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ChicagoJ
02-10-2004, 12:46 PM
Blazers reverse field on cap strategy
By Chad Ford
NBA Insider
Send an Email to Chad Ford Tuesday, February 10
Updated: February 10
8:08 AM ET

A "watershed day" in Portland? That's the pronouncement from the Blazers after
swapping Rasheed Wallace and Wesley Person to the Hawks for Shareef Abdur-Rahim
and Theo Ratliff.

Watershed? Let us count the ways.

One, the move signaled the return of Paul Allen to his big-spending ways. For
those prognosticators who insisted Blazers GM John Nash would only take expiring
contracts for Wallace, do the math. The Blazers stood to cut $24 million in cap
space this summer by letting the contracts of Wallace and Person expire. Instead
they picked up Abdur-Rahim and Ratliff, who are due a combined $25 million next
season. Factor in a dollar-for-dollar luxury tax hit for the Blazers, and the
cost of shipping Rasheed out of town is $50 million.

That's right folks. Allen was willing to spend $50 million through next season
to get rid of Wallace now. That's more than many NBA teams will spend on their
entire payroll next season.

Two, all the talk out of Portland about Rasheed being a changed player? A bunch
of bull. The Blazers finally were winning, and they were doing it with Wallace
playing at center and Miles in the middle. Talk of a contract extension leaked
to the media and glowing stories about Rasheed's maturity seem now to have been
little more than negotiating tactics to get the best deal for 'Sheed. If he
really had changed, as so many Blazers were saying, why not keep him and take
your chances this summer. Folks don't spend $50 million to give up a guy for no
reason -- not even Paul Allen.

Three, before the Blazers can credibly claim they have moved into a "new era,"
they better check their roster one more time. Yes, they've dumped Bonzi Wells, a
repeated offender in Portland. Wallace is gone, too, which is great. But left
behind are numbskulls like Ruben Patterson, Damon Stoudamire and, to a lesser
extent, Zach Randolph and Qyntel Woods. While the face of the Blazers has
undoubtedly changed, they still have more trouble makers on their roster than
anyone else in the league. Let's not take down the Neighborhood Watch signs just
yet.

Four, the trade does nothing to relieve the Blazers' long-term cap crunch. As
mentioned, Abdur-Rahim and Ratliff come off the books in the summer of 2005,
providing $25 million in cap space. But that assumes Portland elects not to
re-sign at least one of them or give a big extension to Randolph. If the Blazers
are still intent on clearing cap room, we might have to go through this whole
process next year with Rahim.

Five, how about that headline on Blazers.com: "Blazers trade for two all-stars."
Did anyone else do a double take at that? Who writes these things? Does the fact
that Ratliff and Abdur-Rahim were all stars once (like in 1776) still qualify
them to be termed an all-star? That sounds like a bit of an oversell.

Six, is any one else concerned that Portland's three best players all play the
same position -- power forward? Yes, Abdur-Rahim can move to the three, though
he's less effective there, and Ratliff can play some five, at least in the
Eastern Conference. But the move doesn't address the team's long-term needs the
way it could have if it instead had traded for Erick Dampier and Nick Van Exel.
Unless the Blazers have another trick up their sleeve, they're a little
log-jammed up front at the moment.

Seven -- admit it, you're surprised it took me this long to propose another
trade for the Blazers. Right? Well, why settle for dumping half of the bad eggs?
Is there any way Nash can now package Randolph and Stoudamire or Dale Davis and
Patterson for a decent point guard and even more cap space? Before firing off
those nasty e-mails, Blazers fans, lets all admit that Randolph has been fatally
exposed to too much Blazer-itus. He's showing all the symptoms, and despite his
great scoring and rebounding numbers, he's among the laziest defenders in the
league and can't pass out of a double team. Mark some of this down to
immaturity, but also realize that some guys never outgrow that. Why not trade
him while he's hot? Abdur-Rahim is better at the four anyway.

How do you do it? Thought you'd never ask. What about this? Why don't the
Blazers get on the phone with the Rockets and 76ers and get this trade done:
Portland sends Randolph, Woods and Patterson to the Rockets and Davis and
Stoudamire to the 76ers. Philadelphia sends Eric Snow to Houston and Glenn
Robinson and Aaron McKie to Portland. Houston sends Steve Francis and Eric
Piatkowski to Portland.

This is one Francis trade that will work for the Rockets. The team has a $6.9
million trade exception that it can use to make up for the fact that it can only
take back half of Francis' value in trade. Snow's salary would fit into the
trade exception slot and make the trade possible under the rules of the
collective bargaining agreement.

Why does it work? For Portland, they would have dumped every bad guy on their
roster and somehow wound up with Francis -- the perfect type of superstar they
need to lead their team. They would have to swallow some bad contracts -- McKie
and Robinson -- to get him, but the good news is McKie-for-Patterson really is a
wash, money-wise, and Robinson comes off the books in 2005.

In Houston, Jeff Van Gundy would end the growing blood feud with Francis and get
back several players who can really help him in the long run. Snow is the
perfect point guard to play in Van Gundy's system, and Randolph would give the
Rockets another rock-solid, low-post scoring and rebounding option. In other
words, no more Kelvin Cato at the four. Money-wise, the whole thing would be a
wash for the Rockets, though they might have to pay Randolph lots of money in
the summer of 2005.

The Sixers move three contracts they've desperately been trying to dump and get
back two solid players who happen to have contracts that expire in 2005. It
would be mainly a cap move for Philadelphia, however, there's no reason the team
can't play as well or better with Davis and Stoudamire in the lineup.
Around the League

Burning down Atlanta: The Hawks' motivation is pretty straightforward -- the
move gives Atlanta roughly $15 million in cap space going into this summer.
Abdur-Rahim and Ratliff were nice players, but everyone knew Atlanta wasn't
going to win anything with either of them.

Disregard all the rhetoric about giving Wallace a chance in Atlanta. It's a
joke. The Hawks want the cap freedom, and there's no way 'Sheed will play in
Atlanta next season. A sign-and-trade won't be out of the question, as
capped-out teams like the Knicks, Mavericks and Rockets likely will show some
interest in 'Sheed, but none of those teams have players the Hawks are after.
Most likely the Hawks will just let Wallace walk and start over from scratch.
My only beef? Why not find a way to work Jason Terry into the deal? Unlike
Abdur-Rahim and Ratliff, Terry has been the real troublemaker in Atlanta. Expect
that sentiment to grow now that the Hawks have gone from bad to awful with an
unmotivated Wallace as the only go-to guy on the roster.

The good news is that, barring a huge free-agent migration to Utah, the Hawks
will be able to move Terry to the Jazz in September, a year after the Jazz
signed him to an offer sheet. Terry still wants to play there, and the Jazz
should have the cap room to absorb his contract and might be willing to give
Atlanta a prospect back in return.

Bulls out of the running: Last week we wrote that the main trade-deadline
traffic would run directly through four places -- Atlanta, Portland, Chicago and
New York. The Hawks and Blazers have made their big deals. What about the Bulls
and Knicks?

Bulls GM Jim Paxson told the Chicago Sun-Times that after shopping Eddy Curry
and Jamal Crawford around, he thinks he's going to hold onto both players, at
least until the summer. Curry has been playing inspired basketball of late, and
Crawford is a restricted free agent this summer.

"Eddy and Tyson aren't going anywhere," Paxson told the Sun-Times. And what
about Crawford?

"I don't see us doing anything with Jamal," Paxson said. "The reality is we
still have the chance to match anything he gets in the summer [as a restricted
free agent]. And who knows? If he wants to be here, he has a new agent [Leon
Rose], so maybe there's a way we can work something out with him anyway."
That leaves Marcus Fizer as the only Bull left on the block. Rumors that he may
be going to the Clippers or the Pistons have been around for weeks, but so far
nothing has happened.

Knicks staying out of trading frenzy? The two top forwards Isiah Thomas was
pursuing -- Wallace and Abdur-Rahim are now off the trade block. That doesn't
leave him much else to deal with. He'd love to get his hands on Erick Dampier,
but he doesn't have the expiring contracts to get it done.

Thomas also appears to be unwilling to trade Kurt Thomas, the team's most
moveable asset. What does that mean? All the talk about the Knicks being on the
verge of another big trade seems to be mostly hot air. While anything is
possible with Isiah, he's going to have a very tough time pulling off a deal if
Keith Van Horn, Frank Williams and Michael Doleac are the best he can offer.

ChicagoJ
02-10-2004, 12:58 PM
Peep Show
By Chad Ford
NBA Insider
Send an Email to Chad Ford Tuesday, February 10
Updated: February 10
8:41 AM ET


Philadelphia 76ers: Glenn Robinson is so mad about declining
minutes that he's liable to keep referring to himself in the third
person indefinitely. "They knew what they were getting when they
acquired Glenn Robinson," Robinson said in the Philadelphia Daily
News. "I'm a scorer. My strength is to score the basketball. When I
first came here, the first press conference, I said I know I'm not
the best defender out on the court. That's just like a...defensive
player out trying to shoot threes. That's like Shaquille [O'Neal]
trying to shoot threes. I do what I do. What I do, I do it well, and
I know that, and I know what my weaknesses are. As a team, we've got
to recognize that, recognize everybody's strengths and everybody's
weaknesses. We have to play toward everybody's strengths and stay
away from each other's weaknesses."

Denver Nuggets: Jon Barry just learned the hard way that the
shoulder bone is connected to the rotator cuff. "It's just been one
of those years," Barry said in the Denver Post after consecutive
injuries to those body parts. "I really felt good about last week
and the games that I played. (Strength and conditioning coach) Steve
Hess and I worked really hard to get back into this. I felt strong,
in great shape and ready to go. I'm just hoping for the best." He
has already missed 21 games to injury this year and is scheduled for
an MRI today.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Hell freezes over. Zydrunas Ilgauskas plays
defense. "He's mentally focused to what the job is," head coach Paul
Silas said in the Lorraine Morning News. "He's shooting his outside
shot well. This thing takes time. He's playing super basketball in
all phases, not just offensively. He's doing everything."

Chicago Bulls: The Chicago Bulls love Jamal Crawford. And
they mean it, too. "That's where Jamal has made his biggest growth,"
Bulls general manager John Paxson said in the Chicago Tribune. "He's
been very coachable this year. I think we've shown him from some of
the things we've done earlier -- trading other scorers -- that we do
value him as a certain type of player. We think he can score in the
league. I'd like to think that a guy who has been here for four
years has to feel like we're trying to help him as a player and put
him in a position to succeed. I know he didn't feel that way at the
draft last year. But what he sees now, he should be feeling that
way."

Minnesota Timberwolves: Sometimes, sharpshooter Fred Hoiberg just
needs a little help from his friends. "When I was Chicago and I
wasn't shooting well, I was close to being found on the ceiling
fan," Hoiberg said in the Pioneer Press. "It was one of those things
where I let it get to me. K.G. always talks to me. I didn't have
anybody in Chicago telling me to shoot the ball. When you're on a
losing team, everybody tries to get their own. When your leader is
like that, and your coach wants you to shoot the ball when you get
open, that's a great thing. You don't get down on yourself as much
as you would otherwise. And when I get an open look, I shoot with
confidence; that's the big thing with me."


Big Dog showing his bark
Phil Jasner / Philadelphia Daily News
Barry injures his rotator cuff
Marc J. Spears / Denver Post
More defense means more minutes for Z
Bob Finnan / Lorain Morning Journal
Maturity secures Crawford's spot
K.C. Johnson / Chicago Tribune
Hoiberg coaxed out of his slump
Mike Wells / St. Paul Pioneer Press

ChicagoJ
02-10-2004, 01:03 PM
No Need for Wolves to Trade

By Greg Anthony
ESPN Insider

There were a few surprises when the all-star rosters were announced, but as is
the case every year, there are more deserving players than there are roster
spots available. Nevertheless, it still will be an entertaining weekend.
I did receive quite a few passionate responses regarding the "Big 3" column
earlier this week. I didn't give the old Celtics trio of Larry Bird, Kevin
McHale, and Robert Parrish any mention, but in all fairness I was focusing on
the new millennium and therefore omitted quite a few deserving groups.

That said, let's get to the e-mail &

Brian Miller, from Minneapolis asks:

Do you think the TimberWolves will make any deals before the trading deadline?
And do you think they have a shot at being the No. 1 or 2 seed in the West?

Oliver Miller has provided Minnesota a veteran presence off the bench.

A: Brian, if I'm Kevin McHale, I'm standing pat with the team I have. The one
move they made -- acquiring Oliver Miller -- was a great one, because he has a
great understanding of how to play the game and takes nothing away in terms of
chemistry.

The real question is how long it will take for Wally Szczerbiak to get back and
how they integrate him and Troy Hudson into the rotation. Remember, until last
night's loss, the T-Wolves had the best record in the West, and they still lead
the Midwest Division. I think they have the pieces to really be a factor in the
West, and there is no doubt in my mind they could and should be a 1 or 2 seed.

Padraic Duffy from Rapid City, S.D., writes:

As a Celtics fan, I'm wondering how long do you think GM Danny Ainge can keep
his job? Obviously he has to get another year, but this team, and the trades he
has made to "improve" it are a joke. Jiri Welsch is nice, but Antoine Walker for
Raef LaFrentz is going to go down as one of the worst trades ever. Keep your
head up, Paul.

A: Padraic, I hear where you're coming from, but Danny Ainge is probably looking
three years down the line and is rebuilding. They also got a 2004 first-round
pick out of the deal, so they'll have two first-rounders in next year's draft.
You really have to be patient and see what comes of those picks. Remember, Paul
Pierce was a No. 10 pick, so there is a method to his madness. The real test
comes in getting two guys who can have an impact and be part of a winning team.
Plus, Ainge also has the flexibility to package those with someone else and
still acquire a big-time talent.

With that being said, I don't see this team as a factor in the Eastern
Conference for the next two years, and that's why Jim O'Brien resigned. The one
question or concern I have is, how does Ricky Davis fit long-term, and can he
become the kind of cancer that those in Cleveland felt he was? That is without
question a bigger concern during this rebuilding phase.

Sam Ballah from Queens, N.Y., writes:

Many players have been early entries into the NBA draft in recent years. What is
your take on this? Has it become a problem, or is it a good thing for the
league?

A: Great question. First of all, it makes the job of a GM a little more
difficult, because you don't know what the learning curve for the young players
will be. Will it take three or four years, as it did for T-Mac and Jermaine
O'Neal? Or will they contribute from Day One, like LeBron and Carmelo? Or will
you reach a point where you still don't know, as is the case with Eddy Curry and
Kwame Brown?

Selecting talent is an imperfect science, because the majority of their success
depends on their mental make-up. Do they really want to be great? Can they
handle the pressure? It can be overwhelming for some, and that's why some guys
don't pan out.

I'll give you one tidbit: If you look at the top 15 players in the league right
now (and this is just one list; you can certainly debate one or two), you'll see
a majority who left school early (or didn't attend at all) and entered the
league young. Jason Kidd, Shaq, Kobe, KG, Jermaine O'Neal, T-Mac, Iverson,
Duncan, Chris Webber, Nowitzki, Baron Davis, Stephon Marbury, Lebron, Paul
Pierce, Peja, Ron Artest, Jamal Mashburn, Ray Allen and you could go on and on.

Only Tim Duncan went four years. So with that kind of success ratio, I don't see
the trend stopping any time soon.

Thanks, and keep the e-mail coming.

Greg Anthony, a veteran of 11 NBA seasons, is a regular contributor to ESPN
Insider. Click here to send him an e-mail.