Friday, February 25, 2011

Trading Places; significant movement shakes things up at deadline

By John McMullen,

There is no truth to the rumors that Randolph and Mortimer Duke were conducting a host of social experiments on the NBA's point guards as the league's trade deadline approached.

Things certainly got very interesting in The Association, however, as a number
of the league's quarterbacks filled out change of address forms during a week
that is more often than not, anti-climatic.

Two years ago, I remember trying to cobble together a trade deadline column
around the Knicks' acquisition of Larry Hughes. Last season it was Antawn
Jamison teaming up with LeBron James in Cleveland. Substantive moves at the
time perhaps, but certainly more worthy of a yawn than a headline.

This year, storylines aren't a problem.

Clearly 'Melo's drama was the main event of this year's deadline but Deron
Williams' surprise exit from Salt Lake City for north Jersey was a nice little
semifinal. Meanwhile, a flurry of activity as the deadline expired at 3 p.m.
(et) Thursday had heads spinning around the country.

In the end, the movement of all the veteran points guards was especially
striking. Players like D-Will, Devin Harris, Chauncey Billups, Raymond Felton,
Baron Davis, Mo Williams, Mike Bibby, Aaron Brooks and Goran Dragic now all
have Bekins on the speed dial and Trading Places ready to go on the DVR,
really reshaping the league as we head down the stretch toward the postseason.

So, with that in mind here's a look at this year's major deadline deals:


'MELO TO THE MECCA:

Knicks get: F Carmelo Anthony, G Chauncey Billups, F Renaldo Blackman, G
Anthony Carter, C/F Sheldon Williams, G/F Corey Brewer

Nuggets get: F Wilson Chandler, G Raymond Felton, F Danilo Gallinari,
C Kosta Koufous, C Timofey Mozgov, $3 million in cash, 2014 first-round pick
(from NYK), 2012 & 13 second-round picks (from Knicks, originally owned by
Warriors)

Timberwolves get: C Eddy Curry, F Anthony Randolph, 2015 second-round pick
(from Nuggets), $3 million in cash

With or without 'Melo the Knicks were on their way to their first playoff
berth since 2004 and were threatening to finish over .500 for the first time
since 2001.

The "relevance" argument can cut both ways. Columnists from the New York
papers were already showing up at the Garden for the first time since the
Clinton Administration, at least for big games. On the other hand, having two
superstars on hand certainly helps in a league obsessed with marketing
individuals. It also makes it far more likely that the next set of NBA
superstars looking for a way out of the mid-markets, think Dwight Howard and
Chris Paul, chose Gotham as a preferred destination.

Already, Anthony's Knicks debut drew the highest rating for a regular-season
game on MSG network since Michael Jordan's famed "double-nickel" game 16 years
ago. It's also undeniably harder to secure the services of a so-called
superstar like Anthony than competent role players like Felton and Gallinari
so it's tough to say the Knicks shouldn't have pulled the trigger. That said,
Anthony is a lot closer to the level of the Knicks other star, Amare
Stoudemire, than a true difference-maker like James, Kobe Bryant or Howard.

"Carmelo is one of the top pure scorers in the league and like Amare, I
believe he will really embrace the opportunity to play back home in New York
and help us continue our goal of building towards a championship," said Knicks
Head Coach Mike D'Antoni. "Chauncey is a winner and having a veteran point
guard of his caliber will be extremely valuable in helping us win games,
especially in the playoffs."

The Nuggets did the best they could with the hand they were dealt and at least
got something for their star unlike Cleveland or Toronto this past offseason.
Felton was a borderline All-Star in the East while Gallinari is a nice piece
to any puzzle.

"We are excited about the talented young players we acquired in this trade,"
Nuggets president Josh Kroenke said. "They were valuable contributors to one
of the most improved teams in the NBA this season. We are looking forward to
making another postseason push. Our goals remain the same: improve every day,
play hard every game and bring an NBA championship to Denver."

Randolph certainly has talent but playing in Minnesota under Kurt Rambis
hardly seems like the type of atmosphere for an underachiever to excel.

"We are excited to add a player like Anthony who is a young, athletic big man
with a bright future. When given playing time, he has shown that he can
produce in this league," said David Kahn, Timberwolves President of Basketball
Operations.


D-WILL TO NORTH JERSEY

Nets get: PG Deron Williams

Jazz get: F Derrick Favors, PG Devin Harris, 2011 first-round pick (Nets),
2012 first-round pick (from Nets, originally owned by Warriors)

Although D-Will's reputation took a bit of a hit after his dust-up with Jerry
Sloan earlier this month that prompted the Hall of Fame mentor to walk away,
even his most vocal critics will agree he is at worst the second best point
guard in the game. A two-time All Star, Williams can still opt out of his
contract after the 2012 season and he, like Anthony, has made plenty of noise
about potentially playing for the Knicks. A looming lockout and new CBA could
change that thought process rather quickly, however.

The Jazz took a big step back this season but eliminated a potential
LeBron/'Melo level distraction and got a former All-Star quarterback in
Harris, a young big with a huge upside in Favors and two potential lottery
picks. And who knows, maybe Sloan will come back and teach Harris how to play
again.


CLIPPERS AND CAVS SWAP QUARTERBACKS

Cavs get: PG Baron Davis, 2011 first-round pick (Clippers)

Clippers get: PG Mo Williams, SF Jamario Moon

Clearly this is all about a lottery pick for Cleveland. Although the 2011
draft is not very deep the Cavs have to go about the business of rebuilding.

Davis, 31, has picked it up lately for LA but still has two years and $29
million left on his contract after this season and has been an albatross for
the Clippers. He will also been reunited with coach Byron Scott, who he often
feuded with when both were in New Orleans.

"We're excited to make this move. Baron is a very talented player at a
position that's a difficult position in this league," said Cavaliers general
manager Chris Grant. "We've also created another very good opportunity for
ourselves as we continue to build this franchise moving forward with another
high first round draft pick."

Williams, 28, is younger but also has two years and a high price tag, $17
million, left on his contract after this season. The Clips think Williams is a
better fit and got him to waive the early termination option in his contract
for this summer.  To me, he's always been a shoot-first point guard and that's
doesn't compute with Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon on hand. Moon, meanwhile,
is versatile and a solid defender.

"Mo Williams is a 28 year old All Star whose skill set not only compliments
our front court players but is an excellent running mate with Eric Gordon on
both ends of the floor," stated Clippers' vice president of basketball
operations Neil Olshey. "Jamario is an elite athlete that can play multiple
positions and will help us improve defensively."


HAWKS GIVE UP ON BIBBY

Hawks get: G Kirk Hinrich, F/C Hilton Armstrong

Wizards get: PG Mike Bibby, G Jordan Crawford, G/F Maurice Evans; 2011 first-
round pick (Hawks)

Atlanta is a good team dwarfed by the giants out East. Bibby is clearly on the
downside and Larry Drew felt he needed more athleticism at the point in order
to have a chance to get out of the first round of the playoffs. On paper,
Hinrich is an upgrade over Bibby at both ends but he's not the natural leader
that Bibby is on the floor and has spent a lot of time off the ball recently
since Derrick Rose arrived in Chicago and Washington drafted John Wall.
Hinrich and Jamal Crawford also clashed over playing time while both were in
the Windy City although their respective roles are much more defined here.

"We felt we had a good opportunity to improve our ball club by adding Kirk and
Hilton," Sund said. "Kirk is a well-rounded player that gives us options at
both guard positions. In addition to being a solid and hard-nosed defender, he
is a good shooter who can also distribute the ball. His resume includes
significant playoff experience as well."

The deal makes sense for the Wizards, who get a nice short-term mentor for
Wall, a solid role player on both ends in Evans and a first round pick.

"We were able to acquire a proven, clutch leader in Mike, a hard-nosed veteran
in Maurice, and an intriguing prospect in Jordan, as well as a first round
draft choice to add to our own first round pick this summer," said Wizards
president Ernie Grunfeld. "This trade continues our plan to build with draft
picks and by developing our young players while staying financially flexible."


CELTICS MATCH UP WITH HEAT; THUNDER TRY TO GET TOUGHER

Celtics get: F Jeff Green, C Nenad Krstic

Thunder get: C Kendrick Perkins, G Nate Robinson

Oklahoma City has long been looking for help in the middle. Krstic struggles
on the boards and lottery pick Cole Aldrich has spent most of his time in the
D- League time. Perkins should give what most consider a soft-Thunder team
some much-needed toughness inside to compete with the Lakers and San Antonio
out West. Meanwhile, Green's absence should open up minutes for James Harden,
a more talented player.

The Celtics, on the other hand, are making a calculated gamble. The team's
veterans love Perkins, who injured his left knee in the Celtics' win over the
Warriors on Tuesday and is expected to miss at least a week, but he has always
been a limited player and now has the balky knees.

It's also now clear that Danny Ainge is more concerned with Miami than either
the Lakers or Magic. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce have been playing far too many
minutes and Green, who was originally drafted with the No. 5 pick Boston gave
up in the Allen deal, is the type of wing that can give them both a breather
and at least keep up with James and Dwyane Wade.

Boston also dispatched Semih Erden and Luke Harangody to Cleveland and Marquis
Daniels to Sacramento in salary dumps, while Oklahoma City netted center Nazr
Mohammed from Charlotte for D.J. White and Mo Peterson.


BLAZERS: SELLERS TO BUYERS

Blazers get: F Gerald Wallace

Bobcats get: F Dante Cunningham, C Joel Przybilla; Two future first-round
picks.

Three weeks ago the Blazers were sellers and shopping Andre Miller and Marcus
Camby among others. A six-game winning streak before the All-Star break, the
return of Brandon Roy along with Anthony's and Williams' relocation to the
East quickly changed that thinking.

Portland changed gears, making perhaps the most underrated pickup at the
deadline, former Bobcats All-Star Gerald Wallace. Wallace, who is averaging
15.6 points and 8.2 rebounds, was the last original member of the Bobcats and
the franchise's only All-Star. He has a tremendous work ethic and can play
both ends of the floor at the three and four.

"Fours couldn't guard him, and threes were too small for him," Blazers
assistant Bernie Bickerstaff, who Wallace's head coach in Charlotte for three
seasons, said. "And you know he is going to rebound for you, block shots, and
he is going to compete. He has that assassin mentality."

Bobcats owner Michael Jordan, meanwhile, is clearly cutting payroll with an
eye on the future, although the team did acquire two potential rotation
players in plodding big man Przybilla and reserve forward Cunningham.


HORNETS LAND LANDRY

Hornets get: F Carl Landry

Kings get: SG, Marcus Thornton, cash considerations

This deal helps both sides. Willie Green has been playing well lately
making Thornton expendable in the Big Easy while Landry is a hard-nosed
player with size and should be a nice addition for the Hornets' frontcourt.

"This is a trade that benefits both teams as Carl is a player we have looked
to acquire for a long time and we hope to be a big part of our long term
success," said Hornets GM Dell Demps. "Carl is a high character person that
will add a scoring punch to our front court while providing toughness and the
ability to make plays."

With Tyreke Evans struggling with plantar fasciitis, the Kings were in need of
a scorer and Thornton is a streak shooter that can fill it up on occasion.

"We're excited about acquiring Marcus Thornton," said Kings president of
basketball operations Geoff Petrie. "He brings a scorer's mentality to our
team and will certainly add an offensive threat to the backcourt with his
ability to shoot from the perimeter. I think he'll improve the look of our
team offensively and we're really excited about having him in Sacramento."


ROCKETS REVAMP

Rockets get: C Hasheem Thabeet, future first-round pick

Grizzlies get: F Shane Battier

Rockets get: PG Goran Dragic, future first-round pick

Suns get: PG Aaron Brooks

Thabeet is never going to be Yao Ming or even Dikembe Mutumbo for that matter
but the former No. 2 overall pick could bring a solid defensive presence to a
team still reeling from Yao's absence. Meanwhile, Houston clearly tired of
Brooks' shoot-first mentality and will be very happy to have another natural
point guard like Dragic backup up the emerging Kyle Lowry. Dragic's plus-minus
rating is more than twice as bad as any other Suns rotation player and his
defense must improve drastically.

The Grizzlies reacquired defensive stopper Battier for their playoff run while
the Suns snared an explosive option behind Steve Nash, although Brooks is on
an expiring contract and would be a restricted free agent this summer unless a
new collective bargaining agreement changes that.

"I am excited to try to tackle unfinished business I left in Memphis five
years ago; playoff success," Battier told the Houston Chronicle. "I will miss
the relationships that I've built in Houston and will always remember the good
times."

"I'll wait in line," Brooks said of playing with Nash. "That dude is a legend,
MVP and a Hall of Famer. I'm ready to go be behind him and learn from him."

The Rockets are also expected to release forward Jared Jeffries in a buyout
agreement.


BUYOUT BONANZA STARTS WITH MURPHY

Warriors get: F Troy Murphy, 2012 second-round pick (Nets)

Nets get: F Brandan Wright, C/F Dan Gadzuric

This was a salary dump on both sides although New Jersey may take a long look
at Wright. Golden State is expected to buy out Murphy, while both Wright's and
Gadzuric's deals are set to expire at the end of the season. This will become
more relevant for the top team's in the East, who are expected to vie for
Murphy's services, a big that can rebound and stretch the floor with a nice
jumper.

Miami, Boston, Orlando and New York all may have interest in the Notre
Dame product with the Celtics seen as the leader in the clubhouse since they
have already made room for him by dispatching Erden and Harangody to Cleveland
and Daniels to Sacramento in salary dumps.

"We are very pleased to add Dan and Brandan to our roster," said Nets GM Billy
King. "Dan is an NBA veteran who will add depth to our frontcourt rotation,
while Brandan is a young player who we feel has significant room to grow and
develop in our system."


RAPTORS TAKE A FLYER ON JOHNSON

Bulls get: 2011 first-round pick (from Raptors, originally owned by Heat)

Raptors get: F James Johnson

Johnson, the 16th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, wasn't a favorite of
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and was not a member of Chicago's regular rotation.
He has talent, however, and could spark his career with a Toronto club
desperately looking to upgrade its skill level and bring in players that can
compliment DeMar DeRozan.

The trade, meanwhile, saves the Bulls $1.7 million in salary and gives them
two 2011 first round picks, their own and Miami's.

"James Johnson is a strong, athletic and versatile small forward that we have
had our eye on dating back to the 2009 NBA Draft," said Raptors president and
general manager Bryan Colangelo.
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