Yes, we’re still talking about this. Forgive me, I’m just as tired of it as you are. But for the unrighteously indignant…
So one more time with feeling, the Lakers, Rockets, and Hornets had agreed on a trade last December. Chris Paul goes to the Lakers, Pau Gasol goes to the Rockets and magically solves all their problems, and a bunch of older players on the decline and a Knicks latter-half first-round pick go to New Orleans. Then Emperor Stern came in and ruined everything because he hates the Lakers just hates them and vetoed the trades as acting commissioner of the NBA because Dan Gilbert wanted him to and because, again, he hates the Lakers.
That’s the popular sentiment which is in no way rooted in fact.
(Reality: Stern vetoed the trade as acting owner of the Hornets, a move which Mark Cuban said at the Sloan Sports Analytic Conference was not uncommon in any way for any anowner, surprise surprise, because it took on long-term money for marginal players in pursuit of short-term gains in the win column while sacrificing long-term flexibility which is pretty much the worst way to rebuild ever. Fin.)
But there’s something that’s stuck with analysts for a long time. Trying to construct that trade? It left a big old salary hole. There was a missing component. The numbers do not compute. Error, error. I’m sorry, I can’t do that trade, David. The assumption was that they would have found a way around it, but the reality is with the salary situations of all three teams, that was going to be difficult.
And now late Friday night, ESPN’s Marc Stein reports that the big hang-up was actually… Jason Smith. That’s right.
The principal pieces of the original three-team deal were indeed all agreed to: Paul would be going to the Lakers; Pau Gasol was bound for Houston; and New Orleans would be receiving Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic, along with a 2012 first-round draft pick from the Rockets that had been previously acquired from the New York Knicks. But based on that trade construction, sources say the Lakers would have been forced to absorb another $3 million more in salary to make the cap math work.
The teams involved concluded that the best way to solve that issue would be for the Hornets to sign and trade Smith to the Lakers as part of the exchange. The Lakers, however, were prepared to guarantee only the first year of the three-year deal required in all sign-and-trades. Sources say Smith promptly rejected that offer, believing he should hold out for a longer-team deal, then had his decision vindicated when the Hornets later offered him a three-year deal worth $7.5 million with the first two years fully guaranteed.
So Jason Smith refused a sign-and-trade because he knew he was worth more money which he then in fact got and that meant that there actually wasn’t a framework in place. So now David Stern has vetoed a trade that wasn’t actually in place because it wasn’t actually possible under the proposed conditions because, again, he hates those Lakers (who he once said he wished could play against themselves in the Finals because it makes so much money for the league). So he vetoed a non-existent trade which was blocked because Jason Smith… again, Jason Smith knew he could get more money on the open market.
(Note: Jason’s played rather well for two seasons in New Orleans despite wide fluctuations in his role and playing time, it’s just amazing that he’s the linch pin in this thing.)
Bring back the lockout, I’m done.