By Marc Stein
First marquee player to be traded this season?
I went with Golden State’s Stephen Jackson when they asked me on ESPN2's NBA Fastbreak roundtable show Thursday night, even though Utah’s Carlos Boozer is in the final year of his contract and thus theoretically easier to move.
All the momentum that has built up in Oakland toward Jackson’s departure was the tiebreaker here. Everyone in the hoops universe knows that he wants to leave town and the Warriors have not tried to hide the fact that they've been seeking to accommodate that request by chasing what they deem to be a beneficial deal. The usual result when we reach those stages, no matter what other obstacles are in the way, is that a deal eventually gets done.
Yet sources close to the situation continue to insist that no deal is close for the Warriors with Opening Night just a few days away. Just as we said back on Oct. 9, it’s almost certainly too soon for Jackson suitors to feel the desperation required to convince one of them to go through with absorbing the three-year extension worth nearly $28 million that kicks in after this season for the 31-year-old . . . as well as Jackson's outsized personality. To this point, sources say, Golden State has only received proposals that are painful deals financially.
So the Dubs will open the season Wednesday against Houston hoping that coach Don Nelson is justified with his ongoing belief that he can work with Jackson for now and keep him sufficiently plugged in despite their recent sideline blowup.
Down the road? Cleveland and Denver, sources say, remain the two teams out there with the most certifiable interest in dealing for Jackson.
The Cavs, though, don't want to surrender Zydrunas Ilgauskas in a prospective deal because they want to keep all the size they can muster to throw at Boston, Orlando and the defending champs from L.A.
Nuggets general manager Mark Warkentien, meanwhile, reminded folks this week that the front-office team in Denver is not afraid to swing big with Chauncey Billups in place to police any chemistry risks in the locker room, telling the Denver Post: “If we get stuck, Big Bertha’s coming out.” The Nuggets, though, have also made it clear through a very measured summer of offseason tweaking that they are in no rush to take on any extra long-term money, which would suggest that Denver’s $8.7 million trade exception from the Billups-for-Allen Iverson swap will quietly expire Nov. 3.
Sources say that Dallas, already two-deep at versatile forward with Shawn Marion and Josh Howard, has informed the Warriors that they have "no interest" in adding Jackson to that mix despite Jackson's publicly stated wish to go to Cleveland, New York or one of the three Texas teams.
ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher reported on the aforementioned roundtable show that San Antonio has a level of interest in reuniting with Jackson as well, but that possibility -- while something that the Spurs have undoubtedly weighed after Jackson helped them win a championship in 2003 -- has likewise been downplayed this week as "remote."
The only other team we’ve heard mentioned as a potential Jackson chaser is Charlotte, although we’re obliged to note that the Bobcats weren’t on Jackson’s original wish list and don’t exactly seem like his kind of team.