By trading Rose, Raptors showing they want Bosh

By trading away Jalen Rose and his $17 million cap number for next year, Raptors' interim GM Wayne Embry has given his beleaguered franchise new hope for the future -- a future that could include Nene, writes Marc Stein.

Updated: February 14, 2006, 10:58 AM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

It might only be an interim era, but the Wayne Embry Era in Toronto has started nothing like the Rob Babcock Era.

Babcock's first move, even before he gave away Vince Carter for a pittance, was the disastrous selection of Rafael Araujo with the No. 8 pick in the 2004 draft.

Davis destined for Windy City?
 Antonio Davis
Don't be surprised if the United Center, site of his unforgettable rush into the stands earlier this month, once again becomes Antonio Davis' home court.

Yet that's only one possibility after Davis was dealt Friday to the Toronto Raptors for Jalen Rose.

Davis is scheduled to meet Saturday morning with acting Raptors general manager Wayne Embry, who wants Davis to finish the season in Toronto to mentor Embry's young players.

It's believed that Davis will ask Embry to be released so he can join the club of his choice as a free agent, with the Bulls -- who dealt Davis to New York in October as part of the Eddy Curry deal -- at the top of Davis' list. Should Davis and Embry agree to a parting, it remains to be seen if the Bulls -- who have been undersized ever since parting with Davis and Curry -- remain interested in bringing Davis back like they were shortly after the trade with New York was made.

The Raptors, though, might also want to keep Davis to see if they can use his expiring contract (worth $13.9 million this season) as a trade chip before the league's Feb. 23 trading deadline.

If Davis, 37, were to negotiate a buyout with Toronto, he would be eligible to play in the playoffs for another team as long as he's signed by March 1. Chicago is where Davis' family calls home … and where the president of the NBA Players Association leapt over the scorer's table in overtime of a Knicks-Bulls game on Jan. 18 to charge into the crowd when he saw his wife, Kendra, in a dispute with a nearby Bulls fan. The NBA suspended Davis for five games for his actions, costing him just over $630,000 in salary.

-- Marc Stein

Embry's first strike as Babcock's temporary replacement was Friday's removal of Jalen Rose from the Raptors' payroll, which wipes away a $17 million obligation for next season.

The Raptors certainly don't have a great need to bring Antonio Davis (and wife Kendra) back to Canada and will meet with Davis on Saturday to determine whether a Toronto reunion is best for all parties.

But they desperately needed Davis' expiring contract as part of their plan to get way under the salary cap this offseason and find a beefy sidekick who can help protect Chris Bosh … and thus help convince Bosh -- unlike Tracy McGrady and Carter -- to pledge his future to Toronto. That's why Embry, along with a $3 million check to the Knicks from Raptors ownership, was willing to part with the first-round pick (via Denver) that Babcock clung to.

As for the sidekick search, file away this name: Nene.

Denver's injured power forward/center will be a restricted free agent this summer and a target for any team with salary-cap space, with Chicago and Atlanta already known to be interested. But the Raptors just added themselves to the short list of clubs that might be able to put forth an offer that the Nuggets deem too rich to match or (more likely) forces Denver into a sign-and-trade & especially if Embry can follow through on his efforts to move swingman Eric Williams before the Feb. 23 trading deadline.

Something else you should know: Nene has some little-known Canadian ties.

His original NBA interpreter and personal manager, Joe Santos, was born and raised just outside of Toronto, which might actually give the Raptors a bit of a free-agent edge for once.

Even if Nene can't be lured north of the border out of Denver, having significant cap space is vital as the Raptors try to start over around Bosh. They need to make a splashy acquisition or two to convince Bosh that he would be wise to sign a long-term extension before next season, and cap room makes the Raps a contender for not only Nene -- whom doctors expect to recover fully from his Opening Night knee tear -- but perhaps sharpshooting free agent-to-be Peja Stojakovic, a move that would be well-received by Toronto's expansive Serbian community as well.

Either way, Toronto just increased its options and manufactured some hope after a dark season and a half under Babcock. More moves that do that and Embry, who at 68 has made it clear he prefers an advisory role to the thought of replacing Babcock full-time, might be asked to reconsider.

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Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.

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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