When the Lakers entered free agent negotiations with Dwight Howard, they drew a line in the sand: no sign-and-trade. If Howard decided to leave the Lakers, they were going to make him forfeit $30MM in guaranteed money. End of story.
It’s hardball. And high stakes. If Dwight calls their bluff, as he did, what then? Sure, Dan Gilbert and his cabal of underfunded owners cheered the Lakers for following through. The Lakers scored points in league politics. But what did it really accomplish for the Lakers?
Like every wounded Lakers fan, I felt good about the no-sign-and-trade decision back in July. It felt like the no-bargaining-with-terrorists rule, or the cops-don’t-give-up-their-gun rule. But that was then. And this is now. Three months later, I’m in a different mood.
What if the Lakers had got out front and said, “Dwight, we love you. But if you want to go somewhere else, help us get a good sign-and-trade deal that benefits everyone.” In that case, they might have given themselves a boost in the inevitable rebuilding project. What would Thomas Robinson look like in a Lakers jersey?
Remember, a sign-and-trade forces Houston to pay that extra $30MM. Worst case scenario – Howard is worth every penny. More likely – he’s not. This would actually stick it to Houston, and make their long term cap situation worse. Advantage? Lakers!
And look, let’s get serious: the Howard situation was unique. 9 out of 10 times, a guy takes a max offer with the Lakers. I mean, it’s LA, Showtime, celebs, sun, Magic. No other city can compete. A take-it-or-leave-it policy makes sense for the Bucks, Cavs, and a dozen other NBA cities. (Remember how fast the Kings rescinded Iguoadala’s offer? The quick flash of cash is a long term strategy for dismal market teams.) But the Lakers will probably never be in this silly situation again.
Now, as I said, I supported the stick-it-to-Dwight decision in July. But Mitch K and the Hat are paid the big bucks to be smarter and see farther than me. It sure would be nice to be working with something (draft picks?) other than cap space next summer.