Tuesday, June 22, 2004

SPORTS: Trading, Drafting, Hoping ...

There's an old rock and roll love song that has a chorus of "Hoping and praying and ..." that keeps playing in my head as I contemplate what changes in the NBA this week will wrought. I can't remember the title, nor do I pretend to know what will happen this week. But what COULD happen, boggles the mind!

The first crack in the dam came with tonight's announcement that the Bobcats did move up in the draft. Then, Jim Grey, a newshound no matter how you feel about him, breaks the McGrady-Francis trade ... providing the Bobcats don't scotch the deal by taking one of the players. First, let's laugh at the predicament the Magic finds itself in. They walked the BMOC walk three years ago and have nothing but the truth-challenged McGrady and LOTS of losses to show for it. Serves 'em right. Now, they have a chance to swap the last McGrady season for Francis and Mobley and a good guy in Cato. And the Bobcats hold the deal in the short-hairs. Delicious. Hope Bernie Bickerstaff gets AT LEAST a second-rounder for saying pass on all the players from Houston and Orlando.

But, the trade that occupies the imagination is the getting out of Dodge for Shaquille O'Neal. First blush when I heard of the turn of events was that it wasn't possible. Who could afford the talent and the contract? Turns out, several teams. Dallas is willing and waiting with its truckload of max contracts. A Portland deal is possible and who wouldn't like an O'Neal-O'Neal trade that makes Shaq an Easterner Pace-setter?(Answer: Everybody else). However, it says here that LA sends Shaq north to Golden State for a load of contracts that includes a signed Erick Dampier and wacko ex-Laker Nick Van Excel. It almost makes sense from all points. Wilt Chamberlain redux! Just so that you are paying attention, the teams trading away Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar went from real good to good ... or worse.

The expansion draft might cost the Raptors a player. Alvin Williams when unhealthy, is vastly over-paid. When healthy ... and that's a HUGE if, he's the kind of Chauncey Billups final piece that can fill in a spot on a contending team. It's not hard seeing the Bobcats take Alvin and swap him to, say, San Antonio or even Utah, with draft picks paying off the swing team. It would hurt to see Williams exit town. My favourite Raptor.

Chalk up dumb reporters to pass along the Vince Carter/Allan Iverson trade rumours. Carter, a genuinely nice man lacking a competitive backbone, is at least productive when healthy. Iverson is a VERY old young man, beaten to a pulp wayyyyy to often to have much life left. And his thug act won't play here. Iverson's loyalty to his child-hood gang of gangsta's is admirable in a way. But his act isn't a whole lot different than Jayson Williams. It wears thin. The Raptors have been down the path of paying stars on the way out. See Olajuwon, Hakeem.

The top of the draft now looks locked in as Okafor and Howard in some order. Chicago is apparently all over Deng. And the Clippers apparently like Gordon to lead them out of the shadows of The Adulterer. Washington has some sort of morbid fascination with uber-athlete Iguodala, completing the top five. The Raptors then watch schoolboy Livingston and Harris slip out from under their noses and start cursing the fates. This is last year all over again, when the bouncing ball made Carmelo Anthony a Nugget.

How do the Raptors recover? Jameer Nelson could help. He could help by being soooo irresistable to the Suns that they pass on Harris to take him. But Nelson's workouts with Phoenix seem the only ones that have tongues wagging. It says here that the Raptors pass on Nelson and give Bosh a running mate in Andris Biedrins. A safe pick? Not even close. Biedrins is another touted Euro without the game to match the rep. But it's either that, take chance on tiny Nelson or giant project Podkolzine or draft one of an army of wing players. In a conference that only has Wallace, Magloire and the 'other' O'Neal, Biedrins has a chance to be a plus position player.

The Raptors have some suspects to think about in the second round. Chris Duhon isn't one of them. He's been exposed as a poor man's Dan Dickau. One mock draft I saw has Arthur Johnson on tap. Not a horrible pick, but not exciting. Another draft had wing player Bryant Matthews. He seems suited to play the wild-ace wing position in the same bewildering manner as current holder Morris Peterson. But neither Johnson nor Matthews makes me itch to call the season-ticket line. Christian Dreijer, on the other hand, is interesting. As ethically-suspect as McGrady (He quit Florida mid-season to sign pro overseas), he's got a game. However, maybe the planets align themselves just so and the Raptors end up with Beno Udrih. Yeah, he's a LOT like good old Alvin Williams. That's why he'd be a great pick.

And the chorus continues, "hoping and praying and ....."

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