1. Houston, We Have A Target
By Marc Stein
BOISE, Idaho -- Here are the best (and last) dribbles of chatter from the NBA grapevine as collected from various executives, scouts and insiders who gathered to watch 16 teams play two games each in a four-day span at the annual D-League Showcase:
Some 40 days from the league's annual trading deadline, no one in Boise could say with any certainty that the Toronto Raptors are going to be willing to move Chris Bosh ahead of the Feb. 18 trade buzzer.
No one has a firm read on Toronto's intentions yet.
What we did hear, though, is that the Houston Rockets have made it known that they would be willing to trade for Bosh immediately Ö even if they don't get a guarantee they can re-sign him this summer.
That's the problem with any sort of Bosh deal at midseason. Even if the Raps do decide they want to make Bosh available now and avoid the threat of losing him without compensation in free agency after July 1, there's an overwhelming majority of teams that wouldn't dare consider trading for Bosh in February without some sort of assurance they could keep him.
But Houston is different.
Sources say the ever-aggressive Rockets are sure a half-season in Houston could convince the native Texan to pledge his long-term future to a city players love as well as a team that sits four games over .500 without the injured Yao Ming and the exiled Tracy McGrady. The Rockets also have the requisite stash of young assets, as evidenced by their success this season without marquee names, to assemble a legit deal for Toronto to consider Ö and without insisting that McGrady's mammoth $22.5 million salary has to be part of it.
You figure Chicago, Miami and New York also are on the short list of teams that would be willing to risk trading for Bosh before we get to the summer. Those are the teams thought to have the best shot at signing him in free agency and could inherit Bosh's Larry Bird rights with a deal before the deadline. None of them, though, can offer a better talent deal than Houston. The Heat and Knicks -- with their heavily stripped-down rosters as the countdown continues to July 1 -- can't come close.
The Raps recently have inched back to .500, just got point guard Jose Calderon back from a hip injury and still expect bruising forward Reggie Evans to start playing in the second half of the season after recovering from a foot problem to provide some needed toughness. So there's a good case for Toronto to put off any major decisions until the offseason.
The Raptors have long believed, furthermore, that Bosh will participate in a sign-and-trade this summer -- if he decides to leave Canada after saying repeatedly that he loves the place -- before walking away outright from the franchise that drafted him.
I nonetheless was advised this week to expect Houston to make a hard Bosh push during these next 40 days if the Raptors invite it. Or perhaps even if they don't invite it.
That tale alone made it a worthy trip.