Q: How do players feel when someone like Stephon Marbury is traded to a championship-caliber team from a team that was horrible partly because of him? If I were a Knicks player, I’d be furious. But maybe they’re just happy he's gone.
— Paula Mitchell, Reston, Va.
A: Considering the party line inside the Knicks' locker room for the past week has been, "Stephon who?", it's safe to say the players are just happy the episode now includes its final New York chapter.
First of all, Marbury wasn't "traded." He had to forfeit a considerable amount of cash from what was left on the final year of his contract. He then signed as a free agent.
In general, players are just glad that such soap operas reach conclusions so they again can become the focus in their home markets.
The day after Marbury reached his buyout, with nothing more to report than his impending signing with the Celtics, Knicks beat writers had no other choice but to note that these David Lee and Nate Robinson guys aren't half bad. (Nate, in fact, will tell you that, if you just ask.)
Marbury stopped being a teammate the day Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni arrived, but he didn't stop being a story until the buyout.
It is a tale that is so often repeated in the NBA — troublemaker finds his way to paradise — that it's just accepted as a given.
Former teammates in Miami couldn't care less that Shaquille O'Neal is giving the type of effort in Phoenix he refused to provide last season in South Florida.
Never overstate enduring connection between NBA players.
You'd be amazed at the scant amount of former teammates that retain any type of significant or enduring friendship. You probably have a better chance of reconnecting with a long-lost college acquaintance on Facebook than finding former teammates with any tangible bond.
Q: Just as Tim Duncan took the mantle from an aging David Robinson, whom do you think would be good for the Spurs to bring in to groom as Duncan's heir apparent?
— Tom, San Antonio
A: The perfect fit would have been Brook Lopez, who has a similar approach and similar face-up skills. Alas, the Nets got lousy before the Spurs and landed the former Stanford center in last year's draft.
The next generation of Spurs likely won't be formulated any time soon, at least not as long as Duncan, Ginobili and Parker are around.
What coach Gregg Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford have done so well in recent years is continue to efficiently move the pieces around the team's core.
Next to go in the revamping process likely will be Bruce Bowen. But that won't mean the Spurs will head to the lottery. Rather they’ll evolve, as they have, to a degree, with this season's addition of Roger Mason and the enhanced role for Matt Bonner.
An argument can be made that Duncan, when healthy, is playing as well as he has in years.
Considering how the Spurs have turned late draft picks and overseas connections into an every-other-year cycle of championships, there likely would have to be three or four years of struggles before an heir apparent to Duncan would be considered.
The Spurs look no worse than second to one in the West. That means it doesn't matter, at least for now, who has next.
Q: Since the Blazers didn’t pull the trigger on Vince Carter at the trade deadline, what might they do in the offseason?
— Steve, Las Vegas
Even with Darius Miles back on the cap for $9 million next season, Portland still could have as much as $8 million to spend in free agency this summer.
A veteran answer at small forward still would appear to be the goal, which could lead to additional overtures on the trade market. While the Blazers won't have the insurance-covered contract of Raef LaFrentz to offer, they still have enough young talent to tempt in a trade, perhaps starting with Travis Outlaw or Martell Webster.
And keep in mind, by being below the salary cap, the Blazers would not have to send out an equivalent amount of salary to bring in a proven veteran. That should have teams such as the Nets, with Vince Carter, listening again this summer.
The Kevin Pritchard way has been to tie the NBA draft and the trade market into one process. This June, the Blazers hold their own picks, as well as the second-round picks of the Knicks, Nuggets and Clippers, as well as the draft rights to such overseas prospects as Joel Freeland and Petteri Koponen.
It figures to be a busy end of June and start of July for the Blazers.
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