Can Isiah pull off another blockbuster?
By Chad Ford
NBA Insider
Send an Email to Chad Ford Thursday, February 19
Updated: February 19
10:18 AM ET

NBA Insider Chad Ford will be chatting live on ESPN.com today at 1 p.m. ET about
the NBA trade deadline. Click here to submit your questions.

This just in. . .

Jerry West refused to confirm or deny the exisitence of the "so-called trade
deadline."

Danny Ainge was just sent a thank you note by Nextel Wireless.

Juwan Howard, who has been traded in two of the last three trade deadlines, has
gone into hiding. He was last seen with Chris Gatling, the patron saint of trade
deadline deals.

League sources say the Knicks are offering the Hawks an autographed photo of
Isiah for Rasheed Wallace.

Allen Iverson is already feeling disrespected by the 28 teams that haven't
traded for him. "I'm not going to put up with it," Iverson said. "Our
relationship is over."

The Pacers promise to include Larry Bird in any Austin Croshere trade.

Donald Sterling just sold his Clippers season tickets.

Mark Cuban claimed there was a 99.9 percent chance that the Mavs won't make a
trade unless they're offered Erick Dampier, Rasheed Wallace, Brian Grant,
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Kurt Thomas or anyone else for that matter.

It's the trade deadline, baby. The crap coming from teams smells a lot like the
Magic and the Hawks. The truth, as the Knicks have reminded us all season, is
that good trades can still happen in the NBA. And sometime after the 3 p.m. ET
deadline, we can all go to bed. . .

Until then, ESPN Insider breaks down what is and isn't going down as we head
into the homestretch. . .

Nothing like waiting until the last minute

The flurry of trades already this season has thrown conventional wisdom out the
window. Normally, all of the really good deals don't happen until today. The
thinking behind the theory is that as teams get more desperate and understand
what offers are real and what aren't, the offers get sweeter.

That may not be true this year. With so many blockbuster trades already going
down, many of the would-be players at the deadline look a little weary. Offers
that a team could've snagged a month ago are off the table because folks have
moved on and made their trade.

As of late, late Wednesday night, no trades were imminent. Several GMs were up
late, still working the phones but, to my knowledge, nothing got done. That
doesn't mean that talks won't heat up again this morning as teams slog toward
the deadline, but it does mean that all of the really big stuff may be over.

Here's what we do know.

If Allen Iverson is traded, it will most likely happen this summer.
The chances of superstars like Allen Iverson, Steve Francis or Kobe Bryant
getting traded are slim to none at this point. If they need to be moved (and the
Philly media is already pushing AI out the door), then the summer is probably a
better time to weigh the offers.

It's also pretty unlikely that we'll see Rasheed Wallace moved at this point.
While Hawks GM Billy Knight is claiming that he's narrowed the field down to two
teams, the three teams in the running for Rasheed -- the Pistons, Knicks and
Mavs -- probably don't have what it takes to get a deal done now. The Pistons
have the best chance, but as Insider first reported here on both Tuesday and
Wednesday, they won't pull the trigger until they find someone to take either
Chuck Atkins or Corliss Williamson off their hands.

As of Wednesday, the Pistons were still talking with the Magic, Celtics and
Bulls about deals for either Atkins or Williamson, but the hold-up is that those
teams want the same first-round pick (the one Milwaukee owes Detroit) that the
Hawks do to part with Wallace.

Joe Dumars has a magical way of pulling of miraculous deals, but it's hard to
see how they get both of them done together. If they can't, the team's priority,
as we've been writing for weeks, is clearing cap space for Mehmet Okur.

The other suitors have a bigger problem. King wants expiring contracts, draft
picks and young prospects, and Dallas and New York have little of either. Unless
they can get a third or fourth team to take some of their leftovers (Utah
perhaps?) it's tough to believe that the Hawks will pull the trigger.
What happens if the Hawks don't trade Wallace? Two things could happen. The team
could decide it doesn't want the distraction and waive Wallace. After Wallace
cleared waivers he'd be free to join another team, which would likely be the
Knicks. The other solution is to hold onto him and try to work out a
sign-and-trade deal this summer that gets Wallace more money than he'd get on
the open market.

The other prize that seems to be highly coveted is the Warriors' Erick Dampier.
The team is trying to package Dampier with Nick Van Exel in an effort to get cap
relief. The Knicks have the most interest in Damp, but again, can't offer the
Warriors the relief they're looking for.

Reports out of New York had the team offering Kurt Thomas, Dikembe Mutombo and
Shandon Anderson for Van Exel and Dampier. I can't imagine the Warriors biting
on that deal . . . then again, we are talking about the Warriors.

Memphis has been after Dampier since this summer, but as Insider has already
reported, the asking price is awfully high for Jerry West's blood. As of
Wednesday night, the Warriors were asking for Stromile Swift, Jake Tsakalidis
and Shane Battier for Dampier. That's a lot of young blood for a center with
creaky knees.

Detroit's interest in Dampier is more passing. The Pistons would try to use him
in a larger three-way deal to get more cap space. Something could be worked out
with Memphis here, but it would still likely cost the Grizzlies Swift and
Battier at the very least.

Despite reports to the contrary, a source in Indiana claims that the Pacers are
not pursuing Dampier.

Hot Zones

If none of the big, blockbuster deals are likely to happen, what is going down?

Right now you see a bunch of smaller names being floated as teams wrestle for
cap space, or the missing piece in a playoff run.

Insider takes a look at several trade "hot zones" that we'll be watching closer
as the deadline gets nearer.

Knicks: Even if the team can't land Rasheed or Dampier, we expect Isiah to make
one more move before the deadline. Teams like Kurt Thomas, Frank Williams and to
a lesser extent, Michael Sweetney. Isiah has even received inquiries on Penny
Hardaway and Shandon Anderson. Isiah is always thinking out of the box and he's
still not happy with his team.

Sonics: GM Rick Sund sounds like a guy willing to make a deal. As reported
on Insider on Wednesday, the team has talked to the Raptors about a Brent
Barry-and-Vladimir Radmanovic-for-Donyell Marshall-and-Morris Peterson swap.
However, as of late Wednesday, it sounded like those talks have stalled. The
Sonics have also discussed a swap with the Grizzlies that would land them
Stromile Swift and Jake Tsakalidis for Jerome James and Vladimir Radmanovic.

The Sonics are still in the running for Juwan Howard as well, though that deal
appears to be less of a priority. The Celtics have made a hard charge at Barry,
but what they're offering, expiring contracts, doesn't really resonate
considering Barry comes off the books anyway. If the Celtics were willing to
offer Chris Mills and Chris Mihm for Barry and a salary drain like Calvin Booth,
Seattle might just get interested.

Pistons: Joe Dumars is motivated to get either Chucky Atkins or Corliss
Williamson off the books. Armed with two first-round picks, you've got to
believe the Pistons will come up with something.

Celtics: Danny Ainge is working the phones, and he has two coveted pieces to
offer -- the expiring contracts of Mills and Mihm. A league source claimed on
Wednesday that the team was considering a couple of offers that would land it
another point guard and a first-round pick. There is also talk about the Celtics
swapping Mills for Malik Rose. It sounds like the talk about Juwan Howard coming
there is pretty much dead.

Blazers: The benching of Zach Randolph and fining of Qyntel Woods on
Wednesday raised a few eyebrows around the league. Shareef Abdur Rahim got the
start over Randolph after Randolph skipped practice. Randolph responsded by
spinning a ball into Randolph. Cheeks got in a heated arguement with Randolph
during a team huddle and was overheard saying the phrase "throw the ball at me
like that". With Abdur Rahim now on board and Randolph not taking the change
well, could Randolph be on the way out? Or alternatively, could the Blazers be
interested in the offer the Sonics made to Atlanta. Would the Blazers be
interested in Brent Barry, Vladimir Radmanovic, Jerome James and Ronald Murray
for Rahim. Remember, a player can be traded again as long as they aren't
packaged with another player going out. This deal works straight up for Rahim.
The team would still like to move Dale Davis, Ruben Patterson and even Damon
Stoudamire. The thinking early on was that Davis would be pretty easy to move,
but the Blazers have hit stumbling blocks. Bucks GM Larry Harris said that he
will not trade Toni Kukoc for Davis. The Blazers were also trying to get
involved in talks with the Sonics and Raptors, but haven't gotten anywhere there
either.

The only team with interest in Patterson appears to be the Knicks, who have
discussed a Shandon Anderson-for-Patterson swap. Stoudamire will be easier to
move next year, though you wonder whether he might not be a bad fit on a team
like Boston if the Blazers were to send out a No. 1 and be willing to swallow
the last year of Yogi Stewart's deal.

Magic: Juwan Howard, Gordan Giricek, Steven Hunter . . . actually anyone not
named Tracy McGrady is on the block. Lots of teams are interested in Giricek,
who also happens to be in the last year of his deal, but after that things begin
to wane just a little bit.

Sixers: Talking about trading Allen Iverson has dominated the air waves, but
don't expect that to happen until the summer. More likely are trades that send
Eric Snow or Aaron McKie packing. The problem is that their proposed
replacements, including Juwan Howard, Malik Rose and Jerome Williams, don't
really sound like huge upgrades.

Bulls: By most accounts Eddy Curry, Tyson Chandler and even Jamal Crawford
are safe. The center of attention is on Marcus Fizer, whose contract expires
this summer. The Pistons, Magic and Sonics have all been mentioned as possible
destinations.

Raptors: They've been busy trying to get something down. It seems like they've
cooled to the possibility of landing Brent Barry and Vladimir Radmanovic or, in
the alternative, Dale Davis and Radmanovic as part of a three way trade. The
Knicks offered the Raptors Dikembe Mutombo on Wednesday if they were willing to
be part of a three way deal that lands New York Rasheed Wallace. It's still
unclear why the Raptors would want to help the Knicks do anything. The Suns are
trying to get the Raptors to take Jahidi White off their hands and may be
willing to give them a first round pick to do it. In every case, the expiring
contracts of Michael Curry, Michael Bradley and Morris Peterson appear to be the
bait.

Clippers: The team has been trying to get someone to take Melvin Ely off their
hands so that they can get further under the cap to make a run at Kobe Bryant.
Point guard Keyon Dooling is also available. Talks with the Bulls seems to have
fizzled however.

Nuggets-Jazz: Both teams have cap space, which allows them to facilitate trades.
The Nuggets have received a lot of interest in Marcus Camby and Rodney White,
but have been reluctant to pull the trigger unless something blows them away.
The Jazz are trying to use their roughly seven million in cap space and the
expiring contract of Keon Clark to land themselves another draft pick or
prospect. The team has shown some interest in the Magic's Gordan Giricek. The
Suns (for Tom Gugliotta and first-rounder) right now seem like the only legit
contender. though the Jazz have the power to get involved in potentially any
deal out there.

Around the League

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said he's actually received a few trade proposals that
include Kobe Bryant. Here's his response. "Teams fish around," Kupchak told the
L.A. Daily News. "My response is, 'No, we're not'. We're not going to break up
the team. I wouldn't share any conversations I've had, but we have not received
an influx of calls based on the perception that we're trying to move (Bryant) or
that we would move him. And to me, that just verifies our position -- that why
would you do that? Teams know we wouldn't do it."

The Hawks waived Michael Doleac on Wednesday. The speculation has been that
Doleac, if he clears waivers, will return to the Knicks. But he may not clear
waivers. Two teams with room enough under the cap to assume his contract, the
Nuggets and Jazz, both have interest in the center and may claim him.

The war over the termination of Vin Baker's contract, which happened on
Wednesday, is about to get ugly. The Players Association is in the process of
filing a grievance and both the NBA and NBPA are digging in for a fight. Both
sides claim that they're confident that they'll prevail.

"We were advised we could move to terminate this player a year ago, but chose to
give him what has amounted to a year of additional chances," owner Wyc Grousbeck
told the Boston Globe

NBPA spokesman Dan Wasserman had a different view. "With regard to the
termination of a guaranteed contract, it doesn't matter if it's Vin Baker or any
other player," said Wasserman. "The Players Association will contest this as
aggressively and vigorously as possible. We expect to prevail as we have in
other termination cases like this, such as those involving Latrell Sprewell and
Nate Huffman."

The issue is whether Baker's alcoholism prevented him from performing under the
terms of the uniform players contract. The Celtics maintain that when a doctor
failed to clear Baker for 10 consecutive games, that he had run out of chances
and could no longer fulfill his part of the contract. The NBPA disagrees.

Baker's agent, Aaron Goodwin, is claiming that a number of teams have interest
in Baker and are lining up to sign him. If Baker was really unable to perform,
why are so many teams interested in re-signing him?

What both sides are really fighting about here is precedent. The league would
love to establish a precedent for terminating guaranteed contracts when a
player, because of substance abuse or lack of conditioning, makes himself unable
to play. The NBPA obviously wants this nipped in the bud and claims that what
the Celtics and league are trying to do is find a way to circumvent the
guaranteed provisions of the CBA.

All of this mess would be less sticky if teams weren't tripping over themselves
to sign up Baker for cheap. You have to believe that Ainge and Grousbek are
furious that teams aren't lining up in support of them.

"It's unbelievable," one league source told Insider. "No one should touch this
guy. It send every bad message there is. We should be lining up behind the
Celtics here, but greed always gets in the way. Look at Eddie Griffin. We'll
always take big risks for talent. But for Vin? I'm not sure the talent is even
there anymore. If a team really does sign him, not only does it hurt the Celtics
chances of prevailing, it hurts the league."