Wizards may not have goods to deal

Role players available as trade deadline looms

February 20, 2002|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

While the rest of the Washington Wizards are in Detroit tonight to meet the Pistons, their self-described "father," Michael Jordan, will be getting treatment for an ailing knee and likely poring over rosters for a possible deal before tomorrow's NBA trading deadline.

It's more than likely that Jordan will be unable to find any "kids" from other teams who will fit in with his Wizards.

Jordan, who gave up his title as president of basketball operations to return to active player status, is still considered to be a major contributor to personnel decisions, and would certainly have input into any deals.

Despite Jordan's interest in making a trade, publicly expressed during All-Star Weekend, the Wizards may not have enough available commodities to get an adequate return.

Start with the premise that the best player the Wizards could offer in a trade would be Jordan himself. Though his salary of $1 million is quite cap-friendly for trade purposes, he's not likely to move himself. The player with the next-highest value is guard Richard Hamilton, the team's second-leading scorer, but he is seen as the future anchor of the franchise.

If Washington makes a deal, the pool of possible candidates likely consists of three players - forwards Popeye Jones and Christian Laettner and guard Courtney Alexander. But there are significant holes in trade scenarios involving any of them.

Jones, the team's leading rebounder, has become an essential cog in the Wizards' machinery, with his hustle and ability to teach and work with younger players, such as rookies Kwame Brown, Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas. Jones moved into the starting lineup when Laettner broke his left leg in December and sustained a deep thigh contusion last month, and appears to be a permanent fixture in Washington's rotation.

Laettner, who came over with Alexander, Thomas and Hubert Davis from the Dallas Mavericks in the deal for Juwan Howard at last season's trade deadline, has been injury-hampered all season. His four-year, $21 million contract also makes him a difficult salary cap fit for most teams.

Alexander, who has occasionally frustrated team officials with his hesitance to play hurt, may have some value given his youth (age 24) and skills, but his inconsistency has likely lowered whatever the team could receive for him in a trade.

If anything, the Wizards would be likely to be looking for an inside presence. The name of veteran Bulls power forward Charles Oakley, who played with Jordan and was coached by Washington coach Doug Collins in Chicago, has been floated in published reports. Oakley has been outspoken about his unhappiness in Chicago, but it is not clear if Bulls management would grant his request to leave.

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