That silence you hear is the calm before the storm. By the time the NBA emerges from All-Star Weekend, we could be in for a flood of player movement and see the Thunder in the thick of it all. Oklahoma City is well-positioned to be a major player this week leading up to Thursday’s trading deadline. The Thunder might not be in a hurry to deal — and certainly doesn’t feel obligated to — but the team’s mix of attractive contracts, its stable of future draft picks, reliable veterans and salary cap flexibility might make things very interesting. To this point, this season has been filled with trade speculation but short on trades. NBA teams are approaching this year’s deadline with much more calculated mindsets. Front office executives have become far less willing to make deals that will blow up their books unless it all but assures a deep playoff run. The heightened concern stems from the country’s economic woes, a growing fear that the salary cap could be on the decline for only the second time since its introduction in 1984-85 and the highly anticipated summer of 2010, when LeBron James and other big names could be on the free agent market. "Every situation’s different,” said Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. "All owners and general managers in this league want to win. Financial considerations are always something that’s taken into account. But basically, a GM and an owner are not going to do a deal unless it makes sense for the franchise and it puts them in a better position to win going forward.” Oklahoma City will go into these final days making one last attempt to see what kind of return it can get for Joe Smith’s expiring $4.7 million contract and Chris Wilcox’s expiring $6.75 million deal. Neither player is in the Thunder’s long-term plans, but both could fit the goals of playoff teams looking to add one more piece for a potential championship run or rebuilding franchises seeking to shed salary. The question is, how much can the Thunder realistically expect in return for Smith and Wilcox? Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti traded veteran forward Kurt Thomas to San Antonio at the deadline last season in exchange for Brent Barry, Francisco Elson and a 2009 first-round draft pick. Smith was recently offered to Sacramento for Kings swingman John Salmons, according to one media report. The Kings were believed to be uninterested, but the reported offer indicates Oklahoma City isn’t afraid to take on contracts with additional years if it means shoring up a problem position. Salmons, 29, has two years remaining on his contract after this season totaling about $11.2 million. The Thunder has also entered the Amare Stoudemire sweepstakes, according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times, and Oklahoma City has the right mix of expiring contracts, draft picks and young talent that it would take to land Phoenix’s All-Star forward. The Thunder’s front office also would like to find a taker for reserve guard Earl Watson, who is making $6.2 million this season and will earn $6.6 million in 2009-10. Damien Wilkins could be thrown into a deal as well to unload the $3.3 million he’s due next season. One way or another, the Thunder will take its next step in the rebuilding process over the next week.
Collective bargaining agreement key dates
→Jan. 5: Ten-day contracts can be signed. →Jan. 10: Contracts are guaranteed for the rest of the season. →Feb. 19: Trading deadline. →June 25: Deadline to exercise player options for restricted free agents. →June 30: Deadline for players to exercise options and early termination options to be exercised. →July 1: Players become free agents/salary cap year begins. →Oct. 31: Deadline to exercise options on rookie scale contracts. →Dec. 15: Players who signed contracts before Sept. 16 can be traded.