THERE IS NOCHANCE that Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett will be among the playerschanging uniforms by the Feb. 23 trading deadline, and there is only a slightchance that 76ers guard Allen Iverson will be dealt. Some would call itridiculous even to suggest trading those two worthies, who on Sunday willextend All-Star appearance streaks that started in 1997 (Garnett) and 2000(Iverson).
"Of courseit's ridiculous," says Minnesota G.M. Kevin McHale. "It's only becausejackasses like you write articles like this that the subject even comesup." (He was kidding about the jackass part. Sort of.)
And yetthroughout the league there is building sentiment that Garnett and Iverson havereached a point of diminishing returns. "Kevin's pilot light is out,"says one Eastern Conference coach. "Iverson's best days are behindhim," says one Western G.M. The home crowd's love affairs with their starshave abated, as have the size of those crowds.
In other words,what was once unthinkable is now almost topical. Talk of a deal has been kickedaround in Philadelphia, where a Daily News column earlier this month stirredthe AI-might-go pot. "I listened with great interest as several 'high-end'season-ticket holders talked to me about an unofficial survey conducted by aSixers official concerning possible life without Allen Iverson," wrote JohnSmallwood. G.M. Billy King denied that the team had initiated such a poll.Trading the Answer, he insists, is not the answer.
So, under whatcircumstances could the two franchises move their franchise players? SIconsulted three G.M.'s--none of whom, it should be added, believed that eitherGarnett or Iverson will be dealt--to get a consensus on what conditions shouldbe met if the Sixers or T-Wolves dare to take the plunge.
•Any deal has tobe a package that yields future draft picks, at least one young prospect andcap relief to clear space for signing major free agents.
•Any deal has toappear to be an attempt at building for a championship, not just a salary dump.At least in the short term, Minnesota and Philadelphia fans are far more likelyto embrace a .500 team built along the lines of, say, the young Hornets--whoseyouth and exciting style suggest future success.
•Any deal has tosend the star to a good team. Even if fans have run out of patience with theincumbent, a trade that seems to punish him would leave a bad taste in theirmouths.
Should eitherteam pull the trigger? The view from here is no for the Timberwolves and maybefor the 76ers. Though some of his passion has gone, Garnett, 29, is a still a6'11" stud with a smorgasbord of talents. There is almost no way Minnesotawould get equal value. Iverson, as valiant and brilliant as he is, is adifferent story. He's only a year older than Garnett, but he's given his6-foot, 165-pound body to the game. He's a defensive liability (KG is not) andwill be more of one when he no longer has the legs to haunt the passing lanes.He's a guard, and teams can find guards much easier than skilled big men.
Where could AIgo? Possibilities include the Mavericks (who have a deep roster and an ownerwith cojones), the Sonics (who could dangle Ray Allen and other pieces) and theTrail Blazers (who are always looking to deal and have plenty of young pieces).Only a jackass would say that moving Iverson is a no-brainer. But it isn'tcrazy for King to think long and hard now about what his star might fetch.