NBA PM: LA Lakers Trade Fix
Admittedly, there is a very logical school of thought that says the Los Angeles Lakers don’t need any trades to be contenders next season. All they really needed was a longer offseason than they have become accustomed to so they could rejuvenate their older legs and gear up for another title run behind Kobe Bryant. As a matter of fact, I’ve made that argument myself a few times since the Dallas Mavericks unceremoniously ousted them in the second round of the 2011 NBA playoffs. It is absolutely conceivable that the Lakers could stand pat and count on a long summer and shortened season to get them back to the championship.
But that’s not how the Lakers do things, is it?
No, over the proud history of the NBA’s gold standard the Lakers have become known for making the dare-to-be-great moves, which is why they have 22 division titles, 32 trips to the conference finals and 17 NBA championships to their credit.
We’re talking about the team that traded Cedric Ceballos for Robert Horry, got Pau Gasol for Kwame Brown some scrubs and the draft rights to Marc Gasol, acquired Wilt Chamberlain for some guys you haven’t heard of, and got Kobe Bryant from the Charlotte Hornets for Vlade Divac.
The Lakers might stand pat, but it isn’t likely, at least not all the way through the trade deadline. Not with probably one and possibly two of the biggest names in free agency possibly hitting the market.
It’s fairly unlikely that Chris Paul leaves New Orleans, for reasons we have discussed at length in this space many times. The league’s best point guard feels extreme loyalty to the people of New Orleans and he is completely on board with a front office that has plenty of cap space to work with. The situation in Orlando, meanwhile, is quite different. Dwight Howard loves Orlando, but he loves winning more, and Magic GM Otis Smith’s last round of trades made it very difficult for the team to make the necessary moves to put a contender around the league’s best center.
Enter the Lakers, one of the few teams with the pieces necessary to bail the Magic out of their unenviable situation. It would hurt and hurt desperately for the Magic to lose yet another all-world big man to the Lakers, but like death and taxes it almost seems inevitable. The Chicago Bulls will certainly offer some resistance, with Joakim Noah and a package that could easily include a quality power forward like Taj Gibson, the Lakers can offer up another potential franchise center in Andrew Bynum as well as, say, Ron Artest, who is still a game-changing defender no matter what he wants to be called.
Sources close to the situation tell HOOPSWORLD’s Eric Pincus that the Lakers would love to move Artest, but that moving Lamar Odom and his partially-guaranteed contract might be the easier sell. That might be especially true of any deal with the Magic, who would be looking for future cap flexibility as part of the package. If Artest is the piece moved they would absolutely have to have a defensive three lined up to replace him, someone like Tayshaun Prince, whom they tried to acquire from the Detroit Pistons last season.
Let’s be honest. No one outside of the Lakers’ fan base wants to see Dwight Howard wearing purple and gold, but at the same time it’s the kind of move we’ve come to expect from the perennial contenders. Just as one star is starting to get a little beyond his prime they find a way to land the next player who will keep the Lakers in contention for the next decade. Dwight Howard is precisely that kind of player, and just as it seemed inevitable the HEAT would land three superstar free agents two summers ago, it seems equally inevitable that the Lakers will land the biggest fish in 2012 free agency long before the free agency period begins.
That’s just how they roll.
It wouldn’t be a popular move in Orlando; in fact, the fan base would likely hold jersey burning parties akin to the ones held in Cleveland after LeBron James’ defection, but it would be more popular than simply letting Dwight walk away, which is the reality the Magic are likely to face come July 2012.
Falk Favors Decertification
The NBA lockout is largely a standoff between the NBA owners and their players, but more and more we’re hearing a lot of noise coming from the player agents, as well. Amongst the more vocal (and rational) voices from the agent side is David Falk, whose big claim to fame is that he was Michael Jordan’s agent. He says the number one reason a deal has to be done before games are lost is that the struggling American economy will impact fans long-term.
“I think the deal has got to be done,” Falk told The Fan 990 in Toronto. “I think, in 2011, living in an international economy where last Tuesday an announcement that 15 percent of Americans are living under the poverty line … I think that the public has zero sympathy for a bunch of billionaire owners and multi-millionaire players who can’t agree how to split $4 billion in revenue.”
Of course, people generally want to narrow these kinds of dispute to labeling someone the good guy and someone the bad guy, but in this case Falk says there really is no bad guy.
“There are no bad guys. I think that the owners are trying to change a system that they feel isn’t working. Obviously there’s a number of teams losing money. The players are reluctant to give up gains made over a long period of time. So there are no bad guys. This is a difficult challenge, but this is what you hire agents for. In my career, which spans 37 years, I’ve never once had a player that I represented that I didn’t make the deal. The agent for the owners is David Stern and the agent for the players is Billy Hunter. It’s their job, collectively, to get a deal done. We all lose if there’s no deal.”
Plenty of people want to point to the way the NFL and its players resolved their differences and suggest that something similar should happen with the NBA’s labor dispute. Count Falk among those who don’t think the NBA is paying enough attention to how it all went down with the NFL.
“Not enough (attention). I think if you look at what happened in the NFL, the union voluntarily decertified. The same thing is going to happen in the NBA. Decertification in 2011 is not a silver bullet. I pushed for it very hard in ’94, ’95 and again in ’98. Times have changed. I think the fact that the NFL went back to work, got the deal done, puts tremendous pressure on basketball. If we don’t get the deal done in the NBA, I think we’re at great risk of losing our fans for a long period of time. They’re going to ask, ‘Why couldn’t you do what they did in football?’”
One predominant school of thought is that the NBA could do what it did in 1998, implementing a shortened season if negotiations begin to run long and games are lost. Falk says he doesn’t think it will play out that way this time around.
“We’re right up against the deadline. Unlike ’98, when we had a 50-game season, I would bet a lot of money that if we miss one or two games, we’re going to miss the whole season. This is like Texas Hold’em; it’s all in. Everyone has to understand what’s at stake. It’s my understanding that the owners project if there’s no season, they’ll lose $1.5 billion and if there’s no season the players will lose $2.167 billion in salary, probably another $200 or $300 million more in endorsements.”
Finally, Falk believes one key to a resolution could be more direct involvement from some of the NBA’s marquee names.
“I’ve given both sides very, very specific suggestions on how to get over the hurdle. I think that I could make this deal in one day, with either party. I really do. I know it sounds egotistical saying that, but I know all the owners well. Obviously, I’ve represented players for 37 years. I’m disappointed that the young stars of the NBA today, the LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, those guys need to be involved full-time, not part-time. I think that they are allowing other people to determine their future financial fortunes, which is a terrible mistake.”
HEAT Hoping For Amnesty?
One of the issues being debated surrounding the NBA lockout is whether or not the league should institute an amnesty clause, which would allow a team to pay off a high-dollar player and then get him off their salary cap. Players like Orlando’s Gilbert Arenas, Dallas’ Brendan Haywood, and Portland’s Brandon Roy are among those who would likely be considered for amnesty by their current teams. In an interesting article, Ira Winderman of the Miami Sun-Herald suggests that amnesty might just be the Miami HEAT’s best hope are improving their squad.
So what’s in it for the Heat?
Conceivably a glut of quality cheap labor, players guaranteed millions from previous deals who would be in position to make winning their free-agency priority, knowing they’ll be collecting their checks from previous employers, as well.
Consider the potential irony:
Dan Gilbert clears his Cleveland Cavaliers books by paying Baron Davis nearly $29 million over the next two seasons . . . to play for the Heat [sic].
The intrastate rival Orlando Magic clear space for their retain-Dwight Howard initiative by paying off Gilbert Arenas, who then attempts to resurrect his career . . . with the Heat [sic].
Needing space to re-sign starting center Tyson Chandler, Mark Cuban cuts his Dallas Mavericks losses with Brendan Haywood, who then emerges as the best center . . . on the Finals-rival Heat [sic].
It’s certainly an intriguing possibility for Miami, and one with which the Mavericks are already quite familiar. The last time the NBA instituted an amnesty clause the Mavs paid off Michael Finley, who promptly took a minimum deal from the San Antonio Spurs and won a championship largely on Cuban’s dime.
The HEAT would not, of course be the automatic landing spot for potential amnesty players. New York, Chicago, and both Los Angeles teams would certainly be of interest to players looking to compete for a championship, not to mention Oklahoma City and Memphis, two teams that made it to the conference finals last season.
One way or the other, this certainly adds an element of intrigue to the decisions teams would face in light of an amnesty clause. Do they cut a player to save money and risk empowering a bitter rival?
Definitely a tough choice to make.
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