“Halloween came and went,” writes the Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Aldridge of Wednesday’s multi-year contract extension deadline, “and many of the NBA’s rising young stars were left with nothing but coal in their collective goody bags instead of eight-figure contract extensions.”

Orlando’s Dwight Howard, Dallas’ Devin Harris, Toronto’s Kris Humphries (Kris Humphries?), Minnesota’s Al Jefferson, Sacramento’s Kevin Martin and Orlando’s Jameer Nelson got extensions from their teams. And Howard was the only one who got the maximum contract allowed under the collective bargaining agreement, $85 million for five years.

Jefferson (above) got $65 million and said he didn’t deserve a max contract.

That left most of the Class of 2004’s better players – the 76ers’ Andre Iguodala, Charlotte’s Emeka Okafor, Chicago’s Ben Gordon and Luol Deng, Atlanta’s Josh Smith, Golden State’s Andris Biedrins, Denver’s J.R. Smith, Seattle’s Delonte West and Boston’s Tony Allen – without deals.

Many agents, of course, scream collusion by the teams, and on one level, it’s hard to argue. Maybe it’s indirect collusion instead of secretive meetings. Teams can match any offer made to restricted free agents and retain their services, and with very few exceptions (such as when the Clippers let Lamar Odom go to Miami in 2003), they do.

So it doesn’t make much sense to waste time going after another team’s restricted free agents.

“There is no free agency,” said a prominent agent who has represented many of the game’s star players in the last few years and did not want to be named. “What players move, except from a mid-market? And that’s even [happening] less and less.”

Whatever the reason, the end result is precious little player movement. And the 2004 players will have their universe of potential suitors further reduced by next year’s veteran free-agent class, which could include the likes of Gilbert Arenas, Jermaine O’Neal, Elton Brand, Baron Davis and Ron Artest.

The pickings don’t look very promising for the Class of 2005, either. Of that group, only Milwaukee’s Andrew Bogut, Utah’s Deron Williams, New Orleans’ Chris Paul, the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum, Indiana’s Danny Granger, Detroit’s Jason Maxiell and the Knicks’ David Lee are likely to get new deals.

The New York Post’s Peter Vecsey
observed the Cavaliers’ come-from-behind opening night win over New York, and typically, has harsh words for the visitors, their coach and the NBA’s self-proclaimed no. 1 point guard.

If Stephon Marbury indeed found Jesus this summer, for his next assignment he might want to locate his man on defense before the Knicks launch their spring offensive.

I would’ve thought someone on the Knicks’ considerable coaching staff could’ve concocted a concept to impede Daniel Gibson from getting another unmolested trifecta after he downed his first four or five?

One way or the other, the False Prophet let Friday night’s game get away from him in the fourth quarter; I hate when so-called professional coaches allow that to happen. Feeble substitutions, unsavory shot selection and shoddy clock management led to numerous inexorable fast break opportunities.

Why re-insert Marbury after nine minutes of sitting when his head clearly wasn’t in the courtroom?