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Plenty of speculation, but no deals... yet

Sam Smith at Bulls.com

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

Kirk Hinrich

"The Bulls could send the Magic Kirk Hinrich for Brandon Bass, J.J. Redick and Anthony Johnson," writes Sam Smith. "I don’t like giving up Hinrich, but the Bulls need that cap space. Hinrich would be great for Orlando, as he can play point guard and defend ones and twos."

So where are all these trades we’ve been hearing about for months?

Amar’e Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, Tracy McGrady, Ray Allen, Chris Bosh, Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Kevin Martin, Marcus Camby, Al Jefferson, David West, Monta Ellis, Tayshaun Prince, T.J. Ford, Andre Iguodala, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Troy Murphy. C’mon, not one?

It’s now just 10 days to the NBA trading deadline. Could this have been all just talk with nothing substantive? The media never would mislead its public that way.

Anyway, perhaps I can be of help.

I was watching the Celtics continuing to lose and though Orlando won in Boston Sunday, it’s still difficult to see the Magic as champions. I am here to help.

It’s fairly clear watching Orlando—and I know they have a lot invested in Jameer Nelson, who has been in and out injured again—they need backcourt help on offense and defense. I’ve got an idea, and this should also ease some of the Bulls’ concerns about getting enough money this summer to pursue a max contract for a free agent, the team’s main goal.

The Bulls could send the Magic Kirk Hinrich for Brandon Bass, J.J. Redick and Anthony Johnson. I don’t like giving up Hinrich, but the Bulls need that cap space. Hinrich would be great for Orlando, as he can play point guard and defend ones and twos. Though prearranged deals aren’t allowed, I’d release Redick to go back to Orlando as the Bulls don’t need him.

Just last week, Bass’ agent told the Orlando Sentinel they’re not asking for a trade but want to meet with management to discuss a role for the never-used Bass. The Magic go with Rashard Lewis and Ryan Anderson, leaving no room for Bass, whom the Bulls pursued in the 2005 draft and then again last summer. He’d be nice-long term insurance, as it would seem Tyrus Thomas is all but gone.

Chicago would get Johnson for backup point guard and could let John Salmons play shooting guard again. Maybe you throw in for the Magic your protected No. 1 for the draft rights for Fran Vazquez. Orlando would acquire a player who maybe is a final piece, and get Redick back. The Bulls also have the roster space to take on contracts, which is one reason they didn’t take on additional D-League or summer league players so they could have the flexibility to make a real trade. The Bulls thus would get a guy the Magic isn’t using who could help a lot down the road and that cap space.

Or, perhaps the Bulls take another shot at Monta Ellis. I know the Warriors are insisting they won’t trade Ellis or Stephen Curry, but everyone—and even Ellis said it this season—knows you can’t go anywhere with that backcourt. The Warriors lately are getting killed for getting rid of Speedy Claxton’s expiring deal to sign Anthony Tolliver. Remember, those expiring deals are supposed to be of value. But the Warriors are in deep financial trouble and supposedly one of at least half dozen franchises for sale. This would preclude big free agency this summer.

Ellis and Derrick Rose could be the most dynamic backcourt in the NBA, and then you’d be sure to have someone and not risk a strikeout in the summer if you are the Bulls. The Warriors long have coveted Hinrich, and he would be better as a backcourt mate to fit with Curry. Say you offer Hinrich and Tyrus Thomas, whom the Warriors can renounce. If the Bulls would take Corey Maggette, I believe the Warriors would drive them to Chicago. But Maggette’s is a tough long-term deal to swallow. Maybe you exchange Brandan Wright and give the Warriors some more expiring deals to save money, like Jerome James, and take on Maggette. Perhaps Hinrich, John Salmons and a No. 1 and cash and the Bulls take back someone else like Anthony Morrow. It’s probably worth some talking and I still see Golden State making a big move.

How about Marcus Camby? I know the Clippers are thinking big with Camby’s $9.15 million expiring deal, like getting a hot young prospect like Rudy Gay. Good luck with that. With an interim coach in, they’re about to fall out of the playoff race for good. Why not get something for Camby, who could at least fill a Bulls need the rest of the season. Maybe a draft pick to go with some expiring contracts so the Clippers have something to show for it, though it still doesn’t solve the Bulls’ intention of getting farther below the salary cap for this summer.

Another guy definitely not being traded is Al Jefferson. Yet, you constantly hear the Timberwolves feeling they cannot keep Jefferson and Kevin Love.

The notion is they need a big, defensive center to play with one and they’ve even had some success lately with Ryan Hollins. But what if they had Joakim Noah? Everything I’ve heard around the Bulls is no way they would deal Rose or Noah, and I believe that. But say Minnesota would trade Jefferson. I’ve heard they’ve had Luol Deng on a list of players they have interest in and they’ve been asking around the NBA on Deng.

Do you move Noah and Deng for Jefferson? Then you have Jefferson and maybe Minnesota gives you one of their expiring deals so you can get far enough under for a free agent this summer and throws back the rights to Ricky Rubio. Though the Timberwolves could have cap room, who is going there? That would be their point. The Bulls would have Rose, Jefferson and Hinrich, and could add a free agent. But then you’d also need a physical center to replace Noah and you’d be in the same fix Minnesota is now. Plus, when Noah came out of college he quietly let the Timberwolves know if they drafted him he wouldn’t want to be there. It’s said to be one reason they inexplicably—at the time—passed on him and took Corey Brewer. It would seem too risky for Minnesota, as Noah could leave on them at some point. If I were the Bulls, it also would seem way too much to surrender.

Wade’s decision will be based on winning

-- It was revealing to hear Dwyane Wade after the Heat’s Saturday loss to the Bulls openly question coach Erik Spoelstra for being predictable, that teams know what the Heat will do and yet they continue to do the same things. It was a torpid Heat locker room Saturday night. I listened to veteran Udonis Haslem complaining to the regular team beat writers about being too critical of the team’s talent: "Just look at other teams and I don't get overwhelmed by their roster," Haslem said, referencing teams like the Bulls and even Cavs, "Taking nothing away from Cleveland, they're one of the best teams in the league. They’ve got LeBron. We got D-Wade. They got Shaq averaging about 12 and seven. We got J.O. (Jermaine O’Neal) averaging about 12 and seven. They got Mo Williams averaging 16. We got Bease (Michael Beasley) averaging 16. It's not lack of talent. I'm sick of people saying that." A little sensitive, eh? Wade reiterated winning will determine his free agency decision, and the feeling around the NBA is Pat Riley’s grand plan of attracting someone to join Wade includes bringing in a big name coach as well. The South Florida Sun Sentinel also made note when Mike Dunleavy stepped down as Clippers coach that he remains close with the owning Arison family. … One team to watch these next two weeks is the New Orleans Hornets with Chris Paul down, perhaps for the season and them an unlikely playoff team. They’re in the luxury tax for next season as well unless they move a big contract for an expiring one. David West is the obvious one as he’s making $8.3 million next season. Would they take Tracy McGrady to also get out from under Peja Stojakovic? They insist they aren’t dealing West, but they are 25th in attendance. You figure they’d have to give something like that serious thought if they could save more than $20 million. Maybe take a shot at Ray Allen’s expiring deal. Something to watch. … The 76ers won in Houston Saturday in a game they called in Philadelphia Iguodala’s audition. “It means I got to put on a good show tonight,” Iguodala joked afterward. The Rockets believe they can use McGrady’s huge expiring deal to steal a high level player from a team with financial issues like the 76ers, 28th in attendance. Most GMs are saying, at least for now, the Rockets are overplaying their hand in the star players they are seeking. … I loved this story I heard about Kevin Durant. I know the goofballs like Gilbert Arenas get the attention, but it was All-Star reserves selection week and players were being asked to be ready to talk with TNT, which was announcing the selections. The team was told in advance and Durant said he didn’t want to know, that he wanted to be surprised when it came near announcement time because he was so excited he didn’t want the surprise spoiled. Yes, they really are still kids and it’s nice when they maintain the enthusiasm as many more do than you think.

Celtics are not done yet

-- You can’t write off a team like the Celtics too quickly. Obviously, if Kevin Garnett cannot recover from his knee problems, the Celtics have no chance of going anywhere. How he wasn’t MVP in 2008 when he transformed the Celtics remains one of the biggest mistakes ever in the voting, though Garnett rejected the spotlight the way he heaped praise endlessly on Paul Pierce. Though now no longer so dominant physically, it’s been eye opening to watch the Celtics begin to splinter from within without Garnett’s strong hand. I recall one story from just after Garnett arrived when Pierce was, as he often did then, waltzing through a drill. Garnett screamed at him in front of the team, asking him if he would be competing. Pierce got the message, and to his credit changed his makeup. But now with the so-called Big Three in need of support, the quiet chafing of Rajon Rondo, now an All-Star, and Kendrick Perkins, the offense should be directed more through them and there should no longer be a Big Three seems to be fracturing the unity Garnett enforced. Perkins, of all guys, certainly the worst of the team’s offensive players, openly said the offense should go inside out, apparently through him. Pat Riley once identified the elements of success leading to the Disease of Me, that meaning you think you were actually responsible for the success. That sounds like Perkins, who pounds his chest and screams, and then makes sure Garnett is standing behind him. “If we all had the right spirit as far as one goal, one thing in common, I think we’d be a lot better,” Rondo told the Boston Herald. Given all the injuries, you assume the Celtics keep it together and try to get healthy and see if they have one more shot left. … It’s been a brutal first season for Ben Gordon in Detroit as he’s just back and still bothered with a hamstring problem. He’s never shot below 40 percent on threes in his career and he’s at 32 percent and the Pistons are last in the NBA in threes at 28.5 percent. Plus, coach John Kuester already is under siege in Detroit with one of the regular beat writers last week pleading in a column that Kuester shouldn’t be fired. … Shaq has surprised many of us, including me, as he’s hung in and gotten better as the season has gone on. Plus, he’s really in Cleveland for the playoffs and Dwight Howard, anyway. But one thing hasn’t changed is there may never have been a more sensitive big guy who never forgets. Earlier this season, Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said he was glad in a Grizzlies win the Cavs didn’t take out Shaq so they could attack him on the pick and roll. Last week, when the Cavs beat the Grizzlies, Shaq had one of his better games with 13 and 13 in 21 minutes. I remember writing in a blog note a few years ago about it being Shaq’s fault in Phoenix. Not because he didn’t want it to succeed, but the way he played clogged the inside for Steve Nash and their offense. So at the All-Star game that season, as soon as Shaq walked into the big pregame interview room he headed straight for me, bent down and whispered into my ear, “How can it be my fault!” Yes, Shaq reads everything negative ever said about him. He remembers, and doesn’t like it.

Zen strikes again

-- This is how good Phil Jackson is. When Kobe Bryant was pulled at the last minute against the Trail Blazers Saturday, Portland coach Nate McMillan told reporters it might have been a Jackson tactic."I felt that could have been done on purpose,” said McMillan. “Sometimes coaches do things like that where you challenge your team to see if you can play without a star.” The Lakers won easily with Brandon Roy out until after All-Star break. That’s the real test of being great. Even when you are doing nothing, they think you are outthinking them. … In replacing Pat Riley as Lakers’ all-time coaching wins leader, Jackson is one of three coaches ever to be the leading winner for two franchises. The others are Don Nelson with the Bucks and Mavs and Lenny Wilkens with the Cavs and Sonics/Thunder. … Since being benched the fourth quarter as the Suns began a five game winning streak with a win in Dallas, Amar’e Stoudemire has averaged 27.8 points and 12.3 rebounds with 56 percent shooting in four road wins. Stoudemire last week said he might not opt out and collect his $17.7 million for next season, which some believe opens the door for the Suns to feel out Stoudemire for an extension at less than the max amount, perhaps for $13 million annually. There is speculation the Suns will do that this week and if Stoudemire passes then try to trade him. But there’s a sense that Stoudemire might not want to play the market and might take the money with indications he might not get a max deal. He loses his rights for a six-year deal, anyway, if he walks away from the Suns. … That Don Nelson is some motivator. Said Nelson of starting Vladimir Radmanovic for injured Corey Maggette: "He's been disgraceful when I've played him. But I've got to get something out of him."

NBA news and notes

-- You’ve got to love this revisionist history in New York after the Knicks benched Chris Duhon and have turned to shooter Nate Robinson at point guard and got beaten by the Bucks and Brandon Jennings, the point guard many believed they’d take but passed on. The story coming out of New York is the Knicks haven’t wanted any ball-oriented playmakers because they want to tell LeBron James in free agency he’ll have the ball and be able to run the offense. That’s got to be good news for the Bulls, since that assumes the Knicks would pass on Dwyane Wade, who also handles the ball a lot. … The 76ers won their season best fourth straight Saturday in Houston, certainly coincidently the last three with Allen Iverson gone with family concerns. The fate of Andre Iguodala, the most likely 76er to be traded, has been much discussed. The forgotten man there has been shooter Jason Kapono, who rarely ever plays. Having one more season after this at $6.6 million probably is fatal, but he’s been one of the great three point shooters in league history.

-- When the Spurs beat the Kings last week, they had four players with at least 20 points. The last time that happened was 1994, when J.R. Reid, Willie Anderson, David Robinson and Vinny Del Negro (21) did it. With Mike Dunleavy leaving the Clippers sideline last week, there are only 10 NBA coaches who have been with their teams longer than Del Negro. They are: Rick Adelman, Mike Brown, Phil Jackson, George Karl, Don Nelson, Jim O’Brien, Gregg Popovich, Jerry Sloan, Stan Van Gundy and Mike Woodson. Karl and Woodson are in the finals seasons of their deals and there have been rumors Nelson, O’Brien and Jackson could leave their teams after this season. That’s right. If Vinny gets to finish his contract next season, he could be one of the senior coaches in current team longevity. … The Mavs are 9-10 since Dec. 31 and last week owner Mark Cuban told reporters his team “sucks.” Cuban made his comment while riding an exercise bicycle pregame, which is how and when he addresses reporters. He gets very sweaty, so as I wasn’t there perhaps he was referring to his workout. Still, most around the league expect the Mavs to make a move. Though the Mavs deny it, which means less with them than even most franchises. The most likely to go is Erick Dampier, who had a combined zero points and five rebounds in 45 minutes last week in losses to Portland and Utah. His $13 million contract for next season is not guaranteed. Kirk Hinrich might be a nice pickup for them to solidify their defense and provide insurance for Jason Kidd and that would solve the Bulls problem of getting enough for a max free agent and have a big man to finish the season. The feeling is the Mavs are aiming bigger with mention of Iguodala, Kevin Martin and Caron Butler, the latter talking last week after his shot beat Orlando how much he enjoyed Washington. … The Jazz is planning next season to go back to the old music note logos from their founding as the New Orleans Jazz. The current Jazz, meanwhile, has won eight straight, a streak that got going with Paul Millsap starting and putting up big numbers for injured Carlos Boozer. With the Knicks first round pick this season, the Jazz doesn’t need another No. 1. So you’d assume they’d keep Boozer’s expiring deal as they also need to cut salary to avoid the luxury tax next season. … The Timberwolves quietly are 4-5 against the top four teams in the West, the Lakers, Denver, Utah and Dallas. Minnesota is also one of the team with big salary cap room this summer, and last week GM David Kahn was pointing out the winters aren’t that bad and being a Western team you really spend all winter going to much warmer cities. Actually, little known is the state chamber’s slogan: “Live in Minnesota. Wherever you go on vacation is better.”

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