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02-21-2003, 04:06 PM
Trade deadline chaos
by Chad Ford

Madness. That's the only way to describe the chaos that took place just minutes after the NBA trade deadline passed on Thursday. We all know, finally, what did go down Thursday as the trade deadline came to end. But hours after the 3 p.m. ET deadline, there were still more wild rumors out there than I had ever seen. Ever.

Trusted GM sources were spinning bizarre stories. No one could get a straight answer from the league office. The Bucks and Sonics were huddled in a conference call with the league for what seemed like days.
As word began to leak that the Bucks and Sonics had swapped Gary Payton for Ray Allen, mayhem broke out around the league.

Rumors kept popping up that, indeed, Payton had been traded, but it was the Pacers, not the Bucks, getting the Glove. Hogwash, according to a Pacers source who told me that they hadn't talked to the Sonics about Payton in over a week. With that out of the way, the real whoppers began to fly.

Latrell Sprewell was headed to the Bucks for Sam Cassell, Toni Kukoc and Joel Przybilla. No, scratch that. Spree was heading to the Raptors along with Kurt Thomas for Antonio Davis and Morris Peterson. No, scratch that. Spree and Thomas were going to the Bucks, but it was for Cassell, Tim Thomas and Desmond Mason. All, by the way, untrue.

As the hours passed without word from anyone, ESPN the Magazine's Ric Bucher, along with a Seattle sports talk radio station, KJR, reported that either the Knicks or Bucks had filed an extension with the league to work out the details of the Spree trade. Never happened, according to Bucks GM Ernie Grunfeld, who claimed the Bucks never had any serious discussions with the Knicks about Spree.

"There was never a single conversation with the Knicks about Sprewell or Sam since last summer," Grunfeld told the Newark Star Ledger. "I don't usually respond to these things, but I hate bogus reports."
NBA spokesperson Tim Frank also denied that such a thing ever took place. "The Knicks did not ask for an extension nor do we grant extensions," Frank told the N.Y. Daily News. "They do not exist. The deadline is hard. If teams have not called by the deadline that's it."

But wait, there was more. Some GMs were claiming that the Erick Dampier was heading to the Knicks. Nope. A call from the Warriors confirmed that they hadn't done anything before the deadline. However, that same source had heard that the Heat and Mavs had swapped Eddie Jones for Briant Grant just before the deadline. "We didn't get close on anything," Heat coach Pat Riley insisted after the deadline passed.

That's just the tip of the iceberg folks. However, some things were actually talked about on Thursday, but for whatever reason didn't go down. Here's a brief look at several trades that almost happened. . .

The Bucks and Knicks may have not been talking about a Spree-for-Cassell deal, but it does appear that rumors about a Spree-to-Toronto-for-Antonio Davis deal did have some teeth to it. The N.Y. Post reported that the deal between the Raptors and Knicks was "extremely close" to going down on Thursday. According to the Post, the hang-up was over secondary players. The Raptors wanted Kurt Thomas to be part of the deal. The Knicks were insisting that it be Othella Harrington.

"We looked at our roster, we wanted to see if there was anything that could make us better, and nothing presented itself," GM Layden said in a conference call Thursday. "This time of year, there's a lot of conversation, and certainly we had a lot of conversations going on. I can't get into specifics, because we have players who are very good players, and other teams always have interest."
Speaking of Cassell, the Bucks did contact at least one team about trading for the mercurial point guard. According to the L.A. Times, the Bucks had "serious discussions" with the Lakers about a trade that would've sent Cassell to L.A. for Robert Horry. "We had some aggressive looks, but we weren't going to sacrifice some of the people we need to win," Phil Jackson told the Times. "I'm not disappointed, because I believe in these guys.... We know we can use help. That doesn't matter if it was this year, last year or the year before. Any team needs more strength at different positions. We're not big enough behind Shaquille [O'Neal]. We know that. We still were able to win the last two nights against two power teams. And we still think we'd like to have an experienced backup behind [Derek Fisher], in case something happens there."

The Heat nixed a Eddie Jones-for-Terrell Brandon deal because of the public relations challenge of trading a healthy starter for a $10.1 million player who might not play again. "We had a lot of interest, things went back and forth, but at the end of the day, a lot of the teams just said, 'Boy, I would just have a heck of a time selling a guy who's playing for a guy who's not playing right now, during the season,' '' GM Kevin McHale told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Pat Riley said he couldn't accept tanking the 2003-04 season just to clear a little cap space. "I'm not looking to move an asset for nothing, unless the [cap] space is real space.," Riley told the Sun Sentinel. "If you wait until 2004, then you're going to lose again," Riley said of essentially allowing next season to become a repeat of what these past two cellar-dwelling seasons have been. "We're going to put together a playoff team, we hope, next year.

"With the lottery pick, with the room, with sign-and-trades, with two or three second-round draft picks, with more free agents out there, and picking the right ones, we can develop more to go with Eddie and Brian, basically our two key guys." According to the Chicago Tribune, the Bulls made another attempt to land Eddie Jones, but this time they offered Jalen Rose. The Tribune is also reporting that the Bulls made a run at Grizzlies small forward Shane Battier.

How long will the Glove fit in Milwaukee?

The Milwaukee Bucks got a whole lot tougher on Thursday when they added Gary Payton and Desmond Mason to the roster. But for how long? While no one disputes that a lineup of Payton, an all-NBA defender, Mason, Sam Cassell, Michael Redd, Tim Thomas and Toni Kukoc now has a better balance of offensive and defensive firepower, is this a one-and-done proposition?

Contrary to early speculation, the Bucks didn't get any promises from Payton, who will be a free agent this summer, when they traded for him on Thursday. They also weren't making any. Senator Herb Kohl has been pushing the Bucks for weeks to make a trade that would put the Bucks under the luxury-tax threshold. If, for whatever reason, the Bucks don't re-sign Payton this summer, they'd clear about $12 million in cap room.

"I think Gary made the decision that he wasn't going to give you that inkling," coach George Karl told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "He's going to play the field [as a free agent]. I think he made that decision in November. I think everybody hopes we can go and have a good finish to the season and get after [re-signing] him. We feel we have an opportunity to do that." Payton's agent, Aaron Goodwin, was probably the most responsible for the Payton trade. He's threatened all year to move Payton this summer after the team refused to give Payton a contract extension. While Goodwin wasn't making any promises either, he seemed pleased that the Payton was heading to Milwaukee.

"I think it turns out to be a good opportunity for [Gary]," Goodwin told the Tacoma News Tribune. "He is going to one of the places that coveted him. It's a blessing in disguise." The Bucks are really operating in the best of both worlds. If Payton is able to lead them to the NBA Finals this year, Karl will have the leverage he needs to convince the Bucks to re-sign Payton. If the team continues to tread water, it can let Payton walk and suddenly it's in much better financial shape and still has Desmond Mason and a potential lottery pick to work with this summer.

"For us, Desmond Mason is a piece that made it a special trade," Karl said. "If Gary signs somewhere else, we at least have a special player. What it says to the fans in Milwaukee is we want to win this year."
And, if the Payton experiment fails, the Bucks still have a nice core of players to build around. Cassell is locked into a reasonable, long-term deal. So are Redd and Thomas. The Bucks get two years to test out Mason and they also have several other young players like Joel Przybilla, Marcus Haislip and Dan Gadzuric to work with.

What's next for the Sonics?

The Sonics' press conference Thursday night was surreal. Was it just me, or did they seem much more upset about losing Desmond Mason than they did about giving up Gary Payton? "I think the hardest part of this decision was the thought of Desmond Mason leaving this team," owner Howard Schultz said at the press conference. "Someone like Desmond, you can't teach the things that he brings. At the same time, I really believe my responsibility is to the franchise as a whole, and I had to make a very difficult and emotional decision of being able to secure one of the best players in the NBA."
Schultz also seemed to take some covert shots at Payton when he talked about Ray Allen's "leadership in the locker room", "maturity" and that he's "the kind of mentor we haven't had here."

Payton reportedly had quit talking to other players in the locker room with the exception of Brent Barry. Only coach Nate McMillan seemed to be having a tough time with the news that Payton was leaving. "This is a very, very difficult position for me," McMillan said. "For me to be here today in this situation and be a part of Gary Payton leaving the city of Seattle is one of the most difficult things I have ever had to encounter. It is a tough time for me emotionally to be a part of this."

But as much affection as the Sonics have or don't have for Payton and Mason, the deal was a slam dunk for the Sonics. Over the past few months they had become convinced that they would lose Payton for nothing at the end of this season. Even if Payton was willing to re-sign, they weren't sure that they wanted him back. Landing Allen was a huge coup. While the Sonics would've preferred to add a top-flight point guard or power forward (and kept Mason) as part of the deal, there just wasn't anyone available. Allen was the best player available. At the age of 27, he gives the Sonics some real star power to build around.

The rebuilding, however, is far from over. GM Rick Sund indicated that he still believes that the Sonics need to add another all-star via a trade, free agency or the draft. He seemed to indicate that the Sonics' other two young stars, Rashard Lewis and Vladimir Radmanovic, weren't quite up to the task. That's why losing Mason hurts so much. However, the Sonics were convinced that with Allen and Lewis, there wouldn't be any room to let Mason develop. So instead they got back a conditional first-round pick from Milwaukee in return.
Milwaukee owns two first-round draft picks this year, it's own and Atlanta's first-round pick. However, both picks have protections on them. Milwaukee will only send a first-round pick to Seattle if they own both picks on draft day. Milwaukee must send their pick to Detroit per a previous trade if it falls between 19-29. The Hawks get to keep their first round pick if it's pick 1, 2, or 3 in this year's draft.

So if the Hawks pick falls between 4 and 29, and the Bucks pick falls between 1 and 18, then, the Bucks will send the lesser of the two picks to Seattle. In the event that Bucks don't own both picks at the time of the draft, Milwaukee will send two second-round picks (their own and Memphis') to the Sonics instead. So, given the Bucks present record, the Sonics will have, in all likelihood, two first-round picks and their $4.5 mid level exception to work with this summer. No one expects the Sonics to be any better with Allen in the lineup right away, so the Sonics are looking at a potential top 7 pick.

Expect them to use the picks on a power forward and a point guard. This is a good point guard draft and the Sonics should be able to get their hands on a top prospect like T.J. Ford, Kirk Hinrich, Luke Ridnour, Reece Gaines or Zoran Planinic. While their $4.5 million exception won't land them a star, it should give them a shot at someone like Juwan Howard, P.J. Brown, Kenny Thomas or Keon Clark. The Kenny Anderson-for-Elden Campbell deal also frees up about $1 million in cap room this year and allows them to have Bird rights to re-sign Campbell if he plays well for the Sonics this summer.
Trade deadline fallout

Lots of teams that were rumored to be on the trading market -- like Atlanta, Philly, New York, Golden State, Miami, and Toronto -- came up empty on Thursday. Here's the fallout from around the league. . .

Atlanta Hawks: GM Pete Babcock said that trading was almost impossible before the deadline. "The vast majority of teams have been told that if they wanted to make a deal, they would have to take back less money. That doesn't happen very often, and it made trading difficult if not impossible," Babcock told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Babcock said he expects that the team will start talking trade again after the season is over. "It simply means we can't do anything so long as we're playing," Babcock said. "If we're eliminated from the playoffs, we can deal then. If we make the playoffs, we can make deals as soon as we're through playing. I felt no pressure to make a trade by the deadline."

The problem for Babcock is that it won't be any easier this summer. Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Theo Ratliff, Glenn Robinson, Nazr Mohammed and Alan Henderson are all signed to long-term deals. Jason Terry becomes a restricted free agent, and the Hawks have only seven players under contract for next season. With the Hawks staring at a $50 million payroll next year, the team looks like it could be doomed until the 2005-06 season, when all those bad deals come off the books.

Philadelphia 76ers: Coach Larry Brown was hoping to move Derrick Coleman, have the team that traded for him waive him, and then re-sign him once he cleared waivers. "I wanted to send him to a team that would waive him, and I made Derrick aware of what was going on," Brown told the Philadelphia Daily News. "Unless we sent him to a championship team, we would have wanted him back."

That's a good thing because Coleman definitely did not want to go to Golden State. "I wasn't going too far for too long," he said. "When [Brown] was talking about Golden State, I told him, 'This'll be my last game in Jersey [last Sunday] 'cause I was going straight home.' "

What hurts more is the Sixers' inability to move Keith Van Horn. Even with Coleman and Matt Geiger coming off the books this summer, the Sixers are still looking at a $48 million payroll next summer. If they're going to use their full mid-level exception, they'll be right back in the luxury-tax land next season. That's normally not a problem, but with CEO Ed Snider insisting that the Sixers start cutting costs, it could mean trouble for the Sixers over the next two years.

New York Knicks: It appears the GM Scott Layden missed several opportunities to get a legitimate big man, either Erick Dampier or Antonio Davis, and a solid point guard, Sam Cassell. It's going to be a new era in New York. Layden told the N.Y. Times he turned down those deals because he was no longer willing to trade players with short-term contracts for those with long-term deals. Given the Knicks' incredible $93 million payroll, you understand why. But if Layden can't do what he does best (give bad contracts a final resting place) what else can he do? Currently, the Knicks won't get under the cap until the 2006-07 season. Even then, their payroll tops out at $36 million with just three players on their roster. And, if they plan on keeping Antonio McDyess past next season, he'll likely command a deal that will even kill the cap for 2006-07. Can Knicks fans be that patient?
Golden State Warriors: GM Garry St. Jean tried to get the Warriors below the salary cap so that they could make a run at Gilbert Arenas. However, in the end, he couldn't find homes for the Warriors' bad contracts. Even in a league desperate for quality big men, he couldn't find a taker for Erick Dampier.

"We had a lot of irons in the fire trying to better our team, as well as addressing short-term and long-term our situations with the [salary cap and the luxury tax," St. Jean told the San Francisco Chronicle. "There was an awful lot of dialogue with a lot of teams, but there were obstacles." St. Jean said no one was willing to eat the contracts of Dampier, Danny Fortson, Bob Sura or even Adonal Foyle. "The reality is, the odds of getting things done aren't really good," St. Jean said. "You have to live with that."

They'll also have to live with losing Arenas this summer. If the Warriors don't find a way to get under the cap, it's almost a given that a team like the Nuggets will offer him more coin that the Warriors can match. If that happens, Golden State could be screwed. It will be much tougher to move guys like Fortson, Sura and Foyle before July 1st. The team's payroll is already at $50 million next season, which means it won't really have the cash to pursue a mid-level free agent and stay under the luxury tax. That likely means no Arenas, no point guard and little chance of replacing him via free agency.

Miami Heat: Is Pat Riley hallucinating? While everyone understands while Riley doesn't want his struggling Heat team to take a step backward next year, it's doubtful that they'll be able to take a step forward this summer without moving either Eddie Jones or Brian Grant.
Riley had a deal on the table that would've moved Eddie Jones to Minnesota for Terrell Brandon. However, Brandon's deal didn't come off the books until February of 2004. Riley couldn't live with that.

"If you wait until 2004, then you're going to lose again," Riley said of essentially allowing next season to become a repeat of what these past two cellar-dwelling seasons have been. "We're going to put together a playoff team, we hope, next year. "With the lottery pick, with the room, with sign-and-trades, with two or three second-round draft picks, with more free agents out there, and picking the right ones, we can develop more to go with Eddie and Brian, basically our two key guys."

The Heat's lottery pick should give them a nice young player to compliment Caron Butler, but the cap room, between $5 and $6 million, won't be enough to get them a star. The Heat only have five players on their roster next season, so sign-and-trades are probably out of the question and second round picks just aren't going to cut it. The Heat need star power, but Riley's refusal to look past next season will likely rob them of that. One source inside the Heat say the team is hoping that either Gilbert Arenas or Lamar Odom can be had in free agency for the the $5 or $6 million price tag. Combine him with a young big man in the draft and the possible return of Alonzo Mourning and maybe the Heat aren't in that bad of shape. That's a lot if's however.

For starters, the Nuggets should be able to offer Arenas more. The Clippers might match that low of a deal for Odom and if Mourning comes back, wouldn't he eat most of the Heat's cap space. His cap hold alone won't allow them to do anything. They'll have to renounce his rights just to get under the cap. Would Mourning be willing to work for pennies? "When we cross that bridge, we'll discuss it," Riley told the Sun Sentinel. "We have been very good to Zo, absolutely very good to Zo, very loyal to Zo and very cooperative with him in all aspects of his life here in Miami. And he's been very cooperative and loyal to us, where loyalty goes a long way."

Toronto Raptors: GM Glen Grunwald tried to put a happy face on the Raptors' inability to make a deal by the deadline. "I don't think it's a bad thing. Now we'll get a better chance to evaluate our team the rest of the way," he told the Toronto Star. "I wasn't really pursuing anything. I asked about a couple of guys we were interested in. There was no one on our team I was looking to get rid of." The problem for the Raptors is that they have little to offer other teams. They have $53.6 million in committed salaries next season and don't fall under the cap until the 2006-07 season. Antonio Davis has three years and $37 million left on his contract. Alvin Williams has three years of guaranteed salary left and Jerome Williams has four. Combine that with Vince Carter's max deal and the Raptors have very little wiggle room.

The Raptors' financial situation will limit their ability to use even their mid-level exception to make the team better as owners try to avoid paying the luxury tax. But it gets even worse. With the Raptors suddenly winning basketball games, they're also killing their chances of landing a top lottery pick in this summer's draft. There's almost no way the team can make the playoffs, however, with each win they're creeping further and further away from LeBron James.

Peep Show

Orlando Magic: Tracy McGrady is not taking the trading of his best friend, Mike Miller, very well. "Mike is my man," McGrady told the Orlando Sentinel. "That's like my brother, man. And he's no longer with me. I'm telling you right now: I'm going to be hard on these guys, man. I swear to God, too, because Mike is my dude, man. I'm going to be hard on these guys."

Cleveland Cavaliers: The team has strongly suggested that forward Darius Miles spend the summer in Cleveland to work on his game and his body. There's only one problem: He has no interest in hanging around. "I'll be here on and off with Stan (Kellers, the strength and conditioning coach), but I'm going to be in Chicago with Tim Grover," Miles told the Morning Journal. "Tim Grover is my man. He's been my man and will continue to be my man." . . .GM Jim Paxson said he's consider waiving forward Tyrone Hill if he wants to catch on with a contender. "If he had an interest in being released to get on another roster, I wouldn't be opposed to doing something like that," Paxson said.

Denver Nuggets: Here's more fallout from the Nuggets' trade for Shammond Williams on Thursday. Starting point guard Chris Whitney is worried about playing time and said said he is considering asking the Nuggets to waive him, which could allow him to sign with another team if he clears waivers. "Obviously, there is a situation there," Whitney told the Denver Post. "I'll be splitting time with a couple guys. I like Denver, but I have to check out my options. Until then, I'm with the Denver Nuggets and I'm going to give them my all."

jayC
02-21-2003, 06:28 PM
I am going to be hard on them. T-Mac.

This has got to carry a lot of weight especially if they don't make the playoffs. Hasn't T-Mac said he wasn't going to wait forever to win a title. A lot could happen in two years maybe a T-Mac and Dirk superstar team. An East vs West trade would work a lot better than a West to West trade like KG would be if it was ever possible.