History and the dissenters warned everyone who would listen making a major trade at mid-season in the NBA is too much of a gamble for it to work in the short-term. More often than not, that goes for the big picture as well.Panic mode often causes opportunity to be the devil in disguise.
Three months later we now know it's not nice to fool with history or the dissenters.
2008 NBA playoffs
- Pistons polish off Sixers in Game 6
- Rosen: Pistons find another gear
- Kahn: Deadline deals were duds
- Goodman: Celts get swagger back
- Kahn: Butler does it all for Wiz
- Hill: Suns should keep D'Antoni
- Kahn: End of an era in Phoenix
- Rosen: Suns' fun-'n'-gun done?
- Kahn: Paul, Hornets make history
- Western Conference playoff central
- Eastern Conference playoff central
- Best shots from the first round
- Playoff preview: Spurs-Hornets
- Avery: 'It's time for somebody else'
- Kerr: 'D'Antoni is our coach'
There was more action on or before the Feb. 21 trade deadline than ever before, and to say dividends were paid for making the big deals is like saying fuel prices are under control.
Although most of the discussion surrounds the big trades orchestrated by the Los Angeles Lakers for Pau Gasol, the Suns for Shaquille O'Neal and the Mavericks for Jason Kidd and rightfully so there also were three-team deals put together by the Cleveland Cavaliers and Houston Rockets; plus a five-player swap by the Hawks that netted Mike Bibby; and the Spurs dealing for a key piece in Kurt Thomas.
To put it succinctly, out of the six teams involved in the trades of the Big 3, only the Lakers have succeeded. They won the Pacific Division with their best record since 2002 when they last won an NBA title and swept the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Suns and Mavericks not only struggled with the changes but were eliminated in the first round. The Mavs fired coach Avery Johnson on Wednesday, and indications are that Suns coach Mike D'Antoni will split from Phoenix despite contentions to the contrary. The other teams involved in those trades the Grizzlies, Heat and Nets all suffered through horrible records.
In the less celebrated moves, the three-way deal moments before the deadline between the Cavs, Bulls and Sonics ended up with all three teams going downhill. The Cavs made the playoffs but still have terrible chemistry and are struggling in the first round with an injury-riddled Washington team.
A trade between the Hornets and Rockets appeared to help both teams (Bonzi Wells went to New Orleans and Bobby Jackson to Houston), which was odd, considering both were moves to change depth, not starters. And the five-player swap that sent Bibby from Sacramento to Atlanta did help the Hawks get to the playoffs for the first time and they've taken the Celtics to six games in the first round.
The domino effect began on Feb. 1, when the Lakers committed highway robbery by acquiring Gasol and a 2010 second-round draft pick from Memphis in exchange for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, the draft rights to Marc Gasol and first-round picks in 2008 and 2010. The move, which was directly related to the knee injury suffered by the Lakers young center Andrew Bynum, fit the Lakers like a glove. It took scoring pressure off of Kobe Bryant and opened up the floor for Lamar Odom.
The Lakers finished with the best record in the West and are a serious contender to win the 2008 title. And even if they don't, they will compete for the title for several years into the future, considering they'll be even better when Bynum gets a clean bill of health next season.
The Suns countered five days later by acquiring O'Neal from the Heat in exchange for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks. It initially looked like a horrible deal for the Suns, with Marion standing out as the guy who did all the little things on the floor and the most versatile defender on a defensively challenged team. Plus, bringing in the big man flew right in the face of D'Antoni's run-and-gun offense.
But D'Antoni and point guard Steve Nash adjusted eventually, and it provided all sorts of growing opportunities for Amare Stoudemire moving from center to forward. Still, the transition wasn't smooth. D'Antoni clearly felt he was being undermined by owner Robert Sarver and general manager Steve Kerr. The feel-good team twice blew leads in Game 1 of the playoff series at San Antonio and lost in double overtime. That set the stage for them to slowly disintegrate in five games to the rock-solid Spurs. Keep in mind, O'Neal is 36 and Nash 34, with a litany of body parts breaking down for both. The Suns seem primed for a complete makeover.
And it seemingly took forever for the Mavs and Nets to put the pieces together for Kidd, Malik Allen and Antoine Wright to be shipped to Dallas for retired and re-signed Keith Van Horn, Devin Harris, Trenton Hassell, Maurice Ager, DeSagana Diop, first-round draft choices in 2008 and 2010, and cash. The move was made to bring the tough leadership and experience of Kidd to mesh with Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard and Jason Terry a talented but soft trio.
Nonetheless, the Mavs lost their first 10 games to plus-.500 teams after the trade, and it was apparent early on that Johnson was micromanaging Kidd defeating the purpose of the trade in the first place. Ironically, it got better when Nowitzki went down for 10 days with a sprained ankle, galvanizing the team. But the already shaky defense got progressively worse and they never seriously challenged the Hornets in a five-game playoff loss. And just like the Suns, they will look very different next season.
So the moral of the story seems to be that it is far better to wait until the draft or the off-season to make major moves. There are never guarantees a player will fit following a trade, with Gasol an obvious exception in coach Phil Jackson's triangle offense. But there's always a rush when done at mid-season, while the off-season give teams and players more time to get used to each other.
Trade-deadline deals are exciting and fun for the fans and the media. Then again, maybe the rumor mills grinding on the Internet and 24-hour cable television are making everything just a little bit too enticing for management in the 21st century. But if that's the case, so be it.