- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 11, 2009

STORY OF THE WEEK

STEADY FLOW OF CHATTER AS DEADLINE NEARS

Each day closer to the NBA’s Feb. 19 trade deadline, it seems like a new scenario surfaces that has a big-name player on the verge of donning new colors. And no player is at the center of more trade talk than Phoenix forward Amare Stoudemire.

Just a year after the Suns parted with Shawn Marion in order to acquire former league MVP Shaquille O’Neal and two months after general manger Steve Kerr swapped Jason Richardson for Boris Diaw, he’s trying to make another deal.

Where will Stoudemire, who wants out from under Shaq’s shadow, wind up? Golden State, Miami, Detroit, New Jersey, Portland and now Chicago all reportedly have interest in the three-time All-Star. A deal will happen because the Suns have backed themselves into a corner by publicly stating their intentions to trade Stoudemire. It’s a matter of who can put together the most attractive offer for Kerr. But what’s he looking for? He’s trying to rid himself of a 26-year-old who averages 20.8 points and 8.2 rebounds to hang on to a aging Shaq, Grant Hill and Steve Nash?

But Stoudemire and the Suns aren’t the only team likely to make a deal.

Charlotte’s Raymond Felton has long been the subject of trade rumors, and Tuesday afternoon the latest was the Pacers were close to sending Jamaal Tinsley to the Bobcats for the former North Carolina point guard.

Other players reportedly on the block are the Heat’s Marion, Chicago’s Larry Hughes, Cleveland’s Wally Szczerbiak, Milwaukee’s Richard Jefferson, Phoenix’s Leandro Barbosa, Memphis’ Mike Conley, New Orleans’ Tyson Chandler, Toronto’s Jermaine O’Neal and Sacramento’s Brad Miller.

Hughes has been linked to the Washington Wizards for much of this season, but according to insiders, the move - which in reports Tuesday involved Etan Thomas and Mike James - isn’t likely to happen because the Wizards are seeking salary cap relief. Taking on Hughes, who next season will make as much as James and Thomas, wouldn’t help Washington’s financial situation.

The chatter is a bit more star-studded this year, a ripple effect of last year’s trade-deadline flurry that included the Cavaliers making a three-team, eight-player deal, the Heat sending Shaq to the desert and the Nets shipping Jason Kidd to Dallas.

Teams are seeking either to create cap relief so they can make free agent pickups in the summer or get that much-needed piece to put them in the ranks of the contenders this year.

The winners and losers will be known in just over a week.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

LOS ANGELES LAKERS

No Bynum? No problem. As mentioned in the NBA Report last week, the Lakers were ready to take the loss of center Andrew Bynum in stride after having to overcome his absence last season before reaching the NBA Finals.

And sure enough, the Lakers have continued to roll. Los Angeles is 5-0 since losing Bynum, including impressive road wins over the Celtics and Cavaliers.

The Lakers in the last week have proved they are a more cohesive unit than they were last season. In addition to Pau Gasol stepping up his game with 25.6 points, 12.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists in his last five outings, Lamar Odom also has picked up his production, posting 20.3 and 9.7 rebounds in the last three games.

POWER RANKINGS

1. LOS ANGELES LAKERS (41-9)

The Lakers replace the Celtics as the leaders of the pack after big wins in Boston and Cleveland.

2. SAN ANTONIO SPURS (35-15)

Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and the new Mr. Big Shot - Roger Mason Jr. - knock off the Celtics.

3. BOSTON CELTICS (42-11)

The defending champs hit a snag, losing two of their last three while facing possible finals foes.

4. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (39-10)

Sunday’s loss to the Lakers is the first at home this season for LeBron James and Co.

5. ORLANDO MAGIC (38-12)

Orlando is up and down while trying to adjust to life without injured point guard Jameer Nelson.

6. DENVER NUGGETS (34-17)

Funny team. One night it trounces the Wizards by 21, then the next it loses to the Nets by 44.

7. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (31-19)

The Blazers are just 2 1/2 games back of Denver despite losses to Dallas and OKC last week.

8. NEW ORLEANS HORNETS (30-19)

The Hornets (2-3 in the last week) badly need a healthy Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler back.

9. HOUSTON ROCKETS (31-21)

After an injury-plagued stretch, the Rockets are healthy. Can they make a run?

10. UTAH JAZZ (29-23)

It’s amazing how the Jazz have remained in the hunt despite injuries to Boozer, Williams and Kirilenko.

LOTTERY WATCH

MONROE HAS TOOLS, POTENTIAL

Greg Monroe, a 6-foot-11, 250-pound Georgetown freshman, is one of the most talented prospects in the draft and boasts loads of potential - more than Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin, according to some scouts. With his 7-2 wingspan, quickness and solid jumper, Monroe is often compared to Chris Webber. He hasn’t put up the numbers Griffin has, but he has all the tools.

The main negative in regard to Monroe is consistency. He will be on one night and then off another. He also needs to develop more toughness and get stronger. He’s still likely a top-three draft pick, however.

THE BOTTOM FIVE

Team Record L10 Pct.*

Sacramento 11-41 1-9 25.0

Washington 11-40 2-8 19.9

L.A. Clippers 12-40 2-8 15.6

Oklahoma City 13-38 5-5 11.9

Memphis 15-36 4-6 8.8

* Chances of landing No. 1 pick

NUMBER OF THE WEEK

3

Rookies since 2000-01 to record at least 20 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in a game. O.J. Mayo became the third Monday when he notched 22 points, 16 rebounds and five assists in a win over New Orleans. LeBron James (2003) and Al Horford (2007) were the other two.

TROPHY TRACKER

MVP

1. Kobe Bryant: Kobe tops LeBron both at Madison Square Garden last week and head-to-head on Sunday.

2. LeBron James: On the heels of Bryant’s 61-point night, James notches 52 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds.

3. Dwyane Wade: Continues to dazzle with 28.3 ppg, 7.1 apg, 5.0 rpg and 2.1 spg.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

1. O.J. Mayo: Just give him the trophy now. Most well-rounded rookie by far: 19.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists.

2. Derrick Rose: Top pick of the draft a close second, averaging 16.8 ppg, 6.4 apg, 3.6 rpg.

3. Brook Lopez: The Stanford product looks like the best big man of his class with 12.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks a game.

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