- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2008

Vince Carter was not traded for a retired player, three expiring contracts, two nobodies and a 2020 draft pick yesterday.

The exchange never came about because Knicks disaster-in-chief Isiah Thomas exercised a modicum of restraint, a condition never associated with him in the past.

So the NBA trade deadline expired yesterday without another player being lured out of retirement to collect $4.3 million, as was the case with Keith Van Horn, who has not played in the NBA since who knows when.

The Van Horn dynamic confirmed what NBA critics have been saying for years, notably the lottery involving Patrick Ewing was fixed, no team plays hard until the last two minutes of a game and college basketball is much more exciting because of the bands, the crying cheerleaders and the possibility of Dick Vitale having a heart attack while shouting on air.

Ernie Grunfeld and the Wizards refrained from rearranging the furniture, possibly because Phil Chenier was not interested in leaving his television analyst’s chair.

The team’s call-in general managers who often propose deals that favor the Wizards following a loss inevitably lose sight of the principal element that drives any deal in the NBA — the finances of it.

Before Kevin McHale aided the rebirth of the Celtics, the call-in general managers routinely urged Grunfeld to trade the Poet, deportment czar Jack Miles and future considerations to the Timberwolves in exchange for Kevin Garnett.

This was assuming McHale had an interest in the Poet, that Miles would be willing to renounce his “Bird rights” and their combined salaries nearly equaled Garnett’s.

The NBA has so many rules regarding a trade now that the figures in charge of orchestrating one must consult with their witch doctors to learn whether a potential trade is even feasible.

The talent of the respective parties is sometimes the least of the considerations.

It is not as if the Nets are planning to hold a ticker-tape parade to celebrate Van Horn’s momentary return to the NBA.

They merely accepted him because Devean George scuttled the initial trade proposal, and who could blame him? No player looks forward to landing with a team just because his contract makes the deal work.

One of the most valuable pieces of a trade now is the player in the last year of a hefty contract.

The expiring contract allows teams to be potential bidders in the free agent market in the summer, when the biggest names in the game are able to relive their college recruiting days and make ballyhooed visits to the cities of their choice.

These visits come with trumpets blaring, a limo driver, a personal masseuse, a key to the city, a tour of the team’s facilities and reservations at the hottest nightspots.

At least one scribbler revealed the Lakers were interested in prying Caron Butler from the Wizards in a four-team trade that would have resulted in Garnett coming to Washington and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar being shipped to Charlotte.

The trade fell apart at the 11th hour because Michael Jordan’s cell phone broke up on the golf course.

Ron Artest ended up remaining under doctor’s care in Sacramento after doctors in Phoenix and Denver disavowed the Hippocratic oath and declined to take him on as a patient.

Under Barack Obama’s No Nut Job Left Behind proposal, Artest would be representing another team and Latrell Sprewell would be back in the NBA today.

The Bulls, Cavaliers and Sonics completed an 85-player deal in order to move Ben Wallace and Larry Hughes, which made a degree of upside-down sense.

Wallace is an aging malcontent with a bad contract, while Hughes is usually injured and has a bad contract.

Wallace has not lost his capacity to be at odds with a coach, just the energy to be the defensive presence he once was.

On a positive note, Wallace and Anderson Varejao will form the best 1-2 hair punch in the NBA.

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