WEDNESDAY, 8:45am: The outcome of Kyrie Irving‘s forthcoming MRI exam is likely to have a big impact on how the talks proceed from here, according to the latest update from Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com.
Irving told reporters Tuesday night that he felt a “pop” in his left knee after suffering the injury during Cleveland’s loss to the Pacers and an MRI is scheduled for Wednesday. If Irving is out for a substantial length of time, it’s believed that the Cavaliers’ appetite to take on additional salary in pursuit of a playoff push would be diminished. Still, talks between the two sides continued yesterday and a deal still seems possible, provided that the Cavs’ star guard won’t miss a significant length of time.
TUESDAY, 2:37pm: Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times seems to back up Medina’s report, hearing from a source that the idea of the Lakers taking on Bynum would be a stretch.
2:25pm: Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News throws cold water on the idea of such a deal, writing that “the Lakers would never under any circumstances” accept the proposal that Windhorst and Shelburne reported overnight. The Lakers don’t want Bynum back, and they wouldn’t even be interested in acquiring his contract just so they could waive him before the deal becomes guaranteed next week, according to Medina. The Lakers are also holding out hope that Gasol will improve his play as the season goes on.
2:19pm: The Lakers are seeking a first-round pick in a Bynum-Gasol deal, but the Cavaliers are balking at that idea, according to the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto. If they were to trade a pick, the Cavs would be more willing to give up the Heat’s 2015 first-rounder acquired through a previous trade than surrender one of their own selections. Nonetheless, both teams are serious about striking some kind of compromise, Pluto writes.
7:51am: Nearly 17 months after they sent him to the Sixers, the Lakers are mulling the possibility of reacquiring Andrew Bynum, according to Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com. The ESPN duo reports that the Lakers and Cavaliers have had discussions about a trade that would sent Bynum back to Los Angeles in a package for Pau Gasol. No deal is imminent, but the two sides are weighing their options in advance of January 7th, this season’s contract guarantee deadline.
By trading Gasol for Bynum, and subsequently waiving Bynum before his full 2013/14 salary becomes guaranteed in January, the Lakers could potentially get out of luxury-tax territory for this season, depending on what other pieces were included in the deal. At the very least, it would significantly reduce the team’s payroll and tax bill, and would give L.A. more financial flexibility going forward. Since Gasol’s full-season salary is worth about $7MM more than Bynum’s, the Cavs would have to include at least one other player in the hypothetical swap for it to work under CBA rules. Adding C.J. Miles, or any player or combination of players earning more money than Miles’ $2.25MM, would make a Gasol/Bynum trade legal.
Still, the Lakers would have a hard time parting with Gasol without receiving some assets of value in return, according to Windhorst and Sherburne. Given the club’s storied history, a simple salary dump likely isn’t in the cards, even if the ability to avoid the repeater tax would be extremely beneficial. The ESPN duo notes that there’s still a strong organizational sentiment within the Lakers to let the current group get healthy and try to contend before the front office does anything drastic.
As for the Cavs, they also pursued Gasol in the summer, conducting extensive discussions with the Lakers before Dwight Howard signed with the Rockets, according to the ESPN report. Windhorst and Shelburne also suggest that Cleveland has engaged in talks with the Bulls about a similar deal that would involve Bynum and Luol Deng. Like the Lakers, the Bulls could get out of tax territory, or at least very close to it, by swapping Deng in a package for Bynum, then cutting the big man before his $12.25MM salary becomes guaranteed. However, Chicago still doesn’t seem inclined to move Deng at this point.
Cost-cutting moves by teams like the Lakers and Bulls, who are typically perennial contenders, may not have even been considered if not for the new CBA. As Windhorst points out (via Twitter), the new luxury tax, and the repeater tax in particular, is far more punitive than it was a few years ago, so clubs with expensive, non-contending rosters may be more inclined to cut their losses. Whether or not the Lakers or Bulls opt for that route, it’ll be something to watch closely as 2014′s trade deadline approaches.