Much Ado...
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SECAUCUS, NJ, Feb. 23, 2007 -- I'm not sure I've ever anticipated a night of regular season February basketball like I'm anticipating tonight's action. I've got an extra set of batteries ready for the remote, I've got the in-laws putting my daughter to bed and I'll have both League Pass and League Pass Broadband firing by 7:30 p.m. ET (there are three 7:00 games, but those six teams don't interest me this evening).

You see, tonight, we get our first looks at some of the reworked rosters around the Association.

I never thought I'd see the day when the Nets and Knicks tried to help each other out, but Vince Carter crosses the river tonight as New York plays Milwaukee at the Garden. Jamal Crawford and Channing Frye head the other way to play Drew Gooden and the Kings at the Meadowlands. Without Carter and Jason Kidd, Marcus Williams is now running the show in the swamp, so make sure you pick him up in your fantasy leagues for the stretch run.

So, at 7:30, I'll have the picture-in-picture flipping between Bucks-Knicks and Kings-Nets. And the computer will be tuned to Houston-Atlanta, where Mike James rejoins the Rockets after the T-Wolves were able to move their summer mistake, and Luke Ridnour gives Atlanta the point guard they've been missing.

At 8 p.m. ET, we'll get our first chance to see one of the best frontcourts in the league, Pau Gasol and Ben Wallace, as they host the Wizards on ESPN. With Gasol, the Bulls become a little more potent offensively, and while they were already a very good rebounding team, they just got better. Wallace-Gasol vs. Wallace-Webber is now The Debate in the Eastern Conference.

Fast forward to 10 p.m. ET when Luol Deng and P.J. Brown don Grizzlies uniforms for the first time. Memphis is obviously playing for the future, so might we see them buy out Brown and allow him to join a contender? Stay tuned.

Finally, at 10:30 p.m. ET (as long as Kwame Brown passes the dreaded Nets physical back in Jersey), Jason Kidd will be with the Lakers as they host the struggling Celtics at Staples Center. Kidd and Kobe Bryant could be one of the best backcourts in NBA history, but it will be interesting to see how Kidd fits into the triangle. Still, with him in purple and gold, you've got to put the Lakers right there with Dallas and Phoenix as one of the three best teams in the league. I'm shocked Flea hasn't blogged about it yet.

Of course, not all the big debuts will take place tonight. We'll have to wait until Sunday to find out if Mike Bibby is what the Cavs have been missing. Also, with Gooden gone, the Cavs now need Andy Varejao to step up and help anchor the middle in Cleveland.

But, while it's exciting to see the first games these guys play with their new teams, we need to look at the big picture. Who are the real contenders now, after one of the busiest trade deadlines in recent memory?

In the East, it's a three-team race. Detroit was already looking strong, but both Chicago and Cleveland really put themselves in the Larry O-B picture with the additions of Bibby and Gasol.

Out West, as I stated above, the Lakers are back among the elite. They probably won't be able to catch the Suns or Mavs in the standings, but I'm already giddy about the possibility of another Phoenix-L.A. playoff series (this one in the second round), where we'll get to see Steve Nash and Jason Kidd go at it for seven games.

Um ... Yeah ... Well ... Uhh

That's what you'd get if you actually believed all the unsubstantiated garbage that blows in the wind in the days before the deadline.

I'm not going to bother with why none of the above deals went through, but I know that the Nets were not going to give their stars away for 50 cents on the dollar. Rod Thorn is a competitive guy, and he isn't going to throw in the proverbial towel when the main reason for his team's underachievement has been injuries.

Once the deadline had passed, Thorn told reporters, "I can't say we ever got close to doing anything."

Yet, if you were to believe everything on TV, Thorn had a deal in place with the Lakers, and changed his mind at the last minute. Is it a case of the media trying to create a story where there isn't one, or perhaps a GM trying to protect himself and his players?

You be the judge. I'll just serenade any frustrated fans, players or team execs out there with a line from a favorite song of mine (Luther version preferred):

"If you can't be with the one you love (honey), love the one you're with."

And guarantee them that Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol, Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Marv Albert, Albert Belle, Joey Belle and Joe Forte will all be traded this summer ... unless the deals that my sources are telling me about somehow fall through.

Questions or comments? Get at me.