Bryant marquee attraction on market

Updated: July 2, 2004, 9:28 AM ET
By David Aldridge | Special to ESPN.com

The K factor
Shaquille O'Neal
O'Neal
Mike Krzyzewski has a military (school) background and a sparkling resume, which means he should have plenty to impress Shaquille O'Neal. Except that O'Neal still doesn't want to play for him.

It's not because Shaq has anything against Coach K. Shaq simply sees his possible hiring as yet another slight, another concession the Lakers have made to Kobe Bryant without Shaq's consultation.

With the belief spreading that Krzyzewski is Bryant's hand-picked choice to replace Phil Jackson, Shaq may be even more determined to force a trade, insulted by the appearance of another player on his team being allowed to make all the decisions.

Problem is, a Shaq trade is even tougher now than it was when the week began, after the Mavericks lost free-agent point guard Steve Nash to Phoenix without compensation. Dallas and Sacramento are widely considered the only feasible destinations for O'Neal, but the Mavs, without Nash, suddenly don't have a spare star to build a trade package around.

The Lakers are insisting on receiving Dirk Nowitzki in any deal that sends Shaq to Dallas. The Mavericks insist they won't trade Nowitzki and were hoping to involve Nash in a sign-and-trade deal with Golden State that would route Warriors free-agent center Erick Dampier to L.A. as Shaq's replacement. That seems impossible now without Nash, and even if the Mavericks were suddenly willing to part with Nowitzki, O'Neal would probably hesistate to commit to a Dallas team without Nowitzki or Nash.

If obstacles keeping cropping up at their current rate, convincing the Lakers to move Shaq could prove as challenging as the Lakers' quest to lure Coach K away from his Duke empire.

-- Marc Stein
Kobe Bryant, Lakers: The pick of the free agent litter. You hear that he wants to be a leader on a team of young, talented players. That certainly could be the Clippers, though I still can't believe the Kobester would place his potential legacy in the hands of Donald T. Sterling. The Suns hold out hope, too, but when all is said and done, I'd be surprised if Bryant was anywhere but in Forum Blue and Gold next season.

*Kenyon Martin, Nets: Hard to argue that anyone but K-Mart is the preeminent power forward in the game right now. He's added perimeter skills to his brutal inside package; a face-up game to his devastating transition moves; calmness and leadership to the fire that rages below the surface. If I'm the Nuggets, I give this guy a max offer and dare the Nets to match it.

Rasheed Wallace, Pistons: 'Sheed's defensive performance in the playoffs for Detroit is Exhibit A for any playoff team that needs some toughness and team-oriented play to get over the top. You can't bring him in and ask him to be The Man; he has to be one of the guys. You may say that's not worth a max offer. I say it's close. But the family has to be comfortable, which is why the NYC is still a longshot possibility.

Steve Nash, Mavericks: At 30, Nasty isn't a kid anymore, and his history of injuries will no doubt give some teams pause. But there isn't a better point his side of East Rutherford. Nash controls games with the dribble and never turns it over (3.29 assist-turnover ratio). If Golden State could entice Erick Dampier into a sign-and-trade to Dallas, despite Nash's likely base-year status, the Warriors would make some sense. But Nash also has to be involved in any potential Dallas trade for Shaq.

Manu Ginobili, Spurs: He's their top priority, but he's also on the short lists of the Nuggets and Suns. Such is the skill level of this fearless, soon-to-be 27-year-old who can score with either hand. He's long and active defensively, too. For a team like Utah, which has cornered the market on acquiring international players, a guy like Manu is worth breaking the bank.

Brent Barry, Sonics: A combo guard who can bring the ball up, play off it, be useful in a two-guard front, stroke the three with deadly efficiency (second in the league last season) and who loves to pass. OK, defense isn't his strongest suit, but he works at it. If Ginobili leaves San Antonio for greener pastures, it would take me about a second to give Barry a call.

*Quentin Richardson, Clippers: He was Denver's top choice for a while, a testament to his physical skills and improving all-around game. With the Clips half-blinded by Kobe Dust in their eyes, there's no better time to drop a sheet on Q -- and that's exactly what Phoenix should do, with the kind of front-loaded goodies that made it hard for L.A. to match last summer's offers to Andre Miller and Lamar Odom.

Erick Dampier, Warriors. He must know something to give up $16 mil over the next two seasons. What he knows is that after finishing fourth in the L in rebounding (12 per game), first in offensive boards (4.6) and third in field-goal percentage (.535), this is the time to cash in. Would I be worried about a guy whose career numbers had come nowhere close to last season's? To quote Henry Gondorff, right down to my socks, Buster. But that won't stop the Logo or Mitch Kupchak from trying anyway. Or the Pacers.

Troy Hudson, Timberwolves: Injuries kept T Hud from showing the form last season that wowed everyone in the 2003 playoffs, but the same guy's still there: a big-time streak shooter with quicks and attitude. The Clippers have needed a point guard for about a million years -- and in true Clipper fashion, they already had Hudson before!

Mehmet Okur, Pistons: Memo didn't fit in to what Larry Brown wanted from his bigs, but Joe Dumars would still like to figure out a way to keep him around. A guy with his offensive range and inside slipperyness would be ideal for the Suns, who've targeted Okur for free-agent bucks. He's a little like Jake Tsakalidis, but with more skills.

*Denotes restricted free agent; current team has the right to match any offer made to the player and retain his services.

David Aldridge, who covers the NBA for ESPN, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. Also, click here for Aldridge's chat on July 1, the start of free agency.

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