What impact will the trade of Rasheed Wallace and Wesley Person have on the Trail Blazers? How did the deal come about?
Here are answers to some of the major questions.
How good are Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Theo Ratliff as players?
Abdur-Rahim, who just turned 27, has been a model of consistency through his eight-year career, including All-Star seasons in 1995-96 and 1996-97. The 6-9, 245-pound forward has averaged 20.7 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting .465 through his career. He has a great midrange jumper and can score inside in a variety of ways.
'His talent speaks for itself,' Atlanta coach Terry Stotts says. 'Everyone wants to find fault with players, and so they are going to say he's not a good defender, but I don't think that's fair. He gives defensive effort. He pays attention to game plans. The only knock on him could be that he hasn't been to the playoffs.'
Ratliff, 30, has very little offensive game, but he leads the NBA in blocked shots (3.13 per game). The 6-10, 235-pound center, who made the All-Star Game in 2001, is a two-time NBA blocks leader.
'Theo had seven blocks in a win over Boston last week, and his blocks are momentum-changers,' Stotts says. 'A guy goes at the rim for a dunk, and he will block it.'
Danny Ainge, the Celtics' director of basketball operations, provides a different perspective.
'He is a shot-blocker, and I love his length and athleticism,' Ainge says. 'He is a high-energy pogo stick. But he isn't close to the same category of defender as (Detroit's) Ben Wallace. Theo is a guy who sometimes goes after blocks that he shouldn't, leaving his man open on the glass for an easy put-back.'
How are Abdur-Rahim and Ratliff as people?
'First-rate,' Stotts says. 'Theo is good people all the way. Shareef is one of the best guys I have known in the game of basketball. It was really tough for us to part with him. It was a pleasure to coach him.
'Portland will be the best team he has ever been on. He has had to shoulder a lot of responsibility through his career, and he has done it gracefully and with a lot of class.'
Abdur-Rahim has played mostly power forward through his career. How will he do at small forward, and will he complement Zach Randolph?
Abdur-Rahim played small forward early in his career with Vancouver. He is not the defender Wallace is, and he is not a 3-point shooter. But he is a better rebounder than Wallace, and he will attract plenty of defensive attention because he can flat-out score, which should help Randolph.
'We will work together real well,' Randolph says. 'He will take pressure off me at the offensive end. Defenses can't focus so much on me. I'm looking forward to it.'
Randolph spends time in Atlanta during the summers and has developed a friendship with Abdur-Rahim, whose offseason home is in Atlanta.
'He has a gym at his house, and my rookie year, I would go over there and work out a lot,' Randolph says. 'He is a real good friend. He told me a lot about my game, about what I need to do to be successful in this league.'
A news conference scheduled for Monday afternoon announcing the trade was canceled, then replaced with one late Monday night. Why?
Atlanta had a game with Dallas, and without Abdur-Rahim, Ratliff and Dan Dickau (also part of the trade), the Hawks would have been down to six players.
'That was the biggest factor,' Blazer General Manager John Nash says. 'Sure, I was concerned someone was going to get hurt. I watched that game with my Adam's apple coming into my throat a few times. I gave some thought about holding out Rasheed and (Wesley) Person from our practice session that day, too.
'But we had a few things we needed to do to finish the deal, and you never have a trade until you actually have a trade.'
Weeks ago, a rumor had Wallace going to Atlanta for Abdur-Rahim and Chris Crawford. Any truth?
'There were a number of different scenarios we discussed with (Atlanta GM) Billy Knight,' Nash says. 'Initially we talked about Rasheed for Rahim, and there were other players in and out of the mix. Subsequently, Billy mentioned that they might move Theo, and that Wes Person's contract (which ends this season) would be attractive. It wasn't until last week that we began to talk about the possibility of putting the thing together as it actually happened.'
Why would Atlanta take Wallace?
Primarily because his contract is up at the end of the season, and the money saved is substantial.
Stotts says he spoke with Phoenix assistant coach Tim Grgurich, who was with Portland from 1996-99, about Wallace.
'Grg spoke very highly of Rasheed,' Stotts says. 'He is a very talented player. This is a great opportunity for him and Wesley. Rasheed has the ability to be a dominant player in the East, and crazy as it sounds, we are still in the mix for the playoffs. Adding Rasheed and Wesley keeps us there.'
Might Wallace sign a free-agent deal with Atlanta after the season?
Highly unlikely, though Stotts says this: 'Whether Rasheed stays with us or moves on, he will want to play well. We are open to having him back. We haven't made the trade thinking, 'No way,' or thinking, 'We definitely want him back.' '
Which Portland players lose out in this deal?
Dale Davis, who was already losing playing time and now has added competition at center. Vladimir Stepania, who says he wants to talk to Blazer management about his role here. Darius Miles and Ruben Patterson, who will move back in the pecking order at small forward with the addition of Abdur-Rahim.
'If I lose (playing time) because of this, I will definitely have something to say about it,' Patterson says.
Davis says he has spoken with his agent, David Lee, about his situation and will soon talk to Blazer management about his future. Davis will make $10.1 million next season, the last of his contract.
'If I am not going to play, it is better for me to go somewhere else,' says Davis, who is earning $9 million this season, making trade possibilities difficult.
If Davis is deemed expendable, the Blazers should consider trading him to Seattle for Brent Barry. Is there a team more in need of a center than the Sonics? And Barry's name is on the market. To make the deal work under salary-cap guidelines, the Sonics would have to include another player or players making at least $2 million. If that means taking back an overpaid player, so be it. Barry's multidimensional game would be a superb asset to the Portland attack.
Will Portland make another trade before next Thursday's deadline?
Maybe. The Blazers have no true back-up to Derek Anderson at shooting guard now. Miles, or perhaps Qyntel Woods, could get some time there. Or Portland might part with Woods in a trade.
'We don't have a shooter like Wesley was,' Nash says. 'We are a little out of balance at shooting guard right now. I don't know if we will be able to straighten that out before (Thursday). But you are never done talking.'
Where does Dickau fit in Portland's plans?
The 6-foot former Prairie High star was a throw-in on the deal, and he has competition for back-up point guard from recent signees Omar Cook and Eddie Gill.
Cook, on his second 10-day contract, probably will stay through the end of the season. Gill has guaranteed money for the rest of the season. Dickau has a nice shooting touch, but his quickness and ballhandling are suspect. His best chance to make an impression is by knocking down shots in his limited opportunities.
What is Maurice Cheeks' future as Blazer coach?
With Randy Ayers' firing as Philadelphia's coach this week, rumors are flying that Cheeks will be coaching the 76ers next season. Cheeks, under contract with Portland through 2006, wanted to interview for the Philly job when it was open last summer but was denied that opportunity by then-Blazer President Bob Whitsitt.
Cheeks spent 11 years as a player and seven years as an assistant coach in Philadelphia and has said he would one day like to be the head coach there.
'It's natural for me to feel that way,' he says. 'And it's natural for people to ask that question. I anticipated as much when I heard Randy was fired. I don't want to say anything about it, though. I am coaching the Trail Blazers, and all of my energies are here.'