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02-19-2004, 01:02 PM
NBA Insider Chad Ford will be chatting live on ESPN.com today at 1 p.m. ET about the NBA trade deadline. Click here to submit your questions: http://proxy.espn.go.com/chat/chatESPN?event_id=4819

Can Isiah pull off another blockbuster?

This just in. . .

Jerry West refused to confirm or deny the exisitence of the "so-called trade deadline."

Danny Ainge was just sent a thank you note by Nextel Wireless.

Juwan Howard, who has been traded in two of the last three trade deadlines, has gone into hiding. He was last seen with Chris Gatling, the patron saint of trade deadline deals.

League sources say the Knicks are offering the Hawks an autographed photo of Isiah for Rasheed Wallace.

Allen Iverson is already feeling disrespected by the 28 teams that haven't traded for him. "I'm not going to put up with it," Iverson said. "Our relationship is over."

The Pacers promise to include Larry Bird in any Austin Croshere trade.

Donald Sterling just sold his Clippers season tickets.

Mark Cuban claimed there was a 99.9 percent chance that the Mavs won't make a trade unless they're offered Erick Dampier, Rasheed Wallace, Brian Grant, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Kurt Thomas or anyone else for that matter.

It's the trade deadline, baby. The crap coming from teams smells a lot like the Magic and the Hawks. The truth, as the Knicks have reminded us all season, is that good trades can still happen in the NBA. And sometime after the 3 p.m. ET deadline, we can all go to bed. . .

Until then, ESPN Insider breaks down what is and isn't going down as we head into the homestretch. . .

Nothing like waiting until the last minute

The flurry of trades already this season has thrown conventional wisdom out the window. Normally, all of the really good deals don't happen until today. The thinking behind the theory is that as teams get more desperate and understand what offers are real and what aren't, the offers get sweeter.

That may not be true this year. With so many blockbuster trades already going down, many of the would-be players at the deadline look a little weary. Offers that a team could've snagged a month ago are off the table because folks have moved on and made their trade.

As of late, late Wednesday night, no trades were imminent. Several GMs were up late, still working the phones but, to my knowledge, nothing got done. That doesn't mean that talks won't heat up again this morning as teams slog toward the deadline, but it does mean that all of the really big stuff may be over.

Here's what we do know.

If Allen Iverson is traded, it will most likely happen this summer.

The chances of superstars like Allen Iverson, Steve Francis or Kobe Bryant getting traded are slim to none at this point. If they need to be moved (and the Philly media is already pushing AI out the door), then the summer is probably a better time to weigh the offers.

It's also iffy that we'll see Rasheed Wallace moved at this point. While Hawks GM Billy Knight is claiming that he's narrowed the field down to two teams, the three teams in the running for Rasheed -- the Pistons, Knicks and Mavs -- it's not clear that any of those teams have what it takes to get a deal done now. The Pistons have the best chance, but as Insider first reported here on both Tuesday and Wednesday, they won't pull the trigger until they find someone to take either Chuck Atkins or Corliss Williamson off their hands.
As of Wednesday, the Pistons were still talking with the Magic, Celtics and Bulls about deals for either Atkins or Williamson, but the hold-up is that those teams want the same first-round pick (the one Milwaukee owes Detroit) that the Hawks do to part with Wallace.

Joe Dumars has a magical way of pulling of miraculous deals, but it's hard to see how they get both of them done together. If they can't, the team's priority, as we've been writing for weeks, is clearing cap space for Mehmet Okur.

The other suitors have a bigger problem. King wants expiring contracts, draft picks and young prospects, and Dallas and New York have little of either. Unless they can get a third or fourth team to take some of their leftovers (Utah perhaps?) it's tough to believe that the Hawks will pull the trigger.

What happens if the Hawks don't trade Wallace? Two things could happen. The team could decide it doesn't want the distraction and waive Wallace. After Wallace cleared waivers he'd be free to join another team, which would likely be the Knicks. The other solution is to hold onto him and try to work out a sign-and-trade deal this summer that gets Wallace more money than he'd get on the open market.

The other prize that seems to be highly coveted is the Warriors' Erick Dampier. The team is trying to package Dampier with Nick Van Exel in an effort to get cap relief. The Knicks have the most interest in Damp, but again, can't offer the Warriors the relief they're looking for.
Reports out of New York had the team offering Kurt Thomas, Dikembe Mutombo and Shandon Anderson for Van Exel and Dampier. I can't imagine the Warriors biting on that deal . . . then again, we are talking about the Warriors.

Memphis has been after Dampier since this summer, but as Insider has already reported, the asking price is awfully high for Jerry West's blood. As of Wednesday night, the Warriors were asking for Stromile Swift, Jake Tsakalidis and Shane Battier for Dampier. That's a lot of young blood for a center with creaky knees.

Detroit's interest in Dampier is more passing. The Pistons would try to use him in a larger three-way deal to get more cap space. Something could be worked out with Memphis here, but it would still likely cost the Grizzlies Swift and Battier at the very least.

Despite reports to the contrary, a source in Indiana claims that the Pacers are not pursuing Dampier.

Hot Zones

If none of the big, blockbuster deals are likely to happen, what is going down? Right now you see a bunch of smaller names being floated as teams wrestle for cap space, or the missing piece in a playoff run.

Insider takes a look at several trade "hot zones" that we'll be watching closer as the deadline gets nearer.

Knicks: Even if the team can't land Rasheed or Dampier, we expect Isiah to make one more move before the deadline. Teams like Kurt Thomas, Frank Williams and to a lesser extent, Michael Sweetney. Isiah has even received inquiries on Penny Hardaway and Shandon Anderson. Isiah is always thinking out of the box and he's still not happy with his team.

Sonics: GM Rick Sund sounds like a guy willing to make a deal. As reported on Insider on Wednesday, the team has talked to the Raptors about a Brent Barry-and-Vladimir Radmanovic-for-Donyell Marshall-and-Morris Peterson swap. However, as of late Wednesday, it sounded like those talks have stalled. The Sonics have also discussed a swap with the Grizzlies that would land them Stromile Swift and Jake Tsakalidis for Jerome James and Vladimir Radmanovic. However, the Sonics are insisting that Shane Battier be included in the deal and the Grizzlies are balking.
The Sonics are still in the running for Juwan Howard as well, though that deal appears to be less of a priority. The Celtics have made a hard charge at Barry, but what they're offering, expiring contracts, doesn't really resonate considering Barry comes off the books anyway. If the Celtics were willing to offer Chris Mills and Chris Mihm for Barry and a salary drain like Calvin Booth, Seattle might just get interested.

Pistons: Joe Dumars is motivated to get either Chucky Atkins or Corliss Williamson off the books. Armed with two first-round picks, you've got to believe the Pistons will come up with something.

Celtics: Danny Ainge is working the phones, and he has two coveted pieces to offer -- the expiring contracts of Mills and Mihm. A league source claimed on Wednesday that the team was considering a couple of offers that would land it another point guard and a first-round pick. There is also talk about the Celtics swapping Mills for Malik Rose. It sounds like the talk about Juwan Howard coming there is pretty much dead.

Blazers: The benching of Zach Randolph and fining of Qyntel Woods on Wednesday raised a few eyebrows around the league. Shareef Abdur Rahim got the start over Randolph after Randolph skipped practice. Randolph responded by spinning a ball into Cheeks. Cheeks got in a heated arguement with Randolph during a team huddle and was overheard saying the phrase "throw the ball at me like that". With Abdur Rahim now on board and Randolph not taking the change well, could Randolph be on the way out? Or alternatively, could the Blazers be interested in the offer the Sonics made to Atlanta. Would the Blazers be interested in Brent Barry, Vladimir Radmanovic, Jerome James and Ronald Murray for Rahim. Remember, a player can be traded again as long as they aren't packaged with another player going out. This deal works straight up for Rahim.

The team would still like to move Dale Davis, Ruben Patterson and even Damon Stoudamire. The thinking early on was that Davis would be pretty easy to move, but the Blazers have hit stumbling blocks. Bucks GM Larry Harris said that he will not trade Toni Kukoc for Davis. The Blazers were also trying to get involved in talks with the Sonics and Raptors, but haven't gotten anywhere there either.
The only team with interest in Patterson appears to be the Knicks, who have discussed a Shandon Anderson-for-Patterson swap. Stoudamire will be easier to move next year, though you wonder whether he might not be a bad fit on a team like Boston if the Blazers were to send out a No. 1 and be willing to swallow the last year of Yogi Stewart's deal.

Magic: Juwan Howard, Gordan Giricek, Steven Hunter . . . actually anyone not named Tracy McGrady is on the block. Lots of teams are interested in Giricek, who also happens to be in the last year of his deal, but after that things begin to wane just a little bit.

Sixers: Talking about trading Allen Iverson has dominated the air waves, but don't expect that to happen until the summer. More likely are trades that send Eric Snow or Aaron McKie packing. The problem is that their proposed replacements, including Juwan Howard, Malik Rose and Jerome Williams, don't really sound like huge upgrades.

Bulls: By most accounts Eddy Curry, Tyson Chandler and even Jamal Crawford are safe. The center of attention is on Marcus Fizer, whose contract expires this summer. The Pistons, Magic and Sonics have all been mentioned as possible destinations.
Raptors: They've been busy trying to get something down. It seems like they've cooled to the possibility of landing Brent Barry and Vladimir Radmanovic or, in the alternative, Dale Davis and Radmanovic as part of a three way trade. The Knicks offered the Raptors Dikembe Mutombo on Wednesday if they were willing to be part of a three way deal that lands New York Rasheed Wallace. It's still unclear why the Raptors would want to help the Knicks do anything. The Suns are trying to get the Raptors to take Jahidi White off their hands and may be willing to give them a first round pick to do it. In every case, the expiring contracts of Michael Curry, Michael Bradley and Morris Peterson appear to be the bait.

Clippers: The team has been trying to get someone to take Melvin Ely off their hands so that they can get further under the cap to make a run at Kobe Bryant. Point guard Keyon Dooling is also available. Talks with the Bulls seems to have fizzled however.

Nuggets-Jazz: Both teams have cap space, which allows them to facilitate trades. The Nuggets have received a lot of interest in Marcus Camby and Rodney White, but have been reluctant to pull the trigger unless something blows them away.

The Jazz are trying to use their roughly seven million in cap space and the expiring contract of Keon Clark to land themselves another draft pick or prospect. The team has shown some interest in the Magic's Gordan Giricek. The Suns (for Tom Gugliotta and first-rounder) right now seem like the only legit contender. though the Jazz have the power to get involved in potentially any deal out there.

Around the League

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said he's actually received a few trade proposals that include Kobe Bryant. Here's his response. "Teams fish around," Kupchak told the L.A. Daily News. "My response is, 'No, we're not'. We're not going to break up the team. I wouldn't share any conversations I've had, but we have not received an influx of calls based on the perception that we're trying to move (Bryant) or that we would move him. And to me, that just verifies our position -- that why would you do that? Teams know we wouldn't do it."

The Hawks waived Michael Doleac on Wednesday. The speculation has been that Doleac, if he clears waivers, will return to the Knicks. But he may not clear waivers. Two teams with room enough under the cap to assume his contract, the Nuggets and Jazz, both have interest in the center and may claim him.

The war over the termination of Vin Baker's contract, which happened on Wednesday, is about to get ugly. The Players Association is in the process of filing a grievance and both the NBA and NBPA are digging in for a fight. Both sides claim that they're confident that they'll prevail.
"We were advised we could move to terminate this player a year ago, but chose to give him what has amounted to a year of additional chances," owner Wyc Grousbeck told the Boston Globe

NBPA spokesman Dan Wasserman had a different view. "With regard to the termination of a guaranteed contract, it doesn't matter if it's Vin Baker or any other player," said Wasserman. "The Players Association will contest this as aggressively and vigorously as possible. We expect to prevail as we have in other termination cases like this, such as those involving Latrell Sprewell and Nate Huffman."

The issue is whether Baker's alcoholism prevented him from performing under the terms of the uniform players contract. The Celtics maintain that when a doctor failed to clear Baker for 10 consecutive games, that he had run out of chances and could no longer fulfill his part of the contract. The NBPA disagrees. Baker's agent, Aaron Goodwin, is claiming that a number of teams have interest in Baker and are lining up to sign him. If Baker was really unable to perform, why are so many teams interested in re-signing him?

What both sides are really fighting about here is precedent. The league would love to establish a precedent for terminating guaranteed contracts when a player, because of substance abuse or lack of conditioning, makes himself unable to play. The NBPA obviously wants this nipped in the bud and claims that what the Celtics and league are trying to do is find a way to circumvent the guaranteed provisions of the CBA.

All of this mess would be less sticky if teams weren't tripping over themselves to sign up Baker for cheap. You have to believe that Ainge and Grousbek are furious that teams aren't lining up in support of them.

"It's unbelievable," one league source told Insider. "No one should touch this guy. It send every bad message there is. We should be lining up behind the Celtics here, but greed always gets in the way. Look at Eddie Griffin. We'll always take big risks for talent. But for Vin? I'm not sure the talent is even there anymore. If a team really does sign him, not only does it hurt the Celtics chances of prevailing, it hurts the league."

Rumor Central


Erick Dampier


Feb. 19 - The Knicks' pursuit of Dampier appears to be a pipe dream. The Warriors want expiring contracts for Dampier, and, again, the Knicks don't have any. They tried to package Kurt Thomas, Dikembe Mutombo and Shandon Anderson for Dampier and Nick Van Exel, but it's unlikely that the Warriors want to do that deal.
Memphis is the other team that likes Dampier. The Grizzlies pursued him hard last summer and came close to a deal, but now things are trickier. The Warriors want Stromile Swift, Shane Battier and Jake Tsakalidis in return for Damp. That may be too high of a price to pay for the Warriors.


Rasheed Wallace


Feb. 19 - The Hawks are talking to two or three teams, according to GM Billy Knight.
Pistons GM Joe Dumars confirmed on Tuesday that the Pistons have made an offer including the expiring contracts of Bob Sura, Zeljko Rebraca, Lindsey Hunter, a first-round pick and Chucky Atkins. The Hawks, however, don't want to take on the multiple years of Atkins deal. If the Pistons can swing another deal for Atkins, maybe they can get involved

The Knicks are working hand in hand with Wallace's agent, Bill Strickland, to try to get 'Sheed to New York now. The hurdle for Strickland is that the Knicks don't have the expiring contracts the Hawks are looking for. Unless the Knicks can find a third team with expiring contracts (they've tried the Raptors and Jazz) that is willing to take on all of those contracts, chances are 'Sheed stays put.

The other team is believed to be the Mavericks, but again, the have the same problems that the Knicks have because they don't own any expiring contracts.


Dikembe Mutombo


Feb. 19 - The Knicks offered Mutombo to the Raptors for several of their expiring contracts on Wednesday, but the Raptors are believed to be balking. The Knicks are trying to move Mutombo in an effort to collect contracts so that they can pursue Rasheed Wallace.


Brent Barry


Feb. 19 - Talks between the Raptors and Sonics, who were discussing a trade that would send Barry and Vladimir Radmanovic to the Raptors for Donyell Marshall and Morris Peterson on Wednesday, seem to have cooled off.
The Celtics are also showing interest in Brent Barry -- offering Chris Mills' expiring contract in return.


Juwan Howard


Feb. 19 - Whatever talks the Celtics and Magic had about Howard now appear to be dead. That puts the Wolves (for Michael Olowokandi) and the Sonics along with Gordan Giricek (for Brent Barry and Vladimir Radmanovic) among the last suitors. Utah's also a remote possibility.


Dale Davis


Feb. 19 - Bucks GM Larry Harris says he doesn't have any interest in Davis. Talks with the Raptors have also cooled. Davis' agent told the Oregonian that he has a strong feeling that his client will be moved. But where? Maybe Dallas can come up with something that makes sense.


Chucky Atkins


Feb. 19 - Atkins or Corliss Williamson have to go so that the Pistons can clear more cap room to re-sign Mehmet Okur. The Pistons have talked with the Bulls, Celtics and Magic and may be willing to give up one of their first-round picks to get something done.


Jahidi White


Feb. 19 - The Suns are trying to dump White and, according to one league source, are using Casey Jacobsen as the bait. The 6-foot-9 White, averaging just 14.5 minutes, 4.5 points and 4.6 rebounds, has one more year at $6.1 million left on his deal. Their focus has been on the Raptors, who need a big man and who might be willing to take a first-round pick to swallow his salary.

Luxury tax is unnecessary evil
By Greg Anthony

The second half of the season is starting, and there are plenty of questions left to be answered. Let's get to some of your concerns.

Nate Green, from Boston asks:
Isn't there something wrong with the league when the focus of building a team has shifted from the players to their contracts as being the key component? Nowadays, a player's current contract is far more important than looking at their skills and how they'll fit into the needs of the team. I know the NBA is a business, and needs to be treated as such, but the value of the players seems to be more in their contract than their skills. What if anything can be done about this?

A: Nate your point is well taken, but the reality is that as long as you have certain things in place (salary cap, luxury tax, and losing), this type of turnover becomes par for the course. I think the league needs to do away with the luxury tax because its intended purpose of controlling spending on salaries has also led to teams gutting their franchises and basing their decisions solely on the financial ramifications of their deals. In Atlanta's case, the Hawks are actually being paid by the other teams for essentially gutting their team.

Matthew from Missouri writes:
I took slight exception to your comments of Yao Ming regarding attitude and demeanor, though I do not totally disagree. I agree that visible toughness and durability can inspire leadership, but they're not exclusive to great leaders, even in basketball. Frankly, I'm sick of this so-called "attitude" even being thought of as relevant to a person's potential greatness and competitive spirit. I'd much rather have Yao simply be Yao, rather than another ingrateful, hypersensitive and egotistical superstar.

A: Matthew, when I speak of attitude I'm speaking of his approach to the game, his aggressiveness. There have been great players who didn't display some of the traits you mention -- Kareem, Moses, Dr. J and Tim Duncan. But their attitude in terms of aggression matched anyone they competed against. I'm speaking of Yao's passiveness. The guys I mentioned never settled for mediocrity and that is what I'm talking about. Does Yao want to be good or does he want to be great? It's not whether he rants or shows emotion, I'm speaking of his attitude toward the game and his abilities. Greatness is an attitude, a desire to not just be average, a fulfillment of potential this is what my thought of attitude was.

JHK from Austin, Tex. writes:
I just want to say I like reading your Q and A sessions a lot. What is your take on the recent Steve Francis vs. Jeff Van Gundy situation? Is the media blowing this out of proportion, or is the Franchise on his way out?

A: The issue here is more about what is happening on the court not off it. Van Gundy must figure out if Steve Francis is a point guard pure and simple and can he become one? If not, do you trade him? If I'm Jeff, I'd consider possibly moving him to the two guard if I can swing a deal that gives me a legitimate point guard to help in the development of Yao. You have to be careful because while Yao has great potential, his confidence still wanes and that means you need strong personalities around to ensure that you can ultimately compete for a championship.

Thanks again for the emails. The response has been terrific.

Peep Show

Toronto Raptors: As if losing their third game in a row wasn't bad enough, the Raptors' Chris Bosh and Vince Carter also injured their ankles during the game. Carter thinks there might by something devious going on after tussling with Bruce Bowen earlier in the game. "It's just unfortunate," said Carter in the Globe and Mail. "I was going to take the shot and I question whether it was an accident or it was on purpose, because it's not very often you see someone putting their foot right up under you like that. Nevertheless, it's unfortunate and you have to move on."

Portland Trail Blazers: Zach Randolph missed the team's shootaround and as a result was benched by head coach Maurice Cheeks for the start of the game. "I want to start; I want to play," Randolph said in the Oregonian. "But I missed the shootaround, so I had to face the consequences. It won't happen again." But the consequences may go even further now that the Blazers have another power forward in the fold in Shareef Abdur-Rahim. "As the season moves on, we'll see whether those two can co-exist on the floor, and I know they can," Cheeks said.

Los Angeles Lakers: Former Laker Nick Van Exel says the Lakers have the league exactly where they want them. "The year after I left, they got Dennis Rodman," said Van Exel in the Los Angeles Times. "I mean, it's nothing new. I just think they play well when they do things like that. When there's always controversy, that's when they're at their best. I don't think teams really like to see them when they're bickering and things like that, because they just find a way to tune in and really get focused… Every team in the league goes through things. And every team in the league patches things up, but most teams can't do it on the court… They can do that."

Golden State Warriors: Mike Dunleavy wasn't expected to start last night, but the Warriors were hoping he'd at least play. "In practice Tuesday, it didn't feel like it was getting better," Dunleavy said in the San Jose Mercury News. "I went to the trainer and he said to get it checked further… I felt all right running up and down. But when I tried to cut and those sorts of things, it didn't feel good enough… Initially, they were talking about sitting out three or four weeks. I came back in 10 days. That was probably too soon."

Orlando Magic: The Magic doesn't need new players. They need more four-letter words after beating the Jazz by 13 points last night after losing to the Bucks by 23 the night before. "The whole thing is that it shouldn't take me bad-mouthing the team to get a performance out of the guys," said Tracy McGrady in the Orlando Sentinel. "I mean, it's just ridiculous… [Tuesday night] was a nonchalant attitude about the game. Tonight, they had more pride and more focus."

Indiana Pacers: Head coach Rick Carlisle wants his players to know that it wasn't all a bad dream when the Hornets bounced them after the All-Star break. "I don't make any assumptions of anything," Carlisle said in the Indianapolis Star. "I cautioned our guys today that just because we had a game like this, you can't write it off to the break and it's out of our system. You have to take a drubbing like that seriously. You have to look closely at what happened and why we didn't compete at the level we need to compete at and make sure we do something about it."