The trade deadline is less than two weeks away, and everybody, from LA to New Jersey and from Seattle to Miami, is talking. That doesn't mean much is going to get done.
Too often, the days leading to the deadline are much ado about nothing. In 1995, for instance, the only deal in the 48 hours prior to the deadline was Dallas acquiring Scottie Brooks from Houston for the immortal Morlon Wiley and a second-round pick. The next day, the Rockets waived Wiley.
But trades are great for a lot of reasons. For players, who might benefit from a change of scenery. For coaches, who turn state's evidence on overpaid bozos they want to unload. For fans, who need a little midseason stimulus and something new to salivate over.
Here are some that could happen working within salary-cap restrictions:
• Phoenix's Penny Hardaway to Memphis for Stromile Swift, Nick Anderson and Grant Long.
Hardaway, once one of the game's top five players and still only 30, is a disgrace at what he is making (five years left, $65 million), and the Suns would love to unload his salary. Maybe he could be reborn in his hometown, and the Grizzlies need talent. Swift is a second-year player, 6-10 and active, only 22 and with enough upside that Memphis is reluctant to part with him.
• Utah's Karl Malone and Greg Ostertag to Dallas for Juwan Howard and Shawn Bradley.
This hurts doubly because Malone should retire in a Jazz uniform, and if he takes his still considerable talents somewhere, the greatest power forward of all time shouldn't suffer the indignity of lazy-bum Ostertag going along for the ride. But the Mailman wants a title, likes Dallas and knows that owner Mark Cuban will do everything in his power to bring one to the Mavericks.
With the talent on hand, it would be interesting the next season and a half. The Jazz get useful talent in return for their aging superstar, unload Ostertag's hefty contract and land a potential defensive force in Bradley, a Utah native who has never earned the respect of Dallas coach Don Nelson.
• Milwaukee's Glenn Robinson, Sam Cassell, Mark Pope and Jason Caffey to Indiana for Jalen Rose, Travis Best and Austin Croshere.
Pacers get scoring help on the front line for Jermaine O'Neal and a veteran point guard to work with rookie Jamaal Tinsley. Bucks gain multitalented Rose, unhappy now playing for Isiah Thomas in Indy, plus a big, talented guy in Croshere, who simply has lost his confidence and needs a new venue.
• New York's Latrell Sprewell and Marcus Camby to Denver for Nick Van Exel, Raef LaFrentz and Scott Williams.
That's some firepower (however combustible) and rebounding/shot-blocking talent going Denver's way. The Nuggets would be getting rid of an unhappy Van Exel and a contract (five years, $55 million) they want to shed, though they'd be taking back a nice bit of scratch, too. If I'm Nuggets General Manager Kiki Vandeweghe, I hate to give up LaFrentz, a young big guy who can shoot and block shots. When you're 14-31, though, desperate measures are in store.
• Golden State's Marc Jackson and Erick Dampier to the LA Clippers for Michael Olowokandi, Lamar Odom and Keyon Dooling.
Jackson has veto power on trades and doesn't have the Clippers on his list, but as the deadline nears, he'll be itching to go anywhere. Dampier has a history of injuries but is better than the underachieving Olowokandi, who can be a restricted free agent at season's end. The talented Odom has failed so many drugs tests, people are confusing him with Steve Howe. Warriors would be getting the better talent here, but you have to understand, Clippers owner Donald Sterling isn't going to pay all his young talent in the future, so someone must go.
• Memphis' Jason Williams and Nick Anderson to Chicago for Charles Oakley and the No. 1 draft pick, which would reap North Carolina's Jason Williams. Just for the fun of it.
CONGRATULATIONS, FELLAS: No player in NBA history comes close to Rasheed Wallace's propensity for drawing technical fouls. After slumping through the first half of the season, Mr. T is coming on strong, picking up five in a four-game stretch to hike his league lead to 17 and improve his total to 96 over the last 2 1/2 seasons.
But in glorifying 'Sheed, this column probably has overlooked teammate Bonzi Wells, whose two techs and ejection against Denver pushes him firmly into second place in the NBA with 13 T's.
Wells is sneaky good at trying to make referees look bad, and it is beginning to reap dividends.
Wallace has taught his younger teammate well.
Coach Maurice Cheeks, incidentally, is of the mind that all those technicals that Wallace is piling up are just fine. Cheeks goes into lecture mode on the subject when the media is around. Mo, after Sunday's win over Chicago:
'Rasheed has emotions just like anyone else. I have no problem with him when he gets thrown out of the game. If you are not playing the game, you maybe cannot understand where emotions take you sometimes É any time something happens to him on the court, I'm going to back him because he's my player, just like all the rest of the players are.'
So, really, the problem is with reporters and fans who are critical of Wallace's on-court deportment. They haven't played the game, at least at the professional level. And they just don't understand. Enablers such as Cheeks have, and do.