The NBA's silly season is officially underway.
The run-up to the trade deadline is filled with so many rumors and so much innuendo that it's hard to sort the truth from fiction. Between agents planting stories to legitimate deals to speculation floated into the ether by a bored columnist, keeping track of everything is virtually impossible. In the midst of it all, there could very well be some actual movement going down over the next few days—much of which involves some of the league's biggest stars.
Is Andrea Bargnani staying or going?
There are plenty of rumored suitors for Toronto Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani—Chicago and Philadelphia are the two favorites, according to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio—but Doug Smith of the Toronto Star says that we shouldn't expect anything to happen until the summer.
The 7-foot Bargnani is in the midst of his worst season since 2007-08: He's shooting a paltry 40.9 percent from the field and is averaging just 14.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. That type of production isn't commensurate with a player scheduled to make more than $22 million over the next two seasons, so it's no surprise that Toronto has him on the block. There's just one caveat for teams interested in the 27-year-old: If his deal wasn't unappealing enough, Bargnani's contract also includes a five percent trade kicker.
Jazz and Clippers possibly looking to deal
The Utah Jazz are fortunate enough to have four quality big men, two of which—Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap—just happen to be on the final year of their respective contracts. It's been long rumored that the Jazz would move one or both of them prior to the deadline, and it looks like there may finally be movement on that front.
ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein are reporting that the Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers have discussed a trade that would send Millsap to LA in exchange for guard Eric Bledsoe. On the surface, the deal makes perfect sense for a Utah team that has struggled to find someone to run the point this season. Bledsoe would immediately start at the lead guard spot, and Derrick Favors would likely take Millsap place at the 4.
The Clippers' motivation to do the deal is a bit puzzling, however. While Millsap can play some at the 3, he's primarily a power forward: a position capably filled in Lob City by one Blake Griffin. If the Clippers make the move, it may be partially motivated by the team's finances, as the 28-year-old Millsap comes off of the books in July.
J-Smoove may be on the move
Atlanta's Josh Smith may be the biggest name in play this week, and the Hawks' forward is drawing interest from at least five teams, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. If the rumors are to be believed, there's a better than 50/50 chance that Smith will have a new address by this weekend.
Smith has never been named to an All-Star team, but he'll probably be looking for max money this summer, especially since he's making $13.2 million this year. Any team that trades for him would ultimately be the only team who could offer him a five-year deal this offseason, but if the Hawks trade him to a city that he wants no part of, he may be little more than a short-term rental
Howard told he won't be dealt, but speculation continues
Los Angeles Lakers' general manager Mitch Kupchak has told Dwight Howard as well as several inquiring teams that his All-Star center isn't available in a trade. But that hasn't slowed down rumors of Howard's possible departure.
According to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, the Brooklyn Nets and general manager Billy King are contemplating one last play for the big man after failing to land him this summer. The Nets don't have very many chips to offer—any deal would likely center around Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks—so it may take yet another three- or four-team deal to send Howard packing.
At this point, Kobe Bryant—much like many Lakers fans—is relatively nonchalant about a Howard deal. "I don't know what they're going to do," said Bryant on Sunday. "At this point, it doesn't matter."