Updated: Feb. 23, 2007

SPECIAL WEEKEND EDITION Trades are merely on hold

Editor's note: ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein supplies each item for this around-the-league notebook edition of the Daily Dime.

Somebody has to be the contrarian around here.

Somebody has to counter the outrage all over ESPN.com in response to the inaction at Thursday's trade deadline.

Somebody has to raise the possibility that the seduction of what awaits in June, as well as the obsession with finances in every executive suite on the NBA map, stopped teams from trading as much as the theory that modern-day GMs are suddenly too scared to deal.

Might as well be me.

I didn't like hearing the 2006-07 trade buzzer sound without anything remotely resembling a blockbuster, but I understood a lot of the silence. Why would any team with any projected hope of an upper-echelon pick in such a deep draft make a major move now when their long-term outlook could change so drastically in May after the lottery?

Right. They wouldn't and shouldn't.

Memphis had no incentive to trade Pau Gasol this week, even if the Bulls changed their stance at the last minute and made Luol Deng available. The Grizzlies owe it to themselves to wait and see if they get a top-two draft selection first before deciding whether they should keep or peddle Pau.

Chicago is getting ripped more than anyone, on the premise that adding Gasol automatically makes them a Finals team, but how can you be so sure? Gasol's Grizz have never won a playoff game, much less a series. You could also question whether he's a Scott Skiles kind of player. If it's my team, I'm waiting until the lottery to see if I sneak into Greg Oden/Kevin Durant territory somehow and then offering that New York pick around the league in June if it's not in the top five.

The same holds for the Celtics. For all of his questionable moves, Danny Ainge was smart to withdraw from the in-season edition of the Gasol Derby. A decade after the crushing letdown of not landing Tim Duncan when it was favored to do so, Boston will again have the best odds (or thereabouts) of landing a top-two selection. If the lottery deals them another dose of misfortune, even with Red Auerbach undoubtedly trying to help the Celts from above, Ainge's course will then be much clearer: Package what will still be an attractive pick with Al Jefferson and any other young Celtic to get Paul Pierce some proven, veteran help.

Expect all three of those teams to be hyperactive in June, along with a few clubs that are getting a lot of grief considering how hard they tried to make something splashy happen before the deadline.

Cleveland knows it has to put more ammunition around LeBron James and worked feverishly to get Mike Bibby. Yet when you remember that payroll and luxury-tax concerns impact every decision in this league, it's not so surprising that even the heavy involvement of the original superagent, David Falk, in trying to broker a deal to benefit two of his clients (Cavs GM Danny Ferry and Bibby) couldn't force Sacramento to play along unless it shed significant salary in the process.

The Kings, meanwhile, know they're going nowhere as presently constituted and remain committed to moving Bibby, but only if that provides the financial flexibility Sacramento badly needs to start over.

I fully anticipate both teams to do something big before July 1, probably working together in some sort of resuscitated Bibby transaction, just as I expect the Nets to sign-and-trade Vince Carter in the off-season as opposed to rushing into a Carter or Jason Kidd trade when their options are more limited. If the Nets couldn't prise Andrew Bynum away from the Lakers -- and they were told for weeks that they had no shot -- Rod Thorn was absolutely right to keep his stars for a few more months.

It's not like the Nets, in an Eastern Conference with no dominant team now or looming, are worlds away from contention. Put what they get in a Carter deal alongside Kidd, Richard Jefferson and Nenad Krstic -- or keep Carter and trade Jefferson -- and you could well have a contender if the new mix clicks. Owner Bruce Ratner, I'm told, certainly prefers that approach to shipping out his two fan favorites so he can spend his last few years before the move to Brooklyn in a rebuilding mode sure to enrage his Jersey customers.

None of the above, mind you, is intended to absolve everyone for their non-dealing.

As I've been saying for months, I still believe Minnesota will deeply regret not moving Kevin Garnett this season, since KG can become a free agent after next season. That figures to slice into the Wolves' future trade leverage if they do miss the playoffs again and then finally decide that it's time to move him . . . if the leverage isn't already dripping away after Garnett, responding to the Wolves' inability to manufacture a trade, was quoted in Minneapolis as saying, "Thank God for opt-outs."

I'm also dismayed to see the Clippers looking so fractious again after their way-too-short renaissance, whether it's an unhappy locker room crying out for some sort of shakeup . . . or the Corey Maggette trade cloud that won't go away . . . or the fact that it took Donald Sterling jumping back into personnel matters to get everyone in the organization on the same page when it comes to Maggette.

Orlando's status-quo approach, after a months-long slide and rumblings of rising player unhappiness that threaten to undo a good bit of the Magic's recent progress, also stands out as a disappointment.

There's little doubt, as one front-office chief suggests, that too many teams are "holding onto first-round picks like they're gold bricks" because they've "worked themselves into a frenzy that this draft will solve all your problems."

It's undoubtedly true, furthermore, that putting an emphasis on the draft, as opposed to making big trades, is a clever device for GMs to buy themselves more evaluation time.

Knowing all that, I'd still rather be the guy who says that one of the most anticipated drafts in recent memory just got better because of all the fruitless trade talks that will simply roll over into May, June and July. Remembering that we did have an ALLEN IVERSON TRADE in December, as well as January's Indy-Golden State swap and the Chris Webber free-agent sweepstakes, I'm not going to complain too loudly about what didn't happen on Deadline Day.

Honestly? What I cared to see most Thursday was Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki hooking up after their recent back-and-forth sniping and subsequent refusal to tap fists before the opening tip of the All-Star Game. This is obviously the least of Miami's concerns, but Wade's shoulder injury submarined what had to rank as the most intriguing game on the regular-season schedule and probably means that the league's most promising rivalry -- given the growing, open contempt on both sides -- is going to lose some major momentum. Hopes for a Finals rematch are fading.

Wade's injury, then, was Thursday's big disappointment . . . if we can permit ourselves to focus on the trivialities of NBA business as opposed to the impossibly sad news of Dennis Johnson's passing.

I'm convinced that we're going to see so much transaction traffic after the playoffs that you'll scarcely remember the trade-deadline quiet.

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.

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Nothing But (Curious) Nets
Kidd and Carter
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images
The trade deadline has passed, but Jason Kidd and Vince Carter (see above) still have to be wondering about their futures.


Eastern Conference

The passing of the trade deadline accelerates the clock on the league's buyout watch. Players waived after March 1 are ineligible for the playoffs if they sign with another team.

So if there are any more Jalen Roses, Chris Webbers or Eddie Joneses this season, they have to be paid off and made available by their current employers by Thursday.

Obvious buyout candidates -- guys with expiring contracts whose names you've been hearing in connection with the trade deadline but weren't dealt -- include Portland's Jamaal Magloire and Memphis' Chucky Atkins.

But the most interesting buyout candidate resides in the East: Steve Francis.

Of course, first New York has to finally be willing to pay off the nearly $45 million that remains on Francis' contract over the two seasons. Mixed signals persist when it comes to the Knicks' willingness to go the buyout route and Francis' determination to pursue his freedom.

But . . .

If a buyout is forthcoming, as one Knicks observer suggests, how long will the line be to sign him?

Cleveland couldn't manufacture a Mike Bibby deal before the deadline no matter how hard it tried. The Lakers also have a backcourt void after their Jason Kidd flirtations proved fruitless. Francis' old team in Houston likewise has a guard opening after passing on a Mike James trade.

Oh, yeah. Almost forgot.

I'm pretty sure Miami has some guard minutes available as well.


I would love to be able to tell you what Shaquille O'Neal meant Thursday night when he said that the MVP voting has been "tainted" for the "last couple years."

But I can't.

Attempts by the media pack at O'Neal's locker to get him to elaborate were rebuffed. And while it might seem like an obvious shot at Steve Nash, that contradicts the conversation I had with Shaq before the game.

When he asked who I projected to win the MVP award, O'Neal reacted with disbelief when I told him Dirk Nowitzki was leading the race with a third of the season to go.

"Over Nash?" Shaq asked . . . and in a disapproving way, not sarcastically.


A bonus bite from Shaq, from one of his rare moments of deep thought during an All-Star Weekend of breakdancing:

"My father told me something interesting the other day. He said, 'You know it's coming to an end for you. Not this year or next year, but in two or three years.' And he said, 'Son, I want you to leave the game as gracefully as when you entered the game.' So I've had a great time. I've done my thing here and won championships, but I'm going to leave gracefully."



Question Marc
From the Stein Line e-mailbag:


Myke (Salt Lake City): The West had its 12 original All-Stars and four replacement selections. Do all 16 guys really get to claim All-Star status? What's the record for most All-Stars in a given season?

Stein: All 16 players on the West squad will indeed go into the record books as 2007 All-Stars and it appears to be a record.

In the annual Official NBA Register that lists every player's career statistics, there are no asterisks for players who are named as injury replacements by the commissioner. All-Stars who sit out find this line in their year-by-year stats: Selected, did not play -- injured.

Carmelo Anthony, Ray Allen, Josh Howard and Mehmet Okur are thus afforded the same historical status as the West guys who were injured and couldn't go: Carlos Boozer, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash and Yao Ming.

As for the record, league research only goes as far back as 1990. The info shows that there were five injury-replacement selections by David Stern in 1997, same as this year, but not four from one conference like we saw this time.

In 2007, Joe Johnson served as the only East sub for Jason Kidd. The breakdown was only 3-2 in the West's favor in '97.

In the East that year, Chris Webber replaced Patrick Ewing and Joe Dumars replaced Alonzo Mourning. In the West, Kevin Garnett replaced Shaquille O'Neal, Detlef Schrempf replaced Charles Barkley and Chris Gatling replaced Clyde Drexler.




Inside Info
Gasol
Sam Forencich/Getty Images
A tip: Look for the Grizz to make a firm decision about Pau Gasol's future after seeing how they do in May's draft lottery.


Western Conference
Johnson

The Mavericks didn't trade away Anthony Johnson because Johnson was unhappy as Dallas' third point guard. Far from it.

Even though Johnson wasn't playing much for the Mavs, he told me before the deadline -- well aware that teams had been calling Dallas for weeks to pry him away -- that he really wanted to stay. Club insiders also say Johnson was a welcome presence in the locker room, despite his struggles to take minutes away from Jason Terry and Devin Harris.

Dallas simply couldn't resist the opportunity to save more than $8 million in future salary and luxury-tax obligations . . . and create a $2.6 million trade exception . . . and take back what should be a pretty decent pick early in the second round of the deep June draft by sending Johnson to the Hawks.

The Mavs acquired Johnson (along with Austin Croshere) in a summertime trade with Indiana, only to learn that Johnson and Terry weren't best buds in Atlanta some years back. But they laughed at those memories in Big D, insisting from the start that a reunion -- with Johnson brought in to add to the Mavs' collective experience after their emotional Finals collapse -- would be no problem.

"We were young in Atlanta," Johnson said earlier this season. "They drafted [Terry], brought him in and were basically grooming him to take over the team. I was part of the last Hawks playoff team, so there was a little bit of a beef at first. But it was easy to put that aside. We're men now. We're all about winning a championship."

Johnson returns to Dallas on Monday with the Hawks. The Mavs also considered trading him for a third big man (to replace the fallen DJ Mbenga) or another shooter -- something they need more than you think -- but the reality is that coach Avery Johnson simply won't play a shooter who can't defend some as well. That's why Dallas had such strong interest in Eddie Jones after Memphis waived him; Jones can still be a defensive factor who's also a threat to make corner 3s.


You can't be surprised, even though a deal appeared close Wednesday night, that the Rockets ultimately declined to trade for the guy who ranked as their No. 1 free-agent target last summer.

To get Minnesota's Mike James, according to NBA front-office sources, Houston would have been forced to part with Juwan Howard or Chuck Hayes.

The Rockets were understandably prepared to part with neither. Making any changes to a group that has gone a heady 18-9 without Yao Ming -- Houston was simply hoping to the use the contract of injured guard Bob Sura to get James -- didn't make much sense to coach Jeff Van Gundy, who apparently lobbied hardest to stand pat. .

In Los Angeles, meanwhile, Andrew Bynum's untouchable status is the latest indication of the growing influence possessed by Jim Buss, son of Lakers owner Jerry Buss.

The Lakers drafted Bynum in part because of the younger Buss' infatuation with the teen-aged center. L.A. had no hesitation to add Jason Kidd's huge contract to Kobe Bryant's and Lamar Odom's -- knowing that they have to make the most of Kobe's time with Phil Jackson in their second life together -- but the Bynum gamble has worked out so well that there was never a chance either Buss would have allowed the 7-footer to go in a Kidd deal.


Two very valid complaints I heard from a couple West Coast clubs this week:

1. Instead of 10-day contracts, why not five-game contracts? Makes a ton of sense when you consider Team A might play five or six games in the same 10-day span that Team B has three or four games.

2. Is a 3 p.m. EST trading deadline fair to teams in the Pacific Time Zone? I know, I know. Bill Simmons and countless others on this website would have you believe that it doesn't matter anyway because nobody makes trades in the NBA . . . or you're undoubtedly thinking that some of those teams enjoy weather in February that gives them no right to complain about anything. But the three-hour time difference barely gives the Left Coasters half a business day to make a deal before the trade buzzer sounds.






Daily Dish: Trade Talk

The trade deadline has passed but the trade talk continues. Marc Stein and Chad Ford examine all of the action and inaction at the deadline in Ford's daily podcast.

Listen to the podcast



Film Session
What's Durant's Deal
On Friday's NBA Shootaround, ESPN analysts Tim Legler and Greg Anthony engaged in a, well, heated discussion as they weighed Dwyane Wade's options.

Should Wade undergo shoulder surgery that would immediately end his season? Or should he put off an operation until the summer and try to make it back in April after six weeks of rehab?



Rank Comments
Cuban

It's one of the readers' favorites and we do it every week: Trot out five (or so) responses to the latest edition of my NBA Power Rankings to make sure you have your say.

Straight from the rankings mailbag:

J.R. (Whitman, MA): I'm not a Nash hater and I do feel he is the best point guard in the league, but suggesting the way Phoenix performs without him justifies Nash winning his MVPs is absurd. If the MVP was awarded based on this logic, then wouldn't Michael Redd deserve the honor because the Bucks went 3 and whatever without him? Or how about Antawn Jamison? Or Paul Pierce?

Committee's counter: The problem with your e-mail -- and we've gotten several along these same lines -- is that we never said Phoenix's performance without Nash guarantees him another MVP award. Dirk Nowitzki, if you must know, would get our MVP vote if the season ended today. What we wrote is that the Suns' struggles without Nash should bury an argument that also frequently floods our inbox. The one about how Nash doesn't deserve MVP consideration because the players around him are so good. That was the point.

EG (Brooklyn): There will come a time in the very near future that you will have to write a feel-good story about my Knicks. But beware: There will be no room for you or Greg Anthony on our bandwagon!

Committee's counter: We're starting to see a ripple of Knicks Will Finish Eighth correspondence. But we'll go ahead and continue to take our chances.

Read the full Marc Stein blog Insider



Marc's Quote
Cuban

"I've never had that kind of injury, so I can't make predictions. But I'm hoping to play."

Hornets forward Peja Stojakovic, whose ahead-of-schedule recovery from back surgery has club officials quietly hoping that the biggest free-agent acquisition in club history can return to the lineup sometime in March.



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