By Chris Sheridan
February 06, 2013 at 2:00 PM
The NBA trade deadline journalism racket is a tricky minefield to navigate. The business is driven by rumors, many of which are founded in truth, others of which are utterly fictitious.
Distinguishing between the two differentiates the good basketball Web sites from the bad sites.
But figuring out who is available is not rocket science if you speak to the right people, and I speak to a lot of plugged-in people on a regular basis.
Here is the latest they are telling me: The San Antonio Spurs are the front-runners to land Al Jefferson in a trade with the Utah Jazz – and they are frontrunners like Secretariat was in the 1973 Belmont Stakes.
Here’s why, followed by a how.
“Those teams are practically incestuous, they are on such good terms internally,” one NBA source told me Wednesday.
Indeed, Spurs assistant general manager Scott Layden left Utah prior to this season after spending several seasons as an assistant coach for the Jazz and joined R.C. Buford’s staff in San Antonio’s
secrecy vaultfront office. Also, former Spurs assistant GM Dennis Lindsey is now doing the legwork for Utah’s grand pooh-bah, Kevin O’Connor.
The Jazz do not want to lose Jefferson for nothing when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, and they have a former overall No. 3 pick, Enes Kanter, ready to step in and fill the void that would be left by Jefferson’s departure.
Yes, Jefferson makes them a better playoff team. But no, the Jazz are not fooling themselves into believing they are championship material at this point.
And if Dwight Howard is not available on the free agent market this summer, Jefferson immediately becomes the No. 1 center available.
So the time for the Jazz to move him is now, and the team with the biggest need for an upgrade at center is the Spurs. The inability to protect the rim was one of the prime reasons for their collapse in last year’s Western Conference finals when they had won 20 in a row and had a 2-0 lead on the Thunder, only to lose the next four.
Next: The Jazz need a point guard, and the Spurs have two of them not named Tony Parker. So you can expect Patty Mills (who Lindsey is familiar with and fond of) to be the preferable choice over Nando de Colo.
The Jazz also need some value coming back in this trade, and the Spurs have one last Eurostash asset in Erazem Lorbek, who has been profiled on this site by writer A.J. Mitnick.
Presumably they’d also ask for Tiago Splitter, because somebody would need to back up Kanter, and because Splitter is having an improved season in the year his contract expires – meaning Utah would not be taking on any long-term financial obligation.
San Antonio throws in Stephen Jackson for salary-matching purposes (almost an exact match), and voila. Captain Jack will love Salt Lake City, hunh?