Friday, December 30, 2005

Where’s Artest Headed?

     Nothing’s more fun than watching as big-name player publicly hits the trading block.  Now that his owner and all but one teammate have slammed the door on him, Artest is going to hang out at home shooting hoops with Terell Owens until he gets a call from his agent letting him know where’s he’s off to.  NBA chatter about where that may be has been substantially quieter than the hoo-rah about his trade demand and subsequent retraction, but there’s been enough to form an educted guess.  Running down the candidates:

Eliminated from the Get-Go:  Miami, Detroit  
Indiana wouldn’t think about sending a top-15 talent to the top contenders of its own conference.

Not Interested: WAS, SAS
Gilbert Arenas made a point to tell the media that Artest wasn’t welcome.  Popovich wouldn’t rock his yacht, and especially not for a documented maniac.

Some of these teams make some sense, outside of Chicago (already saw Artest up close) and Orlando (Artest would need to play as a 2 unless they move Hill). Phoenix is unlikely to be interested, but there’s been nothing public.  Sacramento is screaming overhaul, with its coach working day-to-day, its franchise guy counting down until he can walk this summer, the 2nd-worst record in the West, and a motley crew of players.    It’s hard to believe anyone on that roster besides Brad Miller is untouchable.  Milwaukee is in the #5 spot in the East, but they have to realize they are miles away from being legit contenders.  Wouldn’t the idea of swapping Bill Simmons and Gadzuric for Artest at least make you hesitate?

Only willing to be a Third Party: CHA, Utah, POR, ATL
All the above need to make moves to climb out of the cellar, but won’t sell their soul for a cancer like Artest.  Besides, if Artest is unhappy about where he lands, watch out for the explosions.

Interested Minor Contenders:  SEA, NYK, NJN, CLE, MEM, HOU, MIN, BOS, TOR
Either don’t have the right pieces to make it happen, or are unwilling to part with them.  Isiah Thomas won’t part with the young players and Walsh won’t accept his scrap.  New Jersey won’t really move Carter.  A 3-way would be necessary for these guys to get it done.  If Memphis becomes more open to dealing Battier (whom they value a lot more than you may think), consider them in the running.

Hot Pursuers: Golden State, Denver, Clippers, Lakers
Far and away, Chris Mullin seems to be in the best position to get this done.  He’s in the West (major importance to the Pacers), and he has an assortment of young talent to move.  How about straight up Artest and a draft pick for Jason Richardson?  Or Pietrus plus Dunleavy?  To date, Denver’s been the most determined to land him, using Nene Hilario and Earl Watson as bait.  They will likely need to involve a third team such as Atlanta to seal the deal.  The Clips may be backing away, as they’ve declined to move Maggette.  

It seems that Denver will get their man in an attempt to save their season.  If Artest can make up for the loss of the entire Nuggets frontcourt remains to be seen, as well as whether he’ll mesh in the locker room.