By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 20, 2009
Rumored deals involving Shaquille O'Neal, Amare Stoudemire, Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady lit up the blogosphere in the days and hours leading up to the NBA trade deadline yesterday. But once league general managers concluded their telephone conversations around 3 p.m., the handful of low-impact deals that were finally consummated failed to match the pre-deadline hype.
No current or former all-stars changed addresses yesterday, leaving behind something that could easily be called "Salary Dump 2009."
The Orlando Magic was the only contender to make a fairly significant trade, as it addressed the loss of injured all-star point guard Jameer Nelson by acquiring Rafer Alston from the Houston Rockets in a three-team deal that also involved the Memphis Grizzlies. The Washington Wizards were looking to shed salary to avoid paying the luxury tax in 2010 but decided to stand pat after failing to move Etan Thomas and/or Mike James.
With the economic crisis encouraging fiscal responsibility around the league, few teams were looking to absorb the huge salaries of some star players. And few deals were motivated exclusively by basketball reasons, with the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls and Sacramento Kings -- three teams that wouldn't be in the playoffs if the season ended today -- among the most active.
The Knicks acquired former Wizard Larry Hughes from Chicago for Tim Thomas, Jerome James and Anthony Roberson. Former Maryland Terrapin Chris Wilcox will join Hughes in New York, after Oklahoma City dealt him to the Knicks for Malik Rose and cash. Wilcox and Joe Smith had returned to Oklahoma City late Wednesday, after the Thunder rescinded a deal with the New Orleans Hornets for center Tyson Chandler. Chandler failed his physical.
The Knicks' deals help clear cap space for 2010 -- Hughes makes $13.6 million next season in the final year of his deal; Wilcox is a free agent this summer -- when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh head a star-studded free agent class.
The Kings were active for the second day in a row, sending Shelden Williams and Bobby Brown to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Rashad McCants and Calvin Booth. The Kings also were involved in a three-team trade with the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors that sent Will Solomon from Toronto to Sacramento, Patrick O'Bryant from Boston to Toronto and a conditional second-round pick the Celtics. On Wednesday, the Kings sent Brad Miller and John Salmons to Chicago for Drew Gooden, Andrés Nocioni, Michael Ruffin and Cedric Simmons, and later shipped Ruffin to Portland for Ike Diogu.
The Cleveland Cavaliers and Portland were two teams that sought to make dramatic moves yesterday but failed to nab a big name, or any name, for that matter.
The Cavaliers dangled Wally Szczerbiak, whose $13.8 million contract expires after this season, but were unable to pry Antawn Jamison or Caron Butler from the Wizards or Richard Jefferson from the Milwaukee Bucks. According to a league source, Cleveland spoke with the Phoenix Suns about acquiring O'Neal for Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic but were rebuffed. Portland was unsuccessful in dealing Raef LaFrentz and his expiring $12.7 million contract.