Just hours after Mitch Kupchak stated he would not be trading Dwight Howard during this season, did the report come from Ken Berger at CBSSports.com that the team had some preliminary discussions involving swapping Rondo for Howard. Thus it can’t be surprising that when Chris Broussard of ESPN.com caught up with the Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, he was in full denial mode about the possibility of a swap, or even talks having taken place.
“I haven’t talked to Danny Ainge in weeks,” Kupchak told ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard. “I made the statement a week or two ago that we’re not going to trade Dwight Howard and that hasn’t changed.”
When asked if a possible Howard-for-Rondo trade was discussed when he spoke to the Celtics weeks ago, Kupchak again said no. He said at no point this season has a Howard-for-Rondo trade been discussed.
Needless to say, Kupchak has nothing to gain by confirming any of these rumors, so it’s not a shock to see these denials. On the local scene, Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald also reported the C’s discussed Rondo for Howard swap earlier this year, but that was only before Rondo tore his ACL a couple weeks back:
“The Lakers like Rondo, and (the Celtics) have looked into getting Howard in the past,” said the source, who termed the likelihood of such a deal now “unlikely.”
Talks were last held at least two weeks ago, before Rondo was diagnosed with a torn ACL in his right knee. The Celtics guard underwent surgery by Dr. James Andrews last Tuesday in Florida, where Rondo is currently recuperating.
The surgery seemingly ended any real chance of trade discussions moving beyond the preliminary phase.
All of that from Murphy makes a lot of sense. For the Lakers to trade for an injured Rondo now, would be essentially giving up on the season for them, something Kobe Bryant and company wouldn’t exactly accept. Even before that however, there were a number of issues that would have prevented a Rondo-Howard deal post-trade deadline even if the teams could get the salaries to match.
The following comes from Ken Berger piece at CBSSports.com “The Celtics could only acquire Howard in a sign-and-trade if they eschewed their full mid-level and remained below the so-called luxury-tax apron, a threshold $4 million above the tax line that was added in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement.”
That provision he was referring to was put in the new CBA last year to make it tougher for teams to do big money sign and trades when they are already over the luxury tax. If any team does a sign and trade, they have to be under a $74 million hard cap or “apron” for the rest of the season.The C’s already have 71.5 million committed to guys next year, so they would have to deal away a bunch of other players to lower their salary cap number (if they did a sign and trade for Howard to make it fit).
Another thing Ainge could do is not pick up Pierce’s option this offseason (he’s guaranteed 4 million of his 15 million dollar salary next year, so C’s could just pay him the 4 million this offseason and let him go this summer). Either way it would be very tough to pull off and still have enough money to field a competitive team around Howard in filling up the rest of the roster, since you obviously damage your talent level by dumping Pierce for nothing. Definitely possible to do, but would have to involve either dumping Pierce or making a much of cost-cutting other trades as well.
If the C’s wanted to get Howard, they had to do some before the trade deadline to avoid the scenario I described above. That’s not happening now though, which is why Danny Ainge has moved onto other possibilities in the trade market. It’s important to remember he’s probably considering endless scenarios right now, including several that aren’t being reported. Needless to say though with these recent reports, almost everything is still on the table, despite Boston’s recent hot streak.