Let the Hoopla Begin

By Alex H.
It'll be tenterhooks for the likes of Paul Pierce and Josh Smith as the NBA's trade deadline approaches.

After what was one of the most unimpressive All-Star weekends in history – not just recent history, history – the NBA focus now switches to the impending trade deadline.

This year’s trade deadline expires at 3:00 PM ET on Thursday (Feb. 21).

Contenders will be looking to bolster rosters while the down-and-outs of the league may be looking to ship out anything worth a buck fifty and look to rebuild next year. Then there are those that will be looking to take a straight razor to their payroll in a bid to avoid the upcoming salary cap penalties.

Things are about to get very busy in the NBA. At least, they could be about to get very busy, even if Monday was decidedly quiet.

History tells us that with the trade deadline comes movement. Sometimes that movement is high-profile. Other times it’s merely role players and those on the fringe shipping out to new climes. Whatever the reason, the deadline encourages player movement for all 30 NBA franchises.

Last season’s Mar. 15 trade deadline saw a buzz of 12th hour activity.

Monta Ellis headed to Milwaukee from Golden State with Andrew Bogut heading in the opposite direction. Stephen Jackson wound up in San Antonio. Gerald Wallace found his way to the Nets. Javale McGee made the journey from Washington to Denver with Nene going the other way. But even that didn’t live up to the blockbuster year of 2011.

With contracts due to expire and dissention in the ranks, 2011 saw Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups make their way to New York from Denver in a deal that essentially saw the two franchises swap lineups, while Deron Williams headed east from Utah to New Jersey.

Further back, the Lakers prized Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies (for bench players and the draft rights to Marc Gasol) in 2008, a move that would see the Lakers win the NBA title the following season.

The high profile moves don’t end there either. Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain, Alex English, Dominique Williams and Clyde Drexler have all been party to trade deadline deals.

Chamberlain headed to Philadelphia from San Francisco (Warriors) in 1965. English joined the Nuggets from Indiana in 1980. Wilkins was traded to the Clippers from Atlanta in 1994. Drexler left Portland for Houston and an NBA championship in 1995.

Future Hall of Famers Shaquille O’Neal and Dikembe Mutombo both know what it’s like to pack your bags midseason. Mutombo left Atlanta for Philadelphia in 2001, the first of a series of moves that would close out his career. O’Neal found himself packing boxes as the Miami Heat traded him to Phoenix in 2008.

As history tells us, nobody is immune to the deadline deal trade. Well, unless you have a no-trade clause in your contract.

This week’s biggest speculation has surrounded Celtics forward/center Kevin Garnett. The Los Angeles Clippers are reportedly interested in making a move for the 18-year veteran, with DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe named as trade bait.

Two problems: Garnett doesn’t want to be traded and Garnett has a no-trade clause in his contract. As far as he’s concerned he’s going nowhere.

Now, here’s the thing. Whilst many players will happily tell the world one thing and baulk at the first opportunity, when Garnett says something, you better believe it.

Remember when he made the move to Bean Town? Garnett made it very clear that he was leaving Minnesota to win a championship and not because he had had his fill of the franchise. Dwight Howard might benefit from that sort of honesty.

Had the Timberwolves had enough to contend, Garnett wouldn’t have shipped out. In his mind, the Celtics have the tools to contend, despite injuries, so he’s staying put. For the rest of his career.

So don’t put any stock in that particular trade. However, that opens up talk of Paul Pierce heading out of town.

Can you imagine Pierce in anything but a Celtics uniform? Of course not, but there have been plenty of odd-looking sights out there before. Hakeem Olajuwon in a Raptors jersey? Patrick Ewing in the green of Seattle? Jordan in a Wizards uniform?

If anybody’s going from Boston – which in all honesty is unlikely – it’ll be Pierce. Had Rajon Rondo still been healthy we might be talking differently.

So, what about Josh Smith?

The Atlanta forward is the other big name making the rounds at the moment. The Hawks’ front office apparently wants rid of the nine-year man who – like Garnett – came to the NBA direct out of high school. Or to be more accurate, the Hawks want to get something in return before Smith’s contract expires this summer.

Latest reports have Phoenix out of the picture, which leaves (supposedly) Milwaukee, Boston, and Brooklyn still trying to come to arrangements.

So, Smith for Pierce? Stranger things have certainly happened.

How about, Smith to Brooklyn? Smith for Kris Humphries? The Nets will likely have to sweeten the deal somewhat (draft picks would prove valuable currency here) but again, stranger things have happened.

Smith’s future, along with that of Paul Pierce and the multitude of other players currently checking their cell phones by the second at this time, will be apparent in about 36 hours. Ahead of that, it’s anyone’s guess. One thing’s for sure though; GMs, owners and coaches will be looking long and hard at how they can change the current NBA landscape.