NBA Trade Deadline Could Be a Big Deal

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 20, 2008

With the NBA trade deadline looming tomorrow at 3 p.m., teams will be hard-pressed to top what already has been accomplished in one of the most exciting big-name deal-making frenzies in memory.

"The trades seem to have piqued interest," NBA Commissioner David Stern said at his annual state of the league address during All-Star Weekend.

So far, a former all-star power forward in his prime, an aging four-time NBA champion and future Hall of Fame center, and a nine-time all-star point guard/triple-double machine have been moved.

Specifically, the Los Angeles Lakers gave up little to the Memphis Grizzlies for Pau Gasol, the Phoenix Suns acquired Shaquille O'Neal from the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks finally completed a much-discussed, nearly shelved deal for Jason Kidd yesterday.

Teams may not be as active tomorrow as they were three years ago, when 10 trades involving 29 players were made at the deadline. But more big names could be on the move. How about former defensive player of the year Ron Artest, former sixth man of the year Mike Miller or power forward Jermaine O'Neal, a six-time all-star? For the right price, maybe.

"I'm just waiting for my phone to ring and see what we are going to do," said Denver Nuggets all-star Carmelo Anthony, who has openly lobbied for Artest.

It's go-for-it-all time in the NBA, with teams scrapping terms such as "patience" and "the future" to win a title immediately. The latest move involved the Mavericks sending Devin Harris, DeSagana Diop, Keith Van Horn, Trenton Hassell, Maurice Ager, two first-round draft picks and $3 million to the New Jersey Nets in exchange for Kidd, Malik Allen and Antoine Wright.

"There is no better feeling, no bigger stage, than when you get to the Finals, to hold up that trophy and to get that ring," Kidd told reporters at a news conference in Dallas yesterday. "That's why I'm here. Dallas has that vision, that eye on the prize, to get that championship."

Kidd will make his debut tonight in New Orleans, where Sunday's All-Star Game served as his Eastern Conference farewell. The Suns also will finally rip off the wrapping paper on O'Neal against former teammate and nemesis Kobe Bryant and the Gasol-fueled Lakers.

Teams are taking bold steps in hopes of a Rasheed Wallace-type impact. Wallace arrived in Detroit in a trade-deadline deal in 2004 and helped lead the Pistons to the NBA title.

The Boston Celtics raced off to the best record in the NBA after teaming all-stars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen with Paul Pierce. But the movement has been most profound this season in the Western Conference, where nine teams entered yesterday's games on pace to win 50 games and separated by less than five games. No dominant team has emerged in the conference, where the surprising New Orleans Hornets have the best record. Hornets point guard Chris Paul didn't sound too alarmed about all of the deals, or the prospect of facing Kidd. "I don't care. I don't think about all of this extra stuff," Paul said. "I feel like we'll be just fine if we've got five guys on the floor."

The Gasol trade has been credited for setting off the arms race in the West, but it actually began in December, when the Utah Jazz obtained Kyle Korver from the Philadelphia 76ers. The Jazz won 18 of its next 21 games after making the trade.

"It's always been a gunslinger type of atmosphere when it comes to the [Western] Conference. They don't call it the Wild West for nothing," said Garnett, who switched conferences after being traded by the Minnesota Timberwolves last summer. "When we hit that floor it really don't matter who is out there, to be honest with you. But it is nice to see some people move to a different coast. Relieved can be an accurate word."

Aside from the Atlanta Hawks' acquisition of playoff-tested point guard Mike Bibby, postseason contenders in the East -- which has only five teams with winning records -- mostly have been silent. "I love it," Pistons guard Richard Hamilton said. "Teams are making moves on that side. As long as they keep going over there, you know, being in the East is a great thing."

O'Neal became the third former most valuable player traded since December 2006 (Garnett and Allen Iverson are the others). Suns forward Amare Stoudemire said the trade had nothing to do with the Lakers or the defending champion San Antonio Spurs. "The reason why we traded for Shaq was because it gave us a better chance to win a title," Stoudemire said. "That's all it was. We're on the right track."

After stumbling against the Miami Heat in the 2006 NBA Finals and winning 67 games only to flame out in the first round against the Golden State Warriors last season, the Mavericks believe Kidd can get them that elusive ring, too. "There are no guarantees in life, but we feel this inches us a little closer," Dallas Coach Avery Johnson said.

Getting Kidd back with the team that drafted him with the No. 2 pick in the 1994 draft required some creativity after Mavericks guard-forward Devean George blocked a proposed trade last week. In the latest package, the Mavericks had to persuade Van Horn to return to basketball after missing the past 1 1/2 seasons. Van Horn will receive $4.3 million for a two-month stint in New Jersey, and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban will have to pay an additional $11 million in luxury tax penalties.

"I will be looking for another job, so if anybody is hiring," Cuban joked. "It's been the most interesting, amazing trade we've done here. I've never seen anything like it. But all's well that ends well. I'm as happy as I can be."

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