NEW YORK — Not enough hours have elapsed since the NBA’s trading deadline reached its crescendo Thursday when the Milwaukee Bucks and Seattle SuperSonics electrified the league by swapping superstars (and two additional deals, one minor between the Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets, got done just under the wire) to comprehend their consequences, as well as the Drew Gooden-Mike Miller exchange the night before.
Still, above and beyond anything and everything we may or may not know, or ultimately learn or recant, it should be clear by now that the smartest person patrolling the league office is hall monitor Matt Winick.
Obviously, he envisioned Gary Payton and Desmond Mason being traded for Ray Allen, Kevin Ollie and rookie Ron Murray (well, maybe, he didn’t see that deep into the future); that’s why the veteran schedule maker slotted Milwaukee at Seattle for the second game of Friday’s ESPN doubleheader.
Apparently the Sonics figured, as long as they were severing their 12 1/2-season relationship with Payton, they may as well trade their backup point guard, too.
In a deal involving free agents-to-be, Kenny Anderson was sent to the Hornets for (shapeless in New Orleans) Campbell, which leads us to believe Baron Davis isn’t recovering from surgery (due back in early March) as quickly as expected.
Payton, as everyone’s cognizant, will also be a free agent at season’s end. What are we to surmise from his acquisition by Milwaukee for an All-Pro player seven years younger?
Has George Karl — intent on reuniting with his Seattle sparring partner for almost two years — committed to a multiyear ($7 million-to-$8 million range) deal?
From what I’m told, the answer is an unqualified no; there’s no pre-set arrangement. In fact, I’m strongly inclined to believe Payton, 34, won’t be re-signed unless he and his agents suddenly become level-headed.
In other words, the transaction appears to be strictly a payroll reduction maneuver as per instructions by ownership; owner Herb Kohl insists his team’s salary cap/luxury tax numbers be reduced in hopes of luring prospective buyers.
Still, extraditing Allen comes as a semi-shock since the owner’s previous orders to GM Ernie Grunfeld and Karl were to keep his pet player at any cost; everyone else was expendable last summer when Glenn Robinson was deported to Atlanta.
Cents and sensibility aside, something else surely must have prompted Kohl’s abrupt to-the-rear march.
Yes, the Bucks are indisputably more dangerous and defensively demonic (even if it’s only for the remaining 20 games plus the playoffs) with Payton, the league leader in assists, and Mason.
And, yes, Karl is no longer beholden to the whim and whimsy of Sam Cassell. When Sam I Am is on a roll, he’s unstoppable. Now, when he’s not, Karl can stop him (by subtraction) without losing an ounce of creativity or passion.
As a unit, Payton and Cassell would have no trouble competing (even at their age) with most of the league’s all-time great backcourts.
Still, you would think there has to be more to the equation. You just don’t dismiss a 27-year-old Olympian unless there are extenuating factors.
Management and the coaching staff must believe sixth man Michael Redd is completely capable of picking up the scoring where Allen leaves off.
As for Mason, because of his age (three-year pro), attitude and athleticism, he shows all the vital signs of having a spectacular upside.
I’ve teased you long enough. Finally, it’s time to get down and dirty on this deal.
In case you’re not aware, over the last couple of years, Karl and Allen have formed a mutual condemnation society.
Allen sees the coach as a bully and inhibiting, the coach sees the player as a path of least resistance and fragile in the fourth quarter (36 percent shooting). Whatever the coach demands of late, the player is unprepared to give.
A few weeks ago, Karl took extreme public exception to Allen being brutalized at the defensive end. Again. “I’m paid to score,” Allen bristled to reporters.
Later, Karl pulled him aside. He heatedly corrected Allen and questioned his obligation and responsibility to the team.
“Let’s not have any further misunderstanding about this,” he foamed. “You get paid to win! You get paid to do whatever it takes for us to win.”
Redd, by the way, is shooting 56 percent from the field in the fourth quarter this season.
No disrespect to the Sonics, who now have their marquee player under contract for the next two seasons, a foundation (Allen and Rashard Lewis) and roughly $7 million in salary cap room to begin rebuilding, but the Bucks instantaneously became as tough and smart (especially in the last few minutes of tight games when Payton’s experience excels) and deep as any team in the Eastern Conference with the trade . . . at least for this season.
Contrary to another one of ESPN’s artificial exclusives, the Bucks did not petition the league for more time in order to trade Sam Cassell ($4.8 million) for Latrell Sprewell ($12.3 million). The Bucks haven’t had a conversation with the New York Knicks about Spree since last summer when they offered Robinson even up for him.
Milwaukee must send Seattle its No. 1 pick if it finishes higher than 18 this season. If it finishes lower, the Sonics get a pair of second-rounders. Keep in mind, the Bucks own the Hawks’ first-rounder (protected if it is one of the top three picks) from the Robinson deal, which would allow them to draft one of the many quality point guards if Payton’s tour turns out to be brief.
Another fake story circulating as the deadline approached had the Bucks sending Cassell to the Los Angeles Lakers for Derek Fisher ($3 million).
What a coup that would have been for Phil Jackson; imagine actually having someone beside Kobe capable of manufacturing his own shot. His players were praying it was true as well; Cassell is one of a rare breed capable of keeping the ball out of Kobe’s hands for long stretches.
Naturally, any and all proposed Laker deals had to be false; the deadline on the West Coast was noon. Team owner Jerry Buss couldn’t have given his approval or disapproval; he doesn’t wake up that early.
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