Much Ado About Nothing: The 5 Biggest Trade Deadline Teases

You can blame it on the Grizzlies.

Ever since they traded Pau Gasol to the Lakers for a bag of peanuts and some slightly used underwear, NBA teams have become more and more fickle about pulling the proverbial trigger. With the state of the economy, and some owners desperately trying to cut payroll before the cap and luxury tax thresholds decline, it’s a buyer’s market out there. And those buyers are looking for Gasol-type deals. On the flip side, Chris Wallace took all kinds of grief over that trade and general managers around the league don’t want to follow in his footsteps.

After two or three weeks of covering all of this trade chatter, the biggest deal to speak of is the Shawn Marion/Jermaine O’Neal swap and that happened almost a week ago. Sure, guys like Brad Miller, Andres Nocioni, John Salmons, Rafer Alston, Larry Hughes, Tim Thomas, Chris Wilcox and Drew Gooden changed zip codes, but I doubt any fans out there are sporting wood at the idea that one or more of these players is joining their team.

This year’s trade deadline was mostly about teams setting themselves up financially for the next two summers of free agency. Even though there were a number of big names bandied about, the Marion/O’Neal deal is the only semi-blockbuster trade of the season. And, barring some last-minute, late-breaking deal, we have these five teams to blame…

5. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs were in talks with the Nets about acquiring Vince Carter and also spoke with the Bucks about Richard Jefferson. Either of those players would have been a nice addition, but the Spurs just don’t have the pieces (or the balls) to pull off a trade like that. They were willing to trade for Carter, but they didn’t want to give up Roger Mason or George Hill. So they offer the Nets Bruce Bowen and Fabricio Oberto. Great, the numbers don’t even add up. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t really think that the Spurs should have given up Mason and/or Hill to acquire Carter. They’re arguably the second-best team in the West and their current lineup, if healthy, is likely to give the Lakers fits if the two teams meet in the playoffs with a less-than-100% Andrew Bynum. Plus the Spurs are notoriously conservative when it comes to messing with their chemistry. Jefferson wouldn’t have been a problem in that area but Carter might have been. So the Spurs stand pat. Shocker.

Read the rest after the jump...

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NBA trade rumors: Shaq to Cleveland?

6/16/09 Update: For discussion about the more recent Shaq rumors, click here.

6/25 Update: Shaq has been reportedly traded to Cleveland.

The trade deadline is at 3 PM ET today, and the rumors are flying fast and furious. I’m not going to spend too much time on each one, but here’s a rundown of the rumors…

Yahoo! Sports says that the Cavs are considering acquiring Shaquille O’Neal at the cost of Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic. I’m not sure what the upside is here for the Suns other than the fact that they’d get about $5 million in cap relief next season when Pavlovic’s salary comes off the books.

– The NBA league office apparently sent out a memo warning of drastic reductions in the salary cap and luxury tax thresholds, which may have a few teams scrambling today.

– There was some talk of a Tracy McGrady-for-Baron Davis deal, but that rumor seems to be dead.

– The Suns are reportedly still trying to pry talent away from the Grizzlies, offering up Amare Stoudemire for Mike Conley, Rudy Gay, Hakim Warrick and a 2009 first round draft pick. Unsurprisingly, the Grizzlies have declined.

– The Bucks are trying to get out from under Richard Jefferson’s contract and they’ve been making some headway with the Blazers and Cavs about Raef LaFrentz and Wally Szczerbiak, respectively.

– The Cavs have been trying to pry Antwan Jamison away from the Wizards, who might be more willing to deal today with the news about the (possible) significant drop in the luxury tax threshold.

– The Vince Carter-to-the-Spurs talk has died down because they don’t want to give up Roger Mason or George Hill in the deal. Apparently, they want the Nets to give Carter away.

Deadline day is like a poker game with 20 people playing. Teams are holding out until the last minute hoping that they can get the best deal. Complicating matters is the state of the economy and the financial strength of the NBA. There could be a flurry of trades today or everyone could stand pat.

Should the Spurs trade for Vince Carter?

There has been some talk of late that the Spurs are interested in acquiring Vince Carter.

Duncan says he would love to have Carter as a teammate, and why not? At age 32, Carter remains one of the NBA’s most productive small forwards, averaging 20.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists.

Duncan hedges when the price for Carter reportedly includes Roger Mason Jr., Bruce Bowen, George Hill and Fabricio Oberto.

“I’d hate to see that many guys go,” Duncan said after an All-Star appearance he enjoyed, largely because of its brevity.

If general manager R.C. Buford can find a way to get Carter from the Nets without including so many rotation players — a Robert Horry sign-and-trade could be part of such a solution — it is easy to imagine Duncan giving such a deal the blessing Popovich likely would seek.

Here’s a look at the proposed trade in the ESPN Trade Machine. Kurt Thomas could also be substituted for Oberto.

Of the four Spurs that would be heading to New Jersey, the team would miss Roger Mason, Jr. the most.

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Spurs’ supporting cast keys big win in Boston

The Spurs posted an impressive win over the Celtics, 105-99, which marks the first time this season that Boston has lost two consecutive games at home.

Check out the Spurs’ possessions down the stretch:

3:20 Matt Bonner misses 25-foot three point jumper
2:34 Manu Ginobili misses 23-foot three point jumper
1:57 Matt Bonner bad pass (Kevin Garnett steals)
1:19 Roger Mason misses 27-foot three point jumper
0:45 Matt Bonner makes 14-foot two point shot
0:20 Roger Mason makes 24-foot three point jumper

It’s not often that you see an NBA team go away from their stars for that long in crunch time. The trio of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker only combined for one shot attempt in six possessions over three full minutes. The Spurs started that stretch leading, 90-87, fell behind 93-90, and then ultimately went ahead, 95-93, on the made shots by Bonner and Mason.

Bonner co-led the Spurs with 23 points on 10-17 shooting, and led the team in shot attempts. George Hill was 3-3 and scored all seven of his points in the fourth quarter with Duncan and Parker on the bench.

Kevin Garnett led the Celtics with 26 points, but after hitting two jumpers to give his team the lead, he missed a key 17-footer with 0:28 to play.

Spurs nip Lakers in a beauty

The NBA regular season is tedious enough to put even the most ardent basketball fan to sleep, but there are a few matchups that will perk those ears up real fast — and the Lakers/Spurs is one of them.

The two teams didn’t disappoint tonight. It looked like the Spurs were going to win this one in a walk — they were up 100-89 with 8:05 to play, but the Lakers fought back behind Kobe Bryant (29p, 10r, 7a) and Josh Powell, who hit three clutch shots as part of a 11-2 run. With Pau Gasol guarding him (and Andrew Bynum sent to the bench) Tim Duncan (20p, 10r, 8a) made a pair of shots to give the Spurs a 109-108 lead with 0:28 to play.

Sixteen seconds later, Kobe made a clutch three-pointer to give the Lakers a two point lead. He even did the Sam Cassell “big balls” dance as the teams went to a timeout…

But Kobe celebrated too early. On the Spurs’ next possession, Roger Mason hit a clutch two-pointer from the corner and was fouled awkwardly from behind by Derek Fisher. He hit the free throw to give the Spurs a one-point lead. The Spurs double-teamed Kobe on the next play and he gave the ball up to Trevor Ariza near the top of the key. Ariza drove and there was some (no-call) contact with Ginobili, and he was called for traveling. It wasn’t a travel, but the shot didn’t fall and the game was over anyway.

(Catch the highlights here.)

It was a nice comeback, but their vulnerability at small forward continues to plague the Lakers. Ariza is a good player, but right now he doesn’t seem comfortable making a play in the clutch. Smart teams are going to double Kobe to get the ball out of his hands. Unless you can force him into a difficult, deep trey, you’re better off taking your chances with Ariza, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom or whoever else is out there. I know I wouldn’t want to take the game-winner knowing that Kobe will be there bitching me out if I happen to miss.

As for the Spurs, they have to be feeling good about two of their offseason acquisitions — Roger Mason and George Hill. Mason has been clutch all season and he did a pretty nice job making life (somewhat) difficult for Kobe with little or no help. For a rookie, Hill looks confident and is a very capable backup for Tony Parker, who looked oddly out of sorts when the Lakers made their run.

It was a great game. The Lakers are still the class of the West, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this was a preview of the Conference Finals.

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