Thursday was trade-deadline day in the NBA, and in a flurry of deals, every single player in the league changed teams, some of them twice. But there was one shocker, one blockbuster, one piece of news that was a jaw-dropper.
Tom Gugliotta is still in the NBA.
It turns out the former Bullet, Warrior, Timberwolf, Sun and Jazz has been playing for the Celtics. His name showed up in the trade that sent Gary Payton and a first-round pick to the Hawks for Antoine Walker. Next we'll hear that Rony Seikaly has been playing in garbage time for the Hornets.
Gugliotta, who last played in 50 games four years ago and last played in 60 when LeBron James was in the sixth grade, played 62 minutes and scored 12 points on 6-of-11 shooting in the first four games of this season. Since then, he's appeared in 16 games and scored 14 points while hitting five of 26 shots, 19 percent.
Tom Gugliotta! This is like discovering that Ed Spiezio is still playing third base somewhere, or that Soupy Sales is a regular on some sitcom you don't watch.
Anyway, Payton, who commenced whining that he didn't want to play in Boston the instant the Lakers traded him there last summer, had had a change of heart and decided he liked the Hub. In the days before the trade, he'd reportedly been negotiating with the Celtics about a two-year contract extension. He might still end up with Boston after the Hawks buy out his contract, which they were expected to do because they have no need for a middle-aged guard. They traded Walker for the draft pick. Payton could also end up with a Western Conference contender.
Walker gets to go back to Boston, where he had his glory years before he was traded to the Mavericks two years ago, an event highlighted by Walker and Celts general manager Danny Ainge saying nasty things about each other. No hard feelings now, Ainge said Thursday.
Walker gets to go from, by far, the worst team in the league to a sub-.500 club that's nevertheless a playoff contender, so you won't hear him complaining. For a while. He'll likely be gone next year, but for the moment, especially if they re-sign Payton, the Celtics just got a lot better. That's a good thing, because the 76ers, their chief rival in the laughable Atlantic Division, got a lot better too by adding Chris Webber.
It's now a real possibility that the Atlantic Division champion will have a winning record. Wow!
The Celtics-Hawks trade wasn't the only big one of the day, of course. Here are a few of the most interesting deals that went down in the aftermath of everyone predicting the trade deadline would pass quietly.
New Orleans Hornets-Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers traded Glenn Robinson to New Orleans for Rodney Rogers and Jamal Mashburn, and the trade is really about Rogers, a useful player who can come off the bench and shoot some. Mashburn is a dead man walking. He'll likely never play again, but his contract won't expire until next year. In the bizarre world of the NBA salary cap, that means Mashburn's contract will be an asset for the 76ers a year from now.
By the same token, Robinson's contract becomes an asset this offseason for the Hornets, who will get the cap space when it expires at the end of the year. Robinson, who has a bad ankle, hasn't played this season. So the Sixers get a bench player for the stretch run and the playoffs and the Hornets get some free-agent maneuverability.
Not that free-agent maneuverability does much for a team that's unlikely to draw much interest from prime free agents because its owner is cheap and the city it plays in doesn't seem to have noticed there's an NBA franchise in town.
Remember when Glenn Robinson was supposed to be something special?
Dallas Mavericks-Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks sent Keith Van Horn to Dallas for backups Calvin Booth and Alan Henderson. This was nothing more than a cap-space clearer for the Bucks, who are hoping to re-sign Michael Redd this offseason. They also dumped the contract of well-traveled journeyman point guard Mike James by sending him to the Rockets in a minor deal. Van Horn makes an incredible amount of money for such an ordinary player -- he's due almost $16 million next season.
As long as Mark Cuban, my favorite owner in all of sports, is willing to write the checks, it's a good trade for Dallas because Van Horn will contribute more off the bench than Henderson and Booth combined. But alas I think Van Horn is too perfect for the Mavs. I believe two things about the NBA these days: No team coached by Don Nelson will ever win the championship, and no team with Keith Van Horn playing significant minutes will ever win the championship. And now the Mavericks have both.
Golden State Warriors-New Orleans Hornets
The Warriors took a huge gamble by trading for Baron Davis, an elite player, but one who has a big, uninsured contract, plus a bad back and bad knees. If he stays healthy, he makes a dynamite backcourt with Jason Richardson, and all the Warriors had to give up was Dale Davis, Speedy Claxton and some cash. If not, he'll be a long-term albatross for the Warriors, who have already been lousy for a decade.
The Warriors also made a minor, cap-clearing trade with the Nuggets, the biggest name being Eduardo Najera, who goes to Denver. The Warriors did get 7-footer Nikoloz Tskitishvili, who was the fifth overall pick three years ago and is still only 21, but who is looking like a bust.
San Antonio Spurs-New York Knicks
Isiah Thomas is either such a supergenius that nobody can understand him, or he's flailing around with no purpose. In this deal, the Knicks G.M. gave up talented but underachieving center Nazr Mohammed, who ought to help the Spurs as a backup, and got back Malik Rose and a first-round pick in each of the next two drafts.
Rose is a nice enough player, as undersize backup power forwards go, and Thomas seems to be stockpiling undersize power forwards. He also picked up Maurice Taylor from the Rockets, who isn't so much undersize as undergood. But Rose has four years and $27 million left on his contract. The high price of mediocrity.
And speaking of mediocrity, the Knicks will have to be pretty savvy -- a funny thing to suggest -- to get more than that with the Spurs' pick in the next two drafts, because that's mostly what's on the board by the time the best teams get around to picking. The last two years, the picks in the Spurs spot were guards Beno Udrih from Slovenia and Leandro Barbosa from Brazil, whom the Suns drafted after trading for the pick. They both can play, but they're not exactly franchise-savers.
I think the Rockets did a nice job of unloading Taylor and his huge (three more years, $27 million) contract and picking up some ambulatory point guards, plus Vin Baker, who won't help them. And if you've seen 66-year-old Rod Strickland's tongue hanging out after he plays five minutes at the point, you know the Rockets needed some ambulatory point guards. Mike James and Moochie Norris won't make anyone forget Steve Francis, but they'll do.
All the Rockets gave up, other than Taylor, was Reece Gaines, a point guard who has accomplished nothing in two years and now heads for his third team, the Bucks, and a pair of future second-round picks. The Rockets also got backup center Zendon Hamilton, who isn't much of a player but has a great first name.
The Heat made a good pickup for the playoffs by adding sharpshooter Steve Smith in a minor trade with the Bobcats.
And I'm not a big fan of Jiri Welsch, but the Cavaliers got him for almost nothing, a first-round pick three years from now, which, if all goes according to plan, will be way at the end.
Finally, I'm impressed that the Clippers and Bobcats traded their entire rosters for each other, then turned right around and traded them back.
Can you prove that didn't happen?
Previous column: Chris Webber, Randy Moss trades
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