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12-14-2005, 03:06 PM
When the clock strikes midnight Wednesday, just about every NBA player becomes trade-eligible, and the general consensus is that deals will proceed faster than they did a year ago, when Dec. 15 was a dud in terms of trades.

"There seems to be a lot of movement right now. There are some teams trying to push things and make some deals," Suns general manager Bryan Colangelo said Tuesday night.

Plenty of teams could use a point guard like Earl Watson.
Under collective-bargaining rules, players who signed contracts over the summer are ineligible to be dealt for 90 days after they signed or until Dec. 15 -- whichever is later. That means a handful of signings that seemed to make sense at the time -- Earl Watson signing with Denver, Arvydas Macijauskas joining the Hornets, Jerome James bringing his enlarged frame to New York -- can now be put in the past. All it will take is the right match between two willing partners.

"As a businessperson who knows my job, a person who is educated on what I do, the 15th is an important date for me, so I'm very much aware of it," said Watson, who it seemed was being showcased Tuesday night, making three 3-pointers and a dunk in the fourth quarter of Denver's 99-87 victory at Charlotte.

Watson signed a five-year contract for the Nuggets' full mid-level exception last summer, but Denver coach George Karl has had little use for him, playing him only 14 minutes per game and holding him out of nine of the Nuggets' 21 games. New York has offered forward Malik Rose, but Denver general manager Kiki Vandeweghe is likely to find a more appealing offer from a team that feels Watson can become a latter-day Eric Snow -- a heady, defense-minded point guard who feels he's ready to become an everyday contributor rather than being stuck as a career backup.

With many teams searching for size, there has been a keen focus on the threesome of bigs -- Corliss Williamson, Brian Skinner and Kenny Thomas -- that the Sacramento Kings received from Philadelphia in last season's Chris Webber trade. Many sources believe Thomas is the most likely to be moved, and several pro-personnel types were in attendance Saturday night in Seattle as Thomas played a mundane 17-minute stint, shooting just 1-of-3 with one rebound. The 6-7 forward, who makes $6.5 million, is under contract for four more seasons. Williamson has only one season remaining, while Skinner has two. Kings president Geoff Petrie is seeking scoring off the bench.

Elsewhere, two teams mentioned by several league sources as the most likely to pull the trigger soon are the New Jersey Nets and Washington Wizards.

Nets president Rod Thorn would like to upgrade the power-forward position for an underachieving team that lost by 20 points at Washington on Wednesday night. He has been shopping third-string point guard Zoran Planinic and a pair of first-round picks (the Nets' own and the Clippers'), and the arrival of Dec. 15 will allow him to package one or more of the spare parts (Lamond Murray, Scott Padgett, Jeff McInnis) that New Jersey signed over the summer.

Washington would like to acquire someone to take some defensive heat off Gilbert Arenas, who is running up against the opponent's best defender on a night-in, night-out basis now that other teams no longer have to worry about Larry Hughes. Antonio Daniels, signed as a free agent in the offseason, is averaging only 4.7 points on 30 percent shooting. He will now become eligible to be traded, and the Wizards may try to find him a new home more suited to his strengths as a ballhandler and offensive initiator. Another Washington guard, Chucky Atkins, has formally requested a trade.

The pace of Dec. 15-related activity likely will be affected by the Indiana Pacers, as they sort through more than a dozen offers that have come in since the start of the week when they announced they would trade Ron Artest. Until the other 29 teams know where Artest is headed, some will hold off on making other deals.

Sacramento, for instance, could hold off on a Thomas or Skinner trade if it believes it has a viable shot at acquiring Artest. Petrie, aghast at the Kings' poor start before they put together their current three-game winning streak, has been exploring all of his options, including deals involving Peja Stojakovic, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season heading into a summer in which teams with significant cap space will have very few impact players to bid on. Stojakovic's asking price likely will be $12 million or more, and the Kings will have to make a judgment about whether Peja is worth the price. If they decide he isn't, they may trade him sooner rather than later -- especially if the Artest situation impacts their choices.

The Chicago Bulls are widely seen as Stojakovic's most likely next destination, but any team that acquired Peja during this season would also get his "Larry Bird rights" -- which means that team would have the opportunity to re-sign the 28-year-old, even if it meant going over the usual salary-cap limits.

If Chicago fears that another team will acquire Stojakovic and effectively take him off next summer's market, the best time might be now to put together a package (Luol Deng, Tim Thomas and draft picks) that would be more appealing to the Kings than a straight-up swap for Artest.

Stojakovic's countryman Vladimir Radmanovic likely will stay put in Seattle. After signing a one-year tender, he has the right to veto any trade. If he were to accept a trade, he'd forfeit his Bird rights and would be prevented from re-signing with the team that acquired him if it were over the $49.5 million salary cap. Radmanovic likely would only accept a trade to a team that will be substantially below the cap next summer (Clippers, Bulls).

His teammate Ronald Murray has been mentioned as a candidate for a trade from Seattle to the Nuggets. He also would have to forfeit his Bird rights, but Denver would be able to re-sign him for any amount up to next season's mid-level exception. But because Murray didn't sign until Sept. 27, he will not become trade-eligible until Dec. 26.

A few other players around the league will remain ineligible to be traded until 90 days elapse from the date they signed. Among them are Miami's Gary Payton (eligible Dec. 21), Chicago's Darius Songaila (Dec. 22), Orlando's Bo Outlaw (Dec. 28), Charlotte's Keith Bogans (Dec. 29) and Miami's Jason Kapono (Jan. 2).

Of course, there's always a chance that this Dec. 15 will be another dud, coming and going without any deals. That's what happened last season, but the calm was loudly shattered two days later when New Jersey pulled off its trade for Vince Carter.

This season, however, there seems to be a consensus that teams are a little more eager to deal.

Chris Sheridan, a national NBA reporter for the past decade, covers the league for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.

Slick Pinkham
12-14-2005, 03:26 PM
Stojakovic's asking price likely will be $12 million or more, and the Kings will have to make a judgment about whether Peja is worth the price.



I've been in favor of getting him for Ron, but he wants a crazy crazy deal after this year. I think that a strong belief you could sign him to a reasonable new contract, 3 years, 8 million or so tops a year, would be a prerequisite to making that trade

12-14-2005, 03:32 PM


I've been in favor of getting him for Ron, but he wants a crazy crazy deal after this year. I think that a strong belief you could sign him to a reasonable new contract, 3 years, 8 million or so tops a year, would be a prerequisite to making that trade

Peja = :lol:

I think this effectively nukes that potential deal.

12-14-2005, 04:05 PM
I have a feeling that Peja is end up with the Bulls. If Petrie doesn't go to the Bulls asking for Deng and a 1st round pick....then he should be fired. Peja is not going to win a championship for them.