Sam Smith: Top 5 to be traded; NBA notes

Because it's never to early to discuss trade talk, Sam Smith tells us who the first players are to be traded this season. Also, notes from around the NBA's recent media days.
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First 5 trades this season

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Carlos Boozer and Dwyane Wade
Carlos Boozer and Dwyane Wade. Future teammates in Miami?

(Ray Amati/Getty Images)

The NBA is back with training camps opening last week and, by my unofficial count, there are 29 teams talking playoffs. I don’t think Sacramento is, though I may have missed something. This is the time of year when players’ flaws are mostly ignored as managements see what they hoped for in players more than what is actually there. Which is how we get to trades. I strongly doubt there is any talk now. But there will be, and here’s my five players most likely to be traded in the next few months.

1. Carlos Boozer, Utah The Jazz is a remarkably patient franchise, as coach Jerry Sloan often notes, perhaps the league’s most stable. Andrei Kirilenko demanded a trade two years ago. Karl Malone threatened holdouts over salary disputes so often it became a league cliché in the late 1980’s. So the Jazz just shrug about Boozer in the summer saying he and the team mutually agreed he should be traded. Boozer then went on radio stations in Chicago and Miami proclaiming he’d like to play in those cities. Though the Jazz has said little, the team shop is selling Boozer jerseys at 50 percent off and Boozer wasn’t included in the team’s new marketing campaign. Boozer will be a free agent after the season and was not offered a new deal while Mehmet Okur was and Boozer’s backup, Paul Millsap, got a big offer from Portland that the Jazz matched. Boozer came to camp positive and said he’s ready to play, telling Salt Lake City media: "I got asked the question — I was doing an interview for my basketball camp in Alaska — I got asked the question if I got traded here, if I got traded there, would you want to go? If I get traded, I don't have a choice but to go, so I said, 'If I get traded, yeah, I'll go.' Nonetheless, I'm here, I'm back in Utah. I'm excited to be here, ready to move forward, get on the court with my teammates and see how good we can be this year." The Jazz is now trying Millsap at small forward, which won’t work. I’ve heard they stopped talking quite awhile ago about dealing Boozer. The speculation around the NBA is the Jazz, which has dealt well with disgruntled players before, feel they can get a better deal waiting closer to the trade deadline. But it’s a risk. And could be costly. Their payroll is $82 million, more than $12 million into the luxury tax and sixth most in the NBA, astonishingly high for a small market team.

I don’t see the Boozer experiment working with Millsap in the wings. But it seems more vital for the team to save some money. The late owner Larry Miller’s money came from the auto industry, which we knew isn’t doing so well. By not dealing Boozer this past summer, the Jazz would still have to take back comparable salary. But there’s a 25 percent differential allowed in trades. That kind of deal for Boozer would save the Jazz some $6 million. The speculation is Miami, which Boozer this summer named his top choice, is most likely to make a deal. I can see Miami wanting to get out from under Michael Beasley with all his issues. Udonis Haslem with an expiring deal also has been mentioned. Last week when the Jazz opened its exhibition season against Denver, two Jazz fans showed up, one with a Bulls jersey with Boozer written on the back and one with a Jazz jersey with Thomas written on the back, with a sign reading, "Trade Us." Jazz players got a good laugh out of it. The Jazz play the Bulls in London Tuesday.

2. Monta Ellis, Warriors Yes, I know, Stephen Jackson wants to be traded. Still. He got a big extension that everyone around the league was shocked by, and then he asks out in saying the Warriors aren’t trying. Yeah, there’ll be a lot of demand for him. Ellis is the one. He came to camp and innocently explained you ain’t going anywhere with small guards like he and rookie Stephen Curry in the backcourt. The Warriors are in love with Curry and have plenty of guards. Ellis is a big time scorer and no fan of management, either. Perhaps no one there noticed it was only Chris Mullin who sided with Ellis and urged restraint after Ellis’s moped accident. So Mullin then was fired. Ellis got the message. It isn’t going to work, and someone should be able to get an All Star level scorer for an expiring deal. I was going to add Brandan Wright, who was being buried as the Warriors promoted Anthony Randolph. But Wright is now hurt. I’d still take a shot at him as a future.

3. Richard Hamilton, Pistons No matter what anyone says, they didn’t sign Ben Gordon to bring him off the bench. We know Ben’s no point guard. Apparently, Rodney Stuckey isn’t, either. But that’s another issue. Hamilton could potentially play small forward, but Tayshaun Prince is there and more difficult to deal. Rip didn’t do well with the Allen Iverson experiment, and despite being a fellow UConn guy with Ben, Rip’s no backup. The Pistons have perhaps their softest front court in two decades. They’ll find that out soon, and then Rip will have to go for some size and toughness before he gets too cranky about things.

4. Andres Nocioni, Sacramento Noce never has been with a loser like this and isn’t going to deal with it well. Already, new coach Paul Westphal says Noce will come off the bench. He’s too good and valuable a veteran player to waste away with a team like this, which is rebuilding. He has two years left after this, but on a reasonable contract that pays less than $7 million annually. He’d be a nice pickup for a veteran, playoff team.

5. Mike Conley, Grizzlies The poor kid has no idea what he’s gotten himself into playing with Allen Iverson, Zach Randolph, O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay. He’ll go to sleep with screams in his head of guys demanding the ball. He’s not tough enough to stand up to that yet. It’s time to reunite him with high school buddy Greg Oden in Portland, where they paid big money for free agent point guard Andre Miller. That reduces the utility of Steve Blake as Portland also will have Rudy Fernandez handling the ball more. Blake’s a tough, savvy guard who can play in that Memphis turmoil and actually help. And it can’t hurt the moody Oden to have that familiar face back.

-- We’ll be looking for these clues about 2010 free agency all season, and, at least, Toronto players don’t seem worried about Chris Bosh. "I’m not worried," Andrea Bargnani told the National Post. "He loves Toronto." "He said to me, and he’s a good friend," added Jose Calderon, "that he’s happy in Toronto." Bosh spent a week at Calderon’s youth camp in Spain this summer. ...Old pal Michael Sweetney showed up in Boston’s camp after a year out of communication in Miami, but is unlikely to stick. ...Even though the Pacers are paying his full salary, no one invited Jamaal Tinsley to a camp. ...The Pistons will wear patches on their jerseys this season to honor owner Bill Davidson and coach Chuck Daly, who both died earlier this year. ...Following complaints from numerous high paying season ticket holders, the NBA is asking teams to instruct players to be seated on the bench during games. So much for the announcers analyzing body language and bench support. This also could end Jake Voskuhl’s career. The NBA also informed teams their coaches and players should not berate the replacement refs. Apparently just keeping that to the regular refs, who remain in negotiations for a new deal that doesn’t include less harassment.

NBA news and notes

-- Congratulations to former Bulls assistant and interim coach Jim Boylan, who reports he’s cancer free after undergoing chemo and radiation treatments this summer after a tumor was discovered on his tongue. Boylan, 54, is back on the bench in Milwaukee with Scott Skiles after losing more than 20 pounds. Boylan isn’t a smoker and doesn’t have a family history, so was caught by surprise. He said a recent CT scan reported the cancer gone.

-- The Knicks’ summer of 2010 free agency plan depends a lot on getting Eddy Curry playing so they can trade him for an expiring contract. Good luck with that one. Curry, who supposedly came into camp at an improved 317, left the first day of practice with a hamstring strain. In the back room world of the NBA, Curry has been working with the famously elusive and Zelig-like William Wesley, who is close with many top players, like LeBron James, and was hanging around Knicks camp all week. The New York Daily News reported whenever Wesley told jokes everyone from the Knicks family around him laughed almost uncontrollably. I have met Wes many times as he’s long been close with Michael Jordan and he can be amusing. How much, I am not quite sure.

-- Gilbert Arenas is back, and who really knows what that means for Washington. After addressing reporters on media day, the usually voluble Arenas is in a media boycott now, apparently over stories he missed practice with knee problems when the team says it’s a finger issue and his own interview with the Washington Times in which he blamed the team for mishandling his knee rehab. New coach Flip Saunders is stressing defense and Arenas previously said he’s all aboard and condemned former coach Eddie Jordan for not focusing on defense enough. Of course, it was Arenas a few years back when he actually played some who openly condemned Jordan for emphasizing defense by saying Jordan didn’t realize they have an offensive team and Jordan was spending too much time preaching defense. The Wizards made some nice offseason moves and have impressive depth. Though you get the sense it still all depends on Arenas and his erratic moods. I’d trade him if I could.

-- The most potentially ghastly experiment in the NBA this season is in Memphis with traditionally selfish Allen Iverson, Zach Randolph, O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay. It would seem Iverson would have to be a sixth man, which he made clear in Detroit last season he isn’t. You kind of feel most for Gay, who is a talent and extremely likeable guy who seems just to need a better environment. When Mayo was asked at media day whether any of his teammates exhibited poor body language last season, Gay interrupted and deadpanned, "I think he's talking about me." Later when Mayo began to talk about having talents like Randolph and Iverson at practice, Gay exclaimed "Practice!" in the famous Iverson impersonation. And while most around the NBA are predicting disaster, at least owner Mike Heisley isn’t running from responsibility. He told the Memphis Commercial Appeal: "I don’t want to downgrade (general manager) Chris Wallace or Lionel (Hollins, coach). Allen Iverson is here because of me and Zach Randolph is here because of me. O.J. Mayo is here because of me. I don’t think that was what the majority of people in the room were talking about doing. I’m the guy who is going to take the heat on (No. 2 overall pick) Hasheem Thabeet. I don’t have any problem with that. The reality is if we start winning then people will be happy." And, if not, well, they’re just the Grizzlies then. Why not? I guess.

-- That guy you saw on the near West Side a lot the last seven months was Tracy McGrady, who moved to Chicago to work with famed trainer Tim Grover. McGrady remains out at least into late November after microfracture surgery, but insists he’s worked like never before and going to return to his previous form as his contract expires this season. ...Former Illini Brian Cook believes he’ll finally get a big chance with the decimated Rockets this season after watching teams that had him, the Lakers and Magic, trade him and go to the Finals. Another former Illini, James Augustine, who was impressive for the Bulls summer league team, signed in Spain with Gran Canarias and had a double/double against Barcelona last week. Augustine makes more money in Europe than with an unguaranteed minimum contract in the NBA.

-- Yes, we’ve heard this before, but Greg Oden says he’s really ready now. "I see a different person," general manager Kevin Pritchard told the Portland Oregonian. "He's willing to smile now and we know Greg cares. You can see that he cares. I think the key is that he doesn't feel the weight of the world on his shoulders, that he can be Greg Oden (and) he doesn't have to be anybody else." It’s clear now Kevin Durant was the player in that draft, and I have to admit I was warned. George Andrews, a Chicago attorney who was one of the early so called super agents of the 1980’s when he represented Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Mark Aguirre and Doc Rivers, told me before that draft that Oden reminded him of Tree Rollins. Rollins was a tough, hard working player who had an 18-year career. So there’s no shame in that. But we now know Greg Oden. And he’s no Bill Russell or David Robinson. It’s OK.

-- It also will be interesting in Portland to watch the dynamic with Andre Miller, who is an unusually singular character, generally eschewing relationships with teammates. Portland is the NBA city closest to a college atmosphere and the local media, which is very good, treats the team as such with more homey features and personality profiles than you’ll see anywhere in the NBA. After the gruesome years of the so called Jail Blazers, the organization has made a major effort to humanize its players and involve them in the community. Hardly a Miller specialty. So there was all sorts of horror in the local media last week when Miller was cranky about media day chores and when he refused to even acknowledge whether he had a family. He said that stuff was off limits. He’s certainly entitled, but that interaction will be illuminating.

-- So what is the deal with Shaq? Maybe it wasn’t Kobe, after all. This makes it four All Star guards—Penny Hardaway, Kobe, Dwyane Wade and now Steve Nash—who seemingly can’t be happier to be without the Big Divider. Nash tried to be discreet on media day, but said he was thrilled to be playing with centers (Robin Lopez and Channing Frye. Yes, they are centers in Phoenix) "willing to move their feet and hustle." It also seems Nash, a parttime filmmaker, apparently had come up with that idea for a TV show featuring a star competing against stars in other sports, which O’Neal ended up in this summer. Nash described himself as "joyous" once again about playing for the Suns and having resigned, which seemed in doubt while O’Neal was with the team.


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