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Grunwald stands at trade crossroads

By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

Isiah Thomas still is influencing the Raptors' future, both directly and indirectly. One of the biggest chunks of bait, as of yesterday at least, was New York Knicks centre Dikembe Mutombo.

The Raptors' level of interest in Mutombo appeared to be cooling last night, but you never know what could happen before the NBA's trade deadline today at 3 p.m.

Thomas, the former general manager of the Raptors and now the president of the Knicks, has shaken up the NBA's previously sleepy Eastern Conference with his aggressive dealing since taking over the job.

His indirect influence on the Raptors is a competitive one. If the Knicks are threatening to move up a level in the tightly bunched East, should Raptors general manager Glen Grunwald feel obligated to keep pace?

Thomas' direct influence on the Raptors involves his pursuit of Atlanta Hawks forward Rasheed Wallace.

In the past few days, Thomas has been trying to beat the Detroit Pistons to the punch and engineer a complicated three- or four-team deal that would bring Wallace to Gotham. According to sources in New York as of yesterday, Thomas wanted to enlist the Raptors, who are size-challenged to say the least, as financial facilitators.

One version of the proposed deal would bring the 7-foot-2 Mutombo to Toronto. It's not clear exactly who the Raptors would be jettisoning, but given the Hawks' single-minded desire for salary-cap space, the Toronto players with expiring contracts -- Michael Curry, Morris Peterson, Michael Bradley, etc. -- would be the prime candidates to be moved.

The Raptors expressed considerable interest in the 37-year-old Mutombo when he was cast aside by the New Jersey Nets earlier this season. The position in this space back then was that pursuing Mutombo was a bad idea for the Raptors, since he never has taken kindly to playing limited minutes and his durability was a question mark.

It was a moot argument anyway, since Mutombo quickly signed with the Knicks. But it now seems a second team with playoff aspirations is willing to give up on him within a matter of months, and that may speak louder than anything about the state of his game.

Grunwald has a number of irons in the fire. As reported yesterday, the Seattle SuperSonics have offered Brent Barry and Vladimir Radmanovic for Donyell Marshall and Peterson. The Raptors obviously could use a big man -- especially with centre Chris Bosh reinjuring his sprained ankle last night, not to mention an ankle sprain suffered by Vince Carter -- so a lot of the usual tall suspects, such as Seattle's Jerome James and Orlando's Andrew DeClercq, have surfaced in discussions.

But with the deadline mere hours away, Grunwald is faced with a philosophical choice, not only in regard to Mutombo, but in an overall sense:

Does he believe the Raptors are in a position to accomplish something notable this spring? Or, should they hang on to as many expiring contracts as they can, hold their noses to get through this season and then use that salary-cap space themselves next summer?

NEED TO KEEP UP?

Raptors coach Kevin O'Neill was asked last night if his club feels the need to keep up with the Knicks, or any other Eastern team that consummates a deadline deal.

"Sometimes trading for trading's sake can be detrimental," O'Neill said. "You have to take into consideration financial ramifications as well as basketball ramifications."

Coaches rarely consider financial ramifications, so maybe O'Neill was making an effort to toe the company line.

"We have to make sure we do whatever is best for our team now and in the future," O'Neill said. "I don't think you really can make a choice. You can't say: 'Okay, we're going to do what's best now,' or, 'We're going to do what's best for the future.' I think you have to take both into account."

Whether that amounts to doing something or doing nothing today remains to be seen.









Do you like the new-look Raptors heading into the 2013-14 NBA season?
  Yes, new GM made great moves
  No, they will still be a terrible team
  Unsure what to make of it


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