Garden party for The Custodian?

Updated: July 2, 2004, 9:38 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
Brian Cardinal, Warriors: The Custodian throws his body around, knocks down threes, plays with hustle and desire and knows the game. The Warriors would love to keep him, but Cardinal should be the target of a half-dozen clubs that could use him in their rotation. One of those places is New York, where he'd be a crowd favorite the minute he runs over Spike or Woody for a loose ball.

*Carlos Arroyo, Jazz: He split the point last season with Raul Lopez and gave out five assists a night. I'm sure Jerry Sloan would have given him more minutes if he deserved them, so maybe Arroyo isn't a full-time guard. But as a third guard and spot starter, he's pretty good. And the Magic have had a terrible time replacing Darrell Armstrong.

*Gordan Giricek, Jazz: When he's hot, he's as good a shooter as anyone. The rest of his game? Not quite there yet. But Giricek is worth a look. He's at the point of his career where he's likely to give you his best over the next three to four seasons. The Sonics, who are likely to lose Brent Barry in free agency, might want to look at some tape.

Keon Clark, Suns: Big defensive presence. Big question marks off the floor. Clark has probably cost himself a lot of money over the last couple of seasons. He should have been a mainstay with the Kings; instead, they shipped him out the first chance they got. Speaking of which, Keon may be down to his last chance. Sign with the Wizards, keep your head down and go to work.

Fred Hoiberg, Timberwolves: You saw in the playoffs what I've been screaming for years: The Mayor is a real player, not a mascot. When he gets a chance to play, he knows what to do. Normally, I try to fit a guy with another team, but Hoiberg makes so much sense in Minnesota, it would be a shame if the Wolves couldn't figure out a way to keep him.

Damon Jones, Bucks: He's bounced around a lot for a guy that doesn't turn over the ball -- he was second in the league last season in assist-turnover ratio -- and can knock down the occasional shot. Plus, he's a locker room favorite with teammates. The Pacers really struggled at the point when Jamaal Tinsley got hurt in the playoffs. Jones would be an upgrade.

*Trenton Hassell, Timberwolves: Flip Saunders called him the poor man's Bruce Bowen, which is a major compliment. Hassell also showed some ability to knock down open jumpers in the postseason. But he's not going to be a major scorer on a team without an inside presence. The Spurs, most recent employers of the actual Bruce Bowen, have an inside presence.

Rafer Alston, Heat: Skip had a terrific season (10th in the league in assist-turnover ratio at 2.91; 20th in steals, at 1.39) and proved once and for all he's a lot more than a playground legend. But with Dwyane Wade on the ball in Miami, Alston isn't going to get starter's burn. The Hawks, with four players currently under contract, do not present that kind of problem.

Eric Williams, Cavaliers: When Williams and Tony Battie came to the Cavs from Boston for Ricky Davis, Cleveland found its footing. Williams will shoot if he has to, but his game is defense, giving up his body game after game against bigger threes. It wouldn't surprise me one bit to see EW reunited with Jim O'Brien in Philly, as the Sixers try to re-create the defense-first style around Allen Iverson that got them to the Finals.

Mark Blount, Celtics: Certainly came on the second half of the season, ringing up double-doubles like he was Tim Duncan or something. The guy can be active inside and he doesn't miss much, finishing second in the league in field-goal percentage. Everyone has the Heat all over him, and that's certainly a possibility, but if I were Blount, I might look toward Portland, where the Blazers have an owner that will spend money.

Wesley Person, Hawks: In 10 NBA seasons, he's never shot less than 37 percent from behind the arc. And he never will. Last season, playing for three different teams, he shot .399. The guy is professional and has a skill that never goes out of style. The Nets have been desperate for perimeter shooting since Drazen Petrovic. Person would be a big help.

*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.

ALSO SEE