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Thread: ESPN Insider 8/5/04

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    Default ESPN Insider 8/5/04

    Thursday, August 5, 2004

    By Chad Ford
    ESPN Insider


    Chat with Chad Ford, noon ET

    What Isiah Thomas wants ... Isiah Thomas gets.

    With his owner writing blank checks and his town seemingly the No. 1 free-agent destination in the NBA, the Knicks' president seems to be on the verge of doing the impossible completely rebuilding the cellar-dwelling New York Knicks in less than a year. Thomas has actively pursued free agents Jamal Crawford and Erick Dampier all summer and appeared Wednesday evening to be close to signing both players.


    Crawford
    Sources told Insider late Wednesday night that the long-rumored Crawford-to-the-Knicks trade is finally going to happen. On Tuesday night, Thomas and Bulls GM John Paxson agreed to six-player trade that would send Crawford and Jerome Williams to the Knicks for Dikembe Mutombo, Othella Harrington, Frank Williams and Cezary Trybanski.

    The trade was held up Wednesday by Crawford's final realization (first reported in this space on Tuesday) that there was no way he could get the six-year, $55 million deal he was hoping for if the trade went down with those six players. Instead, Crawford had to agree to either a six-year, $45 million pact or a seven-year, $56 million deal. It's the only way the numbers would work under the CBA.

    According to sources, Crawford and agent Aaron Goodwin infuriated the Knicks when they took a step back Tuesday evening after seeing the actual numbers. Goodwin has been pushing non-stop for six weeks to make this trade happen and has badgered both GMs repeatedly (including setting up a face-to-face meeting near O'Hare airport last week).

    His last-second cold feet (he was really shopping Crawford one last time to see if he could do better) almost killed the deal. However, Goodwin claims Crawford just wanted to "sleep on it" Tuesday evening and had verbally agreed to accept the Knicks' seven-year offer on Wednesday. According to Goodwin, the trade should happen either Thursday or Friday once all the paperwork is signed and the league officially approves the deal.


    Dampier
    The Knicks, however, aren't done. Sources in New York were confident Wednesday evening the Knicks were close to locking up free-agent center Erick Dampier. Dampier visited the Knicks on Wednesday and seemed resigned to the fact that he may have to accept the mid-level exception for one year to play in New York.

    He also downplayed his interest in joining the Hawks, who reportedly have offered him a six-year, $50 million deal.

    "You get to a certain point in your life where the money's not a factor; you just want to win," Dampier told reporters after his visit. "I think I'm at that point. I'm not getting any younger, and I want to be in the playoffs and have a chance for a world championship."

    The move is a risky one for Dampier, who just turned 30. He's coming off the most productive season of his career, but he's had a history of injuries that make signing a one-year contract a huge gamble. Dampier opted out of a contract with the Warriors that paid $18 million over the next two years.

    Although Dampier would be an unrestricted free agent next year by agreeing to a one-year deal with the Knicks, the team would still not be in a position to offer him more than the mid-level exception next year. With the collective bargaining agreement expected to change substantially this year, he may be unable to get a long-term contract next season.

    The Knicks are still talking sign-and-trade with the Warriors, but once the Crawford trade goes down, it's unlikely Isiah can pull it off. The Knicks have been dangling Kurt Thomas and Nazr Mohammed to Golden State, but Warriors GM Chris Mullin hasn't been keen on taking back the five years left on Thomas' contract.

    The Hawks' deal, on the other hand, could be completed without a sign-and-trade and would give the Hawks a pretty decent front line of Al Harrington, Antoine Walker and Dampier. And $45 million is an awful lot to leave on the table.

    "Atlanta's in the rebuilding stage," Dampier said. "I've been at that stage for the last six years. I don't want to be in that position any longer. But I'll consider all options."

    If Dampier agrees to accept the Knicks' mid-level contract, the Knicks should be in pretty good shape this year. The team is also on the verge of signing veteran forward Vin Baker with its $1.6 million exception and recently signed promising second-round forward Trevor Ariza to a multiyear deal.

    Their lineup could end up looking like this:

    PG: Stephon Marbury, Moochie Norris.
    SG: Allan Houston, Crawford, Penny Hardaway.
    SF: Tim Thomas, Shandon Anderson, Trevor Ariza.
    PF: Thomas, Williams, Mike Sweetney.
    C: Dampier, Mohammed, Baker.

    That's a major upgrade from the roster Isiah inherited from Scott Layden: Charlie Ward, Howard Eisley and Frank Williams at the point; Houston and Anderson at the two; Keith Van Horn and Clarence Weatherspoon at the three; Antonio McDyess, Travis Knight and Sweetney at the four and Thomas, Mutombo, Michael Doleac, Maciej Lampe and Slavko Vranes at the five.


    The often-maligned Isiah Thomas deserves high marks for the work he's done this summer.
    For someone who's been very critical of Thomas in the past, I have to admit that, on paper at least, that's a very impressive upgrade. The Knicks' front line and backcourt are both rock solid. They have great depth. And, for the first time ever, the Knicks actually have several promising young players in Crawford, Sweetney and Ariza who they can develop.

    In the East, I think that's good enough to get them a three or four seed (behind only Detroit, Indiana and possibly Miami) and make them a very dangerous playoff team. There will be issues with Houston's health and some serious chemistry problems to solve. But, if they pull all of this off and are successful on the court, Isiah will get some votes for executive of the year.

    The knock on Isiah will be that he's now traded away all of his cap flexibility for the next century. The team's payroll next season will be a mind-boggling $103 million. Marbury, Houston, Crawford, Anderson, Kurt Thomas and Williams are all locked into huge long-term deals. However, Isiah still retains some flexibility. Next season, Hardaway, Norris, Thomas and Mohammed are all in the last year of their contracts, giving Isiah more attractive trading pieces if things don't work out this year.

    And believe it or not, Isiah might not be done. While the Knicks will end up using all of their money this summer if they sign Damp to the mid-level, trades aren't out of the question. Thomas also has his eye on Vince Carter and has been trying to work out something with the Raptors.

    Now that Crawford is in the fold and more than capable of being the team's starting point guard, would he consider moving Marbury to Toronto (wouldn't Stephon love that?) for Carter? It's the only trade the Raptors would even consider with the Knicks. There's also significant interest in Kurt Thomas throughout the league, though it's lessened somewhat by that huge extension he signed last year.

    Around the League

    # Could Kidd end up on the Lakers? Don't count the Mavericks out of the Jason Kidd sweepstakes just yet. In 60 days, the team will be allowed to trade Jason Terry again, and sources claim they made the deal with Atlanta with an eye toward landing Kidd down the road if he proves to be healthy.

    Terry and Alan Henderson or Christian Laettner in exchange for Kidd works under the cap and gives the Nets back a starting point guard as well as significant cap relief.

    However, league sources claim the Lakers, not the Mavericks, are the team Kidd really wants to play for. Look for the Kidd camp to keep pushing the Lakers to send the expiring contracts of Gary Payton and Rick Fox along with a young player like Caron Butler or Kareem Rush to the Nets in return for Kidd. The deal would give the Nets lots of cap relief, along with a promising young player, and give the Lakers the best backcourt in the NBA. A combo of Kidd, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and Vlade Divac would immediately make the Lakers the favorites in the West.

    Why wouldn't the Lakers just pull the trigger now? Because owner Jerry Buss is worried about the five years, $90 million left on Kidd's contract, as well as Kidd's long-term health. The Lakers essentially would have four players making the max next year -- and two of them (Kidd and Grant) have chronic knee problems.

    If the Lakers and Mavs don't come through, however, Kidd might not be going anywhere. Other teams with interest include the Sonics and Blazers, but sources claim he doesn't want to play for either.

    # Reef-for-Wally talk back on: The Blazers and Timberwolves continue to talk about a Shareef Abdur-Rahim-for-Wally Szczerbiak swap. Insider first reported Monday the two teams were talking. The issue right now is the other player the Wolves are willing to include in the deal to make the numbers work. Abdur-Rahim makes $14.6 million this season. Szczerbiak is due $9 million.

    The Wolves really have only two options. They can include either center Michael Olowokandi or backup center Ervin Johnson, but the team is reluctant to part with either. Despite a slew of injuries, the team believes Olowokandi could be a force for them next season. Johnson is more expendable, but given Olowokandi's injury history, the team is worried about giving away Kandi's only relief. The Blazers could include Vladimir Stepania in the deal to help the Wolves absorb the loss of Johnson and still make the numbers work.

    Reports in The Oregonian over the past few days that Trenton Hassell might be included in the deal are inaccurate. Once he signed an offer sheet with the Blazers, Hassell was ineligible to be included in a sign-and-trade with the Blazers. Now that the Wolves have matched the offer sheet, he can't be traded to the Blazers for one full year. Don't be surprised if the Blazers also make an offer to Wesley Person now that that Hassell is out of the mix.

    # Hawks' cap space: The fact the Hawks also had to take back Tony Delk's two-year, $5.6 million contract means the team has roughly $9.5 million left in cap room to pursue free agents. They reportedly are offering Dampier most of that money to sign. If he picks the Knicks instead, they could turn their attention to Stromile Swift -- one of the last two top-tier free agents left on the market. The Hawks, like several other Eastern Conference teams, believe Swift can play 30 minutes a night at center in the East.

    # Pistons' cap space: Why did the Pistons essentially give away one of their best low-post scoring options to the Sixers on Wednesday? The trade that sent Corliss Williamson to Philadelphia for Derrick Coleman gives the Pistons significant cap relief down the road. The Pistons clear an extra $3.5 million in cap next season if they buy out the last year of Coleman's deal. Then the team gets an additional $6.5 million in relief in 2006-07.

    It's less clear why the Sixers did it, given they have another player, Kenny Thomas, who does much of the same things Williamson does. However, coach Jim O'Brien has long been a fan of Williamson and thinks he'll add more depth and scoring punch to his club.

    # The rest: Loren Woods is expected to sign a contract with the Raptors either today or tomorrow. The Wizards added depth to their frontcourt by signing Michael Ruffin and Samaki Walker on Wednesday.

    Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.

    ----------------------------------------------

    Thursday, August 5 Updated 10:00 AM EST

    Rumor Central

    Knicks are Dampier's first choice



    WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY

    Erick Dampier
    Warriors
    Knicks
    Hawks
    Grizzlies
    Pacers
    Suns Aug. 5 - Dampier met with the Isiah Thomas and Lenny Wilkens on Aug. 4, and appears to be excited about the prospect of playing for the Knicks next season -- even though he may have to settle for the team's $4.9 million mid-level exception.

    "I'd love to be here, a team with young players that want to win," Dampier told the New York Post. "They made it to the playoffs and they have some key pieces on their team. With the addition of me, I'm going to make this team better. I have one goal on my mind: winning."

    Dampier, who opted out of the last two years of a seven-year, $48 million deal with the Warriors, is still hoping a sign-and-trade can be reached, but said he would strongly consider taking the mid-level and becoming a free agent again next summer.

    WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY

    Jamal Crawford
    Bulls
    Knicks Aug. 5 - After more than a month of talks, Jamal Crawford appears ready to become a member of the Knicks. Crawford has verbally agreed to a seven-year contract worth at least $56 million, plus a potential $4 million more in bonuses, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

    The sign-and-trade deal would send Crawford and reserve forward Jerome Williams to the Knicks for forward Othella Harrington, guard Frank Williams and centers Dikembe Mutombo and Cezary Trybanski.

    The trade reportedly will save the Cavs $11 million over four years.

    WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY

    Vince Carter
    Raptors
    Knicks?
    Hornets? Aug. 5 - Vince Carter has asked the Raptors to explore trade possibilities, Carter's agent, Mark Steinberg, told the New York Daily News.

    "We did meet and asked them to look into trades," Mark Steinberg told the Daily News in a telephone interview. "They know where we stand."

    Carter reportedly wants to be traded to the Knicks, though his agent would neither confirm nor deny it.

    WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY

    Jason Kidd
    Nets
    Mavericks
    Lakers Aug. 5 - The New York Post reports that the Kidd-to-Mavericks trade may be 60 days in the making. The Mavs will acquire Jason Terry from the Atlanta Hawks as early as today, meaning that Terry can't be moved for two months, according to NBA rules. But the Mavs may be using this time to better evaluate the physical condition of Kidd, who is coming off of knee surgery.

    "You have to put yourself in position to make something happen," president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson told the Fort Worth Star Telegram. "If you do the right things consistently with smaller moves, it's easier to do the bigger moves."

    However, league sources claim that the Lakers, not the Mavericks, are the team Kidd really wants to play for. Look for the Kidd camp to keep pushing the Lakers to send the expiring contracts of Gary Payton and Rick Fox along with a young player like Caron Butler or Kareem Rush to the Nets in return for Kidd. The deal would give the Nets lots of cap relief along with a promising young player and give the Lakers the best backcourt in the NBA.

    WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY

    Shareef Abdur-Rahim
    Blazers
    Timberwolves Aug. 5 - The Blazers and Timberwolves continue to talk about a Shareef Abdur-Rahim-for-Wally Szczerbiak swap, Insider's Chad Ford reports. The issue right now is the other player the Wolves are willing to include in the deal to make the numbers work. Abdur-Rahim makes $14.6 million this season. Szczerbiak is due $9 million.

    The Wolves really have only two options. They can either send center Michael Olowokandi or backup center Ervin Johnson back in the deal. The team is reluctant to part with either. Despite a slew of injuries, the team believes Olowokandi could be a force for them next season. Johnson is more expendable, but given Olowokandi's injury history, the team is worried about giving away Kandi's only back-up. The Blazers could include Vladimir Stepania in the deal to help the Wolves absorb the loss of Johnson and still make the numbers work.

    WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY

    Stromile Swift
    Grizzlies
    Grizzlies
    Hawks
    Bobcats Aug. 5 - If Erick Dampier picks the Knicks, the Hawks could turn their attention to Swift -- one of the last two top-tier free agents left on the market. The Hawks, as do several other Eastern Conference executives, believe Swift can play 30 minutes a night at center in the East.

    The Bobcats would also be a fit. They've been stockpiling bigs, but they don't have anyone of Swift's caliber. A front line of Swift and Emeka Okafor would be among the most athletic in the league.

    With that said, none of this precludes the Grizzlies from matching. They claim they want Swift back, and if they lose out on Dampier, they may have no choice but to pay him that cash. Without him, their front line takes a major hit. With the way other teams in the West are improving, they may not be able to afford to let him go.

    WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY

    Ron Mercer
    Nets Aug. 5 - The Nets are expected to sign free-agent guard Ron Mercer to a two-year, $3.2 million deal to replace Kerry Kittles, the New York Post reports.

    "We're working at it, but the process has been a little choppy," Mercer's agent, Andy Miller, told The Post. "The goal was to have him in by the latter part of the week, but there has been travel involved and inquiries Ron has about management and players."

    WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY

    Eric Williams
    Nets Aug. 5 - An offer of $11.5 million over four years might not be sweet enough to land free-agent forward Eric Williams, the New York Post reports.

    WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY

    Troy Hudson
    Timberwolves
    Timberwolves
    Heat?
    Jazz?
    Rockets?
    Raptors? Aug. 5 - After matching Trenton Hassell's offer sheet from Portland, the Timberwolves have refocused on resigning Troy Hudson, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. The current deal is said to be worth $37 million over six seasons but has untraditional clauses written into it to deal with Hudson's injured right ankle.

    "We've gotten both sides to agree to this version, and we've got the support of the union," agent Bill Neff said in the Star Tribune.

    All parties are now awaiting approval of the NBA.

  2. #2

    Default Re: ESPN Insider 8/5/04

    So that's what I'm missing by not dishing out the dough. :

    Thanks, Hicks.

  3. #3
    How are you here? Kegboy's Avatar
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    Default Re: ESPN Insider 8/5/04

    Huh, I didn't even read this before I wrote my whole Knicks analysis. Man, agreeing with Chad Ford makes me feels so dirty.
    Come to the Dark Side -- There's cookies!

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