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02-19-2003, 10:39 PM
The NBA Silly Season
by Chad Ford

Trade talks are finally heating up. But with Thursday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline just around the corner, will we actually see a deal made? "The volume of calls has increased significantly today," one Eastern Conference GM told Insider late Tuesday night. "It's all been hypotheticals until this morning. Now your starting to get more concrete proposals."

According to various league sources, several teams are pretty active. Golden State has really jumped out of the pack. The Warriors are trying to get something done that clears some cap space so they can make an offer for Gilbert Arenas this summer.

Miami also looks like it might be a player after all. It may not be a perfect solution, but Pat Riley finally has some concrete talks going on that could move Eddie Jones AND Brian Grant out of Miami.

So is Minnesota. The T-Wolves see an opportunity, with Terrell Brandon's pending retirement, to add something to the team.

The Knicks also appear to be on working the phones. But is Scott Layden serious about pulling the trigger on a deal? In the last few days he's made offers for Gary Payton, Pau Gasol and Shareef Abdur-Rahim. We're pretty sure that offers for Shaq and Kobe are forthcoming.

And in Big D, the master of deadline deals, Mark Cuban, appears to be up to his old tricks again. Not only are the Mavs rumored to be involved in another potential big deal, but several GMs are complaining that Cuban is doing his best to thwart several other big trades from going down.

With a little less than 32 hours before the trade deadline, Insider delves into what is and and isn't going on as we approach T-day.

Here are a few critical questions that will be answered by Thursday. . .

Can the Warriors save Gilbert Arenas?

Warriors GM Garry St. Jean finally has the chance to redeem himself. The Warriors look like they're on the verge of something special in Oakland. Their young players, Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Troy Murphy, are all developing at an impressive pace. Their young coach, Eric Musselman, has the team believing in itself again. And, most important, the Warriors are starting to win. But if Arenas bolts for the Rockies this summer, most of what they worked for this year will be gone.

Arenas is a restricted free agent this summer, but the Warriors cannot match any offer for him. Because the Warriors are over the cap, the most they can offer him is an average salary, which is roughly $4.5 million a year. If Arenas signs an offer sheet for more money, the Warriors are screwed. St. Jean's mission? Find a way to clear roughly $20 million in cap room for this summer. The only way to do it? He needs to figure out a way to move at least three bad contracts of his roster.

The targets?

Erick Dampier, 3 years, $24 million remaining on his deal
Danny Fortson, 4 years, $24 million remaining
Chris Mills, 1 year, $6.6 million left
Bob Sura, 1 year, $6.3 million left
Adonal Foyle, 1 year, $4.4 million left

Can the Warriors make a deal? It looks like they're trying. Numerous league sources told Insider on Tuesday that the Warriors are trying hard to get something done before the deadline.

Some of these scenarios you've heard, some you haven't.
The one making rounds for the past week has them packaging Foyle and either Fortson or Mills to Philadelphia in return for Derrick Coleman. That deal would allow them to shave about $11 million off the cap for this summer. That won't be enough, however.

League sources told Insider Tuesday night that the Warriors have called several other teams trying to work out a last-minute deal. They've talked with the Hornets about an Elden Campbell-for-Dampier swap. They've also called the Magic about a deal that would send Darrell Armstrong and Andrew DeClercq to Golden State for Dampier.

Finally, one Western Conference executive told Insider that the Warriors have also called the Blazers about possibly sending Dampier, Fortson and Chris Mills for Scottie Pippen. That deal, if the Blazers were interested, would give the Warriors all the cap room they need for next season in one fell swoop. It would also allow them to keep Foyle, one of Musselman's favorite players.

The big question right now is whether any of those teams are actually interested in making a deal.

If that isn't enough to swallow, the Chicago Tribune and the New York Post both hinted that an even larger, multi-team deal is in the works.

The specifics of that deal, according to the Post, would send Dampier and Austin Croshere to the Knicks; the Pacers would get Charlie Ward, Brian Skinner and Mark Pope; the Magic would get Fortson and Othella Harrington; the Sixers would get Foyle and Sura; and the Warriors would get DeClercq, Darrell Armstrong, Travis Knight and Coleman.

That's a pretty complicated deal to pull off. It does, however, work cap-wise. It also would give the Warriors the cap space they need. It also appears to work for the Knicks, who would get the tough center they've been looking for, in Dampier. The Pacers would also come out smelling like roses. Moving Croshere, for Ward, Skinner and Pope would allow them to clear an extra $4 million in cap space next season. It would also give them a veteran point guard to back up Jamaal Tinsley as the Pacers press toward the title. We know the Sixers have been interested in a similar deal for a few weeks, so that passes the giggle test.

But what about Orlando? Why would the Magic give up their cap flexibility to get Fortson, another under-sized power forward with a bad contract, and Harrington, who falls into the same category. Sure, Orlando doesn't have a lot of cap room this summer, but it can do better than Fortson with the mid-level exception.

Can the Heat cut the cap?

After months of hand wringing and doomsday predictions, is Heat coach Pat Riley on the verge of pulling off a miracle? The Heat, by all accounts, need to move either Brian Grant or Eddie Jones by the trade deadline if they're going to have any chance this summer in the trade market. Right now the team stands at about $5 to $6 million under the cap for the summer. Several league sources told Insider that as of Tuesday night, the Heat had several interesting things brewing. The most interesting aspect of all of the rumored deals? None of them really help the Heat clear cap space this year. It looks like Riley may be resigned at this point to clear room for the summer of 2004.

The most prominent rumor has the Heat and T-Wolves talking about an Terrell Brandon-for-Jones swap. Two Eastern Conference GMs told Insider that they felt that this trade was the most likely to happen before the trade deadline. "I don't think Riley is going to find anyone willing to give up a player in the last year of his contract for either of these guys," one GM told Insider. "I think this is the next best thing. The Wolves need a player like Jones. If they land him, I'd put them up there with the other top teams in the West."

That's not the only Jones rumor getting attention. The Chicago Tribune reported that the Bulls have been talking to the Heat about a trade that would send Jones to Chicago for Jamal Crawford, Marcus Fizer and Eddie Robinson. Again the holdup, from the Heat side, is that Crawford's and Fizer's contracts don't come off the books until the summer of 2004. Robinson has three years remaining on his deal. Another variation of this deal has Crawford staying in Chicago and Fred Hoiberg and Corie Blount (both in the last year of their contracts) going instead.

However, the trade would give the Heat several young prospects to work with for a year. If Crawford and Fizer, with a more prominent role in Miami, develop, the Heat would have a nice core of young talent to build around. From the Bulls' point of view, the addition of Jones would give them enough of a veteran presence to finally start making a run at the playoffs.

The other Heat rumor making the rounds late Tuesday has the Mavs and Heat talking again about a Nick Van Exel-for-Grant-and-Travis Best swap. This move is more questionable on both sides. Van Exel has three more years left on his deal. However, after next season, he needs to reach certain performance benchmarks to make the deal fully guaranteed for the 2004-05 season. Van Exel has no salary protection for the 2005-06 season. So theoretically, at least, the Heat could clear Van Exel's salary off the books after next season. Combine that move with the Jones-for-Brandon swap and Riley would be looking at major cap room in the summer of 2004.

However, would the Mavs be willing to pull the trigger on that deal? Owner Mark Cuban continues to state that there's a 99.9 percent chance that the Mavs will do nothing before the deadline. Even though Grant would give them the low-post muscle they've been searching for, you have to wonder how he'd fit into the Mavs' offense. By all accounts, the chances of a Van Exel-for-Grant swap are pretty slim.

Is Scott Layden hallucinating?

Gary Payton. Pau Gasol. Shareef Abdur-Rahim. What do these guys all have in common? Over the last week, the Knicks have made a very public trade offer for each of them. What are the chances of any of these guys actually ending up in New York? Zero. At this point, according to league sources and a published report in Newsday, the Knicks don't even have a shot at landing Keith Van Horn anymore.

So why do we keep reading about all of these wild Knicks trades? Several GMs I talked to have their theories. "Scott's really under the gun over there," one Eastern Conference GM told Insider. "His team is bad shape and right now; he's selling hope. He knows he can't pull off a deal like this with his roster, but if he can convince the public he tried, maybe that will be enough."

Hardly. The Knicks' offer of Charlie Ward and Kurt Thomas for Payton laughable. According to the N.Y. Times, the Sonics quickly shot down the offer. Can you blame them? If nothing else, the Sonics would get cap room this summer. The only thing the Knicks could do with the Sonics is send them Ward and Thomas for Vladimir Radmanovic, Calvin Booth and Vitaly Potapenko. However, according to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, the Sonics aren't even willing to move Radmanovic at this point.

The other rumored trades, Gasol or Abdur-Rahim for Spree, were equally ridiculous. The only thing that appeared to have any real legs was the rumored Keith Van Horn-for-Spree deal.

However, two NBA GMs with knowledge of the situation said that talks ended Tuesday with both sides claiming they were the ones that walked away from the table. According to Newsday, which is also reporting that the talks are dead, 76ers coach Larry Brown told reporters he expects to have the same team when the deadline passes. "We've been talking to people for months, but only if it would improve the team," Brown said. "I would anticipate having our team intact."

That basically leaves the Knicks with two last rumors, the potential five-team deal with the Warriors and a bizarre report coming out of San Antonio. According to the San Antonio Express News, the Spurs have been talking to the Knicks about landing Sprewell. That's very odd considering that it would take a ton of Spurs cap room, thus keeping them from signing Jason Kidd or another maximum player this summer. But what's more bizarre about the whole thing is the presence of Spurs assistant P.J. Carlesimo, who was choked by Sprewell when he was Golden State's coach. According to the Express News, the incident wouldn't stop the team from making the deal.

Is Mark Cuban enemy No. 1?

By now you know Mark Cuban's mantra when it comes to trade-deadline dealing. He's been 99 percent sure for the past two years that the Mavs weren't doing anything before the deadline. That one percent of hope? It's about as big as the state of Texas.

According to numerous league sources, Cuban is at it again as the trade deadline approaches. Not only are the Mavs talking with the Heat and Knicks about potential deals involving Nick Van Exel for a big man, they're also throwing a lot of crap into the wind, hoping that it hinders other teams from making good deals.

"Mark can be a piece of work," one league executive said. "A lot of the crap that's out there right now is being spread by the Mavs. There are some specific deals out there that they don't want getting done." Specifics please.

"They really don't want the Heat to send Eddie Jones to Minnesota," the same source said. "I think they're talking to the Heat about a Van Exel-for-Grant deal just to distract them. Listen, the T-Wolves, a team in their own division, get much better if they add Jones"

There are also rumors out there that Dallas is also trying to put the kibosh on the Warriors' attempts to move contracts in order to get under the cap. One theory, espoused by the Chicago Tribune, is that Cuban is trying to help out old friend Kiki Vandeweghe. Vandeweghe is after Gilbert Arenas this summer. If the Warriors get far enough under the cap, they'll be able to match any offer for Arenas. That seems to be stretching it a bit. But if nothing else, it typifies the fear Cuban causes in other GMs.

"He's the master of manipulating the press," another GM said. "Writers think he's just being friendly. No way. There's a big agenda there. Unfortunately, no one seems to get that."

Trade Deadline Peep Show

Now that we've tackled the big deals, here's the rest of what is being talked about around the league:

Los Angeles Clippers: There are a lot of people around the league who wish the Clippers would just trade Andre Miller now. Come this summer, only a few teams will have a shot at him. But right now, because of Miller's small salary, everyone potentially could be in the game. Still, Insider continues to hear that the Clippers are refusing to talk to teams about any of their guys. On Tuesday, Miller didn't sound thrilled to be a Clipper. "I thought that this was going to be an improved year individually, with the type of players and the coaches here," he told the O.C. Register. "But I don't think that I've gotten any better. I think I've taken a step back in my eyes in what I wanted to accomplish and what I wanted to do to help the team. We haven't played good team ball. There's been no consistency shown by the players. Other teams are getting better as the season has gone on. We haven't improved."

Atlanta Hawks: Remember when the Hawks were supposed to be the team most likely to make a deal before the deadline? Things seems to be cooling off rapidly. The biggest rumor still out there has Jason Terry and Nazr Mohammed heading to the Lakers in return for cap space, Kareem Rush and some future No. 1s. That's a great deal for the Lakers. Not so sure what it does in the long run for the Hawks.

San Antonio Spurs: The team continues to work the phones in search of a center. "We've looked," one team source told the San Antonio Express News. "But there's a 90 percent chance nothing gets done." According to the paper, the team has talked to the Hornets about swapping Steve Smith for Elden Campbell. The Spurs also have inquired about Washington's Brendan Haywood and Seattle's Jerome James, but aren't optimistic about landing either player, according to the Express News.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Tyrone Hill's agent, Mark Bartelstein, is pushing the Cavs to get Hill moved before the deadline. But right now, the Cavs aren't budging. GM Jim Paxson is only willing to accept a player in the last year of his contract in return for Hill. There are a few teams that are interested (read the Lakers, Sixers and Magic) but right now the odds don't look good.

Orlando Magic: All of those Grant Hill trade rumors took another blow on Tuesday when Hill revealed that he may have to undergo yet another "minor" surgery on his ankle. If surgery will be required it won't be the same procedure or the same length of time that there was before," Hill told Florida Today. "It's more to just fix the structural issues than the fracture. This is a little simple procedure that may have been the cause to all of these problems. I use the analogy of a car being out of alignment and the tires keep wearing down and you keep changing them. Well, you've got to fix the alignment, not the tires over and over. I don't know if that makes sense, but that's the kind of what we're dealing with. That's a three-week (rehabilitation) procedure instead of a long-term thing."

Denver Nuggets: After shaking up the NBA last February, GM Kiki Vandeweghe plans to relax this time around. "I don't expect us to do anything unless something unforeseen comes our way," Vandeweghe told the Rocky Mountain News. "Last year, we were in a different situation. We felt we had to make a bold move." Vandeweghe said he has been getting a lot of calls regarding center Marcus Camby, but said he isn't looking to trade Camby.

02-19-2003, 10:55 PM
Cubes is pretty smart trying to stop the wolves-heat trade, just to prevent them from keeping the mavs from trading for grant hehehe..........I'm also glad to hear that he's messing with everyones minds and how we all know how he thinks too. I think he does have something up his sleeve.

02-20-2003, 01:27 AM
Nothing new about the Cuban smoke screens and throwing crap out to mess up other trades. I've always believed that of him anyways. Go Cubes!!!