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8:41 PM Tue, Nov. 20th

T-Mac, Shaq dominate trade talk on eve of expansion draft

NEW YORK (AP) – A blockbuster trade involving Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis dominated the NBA rumor mill Monday while the Los Angeles Lakers waited to learn whether Shaquille O'Neal was serious about demanding a trade.

The Charlotte Bobcats also were major players on the eve of their expansion draft, making a deal with the Los Angeles Clippers to move up two spots in Thursday's NBA draft to select Emeka Okafor or Dwight Howard as the cornerstone of their franchise.

What promises to be a busy week began with loads of trade talk, much of it centered around two of the league's best known superstars.

The Rockets were said to be the leading candidate to acquire McGrady from Orlando, with officials from other teams saying Houston was offering a package including Francis, Cuttino Mobley, Kelvin Cato and/or Bostjan Nachbar for McGrady, Juwan Howard and Tyronn Lue.

Because of league salary cap rules, such a deal could not be finalized until July.

A trade to Houston would put McGrady on the same team with center Yao Ming, giving the Rockets an inside-outside nucleus few Western Conference teams could match.

In the trade that was finalized Monday, the expansion Bobcats acquired the No.

2 overall pick from the Los Angeles Clippers for the Nos.

4 and 33 picks.

Charlotte also agreed to select Clippers center Predrag Drobnjak in today's expansion draft.

Charlotte, which will select at least 14 players in the expansion draft, also was close to finalizing a deal with Phoenix to acquire center Jahidi White, cash and a future first-round draft pick.

That trade would clear salary cap space for the Suns, allowing them to make a run at free agents Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and others.

The Lakers, meanwhile, were exploring their options regarding O'Neal, who issued a trade demand last week after Los Angeles announced that Phil Jackson would not return as head coach.\