Some foul waives

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

It looks bad.

And when something looks bad, the NBA never is happy about it.

No league is as image-conscious as the NBA. So you have to wonder how the league can allow its teams to continue the practice of buying out and waiving players who have just been acquired in trades.

From a public-relations perspective, this salary-cap-clearing procedure hit a new low in the past few days when the Boston Celtics traded veteran point guard Gary Payton to the Atlanta Hawks.

The Hawks never expected Payton to play a minute for them. They were planning to buy him out.

Now Payton can go wherever he wants, with one of the main suitors possibly being ... wait for it ... the Celtics.

Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

Now, even if no prearranged deal existed between the Celtics and Hawks, and even if Payton doesn't wind up back in Beantown, perception is as damaging as reality.

Raptors fans are all too aware of the concept of a team buying out a recently acquired athlete. Alonzo Mourning technically became a Raptor as part of the Vince Carter trade with the New Jersey Nets, but Toronto wound up buying out Mourning for about $10 million US.

Of course, Mourning had been seeking a buyout from the Nets, too, but they essentially had told him to get bent, unless he wanted to settle for about half of what the Raptors gave him. Why the Raptors were so accommodating is a mystery, to say nothing of why they agreed to take Mourning in the first place if they knew this was going to happen.

This is not an isolated incident, however.

Alan Henderson was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks from the Dallas Mavericks just before the league deadline last Thursday, but he and the Bucks don't see eye-to-eye and bingo, he is on the open market. Same thing with Dale Davis, who was dealt from the Golden State Warriors to the New Orleans Hornets.

From an optics point of view, it just isn't right.

And the NBA usually cares about optics.

At the all-star game in Denver a couple of weeks ago, NBA commissioner David Stern spoke openly about the need to adopt a policy on steroids that would preclude the mere question of there being a widespread, or even a minor, problem in his league.

Well, here's another one for the commish: Waiving players who have just been traded often gives the impression of shenanigans, whether shenanigans actually have been committed or not.

A solution: Teams should not be allowed to buy out or waive players they have acquired in trades until the end of the current season.

Alonzo, you're a Raptor. Report, retire or be suspended. Your choice.

Same thing with Payton, Henderson, Davis and all the rest.

We suppose it's just one more thing to be discussed in the coming collective-bargaining negotiations. But it's a loophole that needs to be closed, for the sake of image if nothing else.

GRATIS GROUPIES

Paul Pierce of the Celtics said the social life for players in the NBA has changed in the wake of the Kobe Bryant rape case.

Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers' marquee player, was charged with rape in Eagle County, Colo., but the charges were dropped last fall. A civil suit presently is proceeding.

"I think it definitely has had an effect," Pierce said of Bryant's predicament. "Guys have to be more careful, especially the guys who are at the Kobe-Bryant level (of stardom).

"Guys like that have women chasing them. But I think everybody pretty much had their eyes opened by this, not only in basketball but in every sport. You have to take a step back."

And it isn't only about sex, according to Pierce.

"It's not just women, it's guys who want to meet you and you don't really know what they're after," Pierce said. "People want to be your friend, and you have to be careful. I think the guys are worse than the girls."

BARRY INTERESTING

During a recent radio interview, Tracy McGrady of the Houston Rockets opined that "the trades for David Wesley and Brent Barry really helped us out."

Oops.

Brent Barry does not play for the Rockets. His brother Jon does.

"When I saw him I said, 'Trace, I have a bone to pick with you,' " Jon Barry said. "He said, 'I know, I called you Brent .'

"I'll get him back. I'm just going to call him Vince (Carter) or something."

LABOUR CRISIS

- Shaquille O'Neal of the Miami Heat was asked if he is loving his job more this season, now that he is away from the soap-opera atmosphere with the Los Angeles Lakers. "I've never loved this sport (basketball)," Shaq said. "I've always been a football guy. (Basketball) is just a job."

KIDS STUFF

- Former slam-dunk champion Jason Richardson of the Golden State Warriors was impressed with the performance of current champ Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks during the '05 competition. "I'm glad I wasn't in it," Richardson said. "I'm getting old. I can't do that stuff no more." Richardson is 24.

TECHNICALLY CONFIDENT

- Rasheed Wallace of the defending-champion Detroit Pistons has an unmatched reputation for collecting technical fouls. During a recent game Pistons teammate Chauncey Billups was jawing with referee Joe DeRosa, but DeRosa heard Wallace's voice in the background and slapped him, not Billups, with a technical. "Just hating on us," Wallace said when asked to explain what had happened. "It's like I tell them, we still are going to win it. They can call all the ticky-tack fouls they want to, we're still going to win it."


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