More trade chatter (if that's OK)

By Marc Stein

We’ve reached that point in the season where chatter on the NBA grapevine inevitably spawns more chatter.

Not that I imagine you’ll protest.

The following are a few more tidbits picked up from various executives, coaches, scouts and league insiders in follow-up discussions generated by this week’s Weekend Dime:

Denver’s desire to acquire an extra big man to throw at the defending champs from L.A. is no secret.

What I didn’t realize until the weekend is the need to start describing the Nuggets’ affection for Pacer lifer Jeff Foster in stronger terms.

Love is the word used by two sources close to the situation.

The obstacles to a Foster-to-Denver deal, though, are considerable.

Obstacle No. 1: Foster has one more season left on his contract after this season at nearly $6.7 million and has a 15-percent trade kicker in his contract. As much as the Nuggets would be thrilled to have Foster – giving them one more mobile counter to all of the Lakers’ feared size – that’s a lot to take on for a team that’s already looking at a luxury-tax payment in July of more than $5 million.

Obstacle No. 2: My man Chad Ford noted in his latest chat that the Nuggets would almost certainly need to find a third team to facilitate a deal for Foster unless they were willing to surrender rookie guard Ty Lawson. And you obviously presume Denver won't be surrendering the speedy Lawson, who Chad says Indy nearly chose ahead Tyler Hansbrough and looks like an absolute steal as last June's No. 18 pick.

An assumption in circulation all season held that Detroit would try to move Rip Hamilton before any other Piston because there isn't enough room in one rotation for Rip, Ben Gordon and Rodney Stuckey.

The reality is that Tayshaun Prince would appear to be the most likely of Detroit's championship holdovers to be dealt first, since Prince possesses the more cap-friendly contract.

Only one season remains on Prince's deal after this season at $11.1 million. The Pistons, furthermore, also have a few young guys they like (Austin Daye, Jonas Jerebko and DaJuan Summers) who can play some 3.

Matters are complicated by the fact that injuries have limited both Piston mainstays to nine games each this season. But it's clear that the Pistons have to make a move for a true point guard or a dependable big man ... not necessarily to bust out of this 12-game losing streak but for their long-term future.

"I know there are a lot of conversations going on," one source said. "I'm sure Tay's in play."

I’ve been reliably assured that Chicago's Tyrus Thomas, back at last from a forearm injury, remains highly available.

No trade partner has emerged for the enigmatic former No. 4 overall pick, but moving Thomas before the deadline is still Chicago's intention.

The Bulls drafted Taj Gibson at least partly because they saw him as an ideal replacement for Thomas and they like the progress Gibson is making as a starter.

One of the New York papers, as part of its coverage of the Knicks’ loss in Houston on Saturday night, suggested that teams interested in trading for Tracy McGrady – such as the Knicks – might have a shot at signing McGrady as a free agent after the trading deadline if the Rockets can’t find a palatable McGrady trade in the next six weeks.

That's hardly a given.

I’ve heard repeatedly since Houston and McGrady's representatives co-announced the intention to find a new home for T-Mac that the organization is philosophically opposed to buyouts and determined not to grant one if no deal materializes in time.

We'll see if that's a stance designed to inject trade talks with more urgency or something that holds up in late February if necessary.

The biggest obstacle to a T-Mac trade remains his $22.5 million salary and the number of players required from the other team(s) to make a deal. The Rockets are willing to take on, say, one unfriendly contract for the privilege of acquiring a top-shelf player, but not multiple bad contracts.