It almost happened one night
By Eric Neel
Page 2 columnist

Strange things happen in the hours before the trading deadline. GMs are wasted, living on 17 minutes of sleep and fistfuls of Altoids. They answer phones that aren't actually ringing and send faxes to old high school girlfriends they haven't spoken to in years. Owners are working little metal balls in their fists like Captain Queeg, pounding back éclairs and calling their mothers for reassurance every half hour.

Nerves are frayed. Guys are having wild visions and hatching bizarre plans. What would seem ridiculous and peculiar to you and me strikes them as perfectly normal.

Ben Wallace
Ben Wallace's 'fro was reportedly available -- but only for Moochie Norris'.

I'm not talking about the Knicks' rumored offer of Charlie Heisman and Gymkata to the Sonics for GP (though I will say Layden ought to lay off the glue for a while, get himself a quiet night on some clean sheets and plan to start fresh come Lottery time). I'm talking desperate-hours schemes to right the ships, the kind of stuff a man thinks of when he's on the edge; the kind of stuff he goofs on and then thinks, Hey, maybe this would work, maybe it would make a difference.

Here's some of what I'm talking about:

The Magic called the Lakers at 3 a.m. today and offered Grant Hill's air cast for a bottle of Shaquille O'Neal's anti-inflammatories. Mitch Kupchak rejected the deal, saying he wouldn't even consider it unless they threw in a pair of Hill's crutches and an autographed picture of Calvin.

Portland pitched a deal to swap three Blazer player rap sheets to Philly for one of AI's unreleased rap albums.

Ben Wallace's do for Moochie's, straight-up. (Might have happened, actually. Can't tell from the pictures so far.)

The Bulls promised the Cavs nine of their losses and two of their Lottery ping-pong balls in exchange for an-every-other-weekend-and-holidays LeBron custody thing.

Donald Sterling and Elgin Baylor tried desperately all day Wednesday to peddle some very old, very bad mojo. Said they'd throw in a truckload of young talent, and told anyone who would listen that mojo was pretty much a localized thing that would probably die off when moved (especially if you brought it into a cold climate). Most folks were laughing them off, but Sterling kept telling Baylor he'd learned a little something about mind control from this episode of "Columbo" where George Hamilton gets Lesley Ann Warren to throw herself off a balcony, and he was sure he could get somebody somewhere to jump at the offer. Sure enough, rumor has it Kiki Vandeweghe, wearing a lovely flowing nightgown just like Ms. Warren's, actually took them up on the deal, all the while gloating that all he had to give up was a kibosh, two whammies and several years worth of bad judgment.

Trista Rehn
How about shipping off Trista for Zora? But who owns their rights?

The Knicks called the Yankees and offered Latrell Sprewell for David Wells. Stern nixed it -- said he didn't want to see Wells in a tank top.

The Wizards offered MJ's moustache for the little patch of white hair on Rasheed Wallace's head. "I just always liked that thing," said Doug Collins. "Wouldn't Kwame look good with that?"

There were seven calls to San Antonio for David Robinson's quiet dignity.

Houston tried to get the spirit of George Gervin out of San Antonio in exchange for the spirit of Moses Malone, saying they were all set up front right now, but could use a slash-float-finger-roll-and-score-so-smooth man. The Spurs weren't biting, though reportedly they were eager to move the spirit of Billy Paultz. To which the Rockets said, thanks but we're full-up.

Jason Kidd's free-throw kiss to the wife and kids for Doug Christie's can-I-get-a-witness, raise-your-hand-if-you're-Sure kiss to his wife.

Zora for Trista. It was Cuban's idea, but he had a lot of support. The deal fell apart when the owners realized they didn't actually hold the rights to either woman.

Miami wanted to move the grudge officials hold against Pat Riley. Indiana offered the fact that nobody really likes Isiah. Negotiations ongoing.

Sonics' CEO Wally Walker was seen walking the underground hallways at Key Arena shouting, "Get me Shawn Kemp!" He didn't have a deal to make, he just really misses the old Shawn.

New Jersey called Boston: Kenyon Martin's immortal soul in exchange for one championship banner to call their own.

Kobe's feel for sharing was briefly on the block in L.A. The Pacers countered with Ron Artest's sense of when enough is enough.

Twelve calls to Utah for John Stockton's heart.

The leader of the free world made what he thought was a very fair offer to officials in Turkey. They said, Yes, but you're very unpopular in France right now, did you know that? And Germany, too. Doesn't this shame you? He said, Seriously, you're gonna want to take a close look at my offer before the deadline.

Spike Lee for Jack Nicholson. The Lakers said, If you take Dyan Cannon too, we'll talk.

New Orleans called Toronto and proposed a goofy mascot swap.

The Maloofs said they were just going to stand pat, because they like the Kings' chances, but they did offer -- with no strings attached, and to everyone willing to lift up his voice and sing -- the sweet sound of Hedo Terkoglu's name repeated over and over again.

What might have been Vince Carter for what once was Michael Jordan.

Golden State pitched the fact that Wilt was once a Warrior to the Kings for the fact that Oscar was once a Royal. The Kings said, Say it with us: Hedo Terkoglu.

Whoever this Czech chick is on the cover of the new SI swimsuit issue for Cheryl Tiegs in the fishnet. Come on, tell me you wouldn't make that deal in a heartbeat. Six GMs tried to make that deal last night. Two passed out thinking about it. Another, who is pretty sure he knows where Ms. Tiegs lives, is now cruising toward a restraining order.

Scot Pollard's muttonchops for Nick the Quick's knee-highs.

Darryl Dawkins
What GM loaded up on caffeine wouldn't want Dr. Dunkenstein on his roster?

New Jersey called Boston: Kenyon Martin's immortal soul in exchange for one championship banner to call their own.

The Bucks and the Hawks talked about trading team chemistry, which would have made one of them hapless and the other disappointing, or one of them disappointing and the other one hapless -- they got confused hammering out the details and bailed on the deal, both GMs hanging up the phone feeling kind of hapless and disappointing.

Fourteen calls to Memphis for deals on Elvis memorabilia -- Cleveland offered Ricky Davis for a pair of boxer shorts they thought LeBron might look good in. Six other calls, by the way, fishing for deals on Jerry West's brain -- best bid came from Phoenix, who offered warm, sunny days by the pool, air-conditioned accommodations and the prospect of Amare Stoudemire for another 10 years or so.

Jackson for Tyson. (Not a single GM or owner went the other way on this; that's how far the King of Pop has fallen.)

Kevin McHale was making a mess of calls the last few days -- offering Wally, Terrell, the 1999-era Prince, Jesse the Body, Kirby and 7,436 of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes -- looking to land Mr. Garnett (who it seems was standing alongside Mr. McHale saying, Pick up the phone. I know you're not done. Show me something) a little bit of let's-get-out-of-the-first-round help.

There were other weirdnesses, most of them in the form of prayers and mantras, and deals offered to the devil that were almost certainly ill-advised. One caffeine-freak GM said he'd give up java for life if he could suit up Jimmy Chitwood for just one night. Another swore he'd forever deny himself his beloved Western Bacon Cheeseburgers in exchange for the services of Bernard King and Daryl Dawkins. (The devil does not play fair, he does not tell overtired, overwrought general managers that the players they are negotiating for are fictional or long since retired.)

And guys were flat-out scrambling by this morning, trying to trade for invisible, ineffable stuff like aura, will, edge, gravitas.

One guy -- I'm not saying who -- made a serious phone call inquiring about the chewed gum in Michael Jordan's mouth. Said he wanted his boys to feel its glow.

It's been a time of wacky, desperate stuff.

But kind of a beautiful time, in a way, too, because the weirder the deal, the more simple and intense the desire to get better, to make something happen, to win.

Yeah, it's a lovely time, really. Wouldn't trade it for the world.

Eric Neel is a regular columnist for Page 2.



Eric Neel Archive

Neel: The last shot

Neel: Glory days are now

Neel: The good, bad, empty on Super Sunday

Neel: Grading the Super Bowls

Neel: Matters of the heart

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