PHOENIX – For now, it’s about winning and not finances.
The Suns nearly went all the way to Thursday’s trade deadline in talks regarding Shaquille O’Neal, but ultimately decided they are still in the title-chasing business.
After all of the emphasis on the Suns’ consideration of offers for Amaré Stoudemire in recent weeks, Wednesday’s attention turned to O’Neal and the possibility of shedding millions with a deal. There were O’Neal talks with Portland involving Raef LaFrentz’s expiring contract and Cleveland involving Ben Wallace, but the Suns ultimately stood pat with the feeling that their big move to start the week – changing coaches from Terry Porter to Alvin Gentry – has made this season a worthwhile chase.
It is the combination of the good vibe off destroying the Los Angeles Clippers for the franchise’s first consecutive 140-point games and a market not conducive to shedding payroll with so few willing buyers.
“We’ve got some good momentum going now and we wanted to see what we can get done with what we’ve got,” Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver said. “That outweighed the savings.”
That is not to say a financial move won’t be pursued this summer and was not considered Thursday, particularly after the NBA sent a memo to teams Wednesday outlining how the upcoming salary cap and luxury-tax threshold will be lower next season, making luxury-tax teams owe another $1.5 million.
The Suns would not agree to a deal sending O’Neal to Cleveland for a package including Wallace but might have if Wally Szczerbiak had been included instead of Wallace. Wallace still makes $14 million next season while acquiring Szczerbiak could have meant clearing $13 million off the Suns’ books.
“In the end, there was “nothing enough for us to seriously consider anything,” Suns General Manager Steve Kerr said.
The only top contender to make an upgrade was Orlando, which landed Rafer Alston from Houston in a three-team deal that also included Memphis. The Magic needed a point guard to replace All-Star Jameer Nelson, who they announced had season-ending shoulder injury Thursday.
• The Chicago Bulls traded unhappy guard Larry Hughes to the New York Knicks for Tim Thomas, Jerome James and Anthony Roberson. Chicago also traded guard Thabo Sefolosha to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a 2009 first-round draft pick.
• The Knicks also acquired Chris Wilcox from Oklahoma City for Malik Rose and cash considerations in a swap of forwards with expiring contracts.
• The Minnesota Timberwolves shipped Rashad McCants and center Calvin Booth to Sacramento for forward Shelden Williams and point guard Bobby Brown.
• The Boston Celtics traded center Patrick O’Bryant to Toronto as part of a three-team trade also involving Sacramento. The Celtics acquired a future conditional second-round draft pick from the Kings, who received guard Will Solomon from Toronto and cash considerations from Boston.
The Kings also waived Mikki Moore after continuing their salary cap purge with their third trade in a week. Sacramento sent Brad Miller and John Salmons to the Bulls on Wednesday for Andres Nocioni, Drew Gooden, Michael Ruffin and Cedric Simmons. The Kings immediately sent Ruffin to Portland for Ike Diogu and cash.
The Associated Press