The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat pulled the first major trade of the NBA season Friday in exchanging point guards Brian Shaw and Sherman Douglas, but it raised major questions on both sides.
Miami's desire to trade Douglas was understandable after the Washington native sat out the first two months of the season in a salary dispute. The Heat was forced to match the Los Angeles Lakers' offer sheet of $16.6 million for the next seven years.
But Miami's surprising success with rookie Steve Smith, a converted shooting guard, running its offense, made Douglas expendable.
Boston, in turn, had grown disenchanted with the floor leadership of Shaw, who first antagonized management by leaving the Celtics after an impressive NBA rookie season to play for Il Messaggero in Italy during the 1989-90 season.
Shaw returned to the Celtics last season, but his play was inconsistent, and by the playoffs, he had lost his starting job to precocious rookie Dee Brown, a more natural, versatile point guard.
Brown is on the injured list, recovering from knee surgery that is expected to keep him sidelined until February. It makes one wonder if Celtics coach Chris Ford can afford to keep a pair of undersized playmakers in Brown, 6-foot-1, and Douglas, listed generously at 6 feet.
Both are intense competitors and the loser in Ford's pecking order could rebel at playing a backup role. This could create a scenario similar to the volatile position Rick Pitino faced a few years ago in New York when Mark Jackson and Rod Strickland were alternating at guard, each with his own supporters.
"I can't foresee the future," Douglas said. "All I know is that right now Boston has a lot of injuries to key players, and I'm just going to try and do whatever I can to help."
The Celtics have more immediate concerns. In losing their last two games to Minnesota and New York, they were minus their All-Star front line of Larry Bird (back), Robert Parish (ankle) and Kevin McHale (bruised calf). Bird's latest back injury is the most serious, and, perhaps, career-threatening.
"We're going to have to scour the free-agent market, look for trades and also hope to get lucky in the draft," said Celtics vice president Dave Gavitt, recognizing that all three of his injured big men are nearing retirement.
Docked Ferry: Last week at the Capital Centre, with his father, former Washington Bullets general manager Bob Ferry in attendance, Cleveland's $3 million forward Danny Ferry didn't play a single minute in the Cavaliers' 99-92 victory.
With Cleveland on a record 11-game winning streak and challenging the Chicago Bulls for supremacy in the Eastern Conference, it has quashed controversy over the team's blockbuster deal with the Los Angeles Clippers in November 1989 for Ferry that cost the Cavaliers high-scoring guard Ron Harper, plus first-round draft picks in 1990 and 1992 and a 1991 second-round choice.
Playing behind Larry Nance and John "Hot Rod" Williams at power forward, Ferry is averaging five points and three rebounds a game.
Cleveland coach Lenny Wilkens bristles if reporters suggest Ferry has proved "a bust."
"I have no complaints with Danny," he said. "He's just caught in a situation where he is playing behind two very talented forwards, and I'm not going to sacrifice winning to give a player more minutes. But Danny has a great work ethic and keeps trying to improve his game. He just has to remain patient."
Barkley L.A.-bound? The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Sunday that the 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers had spent 10 days discussing a possible deal that would have sent Charles Barkley west for Lakers forward James Worthy. Magic Johnson reportedly was serving as an intermediary, but the deal finally fizzled.
"We haven't had any reasonable offers," 76ers owner Harold Katz said. Barkley, however, remains convinced he won't finish the season in Philadelphia.