Vegas baby ... Vegas!
New year, new approach. For it would be tough to top the comprehensive nature of last February's assemblage here, which offered suggestions on how to revitalize All-Star Weekend from a panel of ESPN.com correspondents.
This year, we opt for simplicity. Just one suggestion on how to pump life into a former extravaganza that doesn't have the same stature it once claimed.
Hold it in Las Vegas.
Commissioner David Stern has made it very clear that he will not be putting a franchise in Vegas, after the Grizzlies tried hard before moving to Memphis and no matter how loudly Mark Cuban and Sacramento's Maloof Brothers call for it. "So long as there's a sports book," Stern said during his lengthy sitdown with ESPN.com last month, "it's not a subject that's of great interest to us."
To Stern, Europe is the next frontier and the destination that gets all his focus on the subjects of expansion and relocation. "It's not even that I'm optimistic (about seeing NBA teams in Europe in the next decade)," Stern said, "but it's actually fun to talk about it and it's relatively inexpensive to talk about. We'll see."
Yet it likewise costs nothing for us to keep the Vegas option in circulation, and so we will.
The Sixers can do the smart thing and trade Iverson before he advances into his 30s. They can trade him to a team that badly needs his star power -- yes, Atlanta -- before Philly starts losing so regularly that the fans stop coming. They can use the Hawks as a conduit in a three-team deal for Steve Francis, whose time in Houston has also run short on freshness, or some other trade of similar magnitude.
How tough is rebuilding around Iverson? The Sixers, at present, are discussing a trade with Chicago that would send Aaron McKie to the Bulls for Jerome Williams -- with another low-salaried Sixer required for cap purposes. Williams wouldn't be a bad pickup, given his history of providing energy, but that's hardly the sort of move that's going to resuscitate this team.
"Philly is trying hard to move Eric Snow or McKie," one league source said. "You can be pretty sure one of those guys will be traded in the next week."
The milestone is moving Abdur-Rahim and Theo Ratliff in the same deal. Knight has been peddling both of them hard and would have undoubtedly settled for moving one of them before the Feb. 19 trading deadline.
Kyle Korver and Scot Pollard (of Sacramento vintage) were also among the fan nominees, but the King who has the most cause to feel slighted is reserve swingman Gerald Wallace. Even though he still rarely plays for the Kings, after 2½ seasons in the NBA, Wallace is so popular in Sacto that he can be seen in a couple of local TV commercials, one of those for McDonald's.
Tracy McGrady and Jermaine O'Neal hatched the idea, offering to donate $1,000 per point to their respective favorite charities. Peja Stojakovic and Jamaal Magloire, also SFX clients, heard what McGrady and O'Neal are doing and asked to join in. Now to see if those four can combined to score 75 points on Sunday.
Good work, lads.
"I just heard that again yesterday," the source said.
Atlanta is already preparing to pursue Bryant hard, but I'm telling you -- and will keep telling you -- that there isn't a team out there with salary-cap room (Phoenix, Denver, Utah) that will appeal to Bryant more than the Clippers. He knows the players there, he knows the coach and he wouldn't have to uproot his family if he switches locker rooms at Staples Center.
New York? That would require a sign-and-trade, and the Knicks figure to be less appealing to Bryant now with Stephon Marbury there as the city's favorite son. It wouldn't exactly be Kobe's team, now would it?
Memphis? Even if Hubie Brown decides to leave coaching at season's end because of health concerns, and even if Jerry West did replace Brown with Kobe's buddy Byron Scott, that doesn't change the Grizzlies' problem. Memphis would have to either convince Bryant to take the $5 million mid-level exception (no chance) or concoct a trade. And I'm still willing to go to Vegas and bet big on the belief that Jerry Buss and Mitch Kupchak -- if they ever did concede that it's better to trade Kobe rather than lose him for nothing -- would never trade Bryant to West. Never.
So face it, friends. If Kobe decides to leave the Lakers, as informed folks in L.A. increasingly believe, the Clippers are his first option.