Blazers' search for size and other trade chatter

By Marc Stein

The NBA’s trade deadline is now only three Thursdays away.

Which naturally calls for some fresh dribbles of trade chatter from various team executives and league insiders:

The Blazers have indeed registered their interest in Washington center Brendan Haywood, given Haywood’s obvious appeal as a short-term replacement – with an expiring $6 million contract – for the fallen Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla.

But one source close to the situation said that the talks didn’t go far when the Wiz indicated that they’d want both Rudy Fernandez and Nicolas Batum headlining the return package for Haywood, who’s averaging 9.8 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocks.

Portland, meanwhile, continues to insist in the strongest terms that guard Andre Miller is not available, even as rival teams continue to whisper otherwise.

It surely won’t surprise you to hear that the Blazers, given the injury losses on their front line, are also among the teams that have inquired about the availability of Bulls big man Brad Miller.

Chicago, though, is said to be increasingly reluctant to move Miller before the deadline. For a couple reasons.

1. It’s no secret that the Bulls want to clear as much salary-cap space as they can for this summer’s free-agent bonanza, which is why you’re hearing more and more about their willingness to move Kirk Hinrich and John Salmons as covered here last week. Miller’s $12.3 million expiring contract is central to that strategy, so it’s going to take a special offer to get Chicago to part with him.

2. The Bulls have moved into seventh in the East with an 8-2 run that has put them on a pace to match or exceed last season’s 41-41 mark, when they still had Ben Gordon. The run includes four road successive wins against teams in the West’s playoff mix: Phoenix, Houston, San Antonio and Oklahoma City. Miller, furthermore, just scored 25 points in the Houston game in place of the injured Joakim Noah. So even if the Blazers could get to Miller’s salary range with expiring contracts – Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw aren’t enough to make the salary-cap math work -- it’s reasonable for the Bulls to ask themselves: Why change anything unless it’s a clear upgrade?

Miller, though, would almost certainly have to be involved if the Bulls end up going ahead with a firm bid for one of the bigger names/contracts that could potentially move in the next 22 days, such as Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire or Tracy McGrady.

Word is that the Nuggets have also looked into Miller’s availability, but sources say Denver’s luxury-tax issues make adding someone in Miller’s price range highly unlikely even if the Bulls were willing.

The Nuggets still want an extra big man for a possible playoff rematch with the Lakers and are known to covet Indiana’s Jeff Foster as noted here previously. But the luxury tax makes almost everything tricky for them.

Another recent topic discussed in this cyberspace: Philadelphia's attempts to interest Cleveland in a deal for Andre Iguodala.

Open to any trade that will help them convince LeBron James to stay in Cleveland -- as witnessed by their early season run at Stephen Jackson and their well-chronicled interested in a floor-spacing power forward such as Antawn Jamison or Troy Murphy -- LeBron's Cavs are on the short list of teams that would consider absorbing the four years and $56 million left on Iguodala's contract after this season.

The determined pursuit of Jackson until his November trade from Golden State to Charlotte only makes it more apparent that the Cavs are not solely focused on “stretch fours,” as they’re known in the modern game.

Iguodala, though, is difficult for Philly to move because of all that money he’s still owed. Not as difficult as moving Elton Brand or Samuel Dalembert, but all of the teams that like Iguodala – Houston, Dallas and Cleveland are known to have shown varying degrees of interest – have reservations about taking on a deal that big.

The Cavs have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Would they still want Iguodala on their payroll if LeBron leaves and plunges Cleveland into that worst-case position?