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Rumor Mill Spins Overtime Abdur-Rahim’s Pivot Only Adds To Speculation

From Wire Reports

Vancouver was faced with a dilemma. The Grizzlies have the No. 3 pick in Wednesday’s draft, and the player most thought should be selected at that spot - Georgia Tech’s Stephon Marbury - told the club he wouldn’t visit and didn’t want to be drafted by Vancouver.

Now, it may not matter.

The re-emergence of California’s Shareef Abdur-Rahim has dramatically altered the landscape of the first five picks. The versatile, 6-foot-10 Abdur-Rahim is seen by some scouts as the best player available, a surefire small forward with size, quickness and scoring ability.

Toronto (second) and Vancouver (third) are very high on him, and there is speculation the Grizzlies would love to trade with Philadelphia for the first pick, assuring themselves a shot at Abdur-Rahim.

Minnesota and Phoenix, meanwhile, were two clubs that targeted the third pick in the hopes of acquiring Marbury. General managers around the league say the Timberwolves offered Doug West and the No. 5 pick to move up while the Suns were willing to offer Wesley Person, Wayman Tisdale and the No. 15 pick to move to Vancouver’s spot.

Any movement to No. 3 now appears unlikely. The belief is, Jackson has coveted Abdur-Rahim over Marbury from the start. The Raptors provide the one hitch in Vancouver’s rumored plans. Toronto vice president Isiah Thomas holds Abdur-Rahim in high esteem. When Thomas declared last week that he intended to take Massachusetts star Marcus Camby, Abdur-Rahim had not yet resurfaced.

Divac, Peeler available

The Lakers reportedly have offered center Vlade Divac and guard Anthony Peeler to the Bucks for the No. 4 pick.

“That’s how much West loves Marbury,” said one GM. “He’s doing everything in his power to get him.”

GMs around the league speculate any Divac trade would be made to give the Lakers the salary-cap room needed to sign Shaquille O’Neal, a free agent.

If this trade goes down, look for it to happen after July 1. If it doesn’t happen, that would indicate the Orlando Magic have the inside track on re-signing O’Neal.

Barkley to Dallas?

Some of the more interesting veteran players who had their names floating in trade circles leading up to the draft are Phoenix’s Charles Barkley, Houston’s Robert Horry and Sam Cassell, Golden State’s Rony Seikaly, New York’s John Starks, Charlotte’s Glen Rice and Portland’s Rod Strickland.

The Suns have offered to trade Barkley to the Mavericks, according to reports.

The Arizona Republic quoted two Mavericks sources as saying the proposed deal would send Barkley to Dallas for guard Jimmy Jackson and the Mavericks’ first-round pick this year.

In Texas, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram also said the offer was being discussed, citing sources it did not identify.

Chicago and Indiana also would like to acquire Barkley. Talk is, the Bulls would offer Toni Kukoc and Bill Wennington.

Houston is also a major player. One NBA source says the Rockets are trying to deal Horry and Cassell to Phoenix for Barkley and Elliot Perry. And according to the New York Daily News, the Suns and Rockets spent the last week on the phone and have tentatively worked out the deal.

Phoenix point guard Kevin Johnson, meanwhile, has told the Suns he’s willing to be traded for the last year of his contract if it would help the team.

The problem is whether another team could afford the three-time all-star. The final year of his contract reportedly is worth $7 million. In addition, injuries have limited him to an average of 55 games over the last four seasons.

Suns president and CEO Jerry Colangelo, who gave Johnson a no-trade promise two summers ago when Johnson signed a contract extension, confirmed Johnson’s offer Friday but added: “We have nothing going.”

Johnson said he’s adamant about playing only one more year. He said winding up his career while the team rebuilds is not ideal, but he plans to make the most of it.

Another point guard, Portland’s Strickland, is coveted by Minnesota and New York. With the Knicks deciding to let Derek Harper walk, they need a point guard - and coach Jeff Van Gundy loves Strickland.

Houston clears $1.5 million

Back when Allan Bristow ran the Hornets’ draft, another general manager asked what he’d accept in exchange for the 28th pick.

“How about 29?” Bristow joked.

This time, it was no joke. In a transparent salary-cap move, Houston traded out of the first round last week to avoid signing the 22nd pick to a three-year guaranteed contract.

The Rockets traded No. 22 in Wednesday’s draft, plus No. 51 and veterans Pete Chilcutt and Tim Breaux for two second-round picks - Nos. 30 and 42. By moving Chilcutt, Breaux and financial responsibility for No. 22, the Rockets lifted about $1.5 million off their cap.

It’s all about the new collective bargaining agreement, which requires teams to offer three-year guarantees, on a sliding salary scale, to first-round picks. NBA executives say many of the players taken at the end of the first round aren’t worth a three-year guarantee.

That’s particularly true for a veteran team like Houston trying to stay in title contention. The Rockets don’t need a rookie of marginal talent. They need veterans ready for playing time.

That’s where Barkley may come in.

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: NBA prospecting How the Dallas Morning News foresees Wednesday’s NBA draft: 1. Philadelphia 76ers - Allen Iverson - Georgetown - 6-0. 2. Toronto Raptors - Marcus Camby - Massachusetts - 6-11. 3. Vancouver Grizzlies - Shareef AbdurRahim - California - 6-11. 4. Milwaukee Bucks - Stephon Marbury - Georgia Tech - 6-2. 5. Minnesota Timberwolves - Ray Allen - Connecticut - 6-5. 6. Boston Celtics - Antoine Walker - Kentucky - 6-10. 7. Los Angeles Clippers - John Wallace - Syracuse - 6-8. 8. New Jersey Nets - Kerry Kittles - Villanova - 6-5. 9. Dallas Mavericks - Lorenzen Wright - Memphis - 6-11. 10. Indiana Pacers (from Denver) - Erick Dampier - Mississippi State - 6-11. 11. Golden State Warriors - Efthimas Retzias - PAOK Greece - 6-11. 12. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Washington) - Todd Fuller - North Carolina State - 6-11. 13. Charlotte Hornets - Samaki Walker - Louisville - 6-9. 14. Sacramento Kings - Vitaly Potapenko - Wright State - 6-10. 15. Phoenix Suns - Steve Nash - Santa Clara - 6-3. 16. Charlotte Hornets (from Miami) - Jerome Williams - Georgetown - 6-10. 17. Portland Trail Blazers - Dontae Jones - Mississippi State - 6-7. 18. New York Knicks (from Detroit via San Antonio) - Zydrunas Ilgauskas - Lithuania - 7-1. 19. New York Knicks (via Miami) - Kobe Bryant - Lower Merion High School - 6-6. 20. Cleveland Cavaliers - Roy Rogers - Alabama - 6-10. 21. New York Knicks - Walter McCarty - Kentucky - 6-10. 22. Vancouver Grizzlies - Ryan Minor - Oklahoma - 6-7. 23. Denver Nuggets (from Indiana) - Jeff McInnis - North Carolina - 6-4. 24. Los Angeles Lakers - Predrag Stojakovic - PAOK Greece - 6-9. 25. Utah Jazz - Tony Delk - Kentucky - 6-1. 26. Detroit Pistons (from San Antonio) - Priest Lauderdale - Peristeri Greece - 7-2. 27. Orlando Magic - Mark Hendrickson - Washington State - 6-9 - 242. 28. Seattle SuperSonics - Moochie Norris - West Florida - 6-1. 29. Chicago Bulls - Brian Evans - Indiana - 6-8.

This sidebar appeared with the story: NBA prospecting How the Dallas Morning News foresees Wednesday’s NBA draft: 1. Philadelphia 76ers - Allen Iverson - Georgetown - 6-0. 2. Toronto Raptors - Marcus Camby - Massachusetts - 6-11. 3. Vancouver Grizzlies - Shareef AbdurRahim - California - 6-11. 4. Milwaukee Bucks - Stephon Marbury - Georgia Tech - 6-2. 5. Minnesota Timberwolves - Ray Allen - Connecticut - 6-5. 6. Boston Celtics - Antoine Walker - Kentucky - 6-10. 7. Los Angeles Clippers - John Wallace - Syracuse - 6-8. 8. New Jersey Nets - Kerry Kittles - Villanova - 6-5. 9. Dallas Mavericks - Lorenzen Wright - Memphis - 6-11. 10. Indiana Pacers (from Denver) - Erick Dampier - Mississippi State - 6-11. 11. Golden State Warriors - Efthimas Retzias - PAOK Greece - 6-11. 12. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Washington) - Todd Fuller - North Carolina State - 6-11. 13. Charlotte Hornets - Samaki Walker - Louisville - 6-9. 14. Sacramento Kings - Vitaly Potapenko - Wright State - 6-10. 15. Phoenix Suns - Steve Nash - Santa Clara - 6-3. 16. Charlotte Hornets (from Miami) - Jerome Williams - Georgetown - 6-10. 17. Portland Trail Blazers - Dontae Jones - Mississippi State - 6-7. 18. New York Knicks (from Detroit via San Antonio) - Zydrunas Ilgauskas - Lithuania - 7-1. 19. New York Knicks (via Miami) - Kobe Bryant - Lower Merion High School - 6-6. 20. Cleveland Cavaliers - Roy Rogers - Alabama - 6-10. 21. New York Knicks - Walter McCarty - Kentucky - 6-10. 22. Vancouver Grizzlies - Ryan Minor - Oklahoma - 6-7. 23. Denver Nuggets (from Indiana) - Jeff McInnis - North Carolina - 6-4. 24. Los Angeles Lakers - Predrag Stojakovic - PAOK Greece - 6-9. 25. Utah Jazz - Tony Delk - Kentucky - 6-1. 26. Detroit Pistons (from San Antonio) - Priest Lauderdale - Peristeri Greece - 7-2. 27. Orlando Magic - Mark Hendrickson - Washington State - 6-9 - 242. 28. Seattle SuperSonics - Moochie Norris - West Florida - 6-1. 29. Chicago Bulls - Brian Evans - Indiana - 6-8.

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