The NBA's trade deadline came and went Thursday without a season-changing deal. In question-and-answer form, here's a look at what happened:
Q: SO, THE TRADE DEADLINE HIT THURSDAY AFTERNOON. THERE WAS A LOT OF ACTION, RIGHT?
A: No, except for NBA fans frantically hitting refresh on their Twitter feeds in hopes of seeing something interesting. There were nine deals, but the day was more about what didn't happen than what did. Josh Smith is staying in Atlanta, Utah is keeping both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, and J.J. Redick was the biggest name that was moved, going from Orlando to Milwaukee.
Q: WHAT GIVES? WHY WERE TEAMS SO RELUCTANT TO DEAL?
A: Well, do you like paying taxes? They don't, either, and the new collective bargaining agreement added some much tougher ones for teams that stray too far, and too often over the spending threshold. That's scared off even some of the biggest spenders, let alone the small markets who can't afford risks that might not pan out.
Q: YEAH, BUT IT CAN'T JUST BE ABOUT DOLLARS, RIGHT?
A: Of course not. Talent still matters, and there just wasn't a lot of it available at the deadline. For all the focus on Josh Smith, he's never even been an All-Star, which suggests maybe coaches don't see as much value in him as his numbers suggest. If players like James Harden and Rudy Gay were available Thursday instead of being moved earlier, or if the Lakers had been willing to entertain offers for Dwight Howard, the deadline would've had some buzz after all.
Q: SHOULD THE LOS ANGELES TEAMS HAVE MADE DEALS?
A: Even though it hasn't been a good match yet, the Lakers should only have dealt Howard if he told them unequivocally that he wouldn't re-sign this summer, and anyone expecting Howard to have a firm answer about his future now probably hasn't been paying attention for the last two years. Otherwise, they lack the assets beyond their stars to get much done, so might as well hope they mesh down the stretch. As for the Clippers, Chris Paul believes they were already a contender even without a deal, and he might be right. Now they'll have the opportunity to prove it.
Q: IS IT ALWAYS GOING TO BE THIS BORING FROM NOW ON?
A: Don't rename it the "dudline" just yet. Yes, the CBA may limit many deals by scaring even the richest teams from pouncing on smaller markets who know they won't be able to afford to keep their stars and instead make them available. But don't rule out a flurry of moves next year by teams lining up to clear cap space for the summer of 2014, when players such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and Dirk Nowitzki could become free agents.
Q: WHY DID SACRAMENTO GIVE UP THE NO. 5 PICK IN THE LAST DRAFT FOR SO LITTLE?
A: Either the Kings are convinced that Thomas Robinson, averaging only 4.8 points and 4.7 rebounds, is going to be a bust, or they see real value in the package of Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich and Toney Douglas that Houston sent them Wednesday. Either way, add it to the confusion that will continue to surround that franchise until it finds a permanent home.
Q: SO, ON A DAY WITHOUT BIG DEALS, WAS THERE A BIG WINNER?
A: Not really, though San Antonio and Oklahoma City are glad the Clippers couldn't land Kevin Garnett or someone else who might have put them over the top, and the Knicks surely didn't want the hard-charging Nets to bring Smith or a similar piece into New York.
Q: OK, WHERE DO WE LOOK NOW FOR THE NEXT POSSIBLE BIG MOVE?
A: Right where you've been looking for the last two years: Dwight Howard. Yes, the Lakers insist they will re-sign him in the summer, and they can offer millions more than anyone else. Yet teams such as Atlanta, Dallas and Houston will surely want to make a run at him in July if given the opportunity.