By Charlie Zegers
RotoWire Staff Writer
The NBA trade winds are blowing so hard, the wind chill factor here at Barometer HQ is even lower than it was at Lambeau Field last night.
And my cheeks are even rosier than Tom Coughlin's.
The leading contenders to be packing their bags are, for the most part, the same as they've been for the last season-plus. But it looks like there are a couple of unsettled situations that may be holding up the bigger deals. Let's take a look:
Jermaine O'Neal's Knee
O'Neal's name has been floating in trade rumors for the last three seasons. The most recent and plausible scenario had him heading to New Jersey for Vince Carter. But any such discussion came to a sudden halt when stories surfaced that O'Neal is considering shutting himself down for the season to concentrate on rehabbing his balky knee (see below).
The inevitable question: is O'Neal's injury really that bad? Or is this some sort of ploy aimed at getting him more leverage in determining his next employer?
Damon Stoudamire's Buyout
A stunning percentage of the latest trade rumors seem to involve point guards. Contenders like Boston and Cleveland are reportedly looking to improve at that spot. Veterans like Mike Bibby, Andre Miller, Jason Williams and Sam Cassell have big "for sale" signs hanging around their necks. But the key to getting trades done might be ol' Mighty Mouse.
With rookie Mike Conley Jr., and promising soph Kyle Lowry on hand, Memphis doesn't need Damon Stoudamire. They're reportedly working on a buyout of his contract. A team like Boston might be waiting to see if Stoudamire hits the open market and is able to sign somewhere for a pro-rated portion of the veteran's minimum salary, instead of giving up an asset in a trade. We might not see any point guard deals completed until Stoudamire lands with his next team.
Isiah Thomas' Future
One of the more entertaining subplots in all this is the notion that general managers league-wide are waiting to see what Isiah Thomas will do. Already, there are reports that Zeke was turned down when he tried to send Zach Randolph to the Bucks, that he squashed a potential Ron Artest deal by refusing to include Nate Robinson and Renaldo Balkman, and that discussions with the Nets involving Vince Carter went nowhere.
There are two scenarios involving Thomas that would have a major impact on the trade deadline:
Scenario One: Desperation sets in, and he becomes willing to take on long-term money in the hopes of a quick fix. Several teams look to send the Knicks veterans in return for cheaper guys and/or picks.
Scenario Two: The Knicks make a change at the top. The new general manager immediately starts the next rebuilding effort, which could mean that players no one thought were available suddenly are. (As with Kyle Korver, when Ed Stefanski took over the Sixers' front office.)
Of course, there's a scenario three, in which Isiah keeps his job and stands pat. But that's not much fun for anyone, so we'll dismiss it completely.
Around the League:
Every week, we'll use this space to track players whose fantasy value is improving, declining, or uncertain. We're not particularly concerned with hot or cold streaks - all players toss up a 2-for-10 every now and again - unless they are extreme or seem to indicate an underlying problem or injury. Instead, we'll be looking at changes in playing time or role or skill level. Comments and questions are always welcome - just post 'em on the message board at the bottom of this page.
Mike Bibby (SAC): Bibby is expected to make his return to the starting lineup in Tuesday's game against the Nets. Can you say "Trade Showcase," boys and girls? Good!
Luke Walton (LAL): That whole "losing playing time to Trevor Ariza" thing? Yeah, forget about that. Ariza (see below) will be on the shelf for the next two months, which puts Walton very firmly back in control of the Lakers' three spot.
Linas Kleiza (DEN): Kleiza exploded on to the collective fantasy consciousness with a 41-point outburst on Thursday. He came back to Earth on Saturday, posting nine points... but you didn't really think he was going to keep putting up Kobe Bryant numbers, did you? He remains a solid play so long as he's getting regular minutes – and he'll get the minutes in the short term, with Kenyon Martin and Eduardo Najera ailing and Nene out.
Al Thornton (LAC): As the season goes on, Thornton's minutes and production have increased substantially. With another 14 points in Monday's loss, the rook is now averaging double figures in scoring (11.8 ppg) for the month of January.
Ryan Gomes (MIN): Gomes has been on a roll in January, averaging better than 14 points per game – including his career-high 35, with 11 boards, in Monday's win over the Warriors.
Andrew Bogut (MIL): Another great game by Bogut in the Martin Luther King Day matinee; 13 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks made for his sixth straight double-double.
Thabo Sefolosha (CHI): Getting additional playing time due to Luol Deng's sore Achilles, Sefolosha played over 35 minutes and finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds in Chicago's win over the Pistons on Saturday. He's a nice pickup if Deng, or any of Chicago's other wings, is sidelined for any length of time.
Yao Ming (HOU): The big guy isn't exactly noted for his defensive prowess, but maybe that should change. Yao has swatted multiple shots in eight straight games now, with three blocks on Monday.
Kareem Rush (IND): Rush continues to get run in Indiana's starting lineup, and he's making the most of the opportunity. The 25 points he scored on Monday set a new career high.
Andrei Kirilenko (UTA): Kirilenko played just nine minutes and was held scoreless on Monday, but it was fouls, and not his balky back, that pushed him to the bench. Continue to play him as you would normally.
Tracy McGrady (HOU): McGrady played his second post-knee injury game on Monday, coming off the bench to score 17 points (7-of-15 FG), grab six rebounds and dish out five assists in 30 minutes of playing time. He was reportedly limping noticeably by the end of the game, and remains a major injury risk, but it seems safe to play him for now.
Louis Williams (PHI): Williams continues to be a favorite at Barometer HQ, but we're concerned about the fact that he's playing with a toe injury. For now, it seems that icing the boo-boo is enough to keep him playing and productive, but there's always the possibility he could aggravate it and need to miss a few games to heal completely.
Nenad Krstic (NJ): The new target for Krstic's return could be as soon as next week, when the Nets finish their current road trip. It will be interesting to see how much he cuts into the playing time of Josh Boone and Sean Williams.
Matt Barnes (GS): This one is more a reminder to the Warriors' staff - check Barnes' status, dammit! Barnes was inactive for Saturday's game because a member of Golden State's staff screwed up the active roster paperwork. On the plus side, Don Nelson's official roster had two of Mickael Pietrus, so he had that going for him. (Can you imagine the sets Nellie would devise if he had the ability to duplicate players?)
Trevor Ariza (LAL): Ariza broke a bone in his foot during practice and is expected to be sidelined eight weeks.
Tyrus Thomas (CHI): The Jim Boylan regime hasn't been good for Thomas, whose playing time has dwindled and who has pretty clearly been lapped by Joakim Noah in the "young energetic big man who gets minutes" competition. Thomas has played 20-plus minutes just twice since Boylan took over, and has averaged under 10 in Chicago's last three contests.
Jermaine O'Neal (IND): O'Neal will reportedly miss at least two weeks with his latest knee injury. He did raise the possibility of sitting out the remainder of the season, but backtracked slightly on Monday, calling that a worst-case scenario.
Dan Dickau (LAC): Though Clipper coach Mike Dunleavy said point guard would be a three-way time share between Dickau, Brevin Knight and Sam Cassell, Cassell has been getting nearly all the minutes. (Can you say "Trade Showcase" again, boys and girls?) Dickau has played just 14 minutes this month. It will be interesting to see what Dickau's role is if and when Sam-I-Am is traded or bought out.
Article first appeared on 1/21/08