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Old 02-24-07, 09:26 PM
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After Trade Deadline

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/dailyd...dime_070224-25

After Trade Deadline

By Marc Stein
ESPN.com

Editor's note: ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein supplies each item for this around-the-league notebook edition of the Daily Dime.
Somebody has to be the contrarian around here.

Somebody has to counter the outrage all over ESPN.com in response to the inaction at Thursday's trade deadline.

Somebody has to raise the possibility that the seduction of what awaits in June, as well as the obsession with finances in every executive suite on the NBA map, stopped teams from trading as much as the theory that modern-day GMs are suddenly too scared to deal.

Might as well be me.

I didn't like hearing the 2006-07 trade buzzer sound without anything remotely resembling a blockbuster, but I understood a lot of the silence. Why would any team with any projected hope of an upper-echelon pick in such a deep draft make a major move now when their long-term outlook could change so drastically in May after the lottery?

Right. They wouldn't and shouldn't.

Memphis had no incentive to trade Pau Gasol this week, even if the Bulls changed their stance at the last minute and made Luol Deng available. The Grizzlies owe it to themselves to wait and see if they get a top-two draft selection first before deciding whether they should keep or peddle Pau.

Chicago is getting ripped more than anyone, on the premise that adding Gasol automatically makes them a Finals team, but how can you be so sure? Gasol's Grizz have never won a playoff game, much less a series. You could also question whether he's a Scott Skiles kind of player. If it's my team, I'm waiting until the lottery to see if I sneak into Greg Oden/Kevin Durant territory somehow and then offering that New York pick around the league in June if it's not in the top five.

The same holds for the Celtics. For all of his questionable moves, Danny Ainge was smart to withdraw from the in-season edition of the Gasol Derby. A decade after the crushing letdown of not landing Tim Duncan when it was favored to do so, Boston will again have the best odds (or thereabouts) of landing a top-two selection. If the lottery deals them another dose of misfortune, even with Red Auerbach undoubtedly trying to help the Celts from above, Ainge's course will then be much clearer: Package what will still be an attractive pick with Al Jefferson and any other young Celtic to get Paul Pierce some proven, veteran help.

Expect all three of those teams to be hyperactive in June, along with a few clubs that are getting a lot of grief considering how hard they tried to make something splashy happen before the deadline.

Cleveland knows it has to put more ammunition around LeBron James and worked feverishly to get Mike Bibby. Yet when you remember that payroll and luxury-tax concerns impact every decision in this league, it's not so surprising that even the heavy involvement of the original superagent, David Falk, in trying to broker a deal to benefit two of his clients (Cavs GM Danny Ferry and Bibby) couldn't force Sacramento to play along unless it shed significant salary in the process.

The Kings, meanwhile, know they're going nowhere as presently constituted and remain committed to moving Bibby, but only if that provides the financial flexibility Sacramento badly needs to start over.

I fully anticipate both teams to do something big before July 1, probably working together in some sort of resuscitated Bibby transaction, just as I expect the Nets to sign-and-trade Vince Carter in the off-season as opposed to rushing into a Carter or Jason Kidd trade when their options are more limited. If the Nets couldn't prise Andrew Bynum away from the Lakers -- and they were told for weeks that they had no shot -- Rod Thorn was absolutely right to keep his stars for a few more months.

It's not like the Nets, in an Eastern Conference with no dominant team now or looming, are worlds away from contention. Put what they get in a Carter deal alongside Kidd, Richard Jefferson and Nenad Krstic -- or keep Carter and trade Jefferson -- and you could well have a contender if the new mix clicks. Owner Bruce Ratner, I'm told, certainly prefers that approach to shipping out his two fan favorites so he can spend his last few years before the move to Brooklyn in a rebuilding mode sure to enrage his Jersey customers.

None of the above, mind you, is intended to absolve everyone for their non-dealing.

As I've been saying for months, I still believe Minnesota will deeply regret not moving Kevin Garnett this season, since KG can become a free agent after next season. That figures to slice into the Wolves' future trade leverage if they do miss the playoffs again and then finally decide that it's time to move him . . . if the leverage isn't already dripping away after Garnett, responding to the Wolves' inability to manufacture a trade, was quoted in Minneapolis as saying, "Thank God for opt-outs."

I'm also dismayed to see the Clippers looking so fractious again after their way-too-short renaissance, whether it's an unhappy locker room crying out for some sort of shakeup . . . or the Corey Maggette trade cloud that won't go away . . . or the fact that it took Donald Sterling jumping back into personnel matters to get everyone in the organization on the same page when it comes to Maggette.

Orlando's status-quo approach, after a months-long slide and rumblings of rising player unhappiness that threaten to undo a good bit of the Magic's recent progress, also stands out as a disappointment.

There's little doubt, as one front-office chief suggests, that too many teams are "holding onto first-round picks like they're gold bricks" because they've "worked themselves into a frenzy that this draft will solve all your problems."

It's undoubtedly true, furthermore, that putting an emphasis on the draft, as opposed to making big trades, is a clever device for GMs to buy themselves more evaluation time.

Knowing all that, I'd still rather be the guy who says that one of the most anticipated drafts in recent memory just got better because of all the fruitless trade talks that will simply roll over into May, June and July. Remembering that we did have an ALLEN IVERSON TRADE in December, as well as January's Indy-Golden State swap and the Chris Webber free-agent sweepstakes, I'm not going to complain too loudly about what didn't happen on Deadline Day.

Honestly? What I cared to see most Thursday was Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki hooking up after their recent back-and-forth sniping and subsequent refusal to tap fists before the opening tip of the All-Star Game. This is obviously the least of Miami's concerns, but Wade's shoulder injury submarined what had to rank as the most intriguing game on the regular-season schedule and probably means that the league's most promising rivalry -- given the growing, open contempt on both sides -- is going to lose some major momentum. Hopes for a Finals rematch are fading.

Wade's injury, then, was Thursday's big disappointment . . . if we can permit ourselves to focus on the trivialities of NBA business as opposed to the impossibly sad news of Dennis Johnson's passing.

I'm convinced that we're going to see so much transaction traffic after the playoffs that you'll scarcely remember the trade-deadline quiet.

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.
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