By Marc Stein
The following is our latest intel on the status of Stephen Jackson’s future with the Golden State Warriors, as of late Wednesday/early Thursday, adding to the report from my ESPN The Magazine colleague Chris Broussard earlier Wednesday indicating that the Warriors could be closing in on a Jackson trade:
Warriors coach Don Nelson disputed the notion of a next-few-days timetable when he met with reporters before Golden State’s season-opening loss to Houston. Referring to Warriors general manager Larry Riley, Nelson said: “I speak to Larry every day and I haven’t heard that. . . . It would surprise me if that’s true.”
Our evening check, via NBA front-office sources, likewise suggested that Golden State is still getting largely unappetizing offers for Jackson. The Warriors are undoubtedly prepared to move Jackson but have said from the start that they won't rush the process just for the sake of making a deal.
Cleveland nonetheless continues to be nominated by executives around the league as the most likely destination for Jackson. Yet we must again pass along the disclaimer that obstacles to a Cavs-Warriors swap remain, even if Cleveland’s 0-2 start has put LeBron James and his overhauled supporting cast on a path toward desperate faster than anyone imagined.
Sources say that both LeBron and Shaq -- although they have no plans to say so publicly – like the idea of acquiring Jackson. But Cleveland’s reluctance to part with Zydrunas Ilgauskas and his $11.5 million expiring contract in the exchange, which would make the Cavs smaller as a team and strip them of their O’Neal injury insurance, has been well chronicled.
If the Warriors were willing to package Ronny Turiaf along with Jackson or planning to waive Ilgauskas after they got him – potentially setting up Big Z to rejoin the Cavs after a 30-day wait as seen last season with Antonio McDyess – Cleveland’s perspective would presumably change. Every signal I’m getting, though, suggests that Golden State would be amenable to neither of those scenarios.
So, either another team (or two) must be recruited to help facilitate a Jackson-to-Cleveland swap. Or that deal depends on the early season discomfort in Cleveland or Golden State reaching the point that it causes one of the teams involved to amend their current stance.
The Nuggets, sources say, remain interested Jackson as well, but Denver’s trade exception which expires next week is down to $7.4 million. Which means that the exception is a touch too small to accommodate Jackson’s $7.65 million salary, even if Denver was prepared to absorb the long-term tax implications of adding the 31-year-old to their payroll.
Charlotte is the only other inquirer we’ve pinpointed so far, but I’ve been strongly cautioned that there are other teams with serious interest in Jackson that have yet to be publicly identified.
Yet I was also told in strong terms that neither San Antonio nor the Los Angeles Clippers are on that list. And we covered last week how Dallas, with Shawn Marion and Josh Howard already on the roster, has been telling the Warriors that they’re not interested, even though Jackson’s publicly stated dream destinations are Cleveland, New York or one of the three Texas teams.
New Orleans, by contrast, would appear to have a clear and growing need for Jackson’s scoring threat and swagger from the wing, especially if you’re making judgments based on the mere 20 combined points managed by Morris Peterson, Julian Wright, Peja Stojakovic and James Posey in the Hornets’ season-opening loss at San Antonio. Yet it remains to be seen whether the Hornets will firmly enter the bidding for Jackson, who, remember, has a three-year contract extension worth nearly $28 million that kicks in after this season.