Clippers trade deadline -- what might have been

Streeter Lecka

Now that the trade deadline has come and gone and the dust is beginning to settle, let's take look back. We'll start with the deals that did NOT happen

Now that the trade deadline has come and gone and the dust is beginning to settle, let's take look back. We'll start with the deals that did NOT happen.

What might have been

Dudley or Barnes for a big: Early reports were that the Clippers were in the market for a big man and would offer one of their veteran small forwards like Matt Barnes or Jared Dudley in exchange. And by early reports, I mean it's essentially what I said on November 3. It was neither new nor interesting that the Clippers had two many mediocre threes and not enough quality bigs. The question was whether anyone wanted an aging, mediocre three (the answer, in retrospect, would appear to be "No").

Bullock for Tyler Zeller: The most specific big man rumor emerged this morning, just a few hours ahead of the final deadline: the Clippers and Cavs were discussing a possible trade of former UNC teammates, second year center Tyler Zeller for first year wing Reggie Bullock.

Zeller had been the 17th pick in the 2012 draft and had played well in recent weeks with Andrew Bynum long gone and Anderson Varejao injured. The Cavs had just acquired Spencer Hawes, presumably to make a playoff push over the final eight weeks, and Zeller's minutes would soon dry up again. Bullock was stuck behind the vets Barnes and Dudley at the three, and while the Clippers like him a lot and were loathe to trade him, they simply didn't have anything else of value to offer for Zeller. Eventually the talks broke off, ostensibly because the Clippers were asking for too much for Bullock.

Collison for Shumpert: The most serious Clipper-centric rumor surfaced on Wednesday and revolved around a potential Darren Collison-for-Iman Shumpert trade with the New York Knicks. This did nothing for the front court deficiencies, but did have the potential to help with their second biggest issue, the lack of a defensive stopper on the wing. New York was desperate for a point guard, and Collison's stock was high after a strong stint in the starting lineup while Chris Paul was hurt; the Knicks had been trying to move the struggling Shumpert for months; Rivers had long coveted a long, athletic wing; the basic idea of Collison-for-Shumpert worked.

All trades have hurdles to overcome. This one had all the usual ones, as each side wanted to get the best possible deal. The Knicks wanted to rid themselves of the bloated contract (and just plain bloated) Raymond Felton; oh, and they would have really liked Reggie Bullock as well. After the Clippers stopped laughing at that idea, the sides seemed to begin zeroing in on a reasonable four player compromise, Collison and Barnes for Shumpert and Felton. Basically, it was a like for like trade -- the Clippers giving up backups on the wing and at the point, for replacements backups on the wing and at the point; one was on an inexpensive contract, the other paid a bit too much for a bit too long. For the Clippers, the defensive upgrade in Shumpert might have been worth the downgrade to Felton backing up Paul.

But in addition to all the usual obstacles, this deal faced an extra hurdle on Wednesday night when Shumpert injured his surgically repaired knee. Part of the appeal of the trade for the Clippers was that Shumpert could fill an immediate need at the two guard where J.J. Redick was out indefinitely with a bulging disc in his back. Redick would be back eventually, at which point Shumpert would find minutes harder to come by in the Clippers rotation. If he were going to miss all or part of the time that Redick was out, his value to Rivers and the Clippers would be significantly diminished.

The timing could not have been worse. Shumpert flew from New Orleans back to New York Wednesday night where he would have an MRI on Thursday to determine the extent of the damage. But with the trade deadline looming at 3 PM ET (noon PT), would definitive information be available in enough time for the Clippers to make an informed decision prior to the deadline?

To complicate matters further, the Clippers' charter flight for Memphis, where they play the Grizzlies on Friday night, was scheduled to leave from LAX at about 11 AM PT, an hour before the deadline. (Someone really didn't think that through when making those arrangements; it's a charter people, it leaves when you tell it to leave.) About the time the Clippers were boarding their flight, good news on Shumpert's knee was trickling out of New York. It was an MCL strain, not a tear. It was a mild sprain, not severe. It was a very mild sprain. Shumpert would be out less than two weeks; maybe just 10 days; maybe just a week.

The Clippers and Knicks got back on the phone to discuss the deal. And the plane sat on the tarmac at LAX. Did the plane stay on the ground because of the negotiations? Not necessarily. Thunder showers and a tornado watch in western Tennessee may have had something to do with it. Besides, Gary Sacks was back in his office and Doc could always use the sky phone. But it would certainly be an awkward flight for Collison if he were traded during the ascent and sent on his way to Orlando (the Knicks' next opponent) upon landing. (At least he was flying in the right direction.)

However, the deadline passed without a Clippers-Knicks agreement. As with the Cavs discussion, we'll likely never know exactly what happened, but at least one report had the deal essentially done before the Clippers backed out.

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