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Fran Blinebury

Courtney Lee
Courtney Lee has been with three different teams in his three years in the league.
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

Four teams itching to make a move before the deadline

Posted Feb 23 2011 11:50AM

Now that the 800-pound gorilla that has dominated the headlines since the opening of training camp has finally jumped from Denver to New York, it might seem like Thursday's trade deadline (3 p.m. Eastern) has lost its marquee attraction.

But finally getting the Carmelo Anthony matter settled should move more teams off the dime in the final hours. There were a bunch of clubs waiting to see which way the Nuggets were going. Now they could be ready to make moves.

Sure, it's a quieter deadline season than normal because of the uncertainty surrounding the labor situation. All of those expiring contracts that could get clubs under the salary cap next summer aren't quite as valuable since everyone expects the floating cap -- if there is one -- to be lower. Will there be a hard cap? Will there be a "franchise player" tag? Will contract lengths be shortened? All of those questions have general managers treading lightly.

Rumors are that New Orleans and Sacramento are considering swapping Marcus Thornton for Carl Landry, and there are a handful of other teams that should be working round the clock to get something done:

Houston Rockets

After spending the better part of a decade trying to draw to an inside straight with the unfulfilling Yao Ming-Tracy McGrady combination, the latest broken bone in Yao's foot has the Rockets staring at a bleak reality. The trouble is that while Kevin Martin can score a ton of points, he is not the kind of star who can carry a team.

Houston general manager Daryl Morey spent the past six months trying to work a backdoor deal to get Anthony from Denver -- even on a rental basis -- and was rebuffed. Now the Rockets need a big man to make a late run at the playoffs.

There has been conversation about sending Courtney Lee to the Bulls if Houston could pry Omer Asik out of Chicago. But the Rockets need to be even bolder to become relevant in the future. Shane Battier, Aaron Brooks, Jared Jeffries and Yao all have expiring contracts. But for the right deal -- i.e. a bona fide star -- you can have anyone (or two or three) on the Rockets roster. The Rockets' front office needs to do something to make Houston care again.

Portland Trail Blazers

Like the Rockets, the injury-plagued Blazers are at a crossroads, deciding whether to go for the playoffs this season or work on the long-term future of the franchise.

With Greg Oden out again and Brandon Roy pushing for a return to the lineup soon following more knee surgery, there is no reason to think Portland could do anything except make a token playoff appearance this season. That makes veterans Andre Miller, Marcus Camby and Joel Przybilla trade chips if the decision is to rebuild around LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum.

GM Rich Cho has been talking to the Nets about a deal that would bring in point guard Devin Harris and the expiring contract of forward Troy Murphy for Miller and Przybilla. There are plenty of teams that would love to get their hands on Camby, too, if the NBA's star-crossed franchise goes for an extreme makeover. Again.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The fans at The Q have been amazingly supportive throughout a disastrous season, but that goodwill can't continue forever. Now that the record 26-game losing streak is over, it's time that owner Dan Gilbert began making good on his promise to rebuild and get Cleveland off its back.

Of course, there aren't many suitors knocking at the door of the worst team in the league. The Cavs seem reluctant to give up on J.J. Hickson. They need to keep somebody around for the new foundation. Anderson Varejao could have been a nice trade commodity, but he is injured and lost for the season. The Bulls could come calling for Anthony Parker if they don't pry Courtney Lee out of Houston. Antawn Jamison, Ramon Sessions and Mo Williams might be able to be exchanged for new faces. Nobody needs new faces more than the Cavs. Right now.

Boston Celtics

This might seem like an odd neighborhood for the No. 1 seed in the East and the team with the second-best overall record in the NBA . But the Celtics will consider any finish to this season a failure that doesn't have them dancing around the floor with the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

This veteran collection can't afford any holes in the rotation and with Marquis Daniels likely lost for the season with a bruised spinal cord, that's what they've got. The older Celtics will all have to be in good shape heading into the long slog of the playoffs. Without Daniels to back up the small forward spot, Paul Pierce could be worn to the bone.

With the likes of Luol Deng, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant on the Celtics' potential dance card, GM Danny Ainge has to be working the phones. Early talks of a deal for Houston's Shane Battier were quickly shot down. Could Rasual Butler or Anthony Parker fill the bill? If Rip Hamilton is bought out by Detroit, he'd fit like a glove.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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