Posted: Friday January 28, 2005 7:52PM; Updated: Friday January 28, 2005 10:16PM
Antoine Walker's expiring contract makes him a prime candidate to have a new address by the trade deadline.
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With the NBA trade deadline less than a month away, the rumor mill is cranking up again. Ron Artest, Antoine Walker, Latrell Sprewell, Gary Payton, Jalen Rose, Donyell Marshall and Eddie Jones are just some of the bigger names being mentioned. Whether any will actually change uniforms is pure speculation, but it makes for fun reading.
Perhaps the most intriguing new report involves Artest, the Pacers' suspended All-Star swingman. According to the Chicago Tribune, there has been talk of a deal in which Indiana would send Artest and Scot Pollard to the Hawks for Walker. Unfortunately, this trade is impossible because the salaries don't match up. It would take Austin Croshere instead of Pollard to make it work, and that's something the Hawks probably wouldn't do.
However, in some ways an Artest-Walker deal would make some sense. The Pacers would get another needed scorer in Walker, and since he is a free agent after the season, Indiana could let him go at that time if it doesn't work out. Meanwhile, the Hawks could get a player in Artest who won't cost them anything this season (since he's not getting paid while on suspension) and seems to fit in well with coach Mike Woodson's long-term vision of a defensive-minded athletic team.
With Artest, Josh Smith and Al Harrington, the Hawks would have a pretty good perimeter nucleus. But Atlanta would obviously have to weigh seriously investing so much in a player with Artest's history of personal problems. It seems hard to believe they would do it, especially if it also entailed taking on Croshere's big contract.
Like Artest, T'wolves swingman Sprewell also finds himself the subject of much trade speculation. Recently there were reports of a possible T'wolves deal with the Heat for Jones, which both sides vehemently denied. While a Spree-for-Jones swap could help shake Minnesota out of its season-long doldrums, the T'wolves were said to be leery about taking on the remaining two years and $30 million left on Jones' contract.
Still, T'wolves president Kevin McHale has to think seriously about trading Sprewell, who has not endeared himself to Minnesota fans this season with his contract beefs and lesser play on the court. In Monday's win over Detroit, the 34-year-old swingman reportedly got into a name-calling situation with coach Flip Saunders after he was yanked from the game. The T'wolves for now are willing to be patient, especially since they're on a four-game win streak, but they don't want to let this season slip away. It is quite possible Minnesota will make some kind of move, involving either Sprewell, Sam Cassell or Troy Hudson before the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
Like former teammates McHale and Larry Bird, Celtics GM Danny Ainge also has been actively seeking deals. He reportedly has discussed sending veteran forward Walter McCarty to the Suns for a second-round pick (see next page). Payton also came out recently and said he expected to be dealt soon to either the Kings or T'wolves. It might just be a case of wishful thinking on the part of the Glove, however, since neither Sacramento nor Minnesota appears to have the right players (and contracts) to make a deal match up under league trade rules.
Then there are the Raptors, who are quietly staying afloat in the weak Atlantic Division. GM Rob Babcock has a valuable piece in forward Marshall, who is in the last year of a contract that pays him $5 million. But Babcock reportedly is offering Marshall only as a package deal with Rose (two more years, $32.5 million), making any such swap infinitely more complicated. The Suns, Pacers, T'wolves, Sixers and Knicks are among the many teams that would love to have Marshall, but it is doubtful they are willing or able to swallow Rose as part of the package.