Posted Feb 28 2012 10:15AM
The last time a franchise-altering All-Star was traded, chaos ensued, controversy reigned, feelings were hurt, hopes were crushed and the NBA had to deal with a hurricane of discontent that threatened to swallow up the season.
We all survived the Chris Paul deal anyway, the league recovered and everyone moved on ... to confront the next great trade debate.
Two weeks from Thursday will give us a better idea about Dwight Howard and where this is going, and where he's going. The trade deadline -- March 15 -- will also involve some lesser names, none as weighty as Howard, a pending free agent who will take championship hopes wherever he goes. Or doesn't go.
It's all up to the Magic and whether they're willing to be left at the altar for the second time in club history, following Shaquille O'Neal's sprint to the Lakers. One thing's for sure; NBA commissioner David Stern isn't getting involved, not like he was in the Paul trade(s). When asked during All-Star Weekend if teams that lose players of the caliber as Howard should be compensated with an extra first-round pick, Stern was rather direct:
The other issue surrounding this trade deadline is economics. Last year, the lack of a labor agreement scared teams into dumping salary, fearing the worst in the next labor contract. Now that the labor language is clear, no such doubts exist.
Here's a look at some different scenarios, teams and players that will dictate what could happen on or before March 15:
Dwight. The face of this year's trade deadline gave some seriously mixed signals all weekend in his town. He took the microphone before the All-Star Game to welcome the NBA to "our city." He playfully sat next to Magic owner Rich DeVos during a break in the action. Must mean Dwight wants to stay, right? Well, right after the game, he still refused to commit to an extension or shred his three-team wish list. Must mean he wants to go, right?
The Magic insists this won't turn into a Shaq situation. They say they won't allow Dwight to leave them empty-handed this offseason. So a decision must be made in the next week. Howard must give the Magic a sign that he's willing to re-sign, or else.
If you think the suspense is killing you, imagine how Stan Van Gundy feels.
Laker breakup? Kobe Bryant isn't getting any younger. The Lakers must squeeze out another championship while they can. But that's not happening with the team as constituted, which means either Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum, the only players of trade value, could be gone. Somewhere, Phil Jackson is not second-guessing himself in retirement.
Do they trade one of their bigs for a young and talented swing player or point guard? Conventional wisdom says you don't do big for small, but in this situation, the Lakers might not have a choice. Derek Fisher is Jurassic and the Lakers aren't athletic at the swing positions, Kobe aside. L.A. had better trade Pau now, because if they wait and he declines, good luck finding someone who'll take that contract.
Celtics breakup? The wrecking ball is surely coming this summer when the contracts of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen expire. The only question is whether the Celtics get a jump on things and act now. The biggest trading chip is Rajon Rondo, but he's the player the Celtics will build around if he can't fetch anyone special. If Danny Ainge suspects, as most of us do, that this is a first-round-and-out team, he could get something for Allen while he can.
Steve Nash. He repeatedly said during the All-Star break that he will not push for a trade ... but also won't fight the Suns if they do trade him. Really, it's not up to Nash; it's all about whether the Suns believe they can get anything decent. He has value, but only to a contending team, which won't give up anything of value in return, considering a Draft pick wouldn't be high enough and a key role player could wreck the team's chances of contending. The Knicks were his best bet until Jeremy Lin happened.
This is the perfect example of a team being too emotionally attached or waiting too long to trade a player while it had the chance. Nash should've been dealt last season. And now the Suns are likely to watch an asset walk away this summer with no compensation. They're not that rich with talent to allow that to happen.
Relief for New Orleans. Chris Kaman is the obvious trade bait for the rebuilding Hornets, who have no use for him, and who can sell him easily because he's a big man with an expiring contract. But only a contender would be interested in Kaman, and a contender won't wreck its chances of contending by giving up much in return, or gamble with chemistry. San Antonio is a possible landing spot for Kaman, but if you're the Spurs, for example, do you surrender DeJuan Blair?
Don't hold the Mayo. There's little incentive for the Grizzlies to hold onto O.J. Mayo over the next few months because most figure he's unlikely to be welcomed back next season. Might as well get something for him while they can. Trading him wouldn't hurt, especially if the Grizzlies get a rotation player in return.
Minnesota making a move? The Wolves have a desperate need for a scoring swingman. So why is Michael Beasley on the block? Well, his minutes are shrinking along with his role, and clearly he's not in Rick Adelman's plans. In the right situation, Beasley might be a valuable sixth man or secondary scorer. And we know David Kahn isn't shy about making moves. The right trade could be the difference in the Wolves making or missing the playoffs.
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