Updated: February 6, 2010, 4:44 PM ET
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images Caron Butler could be the first major departure from Washington to a contender.

1. When The Dealing Begins

By Marc Stein

The NBA's Feb. 18 trade deadline is less than two weeks away.

Not sufficiently close enough to prompt teams to make their best offers ... but obviously close enough to merit another round of the latest chatter from the NBA grapevine as passed along by various league executives, coaches, players, scouts, insiders, etc.

Kevin Martin, Andre Iguodala and Caron Butler continue to be the three swingmen most frequently linked with Mark Cuban's trade-seeking Mavericks, who have been stonewalled in their attempts to pry Martin away from Sacramento and thus have not ruled out a move for Butler.

Sources say that Washington and Dallas have maintained a Butler dialogue while the Wizards also continue talks with Houston in a larger deal for Tracy McGrady.

As stated previously in this cyberspace, Martin tops the Mavs' list in their search for a dependable second scorer to flank Dirk Nowitzki. Sources say, however, that Dallas would likely have to recruit a third team to present the quality big man presumably needed to prompt the Kings to alter their thinking.

The Wiz and Mavs, meanwhile, have discussed a deal that would swap Josh Howard and one other player (such as James Singleton or Quinton Ross) for Butler and DeShawn Stevenson. But Dallas has little interest in taking back Stevenson and is still weighing whether Butler can help pull the All-Star Weekend hosts out of a spiral that has been openly addressed this week (see Box 4) by Mark Cuban.

"We're just in a funk right now," Cuban said Wednesday night, publicly acknowledging his desire to make a move just a week before much of the league descends upon Big D.

As for a Wizards-Rockets deal, one source with knowledge of the talks says the obstacles preventing the teams from closing in on a McGrady deal haven't changed much. The Wizards are believed to be willing to surrender coveted center Brendan Haywood along with Butler but want a player from Houston's scrappy core -- such as Luis Scola, Carl Landry or Shane Battier -- that the Rockets aren't willing to surrender in addition to McGrady's $22.5 million expiring contract.

As my ESPN.com colleague Chad Ford wrote Thursday, Washington's preference is moving Butler ahead of team statesman Antawn Jamison, who has been chased hard by Cleveland since last season and with particular vigor since the Cavs lost out to Charlotte in the trade race to acquire Stephen Jackson.

The revelation of the week is that Phoenix, forever conscious of the luxury-tax line, is apparently willing to take on both Andre Iguodala (who has four seasons left on his contract after this season worth $56 million) and Samuel Dalembert (scheduled to earn $12 million next season) from Philadelphia in a deal for Amare Stoudemire.

Yet it's believed that the Suns would want the Sixers to take back Jason Richardson in such a swap, which would also require Philly to send another player (such as Jason Kapono or Willie Green) to the desert.

Stoudemire's loud suggestions this week that he might not opt out of his contract at season's end, as Chad likewise noted, were likely designed to give the Sixers further hesitation. The prospect of having to pay Stoudemire and Richardson next season -- as opposed to Stoudemire relieving them of any financial commitment beyond this season in his case by opting out -- would bring Philly no financial relief, which is one of its main trade aims.

The Sixers, just to be clear, do still hope to snag some affordable talent in addition to payroll relief if they part with Iguodala, who might be overpriced but still qualifies as an unquestionable all-around impact player who's just 26.

That should explain why one plugged-in source warned this week that it won't be a surprise if Philly does not make a deadline deal.

Iguodala has been made available after Philly got nowhere with its long-standing attempts to move Dalembert and Elton Brand.

The Blazers have insisted for weeks that guard Andre Miller, no matter how many rival teams describe him as available and despite Portland's obvious need for big men after losing Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla to season-ending knee injuries, will not be traded.

Yet it had to be asked last Saturday after Miller's eruption in Dallas: Does a 52-point game make Miller even less available ... or more desirable?

"I don't know," Miller said. "It's one night. It's still a business. Whatever happens, happens."

It has been widely suspected from the moment Portland signed Miller in the offseason, after failed free-agent bids for Hedo Turkoglu and Paul Millsap, that the Blazers snagged the 33-year-old purely to make sure they acquired a tradable asset without letting last summer's salary-cap space go to waste.

The ongoing skepticism about Miller's co-existing with Brandon Roy, since both need to see so much of the ball to be effective, has been temporarily hushed while Roy is sidelined by a hamstring injury. Yet Miller admits that he does "glance on the Internet" on occasion to read the latest chatter, expecting to hear his name tossed around until the deadline passes because he's a vet who knows how the league works.

"I hear more [trade speculation] from friends, but if I'm on the computer, why not?" Miller said. "You can try, but you can't shut it out [totally]. I take it in stride."

I read a tweet earlier this week from a certain Boston fan at our place urging his Celts to scrap any notion of dealing away Ray Allen unless they're getting Sacramento's Martin, Philadelphia's Iguodala, Golden State's Monta Ellis or Chicago's Luol Deng in return.

Amid growing skepticism that the Celts can actually move Allen and his $19.7 million contract before the deadline -- even though there's little dispute that they've explored the possibility -- let's go ahead anyway and add these thoughts to the latter two targets since we've already discussed Martin and Iguodala.

Ellis: As with Miller in Portland, rival teams refuse to believe that Ellis can't be pried away from the Warriors, since he's ringing up all those points in a too-small backcourt with prized rookie Stephen Curry.

The Warriors, though, are adamant that there was never a shred of validity to the recent report out of Boston suggesting that a deal featuring Allen and Ellis was a legit possibility.

The safest assumption at this point? As mentioned earlier this season when the prospect of Golden State's trading young Anthony Randolph was raised, teams would almost certainly have to be willing to absorb the contract of Corey Maggette (with nearly $31 million left on that deal over the next three seasons) to get an Ellis conversation started.

Deng: Sources with knowledge of the Bulls' thinking say he's not available, even though Chicago is determined to shed at least one more long-term contract to increase its salary-cap space for a summertime run at Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh.

Word is that the Bulls' preference remains trying to move guards Kirk Hinrich and John Salmons, hoping that they can keep the versatile Deng to complement a marquee free-agent addition and the increasingly free-scoring Derrick Rose.

Harder to read are the Lakers' true intentions. They're frequently mentioned as a prime suitor for Hinrich, but there are also regular rumblings that L.A.'s primary goal at the deadline is reducing payroll by persisting with recent attempts to move Sasha Vujacic or Luke Walton. Hinrich has two seasons and $17 million left on his contract after this season.

Dimes past: Jan. 19 | 20 | 22-23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29-30 | 31 | Feb. 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

2. Eastern Conference

Some numbers of note in the East this week:

1: Detroit's Ben Wallace isn't just the first player shorter than 6-foot-10 to record 2,000 career blocks. Big Ben is also the first undrafted player in league history to reach that milestone since the NBA began tracking blocked shots in 1973-74. Only six players have ever recorded 2,000 blocks and 1,000 steals: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Robert Parish, David Robinson and Wallace.

15: Toronto has set a franchise record with 15 consecutive games with at least 100 points. Phoenix had the season's longest such streak with 100 points in its first 17 games.

6: Dwyane Wade will soon be making his sixth All-Star appearance, besting Alonzo Mourning's previous Heat franchise record of five.

1: Derrick Rose will become the youngest All-Star in Bulls history on Feb. 14 at 21 years and 133 days old. Michael Jordan was 21 years and 359 days old in his All-Star debut as a rookie in 1985.

4: Cleveland's LeBron James (14,458), Toronto's Chris Bosh (9,806), Charlotte's Gerald Wallace (6,654) and Wade (11,247) give the East four active players who -- along with Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki (20,288) and the Lakers' Kobe Bryant (25,213) in the West -- rank as the all-time leading scorer in franchise history. Two active players rank as the franchise scoring leader for teams they previously played for: Boston's Kevin Garnett (19,041 points for Minnesota) and the Lakers' Pau Gasol (8,966 points for Memphis).

3. Coaches Corner


This has been a good season for NBA coaches.

Or at least a safe season.

Six coaches were fired last season before Christmas, doubling the NBA's previous record.

Mike Dunleavy's sudden departure Thursday from the bench in L.A. makes the Clippers just the third team this season to make an in-season change.

It hasn't been as quiet as 2007-08, when Chicago's ouster of Scott Skiles on Christmas Eve was the only in-season switch. But it's been positively stable compared to 2008-09, when eight teams changed coaches to come within one firing of tying the single-season record of nine established in 2004-05.

A comparison:

*Date listed is the first game for the new coach

**Tom Barrise coached two games after the Nets fired Frank

P.S.: You can safely assume we'll be coming back to this topic in the offseason … if not sooner. Amid rising rumblings in coaching circles that first-year Sixers coach Eddie Jordan is already in trouble, and with a few coaches in the final year of their contracts (Denver's George Karl and Atlanta's Mike Woodson, just to name two) in addition to Bower, Vandeweghe and Hughes, there could be plenty of activity on the coaching carousel before we even get to the Summer of 2010 free-agent bonanza.

4. One-On-One … To Five

Five questions with Bucks center Andrew Bogut:

Q: You look so comfortable and patient out there now. Is that the biggest difference between this season and your first few seasons?

A: I'm probably just more confident. More consistent. I've shown glimpses in the last couple years, but this year they told me in preseason that they want me to be the focal point of the offense. I've taken that challenge. There's still been some games where I've had bad nights, but consistency is the thing I'm working on the most.

Q: I don't get to see you a lot in person but you just strike me now as someone who knows exactly what you want to do when you get the ball. Is that just experience?

A: The toughest thing in the NBA is that there's 29 different coaching staffs and defenses and you have to learn [the league]. The biggest adjustment for me was learning that this team is probably going to double me, this team is probably going to play behind me in the post, this team is going to front me. But I'm much more confident. I'm almost a veteran now.

Q: When you're the former No. 1 overall pick in the draft, do you still have to live up to that every day?

A: I know when I have great games now that some people will say: "He's supposed to do that. He's a No. 1 pick." But it doesn't really bother me any more. I tried to run away from it maybe for the first couple years. I just want to be in the playoffs now. That's all I'm really worried about.

Q: I've gotten so many e-mails asking why there wasn't more All-Star buzz for you. Was that a big disappointment?

A: I'm not really worried about trying to be an All-Star. Like I said, I just want to be in the playoffs again. These last three seasons we've had have really sucked, and the offseason training we had sucked because we had a bad year and didn't make the playoffs. … I'm not going to lie. I'd definitely like to be an All-Star once or twice. I'd definitely like to experience that. I think I'm definitely up there after Dwight Howard as one of the best centers in the East. I know I'll get there one day, but if you tell me playoffs or All-Star, I'd definitely take playoffs.

Q: You can probably identify with the pressure on Brandon [Jennings] better than anyone else in this locker room. How's he dealing with it?

A: He's gone back to that 55-point game and I think he's right: It kind of helped him and kind of hurt him. You score 55 and you're on the national radar. So much is expected of you every single night. But he's handling it OK. He's a young kid. He's 19 years old. He still can't even have a legal drink. He's had some good days and bad days, but I like his work ethic. I like that he's not afraid to talk and get into teammates already as a young player. I definitely think Brandon and myself are two guys you can build around.


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