Time for a blockbuster?
By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun
Traditionally this time of year is known for increasingly testy crowds at shopping malls and ominously chilly weather, not mammoth NBA trades. But the Raptors clearly want to alter their offence-challenged roster and a trade rumour that began as a seedling on a Chicago radio station yesterday ballooned into a possible monumental change for both the Raptors and the Bulls.
The original version had Jalen Rose headed to the Raptors for Alvin Williams, Jerome Williams and Morris Peterson. Another version had Rose and the Raptors' Antonio Davis being the centrepieces, with the clubs debating which additional players would be added to bring the contracts in line (total salaries swapped must match, plus or minus 15%). The biggest version had Rose, Donyell Marshall and Eddie Robinson coming to Toronto for Davis, the two Williamses and Peterson.
Late last night, before the Bulls took on the Lakers in Los Angeles, Rose told reporters he had a conversation with Bulls general manager John Paxson in which Paxson said Rose was not going to be traded to Toronto. Rose, Marshall and Robinson all played in the game, which would suggest nothing has been finalized.
Be that as it may, speculation will be intense today as the Raptors take on the Nets in New Jersey.
A secondary rumour emerged suggesting Davis may be headed to the Dallas Mavericks for Antawn Jamison and another player. That would please Raptors guard Vince Carter, who next year will become Jamison's brother-in-law, but sources indicated the Mavs are not keen to part with Jamison.
Rose would give the Raptors some of the scoring punch they lack, even though his freewheeling style and flippant tongue might clash with coach Kevin O'Neill's structured approach. But Rose, 30, is not cheap. He's earning $13.3 million US this season and is under contract for three more seasons, his salary rising to $16.9 million in 2006-07.
Rose would give Carter more offensive space, but at what price? Consider that the largest version of the rumour had the Raptors giving up their starting centre and starting power forward in Davis and Jerome Williams, with no real power players coming back.
Davis, 35, has made it well known he would prefer to play elsewhere. While he has not been a distraction, his heart isn't in Toronto anymore and the club would love to jettison his lucrative pact, even if it means taking on a heftier one.
O'Neill is not fond of the two Williamses and Peterson, and vice-versa. That lends credence to the three-for-one deal involving Rose, although some sources said Davis and Rose would be at the heart of any deal between the two clubs.
There might be some resistance at the board level of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Ltd., to the inclusion of Jerome Williams, since the perception is the Junk Yard Dog sells tickets. But Williams' presence in the community notwithstanding, ticket sales are down this season.
The fact the Raptors even would ponder such a deal at this time of the year speaks to how uncomfortable O'Neill is with the players he has at his disposal. He has been pushing general manager Glen Grunwald to make changes. Grunwald did not return phone calls from The Toronto Sun yesterday.
Since the Raptors were born in 1995, the club never has made a trade between the beginning of a new season and the Christmas holidays. Generally, NBA teams don't make deals at this time of year for two basic reasons. First, teams that are playing well don't want to fix what isn't broken. And second, teams that are playing poorly rarely get full-value offers because they're perceived to be panicking.
Thus, the best chance for a deal is a hook-up between two sputtering teams. Neither the Raptors nor the Bulls -- whose coach, Bill Cartwright, is hanging onto his job by a thread -- are happy with their current rosters. But O'Neill's influence is on the rise within the Raptors organization and a deal like this would have his stamp all over it.