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View Full Version : A little bit of everything from Ira Winderman



Will Galen
06-20-2004, 05:29 PM
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/basketball/heat/sfl-ira20newjun20,0,1468639.column?coll=sfla-sports-heat

No easy solutions to Friday's fallout
Ira Winderman
Published June 20, 2004

Frantic Friday was about what all too many contend today's NBA always is about -- arrogance and opulence.

Phil Jackson had delivered three championships to Jerry Buss, but the Lakers' owner wanted more, namely a less restrictive offense and greater empowerment to his prized shooting guard. And there was no way Buss was going to pay $10 million a year for something as mundane as an NBA coach.

Shaquille O'Neal, who had forced his way away from one contender that came up short in the NBA Finals, now is hopeful of doing the same once again, with a trade demand and desire for a two-year, $60 million extension also a factor.

Kobe Bryant, who seemingly was given the keys to the franchise with the diminishing of Shaq and the departure of Jackson, nonetheless insisted he be given the opportunity to be wined and dined (at least between court dates) as a free agent, with a $140 million contract now possible.

And Tracy McGrady, making like a latter-day Shaq, decided that for he, too, Orlando is not nearly enough of a Magic kingdom when it comes to short-term title hopes and long-term cashing in.

In the mere span of hours, some of the NBA's best decided they wanted more.

In that wake, two franchises stand to find just how much distressed property fetches on the open market.

So you need to get rid of Shaq, eh? Nah, we can't see giving up 25-year-old Jermaine O'Neal for a 32-year-old beaten-down big man who can opt out of his contract in a year, but how about Scot Pollard or Jeff Foster?

So, uh, we hear T-Mac is forcing your hand? No you can't have Shawn Marion and Joe Johnson, but Casey Jacobsen certainly is available.

As for the players involved, how can this do anything but tarnish the reputations of Bryant, McGrady and Shaq? In the face of increased challenges ... we're outta here (unless you roll out $140 million over seven years, in which case Kobe would be more than happy to stay).

Then there's Jackson, whose own franchise placed such little faith in his ability to succeed without the perfect roster and his stagnant triangle offense that it allowed him to walk without resistance.

WHAT NOW?

Of Friday's proclamations, Bryant's foray into free agency likely will deliver, after the requisite league wide recruiting, the least impact.

With the banishment of Jackson and the downsizing of O'Neal's status, the 25-year-old guard essentially has emerged as Jerry Buss Jr. He owns the Lakers' future.

With O'Neal and McGrady, the proposition is far trickier. Each can opt out of his contract after the coming season. Essentially, that would leave a trade suitor merely with a one-year lease if the accommodations don't meet the players' requirements of a talented supporting cast and the promise of future riches.

Figure Indiana, with one of the league's deepest rosters, to be involved in talks for both players. Still, it is unlikely Jermaine O'Neal will be in play, with the All-Star too big to be lost for a wing player in McGrady, too young to be dealt for Shaq.

The Rockets (Steve Francis), the Mavericks (Antoine Walker), the Suns (Marion, but not Amare Stoudemire), the Clippers (the No. 2 pick and Corey Maggette), the Bulls (No. 3 and maybe Eddy Curry), the Hawks (No. 4 and Jason Terry), the Grizzlies (Pau Gasol), the Kings (Peja Stojakovic, Chris Webber) and the 76ers (Allen Iverson) also figure to come into play.

Or there is the all-in-one solution, with O'Neal going to the Magic for the No. 1 overall pick, the contract of Grant Hill and cap fodder in the form of Juwan Howard and others. Such a move likely also would prevent the Magic from losing McGrady the way it first lost Shaq a year after advancing to the '95 NBA Finals.

CLOSE TO HOME

As for the Heat, it certainly holds enough big-ticket contracts, in the form of Eddie Jones and Brian Grant, to make the math work for Shaq, but hardly could get by with such a proposal.

So do you give up a Lamar Odom for O'Neal? A Dwyane Wade for McGrady?

The first one you'd at least have to think about. The second is a bit extreme.

Should O'Neal be relocated to the East, as one would figure would be the Lakers' preference, it likely would knock the Heat down a peg in the conference race.

Four years after escaping the Trail Blazers, Grant again could find himself with four games a season, instead of two, against O'Neal.

More critical, though, to the Heat are the plans of the Magic.

For the most part, teams that trade singular stars for packages of players tend to come out losers. That is significant, considering Orlando will play in the newly established Southeast Division with the Heat.

By retaining McGrady, drafting UConn center Emeka Okafor at No. 1 and landing a point guard in free agency, say Derek Fisher, Orlando would have stood as an immediate threat, especially when considering the return of long-distance threat Pat Garrity from the injured list.

Without McGrady, Orlando, at best, will be a youthful team of the future, one without a signature presence.

NOT SO EXPANSIVE

Despite the notion that Tuesday's expansion draft is the prime means to stock the expansion Bobcats, word is Charlotte could wind up with as few as three contracts out of the process. The Bobcats are expected to utilize the remainder of their required 14 selections on trades or restricted free agents that they would not be required to retain. Then again, the first-year '88-89 Heat had only four expansion selections on its opening-night roster: forward Billy Thompson, center Scott Hastings and guards Jon Sundvold and Pearl Washington. ...

Perhaps the Celtics are bracing for losing free-agent center Mark Blount to the Heat. According to the Washington Post, Boston is looking to pursue Wizards center Etan Thomas in free agency. Thomas is a restricted free agent, but Boston reportedly is considering going all-in with its $5.1 million exception, hoping Washington won't match. ...

While many envision at least one more comeback try, former Heat center Alonzo Mourning said the recent increase in the intensity of his workouts has nothing to do with a potential return from his kidney transplant. "Even if basketball is totally out of the question for the rest of my life, I will always work out," said Mourning, under contract to the Nets for three more seasons. "When I was in the hospital, I vowed to myself that I would make sure my body is as strong as it's ever been." ...

Those close to the situation insist it practically is a given that New Jersey will trade guard Kerry Kittles (if he is not selected by Charlotte in the expansion draft) and the No. 22 draft pick (possibly along with forward Aaron Williams) to the Trail Blazers for forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Consider it insurance for Kenyon Martin's impending stint as a restricted free agent. ...

The interesting part of Karl Malone opting out of next season's $1.7 million deal with the Lakers is not that he has therefore officially retired, but that his agent said a return next season to Los Angeles would have to come at a higher price. At 40, Malone failed to come up with a ring but apparently remains among the league leaders in hubris.

THE NEW ORDER

Not only are six to eight prep players expected to be selected in Thursday's first round, but as few as three college seniors ... St. Joe's point guard Jameer Nelson, BYU center Rafael Araujo and Oregon forward Luke Jackson -- are considered first-round certainties. A year ago, the first round included 17 collegians, four U.S. prep players and eight international prospects. ...

Colorado center David Harrison, who worked out for the Heat last week, has made it a priority to slim down in the hope of beefing up his draft stock. "I don't eat anything that tastes good anymore," he said. "But it's working out. I look better. If the basketball career doesn't work out, I might go into modeling or something." He might have to, his initial first-round projection now turning into a second-round reality for the 7-footer. ...

A native of the Sudan, Duke forward Luol Deng credited former Heat center Manute Bol for his development. "Manute taught my brothers how to play the game," he said. "At the time, I was very young. My brothers then taught me. It all started from Manute. So you can say that maybe had Manute never played basketball, I might not be sitting here today." ...

Measuring in at just over 6 feet in sneakers, St. Joe's Nelson said it's time for scouts to deal with it. "I'm not going to grow anymore, unless somebody puts me on some kind of technology machine that makes people taller," he said. "It's all about heart. I know my heart is as big as anybody in the draft."

Perhaps it's best that Atlanta prep forward Dwight Howard opted to go straight to the NBA. "I did want to be an actor and thought about going to school to pursue that," he said.

Ira Winderman can be reached at iwinderman@sun-sentinel.com. He can be heard this week on WQAM's Hank Goldberg Show at 5 p.m. Tuesday.