Who was it last week that mentioned Bonzie Wells. Bottom of the article Artest going to the Griz
Where will Shaq land?
By SAM SMITH
CHICAGO - So Shaquille O'Neal wants to be traded and the Lakers are strongly considering it.
That was the biggest shocker in the aftermath of the breakup of the three-time champion Los Angeles Lakers last week, because history shows it doesn't work out well for the team that trades away the better player.
Granted, few teams have faced the Gordian knot that the Lakers do. There was no way to retain both O'Neal and free-agent Kobe Bryant.
Winning a championship with Bryant and without O'Neal seems unlikely, but the Lakers (never one of the freer-spending teams as their bench attested in the recent NBA Finals) weren't about to meet O'Neal's financial demands. O'Neal makes $27.7 million next season and $30.6 million in 2005-06. He'll be 34 by then and wanted an extension of at least $30 million per year.
O'Neal already is missing 15-20 games per season with injury and conditioning issues. Plus, as his lowest-scoring playoff performance since his rookie season showed, he has reached basketball middle age.
General manager Mitch Kupchak's marching orders reportedly were to keep Bryant at all costs and to trade O'Neal at any cost. The Lakers believe if they make O'Neal return, he'll come up with an "injury," sit out much of the season and collect his salary. With that kind of bad bargaining position, the trading team is never offered so-called "equal value."
So where will Shaq be next season?
Mavericks. Owner Mark Cuban would love to make a splash after a down season. Not that Cuban would object, but a new coach probably would be required too. Don Nelson is anathema to centers and assistant Del Harris is an old Shaq nemesis. A package that would make sense for the Lakers would be Steve Nash in a sign-and-trade pact, Antoine Walker and a throw-in such as Danny Fortson or Shawn Bradley.
Grizzlies. Memphis has plenty of assets to make a deal work. O'Neal would be reunited with GM Jerry West, have a veteran coach in Hubie Brown and an owner in Mike Heisley who is ready for the big jump and is very wealthy. Pau Gasol, Lorenzen Wright, Bonzi Wells and Bo Outlaw could go in return.
Knicks. This option is if the Lakers really get desperate. General manager Isiah Thomas would do anything to get a star like Shaq to New York. But he's got zip. Perhaps a package of Tim Thomas, Kurt Thomas, Dikembe Mutombo, Nazr Mohammed and some future No. 1 picks.
Magic. A return to Orlando always has been talked about, but the Magic would have to give up Tracy McGrady and would have too little after that to compete, even in the East. That makes it too costly to go for Shaq.
Pacers. Now, you may have something here. General manager Larry Bird is ready for a major shakeup and has plenty of stuff: Ron Artest, Austin Croshere, Jeff Foster, Scot Pollard and Jamison Brewer.
Kings. This is a team ready for change and owners who can make it happen. How about Brad Miller, Peja Stojakovic, Bobby Jackson and a sign-and-trade to bring Vlade Divac home to retire?
Spurs. Trade Shaq back where he attended high school. San Antonio could throw in Rasho Nesterovic and Malik Rose and do some sign-and-trades and perhaps expand the deal for base-year considerations to include Manu Ginobili.
Suns. This would be a bold move to bring the franchise back as the Colangelos phase out. Shawn Marion, Jake Voskuhl, Jahidi White, Howard Eisley and/or Joe Johnson could be part of a deal.
Sonics. This is another team getting anxious to make something happen with a relatively new owner. This deal probably would include Ray Allen, Vitaly Potopenko, Vladimir Radmanovic and Calvin Booth.
Trail Blazers. They're anxious to move Shareef Abdur-Rahim. With just a year left on his deal, the Lakers could have cap space to build in the future. The Lakers also would get Theo Ratliff and Ruben Patterson. Owner Paul Allen certainly has the cash to satisfy Shaq.
Bulls. Nah, not about to happen. The Bulls could put together something that made sense to the Lakers with a sign-and-trade deal of Jamal Crawford, Eddy Curry, Antonio Davis and Eddie Robinson. But how many lobs to Shaq could Kirk Hinrich throw worth $30 million a year?
CLIPPERS FRONT-RUNNERS IN THE MCGRADY DERBY
Magic shooting guard Tracy McGrady is believed to be the only "superstar" to lead his team through a 19-game losing streak, has a marginal work ethic and has little interest in defense.
After watching McGrady for four years in Orlando, the home folks are saying he's more Dominique than Michael. That said, McGrady scores a lot and most points still determines the winner. So the market is heating up and he should be gone by draft day.
That's because the thinking is the Magic will revamp-and save a lot of money-by dealing McGrady to the Clippers, take both Emeka Okafor and Dwight Howard as the first two picks in Thursday's draft and sell the new Magic to its fans.
The Clippers were set on going for Kobe Bryant. But with the Lakers' apparent commitment to Bryant, it looks like he'll be out of play, court case notwithstanding.
A deal that makes sense for the Magic is the No. 2 pick, Corey Maggette and then guys like Predrag Drobnjak, Melvin Ely and Chris Wilcox. The Clippers have traded their draft pick every time since the lottery began.
Some examples: In 1989, they drafted Duke forward Danny Ferry, who went to Italy and forced a trade to the Cavaliers for Ron Harper; in 1995, the Clippers immediately dealt No. 2 pick Antonio McDyess to Denver for a package including Rodney Rogers and Brent Barry; and in 2001, No. 2 pick Tyson Chandler was dealt to the Bulls for Elton Brand.
Houston is said to be in hot pursuit, offering Steve Francis among others. But many wonder how coach Jeff Van Gundy, a practice fanatic, would deal with McGrady, who doesn't like to practice. The Pacers will make a bid for McGrady with Ron Artest, Al Harrington and several other possibilities. The Suns also could get involved with Shawn Marion and the No. 7 pick, a potentially enticing package.
EXPANSION DRAFT TUESDAY
With the expansion draft on Tuesday, the speculation in Charlotte is that the new Bobcats will take Linton Johnson from the Bulls. Another choice, and perhaps a better one, would be Marcus Fizer. He won't get many offers as a free agent after surgery, but he can score. The Bobcats reportedly have a deal to take Jahidi White off the Suns' payroll. The players most likely to end up with Charlotte are Jason Kopono from Cleveland, Erick Strickland from Milwaukee, Aleksandar Pavlovic from Utah, the Clippers' Drobnjak, Juan Dixon from Washington, Troy Bell from Memphis, J.R. Bremer from Golden State and Courtney Alexander from New Orleans.
BULLS-76ERS A POSSIBILITY?
One trade possibility for the Bulls this week could be the 76ers and their No. 9 pick. General manager Billy King, a Dookie, is said to be anxious to move up for Luol Deng. The Bulls could exchange picks and get center Samuel Dalembert in a package that includes Tyson Chandler. That would open the door to a trade of Eddy Curry and a major remaking of a more athletic, hard-working team in the image of general manager John Paxson.
UConn coach Jim Calhoun told a Connecticut newspaper, the Register Citizen, that he wouldn't be surprised if the Bulls pick Ben Gordon at No. 3. "I keep getting calls from GMs saying what an incredible athlete he is," Calhoun said. "And Chicago is a team that seems to have the most interest." Said Gordon: "I realize I have no choice where I go. As a player, you always want to go as (high) in the draft as possible. But I realize the (higher) I go, the worse my team will be. I'd like to be able to win right away, but I know I may go somewhere where I have to turn a team around." Gordon's agent described Gordon as having "Reggie Miller range, Vince Carter's jumping ability, the strength of Baron Davis, the playmaking skills of a Stephon Marbury, and the determination of a Kobe Bryant." Gordon said he considers himself humble.
NO MORE 'WAR'
The NBA this week will be asking team officials not to call their strategy meeting places on draft night "the war room." Given the international circumstances, the league is suggesting teams say something like "draft center."
ARTEST PACES HIMSELF
Artest blew off the Pacers' mandatory team closing meeting, saying: "There was nothing to talk about. We lost." If Artest doesn't go in a big deal for one of the available superstars, he is said to be headed to Memphis.
Former Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich will meet with the Lakers this week to discuss succeeding Phil Jackson. ... The Nets are considering financial cutbacks with new ownership moving in, including trading their No. 1 pick and not re-signing Kenyon Martin if he gets a maximum contract offer. Denver and Atlanta are possibilities. . . . Colorado center David Harrison on getting ready for the draft: "I don't eat anything that tastes good anymore. "