The Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies and Boston Celtics all have one thing in common: they're saddled with expensive, big name talent that they wouldn’t be opposed to trading. From the moment Mike D’Antoni relegated Pau Gasol to the bench, it became apparent to one and all that his days in L.A. were likely numbered. Similarly, Memphis has been trying to shed itself of Rudy Gay’s massive salary ever since last year’s NBA Draft. Things get a bit more dicey in Boston’s case; the Celtics don’t really want to trade anyone, but Rajon Rondo's injury makes it inevitable.
When you lay the cards out, here is what you’re left with: Los Angeles is willing to deal Gasol, Memphis is willing to deal Gay and Boston is half-heartedly willing to listen to deals for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. (If anyone even wants the latter at this point.) Is there a trade to be made involving those three teams, and those particularly high-profile pieces?
According to Marc Stein of ESPN, yes. But it’s unlikely. (Or at least it was a few days ago.)
So it's premature, to me, to throw Pierce's name up there with Rudy Gay and Pau Gasol on the list of high-profile names we need to monitor this trade season, even though we've heard more than one rival team speculate that a three-way deal where Pierce lands in Memphis, Gasol goes to Boston and Gay joins the Lakers makes "some sense." Sources say that the Celtics and Grizzlies have indeed held some exploratory trade talks since Gay hit the market.
Pierce's $15.3 million salary next season is guaranteed for only $5 million, so his contract is highly tradable, but instinct tells me that Ainge's fondness for him and Pierce's stature within the franchise and in the city make it a serious long shot that we'll see him dealt during the next 27 days.
Now here is the interesting thing – Stein floated that rumor prior to Rondo getting hurt and being ruled out until possibly next year’s All-Star break. Ainge’s fondness for the major pieces of his current roster could have prevented this deal from happening at that point; however, the game has changed now. That squad won’t compete for a title. Heck, it will barely make the playoffs. There is absolutely no reason to keep it together.
And since the Memphis-L.A.-Boston proposal was essentially contingent on whether the Grizzlies could get Pierce or not, it suddenly becomes a lot more feasible.
We know that Gasol’s departure from Tinseltown is pretty imminent. Via Sporting News:
But Gasol, who has repeatedly butted heads with coach Mike D’Antoni, and is having to cope with his demotion to the bench, said this to the Spanish website ACB.com: “I don’t know if we are playing D’Antoni’s system much right now; we are kind of running our own system a bit, with a slower pace, putting the ball in Kobe Bryant’s hands a lot, setting picks from the low post and distributing the ball from there very well. We’ll see if we can continue like this.”
Of all the many players who will have their names wrung through the rumor mill between now and Feb. 21, Gasol’s remains at the top of the list.
And we know that nothing has changed in terms of Memphis’ desire to rid itself of Gay’s massive contract. All that’s really changed since this rumor hit the newswire is that it has become more legitimate. Gasol is playing better – thereby upping his value in Boston’s eyes. L.A. would still prefer to have Gay. Boston is all but ready to blow its roster up.
This proposed deal makes a lot more sense now than it did five days ago when it was first introduced. Will it happen? That’s tough to say. Again, these things, where they involve such high-profile pieces, are very hard to put together. But it definitely shouldn’t be piled with all the other frivolous rumors that tend to permeate the web this time of the year.