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Posted: Friday June 26, 2009 2:14AM; Updated: Friday June 26, 2009 11:12AM
Ian Thomsen Ian Thomsen >
INSIDE THE NBA

Weekly countdown (cont.)

4 huge moves

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Amar'e Stoudemire will make the up-tempo Warriors an interesting team next season.
AP

In the next section I'll also deal with Washington's trade with Minnesota ...

4. The Warriors' potential trade for Amar'e Stoudemire. Unlike the other deals in this category, this one made sense in basketball terms. As widely reported, the trade couldn't be completed until July 1 because of the base-year status of Warriors' center Andris Biedrins, who would be included in the package to Phoenix.

The Suns would also receive Stephen Curry, who was picked No. 7 by Golden State and would go to Phoenix as part of the deal. And so, in one day, the Suns shed their frontcourt of Shaquille O'Neal and Stoudemire and head into next season with a team led by Steve Nash, Jason Richardson and Curry.

I have recently criticized the Warriors for perpetually rebuilding for a future that never comes, but I won't be saying that any longer if they have Stoudemire. He will thrive in Don Nelson's offense with Monta Ellis pushing the ball. Once again, the Warriors are going to be a fun team to watch.

3. Shaquille O'Neal to the Cavaliers. In sending Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic to Phoenix, Cleveland satisfies its short-term and long-term ambitions.

For next season, it'll have a post presence who -- in combination with LeBron James -- will create open space for Mo Williams and his fellow shooters. Shaq will be fired up to win another championship while proving he's worthy of a new contract. He was third-team, all-NBA last season with Phoenix, and more of the same can be expected next year.

Because Shaq's contract is expiring, the Cavs can retain maximum cap space in 2010 to recruit a star free agent alongside LeBron (provided he decides to re-sign). That means they'll be positioned to win this season with him, and then over the next several years without him. It could be the best of both worlds -- pending LeBron's decision, of course.

2. Vince Carter goes to Orlando. The former All-Star was coming off one of his best seasons while providing leadership to the young Nets. When the Magic said they were willing to spend in order to remain in contention, they weren't exaggerating: Carter's contract runs another three years at $51 million, and in the exchange they gave up the contracts of Tony Battie and Rafer Alston, which both expire in 2010.

Carter is a go-to scorer, but he isn't a selfish player. In fact, he is a gifted passer, and coach Stan Van Gundy will surely insist that the ball keeps moving rather than allow it to stall when it goes to Carter. The next question is whether Orlando will be able to re-sign free agent Hedo Turkoglu, which would put it well over the luxury tax but also could push it back into the Finals.

1. Jamal Crawford to Atlanta. The Hawks gave up the small price of Acie Law and Speedy Claxton in exchange for Crawford, who will join with Joe Johnson to form a younger starting backcourt.

This trade is one example of an interesting new dynamic in the league. The deal was dreamed up by Hawks' director of pro personnel, Steve Rosenberry, who was assigned to scout rival NBA teams for potential acquisitions. "This is the first time I've had someone with that title," said Hawks GM Rick Sund of the pro-personnel job description. "Think of the money we spend scouting to make one NBA pick -- the attention and the focus we put on making that one pick. Having someone scout the NBA teams is a new position in the league, and more and more teams are doing it."

It only makes sense to invest in learning the behind-the-scenes facts of players currently in the NBA. Based on Rosenberry's recommendation, the Hawks now have one of the best clutch shooters in the league to pair with their All-Star in Johnson.

3 questions rescued from the spam folder

3. Most pundits seem to think the Wizards are "going for it" by trading for Mike Miller and Randy Foye. Even assuming the healthy return of Gilbert Arenas, does this team have the talent, and more important, commitment to defense, that will catapult it past the Magic, Cavs and Celtics next season?
-- John, Gaithersburg, Md.

I don't know if they'll surpass those other contenders, but the Wizards will surely be respected by the top teams in the East. Three minutes after I broke news of that trade, a GM from one of the East's top teams called to ask if I had the details right. He didn't like seeing Washington add so much firepower.

Flip Saunders will make the most of this team -- so long as Arenas is healthy.

2. So word is that Phil Jackson might just coach mostly home games for the Lakers next year. Can that sort of arrangement work? Won't the players likely tune out the substitute knowing that Phil can't rip them until they get back to L.A.? And what about the differing philosophies/styles?
-- Thomas H., San Diego

Thomas, count me among the minority who think this could and would work. Jackson likes to see his players work things out among themselves, though this would be taking that aim to an unprecedented extreme.

Jackson would be placing more leadership demands on Kobe Bryant which -- if successful -- would strengthen the team. In the meantime, Jackson would be pacing himself for the playoffs, which is the approach taken by contenders toward veteran players. And instead of handing the team over to Kurt Rambis (or Brian Shaw) and all at once, he would work his way in. It would be highly unusual, but I could imagine it working to their benefit.

1. Why does everyone always say that Michael Jordan is the greatest of all time, when Bill Russell has almost twice as many championships, and Wilt Chamberlain has way more personal records? In my book, Jordan was the greatest of his time and better than Bird and Magic. And where does George Mikan fit into this list?
-- John W. Fullwood, Bronx, N.Y.

In my book, Bill Russell is the greatest player of all time. He set the standards for leadership and teamwork, while establishing a new approach to defense, which makes him the most influential player of the history of the sport.

But the fairest way to measure players is to divide the NBA thus far into three generations, with Mikan as the greatest of his era, then Russell as the player who defined what the NBA should be, followed by Jordan as the dominant player of modern times.

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