rookie point guard Kirk Hinrich has put Jamal Crawford's future with the Bulls in doubt. Scott Skiles doesn't like Crawford's shot selection, nor his porous defense. The fact that he'll be demanding a huge contract next summer when he hits restricted free agency doesn't help his cause.
Jamal Crawford
Shooting Guard
Chicago Bulls
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
33 16.7 3.2 5.5 .398 .842



Crawford's big plus is his ability to play the point, but Skiles seems determined to keep Hinrich as the one running the whole show. Word is that Bulls GM John Paxson wants a more prototypical two guard and someone to take Eddie Robinson off his hands in return for Crawford.

There will be plenty of teams interested in Crawford, but the team that seems to have the best fit would appears to be Miami. If the Bulls are willing to swallow Eddie Jones' contract, a swap of Crawford, Robinson and Marcus Fizer for Jones and Caron Butler works under the cap. A Crawford-Dwyane Wade backcourt would be awesome for Miami, allow Lamar Odom to move back to his natural position at the three and even clears a little cap for next summer. The key to the deal would be Butler's health. He's struggled mightily to come back from knee surgery this summer, lowering his value considerably.


Terry wants out of Atlanta:

The Hawks are 10-26 and have shown zero signs that they're going to turn around the season. Coach Terry Stotts has had run-ins with players, and point guard Jason Terry, who watched the Hawks match a three-year offer sheet from the Jazz in the offseason, is now openly complaining about the team and calling for a change.
Jason Terry
Point Guard
Atlanta Hawks
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
35 16.2 4.0 5.0 .435 .822



"Day after day, week after week, game after game and it's the same ending result --- there's got to be a change," Terry told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "I'm not demanding no trade. At the same time, if it can help the situation . . . I'm tired of losing, man. I'm a competitor, man. And I know a lot of guys on this team want to win, but we don't have that winning vibe."

"This is the most frustrating year," he said. "I've been here five years, [and] everybody needs a change at some point. . . . At this point, something has got to go. Something has got to happen."

Terry was especially peeved at the suggestion, from an assistant, that he wasn't playing hard. Terry later said that he still wanted to be in Atlanta, but the body language says anything but that. The problem for the Hawks is that Terry is a base-year compensation player, making him very difficult to trade. He'd have to be traded to either a team under the cap (like the Clippers or Nuggets) or be included in a much larger trade to make up the salary differences. The Jazz have the room under the cap to absorb Terry's deal, but he can't be traded to Utah until next summer.

Several GMs have told Insider that GM Billy Knight's hands are still tied in Atlanta. He wants to make a deal, but until all of the ownership issues are solved with the the team, a trade is difficult. The irony is that for such a bad team, the Hawks have plenty of tradable players. There is interest in Terry, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Theo Ratliff and first-round pick Boris Diaw. Even second-round pick Travis Hansen has drawn some inquiries.

While many GMs expect the Hawks to hold a fire sale before the trade deadline, many thought the same thing would happen last season and it didn't. It may be summer before everything starts getting cleaned up in Atlanta.


Baker one strike away from getting cut?

Vin Baker's latest relapse with alcohol was revealed when the Celtics suspended the troubled forward on Tuesday. By Wednesday, details about Baker's agreement with the Celtics were starting to emerge and it doesn't look good for Baker. According to several sources with knowledge of the agreement and an excellent Boston Globe report, Baker, the Celtics and the Players Association signed off on an amendment to Baker's contract that essentially gives him three strikes before the Celtics can step in and terminate his contract.
Baker must be tested daily for the consumption of alcohol by an independent doctor jointly selected by the two sides. Baker's recent slip-up was his second strike, according to the Globe. A third strike could result in the termination of his contract, which, after this season, still has two years and $30.375 million to go.

While the Celtics are saying publicly that they are all pulling for Baker and haven't seriously discussed voiding his contract, given the nature of Baker's illness, another relapse isn't out of the question. As tragic of an event as that would be for Baker, who was the feel good story of the year at the start of the season, dumping Vin from the books would give the Celtics the financial flexibility team president Danny Ainge has been craving.

If the Celtics were to get him off the books before the start of the 2004 season, Boston's payroll would drop to roughly $40 million, or five million under the projected cap for 2004. Had the Celtics not traded for Ricky Davis, they would've been closer to nine million under. While not enough to sign a marquee free agent, the salary flexibility would give Ainge the ability to pursue good free agents, something the team has been unable to do the past few seasons.


Peep Show

Houston Rockets: Yao Ming may not be able to get much taller. But he can get a bit meaner. "He just needs to become more aggressive," said Patrick Ewing in the New York Times. "Right now, he's too gentle. He's like a gentle giant. He's got to be more physical and aggressive. Instead of waiting, he needs to just take it. Show his dominance. Use his size, and just take it." But at least one unnamed official wondered if that was even possible. "If he ever gets a mean streak in him, look out," said an Eastern Conference official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "But his culture and his background might not allow that. If he can get that, wow! If he gets that mean streak, he's fighting Shaq in there."

Los Angeles Clippers: Head coach Mike Dunleavy is sorry that Corey Maggette received a two-game suspension for his altercation with Net forward Kenyon Martin. But is he sorry that Maggette got in the altercation in the first place? "No, hell no," Dunleavy said in the Philadelphia Daily News. "I think the rule is one that needs to be reviewed. [Maggette] can't not go back at Martin. As much as I don't want to lose a player, I couldn't tell a guy to do something I wouldn't do. If he fired at me like that, I would've done the same thing. It might not be the right thing to do...If he gets you and [you don't respond], you've got every other guy in the league looking maybe to take a shot at you. [Maggette] said, 'I feel bad, I'm letting you down.' I said I was surprised it was two games. I understand what happened. I'm certainly not holding it against him."

Detroit Pistons: The second pick of the latest draft has finally found a role with his new team. "I worry about Darko," Larry Brown said in the Detroit Free Press. "Sometimes they're not all Carmelo (Anthony), or LeBron (James) or Kevin Garnett. It's tough for me. I'll give you an example: Throughout my career, late in a game, if we got a lead or were down, I've always taken a rookie and put him in the game -- 20 seconds, 30 seconds -- so Allen Iverson or David Thompson or Eric Snow get a hand. We're up six points with a minute to go and you know the game isn't over, but people are yelling, 'Put in Darko.' I put in Darko the other night to get Ben (Wallace) a hand, because he's the only rookie on my bench. I try to get him in with 1:30 left, and he took so long to take his stuff off I was going to pull him back. But because I wanted to get Ben a hand, and the way he reacted, I put him in. I know people thought I was trying to embarrass him." And of that wasn't enough, Brown made it even clearer. "Especially with the success Carmelo has had, and LeBron has had, and Wade and Ford and Bosh. Even if we were a lottery team and he was playing, he wouldn't have the success these guys are having. That's not a knock on him. It's simply because he's a lot younger. . . . He didn't play a lot in Europe. He didn't play a lot of minutes for his team. That's what people don't understand -- is that he wasn't in the elite European League, either."

Denver Nuggets: The doctors said Jon Barry would be out until Feb. 10 because of shoulder surgery, but he obviously didn't want to hear it. "I don't think so, but I've got to get clearance. As soon as I get clearance. ... It feels great. I have not had the pain that I had for two months," he said in the Denver Post. "I don't know how fast. ... But the way I feel now, it won't be six weeks, barring any setbacks. The team has been struggling a little bit, and I want to get out there and help. Obviously, we're continuing to win. And that hurts, too, sitting to watch when things go well."

sike
01-08-2004, 06:34 PM
so very long....