Tuesday, June 22, 2004
The expansion draft for the Charlotte Bobcats will be tonight.
A new dynamic duo in the West, Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, is a distinct possibility.
Executives from several NBA teams said Orlando and Houston were close to a deal sending McGrady to the Rockets for a package including Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley.
The Magic also are receiving offers for the No. 1 pick in the draft Thursday night.
The expansion draft will be held tonight with the Charlotte Bobcats selecting at least 14 players off existing rosters. The other 29 teams could protect up to eight players.
Charlotte made its first trade Monday, receiving the overall No. 2 selection in Thursday's draft from the Los Angeles Clippers for the fourth and 33rd picks. The Bobcats also agreed to select Los Angeles center Predrag Drobnjak in the expansion draft.
Busy week ahead
What promises to be a busy week began with loads of trade talk, though the Los Angeles Lakers apparently won't be putting any Shaquille O'Neal discussions on the fast track.
General manager Mitch Kupchak said he expects to hear from O'Neal's representatives in the coming days to gauge whether O'Neal was sincere in his comments last week demanding a trade.
"Me and the Big Fella are trying to get to Dallas together now," McGrady told Florida Today.
If the Lakers are serious about trading O'Neal, the Mavericks could be an ideal trading partner.
Dallas owner Mark Cuban said he hadn't spoken to the Lakers yet.
"Will we? Most likely," he said. "But, you know, we also have to ascertain what's real and what's not real."
Dallas has one of the league's most talent-laden rosters, including several players whose combined salaries would be within the league-mandated 15 percent of O'Neal's $27 million salary for next season.
The hangup would be deciding the players involved. The Lakers would start by asking for Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavericks would be more willing to package Antoine Walker, Antawn Jamison or Michael Finley.
"I'd be hard-pressed to see us trading Dirk," Cuban said. "Dirk is as close to an untouchable as we'd get."
The Rockets were said to be the leading candidate to acquire McGrady from Orlando, with officials from other teams saying Houston was offering a package including Francis, Mobley, Kelvin Cato and/or Bostjan Nachbar for McGrady, Juwan Howard, Andrew DeClercq and Tyronn Lue. Because of league salary cap rules relating to Francis' salary, such a deal could not be finalized until mid-July.
"Tracy has indicated he would like to play elsewhere, and we're trying to see what we can do," Magic executive Pat Williams said. "The issue is where he would sign [a contract extension]. Teams want to know what Tracy's plans are."
The rumored deal sending McGrady to Houston could be contingent on whether the Bobcats select any of Orlando's unprotected players in the expansion draft.
Charlotte now has the security of knowing it'll be able to draft Dwight Howard or Emeka Okafor with the No. 2 pick Thursday night.
Howard and Okafor were expected in Charlotte for workouts today.
"We would be pleased starting our basketball team with either one of those young men," Bobcats coach and general manager Bernie Bickerstaff said. "They represent what we would like to become in terms of character, competitiveness and talent."
The Bobcats also were close to finalizing a deal with Phoenix to acquire center Jahidi White, cash and a future first-round draft pick. That trade would clear salary cap space for the Suns, allowing them to make a run at free agents Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and others.