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Thursday, July 24
Updated: July 28, 9:21 AM ET
Trade makes hungry Wolves more dangerous

By Marc Stein

To maintain its zany pace and truly be the offseason that has everything, this summer had to have at least one mega-trade at some point.

Naturally, as if on cue, a four-team doozy was completed to satisfy all the above requirements.

The dogged efforts of New York and Philadelphia to broker a multi-team trade that would send Keith Van Horn to the Knicks -- but not Latrell Sprewell to the Sixers -- finally took shape Tuesday after several incarnations. The final product, which was completed Wednesday, is a four-teamer that might do more for the Minnesota Timberwolves than anyone else involved.

The trade hinged on the Timberwolves' willingness to gamble on Spree, and making that gambit -- as opposed to pursuing the more conservative acquisition of Sacramento's Hedo Turkoglu -- means Minnesota has a lineup that has never looked more worthy of the second round of the playoffs.

"It looks like the Wolves are taking the Lakers' approach," one rival general manager said. "Get all the talent and ask questions later."

San Antonio dropped out of the Spree Sweeptakes earlier in the week, deciding that it didn't want to make a major tweak to its championship chemistry, much as Gregg Popovich likes his fellow Warriors alumnus. Indiana was another potential participant in a four-way, with the Pacers desperate to acquire Minnesota's Terrell Brandon for the salary-cap relief tied to Brandon's contract, thereby giving the Pacers hope of keeping Brad Miller away from Utah or Denver.

In the end, it appears that Atlanta knocked the Pacers out with a big name the Sixers couldn't resist: Glenn Robinson. Had the Pacers been involved instead of the Hawks, the Sixers would have acquired Austin Croshere and Ron Mercer.

Instead, the proposed deal breaks down thusly for the clubs involved:

  • New York would get Van Horn, the lanky scoring forward Scott Layden has lusted after for months, thereby ending the controversial (but successful) Sprewell Era in Gotham. Now to see if Van Horn can actually handle playing in New York, and whether the Knicks can handle the loss of Sprewell's toughess and fire, which should tell us if Layden has a future in New York.

  • Philadelphia would get Robinson to replace Van Horn at scoring forward and Philly guy Marc Jackson as a cap throw-in from the Wolves to play in the post. Jackson's contract isn't the friendliest, but he'd be a better-than-average center in the East. The Sixers have a serious need for size and bulk with Todd MacCulloch still facing an uncertain future in his comeback from a neurological disease and Derrick Coleman still an unsigned free agent.

  • Atlanta would get Brandon, whose contract just might be the most coveted in the league. Because Brandon is bound for retirement, his $11.2 million salary essentially vanishes from cap and luxury-tax considerations after January. That's why Indiana would have loved to be among the foursome in play here, knowing that it could significantly raise its contract offer to Miller without moving into tax territory if Brandon were Pacers property.

  • Lastly and most spectacularly, Minnesota would get Sprewell, in the loudest statement yet to Kevin Garnett that the Wolves are serious about surrounding next summer's marquee free agent with quality talent.

    Instead of saving Brandon's cap-friendly contract for themselves, after previously acquiring Sam Cassell in a trade with Milwaukee and signing Michael Olowokandi, the Wolves have tried to increase their odds of re-signing Garnett by taking on even more salary. As a result, Minnesota suddenly has a variety of scoring options -- don't forget Wally Szczerbiak and Troy Hudson -- to give Garnett the most help he has ever had.

    Of course, it might require KG's unselfish best to make it work, unless another trade follows to, say, move Szczerbiak for more of a role player. All five of Garnett's aforementioned teammates need shots and touches to be effective. Garnett and coach Flip Saunders will be stretched trying to make it all mesh.

    Then again, Minny can probably stand this kind of zaniness. After seven straight first-round exits, a talent logjam must look like the proverbial Great Problem To Have.

    Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for To e-mail him, click here. Also, send Stein a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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