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02-15-2003, 12:46 AM
The NBA's most wanted, er, unwanted
by Chad Ford
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NBA Rumors: Are 76ers after Foyle and Fortson?

I have an inbox full of e-mails that start something like this: "What happened to all of the trade rumors?" Unfortunately, other nasty rumors running around -- like that the salary cap may go down this year -- have every owner not named Cuban or Allen hiding in the closet. You're not imagining things. Midseason player movement is mired in fiscal gridlock. More than a few players, and NBA agents, will be relieved. There's a certain shame associated with having your name on the trading block. Loser, malcontent, journeyman, slacker, bust ... you know the drill.

The implication is simple. If you're on the block, either your team doesn't want you, or you don't want your team. Neither label does much to bring in endorsement dollars or long-term guaranteed contracts -- the holy grail of any NBA career. Players are traded for a myriad of reasons. Some are traded because another team wants them so badly that it makes an offer that can't be refused. No stigma there.

A lot of players are dealt simply so a team can create cap space. Others just fall into trades as add-ons to make salaries fit. Other times, teams are pro-active, dealing a soon-to-be free agent to avoid losing him without compensation. There are others, like Jamal Crawford, who try to force their way out the door. And there's a whole separate category if Bob Whitsitt or Larry Brown has been given the authority to make decisions for an organization. Stigmas come in all shapes and forms. You can be known as the guy being passed around or the guy constantly asking for his ticket out of town. Which is worse?

Teams, on the other hand, are frustrated. The owners may have asked for more restrictive player movement in the collective bargaining agreement, but they're having trouble living with it. At the time, everyone was in favor of being able to keep the players you wanted to keep. But, combined with the nasty luxury tax, it has become a poison pill. "It's almost impossible to get people to say yes," Heat coach Pat Riley told the South Florida Sun Sentinel earlier this week. "I think there's a lot of people who want to say yes. I've seen people who wanted to say yes saying no, because they can't get exactly what it is they want.

"And there's been one reason why there's no player movement, and that's the luxury tax. Period. It's so punitive, and everyone's consciousness is about that. And that's it." Riley went on to say that the luxury tax is killing teams, especially teams that signed players to max contracts (like the Heat) before the thing kicked in. How long will Riley have to live with the sin of signing two second-tier players, Eddie Jones and Brian Grant, to max contracts? Right now, it seems like forever.

One respected league executive went so far as to claim a team can no longer have two max players on its roster while feilding a competitive team and staying under the luxury tax. The numbers make it almost impossible. That puts everyone in a major conundrum. Teams needing to clear salary-cap space can't move the guys they need to move. Teams needing to add talent can't do it because the additional salaries will come back to haunt them when the tax collector comes to town.

So here we are. Less than a week before the Feb. 20 trade deadline. Several teams are going to be very active as the deadline nears. Who are they and what are the odds the get a deal done? Insider has the answers ...

The East's five most-active teams

Here's a look at the five teams in the East with the best shot of making a deal by the deadline ...

1. Philadelphia 76ers
History tells us that Larry Brown will make a deal. In four of the last five seasons the 76ers have made a major trade before the deadline. This year should be no different. The Sixers have been working the phones for weeks trying to inject the club with players that can help it win now. What the Sixers need most is some low-post scoring and a sharp-shooter for the perimeter. On the block? The ususal suspects:

Derrick Coleman, whose expiring $9.4 million contract has plenty of cap-conscious teams interested. The Sixers have dangled him to the Hawks for Theo Ratliff, to the Warriors for Adonal Foyle and Danny Fortson, to the Heat for Brian Grant and to the Raptors for Antonio Davis.

Keith Van Horn, whose lack of toughness or defense has Brown pulling out his hair. Couldn't see that coming, could you? Brown, who has had mostly a hate relationship with every small forward that has come into town, apparently is after the Knicks' Latrell Sprewell. While few can fathom the Knicks pulling the trigger, GM Scott Layden's infatuation with all things Utah makes it a possibility.

Allen Iverson, whose love-hate relationship knows no bounds. The Sixers would only make a deal for Iverson if they got a superstar back in return. It probably won't happen, but that isn't stopping the Sixers from trying.

Can they make a deal? Probably. Owner Ed Snider has slowed down Brown's train a little. He wants to win now but isn't in love with the idea of paying a huge luxury tax bill. If the Sixers move Coleman and do nothing else, they'll be only marginally better and will be in a much more precarious cap situation. If Brown can find a way to ship Van Horn out first, Coleman likely will follow him out the door.

2. Atlanta Hawks
GM Pete Babcock is trying to save his job. The team he put together has a lot of talent, but clearly the pieces don't fit well together. After initially trying to find a quick-fix solution, they changed gears and started talking to teams about blowing up their roster and starting over. What are the Hawks looking for in return? A combination of players in the last year of their contracts and young talent to start rebuilding. Who's on the block?

Theo Ratliff -- The Sixers and Raptors both have reportedly shown interest. However, only the Sixer have the goods -- Derrick Coleman -- to pull off a deal with the Hawks. If Atlanta can get the Sixers to pull the trigger, they'll start looking to trade off some of their more-talented assets.

Shareef Abdur-Rahim -- His name has been mentioned everywhere from Seattle to San Antonio to Miami to New York to Orlando to the Lakers. Every team, with the exception of the Knicks, has a combination of expiring salaries it could offer the Hawks. The only question is whether Abdur-Rahim is worth the tax. The longer he sits on the block, the closer you are to your answer.

Jason Terry -- A number of teams would like to test-drive for a few months before deciding whether to re-sign him this summer. The problem is that the Hawks are also trying to get teams to swallow Alan Henderson's contract in a package deal.

Can they make a deal? A lot depends on Philly. If the Sixers will take Ratliff, the Hawks will go for the gold and try to get the rest of their bad contracts off the books. It makes zero sense to trade Abdur-Rahim unless the team is assured it can get far enough under the cap to make a run in the free-agent crop this summer. If the Hawks can get Ratliff and Abdur-Rahim off the books, they're looking at more than $10 million in cap space this summer.

3. New York Knicks
Scott Layden, as always, is working the phones trying to make a deal. Of course, up to now he's come up pretty empty. Layden's goal is to add one more young stud to this roster. Combine him with Milos Vujanic and a lottery pick next season, and the Knicks will have some semblance of a team on the rise. Who are the Knicks using for bait?
Latrell Sprewell: As much as the fans love him, Cablevision owner James Dolan has had enough. Besides, how much longer can the 6-foot-5 Sprewell continue to play small forward? The problem is finding a team willing to eat the last two years of his contract. The Sixers are offering Keith Van Horn, but that's not much of an upgrade. The T-Wolves are supposedly dangling Terrell Brandon's contract, but the Knicks care less about salary cap space than about adding a young stud. Their attempts to land Abdur-Rahim or Pau Gasol with Spree have been laughable.

Charlie Ward: No one gives a damn about Ward, but they do like the $2 million buyout in his contract. The Warriors would send Danny Fortson to New York in a heartbeat, but the Knicks aren't biting on another 6-foot-6 small forward.

Kurt Thomas: Several teams, including the Mavs, would love to add his interior toughness to the team. However, the Knicks aren't doing anything with Thomas unless they can get some size in the middle and a young prospect as part of the deal.

Can they make a deal? The most interesting rumor has the Knicks talking to the Sonics about a deal that would send Yugoslavian stud Vladimir Radmanovic, Calvin Booth and Vitaly Potapenko to the Knicks for Ward and Thomas. The move would give the Knicks a young, talented small forward with size and some tall post players. In return, the Sonics finally get a tough power forward and would get an extra $7 million in cap space next summer to pursue a top flight free agent like Jason Kidd. In addition, the team gets the long-term deals of Booth and Potapenko off the books.

4. Miami Heat
Pat Riley is a desperate man. If the status quo holds, the team will not have enough money next summer to make a major addition to the roster. That's why Riley has been among the most active GMs as the trade deadline approaches. Who should be packing their bags?

Eddie Jones or Brian Grant: Riley has to move either Jones or Grant for an expiring contract to get far enough under the cap to make a real impact in the free agent market. Riley has had his eye on guys like Lamar Odom and Michael Olowokandi for some time. But he can't do squat without more room. The problem is that no one, other than the Sixers and T-Wolves, have shown much interest in either guy. That's led Riley to consider ...

Alonzo Mourning: If the Heat can't clear cap room now, they'd be better off making a trade for a couple of players who could help the team in the long run. There are plenty of teams willing to help him out.

The Raptors would give up Antonio Davis, Alvin Williams and Jerome Wiliams in a heartbeat to get $10 million under the cap. That would assure the Raptors of a high pick in the lottery and enough money to add a significant piece or two around Vince Carter. The Grizzlies are also fighting to get cap room and likely would give up a combination of Pau Gasol, Lorenzen Wright, Jason Williams and Wesley Person to get a deal done. That would hamstring the Heat a little bit from a cap perspective, but it would give them the combination of young talent and veteran toughness they've been looking for. While losing Gasol would hurt Memphis, in one fell swoop the team would have enough cap room to be a major player in the free-agent market next season.

Can they make a deal? Probably not. Riley will have a real problem moving either Grant or Jones. Mourning is easier to move, but can Riley get enough talent back in return to justify the bloated payroll he'd have to take on? Our guess is the Heat keep trying but end up out of luck.

5. Orlando Magic
The Magic have been surprise players as of late. After years of doing everything to cut costs and clear cap space for Tim Duncan, they've finally realized they're out of luck. With Grant Hill's future in serious doubt, the team is exploring ways to land a top flight power forward now, while they still have a chance at the playoffs. Who are they dangling?

Mike Miller: His name has come up in several scenarios, but until now the team has been reluctant to part with him. With Hill likely out for the remainder of the season again, the team has realized Miller is their only player with much trade value. If they're going to add a young low post player, he has to go.

Darrell Armstrong and Andrew DeClercq: Combined, their expiring contracts total around $7.3 million. If Orlando can package them with Miller, it could be a player for someone like Shareef Abdur-Rahim or at least a combo of Lorenzen Wright and Stromile Swift.

Can they make a deal? It isn't likely. The team really values Miller and is looking for someone with huge upside --think Kwame Brown -- to get him. It's probably not going to happen. ODDS OF MAKING A DEAL: 15 to 1

Here's a look at the five teams in the West with the best shot of making a deal by the deadline ...

1. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies like their team, at least most of the young players. It's their cap situation they're not wild about. This season the team is on the books for $61 million this year, and will still come in at a whopping $50 million nest year. The goal is to have enough cap space in the summer of 2004 to be able to go after a real superstar like Kobe Bryant. To do that, the Grizzlies are going to have to make a few moves now to get some bad contracts off the books. Who's on the block?

Lorenzen Wright: He has played well for them, but the three years remaining on his deal are a killer. With so many teams looking for a big man, the Grizzlies hope they can pair him with a young player like Stromile Swift and get a player in the last year of his deal in return.

Jason Williams: He's tough to move, because he's a base-year compensation player, but because his salary is pretty low, it isn't impossible. West is itching to turn the reigns of this team over to Earl Watson. Considering the team has a logjam at power forward, don't be shocked if the team finds a way to package Williams with on of their two big studs -- Pau Gasol or Drew Gooden -- in an attempt to give West the flexibility he needs to rebuild the club. If the Grizzlies could pull off those two trades, they'd be major players in the 2004 free agent market.

Can they make a deal? Never under estimate Jerry West. They have some fine young building blocks to package in a trade, and West has a way of finding diamonds in the rough. Given the strong possibility they'll lose their first-round lottery pick to the Pistons (though they will get the Rockets' pick this year) look for West to make a move now.

2. Seattle SuperSonics
The Sonics are at a crossroads. Their team is sinking fast, and they have major decisions to make about the long-term future of the franchise. A quick fix could make them viable again, however the team continues to insist it's in rebuilding mode. Trading Gary Payton for prospects could really restock the franchise, but would Sonics fans ever forgive them? Here's who they're shopping:
Gary Payton: They won't give him away, that's for sure. But if a team could give them two or three legit prospects in return, the Sonics would seriously have to consider making the deal. They're not winning with Payton now, and tensions are starting to mount. If they can get the right players in return, the Sonics could make a bright, bright future for themselves.

Kenny Anderson: Lots of teams are after his expiring contract. The most-circulated rumor has Seattle talking with the Hawks about swapping Anderson and Vladimir Radmanovic for Shareef Abdur Rahim. While he's not the low post bruiser they crave, he's a major addition over anything they have there now. However, if they make that deal, the team's salary cap flexibility is gone this summer. They've got to be sure Rahim is the missing piece of the puzzle.

Can they make a deal? Sure they can. As soon as Howard Schultz gives up his pipe dream of landing Jason Kidd this summer, they'll realize that the trade market may be the best way to improve this team both in the short term and the long run. However, it's no given that the philosophical battles that have been going on in the Sonics' front office for years will be settled in time.

3. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are one of the biggest first-half success stories. They went from the doormat of the Western Conference to a dangerous team in just more than a few months. However, they're still a few players away from being a contender in the West. And with Gilbert Arenas set to hit the free-agent market this summer, they have a lot to worry about. Who's out there?

Mike Dunleavy: He's not as bad as everyone makes him out to be, but as long as Eric Musselman is the coach, he's not playing. Musselman is convinced the team can't win with Antawn Jamison playing the four. And with Jamison at the three, there isn't much playing time left for Dunleavy. The Warriors desperately need to clear cap space so they can have a real shot at re-signing Arenas this summer. Packaging Dunleavy with a bad contract like Chris Mills makes a lot of sense. Musselman is already on the record that Arenas has the potential to be the best player on the team. Wouldn't you do anything it took to make sure he didn't leave this summer?

Danny Fortson: They're trying, but no one is excited about the five years remaining on his contract. Their biggest hope is to package him and Adonal Foyle to the 76ers for Derrick Coleman. They hate to lose Foyle, but again, right now, having the cap space to sign Arenas is more important.

Can they make a deal? They can, but Garry St. Jean will have to swallow his pride a bit. Considering they could've had Amare Stoudemire or even Drew Gooden in the draft, it's tough to ship out Dunleavy for cap space. But it must be done. If the Warriors lose Arenas this summer, it's going to be back to square one.

4. Portland Trail Blazers
History and a roster loaded with talent always throw the Blazers into the mix. They're playing well at the moment, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't like to move a player or two. Given owner Paul Allen's willingness to pay the luxury tax, they're one of the teams that can help facilitate a trade with teams trying to reign in their budget.

Damon Stoudemire: They'd love to move him, but given his huge contract he's probably stuck in Portland.

Dale Davis: He has two years left on his contract, but with so many teams looking for some low post toughness, he still has a lot of value.

Scottie Pippen: He's been awesome of late for Portland, but that just gives them an even better opportunity. His $19.7 million a year contract could help them land a couple of valuable players in return.

Can they make a deal? Of course. But the question of chemistry may keep Whitsitt from pulling the trigger. Despite all of the off-the-court missteps, the team seems to be on the same page on the floor. Do they really risk messing with a good thing?

5. Dallas Mavericks

For the record, Mark Cuban says there is a 99.9 percent chance the Mavs will stand pat at the trade deadline. Of course, he's said that the last two seasons and then gone on to make a mega-deal. The Mavs are desperate for a tough, low-post defender. The Big Three are untouchable, and Raef LaFrentz is a base-year player, so the question everyone is asking is, do they have what it takes to make a deal?

Shawn Bradley: The 7-foot-6 walking stick had a great first half. His shot-blocking helps the Mavs tremendously, but because the Mavs have no physical low-post defenders, he gets abused by the tougher post players in the league. Would the Knicks swap Kurt Thomas for Bradley straight up?

Avery Johnson: Cuban has spent so much money over the last few years, he doesn't have much to offer a team looking for cap relief. Johnson's contract expires after next season. For someone looking to clear cap room in 2004, it could be attractive.

Can they make a deal? It isn't likely. Cuban just doesn't have enough assets right now to make a deal for a dominant player.

Les Misera-Bulls

Why does it seem the Bulls always find a way to make it into this column at least three times a week? On Thursday we had Jerry Krause going off about all the complaining from kids like Jay Williams, Jamal Crawford and Dalibor Bagaric.

On Wednesday, we had Crawford's agent, Aaron Goodwin, pushing for a trade. On Tuesday, we were dealing with the aftermath of coach Bill Cartwright benching of Crawford, Trenton Hassell and Tyson Chandler for Williams, Eddie Robinson and Eddy Curry. Over the weekend in Atlanta, Williams was expressing the delight of finally playing an NBA game outside the triangle offense.

So now it's Friday, and, you guessed it, a new Bulls story has emerged. Jalen Rose and Chandler, coming off their best games of the year, slept in Thursday morning and missed the start of Bulls practice. Cartwright and team captain Fred Hoiberg were livid.

"It's irresponsible," Hoiberg told the Chicago Sun Times. "To continue to have this trend go on, you just can't have that. And to continue to lose like we have. It almost gets contagious. It's something we have addressed, and it's unfortunate that it keeps happening. I guess you learn from this kind of stuff. You try to make it on time. You try to make yourself a better player all the time, but it's difficult when you keep having distractions like this."

Cartwright also was visibly upset, according to published reports. However, leave it to PR specialist Jerry Krause to smooth things over.

"That's our business," Krause told the Chicago Tribune. "It doesn't belong in the newspapers. Everybody was here for practice. Bill and I haven't even talked about it. We have a method of taking care of this, but it's not your business.

"One of the things I have to do is protect these players. We still haven't gotten explanations from either one of them as to what happened. We'll listen to their explanation and then decide a course of action."

The tardiness had an even stranger effect on some Chicago columnists. Sick of the losing, constant rebuilding and surly behavior of some of the Bulls players, the tardiness issue appears to be the last straw. Both the Tribune's Sam Smith and the Sun Times' Rick Telander were calling for the Bulls to clean house and bring in some responsible veterans to run the show.

"The problem is," wrote Smith, "Krause's plan, the big free-agent and draft bonanza of 2000, was a failure. The team used six draft picks without getting one starter out of them, and it couldn't attract a major free agent. It has been nothing but patching holes on a sinking ship since then. The result has been leaks spurting everywhere, a captain shouting orders and a rudderless vessel.No wonder Rose and Chandler stayed in bed. Maybe they're just tired of it too."

NBA, Clippers play Rashomon over Oakley incident

Just days after NBA commissioner David Stern said he was looking for "a very elegant second half of the season," Charles Oakley is threatening to mess everything up. On Thursday, the L.A. Times reported that Oakley charged Clippers coach Alvin Gentry during a pre-game shoot around and threatened him. According to the report, Oakley had to be restrained by, among others, Michael Jordan.

Given that Rasheed Wallace was suspended seven games for verbally threatening a referee after a game, you'd expect the league to nail Oakley with a suspension, right? Guess again. According to the O.C. Register, the league isn't doing anything. "We looked into it, but there will be no action taken," NBA spokesman Mark Broussard said. "It's been determined that there will be no ramifications."

What's going on? According to Gentry, the report was overblown. "He did not charge toward me," the coach told the Register. "I was on the court talking with D.J [Dennis Johnson], Doug [Collins] and Patrick [Ewing] when [Oakley] said something to the effect that it was their time to be on the court and to get the [expletive] off. D.J. and Patrick stepped in front of him, but no one grabbed him and he didn't have to be restrained."

Oakley confirmed a similar chain of events. "Didn't nothing happen. If something happened, I probably wouldn't have played last night."
However, that's not the end of the story. Today's editions of the Times reported that 23 people witnessed the confrontation. And, at least a portion of the ensuing scuffle, as Oakley was held off by coaches and players, Jordan among them, was captured on videotape by a local television station.

The Times claims the Clippers are blowing off the incident to avoid further hostilities from Oakley. According to a league source cited by the paper, this is the sixth incident over the past few years that the Clippers have had with Oakley. The Times also claims that NBA senior vice president for basketball communications Brian McIntyre angrily hung up when it called requesting comment.

Who's telling the truth? We'd love to see that video.

Peep Show

Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets: Jalen Rose said he'd like his team to add Juwan Howard to the mix this summer. "I'm going to try to, just like I would try to convince any [quality] free agent like I did with [Bulls forward Donyell] Marshall," Rose told the Denver Post. "But the reality of being a veteran is, you're going to go to a situation that not only fits you, but allows you to win games, feeds your family and not allow you to be in a no-win situation. I feel if we were able to couple him, an experienced big guy, with some inexperienced big guys we have now, it would give us a legitimate low-post threat and a guy that can bring leadership on and off the floor and good character. Basically, it would do wonders for our young team."

Cleveland Cavaliers: How is the new Jim Paxson-mandated-Dajuan Wagner-at-the-point experiment going? Wagner is shooting 23 percent over the past couple of games and seems lost. Coach Keith Smart said the switch to point guard may not be permanent. "I'm not saying he's going to become a point guard, but if he's going to handle the ball for a good number of times, he has to learn how to read different situations," Smart told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "That's why he's spending some time there."

Sacramento Kings: Bobby Jackson participated in a full scrimmage in the afternoon and proclaimed himself ready to play against Gary Payton and the Sonics tonight, the Sacramento Bee reported. Coach Rick Adelman said he may need a little more practice time. "He really needs to practice two or three times," Adelman said Wednesday. "But you know, he's been sitting out a long time. And I told him we have more plays than just the one he likes to run, so we've got to get him out on the practice court."

02-15-2003, 02:56 PM
15-1 still pretty good odds since Cuban said about last years deal that he would not make a move was 99.9%. If Gasol, Rahim, or Brand could happen wow we could shore up our championship hopes.