April 14, 2008 -- Think back to your favorite Christmas morning as a kid.
Was it that time you scored a Nintendo 64? Or perhaps the memory of your father sneaking a Red Ryder BB gun under the tree, despite your mother’s and Santa’s wishes, resonates more fondly in your heart?
Whatever it was, a number of die-hard hoops fans experienced that same sense of nostalgia this trading season.
You could say there were a lot of gifts around the tree and they came in big boxes.
With many NBA teams contending at such a high-level, quite possibly the highest since the Michael Jordan era, organizations were anxious to make the jump from very good to great.
The Lakers were the first to pull the trigger on a blockbuster, acquiring Pau Gasol and a 2010 second-round draft pick from Memphis in exchange for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, the draft rights to Marc Gasol and first round picks in 2008 and 2010 on Feb. 1.
After the rest of the West witnessed an already loaded Los Angeles squad – featuring Kobe Bryant, the then emerging Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom – pluck such an immense talent from an out-of-contention team, a Cold War mentality swept over the conference. It was time to grab a star of your own or get left behind.
Suns GM Steve Kerr made the next move, perhaps the most risky, sending four-time All-Star Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to Miami for three-time Finals MVP Shaquille O’Neal on Feb. 6. It was widely portrayed throughout the media that the Suns were ready to give up some of their high-octane style in hopes that the Diesel could fuel a Finals run and bring the first championship in franchise history to the desert.
The newly named 'Big Cactus' claimed there wouldn’t be much of an adjustment and had a warning for anyone who doubted he could get it done.
"I'm very upset," he said at his introduction press conference. "You just don't really want to get me upset. When I'm upset, I'm known to do certain things -- like win championships."
Dallas was the next West behemoth to follow suit, pulling off a high-risk, high-reward deal for Jason Kidd, delivering Devin Harris, Trenton Hassell, Maurice Ager, DeSagana Diop, Keith Van Horn, first-round draft choices in 2008 and 2010, and cash considerations to New Jersey on Feb. 19. They also received Malik Allen and Antoine Wright in return.
“It’s been the most amazing, interesting trade we’ve ever done, and we’ve done some doozies,” Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said right after the trade.
Between Gasol, Shaq and Kidd, 24 All-Star appearances and four championship rings were on the move as part of three midseason transactions that changed the landscape of the league. But those three were not alone.
In what did not seem like a blockbuster deal at the time, the Jazz grabbed guard Kyle Korver from Philadelphia for Gordan Giricek in late December. The Spurs added depth to their roster acquiring veteran big man Kurt Thomas on Feb. 20. And the Hawks and Cavs brought the East to the trading table with Atlanta nabbing Mike Bibby from Sacramento and Cleveland bringing in Ben Wallace, Delonte West, Joe Smith and Wally Szczerbiak via Seattle and Chicago in mid-February.
It would be hard to label any of the aforementioned deals failures. In fact, most have been success stories.
Since adding Gasol, the Lakers clinched their first Pacific Division title in four years and currently sit atop the Western Conference. The former Rookie of the Year has fit in seamlessly with Los Angeles, helping it forget that it’s still without Bynum, who went down just before the deal with a knee injury.
After starting the season 16-16, the Jazz have a phenomenal 37-11 record since acquiring 3-point threat Kyle Korver and captured the Northwest Division title.
The Suns have advanced to the postseason for the fourth straight year and have gone 2-0 against the Spurs – the team that has eliminated them from the playoffs two out of the last three seasons – since adding Shaq. Along with averaging 12.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per contest for Phoenix, O’Neal has opened up scoring lanes for Amare Stoudemire and allowed him to shift back to his natural power forward position. STAT has averaged over 29 points per game since Shaq’s arrival, eight above his career norm.
Even the Mavericks, who started off 0-10 against teams with winning records after trading for Kidd, have pulled off crucial wins against Utah, Phoenix and Golden State down the stretch.
Oh and by the way look out for the Spurs, Cavs and the Hawks in the playoffs.
Disappointed with what your favorite squad brought you this year? Remember there’s always next trading season.