NEW YORK — The only trade involving Dwight Howard came last summer. The potent scorers that moved did so long ago.
There was no eye-catching activity left for deadline day, resulting in minor deals Thursday to the disappointment of those hoping for a frenzy.
Josh Smith stayed put and the Boston Celtics’ core stayed together, leaving J.J. Redick, dealt to Milwaukee, as the biggest name to be traded.
There were nine moves, nothing approaching a blockbuster and none to jump-start the Lakers.
Players such as James Harden and Rudy Gay were traded far before the deadline, but with teams perhaps fearful of new penalties for the biggest spenders, Thursday was mostly quiet.
“I don’t think I’ve seen fewer trade deadline deals, ever,” said Houston general manager Daryl Morey, who completed two trades Wednesday. “But I think it’s a one-year blip.”
The Atlanta Hawks held onto Smith, and Utah kept both Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson on a day when much attention was focused on both situations, since those players have value and could leave their teams this summer as free agents.
The long-shot deals never materialized. Howard remained in Los Angeles, just what Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak repeatedly said would happen. Howard’s unhappiness and struggles since he was acquired from Orlando last summer fueled speculation that the Lakers might move him before possibly losing him for nothing as a free agent.
“It took a while for league to understand our position was exactly what we stated,” Kupchak told reporters. “I think they finally got it.”
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will continue wearing Celtic green, as will Rajon Rondo when he’s healthy enough to put on a uniform again.
The Celtics did make one deal, acquiring guard Jordan Crawford from the Washington Wizards for center Jason Collins and injured guard Leandro Barbosa.
Those were the types of trades that were left after the big names that were available had already been moved. Oklahoma City sent All-Star Harden to Houston the preseason, fearing it couldn’t pay what last season’s top sixth man would want after already giving lucrative long-term deals to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
The Memphis Grizzlies broke up their frontcourt when they sent Gay to Toronto in a three-team deal with Detroit.
“I think normally a point was made, normally you would see big deals being made. We cannot forget, Andre Iguodala, that deal was made in the summer. That could have potentially been a trade deadline move,” said Denver Nuggets president Masai Ujiri, referring to the player he acquired in the four-time Howard trade in August.
“Harden was traded right before the season started. That could have been a potential trade deadline move. Rudy Gay was started a couple weeks ago. There was some cleanup before this date. Apart from a couple guys who were out there all the time in terms of big names, it just went by. I can’t explain it.”
Finances certainly played into it. The collective bargaining agreement that went into effect in 2011 came with much more punitive penalties for teams that repeatedly exceed the luxury tax and limits the options of those over the salary cap, and decisions Thursday were made with that in mind.
Golden State sent forward Jeremy Tyler to Atlanta and guard Charles Jenkins to Philadelphia in separate deals, slicing more than $1.5 million off its payroll after beginning the day about $1.2 million over the league’s $70,307,000 luxury tax.
Rebuilding after trading Howard, the Magic decided Redick wasn’t in their plans while averaging career highs in points (15.1) and field goal percentage (45.0). He was traded along with center Gustavo Ayon and reserve point guard Ish Smith to the Bucks in exchange for guards Doron Lamb and Beno Udrih, and forward Tobias Harris.
The New York Knicks traded Ronnie Brewer to Oklahoma City to open a roster spot that will be used to give Kenyon Martin a 10-day contract. The Hawks couldn’t find a good enough deal for Smith, who had largely been considered the biggest name that would move, and settled for sending Anthony Morrow to Dallas for Dahntay Jones.
With so little happening, Morey may have pulled off the most intriguing move this week when he acquired Thomas Robinson, the No. 5 pick in last year’s draft, from Sacramento in one of his two deals.
“I thought the main thing that was different at this trade deadline was there was a big premium on cap space and draft picks,” Morey said. “Usually, that’s the currency that moves markets. They were at such a premium that every deal was very difficult. It became like a barter economy instead of a cash economy. That made deals harder.
“I do think you could say that maybe the CBA might be contributing to that. But I also think a lot of it is just the phase teams are in. There are a lot of good teams trying to maybe rebuild, for lack of a better word.