Another NBA in-season trading deadline came and went Thursday night for the Jazz, who pulled out of the Danny Ainge Sweepstakes and will go through the playoffs with rookie Jim Les as their backup point guard. "We had some opportunities to do some things, but none of them was intriguing enough to pursue," said Jazz general manager David Checketts.
Boston sent Ainge and forward Brad Lohaus to Sacramento for center Joe Kleine and forward Ed Pinckney. The Jazz and several other Western Conference teams obviously had a shot at Ainge, but Checketts said, "The bottom line is that Boston needed a couple of big guys. We really didn't have the people they wanted - we might have been able to do something with (Jose) Ortiz and (Eric) Leckner, but to me, that's two first-round picks."The only other late trade was Portland's sending forward Kiki Vandeweghe to New York for a first-round choice, while Adrian Dantley finally reported to Dallas.
The Jazz take a five-game winning streak and a one-game Midwest Division lead into tonight's (6:05) game at Denver. They apparently did try to improve themselves before the trade deadline, but Checketts said of the kind of player they sought, "It was not a player we had access to."
The major result of not trading is that Les will continue to back up Stockton, who will likely have to play about 45 minutes in playoff games, as he did last spring. "It's a spot (Les) he's deserved and earned, so we'll stay with him," said Checketts.
Coach Jerry Sloan has no choice but to say he's satisfied with his 12-man roster. "These are great people we've got here," he noted. "The last two or three weeks, we've had pretty good production out of our people off the bench, and that's encouraging."
All-Star forward Karl Malone was in no danger of being traded himself, but he was glad to have the deadline pass quietly for his younger teammates' sake. "You've got a good thing going right now," said Malone, who had asked Checketts not to trade Ortiz, amid speculation about the rookie forward. "Why mess that up? The way we're playing defense right now and the way we're helping each other . . . all those things show we're headed in the right direction."
Boston, meanwhile, was struggling, and Ainge was shopped around the league. In his eighth season with the Celtics, Ainge had more trade value than any active player other than Kevin McHale, and became more expendable with the development of rookie guard Brian Shaw. "I'll always be a Celtic at heart," a subdued Ainge said at a news conference. "I thought I would be prepared if (a trade) did happen, but when it happened I wasn't prepared at all."
Ainge, who turns 30 next month, was averaging 16.1 points, playing the last 15 games as a sixth man. "We are not crazy about giving up Danny Ainge and Brad Lohaus, but we have other players that we feel can pick up what we lost in Danny," assistant coach Lanny Van Eman said.