by Ken Berger cbssportsline.com
Engaged with multiple teams in trade talks for Josh Smith, the Hawks are struggling to get the assets they are seeking for the prospective free agent, league sources told CBSSports.com on Tuesday.
Hawks GM Danny Ferry has told prospective trade partners that he is not interested in taking back future salary and won't do a deal "just to do it," one person familiar with the discussions said. The Hawks have been in conversations with many teams about the 27-year-old forward, with the most persistent conversations happening with the Suns, Bucks, Celtics and Nets.
Ferry has prioritized youth and multiple draft picks in talks for Smith. But in the NBA's new financial paradigm, potential trade partners are insisting on sending future salary to Atlanta with those assets, sources said. The deadlock could improve the Nets' chances of landing Smith and reuniting him with former Hawks teammate Joe Johnson, one of the sources said.
Yahoo Sports reported the Nets have offered Kris Humphries, Marshon Brooks and either a first-round pick or the rights to Croatian Bojan Bogdanovic. It's a deal the Hawks know will still be there all the way up to Thursday's trade deadline but not necessarily this summer, when Smith becomes an unrestricted free agent. As a team that far exceeds the NBA's new luxury-tax apron -- at least $4 million above the tax line -- the Nets could not acquire Smith via a sign-and-trade this summer unless they shed significant salary before or as part of the deal.
This is part of the dilemma for Ferry, who will have fewer potential trade partners for Smith in the offseason. The Hawks believed Phoenix would be a logical landing spot before the deadline, but the Suns have proceeded cautiously and are reluctant to give up the kind of assets that Atlanta is seeking for a complementary star who has not displayed the inclination to be a franchise cornerstone.
Another team linked to Smith is the Bucks, who are "definitely active," according to a rival exec. Milwaukee has to decide whether it will make prospective restricted free-agent Brandon Jennings available with the point guard having previously expressed that he's doing his homework on bigger markets. Jennings recently changed agents, leaving Bill Duffy and signing with Jeff Schwartz, a noted proponent of added endorsement and exposure opportunities that bigger NBA cities provide.
Though sources say the Bucks like their chances of being able to match any offer sheet for Jennings this summer -- their books are relatively clean after this season -- rival executives believe their high level of activity in trade talks has been motivated in part by uncertainty over Jennings' future.
If Milwaukee gets involved in a larger deal involving Smith or one of its own starting guards, Jennings or Monta Ellis, one valuable piece who could be added to the mix is Luc Mbah a Moute. Teams like his defensive versatility, rebounding and a reasonable contract that declines from $4.8 million this season to $4.4 million in 2014-15, which coincides with the NBA's next big free-agent frenzy. One deal that has been proposed is Mbah a Moute and a first-round pick to Orlando for J.J. Redick, who will be a free agent this summer, multiple league sources say. The belief is that the Bucks would only do that deal if they moved Ellis first. The Pacers, Bulls and Timberwolves are among the teams that covet Redick, but all have proved reluctant to surrender a first-round pick for a prospective free agent.
With Thursday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline approaching, here's the rest of the trade buzz from around the league:
• There's widespread belief among league execs that the Lakers will not trade Dwight Howard, who is an unrestricted free agent after the season and has had an inauspicious stay in L.A., to say the least. But several teams believe the Hawks will make a serious push for Howard before the deadline. If Howard is determined to leave the Lakers as a free agent, the Hawks would have room to sign him but only for a four-year deal. If they were able to trade for him now, Howard could re-sign for a full, five-year max deal in his hometown.
• Some rival front offices view the Clippers as a "house divided" when it comes to trading or not trading backup point guard Eric Bledsoe, one official said. But the Clippers are simply weighing whether a deal for Boston's Kevin Garnett -- assuming he'd agree to waive his no-trade clause -- would be worth breaking up the best bench unit in the league. Also, trade offers for Bledsoe would remain strong this summer, and Bledsoe is the Clippers' insurance policy in the unlikely event that Chris Paul doesn't re-sign as a free agent or gets injured. For now, the talks are dormant with the Celtics, who also are weighing whether moving Garnett and Paul Pierce for youth would be worth the massive cultural shakeup that would come with dissolving what's left of Boston's Big Three era.
• The Raptors would move Andrea Bargnani in the right deal, but rival execs have detected no urgency from Toronto's front office. ... The Wizards have fielded calls about Jordan Crawford but have demonstrated no appetite to take back long-term money. ... The Blazers continue to try to extract a future first-round pick for J.J. Hickson. ... The Sixers have been in conversations about Nick Young, but so far there's no deal to be made. ... The Nets know a deal involving Humphries for Charlotte's Ben Gordon will still be there at the deadline and are waiting for Atlanta to choose a destination for Smith before proceeding with those talks. ... The Bulls are telling prospective trade partners they're fine being over the luxury-tax line despite uncertainty over whether Derrick Rose will return this season. But rival front offices continue to believe Chicago would make a move under the tax if a deal presented itself, mostly to avoid starting the clock on the CBA's dreaded new repeater tax, which penalizes teams immensely for multiple years above the tax. The Bulls are about $3 million over the tax, and their payroll is hard-capped at $74 million by virtue of signing Marco Belinelli with their bi-annual exception last summer. ... Executives believe the Warriors will look to move two of their minimum-salary players to get under the tax for the same reason. The clock would start on Golden State's repeater status even though they're less than $1 million above the line.