Tag:trade deadline
Posted on: March 10, 2012 1:16 pm
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I've moved!

Dear fellow BergerSphere inhabitants,

The BergerSphere has moved! My new location is better, snazzier and frankly, more fun than ever. So if you've bookmarked this blog and are looking for trade deadline news and updates this week, come visit and bookmark my new location:

http://www.cbssports.com/nba/blog/k
en-berger

See you on the other side.

Ken 
Posted on: February 18, 2010 8:57 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2010 9:16 pm
 

Trade Deadline: Winners and Losers

After 11 trades in six days, the trade deadline wouldn’t be complete without surveying the wreckage and anointing the winners and losers. So before any more deals trickle out of the league office, here we go:

Winners

Cavaliers: Everybody was in agreement that Antawn Jamison was the better fit for Cleveland than Amar’e Stoudemire, and GM Danny Ferry was able to get him without giving up J.J. Hickson. LeBron gets what LeBron wants, and now he wants the Wizards to buy out Zydrunas Ilgauskas so he can re-sign with the Cavs and celebrate a championship after all the years he’s put in. The Wizards won’t have the heart to deny Z, but since they were able to maneuver beneath the luxury tax line, Washington will be able to drive a hard bargain. Sentimentality aside, the Cavs have to be viewed as the clear favorite to come out of the East and the biggest threat to win a title since LeBron left Akron-St. Vincent-St .Mary’s. 

Mavericks: Caron Butler a marginal upgrade over Josh Howard? I don’t think so. Forget Butler’s diminished production this season in Washington, where nothing went right for anyone. His size and scoring ability will be a major influence on the perimeter, but Brendan Haywood is the underrated component of this deal. Dallas’ biggest problem during its recent struggles was perimeter defense, and Haywood’s length and shot-blocking ability will only help. 

Trail Blazers: Portland didn’t want to trade Steve Blake, but in the end Blake and Travis Outlaw was a small price to pay for the much-needed interior presence of Marcus Camby. The Blazers had some conversations about minor, peripheral moves, but have to be pleased that they solidified the middle in the absence of Greg Oden and Joel Pryzbilla at such a reasonable price. 

Rockets: GM Daryl Morey raked the Knicks over the coals in the Tracy McGrady negotiation, holding firm on his demand of very little protection on New York’s first-round picks in 2011 and ’12. Then, in the wee hours Thursday, Morey was successful in recruiting a third team that could give him the piece he wanted more than any draft picks or luxury-tax relief: Kevin Martin. The sharpshooting guard will upgrade the Rockets’ struggling offense in the short term and will give them a lethal inside-outside game if Yao Ming returns at full strength next season. Giving up Carl Landry, who went to Sacramento, has to hurt, but was worth it in this case. Houston also gets Hill, a developing big man who will get a chance to follow the path blazed by Landry and Luis Scola. Despite his overpriced contract, Jeffries is a serviceable defender who can guard three positions well. 

Bulls: Other than New York, Chicago was the biggest deadline winner in the race for 2010 cap space. Though GM Gar Forman wasn’t able to recruit a third team to deliver McGrady to Chicago, he quickly changed gears and unloaded John Salmons on the Bucks. The debit of $5.8 million in ’10-’11 gives the Bulls about $17 million in cap space – just enough to lure a max free agent who might want to receive passes from Derrick Rose

Wizards: As much criticism as GM Ernie Grunfeld deserves for the implosion of the Wizards this season, he should be lauded for digging out of it this quickly. Nobody knows if Grunfeld will keep his job through the Wizards’ ownership transition, but he was able to move nearly $40 million in future salary and get Washington under the tax line – which seemed impossible only a few weeks ago. In terms of assets, Washington gets Josh Howard and Al Thornton, who will have a chance to prove they’re worth keeping around, Cleveland’s 2010 first-round pick, and Sacramento’s 2010 second-round pick (for Dominic McGuire and cash, in the deal that pushed them under the tax line). Next up: Dealing with Gilbert Arenas and the $80 million he’s owed over the next four seasons. 

Grizzlies: Memphis already had two extra 2010 first-round picks, so sending a protected first-rounder in 2011 to Utah for Ronnie Brewer was a no-brainer. Both teams can claim victory in this deal. The Jazz get some much-needed luxury tax relief (without trading Carlos Boozer), and Memphis gets a steady wing player to come off the bench. 

Losers  

Celtics: Team president Danny Ainge kicked the tires on a lot of deals, but decided to move forward only with the acquisition of Nate Robinson for Eddie House. So for the second straight year, the Celtics get a guard the Knicks didn’t want, which can’t bode well. Robinson will give the Celtics some tempo and scoring off the bench, and let’s face it – Boston needs any kind of lift it can get. But if you accept the theory that Boston simply isn’t good enough to get through Cleveland or Orlando in the playoffs, they may come to regret failing to flip Ray Allen’s $19 million expiring contract into a starting shooting guard (Kirk Hinrich?) who would’ve helped them remain competitive next season. 

Suns: Phoenix once again dragged their franchise player, Amar’e Stoudemire, through a miserable two-week period fraught with trade rumors, only to do nothing. As a result, the Suns will be able to continue their playoff push and lose in the first round. It’s a foregone conclusion that Stoudemire will exercise his early-termination option on June 30, and the Suns will be under immense pressure to work out a sign-and-trade with less leverage than they had in the past 48 hours. It’s hard to criticize a team for not making a deal, especially when their current level of competitiveness won’t be compromised. But the Amar’e albatross was crying out to be lifted, and he’s still there. 

Nuggets: Denver felt strongly that it needed to add another frontcourt player to take out the Lakers in the playoffs this time. Nothing went anywhere with Antonio McDyess, and a last-minute attempt to pry Tyrus Thomas from the Bulls didn’t work, either. The Nuggets, sources said, tried to send Renaldo Balkman to Charlotte for expiring contracts they would’ve flipped to Chicago for Thomas, but the Bulls did business directly with Charlotte instead. Not a big deal; the Nuggets are still good enough to go toe-to-toe with the Lakers. But when you’re that close to getting a piece that would’ve been a difference-maker, it’s hard not to call it a disappointment. 

Spurs: San Antonio wasn’t successful in finding a new home for Roger Mason. Not a killer. But like the Nuggets, the Spurs were looking to add length and athleticism up front and weren’t able to use any of their wide assortment of expiring contracts to do so. They did the next best thing, dumping seldom-used Theo Ratliff’s $1.3 million contract – good for twice the savings when you account for luxury tax – on Charlotte for a heavily protected future second-round pick. But after going all-in and over the tax line with the Richard Jefferson acquisition, the Spurs will see their championship window slam shut if they don’t get better from within after the deadline. 

Remains To Be Seen  

Knicks: Donnie Walsh deserves a parade through the Canyon of Heroes for digging out of the mess Isiah Thomas left behind for him. But you can’t judge the McGrady trade until you see what Walsh is able to do with the cap space. Check back with me July 1. 

Heat: Miami couldn’t come up with enough to meet Phoenix’s demand in a Stoudemire trade, then made a late push with Utah for Carlos Boozer. If nothing else, they’re showing Wade how serious they are about surrounding him with elite talent. They didn’t accomplish anything this time around, but the Heat still have enough cap space to give Wade a max free agent as a teammate come July 1. I don’t buy that Miami’s desperate; the Heat already have one of the players everybody wants and they have the means to add another one. 

Kings: Sacramento became a fortunate bystander in the McGrady-to-the-Knicks scenario, finding the situation to be a good opportunity to deal Martin, whose importance would’ve only diminished as Tyreke Evans continued to develop. The Kings opened up some more 2010 cap space, so they’ll have room to spend if anybody wants to go there. And Landry is one of the most efficient big men in the game – a great get. But remember the old adage in NBA trades: The team that gets the best player wins. Martin was the best player in the deal, and the Kings traded him. So we’ll withhold judgment for that reason.


Category: NBA
Posted on: February 17, 2010 7:07 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2010 12:38 am
 

Jamison to Cavs in blockbuster deal

Before the All-Star break, LeBron James made it clear to Cavaliers management what he wanted to see them accomplish at the trade deadline. "Go get Antawn," the King told the Cleveland brass, according to sources.

The Cavs -- and LeBron -- got their man Wednesday night as Cleveland agreed to a three-team, blockbuster deal to acquire Antawn Jamison from the Wizards.

The Cavs get Jamison from Washington and Sebastian Telfair from the Clippers, who send Al Thornton to the Wizards. Washington also receives a 2010 first-round pick, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and the rights to 2009 second-round pick Emir Preldzic from Cleveland. The Wizards send Drew Gooden to the Clippers. The trade received league approval late Wednesday night.

Sources told CBSSports.com that Gooden, traded from Dallas to Washington over the weekend, could be bought out or -- get this -- possibly traded yet again. Ilgauskas, a fan favorite in Cleveland who has spent his entire career there, also could be in line for a buyout that would open the door to returning to the Cavs in 30 days. Sources expect there to be competition for Big Z's services, however. His agent, Herb Rudoy, told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer that he's already heard from several teams, with Denver and Dallas likely to be among them.

The six-player trade accomplishes vastly different goals across the NBA landscape: Solidifying the Cavs' status as the team to beat in the East, if not the NBA; hastening the controlled implosion of the Wizards after the Gilbert Arenas fiasco; and the tried and true pastime of saving the Clippers money.

It also solidified the Heat as the front runner to acquire Amar'e Stoudemire from the Suns -- if Phoenix decides to trade him. Rival execs believe that to be a foregone conclusion due to the likelihood that Stoudemire will not be able to work out a long-term agreement with the Suns. Although Phoenix apparently is not thrilled with Miami's offer -- which according to a source includes Michael Beasley and a first-round pick -- the Suns may have little choice but to go through with the deal rather than have their 2010-11 cap space eaten up by Stoudemire and face losing him with no compensation. The Sixers, who have been on the periphery of the Stoudemire discussions, are no longer involved, sources said.

The Cavs' pursuit of an All-Star caliber running mate to pair with James for the stretch run -- and, they hope, beyond -- circled back to where it started a few weeks ago. The Wizards, at the time, were too much in flux to nail down the particulars, and then Cleveland became involved in discussions with Phoenix for Stoudemire.

The Stoudemire situation, in which the Suns were trying to squeeze the best offer out of Cleveland or Miami, would've required the Cavs sending talented young big man J.J. Hickson in addition to Ilgauskas and their No. 1 pick. Due to Jamison's age (33) and contract ($28.4 million remaining over the next two seasons), Cleveland wasn't required to part with Hickson in the Washington deal.

In any event, some elements of the Cavs' hierarchy believed Jamison was a better fit for their team anyway. It's hard not to agree; the Cavs are a defensive team whose only flaw on the offensive end was lacking a spot-up shooter who could stretch the frontcourt. Stoudemire didn't fit that description at all, but Jamison fits it perfectly. Their inability to defend and score from the stretch-four position was their undoing in the playoffs against Orlando. Problem solved. The addition of Jamison makes the Cavs, who already have a league-best 43-11 record, the clear favorite to come out of the East and only enhances their chances in a potential NBA Finals matchup against the Lakers, Denver or Dallas.

Stoudemire's lack of defensive impact, combined with the fact that he didn't pair well with Shaquille O'Neal when they were teammates in Phoenix, tipped to scales in Jamison's favor. So did the fact that rival executives believe the Phoenix was more interested in Miami's offer for Stoudemire, which would include a higher first-round pick -- potentially in the lottery, depending on how the Heat finish the season.

Depending on what happens with Ilgauskas, the Wizards are within striking distance of getting under the luxury tax line -- a stunningly swift and effective demolition of a roster that was loaded with payroll black holes stretching for years. GM Ernie Grunfeld and assistant GM Tommy Sheppard made sure the impact of the devastating Gilbert Arenas firearms suspension would not linger into the summer -- at least financially. In the span of four days, the Wizards shed 60 percent of their starting lineup and nearly $39 million in salary over the next two seasons. Their haul was two potential rotation players -- Josh Howard and Thornton -- plus a first-round pick. Now, the biggest question remains: What to do about Arenas, who is owed $80 million over the next four seasons.

Posted on: February 13, 2010 6:47 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2010 7:19 pm
 

Trade Buzz: Amar'e Watch

DALLAS – Steve Kerr and Danny Ferry met Friday at All-Star weekend, a sure sign that Cavaliers’ pursuit of Amar’e Stoudemire has intensified. But if anybody knows the downside of such a move, it’s Kerr. 

One snag in a possible pairing of Stoudemire and LeBron James in Cleveland would be another kind of pairing that’s already been tried and didn’t work. Shaquille O’Neal and Stoudemire could not co-exist in Phoenix, one of many reasons Kerr was forced to undo his mistake and send Shaq to the Cavs. 

According to sources, there’s a fear among some members of the Cavs’ organization that, while Stoudemire would be a good long-term pairing with LeBron, incorporating him on the floor with Shaq might present too difficult an adjustment for the rest of the season. In Phoenix, Shaq and Stoudemire were unable to make the low-post, high-post thing work – and that was with a world-class point guard, Steve Nash. With the Cavs, Shaq and Amar’e clogging the middle might frustrate LeBron and turn him into too much of a jump shooter. 

This problem would be moot after the season, when Shaq presumably will sign with another team or retire. But with an NBA-best 37-11 record at the All-Star break, shaking things up would be risky. It only underscores how critical this decision is for Cleveland. Make a bold move to placate LeBron, only to risk accelerating his departure. 

The Cavs brass are said to be consulting LeBron on all matters Amar’e, and it’s possible that James will be able to sell GM Danny Ferry and coach Mike Brown that he could make it work. Having said that, sources say the Miami Heat’s interest in Stoudemire has not waned. Miami, though, has the luxury of possessing enough cap space to sign a marquee free agent to pair with Dwyane Wade this summer. The Cavs are capped out and would only be able to give LeBron another top-shelf free agent through sign-and-trades. 

With that sense of urgency in mind, the Cavs have not moved off Washington’s Antawn Jamison as a solution. Jamison was James’ original target, and sources say the Wizards – despite playing hard-ball in discussions with rival GMs – are now committed to trading Jamison. Like Phoenix, the Wizards don’t merely want cap relief in exchange. They want assets and possibly a quality draft pick as well. 

Here’s more of the trade chatter, culled from conversations with GMs, agents, and others in the know in Dallas and beyond:

• The Wizards-Mavericks deal has now expanded to include two more players and now looks like this: Washington gets Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, James Singleton and Quinton Ross in exchange for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson, sources say. You may be wondering, as I am, why Washington chose this deal instead of another blockbuster that would’ve sent Jamison and Butler to Boston for a package including Ray Allen. According to sources, a handful of Eastern Conference GMs pressured Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld to shy away from the Boston deal for obvious reasons. “It would screw up the balance of power in the East for three years,” one executive said. One theory circulating in Dallas is that Grunfeld didn’t want to alienate other teams he might need to do business with as he continues dismantling the roster in the wake of the Gilbert Arenas firearms fiasco.

• There’s hope in some circles that talks between the Rockets and Bulls on a deal centering around Tracy McGrady and Tyrus Thomas could be rekindled, although one source with knowledge of the situation said Saturday that Houston’s interest in Thomas could be separate from any McGrady scenario. McGrady’s $23 million expiring contract would help the Bulls amass the kind of cap space they’re seeking in their bid to lure two max free agents this summer. But several other teams – Portland, San Antonio, and Denver – could have more to offer.

• The Knicks continue to pursue Thomas in a package that would send Al Harrington and his $10 million expiring contract to Chicago. Harrington’s movement-killing tendencies on offense are frustrating coach Mike D’Antoni, who believes Thomas’ length and athleticism would be a good long-term fit. In any event, D’Antoni would get to look at Thomas in his system for the rest of the season before deciding whether to retain him as a restricted free agent.
Posted on: February 8, 2010 10:33 pm
 

Post-Ups

A year ago, one of the most active storylines of All-Star weekend in Phoenix was whether Amar’e Stoudemire’s last game with the Suns would be an exhibition game. This weekend, it’ll be the same storyline, but in a different city.

And this time, Stoudemire isn’t alone. The few contenders who are clear buyers at the trade deadline are feasting their eyes on an impressive list of big men who could change uniforms before the Feb. 18 trade deadline and perhaps change the playoff picture, too.

A high-level source involved in the Suns’ strategizing estimated that Stoudemire has a “30 percent chance” of being traded. His situation is the most intriguing of all the star players who could be moved by Feb. 18, given his status as an All-Star starter. The plot only became more interesting with Stoudemire’s recent comments/head fake that he’s leaning toward not exercising the early termination option in his contract, which would pay him $17.7 million next season. Some team executives believe Stoudemire, surmising that opting in would be the best move if Stoudemire doesn’t believe max money will be there for him this summer. Others find ignoring the ETO implausible for any player with a choice between signing a long contract under the current collective bargaining agreement and waiting for the new one, which clearly will be worse for the players.

One league source familiar with the market for Stoudemire expressed skepticism about rumblings that Stoudemire could be headed to Philadelphia. The person said there’s no consensus among the Sixers’ brass that Stoudemire would be the player they’d want to commit max money to – especially after the Elton Brand fiasco. From the Phoenix side, the person said, owner Robert Sarver’s non-basketball businesses (banking and real estate) have been hit too hard by the recession to make the Suns a credible landing spot for Samuel Dalembert’s $12.2 million due next season – not to mention Andre Iguodala’s four years and $56 million remaining.

With that, let’s get to the rest of the Post-Ups – pre-All-Star/trade deadline edition:

Tyrus Thomas isn’t as big a name as Stoudemire, but league sources agree he’s far more likely to be dealt by Feb. 18 – if not sooner. One person familiar with the situation said it would be surprising if the Thomas situation stretched into next week after his recent dustup with coach Vinny Del Negro over losing his starting job to rookie Taj Gibson. Sources say the Bulls would prefer to package Thomas in a bigger deal that would clear cap space for a major free agent signing -- such as a scenario detailed here involving the CelticsRay Allen. Short of that, the Bulls would be eager to unload Thomas in a smaller deal that would bring back less significant assets that could be used to surround and entice a marquee free agent. Two Western Conference teams intrigued by Thomas are the Nuggets, patiently seeking a big man to contend with the Lakers, and the Spurs, who were characterized by two rival executives as desperate to acquire an athletic big man. “They feel like they have to do something, like they’re behind the eight ball a little bit,” one of the execs said. The Spurs have a full complement of expiring contracts that would intrigue the Bulls, who want to avoid losing a significant player with no compensation (see Ben Gordon) for the second straight summer. The Spurs, who dipped their toe across the luxury tax line this season, will have to decide before the end of their annual circus road trip – which continued Monday night against the Lakers – what they’re willing to give up to see that investment pay off.

• Team executives differ widely in their assessment Marcus Camby’s availability, with some convinced Camby’s gone and others equally convinced he’s going nowhere. The truth is somewhere in between. A person familiar with the Clippers’ internal discussions said the team would move Camby and his $7.65 million contract only in a deal that would yield a significant player who could help them next season – or the cap space to sign one. The Clips are a small deal away from clearing the $15-$16 million necessary to sign a max player. If they can’t improve their 2010-11 position dramatically, Camby stays. Two of Camby’s former teams, the Nuggets and Knicks, are intrigued by the possibility of bringing him back for an encore.

• Another active buyer in trade talks, the Mavericks, haven’t pushed hard for Kevin Martin in their conversations with Sacramento, sources say. That’s an indication that the Mavs are focused on another wing who’d fit their needs – Washington’s Caron Butler. How aggressively the Wizards look to unload contracts as they try to pick up the pieces from Gilbert Arenas’ suspension depends on how a fundamental internal disagreement is resolved. Some elements of the Wizards’ power structure favor “completely blowing it up,” according to one source, while others are holding out for a more patient approach. “How badly does Dallas want Caron Butler?” one rival executive said. “Washington will find out.” The Mavs have not been pushing for Antawn Jamison in their talks with the Wizards, believing they have enough 30-somethings on the roster.

• An important factor to remember in trying to decipher the Wizards’ strategy is their ownership situation. Despite a recent hangup in the transfer of power from the family of late owner Abe Pollin to Ted Leonsis, rival executives believe a completed sale to Leonsis is a foregone conclusion. The Wizards have little hope of trading enough contracts to get under the luxury tax, but any savings derived from pre-deadline deals would produce double the benefit in tax payments – a scenario that would appease both the owner and the seller in that transaction.

• If the Wizards take the “blowing it up” route, their exploratory conversations with Houston involving Tracy McGrady would become more serious. But a high-level source familiar with the situation said T-Mac’s best chance to play again this season is in New York, which would willingly take on his $23 million expiring contract if it meant clearing some 2010-11 money off the books. The Knicks aren’t willing to part with anything Houston would want, however, so a third team would need to be recruited.

• Despite their active posture in trade talks, the Sixers aren’t willing to do strictly a financial deal for Iguodala. Thus, they’re not interested in McGrady alone, but instead are pushing for legit value in return.

• Miami and Charlotte remain in the mix with the Rockets and Trail Blazers for Wizards center Brendan Haywood. The Blazers continue to steadfastly reject any scenario that includes Rudy Fernandez or Nicolas Batum.
Posted on: February 2, 2010 11:48 pm
 

Weekly Post-Ups

With a little more than two weeks to go before the Feb. 18 trade deadline, the chatter is starting to pick up. Here’s the latest trade buzz culled from conversations with team executives, agents, and others in the know:

• It’s been well documented that the Cavaliers’ infatuation with Antawn Jamison has been rekindled. What’s been underplayed is the reason behind it: LeBron James is the one driving the team’s pursuit of Jamison, according to a source, and Cavs GM Danny Ferry – as usual – is trying to appease the King. A couple of problems: The Wizards want a young asset in return, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas – while a fit salary-wise – doesn’t fit that description. The sensible piece to include in the deal would be J.J. Hickson, whom the Cavs are reluctant to give up. But if the Cavs got Jamison, what value would Hickson be to them as their fifth big man? One scenario that is believed to be under discussion would have the Cavs hoping the Wizards bought out Ilgauskas after the trade, using some cash added to the deal by Cleveland. That way, the Cavs could sign Ilgauskas back on a minimum deal, giving them the player James covets (Jamison) and a 7-foot-4 insurance policy for Shaquille O’Neal. The Wizards would have to ask themselves if getting out from under Jamison’s contract and adding Hickson is enough to justify a deal that would get them under the tax next summer, but not under the cap.

• If the Cavs can’t get Jamison, Indiana’s Troy Murphy is Plan B. And yes, there’s a Plan C -- Andre Iguodala. Whereas the Cavs’ front office believes Jamison could help them win a championship this year, Iguodala would be more of a long-term solution. And he better be, with four years and $56 million left on his deal.

• Rumblings about Ray Allen being on his way out of Boston are accurate, but only if the Celtics can get back a player who’d crack the top eight in their rotation. One scenario that has been discussed would have Allen going to Chicago for Kirk Hinrich and another piece – John Salmons? – to satisfy the salary requirements. If it came to fruition, what an intriguing swap it would be for teams that waged such a thrilling postseason battle only eight months ago. Since Allen’s $19.7 million contract expires after the season, acquiring him would leave Chicago flush with cap space for a 2010 free-agent binge centered around Chicago native Dwyane Wade and an additional superstar.

• One of Allen’s teammates also is generating some interest: Kendrick Perkins, who’d be a perfect fit for a team like the Pistons, who are desperate for a post presence. But Perkins only makes $4.3 million, and it’s difficult to imagine the Celtics parting with him given the way Kevin Garnett is gimping around.

• Other than Cleveland, only a handful of teams are active in trade talks and willing to take on money. The others are Dallas, Boston, Portland and potentially Denver, which could get ownership approval for a big enough name – though no such possibility is imminent. The Nuggets are steadfastly refusing to include J.R. Smith in any deal, and their quest for a big man will have to go in a different direction with Indiana’s Jeff Foster likely out for the year with back issues.

• The Mavs, behind big spender Mark Cuban, are always buyers at the deadline. Nothing has changed this year, with the Mavs said to be targeting help at shooting guard in a deal that would likely include Josh Howard and Erick Dampier.

• The Blazers’ interest in Wizards center Brendan Haywood is understandable, considering the catastrophic injuries to Greg Oden and Joel Pryzbilla. But an expiring contract – such as the one belonging to Travis Outlaw – won’t be enough to pique Washington’s interest. As with Jamison, the Wizards want useful assets in return. In this case, sources say, Washington has asked for Rudy Fernandez and has been strongly rebuffed. Consider those talks stalled for now, but don’t discount a revival before Feb. 18 for these reasons: 1) The Blazers’ desperate need for a big man, and 2) Their ability to get ownership approval to take on money in the right deal.

• Miami also has expressed interest in Haywood, but sources say that would require taking on money in the deal – something Heat president Pat Riley has been unwilling to entertain.

• There are differing opinions in Utah as to what strategy to pursue with Carlos Boozer. Ownership wants to trade him to avoid paying luxury tax. Coach Jerry Sloan wants to keep him because he thinks the Jazz can make playoff noise. All in all, the Jazz might be better off keeping him because their payroll will be roughly $58 million – under the projected tax line – after his $12.7 million salary comes off the books this summer. But don’t discount a solution that would solve both problems: Trading Boozer to the Pistons, who have long coveted him, for Tayshaun Prince. Such a swap would give the Jazz a playoff-tested defender with length and all but get them out of the luxury tax for this season. Prince would be on the books for $9 million next season, but he’d be easy to trade because of his expiring contract. Plus, the difference between owing and receiving luxury tax money this season would be roughly a $7 million swing.

Tracy McGrady’s level of availability – as in, very available – far exceeds the seriousness of the offers Houston has received, sources say. “A lot of talk,” is how one person in contact with Rockets officials characterized the status of the Free T-Mac campaign. Ditto for Amar’e Stoudemire in Phoenix.

• While there are only a few select buyers in the trade market, there are about two dozen sellers – but none more serious than the Sixers. Philadelphia is said to be open to trading anyone and everyone, and the conversations always start with the guys with the most money committed to them: Elton Brand, Samuel Dalembert, and Iguodala. Good luck.

• On an unrelated note, former Knick John Starks attracted a star-studded crowd in New York City Tuesday night for a celebrity bowling tournament benefiting the John Starks Foundation, which provides college scholarships for kids in the New York City area and Starks’ native Tulsa, Okla. Hall of Famer Earl Monroe, actor Matthew Modine, and Knicks forward Al Harrington were among the headliners.
 
 
 
 
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