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To trade or not to trade?

NBA general managers reluctant to make a big deal

Posted: Tuesday January 30, 2007 9:37AM; Updated: Tuesday January 30, 2007 6:33PM
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Vince Carter can become a free agent after the season, heightening the possibility of a trade before the Feb. 22 deadline.
Vince Carter can become a free agent after the season, heightening the possibility of a trade before the Feb. 22 deadline.
John W. McDonough
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A year ago the Minnesota Timberwolves were 19-21 and hoping to surge into the playoffs when they sent forward Wally Szczerbiak to Boston as part of a seven-player, three-draft-pick deal in which they received swingman Ricky Davis, center Mark Blount and guard Marcus Banks. But their newcomers had a hard time fitting in, and Minnesota went 14-28 thereafter, missing the postseason for a second straight year, which brought ever more criticism upon vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale.

That trade illustrates the risk in making a big move in the middle of a season: A deal that was supposed to make the Timberwolves better actually made them worse. But at least give McHale credit for sticking his neck out, which is more than a few of his rivals are willing to do.

"One thing I've learned in this job -- and I never mention names -- is that there are some [general managers] who don't run trade opportunities by their owners," says Celtics executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge, a former teammate of McHale's and his trade partner last season. "I won't say it's the majority, but there are some who feel it's safer to not make anything happen."

Another GM, who asked for anonymity, refers to those timid colleagues as "401(k) guys, because their main ambition is to keep their job and drive up their 401(k)." He adds, "In another week or so they're going to start calling everybody in the league, and rumors of those calls will leak out to show their market how busy they are, exploring every possibility -- and then they'll go back to their owner and say, 'We couldn't make the trade,' because of the salary cap or whatever excuse they can come up with. And at the end of the day they were never planning to do a freaking thing."

Indeed, as the Feb. 22 trade deadline approaches, the marketplace is unusually quiet. It's possible that the biggest name to switch teams this season was moved back in December, when the Denver Nuggets acquired guard Allen Iverson. McHale has made it clear that forward Kevin Garnett, the subject of abundant trade speculation last summer, is not on the block and will not be going anywhere -- barring an unexpected demand by KG for an immediate ticket out of Minnesota.

That leaves more aggressive executives, such as the Colangelos (Jerry in Phoenix, Bryan in Toronto), the Houston Rockets' Carroll Dawson and the Detroit Pistons' Joe Dumars, searching for willing partners.

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