Willis still capable of contributing

Updated: July 2, 2004, 9:49 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
Kevin Willis, Spurs: Jurassic Kevin will be 42 when the next season tips off, but no one keeps himself in better shape and knows what he can and can't do. He's still capable of spot duty but is probably a good team's third center now. The Hornets are a good team.

Gary Trent, Timberwolves: It's funny. Shaq of the MAC has been in Minnesota for three seasons, and the Wolves show no signs of giving him regular playing time, but he keeps going back. Maybe he should think about going elsewhere, like Denver, maybe.

Stacey Augmon, Hornets: Plastic Man can still get up in your grille and make you work for it at 35. He's probably not a rotation guy any more, but someone you can save up for the postseason -- like Detroit did with Elden Campbell -- and use him at important minutes in a playoff series. That would make sense for a team like Dallas.

Jon Barry, Nuggets: Still talking smack and taking crazy shots, Barry is still a guy you can use off the bench -- if your bench isn't full of impressionable youngsters. The Celtics' bench is young, but not that young, and the Cs need a sparkplug who won't back down.

Bob Sura, Hawks: Ten years ago, I bet Tony Kornheiser that Sura wouldn't be a first-round pick. I was wrong, and it wasn't the last time I underestimated the ex-Seminole (Sura, not Kornheiser). He knows how to play the game and probably will wind up on somebody's bench. Larry Brown says he hated to give Sura up in order to get Rasheed. Here's his chance to prove it.

Toni Kukoc, Bucks: The Waiter had some good moments in Milwaukee last season, but his days as a full-timer are behind him. His best bet, if he doesn't finish his career back home or elsewhere overseas, is to find a team where his passing skills -- he'll always be able to find the open man -- would have maximum value. That sounds like Sacramento to me.

Vlade Divac, Kings: Here's hoping Vlade re-signs in Sacramento. It's where he should finish his career, as he's meant so much to that franchise. Plus, if the Kings were to sign Kukoc, it would be nice to bring Kukoc, Divac and Peja Stojakovic together and put some salve on the bitter Croat-Serb feelings of the late '80s and early '90s that ripped Yugoslavia's team, and country, apart.

Lindsey Hunter, Pistons: Still more than capable on the ball, Hunter showed unexpected offense throughout the Finals as well. He's become a respected veteran and someone that young players would listen to. That would make him valuable in a place like Cleveland, regardless of whether the Cavs find a taker for Kevin Ollie's contract.

Greg Ostertag, Jazz: He is what he is: seven feet tall and capable of occasionally scoring in the paint, blocking a shot and grabbing a rebound. He certainly isn't a difference-maker, but there have been a number of Eastern Conference teams that have tried to get him over the years. Maybe it's time for one of them, Toronto, to succeed.

Shammond Williams, Hornets: Last season, then-Magic coach Doc Rivers sat Williams down and told him, "There's a reason you keep bouncing around the league." And, indeed, there is: Williams has a rep as a guy who'll break off plays and not max out his still-formidable talent. I hope he finds a home, 'cause I like him very much. Maybe like Chauncey Billups, he just has to find a team that believes in him. Could that be San Antonio?

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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