Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rumors swirling as NBA draft approaches

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA - Mock drafts are fun, but they tend to be an exercise in futility.

Even Carnac the Magnificent couldn't project the trades that are sure to go down when the bullets start flying for real Thursday at Madison Square Garden's WaMu Theater.

As the big day approaches the rumor mill has heated up, fueled by a number of major names.

One Perez Hilton wannabe is reporting that the Boston Celtics offered Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo to the Detroit Pistons for a package including Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey.

It's unlikely the C's will re-sign Allen next summer, and maturity issues surrounding Rondo have Danny Ainge flirting with the idea of moving him. Supposedly Ainge and Detroit's Joe Dumars haven't spoken, but Boston had a lower-level exec make the pitch to the Pistons over the weekend, giving Ainge a CIA-like degree of plausible deniability.

Meanwhile, the long-discussed trade that would send Phoenix Suns center Shaquille O'Neal to Cleveland remains on simmer.

"We've talked to every team," Cavs GM Danny Ferry said when queried about O'Neal by the Houston Chronicle. "We've had a lot of discussions with a lot of teams."

The Washington Wizards have been more overt about their plans and are seen as a strong bet to trade down from No. 5. The team is facing serious luxury-tax problems and needs to create roster room, making a deal more desirable.

One scenario has Washington swapping first-rounders with the Suns in a deal that would also ship Amare Stoudemire to the nation's capital and Nick Young to the Valley of the Sun. Phoenix is reportedly holding out for Caron Butler.

The Washington Post also reported that Golden State and Portland have attempted to land Butler, but Wiz president Ernie Grunfeld is playing hard to get.

"You never say never to anything. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was traded. Oscar Robertson was traded," Grunfeld told the Post. "But I've said many times, I like our players. I think we can compete with just about anybody in the league. So, we like what we have. But if the right opportunity presents itself, you always look at it."

In south Texas the Houston Rockets, who don't have any draft picks, want to join the party and are dangling the improving Carl Landry with the hopes of landing a lottery selection.

Granted, this is a down year for the draft, but Landry for a lottery pick sounds like pie-in-the-sky type stuff.

GRIZZ TO TAKE THABEET; RUBIO TO KINGS?

Memphis looks like they have finally made a decision with the No. 2 pick, and the dominos are starting to fall as a result. The Grizzlies will stay put and select UConn defensive stopper Hasheem Thabeet. That leaves Ricky Rubio's destination up in the air.

The 18-year-old Spanish point guard visited Sacramento, which has the fourth selection, on Monday and picked up a basketball for the first time since his Euroleague season ended a month ago. He wasn't all that impressive, according to reports.

"It's difficult to show them what I have to do on the court, because there are no teammates and nobody there," Rubio told the Sacramento Bee. "I can't show them what I do on the court. This workout is not my style. I need my teammates around me to play basketball. I was alone."

Makes sense, since Rubio's strength is playmaking. The Kings were more interested in the fact that Rubio was making progress on a deal with DKV Joventut that will lower his buyout to $4 million.

KNICKS MAKING EXCUSES FOR HOLIDAY

UCLA guard Jrue Holiday, who spent just one pedestrian season in Westwood but has lottery-type talent, is being given every opportunity by the New York Knicks to prove he belongs at No. 8.

Holiday was outplayed badly by Stephen Curry and Gerald Henderson, two certain first-rounders, during his first workout with the Knicks so he was given a second shot on Monday.

This time Holiday worked out with Miami's Jack McClinton, a good player but not in the class of Curry or Henderson.

BULLS WANT HENDERSON?

The Chicago Bulls have reportedly held trade talks with several teams about packaging their two first-round picks, Nos. 16 and 26, into one higher selection.

The target? Duke shooting guard Gerald Henderson.

GRIFFIN IS ALREADY NO. 1

No, not Blake Griffin. His older brother, Taylor, was already "drafted" first overall by the Harlem Globetrotters on Monday, earning an invite to the team's training camp in Sayville, N.Y.
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