Surprise: big buildup, then big deals

ON THE NBA

Pro Basketball

February 24, 2002|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

The NBA trading deadline has come and gone and actually lived up to all the media hype, with some interesting deals sliding under the door before it closed.

The fact that big names, on the order of Raef LaFrentz, Nick Van Exel, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Rodney Rogers and Marc Jackson, changed hands is remarkable, given the significant roadblocks thrown in the way by the league's collective bargaining agreement.

"You have a lot of high-price players, a lot of lower-price players and not a lot of in-betweens," said Washington Wizards coach Doug Collins. "It's very difficult to make a one-for-one deal without making it like the Bulls and Pacers did, like seven guys, where you can match up a lot of salaries."

Indeed, only one deadline deal involved a basically man-for-man swap. The other three deals were salary goulashes with players thrown in to make the deals match financially.

Here's a brief look at the impact of each deal:

Boston traded guards Milt Palacio and Randy Brown and forward Joe Johnson to Phoenix for Rogers and guard Tony Delk.

The Celtics are golden in this deal, getting an experienced scoring big man in Rogers, albeit an undersized one, and a solid backup point guard in Delk, who also can score. The Suns essentially have given up on this season with this trade, but Johnson, a sleeper lottery pick from Arkansas, might help down the road.

Chicago traded center Brad Miller, forward Ron Mercer and guards Ron Artest and Kevin Ollie to Indiana for Rose, Best and Norman Richardson and a conditional second-round pick.

In Miller, the Pacers get a plodding but feisty center (ask Shaquille O'Neal) who allows Jermaine O'Neal to shift out to power forward, a better fit. Artest, a muscular defender (ask Michael Jordan) and Mercer are good young talents who had better work if Isiah Thomas is to remain as coach. Rose and Best will give Chicago some veteran leadership, but will they still be there when the Bulls get better, assuming that ever happens?

Dallas got Van Exel, guard Avery Johnson, guard Tariq Abdul-Wahad and LaFrentz from Denver for Howard, guard Tim Hardaway, forward Donnell Harvey, cash and a first-round pick.

The Nuggets' portion of this deal can best be described in one word: What? And you really have to feel for Hardaway, who has been a good soldier for so long and seemed to be a key member on a title contender. Now he has to start again from scratch.

The Mavericks, meanwhile, can put LaFrentz in the middle and move Dirk Nowitzki out to power forward. They might have to move Michael Finley to small forward and start the volatile Van Exel at shooting guard to keep him from whining. Defense might go out the window, too, but Dallas will have one of the top five starting lineups in the league.

Minnesota acquired Jackson, a center, from Golden State for center Dean Garrett and a second-round draft pick in 2007.

So, let's see if we have this straight. The Warriors sit on Jackson all season, declining substantially better deals for last year's Rookie of the Year third-place finisher, and all they can get is Garrett, an unused backup? Did the Timberwolves toss in some Jujubes to make the trade more palatable? Minnesota, on the other hand, gets a good complement to Radoslav Nesterovic, who will bang on the front line and take some of the heat off Kevin Garnett and Joe Smith.

Quiz

Houston rookie forward Eddie Griffin is on pace to become the third player in NBA history to achieve a rather unusual double, namely hit 100 three-pointers and block 100 shots in the same season. Can you name the two players who have done it? Hint: Both did it while with Texas clubs, though the first to do it is on the West Coast and has lots of jewelry.

Standing pat

Collins said the Wizards were in a few conversations about deals, and their recent struggles with teams with athletic front lines like Sacramento, Detroit and New Jersey suggest they perhaps should have been talking a bit more seriously.

But even as they get close to a playoff spot, Wizards officials declined to mortgage the future for a short-term fix.

"In many instances, it could be something where maybe you might be able to help your team a little bit, but somebody trying to unload something else on top of you that caps you out and hurts you down the road ... we just can't do something like that," Collins said. "Hopefully, we're moving in the right direction, and to be short-term foolish would be silly."

"The one thing about Michael [Jordan] that I really respect so much is as much as he wants to win now, he wants to be able to win big later. What we're going to have to do is a stay-the-course kind of thing and try to continue to get better and get our younger guys better and see how the rest of the year shakes itself out."

If Washington's complement of young big men, namely center Brendan Haywood and forwards Etan Thomas and Kwame Brown, pans out, the decision to sit tight will be a good one.

Answer

Nowitzki blocked 101 shots last season to go along with sinking 151 three-pointers, and Los Angeles Laker Robert Horry, a four-time NBA champion, hit 142 threes and blocked 109 shots while with the Rockets in the 1995-96 season.

Quote

"I'm one of the only superstars that'll give it up for another player. Even though I have a strong ego, if it's the truth, it's the truth. And he can play. And if you can play, I'll say you can play. If you can't play, I won't say you can't play. I'm not that type of player. I've been a positive person all my life. I feel I'm one of the only players that can give it up."

- Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal on Celtics forward Paul Pierce.

Compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.

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