Pistons need to unload Atkins

Updated: February 19, 2004, 10:54 AM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

The flurry of blockbuster deals began a week before the season started and never stopped. It started with Antoine Walker's late-October move to Dallas, and later trades included such heavyweights as Jalen Rose, Bonzi Wells, Ricky Davis, Stephon Marbury, Rasheed Wallace and Keith Van Horn.

Whether we see a full-fledged blockbuster -- involving Wallace again -- on deadline day apparently hinges on a not-so-big name: Chucky Atkins.

As Wednesday night bled into early morning, with Thursday's NBA trade buzzer fast approaching at 3 p.m. ET, finding a third team willing to take on Atkins was the key to Detroit's hopes of acquiring Wallace from Atlanta.

League sources told ESPN.com late Wednesday that Detroit was trying to move Atkins to the Boston Celtics.

The Pistons are adamant about making Atkins part of any trade because that would boost their efforts to re-sign center Mehmet Okur, who will be a restricted free agent this offseason. Detroit knows it would essentially be renting Wallace for the rest of the regular season, given Wallace's intense desire to sign with New York in the offseason. That's why retaining Okur is critical for the Pistons, who face the same challenge with the Turkish center that doomed Golden State last summer in its bid to retain Gilbert Arenas.

Unless the Pistons are well under the cap in the offseason, they will be limited to matching offers to Okur as high as the league's average salary, which equates to just under $5 million. That's because Okur will have just two seasons of service time at that point, which limits the amount Detroit can increase his salary.

Pistons president Joe Dumars wants Wallace, even if it's only for a few months, but he feels much stronger about securing Okur for the long term. Dumars' initial attempts to pry Wallace from the Hawks broke down because the Pistons insisted that Atlanta take on Atkins in addition to Bob Sura, Zeljko Rebraca, Lindsey Hunter and a first-round draft pick. That first-rounder is the lure for the Hawks, who will only accept players with expiring contracts in exchange for Wallace.

Grizzlies-Warriors trade talk
Memphis is not out of the race for Golden State center Erick Dampier.

But to win the race, it appears the Grizzlies have to be willing to trade swingman Shane Battier.

Grizzlies president Jerry West has coveted Dampier for months, but West has been reluctant to include Battier in a package with Stromile Swift. The Warriors, according to league sources, are hopeful the Grizzlies will relent before Thursday's 3 p.m. ET deadline and pair Battier with Swift for Dampier.

ESPN's David Aldridge reported late Wednesday that New York was deep in talks with Golden State for Dampier, with the Knicks also angling to annex Nick Van Exel in the same deal. Memphis was considered the leading destination for Dampier until news of the Knicks' interest surfaced.
— Marc Stein

From the start, when Wallace was being shopped by Portland, Dumars insisted that he wouldn't trade any of his top six commodities: Ben Wallace, Rip Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince, Okur and rookie Darko Milicic.

Best of the rest

  • San Antonio's Malik Rose has been available for weeks, with Rose and coach Gregg Popovich butting heads -- as always -- but also with Robert Horry providing more production than the Spurs anticipated and taking Rose's minutes. The Spurs are looking to take back an expiring contract in return in their quest to stockpile cap room for the re-signing of Manu Ginobili, Hedo Turkoglu and some new blood. A good example of the sort of player San Antonio seeks for Rose: Boston's Chris Mills. That said ... San Antonio hasn't made a trade-deadline deal since 1996. It won't surprise anyone if the streak continues and Rose stays, especially since Rose has contributed to two championships in the past five years.

  • The Sixers and Bulls, as reported here last week, have been discussing an Aaron McKie-for-Jerome Williams swap for a while now. Williams' energy and rebounding acumen would certainly help Philly; it's how McKie helps Chicago that we struggle to see. If the deal ends up dissolving, you can assume the Bulls ultimately saw the same limitation.

  • Dallas, by all indications, will not be making a major move and most likely not even a minor move. ... Ditto for the Clippers, after a longstanding link with Chicago involving Melvin Ely and Keyon Dooling. ... The Clippers also spoke with Washington about point guard Brevin Knight, but neither the Clips nor the Wizards is expected to deal before the deadline. ... Chicago's Jamal Crawford is said to be off the table, like Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler, but Bulls forward Marcus Fizer remains available. ... Utah, meanwhile, is still intent on making a deal before the buzzer.

    Iverson update
    Allen Iverson will not be traded in the next few hours, but the Sixers -- for the first time in years -- admit they can't rule out the possibility down the road.

    That's because Philly is a team on the decline, badly in need of a makeover but saddled with several highly paid veterans who are virtually impossible to trade ... veterans who wouldn't fetch much in return if the Sixers could move them. As a result, it's difficult to envision how Iverson's bosses will ever put the pieces around him that will restore Philly as an NBA Finals contender.

    Allen Iverson
    Iverson

    That inevitably leads to the idea that Iverson, the Sixers' only asset with significant value, should be traded so the franchise can start over. Teams that are struggling financially, like Atlanta or Orlando, would relish the opportunity to acquire one of the few stars in sports who attracts a sellout crowd wherever he goes. Iverson for Tracy McGrady? Iverson to the Hawks in a three-way deal that also features 'Sheed, a Philadelphia native? Such trades are bound to be discussed this summer.

    Of course, the problem with trading Iverson is that star power that fills the seats -- AI keeps Philly in the black no matter how the team looks on the court. And if it's not contending for a championship, an NBA team's next objective is making money.

    So ...

    The quandary Philly faces is this: If they don't trade Iverson soon, the Sixers might be stuck with him forever, well into Iverson's 30s. That's when the beating he takes will inevitably take its toll. But if they do trade Iverson, the trade had better make the Sixers better immediately. Because if Iverson ain't there, winning is the only thing that will keep the fans coming to The House The Answer Built.

    Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here. Also, click here to send a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

    Marc Stein | email

    Senior Writer, ESPN.com
    • Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
    • Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
    • Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics
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