First, let me do this my way:
"I am easily satisfied,'' Winston Churchill once said, "with the very best.''
Churchill, it turns out, might've made a heck of an NBA executive for these times when there is no tomorrow (literally, given the coming labor strife) and when such an open opportunity for success today. Entering this NBA season, Miami in the East and the Lakers in the West seemed to some the prohibitive favorites. But as we reach the one-third mark of the schedule, there is plenty of elbow room for other contenders.
So Orlando just elbowed its way nearer the top in the on-paper talent-collecting business with its dual trades that bring to the Magic erstwhile superstar Gilbert Arenas from Washington and three additions from Phoenix in deals that jettison fading standouts Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis.
"As always,'' says Dallas GM Donnie Nelson, "about this time of year it becomes a basketball version of an arms race.''
Nelson knows. His Mavericks have completed blockbuster February deadline trades in two of the last three winters, acquiring the likes of starters Jason Kidd, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson along with backup center Brendan Haywood.
And the Mavericks are thinking of doing it again.
Should they? Let's dig around:
A Mavs-Bucks Trade?! – Daniel Artest is a boisterous tweeter who undoubtedly has some NBA friends.
So over the weekend, when he tweeted:
Another NBA trade brewing between Bucks/Mavs.
… we felt obliged to go digging.
Daniel might have NBA friends, but maybe NBA general managers aren't among them?
"Mike E'' of the 75-Member Staff scoured the internet for any hints from any other source that there might be some Mavs-Bucks connection.
We've got nothing. Nothing except one single tweet from a kooky brother of a kooky athlete.
Just in case, "Mike E'' sent multiple tweets to Daniel requesting a little more info, a little bit of a hint, any sort of a source or a advancing of the story.
The Mavericks, the Rockets, Brendan Haywood and Kevin Martin – On Friday, DallasBasketball.com cited two sources in reporting that the center-starved Rockets (possibly facing life without Yao Ming) are "eyeing'' Mavs center Brendan Haywood. Maybe not coincidentally, we reported that the Mavs "covet'' Houston's Kevin Martin.
Those aren't trade talks. … not yet. But Dallas' involvement here is indicative of owner Mark Cuban's endless push for his team to be "the next big thing.''
But there needs to be deep evaluation of change here. Nelson says, "One of our top intentions is to not mess with an incredible chemistry,'' and who can blame him? Dallas is 21-5 and has won 14 of 15.
So I'm moving slow on this. My finger isn't on the trigger finger.
If Dallas did a deal like this, it would be in the hopes that Martin is ‘Melo, it would be to the detriment of Dallas' surprisingly stout defense (that end of the floor isn't Kevin's bag) and it would require the Mavs to hand the No. 2 center job to the unproven Ian Mahinmi.
Mix this in, too: When Orlando was shopping Marcin Gortat around, the Magic hoped for Martin in exchange. Houston wouldn't bite … so Gortat goes to Phoenix and the Rockets are looking for something superior to The Polish Hammer.
The Price for Iggy – The buzz is that Portland – desperate to shake things up again – recently offered a package of Pryzbilla/Batum package to the Sixers for Andre Iguodala and Philly turned them down.
Batum, of course, was over the summer considered valuable enough to draw offers of high lottery picks.
So how much does Dallas (which liked Iggy enough to ponder a trade last February before doing the Caron Butler deal instead) want to give up? And does Iggy help more than Kevin Martin would?
Ah, to be the Lakers – Simply put, the defending champs do not need to bother with such matters.
LA this week acquired an extra big, Joe Smith, in the three-team deal involving the Rockets and the Nets. Moved out was Sasha Vujacic, no longer in favor with the club and a financial burden.
Yes, the Lakers can do a salary dump and not get criticized for it.
The Celtics Understand What December Means – Delonte West goes down. Shaq goes down. Jermaine O'Neal goes down. Now Rondo's gone down.
Boston, off to a 21-4 start and fortified with a "been-there/done-that'' mindset -- doesn't flinch.
GM Danny Ainge and coach Doc Rivers have assembled a cast of extremely malleable parts. That malleability may experience some stretching during upcoming moments … the other night, Nate Robinson and Turkish big man Semih Eerden started and Avery Bradley and Luke Harangody were elevated to rotation-level players … but Boston understands that December is something to endure on the way to June.
The Knicks Cannot Stand Pat – The Knicks are relevant. Relevant enough to appear twice in three days on ESPN's prime-time telecast. Relevant enough to be on the coattails of MVP candidate Amare Stoudemire. Relevant enough to have almost beaten the Celtics. …
But as the Knicks will learn, it is much easier to vault from "lousy to good'' than it is to climb from "good to great.'' Getting credit for "almost beating the Celtics'' in a home game at Madison Square Garden isn't quite the foundation of a title contender.
But trading for Carmelo Anthony is.
New York doesn't have swap-worthy pieces on the same level with New Jersey. (Or, for that matter, with Dallas, which would trade a kitchen sink of assets for ‘Melo, even without him signing an extension.) But ‘Melo has leverage here, because of his impending free agency.
The Knicks need to "shake it up'' – but they need ‘Melo to grab hold and help with the shaking.
The weekend revelation that has Anthony saying he'd sign an extension with whichever club acquires him is lovely … but it does little for the Dallas cause here, by the way. The Mavericks are interested regardless of his extension thoughts … and the Nuggets are reluctant to swap him within the conference.
Is The Bulls' Dam About To Burst? – Yes … and maybe the Chicago bubble is, too.
The Bulls survived this first third of the season without the services of Carlos Boozer, and jus as he's returned from injury, now fellow big Joakim Noah will likely miss nine weeks following thumb surgery.
Bulls GM Gar Forman tells the Chicago media that the team might seek a small deal and a "short-term replacement'' while endorsing the potential of backups.
"It's an opportunity for Omer (Asik) to play some,'' Forman said.
There is a window of opportunity here for the Bulls. If they have trade ammunition, they might consider asking someone besides Omer Asik to keep that window propped open.
The Mavs, of course, have bigs who can help more than Omer Asik can.
The Magic: Shaken and Stirred – Like their Western counterparts in Dallas, the Magic have spent considerable time at the lip of the cup of excellence; Dallas was in the NBA Finals in 2009, Orlando in 2009. And like the Mavericks, the Magic generally spare no expense and fear no risk.
"I circled the West Coast trip on our schedule a long time ago," Orlando GM Otis Smith said. "The West Coast trip, to me, was going to decide
whether or not we're going to either fix our woes or continue down the same path. I don't think we've played particularly well leading up to the West
Coast trip. So, we were on the West Coast trip and some of our woes continued, so you start to explore opportunities that are out there."
What happened to the Magic on that roadie? Three of four on the trip, a continuation of a skid that saw the Magic lose five of six games. So, with Dwight Howard as the constant centerpiece of a potential title contender, Smith had the option to "shake it up.''
He pulled the trigger on a deal with Washington that brings Arenas to town (in exchange for Lewis). In doing so, Orlando takes on a one-time star
dogged by controversy and a contract that pays him $62 million in the three years following this one.
And the Magic did the same on a multi-player deal to get from Phoenix the threesome of Jason Richardson, ex-Magic Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark (pieces of a Suns team that never fit together) while giving up Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, a first-round pick and cash.
(Maybe the Mavs catch a break here, as they are at Orlando on Tuesday, with the Magic possibly still learning playbooks and unpacking and such.)
Why should Orlando make changes? Weren't the Magic – despite their recent struggles a 16-9 team with the fourth-best winning percentage in the conference -- pretty good as previously constructed?
Because as with Winston Churchill, for some teams, "good'' isn't good enough.
Or, as Daniel Artest said so eloquently via Twitter on Sunday, hours after his Mavs-Bucks tweet, "I need some coke to sell.''