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    Mjolnir Diamond Dave's Avatar
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    May 2004

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    Kwame a sign of trades to comeBy Chad Ford
    ESPN Insider

    Now that a number of teams have flexed their muscles in free agency and used up a lot of their cap room, expect the second wave of free-agency moves to begin this week -- the sign-and-trade.

    For free agents who want to change teams, but don't have suitors with cap room that they want to play for, the sign-and-trade is their best shot of getting a big deal and a change of address.

    The sign-and-trade is a complicated process. It first requires a free agent to find a team willing to offer him an acceptable contract. Once that part is out of the way, the team wanting to sign the free agent must begin negotiating a trade that conforms with league rules with the free agent's former team. All three parties (the two teams making the trade and the free agent) must agree before the trade is completed. It's often a lot harder than it looks.

    Over the past few years a number of free agents, such as Brad Miller and Jamal Crawford, have used it as a way to sign a big deal when their own clubs were unwilling to give them one.

    This year there are several top free agents in that situation. Right now Kwame Brown is the first to get a sign-and-trade worked out.

    Two sources close to the negotiations told Insider late Wednesday that the Los Angeles Lakers and the Washington Wizards agreed in principle on a trade that would send Brown, via sign-and-trade, to the Lakers for Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins.

    According to the same source, the Lakers agreed in principle with Brown on a two-year deal with a team option for a third year that could pay him a starting salary between $6 million and $7 million next season.

    The Los Angeles Times, in Thursday's editions, is also reporting that the deal is done. If the deal happens, it's a bold and decisive move by both teams in an attempt to reshape their rosters.

    The Wizards have been desperately trying to fill a hole at shooting guard since the free-agent defection of Larry Hughes to the Cleveland Cavaliers last week. While Butler's primary position is the three, the Wizards believe that he and Jarvis Hayes are interchangeable at both the two and three. Antawn Jamison likely will move to the four unless the Wizards land another of their free-agent targets, power forward Donyell Marshall. The Wizards' need for the trade only grew when another hotly pursued free agent, Cuttino Mobley, agreed to a five-year, $42 million deal with the Clippers.

    Brown gives the Lakers a former No. 1 overall pick with lots of talent but disappointing production over his first four years in the league. Brown can play both center and power forward and will likely see time at both positions, behind Chris Mihm and Lamar Odom, for the Lakers. While the appeal of playing in Los Angeles for Phil Jackson might seem obvious, it will be interesting to see how Brown fares alongside Kobe Bryant. Brown often chafed under Michael Jordan's intense scrutiny and Bryant has a similar rep for being harsh toward other players. Several other teams, including the Grizzlies, Knicks, Raptors and Pacers, also pursued Brown this summer. After hearing that Brown had decided on Los Angeles, the Knicks moved quickly to address their own needs in the middle, agreeing to a five-year deal for roughly $29 million with Seattle center Jerome James, according to James' agent, Marc Fleisher

    Brown is just one of the free agents on the market looking for a sign-and-trade. Here are five other guys who might use the same vehicle to get to the team of their dreams this summer.

    Eddy Curry, Chicago Bulls: Curry's heart ailment has reduced the chances that the Bulls are going to bring him back at his asking price. The fact that his contract is uninsurable is also a problem. One team in particular, Atlanta, appears to be more interested in Curry than the Bulls are. The Hawks have enough cash to sign Curry outright to a deal he would find acceptable. However, because Curry is a restricted free agent, it might be in their best interests to work out something with the Bulls. A Curry-for-Al Harrington swap has been rumored for weeks.

    Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Portland Trail Blazers: Abdur-Rahim wants to play in New Jersey but the Nets have struggled to work out a sign-and-trade with the Blazers that makes sense. The Blazers are asking for a first-round pick in return for Abdur-Rahim. The Nets have balked at the asking price. Other teams, including the Kings and Spurs, also have talked with the Blazers about a sign-and-trade. The Kings are willing to part with Corliss Williamson, Kenny Thomas or Brian Skinner. The Spurs are willing to throw Rasho Nesterovic into any deal. If the Blazers won't agree to a trade, Abdur-Rahim might be forced to settle for the mid-level exception somewhere.

    Stromile Swift, Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies knew a year ago that Swift was going to defect. The issue right now is whether they still can get something in return. Swift is an unrestricted free agent, but he probably still needs the Grizzlies if he's going to get a contract for more than the mid-level exception. The teams most interested in Swift, such as the Knicks, Rockets and Nets, don't have the cap room to offer him more than the mid-level. The Grizzlies are hoping to swap Swift for a legitimate center to patrol the middle.

    Antoine Walker, Boston Celtics: With Danny Ainge looking for Walker to take a huge pay cut to remain in Boston, Walker's agent, Mark Bartelstein, has been burning up the phone lines trying to get a sign-and-trade deal for Walker. He's been talking to the Knicks, Rockets, Kings and Sonics. The problem will be getting Ainge to agree to a sign-and-trade. Walker might find the deal he wants in New York or Sacramento, but it doesn't mean that team has something it is willing to give up that the Celtics want in return. If the Celtics don't like what they're offered, Walker might have no choice but to take a big pay cut to return to Boston or sign for the mid-level exception elsewhere.

    Vladimir Radmanovic, Seattle SuperSonics: Radmanovic is in a difficult spot as well. He's a restricted free agent, meaning the Sonics can match any offer. The Sonics aren't willing to come close to his asking price and he'd prefer to move to a team that could give him a starting job. That means Radmanovic has to find a team under the cap willing to offer him more than the Sonics can stomach (the Hornets are a possibility), or he has to work out a sign-and-trade. The Sonics would be willing to make that move if they could get back a young, athletic center in return. The Hornets' Jamaal Magloire could be a possibility. So could Eddy Curry of the Bulls.

    Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.
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