Trade chatter: Buzz on Shaq, Knicks
Multiple servings of draft-week trade chatter and other basketball business culled from various sources plugged into the NBA's front-office grapevine:
Three reasons we've experienced a hush -- temporary hush, that is -- of Shaquille O'Neal-to-Cleveland talk:
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1. The Suns and Cavs, sources say, were trying hard last week to recruit a third team to help facilitate the deal, presumably to help furnish Phoenix with more than just the financial relief that would come with the acquisitions of Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic. No willing third team offering up a serviceable big man whom Phoenix likes has been located. Yet.
2. The Cavs recognize that Big Ben's potential willingness to be bought out of his $14 million ending salary and the expiration of Pavlovic's $4.9 million salary (with only $1.5 million guaranteed) add up to two decent trade chips. It thus benefits Cleveland to shop around to see what else might be available, because the list of teams willing to take on Shaq's $21 million salary next season is a very short one at the minute.
As I've been saying since March, knowledgeable sources continue to insist that O'Neal is at best on Dallas' B-list or maybe even its C-list of offseason targets, no matter how many times someone suggests that the Mavs are willing to offer up, say, Josh Howard for The Diesel. Even facing its serious need to get younger, Dallas wasn't willing to make Howard (and his expiring deal) available to Washington for the No. 5 pick that the Wizards wound up dealing to Minnesota.
3. In almost every front office in the league -- even San Antonio's, now that the Spurs have made their big play for Richard Jefferson -- draft considerations are inevitably the focus this week. Which makes it even harder to pull a third team in.
Yet you can safely assume that we'll be back to Shaq quickly.
The Grizzlies aren't just entertaining the idea of parting with the No. 2 overall pick in Thursday's draft. They've also engaged in advanced discussions with the Knicks that should put former No. 2 overall pick Darko Milicic in New York by week's end ... unless Memphis winds up needing Milicic's expiring contract in another draft-related trade.
Sources say that the proposed swap would send Milicic to the Knicks for swingman Quentin Richardson and cash. Milicic is scheduled to earn $7.5 million next season in the final year of a three-year deal he received from the Griz in 2007; Richardson has a player option for next season at $8.7 million.
If the teams go through with the trade, Milicic would join his fourth team since Detroit infamously gambled on him in 2003 with the pick immediately after LeBron James ... and right before Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. But it's believed that Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni hasn't been able to kick his long-standing interest in seeing what he can get out of the perpetually, uh, casual 24-year-old. Despite his unquestioned standing as one of the biggest draft busts in league history, Milicic would have to be considered an intriguing one-year rental for the go-go-go Knicks given his length, mobility, passing skills and age.
Strong indications persist that the Pistons will go ahead with their expected hard push for Chicago Bulls free agent-to-be Ben Gordon starting July 1, even though Rip Hamilton's contract extension hasn't even kicked in yet.
So you also can expect to keep hearing Hamilton's name surfacing in trade proposals, in spite of all his history in Detroit, because the Pistons can't possibly find a way to make room for Gordon, Hamilton and Rodney Stuckey. And then you have to consider the rumblings on our radar about how Rip and Pistons coach Michael Curry are not exactly sharing the same worldview.
Unrelated but undeniably intriguing Warriors tidbit: Slender rookie Anthony Randolph, also known as the closest thing to an untouchable on the Warriors' payroll, has gained 20 pounds and grown an inch to nearly 7 feet since the end of this past season.
Chicago, by all accounts, has been increasingly open in its willingness to move power forward Tyrus Thomas. Kirk Hinrich, meanwhile, is said to be prominent on Portland's wish list given the Blazers' growing pessimism about persuading Phoenix to part with Steve Nash via trade and their ability to sign Jason Kidd away from Dallas.
The larger holes that Cleveland's exit in the Eastern Conference finals created on the wing and in its frontcourt rotation, coupled with the Lakers' championship run and subsequent deep desire to re-sign Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza, have increased the Mavs' confidence when it comes to re-signing Kidd, who has been linked with those two teams for months.
In case you missed it on NBA TV this past weekend, perhaps the most well-sourced Pacers expert in the media -- TNT's Reggie Miller -- said he expects Indy to deal T.J. Ford or Jarrett Jack to make room for a new point guard on draft day. After averaging a career-high 13.1 points per game last season, Jack actually becomes a restricted free agent July 1.
Yet you can see the larger point: Someone on the inside appears to have told Miller that one of those two definitely won't be back next season with the Pacers, who likewise are still trying to rid themselves of Jamaal Tinsley.
When he's done lording over the draft with his four first-round picks, Kahn is expected to target a young coach to take over his young team. That's one of the reasons ESPN's Mark Jackson has been widely billed as the favorite for the job, ahead of ex-Toronto Raptors coach Sam Mitchell in spite of Mitchell's status as a longtime favorite of Wolves owner Glen Taylor.
Bonus Wolves nugget: Kahn's willingness to take on Darius Songaila, who is scheduled to earn $4.5 million next season, looks like the clincher that persuaded Washington to take Minnesota's offer over New York's for the Wizards' lottery pick: Randy Foye and Mike Miller in exchange for No. 5, Etan Thomas, Oleksiy Pecherov and Songaila. Shedding Songaila wasn't an option in a deal with the Knicks built around Wizards ex Larry Hughes.
Why is Marcus Camby said to be available in Clipperland so soon after being frequently described as off-limits leading up to this past season's February trade deadline? Because the Clips have discovered this month that they can't move Zach Randolph or Chris Kaman unless they're also willing to move down from No. 1 in Thursday's draft order. Which they obviously have zero interest in considering.
The Clips also love bargain-find frontcourt man DeAndre Jordan, so Camby -- whose defensive pedigree and expiring $9.7 million salary make him a hugely popular trade target -- is the big man easiest for L.A. to move to make room for the incoming Blake Griffin.
We're told that management also has decreed that assistant coach Kim Hughes will not be let go -- unlike the rest of Mike Dunleavy's staff -- to keep Hughes in place as a potential interim successor to Dunleavy in the unlikely event that the Clips and their under-fire coach/GM part ways during the season. A parting remains unlikely even if Hughes hangs on because, as you've surely heard dozens of times by now, Dunleavy still has two years left on his contract worth more than $10 million.
Bryant, remember, owns the only no-trade clause in the NBA. Dallas was on Bryant's short wish list of potential trade destinations only if Nowitzki would have been there waiting as a teammate. If the teams had ever gotten close on a Dirk-for-Kobe swap, Bryant would have nixed it, just as he was never going to accept a trade to the Bulls if L.A. was getting Luol Deng.
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.
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