Not surprisingly, now that the Ron Artest trade is complete, the New York Knicks were one of the first teams to step up and make a trade. The long-awaited deal sending swingman Jalen Rose to the Knicks finally came to fruition and maybe created news to take some of the media's attention off President of Basketball Operations Isiah Thomas, whose name has been cited in a sexual harassment lawsuit. The deal is just another indication that the Knicks have no concern at all for how high their payroll climbs because New York traded away power forward/center Antonio Davis in the transaction, and his contract would have come off the books this season and it is a couple million dollars cheaper, too. But fear not, Knicks fans. Reports in the Sunday papers indicate that Thomas is not finished dealing yet, and the trade deadline still is more than two weeks away Feb. 23. The Knicks struggled even more than usual this past week without guard Stephon Marbury for much of the week. Marbury injured his left shoulder in a recent game and tried to play through it but has missed a couple games because the shoulder kept getting hit and got too painful. . . . The other team in that deal the Toronto Raptors still are waiting for Davis to join the team, but he is expected to do so this week. Davis, who was dealt to the Chicago Bulls by Toronto three years ago, told the Raptors at the end of last week that he would report and play out the season and the rest of his contract in Toronto. There also have been some reports in the Chicago Tribune that he might hope to seek a contract buyout or another trade so he can return to Chicago, where his wife's family lives. The Raptors have said they made the deal to free up salary-cap space after this season to try to acquire more help for their young team in free agency and to try to re-sign point guard Mike James, who will be a free agent after this season. Young power forward Chris Bosh, the player the Raptors seek to rebuild around, said this week that he has hinted to Raptors executives that he is eager to see James stay with the team. Bosh can be a free agent soon, and the Raptors hope to re-sign him to a long-term deal this summer. Some reports in the Toronto media also indicated that the Raptors hope to use the extra salary-cap space to try to lure center/power forward Nene, who is in the final season of his contract with the Denver Nuggets and can be a restricted free agent. . . . Another struggling team that entered the trade waters following the Artest trade is the Boston Celtics, and so far at least, the deal does not seem to have helped them a lot. The Celtics have played six games since the dealing sending center Mark Blount, forward Justin Reed and guards Ricky Davis and Marcus Banks to the Minnesota Timberwolves for swingman Wally Szczerbiak and centers Michael Olowokandi and Dwayne Jones. Draft picks also were involved in the deal. So far, Szczerbiak has played in all six games, starting in five. He has averaged 14.7 points, five rebounds and four assists, but the Celtics have lost all five games in which he has started. Against the Orlando Magic on Saturday night, Szczerbiak played almost 45 minutes, finishing with 13 points, three rebounds and zero assists. It's really unfair to judge a trade so early, though, because the new players on their new teams have not had an opportunity to learn all of the teams' plays and adjust to their new teammates in such a short period of time, especially considering that there are so few days available for practices once a busy NBA season starts. However, there also is speculation among some in the Boston media about whether Szczerbiak is destined to remain in Boston for the long term or whether he will be traded again in the future as part of some larger overhaul of the Celtics. Not only that, the Boston Herald reported that trade speculation continues to swirl around swingman Paul Pierce, even though Executive Director of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge has denied repeatedly that he is considering dealing Pierce to continue with the team's youth movement. In fact, Ainge told WEEI in Boston last week that the Celtics might open talks on a contract extension for Pierce, who still has one season and a player option remaining on his contract after this season. Stay tuned. . . . In Philadelphia, Sixers all-star guard Allen Iverson returned to action Saturday night for the first time in eight days to help his team knock off the Cleveland Cavaliers 100-95. Iverson had sprained one foot when he landed on the foot of Magic power forward Dwight Howard in one of the team's recent matchups and said he had been playing with the other ankle sprained as well. As you will recall if you read last week's notes, while he was out, some columnists in Philadelphia newspapers including one column by Stephen A. Smith -- suggested that the Sixers might trade Iverson because the team is struggling now and has not won a title with him yet. Iverson did have something to say about those comments this week, telling reporters that he loves playing in Philadelphia and that it hurts him that some would like to see him traded. "You see terrorism on the front page, and then you see all the deaths in Philadelphia on the local page,'' Iverson told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "All that negativity and then you get to the sports page, when it's supposed to be something gratifying, and you see even more negativity. You see the Donovan [McNabb] thing, you see T.O. [Terrell Owens] , you see the trade talks with me, so the whole paper is like a book, Tales of the Dark Side or something. That's just the way it is here. I realize it. I understand it. It's going to be like that. If I'm here next year, if I'm here the year after, there's always going to be negativity. Every single year that I've been here, there have been talks about me being traded. But this is something I have to deal with. This is my life. I love the fans. I love my teammates. . . . My kids go to school here. My kids are settled here, and I don't want to leave. I swear, I'd be lying if I'd tell you it doesn't bother me, it doesn't hurt me at all, because it does. But it's just something that I know in my heart that I'm going to always have to deal with as long as I'm here. But the flip side of that is, I know how to deal with it." During the four games that Iverson missed, the Sixers went 2-2. They did at least try to make a trade during that period, but it didn't involve Iverson. They agreed to ship center Steven Hunter, the former Magic center who just signed a five-year contract with Philadelphia as a free agent this past summer, to the New Orleans Hornets for two second-round draft picks. Apparently, he did not fit in with Philadelphia's long-term plans either. However, the deal is on hold right now after Hunter failed his physical. . . . The New Jersey Nets must really, really prefer to play at home. Two weeks ago, they lost four games in a row, and guard Vince Carter, the former Daytona Beach Mainland High star, injured his back on a West Coast trip. Since then, Carter has returned healthy, and the Nets have soundly defeated the Southeast Division-leading Miami Heat and the Eastern Conference-dominating Detroit Pistons, but they lost on the road to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Off the court, the Nets reportedly remain in the hunt to add a big man to help them if they have to take on the bigger Heat and Pistons in the postseason, but no specific deals have been reported. . . .
Dee GugelOrlandoSentinel.com contributor
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