Monday , Feb , 21 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

NBA Trade deadline

It’s hard to believe, but the NBA’s trading deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m. (et). Teams that are in the middle of the playoff race will be trying to get stronger, while clubs that are suffering through a tough season will attempt to get rid of big contacts and free up salary cap space for a brighter future.

Thursday could be a very busy day around the league, or the deadline could come and go without any trades. Rumors will be flying, and everyone will be dreaming up trades that will see star players changing addresses. One thing is for sure, there will be a lot of nervous players around the NBA waiting for the deadline to pass.

The one important thing to remember is that it is very difficult to make trades in the NBA because of the rules under the salary cap. In order for some deals to be completed, a third team and sometimes even a fourth has to be included in the transaction.

Here are some clubs that could be busy on the phones before Thursday’s deadline passes.

ATLANTA HAWKS – The Hawks will try and move Antoine Walker, who is in first season with Atlanta. Walker is in the final year of a big contract ($14.6 million) and is attractive to a lot of teams around the league. The 28-year- old forward leads Atlanta in scoring and rebounding this season.

The Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers are all possible destinations for Walker. In order to obtain Walker it will cost a team young players and a draft pick. Don’t be surprised if Atlanta keeps Walker just to get the salary cap relief, as the Hawks are still very much in the rebuilding mode.

BOSTON CELTICS – Guard Gary Payton could be headed back to the Western Conference. The 36-year-old veteran is in the final year of his contract and would much rather be on a team in the West. The Minnesota Timberwolves will try and acquire the nine-time All-Star before the deadline expires. Sacramento could also have some interest in dealing for Payton.

The Celtics will also try and pick up a veteran who can either rebound or light it up from the outside. It won’t be an exciting trade, but it should be news worthy.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS – The Cavaliers will try very hard to acquire shooting guard Michael Redd from the Milwaukee Bucks. Cleveland will dangle power forward Drew Gooden in a possible deal, but the Cavs will have to be very creative if they want to land Redd, who played in the 2004 All-Star Game.

If the Cavaliers find that they are not going to be able to make a deal with the Bucks, they could turn their attention to Utah’s Gordan Giricek.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS – Lamar Odom has not jelled with All-Star Kobe Bryant like the Lakers were hoping he would. The Lakers will entertain offers for the 25- year-old forward, who should have plenty of value on the open market. Sacramento is one possible trading partner for the Lakers, while New York and Philadelphia could also jump into the action.

It would take a lot to acquire Odom. The Kings have what it takes to get a deal done, but Sacramento and the Lakers are Pacific Division rivals and it would be hard to see those two franchises coming together on such a major deal. New York could offer Kurt Thomas along with some other players and maybe draft picks, but that probably won’t be enough. If the Lakers simply want to rid themselves of Odom and his big contract, they might want to talk to the Sixers about acquiring forward Glenn Robinson, who is in the last year of lucrative contract, and one of Philadelphia’s younger players like Samuel Dalembert. A deal with Philly would only happen if the Lakers decide they just don’t want Odom anymore.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS – The Bucks’ phone will be ringing off the hook to see what it will take to acquire Michael Redd, who wants a long-term contract for the maximum money allowed. Milwaukee is not sure if it wants to make the investment in the Ohio State product, but when all is said and done the Bucks will see that they have a very special player in Redd and they will end up paying him the big bucks.

What about Redd and Keith Van Horn to Sacramento for Peja Stojakovic and Bobby Jackson, who is on the IL with a wrist injury and could miss the remainder of the season? Just a thought.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES – Minnesota has been one of the biggest disappointments in the NBA so far this season. The Timberwolves still have a chance to make the playoffs and will look to try and help their chance at the deadline.

Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell will hear their names mentioned in all kinds of rumors. Both players have had poor seasons and as a result could have new homes by Thursday’s deadline. Boston and Minnesota could swap Cassell for Payton, while Miami or New York may have some interest in bring Sprewell back to the Eastern Conference.

NEW YORK KNICKS – It would be hard to imagine New York president of basketball operations Isiah Thomas not making a trade, as the Knicks are in the midst of a disappointing season but are still in the hunt in the very weak Atlantic Division.

The Knicks could use forwards Kurt Thomas or Mike Sweetney as trade bait, but they would also love to get rid of the big contracts of Allan Houston and Tim Thomas. Isiah Thomas will work the phones, but he will find it difficult to find a trading partner.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS – Disgruntled forward Glenn Robinson has not played a single game for the Sixers this season. The Purdue product is in the final year of lucrative contract and could possibly be moved if Philadelphia finds the right trading partner. The 76ers best move here is to keep Robinson away from the club and let his big contract fall of the books.

Teams will call Philadelphia about youngsters Samuel Dalembert, Willie Green and Kyle Korver, but team president and general manager Billy King will be reluctant to move any of the three unless the deal is too good to pass up.

SACRAMENTO KINGS – The Kings have been rumored to be exploring the possibility of trading three-time All-Star Peja Stojakovic. The sharp-shooting forward is having a solid season, but he is not thrilled with his current situation in Sacramento and may welcome a change of scenery.

One rumor had Sacramento sending Stojakovic and injured guard Bobby Jackson to the Lakers for forward Lamar Odom. It would be hard to believe that the Kings and Lakers would make a major deal with each other. Don’t be shocked if the Knicks make a play for Stojakovic.